State of the Nation

Well, it’s been more than a whole year since we last spoke – can you believe that?  I guess it’s time for a round up.

So what have I been up to?  Well, last time, I was telling you how I left my first job.  Since then, I’ve also left my second.  Yes, I know.  It was a bit of a mis-step on my behalf, but I learned an awful lot about how to interview a company and as such I am perfectly happy where I am.

Moving back half a step – I want to explain why I left my other job.  It seemed so full of promise – I was getting paid roughly one and a half times the salary for slightly less responsibility doing what I thought was going to be more or less the same thing.  I was wrong.  So very, very wrong.  Turns out there was a miscommunication.  There was a small portion of ASP.NET (which is what I was primarily looking for) but it was WebForms, on .NET v3.0 (we didn’t even have linq!).  I didn’t realise WebForms even fell under the ASP.NET umbrella until then.  But the core product that I had been hired to work on was, again .NET v3.0, and WinForms this time (see a pattern here?).  Yes, I can do a bunch more with WinForms now that I couldn’t before, out of necessity.  But it was so awful.  Theoretically, the code was structured as MVP, except it had one fatal flaw – there was a static dependency in the constructor of the base Presenter that we weren’t allowed to refactor, because it was part of the security system and the whole product security would need to be retested because of it.  Manually tested, I mean, because this particular design flaw meant that unit tests were near impossible.  Let that sink in for a second.  Unit Tests were near-impossible on a Presenter.  Can anyone tell me one of the major reasons we go to such lengths to structure our code such that the logic isn’t in the View?  That’s right, it’s because Views are notoriously difficult and fragile to test.  A couple of us were quite unhappy with that situation and started extracting our logic into “helper” classes and also dumping it directly into the view, because somewhat paradoxically, they were easier to unit test.  Of course, the boss was unhappy with this sort of pattern emerging and we were discouraged from doing it.  It was that systemic style of thinking and a the “everything stops for 6 weeks when we release because the whole app needs to be manually tested” (and inevitably fixed) problem that they couldn’t see would be extremely mitigated by allowing the most basic unit testing that made me just want to get out of there as soon as possible.

What did I learn about interviewing at a new company?  Trust your instincts.  There were a couple of moments in the interview process that made me somewhat uncomfortable for the level I was being hired at.  Notably, they gave me a written C# test.  A. Written. Test. For an intermediate position (I shouldn’t have accepted anything less than senior, but ignore that).  It wasn’t coding to see how I solved the problem, it was literally a checklist for feature knowledge of C#.  In comparison, the company I am at now gave me a problem on a piece of paper and asked me to have a think about it, produce a design for a solution, and come and talk about it.  They are one of those vanishingly rare companies who hire developers comfortable that a half-way decent developer will pick up the language / technologies as they go.

There was also a moment during the interviews for the “old” job where I asked to meet the potential team I would be working with – a totally reasonable request – and I was very skillfully brushed aside.  So skillfully that I didn’t notice until I got home, but by then I had already been sold on the business.  Never mind.

Ok, maybe I’ve blathered on about that particular part of my career long enough.  It only lasted 6 months in the end – I made myself wait 3 months before I started looking elsewhere; took 2 months to find a new job, and then 1 month of notice period.  I’ve now been at my “new” job more than one and a half times the entire tenure at my “old” job and it still seems a much shorter time.

So about my new job.  It’s all a bit weird – I have become one of the things I swore I never would: A Web Developer.  I live in ES2015+ (new JavaScript for the layperson) for much of the time, writing a heavy-weight front end that loads just shy of 2MB before it does anything useful.  When I say heavy-weight, I mean my perceptions on how much code should be loaded over the network to run a site.  It’s actually positively average.  Being a software blog, I’ll share some of the gory details:

  • SPA written in ES2015+
  • Uses the Aurelia js framework for the front end (node / gulp / babel / jspm stack)
  • bootstrap based CSS
  • ASP.NET Web Api / NServiceBus / RavenDB / MSSQLServer for the backend.

I’ve learned an awful lot about JavaScript, browsers, CSS and even some of the more intricate features of recent versions of SQLServer.  I’ve had to learn so much about Aurelia (often by reading the source code) that I frequently hang out in the Gitter channel helping other people out.  Often learning things myself just by being there.

Which brings me to the other thing I like about this job – it’s more actively encouraging Open Source use, to the point where I have produced a plugin for the Aurelia framework.  And people actually use it!!  The company itself has a couple of plugins which it has open-sourced, but I have no idea whether people are using it – no one is raising issues or pull requests.  Doesn’t matter, we use them extensively.

It’s not to say that this new place doesn’t have its own problems.  I’m not wandering around with permanent rose-tinted glasses.  Unfortunately I can’t go into those details, on account of most of them being commercially sensitive.  Maybe once this current kerfuffle has blown over.

Also, personally this has been an exciting time for me – I’ve bought a house, adopted a kitten, and got engaged (she takes up the spare time I would have otherwise spent on blogging – if you want to complain that I don’t write much anymore, please direct all correspondence to her).  But again, software blog, so I’ll leave it at that.


About Michael Malone
30 Year old web dev, self-confessed Linux lover, Ruby enthusiast, and obsessed with programming. Former embedded C and desktop .NET developer.

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