Roles, titles, and growing into expectations

Last week, I found out that I’ve been promoted to senior developer. From a practical standpoint, this doesn’t actually affect me at all; the titles system was put into place to deal with immigration requirements, and the ‘promotion’ doesn’t signify a change in my responsibilities or compensation. In fact, this actually happened over a month ago; it’s just of so little import that nobody bothered to tell me about it!

Still, this seems as good a time as any to reflect on where my career has been going, where I’d like it to go in the future, and what I need to do in order to get there.

Over the last year I’ve spent less time working on code (although that’s still what I’m usually doing) and more time doing project management-type activities: setting priorities, writing designs, explaining things and providing feedback to other developers. I’ve said in the past that I’m not interested in become a team lead (partially because I want to focus on becoming a better developer and partially because I don’t want to spend all day in meetings) but I find that I actually do enjoy overseeing a project.

I’m now feeling that I’d like to move into more of a software architect role. I’ve seen this defined as the person who takes the blame for the quality of the software; he sets the overall direction for the project. For the project that I’ve been overseeing, I’ve worked to set standards that everyone working on the project follows, and the result is code that’s much easier to work with; I actually feel that my biggest contribution to the company will be how much easier it will be to make updates to my team’s part of the software in the future.

So what do I need to do for this?

On the interpersonal side, pretty much every job I’ve ever had has involved me being in a leadership role, one way or another, so I have no issues with that and I enjoy helping the other developers; my only real challenge in this area is that I’m hard of hearing and many of the other developers have accents, so face to face meetings are challenging for me. Unfortunately that’s not really anything I can change; all I can do is work around it.

On the technical side, I feel like my largest challenge is in testing; when I’m doing PQA (programmer quality assurance) on other people’s code (or even my own) I don’t feel that I’m catching as many issues as I would like. So that’s something for me to focus on this year: improving my testing skills. Interestingly enough, this area is also one of my strengths; since I have a bit of an unusual background (teaching and editing) I do tend to catch different problems than the other developers. So my technical goal for this year is to improve my testing process. What I’m going to try to make time for is to go back and look at development I’ve touched where a bug got through, and see if that’s something I could have caught. If it is, maybe I can add something to my testing checklist so that kind of bug doesn’t get by me the next time.

In other words – I need to discover new steps I can take to improve my work and refine my processes to include those steps, playing architect on a small scale. The better the process – assuming it’s followed – the better the end result. What processes can you improve this year?

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