Inspired by Kent Beck, I am going to attempt to craft a fictitious recommendation letter that I hope my boss would possibly write about me three years from now. That way, I am setting some career goals to myself. Come September 2023, I will open this recommendation letter to see if I managed to make any of the things I projected in the letter below.
I recommend this gimmick to others; it may force you to think a bit harder about your career goals.
Here then, without further ado, is my fictitious letter of recommendation; it describes where I’d like to see myself in three years:
I recommend Alex Bunardzic for the position in your organization. Alex joined our team as a professional with 30 years of full time experience specializing in Software Engineering principles, processes and practices. He helped us rise maturity levels across the board — in terms of establishing the first principles, selecting appropriate processes and optimizing them for best practices given the circumstances.
If the time comes for Alex to consider moving on to other challenges, I believe he will successfully bring same, or even larger benefits and improvements to your company.
Alex joined our department with a fairly large portfolio of fresh ideas. At first, many members perceived Alex as being a “Productive Irritant” due to his sometimes overzealous insistence on removing bottlenecks, barriers and silos. Being a vocal and a very active change agent, Alex did manage to move the needle. The fact that in the process he did also manage to ruffle a few feathers was not adversely affecting Alex’s resolve. Being forever on the lookout against Status Quo, he worked tirelessly to bring fresh, sometimes startlingly unusual perspectives on how to work and how to swarm on finding the most optimal solutions.
• Quality: from the very start, Alex insisted that business value is inseparable from technical quality (as expressed in the shipping code). To that end he introduced Test-Driven Development discipline (TDD). After a successful initial rollout, Alex followed IT Director’s prescient advice to form a TDD Dojo. Running the Dojo proved very effective in recruiting and training cohorts of engineers who kept graduating from yellow to orange etc. belts, all the way to black belt. In addition to TDD, Alex heightened the quality of shipping software by introducing a novel concept — mutation testing. This discipline made sure the quality of our shipping software had risen to a much higher level, which was easily perceivable by the drastically lowered proportion of bugs and defects in production.
Alex introduced another novel concept — Automated Building Code. This building code acts as an Oracle which catches substandard code before it gets merged and deployed. Another win for the high quality software being shipped with almost no bugs.
• Process: In addition to Alex’s passion for delivering shippable software with zero bugs, he is also a staunch advocate of automation. To that end, Alex helped transform the organization from largely manual processing to almost fully automated processing. His Automated Building Code went a long way toward catching any problematic (or potentially problematic) code from being merged and shipped.
• Coaching: After forming and leading several Communities of Practice (for instance Microservices CoP, Agile CoP, Developers CoP), Alex devoted some focused time on coaching staff on TDD, Service Virtualization, TCR and other advanced collaborative processes and practices. Being a strong advocate of synchronous collaboration (the Whole Team swarming on one problem at the same time in the same location), Alex pioneered mob programming to the organization.
Alex helped scale his coaching strategy by forming a coaching community, enabling and empowering his students to begin coaching and training newcomers to the organization.
• Scaling: Alex brought strong focus on the frequency of deployment. The biggest challenge was scaling the deployment efforts from taking days/weeks/even months down to hours (sometimes even minutes). One of the contributing factors to scaling the deployments to become as frequent as possible was introduction of mountebank (an open source, industry standard service virtualization platform).
• Leadership: Alex brought unique perspective to leadership by insisting that it is much more effective if we change just one thing at a time. His mantra has always been “stop starting and start finishing”. One change at a time is a much more productive way to ensure we’re leading in the right direction.
Alex brings a lot of unique perspective to his leadership style, and it is not always clear at first what would be the benefits of considering some of his unique angles. As a leader, Alex tends to ask challenging questions, which is hardly surprising, given his intolerance for maintaining Status Quo.
• Publishing: Alex is leading by example and often publishes detailed articles in renowned tech magazines. He also gets invited to video chats/interviews with some of the prominent figures in the industry. Alex enjoys presenting his ideas at international tech conferences. Being very active in the community makes sure that Alex always stays at the cutting edge and that he continues to dominate his domain.
Things to be aware of when working with Alex: he tends to be impatient, in the sense that the moment a challenge, that initially seemed impossible starts being solvable, he loses interest. He is driven by tackling challenges and solving seemingly impossible problems. Because of that, it is advisable to pair Alex with more methodical colleagues, who will follow through with completing the solution.
Alex is a solid addition to any software engineering team. He likes to see the big picture, and often likes to put his “stakeholder hat” on. Looking at a larger picture enables him to view any activity as belonging to the entire team, which ultimately assures successful delivery of value.
If you are looking for a leader who will make sure your operations scale while maintaining highest possible level of quality, Alex will play a big part in your success.