Software Engineering State of the Practice: An Interview with Jerry Weinberg

[interview]

to do it, don’t do it. It doesn't mean you won’t want to do it later.

If you're not sure, take the opportunities to practice without making an official step. For example, if you're involved in the bowling team, maybe you could become the captain of the bowling team. Or you might work with Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts as an adult leader, or work for some charity. Or take out a short term task force assignment at work where you get to practice a little and see what you like and don't like.

So that's the first thing—if you don't want to do it, don't do it. The second is if you're not sure, get yourself into situations where you can find out and back out. And, the third thing is to have some children! I mean actually raise them—I don't mean just go and propagate the species!

We've been finding over and over again that women in the work force who raise their kids and come back to work as project managers (women in some hotshot software companies) were very successful. So I interviewed a number of them and one of them put it very well. She said, "Well, you know what, running these projects is just managing a bunch of teenage boys. I've already done that. I know the games they play and I know how to handle it." It’s true. Not everybody has to have kids, but having kids is a way to learn about dealing with people and being responsible. You could get this in other ways. You could have dogs, for instance. My wife is a world-renowned animal trainer, and she teaches a course called "Dogs and Their Managers." She comes in with the assumption—and she'll be doing some of this at the AYE conference—that if people dealt with their people at least as well as they did with their dogs, they would already be better managers!

SQP: Speaking of AYE, why are you leading the effort to hold the AYE Conference? What effect do you see it having on the software industry?
JW: It's exactly addressing what I was talking about. It doesn't just look at technical things with a side comment or two about "Oh yeah, and this is how to implement this." The name of the conference is Amplifying Your Effectiveness (AYE). It really concentrates on personal effectiveness in a technical context.

So, if we go back to some of the things we've been talking about, if you were introducing the CMM for example, the sessions would be about what you should and should not do, what you need to learn, and what you need to practice in order to be effective at that. And, it’s also very experiential because of that. A bunch of us were having a discussion about how inadequate most conferences are; people stand up and read this little technical idea and that little technical idea, they're all very neat, and you think "how clever." But, they are not really making a difference. So, we said, "Well, what would make a difference?" We said, "If people were more empowered with specific skills for how to make things happen, how to nurture good things, how to let the things that are not sensible fade away, how to handle the one person who seems to be disrupting your whole effort to improve software development." This year, we have several sessions on coaching; how to run effective meetings of various kinds, like review meetings, and how to negotiate.

Additionally, there will be lots of role-playing and simulations, as with all

About the author

Beth Layman's picture Beth Layman

A successful process improvement consultant, facilitator, teacher, and coach with more than twenty-five years of experience in the high tech sector, Beth Layman is an authority on measurement and process improvement. Her wide-ranging experience includes commercial, government, aerospace, and product software organizations. Beth provides training and interactive workshops, assessments, management consulting, and coaching in areas such as process definition, improvement, software measurement, project management, portfolio management, and software quality assurance. Beth is an SEI Authorized CMMI® Lead Appraiser and is co-author of Practical Software Measurement: Objective Information for Decision Makers.

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