Nahuel Sanchez

A place to write down what I discover everyday as a developer. Code and that may be the main topic, but probably I'll be publishing something else too.

No more bs against working from home thanks to a pandemic

It's still amaze me, you know, and hit me by time to time when going to sleep or taking a shower, a "...wow" moment, like a slap from reality: the world pressed pause a few months ago.

Not a bunch of countries, not a far far away continent. The whole world stopped because, well, you know what happened: Coronavirus.

Companies reorganized quickly to continue working with their employees from home... Well, they were forced to act quickly to be honest, not like they went through a deep analysis about the pros and cons of a remote scheme for their staff, no meeting between HR and the business management branch happened at all.

The bs was cut immediately, the scepticism towards having people working from their homes disappeared. It had too, because Plan B was to close until further notice, so the discussion about it became pointless, and frankly nobody has nothing to lose. Wasn't that beautiful?

Month ago this was considered only a benefit a company would offer, or a sometimes exception for particular circumstances. Internal company processes would decide how and when somebody could work from home like, for example, one day a week after three months in the company, and two days a week after a year.

It sounds crazy now but we all, at every level, agreed to that scheme.

Work from home forced itself and nothing bad happened, nothing catastrophic at all. Objectives are still being reached, and, most important, employees don't sleep the whole morning pretending to be online on Slack, which I believe was the biggest fear of them all.

I found it interesting that even on very objective-based companies, when thinking about offering the possibility to work from home, the mindset changes to a time-based one. In an office we thought about what to accomplish when (objectives), but then when talking about remote working we thought about how the time was going be consumed without direct supervision.

We trust developer with Live server side credentials, but oh no home will make them Facebook too much.

And even today, with a lockdown in place and a forced work from home scheme, even if an objective is not reached you know that's not because the employee is working to close to the bed. It's always something else.

You are quarantining yourself now, and everybody in your company is doing it too. Work from home is happening whatever you planned it or not, so it might be time to fully embrace it. Take the (forced) opportunity and make it a permanent thing.

It is a chance for us all to recognize that working from home is as possible as working from an office. And, sorry, my experience is always based on my role as a web developer so my focus is pointed in tech-related companies, but you can decide if this whole concept applies to you as well.

I worked, until now, as the only one remote developer of the company I'm part of, and the rest of the team was based in UK, working from a beautiful office in London. Now everybody is remote, everybody now works from their homes, and the office is entirely for a fridge they already planned to set on fire because God only knows what have been left inside months ago.

Again, nothing changed from the day to day operation of the company, there's no trough at all in the productivity graph. If anything, I think people is working more because nobody is used to work from home, yet, but that's a problem for a different post.

It was discussed internally, basically, the feelings towards this new forced normality, and while everybody misses the office and the social side of it, all of us are considering working from home a positive thing. Even one admitted that during lunch time takes a nap, which is fine because who cares if you are delivering at the end.

It was also raised that we might not seen us working from home, without going to an office, for ever, so I'm sure flexibility is what's coming after everything that's happening comes to an end.

Let me be clear that flexibility doesn't mean an extra work from home day to your now old internal company process. Flexibility means having an office, and go there if you want. Nothing less than that, which is perfect, which is good, fine, there's nothing wrong with that. We should have learn that already.

Imagine a hot seat scheme, with a few desks for those wanting to leave the house some day, or a more co-working spaces-based normality.

I don't know, I'm brainstorming, this is my first pandemic, but I'm sure that those, somehow still appearing, job offers from LinkedIn offering something like "2 work from home days a week" as a benefit are hilarious now and they should have gone already.

Suffering from the wannabe career plan syndrome

A career plan or career path (whatever you prefer to call it) is the way to have some motive to get up in the morning and go to the office. Without it we are just repeating each day in a loop without a long-term goal: get up, shower, go to the office, leave 8 hours later, eat, sleep, and redo.

Is it money what motivates you to get up each morning? That's fine, but that won't work as a stimulus for ever. If you're good at your job you might be able to get money in another company, so that's not the problem here.

When you put money aside and you don't have a career plan... why are you going to work? At some point you'll realize that even by redoing the same day for the next 3 years nothing for you will be different. Isn't that sad?

Have you ever gone to one of those places where you can play arcade video games like Daytona USA? Do you remember that game or any other racing video game? You might recall that countdown on top of the screen that you have to beat, by crossing a checkpoint, before it reaches zero.

That whole concept of going through checkpoints is the career plan, is the reason why you keep your feet on the gas and try to get better on each turn. So, it goes 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 aaannnd checkpoint, and now focus again to get to the next checkpoint having in mind that the following turns must be perfect to avoid losing those precious seconds.

By now you can expect that I'm going to say that not having a career plan is a bad idea for both the company and the employee (I'm not a best-selling author, my way of writing is pretty much straight forward), but you know what's worse than not having a career plan?

Having a wannabe career plan

Designing a career plan is always hard for a company, specially during this era of acceleration where things change too much too fast. So, when trying to accomplish one, companies end up half way with a sort of a career plan that meets nobody's expectations.

A good way to spot a failing career plan is when it's all about fancy titles for the employees but with no well-defined task or responsibilities. For example, in my line of work you can start as Junior, then Semi Senior, Senior... let's assume then Technical Leader, maybe Technical Manager later, following Architect, and finally Developer Ninja Evangelist (I don't know).

Sounds great, and usually each promotion deserves popping a bottle of champagne as it's really a great accomplish. The problem appears when you start getting new job titles but your actual day to day job remains the same.

Yes, that happens a lot. You get your paycheck saying that you are the Manager of All Employees in the company, but you're still doing exactly the same job you were doing for the last five positions (checkpoints). After three promotions you'll wake up one morning and go "Waaaaait a minute".

At some point employees realize that the company is failing at providing a real career plan so this whole concept becomes an internal joke.

The solution is quite simple for the people inside a company with the responsibility to came up with a career plan: sit the duck down, give this task the priority it deserves, take note of your long-term plans, listen to the employees, and create it.

Not having one, or having an incomplete one, is doing more damage than you imagine: employees without motivation, a high turnover rate, low productivity numbers, a lot of complains in the office... good people leaving the company without even submitting to a negotiation process because money doesn't even matter anymore!

Really, non-existence career paths or wannabe career plans will kill a company from inside, and I can't stress that enough.

If your company experiences some of the symptom above, then again people inside your workplace with the responsibility to came up with a career plan should start working on this.

Who? Well, you're part of this task too

The company you're working for won't be able to come up with a career plan by itself, and for sure they can't download a career plan from the Internet. So is essential that you take part of the making of.

No matter your current position, you can identify that there's no career plan in your company and instead of whining you can contribute with what you see is next for the company but missing a role to accomplish it, or what you want to do inside the company but there's no role right now you can aim at.

At the same time, when talking about a promotion or your next role, demand the exact task and responsibilities you will be taking on, and also demand specificity about the tasks you won't be doing anymore (that you would be leaving behind for other to take care of).

If none of that is clear, if so the company is suffering from the wannabe career plan syndrome, then it's up to you to come up with what you want to do next. Come on, don't expect everything on a silver platter.

Having a career plan is good for you as an employee not only for all the motivational purposes I mentioned but also because it will help you to build your professional profile, help you to improve your hard and soft skills. Even if you already thought of not having your current job for the rest of your life, for sure you'll need to show your resume in the next job interview.

And it will look much better if it evidences a career.

Average is officially over, so don't be that at work

Let me take a moment first to thank the "Send a free sample" Amazon functionality, because it's always hard to find a good book, but when it goes smooth by reading then you know you find your perfect match.

This is what's happening to me with "Thank You for Being Late" by Thomas L. Friedman, a book that talks about how things (technology, globalization, climate change, biodiversity, etcetera) are going super fast and how the society struggles to keep the pace, and it's like a how-to deal with everything that's going on today.

During Chapter 8, Friedman talks about how we are leaving the Holocene epoch for work. What's the Holocene? A "perfect Garden of Eden period when everything in nature was nicely in balance", as the author would describe it.

Basically, really really basically, following is "everything" that Friedman thinks about what's happening to work:

In those “glorious” decades after World War II [...] you could lead a decent lifestyle as an average worker [...]. And by just working an average of five days a week at an average of eight hours a day, you could buy a house, have an average of 2.0 kids, visit Disney World occasionally, save for an average retirement and sunset to life. So many things then were working in favor of the average worker.
[...] many workers in this labor Holocene enjoyed what was known as "a high-wage middle-skilled job" [...]. The high-wage, middle-skilled job has gone the way of Kodak film. In the age of accelerations, there is increasingly no such animal in the zoo anymore. There are still high-wage, high-skilled jobs. And there are still middle-wage, middle-skilled jobs. But there is no longer a high-wage, middle-skilled job. Average is officially over.

Now you know from where I took this post title.

Giving the extra mile?

There's no point on thinking about this concept at world scale, but instead try to apply what Friedman says to your workspace or personal work experience, either as an employee or employer, either as a Developer or a Technical Leader (if you don't mind me using terms I can relate to).

I remember that we had a money award at my previous job called "The extra mile" which worked as follow: everybody can nominate a coworker laying the reasons why we though he or she deserves the price based on that coworker performance for the last month, and then somebody from all the nominees gets the money.

Personally, I never quite understood why this award existed or why... how to... nominate somebody. Are we now supposed to reward people for just doing their job? Isn't that the salary what's for? But after reading this book now I get it, we're celebrating not average people! Which is terrible sad.

Average is officially over because it won't take you, your company, your team, anywhere. There was a time when you would learn a skill and that would be enough to succeed at work, but nowadays what you learn has an expire date as much as the milk in your refrigerator. While average gets you nowhere, the "extra mile" is now your start point at middle class.

If you have a friend who is a Doctor then he or she can tell you about the end of the Holocene epoch concept. Your friend probably said that getting the Doctor title isn't enough nor the end of the journey, is a checkpoint not the end of the race, as Doctors need to keep on studying for the rest of their lives if they want to be "something". That now applies to all working areas.

Spoiler alert: there's no end of the race... well, probably there is, and it's called mediocrity. If you are average, please, don't ask for a raise, because you're putting an expiration date on yourself... your team, your company.

No politician in America will tell you this, but every boss will: You can’t just show up. You need a plan to succeed.

That was Friedman again.

Enough of abstract concepts, let's get (even more) real...

I'm a front end developer, do you work as a web developer or something similar? Then we can both remember a time where your resume can only include HTML and CSS, and that would give you any job. SASS was a nice to have, and a JavaScript framework a bonus point.

Now if you open LinkedIn the job offers will list Vue.js as mandatory. For a framework released 4 years ago now Recruiters ask for 2 years of experience, but 2 years ago was in no one's picture. That's a mind-blowing perfect example of how things became so fast so quickly!

What do you think is the JavaScript framework... or web development technology... you are not learning this year, but companies will require two years of experience starting next year?

On another topic, everybody is saying that 2019 is the year of Progressive Web Apps: there's a lot of post about it, a lot of talk about it in conferences, Vue Storefront exists for nearly a year, Magento is releasing PWA Studio in the following months... Are you doing PWA or at least do you have it on your roadmap? Or are you planning on pass on this year without touching it? If so, cross your fingers for your competitor to think alike.

Are you a designer? Are you still delivering static PSD files or are you doing animations already?


Remember that showing up at work is not enough, that's only average, you need a plan, you need to keep on moving.

I always liked to say during performance reviews or interviews that everybody has access to the same documentation, the same resources, tools, software, the same mentors inside a workspace, so the difference between good employees and bad employees, the difference between those who succeed, those who fail, and those who meh (averages) is the personality.

Anyway, I'm not saying that to excuse companies from responsibilities.

Celebrating not average is sad because it means that everybody but that one who won "The extra mile", including the whole company, will struggle in the near future. Are we all average but one?

Shouldn't we stop and rethink what we are doing, where are we going and how are we getting there?...well... stop and rethink... I know how ironic that sounds in this post about the era of acceleration.

Hiring a remote developer but as an actual team member

At some point on a developer career it's possible that we'll get an offer to work for a foreign company as a remote developer, with a contract, from our home, in maybe a different language. And as a company it's also possible that you'll be thinking on hiring some remote Senior developers.

We all know in what we are thinking when talking about a remote position: sell/buy some hours, receive/assign some tasks, deliver/expect some code, repeat, whether you are the developer or the company.

As a front-end developer who worked as a Technical Leader in a local company, I was afraid to make the jump into a remote position because my main fear was to get stuck on coding only, without the possibility to bring something else to the table, just putting color on some buttons and nothing else for the next 5 years.

Well, it doesn't have to be that way, and thinking that a remote position it's only useful as the way I described before it's just lame thinking.

It's not simple, and it's up to the company

As a remote developer we can try to get out of the pre-formatted remote role model, but basically is up to the company we work for to give us the space to do so, to acknowledge the advantages of having us as one more team member and not as "the remote developer".

Companies usually set aside the remote developer from the development decisions (ironic, I know), despite the fact that sometimes that remote developer possesses a higher seniority than the local people, or more experience on the particular subject being discussed.

When a company turns to the idea of hiring a remote developer it's because they're searching for a Senior in terms of coding, because they have a tight deadline or the current projects they're having are becoming more complex day by day.

Your local team will need 3 weeks to finish a task so you hire a remote guy who'll get it done in 1 and allows you to remove pressure from the local team so then they can focus on something else... and repeat. Sounds familiar? It also sounds like a software factory, and that's fine if that's what you're aiming for, but don't expect team work on a software factory, don't grumble when you got stuck in quality, and don't blame the dev team when they not improve the delivery times.

For the same price you're missing somebody who can bring more, who can grow the team in terms of quality, delivery times, complexity of the tasks that can be carried out by the whole company, etcetera, just because... you're afraid?

Afraid of what?

You're afraid of giving full permissions to a guy you "don't know"? Are you afraid of giving decision power and all the company's credentials to somebody you've never seen before just because he can disappear from one day to the other?

I've seen local team members actually disappearing a day or two without notice, also people walking out of a meeting because of drama, developers working on a freelance project while being on working hours at the physical office.

Don't you have that kind of people at your office? If so don't give me that I've-never-met-the-guy excuse.

If the developer is going to be an asshole, it's going to be that either sitting on your office wearing a suit or in pajamas at home. If he's going to procrastinate, if he's going to spend 7 out of 8 hours in Facebook, he's going to do so either under your watch at the office or from the bed at home.

Come on, you're already know that, I'm just stating the facts.

I've seen developers on-site expending 90% of the day at YouTube, right in front of my nose, and I've seen spectacular remote Project Managers, Business Analyst, and developers, of whom I don't care if they are at YouTube or not because they deliver. Because I've trusted them.

I bet you can relate, I bet you already have some remote people who perform better than some local team member, so I also bet that you're starting to realize that this idea of not making the remote developers a real member of the team it's all just about unjustified fears.

But chat it's not the same?

Along with those fears stated above comes the "communication issues" also known as: just more excuses. Of course, it's not the same to have a face-to-face meeting than having to call somebody over Skype, but is it really that big of a deal?

I really don't stand this excuse, and I don't think we should spend too much time debunking it when we're living on a society where my +60 years old mom knows how to call me over WhatsApp, where my 20 years old sister knows how to share a video over Facebook while adding her own thoughts about it.

So, if 20 billions human beings can found a match on Tinder and potentially start a relationship or just have sex... I think we can overcome the "communication issues" when working on a Magento 1 to Magento 2 migration.

Turn on the camera and you'll see how all that remote things disappear. I'm being real, that helps a lot when you are trying to add the human factor to the communication process because it's not the same to say thing to a mic than to a face even when inside a monitor.

A developer sitting away at a 15 hours flight from your office can still give the same as the one sitting on your local branch. In this globalized world these excuses don't have a chance.

Play spot the difference as part of your front end development process

I know that inside the front end development kingdom there are a lot of different sub species, different front end developers out there working in different stuff: a few more focused on the functionality closer to back end development, and some working on converting designs into code.

If you're a front end developer whose main task is to look at a PSD file and "make it happen" in code, then I can't stress hard enough how important is for the job that you achieve this successfully. And if you're thinking that this is obvious and there's no need for a post, trust me, it's still a common problem among developers... and it's hard to me to understand why.

What's the main task of a fire fighter? Extinguish a fire. What's the main task of a plane pilot? Fly the plane. Main task of a mother?... I have no idea, but my chips are on keeping the baby alive.

Jokes aside, what do you think is the main task of a a front end dev? Get a design, then implemented it as pixel perfect as it can be.

I saw this problem presented in a variety of seniorities, as it doesn't distinguish between Juniors and Seniors. Of course, the problematic is more present in lower seniorities, that's not surprise, but it still cause for rework in more experienced developers.

If "main task" seems like too much, as you probably thinking, just like I am, that a front end developers faces a lot of task during a day and it's hard to decide which one is the main one (again, related to the fact that your front end developer job description it's for sure different than the others), then just let's not get stuck in grammar.

It might not be your main task as a front end developer, but for sure is an obvious task, something that you should be already been achieving without anybody raising any doubt about it when you deliver.

So why aren't you? Or why you still have this problem in your team?

If it's your problem then awesome, today is a great day to start solving that. And if not your problem but something you see that happens within your team or company... then it's still your problem, sort of.

The most common excuses I heard about it is the lack of tools, or people using the wrong tools, to view and manipulate the designs.

"Oh, it looks different because I don't have Photoshop in my computer so I opened the document with other software that converts .psd files if you're using Linux."

That's not a good excuse and you know it.

We're missing a synchronization here between developers and people in higher position within the company when deciding on what tools to use. Are we going for Adobe Photoshop for the designs' team?, great, then let's make sure that we also have Adobe Photoshop in the developers' computers... and not Linux if we're going to deliver .psd files to them.

Here's another one, "We were on a hurry, so I couldn't spend time on making the implementation pixel perfect". I can only assume that the equivalent for that on a fire fighter would be something like "Oh, we were on a hurry, so we only extinguish the fire on the first floor".

That "explanation" is a symptom of a higher problem within the company that might deserves an individual post, but for the moment just stop the presses and evaluate if you're giving to the developer the necessary time to accomplish all the items included in yours definition of done. If not, then you're asking for the impossible.

On the other side, if you're the developer. Come on dev, stand your ground! Do not go for an impossible estimation knowing that you won't be able to deliver successfully. If the time frame won't allow you to go for a pixel perfect implementation, then speak up. If everybody is on board of what the outcome will be, then good, no surprises for nobody.

And finally, the Top 3 seems to be "I tested it on Chromium for Linux Mint and it looked exactly like the designs". Looks like a child of the first excuse, and still a bad one.

On the developer's side, ask for the specifics, ask what browsers you are supporting for that particular project, or ask for metrics from Google Analytics to know exactly what your final customers are using. And test, my friend, test it on more browsers (specially knowing that Chromium for Linux Mint can't have the final word).

If you're the company, or somebody with a technical seniority that have a say on technical decisions, then define what browser do you support and include them on your definition of done. Avoid having technical decision based on the personal believes of each developer on the team.

Spot the difference

Have you ever played that magazine or newspaper game where you have two almost identical images next to each other and the goal is to spot the 10 differences? Why don't you try the same game with your work before tagging it as done?

I've been on meetings where emotions are high, reviewing an implementation that clearly doesn't look like the designs, where the conversation last for less than a minute because all it takes from the person evaluating the job is to put the original design next to the developer implementation and ask "Does it look the same? Does it look like it is finished?".

And of course it doesn't. Just avoid that meeting by playing the game by yourself and prevents others from playing it for you with your work.

On a not much of a side note, I find the post "The Undefinition of "Done"" quite cool, so check it out as it might help with your development process.