"There are no Experts. There is only us."
These two simple sentences always make me feel lonely. They were uttered by Jeremy D. Miller, a developer I had come to appreciate during my years in the software industry. Those sentences makes me feel like there is nobody else to turn to, that I have to start trusting my own instincts, and that whoever tells you they are an expert is either lying or wrong.
In my career, which is around 15 years in the IT business as of the time of this writing, I have come to realize that “There are no Experts. There is only us” is very true.
In one of my first jobs ever as a programmer, I remember joining a team working on a governmental project; The project was all in Visual Basic 6.0, by the way. The team, including my team leader, really had no idea what they were doing, and, because I also didn’t know what I was doing, I assumed that whatever people were doing was the right way to do it.
As time went by, I started to read more books about how software development could work. I read books like The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks and PeopleWare by Tom Demarco and Timothy Lister. I looked around and I could see all of the problems that those books were talking about right there in front of me, in flesh and blood. And I could also see a big silence.
Nobody around me seemed to say anything about the crap that we were building, the crap that we were taking from our managers and customers, and certainly nobody was saying anything about the crap we were giving to our customers and managers. Nobody was talking about careless, helpless programmers. It was all just fine for everybody. To paraphrase a comedian I heard:
"Everything was crappy and nobody cared."
Now, these were good people. Some were my friends, and they did not intend to do any harm, for sure. They did their best, in the same way ants do their best to overcome raindrops along their path to the anthill. But they weren’t looking up. They weren’t trying to predict where from or why the rain falls and where to be more careful. They didn’t plan better ways to get to the anthill, or to get better helmets for the rain (ok this analogy is breaking down).
They were just ... there doing their ant-like job. Project late? sure. That’s life. Quality sucks? Sure. That’s life. Debugging until 3AM? Sure, that’s life.
Was I the only one reading books? No. Well, there weren’t many trade books, but there were definitely quite a few. But the books they were reading were not getting them anywhere, and, if they could get them somewhere, they never seemed to find time to finish the books and get there.
There was no sense of craftsmanship. But there was also no sense of professionalism. There was just a big downward spiral for each new project, as far as the eye could see.
This workplace was not unique by any means. Many places seemed to be like this, in variations, along the years. I hate working at places like that. I always want to make a difference.
This book is about making a difference and getting other people to make a difference as well. It is the book for those who feel hopelessly trapped in their jobs, even though they are Architects, Scrum Masters, Team Leaders or Senior De- velopers.
This book will try to be the book I wish I had when I first became a team leader.