July marks my 6-month-iversary with CookiesHQ – here’s the retrospective

So, it’s been six months since I started working with The CookiesHQ. These have been six exciting months, with highs and lows, moments of stress, and moments of satisfaction. Below I’ll tell you about my goals for this semester, how I achieved them, and about the future.

Communicate more and better

Being a non-English remote worker, the greatest challenge we’ve faced is communication. It’s not easy to integrate a team member who isn’t actually in the office, but my workmates at Bristol always try to make it easier for me and keep me up to date, whether if it is news from a project, or the “topic of the day” at the office. Each day, they do all they can to ‘keep me in the loop’.

Also, I had to overcome my reluctancy to raise questions that arose around business logic or coding problems I found in the way. Being too used to working on my own, I used to be very stubborn about trying to get all the answers by myself. Also, I felt bad about interrupting my workmates via HipChat. In the past months, I’ve learnt to overcome these barriers to make more questions when they appear, and in time, ask better questions.

How I got there

Apart from planning my work a bit ahead and asking more in the stand ups, what I think that really changed the game for me was the inclusion of Sqwiggle to our team apps. This might sound strange, but seeing my workmates at the office really helped me feel like being with them. In addition to this, being able to start video conversations with a single click is really really great. Seeing and hearing the people you work with helps a lot to bond and gain confidence when asking for help or explaining decisions.

Walk more in other’s shoes

Testing is not only writing specs and features in Cucumber. The same way, adding new features is much more than just adding the code, you need to make sure that what you are adding is coherent with the purpose of the application from the user (and your client) point of view.

How I got there

I learnt this the hard way, but well, you’ll have to do you very own Q&A if you don’t like cards being rejected. In short: test everything manually, twice.

Also, asking around for “how does this work” and “why is that so” helps a lot.

Pragmatism for a better pace

It is always better to deliver software that works in time than delivering 100% complete test suites later. In these months I’ve learnt to recognize what are the most relevant tests I need to add for a new feature, and when a test is not really necessary to get things done.

How I got there

Reading books about testing, like The RSpec Book, which also introduced me to the concept of software craftmanship, which I really like. Also reading other’s people tests helps. And obviously, personal experience makes you better at it.

Focus!

Social media, personal email, unexpected chores that come up… there’s a plethora of things that can break your concentration and make you slower at delivering code. This one is perhaps the hardest for everyone.

How I got there

My progress in this area has come by force of will, and concentrating the time I spend on personal email and social media before and after work hours, lunch break or when I’ve completed some tasks.

Anyway, I’m not still there completely, so I need to get better at this.

It’s a long way to the top (if you wanna rock’n’roll)

For the next months, my goals are the following:

Read more code and books

I need to learn to do better code, and the only way to do that is by reading good code, good books about code, and putting what I’ve read into practice. On my to-do list, I have these books:

Also, I feel I need to get better at understanding and building JavaScript code, as well as CSS. I’ll try to read JavaScript: The Good Parts, and I’m on the lookout for a good CSS book that has something similar to design patterns in it, so I can get a better understanding on why should I use certain rules when trying to achieve something. If anyone knows a good book, don’t hesitate to comment!

Focus more and better

I am now better at focusing, but I still need to make the most of my work hours and get less distracted. To help me achieve this, I’ve started to use Rescue Time, an app that tracks on what I spend time when I am at the computer, Activity Timer, to try to work following the Pomodoro technique, and Self Control, an app that blocks access to chosen websites for the time you set on it.

I hope these help me out, and more than that, that in the future I am capable of working focused without needing to use these apps.

Conclusion

All in all, I am very happy with the outcome of these six months, and so are The Cookies! I am a better coder, a better team member, and much happier about what I do for a living, so, good times! Also, it seems I’m going back to Bristol for a week on November, which is great!

Hopefully, in three months I’ll bring the next chapter on my quest for self-betterment, so, see you then!

Picture by Peter Lee