Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Coding Horror's Elevator Test

Jeff Atwood, the Yoda of all software engineering bloggers, had a great post at the end of September that I'm only now getting around to writing about here (which is sad given the length of this post but that analysis of theme park throughput didn't just write itself, you know). In its title he asks a very simple, albeit vague, question:

Can your team pass the elevator test?

The basic point of the article is that a lot of times us techie types know how to do a lot of things, but never stop to think about why we're doing it. For the duration of an elevator ride, can your engineering team explain to someone why they are working on their current project? Jeff believes like I do that, in order to be the absolute best you have to not just understand the bigger picture but be able to explain it to others.

The reason I write about what I do here are best summed up by a snippet from a follow up comment that Jeff made:
"The best technologists tend to be the best communicators, people in tune with the overall product vision -- they don't just quietly squirrel away on technology in a lab, they'll happily tell you *why* that technology they're working on will let the users kick ass. That's part of the vision statement-- and it's something every developer should be able to do."
Challenge yourself to understand the why and you'll learn a lot more than the technology while opening doors for yourself when you demonstrate there's more to you than someone who squirrels away to the lab.


As fate would have it, my delay in pointing out the great Elevator Test post was rewarded when Jeff chose to write about something similar today in Sharing the Customers Pain, which I see as a prequel to the Elevator Test. Looking at the world through the eyes of your customer is a great way to obtain that deeper understanding of why it is you are doing what you are.


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posted by Pete Johnson @ 6:14 PM   2 comments


At 3:15 PM, Blogger Pete Johnson said...

After reading Jeff's entry today, I felt compelled to write a follow-up in the main body above.


At 5:23 AM, Anonymous barista said...

Since the elevator in my bldg only goes up one floor, most people take the stairs. Luckily, I don't have any grand projects to present.


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