Next up in my Books of Influence series…two books, actually!
Former Navy Seal Richard Marchinco, among all his other achievements, wrote two business books that were valuable to me: Leadership Secrets of The Rogue Warrior and The Rogue Warrior’s Strategy for Success. I’m counting those two books as one entry. Deal with it.
I stumbled across these books almost two years after starting my software development career. I performed sustaining engineering duties (a.k.a. change control and updates) during those early days, but wanted a shot at new applications development work. One day, I found out I was placed on a team that was taking over an application we acquired from another company, but I as slated to be a tester. No biggie, I told myself; even that early in my career, I understood the importance of learning and participating in every aspect of the software development life cycle, so I dedicated myself to the testing mindset with somewhat of a smile on my face. Then, just as I thought I was getting important attention from those who had the power to promote me, my team lead made an uncomfortable quote: “You’ll be our tester forever.” I don’t know if he thought he was being funny or stating the company’s ultimate plans for me, but it pissed me off. I remember telling myself I needed to keep an eye out for any opportunity to break out of this rut that somebody else shoved me into and create a chance to earn the spot I wanted.Days later, these two books made themselves known to me. Another example of how those whose intentions are clear and desires are strong will be presented with the tools to create the reality they want.
One of the lessons I learned from my readings was the importance of preparing for any software presentation in such a way that will be more demanding, and more insistent of ‘on the fly’ thinking and adjusting, than what the clients and stakeholders would demand of us.
It was decided my presence was not necessary for this presentation, being I was still considered a “junior” programmer. A slight obstacle for me, perhaps, but my desires to contribute to our project’s success was not going to benched that easily. I choreographed a ‘random encounter’ in the hallway with the department supervisor and recommending we perform a dry run of the presentation prior to our presentation. We would practice setting up and taking down our presentation equipment. We would practice presenting everything in the software we changed and enhanced. We would bring in people from other departments in our office who had no idea what we just built and have them ask questions that will test the presenters’ ability to field questions they might not see coming. I summed up my suggestion: “We need to work ourselves harder and push ourselves farther with our practice run than anything the clients can throw at us.” I even referred to this plan as conducting “war games.”
I had to at least respect the department supervisor for being polite and respectful when he told me this exercise was not important.
Ergo, my proposed “dry run” was never performed.
And we paid for it. The presentation team rolled into the client’s headquarters in DC, set up shop, and realized just as the meeting started that the bulb in the projector was burnt out. So, they had to go a few blocks away to our field office to get another one, but apparently grabbed the wrong size. That was actually the last update anyone back in the northern Virginia office wanted to relay out loud, but I did hear the phrase “it’s going downhill” way too often. At one point that afternoon, the department supervisor walked up to me and said, “You were right, we should have rehearsed the presentation. What did you call it? War games?”
That comment let me know my efforts to learn from these books was one of the best ‘business’ decisions I ever made.
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