January 14, 2013

Back In The Saddle, Again

Nearly two years has passed since I last blogged. Apparently the bug didn't bite after all. Being the father of five daughters, "free time" doesn't get spent like it used to. There's homework, kitchen to clean, gluten-free bread to bake(twice per week), laundry to do; you know, family stuff. Being a good dad is an important job, and it isn't easy. In fact, it is exhausting; oh the drama. The only thing tougher is being a mom.

I wouldn't be where I am today without my wife. Her love and support over the years has been a godsend, and she's put up with my exiling myself in front of the computer quite a bit over the years. But it was a project I worked on at the Fed that really burned me out; around 13 - 70 to 80 hour weeks, working through Memorial Day weekend, and Father's Day at the Lake, that changed my level of commitment from "the job" back to what was more important, "the family." I wasn't the same after that project and it took a year and a half for me to get my inspiration for coding back. I was in more of a support mode, where you code here and there, fix stuff, maybe write up a proof-of-concept. I wasn't without a mission, as I immersed myself in workflow, studying agile methodologies, learning how to install, configure, and wield the Atlassian tools (Jira, Confluence, etc.)

I take it on faith when I read the stories of the well known web companies like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. when they explain how they utilize agile automated workflows - it sounds really nice. I'm a nut about efficiency, and not wasting other people's time; I strive to be Lean. Only recently have I learned, however, that actually applying Lean Kanban across an organization requires a cultural shift that can only happen if it comes from the CEO or highest ranking officer of the division/department as a directive for change. Anything less than that, and people will return to the habits, and the comfort of the familiar; which isn't typically close to being agile. Still we used Scrum at the Fed, on a very small scale - a team of 3 - and it made a difference that was inspirational to us. It was better than anything I'd ever used before, including project tracking via Excel or MS Project. And the planning poker worked very well, producing estimates that were among the most accurate I'd ever seen. But with that said, Lean Kanban had even more appeal to me, and is without question the way to do software development now.

Today, I started a new journey with the Coldbox ColdFusion framework and development platform. I am super excited, inspired, to be able to code again; being able to apply all of the OO principles I've learned about over the past nine years. No more having to mold the approach to the legacy design. As I learn to use Coldbox I will be blogging, if for no other reason to remind myself. 2013 promises to be a pivotal year for me as a programmer, the list of topics to learn this year is long and ambitious: from Coldbox to ExtJS, MongoDB (via Marc Esher's  CFMongoDB wrapper), Hibernate/CF ORM, HTML5/CSS UX, and the LESS CSS Framework. Plenty to blog about while I explore those topics, so stay tuned if you're interested in these topics too.

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