Perception is more important than results.

I am a failure when it comes to office politics. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I generally just act like myself. This is a problem when it comes to managing other peoples perceptions of you – and a bad perception can be incredibly damaging.

As a person, I am hard working, fast working (and talking!), I can pick up new things quickly, and I see a job through to the end. I’m honest and upfront – I’m not afraid to say exactly what I think. My memory is great. I’m enthusiastic, and love my job. All great assets in an employee, right?

On the flip side of that, I am so caught up in flying through my ‘to do list’ that I can lack attention to detail once I mentally check something off – meaning I can make some mistakes that I really should have caught before the QA team started giving serious consideration to lynching me in the car park.

I’m upfront to the point of being blunt. Without meaning to, I can really put someones back up by not stopping to think before I open my mouth.

My reaction to stressful times is to make fun of a situation, usually in a sarcastic manner.

My most recent encounter with office politics taught me a very harsh lesson. The work that I was kicking bottom with didn’t matter. The extra hours I’d put in did not matter. The perception people had of me was that I was not taking things seriously, and that was the feedback I was getting. The things I was doing well at weren’t even being considered by this point.

I railed against this in my head for quite a while. From my perspective, I was working harder than I ever had in my life. I was hurt that my actual results weren’t being examined fairly. I was putting in huge amounts of effort to take more care with what I was working on to produce fewer mistakes. It sucked. With a capital SUCK.

It still feels incredibly unjust in my head, and it feels really unfair. I will be taking on board the lesson, though – how your peers perceive you means more to your career than anything you achieve. It really is an attitude I’d love to see change, as perception often has little correlation with the reality of a situation.

The Fly

Friday night. It was a humid, muggy evening, and the windows were open.

Enter my new nemesis – the fly.

Over the course of the weekend, it tormented me. It flew around my head. It landed on any patch of bare skin. Like a lawn mower at 6am, its persistent drone proceeded to chip away at my sanity.

Everywhere I looked, the fly was there.

I attempted the pacifist approach, and left the windows wide open, hoping that it would peacefully vacate the premises. I used a notepad to try and gently waft it to a mutually beneficial egress. My flat is apparently prime estate though, and the fly remained.

My boyfriend farted in bed, and blamed the fly.

Neener neener! Flies make that noise. Really.
Neener neener! Flies make that noise. Really.

It was the final straw, and that is when I knew with crystal clear clarity.

The fly had to die.

Over the course of the next few days, I executed various plots to execute the invader.

It was too cunning to be caught up by the vacuum cleaner. Attempting to swat it midair just drew attention to my lack of gymnastic prowess. Sneaking up on it was an exercise in futility. Sadly, ninja I am not.

The fly anticipated my every move, and proceeded to mock me.

Late on Sunday night came the final battle. Armed with my trusty notepad and razor sharp wits, I waited. My boyfriend snickered, but I paid him no heed and prepared my ambush. A few hopeless flailings provided amusement. And then it happened. It landed on the ceiling. I swiftly positioned a chair to stand upon, and squashed it with an almighty – and satisfying – ‘thwack!’ as my notepad made contact. At last! Victory came with a brown smear on the ceiling.

I didn’t care about the clean up. Victory was mine, with a score of Fly: 200+, me: 1. It’s not about winning the battle. It’s about winning the war.

The lesson here? Buy some fly spray next time I go shopping.

Developer, Love Thy QA.

I suck at testing things. Always have. I keep trying to be better at it, but I’m just flat out awful at it. I don’t have that twisty way of thinking that would cause me to try and use something in a way that doesn’t seem logical to me.

There have been a few times in my career where I have been in a position where I was expected to fully test something that I’d been heavily involved in. It is after these experiences that I am convinced of two truths in software development.

  1. You shouldn’t be testing your own code. You get caught in a ‘pattern blind’ trap, because you coded that thing from the ground up. You know exactly how it’s supposed to work, and it’s incredibly difficult to conceive anyone attempting to use it in a way that you have deemed stupid in your own head.
  2. A good QA is worth their weight in platinum. They care enough about the quality that they will make your application sit up and dance until they break it. And they’ll break your application in all sorts of exciting ways in which you could never imagine.

We’re in a world where deadlines seem to trump quality. This is really bad from a consumer perspective. To give an example – I no longer pre-order computer games, or even buy them on release day. I wait until the first patch comes out to fix all the issues with the game before I even think to throw money at it. This has happened with every single game I’ve been paying attention to for the last year.

As a developer, I want anything I work on to kick bottom. As myself, I know that inspite of my best efforts, a tester I am not. An aggressive QA person constantly bouncing something back to me, while demoralising, means that I have an extra set of eyes making sure that my app is going to kick arse.

A bad review can completely destroy customer confidence. Which is why, as a software developer, my alarm bells start ringing if I interview at a place where they proudly proclaim ‘We don’t have a QA team’. Those same bells start ringing when a team is pushing a tight deadline, and the first thing to be pushed back on the table (or sometimes off it all together!), is the QA.

Dropping QA should never be acceptable. Love your QA, because by doing what they do, they are covering your backside. Instead of dropping QA to meet a deadline, I think anyone who cares about your product would much prefer you to just push back the deadline instead.

5 Windows Mobile Apps I love

Sunday is here, and to celebrate I decided to kick off a ‘Some List Sunday’ habit.

I am the rare breed that is using a Windows Phone. My Nokia Lumia is my first ever smart phone. I brought it because it was yellow and pretty. Stop judging me.

I’ll be the first to admit that the App availability is lacking in comparison to Android or IoS, but I do have a few apps that I couldn’t be without. I’ll avoid the obvious social apps, since I’m pretty sure everyone has them already.

Amazon Kindle – Kind of self explanatory. I am an unashamed bookworm.

Translator – Lacking in some languages. Very handy for those moments when you’re localising whatever you’re working on!

Spending Tracker – I love tracking my spending. I love being able to see my spending in pie chart form even more. Afterall, you need to know what you’re spending on to gain any control over your outgoings.

Recorder Pro – Voice recording. You have to pay for the longer recordings, but I find it handy to make verbal notes on things. I’m in a new found habit of writing down my ideas when I have them, but sometimes I’ll be driving when I have an idea. That’s where this comes in.

Check List – Lets you pin your lists as tiles to your start screen. You may be catching the hint that I like to make lists.

All of the above are apps that I use a few times a week each, making them fantastic little apps in my book!

Best office present ever.

My mug. My mug. My lovely pony mug. *ahem*.

This was a gift from a former co-worker for one of those much dreaded office secret santa events. I have been assured that creating this gift broke his Amazon recommendations for a while. Ah well.

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The reason this mug deserves mention (other than being awesome, that is), is that it’s been a great conversation starter at my new place of work. I only recently moved jobs, to a very large company. Navigating ‘new girl in the office-itis’ can be scary territory. This mug has started more conversations with people I don’t know than any innocuous comment about the weather could.

So, shout out here – cheers, Mr Secret Santa! You gave me a great networking tool, as well as a sensibly sized receptacle to power my Caffiene Driven Development.

Things my Father told me.

My dad has the advantage of having numerous t-shirts in the ‘been there, done that’ category. I would do well to pay more attention to the advice he has given me over the years. Here are some of his nuggets of wisdom that have stuck with me – even if I haven’t always followed them when I should. My navigation of office politics or life in general would have been much smoother if I had.

  • To be seen as just as good as the boys, you have to be better than the boys.
    • I strive to do this. Probably the only place I consistently succeed is playing computer games. Unfortunately, this is coupled with being a rather graceless winner.
  • For once in your life, keep your head down and your mouth shut!
    • Father brought me up to be outspoken, and to question everything, and this does run counter to that. However, not every situation is helped by speaking my mind. Sometimes, I do need to just shut up. I’ll work on that.
  • You’re responsible for your own happiness.
    • I sometimes forget this. In a bad situation? It’s up to me to get out of it. There is no knight in shining armour waiting to save me, so I’d better get up and slay that dragon myself.
  • Don’t be a victim.
    • Sometimes, it’s too easy to wallow in self pity. In times when I’ve been depressed, I wish I’d kept this at the front of my mind.
  • You don’t give offense. You *take* offense.
    • Nothing is more annoying than someone who *looks* to take offense. Although the main thing that has happened as a result of taking this on board is that I find people more annoying.
  • Stop cutting off your nose to spite your face!
    • I’m a stubborn person. I don’t think this will change. Oops.

I think that will do for now. There are plenty more, but it would likely turn into a book. I guess the point of this post is that all the above pieces of advice, if I’d chosen to follow them throughout life more consistently, would have improved so many rubbish situations I’ve managed to land myself in. Make no mistake – the common denominator in all of my problems past and present is me.

I should probably listen to my Dad more. Even if he is leaving all the money to the cat.