DevBites: The Upside to Spare Time
With Michael Lopp
Michael Lopp is the author of “The Art of Leadership: Small Things Done Well,” which uses stories from his professional experience at Netscape, Apple and Slack to present a series of small but compelling practices to help readers build leadership skills.
We spoke with Michael about the importance of a work space, having empathy for your coworkers’ work-from-home situations and the silver lining of pandemic-induced spare time for developers.
Hoss: With most teams now working remotely, what advice do you have for teams and engineering leaders who are adapting to a new way of working?
Michael Lopp: My advice varies by the day right now, but today’s important thing is to spend a good chunk of time making your home office a productive place to work. When it was just you on the weekends in that space, it was ok that your desk was cluttered. That is unacceptable when this is your full time work space. Treat it like you treat your favorite editor. Obsess over it. Make it perfect for you.
Hoss: Do you think many teams will adopt remote work post-crisis?
ML: Fact: different companies have vastly different opinions regarding distributed work. Second fact: every single one of those companies is receiving a forced education on the pros and cons of distributed work. I can’t imagine that we’re going to implement vastly different work from home policies because of this pandemic.
Hoss: What is the worst piece of advice you hear being given out?
ML: “Go outside.”
But I think you were talking about distributed work. Not sure if it’s the worst, but setting the expectation that everything is normal at work because we’re privileged to be able to work from home is bad advice. It’s not normal. Forget about the absence of social interaction. What about all the daily habits that have been disrupted? How about all the different living situations? Parents at home? Roommates suddenly together 24/7? You might be comfy in your home office, but your co-workers might be living entirely different experiences. It’s not normal. Acknowledge that.
Hoss: Given the disruption our society has seen, are there any tech trends that you see on the horizon that other people may think are insane?
ML: I realize this is already happening, but I think we’re going to see a surge in any tool/technology that allows a group of humans to better work in a distributed fashion. I don’t think we’re anywhere close on productive video conferencing. We have working video conferencing and thankfully it’s working great, but a productive video conference that doesn’t feel like a wall of eyeballs bearing down on you? A video conference that feels more like the productive, dynamic conversation you might have in an in-person meeting? Long ways to go there.
Hoss: What do you think the future of software development looks like?
ML: I usually have a personal project I am working on that keeps me in touch with development tools. I am developing a dumb-as-dirt website for my next book and I’m tinkering with zsh, git, and Netlify. It’s magical to me how quickly I can go from 0 to 10 on building a thing with no upfront cost. I only think that is going to accelerate, especially in the next year. How many talented developers are sitting at home right now working on that big idea they never had time for? They have time now.