Be Kind

One Friday afternoon, early in my career, I was wrapping up some new features for the back-end of a client’s Rails app. Simple stuff. Confident in my work, I deployed the changes, closed my laptop, and drove out of town for a weekend of camping with friends. I had just arrived when my phone rang. It was my project lead, Kevin.

“The client’s site is down. What happened?”

Oh shit. Fuck. I had no idea. I was three hours away with no laptop.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ll take care of it. Have a good weekend.”

Like that was going to happen. I’d let the team down. I’d ruined someone else’s weekend. I beat myself up for days. Come Monday; I walked into the office certain I was about to be fired. The project lead walked over.

“Hey, Brian. How was your trip?”

He was smiling. There wasn’t even a hint of frustration or annoyance. “It was okay,” I said, waiting for the bad news. “Sorry about Friday. I completely blew it.”

“It’s okay,” he replied. “We’ve all done it.” He paused for a moment. “But what did you learn?”

I talked about the need for proper QA. About thoroughly testing my changes. About taking the time to make sure the job gets done right. After a few minutes, he held up his hand.

“Great. It sounds like you get it. I know that you can do better.”

And that was the end of it. Kevin never brought it up again.

Kevin gave me the space to screw up, as long as I learned from it. He jumped in, with his years of experience, and helped me out when I needed it most. And still believed I was a competent developer, despite my mistake. He saw my potential.

Now that I’m the one leading projects and mentoring junior developers, I often think back to that day. And I remind myself to be kind and see the potential in people. Give them a break.

Just like Kevin did for me.


This originally appeared on the Monday Mailer.
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