From Producer to Developer
What My Return to Code Taught Me About Teamwork
I produced websites at a digital agency for four years. Then, I moved across the country and decided to put on my developer hat again for a few solo projects. Becoming a developer again gave me a really valuable perspective that I was missing before. By putting myself in the developer’s shoes, I gained a fresh understanding of the developer role, its strengths and its shortcomings.
How often have we as managers just felt like the developers we work with can’t understand the “big picture”? I’ve been unpleasantly surprised when during a check in I discovered that hours had been wasted on trying to solve an issue that wasn’t important to the project, while something critical like the navigation remained untouched. It’s easy to feel frustrated at the person when this happens, but in the midst of my own code wrangling, I discovered that It’s in fact not a personality flaw in the developer as a person. This inability to see the bigger picture is actually a product of the role of developer. Being a developer makes anyone nearsighted, even a former producer who should know better! As I sat there neck-deep in code, trying to figure out how to make those text bars rotate correctly, I found myself forgetting about the big picture. It’s like the act of coding just puts a spell over you. “Forget about the value to the client… you must solve this problem… keep working on it…now solve the next problem that you uncovered while trying to solve the other problem….keep going… no rest for the weary…” Until I found myself 8 hours in on an issue that really wasn’t that important to my client. *facepalm* So here I was, making the same mistakes I used to become aggravated about when my developers made them.
So here’s the thing I learned from all this: Developers have to be at ground level. It’s not that they aren’t capable of seeing the big picture, it’s just that development is so technical and so consuming of mental processes, that in order to be effective developers, they simply can’t afford to look up that often. And that’s OK. It’s ok for developers to be able to rely on a producer to contribute that perspective to keep the project on track. Just like it’s ok for producers to be able to rely on developers to take care of every detail of the product, to own every line of code and feel great about the solution. Understanding the unique value each role brings to the table, and being able to trust the person in that role, is critical to the success of the project.