Building a Bomb-Ass Team

Malina Tran
Jul 8, 2016 · 5 min read
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Image courtesy of #WOCinTech Chat

In college, I was super involved on-campus. One of my roles was being an advisory board member of a student-run organization. We were responsible for two projects that, respectively:

A key responsibility I had was being involved in staff hiring for these two projects. After all, these were well-funded projects that had implications on the school’s diversity and community engagement with prospective and current students. Hiring was no easy thing; it was very rigorous.

When hiring for the project staff and director roles, one of questions that the advisory board liked asking: “What is your definition of a bomb-ass team?” Of course, this prompted an idyllic response from interviewees. The question largely ignores the sheer messiness of teams. It sweeps aside how much work it actually takes to build a team through trust, communication, and honesty.

But this was hands-down my favorite question. Understanding how people effectively collaborate was (and still is) important to me. During my time in college, I found myself as an editor-in-chief of a newsmagazine among other leadership roles and participating in group projects for classes. I am less concerned with the office politics that inhibit a good work culture (and, in my opinion, subverts team cohesion and and demonstrates poor leadership). Rather, I am more intrigued by the process of building a team that motivates, respects, and engages people. I have found that smaller teams and pairs tend to be nimble; they are most effective in achieving objectives and executing high-quality work. But how is a bomb-ass team scalable?


The Pragmatic Programmer (referred to as PP henceforth) offers some tips and ideas about how to make teams of developers great. I think some are quirky, but worthy of checking out; some I am unsure of how to execute, but sound great. Here is the best of the best, in my humble opinion:


It comes as no surprise that testing is a critical component to project management and is part of a development team’s responsibility. PP dedicates a good amount of the last chapter on testing. Their rule of thumb is that an application should generally have more test code than production code. So far, I’ve only used unit testing but thought it would be helpful to define and differentiate between different types of testing.

When the system does fail, will it fail gracefully? Will it try, as best it can, to save its state and prevent loss of work?


And lastly, as a cherry on the top, I wanted to share a new quirky term I learned from this last chapter.

I absolutely love learning about terms for concepts that I didn’t know had names. It’s like learning that the at symbol (@) is called “asperand.” Or that there is a Japanese term (hanami) that refers to cherry blossom watching, particularly the enjoyment of the transient beauty of flowers.

Fun fact: Hungarian notation refers to a variable’s name encoding its type or parameter as a prefix to its name (e.g. if expecting a boolean, using `bIsGameOver?` or if expecting a character, using `cComputerMarker`). This term was coined by Hungarian-American Charles Simonyi, who was chief architect at Microsoft. Apparently, Hungarian names are “reversed” compared to most other European names, with the family name preceding the given name.

Tech and the City

Hacking it in my hometown of Los Angeles.

Malina Tran

Written by

I design and build things for the web through code. Born & based in LA. malinatran.com

Tech and the City

Hacking it in my hometown of Los Angeles. From urban planner to software developer. From Brooklyn to Downtown LA. Getting real nerdy with it.

Malina Tran

Written by

I design and build things for the web through code. Born & based in LA. malinatran.com

Tech and the City

Hacking it in my hometown of Los Angeles. From urban planner to software developer. From Brooklyn to Downtown LA. Getting real nerdy with it.

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