My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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It's comfortable to play the idealist and pretend you don't care what other people think about you. But, that's a game. You can't let yourself believe it. You should care what other people think about you. Perception is reality. Get over it.
Chad Fowler, My Job Went to India (page 121)

Let me put that another way: Perception is reality. Get over it.

Last week, we finished the section of MJWTI that dealt with executing when we discussed the importance of commitment, and executing on that commitment. This week, we begin adventuring into the world many of us have absolutely no clue about: marketing.

The main thing I want to do here is dispel this myth that marketing is evil, or that it's "just for suits" (quoting Fowler). There's no sense in persisting these illusions that say your super-modesty is an ethical choice in reaction to evil, or that it's not your job.

MC Escher's Relativity used to illustrate illusion.

I cast dispel magic in your general area. I rolled a 17 on a d20. It's enough to pass the check. Therefore, the illusion from which you now suffer will disappear on your next turn.

I agree that it is possible to go overboard, being a braggart. But let's worry about that when you get close to it - you're most likely on the other end of the scale:
Most programmer types were the last kids picked for every team when they were in school. They probably avoided social situations where possible and failed miserable where not possible. It's no surprise that these people are afraid to stick their necks out by trying to show someone their capabilities.
The fact of the matter is that there's no reliable way to objectively measure knowledge-workers. What are they going to do? Count the lines of code you write? LoC as a measure of productivity is a stupid idea. Even if you were to have objective measures of "goodness" and "badness" as it relates to developers, perception would still matter: Someone has to decide if he likes you enough to promote you, or to keep you on the team in times of cutting back, or hire you in the first place.

If people are going to rely on their perceptions to form judgments of you, you might as well be the one to decide what they experience to form that perception.

One way to do that is to Speak Up! In doing so, Chad suggests making a list of groups you interact with and their associated perception drivers. His example looks like this:

Group Perception Drivers
Teammates: Technical skills, social skills, teamwork
Manager: Leadership ability, customer focus, communication skills, follow through, teamwork
Customers: Customer focus, communication skills, follow through
Project Manager: Communication skills, follow through, productivity, technical skills


He also suggests making your own list, and trying to change your behavior to emphasize those points which resonate well depending on which group you're around. Critique yourself as you go along. By simply making conversation along the lines defined by perception drivers in each group, you don't need to brag to be seen in a positive light.

It sounds quite technical, but I think it's probably a bit more natural than it seems by writing it down and reading it.

I know I need to give it a try. Yesterday, one of my classmates made a "he talks too much" motion with the duck-quacking of his hands when he thought I wasn't looking. I know it was probably something to do with the way he was feeling, but I could obviously be better perceived at least by that member of my peer group.

What do you think? Baloney? Hogwash? Or might there be something to this perception thing? My vote's with the last one. Don't agree? Change my mind in the comments.

Hey! Why don't you make your life easier and subscribe to the full post or short blurb RSS feed? I'm so confident you'll love my smelly pasta plate wisdom that I'm offering a no-strings-attached, lifetime money back guarantee!


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