What You Want and How to Get It

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I am tempted to quote the last paragraph, but it is so much better with the build-up of the full story that I will resist. (It borders on being the punchline to a joke.) The story is its author's go-to story for job interviews when he gets asked a question like, "Tell us about a project you were involved with that failed." Here is a pretty characteristic, non-spoiler passage:

... So I had to write seven or eight different versions of the program that validated and loaded the data. These days I would handle this easily; after the first or second iteration I would explain the situation: I had based my estimate on certain expectations of how much work would be required; I had not expected to clean up dirty data in eight different formats; they had the choice of delivering clean data in the same format as before, renegotiating the fee, or finding someone else to do the project. But in 1995 I was too green to do this, and I did the extra work for free.
There was plenty of blame on both sides for the failure of the project, so there are plenty of lessons to be learned. "Know what you want," is probably the biggest one for the client, and it is interesting to see how hard this can be. "Stand up for yourself," is probably the biggie for the contractor. Again, knowing how to do this or, indeed, when it is called for, isn't necessarily straightforward. I am not a programmer, but I found the story to be as valuable as it was entertaining.

-- CAV

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