Showing posts with label Extreme Programming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Extreme Programming. Show all posts

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Sad State Of Programmers Part 3: General Tips

This is the final part of this series. You can find the first two parts here

Part 1 The Phone Interview
Part 2 The face to face interview.

As far as the resume and interview tips go, I only focused on stuff I have encountered. You can find many tips on the internet and I did not want this post to be a copy of those.

Resume tips
Don’t repeat the same line

If you had 4 jobs and you did more or less the same thing then try to have a different description. If you have to read the same sentence 4 times it gets very boring fast. Try to emphasize what you did at one company versus another. Maybe you worked with a lot more data at one company, maybe your stored procedures had a lot more error checking or had complex business logic. If you list the same thing four times then you are not really differentiating yourself from other people to the prospective interviewer.

List variations of the same keyword
Some companies will feed your resume into a keyword matching program. So in addition to having SQL you also need T-SQL, Structured Query Language and Transact SQL. The first time a recruiter told me this I was baffled, “it is all the same” I told her, she then told me that they used programs and if you don’t score high enough they won’t even consider you.

Do not lie on your resume
If you don’t have experience in SQL Server 2005 then do NOT list it on your resume. It is better not to list it then to be asked about it and admitting you don’t know it. One person admitted he put Java on the resume because the recruiter told him so. Did this get him a job? Of course it did not. Once you have one thing that is not true on your resume the interviewer will wonder what else could be a lie.

Do not try to impress the interviewer on paper
If you have Impressive Object Oriented Skills listed on your resume then you can be sure the interviewer will ask all kinds of OOP stuff. If your skills are really not that impressive then it won’t look that good.

Don’t list your certification right below your name
I saw one resume where the person had the certification right below his name; a certification is not a Ph.D it doesn’t take a lot of money and years to get one. I did notice that the more certifications a person has the less the person knew. I don’t know why this is, maybe it is to compensate for lack of skills, and it is puzzling to me. Your certifications should be listed after your education.

Try to keep your resume concise
If you have a resume which spans 8 pages then try to make it into two or three pages if possible. You can accomplish this by using a smaller font, cutting out duplicate sentences and leaving out sentences that don’t really show any skills. A sentence like the following does not add anything to the resume at all: worked with third party development tools. What does that sentence tell someone? You can use an application or development tool, doesn’t everyone? If you are a web developer then do not list FrontPage on your resume, this will make you look like an amateur.

Use nice paper
Buy yourself some high-quality paper. Your resume is a summary of what you have accomplished so far, don’t use regular paper for that, be proud of your accomplishments use good paper! Keep your resume in pristine condition, buy a folder so that your resume doesn’t get wrinkled.

You worked at the same company for the past 15 years
List all the different positions you have held separately. Listing the positions separately will make the job progression within the company much more obvious.

Interviewing tips
Dress for success

I mentioned it before and I will mention it again: show up for the interview dressed in business attire.

Dress conservative
For women this means the following:
No miniskirts
No high heels or platform shoes
No revealing shirts
No excessive jewelry
No 80s hair styles
Don’t pour gallons of Chanel No 5 on yourself, some people are allergic to perfume and might cut the interview short.

Men should be equally conservative
A navy or black suit is your best bet. You should wear a white shirt; my wife who worked in the banking industry told me a story once about a perfect candidate who did not get hired because he wore a blue shirt. I know it sounds ridiculous but you never know who sits at the other end of the table. I do have friends who over the phone find out about the dress code and ask if they can come in without a suit. I wouldn’t do it; if you have a suit wear it.
No neon colored ties, pick a conservative color.
No excessive jewelry; a wedding band and a watch is all you need. Keep you Cartier love bracelet at home until you get hired.
Don’t be a walking perfume factory, this is not a date.
Shave and trim your hair, if you have long hair keep it out of your face, if you have a beard then keep it neat.

Do your research
Here are two true stories. One person asked if we made shampoos because she passed Johnson & Johnson on the way to our building, she assumed we were a subsidiary. Another person did not know we got acquired by News Corp. it is okay if you don’t know what we do and we did not ask you but do NOT ask what a company does, you should have looked that up before the interview. Do ask what direction the company is going to, how they plan to deal with competition etc.

Behave proper
What you consider normal might not be considered normal by other people. Some people have phobias; they don’t want to be touched for example. I asked a person to explain to me what a deadlock was, he told me to grab the phone then he grabbed my hand and told me to pick up the phone. He said I couldn’t pick up the phone because he locked it. Don’t chew gum. Don’t say “What?’ but ask the interviewer to repeat the question.

Ask questions
Don’t just answer question but also ask questions. Ask about the team, development style, growth of the department and anything else you deem important.

Technical skills and how to keep them up to date
Not everyone works with the latest versions of SQL Server or Visual Studio. Maybe you don’t have a MSDN subscription at work to download the latest versions. When asked if you used the latest version of SQL Server do not say “no because we don’t use it currently at my job”. Some companies will see this as a sign that you are doing the same stuff day in and day out. Download the latest CTP or free express versions, use it at home, build stuff on the weekends. This way you can say that even though you have not used it at work you were still exposed to it. You initiated this yourself and this is an indication that you are willing to learn even in your free time.
I always ask the candidate how the skills are kept up to date. A lot of people have a very tough time answering this question; it might be because they don’t keep it up to date unless they are sent to a training class by their current employer. Instead of paying $40 for a video game or the new HD DVD directors cut invest in a book, this $40 investment will pay itself back very fast (of course you need to read the book and not use it as a paper weight). When you are the one at work who people ask questions to then this will get noticed and you might get promoted sooner. If your employer does not reimburse you for books then keep the recites; if you itemize on your tax return you can use them to lower you marginal tax rate.
Get a RSS reader and subscribe to blogs. There is great content from the SQL Server team, from book authors and from trainers. SQLBlog is a great blog to subscribe to and also check out the roller ( there are some great blogs there. Visit forums (fora) and newsgroups, here is the SQL server programming one

If you are not comfortable answering question then lurk, read what the masters answer and you will remember it when you have the same problem later on. Don’t worry if you get flamed, I myself answered a question a long time ago and some MVP answered to my answer “Hello table scan anyone”. This brings you back to earth very fast and also makes you verify code for next time. It makes you a better programmer because who wants to get flamed or criticized every day? Not me.
If you have a thick skin then start a blog about programming. Post something bad and you will get comments; this also will make you a better programmer since you will be more careful later on. I remember when I started my blog and I had a post about DBCC PINTABLE, Hugo Kornelis posted a comment how that was being deprecated and should not be used. I could have easily deleted the post and the comment but I did not, this reminds me that I have to double check before I post if I don’t want to get some comments telling me that I am a n00b. Here is the link to that post

This concludes this series, hopefully you learned something from it and look past the negativity to get something positive out of it(wow if that is not a self-help sentence then nothing is)

Happy New Year

Monday, August 06, 2007

Becoming A Better Programmer In 6 Months: The First 20 days

Here is an update of what I accomplished in the first 20 days

Read the book lifehacker
Read the book Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Integration Services
Read the book Extending SSIS 2005 with Script
Read 1 chapter of Learning Python, Second Edition
Played around with the July CTP of SQL Server 2008

So in the first 20 days I have read 3 books however two books are very thin. I will need that time later when I start on much thicker books like Code Complete and Inside Microsoft SQL Server 2005: T-SQL Querying

I will also make a small change to the list instead of Expert SQL Server 2005 Integration Services I will read Core Python Programming

I also started tinkering with Python, those guys are a bunch of jokers. if you type "import this" in a Python command line window you get this output

Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import this
The Zen of Python, by Tim Peters

Beautiful is better than ugly.
Explicit is better than implicit.
Simple is better than complex.
Complex is better than complicated.
Flat is better than nested.
Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.
Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.
Although practicality beats purity.
Errors should never pass silently.
Unless explicitly silenced.
In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.
Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.
Now is better than never.
Although never is often better than *right* now.
If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.
If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

So that is one of the easter eggs hidden in Python.

In the past week I also played around with the new date data types in SQl server 2008, I have filed a bug/typo which I found in Books On Line.This week I will concentrate on the book Learning Python, Second Edition during weekends and lunch hours, in the evening I will read Practices of an Agile Developer

This is it for the update. The original post can be found here:

A more detailed post about the first 10 days can be found here:

I am also glad to say that most of the people I tagged in the original post have responded

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Becoming A Better Programmer In 6 Months: The First 10 days

Here is an update of what I accomplished in the first 10 days

Read the book lifehacker
Read the book Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Integration Services
Read 126 pages of Extending SSIS 2005 with Script
Installed PostgreSQL, Python, Eclipse and Django.

Now you may ask yourself how I could have read all these things in 10 days. This is because I have to convert a whole bunch of packages from DTS to SSIS. So I did read a lot at work about SSIS. As you can see I sneaked the Extending SSIS 2005 with Script book in there which was not on my original list. I actually did all the example in that book. SSIS is pretty cool, the only thing which was frustrating (at first) was that you cannot modify a connection string with script like in DTS. However you can use Package Configurations to do that. This is important if you have to import a daily Excel file with a different filename every day. So as your first step in your package you just update the configuration table. Here is a small example

DECLARE @i char(8)

UPDATE dbo.[SSIS_Configurations]
SET ConfiguredValue = 'E:\SSISExcel\ida' + @i + '.csv'
WHERE ConfigurationFilter ='CSV'
AND PackagePath ='\Package.Connections[FlatFileCSV].Properties[ConnectionString]'

I will write a blogpost with more details and screenshots within the next couple of days.

I though the Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Integration Services book was pretty good. I saw some mixed reviews on Amazon but I do not agree with that at all. The book is well organized, easy to read and the examples are easy to follow. I recommend this book to anyone who has to learn SSIS.

Another book I read is lifehacker, this books shows hacks that you can use to improve your technical life. One of the hacks that I have implemented is the JunkDraw hack. You create a folder called JunkDraw, this is where you save all your downloaded content. Then there is the VB Script which is scheduled to run once a day and deletes all the files which are older than 2 weeks from this folder. So if you downloaded something and you did not move it from the folder it will be gone. How many files/apps/trial/beta apps have you downloaded, moved to a folder and never looked at again? Exactly this will prevent that kind of clutter.

I mentioned that I would like to learn a new language, so I went a little overboard because in addition to a new language I have also chosen a new database and a framework. The language is Python which was created by Guido van Rossum. Python is a scripting language and pretty popular among the FLOSS guys/girls. This of course will prepare me to play around with IronPython and the DLR once that is finalized. The DB I picked is PostgreSQL, I have chosen PostgreSQL instead of MySQL because I just can’t install a DB where you can enter invalid days. Another reason is that PostgreSQL is recommended with the framework that I picked. I picked Django over TurboGears and Ruby on Rails because I have heard some good things about it, one of them being performance. So last Sunday 5AM I installed PostgreSQL, Django, Python, Eclipse and the Eclipse Python plugin Pydev on a windows box and got the initial setup to work.

I will keep you posted on my progress once every 10 days but so far it is going good ;-)

Here is the link to the original Become a Better Developer... in 6 months article

Monday, July 16, 2007

Become a Better Developer... in 6 months

I just listened to the latest Hanselminutes podcast: Be a Better Developer in Six Months
Scott Hanselman asks “what are you going to do in the next 6 months to become a better developer”?
He suggest reading books, nerd dinners, having lunches together with other non competitive companies, watch webcasts together during lunch and code reading.

Here is what I am going to do for the next 6 months

I am going to read a technical book every 10 days
and review every single book

That should be possible now that my twins are one year old (tomorrow). I have a bit more free time at night to read. Here is the list of books, some of them I have read, some I have partially read.

Code Complete (reread)
I think this is one of those books that you should read once a year.

Practices of an Agile Developer
Some good stuff in here, in ordered it a couple of months ago but did not read it yet.

Inside Microsoft SQL Server 2005: T-SQL Querying (partial reread)
I read several chapters but did not read the whole book.

Inside Microsoft SQL Server 2005: The Storage Engine (reread)
I have read parts of this one; I have read the 2000 edition several times.

Refactoring (reread)
I was thinking Design Patterns (GOF) or this one. As you can see I have chosen Refactoring.

Why refactor when you can prefactor? I just skimmed through it in the book store and it looks promising.

Open Sources 2.0
Open Sources 2.0 is a collection of insightful and thought-provoking essays from today's technology leaders that continues painting the evolutionary picture that developed in the 1999 book Open Sources: Voices from the Revolution.

Pragmatic Unit Testing in C# with NUnit
New edition.

Building the Data Warehouse (reread)
Read this one several years ago, will read it again

Expert SQL Server 2005 Integration Services
Will read this together with the one below at work; have to convert about 60 DTS packages to SSIS.

Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Integration Services

Beautiful Code
In this unique and insightful book, leading computer scientists offer case studies that reveal how they found unusual, carefully designed solutions to high-profile projects. You will be able to look over the shoulder of major coding and design experts to see problems through their eyes.

Pro SQL Server 2005 Database Design and Optimization (reread)
Read this will read it again

The Art of SQL
Heard some good stuff about this book.

Getting Things Done
We all need some help with organizing our lives.

Lifehacker (reread)
Getting ThingsDone for the computer person, very useful stuff inside.

Framework Design Guidelines (reread)
Very nice book, you will learn why something was done a certain way. Good tips on what to avoid and what should be done.

New language Book probably Python or Ruby( you decide)

Here is a pic of the books I have at home, the others I have at work or I still have to purchase them.

I will watch 2 web casts a week during lunch time and review those also.

I will look at high quality source code from open source projects and also from the book Beautiful Code. I will go to CodePlex to download a couple of open source projects and will study the source code

I will learn a new language (I actually got this from Ken Henderson who suggests to learn a new language every year) and rewrite one of the current applications in that language. This way I don’t have to worry about logic problems and design, I just have to translate the code.

I will learn a new technology. I am thinking either WCF or WPF

I will keep updates on Pownce (sorry folks no invites left) everyday The reason I am doing this is so that someone can call me out in case I don’t keep my promise. This is similar to stopping smoking but not telling anyone, if you do that then who knows you stopped so that they can confront you?

I know this is cheesy but I will do it anyway, I will tag 5 people I (kind of) know and I want them to tell us their plans.
Adam Machanic
Louis Davisdson
Peter DeBetta
Mladen Prajdic
Hugo Kornelis

And I will tag 5 people whose blogs I read but I don’t know them
Jeff Smith
Jason Gaylord
Jeff Altwood
Matija Lah
Ward Pond

And you the reader, what will you do in the next 6 months to become a better developer?

Cross posted from here:

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sam Gentile Reviews RubyMicrosoft Essay By Martin Fowler

Martin Fowler asked Sam Gentile to review and contribute thoughts to his very important new essay RubyMicrosoft. This piece presents the view that Microsoft is at a crossroads, an important time in its life where Microsoft can make good of opportunities or choose an altogether different road.

Read the article here:

Here is the most interesting comment

On the alpha geek side, I fear all is lost already. All of my peers and the "Agile .NET" community have already moved ontoCastle/Windsor, NUNit, NAnt, MonoRail, Spring.NET, NHibernate, etcinstead of Microsoft solutions. It’s virtually over already. For twoyears now, I have talked about our Agile team and how we can't useVisual Studio Team System and instead have to use CruiseControl.NET,NUnit, NAnt, etc to work in an Agile fashion. Not only does Microsoftnot understand this, but the majority of Microsoft programmers don't.They have been weaned on being "Morts" and having wizards, storedprocedures, drag & drop forced on them and not required to learn thesolid skills that make up what we think of as a developer

What is your opinion? We are using Subversion and currently testing with CruiseControl, NAnt and NUnit

Cross-posted from SQLBlog! -