Getting It Done
By Jonathan Goodyear
In tough times as well as good times, embrace the complexities of your job as a software developer. You're paid a lot of money to solve hard problems. When you're presented with a situation, you need to find alternatives to get the job done with the time and resources allotted to you.
Here's a story for you. It's about moving boxes around, but the moral of the tale applies to intellectual as well as physical labor. If you read this column with any regularity, you're aware that I split my time between my consulting company, ASPSOFT, and my mobile marketing company, PlumReward. This particular saga involved PlumReward and our exhibit at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago's McCormick Place, the largest convention center in the western hemisphere.
At the show, I wanted to demonstrate our new mobile coupon searching website. It needed to support finding merchants with deals who were within a given distance from the location that a user specifies. The engineer in charge of the search feature asked me how I wanted it implemented. I told him, "Be creative." I just wanted it to work; work being a very subjective notion that only existed in my head and that I had a hard time articulating.
It then occurred to me that while running ASPSOFT, I sometimes get annoyed at clients who ask me to build applications with no formal specifications. While running PlumReward, my employees often get annoyed at me for asking them to build applications with no formal specifications. It's odd how your perspective on things changes depending on the hat you're wearing. The good news is that if you can translate the vagaries of specifications born from hand waving and napkin scrawling, then you have job security for life. The folks who work for me are never quite as amused at that observation as I am.
We opted to use Microsoft Virtual Earth to power our search feature and to geocode the merchant addresses in our database. With a little extra effort, we got it done and MyPlumReward.com was soft-launched in time for the show. After the show ended, though, another set of issues arose.
PlumReward doesn't go to dozens of trade shows a year, so we don't have established shipping relationships. We rely on FedEx Ground to move our tradeshow materials. So, when the show ended at five and I learned that the on-site FedEx Kinkos closed at seven, I needed to act fast.
I was told that getting boxes delivered to my booth was going to take anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours; about as accurate an estimate as my cable repairman gives. That certainly wasn't going to cut it. So, I approached one of the dock workers, handed him a C-Note ($100 for those of you who failed Roman numerals) and kicked off the process.
I got my boxes with about 60 minutes to spare and with much travail reached FedEx at 6:58pm, just moments before they locked the doors behind me. After FedEx had taken control of my equipment boxes, I returned to my booth to pick up my personal belongings. Upon arriving, I saw that none of the booths around me had gotten their boxes yet, nor had the booth workers done anything to prepare for when their boxes finally did arrive.
Seeing them made me stop and think: It's more exhilarating to be a doer than someone who waits around for everything to be spelled out. That's what minimum wage jobs are for. Solving problems as either a tradeshow exhibitor or a developer is much more rewarding and more fun. It's better to show that you know how to remain productive even when confronting obstacles that block some paths of progress.
Get it done.
Jonathan Goodyear ([email protected]) is president of APSOFT, an Internet consulting firm in Orlando, FL. He is Microsoft Regional Director for Florida, an ASP.NET MVP, a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, and a contributing editor for asp.netPRO.