In our modern world of mobile devices and tech, it’s easy to become distracted. As knowledge workers, we have an attraction to achieve mastery in our craft and autonomy. My family will attest that I do a lot of “work related” or “blog related” reading to stay on top of the latest maker tools, trends or leadership coaching. Our mobile devices offer an escape. They offer infinite entertainment, infinite knowledge, and illusion of being connected. Without checks and balances, is it worth the cost?
As I draft this post, I know that I can own the challenge of being more present to my friends, family and peers. As a Dad and husband, I am challenging myself to be in the moment. Honestly, this is a struggle. I work as a software engineer. Many programmers(including myself) will confess that they have the ability to continue working problems in their head even after they’ve disconnected from their computers. Now that we’re armed with mobile phones and Google, we can continue to “research” solutions anytime and anywhere. I know I have to cherish my wife and kids. My kids will only be little once in a lifetime. Let’s make this time count.
On a professional level, our team leader purchased our team the gift of really nice notebooks during a sprint planning meeting. After handing out theses gifts to each team member, he invited us to close our laptops/devices to encourage us to engage more deeply in the meeting and with each other. The message was the same. Let’s be present to each other. Since that teaching moment has happened, I’ve noticed that our team members have become more prepared to meetings too. This has increased meeting effectiveness. In some ways, this teaching hints at the agile concept of “people over processes and tools.”
As mentioned before, I struggle with the distraction of mobile tech just like anyone else. I believe that making, tinkering, and engineering skills support a profound engagement in learning. As my friend Sylvia Martinez says, “making is a stance toward learning.” Technology is one tool of many to express creativity and grow. It’s not the only tool. I have to acknowledge the tech needs limits, balance, and bounds. The following video by Guy Raz from NPR motivated me to draft this post. My goal in sharing this post is simply to create awareness of the influence of mobile tech. How do we use this tool effectively? How do we keep this technology in balance? How do we become more present to the people around us?
Do you have any rules of thumb that you follow to be more present? We love to hear from our readers. Please share a comment below.
Whether you’re just starting in your career or you’ve been working in the industry for years, you can benefit from the culture and practice of open source. I want to thank John Baluka for sharing his reflections and personal journey on this topic. I really appreciate John’s fresh business perspective on using open source to advance your learning and business. I had the opportunity to hear him share his talk on this topic during an ONETUG meeting this past week. If you’re in the Orlando area, make sure to check out ONETUG. They’re a great community of programming professionals.
I believe that John hit on 5 thoughtful benefits for getting to know open source solutions. In John’s view, you need to be strategic on your investment of time.
1. Personal learning and growth: In John’s journey, he wanted to find an example of a large software architecture written in .NET and ASP.NET MVC. He selected NopCommerce, a cool e-commerce platform for .NET developers. John organized lessons and meta-patterns from dissecting this project into a talk. Some of the topics included dependency injection, language localization, data validation, plug-in architecture, and agile design. John offered us a challenge to select and study an open source project as a tool to advance your career in architecture or software leadership. On InspiredToEducate.NET, we have talked about this principle in the context of the makers movement. Everyone can learn something from reading code, exploring a 3D model, dissecting an electronics schematic, music, art, etc. What’s an open source project that fits into your space of passion?
2. Open source software enhances your public profile of work: When you hire an interior designer, how would you make your decision? You probably would review pictures of previous work to see if the designer fits with your tastes and requirements. For the average job interview in software engineering, it’s typically hard to show code from your previous gig. (i.e. corporate secrets, policies) Most companies don’t do their work in open source. By getting involved and contributing to an open source project, you can enhance your public profile of work. How does your GitHub reflect your strengths and skills?
3. Speed to solution: It’s important to remember that software developers aren’t paid to write code. We provide value and solve business problems. Open source software enables our teams to reduce time to market. Phil Haack, creator of ASP.NET MVC and engineer at GitHub, shared a reflection that businesses should always focus on their unique value proposition. (i.e. what makes your company different than other options ) Open source provides an opportunity for companies to partner or collaborate on elements outside of your unique value proposition. Why write a big workflow system or content system when you can integrate one?
4. Open source is social: To advance your career, it’s important to expand your network and relationships. Growing authentic relationships becomes critical in growing your business. By collaborating on open source, you have an opportunity to learn from others. You have the opportunity to invest and support peers around you. I personally get excited about supporting the growth of others.
5. Business models around open source software: I really appreciate John’s reflections on this aspect. I admire his pragmatic approach to selecting NopCommerce. On one level, the open source project followed good and clean patterns. In his view, the project isn’t perfect, but you can learn something from it. By sharing his reflections on the software design during user group meetups and conferences, he started getting consulting requests to support NopCommerce integrations. He challenged us to strategically select an open source project for learning with an eye toward job growth. In the NopCommerce space, you can earn money by building store themes, building plugins, providing support or integrations. Here’s a few more blog post that elaborate on this idea.