Weeknotes S04E09: This is where we come alive

This has been a topsy-turvy few weeks. I’m still coming to terms with some things that happened and I’m going to work through them bit by bit. Normally this kind of post would be automatically published in a slack channel at work – it’s a cool idea, and it exposes me to people I wouldn’t otherwise get to meet – but this one…this one I’m still working out.

Five things that happened since I spoke to you last

1I’ve written a lot of code that I’m really quite happy with. I’m particularly pleased with the reporting module, which I wrote, rewrote, wrote again, refactored and then finally deleted most of. You can try out the entire system for yourself by following these instructions: https://github.com/jonodrew/talent-tracker

You’ll need a little bit of technical skill – like knowing what git clone means – and have Docker installed on your computer. However, if you’ve got that, then I’m confident you’ll be able to try this out for yourself.[mfn]If you try it out and get stuck, please let me know so I can make the guidance better![/mfn] This application is the best code I’ve ever written – but then I suppose your most recent code should always be the best code you’ve ever written. I’m particularly proud of my abstract classes.

One thing it’s really hammered home to me is the difficulty of writing tests for a reporting function. I can write tests with sterile data I produce myself, but there’s no way of replicating the richness of real-life data without using real-life data. And testing with real data is a no-no. It’s given me a whole new respect for my old developer team, who used to suffer requests for new reports every week or so.

Writing a complex piece of code 1 day a week while also writing a proposal for my senior management team reminds me that coding is a creative pursuit; or perhaps that I try and solve prose like I write code. There is a first pass where you make sure everything is there, but that’s not the end. You’ve got to make second and third passes: your code and your prose will be read far more by other people. Does it make sense? Does the logic flow obviously from one paragraph to another? Do you inspire emotion in your reader?[mfn]Rage is an emotion, but shouldn’t be what you’re designing for[/mfn]

2I’ve also dragged my mentee into doing a little bit of work around the edges of it. I’ve really thrown them into the deep end, but they’ve reacted well and already put up a new design that got great early feedback. We’ll be pairing next week on the more complex back-end and adding tests to make sure we don’t break things by accident.

I’ve picked up a third…student. I’m not sure yet what the difference is, but I know that right now I don’t feel like I’m mentoring. I’m teaching – and I’m doing a good job of it. I’m proud of my ability to teach people to code one-on-one. But I don’t know if I’m mentoring. I feel like mentoring is…something different? Something more holistic than just the transfer of knowledge?

What does mentoring actually mean, anyway?

I’ve also been offered a mentor, and I’m trying to work out what I’d like to get from them. All in all though, as I read this, I think I’m feeling a little bit lost. I think I know why, too.

3I got broken up with.

4I saw my doctor and talked about things. Things like the fact that I can’t imagine the internal worlds of other people. Things like the fact that loud, overlapping chatter is painful to me. Things like the fact that social cues are a mystery and that I can code for 14 hours straight and that I really hate deadpan jokes because I don’t know if they’re jokes and I get massively anxious about whether I should laugh or not.

She thought about it for a little while and then referred me on to a specialist unit that deals with autistic spectrum disorders. I got a call from someone at the unit, who explained the first part of the diagnostic process was a call with someone who knew me as a child. Both of the people who knew me well as a child work full time, so organising a time for this 2.5 hour call has been proving difficult. However, this week we found a time and in the next few months something will happen.

I feel strange about this. Being able to put a label on the way I think and feel isn’t exciting to me, if only because I know that labels are necessarily broad brushes while human experience is unique and messy. But the label isn’t for me, I don’t think. I think it’s to help other people take a mental shortcut.

I’m deathly worried that, if I were to be diagnosed in this way, the mental shortcuts people would take would not be thoughtful. They might not know that autism is a two-dimensional spectrum, like a colour wheel: colours shift from red to blue, but also from light to dark.[mfn]Think you’ve got a good imagination? What would a three-dimensional colour spectrum look like?[/mfn]

Image from https://theoraah.tumblr.com/post/142300214156/understanding-the-spectrum

So I don’t know. I don’t whether, if I were diagnosed, I would share it with anyone.

5I secured an interview with a different organisation to do Engineering Management, and had a call with a recruiter there. It sounds incredibly intense – managers can be responsible for up to 14 people (!) – and reminds me quite strongly of, for example, operational teams I’ve been in within the Civil Service. I think I’ll go to the interview: if nothing else I’m really curious to see what it’s about and what life outside the Service might look like. I’m also very curious whether the above would be a block to being effective in a role like that: whether I need to be able to imagine someone’s internal world in order to support them.

It is also absurdly better paid. I genuinely think if I took such a job my bank might ring me up on my first payday to check if there’d been a mistake of some sort.

I think that’s one of those good problems to have.😎

And finally:

This week I’m recommending The Anthropocene Reviewed, a podcast that’s mostly an opportunity for John Green to write beautiful prose and then read it into your ears. The stated aim is to review everything in the human era – the so-called anthropocene – on the 5-star rating scale.

I give it 4 stars.

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