Houston Tech Fest 2016: Feedback Requested!

To those of you who’ll attend to my sessions at Houston Tech Fest 2016 this Saturday, September 24, please make sure to let me know how you liked it by going to the following links:

Software Development is a Joke

Want to Build Software? Get Your Act Together First!

These are two of my favorite sessions, and I’d love to receive feedback so I can keep improving them.

Leave a comment

Speaking at the Houston Tech Fest 2016 on Saturday

I’ll be speaking at the Houston Tech Fest 2016 this Saturday. If you haven’t heard of this event, it’s a huge 1-day conference, free of charge, with tons of sessions (11 tracks!).

I’ve presented sessions there for at least 5 editions of the conference, and after a 3-year hiatus, I’m happy to be back, as I’ve known so many people there and have always had a great time.

Below you find information about the sessions I’ll be delivering and the panel I’ll participate, so make sure to come by and say hi.🙂

Oh, also, if you come attend to my sessions and enjoy it, you can also contact Improving and request I come to your company for a Lunch and Learn! Check out the list of sessions available and spread the word out: Free Improving Lunch and Learns.

Software Development is a Joke!

Room 305 (SoftDev) at 1pm

Several of my technical presentations introduce some kind of humor, but sometimes people end up learning the joke and not the concept. So I decided to do a humor presentation based on software development, introduce some technical stuff, and maybe people won’t laugh, but rather learn the technical stuff!

After so many years writing software, I can’t help but laugh at so many (good and bad!) experiences myself and other developers have had. Not to mention things that just can’t make sense to normal people: how can this ˆ[A-Z0-9._%+-]+@[A-Z0-9.-]+\.[A-Z]{2,4}$ be called a regular expression? (If you know by heart what that expression means, you are probably the kind of people who’ll try to explain to me why zerobased arrays are kinda cool…just don’t!).

The Business of Software (Panel)

Room 306 (Mobile)

Want to build software? Get your act together first!

Room 300 (Mixed) at 4:10pm

Software developers are supposed to create applications that make people’s life easier, automating tedious tasks, encouraging users to get their work done, organizing complex workflows into digestible information and actions, helping them separate the most important information from the least important.
But still, most developers forget to automate their own boring tasks. We forget to organize our information. We sometimes use tools that do not help us get our work done. So how can we build software that fits our client needs, if we don’t understand those needs ourselves?
This session is not only about software development; this session is about things we can do and tools we can use to organize ourselves, so we can free up our minds to more important things. Tools covered in this session include (but not limited to): Evernote, application launchers, screen capture tools, tablets, smartphones, etc.

Leave a comment

Time for me to improve

From time to time I like to embrace new challenges in my professional life and it’s happening again now, as I start a new full-time job at Improving!

I’ve known several folks at the company for many years now from speaking at conferences and user groups. In the last two years I’ve done some gigs with them as a contractor at clients in Brazil and Argentina. I’ve had a lot of fun and was very fortunate as they offered me a full-time job as I move back to the US.

I’m looking forward to working with several like-minded guys I’ve known for years, taking on new challenges, and as it is bound to happen, Improving myself as a professional and a person (yes, pun intended!).

Full-time <-> Independent cycles

I started my first full-time job 26 years ago. Since then, I’ve alternated between full-time and independent jobs, but always staying at least a couple of years on each. Doing so has helped me both working on my own as well as working with others. As a hobbyist musician, I can relate this with making music in a band or as a solo artist (but I’ll save this to another post…).

Five years ago I’ve blogged about the fact I was going to work on my own, after solid 9 years on a full-time job. At the time I really needed that change both from professional and personal points-of-view. Now, five years later, I feel I’ve succeeded on that change and am ready to do it again. Working on my own during this time was great as I managed to be involved in some great projects, and it has also allowed me to go on with some big changes in my personal life.

Back to speaking…

I’m also going back to doing presentations at user groups and conferences. I’ve been missing those things, so I did a presentation last month in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and will be doing two presentation at the Houston Tech Fest 2016. I’m looking forward to hanging out with a bunch of my old buddies out there.

3 Comments

My brain does work better later in the day after all

I’ve been playing Lumosity’s brain games daily for several months now. I’ve read about people swearing by it, so I decided to try it myself.

For many months, my morning routine included meditation, and then the brain games. I thought that’d be when my brain would perform at its best: early in the morning, before reading emails or anything like that, and right after meditating. Well, I was wrong.

There was one week where I had time to meditate in the morning, but didn’t have time for the brain games, so I was doing them later in the day, around 9pm or so. I thought my scores that week would drop noticibly, given I was very busy working all day and would be tired in the evening. That’s not what happened: all my scores went up that week, despite the fact that I was feeling very tired!

I then decided to change my brain games time to my evenings, and my scores have been consistently better than when I was doing it early in the morning.

I’ve been experimenting with finding the best time of the day for me to perform certain tasks. I’ve always had this feeling that my brain works much better from mid afternoon into the evening, so it seems these brain games are confirming that.

,

Leave a comment

Meditation is finally paying off

I feel like meditation is finally paying off for me!

I remember I was a kid (maybe 10 years old or so) when I first tried any sort of meditation. No idea what motivated me to do so at the time. Maybe it’s because I was into watching martial arts movies and saw the characters meditating?

I used to close the doors and windows to keep my bedroom dark, put on Vangelis’ Alpha song (my brother had a small LP that had that song), sat on the floor, and went like “ommmmmmmm” for a while. Go figure.

A little over year ago I heard of Headspace’s app for guided meditation and decided to give it a go. I tried their free 10-day program, enjoyed it, and ended up getting the yearly subscription.

As of today, I have had 243 medication sessions, totalling 44 hours, averaging 11 minutes per session. I first started doing 10-minute daily sessions, and only about two months ago I’ve increased it to 15-minute sessions.

It’s definitely not easy sitting through those sessions trying not to get distracted by everything going on in my head. For a long time I kept asking myself whether that thing was actually working, since I couldn’t tell difference. But I decided to insist on it.

Now I think it’s finally paying off!

I’ve been noticing how smoothly I’m handling some stressful situations, such as cases where in the past I’d lose my temper and end up regretting how I handled it.

I’ve also been noticing that I’m detecting my distractions a lot quicker and more frequently and bringing my mind back to whatever it is that I need to be focused on.

Many times those distractions come in the shape of thoughts that bring me down, and most of the times those are things either sitting in the past (which I cannot change) or future (which I may or may not be able to change). I’m noticing I’m doing a lot better at recognizing those thoughts and letting them go as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Overall, I’m feeling happier and more focused, which are things I had been really in need of, and I believe meditation is one of the things helping me with that.

Due to my consistency following my daily sessions, Headspace has been giving me vouchers that I can give out to people who would like to try their app for one month for free. Let me know if you’d like to get one voucher.

,

Leave a comment

Reading one book every day (well, sort of…)

A few months ago I mentioned how I’m Catching up with my Book Reading. There are so many books I want to read, but there’s never enough time. Usually, before deciding on whether I’ll read a book or not, I read reviews on Amazons or blog posts from people who have read it. A few days ago I’ve learned about a better way to do that: Blinkist.

I’ve learned about Blinkist a few days ago after reading this post in the Evernote blog. I tried their free trial and decided to subsribe.

They have 15-minute summaries of several books, including many books that have been on my reading list for a while. I can either read these summaries, or listen to it. These summaries contain the gist of the book, and it gives me chance to make a better decision as to whether I want to read the full book or not. Regardless, those 15 minutes should give me enough information which I might not get otherwise.

I had already put a “read for 15 minutes” item on my “building better habits” daily list, and now I have a great source of reading material to fulfil that daily habit. I’ve added a bunch of books to my library and will be going through each one of them, daily, 15 minutes a day.

Let me know if you give Blinkist a shot. I’d like to know how you like it, and what your favorite books are, as I’m always looking for recommendations to add to my list.

Leave a comment

The topic of testing never gets old

At the last Virtual Brown Bag we talked about Test-Driven Development (TDD), Behavior-Driven Development (BDD), and related subjects (you can watch it here).

I’ve been very fortunate in the last 5 years working on projects where I simply write the tests as part of the work. It’s just something I do.

Is it a new feature?

If I need to work on a new feature, I write the tests to spec out my understanding of the feature. If I can’t write the test, most likely I don’t understand what the feature is, and if that’s the case, I shouldn’t write any code to begin with. Instead, I should pair up with the QA guys and/or the business analysts (or work directly with my client), and make sure I understand not only what the feature is, but also why it is important to the business.

Is it a defect?

If I need to work on fixing a defect, I’ll do my best to write a test that reproduces the issue. Granted, some issues (such as multi-threading issues) are really difficult to reproduce in test, but hopefully those types of issues aren’t the core of my projects. Whenever there is an area that’s hard to test, I’ll try to isolate as much of the code as possible, decreasing the surface that’s hard to be tested.

The biggest lessons I’ve learned from testing

While I think I’ve learned quite a bit about the technical aspects of writing tests, and have been harvesting so many positive outcomes, such as writing better code, I don’t think that alone makes me a better developer.

I believe that the act of taking a step back to think about how I’m going to write tests has made me take an extra step back to understand what it is that I’m building. This has made me collaborate a lot more with people who actually understand the business. I don’t really care much anymore about using this or that framework/language/etc just because it’s cool; I care much more about building features that will bring value to my client. Seeing a client smile because you gave him or her the feature needed is very rewarding.

A recent experience

In the last 3 months I’ve been working part time on a project where I’m the only developer, and I have no QA, no business analyst, no project manager. Here are some bullets from my personal project notes:

  • The first phase of this project has gone into production two weeks ago
  • The client is beyond happy
  • Very few defects were found in production (and corrected immediately)
  • There are close to 400 tests
  • I do NOT have everything under test. I’m keeping Controllers very thin, calling out to Commands, Services, etc. Things the controllers call ARE under test.

The whole testing thing…

As I finished writing this post, I just remember I actually wrote another post about the whole testing thing 8 years ago! Time sure flies by…

Leave a comment