Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Comrade Trotzky

I am a newbie in MS. As a good American company MS appointed someone to be my buddy. This idea is not specific to MS, but rather common in the industry. Buddy's job is to teach me the company ways, answer my questions, take me to lunch, guide me through the first days (or maybe weeks, if I am a slow learner) in the company. Managers usual choose one of the nicest persons on a team to be a buddy for a newcomer. The newcomer is in a vulnerable situation: he does not know much about the group, he has no idea what are the problems of the product, he didn't see the code, he never debugged the product, his development environment is not set, when build fails he does not know what to do, he is not aware of all possible tools, he has no idea who is who on the team, so he might take advice from the most dumb person that was fired a week ago but still cannot find its way to the elevator. Buddy remedies this situation. Suddenly there is someone from "inside" who can explain the situation to the newcomer. It is much less threatening to enter a team this way, as it is like you already have a friend. It is like you are coming to a party Great idea, this buddy thing. There are few caveats thought.
  1. Newbie and buddy should be of the same intellectual level. Neither "smart newbie and dumb buddy" nor "dumb newbie and smart buddy" will work. It is either "dumb and dumb" or "smart and smart", can't be any other way.
  2. "Smart and smart" situation is problematic as you get a competition situation in many cases. Newbie has to prove his worthiness, while buddy has to establish himself as an alpha developer according to his buddy position.
  3. Companies in general ignore social dynamics related to sexes. For example, if newbie is "he" and buddy is "she", in many cases newbie will work harder to prove himself than in case the buddy were "he". The opposite case ("she" newbie and "he" buddy) works much better, as buddy will go extra mile to impress newbie.
So the problem is when you hire a smart "he" developer. You cannot appoint him dumb buddy, as the buddy willl teach newbie how to use coffee machine during the first week boring the poor newbie to death. You can appoint a smart "he" or "she" buddy, but be ready for some friction, which kind of negates the idea of the buddyship.
Obviously a manly guy like me finds himself in "smart smart" situation. My buddy proved that he is a smart guy by brilliantly playing his part. He came to me after I have been a week at the job and said:
"Hi. I am your buddy. If you have questions you can ask me."
He never come to me again, but was ready to answer my questions.
This is the way!!!
He showed me the real, hard day-to-day work:
Trotzky punishing two sisters
Not some pansy "eeha, we are having such a great time here. we are such a nive people!" This is the way. Respect your newbies. Throw them into a deep water and let them swim. If they will have a question they will come. Not everyone will survive, but those who do will become your true comprades.
Not like comprade Trotzky.

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