By The Fireside…

The team at Makers have begun a tradition of ‘fireside chats’, where they speak on topics outside of purely technical material that might be important to us as future web developers. This all takes place by the fireside, or rather, by a 3-hour Youtube video of a real fireside, complete with a random hand that occasionally comes to stoke the fire.

I’ve been to three so far and they’ve all been very useful. Here’s a brief summary of what was discussed:

The first was by Evgeny on how beneficial using the scientific method approach can be when approaching problems in software development. When trying to solve a problem, there are five steps to follow:

1. Developing a question
2. Stating a hypothesis
3. Predicting the result
4. Testing the hypothesis
5. Analyse the results

It turns out that if you try and skip just one of these steps, you’ll fall into trial and error, attempting random things in the hope of finding a solution. Because stage four is the only one that is visible, it can often appear that senior, experienced developers ‘just know’ what they have to do but, in reality, the best developers have gone through three preceding mental stages. I’m going to try and make a conscious effort to try and apply these principles to my day-to-day tasks and see if I manage to more effectively solve my problems.

The second one was by Rob on ideation for startups. I’ve listened to quite a few talks on this and other lean startup principles so wasn’t sure what I would learn that would be completely new. Turns out Rob’s talk was very different to the others I’d heard. He introduced us to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and said that for those of us who were hoping to start our own company, it was vital that we started with ‘why’, rather than the ‘what’. Why do you want to start your own company? Ultimately, people buy into why you’re doing something and the story behind it, rather than what it is that you do. Once you’ve refined an answer to ‘why’, the ‘what’ becomes easy.

Finally, Alex ran us through how we can start a career out of freelancing with our coding skills. He detailed what kind of price points we should be thinking about straight out of Makers, as well as how to estimate how long a job will take you (this never becomes easy, even with lots of experience), and how to manage expectations. A key thing is to never undersell yourself, especially knowingly, as it only becomes harder to raise your prices to what they should be once your potential clients are expecting a certain cost for hiring you. The most important thing that I took away from Alex’s talk though was the importance of honesty in all of your communication with clients. Be honest about how long the work is taking you. Be honest if you’re struggling. Be honest if you’re trying to juggle two jobs at the same time because the second job is offering you an opportunity that you just can’t turn down. This way, bad surprises are generally minimised, and you can hopefully leave most of your clients happy.

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