Building better

A fern with leaves of different shades grows among a'a lava
There is nowhere we can't grow. Photo by Robin Eastman
January 31, 2022
Robin Eastman

When one person is doing most of your development, quality under the hood  is all about testing, feedback, and iteration. Those stay very important when you add more developers, but there are new steps and processes that need to be implemented, too.  


Our Embracing the Burnout Conference taught us a lot, including ways we can work better on our back end. Right now, our development team is 3 people: Julian, Austin, and Jonny, with Robin providing support mostly related to user experience and interface (UX/UI) and prioritization.  Julian, a Versatackle founder, is the person who built most of our code and is the leader of our tech team. Jonny and Austin are two developers who graduated from a career changing program called Code Fellows. They did a lot of the implementation of our new design, so if you think our site looks better, Austin and Jonny deserve a lot of the credit for that.


Leading up to our conference, we were trying to implement as many changes as possible. When you do that, it really highlights where your process has gaps. There was some work done before the conference that wasn’t deployed.  Our team did a 5 whys process to figure out why we didn’t get it out and how we could have done better.


If you aren’t familiar with a 5 whys process, here is a primer.  The tl;dr is that you want to get everyone involved to come together and keep asking why until you can understand the underlying cause of an issue and determine concrete steps to fix it. Importantly, it is about understanding, not blame.


Out of that process, we learned that we need to make it easier to follow the best practices we use, like working in small batches, and need to have better tools for specific kinds of communication.  We’ve taken some concrete steps: we’ve got a better code review and integration process using GitHub.  We’ve changed how we manage tasks, bugs, and feature development.  We also determined that we needed better team timelines, so we agreed that for our next deadline, we would implement a working backwards doc that would help everyone get, and stay, on the same page.  And we agreed to come back and review our notes from the process to see how we did with implementation.


It is deeply rewarding to see our team grow and learn together. There’s no way to be perfect, but it is possible to be better. Our hope is that we will keep choosing that path.

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