Episode 380: Overruled by non-technical manager and describing technical stuff to non-technical people


In this episode, Dave and Jamison answer these questions:

  1. Listener Ashleigh asks,

    I’m a mid-level developer at a small company with a non-technical manager. After several months working on migrating our users from a legacy system to our new system, our non-technical business analyst discovered our current system re-uses lots of code from the legacy system. The BA immediately escalated their “concerns” about this to our manager. This quickly resulted in a group message from our manager to the BA, our senior engineer, me, and another developer. Without asking for more than a cursory explanation of how two sets of users who need the same functionality can use the same code base without breaking things for each other, our manager made the decision to fork the project and maintain two separate code bases.

    The developers tried to explain why this was a bad idea, but we were immediately shot down. This has already resulted in issues in pre-production environments. They were afraid that having changes in one unified code base would break things for both groups of users. We were given no opportunity to make further arguments. Two months later I find that my motivation at work has tanked. Despite being below market rate, I’ve stayed because it’s allowed me to advance my skills as a developer.

    But my trust in our BA and management is completely shattered. Is it worth staying in my current role? Is salvaging my current situation a hopeless cause that will likely just collapse again in the future? Or would I be wise to get out ASAP before things blow up and the blame is pushed on our development team? I feel like I already know the answer in my gut, but I’d like to hear your perspectives on this.

  2. Listener Damison Jance asks,

    I sometimes find myself struggling to describe how software issues will affect product designs to non-software engineers. It is hard for me to explain “this seemly tiny change in user experience you’ve asked for is actually driven by this backend functionality that is totally transparent to users and really no one besides backend engineers has any reason to know about it, but yeah anyway that small change is going to require six months of work and changes to multiple services.” I have found this approach quite ineffective, and I think it comes off as me sounding like “my way or the highway”. I’m wondering if you guys have any tips for explaining how systems work to people who aren’t software engineers and don’t necessarily have all the context you do.

Show Notes

Microservices video (keyword: Omegastar): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8OnoxKotPQ

A speech bubble