Monday, June 26, 2006


Software Development Must Haves

If you are starting a career in software development, the choice you make for your first job is extremely important. It can make the difference between an average career and one that stands out from the crowd. When you go for an interview, you have to remember that the interview is a two-way process: you need to interview them as well. Finding an environment that will nurture your skills and direct your development, is often more important than simply finding the company that will pay you the most money. The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing by Joel Spolsky is well worth reading.

Does your company have/do the following?:

  • Source code version control
  • Issue tracking system
  • Automated nightly build process (possibly with continuous integration)
  • Unit Tests and an automated unit testing process
  • Integration testing
  • Coding standards and design guidelines
  • Ability to build your entire product in a single step
  • A mentoring program for junior programmers
  • Developers always write code with the consumer in mind

The last point requires some explanation: when you are designing code and deciding ‘what the code should look like’ there is no better way than writing down how you envisage consumers (whoever they are) calling your methods. If you put yourself in the place of the consumer of your methods, you will invariably find the best way to phrase the interface of those methods. This is an important design principle when creating software frameworks.

This list is my shortened version of Joel Spolsky’s The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code. If you’re in the job market, ask potential employers whether they have all of these. Look for warning signs like “we were going to implement ‘xyz’, and we know it’s a good idea/best practice BUT we don’t have time…”; these are the development environments to avoid!


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