Group Therapy – Takeaways from our 1st (multi-tier) Iron Yard Project

What is this sad Aura?

Monday morning everyone shows up by 9:00am, but there is a weird defeated feeling in the air.  Everyone is sharing how far they got on their recent Checkers group project and no one is excited to share about their accomplishments – we all failed to meet the minimum requirements and therefore we all felt like failures.

Then, instead of going directly into a new lecture, we all meet in the back to present our projects and what we were able to accomplish.  Great… this is going to be more painful than turning away kids on Halloween because you forgot to purchase candy… (maybe that’s a pain point, maybe it’s not…)

The Project Makeup

There were 4 groups total.  Each group was comprised of 3-4 Rails developers, 2 Front-end developers, and 3-4 iOS developers.  The goal was to create a game of checkers that was available to play on iOS, the web, and all the moves and game logic work and communicate back to the server.  But this post is not meant to be technical.  This post is about my 3 takeaways from working in this first, cross-platform, group type.

My 3 Takeaways:

  • Pair Programming: Pair programming is a great way to tackle and troubleshoot issues – my partner Mark and I would fill in each other’s gaps a lot of times and it made breaking through barriers a lot smoother.  Outside these walls, I will want to be part of an organization that supports pair programming between senior and junior developers – even if it’s a once a week practice.

  • Lay the Foundation Early:  Laying the foundation for our project and setting up the ground rules for communication is imperative early in the project process.  We did this by setting up our project Trello and a Slack channel, yet over the course of 5 days we became more virtual with our communication.  We would have done better with a daily, face-to face stand-up between the 3 groups (front end, back end, and iOS) to keep everyone in the loop of what pieces we were currently working on and where we were being blocked.


If only SCRUM was this black and white…


  • Butting Heads can be a Good Thing: Butting heads can be a very productive way to build great products, so long as the people butting heads maintain a high level of respect for each other and it doesn’t get too personal and venom isn’t being spat.  Our group did not butt heads, however we did witness one group that had 2 people butt heads consistently and they ended up turning in one of the best looking and functioning projects and it was all smiles by presentation day.  As someone who is normally anti-conflict, this can be hard for me to grasp, however I do see where being able to communicate exactly what your team needs to another team’s manager is crucial for a great final project.

There you have it, 3 takeaways from my first coding group project… it was surprisingly like many of the other projects I’ve been a part of in the past, except a lot more time in a text editor.  In the end, our instructors paid us many compliments, and even though we didn’t get as far along as we originally expected to, we had a lot of great takeaways in the process and felt much better after our early morning group therapy.


Lessons from a Hanging a TV

Hmmm, what could possibly be learned from hanging a tv – well I’ll tell you!  You can have all the tools in the world, but if you have poor foresight and just meet the minimum requirement – your butt is going back to Wal-Mart.  That’s what happened tonight.  My roommate has a taste for the finer things in life – nice kitchens, big tvs, giant leather sectional couches that could comfortably seat 3-4 ents watching a LOTR movie marathon.

So we’re hanging his 46″ television above the fireplace and I happily offer my experience and toolset, I mean, I was in the business for nearly 3 years and have mounted close to 100 televisions so this should be a no brainer, right?  So I go about the steps methodically as I have many times before… prep the tv, take it off the stand, bolt the brackets on the back of it, pre drill the lag bolt holes for the wall bracket, bolt the wall bracket securely to two studs, … ready! Time to throw the tv up there… we go to do that and come to realize we don’t have enough play to the left or right to center the tv properly on the wall AND the wall bracket would have to be moved to cover the electrical outlet for it to be center.  Next, I look at the mount box and come to realize it’s for a 32-47″ tv… so just barely meets the minimum requirements for this 46″ tv.  So he took it back to Wal-Mart to exchange for a larger mount, what a treat.

check out red and green sweatshirt taking a nap in line

Since nobody in their right mind would ever want to subject themselves to a Wal-Mart product return line, let’s identify the valuable takeaway here.

Even though I had all the right tools and experience to complete the project and do a great job, the foundational measurement for centering the perfect television above the fireplace was not taken, therefore the entire project was completed based on an off centered point of focus and had to be re-done, including a lengthy trip back to Wal-Mart.  So when starting a project, whether it be something around the house or writing some JavaScript, make sure to have clear focus on what it is you’re trying to accomplish and if the path you’re taking is destined to produce and off centered final product, tap the brakes, cut your losses, and redirect your course towards the true north goal.