Words from the Publisher: Growing in the Waiting Moments

Words from the Publisher: Growing in the Waiting Moments

‘m writing this column in my head at about 3 am on a Sunday morning, while staring at the roof of a swaying tent on top of a mountain in a rainstorm. The tent has already fallen once tonight, while I was huddled around a campfire with a group of Boy Scouts, and the wind shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.

This is one of those uncomfortable “waiting moments” in life, when I hope for a good outcome, but I can’t quite see the final result yet. A few hours ago I used whatever skills I possess in tent pitching and knot tying, working with another Scout leader who has a similar interest in the outcome, and together we did our best to put the tent back up. Meanwhile, I listen to the wind and I wait and hope, using the waiting moments for reflection on this interesting intersection of time and place.

Since my magazine column is due, my thoughts inevitably turn to the parallels between my current situation and the state of the industry for Microsoft-oriented software developers. There are many parallels.

First, the tent I share with the other Scout leader has served us well for many previous camping trips. It has always felt safe and secure, and we can put it together in just a few minutes without consulting an instruction sheet.

You likely have your own favorite language and development environment that has proven its worth on previous projects, allowing you to be very productive without having to consult the help files.

Next, the framework of this tent is very sturdy, although it is simple in design. Sure, the box we carry it in is torn and patched together with duct tape, but a tent doesn’t have to be brand new or in a nice container to be useful.

Perhaps your own collection of code snippets, classes, and utility routines is also a sturdy framework that has stood the test of time. The language you are accustomed to may be showing its age, but you probably still depend on it as a trusty, useful tool.

Also, the rainy wind that batters our tent will, by daybreak, give way to a mixture of ice and snow that will chill us to the bone. Somehow, the difficulties of the moment make it seem that we have hiked a few steps beyond sanity.

Likewise, you, as a developer, may feel a chill down your spine at the winds of change that are blowing across your development environment today. Old, familiar tools are superceded by an entirely new Visual Studio, and the sheer volume of the .NET Framework’s 2,000-plus classes can leave you feeling pretty much like you’re wandering in the wilderness.

Lastly, these pre-teen and teenage boys we are working with are just beginning the transition from boyhood to manhood?a time that promises to be exciting, but also brings deep feelings of insecurity, fear, and confusion.

Most of us in the IT business seem to be in a continual state of creeping transition, but this leap to .NET requires a major trip up the learning curve. In many ways, we have to go through the pain of programmatical puberty again before we’ll get a sure footing and gain back our confidence.

Tips for Transition
Here are a few tips for successfully navigating through transitions and for growing in the waiting moments.

Grieve the losses?Transitions always involve losses of some kind, whether loss of the familiar, loss of associates or friends, loss of competitive advantage, loss of contracts, or even loss of your job. Don’t waste time on denial or depression. Go ahead and grieve the losses in whatever way works best for you, then move on.

Reconnect to community?You may find that you can grieve better when you have someone to listen to your troubles, and that’s one of the best functions of a community of developers. If you are not already connected to a local user group or online community, now is a good time to take that step. In addition to finding answers to technical and career-related questions, a good group can provide encouragement and support (if you are willing to be open about your challenges).

Set aside time for insight?Take time to write down some thoughts about your career, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your goals, both short and long-term. Consider what is most important in your life and look for fresh ways to build on your reservoir of experience.

Learn something new?Although you may at first feel that you are immersed in confusion, just jump right in and learn a new approach to your old programming tasks. Don’t try to comprehend it all at once. Instead, pick a small part of the .NET Framework, for instance, and learn all you can about it. Read all you can find about that class or namespace, even if you don’t understand what you’re reading. Read and re-read it again and again until the concepts begin to sink in. Build a small, simple project that makes use of your new knowledge, then repeat the process again.

Tell someone what you have learned?Your user group or online community can provide a place for you to talk about your new experiences, and you may be amazed to find out how much you know when you begin to tell others. This will not only solidify the knowledge in your mind, but will also help your fellow pilgrims along the path.

Resources for Mere Mortals
One of the emerging authorities on object-oriented .NET application architecture is Kevin McNeish of Oak Leaf Enterprises. Kevin, who previously wrote a series of articles on UML diagrams for CoDe Magazine, has drawn from years of object-oriented design experience to create what he calls the Mere Mortals .NET Framework.

This collection of well-designed classes will help you put the .NET Framework to use in building business objects, applying design patterns, and leveraging inheritance to streamline your projects. Based on my observation of earlier versions of his framework, I can assure you that you will learn tons of great design tips by studying his source code and documentation. Check out the Oak Leaf ad in this issue of CoDe or get more information at their website (

Also, don’t forget to keep reading the magazine that was voted winner of the “Best Publishing” award by Visual Studio and ASP Connections conference attendees. Keep your copy of CoDe Magazine nearby and please spread the word among your friends, so you’ll all have something challenging to read during your “waiting moments.”

Happy transitions.


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