Julia Evans

Senior engineering & fantasy heroes

I was talking to someone at work this past week about what I’d want out of a senior engineer, and found myself inventing characters I’d like to work with (and I already work with people who remind me of all of these, of course! <3). Maybe someone will find this bit of silliness enjoyable :). It’s about how fortune tellers do not necessarily also need to be cattle wranglers.

(apparently I think gardeners are fantasy heroes)

In very related excellence, Camille Fournier posted Rent the Runway’s engineering ladder in this blog post and spreadsheet which lays out engineering qualities they value in terms of strength/dexterity/wisdom/charisma <3

The fortune teller

The fortune teller can tell the future about your engineering project. You tell her a design decision you’re making; she tells you the problems you’re going to run into in 3 months. She saves you an incredible amount of engineering effort in bad directions.

The cattle wrangler

You have a team, and you need to standardize how your programs do an Important Thing. Everyone wants to standardize, and nobody can agree on what the standard should be. The cattle wrangler is amazing at working through the pros and cons, and getting everyone to feel heard & agree on a standard.

The spring of knowledge

Your company uses a lot of Java, and sometimes you need to know some obscure internal JVM detail. And all of your internet searching is bringing up… nothing. When you do, you go to the spring of Java knowledge, which tells you what you need to know.

(What you need to know is not always the answer to the question you asked)

The gardener

You built a project full of technical debt and spiky bits? You go to the gardener for help, and sheepishly ask them to help you clean it up a bit. They show you where the nastiest weeds are, suggest code that you could delete, and help you get to a better architecture in a reasonable amount of time. They’re great to have on your side at the beginning of a project, before you create the technical debt in the first place :)

If you have more characters you work with & love, tell me! @b0rk on Twitter.

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Slow Program Seeing system calls with perf instead of strace