Episode 39 – Software Development Is About People with Brian P Hogan

 In Podcasts

Brian P Hogan is a web developer, teacher, book editor and musician. He is also author of several books including, “Exercises For Programmers”. Brian is currently a Technical Editor at Digital Ocean and is also a development editor at the Pragmatic Programmers as well as a panellist on the Ruby Rogues podcast.

In this episode Brian tells us why software development is mostly about people and that it’s about solving problems. Brian also talks about making the most of opportunities to engage with smart people, why the answer is always ‘No’ unless you say ‘Yes’, and why just having a backup of your data is not enough.


Time Stamped Show Notes

(00:53) – Phil introduces Brian P Hogan

(01:21) – Brian tells us that he comes from a background of educators and that he has always enjoyed helping people grow their skills

(01:38) – Brian takes that technology is an interesting place because there is always something new to learn, a new framework coming out or a new programming language to learn


(01:55) – Unique Career Tip: Brian says that software development is about 80% people

(02:17) – Software developers aren’t necessarily paid for the number of lines of code that they write or the kinds of programming languages that they use

(02:24) – Software developers are often paid for making somebody’s pain-point go away or for solving a business problem

(02:32) – If you build the wrong thing because you are not listening or you don’t ask the right questions then a lot of problems can arise

(02:42) – There’s a lot of emphasis now being placed upon the ability to communicate effectively

(03:19) – Phil and Brian discuss the stereotype developer and whether or not that perception has changed


(05:56) – Worst Career Moment: Brian talks about deleting a production database and not having a backup of it

(06:14) – The problem was not that Brian didn’t have a backup but whether or not the backup could be restored

(06:36) – Brian got to learn how to restore a database from session logs and database logs but some data was lost and some customers were upset

(07:18) – Brian says that he shouldn’t have been allowed access to do what he did and it should be impossible for a software developer to delete a production database

(07:38) – Don’t make the same mistake as Brian. Put safeguards in place and make sure that you can restore your backups

(08:32) – “Data loss can happen; make sure you can get your stuff back”

(08:45) – “Computers are perfect; the people are the ones that have the problems”


(09:11) – Career Highlight / Greatest Success: Brian says that in 2005 he was tired of software development and ready to “hang it up”

(09:44) – Brian was just plugging along working on some web and database stuff that no one would ever see

(10:04) – A consultant came into the company to help them with a migration from one system to another

(10:16) – The consultant proposed that they should use Ruby which the company dismissed

(10:39) – Brian and the consultant got talking about a side project Brian was working on and the consultant suggested that Brian use Ruby On Rails, which he did

(11:18) – The consultant persuaded Brian to join him for lunch where he showed Brian how efficient Ruby can be

(11:42) – Brian’s company setup a new development department using Ruby, saving time and money

(12:33) – The consultant, Bruce Tate, saw some blog posts Brian wrote about using Ruby and invited Brian to submit a chapter for a book

(12:58) – This was Brian’s initial connection to the Pragmatic Bookshelf which launched his career in education, writing books and as a technical communicator

(13:18) – “The answer is always ‘No’ unless you say ‘Yes’, so say ‘Yes’”

(13:25) – “When a really smart person asks you to go to lunch with them because they want to show you something, just say ‘Yes’”


(13:42) – What Excites You About The Future of a Career in I.T.? Brian says that you have no idea what you are going to be doing in a year from now, which is what excites him

(13:54) – “Whatever’s hot today won’t be hot tomorrow because there will be something even better”

(15:09) – There are so many opportunities to learn new things and grow

(15:15) – Professional development is built into the career; that is incredibly exciting


(16:35) – The Reveal

(16:40) – What attracted you to an I.T. career in the first place? – “My dad brought a computer home … and he taught me how to write a program that would quiz me on math and that just hooked me”

(17:30) – What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? – “The answer is always ‘No’ unless you ask”

(18:06) – If you were to begin your I.T. career again, right now, what would you do? –”Not go to school for programming. I would have gone to school for business and then learnt programming on my own”

(18:46) – What career objectives are you focusing on right now? – “I want to expand my skillset”

(19:41) – What’s the number one non-technical skill that has helped you in your career so far? – “Communication skills and music”


(20:54) – A Parting Piece of Career Advice: Brian says that one of the most important things you can do for your career is meet people

(21:17) – Create meaningful relationships with other people in the industry

(21:22) – When a problem comes up, you don’t have to face it alone if you have a good network of people that you can talk with and ask


3 Key Points:     

  1. Software developers are paid for solving other people’s problems
  2. If you rely on backups, make sure that your restore process works
  3. The answer is always ‘No’ unless you say ‘Yes’, so say ‘Yes’


Resources Mentioned:

  • @bphogan – Brian’s Twitter handle
  • LinkedIn – Brian’s LinkedIn profile
  • Amazon – Brian’s Amazon author page
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