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5 Things My Renovation Has Taught Me About My IT CareerI’m in the middle of a property renovation project which has taught me many things, some of which can be applied to me IT career. I thought I’d share some of the relevant ones in this article.

First of all, I think an apology is in order. To my readers, I apologise for not creating any articles for the last four weeks. I know many of you enjoy the articles, and I didn’t really announce that I wasn’t going to be posting, but it’s just how it happened

I’ve recently bought an investment property which settled on January 31 (which means that’s when it was officially mine). My plan was to buy a property, fix it up a bit, and rent it out. That’s still the plan, though it’s taken more work than I thought.

I’m spending almost all of my spare time working on this property, whether it’s organising tradespeople, removing things in the property that I don’t want, or organising the finances and planning the overall project.

This has left me with almost no time to contribute to this site. This process has actually taught me a few things that I can relate to my IT career, so I thought I’d share them with you.

 

Having A Plan Is Important

As part of the process of buying this property, I did a lot of research. I researched prices, the buying process, and what I wanted to do to the property – which is where this project comes in.

I had a list of everything I wanted to improve in the property, from painting the walls t changing the cupboard handles. I also did some research on how much each of these items would cost.

This formed my plan for the work I was doing. It was also the first time I was doing something like this, so all my knowledge came from the Internet and magazines. I had no prior experience.

Right now, I’m about three weeks away from completion and most of the work I need to do is done (which means I can get back into posting here). It’s given me time to reflect on the planning stage, which has taught me that having a plan at the start is important for any kind of work you’re doing.

A plan can be made for any length of work – writing a new module of code or progressing your career, and anything in between. It’s the work that is done at the start to ensure the rest of the work happens smoothly. It’s a good idea for us to have a plan for what we do.

Are you about to start writing a new piece of code? Take some time (even if it’s five minutes) to have a think about how you’re going to put it together. How will the code be structured? What are the names of the functions? What parameters will be used? Where is the best place for it to go? Answering questions like these will help you write better code.

The same process can be applied to many areas – writing documentation, organising a team lunch, or planning your career.

 

Learn To Adjust To Changes

On the other side of the point above, we can have all the plans we want, but if something goes wrong, the plan could be ruined.

What happens if the code you’re writing is no longer needed? Or if it needs to go in a different system, or the code needs to more than you originally planned? These are all common scenarios that can really mess with your plans.

During my renovation, I encountered many changes to my original plan. I decided to remove extra trees and do extra work in the house that I didn’t plan for. Why did I decide this? I thought it would increase the quality of the end product and be a better solution in the long run.

This is often the reason used for changes in the workplace. Solutions change for a variety of reasons, which impact our work, and we need to be able to respond to them.

If you’re new to the IT world, changes happen all the time, and many of these changes are outside our control. Budgeting is a big impact on changes. Sometimes, senior managers decide that the budget for a project is reduced so some features need to be removed. This can impact your work as a developer or tester, and while you may not agree with them, it needs to be done.

Being able to respond to change easily and without complaining is a great skill to learn.

 

Focusing and Prioritising

The main reason why I was not contributing to this site was that I was focused on my renovation project. The time came in early February 2014 where I had three main things going on in my life that needed my focus:

  • My full time job
  • My renovation project
  • The Complete IT Professional website

I realised that I only had the time to commit to two of them. I couldn’t leave my job, as it pays the bills, and I had to keep going and putting in good work. The renovation project needed to be worked on, as it was only a short-term project and was quite expensive. So, the decision came to put CITP on hold for a few weeks.

If I didn’t, I would have had to split my focus between all three of these areas (as well as other areas such as friends, family, and my health), and all would have suffered. I would have been tired at work, and would have released low quality articles on this site, which is not my intention.

The moral of this story is that we need to be able to focus on what’s important in our life and our career. If you’re working on an important project, put your focus and energy into that and try not to get distracted by other work. This will ensure you have a better quality outcome. You might be able to juggle a few things at once, but the quality of work would likely suffer.

 

Don’t Forget Your Health

During the last four weeks, I’ve gotten sick on two occasions. It doesn’t happen very often, but I know why it happened. If I don’t get enough sleep (which for me is anything over 6 hours) for 4 to 5 days in a row, I start getting run down and get sick.

This meant I had two days where I was basically a zombie in my own house – walking around, lying in bed, on the couch, eating and trying to get better. It wasn’t enjoyable at all. And the worst part is, I lost two potentially productive days – all because I didn’t get enough sleep.

The point is that no matter what is going on with your work and outside of work, we should keep in mind that our health is important. Eating well, getting enough sleep and getting some exercise are all important to make sure we are operating as effective as we can be. Pulling an all nighter to play a video game or do some extra work may seem like a good idea at the time, but it can make you worse in the long term.

 

Don’t Overestimate Your Ability

A couple of times in this renovation I overestimated what I was capable of. I had planned for tradespeople to come in and do most of the work, for a few reasons. I’m not very handy, I didn’t have the time to do it myself, and it’s a better result if they do it.

However, some of the tasks I thought I could do myself. One particular task was removing stumps from the ground. I had to remove three altogether. I looked at the stumps, and thought, “How hard could it be?” I would just dig around the stumps, cut some wood, and pull them up.

I was SO wrong on this one.

After about an hour of digging one stump, I had made some progress, but there was still a lot of work to be done. Doing some quick calculations, it would have taken me a whole two days of work to get these stumps removed. I had a tree removalist coming in the next day, so I decided to ask him to remove them. He would have the right equipment, the right skills, and would get it done in far less time than I would.

Sure, I had to pay a bit extra, but I thought it was well worth it to get the right result. He came and removed the stumps, and the result was much better than what I could have done.

The moral of this story is that sometimes we overestimate what we are actually capable of doing. This could be:

  • Overestimating the amount of work we can get done in a period of time
  • Underestimating the time taken to get something done
  • Thinking we can achieve a specific result in less than ideal conditions

We are often put in situations where we need to decide or estimate what we can do in certain conditions. We should be careful when we do this, as there could be a chance we don’t achieve them.

Sometimes we’re able to realise it part of the way through, and if we are, we should call out to someone (such as our manager or team member), to help with the situation. This could be applied to writing code for a project, extracting data for reporting, running test cases, writing user guides or any other tasks that software professionals need to do.

 

Well, I hope that this article has given you some tips on how life experiences can be applied to your software career. Do you have any examples of projects outside of work have contributed to your career? Share them in the comments below.

Lastly, if you enjoy the information and career advice I’ve been providing, sign up to my newsletter below to stay up-to-date on my articles. You’ll also receive a fantastic bonus. Thanks!

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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