Contest: The Technology Person Who Has Had The Biggest Impact On Me

This is the third of the contest entires. Voting begins tonight at 5pm EST.

I wasn’t going to enter, because the person who probably has had the most impact so far on me is Keith Casey. Oh yeah what a kiss up!! You’re just writing this because he is running this site and you want to get on his good side! … no, I’m not writing this to win. I’m just writing about him because I would feel dishonest writing about anybody else.

I knew Keith from when we were teenagers. I would see him occasionally since those day, but we never talked too much and certainly not about programming! One day, I hear he is looking for PHP programmers. Hey, I do PHP. I dream in PHP. So I shoot him an email and I start working as a contractor for CaseySoftware.

The two years before this, however, I was sort of in a “programmer depression” where I didn’t even actually check my personal email at home. I didn’t do any consulting, no freelancing, no “talking” about coding with anyone. I was a lone developer working in an environment that was not very progressive.

There are several things I learned while working with Keith:

He introduced me to working on Open Source. He’s big on project management (if you haven’t figured that out already!!) and introduced me to DotProject. Working with that inspired me to get involved in other open source projects. Bored at work?? Get involved in an open source project, especially if you are a lone developer. You’ll meet new people, bounce ideas around and grow as a developer.

He let me try new things. Early on, I was experimenting with the PEAR library and use the FormBuilder objects. My day job at that time was very restricted, even in a test environment for experimenting with libraries. Letting me try something new, was fun and helped to progress my learning.

He encouraged me to go to User Group Meetings. Most of the time, I’m pretty shy when meeting new people. He encouraged me to go to my local PHP group meeting. I did, met some great people and now I have the old job of the PHP group leader, which probably would have been harder if he hadn’t known me from the meetings. I’ve been able to present some of what I know to the group and learned a lot from others. This is another great thing for lone developers to do.

All of these things I think any good manager should do:

  • Open source. Does your company use any open source tool? Let your developers work on some part they can contribute back. Answering messages in a forum about it or even just writing tests can help a project. You can spend just 10 mins writing a test or responding on a message board. And giving back will encourage the developers and ensure that the project doesn’t die leaving you with a project and no support.
  • Let your developers experiment. Give them an old server, or at least a vhost and say try some things out. Having every possible library you might want to try to have to go through a committee for analysis before even using in a TEST environment is disheartening to a developer.
  • User group meetings - Mangers should PAY their people to go to User Group meetings. After all, its probably some of the best training they will receive. Interacting with others in the field will strengthen their knowledge.

I've learned a lot from Keith and I hope you can too!

Disclaimer from Keith: No, I did not pay for this and I sincerely appreciate Nola's kind words. She has been a pleasure to work with and I look forward to working together more in the future.