Why we need Badass developers to perform large scale refactorings

2 minute read

My last post was about the challenge for dev teams to get sponsorship for large scale refactorings. I listed two main reasons :

  1. The business doubts developers to have their interests in mind
  2. They are also not aware of the cost of the current technical debt

This post (and the next) will be about how to gain the business’s trust. This is exactly where badass developers can help. Let me start with a story.

Drawing of 2 hands of a badass developer over his keyboard, with ">badass<" tatooed on his fingers

Back in 2002, at my first job, I started to read Refactoring, Improving the Design of Existing code. That’s where I read about unit testing. I found it so great that I made a demo to other programmers. Being the junior dev in the team, my co-workers reaction was something between “Meh” and “Maybe”. Fortunately, a more experienced and respected developer gave it a try. A few weeks after my demo, he announced to the team that unit testing worked great on new code. This time, people showed no questioning about his opinion : he if said so, it must have been true. Even business people blessed the practice !

The "Refactoring, improving the design of existing code" cover. Badass developers know how to perform large scale refactoring

I had given a good live coding demo, but it was this respected developer’s opinion that won the point. To convince business people of sponsoring a large scale refactoring, we need their trust. That’s why we need badass developers around.

💡 I had given a good live coding demo, but it was this respected developer’s opinion that won the point.

What is a badass developer

Badass Developer's fist with a ring 'I am badass'
By Brooke Lark CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Badass developers are first of all people who are credible to the business. This usually implies a track record of delivering features and refactorings. Badass developers understand the business constraints. That’s why they learned how to deliver refactorings alongside features. They also need to be responsible and bold enough to stand ground in front of the business. Finally, badass developers are able to train others.

💡 Badass developers are first of all people who are credible to the business

Unfortunately, there are not so many badass developers in the industry … It has a youngster bias, and tends to push experienced developers to other activities. As if 10 years of systems design was less valuable than knowing the latest language !

Learn more about Badasss developers

I tried to find other words before resorting to ‘Badass’. Unfortunately, I could find none that got the point so clearly. Uncle bob calls them ‘software professionals’ in The Clean Coder. Professionalism is not specific enough to me. Adam Nowak also calls them ‘responsible developers’ in a blog post.  That does not convey the idea that, sometimes devs need to stand guard in front of the business.

The clean coder book cover. Clean coder looks like a form of badass developer

These concepts, though, are very close to my definition of a badass developer. Check by yourself :

To be continued

This was why badass developers matter to the success of large scale refactorings. This was the second post in a series about how to get sponsorship for a large scale refactoring.  In the next post, we’ll look at what we can do to all become Badass developers.

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