24 November 2007

Pairing: Small Encouraging Wins

by mo

Very few things bring people closer together then dealing with adversity together. It’s easy to enjoy good times with others, but people come together when they deal with tough times together.

You never truly get to know someone until you see all sides of them. You’ve got to see them sad, mad and glad. You’ve got to get unfiltered, and raw emotion from them to truly understand them.

Pairing is a lot like this, when you put 2 software developers together to solve a problem. It brings them closer together when they solve the problem, together. You get to know all sides of the person quite quickly, from how the deal with stress, to how they deal with differences of opinion, to the pleasure of winning small battles.

There’s always a bit of anxiety at first when you put 2 developers together who have little knowledge of one another. It’s seems like they’re sizing each other up for a fight.
That’s really not how it is, or should be. If you’re both focused on the problem at hand, and spend less time worrying about whether your skill sets are up to par, you free yourself to truly enjoy the benefits of 2 minds coming together to put out true value.

One of the things I think I do without actually realizing it is, I announce what I perceive the others person is feeling as my own. When you hear someone say that they feel the same way as you, you tend to feel a little more comfortable with them, and some defenses drop.

When you’re pairing with someone, you’re completely focused. You don’t want to waste the other persons time. The other person surely isn’t going to sit idly while you IM back and forth with someone else, at least I hope not.

Finding a good pair can be hard, if you don’t find one that is close to you in skill and experience it can become more like mentoring. But even a few sessions of mentoring and you can quickly level the skill set of the team. More seasoned developers shouldn’t feel like they have to slow down so that the rest of the team can keep up. With constant pairing everyone comes up to speed much faster then doing it alone.

I’m definitely not a seasoned veteran when it comes to pairing, but in the last little while at our studio we’ve gone head first into pairing and I’m really enjoying it. It’s exciting, and it feels like we’re putting out more, much faster and the quality bar feels higher.