Yesterday was my 2 year anniversary at Autodesk. October 17, 2005 was my start date here – and it has been an interesting two years. I came out here direct from New Orleans – which had just reopened after the Katrina Hurricane disaster. I managed to spend 4 days in New Orleans cleaning up the yard, taking stock of the neighborhood, and shipping a few boxes of stuff to California before I myself got on a plane and flew out to San Francisco. (Thinking about Katrina and discussing the mess that is the “rebuilding” aftermath still sets me off. Not going there now.) I have to say moving to San Francisco was a big change for me – new job at a new company, new home in a new city.
So it’s been two years. I’m settling into the new job – product design is something I’d never experienced as a formal part of software development before. It is interesting to work with specialists who are concerned with FORM as well as FUNCTION. It’s no longer good enough that it works (which was enough when you had nothing else), it has to work well. It has to be easy to use, easy to learn, aesthetically pleasing – “User-friendly” is more than just a marketing buzzword here. We formally evaluate designs against usability heuristics; we have staff specialized in it; we regularly schedule user testing to reality check designs.
When I first got here, it was weird to be THINKING so much about the software design. It seemed to slow everything down. I can just see this conversation:
“What did you do today?”
“I thought about my problems”
“Seriously, didn’t you put out any fires? Write new revolutionary interface specs? Defuse any time-bombs?”
“Nope, but in a few weeks, trust me, all that thinking will pay off.”
That would never have flown in my consulting days . . . but here’s the thing. At Autodesk it does go over well. Sure, we have milestones and deadlines and all. And we also take time to think.
Of course, in the end, thinking is a good thing – how often have you heard the “spending X% more in the design phase pays off 10-time-X in the construction phase” ? It’s the same with software as with plant design – nail the design, and the programming development goes smoothly. In the end, the time spent upfront more than pays for itself. Thinking trumps reacting anytime; again Rands says it better than I can (no, Rands, I’m not stalking you. Lovely article on pens, though. I too prefer the Pilot G-2).
Oh, and I’m settling into my new home in this new city also. My New Orleans cat is finally flying out to join me in 10 days! I'm actually looking forward to mornings like this: