I came in and quickly put the delivery box in its spot, then I grabbed a box of pill bottles and started refilling the cabinets, weaving in and out of pharmacists as I did. I then went to grab the trashcans and started to empty them. At this point, Craig the pharmacist directed me to a stool and had me sit down.
He then said to me “Do you see that you work for 3 hours but I only give you 1.5 hours of work?”
“Take a breath, and don’t try to cram it all in to 15 minutes.”
It was 1994 and I was working as the delivery guy for our local pharmacy. Before the pharmacy, I had worked at Wendy’s where I was literally told “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean” (I laughed when the manager said that because I thought she was kidding.) Wendy’s had a steady stream of traffic, no matter when I worked. This meant that for the majority of my shifts it was a constant “go-go-go.”
When I moved over to the pharmacy, I had the same mentality. I was given 3 major tasks at the pharmacy:
- Deliver all the waiting medication when I got there
- Restock the pill bottles the pharmacists had used throughout the day
- Take out the trash and put new liners in the trash can.
That was it. This meant that most days I spent about an hour doing homework in the back room. But the first few months I was so focused on my 3 tasks that I ended up getting in the way of the pharmacists as they were trying to help customers.
Craig’s advice came back to me today, 18 years later, as I started a new job this week. First day I was put on a brand new project. As of right now, I’m the only one on the project (new guy #2 starts Monday and new guy #3 starts the next Monday.) I have just left being the “lead developer” on a large project. It was a domain that I had become familiar with over the past 2 years. This week I had wanted to come in and get going right away, but I struggled. My goal was to have several of the key queries done by the time the next new guy starts. As of yesterday I hadn’t gotten very far.
Today I realized that I needed take Craig’s advice to heart and take a break. My project doesn’t need to be done this week, and nobody that I’m working with expects me to come in be completely up to speed in 2 days.
Software, in this respect, is like being a pharmacy delivery guy. The prize isn’t there for the first one to finish. The prize is there for those who do it right. And everytime I try to rush software, I cheapen the craft, making it no different than an assembly line that wants to see X widgets produced in Y hours.