How to manage technical debt with a small team

I'm a self-taught programmer* and the CTO at SharpestMinds, where we have very small team (we just recently went from N=3 to N=4) and our engineering and development team consists of mostly just me. After leaving my PhD in Physics, I've learnt to code almost exclusively by building. Inevitably, I've had to refactor a lot … Continue reading How to manage technical debt with a small team

Building habits and breaking into data science

I sat down with Jeremie Harris recently (co-founder and COO of  SharpestMinds) for the Towards Data Science podcast. We talked about quitting a PhD, learning programming and data science from scratch, and what habits can help you get there. Listen below on Spotify, or find it on your favourite podcast streaming service! https://open.spotify.com/episode/4Dhzr3lCWzDMe1OrUGjryP?si=jGx5vGROQUCeM7zM7C9Scw

Are you building the right thing?

From experience, I know how easy it can be to over-engineer a feature nobody actually wants, or succumb to the sunk-cost fallacy and continue down the wrong product path for too long. To counteract these mistakes, you need to build a habit of constantly questioning your decisions - of keeping the bigger picture in mind. … Continue reading Are you building the right thing?

Leading vs. lagging indicators in business and in life

"If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it," is common business wisdom. It is especially important advice for startups searching for product/market fit via the build-measure-learn feedback loop, a major part of the Lean Startup ethos. Build something. Measure its effect. Learn what worked, what didn't. Repeat. The ability to execute this loop quickly … Continue reading Leading vs. lagging indicators in business and in life

The broken windows theory, and why you should clean your room

There is a concept in criminology known as broken windows theory. It says that crime in a community can be significantly reduced by reducing signs of disorder (like broken windows) and policing minor but visible crimes like vandalism. The theory rests on the assumption that an area's environment has a big influence on the behavior … Continue reading The broken windows theory, and why you should clean your room

Why it’s so hard to estimate the time to build software

Estimating the time for software projects is notoriously difficult. This is because the majority of the work in most software projects is "discovered" work. Work that was not obvious while planning that is discovered when implementing. If you've done any serious programming work, you'll know what I'm talking about. "Turns out this 3rd party API … Continue reading Why it’s so hard to estimate the time to build software

Designing at the right level of abstraction

As SharpestMinds matures as a company, good design is becoming increasingly important. For most of the company's lifetime, we embraced a design-on-the-fly, just-make-it-work attitude. Without much more than a text or verbal description, we would simultaneously plan, implement, and design new features for our web-app. This approach worked well enough while we iterated towards product/market … Continue reading Designing at the right level of abstraction

When to scrap the codebase and start from scratch

This is one of those decisions that is so context specific that almost all advice on it is worthless. Nevertheless, I thought I'd share the story of when I had to make this decision as a beginner programmer. There may be a lesson or two. In the summer of 2018, SharpestMinds was a platform for … Continue reading When to scrap the codebase and start from scratch