6 Simple Questions for Andy Hunt

About one year ago I published a series of interviews called "5 Easy Questions". The answers to those questions came from Steve McConnell, Johanna Rothman, Alistair Cockburn, Robert L. Glass, Scott Berkun and many other celebrities.

Well, almost a year has gone by, and I thought "That was great. Let's do that again!" But this time with different people, and different questions…

Andy Hunt is co-founder of The Pragmatic Programmers, LLC, and is well known as a programmer, author, and publisher. His latest book is called Refactor Your Wetware, and you can find his blog here.

These are the six questions I asked Andy, and the answers that he gave me…

1. What has been the most effective motivator for you to do your best work ever?

A realization that this work could achieve much more than I originally
thought; that it's not just a piece of code/book/music/difficult client
but that the resulting work could transcend what I perceived to be my
abilities at the time.  Once you get a slim glimpse of "what could be",
it's a great motivator to try and get there.

2. What work has been the most difficult for you to delegate to others?

Not surprisingly, tasks requiring judgment and expertise.  What is
surprising (to me, anyway) is how many seemingly small, mundane tasks
actually require a tremendous amount of background and expertise to get
right.  It's easy to take your own tacit knowledge for granted; only
when trying to delegate it do you begin to realize that few things are
as simple or straightforward as they seem.

3. How would you define the purpose or goal of your work?

Andy_hunt Depends on the work 🙂  For any particular task, I don't get too hung
up on defining explicit goals.  I tend toward a more intuitive
approach: I know when it's right; when it's done.  Or so I think.  On a
grander scale, my overarching professional goal is to make developer's
lives easier. That's my personal goal and the shared corporate goal of
the Pragmatic Programmers; whether it's through our books, screencasts,
courses, or personal involvement.  As an industry, we tend to make
things much harder than they need to be.  They're plenty hard enough to
begin with!  So I try to cut through the fog of habitual thinking,
conventional wisdom, and plain old bad practices to discover what
really works, and share that with others.

4. How have you tried to achieve excellence in the work you do?

Three critical steps:

1. Show up.
2. Do it.
3. Repeat.  But next time, do it better.

Seriously.  That's really all there is to it.  You don't achieve
excellence in one grand, heroic sweep. You get there one very small
step at a time, again and again.  Small.  Useful. Now.

5. Of which one of your failures are you most proud?

I'm not sure "proud" is the best word, but in terms of educational
opportunities, most of my largest failures were gold mines of
experiential learning.   I've learned that people secretly hate change,
despite what they say.  I've learned that context is probably the
single most critical aspect of any situation or decision.  I've learned
that people make irrational decisions, have terrible memories, and that
this limitations are as true for me as they are for you.

I
haven't had a spectacular failure recently, which is actually a danger
sign — it means it's time to reach out and try something more
adventurous than I would normally try.

6. And which of your successes was completely undeserved?

All of them.  Because I always know I *could* have done better.
Whether it's writing code, or a book or article, a song, a business
process or an interview with a client, in hindsight I realize that I
always could have done better.  

And next time I'll try and do just that.

Well, these are the answers given by Andy. I hope you liked them.

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  • http://profile.typepad.com/garethstep GarethStep

    I’m a big fan of the Pragmatic Programmer series, having bought many of their titles, including The Pragmatic Programmer from Addison-Wesley. The modesty displayed by Andy does not do justice to the great work he produces. Sing when you’re winning 🙂

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