Here is the story of what message I passed to new developers as a guest-speaker at Bocconi University. The video is at the bottom
1. How did it happen
I am not a professor neither I have had the idea to become one, nevertheless an interesting opportunity opened to me recently as I was invited to give a speech at a Programming Course at one of the most prestigious university in Europe and Italy – Bocconi. I jumped right on it.
Professor Massimo Ballerini is teaching Python to young programmers as a regular course and as a summer course to candidate-students at Bocconi. In his summer course, he shows to young future programmers, business analysts and economists how important is to learn to program regardless if you would follow down on this path.
He is teaching them the basics and then assigning them a small project to do, in order to apply what they learned. At the end of the course, he invited me as a guest speaker to show-case what is the life of a freelance digital nomad programmer, how to work and properly communicate with software developers and everything around the aspects of work and job ethics, also showing some cool projects that I have worked on.
I didn’t need to think much about that offer and immediately accepted it. Not only I would be given the podium to speak at one of the best universities in Europe, but I would do it for topics I am really passionate about and that I would be able to pass on the knowledge to young people looking for their career choices.
2. What message I passed to young programmers and developers
You can watch the video below, but if you prefer the short summary text version here it is.
I wanted to show them the life of a freelance traveller, and show them how to communicate properly with developers.
I started with introducing myself and what career paths I took and how this put me on a Digital Nomad lifestyle for the last 3 years living in different countries in Europe, Asia and South America.
This lifestyle might not be for anyone, but when I was young I have always imagined myself as someone who will be travelling a lot and see different places and would be able to combine this work. Little I knew that this will all become true before I turn 30 and I will be back (at least virtually) in the city where I started my professional career as a software developer – Milan, Italy.
I showed some of my projects ( https://apptimist.studio/portfolio ) and told them the stories of travelling and working in The Netherlands, Singapore, Brazil and other places around the globe.
Next, I dived more in details in how to evaluate a project and to specify Functional Requirements, it is a skill that is needed regardless of what career path they will choose. Being able to define properly a project, its details and scope is an essential part of a well-rounded professional. It holds for the IT sector, but also for any other.
I showed them my method for using Smartsheet (but you could use simply Google Sheets or Excel anyway) to separate the project into Functional and Non-Functional requirements and how to estimate some basic functionalities. It is essential for people to know how to read and eventually how to write such proposals. In the end – this is what separates a well-round professional developer from a mediocre.
In my work I often need to present an evaluation of a project, this means breaking the functionalities down to simple features that would require 2 to 4 hours. For example “An administrator of the website should be able to log in” or “Clients should be able to browse pages in the blog”. Sometimes it sounds too simple as it is intuitive, but if you don’t specify even the simple components, features and behaviours of a program, do you think you have described well the more complex ones?
I have a strong opinion on this topic. Proper tools really help make work smoother, easier and more concrete when we talk about software development. In many countries the standard of business communication is …… Whatsapp. I was never a huge fan of Whatsapp due to the restriction that you should have only one phone number associated with your account, otherwise it is another account. For someone working from various locations, this becomes rather a difficulty, than a technology that eases your work.
However, I find Whatsapp unsuitable for business communication for other reasons:
– messages can be deleted – that could be crucial if you work with people who would be border-line ethical in their work manners
– group chats are a mess – have you ever tried to follow a thread of thought in a big group on Whatsapp?
– it is mobile-first, and most people don’t use it on their main laptop or computer. What this means is that transferring files, or simply referring to a message is often a ‘phone-to-screen glancing’ which is error-prone and distracting.
All of these issues are easily resolved with Slack. That’s just one example, you could go for another tool of course, but choose one that is business-first.
– messages deleting can be prevented
> By default, all members can edit and delete their own messages and thread replies. If they’d like, Workspace Owners and Admins can change these permissions. Here’s what they can adjust:
– Group chats are easy to handle – threading to a message is easy and conversations can be kept organized
– It is desktop-first and business-centred, while also having a mobile version.
Chat tools are just one example, keeping track of project tasks, of files management, of code repository are all topics that should be considered when working on a project.
The young audience was very interested in my stories, and in the end, we had quite a long Q&A session, which is not part of the video. However, should you have some questions or comments on these topics, feel free to reach out to me.