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J. Daniel Ashton

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Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, —Ecclesiastes 9:10a NIV
The LORD God has told us what is right and what he demands:
"See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God." —Micah 6:8, CEV
With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment.
Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. —Proverbs 3:5,6 CEV

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Name: Daniel Ashton
Location: Germantown, Maryland, United States

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What I've Learned

I had reason to think today about how I have benefited from being on my present project. There are a lot of things I've learned and gained experience with. I hope to revise this list as I think of new things.

  1. I see myself as a developer again.

    My stint on the previous project was focused on administering and configuring ClearQuest, although I accomplished little enough of that. I helped several members of the team install the Rational tool suite, and then I spent quite a while working with spreadsheets and databases of résumés. I managed to create a handful of tools using Perl and other less savory technologies, but it was clear that I was not "a developer."

    On CADE, the project that moved me to this part of America, I was in a development position, but accomplished precious little of it. Most of what I can say I did there was learning about the new environment and helping our team get acquainted with it. It was my first experience with a mainframe, with ClearCase and ClearQuest, and with Rational SoDA.

    On this project I have clearly been a Java developer. I've done some serious testing and debugging, developed a portlet and associated servlet, and refactored some code to take advantage of Java's inherent polymorphism. I can be quite confident that I have recently been a developer.

  2. I've used several technologies that I like a lot. I've gotten my hands back into Java, learned Struts, learned portal development concepts and terminology, and become very familiar with Rational Application Developer and the Eclipse 3 way of doing things. I've applied my knowledge of Rational ClearCase and Rational ClearQuest, used VNC and Microsoft's Remote Desktop Client, and gained experience arguing with a Cisco VPN. I spent some time trying to fit Maven 2 into our build cycle (prematurely), and I have a much better idea now of what WebSphere Portal, WebSphere Application Server and Tomcat do, and what servlets, JSPs and portlets are all about.

  3. I've gained some experience with my own lack of ability to start things, and I've had some periods of very good focus and productivity. I realized recently that if I were to find myself mentoring someone new to a given project, I should help them to make a list of the project-related tasks. (In this project, that would be things like creating a design for a DR fix or CR implementation, actually coding the DR or CR, writing unit tests, and so forth.) Then I would make explicit offers to sit with that new programmer as they began each one of those tasks, at least twice. I'm not sure they would need help completing the task, but having someone to help me start each new and unfamiliar task would have been a huge help to me.

  4. I had the opportunity to eat into my utilization backlog. Not enough to meet the company's goals for me, I fear, but my numbers should look better than they did before May.

  5. I know more about the Washington-area public transit system. I've bought monthly passes that get me onto MARC, Metro and other local bus services, and I've corresponded with one of the developers working on the WMATA web-site trip planner. And I've practiced, almost twice daily, commuting while carrying my laptop in such a way that it doesn't get closed. Until just now my laptop has been configured to go into stand-by mode when the lid gets closed. When this happens while I'm dialed in through my Treo using Bluetooth, the machine will be unusable when it wakes up. So I've been seen walking through MARC and Metro stations and riding on the Red Line with my laptop propped against my chest in an effort to make sure the lid doesn't close.

  6. I've switched our family mobile phone service to Verizon. And I have a Treo 700p. Riding on public transit every day has been a strong incentive to get connected while on the move, and (unfortunately, in my opinion) Sprint/Nextel did not have coverage in the Metro tunnels. I can't say I'm happier with Verizon than with Sprint: I'm more certain than before that they're a big company with their own best interests at heart, not mine. And the improving coverage I wrote about earlier has vanished for this week. Now that I think about it, if I were to find myself commuting from Germantown to Columbia more frequently than to Alexandria, I would have to think about switching back to Sprint, because Verizon's coverage along that route seems to be spotty at best.


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