Friday, June 4, 2010

Working with Zuck

In this article Facebook software engineer Andrew Bosworth describes what its like to work with the founder and architect of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg ('Zuck'). The attributes that Bosworth ascribes to Zuckerberg, that by implication are at least partly the reasons for his galactic success, are ones which I believe all architects should aspire to. Here are the four attributes with my spin on how I think they apply to architects in general:
  1. Zuck expects debate. A good architect is not a dictator but should expect, and be happy to participate in, debate. Be open to new ideas and don't think you have all the answers. At the same time be robust in pushing back on any ideas to test out peoples thinking thoroughly. Be aware of people who play Devil's Advocate and who argue just to be heard or are negative without proposing viable, alternative solutions.
  2. Zuck isn't sentimental. It's sometimes easy to be too wedded to an idea or your favourite technology. Be prepared to scrap these and to throw things away if they no longer meet the requirements or something better has come along. As Bosworth says of Zuckerman he is “fearless about disrupting the status quo and tireless in his pursuit of building the right thing, even in an ever-changing landscape”.
  3. Zuck experiences things contextually. As architects we often talk about ideas very abstractly and prefer to talk in generalities rather than specifics. Bad idea! A good architect (and indeed architecture) should be firmly grounded in reality and be backed up by actual products, prototypes, even working code! The best way of convincing someone of your idea is to build something that you can give them to play with.
  4. Zuck pushes people. People can often do more than they think (sometimes in less time than they think as well). The important thing is to be focussed on the problem and not the distractions that your job (as opposed to your work) may bring.

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