On Management

There are two kinds of managers, the way I look at things: managers who stifle creativity, and those who endorse it.

Looking back through my life, I find that I have had huge problems with the first kind, and I've had a great time with the second. It usually seemed to rear it's head during my math classes. It started in elementary class, and continued to fight and struggle every year except one- my senior year. I remember back in Freshman year, during geometry we were doing math problems that took half a page to complete. "Aha," I noticed, "I can just use the pythagorean theorem and cut it down to about three lines." Of course, this didn't fly with my teacher, who held a strong affinity towards doing things the way the book did them. Now, I'll agree, there are arguments towards doing it by the book ("teaches you how to do it that way" is the general response), but I'm a huge proponent of if it works better another way, then do it. As I argued then- I know how to do it, and I know how to do it faster, better, and with less points of failure.

This all continued, and came to a huge head during Trig, Junior year. A friend and I wrote programs every day, instead of taking the notes, that did the homework for us. We even accomodated to our teacher's archaic views and developed the programs so that they showed the work; she, of course, hated it, but it worked quite well. Then, finally, my senior year I had Calculus AP; the first math that really challenged me, but at the same time, the first math class I enjoyed for 5 years. It was only myself and one other person in the class- we had started with 11, and the other 9 dropped out- along with our teacher.

The reason I liked the class so much was because she didn't require work, and she didn't require that you simplify answers, and she didn't care about the final format, as long as it was right. It helped to show your work, so that you could find errors, but you didn't have to. You had the freedom to do the work however you wanted to, you could find shortcuts and ways around that worked better and made sense.

I find myself harboring the same feelings in the workplace. I was an intern at a company for about 8 months, where the projects came three-a-day, and it was 85% copy and paste from other code. The other 15% was debugging. It was all classic ASP (which suprised me more and more as time went by.. it was 2007, after all), and it was badly written. Something needed to be done; however, there was no room for innovation, no room for, say, a nice .net framework, not anything except heads-down coding. I was, effectively, a code monkey.

My current place, however, is an exception. In the same way as I found myself in a wonderful place after moving from Trig to Calc, I find myself with creative freedom; if I have an idea that will speed up processes, or that will help out in some other way, and I've got down time- I can work on something. Recently, I made a program that took some basic copy-paste work we did from 20 minutes down to about 2- something I was a bit apprehensive to show off, but, finally did to great reception. It gave me new hope that there was somewhere that I could fit in and try new things out. We later attempted integrating a wiki, which also worked wonders; the whole team could now communicate and store data, instead of throwing word docs around in VSS.

Now, I'm not advocating running off and doing projects whenever you feel like it, and wasting company time to try some thought out. However, I am advocating that if there's a genuinely good idea, and you're not hammered down with work- creative freedom is the best kind. It helps thoughts flow, and it sometimes pans out to be a great development that can help out, and even occasionally revolutionize the whole development team.

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