Eric Florenzano’s Blog

So fix it!

Jul 01, 2013

"Uhh, why is this single controller method 500 lines of code?" - Me, a few months into my first job after college. I remember saying it out loud, expecting to hear a faint chuckle from my co-workers, as if it were a joke. "We should really break this up into smaller functions," I said, confident that I was right.

What my coworker said in response surprised me in the best possible way, and what I learned then is something I still remind myself of to this day. He said, "You're right, that's too long. So fix it!" I responded with, "yeah, we really should." To which he responded, "You are one of us, so fix it!"

This became somewhat of a refrain. Someone would complain about something and another person would shout back at them, "So fix it!"

It's interesting how easy it is for us to associate with a group so strongly that it becomes part of our identity--part of who we are--yet in some situations it's easy to diffuse that responsibility and dismiss it as not being our own.

But, of course, he was right--I was one of "we", and "we" should fix it, so I should fix it! If you're running a small startup with just a few people, this mentality is easy to have. There are so few people contributing that you don't have much choice in the matter.

As a company grows, people start to specialize, to carve out their area, and to take some ownership. This can be a good thing! By allowing people to specialize, and hiring more people, we can build something bigger. But everyone's still in it together, and the individual is still part of "we". If you ever find yourself thinking "that's not my job," then it's a red flag that you've let things go too far.

All this being said, you have to find a balance. You can't fix every code smell you find, or you'd never get anything done. In fact there may be code that you recognize as bad, but you just don't have the knowledge or resources to fix it. That's just the name of the game, and that's fine, but you also can't fix nothing, or your tech debt will grow unbounded and that will end in disaster as well.

Anyway, it's been almost a year since I made the jump from working at a company of 2, to working at a company that's much much larger, and this early lesson is one thing that I often find myself thinking and reminding myself of.