A short pairing story

A recent discussion on the ALE LinkedIn group about pair programming made me remember a fun little event I lived recently. Read on for a true story about the power of pairing.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a client site and we had a meeting scheduled for 11 am. Shortly before the meeting I got an email notifying me that it will be delayed for 10 minutes.

What to do in the meantime? Even if my role in that assignment was to help a team adopt Kanban, I always try to get a glimpse at the code and see how clean it is. I find it often speaks louder than words. I decided to ask a developer (let’s call him Paul) to show me what he was working on. As it turns out, Paul was actually stuck with a problem and had been fighting with it for the last twenty minutes.

I proposed to pair on it, even if I had never seen the code before. It was the front-end (HTML, CSS, Javascript) of a web application, so to me it seemed pretty familiar stuff (I was a web developer in a previous life). We worked step by step, with me acting as the teddy bear and asking my partner to verbalize at each point what the code was trying to do.

Much to my surprise, about five minutes into our exploration, without really understanding much of anything, something jumped at me. Hey, shouldn’t that “class=” be an “id=” ? I asked Paul. He looked at me silently, changed the code as I suggested and voila!, the bug was gone. As I stood up, I heard Paul say: Dude, we should do this more often!

With three minutes left, I walked to the coffee machine, poured myself a black coffee and slowly headed towards the meeting room.

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One thought on “A short pairing story

  1. […] By providing systematic mentoring, a technical leader benefits in two ways. On the one hand, he makes sure that the task gets done as efficiently and effectively as possible. On the other hand, it signals that he cares about his colleague’s carrier and knowledge. This way, he will strengthen the relationship and attend to one of his other duties — increasing motivation. There’s a wealth of ways to provide mentoring: pair programming, code/design/data structure reviews, coding/testing dojos etc. […]

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