Saturday, September 13, 2008

Learning or Attempting to Learn CSS - and my Dreadful Old Manager at Gap

It's been a while since I did any sort of front-end design. I've never been a fan of it. Mostly because I'm not a great designer. Imagine being born to an artistic mom and having an artistic brother, but not being able to put pen to paper yourself? It's ironic, because I'm left-handed too. We're supposed to be artistic. Anyway, our site relies on a large amount of CSS. Last time I even attempted design - CSS was generally an afterthought for some small design elements. Tables were generally used as the backbone of design and flow control. Times have changed. CSS is now the cornerstone of any website design. And DIV tags have replaced tables adding greater control over the layout of your page.

While not important to really know the details, for you non-technical people, it's good to at least understand the technology if your job is to manage it. This reminds me of a manager of mine who shall remain unnamed. Rumor has it that he/she (I'll use 'he' from now on) was promoted to his position as Senior Manager because he was a terrible developer and would only cause delays to any project he was on. So the idea was to move him up. That way he wouldn't cause any more problems. This course of action was rampant at the Gap. Don't let people go who were dead weight, but move them around and have them slow down other departments, as long as it wasn't yours. Anyway, I lost a lot of faith in the organization when I learned how my manager had moved through the ranks. Not only did it not make sense from another employee perspective. Because it gave you the idea of how people get promoted around here. But it also didn't make sense from the employer perspective. It was a six figure drain every year. Multiple that by however many people this happened to... and you're looking at a million in salary alone for 10 of these people throughout our large organization (which is incredibly likely). Then take into account the negative effects these people had on projects and morale. The costs begin to skyrocket.

My manager, specifically, would give me technical advice and make recommendations about how I should approach my tasks. It frustrated me to no end. How could someone give me direction that didn't know what the hell he was talking about? I went to school for CS, so I wasn't happy that some dead-end manager was telling me how to program. Point of this? Don't be one of these managers. Don't manage people without knowing what they're doing. You don't need to know details, but you should be at least have a high level understanding of their tasks.

Oh... yea, so this is a great CSS book that's been helping me along: The CSS Anthology: 101 Essential Tips, Tricks, and Hacks. By Rachel Andrew.

UPDATE: I was reading slashdot tonight and saw an article that spoke about this post. Well, not this post. But what this post is about. I thought it fitting. Here's an excerpts from the article (Fire Your Boss)

"Because power in IT organizations tends to be based on head count, preserving jobs takes a priority. And when jobs have to be eliminated, they tend to come off the bottom of the organization when they should more logically come off the top -- or at least from near the top. A tech who directly helps users is more important than a manager who can't manage. This is especially true if that manager is making 2-3 times as much as the tech.

If your boss doesn't understand your job enough to describe it in technical detail, that boss is in the wrong job.

If you are managing an IT shop and can't write the code to render "hello world" in C, html, php, and pull "hello world" from a MySQL database using a perl script, then YOU are in the wrong job.

I should point out that these latter tasks can be copied and pasted straight from properly composed Google queries. They aren't a test of programming knowledge at all, just of the ability to use the Internet. Yet many technical managers will fail and should get the boot as a result. You can't manage what you can't understand."

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