Your baby is ugly

One of the hardest things about being a contractor is working with smart developers who have transitioned to a new technology and don't understand it.  Many of them (not the best ones) think that they are doing great with the approaches and code they have.  Lord forbid you tell them otherwise.

A few contracts ago I ran into this in a major way.  The lead developer was in way over his head but couldn't be given any advice at all -- if you softened it up, he ignored it. If you pushed it, he pushed back... if you argued it he let you go (and did, to three contractors who agreed that changes should be made).   Sure, we've all done the thing where you give it to them as their idea, but sometimes nothing seems to work.

My consulting company is owned by a great woman with lots of tech industry savvy.  Just lately she gave me the phrase for it: "You can't tell someone their baby is ugly, no matter how you disguise the statement".  And it can be very true.  No matter how many people laugh at the pictures behind their back, it will never be ugly to a parent

I was just thinking about this today - my code was under the gun for a poor class design.  Yes, it was an ugly design, but I found myself defending it for a bit longer than I should have.  Looking at what was come up with I know that the new design is much cuter... er, better... but I still can't shake the feeling that we didn't nurture my baby quite enough.  

Now when I come across this development attitude, I'll realize just how hard it can be to shake for either party.  Perhaps the next proud parent of a hideous monstrosity will get a bit more sympathy from me.  Or perhaps I'll just show the pictures to others for cheap laughs.


  • Very true and very well-written post! I'll try to remember that. Thx.

  • Be careful...parents are MUCH more invested in their babies than developers are in their code. Criticizing someone's code may get you fired, but calling someone's baby ugly...that'll get your lights punched out. ;-)

  • The main question here is: Are you willing to participate in a team where developers maintain this unhealthy attitude? Sure, you need to make trade offs every now and then but you and your college’s are there not only to please your contractor and/or stock holders. It’s all about raising your personal bar including helping/motivate others to do the same. Only this approach will strengthen your team, company and eventually the services you offer on the market. Otherwise you are moving yourself mentally and emotionally in a dead-end street.

  • G. Andrew: True, but sometimes developers are a little TOO invested in the code-- you can get both fired and punched!

    Paul: Your comment seems to have many points. I apologize if I didn't follow it correctly.

    1) I'll participate in the team and try to change the attitude any day.

    2) I understand I'm not there only for my stockholders, but I am the contractor. My consulting company, the client site, and the stockholders of both have hired me to produce results for them - normaly on a short term. While I can raise staffing concerns, I'm valuable to them all because I can work around these concerns, not because I refuse to work in less than perfect environments. Bonus if I improve the environment while I'm there.

    3) I do try to raise my personal bar every day but that is not my only goal - I must also use the skills I have now to produce.

    4) By "this approach" are you saying "taking the high road and not working with these people?" If so, I must disagree - there are many positive approaches that I've seen work for teams, companies, and individuals and not all of them involve abandoning smart people. And if I wish to stay a contractor and grow my skills and reputation (and thereby raise my pay), I must work with these people - even for these people - and try to change the attitudes that detract from productive work.

  • What a great post! I'm the type of guy who can use a reminder like this from time to time. By the way, my baby is WAY CUTE! Anyone want to see him?


  • Almost as bad as parents who can't see how ugly their baby is - Parents who constantly blabber about their baby and cannot be shut up (short of drowning them).

  • Thanks Addy. You provide a reminder of a different sort. BTW, is your baby ugly?

  • Parents who talk about their baby who may not be the cutest, but they think they are see somthing that the rest of us don't. Another thing, we may not think they are cute but the parents love the child and they don't care, like a true parent shouldn't. And besides, some unattractive babies grow up to be gorgious adults!

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