Coding dojo… One year later

Last week’s coding dojo session was a special one, not only because we brought a cake ūüôā but because it marked the first anniversary of those sessions at Murex Beirut. One year ago, I wrote a post¬†sharing my experience on how we started this activity. Today, I am writing this post to share what has changed during this year.

Widening the scope

After twenty-eight sessions of practicing TDD, we decided it was time to adjust the scope a bit! Frequent attendees grasped TDD pretty well and suggested that we might benefit from those sessions to learn new technologies and practices.

After a brainstorming session, we agreed to label the session by one of four themes: Algorithms & TDD, New Languages, Kata & Workshops, and New Projects. We thought that by applying those themes we would increase the technical knowledge of all attendees, involve volunteers in the session preparation thus improving their presentations skills, and probably attract wider audience

Themes

Algorithms & TDD

Algorithms.png

We are all aligned that our primary purpose of this activity is practicing TDD, but in the case of complex algorithms using TDD is not always the optimal way (sudoku for example). Thus, we decided that in such cases we first would agree on the full algorithm then implement the code and write the sufficient tests to cover the different cases!

Lately, we’ve been using CodinGame¬†to solve complex puzzles and algorithms, as the tests are already written, and they have an excellent graphical simulation of the puzzle execution.

New Languages

7Languages7Weeks

Learning new programming languages is one of the best approaches to improving¬†someone’s programming skills; especially, when it includes learning different programming models (OO, functional, procedural, etc.) For those sessions, a¬†volunteer learns the language alone and then presents it to the group in any form he/she prefers.

So far, we have learned two languages Scala and Ruby! For those sessions, we are using the book Seven Languages in Seven Weeks as our learning material reference and CodinGame as an exercising platform.

Kata & Workshops

JavaAgent.jpg

We defined kata as a presentation or short talk on a particular subject given by someone knowledgeable on that topic. A workshop, on the other hand, is a collaborative session where all take part of experimenting something new.

So far, we’ve had five of those sessions:

  1. A workshop on Git.
  2. Two kata sessions on machine learning.
  3. One presentation on Java agent and one on Android development.

Design patterns, development processes (Agile, lean, pair programming, etc.) and tools (docker, Gradle) are some of the candidates to be presented in next sessions.

New Projects

This is probably the hardest theme! The idea here is to implement an internal tool or app that can benefit other employees. Contributors to this theme will benefit from practicing TDD on a big scale project and learning new tools and technologies.

At this point, we are preparing a short list of proposals to get approval on one! ¬†Hopefully, we can kickstart it soon ūüôā

In Numbers

We initially started with thirty-four registered¬†participants, but that number dropped to fourteen. Honestly, I think this isn’t a bad number!

The below graphs show the distribution of all the forty-seven sessions we’ve had so far. The graphs are grouped by theme and topic / language.

By Theme:
By Topic / Language:

More to Come

Thanks to the participants’ commitment and their eagerness to learn and improve their technical skills we celebrated the first anniversary of the coding dojo sessions.¬†We will keep running those sessions, and we will keep improving them as we go! I hope that in one year from now, I will be posting another blog to share what we have done ūüôā

Newcomers’ Training Program

Recently, I was in charge of training two fresh-graduate newcomers to our department. My mission was to prepare a two weeks program to ease the integration process with their teams.

After a short brainstorming, I decided to break the training into the following seven topics:

  1. Agile Practices:¬†Their first assignment was getting acquainted with the Agile methodologies (mainly XP our working process). For that, I asked them to read¬†a couple of chapters from two books “The Art of Agile Development” and “Extreme Programming Explained.”
  2. Dev Tools: Configuring some dev tools on their machines was the second step. This involved the installation and configuration of Java, IntelliJ, Maven and Perforce. Some of those tools such as Perforce and Maven were relatively new to them; so they took some time to learn more about it.
  3. TDD: By now, they were ready to write some code! And what would be better than following TDD to do that? Most of our teams started adopting TDD, thus coaching newcomers on TDD for simple dev problems is a must! For that purpose I picked the following two problems:
    • Mars Rover: This might be an easy problem, but I find it well suited to practice TDD especially for TDD newbies as it has a lot of cases to be covered by tests.
    • Coffee Machine: The beauty of this problem, is that it simulates what happens in the life cycle of an agile¬†project, such as:
      • Defining new requirements at the start¬†of each iteration
      • Writing the minimum code to¬†implement the required features
      • Continuous code refactoring
      • Write the sufficient tests at each iteration
  4. Design Pattern and Code Refactoring:¬†The¬†two problems above may¬†not be complex¬†and can be solved in a short time, but the solution¬†wasn’t¬†the primary purpose rather it was introducing new concepts and practices to them. To make sure this purpose was achieved, I was performing multiple code review sessions during each iteration and suggesting enhancement¬†at each time. This process elongated the time for each iteration, but it was worth. Some of the concepts I focused on were:
    • Test coverage
    • Builder pattern
    • Visitor pattern
    • Factory pattern
    • Bad and good code practices
    • Mocking
  5. Maven: They used Maven to build the code they wrote previously, but it was only maven’s basic commands. At this phase of the training, I asked them to dig deeper into maven¬†to have a better understanding¬†how it works; mainly focusing on:
    • Phases of build lifecycle
    • Dependency management
    • Plugins
    • Local and remote repositories
  6. SCM: Whether it is Git or Perforce, there are a couple of must know operations for any developer to be part of a development team. As a practice on those operations, they simulated a real dev cycle scenario by:
    • Sharing a common working directory on Perforce
    • Creating branches
    • Merging/Integrating changes
    • Resolving conflicts
  7. Continuous Integration (CI)As fresh graduates, the continuous integration was a new concept for them. Whereas for us, it is an essential process of our development cycle. It wasn’t possible to use an existing Jenkins instance to perform their testing; thus they executed the below steps:
    • Download and configure Jenkins locally on their machines
    • Submit their code to Perforce
    • Add a¬†new job that syncs, compile code and execute the tests

 

I noticed the benefit of this training from the emails they sent me at the end of the program. They detailed what they learned and most importantly they were able to highlight the advantages of those practices and tools.

I hope you find this post helpful for your next newcomers’ training!