Friday, September 25, 2015

Programmer turned Home DIY Enthusiast

Programmers are smart, educated, and logical so hammering a couple nails should be no problem for us.  That was part of my mindset when I took on a massive home renovation this summer.  We were running out of space for our growing family so we needed to expand.  The plan was to gut the second floor and reclaim some storage space and in the process add a third bedroom on that floor.  I know I didn't have time to it all myself so there would be subcontractors hired but I was convinced I wouldn't need a general contractor because I could take care of that myself.  After all I was smart guy and had done a few projects around the house... I could do it.

Being your own general contractor is like starting a new job as a project manager in a field you just have a vague idea about. The project you are assigned to is also one of the most important in the history of the company so there is little room for error.  That is what it is like being your own general contractor on the side.  Oh did I mention that being your own general contractor also means you have to get your hands dirty doing the parts of the project you don't have "staff" to fill?

So what is a savvy coder to do when faced with such a challenge?  As a programmer what do you do when you have a vague idea what to do but are not sure of the details? Google. 

What I hired people to do:
  • demo existing space
  • frame the dormer
  • put the roof on
  • put siding on
  • electrical
  • plumbing for heat
  • carpet
What I did:
  • insulation
  • drywall
  • sub floor
  • paint
  • trim
  • baseboards
  • window casings
  • hang doors
  • and many more odds and ends

The biggest lesson learned was to find a mentor and don't be afraid to ask questions.  There is a lot of know and frankly a lot of the techniques and tips are unwritten and you either learn the hard way by doing it wrong or you ask questions.   Just like in programming google can only get you so far.  You need to have a mentor, a proper teacher, or a quality book on the subject to understand how to do it without a lot of growing pains.

Inspections!! There are a lot of inspections, permits, and plans required with this type of a project.  The regulations and red tape can grind everything to a halt if you don't stay on time of it.   This is just like in the coding world.  Your project can be crushed if you do not know how to operate within your companies policies and know who to go to get sign off on things and overcome road blocks.

Coordination was critical to getting this project done.  Every step has several preconditions that need to be fulfilled.  So for example to hang drywall you need the drywall delivered, rent a drywall jack, insulation inspection complete, rough electrical done, rough plumbing done, and stuff like that.  Just like in the software project management world if one precondition isn't fulfilled things grind to a halt.

I cannot express enough how great of a learning experience this was not just as a homeowner but as a project manager.  The struggles were real and stressful but in those struggles there was personal growth.  Next time I don't know if I would rather hire someone to do it but this time I was glad I did it.  So if you are looking to grow your skill set for your career look around you and maybe you can find something outside your field to help you like volunteering, joining a club, or side projects even including home improvements. 

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  2. Excellent way of relating programming world and home renovation project. Found it very useful. Keep it up, Bobby.

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