Catherine Powell

Catherine has spent the last ten years working throughout engineering, including development, test, support, and product management. She focuses on agile team management and effective software delivery, building high-performance multi-functional teams that work effectively with business needs. Catherine's projects also include non-dogmatic agile training for teams just starting up or looking to move to agile methods. Past experience includes an enterprise storage system, a tablet solution for restaurants, a mobile data synchronization platform, a marketing analytics platform, and several web-based applications.

How to Know When Old Technology Isn’t Outdated

bigstock-Picture-of-a-person-typing-at--25245014
I wrote recently about the things I look for when considering a job or a contract, and it spawned a lot of good discussion in a few different areas. Some people talked about their criteria for considering a job; others talked about the importance of just plain having a job. One thread that came up was the idea of “old” technology, and what constituted old. From a candidate’s point of view, when do the technologies you’ve been working in become… continue…

Tips On Answering the Question: How Good Are You?

bigstock-Ask-The-Answer-Man--Superhero-4905488
Software engineering is often about learning. It’s pretty rare that we solve the same problem with the same technology stack over and over again. This isn’t a factory, after all! Instead, we solve the same problems with new technologies, or new problems with the same technology, or both. As a result, we’re always learning: new techniques, new libraries, new languages, new frameworks. Which leads to the inevitable question: How good are you at….? The answer to this falls into one… continue…

Software Engineers Think This is an Ideal Workplace

A fishing rod, reel and lure on a white background
Certain cliches about job candidates permeate the software industry. Every hiring manager wants someone who is smart and a self-starter. The ideal candidate is a good team player, who enjoys working in a collaborative environment and stays focused on delivering value to the customer, while writing great code using the company’s technologies. Candidates also have a list of clichés, which reflect what we want in an employer. We all want an employer who fosters communication, embraces current and next generation… continue…

How to Prepare for a Team Member’s Departure

Working - Blog
The end is coming. It may be next week or it may be next year but soon it’s going to happen: someone in your organization is going to leave. There’s a lot to be done when someone leaves, but being prepared in advance can make the process a lot easier. There’s a lot of HR and training needed when someone leaves the company, but this is the software development blog, so let’s talk about the software. Handling the transition of… continue…

Timing a Software Update, Mid-Project

Browse the Upgrade - Orange
New software versions can be the Ninja assassins of the software world. Picture your innocent software team, working diligently, creating new features, pleasing product management and customers. Then, usually at the most inconvenient possible time, a new version of some software you interact with is released. Maybe it’s a new version of Rails, or a new version of the NFS spec or a new version of Java. Drop everything and upgrade? Not a good idea. For most software of any… continue…

How to Reap More Upside Surprises from Meetings

Steve Jobs was famous for surprise announcements. He’d almost get all the way through an event, flash a little grin and say, “one more thing.” Then he’d deliver the big news. Over the years, Steve Job’s “one more thing” included iconic products, such as the iPod Shuffle, the MacBook Pro, the iPod Touch and the MacBook Air. It was always the last bit at the end that mattered. Like most engineers, I go to meetings with some regularity. And in those… continue…

The Swiss Army Knife Approach to Software Engineering

Swiss Army Knife
The Swiss Army knife is a popular tool. Since its origin in the Swiss Army — yes, really — in the late 19th century, they’ve become so popular that they’ve also turned into a colloquialism for adaptability and usefulness. There’s only one problem with that: The Swiss Army Knife is not the greatest knife. It’s also not the greatest can opener. Nor is it an awesome screwdriver, or a stellar saw. So why the appeal? Because it’s better than not… continue…

You Can Find a Job in R&D If You Look Hard Enough

Posted In Looking in Tech
Quick: Name a truly innovative company today. Chances are you thought of someone like Amazon (for its AWS and related-cloud services), Apple (shiny devices and usability), Twitter (zero to ubiquity in just a few years), or someone like that. They all have done great things. But in 20 or 40 years, will any of them still matter? There’s an argument to be made that cloud services legitimately changed the face of computing. But Twitter? That is going down in history… continue…

Terms Software Engineers Need to Communicate Clearly

We’re software engineers. It’s rumored that we write code, test the product and debug problems, as well as draw boxes and arrows on whiteboards until we have an architecture we’re happy with. In the end, almost everything we do is about producing awesomeness and solving interesting problems. Except when it’s not, which is much of the time. As most of us discovered in our first job, we spend countless hours doing other stuff. We go to meetings. We report progress… continue…

Car Makers Speed Up Software Updates

Automatic software updates are pretty common these days. Your operating system downloads patches and drivers and prompts you to install them. Most browsers download and install updates automatically, too. Now even your car can get in on the action. Mercedes has launched its mbrace2 system, which includes a phone app for locking and unlocking your car, as well as a sneaky new feature that automatically updates its software without any action required by driver or mechanic. Not so much as… continue…