The Pivot

Intro

A new starter to the team asked me how and why I chose Node & React. It led to the below…

The Pivot and POV

In 2018 we released our latest and most significant Cognos Application. Next, my manager tasked me with leading the development of a cloud-native app. Our ‘New Tech’ Team was born. Conceived to add cloud-native development capabilities to our repertoire. A future-proofing hedge for our continued bet on Cognos and DB2. I did a lot of research: online training, in-person training, badges, and reading. LOTS. To develop a point of view [POV] for Operations:

Cloud-native Microservices and APIs, delivered using open source & open standards, accelerate our cognitive journey and improve our operational efficiency and user experience.

To test and support my POV, I grew my network and skills.

Internally: Slack, more training courses, and internal resources.

Externally: SlackUdemy, blogs, developer websites and social media.

Around the same time, a mentor offered me some timeless advice: “leave past success” (thanks, Rich A.). Pivoting my career from Cognos to Cloud was a risk. My research, IBM and the market all signalled it had potential.

I used SWOT and Porter’s Five Forces to help select the technologies that best supported the POV. Hat tip to the IBM Technical Leadership Master Classes. They taught me about Porter’s Five and applying this analysis. Concluding on Node and React.

My manager was the first person I shared the POV with. They had a high technical understanding. I knew their concern was the adoption of too much emerging technology. My research and networking revealed IBM had invested early in Node. Including having members leading the Foundation. IBM’s Design Team also invested in the React Framework. These findings helped sell the POV, tech stack and approach.

Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

Why did I pick Node and React?

Node

JavaScript/Node topped my analysis. Javascript was gaining adoption and market share. The demand for skilled developers was growing at a similar pace. IBM is part of the Node community. The ascent and the ability to run a common language in the Browser and Server side made it a clear winner. It has since proven easier to teach and onboard new team members. Versus Python and Java, based on experience. It has become the cornerstone of our approach and tech stack.

React

React wasn’t as easy a decision. My analysis and research came down to React vs Angular. I went on training courses and experimented with both (I developed the classic todo app). I preferred React. Especially the way it functions, renders and manages state. IBM’s Carbon Design System also offered React Components. React training was/is available, including the IBM Carbon React badge. In time React has proven to be a dominant JS library and skill. I’ve no regrets. But I check Svelte and other front-end frameworks and libraries. More than I check for Node competitors or replacements.

Lessons Learnt

Scan the horizon – Spot trends and tech shifts. Establish how we can leverage them.

Show, don’t tell – The speed at which we can create things enable us to show rather than tell. There is less need for Slideware/Powerpoint Prototyping. I am keen to keep building our reputation as ‘builders’. React vs Angular vs Vue vs Svelte vs…? Build something and see.

It only sticks if you use it – The best way to learn is to do/practise/experiment/build. Building on ‘show, don’t tell’ above (pun intended).

Give up the past – Clinging to previous Cognos skills would have hindered the team’s progress. My manager and a wise mentor both coached and supported me on this.

Make time for networking – The pivot would not have been possible without connections. New and old. Coaching and mentoring, receiving and giving, enabled this pivot. Sharing our journey and the POV led to more opportunities to network, coach and mentor.

Start with a POV – Taught early on in IBM’s Technical Leadership Master Classes. A POV is an essential tool and a great starting point. Mine resembles buzzword bingo, but the POV has been an anchor for discussions and focus. In one line, it is what we’ve proven with our approach and helped communicate and sell it.

Side Notes

There is far more to the tech decisions than the above summaries. The analysis could fill many blog posts and has evolved. Such is the ever-changing technology landscape. Keep scanning that horizon.

Since 2018, Cognos has had a resurgence and investment from IBM. Our pivot was to hedge, not replace, Cognos and DB2 capabilities in the team. My manager wanted to do both. It was a great strategy that has paid off and better positioned the team for whatever comes in the future.

References

Photo by Bobby Stevenson on Unsplash