Recent Alex's Soapbox

Alex's very own soapbox for all things software and technology.

Sep 2012

Ask WTF: Learning The Business

by in Alex's Soapbox on

Most of the emails that arrive in The Daily WTF inbox are some kind of a submission. Or a hate mail. But every now and then, some one will request something a bit out of the ordinary: advice.

Hi Alex,

I recently started my first "grown-up" job as a software developer. 
As exciting as it is to get paid for doing what I love, I can't help but wonder 
if I'm expecting waaaay too from a company.

My main issue is that I know virtually nothing about the (very large) application 
I'm maintaining, or even the business domain. There is a business requirements wiki 
(and a whole team who can apparently answer questions about it), but it's filled 
with words and terms that are so domain-specific that it's basically impossible 
to get a proper understanding of things. It feels like I'm learning to fly using 
only blueprints to a Boeing 747.

I was really expecting that someone would sit down with me and give me a nice demo 
of the ins and outs of the application and the business, but no one seems to be 
willing or able to do that. Messing around with a test version of the application 
doesn't help either since there's no product documentation accessible and the little 
help that's available is littered with domain intensive keywords.

I feel that "it's complicated" and "this is a fast-paced environment" 
is no excuse to skip proper training and to not give due importance to knowledge 
transfer to new hires. I feel that if I were running the department, I'd accept 
the overhead and just make sure developers could understand the applications and 
business they're maintaining. Is this so much to ask?

How exactly am I supposed to understand the application if no one else seems to know 
(or be willing to share) what it does?