The Author's Code... with Pedro Sena

Pedro Henrique Lobato Sena talks about his experience co-authoring “Leadership Paradigms for Remote Agile Development: How to lead your Team Remotely” with Benjamin Jakobus and Claudio Souza. Pedro sharesAuthor's Code-Sena some very candid insights about his motivation and writing process—including how he managed to balance writing this book along with his day job and the duties of family and fatherhood. 

Q: How did you get started on your career path?

I always loved to play videogames on the computer, but only started to consider it more seriously in my late teens. By that time I was studying to get into a public university—but I planned on studying Chemistry. Due to some developments in my personal life, I realized that even if I was able to get into the school I was aiming for, that path would be complicated.

I had friends working with programming and systems administration and noticed that most of their skills were self-taught, so I challenged myself to learn how to program. In just weeks, I was writing some basic programs using Object Pascal, and after a few months I was able to move to the IT sector and start my career as a Junior Developer at the company that I was already working at that time. They were very supportive and that first experience helped me immensely.

Q: What was your main reason/inspiration for writing this book?

Seeing software projects fail or at least underdeliver over and over for many different but predictable reasons is quite frustrating. Although you can bring this up with the main stakeholders, people tend to think that "this time is different." We (coauthors Bejamin Jakobus and Claudio Souza) wanted to list upfront the main problems and how to avoid them, so professionals from the area can not only know when a problem is about to happen, or already happening, but also how to deal with it in a suitable manner.

Making it explicit and showing patterns of those problems and how they manifest helps mitigate this feeling of "exclusiveness" that we tend to experience in the middle of a project.

Q: How would you describe the experience of writing your book?

It was very demanding and it was my first time writing a book. A lot of times I had too many ideas in mind and had a hard time organizing them. I knew it wouldn't be a simple task so I was already expecting some friction, but it was harder than I thought.

Q: Can you describe your writing process?

I was working full time, I'm married and I have an 8-year-old son, so it certainly was tricky to coordinate everything. Thankfully my family was always very supportive, so I was able to dedicate a small portion of my business days to it, but most of the work was completed on weekends.

Due to the lack of structure—especially at the beginning—I was writing contents that would fit on what ended up being different chapters, so we, iteratively, worked on those and started a cyclical process of refining, reevaluating and selecting what was most appropriate. Not very different to how we deal with software.

Q: How did you find the time to complete your book?

My family supported me from the very beginning and they knew the level of effort this kind of endeavor demands. Some family time was sacrificed for this but it was all planned ahead and properly communicated.

I try to be very organized with my time and plan things ahead, so that certainly helps, which certainly does not mean it was easy.

Q: Are there things you would do differently in terms of planning?

No, I think we did a good job and the process we used closely reflects the type of processes we use to develop software, making small, incremental progress, reevaluating periodically and incorporating improvements for the next "cycle".

Q: Did you ever have writer’s block?

Yes—but thanks to Ben and Claudio it didn't last very long. To me, coming up with the main topics and the directions I wanted to point the topics towards was easy, but writing those in depth usually didn't flow as I thought it would. So, once I got stuck on a particular section, I'd mark one or both of them to try to expand it or just review it and most of the time that was enough to unblock me.

Q: What role did your own perspective and experiences play in shaping the book?

This book is basically the combination of our professional experience over the last 15 years or so. Although we traced different paths, once we started discussing those topics it was clear how recurrent they were and how beneficial listing those problems and potential solutions could be.

Q: Would you ever write another book?

Certainly. Convincing my family to support me again might take some effort though.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write a nonfiction book?

Go for it. Start writing something and worry about organization and cohesion later. Once you have some content that you are happy with, refine it and try to structure in an intelligible manner, then repeat the process until you are satisfied. Don't wait for inspiration or the "perfect idea".

Q: What is your favorite book? Favorite author?

That is a hard question. To be honest, I don't think I have a single favorite book or author as many have had a considerable impact on my life. In my teens I was exposed to Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, which gave me an interesting, although not very optimistic, view on life. I revisited that later when I was introduced to the Stoics, mainly Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.

Two important and highly practical books that I like and usually recommend to people are Atomic Habits, by James Clear, and The Bullet Journal Method, by Ryder Carroll. Although very different from the previous authors, those two are very easy to digest and incredibly actionable. They work in a complementary manner; the Bullet Journal will make developing and sticking to habits much easier.

Pedro Sena is a Senior Software Engineer with over 15 years of experience, 12 of those working remotely. He created software for a wide range of industries, including shop floor automation, tourism, banking and e-commerce as well as different types of SaaS (Software as a Service) applications.

He received his degree as “Technologist in Informatics” from FASP, in Brazil where he was born and currently lives.