My workplace has a very unique setup for the developer room.
Most developers work in small, silent rooms. This makes a lot of sense, because deep thought is easier in a silent environment.
At my company, we have a completely different setup: no less than 30 people in a big, open room. We have 12 backend developers plus business analysts, an Iteration manager, a Product Owner, and Quality Assurance people. Basically, we have every person who touches our app crammed into one giant, open room.
It’s an environment full of distractions, but pairing makes things easier. When you’re paired with another person, your focus narrows, and you can concentrate on just that person, blocking out the chatter of the rest.
On the plus side:
- Getting help is a non-issue. I can’t count the times that someone has overheard my pair and I talking and chimed in with, “Oh, I had that problem yesterday. This is how I got past it.”
- It pushes the developers to cultivate advanced social skills, by forcing them to deal with issues like negotiating music selection and volume. Conflicts come to a head quickly and are remedied just as quickly, allowing for a more cooperative environment.
- We get to know our teammates very, very well. Team-building is automatic.
- Introverts have a limited capacity for social interaction. I lean only slightly toward introversion, and I leave work every day with my well of socialization depleted. I crave silence and there’s nowhere to find it, at work or at home.
- Working through something alone is impossible. When my pair steps away, I try to think through the problem alone, but if I’m not talking out loud about the problem, I can’t hear myself think.
Some of the other developers like the setup, and others hate it. As a new developer, the ability to get help is especially valuable, so the benefits currently outweigh the costs. We’ll see if that stays true as I gain more experience.
On a side note, it seems that the cure for Writer’s Block is to write about it.