Lessons Learned – Part 1

When I think back to when I just started working as a programmer I distinctly remember thinking I knew what I was doing. Almost 15 years later I now have the experience to know how wrong I was. We learn from failure and over the years I’ve had the chance to learn a lot.

I can never forget (still trying…) my first major screw up. I was just a couple of days at my new job working on a mailing list solution for a custom CRM. I had temporarily added a line of code to force the test emails to just be sent to my address. A few hours later my boss asked me to make an adjustment. While working on it he asked me about an email he’d received. Of course I’d forgotten to put back the line of code and had sent my test email to all 200,000 users.

Part of this was likely hubris, how could I possibly forget to set this insanely important line of code. Of course everything that can go wrong will go wrong. I had been testing with some pretty stupid emails, messages to myself and that sort of thing. Luckily the email the went out was just the word ‘test’. Mistakes will always happen, we need to create environments which prevent them.

Looking back this clearly should have been an environment setting. Laravel has an extremely useful ‘pretend’ setting in the email config file which prevents any emails from being sent, writing them to the log instead.

I’m a strong believer in the value of mistakes. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. The scars we get when bad things happen never fully heal which thankfully serve as reminders in the future. I’ve probably become a bit too paranoid now (especially when working with emails) but I’m sure it’s for the better.

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