Dennis has left the building

I remember a young whipper-snapper starting at Critical Mass nigh-six years ago. Another newbie, Angie, had mentioned that she’d brought his stuff out from Winnepeg. Not that I was far off from being a newbie myself — it had only been a couple of months since I had started.

Since then, Dennis grew from being a quiet little kid to being the single strongest Senior Web Developer we have … or probably ever had. Dennis and I sat across from each other when we moved to the new building over five years ago. For a year or so, we would chat with each other over ICQ, rarely actually saying anything to one another. We’d work late almost every night. And we’d engage in endless debates about technology and management.

Dennis could always code me under the table. He was a better developer, no two ways about it. He scared me back then. I had mastered the ins and outs of developing for Netscape 4 — a true pain in the arse to support. And the browser equivalent of the evolutionary dead end. Dennis was already well into DOM-compliant development, and object-oriented constructs. He could code a regular expression in his head — something I can barely do in a regular expression-capable application reading a dummy’s guide. Despite his age (he was the youngest person at Critical Mass for about three years running), he developed as fast (or faster) than anyone else and kept his own.

A lot of people around here had the impression that I hated Dennis. I have to admit, I have no idea where that came from. Sure, Dennis did pick me off with an eraser once while I was on the phone, but I was just pissed off that someone had done that while I was on the phone! How did they know it wasn’t a client? In reality, I had — and still have — nothing but the highest respect for Dennis. He ran a team easily twice the size of the one I had with seeming ease, and kept everyone running smoothly. Dennis gets higher praise from his team under pressure than I did managing a team under considerably less strain.

I’m going to miss that devious smirk of his. You’ll know it when you see it. Dennis is outspoken when he has a particular point of view. He’s mostly patient, but when he wants to say something, you’ll see it. He tries not to immediately jump in, but will eventually force his way in. And he doesn’t come unprepared.

Tabs vs. Spaces. The single largest and most religious of the debates in programming. Which do you use when writing code? The Senior group finally had it out over a month ago. I brought beer to ease the inevitable pain. There wasn’t nearly as much yelling as I expected. Dennis had his argument for tabs nailed down. I figured he was going to win even before we started — he’d prepared himself for months.

Last Friday was Dennis’ “going away” binge. A lot of us went to the Ship (and Anchor) to commiserate with our loss. A few of us got into a heated … no, actually, just drunkenly loud discussion about the past, present, and future of Critical Mass. Those of us who’ve been around long enough to see the changes (for better or for worse), and speculate on what will be. I do know this much — you can’t go home. You can’t go back to the way things used to be. Times change, and you have to accept that the people you’ve known and the friends you’ve made will eventually go the route they need to, even if it is away from yourself.

Dennis was the #3 guy for Web Dev seniority. Now the #3 falls to Torin, who’s a year and a half behind me. That gap scares me a little bit. That’s a long gap between seniority. Mind you, we did have some questionable folks in that gap, and there’s been a long time for them to filter out. But still, it’s a little worrisome. Mostly because then the next question is: have I overstayed my welcome? It is not a case of there being a gap … but me staying too long in one place?

D-Money is gone, off to (assumedly) greener pastures. I’m gonna miss him, too. I miss a lot of people it seems, and a lot more often than I’d like to. I’ve written too many entries on people leaving. Inevitable or not for our industry, I still don’t like when it happens.

Take care, Dennis — keep shaking things up!

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