Why Nognom the Caveman?

Holiday Team Fun on the Whiteboard

Holiday Team Fun on the Whiteboard, by:

In the early stages of my professional career, I received the nickname, Nognom. Through some exploits, it turned into Nognom, the Caveman. When you get a nickname sometimes you choose to run away from it, but when you get it for the right reasons, you embrace it and make it your own.


Work shouldn’t always be a slog, but some projects just end up that way. A few of us were slogging through with some late hours and hard work around the holidays. One of our designers started making some funny caricatures of the team during a much-needed break. I’ve blurred out some of the real names to protect the guilty but we had a slick snowman, a tired and rattled reindeer, an angry “party” penguin, and a hair-armed hand puppet. That’s right I was the hairy armed hand puppet.

It was with that team that started the tradition of making little caricatures on the whiteboard of each other and nicknames over projects. I’ve tried to keep the fun project names and team names since then, as names help teams create a community and helps to give them an identity together. Silly nicknames that relate to the project help give things scope and purpose.

That team is what gave me the nickname of Nognom, but flipping my name around backward. It wasn’t anything special at first, just a tired laugh about what your name sounded like backward. It was then that the project I got a chance to lead got named Nognom and the name started taking some life. We were rebuilding a conference portal and it was an unfortunate difficult project that took tenacity and diligence to complete on time. It was one of those, “It needs to be done at this time”, sorts of projects given to the junior engineer as a chance to, “wow them.” 

Yes, I am aware not to fall into those projects and not to hand off poorly planned projects to junior engineers today. If you aren’t aware that handing off projects that are time-scoped in a way that will require massive overtime is a bad thing, this site may not be for you. Set people up for success, not failure.

Project ‘Nognom’ was run by “Nognom” and it took us bashing at the work to get it done. It wasn’t an overtly difficult project, but it took tenacity, and diligence to line the features up to be delivered in that time. It was from this, that the persona Nognom the caveman was born. It was a large project we all wanted to beat with a club and we molded it with our clubs until it was finished.

We were successful and that success made me embrace the nickname. The name was already my own, if not reversed, and I molded it into a way of thinking about development and engineering as a whole. Diligence and tenacity can go a long way.


let’s consider cavemen a unisex term for nognom.com because ‘ancestral beings’, the only other decent synonym I could find, just doesn’t sound as good for the site.

As I see it, with my rudimentary anthropology, cavemen were the group of early humans that kickstarted our pursuit of knowledge. They had to figure it out first and share that knowledge if they wanted to go further.

The world of engineering isn’t any different. We embody the spirit of a caveman. An Engineer is akin to venturing into the digital wilderness sometimes only armed with the equivalent of a primitive club. We have the internet and some godlike tools from it, but when we are doing something hard or new, there may not always be documentation or an example to copy. Much like our ancestors who first learned to craft the first tools, they started crafting solutions from the ground up. A caveman Engineer starts with nothing but determination and the tools they build for themselves.

The initial code may resemble the rough sketches on cave walls, raw and unpolished like we put on whiteboards. However, this is the essential starting point. We can only guess the first attempts at creation and the trouble that we have with it. Your first commit is never a work of art. Yet, it sets the stage for the journey.

I have often wondered how the first of us thought to make cheese and beer. There’s a decent amount of steps and built tools to get there. Yet, we see that the earliest evidence of beer production dates to around 7000 to 6000 BCE in what is now Iran. Archaeologists have discovered remnants of a fermented beverage made from barley at a site called Godin Tepe. How much of that foundational knowledge did the caveman have to share to get to such a point? How terrible IPAs were produced before a decent stout was made?


With persistent effort and a commitment to improvement, the caveman engineer transforms their primitive code into a solution. With tenacity, that solution can iterate towards something efficient and streamlined. The journey is rugged, but the result is a testament to the power of perseverance in the face of coding challenges.

So, embrace the caveman Engineer within you. Embrace the chaos of the initial lines of code, knowing that each keystroke brings you closer to that refined, evolved solution. Share what you’ve learned to make sure you leave the world a better place for your digital descendants. This includes commenting within your code because you may be the digital decedent coming back. No, you do not have an identic memory that will remind you exactly what you were doing.

In the vast Engineering landscape, the caveman engineer thrives through adaptation, learning, and the relentless pursuit of the digital equivalent of crafting the first beer. Build your tools, brew your code, and share with others.