recent blog posts related to software careers, and career advice

“Keep Grinding”

“It just tells you how tough this team is. Down 25 points, we just keep grinding and we finish on top again.”

~ Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

IQ is not EQ

One of the things you have to remember when working with human beings is that IQ is not the same as EQ, and they’re rarely equal. Some people have a horrible temper. One guy I know is smart, but he remains the biggest jerk I’ve ever met.

I remember hearing one time that when people are hurt in their childhood or teen years they stop developing emotionally at that point. So if they are somehow hurt when they are twelve years old, they can be thirty years old physically but only twelve emotionally. I don’t know if that’s 100% true, but it seems like it in some cases I know. (And the hard thing is that these people don’t know that they have these problems.)

A bad day can be the best thing to happen to you

About five years ago, when my thyroid was first failing, I went through something known as Hashimoto’s disease. What happened was that at some times I would become hyperthyroid (and therefore hyperactive), but most of the time I was hypothyroid, meaning that my brain and body were slow and sluggish.

Nine times out of ten I was sluggish, so one day when I had a job interview I decided to drink some Red Bull. I had one drink an hour before the interview, and drank the second one just before the interview.

Sadly, on this occasion my body decided to have that “1 out of 10” day and be hyperactive. Combined with the two Red Bull drinks I couldn’t sit still or think. I’m sure the people conducting the interview thought I was on speed, and more than once they told me I could relax. I wanted to tell them, “No, I can’t. I really can’t.” By the end of that miserable interview I was just glad my heart didn’t explode.

At the time this seemed like a really bad event in my life. I didn’t know what to do about my thyroid, and I felt miserable. I was at a real low point, especially in my professional life.

Fortunately one of the next things I did was to send an email to the O’Reilly folks asking if they needed someone to write the Scala Cookbook. They said yes, and the rest is history.

Looking back on that interview, I now think that if I had done well that day I might have been forced to work with Java for the next few years. Instead, I’ve been able to work with Scala ever since that day. I got to write the Scala Cookbook, and now I’m working on a book about Scala and functional programming. With the mast cell disease stuff I just went through I would have never been able to work at a “normal” job, so all of this turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Moral: One some days things in your life can look bad, really bad. But if you keep your chin up and keep working hard, good things can still happen, and in the end that bad day can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Ichiro’s samurai pose (“OK, let’s fight”)

I really like this quote about Ichiro Suzuki from this article. I never thought that way as a batter or as a pitcher, but as a batter I can see how that mentality would help. It’s like you’re in a mano a mano battle with a pitcher about four times a game. I reminds me of an attitude that you need in a sport like wrestling. It also reminds me of warriors yelling “Certain Victory!” before entering into battle, or yelling “Battle!” in the movie Michael.

What are you willing to do to become successful?

I hear a lot of people say they want to be successful. For me this always comes down to, “What are you willing to do to make that happen?”

In my own case I had to overcome a fear of public speaking, learn how to write software, learn how to build and manage a company, learn some sales techniques, make sacrifices on how I spend my time, etc.

Process, not results

There’s a well-known sports psychologist in Denver who tells people to feel less stress by focusing on process, not the results of the process. I suspect that’s where this Adam Gase quote comes from:

“We’re just trying to get players better, rather than worrying about the result. We follow our process, and whatever the outcome ends up being, well, it’s been good in the past.”

Consulting: Working late and overtime pay as a consultant

One of my favorite things about working as a consultant is that managers treat your time with respect. As a regular salaried employee, managers will say, “I need you to stay late tonight,” with the implication being, “suck it up.”

As a consultant who’s paid by the hour, when a manager says “I need you to stay late tonight,” you can always say, “No problem, I don’t mind staying if you don’t mind paying double time (as stipulated in the contract).”

In reality you rarely have to say anything like that. Good managers realize that when they ask you to work overtime they’re also saying that they’re going to pay your overtime rate. But if you’re dealing with a first-time manager you sometimes have to say something to that effect to make sure they understand what they’re asking for.

I can’t tell you how many times a manager told their regular employees that they had to stay late, and then they’d look at me and say, “Not you. You go home.” You might think the salaried employees would be angry at you for this preferential treatment, but I’ve always found that they understand that it’s part of the system. Back in the day when I was a regular employee I wasn’t angry with the consultants, I just found myself being envious about their situation.

(I write more about lessons like this in my book, A Survival Guide for New Consultants.)