A lesson learned from writing the Scala Cookbook: It’s fun and interesting to work with some professional writers in the editing process, and it’s great to get their feedback. But you also have to be willing to duke it out to keep what’s important. It’s your baby, it’s your name on the front cover.
Posts in the “career” category
I’m reminded of this story today:
Back in 2005 I used to walk over to a bar that was across the street from my apartment. One night I was talking to a waitress and wondered out loud whether I’d be happier working a job that I enjoyed that might only pay $30K to $40K per year — as opposed to my current job, which paid a lot more but wasn’t making me happy.
She said, “Don’t look at me honey, I don’t make that kind of money,” then turned and walked away.
I also ran across an old business card this morning. I didn’t remember that our address was, “1 NASA Drive”, that’s cool. The blurry stuff in the upper-left says, “Gencorp Aerojet”.
“Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors.”
That’s a quote from Elon Musk. In this context a vector is what I know about from my engineering background, a company of both a speed and a direction, something like this:
case class Vector(speed: Double, direction: String)
The correct thing about that quote is that the worst employees I ever had pulled in a direction that was somewhere around 180 degrees opposite of the direction we were aiming for. For example, if nine out of ten employees are rowing a boat that’s headed east, an employee that’s rowing towards the west is going to slow everyone else down.
Unfortunately I never had much success turning those people around, so they were always fired or encouraged to find other work. Over the years we had everything from people whose work had to be completely re-done to people who had agendas during the 8-5 work hours that had nothing to do with the company’s agenda.
There is a mistake technical and scientific people make. We think that if we have made a clever and thoughtful argument, based on data and smart analysis, then people will change their minds. This isn’t true. If you want to change people’s behavior you need to touch their hearts, not just win the argument. We call this the Oprah Winfrey Rule. (It’s also the way good politicians operate, but Oprah does it better than anyone.)
~ Google’s Oprah Winfrey Rule, from the book, How Google Works
“Go out there and have huge dreams, then show up to work the next morning and relentlessly incrementally achieve them.”
~ from the book, How Google Works
The Denver Post has an article about how the Broncos are (finally) hiring more coaches, hopefully to teach “technique” to their players. They’ve been horrible at developing players under the Elway regime, and hopefully this is a positive sign.
When I owned my software company I learned how important training was. At first we hired people who were generally experts at what they did, but as we tried to expand we realized that not everyone was an expert, or, if they were an expert at web development using Framework A, they weren’t an expert at Java Swing development, or vice-versa. I’m not saying we always did a good job at training (in large part because some of the initial hires didn’t think it was necessary), but over time we learned and tried.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
If you’ve read any of my books (like the Scala Cookbook or Functional Programming, Simplified), and thought, “Hey, I can write a book,” I encourage you to do so. One book that has been helpful in my writing career is William Zinsser’s On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. If you’re seriously thinking about writing a book about programming or any other technical topic, it’s a good read.
You can tell when people love their work by seeing the quality of the products they produce. What I’m thinking about at this moment is that whoever controls MLB.tv does not love their work, because if they did they would certainly make better UI/UX decisions. If they really cared about the product, they would let you easily fast-forward and rewind; mobile navigation would let you go directly to a specific inning; and on all platforms it would be extremely helpful if you could skip from one at-bat to the next.
Beyond those basics, anyone who loves baseball would like an easy way to watch all of the at-bats of their favorite batters. For example, when I’m really pressed for personal time I’d like to be able to watch all of Kris Bryant’s at bats.
A terrific feature would be to be able to watch recorded games without all of the delays and downtime that is involved in a baseball game. A full game can easily take two and half hours (or more) to watch, but there’s actually only about 20-30 minutes of real action, so if you’re watching a recorded game, why not be able to skip all that wasted time?
Those are just a few obvious ideas, where again the point of this little post/rant is that whoever is creating the MLB.tv apps doesn’t love their work (IMHO).
I should add that another possibility in this specific case — because they have a monopoly — is that it may not be the product manager or developers who don’t love their work. It may be that their organization is holding them down. But personally, while I’ve worked with some organizations that make it hard to produce great work, there’s almost always a way of getting things done.
inc.com has this article about a Google study that shows that the best managers use emotional intelligence.
One thing I learned about being a full-time, at-home writer: people don’t respect your time. It’s like, “You’re a writer? Haha, that’s funny. Why don’t you come over and help me paint my house? I’m counting on you.” That sort of thing.
I was just reminded of the time a recruiter told me to “play dumb” when a particular person interviewed me, because that person didn’t like to be challenged, and had to feel like he was the smartest person in the room. I couldn’t bring myself to do that; I figured if that was the way it was going to be, I didn’t want to work there.
“I don’t have talent. I have tenacity. I have discipline. There was no choice for me but to work really hard.”
~ Henry Rollins
I had to go to a doctor’s office today to give blood for another test, but there was a delay in processing my paperwork so I had to sit there for a little while. As I was sitting there my doctor walked into this area with another patient. I don’t remember how we started the conversation, but as we were talking, my doctor said that she was “trying to simplify her life.”
In the name of being more productive I try a lot of different things, so I started teaching myself shorthand recently, Gregg Shorthand, to be specific. Yes, shorthand is an obscure technology these days, but I thought it might help me take notes faster at meetings in my work as a business analyst. Personally I have had mixed results, but if you have a curious mind and wonder how things work, then learning shorthand might be interesting to you too.
I realy like this quote from baseball pitcher Jason Marquis, talking about Tony LaRussa, Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals:
“One thing Tony (La Russa) always preached over there was execution and minimizing mental mistakes. You don’t have to have the most talented team to do that, and it doesn’t take the most talented team to win.”
In baseball and in work I think this is true. It’s similar to this quote from Mike Ditka:
“Effort without talent is a depressing situation....but talent without effort is a tragedy.”