career

recent blog posts related to software careers, and career advice

It’s important to distinguish opinions from facts

It’s important to remember that even when successful people say things, they’re often just opinions, not facts. Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz once told Jeff Bezos of Amazon, “You have no physical presence. That is going to hold you back.” The reality was that not having a physical presence at that time is what propelled Amazon forward.

“Getting talented players that fit with each other” (Phil Jackson, Knicks)

“I had to break up the team for us to move forward in the right direction. That means getting talented players that fit with each other on and off the court. Also getting players who understand that while playing basketball is fun, this is also a business. So we need guys who will ice after practice, watch what they eat, avoid having those three extra beers when they party, and get the rest they need. I think we succeeded in getting this particular cultural change.”

(A quote from Phil Jackson, GM of the Knicks, in this story.)

In recruiting software developers, I generally didn’t think about whether guys would fit well together, but there were a couple of times where I backed off on recruiting guys who expressed certain agendas during the interview process. In two cases that immediately come to mind, one guy declared, “Anything I write is open source,” which you can’t really do as a consulting firm, and another guy seemed to intentionally steer a conversation into politics and got into an argument with one of my co-workers during the interview process.

Another guy wanted us to get into a bidding war with another company, so I said the equivalent of, “Have a nice day, see you around.” I tried playing that game with a guy once before, and I can say from experience that you have to be careful about recruiting a guy who’s only interested in going to the highest bidder.

Teaching: “Eventually they’ll just see my mouth moving”

This is a good quote on teaching, from this espn.com page:

“One thing that we’ve learned as coaches: we’re teachers,” O’Brien said. “He’s the quarterback. If I’m just talking to him, eventually they’ll just see my mouth moving. Blah blah blah. We want them to get up there and actually do it.”

On asking a waitress a stupid question

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 would 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 definitely wasn’t making me happy.

She wisely said, “Don’t look at me honey, I don’t make that kind of money,” then turned and walked away.

You can tell when people love their work

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.

Writing tip: Never write the phrase “I think”

As a quick writing tip, whenever you write something to someone else, never use the phrase, “I think,” as in, “I think the problem happened because of XYZ.” It’s obvious that you think this because you’re writing about it. Leave out the words “I think,” and your text will be more powerful.

Cecil Lammey on 104.3 The Fan - an interesting contradiction

Cecil Lammey on 104.3 “The Fan” is an interesting contradiction. As the guy you call into with Fantasy Football question, he’s excellent. His show on a previous radio station in Denver is what got me listening to him. As an interviewer he’s also very good.

“Don’t retire, I trust you”

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.”

For an actor, you’re rejected eight or ten times a day ~ Barry Corbin

“For an actor, you’re rejected eight or ten times a day. All you’ve got to sell is yourself. You’re not selling products, they’re not turning down a car, they’re turning you down. Most people can’t handle that. Most people are essentially not set up that way.”

That’s a quote from Barry Corbin, who I mostly think of as Maurice Minnifield on Northern Exposure. His quote reminds me of the sales process in consulting work. I write more about this in my online book, A Survival Guide for New Consultants.