career

recent blog posts related to software careers, and career advice

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.)

Bringing friends and family members to job interviews

From this Twitter page:

Interviewer: Who are these people with you?

Me: My squad.

My mom and dad: *whispering* tell him about our goals.

I share this because I was just thinking about interviewing several job candidates who brought friends, family members, or spouses with them to job interviews.

“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.”

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.