career

recent blog posts related to software careers, and career advice

On asking a waitress a stupid question

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.

“Every person in your company is a vector”

“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.

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.

The Parable of the Carpenter

Way back in 2005 I read an SI.com article about football coach Dick Vermeil, and the article mentioned a story called, The Parable of the Carpenter. I’ve never found an official version of the story, but here’s a version I cobbled together from multiple sources, including that SI article:

Google’s Oprah Winfrey Rule

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

Broncos hiring more coaches (to teach technique)

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.