Posts in the “career” category

Consulting: Working on greenfield projects and cleaning up messes

Sometimes when you work as a consultant you get to work on fun, new “greenfield” projects.

Other times, you get called in to clean up a mess.

One day in late-May, roughly 15 years ago, I started a six-figure consulting deal because some applications were a mess. They were failing intermittently, and the company had let one or more developers go.

The 1st Problem

The first problem I ran into was that nobody that was left was sure what code was running in production. Rather than use a repository like Git, the developer had multiple copies of code laying around. From the timestamps you could see what the latest code was, but you couldn’t be sure that’s what was in production.

Learning shorthand: Gregg shorthand

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’ve had mixed results, but if you have a curious mind and wonder how things work, then learning shorthand might be interesting to you too.

Here’s the first group of good links I’ve found related to the topic of learning shorthand:

White Ashes ~ Peter Gabriel

“No dreams come without a bill. People forget that sometimes, and I forget it sometimes. So I think the reality of making something happen most times is just a ton of hard work.” ~ Peter Gabriel

Quotes from Sean Payton, new head coach of the Denver Broncos

Some quotes from Sean Payton, new head coach of the Denver Broncos, that relate to business as well as football:

“Discipline, toughness, football makeup and character are going to be really important for who is a Denver Bronco. I use this story and it’s a compliment. When I got hired in New Orleans in 2006, we just had to look at New England if we really wanted to see what the standard was. If we were making pizzas and there’s a line around the block in front of their pizza parlor, then we might want to know what they’re putting in their crust or their sauce.”

Related to the Patriots and Bill Belichick: “We studied closely how important intelligence was along with communication and makeup. That served us well later. There is an element of discipline, and there is an element of toughness. Look, it’s not for everyone. It’s not for everyone, but that’s the approach we’ll take.”

Josh McDaniels on building relationships at work

I moved to Colorado after Josh McDaniels was fired by the Broncos, and to say the least, from what I’ve heard on the local radio, he sounds like a completely different coach with the Raiders (per this article):

“One of the easy things that we’ve tried to keep in mind is we’ll get the best out of everyone here if they love coming to work every day because they love who they’re working for,” said McDaniels, sitting behind his desk. “That sounds so ridiculously simple. Seriously. But it’s the truth. If the players enjoy being coached by us the way we’re coaching them, if the coaches enjoy being treated the way they’re being treated, if the scouts and the personnel department enjoy the way that [GM] Dave [Ziegler] runs the meetings and gives everybody a voice, then when they drive in here in the morning? You should see this.”

“I’d say for me that’s from being a guidance counselor, being a teacher, those experiences,” Ziegler said. “The relationship was really what you had to solidify first to make any progress, whether you’re a classroom teacher or a guidance counselor, and you’re trying to help someone through a problem.”

“They won’t trust you if you don’t,” McDaniels said.

“As a guidance counselor, you have to create it on the front end so if there is a problem down the road, you’ve already created the relationship, so you can help someone that’s having a mental health issue, or going through something else,” Ziegler continued. “The relationship has to come first.”

Certified ScrumMaster and Product Owner

Reporting live from Longmont, Colorado in May, 2022, I’m glad to report that I am now a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO).

Sometimes this doesn’t feel like much, but in retrospect it’s amazing how much I know now compared to what I used to know. Last October I couldn’t have gotten many answers right on the practice tests and real test, but now the answers are obvious. So kudos to the Scrum Alliance for their rigorous certification training courses.

Bono on OKRs

A quote from Bono about OKRs, from this TED Talk by John Doerr:

“So you’re passionate? How passionate? What actions does your passion lead you to do? If the heart doesn’t find a perfect rhyme with the head, then your passion means nothing. The OKR framework cultivates the madness, the chemistry contained inside it. It gives us an environment for risk, for trust, where failing is not a fireable offense. And when you have that sort of structure and environment and the right people, magic is around the corner.”

Career advice: Two sports quotes about work and talent

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.”

Hard work always beats talent if ...

“Hard work always beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.”

~ Kevin Durant

Which reminds me of this Mike Ditka quote: “Effort without talent is a depressing situation ... but talent without effort is a tragedy.”

First Colorado snowfall, September 20, 2021

The first snowfall of the season happened in the Boulder, Colorado area somewhere around September 19-20, 2021. I took this photo while driving into Boulder on the morning of the 20th.

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.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad quote

April, 2008: Here's a good quote from the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad regarding the differences in cash flow between people who have corporations and people who work for corporations:

The rich with corporations:

  • Earn money
  • Spend money
  • Pay taxes

People who work for corporations:

  • Earn money
  • Pay taxes
  • Spend money


This really is powerful stuff. Imagine that I pay a contractor $20,000 per year, and he has his own business. He can take that $20K, deduct all legitimate business expenses, including rent, utilities, healthcare, hardware and software purchases, take a SEP IRA deduction (up to 25% of his salary), and then pay himself out of whatever is left. His business rent and utilities (a portion of his overall rent and utilities), and healthcare costs alone are currently $700/month, or $8,400 per year, so deducting just those costs from the $20K leaves $11,600 in net income. (And don't forget all the other deductions you can take.)

That's just amazing to me, but it's all perfectly legal, and besides understanding cash flow and assets, it's one of the elements Mr. Kiyosaki emphasizes in his book.

Would you hire yourself?

This is an old article I wrote back in 2009, but hopefully it’s still relevant in 2020:

Today I’m going to ask you to put yourself in the position of someone that needs to hire someone to do whatever it is you do. Completely imagine that you are this person. For instance, I design software systems, and I usually sell my services to other IT people, so I’ll put myself in the shoes of an IT Manager, or a Project Manager who needs an architect like myself.

Putting myself in their shoes, I have a good feel for all the technical skills I think an architect needs. After a lot of legwork, I finally finish interviews with two different people, and their technical skill sets are so good and so close I can’t tell the difference between them — they’re technical twins!

The Scientific Method

Back in the 1990s I was fortunate enough to work for a smart, energetic man. In a way, working for him — or at least in the position he gave me — helped change the trajectory of my career into what I wanted it to be.

Skipping 99% of that story ... one thing he did exceptionally well was troubleshoot problems, and troubleshoot them very fast. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was using something called The Scientific Method. After observing him for a while, I saw him repeat these steps so precisely that I thought he must have them on a tattoo on the inside of his eyelids:

  1. Observe some feature, in our case, a bug
  2. Hypothesize a model consistent with the observations
  3. Predict future events the hypotheses should yield
  4. Verify the predictions by making further observations
  5. Validate by repeating

Valley Programming postcard

When I lived in Palmer, Alaska I created a business named Mat-Su Valley Programming, which I quickly changed to Valley Programming. I did a lot of research on local businesses and then started mailing out postcards like this one. Years later I still don’t like the postcard, but I do like the logo, which I sketched on an iPad when I was on short vacation in Seward, Alaska.

(I have this theory that things like postcards should be like art, where the person receiving it thinks, “Darn, I hate when people mail unsolicited crap to me, but I just can’t bring myself to throw this one out because I like the way it looks.” I’m not an artist enough to pull that off, but that’s my theory.)