career

recent blog posts related to software careers, and career advice

“They’ve got the keys to the car and they can drive it”

Several years ago I stepped away from a consulting gig. I had an opportunity to continue the gig, but I didn’t enjoy it, and didn’t like the direction the project was headed in. This quote from this article about the Denver Post expresses how I feel very well:

“I have total disagreement with how they're managing the place, but I'm not going to stand up and be overly critical of them. They've got the keys to the car and they can drive it any way they want to. But they're not driving it in a way that I want to be a passenger of the car.”

(That reminds me of the old Alaska sled dog saying: “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.”)

A lesson learned from writing the Scala Cookbook

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.

“Professional” NFL journalist doesn’t pay for a basic tool

Wow, I was just stunned to read that a so-called professional journalist (Mike Klis) here in Denver, Colorado doesn’t pay for a basic tool, or have his company pay for it. I can’t even imagine trying to cover the National Football League (NFL) and not having access to detailed statistics. The subscriptions go from $40 to $200 per year, not a huge cost at all for a “professional.” In the programming world we always try to find the best tools available for our jobs.

On asking a waitress a stupid question alvin April 9, 2018 - 3:12pm

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