Posts in the “career” category

I'd rather die than build another web app

Wow, a friend of mine sent me an email yesterday that echoes my sentiments exactly, and he doesn't hold anything back. With his permission, I'm sharing it here:

Man, I'd rather die than create another friggin' web app. I mean, who really gives a crap about web apps? What the **** are these apps doing for the real good of the world? Who cares if you can order a pizza online, or share photos easier than we did 10 years ago? I just don't want to look back on my life and think that I spent it creating friggin' web apps.

The frustration of working with people who aren’t “A” Players (or don’t care)

Let me start by saying that I don’t know if I’m an “A” Player. In part, that definition depends (a) on what work I’m doing, and (b) who you compare me to. For instance, if you compare me to Linus Tourvalds as a Linux C programmer, I’m very clearly not an A Player. Shoot, I’m not even a player.

But if you were to judge me on other skills, I’d like to say that I’m at least a B Player in the things I care about. As I wrote in my book, A Survival Guide for New Consultants, my superpower as a programmer/analyst is empathy; I care about my work, and about my success and my client’s success. If you pay me $100,000 to do some work, I want you to make at least 2X or 10X or more from my work. I want my clients and sponsors to succeed.

Beyond that care, since I began paying attention to Apple and Jonathan Ive starting back around 2005, I’ve become more interested than ever in quality. When I work on something, I imagine that I’m either working with Mr. Ive, or that I’m going to have him review my work, and I want it to be impeccable.

Don’t be afraid to hire people that are smarter than you

I’m reminded of the time right before an interview for a contracting position that a tech recruiter called and told me, “Don’t appear to be too smart. Pretend that you can’t answer some of his questions if you have to. He won’t hire people he thinks are smarter than he is.” I answered every question he asked because if that’s the way he was, I didn’t want to work there.

As a manager or business owner — any kind of leader — always hire people that are smarter than you in one or more ways.

Better today than yesterday

I just read this quote by J.K. Rowling, and it’s quite good: “Believe me, neither @RGalbraith nor I walk around thinking we’re fab. We just shoot for ‘writing better than yesterday’”.

(Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym she used for some of her other novels.)

Two good quotes about coaching and motivation from a Jon Gruden article

Here are two good quotes about coaching from this Jon Gruden article:

“He had a good demeanor about him, the way he got his point across. He always told me it was always about your demeanor and how you get your point across. He said, ‘You have to be a car salesman.’ If you want to sell plays, you can’t be short on energy. People want to be associated with people that have a lot of energy and love what they do and show enthusiasm, not someone who just walks in there and kind of goes through the motions.”

“I always tell people,‘You’ve gotta have a why.’ If you have a reason why, you’re most likely going to succeed. ... And those are the types of things as a coach, when you know those things, those are the buttons you can push. When you’re not hustling, when you’re not doing those things, it’s like, ‘Is that the type of example you’re trying to set for your little brothers?’ When you don’t know those things, you can’t use those things.”

Two good quotes about work

Two good quotes about work this morning:

“The harder you work the less competition you’ll find.”
~ Shane Parrish

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”
~ Roger Staubach.

“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.

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.

1 NASA Drive

I also ran across an old business card this morning. I didn’t remember that our address was, “1 NASA Drive”, that’s cool. The blurry stuff in the upper-left says, “Gencorp Aerojet”.

“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.

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.