Posts

"FOLLOW THAT CAB!"

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I was playing 2 Truths & A Lie with some coworkers. One of my truths (that everyone was convinced was a lie) is about how I'd once jumped into a cab and yelled that classic line that appears in just about every movie genre. It was from a time when I had long, shaggy hair tucked under a tattered cap. The cab driver, realizing it was an #opportunity to live out his car-chase dreams, broke quite a few traffic laws that night. I won't get into the specifics of that story. You can pretty much pick any movie and the elements behind that scene were the same make up of my own true story, (including a classic scene where we were driving over a bridge, lost the other cab for some moments, and then when we spotted them again, we had to pull across 3 lanes to make a turn just in time...) But this story is not the purpose of the post. Or rather, one story is not the point. The point is ALL. The. Stories. I don't see life as discreete experiences. They're all parts of a larger st

To thine own resume be true...

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Should you lie on your resume? Should you lie in an interview? Should you embellish your experience? While the answer is obviously no, the concern I have is for the hundreds of coworkers & friends that I know are selling themselves short. Obviously, no honest person ever wants credit for someone else's success. But, if you're a naturally humble person, you're probably undervaluing the role you played in that person's success. Anyone who is part of a team, department, business unit, organization can never be independently successful. Success is a team effort - and everyone deserves the credit. When I think of my own successful projects - I was trained by my seniors, enabled by my leadership, supported by my direct reports, and strengthened by my peers. And I know I played a similar role for others. You shouldn't lie on your resume. But you absolutely should recognize your contributions towards success. Showcase it on resume, highlight it in an interview, share it

The 4 "REs" of Systems Debt

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I like to joke that the perfect code is the code you've not yet written. It's optimized, bug-free, fully capable, and carries zero debt. Because, the unfortunate truth is, as soon as we're writing code, we're likely accruing some debt - and that's ok provided we're consistently paying it down.  A common suggestion is to allocate 20% of the teams' time towards paying down technical debt. As a reminder, Technical Debt is when teams take shortcuts to deliver a project sooner, knowing they will later refactor. Not paying it down leads to a product with a brittle code base that is tough to maintain, scale and support - and teams are often bad about actively paying it down, which leads to Engineers having a strong preference for green field  work over a debt-ridden brown field . So - what if we allocated 20% of our time towards paying down debt? In a typical 5-day work week, this could mean dedicating Fridays to paying down debt you accrued over the course of the

Hire for Capability not Experience

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Advice for fellow Hiring Managers: Hire for the generalized capability, not the specialized experience: If you need someone who can shovel dirt, hire someone who can shovel. Hard. Stop. When you get too specific in your jobposting you turn away amazing candidates - particularly those in groups that are known to self-select out when they don't meet all requirements. If you're thinking: "But, I need someone who has experience with dirt... dry dirt, wet dirt, compacted dirt, gravel dirt, ornamental dirt..." then why are you hiring a shoveler? Get yourself a Dirt Specialist. You're either trying to get away with a 2-for-1 role (which never works out well... Dirt Specialists don't want to shovel, and Dirt Shovelers just want to shovel), or you're not really hiring the Right Person for the Right Job (see EOS by Gino Wickman .) Otherwise, you're unknowingly eliminating the best kind of candidates: One who has core skills, but is also looking to learn, adapt,

Creating Opportunity

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An important theme across my career has been, in the absence of opportunity, to create my own. With today's jobm arket being tougher than ever - with few opportunities, and lots of competition - I'm setting out to create opportunity. If you're a coder or in tech, if you're #OpenToWork and want to fill some time with a project, I'd love it if you joined me. I won't share too many details just yet but the project is entirely community-focused, designed to help out job seekers no matter their job title or industry. If you're curious to learn more, connect with me on LinkedIn .

My place, my rules

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One summer, back when I was a teenager, I visited my oldest brother who lived in another city. We were at his place hanging out and, out of nowhere, he said "Lets play hockey." We used to do this a lot when we were kids, living under one roof (Please don't tell my parents). "Where?" I asked. "Here," he said - as he grabbed a couple of hockey sticks from his coat closet, moved all the living room furniture to the side, set up some nets with pillows, and tossed a tennis ball on the floor. "Are you...allowed to do this?" I asked. He looked at me incredulously. "What do you mean? Why would I not be allowed. It's my place..." It's a memory that also reminds me of a joke by Mitch Hedberg: "I just bought a 2-bedroom house, but I think I get to decide how many bedrooms there are, don't you?" There are a lot of unspoken rules we follow - and end up inhibiting ourselves as a result. Conversations we avoid, extra work we

How do you like them apples?

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  I took this picture back in 2016 at a grocery store. How do you even begin to choose the right apple? All of them look great. You can do some basic checks, like looking for obvious blemishes, but in the end - when you account for all the obvious things - your selection is rather abritrary and random, isn't it? I think it's a good analog for what things look like from a hiring manager's perspective, right now. You're not a bad apple. And it's not that you're not valuable. It's not that you're not doing enough to stand out. There are just a lot of really good apples right there. Right now, the game isn't about standing out. It's about keeping unbruised. Don't let this time, challenging as it is, turn you bitter. 

Face Sign In

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If you ever see me at my desk and wonder why I'm aggressively smiling at my computer, this is what my computer sees because when I'd first set up Facial Recognition, I gave the camera a really goofy grin.

The Invisible Story

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This is one of my favorite photos since becoming a dad some 8 years ago. There's no sweet baby in it, no picture-perfect moment between daddy and daughter. But still, it's so much more than a picture of the wall to wall carpeting. It doesn't take a keen eye to notice the impressions of my feet. Any parent whose had a kid capable of resisting sleep knows the exhaustion in these footprints. My  wife spotted my imprints the next day, after a particularly hard night where, for 45minutes, I stood, fixed to one spot, with a consistent rocking back and forth - avoiding anything changes in breathing, sighs of discount, or anything that may disrupt the sleep-inducing monotony I was desperately trying to create in order to get my little one to (finally) fall asleep. Despite the picture reminding me of the exhaustion and frustration, the picture makes me smile. These footprints are a rare artifact of an untold story of the hard work, the challenges, the exhaustion we endure when we

Inbox Negative

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Everyone strives for Inbox Zero. The real goal is Inbox Negative, where you've not only read but replied/taken action, and people owe you a reply. Sending a follow-up is an overdue payment reminder. Escalating is sending collections.

“Do you know what they do with engineers when they turn 40?”

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If you're an engineer of a certain age you know this movie. It's probably one you watched a lot and discussed with your friends late into the night. And now, almost 20 years later, you're that engineer closing in on 40. Remember being 20 and working with the 40 year olds? They'd built their careers on mainframes, shipped shrink-wrapped software that required multiple floppies, and later CD-ROMs. They could crack shareware. They survived Y2K. Agile was the hot new thing. JavaScript was a joke. Lens flares were cool. Their ICQ# was lower than yours. They only had one reaction gif and it was a dancing baby. And now ... we'll, now you're the 40 year old. You rolled your eyes at "Web2.0". You were on Facebook before your grandma. You survived the demise of Flash. You lived in a messy world of semi-adopted methodologies: You were Scrum-like, Agile-Hybrid, mostly RESTFul, kinda sorta followed DevOps. You worked in the pre-remote world. You commuted once, pla

Spot the Differences

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How many differences can you spot between these 2 resumes? 😁 But seriously: while the left resume is an exaggerated version, it's not too far from some real resumes I've seen submitted over the years. If design is not your thing, grab my (free) resume template , and do your experience some justice.

Rejections

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Don't take rejections personally. If you've never seen the other side of the process, it's easy to take it personally. But, I promise, it's almost never just about you. Many systems track all candidates. When a position is closed it gives the option to send a mass communication to all candidates that they were not selected. Lots of times these emails are written as if it were not a bulk message. The message will feel personal. It's not. Not convinced? What if I said that often your application was simply not reviewed?  Maybe there were simply too many candidates.  Maybe the position was cancelled.  Maybe the hiring team already had a candidate in mind, but were still required to post while never intending to review candidates. Maybe you were reviewed, but a different candidate was already further in the process. Maybe you were seen but the hiring manager has a bad sense of the skills they are looking for...and after seeing many candidates, the hiring manager is real

Impostor Syndrome & Stereotype Threat

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The professional world, particularly technology world, is filled with articles about managing Impostor Syndrome. But rarely, do I encounter discussions about Stereotype Threat - the fact that a negative stereotype about a group can actually impede an individual's ability to succeed. You may be great at math, but if you're part of a group that's stereotyped to be bad at math, when you find yourself challenged by a problem the threat of the stereotype impacts your cognitive ability to problem solve. Now think about interviews where you are whiteboarding a solution - and you already feel like an impostor. Think about when you struggle to solve a problem, and you're the only in the group who is self-taught. The stress of validating a false stereotype makes it harder for us to focus on the problem.  The good news is, you're not just part of one group. There are many things that define you - and focusing on the other things that define you is one great way of overcoming t

Investing in Staples

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Buying staples from Staples is an obvious joke - but, yesterday, my wife texted me to ask if I could buy some while I just happened to be passing a Staples. ... I was greeted at the door with a joyful "Can I help you find something?" And I froze. Questions raced through my now self-conscious mind: How many times had the greeter unhilariously heard someone ask for staples? How many customers came in with a chortle, asking if they carried staples, all the while believing they were the first to ever make the joke? Would I be perceived in this way? Could I stand to be perceived this way? Maybe I should just find them on my own? It's a big store... Finally, I said with forced confidence: "I'm actually here to unironically buy some staples..." Unfazed, she replied: "Aisle 19." I bought the larger pack so I'd never have to go through this again.

Ranking What Matters

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I don't know who needs this right now... Actually ... everyone needs this right now... Here is my ranked list of chocolate chip cookies: Specialty's Cafe and Bakery SemiSweet Chocolate Chunk Whole Foods (Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie) Whole Foods (Brown Butter Chocolate Chip) Jimmy John's Chocolate Chip Cookie Insomnia Chocolate Chip Cookies President's Choice "The Decadent" Chocolate Chip Cookies Midnight Cookie Co Chocolate Chip Cow Chip Cookies Chocolate Chip Cookie Starbucks Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumbl Chocolate Chip Cookie Tiff's Treats Chocolate Chip Cookie Sprouts Chocolate Chip Cookies Haggen's Chocolate Chip Cookies Safeway/Albertson's Chocolate Chip Cookies Publix Chocolate Chip Cookies Costco Chocolate Chip Cookies QFC/Kroger Chocolate Chip Cookies Great American Cookie Company Chocolate Chip Cookies Target Chocolate Chip Cookies Pilsbury Chocolate Chip Cookies Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies Chip's Ahoy Chocolate Chunk Cookies Spe

On Duty

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This morning I woke up just before 4am. My brain had fully switched on - like a battery that had fully charged. I had already planned for an earlier than usual morning (I had a number of things to catch up on, and wanted to get a head start) - but this was even earlier than the Early I had in mind. I got ready - quietly - in the dark. I finished getting dressed in the cold dark garage to avoid making any noise. I left before the sun rose. At some point, and I'm not exactly sure why, the word Duty came to mind. I like that word. When I think of something as a "duty," it washes away any feeling of frustration, exhaustion, annoyance. It resonates more than the word obligation  which seems more weighty. Obligations can cause a knee-jerk reaction to push back and say "no" - but Duty is something you internalize. Duty is the thing you do, not necessarily because you want to, but because you need to. Duty is the path to Purpose . It's how we find our Meaning , ou

Tumbling down the rabbit hole of time...

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  It was 2006/2007, and I wanted to harness the power of crowdsourcing. The idea was simple - a website for recommendations. Not algorithmically curated,   but people  curated. Music, Movies, Books, and more. You'd search for your favorite, and see a bunch of user-submitted recommendations ranked in a digg/reddit style voting system. I built it in PHP, launched it and then... I hustled to promote it. As most crowdsourcing sites, the fatal flaw I knew I was fighting against was building up the critical mass to keep the site rolling on its own momentum. I did everything I could to help it take off. One approach was to feature lesser-known musicians, along with some of their tracks that people could preview. The idea was symbiotic: their following would see my site, my users would see the musician. I got in touch with many artists, performers over the course of months - and while I'm sad to say my website never reached critical mass, and odd thing happened over the weekend. While

How Can I Help?

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  With headline after headline, it's all too easy to find ourselves feeling alone, isolated, even depressed by the seemingly endless bad news. I'll even share: despite generally being a happy and optimistic person, I'm certainly not immune. The recurring feeling, at least for me, is an overwhelming sense of helplessness. But while I may feel helpless, it doesn't mean I'm incapable of helping. Not in some kind of high-horse, self-aggrandizing way. If I can offer expertise - great, I'll offer it. But, mostly, I'm here to be a friend. To share in the ups and down. To listen.  And what gives me hope is I know I'm not alone: Throughout LinkedIn, there are more and more #OpenToHelping badges. As of last week, I was excited to see Marc Caracciolo's #HereToHelp initiative. Whether they're sporting a blue badge or yellow badge, helping is not an original idea. Wherever you are right now, whatever you're facing, reach out. To me. To Marc. To anyone wit

She came in through the bathroom window...

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  Third iteration of my at-home office. More than a decade ago, I realized my personal aesthetic isn't too different from a 1950s Private Eye and I've gradually leaned into that inflated sense of self more and more.  And this is where I am today. I'm currently taking cases.

Retros

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I love a good retrospective. If you've ever replayed an argument in your head during your morning shower, you probably love retros too. Something I learned over the years is retros aren't just for wrapping up a sprint. They're great for evaluating the effectiveness of 1:1s, incident responses, training sessions. Perhaps most importantly, it's the BEST opportunity for any good manager to build trust with the team. While all retros get to the heart of the matter: what worked, what didn't, what should change, varying the questions just slightly can really draw people in (or turn them away.) And as a manager, you really have to push your team to give you good feedback. In my case it was asking: "What do you think can't change, and have given up on trying to change?" Not only did it give me insights on festering frustrations, it also gave me a very simple task list of what I needed to resolve (and, in doing so, build further trust with my team by showing I&

Polymorphic Coders

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After years of providing career advice to recent grads, I've seen a growing trend - particularly with bootcamp grads. I'll often see them struggle to make traction on their job hunt with only 2 or 3 languages under their belt. Months later, they're still struggling. In rare cases 2 or 3 languages may be enough - but you should see it as putting all your eggs in just a few baskets. The pace at which languages come in and out of style is getting faster, and it's easy to fall behind if you've not invested your time and effort in growing your language-agnostic skills. If I could summarize my advice to once sentence it would be this: Get better at applying language-agnostic skills to new languages. If you've (hopefully) learned about object-oriented principles, it's the difference of being an Implementation Coder vs. a Polymorphic Coder. Be a polymorphic coder. Languages are like Jelly-Beans. It's better when you have more flavors.

How do you Monitor?

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You don't know someone, until you know how they arrange their monitor(s). I'm a D1-type myself. (I spent way too long making this in PowerPoint)

1 Year of #OpenToHelping

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  One year ago today, motivated by all the #OpenToWork badges I saw across LinkedIn, I created a badge for those who wanted to help. An eye-catching, optimistic, and friendly yellow that would welcome anyone feeling beaten up and bruised. The #OpenToHelping badge gained momentum beyond what I'd anticipated. Many adopted the badge, many connected around this simple idea. I don't have detailed analytics because that's never been the point. What I do have are a mountain of messages that's built over the past year. 1 year on, I still see the yellow badges. I see the connections that formed, and the posts thanking someone with a yellow badge. 2022 was a roller-coaster year, and while a new year brings new hopes, new excitement, new energy, and new budgets, we're also still reading about large layoffs, unprecedented job markets, and uncertainty. There's no way to "celebrate" 1 year of being #OpenToHelping. People are still in need of a helping hand. The cele

Let's Talk Networking!

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A couple of weeks ago I polled LinkedIn, asking how people who were recently hired landed their job. I was honestly surprised by the results. I've always known networking works  but I didn't think the disparity would be that large. When I was getting started in my career I was pretty dismissive of networking - thinking it was some relic of the past like a Rolodex, or pagers. People who talked about "networking" were just as likely to call computers "word processors." Then, over time, 3 of my own 7 jobs were landed through networking. Many more opportunities had come my way through my network. Finding a job without  a network is HARD . Your. Network. Matters. And let's not get Networking confused with Social Networking - Sure, LinkedIn is a Social Network, but it's first and foremost a tool for building professional contacts that may immediately, or at some point in the future, provide some career benefits. I've hired people after networking on L

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