Showing posts from 2024

Outcome vs Output

Success is an ambiguous word, with just as many intangibly squishy synonyms like "delivering value," "having an impact," and "great results." And when it comes to celebrating our team's successes, highlighting the value we bring in our annual reviews, writing an impactful resume, or sharing the results of our work, the ambiguity of these terms do us no favors in helping us determine what we should capture. And so we write about the wrong things. To avoid this pitfall, I always remind myself to focus on Outcome and not Output . Output is the work we produce: The emails we send, meetings we schedule, PowerPoints we build, lines of code we write, or things we fixed. Output isn't bad or good. It's just a means to an end (the Outcome). Outcome is what happens because of your output (and sometimes despite it). You may have led 5 projects, managed 50 people, wrote 500 lines of code, fixed 5,000 bugs - and all of those are meaningless ( yes, even fi


  Here's to the kids of the 90s who didn't lay back in a field watching the clouds above slowly form shapes... ...but to those kids who hunched forward in cheap swivel computer chair, watching images slowly download in Netscape Navigator, and wondering what they'd eventually form.

Heartstorming vs Brainstorming

I learned a new term recently: Heartstorming . If brainstorming is a logical process to solve problems, heartstorming is an approach centered around what motivates, inspires, & generates energy. It produces ideas that may seem less logical, data-driven, rationale or pragmatic. Instead, it's about exploring ideas you can't justify with numbers, but still feel important, feel "right." It's an opportunity to speak from the heart, or the gut, and to generate ideas you'd never share with others for fear of appearing soft, emotional, or simply because you can't easily put its value to words. In his book,  Start with Why , Simon Sinek writes about the difficulty of putting words to feelings. Different regions in our brains process emotions and language, making it hard to find the right words for what we feel deeply. The best "Whys" resonate with the emotional part of the brain. They makes us feel something. That's why Product Managers talk about

You Belong Among the Wildflowers

A long time ago, the web was open. Everyone and their cat had a website, or a blog. Search engines were terrible, and so the community came up with the  now forgotten idea of 'webrings'.  But as search engines became better, along with it came the social networks. Overtime, they evolved and grew walls around their content - blocking search engines and only allowing registered users to view and share. Bloggers became 'content creators' distributing to various walled gardens, and they grew their audience. And while the walls have always bothered me, the perennial problem has really been more about the focus on * recency * of content. To drive up engagement (a proxy for quality), algorithms favored newer posts that were getting more engagement. But engagement isn't a proxy for quality, and social networks don't care about the great observation you made 3 years ago. You know who does? The people seeking help on that very thing you observed. And to find that observat

Impostor Syndrome & Self-Deprecation

Can we stop saying Software Engineers suffer from Impostor Syndrome, and instead rebrand it as ... *ahem* ... self-deprecating. ...get it?...

A Terrible Password Policy

I know a guy who can't keep a secret. Or maybe, it's better to say - he won't keep a secret. It was a principled thing. Whatever secrets he comes upon, he feels compelled to share. He preferers openness, transparency, but especially not having to track who-knows-what in his head. I once asked him how he applied this policy to his account passwords. "I use passphrases, and I pick phrases that can naturally be worked into conversation so that no one is the wiser. That way, I share my secrets but my accounts remain safe." "If someone comments on the weather, I can respond with TheresASl!ghtCh@nc3OfR@in. If someone asks about the latest sports game, I'll offer up that Th3R3fsM@deT3rr!bl3C@lls." This is a T3rr1bl3P@$$w0rdP0l!cy.

Highly Efficient Algorithms

My fitness journey started with reading the latest on new, more efficient workouts. 1 month ago an article said I could get fit with just 3 pieces of equipment and 10 workouts. 2 weeks ago, I learned I can get fit with just 2 pieces of equipment and 5 workouts. Today I found out I can get fit with just 1 kettlebell and 3 workouts. Judging by the rate at which workouts are becoming more efficient my fitness journey should end next month.

Memorable Resumes

  It's been a while since I've made a slideshow about resume - but I'm still having to give the same advice in my conversations. There's lots of talk about applying AI to resumes, and while that may change the future of hiring/job seeking, I don't think we've hit that inflection point yet. Hiring is still very personal, and very human. The principles about making yourself memorable with the right kind of resume still apply. For now... If you're looking for a simple, elegant and well structure resume template, you can find mine here:

Minotaurs & Mentors

  My kid keeps mixing up Minotaur and Mentor, and now I'm wondering what she thinks I do in my spare time.

"There are no stupid questions."

I'm sure we've all heard how "There are no stupid questions," plenty of times... But, let's be honest, there are stupid questions. There are questions we all hear that make us go "Ouch... how could they ask that?" And, knowing how quick we are to judge others for their stupid questions, we hold back on asking our own. Especially when we feel that "Ouch" with our own stupid questions. When the struggle to understand is inexplicable. That tip-of-the-brain, "how am I not getting this?" feeling, when it ... all ... just ... feels ... out ... of ... reach. And the more we think it through, the further it feels. When you ask enough stupid questions you start to realize that asking the stupid question is the only thing that saves you from doing something stupid. Case in point: I was on the phone with a coworker, discussing an important project. As most important projects go, it came with different risks we had to weigh. We'd been discu

The Measure of One's Life in Relation to the Quality of Pancakes

For the past year, I've really focused on eating healthier - cutting back on treats, eating dense salads at lunch, whole grain, etc. and also getting in exercise at least 5 times per week. Lifestyle changes always result in people talking about how great they feel, how much better they are sleeping... ...but after being sick with a cold for the past 4 days, I decided to treat myself to some French toast with berries and dark chocolate shavings. Still on the "healthier" side, with no whipped cream, syrup or butter - but an indulgence never-the-less. And now I feel unstoppable. Maybe its the cold medicine kicking in - but I think it has much more to do with the French toast. I'm reminded of one of my favorite dialogs from one of my favorite movies:  "I don’t wanna eat nothing but pancakes. I wanna live. Who in their right mind in a choice between pancakes and living chooses pancakes?" "Harold, if you’d pause to think, I believe you’d realize that that ans

4 Mistakes We Make About Culture

I wrote this a few years back, before the height of the tech-hiring frenzy. For some reason, I never published it - not sure why. After reviewing it against the current backdrop, I think it's somehow more relevant today. Companies & teams want a great culture but I'm seeing trends in what they often get wrong. Here's my list of 4 things along with what leadership can do about it, based on things I'd implemented with my own teams. Policy ≠ Culture Staying late until the problem is solved, constructive disagreements, being accountable to own another, team lunches, unlimited PTO - those aren't culture things. Those are policies. I read blogs or hear people talk about their culture in these terms - and it's misguided.  Take the first one - staying late. Setting aside whether it's good policy or not, it can only work as a policy, not culture. As a policy, it sets an expectation. It avoids a trap of employees having to figure out what the "right thing to

Raiders of the Lost Code

You know you've been hanging around compilers too long when you can look at someone's code and carbon date it just by looking how they iterate over a dataset: pre-2005: Standard For loops, no shorthand. 2005-2010: Foreach loops 2010-2015: Linq statements 2015-2023: Dynamic variables, shorthand notation 2023+: Well-written Copilot-generated code with sufficient whitespace for coder to process their AI-induced anxiety attack.

Order of Operations

I've noticed something in my emails: My second sentence is often a much better first sentence, and my first sentence is a better supporting statement. I need to try this when I'm talking... say the first sentence in my head, the second aloud, and then repeat the first sentence.

Grocery Baskets

I'm a terrible grocery shopper. I walk in to buy one thing, and end up leaving with 12. I briskly walk right past the shopping carts and baskets - with the intention to be in and out. Then, somewhere along the way, I start to meander. I reminisce of long-forgotten meals. I think of things I ate as a child, or something I'd always wanted to try - and before I know it I have more things in my hands than I'd accounted for. Sometimes I'll buy things I've never intended to buy - determined that today's the day I'll find out whether vegemite and marmite are the same thing. I'll romanticize Rye bread. I've never particularly liked it - but maybe because I've never tried the right kind of Rye bread? I hum the American Pie chorus as I grab a loaf as I realize, for the first time, the lyrics have nothing to do with Rye bread.  Drinking whiskey and rye...   why did I always imagine people eating slices of rye bread at a bar?   Maybe I need to find a good ch

Radiate Intent

As a follow-up to my post about aphorisms , I think I've found my new maxim for 2024 - inspired by Elizabeth Ayer : Don't ask forgiveness, radiate intent. A play on the 'don't ask for permission, ask for forgiveness,' phrase that gets used a lot. I landed across this phrase while watching a video about effective backlog prioritization, and it lead me to Elizabeth's article on Medium which does a great job breaking down why radiating intent is so important. In a nutshell, announce, telegraph, share, inform others of what you are intending to do. This gives others the opportunity to intervene, or at the very least be informed. It builds trust with them while building your own confidence. It also gets away from the troubling phrasing of 'permission.'      Even though I've taken this approach naturally for some time, I think it's valuable to ground myself to this maxim. It makes it all the more  intentional  (don't pardon the pun, but relish it)


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