Uncharted Waters

June 13, 2016  9:11 AM

Why Does the CTO role seem to go so badly, so quickly, so often?

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Businessman and business sketchFor years we have been told that tomorrow’s CIO role will not be able to be just a technologist; the role will also require business skills. Of course, most of those articles were written by journalists, executives, and others who were less technical — “people people.”

In other words, tomorrow’s CIO will be more like the authors of the articles.


I always found it odd that the rhetoric continued, even when Larry Page and Sergey Brin turned out to do just fine at Google, or when companies like MySpace and Yahoo were destroyed by “business people.”

Most of the literature focuses on how people need to have business and communications skills to be successful in those roles. Today I would like to suggest something a little different – that system forces tend to pick people with those attributes, regardless of whether or not those things make them successful. In particular, the CTO’s role, which was designed to be technical from the beginning, ends up tugging any CTO to turn into a businessperson.

That might be good. It might be bad. I suspect, at the very least, it is what it is.

Let’s talk about why. Continued »

June 6, 2016  1:10 PM

Startup Founder Culture in Silicon Valley

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

This morning I awoke to a notice that Justin Rohrman, my fellow writer on this blog, had posted a piece trying to explain where startup founders come from. Justin’s not “wrong”, in as far these things can be right and wrong – but as as a former worker at Socialtext, a once-silicon valley darling funded by DFJ, I thought my experiences might add a little flavor to the piece.

So here goes – Matt thoughts on where founders come from, and what that might mean for me, you, and society. Continued »

June 6, 2016  7:07 AM

Where Do Startup Founders Come From

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
founder, Startup

The American Dream is dead. But, only in the Princess Bride sense. The American Dream is mostly dead.

I have been spent the last year focusing on what it looks like to start a business and the question of where startup founders come from. The American dream says that anyone can come here with a buck and a dream and become a millionaire. There is also a cute saying that there are no poor people in America, only temporarily embarrassed millionaires. There is a touch of truth to both of those. If someone is ambitious enough, and not put off by risk, they might be able to take an idea and turn it into a business.

I am seeing a pattern in technology startups that is startling, though.

Continued »

May 31, 2016  2:53 PM

Winning the Bad Faith Negotiation

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

bad_faithLast time I introduced my negotiation strategy, which shifts the work from in the moment haggling to research. It works well when both sides are honest …

What do you do when the other side is not honest, hiding information at best or actively misleading you?

Let’s talk about it.

Continued »

May 25, 2016  7:46 PM

Automation In Real Life

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Automation, Business Process Automation

Are you ready for the impending robot takeover? I’m not.

Most of the automation I’ve seen slips into our frame of mind through simple business processes. Systems administrators make careers on this. When I first started working in technology, admins were automating as much as possible to make spare time for more important things, like DOOM. The rest of the business world caught wind of that and decided they wanted in. More automation, more productivity, more profits.

I recently wrote about the deskilling effect automation has on trades. Today I’m going to take a slightly different angle. I want to talk about the reality of technology and automation, and how that changes the work. The tasks we perform every day.

Continued »

May 23, 2016  1:34 PM

Heusser Negotiation Strategy

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

negotiationMost of us in technology hate to negotiate, which means we take what we can get. That puts someone else in charge of a zero-sum deal.

What if there were a different way? It would have to allow you to close a deal within seconds, that puts you in charge without any deception or shenanigans. More than that, the person at the other end of the table will appreciate you for it.

Over the years I have found only one method that meets this standard. There may be others, but today I would like to talk to you about my favorite.

Continued »

May 16, 2016  9:48 AM

The PiP Gambit

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
HR, Management

Are performance improvement plans (PiP) a gambit to shuffle people out the front door, or are they actually there to help people?

I just finished the new Dan Lyons book, Disrupted, while on a plane flight to Seattle. The book seems equal parts entering a new environment with a terrible attitude, and the bad aspects of every startup I have ever worked for. This isn’t a book review, though. In one part of the book, Dan talks about the ups and downs (mostly downs) of being put on a performance improvement plan. This reminded me of a story about PiPs that happened to an old friend while we were working together in 2008.

Continued »

May 11, 2016  7:57 AM

How Much Standardization Do We Need

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Lean, Micromanagement

How important is standardization to software work, and how much of it do we need?

I spend a lot of time reading about Lean principles, trying to apply them to my own work, and helping to teach the rare class so that others can take these ideas and find ways to work more efficiently. The basics are easy, remove waste from the process so that the only thing coming out of the end of the line is value. The stuff that the customer cares about and is willing to pay for, nothing else.

Like most simple ideas (I’m looking at you, agile) it is easy to misunderstand and go completely off the rails. There are some unfortunate overlapping areas between Lean and Frederick Taylor’s scientific management that might be worth thinking about.

Continued »

May 3, 2016  9:38 PM

Where Has Innovation Gone

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
Agile, Lean principles

Where does innovation come from, and where has it gone?

My schedule is jam packed lately. I have a nearly full time contract gig that keeps me at my desk testing software most days. After that, there is writing work to be done. That floats up and down depending on the month and what editors need. Add to that a few hunting (metaphorical) excursions each week to talk with new or existing clients about new partnerships and work. Sometimes I forget what day it is.

There is nothing I would rather be doing, but this schedule makes it hard to come up with new ideas. There is a hidden tie between lack of spare time and most modern software processes.

Continued »

April 25, 2016  11:32 AM

Are Testers Second-Class Citizens?

Justin Rohrman Justin Rohrman Profile: Justin Rohrman
QA resource, QA testing

I consistently hear from testers, almost regardless of where they work, that they feel like second-class citizens at work. Testers get paid much less than developers, when they do a good job it adds friction to the delivery process and makes things slower, and then there is the snark. Developers certainly have plenty of snark to go around, but they get a pass because they are building something.

In the late 60s to the early 70s the consulting company, McKinsey, were on a consulting assignment to the government of Tanzania. Then President, Julius Neyerere, noted that the lowest paid McKinsey associate was earning more than the highest paid Tanzanian government Minister. He then noted that “if you offer peanuts, you get monkeys“. McKinsey won that deal.

I think there is something there, and also a system of forces that make software testers a lower class of employee at most companies. Here is my story.

Continued »

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