Most technologists are working on performance reviews around this time of year. I distinctly remember getting an email from my managers explaining that we all needed to fill this out and schedule a time to talk with him about our performance for the year. He’d go to explain that he knew no one enjoyed doing performance reviews, and that they certainly weren’t fun for him either. For the most part they just generated a new stack of paper to deal with.
Personal Development Plans always came along side the performance review papers. We had to come up with a specific plan of what skill development we were supposed to do for the year. Sometimes those were called Management by Objective and were tied to company goals, sometimes it was just a list of the things we were interested in.
The Deming Institute has a class on “How To Create Unethical, Ineffective Organizations That Go Out Of Business (Many Organizations Do It, But Do You Know How You Do It?)”
Similarly, being a consultant is about more than just getting hired and giving advice. It is about getting people to act on your advice — or, at least, to listen and internalize what you have to say. Developing Influence without power is something that everyone I know could use more of – from tech workers, to soccer moms, teenagers, and yes, the CEO of a small company trying to sell to a bigger one. For that matter, while the CEO might be able to force overtime out of the staff, they’ll likely need influence to get productivity, which is the real goal, isn’t it?
Jerry Weinberg’s Book, Secrets of Consulting, even has “A Guide To Giving And Getting Advice Successfully” as the subtitle.
I am not Jerry Weinberg, but I do know a thing or two about failing! In that modest but tongue-in-cheek spirit I would like to present How To Fail As a Consultant. Continued »
President Trump was inaugurated January 20th 2017. He immediately started signing executive orders, the travel ban and moving forward with the Dakota pipeline probably getting more news time than anything else.
Up until recently, I was the type of person that is completely oblivious to politics. I get political jargon mixed up in conversation and get corrected, and I don’t know who the main players are. Most of the events that happen in government had a minimal affect on my daily live. Over the past 4 years, I saw changes that had drastic affects on the people around me.
This year I am seeing choices made by the President quickly have an affect on small communities of software craftspeople.
You hired a programmer to lead a test automation effort. Gave the programmer time, resources, and attention. The programmer has no responsibilities outside of the tooling. The automation has had time to mature. It was supposed to speed you up.
Now imagine this conversation, at 10:00AM.
Manager: “I’d like to go to production at noon. Can we do that?”
Programmer: “I don’t know, we need to run the automation.”
Manager: “Okay, sure, get to it.”
Programmer: “First we need to get the exact build we need to run on staging.”
Manager: “Fine, do that, then run the tests.”
Programmer: “Then I need to set up the test data.”
Manager: “Okay, fine, whatever, do it.”
Programmer: “Then I can run the tests.”
Manager: “Fine, so you’ll be done by noon?”
Programmer: “Probably. Then we’ll have failure results to check.”
Manager: “You always have failures?”
Programmer: “Not real failures. Sometimes the tests are flaky or there are environment problems. Sometimes the User Interface has changed but the tests haven’t kept up. So I need to do some maintenance work.”
Manager: “So you’ll know in the early afternoon?”
… time passes …
I was born on the cusp of the internet revolution. As a kid, my friends and I roamed the streets and were more or less off the grid. Once we left the house, we were untraceable. We had to run to a friends house or a pay phone (remember those?) to get in touch with a parent.
It takes effort to do that today. I take for granted that my phone is connected to the internet, my thermostat and smoke detector are internet connected and can be monitored from my phone. A few years ago, we cancelled cable and started using internet connected streaming devices like the Apple TV and Amazon Fire stick.
Basically, our lives are centered around devices that connect to the internet. They are invisible and ingrained in our daily lives.
But, while we are blissfully watching TV and zoning out, our TVs are watching us and reporting back to the mother ship.
I have submitted proposals to talk at quite a few technology conferences. I’ve gotten “thanks, but no thanks” emails from those conferences a few times, too. Looking back, some of the proposals were just plain bad. They didn’t tell the story I wanted, and didn’t get the value proposition across. I’d like to share a couple of lessons, mostly from mistakes I have made. Some of them might increase your chances of being accepted.
What makes a good conference talk proposal, and what does the process CFP process look like?
Your company is in trouble when people start quitting managers.
I have quit jobs to stop what felt like stagnation and find a place where I could develop relevant skills. I have quit jobs to get promotions and pay raises. And, I have quit jobs just because I felt like it was time for a change. Leaving was the most unpleasant though when I had to quit a manager.
There is a popular saying that goes something like “people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers”. I think that is an over simplification. People only quit managers when something is really wrong. I want to share a couple of stories of when I quit managers so maybe you can notice the patterns before it’s too late.
Other Person: (entire category of problem or job) Is going to go away with the rise of Machine Learning.
Matt: That’s interesting. What algorithm would you use to solve the problem? How would you encode it?
Other Person: That’s the beauty part. The Artificial Intelligence teaches itself!
On a bad day, AI can seem a like magic, think of thing that fills in the question mark in the classic SouthPark skit – “Step 1 – steal underpants. Step 2 – ?. Step 3 – Profit!”
Of course, there is no magic. AI and Machine learning can just do the same thing a human will do, only much faster, many more times, over a much larger dataset.
Let’s talk about how that works, starting with a machine learning algorithm you can perform by hand. Continued »
For me the idea of serving as an employee has always felt a bit surreal.
I did not want a day job.
From my first technology job I wanted to build something for myself, to strike out on my own.
I’ve been freelancing for nearly two years now.
I still do not want a boss, or to have to be in a cubicle at a certain time every day, or deal with performance reviews. None of it. Frankly the idea of going back to that at this point is terrifying. I’ve essentially spent the last two years getting to work the way I want because my clients trust me.
On January first of 2017, I went back to being an employee again, but without the downsides I’ve listed above.
I would like to tell you why, and how I got here.
But first, how I started freelancing.
I have been privy to a few conversations around the topic of career progression lately. Maybe it is the time of year. It is almost time for performance reviews. People with full time jobs are probably wondering if they are getting a raise and how much that will be. And also if they will get bequeathed with a shiny new title. Something that will really let the others know who’s who around there.
Careers are important to people. Or more specifically, the question of where do I go from here is important to people.
Last week I touched on what I think it means to be a Senior technologist. This week I want to talk about what a career ladder is for people that work in technology.