Archive for the ‘General Stuff’ Category

Perspective, presentations, the movie business and Up 3D

June 5, 2009
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Image by ZakVTA via Flickr

I never thought I’d spend $40 for admission on my family of 3 for a movie and feel like I got a good deal, but that’s exactly what happened this past weekend when we saw Disney/Pixar’s latest, Up, at my local theater in 3D.   It wasn’t because of the 3D effects, although were impressive and vividly clear in the digital theater my familiy went to, but because of the very moving story.

If you just look at the trailer, this looks like it’ll be a movie about a cranky old man who ties balloons to his house.  Once you understand his perspective and realize why he became so cranky, the story takes on a surprising depth and validates why you should take the time to understand why someone is behaving the way they are in any of your relationships whether they be business or personal.  Experiencing this movie also slammed home the point about how important it is to get your audience interested at the beginning of any presentation and made me ponder on the business model movies seem to be inching towards.
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3 Key steps to CYA

May 27, 2009

When I make a mistake, I own up to it. One time, I had the brilliant idea to wash my wife’s new car with a coarse scrub brush, which of course scratched the finish nicely. I messed up and got it fixed.

What I hate more than anything, though, is being blamed for a mistake that isn’t my fault. Often, this happens when someone else made a mistake and either remembers a series of agreements you made with them differently than you do or they are outright lying about a set of previously acknowledged facts. Either way, now they are saying it was all your idea to use the scrub brush and they had nothing to do with it.

When this happens, prevention is the key. How do you cover your ass (CYA) so you don’t own someone else’s mistakes?
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Total Picture Radio with Peter Clayton

May 18, 2009

Peter Clayton runs an excellent career podcast over at Total Picture Radio and was kind enough to have me as a guest.  We talked about the premise for nerdguru.net and my recent adventure with “What’s your best career advice using EXACTLY 6 words?”

Take a listen to the 16 minute podcast over at Peter’s site when you get a chance.

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Classic Nerd Guru: The Mid-Year Accomplishments List

May 7, 2009

For reasons outlined below, Q2 ended for me April 30 and I just finished my habitual mid-year accomplisments list.  Even if you have a more traditional calendar and your mid-year doesn’t hit until June, it’s a good idea to start thinking about this.

The article below ran last year in July (several months late for me), but served as a good reminder for me this year of the different places to look when recalling the variety of things I’ve been up to.

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Many years ago, Dave Packard noticed that his accounting staff had to put in overtime at the end of December in order to process all the necessary paperwork to close out the financials for the year and he didn’t think that was fair for them to have to give up family time in that way. So, he moved the start of the fiscal year to November 1 (moving it back to December 1 complicated Thanksgiving plans) and thus HP’s unusual financial quarter boundaries were born.

That’s a really long-winded way of saying I’m late when it comes to completing my mid-year accomplishments list, which I should have done in May but am only getting to now.

Why make a mid-year accomplishments list? Well, what did I do last November? Uh, off the top of my head I can’t remember. If I can’t remember that now I have no hope of remembering it in October just before my performance evaluation. Hence the need for a mid-year accomplishments list.

First, I looked at my last end of year accomplishments list. Mainly, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t accidentally taking credit for something that happened in that October/November timeframe twice, as it would not only be unprofessional to do so but I would also feel pretty stupid for getting nailed stretching the truth later when I could have prevented it.

Next, I went through month by month to see if I could remember what it was I was spending my time with. I find it’s helpful to think of what was going on in my personal life as those things stay with me a bit more. Case in point, I know where I had Thanksgiving dinner (on the Disney Wonder cruise ship) but I have no idea who I met with right before that extended U.S. weekend. Using that technique, here’s what I came up with (as with the actual performance evaluation, each line item is written with a leading verb in the same way you would do for a resume):
November:

  • Handed off program management responsibility for a major presales marketing site to a development manager teammate
  • Worked with third party vendors for an external data center exit
  • Created and presented an architectural overview of all projects to our new Vice President

December:

  • Suggested and oversaw implementation of an extension of the external data center hosing provider when the negotiations that took place in November fell through
  • Prepared version comparison spreadsheet for more than 40 web site programs so that, in anticipation of the FY09 planning processes coming in January, software stack version upgrades (OS, database, middleware, etc.) required to keep up with HP data center standards could be identified and enumerated properly
  • Generated a potential project list for IT streamlining during FY09

January

  • Provided coarse level estimates (small/medium/large across 3/6/9 month durations) for 30+ projects for the preliminary FY09 planning process.
  • In conjunction with 3 Solution Architects, generated fine level estimates (specific man days per week) for 10+ projects
  • Crafted a process with business teams for evaluating 3rd party vendors that could be engaged with HP IT oversight
  • Conducted a technical evaluation of two 3rd party vendors as part of the emerging process

and so it goes for 3 another months worth of material.

Next, I looked through my email archive.  Specifically, I sorted through my “Sent Items” folder looking for items that had attachments to them (because that meant I was delivering some work product to somebody) or that went to recipients I don’t normally work with (meaning I was expanding my influence).  That was good for at least 2 more bullet items per month.

Finally, I looked through my file system (which, like a lot of people, I have organized by project) to see if there was something else I might have missed.  The results, after about 90 minutes spread across 3 days, was a list of about 3 dozen items spanning 6 months worth of work and should provide a good foundation for my performance evaluation in the Fall.

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Hanselman: Looking for balance in The No Asshole Rule

April 29, 2009

Microsoft blogger Scott Hanselman has an interesting post today on behavior and attitude in the technology world.  This quote best summarizes his framing of the subject:

However, it depends on what you feel strongly about and if what you feel strongly about outweighs what you believe others might feel. You need to be yourself, but you there ARE social norms, and others feelings, that should be considered.

@mstum on Twitter said: I’d rather have honest f-bombs than gentlemen hypocrites… Honest and direct people are so much easier to work with.

But can’t one be an honest gentleman? Why is online (or offline) use of the F-word and general crassness somehow exemplary of “honesty?” If someone swears and slams their hand on a table in a business meeting I don’t immediately think “Whew, finally an honest person!”

Being generally pleasant and helpful isn’t sugarcoating, it’s being pleasant and helpful.

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Coding Horror: Who’s your buddy?

April 27, 2009
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 23:  Google founders Larr...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Jeff Atwood over at Coding Horror ran an article back in March on pair programming that was in the same vein as the entry I wrote last month, Impressing your friends as a motivator for exellence.  For all you non-coders out there, pair programming is a software engineering practice where, as the name implies, you work in tandem with another person on a project so you can constantly check each other.   You have someone else to run things past before a broader audience sees it and, by extension, impressing that person becomes part of your mindset when creating output.

It’s always better with two, isn’t it?  Hewlett and Packard.  Gates and Allen.  Jobs and Wozniak.  Brin and Page.  Disney and Iwerks.  The list goes on and demonstrates that working in pairs can be extremely constructive.

As Jeff says in his article:
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Career advice in 6 words: The Word Cloud

April 23, 2009

My other article on “Best career advice using exactly 6 words” was pretty long already, but I thought a different kind of analysis might be interesting and warranted a second piece. I took every response I received from all sources (not just those that made it into the article) and plugged them into Wordle to get a word cloud:

Best Career Advice Using Exactly 6 Words Cloud

“Always”, “Never”, and “Work” were by far the most popular words used in the submissions, leading me to believe that people think there are hard and fast rules you should utilize in your career. “Give”, “Follow”, “Others”, “Love”, and “Learn” appear to be in the second tier of choices. Enjoying what you are doing is implied by “Love” and continuous improvement seems to be a fair assessment of “Learn” but the other three are a little harder to make a case for given how differently each can be used.

Other thoughts?

What’s your best career advice, using EXACTLY 6 words?

April 21, 2009

It’s been a little while since I tured to LinkedIn Answers to get thoughts from others on career related topics, but when I did go back to it I got lucky and the subject I picked got pretty popular.   Here’s how I framed the question:

In January around the time of the inauguration, the Bush daughters wrote the Obama daughters a letter giving them advice on living in the public eye inside the White House. The most widely quoted part of that letter was pretty touching, “Remember who your dad really is.”

At about the same time, Newsweek ran a short story about a collection of 6 word memoirs put out by Smith Magazine on the topic of love.

Given that Jenna and Barbara’s advice happened to be exactly 6 words long, and that I have an interest in mentoring, I thought it would make for an interesting experiment to see what people might come up with on the topic of career advice.

So, what’s the best career advice you have, using EXACTLY 6 words?

I got well over 100 responses, a plug over at About.com and a lot of really interesting ideas to consider.  As you might expect, they covered lots of subtopics an as I read through them they clustered themselves into groups, although some definitely stood out.
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You want in? Career advice in 6 words

April 13, 2009

I’ve got a question over at LinkedIn Answers that has a whopping 51 responses and I wanted to give my regular readers a shot at contributing.  The answers will be turned into an article here, but here’s how I framed the question:

In January around the time of the inauguration, the Bush daughters wrote the Obama daughters a letter giving them advice on living in the public eye inside the White House. The most widely quoted part of that letter was pretty touching, “Remember who your dad really is.” 

At about the same time, Newsweek ran a short story about a collection of 6 word memoirs put out by Smith Magazine on the topic of love. 

Given that Jenna and Barbara’s advice happened to be exactly 6 words long, and that I have an interest in mentoring, I thought it would make for an interesting experiment to see what people might come up with on the topic of career advice. 

So, what’s the best career you have, using EXACTLY 6 words? 

Feel free to participate yourself!

How I invented a new and embarrassing email mistake

April 9, 2009

I’ve written before about the evils of the “Reply All” bug, but I really outdid myself this time by inventing a new way to embarrass myself using email.
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