We often hear about empathy as a singular concept—a soft skill, an essential quality of being human that connects us to others. But empathy comes in two flavors. It has shades, and understanding them might make us better humans.
We often hear about empathy as a singular concept—a soft skill, an essential quality of being human that connects us to others. But empathy comes in two flavors. It has shades, and understanding them might make us better humans.
Two Sides of the Same Coin: Logical and Emotional Empathy
– Emotional Empathy: This is the classic definition of empathy that most of us are familiar with. It’s feeling what another person feels. If your friend is sad, you feel sad. If they’re excited, you feel their joy. Emotional empathy happens almost instinctively. It’s raw and visceral.
– Logical Empathy: This form is more calculated. It’s understanding what another person feels without necessarily feeling it yourself. It’s more about perception, awareness, and insight. It’s about seeing things from their perspective, even if you don’t feel their viewpoint.
Emotional empathy might be more natural for some people. You know the type, those who can feel a room’s mood as tangibly as a physical touch. I’ve always admired that, but it wasn’t me.
And then there are others for whom logical empathy might be more innate. These individuals are perceptive, analytical, and capable of seeing a situation from various angles without becoming emotionally entangled. Many of us who make our careers in technology are attracted to the industry because we have these skills.
Learning the wrong lessons early
Most of my first jobs were at large companies with very competitive and hierarchical cultures: IBM, Silicon Graphics, and Microsoft. Microsoft in the 1990s was legendary for its’ hyper-competitive culture. I worked there for eight years. Microsoft taught me that I had to expect that other teams were constantly looking for how to undermine mine and that every outstretched hand was likely masking a knife held in the other hand behind the back. I eventually realized that the environment was a bad fit for me, but sadly, I didn’t get out until I had internalized those lessons.
After Microsoft, I sought out more collaborative environments, but I struggled. I constantly expected ill intent behind every action from a peer. I knew that this was hurting me and that I needed to move to a mindset of expecting positive intent from others, but I didn’t know how to rewire my brain.
A Splash of Insight: David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water”
My epiphany came when someone recommended that I read David Foster Wallace’s commencement address to Kenyon College, “This is Water.” If you haven’t read or listened to it, it’s enlightening. Wallace talks about default settings, the unconscious, automatic ways we interpret everything around us. He speaks about learning to think more compassionately and understanding that everyone around you has a unique inner life full of dreams, fears, and struggles. And it’s not always about feeling their pain; sometimes, it’s about understanding their pain.
Wallace’s speech was a masterclass in logical empathy. And it gave me a better way to try and understand others’ intents, especially when you don’t know someone well.
Developing Logical Empathy When Emotional Empathy Feels Unnatural
So how can you foster logical empathy if emotional empathy doesn’t come naturally to you? Here’s a roadmap:
Listen More, Talk Less: You don’t have to feel what someone else feels to understand them. Listen actively, engage with their words, and seek to understand their perspective.
Ask Questions: If you don’t understand something, ask. Asking not only clarifies but demonstrates that you are engaged and interested in the other person’s perspective.
Seek to Understand Their Context: What could be the pressures on them that they may not be vocalizing? If you are talking to a salesperson near the end of the quota, could they be pressured to make their quota? Is the Product Manager being held to unrealistic expectations by their boss? Leverage what you know about the business or organization to understand what subtexts may be unsaid.
Reflect: Spend time thinking about the perspectives of others. Consider why they feel the way they do. Analyze their thoughts without judgment.
Use Imagination: Try to visualize the scenario from their perspective. This mental exercise helps in understanding without feeling.
Practice Compassion: Logical empathy may not be instinctive, but it’s still a form of compassion. Approach situations and people with an open heart, even if it’s an analytical one.
Embracing Both Forms
The truth is logical and emotional empathy are not mutually exclusive. You can be someone who mainly engages with logical empathy while still having the capacity for emotional empathy and vice versa.
The real beauty lies in embracing both and recognizing that there’s no right or wrong way to connect with others. It’s a journey, and it’s one worth taking, regardless of where you naturally fall on the empathy spectrum.
In our complex and diverse world, empathy in all its shades is more than a desirable trait; it’s a necessity. Understanding how you relate to others and working on enhancing that connection, be it through emotional or logical empathy, makes you not only a better colleague, friend, or partner but a more complete human being.
This exploration of empathy, fostered by wise words from thinkers like David Foster Wallace, has been a personal awakening. It’s water, and now I see it.
In our professional lives, growth is a constant pursuit, not merely for our development but also for the organizations we represent. We’re all learning all the time, albeit in different ways and at varying paces. In nurturing an employee’s growth within a role, two approaches frequently come to the fore: mentoring and coaching. While both are powerful tools, they serve different purposes and are best applied in specific contexts – sometimes, we need a guide, and sometimes we need a goal-oriented strategist.
Choosing the Right Approach: Context is Key
“Coaching is for performance. Mentoring is for potential.”
The choice between coaching and mentoring hinges on the context. Here are some hypothetical situations to illustrate this.
Consider an employee who is a subject-matter expert, consistently delivering quality work but struggling to make presentations to stakeholders. In this case, a coach could help the employee improve their communication and public speaking skills, with clear, measurable objectives for their progression.
In contrast, imagine a new recruit with immense potential but little experience in the industry. With their wealth of experience and industry knowledge, a mentor could provide this newcomer with invaluable insights about the sector and career development advice, supporting their long-term growth.
When explaining the difference, I often contrast these roles by saying, “With mentoring, I will give you my opinion. With coaching, I will ask you the questions necessary for you to form your own approach with my guidance.”
The mentoring approach works better for more experienced professionals expanding their skills to new areas. The coaching approach is better for someone who needs to deepen their skills in an existing area. Coaching is also effective when helping someone in an area where you don’t have as much direct experience. You can leverage your experience in other areas to help the person figure out the answer themselves.
Be explicit in your choice of method
Know if you are taking a coaching stance or a mentoring stance when helping someone. That does not mean you can’t give advice when coaching or ask prompting questions when mentoring. It means you and the person you are working with understand how you will approach the interaction. It sets the tone and expectations.
“Mentoring and coaching are not an ‘either-or’ proposition but a ‘both-and’ necessity.”
While mentoring and coaching have unique strengths, it’s essential to recognize that both are integral to fostering a growth culture in an organization. The mentor-mentee relationship builds a knowledge-sharing culture, and coaching empowers individuals with specific skills to excel in their roles.
In our pursuit of growth, remember that we’re not merely ticking off a checklist. We are on a journey that requires us to understand when to take the scenic route of mentoring, appreciating the broader view of the professional landscape, or when to go straight ahead with coaching, focusing on the immediate roadblocks ahead.
Remember to share your insights and experiences as you continue on this journey. We are all co-travelers in this quest for growth and learning; every insight contributes to the collective wisdom.
Your resume is a simple enumeration of your experience and the first sample of work you are presenting to a potential employer. Many developers neglect the quality of their resume because they aren’t comfortable with writing, not comfortable talking about themselves, or simply because they don’t think it is important.
Photo by Vanessa Garcia
Every hiring manager has things that will influence them positively or negatively about a person when reading their resume or CV. Given how critical attention to detail is for developers and technical leaders, lacking attention to detail is a warning flag for me and many other leaders I speak to.
Your resume is a simple enumeration of your experience and the first sample of work you present to a potential employer. Many developers neglect the quality of their resume because they aren’t comfortable with writing, not comfortable talking about themselves, or simply because they don’t think it is important. When there are shortages of skilled developers, hiring managers will often overlook formatting, spelling, or grammar mistakes in a resume. When the hiring manager has multiple good choices for a role, seemingly small things can make a big difference in the perception of you as a candidate.
Weaving in the Details
Remember that your resume is more than a list; it’s a story of your professional journey, skills, and aptitudes. The quality of this narrative directly impacts a hiring manager’s perception of you. So, while it’s crucial to include your significant accomplishments and skills, attention to detail helps to fill in the gaps and provide a comprehensive picture.
For example, including specific project details, like what technologies you used, your role in the project, and the quantifiable results, can set you apart from the competition. These details reveal the true extent of your abilities and demonstrate your authentic experience as a technologist and your focus on the outcome, not just the output of your work.
Evidence of Care and Dedication
Meticulous attention to detail on a resume is a positive signal to employers. It’s a testament to your dedication and commitment to excellence. On the other hand, errors, inconsistencies, or vague descriptions can give the impression of carelessness or lack of effort. Spelling and grammar mistakes, easily caught by a spelling or grammar checker in a document editor, are red flags. If you have front-end or user-facing application development experience, inconsistent or poor formatting questions your skills.
Detailing Technical Proficiencies
Specificity in listing your technical skills is another area where detail matters immensely. A generic mention of “programming languages” won’t do the job. Instead, list each language and technology you are proficient in, ideally linking them to your professional experience or projects.
Compatibility with Job Descriptions
Lastly, close attention to the job description can make all the difference. Customizing your resume to fit the specifics of the role shows a proactive and thorough approach.
How to debug your resume
Use a spelling and grammar checker.
Have a friend (preferably someone experienced in reviewing resumes) proofread it.
If you are putting your resume into a language where you are not a native speaker, have a couple of people who are native speakers read it over for tone and phrasing.
If you are unsure how to phrase something, find other resumes (or LinkedIn profiles) from folks with similar experiences to see how they express it.
If you are updating your resume with new experience, read it thoroughly to ensure that the new and old sections have the same tone of voice and style.
Once you have made your changes, put your resume aside for a day or two and then reread it with fresh eyes to catch anything you may have missed.
These things seem obvious, but I can’t count the times I’ve found glaring errors in resumes where the candidate did not follow those steps.
Don’t disqualify yourself for silly reasons!
Attention to detail in a resume could be the difference between getting your foot in the door or having it firmly shut. As a technical professional, your attention to detail should reflect in your work, and there’s no better place to start demonstrating it than your resume.
A well-crafted, detailed resume is your representative in your absence, showcasing your abilities and a testament to your commitment to precision. So, the next time you revise your resume, remember to keep the details in focus. It might just be your key to the next big opportunity.
Your resume is an opportunity to illustrate who you are as a professional and how you approach your work. Attention to detail not only elevates your resume above the rest but also demonstrates the values essential to success in technology: meticulousness, precision, and a deep understanding of your craft. The details aren’t just details; they’re differentiators.
There are three things when considering a new role assuming the basics (i.e., pay, benefits, location) make sense.
Can you be successful at the company?
Does the role move you toward your career objectives?
Are you excited about what you will work on?
Suppose you can get all three. Wow! Take that job! Two of the three is pretty good, but it likely means that you should not expect the role to be long-term unless you misjudge the situation or something changes. One of three? Take it if you must but have an exit plan.
If you are in a decent role today, you can always choose to keep looking rather than take something that doesn’t meet enough of your criteria. While the lure of something new might be tempting, it can be hard to understand a role before you are established in it. If your initial investigation raises questions, it may be better to keep your search going.
The critical element is knowing yourself and the perspective role well enough to make the determination (the technique I describe in the blog post referenced above is helpful for this). If you don’t know what you want, keep exploring. Look to new roles to increase your skills or experience with industries, company size, or company culture.
Once you know the conditions where you do your best work, where you want to go with your career, and what excites you to work every day, you can put together questions to ask when talking to the recruiter or as part of the interview process.
Try to avoid asking direct, obvious questions. If the interviews are going well, people may tell you what you want to hear. For example, asking, “How is the work/life balance at your company?” is less likely to be helpful than asking, “What times do meetings usually start or end during your day?” If several employees tell you that their day starts early or ends late, you will see some work/life balance patterns.
Another problem with direct questions is that they reveal more about you than you might want in an interview. For example, when a candidate asks me a direct question about something specific, such as raises, review processes, or work/life balance, it tells me not just that they are interested but that they may have had bad experiences with this in the past. If I get a sense of a bad experience, it will usually prompt me to better understand the nature of their concerns. If you are concerned about review processes, for example, I wonder if you have received negative reviews in the past and what was the story behind them. So, asking more generally about how often the company performs appraisals and the process will elicit less concern than asking how employees can appeal negative reviews.
Ask indirect questions about how the work is done, the day-to-day responsibilities of the role, and what conflicts arise. Look for clues in the answers that speak to reality. You may find some of your interviewers are more forthcoming and open. Leverage that transparency. Find friends or friends-of-friends that know people who work there to get the unvarnished truth.
But also realize that companies evolve just as people do, just as you will. So even if things are good for you initially, they may not stay that way.
So, when your three-of-three company becomes your two-of-three company, you may wait things out to see if things will change, but you also might want to start looking for your next three-of-three company. Although every company will have good/bad periods, once you have been at a company for a while, you’ll understand if the current situation is temporary or part of a more permanent shift.
Of course, in today’s job climate, you might need to take that one-of-three job or even zero-of-three position. If that is the case, don’t despair. Instead, focus on taking care of things until you can find a role that fits you better. Tech is cyclical, just like the broader economy. If you can wait it out, things will get better.
In this Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Phil Abernathy about his work helping organizations focus on employee happiness to drive customer happiness and shareholder return and the Bureaucracy Mass Index as a tool to identify where companies are bloated and ineffective. He also spoke about what’s needed for real transformation.
Great practical advice on building happier teams and a tool to measure bureaucracy in an organization.
A Brief History of the Metaverse: DIY Metaverse
Tony and Mark – supported by a global community of technologists, enthusiasts, and dreamers – brought 3D to the brand-new Web with VRML. This episode features Owen Rowley, Neil Redding, Linda Jacobson, Brian Behlendorf, John McCrea, Coco Conn — and Neal Stephenson.
With all the talk (and investment) in the metaverse, it is frustrating sometimes that people forget that the technology industry has been thinking and working on this for decades. Tony and Mark were instrumental in creating VRML, and I appreciate them documenting some of the history, but I was a bit disappointed that they omitted some of the other folks that were involved in the beginning.
CALLING BULLSHIT – Spotify: Starving Artists?
Stated purpose: to unlock the potential of human creativity—by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it.
Spotify is the most popular streaming service in the world, with 188 million people paying for premium subscriptions and hundreds of millions more listening for free on the ad supported tier. Which is why it has been called the world’s best place to get noticed as a musician. But getting noticed and making a living are two different things. In this episode we decide if Spotify is more about “Honesty” or “Little Lies?”. Listen in to find out.
One of our board members at Anaconda turned me onto this podcast. It’s about purpose-driven companies that don’t live up to their professed goals. This episode focuses on Spotify but also talks about the broader streaming music economy.
A16z Podcast – Creators, Creativity, and Technology with Bob Iger
A wide-ranging conversation with Bob Iger on the interplay between technology, content, and distribution; as well as Bob’s journey — and that of various creators! — especially as the industry evolved from TV and cable to the advent of the internet/ web 1.0 to 2.0 to briefly touching on web3 and other emerging technologies. As well as topics top of mind for all company and community builders: from build vs. buy and the innovator’s dilemma, to managing creativity, decentralization, remote work, and much more.
I didn’t expect to like this podcast as much as I did. I appreciated it not only for his takes on leading teams of creative people but also for his business acumen and for getting more details about creative people I admire and their work.
20VC – 20 Product: Marty Cagan on The Four Questions of Great Product Management, Product Lessons from Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz and eBay’s Pierre Omidyar & The Difference Between Truly Great Product Teams and the Rest
Marty Cagan is one of the OGs of Product and Product Management as the Founder of Silicon Valley Product Group. Before founding SVPG, Marty served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay. He worked directly alongside Marc Andreesen and Ben Horowitz at Netscape and Pierre Omidyar at eBay.
I was not a fan of Cagan’s book Inspired. I called it “Ayn Rand for Product Managers.” I worked with some product managers who were all huge fans of it, and the result was not great for working with engineering.
In the time since, I have appreciated what Cagan said in his blog, which was a lot more focused on Lean-style product development and cross-functional collaborative teams. This podcast was further evidence for me that I need to re-evaluate how I see Cagan. I appreciated his perspective.
Planet Money – Episode 576: When Women Stopped Coding
Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. Most of the big names in technology are men.
But a lot of computing pioneers, the ones who programmed the first digital computers, were women. And for decades, the number of women in computer science was growing.
But in 1984, something changed. The number of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged.
Today on the show, what was going on in 1984 that made so many women give up on computer science? We unravel a modern mystery in the U.S. labor force.
This podcast was oddly personal for me. It talks about how advertising and culture perpetuated a vision of computers as being for boys, discouraging women from entering the computing field. This was the time that I became fascinated by computers. I remember the ads, tv shows, and movies they discuss, and when I entered college for Computer Science my class was 70 men and 2 women. They also talk about my alma mater Carnegie Mellon and the steps that they have taken to address this imbalance.
It is amazing how quickly culture changed computing from being a female-dominated field to being a male one and then how long it has taken us to try and bring it back into some sort of equilibrium.
In the last post, I shared the books that I found worth recommending that I read in 2022. The next post shares podcasts that I found valuable. In this (longer) post, I will share links to the blog posts from 2022 that I think are recommendation worthy. I’ve broken it into sections based on content.
Learn about the How HashiCorp Works project and why there are links to internal HashiCorp materials in this article. Our…
I like the movement in making how companies work transparent. It is useful to read as a leader and a great recruiting tool for those companies. I always wonder how much reality matches the shared documents. If you know you will share with the public, you are likely to be a bit more aspirational than actual, but it is still useful to read.
Medium sees more employee exits after CEO publishes ‘culture memo’ – TechCrunch
The sign that Netflix’s culture had irreversibly started to…
The genius of Netflix as an employer was that it has always been very upfront about who it is and how it works, with the understanding that anyone taking a job there knows what they are getting into. This works great until the culture starts to change, so this isn’t about an individual employee being unhappy. It will be interesting to see how Netflix navigates this (or doesn’t).
Culture as a Product: How HubSpot Built its Famed Startup Culture
Around Boston and beyond, HubSpot is known for its strong entrepreneurial culture . The company has received many awards over the years and was recently named…
Hubspot is an interesting company. Having read Disrupted (https://www.amazon.com/Disrupted-Dan-Lyons/dp/0316306096) I am a bit skeptical of how they talk about themselves, but of course, one always should be. That said, even if the public face of companies’ cultures is more aspirational than real, there is still something to be learned. I didn’t decide that the 37 Signals books were worthless because when under stress, the company didn’t live the values they proclaimed.
Bolt Loaned Employees Thousands to Buy Stock—Then Laid Them Off
The challenge of startup options is that employees rarely are allowed to sell them. When a startup has been around a long time, and startup options are starting to expire, but employees have had the liquidity event necessary to have ready cash to exercise their options, what are they to do? A company I was in also considered a loan program for employees but decided it was potentially problematic. Bolt learned that lesson the hard way, and their former employees are worse off for it.
A big 32-hour workweek test is underway. Supporters think it could help productivity
This article was originally written for LeadDev . In tech, we talk a lot about failing fast: implementing small, incremental…
I talk a lot about failure, failing fast, etc… This article is an actual case study in how to recover when your team has a big failure. I always like real-life stories instead of vague opinion pieces.
Career Development: What It Really Means to be a Manager, Director, or VP
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of big-company HR practices. I’m more of the First Break all the Rules type. Despite my general skepticism of many standard…
There are tons of posts and books about being a line manager. There are substantially less about levels beyond that. I’m always looking for informative articles or books about more senior leadership levels. This was a decent one.
Tech’s Talent Wars Have Come Back to Bite It
by Erin Griffith
What Tech People Should Learn From This Era of Excess
There is a euphemism in rocketry often heard at SpaceX – Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly. A catastrophic explosion, in other words. Until now, it was not…
The speed of Elon’s decline from “genius who can see a better future and bring it about” to “asshole snake oil salesman with a narcissistic personality disorder” was sudden by any measure. How do we keep people like this from ruining our favorite apps/sites? By keeping ownership and infrastructure distributed…
Remote Work/Return to the office
For the last couple of years, the push and pull of remote vs hybrid vs back-in-the-office has been a major story in the work press. I’ve already made my decision that I’m going to keep working remote and will choose companies that allow me to do that, but in all of this discussion I’m also looking to understand how other companies are approaching things.
Why workers are calling BS on leaders about returning to the office
This may be losing some of its value as it ages, but speaking as an all-remote company CTO, if you don’t listen to your employees about how they want to work, I’ll be happy to take them off your hands.
The Future of Work Isn’t Fancy Tech. It’s Remote Work and Smarter Management
The remote/office debate is dying down any time soon. There is more pressure on returning to offices now, but there is also more resistance. Given the layoffs, employees may not feel empowered to resist the call to return to the office, so maybe that will gain ground.
The Worst Part of Working From Home Is Now Haunting Reopened Offices
How to get started with async GitLab believes that…
The secret to successful remote work (especially if the team is spread across time zones) is moving to be asynchronous first. The companies that have been distributed for long periods and have scaled have embraced this, but it is harder than it seems, and many companies struggle. Even those that have always been distributed. This GitLab guide is very helpful.
I spent much of 2022 learning more about WebAssembly as we launched PyScript at Anaconda. I think that it has some amazing potential and is one of the most important technologies of the last few years.
This article explains the concepts behind how WebAssembly works including its goals, the problems it solves, and how it runs inside the web…
If you are in technology, you need to understand WebAssembly and how it can be used. It can potentially be more transformative than many of the technologies we depend on for software development today.
A short history of Flash & the forgotten Flash Website movement (when websites were “the new emerging artform”)
This post is a transcript of a talk I gave at UCSC. Thank you for inviting me! I’m sharing it here because It’s a GOOD summary of the history of a technology…
If you were active on the web in the 90s and early 2000s, you will remember the explosion of massively creative web experiences propelled by the Macromedia/Adobe technology Flash. While you can still create those kinds of experiences using modern web technologies, it now requires a level of coding expertise that puts the programmers in the driver’s seat instead of the artist/designer and requires a team instead of a single creative person.
The genius of Flash was that it made complex interactivity and visuals easy for many artists to create, and the result was beautiful chaos. The web is just a bit more boring for the death of Flash.
Spotify’s grand plan to monetize its open source Backstage project via premium plugins
Backstage was created when I was at Spotify. Even in its earliest days, it solved many problems for us in a massively micro-service architecture. It’s cool to see how it has developed over the years, and it was also cool to see that Spotify had open-sourced it. I think it is interesting that Spotify is doing this experiment, but also disappointed because I know of at least one company formed by ex-Spotifiers that were trying to build companies on top of Backstage.
Google: The Model Your Site Was Built On Is No Longer Feasible
Hours before Elon Musk closed his deal to buy Twitter, he published an open letter to advertisers. Musk knew that big companies, in particular, were anxious about…
“Free speech” and an advertising-based revenue model are incompatible.
When blockchain emerged, I spent some effort to really understand it. Then I realized that it was a technology searching for a use case fueling a tulip-like baseless speculative market. When Web3 started to emerge, I delayed judgment until I could understand it better. While I believe that there are people who believe that it can fuel a world where creators have more ways to be paid for their work and other such lofty goals, the practicality of it is that very little of those schemes require the blockchain, and most of the people in the space are just trying to make a quick buck before the tulip market collapses.
Many good takes: eating popcorn, and watching the crypto bros burn down their empire.
5 key lessons after a week on Mastodon
by Sandra Gutierrez G.
I’ve been on Mastodon since 2017, but my usage really increased since the acquisition of Twitter. There have been a lot of stories talking about how people are abandoning Mastodon, but even if it doesn’t become what Twitter was, it is still a vibrant community.
There’s No Fixing Meta’s Metaverse, Scrap It, Start Over
I spent 6 years working on the metaverse at Microsoft during the 90s. While the technology has drastically improved, the reason we didn’t get the metaverse back then is that no one could figure out something to do in the metaverse except shoot each other or have sex with each other. All the folks working on metaverse now have learned nothing from the multiple generations of attempts that preceded them. There is still a smug belief that “if you build it, they will come.” The problem is that there is still nothing to do once they show up.
If these problems are intrinsically linked to consolidated tech giants like Meta, Google, and Amazon, why not embrace technologies that decentralize power? This has become a key issue for Brewster Kahle, the 61-year-old founder of the Internet Archive…
Having participated in various forums and working groups for decentralized web stuff over the last few decades, I’m consistently excited by the possibilities and enthusiasm of the folks who work towards those goals and disappointed by their naivete about what people are willing to put up with and how commercial entities are incentivized to coopt and pollute the technologies that do gain some momentum.
Your organization should run its own Mastodon server
All the agility has been sucked out of agile projects Doing agile is not the same as being agile Agile projects have become bloated, lazy waterfall projects…
One of my biggest pet peeves is people deciding that a bad experience they had with a poorly implemented framework or process must mean that that framework or process is clearly bad and that anyone who had a good experience is lying. So many of the “I was involved in a poorly run agile project and so agile must all be a lie” or “my company tried to do the Spotify model, and it didn’t work; therefore, it must not work at Spotify either” type posts just show the ignorance of their authors and nothing else. While I was worried this article was just another one of those, the author is concerned more about poor agile processes and not agile itself. He even gives some good advice. So worth a read.
Mozrt, a Deep Learning Recommendation System Empowering Walmart Store Associates with a Personalized Learning Experience
It needs to be said again, perhaps this time more strongly. Your Blog is The Engine of Community . Dammit. Blog More You are not blogging enough.…
Scott Hanselman thinks developers should be blogging more, and when they do blog, it should be on their own platforms. And he’s right.
I’ve been involved in music as a musician, radio DJ, label owner, and streaming software creator since I was 15. I was delighted to rejoin the music industry in December when I took on the role of CTO at DistroKid.
With 100K tracks uploaded a day, a longtail music cull is coming – Hypebot
by Music Business
Lucian Grainge doesn’t like that people aren’t listening to Universal Artists as much, so he’s putting pressure on the streaming services to remove content he doesn’t think is good. The problem is deciding what content is good and what content is bad. Streamers already remove fraudulent content. So, who decides if your band shouldn’t be on Spotify because you might take a stream away from Justin Bieber (who himself was discovered because he uploaded his songs to YouTube). Gatekeepers are all about protecting their interests at the cost of innovation and getting others a shot.
Why Amazon VP Steve Boom just made the entire music catalog free with Prime
It’s never been clear how much Amazon cares about music streaming as a business. It’s always been an also-ran in the streaming wars that only has listeners because it is an add-on to Prime and is the default service with Alexa. Amazon hasn’t invested much in the service, but maybe that is changing now…
I’d like to share some of the things related to technology, leadership, or management that I found particularly instructive. There was plenty of other good stuff, but these were the ones that stood out.
After making a concerted effort to write more in 2021, my blogging in 2022 fell off a cliff. I hope to be better this year, but while I wasn’t writing as much, I was still reading, watching, and listening. I’d like to share some of the things related to technology, leadership, or management that I found particularly instructive. There was plenty of other good stuff, but these were the ones that stood out. These are not affiliate links. I don’t get any kickback for recommending them.
You probably didn’t need me to recommend this book to you, because it is one of the classics of technology leadership. In fact, this isn’t the first time I’ve read it. I hadn’t read it for many years, and picking it up again, I was surprised at how relevant and valuable it still is. If you haven’t read it, it is a very easy read.
The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging
This book isn’t specific to technology; it is about building inclusive communities of any type. It is valuable for people leaders in that it talks about the necessary parts of belonging to any group. It is focused more on communities of choice instead of work communities, but the insights are the same. As someone who has also spent a lot of time building online communities, it is extremely relevant for that as well.
This isn’t a leadership or management book, but it is a book about living intentionally, and I found it valuable on multiple levels. As it was a New York Times bestseller, you didn’t need me to recommend it to you either, but I will say that I personally appreciate the author and his message.
The Business of Belonging: How to Make Community your Competitive Advantage
This book is about building online communities for companies. It has overlap with the Art of Community book, but it is much more practical and meant for people who do this for a living. I found it a bit introductory, but it had some good ways of articulating specific points that I will reuse. If you are new to this space, it is a great introduction.
The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter
Another classic of management that I had read before but reread as I prepared for my new role at DistroKid. Once again, it had been a long time since I had read it, and I was struck by how practical and true its advice was. I realized that when onboarding to previous roles, the companies where I started off the best were when I followed its advice deliberately or intuitively.
Lead Together: The Bold, Brave, Intentional Path to Scaling Your Business
This is either a book you will read and find yourself nodding along with, or a book that you will read and throw down in disgust after the first couple of chapters. It is a semi-practical guide about how to be more inclusive in your leadership. For those who have read Fredrick Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations and are trying to figure out how to move their company towards Teal, this book will be useful. For those who are tired of being in a top-down organization or are constantly accused of being a micro-manager, this book is worth toughing out even if you don’t agree with all of their suggestions because it will give you choices and ideas that will help you grow as a leader.
I came across this Twitter thread from Rein Henrichs, and I thought it had many good points about systems thinking and management.
A lot of managers, especially those from an engineering background, think that management is about doing stuff: defining rules, policies, and procedures; assigning tasks; creating external incentives; fixing problems.
It caused me to reflect a bit on my approach to systems thinking in the context of technical leadership.
One of the things that helped me the most as an engineering leader was developing a better understanding of systems thinking. When I (or others) use the analogy of “planting a garden” when setting up teams for success, this is what we mean. We are creating the system to enable groups and individuals to do their best work and then allow good behaviors (and results) to emerge. Of course, creating a system takes longer than pushing things down into the organization. Still, it produces more creativity and autonomy in the organization and makes it more resilient to change or challenges.
Managers who do not work with this understanding of systems think that management is purely about doing stuff: defining rules, policies, and procedures, assigning tasks, creating external incentives, and fixing problems. This “doing stuff” approach can produce good results in small teams or for a constrained about of time.
As Rein Henrichs also correctly points out, the act of building a system can be incomprehensible for others in the organization who are not directly involved (especially in other disciplines that are more transactional). This lack of understanding has often been my biggest challenge as a company’s senior engineering leader.
Building a system takes time. If you can get things to a good place where the system is starting to be self-perpetuating, the rest of the organization will see the improvements and become supporters.
Suppose the leadership team is impatient and doesn’t understand what you are trying to do. In that case, they will lean into the quick fixes listed above, namely re-organization or replacing individuals or trying to “drive accountability” through reductive top-down control mechanisms.
If that happens, you are stuck trying to mitigate the damage and build a longer-term plan to return to your original goals, but it is often a losing battle. The primary culture of the organization has re-asserted itself, and your chance to evolve it has mostly gone.
How do you avoid that fate?
Communicate! Make your plans clear in the hiring process, your initial days in the organization, and all along the process. Set realistic timelines for improvement and celebrate the successes along the way. When your peers are impatient, refocus them on the plan and the long-term gains you are working towards. Point to the achievements thus far and try to keep their “eyes on the prize.”
Will this always work?
No. It depends on the company’s situation and how much pressure there is on the leadership team. If the company is under stress, it might be better to refocus on shorter-term solutions that don’t actively detract from what you are trying to build.
My biggest successes in companies were getting the entire organization on board with the system I was working to build. Gaining support for a new systemic working is a culture change, and getting backing is contingent on the company wanting to change. If the company is on a “burning platform,” a situation where change is required for the company to grow or survive, you will find less resistance. A burning platform also provides the inspiration to persevere if the change is difficult.
My biggest failures trying to build systems were when I did not communicate my intentions clearly or did not get buy-in from the rest of the leadership team, or when I was not effective at communicating the improvements along the way.
Another challenge can be a change (losing a customer or a tough quarter) that puts pressure on the leadership team. In this case, you need to adapt quickly. Hopefully, the system you are putting in place encourages being nimble. You may need to pause the change to the system to focus on shorter-term tactical solutions. To minimize the disruption in the organization, be transparent about the need for the change, and set an expectation on how you will get reoriented towards your original vision afterward.
While there are many good books on systems thinking, the one I consistently recommend for engineering leaders is Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo. It isn’t just about systems thinking but weaves it into a broader book about management.
<meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">
<script defer src="https://pyscript.net/alpha/pyscript.js"></script>
<h1>Hello! My name is <span id="name-goes-here">Kevin Goldsmith</span></h1>
names = ["Kevin Goldsmith", "????? ????????", "???????????", "?? ?????", "????????"]
el = Element("name-goes-here")
name = random.choice(names)
for n in range(0, len(name)+1):
for n in range(1, len(name)+1):
A few notes:
I originally was going to use time.sleep(x). That didn’t work, I’m sure I can figure out why, but it was just easier to see that this method worked fine.
The UTF-8 encoding hints on the page are critical. I should have known this obviously, but it worked fine locally without them (of course).
The default PyScript unstyled my <h1>, I just got rid of it. Probably best to look at it and decide if you want those styles.
PyScript is fun! There are a lot of other small interactive things I want to do on my pages. As it reaches maturity, I will get them going with PyScript.
There is an issue sometimes where your PyScript code is visible before the code loads (I’m guessing that the default CSS fixes this). If you just want to handle that, you use the <style> code listed above.