Turning the Page

It is rare that I use my blog to explicitly blow my own horn. I prefer to write about technology, leadership, and the good works of others, but I find myself in different circumstances now. I learned this week that my current position will be eliminated as of 31 December, 2022. After that, I will be available for my next role. Until then, I am actively looking in addition to winding things down where I am now.

Regarding my next role, I have taken nothing off the table. I am open to consulting engagements or full-time positions. I am also considering starting my own company, which would be a consulting firm with the intent to grow rather than remaining a one-person outfit. I am writing this post because LinkedIn profiles and one-page CVs rarely paint a complete picture, so this is a companion piece that is intended to fill in the gaps.

I have been in my current position for nearly six years. Given the size of the company, it has been a mix of leadership and hands-on technical work. Since we have always been eyeing growth, I skewed toward leadership, because it is important for a company to avoid single-threading functions through individual people as much as possible.

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Lessons from Maps and Old Code

Taking over someone else’s code is hard. There is probably no better look at how a person thinks than looking at their code. It can be tempting to trash their code and start from scratch. This temptation often runs into conflict with a sunk-cost fallacy that says “The previous person spent so much time on this that they had to understand the problem far better than me and maybe my time would be best spent learning from their code.” The really tough part about this is that it’s not always a fallacy.

My own encounter with this dilemma came early in my career – early enough that the code in question was written in AML. The company I worked for at the time had just transferred me to the offices of a large water utility to take over the development of their cartographic production system from a developer who had recently moved on. I had never met this developer and he was already gone, so I only had his code to work from.

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Life and How to Live It

I finished my MBA work this week. Grades won’t post until next week, which means my completion won’t be finalized until next month sometime, but I am done. Approximately 18 months of graduate level work done all online, mostly during a pandemic, has come to an end. I have learned a lot that I will put to use in the next chapter of my life and career.

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Geography Matters Less

For a long time now, I have tried to take a holistic approach to my day. I long ago seized upon the idea that time is the primary resource to manage and that all others, including money, are secondary. Show me a person who says “Time is money” and I will show you someone who devalues their time by orders of magnitude.

As a person with a career in the information industry, I have the luxury of a great deal of latitude in how I structure my day. I no longer have a job with requirement to physically be in a location. That wasn’t the case at the start of my career as I was running restaurants while trying to land my first programming job, or mid-career supporting government customers. That’s also not the case for many workers today – teachers, tradespeople, many service-industry workers – for whom place is a central part of their work. It is ironic that I work in a field that preaches how much “geography matters” while I have been able to minimize the impact of geography in my daily work.

The current debate over work-from-home (WFH) vice return-to-office (RTO) vice hybrid is interesting because it is not a debate about geography but about time. By necessity, those who could work from home during the pandemic did so. As a result, they achieved a time dividend at scale. As someone who had been working from home for a few years prior to the pandemic, I was already aware of this benefit. But many people still held on to the tropes of office culture until they were forced to do it differently.

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In Praise of Process

stack of books in shelf

“Ops” is all the rage these days – DevOps, RevOps, FinOps, PeopleOps. I’m surprised I haven’t seen a mention of “GeoOps” yet, given the propensity of our corner of the world to attach the “geo” prefix to what ever the current hotness may be.

“Ops” is, of course, short for “operations” and “operations” is a euphemism for “process.” If you feel the hives beginning to form on your body at the mention of the word “process,” then you have been in the large part of the tech industry that has at least come in contact with those who worship at the altar of the “Netflix Culture Deck.” This 2009 declaration of the culture of Netflix covers a lot of ground. There’s a lot in it I don’t agree with and there’s a lot that I do agree with.

Thomas Claveirole, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I agree that “brilliant jerks” should not be tolerated. I agree that the values of every organization are manifested in their actions: “who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go.” Published mission, vision, and values statements are meaningless unless the organization’s everyday actions match them.

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On Meetings

Since everyone works from home now, I hear a lot of the same complaint about the proliferation of online meetings. A lot of people I know seem to have their calendars overwhelmed by one kind of meeting or another. This situation is invariably described as preventing them from getting work done. Let’s be clear about one thing:

Meetings count as “work.”

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Evolution and Leadership

My first management position was at a restaurant. It was a chain steakhouse in a one-horse town in Maryland. A few months into that role, I was the sole manager on duty for a weekend night shift that was going poorly.

Feeling my frustration mounting, I did the most mature and leaderly thing my 19-year-old mind could think of – I tipped over the break table, causing everything on it to crash loudly to the floor.

I felt a momentary rush of power as people scurried away from my obvious anger, setting off to do whatever they could do to right the sinking ship that was this shift. Word apparently spread quickly throughout the staff because, before I had walked another ten feet through the kitchen, I was confronted by a member of the waitstaff.

Louvre Museum [Public domain]

I forget her exact words, but they boiled down to “You’re being an idiot. This is your shift. If you want it fixed, go fix it or find another job.” She was right, and jarringly so. I’m pretty sure I didn’t fix that shift, but I never flipped a break table again in my restaurant career. Thus began a lifelong interest in leadership and management.

I should also note that, several years later, the woman who confronted me agreed to marry me and we will celebrate 25 years of marriage next year.

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