Posts Tagged ‘life’

The responses of giving notice.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

This morning is the day. After 6 years with the company, Tom has decided it was time to move and is putting in his notice. He is nervous and excited. Tom meets with his direct manager and lets him know. Because of their one on ones Tom’s manager is not surprised and saw it coming.

Later, Tom is in the teams weekly update meeting and breaks the news. It is a rough moment because he has spent the last 6 years with this team and now he was leaving. In that moment, everything is now different.

Jen has worked with Tom for many years. They have become friends and colleagues. She is understanding of why Tom has decided to leave and is supportive. She knows that they will stay in contact long after Tom has left the company.

Hugo is the VP of Development and has been with the company since forever. Hugo is extremely upset. He views Tom’s choice as an insult to him and the company. How could someone just leave? Hugo will make it known of his anger to Tom, typically by being passive aggressive. Making comments about loyalty and trust.

Adrian is the Project manager. She is scared. Tom was a big part of the team and with him gone, she is unsure on how they are going to fill in the gaps.

John, another developer on the team, is sad. Tom was a mentor to him and now that he leaving, it’s like a peice of John is now missing. John is visibly upset over the news and anytime the topic of Tom leaving comes up, the emotions return.

Taylor, a mid level developer, is excited. With Tom leaving, this means there is a chance to step up and get noticed. She is pretty much pushing Tom out the door so she can start taking on more responsibility and start showing her worth.

When a person puts in their notice, everyone affected has one or more of the above reactions to some degree. In my experience, the majority of people will be like Jen. They will be understanding and supportive, maybe a tiny bit sad. They understand that the action of the person leaving is not directed at them nor some insult. The unexpected outliers that have a more extreme reaction are the ones to look out for as these are the people that make leaving a company harder than it should.

The bright side of it all is that these feelings will pass. Adrian will see that people like Taylor step up and fill the gaps. John will realise that Tom was a great mentor and has prepared him well. Even Hugo will get over it as anger is sometimes just a defence mechanism.

When you put in your notice, be ready for the sudden and abrupt change in how your soon to be ex-co workers interact with you. As you tie up loose ends, you will slowly fade to the background. Don’t fret though, you are about to start something new.

 

My bout with Shyness

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

I am shy. I am very lucky that it is not crippling. But it is bad enough that it has and is keeping me from doing what I really want to be doing. For example It was keeping me from being active in the development community. I would like to be able to introduce my self to people I want to meet when I see them. Mainly I would like to stop being anxious when I meet new people.

It is weird because I have not been able to figure out if I am an introvert or extrovert. I have traits from both sides. I love talking in groups of people I know but also love the times I off doing things on my own. Communications is one of my top 5 strengths from Strengthsfinder. I don’t know if it is possible but I feel that I am both but on different days.

Now my shyness is really around people I don’t know or don’t know well. If I don’t know you, I am not comfortable around you. I can not just walk up and start a conversation. It causes me large amount anxiety. I would go to meetups and conferences and talk to no one while I was there. It bugged me a lot. That is until I decided enough was enough and that it was time to do something about it.

3 years ago, I attended the first That Conference. I love learning, it was inexpensive, and close by. I knew exactly 1 other person that was attending. I was excited. That was until morning of day 1.

Day 1 started with Clark Sell standing in front of the attendees and issuing a challenge. He stated that That Conference was designed to be a social conference. Yes the session are awesome but the organizers put ample time between sessions and had after hours events to foster socialization among the attendees. His challenge was to take these opportunities to meet new people.

Pretty much after that moment, I was freaked out. I was thinking I can’t do this. I am going to be that guy sitting in the corner by himself for 3 days. For the most part of day 1 that was true. Thankfully the 1 other person I knew is more outgoing than I am and found a group of people to hang out with on night 1. If it wasn’t for that 1 person, I would have been hiding in a corner for all 3 days.

To be clear, I love That Conference. I love, now, that it is setup to be social. And this challenge was exactly what I needed but I didn’t know it at the time.

After the conference was over, I was inspired to do awesome things. During the following months, I decided it was time to get over my shyness or at least deal with it. I didn’t really have a plan yet but I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be the person in the corner anymore. I started off by attending more meetups. At the very least I was getting more comfortable with being around people I didn’t know.

About a month before the 2nd That Conference, I got it in my head that was going to do an open spaces with the topic of developers with disabilities. I am dyslexic, this was my in. After the 3 days, I ended up chickening out. Fear sucks. The whole drive home, I regretted not doing it. The feeling sucked even more than the fear.

All was not lost, one amazing thing happened during the conference. During the time between the 1st and 2nd year, I became a bit more active on Twitter. While at That Conference, Clark Sell sort of called me out for not saying hi. I was hiding behind twitter and he basically said stop it. This sort of forced me into doing something I am not comfortable with. That was getting out of my chair and saying hi. I did it. It was a small victory. It was a step toward the realisation that getting over this is possible.

At this point it is August 2013 and it was time to get serious. I set 2 goal that I wanted to complete. Become active in development community and host an open spaces at That Conference 2014.

About this time, I learned that Milwaukee’s development community had an IRC channel (#devmke on freenode). I jumped in and idled. Even with just text between me and others I had anxiety about joining in the conversations. Over time, I learned who was who and started to join in. Slowly. Because of Twitter and IRC, I got to follow and interact a bit with people that organized some of the meetups in Milwaukee.

In early 2014, the organizers of MKEJS were talking in IRC about the need for a topic/speaker for that month. I suggested that they do a Node School workshop. I am not sure how but my suggestion turned into me facilitating the workshop. Node School workshops are a set of self guided lessons that use node to teach you node and other aspects of JavaScript. My job facilitator would be to get people started, show them how to use it, and help them if they get stuck. On top of this, this was looking to be the most popular MKEJS meetup yet.

Facilitating this workshop was an great step forward. They say facing your fears is a good way to get over them. Well public speaking to a group of people I don’t know. What could possibly go wrong? I faced them head on and everything went really well and gave me the confidence to do more. Shortly after, I was asked to help co-organize the MKEJS meetup which I accepted and at roughly the same time joined the Content Advisory Board for That Conference.

This August was the 3rd That Conference. So far I have reached one of my goals and have become more active in the development community. Now it was time to complete goal number 2 and do an open spaces. Before the conference, I told a few people my plan and asked them to help me make sure I do it. Since I didn’t went to let them or myself down I completed the goal. Here I am 3rd in line to tell my topic to roughly 1000 other developers, most I have never met. Yes I was nervous. Yes, stumbled a bit but I did it.

The conference went amazingly. I was able to meet many people I know from IRC and twitter in person for the first time. I was uneasy about approaching complete strangers but did so on a few occasions to recruit speakers for MKEJS.

Since That Conference this year, I had a new goal of giving a talk. This goal was completed in September when I gave a talk Titled “Rocking with Web Audio API” to MKEJS.  The next goal is to give a talk at That Conference next year.

I am still a bit shy and still have problems approaching people but I am going to continue to work at it. It has been a slow process and I think it had to be for me. I had to be ready for the change to happen and that takes time.

As I was writing this, I realised that a lot of my anxiety stemmed from not having confidence in myself. The reason this took time is that I needed to build up my confidence before I could do the next thing. Now to work on that talk for That Conference 2015.

 

Transparency in the Work Place

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Image a CEO walks in one morning and states loudly for everyone to hear “The release date has changed from 5 weeks to 2 weeks. Everything must be done.” and walks away.

The first questions from everyone is: What just happened? Why did the date move? How are we going to finish this 3 weeks early? Productivity will remain very low until answers arrive or the shock wears off. And the rumors will start. Maybe we have a client? Maybe we are being sold? Maybe we ran out of money? Maybe the CEO is a bitch?

Many of us of lived through this example or examples like it far too many times. Thinking back to the times this has happened to me, the majority of the problem wasn’t with the information I was receiving. It was with the number of questions it created. My must crippling one was Why. I, like many, will spend extremely too much time trying to understand  why changes was made or why something works

As developers, a large part of our day is understanding the whys of our software. Why does it work in this case but not that one? Why does this user click a button 5 times? Why did bob eat that? To many of us, not knowing why is like having an itch we can’t scratch. It will plague our minds until we have a suitable answer. This is also what makes us good programmers but that another post.

Transparency can solve this and so much more. Forbes agrees. There are many benefits to being transparent but the one I am most interested in is the one that bugs me the most. Answering the question of why.

Looking back to the example, if the CEO was completely transparent, good or bad, it would have allow the staff to cut through the crap and get to the point. The deadline was moved because there is a huge opportunity for the company if we can hit it. Or the deadline was moved because if we are not done in 2 weeks, we are going to run out of money and everyone is laid off. In either case, why was answered and the staff can move on to dealing with other questions like how.

I have been more loyal and understanding to a boss that was transparent even when the information was bad. I knew that they were telling me all they knew and I understood their choices more completely, and was willing to follow their direction more often.

With a boss that was less than transparent, I have been more questioning of their motives and if they really had the teams best interest in mind.

I am not alone with this way of thinking. Many of the my co-workers over the years exhibited the same tendencies.

Statements like “Something bad is happening. Why would we do that know? It doesn’t make sense.” are common place when transparency is limited. My suggests to the management of the world is to treat us like adults. We can handle bad news. If an employee can’t, you probably didn’t want them as an employee anyways.

Geek Motivation

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Physcology is something I have always been interested. If I couldn’t work in software development, I would probably be in physcology. To more specific, I am interested in geek physcology. What makes us act they way we act? What motivates us to be engaged? How are we the most productive?

Recently there seems to be shift in how people are being managed at work. More specifically how people in creative positions are being managed. Traditional styles of management seem to be less productive than newer styles of management. The reason seems to be that the newer styles of management help make a geek’s work life better by giving them freedom to complete their tasks in a way that works for them.

Michael Lopp, who blogs under the name Rands, talks a lot about soft skills. He has a posts entitled “The Nerd handbook” and “Managing Nerds”. These posts outline many of the characteristics that generally define geeks. One of the main themes throughout each post is something dubbed the high. The high is the euphoria that is felt when one understands or complete a task. Much likes drugs, this euphoria is what geeks are chasing. Todays new management trends are trying to create environments where geeks can reach this high quicker because this is when geeks create awesome.

This high is important. Without the high, geeks get frustrated, bored, and quit. Ever wonder why some geeks seem to switch jobs every few years? It is because they have an understanding of all the interesting problems and have dominated those problems. There is nothing else for them to do to reach the next high. So they move on.

Having solved all the interesting problems is not the only reason geek quit. Sometimes it is because of the environment they work in. Did you know a business can have a mindset? Humans, groups, teams all have a distinct mindset that drives the actions and culture of that collective. There are two main types of mindsets: fixed and agile. Geeks do not liking being in a group that is a fixed mindset.

A person with an agile mindset craves knowledge and is ok with failure as long they are learning. These are the people that try 10 different algorithms to sort a list to find out which one is best. These are the people that suggest cutting edge technologies because they want to learn it. They know it will be painful to implement but they don’t care. These are the people that want to be the least skilled person in a room because they know the other people in the room have knowledge they can learn.

A fixed mindset person is one that believes they are naturally smart. The people in this mindset have been typically told they are really smart. These people tend rely on their natural ability than trying to get better and learn. They are easily frustrated with failure. If possible they would prefer to be the smartest person in the room as it somehow validates what they believe is true.

Linda Rising gave a talk on subject a few years back. She explores this topic in more detail. During her talk, she suggests that a businesses can also have a mindset. I believe this to be true. Businesses show the same charistics as people do but with the side effect of this will affect their employees. A fixed mindset business will tend to not tolerate failure. They will assume the talent of all the employes will carry that business forward. An agile mindset business will allow employees to fail as long as they move forward.

Geeks prefer to not work for fixed mindset businesses. Geeks love to try new things and push themselves to be better and learn. In a fixed mindset business where failure is not an option, trying new things is also not an option. Which leads to geeks getting frustrated and leaving.

On the flipside, geeks prefer working for a business with an agile mindset. Companies like Github and Netflix are embracing this mindset and attracting highly skilled geeks. Github believes in giving their geeks almost unlimited freedom for when and how they work. For them this has worked very well. Their employees are highly motivated and engaged.

If you are a geek and want to make awesome stuff and to have an impact on the world in some small way, I would highly suggest seeking out a company that understands how geeks work and function the best. Your utopia exists but it is up to you to find it.

If you are a business that is looking for motivated geeks, I suggest that you make sure to take care of your geeks. Give them the space and opportunity to fail and learn. Given the right environment, your geeks will create awesome.

Short overview of living with Dyslexia.

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I have 3 learning Disabilities: Dyslexia, Dysnomia, and Dysgraphia. What follows is what it has been like for me over the course of my life.

During the first years of my schooling, I mirror wrote perfectly. My teachers claimed this was a phase and I would grow out of it. To some extent this is true but it is also a sign of a learning disability. At this time, I was not reading at a the level I should have been. My teachers told my parents they needed to read with me more. So they did. For 1st and 2nd grade, things followed the same path. My parents and I were frustrated.

Then I got lucky. My 3rd grade teacher, at the risk of her job, told my parents that I should be tested for Dyslexia. Her husband has it and I showed many of the signs. My parents had me tested by independent testing center and I was diagnosed with severe Dyslexia. I was lucky because I was on the path of falling through the cracks. To this day, after meetings and being tested many times, the school district I attended does not admit to me having any learning disability. I don’t know why but point is I was lucky. Many others are not as fortunate.

Since then, I was tutored outside of school. Since the district has never acknowledged my Dyslexia they did not help. Yes we tried. At a very early age, I knew what college I was going to. UW-Oshkosh. Why? Because they have one of the best programs for learning disabled students. I graduated with honors, a fair amount of student loan dept, and a Job. Fast forward to present day, I am working as a Software Engineer doing product development for a small IT shop.

During the years before college, there was a distinct difference between how teachers acted and how administration staff acted. To this day, I don’t know why the school district worked so hard to keep me from being labeled as LD. Even with that, all the teachers I had were more than willing to accommodate my disability. It was refreshing. It was the little things that made a big difference. Like most of them let me type papers instead of hand write them. Remember this was the days before computers were in every house.

In college, things got even better. Attending a school with a high percentage of learning disabled students was great. There was already a process in place set by the school to help LD students and the entire staff knew about it. On top of that, for the first time I was among other students who were like me. Since I was never in any special ed classes until college, I rarely met people like me. This was awesome. I had peers. I was not alone.

I have always been comfortable with telling people of my disabilities and have never tried to hide it. This continued as I entered my professional life. I don’t hide and in fact I am upfront with any potential employers. I explain to them what I have, how it affects me, and how it likely be show up in my day to day activities. Again, I have found that being up front is a lot less stressful than worrying about being “caught”.

Generally speaking, I have found that that being open and honest about being Dyslexic is the best course of action. People will generally do the right thing. It also helps that I don’t use my disabilities to take advantage of people kindness. Just because I have Dyslexia doesn’t mean I want to be treated differently. What I want is to do tasks I am good at and can do well.

Not everything is unicorns and rainbows. I still read and write at a very low grade level. It has been a while since I have been tested but I would guess I am still below a High School level. Not being able to speak a simple word in front of a customer is always fun. Then there is the issue of when people try to sympathise.

I know people mean well when they say things like “I read slow too” or “My spelling sucks too” but they have no idea what it is like. Worse than that is when people try to marginalize what it is like. For example: I dislike doing software documentation, well any documentation. I know it needs to get done and it is part of my job. It gets done but I hate it. Really hate. When I explain this to people, some will tell me they hate it too or everyone hates it. What they don’t understand is I don’t hate because it is documentation, I hate it because writing for me is terribly difficult for me. I would much rather being doing stuff I am good at. Unfortunately trying to explain this to people comes off as whining or excuses. Someday I will figure it out.

All in all, these are small gripes in the grand scheme of life.

This was very brief and could easily go in great detail. I know. This is the start of a topic I hope to cover as I write more. Comments or questions always welcome.

For more infomation on the learning disabilities that I and many others live with check out the followng links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyslexia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysnomia_(disorder)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysgraphia

http://www.interdys.org/

Book Review: Being Geek – The Software Developer’s Career Handbook.

Friday, February 25th, 2011

I’ll admit, I am not much for book reading. I like skimming the Internet and blogs but setting down with a book is not my thing. Maybe it is my Dyslexia, who knows. That is why I was surprised on how fast I read Being Geek by Michael Lopp.

Michael, who often goes by the name Rands, is a engineer manager in Silicon Vally by day and writer/blogger at night. Besides writing books, Rands writes a blog called Rands In Repose where he gives advice about living, working, and dealing with geeks and being a geek. It is well written blog with good content.

Back to Being Geek. The book claims to be the “The Software Developer’s Career Handbook” and it does just that. The content is not earth shattering but it does put things into perspective. Being Geek is written for the target audience of Geeks who tend to view the world in black and white. The content flows from the start of a Geek’s career to the end the current gig along with everything in between.  Chapters are short and to the point, each has a point to be made. While connected and in an order, the chapters can stand on their own. This made the book a joy to read because I didn’t have to go through the fluff to get to the point.

I thought the book was over all very good. There were a few chapters that felt they didn’t apply to me at this moment. These parts where more about being a manager, which I am not (yet anyways). With that said, may of the chapters did apply. The first section of the book walks through the finding a job and interviewing process. This was probably the biggest eye opener to me. I did not realise all the minuscule detail that interviewer is looking for, that is if they are any good. Rands goes into detail on what to expect and what the goals of the interviewee should be. For example, the phone screen, I learned, is all about communication. Can communication flow between the interviewer and interviewee. Rands also discusses the type of questions the interviewer is probably going to ask, why they ask it, and high level suggestions for answers.

In the end the book gave a lot of good information in a no nonsense cut the crap kind of way. I give credit to the Book and Rands for giving me some confidence and motivation in my career.

VHS to DVD project.

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

The Problem: What to do with all those aging home videos that are on VHS (or other analog) format?

The Answer: Buy some new toys and convert the analog video to something modern like DVDs!

My parents, like many, bought a home video camera in the late 80s. Since then my family has accumulated hours upon hours of home movies. There is a lot of family history on those VHS tapes. That is a lot of family history many do not want to disappear. The real problem is most (none technical people) do not realize that tapes do not last forever and VCRs will not be around that much longer.

I was pretty much going into this blind. There are a many possible way to get analog video converted to digital video. Since I didn’t want to screw this up or waste money on anything that yielded problems or poor quality, I made sure to do my research. VideoHelp.com has proven to be a great resource for all things video. There is a ton of information on the site but be warned, VideoHelp.com has a large community of professionals so it is hard to get a clear answer for the hobbyist.

I started my research with exactly how to get the analog video from the VCR to my computer. There are tons of ways to convert analog video to digital video. There are a number of hardware to software and internal and external solution to do this. After reading the net, it becomes clear the easiest way to get video from analog to digital was to use a GrassValley ADVC110. The ADVC110 takes in S-Video or Composite connectors. It will do the conversion from analog video to digital video in the unit and outputs the video from the device over fire-wire. The video that is output from the device is DV-AVI and runs about 13GB/hour.

The next major part of this plan was to find a VCR. There are a lot of options for a VCR too. Finding a VCR proved to be even more complicated than finding a device to do the video converter. It seems that there are a lot of opinions how what type of VCR is better and why. There is a large debate over consumer vs professional VCRs and which one is better. At the present moment in time, there are no companies making standalone VCR players. The options are to buy a used professional or prosummer VCR from EBay or similar place or you can buy a consumer dvd/vcr combo from your local retailer. The main difference between the two options (form what I can tell) is a some of the professional VCRs will have image correct/stabilization in the form of a TBC or Time Base correction device. A TBC will make jumpy video more stable and remove some of the artifacts form the video.

Since I needed a new DVD player for my office, I opted to go with the consumer DVD/VCR combo. I bought a Philips DVD/VHS combo from Wal-Mart for $80 bucks. I figured if the video quality was poor, I would try to find a used professional VCR. After all my research and worrying over what to buy, I finally pulled the trigger and bought the ADVC110 and VCR/DVD player. Last weekend, I hook it all up and started to convert video. I have 13 family video tapes to convert and since then I have done 3 of the tapes. I wanted the DVDs to look as good as the VHS tapes when being played on a TV. I can say that with my current set up the digital video looks better than the VHS tapes. It is all really easy to use too!

Set Up of the VCR and ADVC110 is very easy and easy to work with. The hardware set up consisted of connecting the VCR to the ADVC110 and the ADVC110 to my computer. To capture the video being pushed from the ADVC110, I use a free tool called WinDV which is very easy to use. Once the raw DV-AVI video is captured, I have been using Windows Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker to create movies and DVDs. Both are straight forward to use. They are not very robust but they get the job done to my needs.

I am open to question just remember I am by no means an expert on this subject. Here is a very small example of raw video that has been converted from on of the tapes. The clip is what my bedroom looked like when I was little.

Tony

More Complexity! I need more Complexity!

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Neal Ford has a series of post about SOA and how it is being sold to developers. While the post had some pretty good points on the topic, He talks about something he calls the Rubick’s Cubicle anti-pattern. The pattern as stated from the post is:

If the presented problem isn’t complex enough, developers will figure out ways DigiYes? to make it complicated and therefore challenging.

Shortly after reading about ????? the anti-pattern, I had a meeting to attend. It becomes apparent pretty quickly how true the anti-pattern is as I sat in listened in this meeting. This got me to thinking about problems and solutions of everyday life.

The first thing that comes to mind is how we communicate. Back when cavemen walked the Earth communication cheap jerseys was nothing more Ammonia then pointing and grunts. Fast forward to Today Hello where we have E-mail, Twitter, Cell Phones, signal fires, and video conferencing. One could go on for a pretty long time one just the number of different ways we interact with others these days. Anther fine example of complexity with communication is that forms of interaction that were not suppose to be instant are being treated as such. I can not count the number of times I would get an e-mail from someone and an заставить hour later get your a phone call or another is email asking if I had received the first one! I know make it a general rule to ignore my email when I am being productive.

This quote has actually got me thinking about my problem solving abilities. I wholesale mlb jerseys have noticed that I am guilty of taking the more complex rout because it would be more entertaining and/or challenging. It actually has me concerned. I don’t want to write complex code because I can! I have added a step to my problem solving process because of this quote and realizations. When trying to solve a problem, I make sure to stop and ask myself if there is a less complex way of solving the problem. Sure there may be an easy way to solve the problem, however easy does not mean simple. We have all seen a “fix” cheap nba jerseys that was one line of code but was confusing as hell.