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Read Faster TODAY!

Today’s summary teaches how to read faster.

Every professional should be interested in reading faster. Every day you get dozens to hundreds of emails. Every week the industry publishes new articles that you need to know about. Reading faster means more time to code, and a better informed coder. So check out the free summary.

More About Free Summaries

Here’s how the free summaries work: ReadItFor.Me has a library of hundreds of book summaries. I can pick one summary at a time to share for free at https://readitfor.me/ManagerJS. From time to time, I’ll change the free summary to correspond to recent blog posts from ManagerJS.

No Profit For Me

Because the only way I could share free ReadItFor.Me summaries with you was to join their affiliate program, there is a chance that this website will generate revenue. This is the first time that ManagerJS has had a potential for generating income.

 

I intend ManagerJS to provide free resources to web developers — particularly ones I meet while recruiting at universities. These recruiting trips are part of my ”day job.”

I will donate any profit from this website to the LDS Philanthropies Humanitarian Aid Fund. I also encourage you to donate to them, directly. For more details see my new page, I’m Not Making Money Here.

Interview Better For Boot Camp Candidates

Coding camps often yield very qualified candidates. Be sure to review your assumptions about candidates and construct a tailored interview for coding camp applicants.

For example, graduates with a university degree in computer science often have to learn basic concepts expressed in multiple languages and technology stacks. I believe this can give them resilience in the face of change. Because some coding camps turn out graduates with very narrow experience those candidates may not yet be able to apply their new skill in a technology environment even slightly different from their learning experience.

To address this, you might ask a question like ”Tell me about a technology that you have learned for your own purposes — outside of school. How did you approach your learning? How did you build on what you already knew?”

The front page of the Business & Tech section of today’s Wall Street Journal states ”Coding Camps Attract Tech Firms.” And they are absolutely right! I have been very impressed by many candidates from coding camps. On the other hand, I have seen some struggle after being hired for reasons related to their narrow experience.

I recommend embracing this new source of qualified talent. Just take another look at your interviewing process to reevaluate past assumptions.

 

Know What References are Good For

Stop asking for references,” is the title and bottom line of Al Pittampalli’s article on the common practice.

Why stop? According to Mr. Pittampalli, because they are a flawed instrument likely to give you little reliable information and false confidence.

The flaws he points out are true: references are nothing like a scientific survey; checking references is so late in the process that you’re bound to be emotionally committed to hiring already — which shuts down critical thinking.

When Mr. Pittampalli gave an honest, negative review of a former coworker they ended up getting the job anyway. His story is easy to relate to. That manager clearly blew it.

Taking a different approach, if you change your goal from “fill this opening” to “avoid a bad hire” – as ManagerTools encourages us to – then you are less likely to fall prey to the confirmation bias when checking references.

Mr. Pittampalli points out how ineffective reference checking was for the caller in his story. He is absolutely correct. I suggest that the problem is deeper than reference checking itself.

The fundamental issue is championed by Mark Horstman and company at Manager Tools: vetting a candidate is designed to say, “no.” Get that right, and references can be useful — not perfect, but useful.

At worst, checking references wastes time and builds false confidence. If there is a chance you can do it properly and avoid a bad hire, then I say do it.

More from Al Pittampalli:

More from Mark Horstman:

Active Meeting Assignments

If people do not have active assignments, if they only attend meetings to hear reports and ask questions, truly professional work cannot be accomplished. 

Management: The Essence of the Craft. Pp 217. Fredmund Malik, Campus Verlog (c) 2010

Malik was speaking specifically of an institution’s supervisory board. But it strikes me as equally useful in other standing meetings. 

Malik on Charisma

Historically, charismatic leaders have almost always produced catastrophes — in every field. 

Charisma … is neither necessary nor desirable for true leadership or right management. 

Uncluttered Management Thinking: 46 Concepts for Masterful Management. Fredmund Malik. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt / New York. (C) 2011. pp 16-17.

This is going to be a good read. 

Your Number Two Time Management Problem

OK. I hope I don’t lose anyone over this post. I waited for April 1 to publish it as a softener for anyone that might take this hard.

If you’re like some of my peers over the years you may be flushing precious time down the drain. Here’s some tips to help manage your basic priorities.

The Dumbing Down

Sometime late in the 20th Century Disney doubled down on potty humor. To be fair, this seems endemic in childrens’ entertainment.

These days movie makers behave as if it’s just a given that brassy body sounds are hilarious. Children learn to guffaw at these indescrete indiscretions. Some are affected well into their professional years.

Here’s the real damage to your professional life: you take longer than necessary to do your necessary.

The Seated Mutex

We must hit the head issue here: It can be challenging to set aside inhibitions and act boldly. And none shall pooh-pooh those who do. There is no room for childish squeamishness in the little boys room.

Of course, some of you have never fallen for this. Some of you have the maturity and self confidence to attend to your business with abandon. But many of you aren’t comfortable playing a tune in the tiled concert hall.

I have plenty of anecdotal evidence on this. You time your expeditions to a time when you can have all of the resources for yourself. If you find any resource contention you move on and come back.

If you do get started and someone else enters the queue then you immediately put your tasks on hold. How often has someone started after you and finished before you?

All this time spent avoiding being a potty humor punch-line is wasted. You aren’t as productive in the stall as you are at your desk.

Even if you intend to ruminate – mull things over – you would get better results on a stroll than in the throne room.

Time in the restroom not doing business is a complete waste of time. Keep your waste time to a minimum.

Join The Movement

You can take back these precious minutes and do more. How? Use all of the below that apply:

  • Get over it
  • Pretend to get over it
  • Distract Yourself
  • Do More Real Work

1. Get Over It

Read that children’s book that confronts this difficult reality Everyone Poops. If you’re in a hurry, just read the title.

Now that you know you’re just like everyone else, move on.

I’m sure you’ve already aced effective elimination. If you haven’t this is the standard:

All of the potentially embarrassing activities take place in the restroom, including:

  1. No. 1
  2. No. 2
  3. burping
  4. Anything like unto 1 or 2
  5. All personal grooming: combing, clipping, tweezing, and so on

Now that you are effective, it’s time to move on to efficient.

Don’t schedule time for being embarrassed by this. Don’t take time to avoid the embarrasment.

Use the proper forum and skip being timid.

2. Pretend To Be Over It

If you can’t get rid of the feeling of unease then just pretend that you have. Do all the behaviors that you would do if you weren’t embarrassed. After a little while you will be over it.

3. Distract Yourself

If you’re having a hard time pretending to not be embarrassed then try distraction. Listen to music, make flushing sounds, do math problems in your head whilest making progress.

My favorite strategy: Play music during a stalemate.

You might lose your nerve. You may find yourself in place, not alone, and in a prolonged silence. We all have portable electronic noise makers. Many of us have songs for ringtones. Time to make technology work for us.

Take out your phone and play some noisy, upbeat song. Use the air cover to good effect.

Your stool-mate will never call you on it. Most will silently be thankful for the cover.

4. Do More Real Work

If you find you have time to timidly address your biological needs then you might not have enough commitments.

Sign up for more. Do more. Let that urgency help you “put away childish things.”

Conclusion: The Vegas Rule

Someone has to have spent a lot of money to make us believe “what happens in Vegas stays in vegas.” There is an analogous rule for the water closet.

Let not shy semi-private privy practice stymie you. Nest not on your porcelain perch. But be bold, never fearing an involuntary indelicate diatribe.

The overriding Vegas Rule of bathrooms will protect you as you make strides in meeting your most urgent deliverables.

Get Into Internships

[I Love It] One of my favorite parts of being a manager (and I didn’t anticipate this) is recruiting interns on university campuses. Being part of offering a great opportunity to students right when they need it is very rewarding.

[Good For Students] A good internship helps a student make a transition from a mostly individual success model to a team success model. I have seen some colleges do a good job encouraging groups to work together in school. Even for these students there is a difference between group projects in school and being part of a team that succeeds or fails all together.

[Good For Companies] Of course, people who employ interns tend to get a great deal. It isn’t uncommon for our interns to get rave reviews from their team mates and Product Owners. They’re enthusiastic and eager to achieve. You can pay them more than they are used to and still be very cost effective.

Recommendations: For Managers and Students Getting Into Internships.

All employement should result from a fit between the needs of an individual and the needs of the company. Keep this in mind and you should always find special satisfaction in searching for and finding that fit.

Internships often have a built in expiration date that makes them particularly useful for both students and new managers: both have an escape clause in case the fit wasn’t great.

In my experience, if the fit is there then internships are often extended. Again, this benefits both the company and the intern.

Even when the fit is there and the internship has to end you have made a new contact in your network.

To Managers:

  • 1. Recruit your own interns
  • 2. Require evidence that they will immediately contribute
  • 3. Polish your hiring skills by using them – A LOT
  • 4. Prepare to give plenty of supervision

To Candidates:

  • 5. Apply before you are ready
  • 6. Be honest and do your best
  • 7. If you’re hired plan to over-communicate

To Managers:

1. Recruit Your Own Interns

If you are going to have an intern then you should take part in the recruiting process. This gives you the best chance to find an intern that will fit well with your team.

I participate in a recruiting program for the entire company. We interview hundreds of interns for scores of slots. Each of us tries to represent a standard, uniform bar.

Still, it is very difficult for that bar to be uniform.

If you’re going to have an intern on your team then you should get out to the schools and do as much of the finding and interviewing as possible. It is impossible to know as much about a candidate from notes as you can by interviewing in person — no matter how robust the interviewing culture.

And many interviewing cultures are not that robust at all.

2. Require Evidence That They Will Immediately Contribute

Even the best intern will generally come to you with less experience and judgment than a senior hire. That doesn’t mean you can’t expect a lot.

Every year I find gems at the schools I visit who have amassed plenty of evidence that they can contribute on a team from day one. Sure, they will need time to settle in. There will be some adjustment to working on a team, and working at your place. But they will deliver value right away.

To prepare yourself to find these gems ask yourself what is the clearest sign of success for a junior member of your team. Now go about looking for those signs with the candidates you interview.

You will probably have a different set of indicators than me. But for reference here are mine:

  1. Can they code?
  2. Can they disagree and commit?

I evaluate both questions by giving my candidates simple coding challenges that they have to solve with me during the interview. I spend some time on behavioral questions and asking a bit about their background. But the majority of the time is a coding audition.

This isn’t the same process I use for senior hires. I use it for interns, and I’ve had great success.

Of course, there are going to be candidates with great potential that can’t quite code yet. That’s OK. I hope they interview with me again in 6 months. If not, then that’s not the end of the world either. Not for me. Not for them.

3. Polish Your Hiring Skills By Using Them – A LOT

Recruiting interns I routinely interview 12 to 15 candidates a day.

I read a lot of resumes. I ask a lot of questions. I do a lot of probing. I do a lot of coaching.

I get a lot of practice seeing good and bad qualities in a lot of candidates. I have to make a lot of hire/no-hire recommendations. I have to take a lot of detailed notes so that I can support the other managers that are hiring from the same pool.

You meet a lot of people. You get a lot of first impressions. And you gather and process a lot of data on a relentless timeline.

This is good.

Most managers hire very infrequently. That makes it hard to have good hiring skills. And the skills you do have go to seed as you neglect to use them.

Go out and interview a lot. Hire a handful of interns a year. Get to see the results of your judgment again and again.

It’s good for you.

4. Prepare To Give Plenty Of Supervision

When you do bring an intern on board give them meaningful work and lot’s of guidance. Meet with them daily or delegate it to a sharp direct.

Mentoring an intern is a great way to grow a direct that is hoping to qualify for promotion.

Be prepared for the intern to under communicate his challenges. Keep an eye on their progress. Let them know they are making a valuable contribution.

As a manager, now is NOT the time to sit back and see what happens.

I remember that during my first internship I sometimes went several days between substantive discussions with my manager or team mates about what I was working on. I treated the workplace like a large and quiet library. Every door had an automatic “DO NOT DISTURB” sign in my mind.

That’s the way I had done homework. But that’s not the way you do team work. You might have to help your intern through that transition.

To Candidates:

My recommendations to managers (above) should be a helpful reference to candidates as well. In addition, here’s some advice just to you interns.

5. Apply Before You Are Ready

A lot of students that are preparing for a software career are detail oriented, perfection-seeking, high achievers. That’s good. You’re going to be great!

Unfortunately, this can lead you to delaying all sorts of things while you are making it right.

You need to realize that there is a big difference between school and work. And the only way to really prepare is to start working in your field.

Workshops can help. Coaching can help. Mentors can help.

But if you aren’t careful you will find that your careful preparation has left you unprepared. There is a difference between theory and practice that you can only begin to learn with practice.

Apply before you think you are ready. Give it a real go. Act as if you are ready. As a matter of fact, you might be!

If you get a good offer and you’re not sure whether to accept it, that’s a good problem to have. Much better than graduating with a 4.0 and not prepared to transition into a job.

6. Be Honest And Do Your Best

In the interview be honest about what you know and what you don’t know. We can tell when you’re making things up.

If you don’t know the answer to a question then you must start your answer with, “I don’t know.”

If you do know how to find the answer then give that answer after admitting that you don’t really know.

I’ve had many candidates say, “I don’t know for sure, but I believe it is something along the lines of…” and their answer was so good that they didn’t lose any points for not being absolutely sure.

7. Plan To Over-Communicate

If you do get hired then plan to overcommunicate. (See point #4 above.)

This does NOT mean talk a lot. Everyone you are working with is going to be very busy.

When I say, “Over Communicate” this has more to do with frequency of communications than the size of those communications.

Be clear on what you are assigned to accomplish. Predict the progress you will make and communicate that to your supervisor. Let her know when you will be late. Let her know when you have delivered. Let her know when you are blocked.

Often your supervisor or team mates will say little when you communicate. This doesn’t mean it was wasted effort. Keep communicating your progress, deliveries, and blockers.

On your first few days it will probably be appropriate to communicate your status every few hours. By your second week you’ll probably be communicating status once a day. Don’t communicate less than once a day until asked to.

Conclusion

Internships can deliver great value to a company and rapid growth to a candidate. Invest in them and you can change someone’s life – even your own.

Weighing Arguments by Word Count

Sometimes we give equal weight to outcomes and risks that sound similar but in reality don’t deserve equal treatment.

Swimming will get you wet. So will walking in the rain. But I keep my phone in my pocket when I walk in the rain.

Hear the other side well enough to fairly weigh their point. Same sounding words can signify dramatically different things.

Gray Wrinkled Liars

The perception and recall faculties of the brain are strongly biased to confirm what you already believe. They fib. Sometimes they tell great big whoppers.

That’s what I learned from Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). The title doesn’t express the thesis of the book very well (except in hindsight). It’s all about cognitive dissonance theory and how it has measurably impacted a range of professions and cultural phenomena.

The juiciest proof of cognitive dissonance is being proven that something you are wholly convinced is factual based on recalled first hand observation is entirely false.

Here’s my small experience:

This summer I went to a training course and had to set long term goals on the spot. My weight was impeding my ability to serve boys in my troop so I set a goal to reach a target weight of 210 pounds by early 2016.

I figured this goal was realistic based on my starting weight of 232 pounds.

But I didn’t weigh 232.

I have an electronic scale that records my weight online. When I got home and weighed myself for the first time since setting my goal I was dismayed to see I weighed nearly 248 – 16 pounds more than my “starting weight.”

When I checked my records I found that I hadn’t weighed as little as 232 for over two years.

How could I be so mistaken about my weight when I check it regularly?

I can imagine my weigh ins for those two years: “238, huh, I guess I’m up a little.” … “242? Huh, that’s odd.” … “246!? What did I eat yesterday?”

Somehow I maintained the belief that – while my weight may fluctuate a little I weigh about 232 pounds.

After weeks of portion control and exercise I’m finally down to my “starting weight.”

How do we get reliable information then?

The book advises us to maintain ambivalence as long as we can, consult with those who are ambivalent, and examine facts with a critical scientific eye.

The commitment of a scientist is to not fool anyone and not be fooled. Skepticism, in other words.

This doesn’t mean we can never decide and commit. We just need to beware ultimate confidence that we are right and were always right.

As 37 Signals says: every decision is temporary. More of our choices can be revised than we are consciously aware of.

Beware: Our minds are designed to spare us the pain of changing them.