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.


Accepting Uncertainty at GE

RE: GE Re-Engineers Performance Reviews, Pay Practices

So General Electric is going Lean? It’s exciting to hear they have hired Eric Ries as a consultant to shake up the emphasis on Six Sigma. If you’re a Manager Tools fan some of the changes at GE simply match good management.

That’s right: It shouldn’t take 5 months to write your annual review. And yes, the annual review shouldn’t be the linch-pin in your performance management system. You should be getting regular, quick, fine-grained performance insight from your manager and your peers. See Feedback and Peer Feedback.

I chuckled a bit at the comment from Janis Semper saying, “It’s not realistic to expect perfection anymore.” Anymore? Yeah, we should always have high standards. We should be disappointed when we miss them. And managers should know their people aren’t going to be perfect.

I actually interviewed a guy that said he had a perfect track record over decades in software of always hitting every deadline with quality. Maybe it’s me, but that actually made me trust him less. Perfection requires artificiality. (See Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park — the book, not the movie.) You can’t really hit it. And if you do, how low are your goals?

It’s great to hear GE will be considering giving incentives closer to the time of performance. No more home-runs in February that have to wait until next January for a raise — or similar.

Offering managers the ability to give their employees time off as a reward? That sounds a bit like HR officially blessing what managers are already doing for their people. But I’ve never worked there. Maybe managers really don’t feel they could do that there already.

Overall, GE’s emphasis on learning and improving faster is a great application of Lean principles, and plain old management feedback.

On a snarky note: the peer feedback via a tool sounds just like what engineers would do. “I want to tell Bob he did a great job here, and might want to change this over here. If only I had a mobile application so that I could type that up and send it to him.” Yeah, what about just briefly and respectfully chatting with Bob?

It sounds like the mobile app’s real purpose is to achieve that ever elusive holy grail of performance management: managing my boss.

That’s right, the company is encouraging employees to give feedback to their bosses via the app. And employees are reluctant to do that. Rightly so.

A good manager has a relationship with his directs that allows them to give “insights” to him. But it’s naïve to assume that all of the managers in a company have that relationship. A program that pushes all employees to speak to bosses with an expectation that they will always be heard, never subtly penalized, and that the boss will change her behavior… a bridge too far.

After facilitated group sessions to gather feedback for bosses “the group is expected to hold the manager accountable for changing his or her behavior, through regular check-ins, but it is a work in progress.”

Yeah, that’s not going to work. Not unless the process involves the boss’ boss.

A group of directs can’t manage their boss. And even if it happens once, it’s not reproducible.

If you want the state of management to improve in a company then directors have to manage their managers for it. You can’t delegate that to the individual contributors.

Just my prediction.

So, yes. Please adopt lean. Please give regular feedback, not just once a year. Please collect information on how management can change. Don’t promise that a group can change their manager on their own.

Curiosity Installs the Root Kit

I’ve been reading Future Crimes and it is… sobering.  It details all sorts of documented cybercrime and makes some predictions on what kind of crimes we can expect to see more of.

I was perfectly primed to actually read the recent KnowBe4 newsletter when it popped into my inbox. It recaps how Comcast users were targeted with a double whammy that root-kitted their machines and stole their credit cards.

Where does it all start for the mark? Clicking on an interesting add. Read their newsletter for details.

Happy Holidays! 😉

“How to Make a Performance Budget” an article by Dan Mall

My last post on performance budgets emphasized back-end service latency. Dan Mall’s brief article “How to Make a Performance Budget” does an excellent job giving concrete examples of making a performance budget for asset sizes: HTML, CSS, JS, Web Fonts, images, etc.

(Via. Jakob Anderson)

Are You Being Wooed?

An interesting and short article went over the predictable labor shortage caused by the difference between the sizes of the Baby Boomer and Gen X population groups. It talked about Employment Branding.

The technical term is “Employment Branding,” and it’s how companies woo top talent. They showcase their company culture, values, benefits, perks, executive team, staff members, business mission, and anything else that will make a great candidate want to work for them instead of their competitor.

… Google, Zappos, Amazon, and Facebook aren’t the only hot employers on our planet. They’re just the ones that embraced Employment Branding when others didn’t. But soon, we’ll be seeing companies of all shapes and sizes strutting their stuff in hopes of catching our eyes. It’s going to be a great year!

Has this been true for you? I know I talk up our unique workplace — especially for top candidates. How prominently has “Employment Branding” featured in your recent job interviews?

Merge Pull Requests Like a Legendary Project Maintainer

If you haven’t written code on GitHub then stop what you’re doing and make something out there. (You really should have a portfolio on GitHub.)

When you’re working all by your lonesome it doesn’t come up much, but add another person to the mix and pull requests can get stressful and laggy real fast. If you’re ready to upgrade your workflow then read about the better way to merge pull requests.

If you don’t learn how to use the hub command line tool then you’ll often find yourself having to decide how bad the request has to be before you’ll throw it back for polish.

Git OCD types will be particularly gratified now they can easily tweak pull requests before merging them. Now you can fix little problems here and there while still giving proper props.

Thanks to Jamis Charles for posting this link.

Embrace The Right Stress

An excellent article in a recent Wall Street Journal lays out a better way to deal with performance anxiety. Though most of us (91%) think of calming down as the proper response to stage jitters the proven better alternative is to welcome the anxiety as a performance enhancer.

In other words, it’s better to tell yourself, “I am excited,” than to give the aspirational lie, “I am calm.”

Not only does your audience rate you better, and your performance on objective criteria rises, but you will find the event less taxing.

According to the article this simple trick of stress-mindset may even be effective at avoiding burnout.

The article doesn’t mention this, but it seems wise to see that there is a difference between the stress that accompanies a moment of high-performance, and the chronic stress of worry.

I’m sure you should still find times in the day and week to unplug and seek a lower level of energy. But in the moment when performance is necessary it is clearly better to be truthful about your emotions, accept them, and have faith that they will elevate your performance.

Hug Your Kids and Smell Their Hair

This article on Burnout comes thanks to Grant Skousen (@gskousen) who sent it to me in reply to the article I linked to on Tuesday.

I’m pretty sure I was burning out some-time in 2013.  A lot of what the article says resonates with me.  The top two are

1 – “Make time for numero uno”

It’s kinda silly so I don’t like to tell a lot of people, but I often listen to fiction on my commute. Especially Epic Fantasy like The Wheel of Time or Words of Radiance.

I blush to add that I’m now branching into vampire novels. It’s not great writing, but that’s not the point: SOMETIMES MY BRAIN NEEDS A TWINKIE.

When I was a developer I always listened to 2 to 4 technical and management podcasts on my commute every day. (Thank goodness for 3x playback.) It made me feel so productive. I loved what I was learning.

The bloom started to wilt a few months after becoming a manager. I would get this rising level of anxiety that said, “These ideas are awesome! I have to do them all RIGHT NOW!

Since I’ve added fiction to my rotation I’ve found I get to work energized and come home ready to adore my kids.

I still listen to business and technical books and podcasts from time to time, but I keep a close watch on how they affect my state of mind.  Maybe it sounds silly, but it works for me.

2 – “Have a process”

This was something I didn’t need as much as a developer, but is CRITICAL as a manager.

I thought life was bad as a dev. In management it got worse.

I have way more “bosses” now than I ever had as a dev. I have far more conflicting “number one priorities.”

Having a process for ingesting, digesting, and executing on input has become more and more crucial for me.

A Bow Always Strung Loses Its Spring

It’s great to be driven. But if you aren’t careful you’ll loose it all.

Practice mindfulness. Smell those roses. If you have kids then smell their hair when you hug them (my favorite smell in the world).

You’ve got to respect all those clichés or they will gang up and get you, eventually.