Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Never, Ever Joke About Your Teams' Career Safety

Long ago I was on a mission flight with my Air Force E-3 AWACS crew. We had a bit of idle time and the crew team next to my console was cutting up a bit. I joined in the friendly insults. One of the younger crew gave her supervisor a really good one, laughter ensued, and I said something like “Oh, she’ll hear about that on her annual performance report (APR)!”

Without missing a beat the supervisor instantly replied “Of course she won’t. I don’t even joke about something like that landing on her APR. Ever.”

The way he said it made it even more impactful: he didn’t get intense, he didn’t yell, he didn’t joke. He just said it emphatically and in a matter-of-fact tone.

That moment has vividly stuck with me over the 30-plus years since it occurred. It’s changed how I interact with teams I run or even those junior to me who aren’t on my teams. The point is a crucial one in helping set a culture of safety and respect.

Those on your teams, those who report to you, those who have any form of accountability to you should know, without a doubt, that their performance reports will be based only on merit and fact, never spite or rumor.

You don’t do performance reports? Fine. Don’t fixate on the mechanics. This is more about the meta concept: safety in one’s career progression.

The other day on Facebook someone posted an article that ran something like “Seven Signs You’re About to Be Fired.” The poster tagged someone on their team and made a joking comment like “Yo, pay attention!”

I got the joke, but it also made me recall the terrific lesson I learned all those years ago.

Some things you just shouldn’t ever joke about. And your teams should know it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

No, I Didn't Automate That Test

No, you don’t need to automate tests for every behavior you build in your system. Sometimes you shouldn’t automate tests because you’re taking on an unreasonable amount of technical debt and overhead.

For example, I’ve got a page using a KendoUI component grid. From that grid I can display, create, and update data. There’s a modest amount of asynch goo happening on the server side after a create or update action, so I tacked on a small bit of code to add an empty element on the page’s DOM as a flag signifying the action was complete. This makes it easy to build a Wait condition based on the appearance of that element. The function is small:

requestEnd: function (e) {
                var node =                   
                while (node.firstChild) {
                var type = e.type;
               $('#flags').append('<div responseType=\'' + type + '\'/>');

It’s behavior. Moreover, other automated tests rely on this, so this failing would break other tests! Why did I decide to not write an automated test for it?

Well this is literally the only custom JavaScript I have on my site at the moment. Think of the work I’d have to do simply to get a test in place for this:

  • Figure out which JS testing toolset to use
  • Learn that toolset
  • Integrate that toolset into my current build chain

That’s quite a bit of work and complexity. Step back and think about a few topics:

What’s the risk of breaking this behavior?

  • I rarely edit that page, so the likelyhood of breaking that behavior is low
  • When I do edit the page, I even more rarely touch that particular part of the page’s code. Likelyhood of breakage is even lower.

What damage happens if I break that behavior?

  • Other tests relying on that element will fail
  • Those failures could lead me astray because they’re failing for an unexpected reason – eg an Update test isn’t failing because the Update test is busted, it’s failing because the flag element isn’t appearing
  • I’ll spend extra time troubleshooting the failure

How do I make sure

It’s a pretty easy discussion at this point: does it make sense to take on the overhead for writing test automation for this particular task? No. Hell no.

It may make sense as I start to flesh out more behavior soon. But not now. A simple few manual tests and it’s good.

Roll on.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Leadership Journey is Complete and Live

After 2.5 years of hard work, blood, sweat, and a lot of procrastination I’m happy to announce my book The Leadership Journey is complete and read for purchase!
If you’re unfamiliar with the book, it’s a concise 107 pages of content meant you help to learn how to become a great leader. No, I’m not giving you 15 Quick Tips! or guaranteeing you’ll become wonderful in 24 hours. It’s not a self-help book.

Instead, it’s practical stories, tips, and exercises meant to get you looking in a mirror and figuring out where you want to go—and then proving some ideas on how you can head off that direction.

This stuff is from my heart. It started based off my Leadership 101 series, but then grew out in its own direction.

I owe lots of folks thanks, particularly readers who purchased the book two years ago expecting a quick finish. HAH! I hope they’re pleased with the final outcome.

I also owe a big thanks to Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin who wrote an awesome Foreword for me. He picked up on key things about the book: My hard work to keep it from being yet another touchy-feely barftastic self-help book. My hard work to make the exercises useful. My hard work to convey content that’s straight from my experiences, and more importantly from my heart.

The book is on sale at LeanPub, which is great for you. Don’t like the book? You can get ALL YOUR MONEY BACK up to 45 days after purchase.

I’m pretty sure you’ll find it useful, though!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Leadership Journey Final Draft Complete!

Thank you so very, very much for those of you who’ve patiently been waiting for the completion of my book The Leadership Journey!

I’ve finally gotten through final edits and am left working only two “small” things: finalizing the cover, and finding someone to write a great foreword. Regarding the foreword, I’m going to shoot for the moon with my first request. It’s someone you likely know from great keynotes and terrific books on leadership and thinking. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m playing around with variations of the cover based on the great photo my brother created.
Book Cover enter image description here

I hope to have word on the Foreword author in a week or two, and hopefully the foreword completed within the next three weeks.

For those of you who don’t know, the book’s available right now at its page on LeanPub. You can purchase it now, and you’ll get the updates when the Foreword and cover are in the can.

Again, thank you to all for your patience. It’s been a labor of love, sweat, and yes, some significant procrastination.

I hope you’ll find it worth the wait!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My KalamazooX Talk

As I mentioned in an earlier post, several weeks ago I was off for a road trip, part of which involved speaking at the KalamazooX conference.

My talk was on dealing with adversity. I think we as a society have become afraid of it in our work, social, and personal lives. I hit all three of those areas in the talk.

Unsurprisingly, my coverage of the “social” part generated some controversy. I was emphatic with my disgust with the current mindset of “safe spaces”, shutting down speakers holding different opinions, and how polarized and prone to offense we’ve become. I used examples of riots at Berkeley, Portland’s Rose Parade cancellation, and the assault on professor Allison Stanger at Middlebury College.

I took it a step further using Trump supporters sucker punching protesters and the semi-infamous Trigglypuff. I intentionally used inflammatory language describing the two, like “redneck hillbilly” and “overweight SJW” to point out how we “other” those we feel strongly against.

After my talk one woman stood up to make a statement (framed as a question, but it was a statement) taking offense at the words I’d used to describe the woman. Fine. Point missed and underscored at the same time. I tried engaging her in discussion after the talk, and ended up getting surrounded by three other folks who were also upset with my talk. One fellow was literally, not figuratively, literally shouting at me, to the point where I couldn’t even finish the conversation with the woman.

I ended up walking away as he shouted “YOU’RE PROVING MY POINT!” No, pal. All that was proved was you’re a narcissistic asshole. Or at least you were that day.

Later on in the day one fellow went so far as to offer me help to rewrite my talk to make it “less offensive. I can make it so people go ‘Wow!’ instead of ‘BOO!’ ” I shook his hand, said that I had taken some feedback to heart, “but for the rest, tough shit.” He didn’t react to that well…

(I’ll also point out nobody objected to the words I’d used to describe the white male Trump supporter. Make of that what you will…)

Dealing with personal adversity was the theme of the final third. I used my struggles with depression and suicide to illustrate how that gave me some tools and strength to deal with my wife’s murder and the assault on my daughter in January. Yeah, it was pretty intense and open kimono.

Overall the point of the talk is by avoiding tough things we lose out on many benefits: strength, kindness, and the true beauty of our human nature.

Watch it if you’re interested and see what you think.
“…Makes You Stronger”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Back on the Road: KalamazooX, Work, and StirTrek

I’m coming up on a very big week: I’m going back out on the road for eight days of conferences and work. It’s going to be quite the week of travel, work, and seeing lots of folks I’ve badly missed lately.

I’ll be speaking at KalamazooX Conference on Saturday, April 29th. Monday and Tuesday I’m doing some work for Pillar Technology teams in the Dearborn, MI area. Wednesday and Thursday I’ll be doing the same, but in Columbus. Friday, May 5th, I’ll be speaking at StirTrek, then enjoying Guardians of the Galaxy 2 with a crapload of other geeks.

This trip is a huge one for me. For the many of you out there who don’t know, my family was hit in January by a horrible tragedy. This is my first time back on the “work” circuit since then. It’s going to be odd trying to get back in the groove after such an upheaval, and after four months at home.

I know everyone in the community and my colleagues at work have my back and are there for any support needed. Y’all have made that crazy clear already. I don’t have any concerns along those lines at all. I know I’d be forgiven if I showed up to talk drunk, smoking a cigarette, and wearing nothing but a thong and a giant red cowboy hat. (You wanted that mental image burned in your brain. I know you did.)

I’m more concerned about whether I’ve got any connection to what made me good at speaking and coaching/team facilitation. My optimism and faith turned in to a field of ashes on January 10th. I’m no longer that guy, so I’m viewing this trip as an exploration for what guy I might become in the future.

Please feel free to look me up if you’re around any of those areas next week and are interested. I’m happy to chat about anything, including my family. I’m sure folks will understand if I vanish for periods of time to recover—I’ve always been an introvert, so this sort of stuff drained me even before January…

As always, I’m humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve had the last four months. I hope I get the chance to thank many of you in person at some point.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Things Have Been Quiet Here

As you’ve noticed, things have been quiet here on my blog, especially since January. Things will remain that way for some time, and I wanted to share some high-level information about why.

For those of you who don’t know, my family was struck by incredible tragedy in January which left my wife dead, my daughter severely injured, my mother-in-law (who lives with us) traumatized, and my son in detention facing many years of legal and mental health issues.

We’ve had an amazing outpouring of love and support from family, friends, the Ashland community, and the greater software community I’ve been involved with over the years.

I’ve especially been humbled by the response to the GoFundMe campaign set up by David Giard.

Moving forward, I’ve left full-time work at Pillar Technology so I can focus on my family. I’ll be speaking at StirTrek in Columbus on 5 May; however, other speaking/conference trips will be dramatically fewer than in past years. I’ll continue some part-time writing work on the side, and I’ll be continuing in a part-time role with Pillar focusing on a number of things where I can add value to that amazing company in my new life.

I appreciate that many readers may want to express support/love/condolences, but I’m going to turn off comments on this particular post. Thank you for your understanding.

More importantly, thank you all for the many years of collaboration, friendship, snark, bi-directional learning, and outright joy I’ve gotten from my involvement with the community.

I’ve always said I’ve gotten far more from the community than I’ve ever received. That’s been never more evident than the last two months. Thank you all.

Finally: Go hug your loved ones. Don’t leave things unsaid. Stop what you’re doing and make sure they know you care. Right. Now. I mean it. Life is fragile and precious. Celebrate it.

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