Brian took his broad career and walked us through the path he took and the decisions he made along the way. Here are some of the concepts that Brian covered along the way.
Sometimes a career is moving along great, and sometimes careers take shifts for the worse. It's during these shifts that you might find the opportunity to redefine yourself and do the things you always, or at least now, want to do. You may find that when you think you're doing your best work the people around you may think differently. And it may not be because you've done a bad job.
Human's don't care about technology. They care about what the system does, not how it does it. And this is where our own estimation of our work may be different than others' perceptions of our work.
Everyone needs a mentor. Make sure you have mentors for the skills you don't naturally have. If you're not good at, say, the relationship skills of communications, sales, or marketing, then find someone that can do that well. It doesn't need to be a formal relationship. Just watch people who do this skill well and how they handle circumstances and issues
95% of communication happens in body language. Pay attention to where people sit in meetings and understand how to work with the dynamics. Keep your arms unfolded to show that you're being upfront and honest and not throwing up defensive barriers.
There is no such thing as Job Security. The Community is your career security. If you need a job, people need to know who you are to find you one. Get out to community events and make sure you talk to people. You need to reach out and build the relationships that will be your job security. "You are in charge of your career, your company is in charge of your job" - @dmarsh.
Managing your career. If you don't like where you career is going you can only blame yourself. You need a way to keep an eye on your career for a few minutes a day. Take some time to be introspective and set 5, 3, and 1 year goals. The 1 year must support your 3 year goals, your 3 must support your 5. The closer the goal, the more concrete it needs to be. 1 year might be "I want to be the most knowlegable nHibernate person." 3 might be "I want to be the team lead." And 5 might be "I want to be the process engineer at the company." Then write these down and keep them somewhere you can see and review them every day. Goals shouldn't change too often, but sometimes they change for you when disruptive technologies are introduced.
You need to invest in your own career. You may not need money. You do need time. Crack the book and do the examples. Blog the answers that you find. Build the conversation and relationship with the people you need to know. This will help you develop credibility even before you meet people.
Three things great companies look for
- Ability to Learn
- Problem Solving
How do you demonstrate these? You tell 'em how much you do in your spare time or at night! "Yeah, I got 4 servers in my basement and setup my neighborhood wi-fi," etc. You're going to user groups or taking a Saturday to go to a Day of .NET. That is passion!
You should not be hired for what you know today. That doesn't demonstrate learning. Need to demonstrate how to keep pace with what's coming next.
Microsoft is famous for outlandish questions to figure out problem solving ability. Latest question: dropping a bowling ball off the back of a boat in the ocean, how long will it take to get to the bottom. By the way, a 6 lb ball will never get to the bottom. You know every problem you attack will be new to you, otherwise it wouldn't be a problem.
You've heard that everything you learn will be worthless in 2 years. That's a lie. The strategic concepts tend to remain the same. The technology and tactical stuff changes constantly. So eat like a bird and poop like an elephant. Act like the bird and consume as much information as possible. Then spread it everywhere like the elephant spreads, well, poop. Before the internet knowledge was power. With the internet the power influence is gained through the sharing of information.
Guy Kawasaki's Rules for Revolutionaries for innovating. "I poop therefore, I am" with respect to the sharing of information.
You gotta manage your resume. "Why? I'm not looking for a job." You're ALWAYS looking for a job. So manage the details in Excel and put all your accomplishments on it every week so you always have a record of your business value - not the tasks you did but the value of those activities quantified. When annual performance review comes around you just cut and paste. Don't job hop. Less than 2 years is a problem. Be ready to take advantage of opportunities. Have a story for each job in your career. And update it every three to six months.
Avoid companies that focus on SAT interviews. Find a company that triest to get to know YOU!
Creativity - you need to practice it to strengthen it. So keep a log of all the crazy ideas you have. Then design the system even though it won't get built. Throw that out because the solution you designed contains all the assumptions of your experience. And then repeat two more times. Read books. Not just tech books. Read the books you normally wouldn't. Read management or leadership books. Read biographies. Read interesting stories. Get out of the rut. Do something new!
Spend time brainstorming! Throw up ideas for a set amount of time, say 10 minutes. No critical thought until that time is up. Let ideas build off of each other and give them a chance to incubate before breaking them down. Try brain-on-the-wall to squash the alpha-dog syndrome, i.e. write on post-its and put ideas on the wall. Always be the dumbest person in the room. If you think you're the smartest then 1) you're not, and 2) you're not learning anything.
3 illegal topics at work: 1) Religion, 2) Sex, and 3) Politics. You WILL offend someone. They won't say anything to you. But it will be a barrier for the rest of your relationship. Maybe this line blurs if you work with the same people for, like, 50 years. And when you communicate, communicate like a human. Techies don't do a very good job at this. The business people are yelling at us, "Just make it work!" Find their language and use it. These are the things they care about and we need to make these people successful. Understand what the business tracks, frame your conversations around this, and understand the magic numbers to get a sense of the business health. Be ready to say, "I don't know." Be an active listener. Don't let yourself be distracted. Ask smart questions. Ask open ended questions. Don't multi-task in your head. Use metaphors. And make sure bad news travels faster than good news. Over communicate until they bleed. Make sure everyone knows. Give 'em a stand-up meeting in an email as a recap.
For meetings, make sure there is an agenda so you don't waste anyone's time. And if you're not early, you're late. You want to be waiting for your customer, you don't want your customer waiting for them.
Perception is reality. As great as you think your work is, if the customer thinks the system is slow, it's slow. No matter how nice you are, if someone thinks you're arrogant, you're arrogant.
The speech pattern of Feel -> Felt -> Found. When someone comes to you with a problem use this pattern to respond to them. "I understand how you feel. Others have felt the same way. And here is what they have found." This pattern diffuses the problem away from a personal issue into a problem that can be solved collaboratively.
Don't be a plumber. Write only the code you can write at your company. Let someone else write the infrastructure and plumbing. Say at Coca-Cola a developer would want to write code that makes a bottling plant run. Then your job is secure and won't be outsourced.
Do more of what works and less of what doesn't. No, trying harder won't make it better. Focus on helping the user kick butt!
Don't let the bozos grind you down with their negativity.
Your career is about balance. You have to find your own balance and make that balance work. If you let your boss make your work-life balance, they won't make it and you'll be working all the time.
The effort is the effort is the effort.
Project management is about communication and not about spreadsheets and plans. Communicate within the team and with the customer.
Always hold the door. You never know who you're holding it for. And never burn a bridge.
Learn quickly. Unlearn more quickly as things change.
And, that, in a nutshell, was it.
As usual, our sponsors provided pizza for the zillion of us there. PSI was in attendance again, and it's always good to have them. And it looks like TechLife Cincinnati served its purpose by spreading the message of the different user groups in the local community as we had a number of OINKPUG regulars in attendance to hear the non-tech-specific subject matter. Thanks for coming out! It was good to have you!
Swag at the meeting included Vista, some books, a couple of stress balls, and JetBrains licenses for most of their products.
Looking forward to November when our membership drive ends with some great give-aways. Make sure to be in attendance over the next few months to get your entries in the give-aways. You also get an entry each time you bring a new person with you.
See you in September!