All posts by jer_

I’m southeastern Michigan dwelling programmer, public speaker, project manager, educator, and geek of varied interests, esp. those related to development, mathematics, writing, and event management. You can find me strewn about the web at places like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and probably a million other places.

Leading Without Ego

The lede of an interview in which I was recently featured ended up being the notion of not being precious with your ideas—as a result, that concept has been the topic of conversation quite a bit over the last few weeks. As often happens, the most common question to arise also happened to be the most obvious one:

How do you avoid being precious with your ideas?

Continue reading Leading Without Ego

Disastrous Deciding Toward Fascism

In the spring of 2004, Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond  delivered a lecture entitled “Why Do Some Societies Make Disastrous Decisions?” in which he discusses the plight of the Easter Islanders. It seems that1 the when the Polynesian people settled the island, it was covered in forest that they relied upon for their way of life. Over the course  of their limited time on the island, they slowly forested their way to societal collapse despite the inherent obviousness of what they were doing; a classic application of the frog-in-boiling-water allegory.2

In the US, our Polynesian lumberjacks are facilitating a slow slide into fascism4; death by a thousand axe cuts.

Continue reading Disastrous Deciding Toward Fascism

An Electoral Theory

I would like to apologize before you attempt to read this. I’m naturally pretty verbose, but this got out of hand even by my lofty standards. I’ve attempted to trim it back some, but, it remains quite the slog. I, personally, think it’s worth it. I’m also pretty biased.

I would like to begin with a few postulates—a few things that we can assume to be true for the sake of argument. I’m not trying to play any rhetorical games here, so I’ll attempt to show my work as I introduce each postulate (after a few up top that I hope to be relatively uncontested).

Continue reading An Electoral Theory

A Note on Election Results

We are just under 13 days until the election here in the US, and I would like to remind everybody of one simple fact that will remain true no matter what happens:

The person that is elected in roughly two weeks is our President-elect and will be our President starting in 2017. Regardless of whether or not you voted for him or her, regardless of whether or not you agree with his or her policies, that’s our President. Full stop. End of story.

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Confessions of an IT Pro: Precious Ideas Will Hold You Back

This is a placeholder for an article about me that was posted on a different site. If you want to read the article, you’ll have to click through! Please try to ignore the ginormous picture of me at the top. Please try to ignore the use of the word “Pro” in the title. Creative liberties were taken!

Unlike being a lawyer or a doctor, IT has a number of entry points. Some go to school. Some convert their passion from childhood into a career. And some, like software professional Jer Lance, initially get their training and expertise through military service. We spoke with Lance about his roles spanning education, management and software development and what he’s learned over that time.

Q: How did you start your career? And how important do you think education and certifications were for you? 

Read more…

Another Year Clean and Sober

When this post goes live, provided nothing completely irrational has happened in the last week or so, I will have been clean and sober for 14 years.1 I have now been absent of drugs and alcohol for as long as I used them.2

This is traditionally where I pat myself on the back and reminisce about how difficult it was3, but instead I just want to say this: today my life is immeasurably better than it was when it was ruled entirely by my addiction. That isn’t to say that it immediately got better—initially my life became a complete shit-show as I took away my crutch—but as I became capable of making smarter decisions, acting more like a person of whom I could be proud, and learning to be an empathetic human being, things improved at a rate that was astonishing. It has been years since I’ve actively desired to use, and that freedom is a weight lifted from my shoulders that I didn’t even know was there.

Today, I find myself happier than I’ve ever been, enjoying a life that is not dictated by booze or drugs, and I rarely miss it even slightly. I assure you, when you get clean, it gets better.

 


1 Give or take two swallows of an iced tea that turned out to be sangria at an Olive Garden, serving to prove two incontrovertible things: no dinner at an Olive Garden shall go unpunished and the only fruit that should be found in an iced tea is a lemon.

2 Not to say that I used drugs and alcohol continuously at the same rate for 14 years; I doubt highly I would have survived it. At 12, however, the ebb and flow of use that characterized my addiction started its…flow…?

3 In a manner that is COMPLETELY FUCKING JUSTIFIED!!

Permission to Take a Break

A few weekends ago, I looked through my stub posts to see which I could finish up to post; they were all a long way from done, and none were really grabbing me in any real way. Ultimately, I got distracted and, by the time Wednesday rolled around, nothing was ready to post, so I missed a week.

This week, as I look at the things available to post, I find myself in the same spot. I have a handful of drafts that are in no way ready to post and a handful of political rants of which I am so weary that I can’t imagine you don’t dread them. (Honestly, after my recent floods of them on Twitter, you can get your fill there.)

At the intersection of a chapter that I really want to get written, a review that I’m having difficulty coalescing into reality, and the flood of new-ness that I’m trying to absorb at work, I’m fairly intellectually exhausted.

So, I’m giving myself permission to take a break. Posts for the next month will potentially be sporadic or unsatisfying updates about life with the new gig. Or not. I don’t know, I’m not the boss of me.

Slow Path to Leadership

I started a new job about a month ago, so I am right on schedule for my typical visit from the Imposter Syndrome fairy. It’s as regular as clockwork: suddenly immersed in a place where everyone in the building has infinitely more knowledge than I—everything from the business domain to work procedures to where to find the bloody conference rooms1—so I have to fight the feelings that I’ve finally taken on too much until I start to get my feet beneath me on something that feels like solid ground.2

It’s simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting.

Continue reading Slow Path to Leadership

Presidential Debate #1

Debates happened, in so far as you can call what was televised a “debate.” I think that heated argument would be a fairer characterization, but that might just be needlessly pedantic. Nothing especially surprising took place, that much is certain. While I live-tweeted my reactions to much of the proceedings, I thought I would take a minute to elaborate now, having had a day to process (and having watched it several more times).

Continue reading Presidential Debate #1

You Get What You Measure

Wells Fargo has had to fire over 5,000 employees as it was found that they were making fake accounts on behalf of customers—these terminations took place over the course of a few years, so this has been going on for some time. More recently, however, the bank ended their program of incentives to cross-sell accounts to customers.

To recap: a company started to measure how often its employees were able to cross-sell accounts, applied incentives to that measure, and the employees dialed up their cross-sells to the point of actual fraud.

This is unsurprising, you get exactly what you measure—no more, no less.

I’ve seen this often in software delivery: companies claim to value quality, but what do they measure? Lines of code, features completed, project milestones, deadlines. What do you get in return for that measurement? You get tremendous amounts of low-quality work delivered on time and within budget—then you spend extraordinary amounts of time and money fixing all of the terrible, broken software you’ve created.

A past employer expressed tremendous amounts of frustration with exactly that problem when they brought me onto the team; their projects would be completed reliably on time or very close, but would often be delivered 100% or more late (and with tremendously reduced profit) because of the enormity of the repair tasks.

If you want to receive quality, that is what you have to measure. There are numerous ways to do so; incentivizing first-time delivery quality with zero-defect feature bonuses, tracking defect counts against feature complexity for a team, and turning off incentives for milestones in favor of incentives for active status communication are just a few that I have used with great success.

In the aforementioned company, I lobbied for and eventually succeeded in eliminating milestone measurement on the delivery side of the organization in favor of quality metrics similar to those above, and both profit and timeliness skyrocketed…but what rose the most was customer satisfaction. Suddenly, clients enjoyed our process and software, which was really my goal all along.

Remember that you will always get what you measure, but you will get the letter of it, not the spirit of it. Act accordingly.

Extra Life 2016

Each year, some friends and I form together like a grossly inappropriate Voltron to form team Light Recoil with one purpose: to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network. This will be our fourth year of fundraising, and each year we’ve managed to up our game some; last year we raised over $1,600. This year I’d love to make it $2,000. If you want to help, donate now!

This is where we sweeten the pot; what’s in it for you?

Continue reading Extra Life 2016

Gig-quest 2016 Edition

I feel like there is scant discussion out there surrounding job searching mid-career. The Internet is full of helpful advice for early-career job seekers describing resume creation, job posting, searching job boards, and the like. What I don’t see very often is what to do when you’ve been in the field for a while; when you have built up a network of contacts, when you’re no longer looking for entry-level or near entry-level work, or when what you’re looking for is very narrow in terms of specificity or of job prospects.

This is probably not going to be that post either, but I would like to take some time to describe my job searching journey this summer.

Continue reading Gig-quest 2016 Edition

Post-Hugo 2016

The 2016 Hugo Awards are over, winners and non-winners alike are enjoying celebrations of fantastic fiction and fandom, and we all have a lot to be proud of!

Make no mistake though, over the next hours and days, the bad actors that have been struggling to ruin something beautiful for several years now will be revising history to show how much they’ve won, how much they’ve been vindicated, how much the Hugos have been diminished, and how much they really don’t care. Yes, all of these at the same time! Don’t be fooled. For all of their attempts, this year we have done exactly what we must continue to do: nominate works that we love, vote for those we think deserve the honor of a Hugo, and place those that we feel do not below ‘No Award.’

Doing exactly that resulted in an amazing set of wins this year that reflect superb works of fiction. This should be what it is all about, everything else is mere distraction.

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Panic Managing

It’s quarter after nine in the morning and you’re just getting into the morning groove when it happens. In the very moment that you become aware of how eerily quiet and still the room has become your manager is standing next to you with a look you’ve come to know all too well–wide eyes, knuckles white around the handle of his coffee mug, flushed skin–his voice is just slightly higher pitched than normal as he starts to speak. He conveys to you today’s first emergency.

Just like that, your day is shot.

Continue reading Panic Managing

Managing Honesty

In a post several months ago, Seth Godin asks organizations that speak untruths to customers “what else will you lie about?

The question of organizational integrity is one that I wrestle with frequently. I’ve written about it directly or indirectly several times already, and I’m sure I’ll write about it considerably more.

In the same way that Seth describes the slippery slope of institutional lying to its customers and to the public, managers must be wary of choosing to start glibly lying to his or her charges.

And it’s terribly easy to start lying.

Continue reading Managing Honesty

You Get What You Pay For

One of the lessons that I find to be simultaneously essential to learn and incredibly difficult to teach is an idea that I refer to by the shorthand “being a consultant”–the notion of saving the customer from themselves.

Paul Sherman’s amazing presentation “The UX Unicorn is Dead” (if you haven’t read it, stop reading this and go read that) highlights an excellent opportunity to save the customer from themselves: customers asking to forgo UX or QA work (or, in some horrifying instances UX and QA work) in exchange for a lower price or faster timeline.

You get what you pay for.

Continue reading You Get What You Pay For