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.

Continue reading Post-Hugo 2016

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

Stepping Down

This post was originally going to be posted once the formal announcement of the change it describes was announced at work. Having been laid off mid-month, that announcement will never come, but I consider the concepts to be important enough to post anyway.


I resigned from my managerial role today.

Actually, it is more accurate to say that at the beginning of this month, I gave notice that I would be stepping down from my managerial role by month’s end. Today, that resignation simply became official. [Edit: Plus or minus a little…]

Continue reading Stepping Down

Heterosexual Pride Day

It appears that the sort of folks that always have to find a way to make everything about them (AllLivesMatter, anyone? NotAllMen right a bell?) have gotten #HeterosexualPrideDay trending on social media. At this point, it’s hard to muster anything more severe than disappointment in such a predictable set of actions.

Rather than get upset, since my upset is going to accomplish nothing productive, I’m choosing to observe Heterosexual Pride Day in my own way. I invite you to join me.

I choose to recognize that while there are zero states in which I can be fired for being heterosexual, you can still be fired for not being heterosexual in more than half of the states in our country. I take pride that it isn’t 100%, while continuing to do what I can to make it 0%.

I choose to take pride in the fact that while heterosexual people can assume that they will get joint custody of their children when they separate, it is only now becoming a possibility in some states. I recognize that we have a long way to go in order to resolve that disconnect.

I choose to be proud of the fact that there are increasing numbers of non-heterosexual people in the media that are not stereotypes, while still remembering to call it out when I hear someone referred to as “gay” or “faggy” for being different or for enjoying hobbies traditionally associated with the opposite gender.

I choose to recognize the fact that, while I can take pride in the fact that we have come a long way in terms of gay marriage, there are still states in which it is not legal.

This is how I choose to celebrate Heterosexual Pride Day; to take pride in how far things have come while recognizing how terribly far we have to go. #heterosexualprideday

Leadership Doesn’t End

This post is a placeholder to an article that I wrote for another site, if you want to read the article, you’ll have to follow the link…

It’s 10am and I am sitting in my home office corresponding with a broad network of contacts and contacts of contacts, and it occurs to me that for a hopeless introvert, the last 24 hours amounts to more “being on” than I typically muster in even a busy week.
And I haven’t even started trying to find a job for me yet!

The Valuation of Time

Let’s begin with a basic concept with which we should all be able to agree: time has inherent value. Nobody seriously questions this fact, what we argue is what that value is.

I was thinking about this while I was doing some yard cleanup this week and the lawn folks came by to mow. As the two of them swept in and back out in about 10 or 15 minutes, I found myself pondering the cost of that fraction of an hour in a very intellectual fashion…

“Are you fucking shitting me, that’s $100/hour to mow my lawn!” I thought, intellectually.

Continue reading The Valuation of Time