Tag: startups

Recognition: One of Team Magnet’s Masterminds

Recognition: One of Team Magnet's Masterminds (Image by http://www.sxc.hu/)

Background

At Magnet Forensics, I lead an awesome team of people with the mission of creating forensics software to help investigators around the world solve crimes. We’re stacked with incredible people–and not only on the team I’m on, but company-wide. We do a great job of recognizing our achievements as an organization and as a team, but also on an individual level. If someone has gone above and beyond, we don’t keep that a secret.

I’ve been trying to make more of a conscious effort to recognize the people I work with, especially in ways that are unique to my own style. I think recognizing people in person is important, but you also need to consider your setting. Sometimes recognition in a public forum isn’t actually appreciated or isn’t nearly as effective as appreciating in a one-on-one setting. I find even for myself that I get uncomfortable when being recognized in a public setting.

With that said, I wanted to recognize an individual I work with without shining too much of a spotlight directly her. Thank you, Christine, for all of your hard work.

Broken Retrospectives

At Magnet, we try to adhere to some agile philosophies.  It lets us pivot pretty quickly to customer needs–which keeps them quite happy–and still lets us deliver rock solid software. We develop in short cycles called “sprints” and at the end of every sprint we have a retrospective to look back at what worked well and what didn’t. That way in the next sprint we can make improvements. Keep the good stuff, drop the broken stuff and try out a thing or two that’s new. This is excellent for continuous improvement unless…

They don’t work.

We would run our retrospectives religiously, but it seemed like nobody really wanted to be there. It was a seemingly forced meeting where I felt a lot of the time I was trying to stir up conversation. By the end of the meeting, just about everyone would have chimed in, but there weren’t a lot of ideas being generated. It was long, boring, and didn’t accomplish any of the goals we wanted it to. Thus, our development cycles stayed basically the same for a while. They worked and they didn’t appear to be broken enough that people wanted to see change.

Things remained the same until I received some input from Christine. When Christine read an article on LinkedIn called I Like, I Wish, I Wonder, she thought it might have some positive carry-over to our development process. If Christine thought that it might spark a change in our retrospectives, that was more change than I was hearing from the team in general (including myself, to be fair). So I decided we’d give it a shot.

Annnd we haven’t looked back since.

I won’t go too in-depth on how I Like, I Wish, I Wonder has rocked our retrospective world because I want to save that for a separate write-up. The point is that it did, and it’s all thanks to Christine for digging it up for us. We’ve started to completely overhaul different aspects of our development process now that retrospectives are effective. I really started to realize just how big of an impact it had when I was explaining some of the development process changes to our CEO. I remember thinking “Wow… If we wouldn’t have switched our retrospective process, we’d be nowhere near as efficient”.

So, thank you for the retrospective idea, Christine. For anyone else looking to flip retrospectives around, try out the I Like, I Wish, I Wonder scheme.

Personalities

I can imagine a lot of people in the development world don’t think too much about personalities. I know I didn’t. Sure, everyone is different. Everyone has their own effective ways of communicating, things they like, things they don’t like, and optimal situations for working. I get it. Now let me go do my work and you go do your work. In an ideal world, you just assume everyone can figure out everyone else that they’re working with, and things will just be fine. Except things are never ideal, and it never hurts to put in a bit more effort to make sure you can get your team up to speed.

So we tried something out. I worked with my HR manager (read: communicated a potential scenario for our development team, let her run free with her awesome creative ideas, and then helped her where she needed it) to roll out a Myers-Briggs personality test for a small sub-team of our development team. If you aren’t familiar with the tests or the concept, check out the link and read up on it! We figured it would be best to try this kind of thing out on a small part of the team to see if they would find value in it, and if so, we’d try the whole team.

After we rolled out the Myers-Briggs results with the small team, the benefits were immediately noticeable. We didn’t even have to leave the room before seeing the benefits. We knew there was some potential here, so we were already excited to try it out with the rest of the team. With everyone being aware of how other individuals may act and react when communicating and working, it makes a big difference in how particular scenarios are approached.

Thank you, Christine, for making differences in personality something to be cognizant of and then supporting our roll-out of Myers-Briggs. For anyone reading this that manages a team or is part of one… Consider the personality types of the people you work with. Maybe you don’t need a formalized Myers-Briggs plan, but it’s worth raising awareness of it.

Thank You, Christine

Christine, you’ve made a lot of great contributions to the team and I’d like to thank you for them. Our development processes have been able to greatly improve thanks to your initial suggestion. I’m sure we would have adapted over time, but your suggested tweaks have certainly acted as a catalyst. Your furthered support with the personality type analysis and subsequent rollout was also greatly appreciated. You were able to participate in our mini-experiment and offered great feedback to turn it into a success for the entire team.

Thank you. I’m looking forward to what this year will bring!


Deloitte Companies to Watch – Weekly Article Dump

Deloitte Companies to Watch - Weekly Article Dump

Deloitte Companies to Watch

Another impressive accolade for Magnet Forensics! Deloitte has placed Magnet on their top 10 companies to watch list! To qualify for the list, the companies need to be operating for less than five years, be based out of Canada, and put a large portion of their revenue to generating intellectual property. Our CEO, Adam Belsher, had this to say about the award:

“We are honoured to be named one of Deloitte’s Companies-to-Watch. This award recognizes the hard work and dedication of our team. We’re thankful for the success we’ve achieved, and we’re incredibly proud to be contributing to the important work done by our customers who use our solutions to fight crime, enhance public safety, protect companies from fraud and theft, and ensure workplace safety and respect for their employees.”

Magnet Forensics Press & Events

The event was put together very well. It was great to be able to interact with individuals from the other companies and share success stories. I even had a chance to meet up with Stephen Lake of Thalmic Labs and have a good chat with him. I’m going to name-drop him everywhere I go because he’s my old university room/house mate! He also happens to be a incredible person that if you have the chance to meet, you absolutely should. Here’s some coverage on twitter of us talking with our founder Jad Saliba:

We enjoyed the whole night, and we were grateful for Deloitte putting on the event. The entire Magnet team is very proud of our achievements.

Articles

  • What comes first: employee engagement or great work?: A short but interesting article on employee engagement. The author claims that most employees probably start of at their position very motivated and engaged. Over time, an employees engagement drops if their leaders are not proactive in keeping their engagement levels up. By proactively acknowledging the success of your employees, you can keep your team engaged and producing great work.
  • Great Leadership Starts and Ends with This: Jeff Haden put together this quick little article about an answer an audience member gave about what the key to leading people is. Caring. Overly simplified? Well, the individual went on to say that regardless of all of your strategies, plans, and experience, if you can’t prove that you truly care about your team then they aren’t going to buy in. I’m never one to buy into something so absolute, but the takeaway for me is that team members cannot be looked at entirely as resources. Sure, the people on your team affect productivity and in that sense are resources, but forgetting to acknowledge the human side of things is a recipe for failure.
  • 9 Ways to Win Employee Trust: In his article, Geoffrey James put together a great list of nine things to help build trust with your team. I wouldn’t say these are groundbreaking things, but it’s important to be reminded about them. Try reflecting on his list and seeing if you actually do the things you think you do. You might be surprised. Some of the top things on the list for me are ensuring employees’ success is number one on your priorities, listen more than you talk, and walk the walk. Great list!
  • Lambdas: An Example in Refactoring Code: I put out this programming article earlier this week and had some great feedback. In this article, I talk about a real world example of how using lambda expressions in C# really helped when refactoring a piece of code. Some people have never heard of lambdas, and some people seem to hate them. In this case for me, it greatly simplified a set of code and reduced a bunch of extra classes. I definitely owe it to myself to start investigating them a little bit more.
  • Executive Coaching: Bringing Out Greater Leadership: This article is all about taking charge with your leadership. Judith Sherven talks about executive coaching for leaders, but the main points I see in here are around confidence. If you aren’t confident in your ability to lead, motivate, and inspire how can you expect anyone else to be? It ends up becoming a tough balance, because you need to listen and take feedback from your team, but when you make decisions you should do so with confidence.
  • Stop Worrying About Making the Right Decision: Ever heard of paralysis by analysis? This article does a great job of explaining why you shouldn’t let that creep in to your leadership approach. It’s important to make good decisions–there’s no doubt about that. But the reality is that no matter what decision you make, there are certain unknowns that can creep in and potentially have a huge effect on the choices you’ve made. So what’s more important: making the perfect decision, or being able to adapt effectively?
  • Appraising Performance Appraisal: Steven Sinofsky‘s article is a bit of a beast, but it’s a great starting point if you’re reconsidering performance appraisals. Even if you’re totally content with your performance review system, it might be worth reading to spark some ideas. Steven does a great job of pointing out some common pitfalls of typical performance appraisal systems and comments on some things you really need to try and understand before sticking to any one system. I’m not well enough versed in the performance review and/or human resources side of things, but this article certainly has enough to get you questioning the common approaches.
  • Tab Fragment Tutorial: Shameless plug for my Android application that I put out on the Google Play store. It’s the end result of the tutorial I wrote up over here. I think it’s going to blow past my legitimate application for converting units!
  • Does a Good Leader Have To Be Tough?: Deepak Chopra has some seriously great articles. In this article, he analyzes the pros and cons of being a “tough” leader. In short, there are positive takeaways from being a tough leader, but there are a lot of negative aspects to it. Deepak suggests you consider a different approach from tough-soft leadership. By focusing on a hierarchy of needs to be a successful leader, toughness is only one aspect of leadership. A pretty solid read, like all of Deepak’s articles.

Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week.

Nick Cosentino – LinkedIn
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My Team Triumph Canada – Weekly Article Dump

My Team Triumph Canada - Inaugural Race

All of the captains with their angels after the race! What a blast!

My Team Triumph – Canada

You probably haven’t heard of it, but I can assure you that will change. Today I was fortunate enough to participate in the first My Team Triumph race in Canada. My Team Triumph is a program that allows people of all ages with disabilities to participate in endurance events. With a great volunteer staff, a few angels, and all of the amazing captains, this was made possible.

My Team Triumph takes their inspiration from Team Hoyt, whom you’ve probably heard of.  Now I can’t do the Hoyt story any justice, so I suggest you head over to their site to get the full details. Team Hoyt is a father-son team that has competed in over a thousand races; however, their team is slightly different than your average racer in these events. Dick Hoyt, the father, pushes his quadriplegic son, Rick, in a wheelchair during these events. It started in 1977 when Rick told his father that we wanted to be able to participate in a benefit race for a paralyzed rugby player. Dick agreed to it, and they finished their 5 mile race. That night, Rick told his father that it felt like all of his disabilities went away when they were running together. Honestly, you need to read the story.

So today at the My Team Triumph race, I was grouped up with Captain Vernon of “Vernon’s Maple Leafs” and two angels Nadine and Blair. It was exciting to get to meet the team, and Vernon was incredibly enthusiastic about the whole thing. For anyone who knows me personally, I’m not a runner at all. People actually joke around with me about any time I have to run (because we all know those calories could be put towards squatting, obviously). When we were sharing our running experiences with each other, I had to let the team know that I had never actually ran a 5 km race. That didn’t discourage Vernon though. He told me he was going to make me run, and he wasn’t lying. In the end, we were the second chair team to cross the finish line, which is absolutely amazing in terms of where my expectations were.

My Team Triumph Canada - Nick and Steph

Steph Hicks-Uzun and I bright and early before the run! I’m all smiles here because my lungs and legs haven’t yet endured the 5 km!

Once it was all said and done, my lungs and legs were on fire, but it was an incredible experience. Wes Harding has done an amazing job in putting My Team Triumph Canada together, and everyone at the race was incredibly supportive. Please check out their site to read about their inspirational stories. Way to go, team!

Articles

It’s a pretty short list this week, but it doesn’t mean there’s a lack of quality!

  • I like, I wish, I wonder: A teammate of mine, Christine, brought this to my attention on LinkedIn. In this post, Akshay Kothari talks about a different approach to what our typical sprint retrospectives look like. For some background, in our development life cycle we work in “sprints”. Sprints are typically one or two week units of time where we claim we can get X units of work done. These units of work are often “stories” or “tickets” that we’re essentially taking full responsibility for getting done by the end of the iteration. At the end of the sprint, we do a retrospective where we discuss what went good, what went bad, and how we can improve them. More often than not, there’s less than ideal amounts of input and it seems pretty forced. This article suggests taking a slightly different approach where people can make a statement that starts with “I wish”, “I like”, or “I wonder”. I’m hoping to try this out at our next retrospective and see if it’s the little switch-up that we need.
  • The 17 Qualities And Views Of Great LeadersAndreas von der Heydt put together this awesome list of 17 qualities that great leaders possess. Among them is the idea of failure (and doing it early and often), which you’ve probably seen my write plenty about now. There’s nothing wrong with failure as long as you’re learning and moving forward. Over communicating and keeping a positive attitude are also right up there on my top picks from that list.
  • How To Uncover Your Company’s True Culture: When I shared this on LinkedIn, I had a lot of positive attention from it. I’ll assume that means that it hit home with a lot of people! I this post, Dharmesh Shah, the founder of HubSpot, discusses what company culture really is. Some key take away points are that it’s really easy to say “this is what we think our ideal culture is, so this will be our culture”, but that means close to nothing. Your real culture is not what you say you want it to be, it’s what your company lives and breathes every day. You can say you want your culture to be anything, but it means nothing unless you’re all living it out at work. There are some great points in the article with specific cases to what you might say your culture values. For example, if you value customer service highest of all things, then when you have an opportunity to improve ease of use for your customer(s), what’s your first reaction? “That’s going to be a lot of work?” or “Let’s get it done for the customer”. Neither is wrong, but those answers are the ones that define your culture, NOT what you think you want the answer to be.
  • Forget a Mentor, Build a Team: In this article by Jim Whitehurst, he talks about an alternative to the mentor approach. It’s becoming increasingly more common for professionals to try and set themselves up with a mentor who has been there, done that, and has a lot of insight to offer. This is great, and there’s nothing really wrong with it. However, Jim proposes an alternative where instead of setting yourself up with a mentor, why not surround yourself with team members who all bring something to the table? It’s a great idea, really. I’m sure we all have close friends, old classmates, or old colleagues who would be great to bounce ideas off of, share our hard times with, and share our victories with. They’ll keep you grounded and hopefully bring some of their own personal insights to the table.
  • 5 Things Super Successful People Do Before 8 AM: I thought this article by Jennifer Cohen was great. Some things I definitely want to start doing are mapping out my day and visualizing what’s ahead. I’m already pretty good for eating well, and I favour exercising at night once my body and nervous system has had time to wake up, so those ones aren’t at the top of my personal list. Another great tip from Jennifer: Get that one big ugly thing off your list as soon as possible in your week. Awesome.
  • Scrappiness = Happiness: This article really hit home with me. The company where I work, Magnet Forensics, is still considered a startup but we’re making the transition into small business. The rate at which we’re developing and growing all aspects of the business makes it hard to remain in a complete “startup mode”. In his article, Tim Cadogan talks about a meetup between “originals” of the company where he worked. The key take away points are that the initial years of your company where you’re facing hard times and dealing with less than ideal circumstances are going to be the times you remember later on. This is where the memories are made. Being able to share these stories with each other (and new people you bring onto the team, for that matter) is what lets your company culture continue on.

Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week.

Nick Cosentino – LinkedIn
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Migration – Weekly Article Dump

Migration - Weekly Article Dump

Migration: Bye to the Pi

Well… it happened. If you checked in earlier this week, you might have noticed Dev Leader was completely down on Thursday. Quite a bummer… but the show must go on. Migration to a new host was necessary, but that wasn’t without some hiccups.

For me, having a site hosted was still a pretty new process. I had tried it a couple of times before, but running a web server that I controlled always felt better. Just more control I suppose. Migration started off sort of sour where I was required to re-install WordPress on my host a few times due to some technical difficulties… And of course, it was hard to sit still while I knew my site was down. Once I finally had WordPress launched, the only part of the migration that went smooth was having a backup of my site four hours before it went down. Talk about timing!

There’s silver lining in everything though, and this little migration blip was no different. My Raspberry Pi was a fun little box, but it wasn’t fast by any stretch of the imagination. Page loading times were a bit slow, and serving images could sometimes be terrifyingly slow. Now that the site is hosted, there should be a very noticeable performance improvement. Additionally, with the new host comes some additional reliability! That’s always awesome.

See? Migration wasn’t so bad after all, I guess! My list of things for any WordPress user to be doing regularly:

  • Back up your posts
  • Back up your comments if your readers are actively engaged in discussions
  • Back up the media you use on your blog
  • Export your plugin settings
  • Keep a list of plugins you have running

Even if you don’t have a plan for host migration any time in the near future, it’s always good to have the “worst case scenario” covered. The plugin BackWPup covers basically everything I mentioned above, so I’d recommend getting that setup if you don’t have any backup plan currently in place!

Articles

  • Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions: 10 Tips for Doing it Right: Anyone in a leadership position knows just how valuable being able to provide feedback is. Heck, anyone who is driven to improve themself craves feedback. Joel Peterson provides an awesome list of tips for being able to provide feedback. I’d say frequency, positivity, and confidentiality are among the top take away points from his list.
  • 10 ways to make your .NET projects play nice with others: First programming article in the list this week. I thought this one stood out because I think anyone working in a team has either heard some (most) of these or is trying to work through them. Troy Hunt has put together a list of 10 things that any developer working in a team should be conscious of to make sure their code plays well with their teammates. Number one on the list is the same as my number one. “Works on my machine” carries no validity. Why? Your customers don’t have your computer. It’s a frequent thing when working with the QA team and developers want to cover their butts… But it won’t cut it!
  • Only 13 percent of people worldwide actually like going to work: Had to share this one, because if the stat is real, it’s scary. It’s scary to think that almost 90% of people that go to work don’t actually like going. In Jena McGregor‘s article, this low rate is attributed to poor working conditions, job availability, and job engagement. On the bright side for us North Americans, we’re a bit higher at just under 30%. That’s still far too low for something we spend a majority of our lives doing. It’s important to find a company you can get behind, and I definitely lucked out with Magnet.
  • The New Science of Who Sits Where at WorkRachel Feintzeig shared an interesting article about seating in the workplace. I’ve shared some articles before about open concept offices and that I do enjoy working in them, but the seating perspective is pretty interesting. For example, changing your org hierarchy is one thing but unless people are changing their daily interactions, it won’t have that big of an effect. However, if seating arrangements are responsible for 40-60% of people’s daily interactions, simply moving people around will really stir the pot.
  • What is the Biggest Mistake Managers Make?: In John Murphy‘s article, he points out something that is probably less obvious than it should be. The biggest mistake a manager can make is focusing on the wrong things. He provides some steps to help align managers with the goals of their company to ensure that focus is in the necessary areas.
  • 8 strategies for successful culture change: Culture is something that is dynamic and always evolving within a company, but often there are things that are core to the company culture. What happens when you need to make some work culture changes? Michelle Smith shares some tips on how to approach a work culture shift.
  • Why Inspiring Leaders Don’t Sweat: Here was an article that hit home with me because I’m guilty of it. Panicking. Why is it bad if you’re panicking in a leadership position? The biggest problem is that your teammates will pick up on it and switch to a panick state too. It’s incredibly demotivating, and it’s usually at a time when motivation and inspiration is truly needed. In Steven Thompson‘s post, he talks about how and why to keep calm and lead on.
  • 3 Proven Ways to Make Tough Job Decisions: Jennifer Dulski discusses three approaches for helping make tough life and career decisions. At some point or another, most of us will be faced with making a decision in our career path that’s going to be difficult–difficult for you to decide or difficult for you to explain to those you’re close to. I think the “Sit With” approach is my favourite of the three.
  • 4 Ways to Have a Life Outside Your Business: This one should probably hit home with anyone working in a startup or running a business. Alexa von Tobel shares four tips for how to have a life outside of work and why having a life outside of work is necessary to be successful. I think something that’s often overlooked (somehow) is “me time”. I’m guilty of it too, but you get to a point when you’re not doing anything just for yourself. It’s great to be dedicated to your company and be passionate about your work, but it’s also importnt to step back, take a breath, and do something just for you.
  • 17 Things The Boss Should Never Say: Dave Kerpen has another great article on what not to say–this time from the boss’s perspective. Some of the worst ones in my opinion? Telling your teammates it’s only their problem (or not yours, at least) or being adamant about not evolving your perspective/processes. Some gems in there from quite a few business owners.
  • 9 Lessons From the World’s Best Mentors: This one is pretty quick from Chester Elton, but there’s a few different perspectives shared in here. Sone key points in my opinion are ensuring that you’re doing what you can to help others and not getting paralyzed by risk.
  • Key Reasons Delegating Is SO Difficult and What To Do About It: Most new managers and leaders have this problem. How do you delegate work? Perhaps you acquired your management or leadership position because you proved that technically you were very capable in your position. So how do you get others to do work you think you could be doing? Judith Sherven shares some insight on why being able to delegate is an incredibly important skill as a leader. After all, being able to grow as a leader means being able to effectively delegate responsibilities.
  • Want Greater Employee Engagement? Develop Intrapreneurs: In this article, Larry Myler talks about increasing employee engagement by developing intrapreneurs within your organization. It’s inline with what Tayun’s guest post was about the other week. Provide people autonomy and let them execute on their strengths. It’s a sure-fire way to increase engagement.

That’s it for this week! Hopefully there won’t be any more emergency host migrations any time in the near future (or ever again). Follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week.

Nick Cosentino – LinkedIn
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Recognition – Weekly Article Dump

Recognition - Weekly Article Dump (Image from http://www.sxc.hu/)

Recognition – Weekly Article Dump

Not all of the articles this week touch on recognition, and to be honest, I didn’t pick it as a theme for the articles either. Recognition is more a topic of discussion that’s come up over the last week at Magnet Forensics, where I work. Being a team lead and part of the management team at Magnet, I’m often part of conversations about motivation. Providing recognition is an excellent way to motivate your staff and shows that you truly appreciate them. We’ve been trying to get better at recognizing staff for doing an awesome job–especially because we have so many awesome people working with us. It’s pretty obvious with our Profit Hot 50 placement that we’ve got some kick-ass people.

Recognition, whether it’s one-on-one or in a public setting, has a huge impact. I don’t even mean recognition in the form of compensation (e.g. bonus or salary raise). Just giving someone recognition for the awesome work they’ve done–plain and simple. It’s a great way to let someone know that their hard work and commitment isn’t going unnoticed. Sure, if they’re developing products, making sales, or acquiring leads there are certain metrics that indicate they’re doing a great job, but recognition is that additional feedback you can provide to really drive the point home. It motivates people and often has a bigger impact than providing compensation.

I want to make a conscious effort to try and recognize some of my colleagues on Dev Leader, going forward, when the opportunity presents itself. I’m always learning from the people I work with and there’s always something great I can say about them. Why not give them a public acknowledgement?

I also have a little surprise coming from a friend and colleague of mine, Tayfun Uzun, early next week, so keep your eyes open for that!

Articles

  • Job Titles and Responsibilities: Last week I wrote about my thoughts on the true role of job titles. As soon as you start to look at your job title as something that defines your limits, you’re on the wrong path. Your job title should define what you’re responsible for, but it’s by no means supposed to put limits on what you can do. Check it out and let me know what you think! Do you feel like job titles should keep people to only a certain set of tasks? Do you feel like having set responsibilities is useful at all?
  • How Strong Is Your Bench: Having a successful company is all about having the right people on board. Sylvia Hewlett writes about what it means to have a rock solid roster within your company. Some of the things include avoiding hiring clones of people exactly like yourself and instead trying to diversify the skill sets within your company. Absolutely true!
  • 8 Steps for Engineering Leaders to Keep the Peace: There seems to be a natural tendency for engineers or people implementing components of a product to push back on product managers or people who decide how a product/service should be. Steven Sinofsky discusses the importance of being an effective engineering leader and ensuring proper communication between engineering leaders and people like PMs or founders. Open and transparent communication is key and helps remind the other party that you do in fact have the same end-goal.
  • Top Tips To Being a Great Mentor: In this article, James Caan provides four key points for being a better mentor. Patience, honesty, positivity, and focus are the four pillars that James describes. Patience and honesty, in my opinion, are the most important but I certainly agree with all four!
  • Leading a Customer-Centric Transformation: Hopefully it’s not surprising, but customers are what your business should be geared toward. As a result, it makes sense that leading customer-centric employees would be beneficial. Don Peppers outlines six things to focus on to make this transformation necessary. It ties in with my post on avoiding organizational silos.
  • The Dark Side Of Software Development That No One Talks About: Don’t be scared that this article mentions software development if you’re not a programmer! It touches on some great points about having a career in software development, so even if you’re not a developer yourself, it sheds some light on some more broad issues. John Sonmez writes about why software developers seem like jerks sometimes and what you can do about it. It seems to boil down to intelligence being a deciding factor for how well you program, so lording your intelligence over other people makes you superior. And because our own intelligence is something we all hold personally, we can get defensive about it pretty easily. John suggests that part of the solution is trying to simplify aspects of software development.
  • How to Win Loyalty From Other People: To be a successful leader, the people you lead need to be loyal to you. Deepak Chopra writes about seven suggestions for building up loyalty and among them “abstaining from disloyalty” is one of my favourites. If you act differently behind people’s backs compared to when you’re leading them, it may come back to bite you later. It’s also crucial to pay attention to each individual’s personal differences to ensure they feel understood.
  • Strategies for Dealing with Randomness in BusinessDon Peppers twice on the list this week! Things in life and business aren’t always predictable for us. It’s just how things are. Are you properly set up to deal with uncertainty in your business though? Remain agile!
  • 10 Quotes All Entrepreneurs Should Memorize: How about some quotes to motivate you? Joel Peterson lists 10 great quotes for entrepreneurs, but I think they carry over to anyone working in a startup. Don’t be afraid to fail and keep moving forward to improve!
  • The Two Biggest Distractions – And What to Do About Them: Distractions are ever-increasing in the workplace, but have you ever considered the differences between the different types of distractions? Daniel Goleman discusses two very different types of distractions: sensory and emotional. I hadn’t really noticed it, but often we find ourselves consciously trying to avoid sensory distractions. If our phone lights up or we get an email notification, we either give in or we make an effort to try and reduce the effect of these distractions. But an emotional distraction is much worse. If something tweaks your emotions the wrong way at work, it often has a bigger impact and it’s usually unexpected.

My take away point for this week regarding recognition: Do it early and do it often. Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week!

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PROFIT HOT 50 – Weekly Article Dump

Magnet Forensics - Ranked #7 in Profit Hot 50!

PROFIT HOT 50

It’s with great honour that I can say the company I’m part of, Magnet Forensics, has achieved the 7th place in the Profit Hot 50 rankings for 2013. Last year Magnet Forensics was also on the list ranked at number 16th, but we’ve shown ourselves up by moving a full 9 positions! Our ranking in the Profit Hot 50 is even more impressive considering we’re the only company from Kitchener-Waterloo region in Ontario–Known for it’s incredible startup community and success stories–that made the list. We’re excited and tremendously proud of our accomplishments, but it’s certainly going to be quite the challenge for us to move up in rank next year. It’s a challenge we’re all ready to take on though. You can check out the ranking over here or at the official Profit Guide posting.

Articles

I’ll put the horn-tooting aside… even though it’s an incredible accomplishment (not sure that I mentioned that already).

  • Don’t Be A Perfectionist: Ilya Pozin discusses the downsides to being a perfectionist. Often, people call themselves perfectionists when they can’t think of some other weakness they might have (you see it a lot in interviews) and because they think it’s a loop-hole in the question. I mean, if your weakness is that you’re perfect… how can that be a weakness, right?! Well in reality, aside form being a cheesy way to answer an otherwise good interview question, perfectionism can certainly be a problem. Especially in a fast-paced startup environment, we’re often not hunting for perfect. We’re hunting for 80% perfect with 20% of the effort. It’s the only way we can keep moving fast and get products or services to our customers. Besides, we don’t know what “perfect” actually is… Our customers do. And if we never get anything to them, how the heck can we ever know what perfect is?
  • How Goofing Off Can Make You More Successful: In this article, Adam Rifkin discusses over work. It’s a great tie in to the articles I shared last week about burnout. Adam talks about why we often find ourselves in situations where we feel like we’re forced to over work to be successful and shared a handful of suggestions for how to avoid it. His top 3: Doing nothing. Socializing. Helping others. Sound counter-intuitive to your poor overworked soul? Well kick back, relax, and have a good read through his post 🙂
  • The New Rules for Career Success: In Dave Kerpen‘s article, he shares some answers from Dan Schawbel about what it means to have a successful career. Among the top points, Dan suggests looking inside your current company before looking for opportunities elsewhere. This is a a key point because instead of becoming a chronic company hopper you can actually look for other great opportunities in the company you’ve already invested yourself in. Additionally, Dan suggests acting like an entrepreneur at your current job. If you’ve already proven yourself successful at your role, look for side projects that can benefit your company.
  • The Part They Don’t Tell You About Startup Team Building: The end result of becoming a good leader is often that you obsolete yourself in your current job. It’s a strange truth about the position: You start off taking on a large workload and then lead others so that they can effectively take on your portion and more. Where does that put you as a leader though? Tomasz Tunguz discusses this leadership role evolution in his article.
  • Raspberry Pi + WordPress => PiPress: This is a bit of a shameless plug, but I thought it might be cool for any tech-savvy bloggers out there who are looking for a bit of a DIY. After reading all over The Internet for how I can use my Raspberry Pi, I discovered I could use it to host a blog. So, for what it’s worth, the text you’re reading right now is coming from a little computer just a tad bigger than a credit card.
  • The 7 Things That Will Stop You Getting Things Done: Do you find there are a lot of things throughout your day that cut into you working efficiently? Bernard Marr has a nice list of things that are likely chewing up your time and a handful of solutions for how you can minimize the effect they have on your life.
  • Business is Over: My New Post-Workday Transition RoutineJeanine O’Donnell uses a BBB acronym for helping her transition from work-mode to home-mode. How do you handle separating your work-life from your home-life? Is there even a separation for you?
  • The Business World Can Tear You Apart – If You Let It: Even after achieving financial success and success in your career, sometimes there’s just something missing. Joel Peterson shares some tips for how you can keep your career focus from taking away from the finer things in life.
  • 6 Ways to Put the Good (Bad and Ugly) in Goodbye—Part II: Last week I shared a post about a great example of how to say to goodbye to your employees when they’re leaving for other opportunities. This post by Chester Elton builds on that with more positive examples, but he also shares some downright terrible ways that people have been “let go” by their employers.
  • Adventures in Cat (and Dog) Sitting: What I Learned about Managing People: If you don’t know what your pets have in common with your employees, Whitney Johnson can help you out with that. Why is this comparison necessary? Well if you think about how some people treat their pets (letting them out for walks, feeding them when they need it, belly rubs, petting, etc…) there are a lot of parallels with your employees… Well, there should be. Your employees deserve a good environment to work in, being acknowledged for their hard work, and having engaging work.

That’s it for this week! I hope you checked out the Profit Hot 50 article I mentioned above. Follow Dev Leader on popular social media outlets to get these updates through the week!

Nick Cosentino – LinkedIn
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Failure – Weekly Article Dump

Failure: Weekly Article Dump (Image provided by http://www.stockfreeimages.com/)

Failure: Should You Fear It?

Thanks for checking out this weekly article dump, and sorry it didn’t make it out on Friday. I was out visiting family in Alberta and I didn’t have enough time to get this post all set up. Better late than never!

The theme for this past week seemed to be articles about failure. Not all of them, of course, but a lot of authors are writing about what it means to fail and why that’s not always such a bad thing. Do we need to avoid all failures in order to be successful?

Articles

  • Stepping Away, So Others Can Step Up: In this article, Jonathan Bush discusses something that’s often hard for leaders to do… Step away. It’s difficult for many people to disconnect and have trust in their team to get things done. Trust should be at the center of any highly functional team. At Magnet Forensics, we embrace trust as our core value because we know we’re working with talented people we can rely on. It’s crucial for ensuring that people can operate effectively to the best of their ability.
  • HELP! I Hired the Wrong Guy: In this article, an individual has written in and gets some advice on how to handle a bad hire. Liz Ryan makes some great points on how to address the issue, including a nice segue for the person that wasn’t such a great fit. This first example of “failure” to hire properly offers a lot of learning. Know what warning signs you ignored this time around. Know how you can detect it before the hire happens and worse case, how you can detect a bad fit early on.
  • Negotiate Great Deals, Without a Fight: Firstly, I’m sharing this not because it might be a good sales tactic or business tactic in the perspective of making money. Forget that for now. In my opinion, this is a great tactic for you to take when you’re trying to pitch your idea. Next time you’re working in your team and analyzing the pros and cons of some decision, remember that you’re not out to make your opinion the only one and everyone else a loser in the outcome. Fight for the win-win, which is often a combination of multiple perspectives. Great article, Joel Peterson.
  • Why We Should All Embrace the F-Word (Failure): Arguably the article with the most eye-catching title this time around, Amy Chen discusses failure and why so many people fear it.
  • Vulnerability Makes You a Better Leader: This article by Brad Smith discusses why a perfect leader is actually less than ideal. In order to make people really look up to you, it’s important to show them that what you’re modelling is attainable for them. Chasing perfection isn’t realistic, but chasing awesome certainly is.
  • 7 Signs You’re Working in a Toxic Office: Definitely one of my favourites this week, this article addresses some key signs that your place of work is a crappy place to work, from a work culture perspective. Not only that, the author discusses how to go about solving the problem if you’re the victim or if you’re the perpetrator! Great stuff.
  • Don’t Write Off the Coaching Leadership Style: Daniel Goleman discusses why leaders that act as coaches shouldn’t be forgotten. A leader that can coach is familiar with their teammates’ individual strengths and weaknesses. This let’s them delegate effectively and help address the weak areas of their team.

Hope you enjoyed, and remember that failure isn’t always a bad thing! Remember to follow on popular social media outlets to get these updates through the week!

Nick Cosentino – LinkedIn
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Cookie Cutters For Projects

Background

When you’re starting work on a new project or organizing a team to accomplish a goal, there’s often a foundation that needs to be established:

  • How is your team structured?
  • What software should we use to help us?
  • How do we set goals?
  • How do we measure our progress
  • … the list goes on.

It’s a common challenge that’s met by anyone organizing a team or setting off to work on something. So do you copy what worked for someone else by using a cookie cutter approach, or do you wing it and see what happens? My approach when faced with two extremes is usually to aim somewhere in the middle.

 

Cookie Cutters

Being a copy-cat and using cookie cutters has some benefits. If something worked for some all-star teams at big successful companies, then why re-invent the wheel? They’ve proven that they have a process that works!

Look at a successful company that’s the same size as yours. Look at a team that’s completed a project that has a lot of parallels to what you’re going to be working on. How did they structure their team? Did they split off into smaller sub teams? Did they have daily meetings to discuss progress? Weekly? Monthly? Are they using some sort of software to assist them in their work? Maybe it’s a ticket tracking software, or some CRM to aid with customer interaction. If it worked for them, why wouldn’t it work for you?

The answer to that is because you aren’t them, you’re not working on the same project, and despite all the parallels you might see, your environment is different.

 

From Scratch

Okay okay… So if we can’t copy people, then let’s just do it all from scratch. Start your project tomorrow by holding a meeting and seeing who wants to work on what. Let people just start tackling parts of the project. Have someone create some software that will help you in accomplishing your goal (after all, you don’t want to copy someone else and use some well-established software). And now that you’ve all set off on working on parts of the project, you should probably just meet whenever you need to. Probably not best to schedule anything, because you don’t even know if you need to meet!

So, that sounds pretty sketchy, right? Clearly doing everything from scratch doesn’t seem ideal… Why re-invent the wheel on things that have been proven to work? Where’s the happy medium?

 

The Happy Medium

The truth is there are aspects to tackling a challenge with a team that have been proven to work. There are processes out there that teams have used successfully, software that has improved team efficiency, and strategies for gauging progress that have been used effectively. So when do you copy and when do you work from scratch?

My personal recommendation is to evaluate your options from the start. Look at what other successful companies are doing. Do they use a waterfall approach to developing products, or are they agile? Are they using particular software products for tracking progress, managing projects, interacting with customers, and/or automating processes? Make a list of those too. How often do they meet with other team members? Why are they meeting at those intervals? What are the pros and cons?

After you come up with your options, start gauging how they might apply to you. Your customer requirements are set in stone for your enormous project? Maybe a waterfall approach is better than being agile. Everyone on your team has success using Git and bad experiences using subversion for their source code… So maybe you start with that. Maybe tasks are changing pretty frequently and it’d be helpful to have frequent updates from team members, so you meet briefly every day for updates. Look at your options and think of why certain ones might be good for you.

Start with something. Try it out. There’s no guarantee you’re going to be right the first time you try things out. Actually, it’s likely you’ll do it wrong. But so what? Find out what works. Find out what doesn’t. Then figure out why something didn’t work, and swap that process for something else. Swap that software for something that fits your needs better. Change what doesn’t work and you’ll converge to a rock solid foundation. But don’t fix what isn’t broken. If your daily meetings have been working well for everyone, then why bother arbitrarily switching them to weekly? If it works, then use it.

 

Summary

Regardless of your approach to getting your challenge completed, I think one thing is important: Have flexibility in your foundation until you find what works. Don’t use certain things because other people say to. Use what you think might work best after you’ve evaluated your options, and then once you’ve had it in place for some time, change what doesn’t work. Use the cookie cutters as a source of information and inspiration for why you might want to try something, but don’t let your entire foundation be built from one big cookie cutter. Use lots of little cookie cutters to make your foundation for overcoming your challenge the best it can be for your team and not someone else’s.


Weekly Article Dump

Weekend Motivation Reading!

Here’s a collection of things I shared over the week. Lot’s of motivation, tips, and leadership pointers!

  • 10 Leadership Nuggets From Nelson Mandela: Some inspiring words to lead by!
  • 5 Public Speaking Tips That’ll Prepare You for Any Interview: Several basic interview tips that are related to public speaking. Being better at interviewing never hurt anyone 🙂
  • A Foolproof Tool for Motivating Your Team (and Yourself): I’m always looking for different approaches to motivate. This article offered a pretty good approach that’s worth checking out.
  • Shiny objects: tips for using both sides of your brain: Some tips for boosting creativity, mostly aimed at those that may not be that creative 🙂
  • Are You Coachable?: An interesting article about being “coachable”. The best part, I thought, was addressing whether or not you’re actually seeking help or if you’re seeking validation. Big difference.
  • 10 Ways That Small Businesses Can Enchant Their Customers:
  • One Strategy for Workplace Happiness: Meet Others Where They Are: A great article about increasing and maintaining engagement from your customers.
  • Get Out of Your Own Way: You might be your biggest burden. Try to take a deep breath and stop letting others bring you down.
  • Should Colleges Charge Engineering Students More?: I’m not a fan of online debates, but this one churned my stomach a bit. In my opinion, if the program costs the institution more to offer it, then there is no reason it couldn’t cost a student more to take it. If the demand for people with these degrees is high, then perhaps the costs should actually be subsidized more (That doesn’t actually mean making it cheaper than other degrees necessarily, just putting in more effort to bring the cost down comparatively). If the whole reason is to balance out salary potential then I think people need to get a grip (Hi, I pay taxes based on my income). If you’re going to start charging more based on potential salaries, you might as well bust out the statistics and start charging a person’s tuition based on gender, race, age, and any other obscure metric you can attach to potential salaries. That would be cool too, right? Maybe I should start overly sarcastic rant posts…
  • Consider My Happiness Manifesto: It’s important to be happy! Do you have your own list of things that you use to gauge your happiness? Have you ever considered it?
  • The Unexpectedly High Cost of a Bad Hire: Having someone on your team who doesn’t fit the bill (technically, from a company culture perspective, or any other reason) can be pretty costly. It’s not even a matter of paying their salary while they are ramping up, but consider the impact it has on the effectiveness of other employees on the team.
  • The First Thing You Must Do On Monday Morning: I bet this is actually difficult for a lot of people… Do nothing?! I can’t even imagine how tricky this would be, despite the fact it’s only 5-10 minutes. I think I can afford the time, and I think I’d like to try it on Monday!
  • Name the Elephant in the Room: I thought this article was excellent. As a young professional in a leadership position, I get to see all sorts of awesome things in the startup I work at. Sometimes these things aren’t so awesome though, and they can be really hard to address. Having a well-lubed and smooth-running company culture means being able to be transparent and trust-worthy. Having those hard discussions is crucial for ensuring things don’t get bogged down by the elephant in the room.
  • Get Anxious Speaking Up At Meetings?: I can personally say that I’ve been there, but not so much anymore! It’s important that you can voice your opinions at meetings–That’s why you’re there!
  • Quiz: Do You Make Other People Happy?: A quick one, but it should provide some good indications that you actually do make others happy!
  • Praise or Criticism: Which is better?: An interesting article for sure. I’m sure we all think being praised is great, and surely we can’t all be wrong. But criticism can’t be all that bad for us, can it? Is there a right and a wrong way?

  • Nick Cosentino

    Nick Cosentino

    I work as a team lead of software engineering at Magnet Forensics (http://www.magnetforensics.com). I'm into powerlifting, bodybuilding, and blogging about leadership/development topics over at http://www.devleader.ca.

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