Tag: work culture

There’s Nothing Wrong With Failing

Fail!

Failure to Communicate

So this post will be pretty short, but I wanted to quickly touch on a workplace experience that happened the other day. I was approached by a colleague (who’s perspective I really value) about the way some of us on the team were discussing a series of events. This individual was really concerned that we kept calling it a failure, and in this person’s mind, we hadn’t truly failed at anything. We had done an experiment in terms of tackling a development problem and the team had reached a critical mass where we declared “enough is enough, this is a failure”. I became concerned because I wanted to make sure this person and I were on the same page.

I couldn’t totally wrap my ahead around why this person was so concerned about calling it a failure. In my opinion, all the evidence was there to call it a failure! But I guess that was just a failure on my part to communicate properly. I think that there was a work culture gap where this person was viewing our declaration of a failure as something really negative, whereas a lot of us were really just marking it as a point of realization to not continue along with something. All of the reasons this person offered up for why our experiment was not a failure were true. We hadn’t missed a deadline to ship and we had a plan for how to work around it. That sounds like success, right?

I guess the communication breakdown was really this: There’s nothing wrong with failing. We tried something and we’ve identified that it’s not working. That’s a failure. What makes us successful? Being able to identify our failures, learn from them, and improve going forward. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Acknowledging a failure and planning how we can be better next time around.

So with that said… You should be failing when you push the boundaries. Just make sure you learn from your failures.


Article Dump #24 – Weekly Article Dump

Article Dump #24 - Dev Leader (Image by http://www.sxc.hu)

Article Dump #24

Welcome to the 24th issue of my (nearly) weekly article dumps. I don’t have a theme or an update this week, so it’s kept pretty short. I hope you find the following articles interesting though! Leave me a comment if you have any opinions on these

Articles

  • The 7 Values That Drive IDEO: In this article, the CEO of IDEO Tim Brown talks about the various values that his organization embraces to have a creative culture. Some of the ideas in the slides seem really high level or like generic fluff, but try thinking about what they would mean in your organization. It’s one thing to glance at IDEO’s list and say “Yeah, yeah… That’s nice…” but when you actually think about how that fits in with your organization, you might actually realize you don’t embody those values. Do you learn from failure? Does your organization promote an ask for forgiveness not permission approach? Would this make sense in your organization? Just some food for thought, but I thought a lot of these values were interesting to think about and how embracing them might change the organization I work in.
  • The 15 Most Annoying Coworkers of All Time: Ilya Pozin put together a pretty funny article on different types of coworkers you’ll encounter in your career. I got worried that I might be #13 on the list… The office comedian who isn’t actually funny. Apparently this post got a lot of flack in the comments on LinkedIn. I guess people were expecting a really serious article on how to deal with these different types of problems in the workplace. I didn’t really have expectations when I read it, aside from not wanting to find myself on the list. Maybe the main take away point here is… don’t annoy your colleagues!
  • Companies Frustrate Innovative Employees: Gijs van Wulfen takes a different perspective on innovation. So many people now are writing about embracing failure (so far as you learn from it). I’m actually a big believer in that approach–take controlled risks and learn from things that don’t go as expected. Gijs’ perspective is a little bit different: forget embracing failure; boost the innovation effectiveness rate! Gijs goes through a workflow for trying to improve innovation at various steps in the process. Pretty interesting!
  • Your Boss is Happier Than You (But Shouldn’t Be): Jeff Haden tells us something we probably all (let’s say in the majority of circumstances) know: your boss is happier than you. Big surprise right? They get to make decisions, have fewer bosses than you, and they make more money. Sounds like a good reason to be happier, no? But if your boss is happier than you, those probably aren’t the exact reasons. Your superiors are likely happier than you because of autonomy. They get a bit more freedom to do accomplish goals in their own way. Jeff has a big list of reasons why your boss is probably happier… and none of them are about money.
  • When is it a Good Idea to write Bad Code?: Rejoice in the first programming article for this week! Tech debt. Ever heard of it? If not, it’s not likely that you’ve never encountered it in your programming career. I’d wager at least one of the last handful of big features you implemented in your code base either had to deal with some tech debt or perhaps even introduced some tech debt. Brad Carleton has put together a big list of different types of tech debt and what they mean in your project. I highly suggest you read it if your a programmer. There’s a lot of things to be aware of with tech debt but it’s important to remember that tech debt isn’t always the worst thing that could happen. Sometimes it’s okay to sacrifice a sub-par design now in order to get some software out the door. Your users might try it out and decide they don’t like the functionality anyway, and you’d end up re-writing it again!
  • “Happiness” vs “Meaningfulness” — The Surprising DifferenceAlex Banayan‘s article discusses the difference between happiness and meaningfulness. It appears as though often happiness and meaningfulness are not necessarily aligned. For example, it might be easy to chase a life of happiness that lacks meaning, or dedicate your life to something meaningful but not be very happy while doing it. The real question is, is it possible to achieve a balance where you’re leading a fulfilling life that keeps you happy? Alex talks briefly about five different categories and how each can sway to something more meaningful or something that provides more happiness. Are you living a happy and fulfilling life? Do you have to balance these five categories carefully?

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Performance Reviews – Weekly Article Dump

Performance Reviews - Weekly Article Dump (Image by http://www.sxc.hu/)

Performance Reviews

It’s almost the end of the year, and performance reviews for many companies are just around the corner. This will be the first time for me sitting on the other side of a performance review. I’m excited, and to be honest, a little nervous about how it will all play out. I know our HR manager has done an excellent job putting together our initial take on performance reviews, but it’s still going to be up to me to ensure that all aspects of a performance review are communicated properly to my team. It’s definitely going to be an interesting time of year!

I’ve started doing a little bit of reading on performance reviews. From what I can tell, the general consensus is that most performance review systems are flawed and nobody knows the perfect way to do them. That’s kind of scary actually. So, like anything, I started questioning all the aspects of performance reviews that I can think of. So things like: What’s stack ranking? Why do companies stack rank? What are alternatives? What about leveraging teammate-driven reviews? etc… There’s a whole lot for me to learn, so I need to start by questioning everything.

With that said, how do you do performance reviews? Have performance reviews been working at your organization? Do you stick to “the norm”, or do you have your own interesting spin on performance reviews that make them effective for your organization?

Articles

  • Employee retention is not just about pizza lunches and parties: On the surface, things like candy stashes, catered lunch, and all other shiny perks seem like a great way to get and keep employees. However, keeping employees engaged is the sum of what attracts them to the company and what keeps them motivated while they’re working. Recognizing their accomplishments and giving them challenging and meaningful work is an awesome start.
  • 7 Reasons Your Coworkers Hate You: The truth? You probably know at least one person at work who does at least one of the things on this list. The harder truth? You probably do one of these yourself. It’s a pretty cool list put together by Ilya Pozin. I’d suggest a quick look!
  • How To Inspire Your Team on a Daily Basis: In this article by James Caan, he echoes one of the things I wrote about recently. You can’t expect to have a motivated team unless you lead by example. You really shouldn’t expect anything from your tea unless you are going the lengths to demonstrate that your dedication to the team and the team’s goal.
  • humility = high performance and effective leadership: Michelle Smith write about how humility is actually a great leadership characteristic. A couple of the top points in her article include not trying to obtain your own publicity and acknowledge the things you don’t know. The most important, in my opinion, is promoting a spirit of service. You lead because you are trying to provide the team guidance and ensure every team member can work effectively.
  • The Surprising Reason To Set Extremely Short Deadlines: This one might not be the same for all people. I think that anyone that tries to apply this as a blanket statement is probably setting themselves up for failure. How do you feel about short deadlines? Some people tend to work really well under pressure and having short deadlines. For those that do, this article offers a perspective on why. Under pressure, you operate creatively given your restricted set of resources, and you don’t have time to dawdle and let things veer of track. Interesting to read.
  • Eliciting the Truth: Team Culture Surveys: Gary Swart talks about something I think is extremely important for all businesses. Maybe your work culture is established, but where did it come from? It’s easy for people to get together in a room and say “we want to have a culture that looks like X”. It’s harder to actually have the culture you say you want. Gary suggests you do a culture survey to actually see what your work culture is like because… well, who knows better? A few people sitting together in a room, or everyone in the company?
  • You Are Not a Number: With year-end performance reviews and the like coming up, I thought it would be interesting to share this short article by Dara Khosrowshahi. Do you stick to stack ranking? Do you have in-depth conversations with employees about their performance? Have you tried switching things up because the canned approach just wasn’t delivering?
  • Which Leads to More Success, Reward or Encouragement?: Deepak Chopra analyzes the positives and negatives of using rewards and using encouragement as a means of driving success. The takeaway from Deepak’s article is that using rewards is not a sustainable means to motivate your team, and actually tends to create separation within the team. By leveraging encouragement, you can empower your team to work together and self-motivate.

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

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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.

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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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v6.2 of IEF from Magnet Forensics! – Weekly Article Dump

IEF v6.2 from Magnet Forensics

v6.2 Release: Mobile Forensics Upgrade

I like to be able to use these weekly article dumps for little summaries of what’s going on in my work life, and I think this is a perfect opportunity to acknowledge our latest product update at Magnet Forensics. We just pushed out v6.2 of Internet Evidence Finder and we’re incredibly proud of the work we’ve done. Like any release we have, we pour our hearts into making sure it’s a few big steps forward. We’ve done our best to listen to customers and work with them to address any bugs, but we’re always trying to push the boundaries in our features.

Some of the new offerings in v6.2 of Internet Evidence Finder include:

  • Dynamic App Finder: We now offer a solution for recovering mobile chat applications that we may not have otherwise supported. This is a great discovery tool and has proved to be very powerful even in our early tests. Read more about it here. v6.2’s secret weapon!
  • Chat Threading: Visualize chat threads within our software as they look in their native applications. If you’re looking at a Skype conversation between two or more people, it will show up just like it does from within Skype. A lot less jumping between records to piece together a conversation.
  • L2T CSV Support: L2T CSV files can now be loaded directly into our timeline viewer.
  • Case Merging: Combine multiple IEF cases together or pull in data from TLN/L2T CSV files.
  • More Artifacts: v6.2 is no different than previous releases when it comes to adding new artifacts!
    • AVI carving
    • Hushmail
    • TOR chat
    • Flash cookies
    • Offline gmail
    • Additional Chrome support
    • … and more.

If you’re a forensic investigator, v6.2 is going to be an awesome upgrade or addition to your suite of tools. If you’re not, then check out Magnet Forensics to see what we’re all about and so proud of what we do. Congrats to Magnet on an awesome release of v6.2!

Articles

  • In praise of micromanagement: I’m still very early on in my career, so it’s difficult for me to have an opinion on this article and back it up. It’s a bit controversial, so of course I want to take the other side and disagree with it.There’s that, and I have some discomfort when it comes to Apple so I like to turn off when I see articles on Apple or Steve Jobs. Regardless, I thought that there was an interesting perspective in this piece to share, and maybe even if I can’t see it right now, others would benefit from reading through it. Is there a place for micromanagement? Can it be done right? Are people like Steve Jobs just an exception to an otherwise good rule?
  • The Myth of the Rockstar Programmer: Scott Hanselman says that rockstar programmers don’t exist–rockstar teams do. I completely agree. When your company is so small that you essentially don’t have teams, this might not hold. Maybe you have three developers and each one is a rockstar in their own right. That’s probably a it different. More often than not, you’re not working with one or two people developing a product for a company. It’s not about having one rockstar with all the programming super-powers take charge on the team. It’s about creating a team where everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and then organizing them to operate at full efficiency. Teams. Not individuals.
  • Strengthen and Sustain Culture with Storytelling: This is an article that I can really align myself with. Nancy Duarte writes about something that’s often lost when small startups are transitioning into small businesses. It’s entirely possible some companies don’t even make it out of the start up phase because this thing is already going south. Storytelling. It’s important to be able to share stories with people as you bring them on board to your company. They need to know where the company has been and how it’s gotten to where it is. New hires need to feel like their part of the family as they are brought on board, and without conveying your company’s mission and values properly you start to lose that alignment.
  • Ignoring Your Test Suite: Another programming article here, but this post by Jesse Taber has some deeper lessons to be learned, in my opinion. The article talks about something not all programmers do, but should: write code that tests their code. This lets developers catch problems early on (because catching a problem now might cost a bit of time, but catching the problem later could be devastating). Running code tests regularly is a process that allows you to ensure the foundation of your software product is structurally sound. But what happens when you have flaky tests? What happens when you introduce a new failure and don’t bother to fix it? After all, you have 3000 tests, and you know why test ABC is failing anyway. Don’t put processes in place just for the sake of having them. Everything you do should be done for a reason, because your business doesn’t have time for anything else. Don’t enable poor habits. If you’re noticing problems in your process, identify why they are happening and look to get them fixed. Maybe you need to adjust your process because it doesn’t fit anymore.
  • Cameron Sapp – Recognizing The New Guy: This one is from me. I wrote up a little recognition piece about a colleague and teammate, Cam Sapp. I want to be able to write more recognition posts, but I started with Cam. He’s been a great addition to our team both from a technical and work culture perspective. All of Magnet is glad to have him on board.
  • Don’t Work For Your Boss, Work For Your Company: I thought that Ilya Pozin had written something great when I cam across this article. Hierarchies in the workplace can often cause disconnect and disengage employees. So why do we have them? I’m not against hierarchies–I think they serve a purpose. However, I think necessary measures need to be put in place to ensure that hierarchies aren’t detracting from the company’s goals. In this article, Ilya says to not work for your boss. Your goals at work should not be to satisfy individuals or only do things for your boss so you can get your promotion. Align yourself to the company values and the mission of the company. You’ll remain engaged and happy to do the work you’re doing. In the end, if you’re not happy doing work that’s aligned with your company’s mission, vision, and values, you might be in the wrong place.
  • Creativity and the Role of the Leader: This article discusses where ideas come from and how leaders fit in to the grand scheme of things. The traditional mindset is that ideas come from the top and then are pushed down to employees to carry out the work necessary for bringing the idea to fruition. However, it’s increasingly more common where ideas are actually generated by employees, and it’s the responsibility of the leader for nurturing idea creation and ensuring that ideas that are aligned with the company’s mission can succeed.
  • Will Your Firm Endure?: In this article by Tim Williams, I took away two key points. In order for your business to be absolutely sure it can endure, everyone needs to be viewed as replaceable. I don’t mean in the sense where we can trade John for Joe and not care because we don’t value human qualities, I mean strictly from the skills and responsibility aspect. There shouldn’t be instanced in your business where if an individual were to disappear one day your company wouldn’t be able to carry on. The next is acknowledging strengths and weaknesses. When people have some obvious strengths, they have weak areas too. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s normal. Make sure your teams are constructed of people with complementary skills.
  • Dynamic Programming with Python and C#: Another article from me, and another programming related post. This my follow up to a post about C# and Python integration that seems to have been received really well. It was a cool little experiment for me to take Python and C# and have them working together in my favourite IDE, but on top of that, I was actually able to learn a bit about C#’s “dynamic” keyword which was new for me. If you’re familiar with either of C# or Python I recommend checking it out. There’s some pretty cool stuff you can do, and I’ve only scratched the surface.
  • To Find Success, Forget Your PrioritiesClaire Diaz-Ortiz says that priorities are too general. We all have priorities, but how many of us are seeing ourselves achieve what we’d like? Claire suggests forgetting your priorities and breaking them down into goals you can achieve. By having conrete action plans, you can execute them properly.
  • Personality Tests: Modern-Day Phrenology: Ron Baker shares his perspective on why personality tests don’t have a place at work. He goes as far as calling them meaningless, but I believe his main argument is that simply siloing people into personality types is pointless. To that end, I agree. I thought this article had great timing because I’ve been discussing personality tests with our HR manager at work. I came across this article right before doing a personality test with her and we decided a few things. Firstly, if the results of the test don’t make sense, then don’t go any further with it. This means that either the test you’re using is flawed or perhaps you don’t understand the test. Regardless, how can you take action on something you don’t understand? We both agreed that simply identifying traits was useless on it’s own, so I think we agreed with Ron on this one, but we weren’t stopping there. The basic act of identifying personality traits had us sparking conversations about how our personalities were different and how acknowledging these differences could influence our interactions. Essentially, it was hard to just silo ourselves into a particular personality type without thinking about and acting on what we were observing. In the end, identifying personality types and sticking someone into some cookie-cutter process for it means nothing. The tests are all about ganining insight and understanding so that we can choose where to go from there.
  • How Open Should a Startup CEO Be with Staff?: Coming from a startup, this was another interesting article. Mark Suster writes a semi-controversial perspective about CEO transparency. The norm is that expecting CEO’s to share every bit of details with the employees achieved perfect transparency and makes everything better. Mark says this definitely isn’t the case and provides some excellent examples where total transparency came back to bite. It’s all about balance. Transparency is great,but total transparency is often too much for most employees to handle on a day-to-day basis.

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

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Movember Prep – Weekly Article Dump

MoMagnets - Magnet Forensics' Movember Team

Movember Preparation

You might think we’re a bit early on this one, but at Magnet Forensics we’re going to take Movember to a whole new level this year. If you’re not familiar with Movember, you may want to head over here and get a rundown of the history of it. Movember started in Australia between a group of people who wanted to (somewhat jokingly) bring the moustache back into style. The next year they started getting people to grow mo’s for causes. Now people participate in Movember to raise awareness for men’s health, and it’s bigger than ever.

Our team members of MoMagnets have started discussing the various styles of mo’s that they’ll grow this year. It looks like there’s going to be some intra-team competition to grow the best mo. The top contenders? It’s looking like:

Matthew Chang - Movember

Matthew “The Chang” “Changarang” Chang sporting a well-groomed black moustache. Although it’s a standard ‘stache, the care put into keeping this beauty mo in tip-top shape is obvious. Can he do it again for this Movember?

Cameron Sapp - Movember

Cameron Sapp showing off a rock solid handle bar mo. The bars on this ‘stache are so impressive that it almost gives the illusion that this mo is taller than it is wide. Wait… is it?!

Check out the MoMagnets page and keep track of us! Please contribute what you can to help raise awareness for men’s health.

Articles

  • Python, Visual Studio, and C#… So. Sweet.: First one on the list this week is the post I put out on Monday about using Python, C#, and Visual Studio all together. It’s definitely for the developers out there, but for those of you who aren’t programmers, it’s still interesting to see how PyTools and IronPython have bridged a gap between C# and Visual Studio. I was pretty happy with the number of people who responded on social media and thought that it was a good read. The tweets actually led me to find a related post by Scott Hanselman from earlier this year (that I wish I saw sooner). My article has also received some pretty good visibility at Code Project which I’m excited about. Feel free to check it out over there too (people seem more likely to engage in discussion at Code Project versus on my blog)!
  • Want To Build A Business? Lead With Trust: David Hassell wrote an article that really hit home with me. Having a successful business means crafting a team and culture built upon trust. It needs to be the foundation of your team. Having high levels of trust makes everything else in the business come together more easily, but lacking trust can really make everything fall apart. Teams need to trust their leaders, and leaders need to trust their team members–it goes both ways.
  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Had His Top Execs Read These Three Books: John Fortt discusses his interview with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Now while I don’t read as much as I should (and I’m consciously trying to get better at it), I thought this little list of books might be great to keep my eye out for:
  • Confidence ‘boosts pupils’ academic success: I thought this article was a great find. It’s primarily around research that’s shown confidence plays a big role in students’ success, but I believe it applies outside of the realm of formal education. As a leader or mentor, I think it’s incredibly important to instill confidence. You want your team members to know you trust them with what they’re doing. They need to know they can make mistakes and learn without having to be punished for doing so. Having that confidence is going to be what makes them successful.
  • Leadership Lessons From LEGO: What do leadership and Lego have in common? A whole lot according to John Kotter. Consider innovation (get creative with those bricks!), overcoming challenges (can’t find that piece you were looking for?), team work (building things with friends is way more fun), and quality (it’s as good as you make it). It was an unexpected article for me to stumble upon, but I thought the parallels were interesting!
  • The Four Most Powerful Lessons in Management: Joel Peterson has some great points on being a successful leader or manager. Among them, putting actions behind your words, bring the right people on board (noticing a trend with having the right people yet?), and having a meaningful mission.
  • What is a Thought Leader?: I found myself asking this question at one point, which is why I wanted to share Daniel Tunkelang‘s article. It seems straight forward really. It’s important to have an area of expertise in the ideas you want to share, and it’s important that the things you’re sharing have meaning. In my case with Dev Leader, I certainly haven’t mastered leadership and programming, but I’m sharing the ideas that I’m hoping will some day get me there.
  • 17 Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss: This was definitely a great read. At first, I started thinking “How could anyone in their right mind say these things to their boss”? But then I realized I had actually heard some of these things (or similar things) and it really got me thinking. Dave Kerpen has put together a great list, and although it’s humourous, it’s still something important to watch out for. Just in it for the money? Not your role? Some people need to get a grip or find something else to do in their career.
  • Why These Happiness “Boosters” Might Actually Make You Feel Worse: Gretchen Rubin shares some ideas on why certain things we do to make us happier may actually be counter-productive. One interesting one I thought was the idea of your attitude shaping your behaviour may actually be your behaviour shaping your attitude. On weekends I often hang around in a pair of shorts until I have to head out of my condo. If I got in the habit of being prepped to leave the house and be productive from the beginning of the day, would I find that I’m actually more productive? Worth trying!
  • What Makes Developers Really Great: Deane Barker shares his experience with a software developer that was giving off some bad vibes. So what’s a good developer? Is it just someone who can code? Do they need to know all the latest and best languages, dream in code, and have four computer science degrees? It certainly helps (and I don’t think many would dismiss it), but the one thing that’s really important is their attitude and ability to work in their team. Check out the comments on that blog post. If you’re working on a team and you can’t fit in the team, you’ll bring the whole team down. This means if you’re all soft skills and no hard skills, you can’t contribute squat. If you’re all hard skills and no soft skills, you’re going to be a road block to your team. You need to have both to be a really great developer.

Remember to check out the MoMagnets page! We’d really appreciate it. Follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week.

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Innovation: Weekly Article Dump

Innovation: Weekly Article Dump (Image by http://www.sxc.hu/)

Innovation and You

There’s no denying innovation is important. You often see startups oozing with innovation completely disrupt a market and consequently, there are tons of people out there with dreams to do the same thing. How do you jack up the innovation level in your company? Why is it that startups seem to be so much better at innovating even though multi-million dollar companies have the people and financial resources to throw at R&D? Why do big companies suck at innovating?

The answer starts with your employees. Empowering your employees to innovate and embedding innovation in the work culture is key to ensuring your company continues to innovate. With big companies, the focus moves from innovation to profit maximization. Over time though, some small team of highly innovative individuals are going to find a way to do it differently or do it better, and the big players will take a hit.

Where does your company sit in the world of innovation? Does innovation come from a select few individuals?

Articles

  • Driving Innovation: This article is all about how to truly drive innovation in your company: It doesn’t come from one person, but rather many people. Arne Sorenson shares five tips for trying to drive innovation among his team members. Coincidentally, my colleague Tayfun actually wrote an innovation piece on a similar topic earlier this week.
  • Are Headphones the New Cubicle?: I thought this post by Richard Moran was pretty interesting and at least worst asking yourself the question (even if you don’t feel like reading the article). Open offices are seemingly the new way to go, but are the benefits of open offices reduced by everyone strapping headphones on? I’m personally a big fan of having an open concept office, but I do think that open communication factor is significantly hurt by having headphones on all day.
  • How to Spot a Great Leader in Four Easy Steps: James Caan says that great leaders are defined by four major things: confidence, intuition, decisiveness, and empathy. I have to agree. People need a leader they can get behind and trust to make good decisions. That leader needs to show confidence when they are making their decisions to really show that they aren’t blindly leading people down path X. However, the empathy part goes really far. After all, you’re dealing with real live people, not machines.
  • Intrapreneurship – Guest Blog by Tayfun Uzun: I’ve already briefly mentioned it here in this post, but my colleague Tayfun from Magnet Forensics wrote his perspective on intrapreneurship and how it drives innovation. It’s all about empowering each individual in the company to be innovative in their own right, and in return, the company itself experiences a boost in innovation. Check it out!
  • University of Waterloo Grad’s Journey To Becoming A Software Engineer: Here’s the part where I toot my own horn a bit. A friend of mine, Meghan Greaves, did a mini-interview with me for a TalentEgg article. It’s about how and when I knew what I wanted to do when I “grew up”, what university in Waterloo was like for me, and my transition into a development leadership role at Magnet Forensics. It was really flattering to have Meghan put this together, so please check it out and give her a shout out on twitter!
  • New Generation of Business: Connecting Employee Loyalty with Customer Loyalty: In this post by Colin Shaw, he dives into the concept of employee ambassadors and how you can build a better business by marrying employee and customer loyalty. Keeping employees engaged through your employee ambassadors will help keep the rest of your employees engaged and believing in the company’s mission.
  • Just Do it – Right from the Start!: Michael Skok provides a high-level walkthrough for startup success. The first thing? The right people. A successful company absolutely requires the right people and that’s where it starts. Keeping a solid workplace culture and empowering your employees are two fundamental things to do as you bring the right people on board. Great article!
  • Look for Advisors Who Can Teach, Not Tell: Hunter Walk shares some advice that certainly makes sense for advisory boards, but I wouldn’t limit it to just that. The idea of being able to teach and not just tell is a parallel to great leadership. Telling people what to do is not as effective as telling people what the goal is and empowering them to get there. It’s much easier to learn and grow if you’re given guidelines but you get to hold the reins.
  • Using Humor in Business: Some Practical AdviceColin Shaw is up again this week with an article on humour in business. I think it’s pretty common that when people think of big corporations they have this vision of straight-faced people in suits carrying brief cases… but is that always the reality? Should it be the reality? Colin talks about how you can leverage humour in the workplace for things such as improving relationships or making ideas more memorable. There’s certainly a balance, but I think Colin doe sa great job explaining it.
  • The # 1 Job of a Leader Is …: If you have grammar OCD then skip to the next link right now. Fair warning! Tom Hood says that to be a true leader, you need to be doing “more better”. What does it mean? It’s simple… do better, only more! Okay, maybe it still sounds kind of strange, but the idea still applies. In order to be a real leader in your domain, you have to keep doing better. You need to innovate, push boundaries, and keep doing things better. Do better than your competitors, and do better than you did in the past.
  • 5 Lessons On How to Build High Impact Teams: Jake Wood talks about what it takes to make a high impact team. What are some of the ingredients? First, you need to know your role and how you fit in with your team. You need to embrace innovation and change. And of course, one of my favourites, “Passion trumps talent, but culture is king”.
  • Why Your Software Development Process Is Broken: In this article by Joe Emison, discusses where control in software products lies and how shifting it between developers and high-level managers can have different effects. On one hand, developers with too much control start to stick in all the fancy new technology because developers love new shiny things, and on the other hand high-level managers create a one-way flow of direction down to developers. His solution is to have a benevolent dictator that lies somewhere in the middle.

Empower your team to innovate and watch your company’s innovation as a whole increase. Remember to follow Dev Leader on social media outlets to get these updates through the week!

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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!

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Leadership Reads – Weekly Article Dump

Leadership Reading - Provided by Stock Free Images

Great Leadership Reads

Here’s a collection of articles I’ve shared over the past week on social media outlets. There’s a lot of great leadership reads this time around!

  • If You Don’t Treat Your Interns Right, You are Mean…and Stupid: This is a great post by Nancy Lublin that talks about something many full-time people share a common (and usually lousy) perspective on: interns. In my opinion, if you aren’t going to treat your interns well, you shouldn’t be hiring them. One key take away point from the article is ensuring that you treat your internship programs as something real and meaningful. Now, as a computer engineering graduate from the University of Waterloo and from being part of the leadership staff at Magnet Forensics, I’ve seen both sides of the story. Companies should treat their interns well, but interns should also realize companies are giving them the opportunity to be part of something great. It can be a win-win situation if both sides put in the time, effort, and dedication… but it can also be a lose-lose if approached poorly.
  • Does your company culture resemble jungle warfare?: Barry Salzberg talks about office politics in this article. Key take away points? Be aware of the politics but don’t participate. Work together as a company toward your mission and embrace your company values. There’s no room for politics if you want your company to achieve greatness. Politics only interfere and hinder the business.
  • At Home This Weekend? Try This!: Presenting… The Weekend CEO Challenge from Steve Tappin! I thought this article was a pretty cool perspective on how some top CEOs are spending their weeekends. Interested in doing any of these things over the weekend? Do you already do some of these things?
  • Resist the “Us vs. Them” Mindset: Daniel Goleman shares a quote about embracing an “us” vs “them” mindset. Look for the common goals you share with others and embrace them together. Work together and stop viewing others as enemies. It’s hard to be successful if you’re always worrying about thwarting your enemies, so why not rally your friends and work as a team?
  • It’s Time to Change Your Outlook on Change: Change isn’t a problem, according to Daniel Burrus. The problem is the fact that we sometimes fear change despite the fact that we’re built for it. In order to handle change well and be able to embrace it, we need to practice anticipating it. Stop leading blindly and acting surprised when things don’t go as planned… Start being proactive and paying attention to warning signs.
  • The Great Office Space Debate Rages On: Jennifer Merritt talks about a topic that’s been going back and forth for some time now: office layouts. It used to be the norm for companies to have cubicles and offices on the peripherals of a floor. Now the open concept offices have gained tons of traction and companies are even going to extremes and not having fixed work placements. What’s your opinion on office layout?
  • Four Things to Ask Yourself Before Arguing: Rita King addresses four really good things to ask yourself before you consider getting heated over what someone’s said or done. We’ve all been in a situation where someone’s done something to get us fired up, but is it really worth it? If you can manage it, try asking yourself the questions Rita discusses (are you listening? are you repeating patterns? do you understand the other person’s perspective? is there anything to be gained?) and perhaps you can cool yourself off before ruining your own day/week/month.
  • Change Your Habits with a Good Checklist: Habits aren’t easy to change. John Ryan writes about how you can use checklists to start enforcing good habits! Worth a shot at least, right? 🙂
  • Culture Quartet: 4 Steps to Unify Your Company: In this article, Dan Khabie talks about the merger of two companies and how culture played a large role in the success of the merger. Your workplace culture is essential for creating the right atmosphere for people to be productive and work well together. Teams thrive when the culture in the workplace is positive and places value on the employees.
  • The Truth About Best Practices: Liz Ryan discusses the how best practices can be like falling into a trap. Just because there is a best practice or certain metrics are a some sort of golden standard, it doesn’t mean you should blindly follow along. Does the process make sense for your company? Your team? Do the metrics make sense for your industry? Your market? At this current time? Focus on what matters and don’t get distracted.
  • Did You Make The Most of Your Mid-Year Review?: What makes a mid-year review useful? Linda Descano discusses four major points that include having an engaged conversation between both leader/manager and employee, constructive feedback for the employee to work on, and what goals are and how they can be accomplished. If you find reviews to be a time waster, is it because they’re not being conducted well? Are they a waste because nobody is engaged? Or are there other reasons that mid-year reviews feel like they aren’t useful?
  • Do You Find It Difficult to Claim Your Authority?: Judith Sherven, PhD addresses some common reasons why people often don’t consider themselves authorities. It’s a shame too, because it can hold people back from their full potential. If you have great experiences, skills, or you’re knowledgeable in a particular area, why wouldn’t you consider yourself an authority?
  • Where Are You on the Leadership Continuum?: When people consider good leaders, they often describe common traits. Joel Peterson points out that these traits often have varying meanings depending on the person using them. I’d recommend going through his list because it’s pretty interesting to see two very opposing descriptions for the same trait. You might even notice that a trait you would use to describe a leader is actually commonly described by others in a very different way. Definitely interesting!
  • Making Stone Soup: How to Really Make Collaborative Innovation Work Where You Work: Jeff DeGraff discusses some key points for having effective collaborative innovation. Setting high impact targets, recruiting domain experts, making multiple attempts, and learning from your experiences are all major points that DeGraff discusses. There’s also a playlist of videos discussing innovation, so there’s lots of content to absorb 🙂

Hope you enjoyed! Remember to follow on popular social media outlets to get these updates through the week!

Nick Cosentino – LinkedIn
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  • 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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