Skip to content

Be a Mentor

Dear Reader,

A lot of developers I know think that they could be so much more if they could just find a mentor to show them the way. This may or may not be true, that’s not the point of this thought.

It’s find spending time looking for a mentor, I even give people advice on how to find one form time to time. However, don’t spend all your time looking for a mentor.  Occasionally, look around to see who else is looking for help and see if you can lend them a hand.

There are very few of us so far down on the ladder than there’s nobody below us to give a hand up. Look around, see who you can mentor. See who you can help up onto the next rung of the ladder, even if you are helping them get to the rung above you.

Helping others is a great way to show potential mentors that you understand. That you are not only seeking help, but seeking to help. They you won’t waste their time.

Also, if you help someone up, they might be in a position one day to help you up.

Give to get.

Look around right now. Check your email. Is there someone reaching out to you for help? If so, take the time to really listen (because real mentors listen first) and then help them solve their problem. help them understand their situation. Help them up the next rung on the ladder.

Be a mentor.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

I don’t think I can afford that

Dear Reader,

Recently I was listening to “Ready, Fire, Aim“, a fantastic marketing and business book.

In it, the author, Michael Masterson, wrote about a lesson in negotiating that he learned from a business partner he once had that he calls BB.

Masterson writes:

“…I have discovered a much simpler, more elegant, and immensely more effective negotiating tactic that anyone, even a timid person like me can quickly master. I learned how to do it by watching BB. …It goes like this:”

Business colleague: “So what do you think it is worth?”

BB: ” I don’t know, what do you think it’s worth?”

Business colleague: “I was thinking maybe $500,000”

At this point, BB responds in one of two ways. Either he says “That seems fair to me,” or he says “Gee, I don’t think I can afford that.”

This struck home with me because I’ve sat on both sides of the hiring table; that’s the toughest negotiation most people will face. I’ve been the timid one, hat in hand, asking for what I thought was a “fair wage”, and I’ve been on the other side, the person with the job to fill, but also the budget to stay within.

Some of the best hires I’ve made have had zero negotiation over salary because for a long time, I’ve adopted a method similar to BB.

I ask the person “What do you want for a salary?” Not “What do you expect?” or “What do you think you deserve?”, specifically, “What do you want?” This not not a trap. There is no “Ah-HA! GOTCHA!” moment here. It’s a simple and honest question to which I expect a simple and honest answer. I expect the person to tell me what they want. Not the current market for their position, not a low-ball to get the job and then “figure out how to get a raise”, I expect them to tell me what they want. What it will take for them to be happy and satisfied in the job?

Then I have to make a similar choice to the one BB had to make.  “Can I afford this person?”

I know what they want, I know what my budget is. If the numbers line up, we have a deal. If not, I let them know that I simply can’t afford them, sincerely thank them for their time, and see them out. Back-peddling here on their number is a sign that they weren’t honest with me in the first place so it doesn’t help their case.

I do not negotiate salary. I expect people to be honest with me and if they are honest with me then they aren’t going to be happy with a salary below what they have asked me for. Yes, if we are close, we can discuss it and see if we can come to something that we are both happy with, but it’s got to be close for me to do that.

I want every developer who works for me to be happy at work. You can’t be happy if you are worried about your finances, so I don’t want any developers working for me that are worried about finances.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

Why I love Scuba Diving

Dear Reader,

I love Scuba Diving. I love it so much I volunteer to help others learn how to dive at least once a month.

One of the reasons I love scuba diving is the respect that divers find for each other. When sitting on a boat gearing up to dive, there is a lot of joviality and joking around, but there is very little insulting people, calling people names, or other insulting behavior. I don’t have to worry that I might say the wrong thing around divers because we are all committed to each other. See, when we hit the water, whether 20 feet down or 100 feet down, we are all each other’s buddies. We all depend on each other to make it back safely. We have to respect each other, even if we don’t agree with each other.

Contrast that with tech, my chosen profession. I keep my opinions largely to myself in tech because I never know if someone listening might not like what I say and go to my employee to see if they can have me fired. (Not a far fetched scenario, it’s happened before to others.)

I watch my tech peers on social media normalize hate over things like political opinions. I’m not pointing fingers at one side or the other and if you think your side doesn’t do it then you are wrong. (but don’t worry, I’m not going to ostracize you for it) People that I consider smart people throw words around like idiot and moron simply because they don’t like someone’s opinion or actions.

I used to be that person. There was a time when I labeled people with terms like that – and much worse – because I disagreed with them. Then I began to look at my words from the outside and spent a year or more in deep soul searching.

One thing I have realized in my 30+ years as an adult is that calling people names like idiot, moron, “insert your favorite political insult here” says a lot more about the insecurities of the speaker, than it does about their intelligence of the target.

I like scuba diving because I’ve never heard a boat mate call another boat made a moron for expressing an opinion.

Maybe we all need to treat each other like our lives depend on each other.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

In Celebration of B-Sides

Dear Reader,

One of the most beautiful rock songs of my lifetime, “Beth” by Kiss, was originally released as the “B-Side” to “Detroit, Rick City”.

I know I’m in the minority here but I will go to my grave believing that with “Beth”, Kiss hit it’s pinnacle. Yet, the relegated it to a B-side.

The band, and their producers couldn’t see the beauty they had until much later when fans started clamoring for it to be played on the radio. It was the band’s highest charting single…ever.  (It hit #7 on Billboards Hot 100 chart.)

Tech Conference B-Side Talks

Tech conferences are sometimes like that. Some CFP programs actually ask speakers “Is this your best talk?”. They are looking for the A-Sides.

Honestly, I have no idea what my “best talk” is. I know the ones that I get a lot of comments about, but I can’t say that those are my best.

I can tell you my favorite talks. My favorite talks are not my keynote talks, my favorite talks are the ones where someone comes up afterwards and tells me that they picked up something that they can use in a project they are working on. They are my favorite talks because they actually helped someone.

I recently tweeted out a piece of speaker advice.

Speaker Pro Tip: Write a second talk. Call it your “B-Side” talk. (Kids, ask your parents what that means) Have the slides with you at any Conf or Camp you attend. So far in the past 3 months I’ve scored 2 extra speaking slots because I was prepared.

I didn’t mean to classify the talks by importance, more by “acceptability”.  There are some talks that it’s easy to get accepted at a conference because they push a hot button or they are about the “shiny”.

“B-Side” talks are talks that are important but that conference organizers don’t feel they can take a chance on.

The next time you attend a conference, look for talks that are off the beaten path. Look for those B-side talks.

Hidden in among all those great sessions is the next “ZOMG DID YOU SEE…” and you will be able to say “Yeah. I saw that one last year and it was great.” :)

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

p.s. There’s nothing wrong with “Detroit Rock City” but it’s an obvious attempt to write a rock anthem. “Beth” was art for the sake of art. Thank you Peter Chriss.

Thank You for Small Acts of Kindness

Dear Reader,

Five or six years ago, my good friend – and the Don of the PHP Community- Mr. Michelangelo van Dam – was listening to me ramble  at a conference.  I was rambling on about the fact that every time I go over to Europe, I have to lug around my crappy power converter, and sometimes the converter won’t fit on the power strips provided at conferences at the podiums. I’ve actually had to present on batter and hope that the battery lasts. (it always did)

A while later, I ran into Mike in the hall and he handed me a cord. It was the cord to an Apple power adapter but with the European end on it. He told me that he had several spares and asked me to take this one. I smiled and took it and thanked him for his kindness. When I got home, I put it gently int my “cable box” (any audio geek or programmer knows what that is) and honestly, I forgot about it…that is until last week.

I am working  with a company that is Mac-centric so while my primary machine is now Windows, I am carrying my Mac with me so I can get work done. The problem is that I still have that 1 crappy power converter. While packing, I remembered Mike’s gift. I dug through my cable box and there it was just waiting for me to remember it and use it. I’m happy to say that as I sit here and type this on my Windows machine, my Mac is quietly humming away building a docker container or some such nonsense. Both machines are powered. :)

I know that any Mac user usually has 2 or more of these cables laying around from old power supplies that have crapped out but the cord is still good, so I know that it didn’t cost him much to give it to me; but that’s not the point. He saw a need, and he quietly did what he could to fill it. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t use the cable until years later, what matters is that he made the effort to solve my problem…and it eventually did.

Open source developers are like this. They give of their time to build things, things that you may not need right now. When you do need them, they are there and ready for you. Their acts of kindness – small or large – come into play exactly when you need them.

The next time you install a new open source package because it’s exactly what you need to build the project you are working on…take a moment to drop the author an email and thank them. Thank them for their act of kindness. You’d be surprised at home many of them never hear from users and are appreciative of your small act of kindness.

Until next time,
I <3 |<
=C=

 

p.s. Thanks Mike for the power cord…it is EXACTLY what I needed. :)