A bit of work-related thankfulness

[Ed. note: I wrote this for a Hobsons internal employee blog feature thinger on a season of thankfulness, but liked it enough that I figured I’d post it here, too. I’ve edited it only ever so slightly (mostly to add explanatory notes for an external audience).]

One of the things I’ve been most grateful for during my brief time at Hobsons 1 is having a team that is naturally oriented toward ongoing learning and self-improvement—it sure makes my job as a manager a lot easier than it could be! But seriously, the intrinsic curiosity of the people on my team aligns perfectly with some of our Advising & Admissions divisional goals 2, and without even trying. Impact! Innovation! Agility & Scalability! Intrinsic curiosity is pretty handy, actually.

I’m sure some of you might say “Really, Julie? You’re grateful that people on your team want to learn new things? That’s it?” Well, yes. Yes it is. I’m a simple person.

You see, for the last several years more often than not my job has been specifically to try and fix broken teams and processes; I arrive, assess the situation, figure out a way to fix what is broken, and hope that there’s enough time to execute on the actual product plan before the company/product/my sanity tanks. Often what I ended up starting with were teams of burnt out or bored people slogging through their paces, and who had little joy left in their work let alone any intrinsic curiosity or motivation. It was all gone. That’s a recipe for disaster and makes for some sleepless nights, high blood pressure, and just general failure all around (myself included). These situations were neither fun nor good for the team, the customers, and the end users.

But Hobsons is a different situation (for which I am also quite grateful). I’m grateful that the veteran Hobsons employees I inherited when I joined the team (and they accepted me as their manager) plus the new folks I’ve hired in recent months all come to work every day with a little sparkle in their eyes that says “What will I learn today, and how can I apply it tomorrow?” 3

The people on my teams seem to really “get” the three elements of motivation that Daniel Pink talks about in his book, Drive—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—and I’m additionally grateful that we all work for a company that sees the value in harnessing these elements and allows me (as a manager) to use them to our mutual benefit. For example, while in Engineering we work with multiple partner groups (Product Management, Support, Consulting, and so on), we have autonomy in terms of how we implement technical solutions; within our smaller teams each developer has the ability and freedom to be creative with their thinking and implementation of these solutions.

Similarly, every developer on my team wants to get better at their craft and eventually achieve mastery in it. I’m confident that everyone on my team knows exactly what I’m doing when I set the bar a little higher for them every day, providing support but also the space to explore on their own and find their own footing on a path to continual improvement and growth. I’m grateful for this unspoken game we get to play every day, and how it coincides with Pink’s highest level of motivation: purpose, or “connecting to a cause larger than yourself.”

For as much as the people on my team want to wake up each day and learn and grow and push themselves and their teammates to achieve mastery in their own craft, they want to do it for the kids who have yet to figure out what they want to do with their lives. Go to college? Be a farmer? Both? Neither? My team helps build a tool that helps kids figure that out, and that faceless tool in the computer machine might be the only thing in their lives telling them that they can be an Aerospace Engineer or go to Zane State College (and everything in between).

So yes, that’s it: I’m grateful that my team wants to learn new things.

  1. I joined in May 2015 as Senior Manager of Software Engineering
  2. I work in the Advising side of the house; my teams build the core of the Naviance K-12 advising product.
  3. Seriously. It’s a little freaky sometimes.
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GUEST POST: “On National Adjunct Walkout Day”

[Ed. note: This guest post is written by a dear friend and former classmate of mine from my grad school days, who is a really good teacher and needed an anonymous place to post this diatribe. I personally agree with every word, and if I were made of stronger stuff I probably would still be teaching, would be an adjunct somewhere, and would be penning a diatribe of my own. But I am not strong.]

Today is National Adjunct Walkout Day. As I don’t teach on Wednesdays, there’s not much for me to walk out from, except possibly my office (I’m not sure anyone would notice except the students who need to see me for research help, and I’m not walking out on them). And I’m not sure where I’d walk to—where do you go after devoting years of your life to a career that has no future?

Yet even though I am not walking out on anything today, I support this movement. Having primarily taught as an adjunct professor since 2007, I am tired of the move away from full-time tenured professors and toward contract employees like myself. There are reasons adjuncts are often referred to as the Wal-Mart workers of academia (although let the record show that Wal-Mart, at least, is raising its employees’ wages!). Here’s a sampling:

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Using The Pragmatic Studio to Get Up to Speed with Ruby and Ruby on Rails

This is a completely unsolicited post; the good folks at The Pragmatic Studio have no idea that a random person on the Internet (me) plans to say nice things about them, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away (almost 15 years ago, and I was in California), I read The Pragmatic Programmer, as you do. I remember thinking something along the lines of “smart! useful! will probably keep this on my shelf for a long time!” And I did, and several years later I realized I had more than a few books from The Pragmatic Bookshelf, like The Agile Samurai, The Passionate Programmer, and Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, among others.

Clearly, there was an ethos there that resonated with me, but I didn’t think anything more about “the Pragmatic folks” until sometime in 2011 when I was reviewing training options for some employees and realized that “the Pragmatic folks” also run a very successful training company. A very good developer whom I managed at the time was an alumna of one of their in-person Ruby on Rails courses and spoke very highly of it. I made some inquiries and unfortunately that course was no longer offered, but I quickly realized that the Pragmatic folks were quietly offering top-notch online, self-paced courses in key development topics.

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How Careers 2.0 (& Workplace.SE) Helped Me Get a Job

(NOTE: Everything below is 100% true except as of May 2015 I no longer work at the company mentioned in the post. I made a move to a larger company with more opportunities.)

I’m not going to lie, this post is primarily for my friends on the Careers 2.0 team at StackExchange. Yes, even you, Account Exec/Sales Rep folks whom I’ve never met but who dutifully favorite or retweet my tweets because Bethany Marzewski tells you to (I kid, I kid. I kid because I love.) I saw enough referrer links from your internal chat rooms that I figured I should say something more!

I recently tweeted that I got a job offer, and that it was a painless process because I used Careers 2.0, and my love for them knows no bounds. That love is true and everlasting—it was just about a year ago I wrote a pretty popular post, “How Careers 2.0 (& not brainteasers) Helped My Hiring Process” (as a manager of software developers, dev ops, QA, UX, etc), and it made the rounds and gave some people some talking points or at least proof that hey, someone gets it.

A few weeks ago I found someone else who also gets it—my soon-to-be-boss. What’s the “it” of which I speak? The dead-simple, no-brainer integration of a candidate’s public writing and peer validation (votes, badges) throughout the StackExchange network of sites. There are other “it”s (see that post I wrote and its comments for my own list) but this is a big one.

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Is this thing still on?

I swear, I’m the worst blogger in the world. I used to do this all the time, back when blogs were shiny and new and apparently we all had all the time in the world. Remember that? 2004 or 2005? Seems like a million years ago.

Anyway, I’m not going to lie—this blog post is an interstitial.

I hate that I’ve allowed my blog to become a place where I say “hey, I have a new job!” (not true) or “hey, I have a new book edition” (not yet true) or “hey, I’m on the job market again” (100% true) and nothing else really interesting. I much prefer my blog to be a space where I profess my undying love for StackExchange (still true), talk about great hiring tools like Careers 2.0 (it’s really good), and wax philosophical about unicorns and code review (I really really believe in embedded code review processes!).

Maybe now, with some free time on my hands, I’ll join the chorus of people singing the praises of Slack, or I’ll talk about two other SaaS tools that I will try very hard to use wherever I go, should architectures allow: Code Climate (static analysis tool) and Semaphore (continuous integration and deployment). I also have really positive things to say about TrueAbility, which allows job applicants to show off their skills through some pretty rigorous online testing. Come to think of it, I’m also bullish on General Assembly, which offers immersive programs as well as short-term courses and workshops, and they don’t suck at all.

I guess I have a lot to say about stuff.

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Posted in Misc Life
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