Category Archives: Culture
When I first saw that Smashing Mag was coming to Canada and close by i.e. Whistler, BC. I booked an Early Bird Ticket.
I have found both their emails and books very useful. I paid with my own dime, so I could not afford the workshops. Most of my multiple day conferences have being Rails/Ruby/Data/Product/Startup so I was very curious what the people would be like at a Front end conference.
It was a mixture of designers, developers and product people. This conference was a good mix of people, nationalities and friendly. Culturally it felt like a fusion of an European and North American conference. The lightning talks (the evening before the conference started) were a nice touch i.e. short talks given by conference participates who were not speaking as part of the main schedule.
I learned, relearned an incredible amount of information. The conference was well organized, the staff were friendly. To be honest I think I am still processing some of it. The food was good. The venue was good. The main room was a little dark for me, but there was an ALT viewing spot with couches and a fireplace and skylights, this was awesome. I felt overall the conference itself was good value for money – but I did get it on early bird 🙂 The workshops felt expensive.
VITALY FRIEDMAN “Its important you should not FREAK OUT!” opening #smashingconf in #whistler
You can find most of the decks here you can see the twitter conversation at #smashingconf and I will add the link for videos when it appears.
- First make your site fast
- Deliver core content first, then progressively enhance
- Pay attention to size of everything and what it is blocking
- Make it responsive. Build for mobile first.
- Design in the browser, wire frames are wasted time for designers
- Always consider accessibility
- Have a style guide that everyone is responsible for maintaining
- Use sessionstorage and local storage
- Make it all modular and plug and play
- Design is not a service. Designers have to sit in the team
Things to explore
The future is
- SVG Fonts
- Service workers
- Offline, maybe..
Things for the organizers to consider:
It was a really well run conference, here are some ideas to add a bit more magic 🙂
Pre-Conference ask the attendees what they really want
Send out a questionnaire what are the top three things you are trying to figure out. Share the results. This would help guide the conference, spot trends that are emerging. Encourage lighting talkers, to talk on similar topics or not.
Help lone travellers meet others
Make it easier for people to “hook up” for dinner plans. Extend the attendee list with peoples interests, linked profiles/online bios (The current one being shared with twitter accounts was awesome).
Have a wanted board
It could have jobs, types of people they want to meet, problems they are trying to solve. It could be online or offline.
At the Ruby on Rails Conference (Railsconf) they have scheme, which allows a number of students and diverse backgrounds into the conference for free. They also ask for volunteers to act as their mentors throughout the conference. I am sure some of the sponsors would consider giving
I just covered the talks I watched in full.
A great talk about typography, perfectionism, underlines and sanity. Funny & serious well presented
Deck – aresluna.org/whistler
Use style guides as a way to explore, define and guide. Make it part of feature development. Examples for automated styleguides for web sites
A great resource http://styleguides.io
mix & match <picture>/srcset/<img>/<source> to give users a specific image file according to viewport & display quality. <picture> is not ready yet but hopefully soon.
Great presenter and Sass to boot. Resources
Design in the browser. Wireframes are wasted designer time. Sketch.
- Focus on small screens first
- Then colour and type
- Uses a sketch in code tool
Cache do not use for performance. Use sessionstorage and localstorage
Choosing your journey with CSS is more about the communication and how the team views it, rather than the methodology you use
Do not grow up to be a specialist, explore, play and grow. Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity http://snook.ca
Atomic Design – a methodology for creating robust design systems. Working from the ground up. Example http://patternlab.io
Awesome fun lady. CSS can do some cool animated interactions. Choose the mood that fits the brand. Timing 0.2 to 0.6 seconds.
Getting to fast – I did not see this talk, and I am looking forward to the video release 🙂
Ageism is often used in reference to what some people think about older people. I have seen ageism used to undermine the opinions and thoughts of younger people.
I think what I have learned is that perception of someones age has some strong prejudice and assumptions that come with it. That these undermine people when they need not. That by treating someone with more or less respect due to their age can often blind you.
My friend circle varies massively in age range with my oldest friend being 35 years older then me and my youngest 23 years younger. Interestingly I find younger people more prejudice than older for relationships. Personally I like a good mix of friends who we can have fun, conversation and trust. Having friends from very different backgrounds, helps me to have greater perspective of the actual world.
Dating sites encourage age discrimination, with Tinder/POF/okCupid (not eHarmony) having it as priority information. Age seems an easy category to filter on, but like looks it’s not a good predictor of chemistry or how you feel with someone. What little I know of relationships is you need to be a partners (that control and guidance should be shared by both), grow together and respect each other. Also I have found that some people are more concerned how others think i.e. he looks too old for her or vice versa than anything inside the actual relationship. We are sometimes concerned with one taking advantage of the other. The question really is what is equal? No doubt a journey travelled together is more powerful and sharing the different perspectives of your different experiences is more powerful.
Being younger in work
My experience in my twenties was there was a lot of assumption by older people about what I did and did not know. I found myself looking older to be heard. I had a goatee for a long time to and dressed to look older, it made a huge difference in the reception of my thoughts. I also found that adults/leaders/managers would not include the why when they were doing something and just tell us what and sometimes how. I felt like a child and I did not like it, in fact it made me more rebellious. And in part I gave up sharing my best ideas. The best leaders who would explain the why would get best of me.
Our Life Stage can sometimes be mistaken for ageism, for example couples tend to hang with couples, couples with kids hang with couples with kids. Whilst this is not always true, there is something in it. One potential employer asked me because you have a child will you be able to truly commit to this job. I just left the interview, and I don’t have a child!
Being Older in work
Now as an older person occasionally I have been asked if I have too much responsibility or have the energy to really commit to a job i.e. stay late on a regualry basis. The energy one is something I have seen both to me and others (if you know me you know I have more energy then the average 16 year old). In fact it has increased the older I get (hangovers however last longer then they should)! Medical science is also improving the quality of our lives, which is good because most of us will not be able to afford to actually retire. One employer asked me because I was older would I be able to keep up with the younger employers? I asked him what he actually meant, he said are you hungry enough to work long hours? It felt like he liked to take advantage of people. I have always worked long hours. Six months ago I worked for two years seven days a week.. My age had nothing to do with it.
It’s assumed that if you’ve made it to a certain level, you must be over a certain age and have advanced credentials (Eg. A master’s degree). Assumption makes an arse out of me and you.
Startup and Techs
When I go to startup pitches I find the Angels (Investors) tend to favour young men. There is a combination of sexism and ageism going on here. And there is a mythology that all successful startups are built by young people, which is not supported by any science but appears to be the “view”. This article digs into this.
Mark Zuckerberg apparently said that people under 30 are smarter. Another article explored The Brutal Ageism of Tech. One practice of hiding jobs behind Recent Graduates is explored here. There appears to be a view that people over 50 should not be in leadership jobs.
Rising above ageism
I want to be better than my past experience, I want to evolve not enforce a stupid prejudice. So here are my suggestions to myself:
Never ask someone their age
Do not judge someone by their age. It is lazy, get to know them first. Attitude may be effected by your age but is not dictated by it. Just because you started with same (or opposite) political view as your parents does not mean you keep them. Its experiences not age that will determine what they become.
Talk to all like an adult
Take the time to explain why, treat all like equals and invest in a person. Treat others as you wish to be treated.
Ideas should be valued regardless of age
A great idea can come from experience but also from lack of experience. Understanding the idea is more important than making assumptions of what I perceive it to be or who delivers it. Ideas are always fragile, so grow it see where it takes you before dismissing it.
Actual experiences is more important than age
Wisdom I feel comes from experience more the bad ones than the good ones. Own your experiences, they maybe apply to others. That said, experiences can also limit us, sometimes you need to prove there is more to explore.
Age does not relate to capability
There are now more ways to learn, than ever before. And its not just knowledge, There is more shared wisdom in the world. Take this article on reaching 40 and what you realize. Just look at TED.COM or the number of self help books. Money does not always determine access to knowledge. And teaching has become better so we can all learn faster. In fact I would say that two things can show this how well read a person or how many “good” videos (ted.com) or video subscriptions a person follows e.g. RubyTapas. All of that said getting fit right is often more important than current capability.
Age does effect health but not energy or drive
That said, it can be severally muted with a good diet and exercise. When I was younger I took my health for granted. As I got older I appreciated my body more, learned more and in some ways I am fitter now than at any other time of my life.
What thoughts or experiences do you have?
If it helps, you are never ready, you will never know enough, and the key is knowing how to cope with that.
At the beginning you may have no idea or a vague sense how to solve the problem, you will look at the feature and Google it. You will write code and may even get it working and over time, hours or days it may get ripped apart and rebuilt. Sometimes you will part of the conversation, other times you will come back to find its all changed.
In my first months/projects/jobs I had some amazing moments as I solved problems and got the feature marked off the list, or I discovered that little thing that was stopping it work. I also has some tough moments, where my code was changed without any comment, or ripped apart in front of me, sometimes without comment or another time with the senior developer responding to my questions with condescending responses.
You will need to separate your self worth i.e. ego from your code. You will need to manage that nagging sense you are not good enough.
Here are some of thoughts and learnings I gained from my first couple roles as a junior software developer:
When you ‘Copy and Paste’ code, understand it
Google has become our SDK, for a lot of developers. You will search the feature and see who has done it already. Smart, why redesign the wheel! While this may get you pushing code faster, you are starting to create a gap between your actual understanding and perceived ability. This starts to set expectations with your employer and team, at some point this will crash down on you like a house of cards. So by all means find that code through Google, but take the time to understand it, know what each of the commands/methods does, understand the flow make sure naming of variables and methods makes sense in your context. Most smart leaders understand that it takes time to grow as coder, use that time to build a strong foundation not a house of cards.
Debugging – Read the error message!
The most frustrating thing for your colleagues is when you ask a question and your testing suite or your log is already telling you everything you need to know. Have you read the errors and if not understood them have you googled it? Yes actually copy the entire error message and paste it in the search bar and press return. Sometimes you will have to cut it down. Do you know where the logs are? No, hunt them down. It is also true that some error messages really are not helpful, infact they appear to lie, just look through the stack trace.. I record the really abstract ones, in my computer notebook with the solutions. If I were you write (yes with pen and paper – you are more likely to remember then) down each of the errors that you come across at the beginning, they may identify a weak point in your knowledge, or slowly help you remember not to make the same mistake.
Most of your errors in the beginning will be spelling mistakes, typos and things out of order 🙂
- Read the error message and understand it
- Understand the failing test
- Check the Logs, stack trace
- Check your spelling!
- If you have a lot of code on one line, break it out into several lines
- Read out loud
- Explain the problem to a stuffed toy or duck
- Google it
- Take a moment away from the code
- Before asking others, separate your ego from the code
Code Reviews & Pull Requests
If these are not happening, ask for them, if they are denied look for the next job. They are the fastest way to grow as a developer, whether you be a junior, intermediate or senior you will learn a lot by others reviewing you code. And you will learn a lot from watching others get and give feedback. Yes some people are dicks when giving feedback, maybe you should give them feedback on their feedback (you might even help out their friends and lovers! being able to give feedback is crucial for all human relationships). Innovation and learning comes out of exposing your code and being vulnerable to feedback.
The best Pull Request comments, point out the issue and then explain why it is wrong (you may need to train your seniors to put the why, telling the why, is difference between being treated as a child or an adult). Do not become a parrot and copy and paste, understand why it is wrong, you will learn and grow faster. I also have the habit of reviewing my pull requests on a weekly/bi-weekly basis to see what errors, if any, I am repeating, to target in my next afterwork homework.
Code reviews when someone senior or intermediate reviews a bunch of your code are incredibly helpful, in seeing what you are good at and what you need to improve. If you are alone build up a peer group, who can review each others code. Either way you should consider reflecting on your own code every month or so, at the beginning of your journey you learn so much so fast, that you maybe able to refactor your own code.
The next extension for this, is to put your code open source and then allow the world to help you improve your code..
There is even a better way to learn, yes pair coding it is like having a sports coach who is giving you constant feedback, and you get better. This is awesome from a learning perspective. Not only will you learn about the code but you will see how your colleague use their tools as well, which will may give you some productivity tips (or vice versa). Also you are likely to cut problem solving down by 50% in terms of time. This is not just a technique for juniors of course (its great for on boarding and teaching your organization code style). All of that said this scared the hell out of me when I started, I thought I can not remember all the syntax and options.. Until I saw that most seniors/intermediates would without a thought Google the function or command to see what their options are. I learnt that is not important to remember everything, but to remember that you can.. Now I am less scared.
Build out your augmented memory
Whilst watching most seniors, they would often lookup old projects to see how they had done something in the past. Whether it would be a Google Drive, Drop Box or even GitHub they would keep most of their old work. Another trick I saw was the use of notes for each task or type of task e.g. on Mac they would have a Note (or Evernote) on RSpec and have all the matchers and examples, or all of the startup scripts for spinning up a new node, etc. The point to be clear is you will not remember everything, so have it somewhere useful for you, in fact your memory just becomes the index of what is possible and where you did it last.
Also for the tasks that you need for setting up your computer, the environment and creation of an App, I store all of these on Github, to help me not forget a step, and also to keep my personalized setup (colours, BASH paths etc) somewhere, here is mine. You never know when you computer will die, or need to be erased, or you just get laid off!
Separating self worth from your code
Receiving feedback from colleagues can be tough. Some think code is very rational, logical and lacking of emotion. Thus the feedback can be equally logic. And some developers can be very cold how they deliver it, maybe they just have not developed the communication skills or patience to be a good teacher/coach/leader. I even had a couple experiences when “seniors” ganged up to give me feedback, and frankly it was pretty painful to receive. When I asked why and tried to understand I got cut off and then “shussed”. I walked away from the situation and then learned not to ask a question to a couple developers at the same time. That said if someone is a dick to you, you do not have to return it. Be the adult, because today they could not be.. I have also had some awesome experiences when my colleagues talked through issues with my pull request, explained the why and what good practice options there are. You want as much feedback as you can get.
So you will need to toughen up a bit, process and work through their comments, and when you do not understand either research it, until you do, or ask. I have to say asking another human is generally faster..
Asking when you need help
There is a balance between asking too few questions and too many. On one hand you may take too long to solve a problem and build that feature – on the other hand you may well “piss off” (make grumpy) those senior to you. This is tough, my general rule is to ask if you cannot figure it out after 40 minutes.
In my first job I think I did not asked enough, I know I would have grown faster if I had. That said when you are interrupting someone who is in the zone, it feels, well, difficult. Also when they are in zone they often look grumpy, constipated or are frowning and generally look unapproachable. You will learn the clues on their face over time on when to ask. Of course my personal view is when my colleagues ask me for help, I will always help. I have this crazy notion that collaboration is fun, yes even face to face! In the end I find it easier to work in a place where I like the people and they like me.
Growing your knowledge base
Sorry but you are going to have to do homework! Most non-developers have no clue how much you have to learn and then how fast it is outdated. My solution for this was to do between two and three hours every night, then maybe a longer stretch on one weekend day. But there is always one day completely off. When you are hungry its hard to forget that you are actually running a marathon and not a sprint.
As with all learning, you will have strengths in some learning styles. As a developer you will have to pimp all the styles. I try to mix and improve all my styles. Really understand what learning style best works for you. Do you prefer to build and hack together, do you prefer to read/process, do you enjoy watching videos, do you prefer to learn with others. What makes that new thing stick in your head? Understand this as you have a LOT to learn and process. A good book on this topic is Make It Stick
My personal choices include:
You can find my books and ratings on my goodreads profile. So far I find the ones actually published are superior, there are a lot of just e-books out there and I found have found their quality a lot lower. That said the just e-books tend to talk about the cutting edge technologies.
There are so many approaches that you should try a couple companies to see what works for you. I started out with Lynda.com, then moved onto PeepCode and CodeSchool – who are both owned by Plurasight now. Whilst I found that some videos helped with my understand, I did not remember them as well as book reading, which I retained for longer.
I have a couple people who I learnt with, we would meet every week and talk about a piece of code. Like a book club.
This is a marathon not a sprint
That thing called work life balance at the beginning of your career is frankly bollox (bullshit for non brits). That said you should make time to rest and not think about code. Reflection will allow you to actually learn the big stuff or that thing you could not connect at first, to spring understanding on you (Bong). The unconscious mind is a very powerful learning machine, it needs sleep/dreaming, a different context and maybe something creative, like music, painting to be fully powered up. Yes and exercise, dammit, it also helps. And if you are NOT single, consider those that will love you a lot longer then your job or career even, yes that includes you dog (or cat), plan that time. And if you are single, you are more likely to die or suffer a nasty disease, so make time to meet someone and live longer..
Watching other developers code
If you watch someone who has many years, you will not only learn their style in coding, how they write, refactor, and maybe even test. You will also learn how they use their tools and this can just make you a lot faster. Peepcode (Now Pluralsight) did some fun play by play videos that allows you to see some of the experts code. Or go a meetup or a conference and find people who let you watch or pair.
Reflection – Knowing your code and improving it
Every week I look back at my some of my code and research similar problems to see if I could refactor it. I sometimes look for web applications that solved the same problem and see how they approached the same problem and I consider the why, benefits and drawbacks. I go through my refactor book and look at my code and question it. I find the creation process can be different to an editing process, it sometimes seems a lot easier.
Working on one thing at a time
I found early on I would try to solve the whole feature in one go rather then breaking the problem down into is component parts. Now I divide the feature into a number of tasks and complete the tasks one by one (I even add them to Pivot Tracker or add a checked in github or write them down on a pad of paper!). This allows my brain to be wholly focused on the problem at hand, rather then holding the whole code in my brain. I find I chew through tasks faster, consider out of the box solutions more often as I have that spare RAM to consider them. I also find if I draw it out, I consider the connections and external parts to a greater level.
For every feature I now create a branch. After each task is done I push, well sometimes pull push depending on the time scale. First you will get mini morale boost, secondly you have a backup, third others can see what you are working on. AND fourth, if you need to rollback it is better to do it if you have many hooks to choose from.
Children do it far more and they learn faster.. And if that other person cannot explain, go and work where they really understand and love to explain.. The best teams I have worked on love to give advice and explain their perspective, but will also be able to defend their view, and then change when new evidence presents its self..
Relationships are important
There is a direct connection to strength of your relationships and the opportunities that will come your way. Invest in the people around you. Do the right thing by people, even when it all goes wrong. Those people are far much more likely to recommend you for your next job. Be kind.
Features and front end
Completing a feature will gain you kudos, and adding something that clearly effects the customer experience will gain you support from those that support customers and help the sales team. Having allies in all camps will help you be more resilient (keep your job) in a downsizing and will likely help with endorsements and recommendations. CEOs tend to protect developers who produce more the observable changes i.e. new button, skin, more responsive, etc. Where as the CTO will tend to protect those who write good code and write good tests.
Have Plan B, C and maybe a D
You are the bottom of the pile, when layoffs come, you are the first in line. Protect yourself have a Plan B as this is very likely if you are working at a real startup. Go to meet-ups, get to know your local community, make connections with developers, so if you do get laid off, you have people you can reach out to, so you can find your next opportunity. Having an active blog of what you are learning helps you reflect (so learn better) and you will build a following over time. Also work on some projects that you can put out there, so they are public on GitHub, if you feel comfortable to work on open source do.
Should I be a developer?
You may ask yourself this sometimes. I certainly asked myself this at times, when you may watch others craft so easily. This is often referred to as the impostor complex, check out this railsconf talk. Then I find myself, looking for an expression for fun, I find myself impatient at not knowing, well everything, I dream about exploring other code. Over time I found myself reading the source code rather then a blog piece explaining it, I started to understand more and more code, I find that I want to go back and refactor that hash search removing the [:id] and put in a fetch(), because it fails loudly. I spend breakfasts with other developers exploring what we know, what we have forgotten.. oh it appears I have the bug, no not the bad one but the one you are bitten by… I notice it has being several days since I got stuck and had to ask for help and instead I am asking for opinions. Do I know everything no, can I find a solution, yes 🙂
If you are not from a Computer Science Background
You may lack in understanding of Algorithms, Data structures and do not have one computer language down i.e. Ruby, Python, Java, or a C variant, yet.
The reality is that Employers feel more comfortable with someone that has stuck with a Computer Science Degree for three years. That said if you can describe your journey of why you are passionate about computers this may help.
The other aspect that matters is what are considered the basics.
- Data Modelling
- Problem Solving
- The ability to code a non scripting language i.e. Ruby, Python, C++, Java, etc
Some employers like to think that you understand Algorithms, but the reality for many coders is that you will never use this skill set. The places this really matters is at scale so a job at Amazon it would matter. This is the best learning resource I have found on them Grokking Algorithms by Manning publishers
You may want to create a growth plan for yourself to introduce these. Over a year work out the things you want to be good at, there are some good free course on https://www.coursera.org. It really depends on how deep into the stack you need/want to go. If you are out of a Bootcamp, consider building your understanding in the primary language (e.g. Ruby, Python) and data structures first. Consider than basic Algorithms, just the basic concepts, not the math and then play with a functional language. Learning a function language will force to think in a very different way, but do this after you are comfortable with a primary language.
Every senior who I have spoken to says that they learned an incredible amount from creating something they were curious about, maybe on a new framework or connecting to an API. Some would just explore how one GEM/package/library worked. This can also be helpful for building out your GitHub profile. That said when you are doing some much other homework this can be hard.
Choosing the right company
Medium/large company There are some who think that a junior is better off, going to a medium/large company. This approach essentially states that these companies will have the processes to mentor/coach, a bigger team to take on juniors. That said juniors have told me that there options are often limited to be first a “customer success”, or QA, or part of a front-end team and they have to work for a couple years before being promoted to a full stack team. You will be able learn over a period of time but may be limited to less important tasks.
Agency/Code Shop Another approach would be to work for a company that will give you access to many codebases ( like an agency or a code shop), thus you will learn very different things, different styles of coding and architecture choices. This may lead to building lots of Apps but only to a MVP level.
Startup Another approach would be to work for a Startup and then you will get see all the code, and be responsible the whole stack. Thus you end up be responsible for setting up the deploying to AWS which you may not in larger companies who may have a Dev Ops person. You will have to learn a lot more and faster. It is also likely you will make mistakes through your journey. This journey would likely teach about one codebase to a deeper level then the Agency approach.
Do you have any tips?
I would suggest you blogging your own journey, it will help you remember what it was like to be a junior and when you take juniors on yourself you can help them with your blog post and also remember not to be a dick 😉
A person, company, organization community can be judged on its actions and behaviours not its intents. Especially when the shit hits the fan. Its easy to be nice when the world is all good. Behaviours, the culture under stress shows the real capacity of the leadership.
The reality for most people is you will have many jobs and careers.
My journey so far would appear to be all over the map. I started as apprentice potter, a newspaper delivery boy, a general dogsbody in a kitchen, a cook, a chef, a computer scientist, a student politician, a trainer, a charity campaigner, a political campaigner, a english teacher, a dive instructor, a politician, a cabinet member, a marketing VP, consultant, startup founder, a college professor, a tech support, and a developer.
Every job and career can teach you many things (if you are paying attention), changing either, will give you a faster track to understand the similarities and difference in different sectors and jobs. In the end by having different of jobs/careers you will see connections, innovations that others who are stuck in one role and career will rarely see.. For me I connect so many disparate things, see opportunities where others are blind and I am constantly readdressing what others see as the “truth”, common sense or the obvious. All because they are coming from one angle or a limited few angles and I am not.
Hint when you have lost your keys stand on a chair it will allow you to see the room from a different angle that you are unfamiliar with and you will pay more attention because it is new.. I am suggesting the same thing about your career..
A job and career should fit to your needs and desires at the time.. sometimes that will be simply to pay the rent, other times it should be explore another part of you. Choose a pathway of jobs and careers that will make you happy and that will teach you the things you need and desire, to help you with the next step.. consider it a pathway or a tree with many opportunities..
Plan your professional life.
So if you change your job career regularly what about loyalty to orgainsations and businesses, fair question:
- Public companies are often more loyal to their shareholders and the organisations survival then you, yes even if you are the founder or CEO.
- Private companies loyalties are determined by the power structure or family relationships or funders.
- Governments are loyal to the last electorate vote, who often vote on the last bad thing the government did, whole programs and departments are wiped out as governments change.
- Non-Profits immediate future are determined on the economic cycle
Ok a touch cynical I appreciate, but the reality is organisations are always changing even if a bit slowly. And so should you!
Here is a couple things that helped me and things I continue grow:
1. Importance of self awareness
The more context and angles you see yourself in, the more constructive feedback you get, the more you will truly understand yourself. As you experience different organisation cultures you will build an understanding in what you like and dislike. You will need to book sometime for yourself to reflect, process and understand.
Most people are not truly aware of what their dream job is, they even think they do, just do not know until you have tried it. Maybe you have be driven to this point because it was what was expected of you by your family or friends or teachers. Chill, I personally do not think you have to have a job or career for life, you are not a penguin you are a human you have choices. Sometimes having choice is part of the problem..
In my experience, there is something more powerful then the right job, its working with an awesome team. When this happens the role seems less important as long as you are contributing to the team. Being good in your role and being proactive in learning becomes natural.
Trying out a few personalities tests will also give you some slivers off your personality, remember most of this are very superficial and a snapshot in a time and a place.
2. Fear should become your friend
We all need become unafraid of changing both careers and jobs or at least manage the fear so it becomes your adrenaline, your extra boost, a source of strength, not weakness.
You can reduce fear by planning for the change, e.g. taking evening courses, internship, work seven days a week (5 in one job, 2 in the new role), get a mentor in the role you want to be in. Take a vacation and go to a conference that concentrates on that role, check out if these people are the ones you want to be surrounded by.
It is not easy to learn new skills for which you are being paid for. You will often feel “stupid” and fustrated at yourself. Understand the basics of anger management, because your mistakes will make you angry at yourself more! Ask your partner(s), friend(s) or family(s) to keep an eye on you and help you adjust, reflect and process.
3. Choose your boss carefully
It does not matter how good you are, if your boss does not like you, the rest is irrelevent. You must choose a boss who can be both your coach and mentor. You are recruiting for you. You are looking for the best match for you. Let them worry about if you are good match for them. Your interviews should be 50/50 in terms of questions, yes you asking 50%.
Questions to ask:
- How many of your staff have you coached and mentored?
- Describe to me your coaching style?
- Can you give me examples of your staff that have outgrown their roles?
- Have any of your staff ended up in senior positions to you?
- If I fail project how will you react to your colleagues and me?
4. Understand how to build a new network
You will not be here for ever, find out who the good people are. You have a strong advantage over those who stay in one job or company, your network will grow faster, this gives you more opportunities for new roles. Again match people on your personality, not power/influence. Look for the people you want to work with again. Also look for the people who are really good at, what you are not.
5. Understand how to learn and grow your skills fast
This is very important. Get to really know how you learn best and expand your learn capabilities. You should not, use one learning model to understand this, you use many models (they all see different things). It may require an investment on your part, in the end understanding this will determine in part your success in each job and career. Accept that your will occasionally make a mistake or even fail.
Here are some learning style models:
- Honey & Mumford Learning Styles Questionnaire (Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist)
- David Kolb’s model (Accommodating, Converging, Diverging and Assimilating)
- Neil Fleming’s VAK/VARK model (visual learners, auditory learners and kinesthetic learners)
- Grasha-Reichmann Learning Style Scale (avoidant, competitive, collaborative, dependent, independent and participative)
6. Grow both your leadership and followship abilities
Whilst we have media mythology that states that leaders are more important.
Leaders only exist if they have followers.
If an organisation expects you to serve as a slave for five years before you can have some leadership responsibilities move on, go work for a smaller growing organization, who offers opportunities.That said it is also important to occasionally work for larger organisations to understand how to work in one e.g. how bureaucratic systems work, how the culture of having several tiers of management, effects innovation and the impact policy decisions from on-high effect the person on the ground floor or customer facing.
In my career I have chosen to work in leadership and then not. It has accelerated my abilities in both. But it is not easy. It has taught me humility, patience, the ability to coach upwards and let others fail if need be. Sometimes you need to reinforce your roots, other times explore a branch. Growing upwards is not always the best choice.
7. Do not burn bridges
A lesson I learned from politics. You will fail, what people really respect is how you do it with humility and style and then come back and show people why you are good. You also never know who will be your allies in the future, occasionally you will have to forgive others and move on. Sometimes you will work out in hindsight it was you creating the problems.
8. You own your future
Plan your professional life. Work out where you think may want to be. Look at the skills, knowledge and experience you will need to acquire, to achieve each step. This plan should and will change as opportunities pop up. Reflect on each job, what did you like about it and what did you not. Reflect on your bosses, what was good and not, how will this improve both your leadership and followship abilities. How specifically are you going to grow, what books, courses, conferences will you attend? Which personality tests will you pay for.
Make a plan, but stay on your toes and change as you learn.
Do not let your manager or HR “talent manage” you. They care about their needs or the organizations needs not yours. Of course listen to their advice, but check in with their motivation. Yes ask them!
Most talent management and skills databases systems are simply shit. They are limited by traditional concepts of the education you have received and the job titles you have had. They are predicting your future by looking at your past. Idiots. Just imagine if we limited the human races future on the past, so why do we do it for every individual. Your past could be a reflection of your parents, the financial place you have come from, if you were teased at school, things that as an adult you can choose to move on from.
Even currently online resumes miss the point, how limited in expression and in understanding the professional needs of a human, even from an organisation perspective they are limited in use.
This simply waste of human potential, angers me so much, it is in part why I founded Professional You and why in time I will blow this shit into the past.
This has become my flame, the thing I will build all the skills I need towards, the types of people I will hunt for to help me with this mission. And if I fail it would be for a cause I believe in.
My path is clear, I understand the full grown tree that I need to grow, in myself. This clarity took many roles, many careers, many failures and success.
I hope this post helps you find some of your tree, or helps you on your journey. Please share your learnings, so I can learn from you 🙂
So recently someone I respect has being promoted to become a leader of an organization. I want them to be successful, so I thought long and hard if I had some good advice that I could share. Was there a good book I could recommend? Or a video?
I own about 60 books on leadership excluding the MBA stuff. There was one that I kept coming back to me, it was a book I first read when I had just being elected to office and became the cabinet member for Cornwall County Council (UK) as Community & Culture “Minister”. This role was a real step up for me in terms of budget (71 million) and staff (over 440 spread out over many locations), where there was often upto 4 leaders between me and the frontline staff.
A good book for those who wish to improve their workplace. Provides a lot of evidence e.g. psychology studies and crafts them into a compelling narrative. The actions at the end of each chapter are a usefu summaryl.
A lot to learn here for all leaders and those who wish to be leaders. And maybe even for progressive trade unionists. And of course for people who would rather improve their workplace, rather than complain about it!
This book not only had a lot of wisdom in it, that we often take for granted and thus forget. I think the best kind of leadership book is one you walk away from and think/feel I want to be led by this person. And to make it even better I know now how I can ‘upgrade’ myself to replicate this over time.
“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them”
In the end the leaders behaviour will create a culture, so the book and video I recommended were as much about context (i.e. of this new leaders organisation, and its culture).
Another choice was the video by Simon Sinek, Start with the Why
This video ties into the need to inspire and effective leadership is about inspiration not overt control.
The book The Power of Why by Amanda Lang, had a number of factors I needed, it is written by a women who is also Canadian and the stories come from other industry sectors. Context is everything.
“Permission to dream is also permission to fail”
A book I found useful early in my career was The New Leaders by Daniel Goleman (he also wrote Emotional Intelligence). It was this book that showed me on reflection, the different leadership styles you will apply e.g. command and control has its place, depending on the context. It was also the book that helped to delegate with trust when moving into middle management.
Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion an inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal: Great leadership works through emotions..
There is a great TED video -> As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify by Yves Morieux
Suddenly it becomes in my interest to be transparent on my real weaknesses, my real forecast, because I know I will not be blamed if I fail, but if I fail to help or ask for help.
The last book is produced by CEO of the company with probably the best customer service on the planet. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh journeys through time and a mans’ growth in understanding importance of leadership behaviours and their impact on the staff and thus the organisations’ culture.
Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded
My last couple thoughts come from experience:
- That leadership is as much about vulnerability, as it is about confidence – see Brené Browns TED Video
- That followers choose who inspires and leads them rather then manages and controls them
- That women leaders are often better coaches then males, but the often to do not “give” territory for their coachees to succeed in.
- That “rebels” can often be bright people who are bored, give them something to do, they could become your greatest innovators
Finally leadership is a skill that you will never master, so expect to fail, maybe even plan for it, that said we often “love” rather than just respect the leaders more who have failed and have come back to succeed.
Rant… to a friend.. now even more rant like.. If you really cared, you would stand for election!
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world” Mahatma Gandhi
Nothing human is perfect. Can you imagine if you were doing your job and there was an anti-you pointing out every mistake not to you but the media. Yet that is what we expect of politicians. How many business people could cope with that, strike that, how many humans..
Then we expect them to make statements that they will stick with for several years, even though the world changes.. could you imagine running a business or a charity that way.. shit happens, the world changes, who believes predictions anyways.. when governments have to plan they have to account for everything.. everything.. no wonder it does not always work out..
But its so slow.. Making decisions in government takes time, because they care about the stakeholders, they have to listen and balance and often compromise between the different stakeholders, else its called a DIC TATOR SHIP..the real shit is sometimes the decisions is irreverent because the world moved on..
In the end the political system reflects its electors..
- you want to see leadership, let politicians make mistakes like the rest of, expect less of the angel and accept that we are all angels and demons trying to make choices through life.. and when you are angry tell them and why, and when you think they are awesome tell them and tell them why.. treat them like a human being.. we all need feedback and not every four years, stupid, in the moment.. Can imagine your partner giving you feedback every four years?
- you want to see more choice in political parties fund political parties and accept coalitions
- you want to see better use of your money start voting on the long term record not on the last thing that pissed you off..
- you do not want politicians all from rich backgrounds or at the end of their lives, then make sure they can a good salary and expenses to cover the expenses.
- you want com·pe·tent and well trained staff to support the government, make sure they are paid enough to pay off their education, continue to get training and maybe even afford a house!
The worst part of it is as humans we tend to remember the negative ads or the decisions in hind sight were poor (yeah fucking hindsight).. who says critical thinking is dead..
Make a choice: forgive or try something new out or create a new choice i.e. you standing for election..
“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Plato
P.S. The reality of spoilt votes, is no one cares. Congratulations you have actually excluded yourself from the actual decision process, just costing the election more in the process by counting and recording your vote.
Through my marketing career I have helped companies name themselves and their products. Each journey is unique, sometimes it is quick and sometimes not, it should not be rushed. More recently I have helped out a couple tech startups, think this through. Here are my insights from the perspective of a startup or small business. I will assume you do not have a large advertising budget to educate your consumers or users.
The strongest names tend to be:
- Easy to say(pronounce) and easy to write(spell)
- Easy to understand
- They tend to reflect Values or Benefits of the product not features, not sure of what FBV are? Look here
- Have emotion as they describe inherit values
- They may use words, with inherent trust in them, or coming a mythology already in place
- They may be counter-culture, to rest of their sector
- At least one noun
- incorrect spelling
- based on the latest trend
- swear words
- when using two words or more there is an inequality in the power of the words
Things that do not matter:
Too many companies choose names based on what is available on the web. URL vs Google search – in my humble opinion people rarely type in the URL bar, but instead will type the company name straight into their search engine (Google, Bing or Yahoo).
Corporate or product naming
Corporate branding – about the values, behaviours and thus culture of your organization. So that you can attract the right talent to your organization. In Simon Sineks’ book Start with the Why – people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it
Product branding – All about your customers and their needs/desires.
An example from a startup weekend (54 hours – No talk, all action):
We wanted to build a tele-presence (e.g. you could control it from a web browser) robot (on wheels, inductive charging and video camera) that people were comfortable with having in their home, it would either check to see if their pet was ok, used to communicate with tech-phobic granny or sweep the house to see if all was good. We felt the biggest market was to look after or checkin on either pets or grannies, our price point was $300. Women cared most. So I went to a dog park to see if small dog owners in apartment block inner cities would be interested. There were more women the first morning, all small dogs, about half could not get home to check their pet at lunchtime and would then rush home after work. They said “I would love to check-in with Frankly, he is so cute”. The term check-in appeared a lot in conversation. However they did not like the idea of a robot, it felt too un-organic, but one suggestion was “well if it looked like a bear that would be cool. So I started asking what animals people liked.. They seemed to reflect the movies of the time so, chicken, panda, penguin and monkeys.. so it made sense to call it ANIMAL + CHECKIN. So I tried Chicken Checkin – people reacted with a surprise and then a smile (That is good). This played well with the audience would buy it for their grandmother as well (the grand daughters using their own or mothers money for their grand mother). I then used animal names people wanted most on the higher price scale, aspiration and all that. Chicken checkin as the cheapest base model, Chatty Panda for the good model (two way video conferencing) and periscope penguin (extendable neck – kitchen counter).
One other thing I knew the leading competitors at the start-up weekend – one was being led by a local Venture capitalist on home security – so i was guessing they would be going for rational proposition, a touch of fear (of home invasion), republican and money. Another competitor was being led by a local Angel – another way to give money to homeless people, so very emotional, democrat, and fair. In terms of name and brand I was looking for humour, clarity, independent, emotional but tying into common sense. Essentially I was ensuring we would portray something very different in the pitch, not just in product but in style. It worked to a degree we won best presentation.
You can read the start weekend post here.
The importance of emotion
Every word comes with a meaning to a person, it may even not be about the word but the letters used. They may not or love the name simply because of their history. People always come with baggage.
Literal versus abstract names – its on a scale
Personally I believe the more literal the name, the less education(marketing) will be needed for people to place you. And it is important(why psychology and memory) for people to be able to place/position you if you want mass market rather than just visionary buyers.
How would you choose a child’s name? Why do certain names mean more than others? We have a surprisingly amount of prejudices/emotion based on human names, often based on the first person we met with that name
If you are finding difficult here is a process that may help you discover the name. This journey may help you explore more than just your name but your whole business. Its important to keep it separate from the design process.
Stage One: Research
- Know your shit – the business, the sector, the competition
- Know your values – a process in its self, which should really involve others
- Research your stakeholders – Porters five forces (Customers, Suppliers, Competition, New Entrants, Substitutes)
- Choose a perspective (Who are the first set of customers you want onboard, who will champion your cause – what is their psychological makeup? What words do they like and use)
- Your name is not alone – Type, colours, logo – will add clues to what you are about and can dramatically change the way words are perceived.
Stage Two: Get past the NOW
Sometimes people are so fixed about their idea, filter and prejudices that they cannot see clearly. As the startup journey is very often emotional, it can cloud us from ration thought, which can be helpful. That said a good name depends on having a strong emotional connection.
Get your team together and put the following questions on flip chart paper – give everyone post-it notes and a felt tip (it limiteds the number of words used) and describe:
Q1 – What do you(the organsation) do?
Q2 – How does your consumer/user benefit?
Q3 – What do you change in your consumer?
Q4 – Why are you unique? This one tends to get more bullshit answers than the others, be honest.
Q5 – What are your values and how does this reflect in behaviours and product/services? (If you are seeking actual behaviours then your values are not a reality, yet..) You should know this BEFORE you consider your name.
Everyone gets to put up there own views, no filtering or founder bullying. Each idea should be discussed (people can keep adding) and grown. Brainstorming – not sure how? Have a look here.
Stage Three: Record the journey
Reserve a lot of wall space..
The Wall of Names – somewhere there should a wall of ideas, post-it notes with names, all are valid ideas. Each person would try to grow each idea, or help it down the evolutionary ladder. The more people you allow into the process the more ideas you will get. This wall is not limited to words , pictures, sketches and photos are equally good.
The Wall of Customers (for product name) – the same as above but describes the customers you want. Their personalities, their drivers, fashion, music, everything
The Wall of Talent (for corporate name) – What are the types of people you want to attract? We all want smart people to work for us. But what kind of smartness? At a small business level your talent will be limited by the personality of the founder/leader. The unaware founder will want lots of people like them, but with different capabilities. The smart founder will be looking for different types of personalities as building a team is often about weaving, very different people together (as they all have different perspectives and will be able to see different problems and solutions).
Stage Four: Step out of your space
A fair degree of innovation comes from looking at other people doing other things, in other places and seeking what we can learn from them. In part this happens so often that Michael Porter had two elements (Threat of New Entrants and Threat of Substitutes) in his Porters Five forces model to account for people who can come from another sector and replace what you are doing e.g. Apple taking over music and in part mobile.
Look at other organizations in other sectors (not your own) – which organization would you want to be from any sector profit, non-profit or governmental. You are looking for the organizations that you admire and would like to emulate in some way. For each organization breakdown why you like them, into values, people, products/services, get a little deep here, you are trying to truly see past the marketing/propaganda to see how they are connecting with you.
After you have reviewed the organizations consider what does not occur in your sector that already exists in another.
Stage Five: Deciding
Choosing a name is not an easy process. Some people start with code names e.g. Project ALPHA, so they can just label it. Labelling is important for most humans. If you are on a timescale I would suggest taking everyone out of work to start the above process, allow for no distractions, if possible get an independent to help facilitate the session. They will concentrate on getting the best out of people in terms of ideas. What ever you do always sleep on it. The brain generally does some amazing stuff whilst you are asleep.
Names are like falling in love, you know it. This can take time. Everyone will feel it. That said even after choosing you may have doubts, thats ok.
The advocate – you will need at least one person to love the idea and explore its possibilities. Without a true advocate you do not have a good name.
Good places to think about it – Road Trip (with the team, not alone) you are together but in the real world with different stimulations, walk around a shopping mall, go to a conference about something you know nothing about, read an autobiography of someone with a completely different life to you. Lack of sleep can help 🙂 Expose yourself to different forms of stimulation.
These books are not directly related, but each has taught me something with naming:
Sticky Wisdom – Understanding and growing creative cultures
Eating the Big Fish – About branding when you are the punk on the block
How to have Kick-Ass Ideas – Shake it up
If you want to deeper into branding here are a couple other reccomendations
I welcome your thoughts and experiences. Where did your names come from? What are your favourite names?
Did I learn anything? Yes. Was it a good crowd of people? Most definitely. Would you recommend it to friends? Yes. Were there ideas to spread? Absolutely.
The theme of TEDx Vancouver was “Frontier” this year. This is my third TEDxVancouver and fifth TEDx event and it has being interesting to see it grow.
There are some who just go for the speakers, me I go to meet the audience, people who are willing to apply are already interesting and hopeful the speakers will intiate ideas for people to talk about. I prefer to learn and evolve through dialogue.
Thoughts on Speakers:
Reid Gower ****
The video was inspiring and keyed into hope, aspiration and the beauty of the planet we live on.
Nolan Watson ***
“Don’t donate to Africa, invest in Africa!” .
“treating symptoms instead of effectively solving problems”
Spoke on how naïve compassion kills lives
“Pursue what gives you meaning…and what allows you to share your joy with everyone”
“Twenty years from now, the things you would be most disappointed by are the things you didn’t do, rather than the things did” – Mark Twain
A story, of force changed and how they dealt with it. Two snowboarders, one breaks his neck (and cannot snowboard anymore) both build a device to make learning snowboarding safer to learn, esp tricks.
The importance of expressing emotion. It started off really well, that our society often represses our emotions. But the actually case ‘the building of the a wooden temple to burn down’ (could you have built a house for a homeless family instead?) was interesting but only for people who could really afford it, so it felt self indulgent, when compared with the other stories.
Sean Aiken ***
“what matters is what makes you come alive”
“Those who are most passionate about their work, are those that are connected to the meaning behind what they do”
Jose Figueroa ***
A story of stupid immigration bureaucracy. Not the first one I have heard when you have a conservative government with a commitment to slow down immigration.
‘Canada has the obligation to respect innocent people’
I would have loved to hear this in spanish with a translated. Some people complained about the political nature of this talk, but I pointed out to them that anything involving humans and change inherently becomes politics.. hmm if politics comes from the latin – citizen + city does that mean it does not exist in the rest of the country 😉
Seth Cooper ***
Interesting speech about using games and gamers to solve some of the world tough problems, the examples were in bio chemistry. For me this is old news.
Christopher Gaze ****
“Shakespeare is all around us. Alive and well.”
Excellent stage presence. I learned a lot of the metaphors I take for granted and are from Shakespeare. One drunk actress came up to me later to say that he had got one line wrong. Me I just respected him even more 🙂
Jer Thorp ****
“By placing data into a human context it gains meaning. These are our histories.”
A man who loves his data and knows how to use design principles to make it more readable.
Kara Pecknold ***
Saw her presentation at the Design Thinking conference, liked it. She had definitely polished both her presentation and slides, so it was an upgrade in terms of presentation. Design process – Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver
“99% of life lives beneath the surface of the ocean”.
Really cool tech, sign up to see live data come in and watch the fish swim by from camera upto 800 miles out into the pacific. http://www.neptunecanada.ca/
Although the content was too much, I think he delivered some of the most important messages, where the whole audience could help.
“Inaction is an action”
“There is no way you can sustain status quo.”
“people that operate under ‘status quo’ are going to fall behind”
“The future of humanity is in the NGO Community and the youth will join them”
“That if the youth of today vote they will change politics forever”
My reflection from his:
Youth of 2day could change the political system by voting, say no to status quo or they cud let their inaction be their legacy
Victor Lucas *****
I think in terms of content, emotion and presentation this was the best presentation, the context was = what advice will he give his girl when she is born and understands language, they are simply rules that any of us could apply to ourselves.
1. Don’t be a dick – People love people who aren’t dicks. Go light on the sarcasm. What people remember most about dicks, are that they were dicks.
2. Don’t dick around – Touch the world. It takes work, planning, and goals to be happy. Don’t let dicking around be your goal
3. Don’t hang out with dicks – If you aren’t a dick, you’ll attract people who don’t dick around. If you hang out with dicks, other people will think you’re a dick.
They actually feel quiet Canadian?!
Venue + Crowd management
Amazing for presenting, bad venue for meeting people, no WIFI within the theatre. Crowd management was poor. $80 per person and 1000 people turned up not sure where all the money went considering how many volunteers helped out
Limited, they ran out of meat and I ended with vegetarian, its ok I can eat grass ;-). Apparently no vegan? The pop tart donut things were interesting if you could fight other people for them.
The presentation organization was smooth and professional.
Billy the kid was awesome. It would have being nice to have more than one performer.
I love sailing, but the number of times they changed the camera angle started to make we sea sick (for those speakers whom did not use slides). Though seeing the person on the screen was helpful as if you were one or two levels up those presenters were a mite small.
This was awesome. The venue was very cool (Space Centre) as the whole venue was open including the laser show (which was cool but too long). Looking forward to when the venue is in a place that does not need cash for drinks.
Suggestions for next time (I will add to these as my brain returns):
Help people network
Give people 10 random people they should meet, have ‘professional’ volunteer networkers whose job is to get people together to talk, have a lot of space so people can easily discover people, have games people can play based on the talks.
Call to Action
Stalls for each speech where you could pick up notes and ways to get involved and help. As well as find people who want to talk more about that talk 🙂
The president dude said that he wanted to form a community and I think it can become one. So involve us in dialogue, before and after the event. Don’t just talk at us.
- Maybe start with the theme – crowd source it. If you have courage get the community to vote their top five and than let the organizers choose.
- Let us all see the applications, this will allow us to choose who we want to talk to at the event. Not brave enough for that than publish the attendees list with our links.
- Have so many non-celebrity speakers and get some professional trainers to get their presentation skills upto speed (yes I would volunteer for that). OK after writing this I find out that you sort of did this but not with the TEDx Vancouver community but with another community (http://tedxvancouver.com/vancouverisawesome-com-helps-select-kara-pecknold-as-speaker-at-tedxvancouver-2011/)
- Have a space where by skilled people can volunteer (see which skills they can offer), this will help you choose good people and also people may volunteer to be coached by an expert volunteer.
- Choose an online platform to keep the dialogue on-going after hearing the speakers (twitter is helpful for buzz not so much for dialogue).
- In the end community forms out of lots of interactions between people and the best is when you can watch the dialogue without having to intervene.
- Use the space on the name badges for something useful, yes your name helps, AND some unconferences have “Ask me about..” or “Three things I love…” people often just need an excuse to talk to each other, make it easier, especially for the shy types
- I wonder what you can learn from each talk, if you applied it to TEDx Vancouver?..
TED.com talks played on the day
These were interspersed during the day. Apparently to make sure we don’t go native or become to NIMBY and share in the global movement 🙂
Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization
Charlie Todd: The shared experience of absurdity
Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter
Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days
Whoops missed one (Thanks Chris Ryan)
What do you think? I welcome your views both pro and anti 🙂
Your brand is the COMPLETE experience, every interaction, anything that can change motivation and/or attitudes, with your company. This can include the consuming of your product and service, repair, suppliers and yes your recruitment process. The good modern brands are human and often concrete, you can trust them.
You are only worth an automated response..
If a person spend hour’s, maybe days writing a letter of introduction, adapting their resume/CV, maybe even pulling a slideshow or video together for you. And than they receive a notification that you will not even bother contacting them, because you have so many applicants. You know this type of letter:
Thank you for your interest in XXXX Company and for sending us your resume link and supporting information. We’re always looking for the best and brightest new candidates who are interested in joining our fast-growing team.
Please note, due to the vast number of enthusiastic applicants, we are only able to contact those we select for interviews. We will however take the time to review your resume, cover letter and all related materials you’ve sent through, and will contact you if you are selected as a shortlisted candidate.
We frequently add new positions to the Careers Page so keep an eye out for more opportunities to work at XXXX company.
I wonder who in an organisation is so naïve that they feel that this experience will encourage the ‘recruit’ into buying any of your products let alone a service. Many organizations don’t mash together their HR and marketing talent. When the applicant started the process the applicant was a keen advocate, which you have turned into something else.
No closure for the applicant
The typical scenario is where the applicant is not even told when you have been thrown out of the process, or when the process is complete and they have not got an interview. The applicant then does not even get a chance for closure. The first they may hear is through a press release on your website or indeed nothing. That’s just plain mean and very common.
As an applicant we only care if you have the capability
Most employers will not look at a candidates’ application if they have not even taken the time to write a relevant cover letter that covers off the person spec. So they expect you to spend time on them but they are not always willing to do the same. Aren’t good relationships formed on equality?
You are just a transaction..
It seems most Applicant Tracking Systems have being built from the aspect that you are just another process to deal with. They do not see you as a human that or you should be treated with dignity or respect. In fact the more they ‘take over’ the process the less human you are treated. People are not simple nor are the ways you should interact with them.
We are often more protective of our friends than ourselves
The applicant may not be alone during this journey through your recruitment system, as they may share it with their friends e.g. can you check the letter please, especially if they are woman. Friends don’t take it kindly if you reject, ignore or attack their friends. You haven’t just pissed off one person; congratulations you just gained two pissed off people for the price of one – who now thanks to online social media have the ability to share globally. They may not indeed talk about the job application process, they just may look at all your marketing as another ‘poke in the eye and respond negatively.
Your worse case scenario is that you have just given them the motivation (see this TED video) for the job applicant and their friends to dislike your products and services and look to your competitors.
Bottom line – the buying power of every rejected applicant is?
In the end this will affect you financially. The chances are that you will reject more applicants than you will take on board. You will, probably still want them as a consumer? Who will pay a company that has just rejected them? or even taken the time to communicate, er, anything after the initial application.
Not just B2C
In the B2B sector relationships are even more important and in the end B2B purchases come down to a very human emotion e.g. Trust.
StartWire, recently completed a survey of 2,000+ job seekers, asking how a company’s application process affected their view of the brand. This is what we heard:
- 77% said they think less of companies that don’t respond to job applicants,
- 72% would be deterred from recommending or speaking positively online of your company
- 58% said they’d even think twice about buying your products or services if they don’t ever hear from you after they submit their application.
Outsourcing to save money
I wonder who missed the lessons from out sourcing call-centres to another country where the understanding of both culture and language was insufficient to handle the customer care in an appropriate manner. Now its automated on a computer (and they are really known for their customer care!), you are not even worth a human response.
Good ‘customer service’
If your customer service system treats your customers as just a transaction you deserve to go out of business. Humans want to be treated with respect and dignity. Even politicians know this hence why some of the most sophisticated marketing happening on the planet is happening in election campaigns. But some of the best sustained examples I have seen in customer service are from Zappos (http://www.zappos.com/) or Freshbooks (http://www.freshbooks.com/) They essentially treat you with respect and appreciate your time is as valuable as theirs.
Who is accountable for this?
Maybe the CEO for not paying attention or CFO for cost cutting, or the HR leader being squeezed or even the CMO for not considering the brand impact. In the end HR needs people to ensure a good experience.
The days of unaccountable recruitment and HR process are coming to an end if you are consumer-facing provider.
On-line systems are rating well everything. For example http://www.ratemyemployer.ca/ it’s only a matter of time when people start rating recruitment systems and HR. We already have individual rating systems for people such as http://blog.ratemyprofessors.com/
It will not get easier to find talent, just more competitive
The economist wrote two pieces about how hard it is in get the right talent:
The Search for Talent – http://www.economist.com/node/8000879
The battle for brainpower – http://www.economist.com/node/7961894
Another article of interest – Canadian tech CEOs see shortage in talent. – http://www.pwc.com/ca/en/emerging-company/connecting-vision-to-reality/ceo-report-emerging-companies.jhtml
In these circumstances, is it wise to give job applicants a good experience? They may return and have grown since they last applied, if you gave feedback last time, they may have responded to it and exceed your expectations on the next attempt.
Now add Generation Y behaviour to this and you have an interesting power cake just around the corner.
Is your recruitment system losing you customers and damaging your brand? How many job applicants did you reject last year? How much social influence did they each have?
It seems to me that corporate culture is on a journey from repression to expression from viewing human beings as number, resources, sales figures to, surprise, human beings. It can be seen in the HR titles e.g. VP Personnel -> VP Human resource -> VP People. I think the organisations that have the lead HR person reporting into finance or corporate or operations are worse off. There is one person, that a lead HR person should report into i.e. CEO. In terms of political power HR are generally one of the weakest on a board (if they are even on it), I think in part because so many of their process orientated capabilities are being outsourced, maybe because people are too complex or too emotional compared to finances/sales/operations. Or maybe its because in some organizations leaders are taking on the role of HR for their teams (about time).
Reward, if possible give feedback and say thank you
The job applicant, was a person who wanted to help your organization grow, for a moment in time were probably your most passionate advocate. Yet they are often treated like robots, resources or costs. How would you like to be treated? If someone has invested more time in your company than the average, why not say thank you. Tell them what they are missing in terms of capability or fit and prove you mean it. I think the best companies employ on ‘fit’ before capability. Who is to say that this person maybe a future employee? Consider it another form of relationship marketing.
Leadership accountability – Don’t pass the buck!
If a candidate gets through a number of stages, it should not be HR having to give the bad news, the leader should do what they are paid for and give the bad or good news. I believe leadership is taking on the responsibility of your decisions both the easy and tough ones.
- Tell the applicant when they have been removed from the process.
- Give some useful feedback; the chances are that you have spent some time human processing anyways; at least give the biggest single reason why they were knocked out. You may find that there are a lot of standard reasons e.g. you do not have enough relevant experience or the average interview applicant will have 5 years more experience.
- Say thank you in some meaningful way.
- For those who you think culturally match, consider other posts or put on a watch list. But be careful no one believes “we will file it and if something comes up we will contact you.”
- The deeper the experience (number of interviews) the more likely rejection will be felt. But also they are more likely to be match for your organization and thus the more likely they may be a future employee.
- For all candidates that have being interviewed by the manager, should be given the news by the manager.
You are nothing without your people. The ones you have now and the ones you have yet to work with.