#24 - Link Roundup, 10 July 2020
Active listening for managers; Why is not a great question; You manage individuals, not generations; Inclusiveness in language
Well, the move across institutions happened, which meant for one glorious moment I was at inbox zero on my work email. Other than that, the move was unremarkable, largely due to our insanely capable administrative staff.
In other news, this roundup now marks exactly 6 months of the roundups; we’ve done 26 of them now, as well as a daily sequence for a week which didn’t work very well, and a quickstart on doing remote One-on-Ones once our offices all started closing. I’ve really enjoyed it and learned a lot.
Now that I think I’ve got the hang of the link roundups, I think it would be good to branch out. Two ideas that have come up a couple times are:
Interviews with managers from research
Q&A: (anonymized) reader-submitted questions, submitted to the entire readership for feedback.
Are either of those of interest? Is there something else you’d be interested in? Let me know!
For now, on to the roundup.
As a manager, learning to be a better active listener - drawing information out of people, helping them reach their own conclusions, digging deeper, restating the speaker’s thoughts in your own words to make sure you understand - is really valuable. It’s a useful skill for talking with your teammates, but also stakeholders and your own manager. And it really helps me to focus on conference calls - when the other person isn’t really there but I’m watching them talk on my own personal distraction box.
The only thing I’d add to Rachel Hands’ article is that digging in with “Why”-type questions is tricky, as Lorin Hochstein points out. If human beings have any superpower, it’s being able to invent completely plausible reasons for things on the fly. Sometimes there’s truth in there, but just as often it’s an unconsciously generated rationalization. What questions — What did you see that makes you say that? What do you think would be a good reason about that? What should I know about this? — helps keep things much more grounded.
Coaching helps us boost the skills of our team members, but there’s a couple of other ways we can really help develop the career of a team member or community member. These two articles give a pretty good overview of the differences between mentoring (being available for advice, which is nice, and valuable, but costs you almost nothing) and sponsorship (actively making opportunities for someone, at the expense of some of your own political capital).
The first article reminds us that we don’t necessarily understand where our mentees are coming from. That’s especially true if we’re providing advice to people with very different experiences and backgrounds than our own. The second article talks about how even in a more virtual environment we can still sponsor someone.
Managing a Multigenerational Laboratory - Lab Manager
I almost never include an article in here just to criticize it, but I’ve referenced Lab Manger articles in the past - they’re often quite good, and written in a way that makes sense to those of us in research - and I want to caution you about this article (which is by no means the worst of the genre). If you start to read anything about how to manage millenials (or boomers, or Gen Xers, or Gen Zers), just click “close”.
To the extent that any of the traits ascribed to say Gen Z as a group (they’re idealistic, want work that matters, are good with recent technology…) have any validity, they’re not a statement about people born between 1997 and 2012, they’re a statement about people who are in their late teens to mid twenties. It’s an age effect, not a cohort effect.
More importantly, though, the differences between those arbitrary generational divides are completely dwarfed by the differences within individuals in any such group. You don’t manage cohorts, you manage individuals, and the way you get to know those individuals is by having one-on-ones, paying attention, and keeping and reviewing notes.
There absolutely are demographic groups whose members will feel outsized effects of some changes and decisions - Black team members, Indigenous team members, first-generation college trainees, women, parents (especially mothers), amongst others. It is important to be aware of those disparate impacts. And even there, how changes will effect individuals and what they need from us as a result will depend on the individual and their situation.
Your team members are individuals, not cohorts or demographics. Get to know them and manage accordingly..
Inclusiveness in Language for Outsiders Looking In - Fred Hebert
A nice overview on the why’s of getting rid of e.g. master-slave or whitelist-blacklist language in software development projects (but not just there). We’re going through this now. It’s not anywhere near the most important changes we or other projects need to make, but it’s straightforwardly done and it does matter.
The FortranCon 2020 talks are online. I still have a soft spot for Fortran as a DSL, where the domain is number crunching on rectangular multi-d arrays.
A really cool looking python library that automatically generates a portfoilio of exploratory data analysis plots.
This retrospective of a massive Slack outage in May makes for riveting reading. Research computing will be in a much more mature state when we can routinely read such retrospectives for our outages, issues, and hacks.
A Lua tutorial using an arcade game as a worked problem, and maybe even more interestingly, the “chapters” are github issues.
Git-assembler: “make, for git”.
Secretive, a MacOS app for saving ssh keys in the secure enclave.