#25 - Link Roundup, 17 July 2020
Tell job candidates what to expect; Managing an exhausted teams; 1:1s for engaged team members; Improving your written communication; Better slack defaults
I got a number of responses back from last week’s question about interviews or Q&A; people were interested in both, at least trying it out.
The interviews will take a little while to line up. If you have suggestions for research computing managers you’d like to see interviewed, please send the suggestions along. And if you are interested in volunteering, please do volunteer too! I’ll build a list and then start asking people. And for Q&A I’ll set up an online question box.
And with that, on with the roundup! There’s a bit of a writing and hiring theme this week, as you’ll see below:
Tell candidates what to expect from your job interviews - Julia Evans
The goal of the interview process is to find out if there’s a good match between the job and the candidate; that’s more likely to happen if both the candidate and the interviewers are clear on what the process will be. Julia Evans points out that it’s straightforward and useful to document the process and communicate it to candidates ahead of time. The candidate will better know what’s important to the interviewers, and so can communicate their strengths more clearly (as well as being less stressed); the interviewers won’t be winging it and will be able to focus on the important things. In addition, it makes the hiring unit look much more professional to the candidate.
How do you work with and manage an exhausted team? - Andy Skipper, CTO Craft
Skipper’s article starts off with 10 causes of an exhausted team, which seems unnecessary. A lot of teams out there are pretty exhausted, just due to (waves around) all of .. everything.
The article goes on to identify useful procedural, behavioural, and emotional signs to have an eye out for, and some specific things we can do as a manager to help people work through it. A number of those things are things I wouldn’t have thought of - pairing people on tasks, for instance, and the importance of continuing to maintain lines of communication and trust, including negative feedback compassionately given.
Long-time readers won’t read anything new here about running good one-on-one meetings with your team members, but it’s always good to review the basics, and this is a short read if you want to brush up.
Impraise is one of many SaaS tools out now for managers to organize their one-on-ones and feedback/coaching conversations with team members. I haven’t used any myself and I don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything vital, but in principle anything that helps you and your team communicate well and promotes good manager practice like routine feedback and one-on-ones sounds like it could be useful. Have any readers used such tools? Any thoughts?
Managing Your Own Career
4 ways to improve your writing and communication in your free time - Jessica Thiefels
Written communication is remote work super power - Snir David
Asynchronous Communication Builds Respect and Trust - Dexter Sy, Tech Management Life
A lot of us in research and computing ended up here because we preferred working in math or code over writing. But writing is an incredibly useful skill to hone — it helps us communicate with our team now, and with our stakeholders; and it helps develop our career whether through blogging or writing papers that get read.
Jessica Theifel’s article gives us some concrete suggestions about how to improve our writing game - some resources to learn about persuasive writing and for grammar checking, and a couple resources for writing prompts to help get us to practice.
It’s (intentional) practice that really helps improve writing, and the hard part is forcing ourselves to do the practice. (Committing to a weekly newsletter is one particularly extreme way to do it).
As you develop those skills, it will help with your team, too. Working remotely is forcing us into a bunch of new communication practices that, honestly, are going to continue to serve us well even once frequent face-to-face meetings become feasible. One of those practices is not relying so heavily on synchronous communication - which is exhausting when done over Zoom or the equivalent - and more on asynchronous communication, which means writing more frequently and for longer than a one-paragraph email. Snir David’s article points out how useful written communication is for our new remote work life.
And finally Dexter Sy’s article argues that using more asynchronous commuincation can help show your team you trust and respect them - giving them the information they need, caring enough to write it well, and then letting them do their thing rather dripping out information, or virtually tapping on their shoulder and seeming to check in on them routinely.
(Relatedly, this thread on twitter about tech companies hiring for writing skills is interesting).
How to Write Technical Posts (so people will read them) - Sandy Maguire
The key to getting posts read is making them relevant and easy to read. That’s kind of hard for those of us who mainly have academic or technical writing experience. This article suggests some things to think about.
Maybe controversially, I really like slack, but it can be a huge binging, beeping, source of distraction. Here’s a list of 25 tips for setting it up to be less all-consuming. Individually, they’re helpful but small; collectively I think they make a big difference. This plus making expectations clear on your team about slack still being primarily an asynchronous means of communication can make it useful rather than a productivity drain. (Next up: fixing its memory consumption…)
I mention the importance of feedback for your team frequently, Julia Evans reminds us that giving positive feedback to peer managers about their team member’s work, especially for something that miight otherwise go unrecognized, is a good and useful thing to remember to do.
Brandon Gregg’s Systems Performance book is out in a highly-revised second edition. The first edition is an extremely good book.
Some pointers on creating a Github profile README.
Barcelona Supercomputing Centre’s datacentre hosting Mare Nostrum is just lovely. Here’s an online tour - just press the play bottom at the bottom left-hand side.
I learned about httpie a month or so ago - if you use curl to test out API endpoints, you should try httpie.
If you’re an Mac user, you can use TouchID or an Apple watch to authenticate for sudo.
There’s a bash script testing framework?! That lets you test commands like rm?
29 bytes of C code which generates a 16GB executable.