#87 - 15 Oct 2021
Debugging team progress; Managers (and others) as Integrators; Quit your job?
I wanted to give you an update on the co-op hiring mini-fiasco from last week.
Even with the chaos, we still managed to get 3 of our top 4 candidates, because we still have a great team, a sensible set of interview questions, we contacted candidates (just!) before the interview, and followed up afterwards.
None of this excuses the chaos, additional stress on the interviewers, or missed opportunities for continuous learning from the interviews and hires. But maybe there are two additional morals we can take from the end to this story:
Our various teams can still stand out from other groups when hiring by doing anything at all beyond the bare minimum that most groups do - with the more we do, the further we stand out; and
Management mistakes often aren’t catastrophic, and are rarely as bad as they feel at the time - but they do need to be dealt with, because they compound.
Plus a very trenchant comment on the situation sent in by a long-time reader:
Sometimes the manager is the worker the manager needs to manage the closest. ;)
This Dursi fellow is definitely one of the team members I have to keep a pretty close eye on.
Anyway, on to the roundup:
My Team Is Going In Circles. Help! - Lara Hogan
Don’t Assume Consensus In The Absence of Objection - Candost Dagdeviren
A couple of articles about debugging team issues.
In the first Hogan addresses the issue of stuff being done, but without real forward progress. In her estimation, the biggest issues in that situation is either lack of clarity of either the underlying goals or roles and who’s in charge of what. Being clear about - and communicating relentlessly - the most important outcome can help with the first, and identifying roles and decision making processes can help with the second. Further, she points out that this is a teaching/coaching opportunity, so that the situation doesn’t repeat.
In the second, perhaps related, article, Dagdeviren reminds us that there can be disagreement over the goals or the roles without it being voiced, and especially not to you, as an objection. In meetings and in one-on-ones it can take active questioning on your part - and on the part of other team members - to uncover doubts, questions, or disagreements.
What needs to change? That’s easy. How and when is the hard part. - Nikhyl Singhal
We’ve seen in the last 22 months that things can change very quickly when everyone agrees they need to change. Singhal talks about the preconditions for enacting change, such as when many of us went to remote work:
Agreement on the problem that needs solving
A collective sense of urgency
Required resources to deliver change - Trust, Time, Team
It’s necessary, but not enough that there’s widespread agreement on the problem that needs solving; it then needs to be understood to be a priority to solve. Only then can you successfully start making the changes - by starting with some quick wins, and gaining the resources (people, time, and the trust of people who will be affected) to make the big change.
Being a Manager
The Integrator Burden - John Cutler
We’ve talked about the “glue work” involved in being a manager in the newsletter below, but that’s kind of a nebulous term. Cutler introduces a different term and role description, that of “integrator”, which may convey the value of the work more clearly.
As managers and leads, we’re often charged with integrating the work of others - or making sure that it can be integrated - as well as making sure that our team overall, other teams, and stakeholders like researcher groups are all working together smoothly. This is hard work!
I’ve never liked the jargony term “aligning”, and “glue work” is pretty unclear - thinking of some of our responsibilities as involving integration of work and teams is maybe a better way of communicating this kind of work.
Managing Your Own Career
That Burning Feeling When You’re Right - Roy Rapoport
Rapoport reminds us that being right is nothing. Seeing the correct path to take is table stakes. If you can’t convince others to join you on that path, nothing will get accomplished.
5 Reasons Not to Quit Your Job (Yet) - Amii Barnard-Bahn, HBR
There are a lot of opportunities out there right now - certainly in industry, but also in academia. (There are academic research computing jobs on the job board that have been open for six months). It’s worth thinking about if you have what you need in your current job. Barnard-Bahn suggests reasons to not look elsewhere:
You have a sponsor in place [note: not merely a mentor - a sponsor is a champion, someone who actively finds or creates opportunities for you]
Your company may have unforeseen opportunities
You’re crushing your goals
You’re not ready
It’s a great time to negotiate
If two or more of those don’t apply to you, well, then…
A free online undergrad textbook, Introduction to Probability for Data Science.
Web animations, images, videos, and interactive tomfoolery made entirely out of HTML checkboxes.
You can even play DOOM rendered entirely with checkboxes.
An argument for “no surprises” as the measure of software quality.
Had trouble visualizing spherical harmonics when slogging through E&M problems in Jackson? Nice example of explanation with animations of circular harmonics, which are 2D spherical harmonics and thus just Fourier series on the unit circle.
Building a “fast” 6502 with an FPGA.
Trapezoid-rule numerical integration written in SQL, as you do.
If you’ve found yourself thinking GitHub basically became an entirely new and more interesting company starting ~2018, you’re not wrong. Here’s an interesting twitter thread about leading its turnaround.
50 years ago this week, the first commercial video arcade game.