#131 - 8 Oct 2022
Denominators matter; Men are worse allies then we think; Good software managers; Private techincal interviews; Standups should grow collaboration; When feedback hurts; Effective pair programming
Every Achievement Has a Denominator - Charity Majors
As Majors points out, every achievement has a denominator. What matters is the impact we have for the investment our ourganizations or communities have put into us.
Research: Men Are Worse Allies Than They Think - Smith, Johnson, Lee, and Thebeau, HBR
A gentle reminder that we all pretty much always see ourselves as doing a pretty good job, regardless of whether or not that’s true. Presented here is the results of a large study focussing on the support of women in the workplace.
We men consistently rated men as being better allies or public advocates for gender equality than women did, and men reported seeing typical discriminatory behaviour against women (speaking over them, not giving them credit for their contributions, being asked to do clerical work, questioning their emotional state, dismissiveness….) at startlingly lower levels than women saw them.
Noba writes up a blog post about a mixed-methods study of a set of developers and managers at Microsoft by Kalliamvakou et al. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s a bit difficult to summarize. The results end up being consistent with the Google Project Oxygen work I cite frequently, but they came at things quite differently
However, the research found that while a “sufficient level of technical knowledge is necessary”, technical proficiency ranked close to bottom in terms of importance compared to other attributes.
I think key here is that they need enough technical knowledge to perform their facilitation and support work, and depending on the team (and whether or not there’s a strong team lead) that many not have to be very much.
I also like how they distilled the important attributes down to this diagram, which is consistent with themes you’ve read here over the past years:
Use standups to spark collaboration (instead of wasting your time) - Harriet Wilmott
I’ve seen this same dynamic play out on a number of teams with standups, but also with one-on-ones. Using precious synchronous-meeting time to go through rote status updates is a scandalous use of resources. Status updates can be given asynchronously. If people are getting together for meetings, it should be for some more important purpose.
Wilmot suggests that good outcomes for a regular standup could be something like these:
Someone is working on a problem someone else can help with, and that conversation is started
Something’s taking larger than expected, and the team talks about how to adjust the plan
Better shared awareness on the team about what’s happening
Regular team interactions which make people more willing to talk to each other and ask for help
And if that’s the case, the meeting should be designed to support those goals. Routine status updates can be given in a tool, and then the standup can be used used to have higher-level discussions that take those as inputs. There are a bunch of useful tips (including troubleshooting ideas) in the article, and it’s worth reading.
Does Stress Impact Technical Interview Performance? - Chris Parnin
In #33 we saw the paper by Behroozi et al, with authors including Parnin, which demonstrated that the canonical whiteboard technical interview tested for how stressful the candidate found the situation than technical acumen, and that there was strong disparate impact on women and people of color.
In this follow-on post which I missed at the time, there was one simple way to greatly improve matters - just let the candidate solve the problem in private in a closed room.
Managing Your Own Career
Why Some Feedback Hurts (and What To Do About It) - Ed Batista
We talked about getting better at getting feedback recently, but I didn’t really cover the emotional component of it - getting feedback can hurt in the moment. And not only is that no fun, if you’re not careful you can react poorly in the moment, which can damage likelihood of getting more feedback in the future.
Batista talks about this in some length here; there are some things which trigger emotional reactions. There’s a few models for what causes this; one is that it calls into question some bit of our identity, or the relationship with the person giving it, or it feels untrue so we feel indignant. Another model is that it attacks something about our status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness to the other person, or seems unfair (SCARF).
Being aware of this, and ready for it, and paying attention to your feelings can help. As can postponing any immediate reaction to the content of the feedback, and accepting that the feedback is data and you don’t necessarily need to react to every data point. Batista gives some more suggestions in this article.
Build Your Career on Dirty Work - Stay SaaSy
In #70, we looked at Kaplan-Moss’ article, Embrace the Grind, where just doing the dirty work that no one else wanted to do could suddenly unlock a lot of possibilities. This article points out some of the other advantages of doing the dirty work - because no one else is willing to step up, there’s probably lots of low-hanging fruit to make improvements, and it can have huge impact.
If there’s something holding back your team, or your community, rolling up your sleeves and just grinding through the dirty work and improving things along the way can be good for the team, the community, and your own career.
A terminal-based emoji picker: smoji.
A nice illustrated tutorial on how Stable Diffusion works.
Course materials for a course on full-stack deep learning, which gives all the messy parts around the fancy model - data management, deployment, project management, development infrastructure, and troubleshooting - their due.
Building 32 bits of magnetic core memory.
And that’s it for another week. Let me know what you thought, or if you have anything you’d like to share about the newsletter or management. Just email me or reply to this newsletter if you get it in your inbox.
Have a great weekend, and good luck in the coming week with your team,