Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ways to be indispensable at work!

I read this on Forbes.... original link to article is at the bottom.

Seven Ways To Be Indispensable At Work In 2013

The New Year is, for many, a time of change and resolutions. Be thinner! Be richer! Meet the love of your life!
For others, our hopes and dreams are more measurable.  Whether it’s a 10% pay raise you’re after or moving one step closer to the corner office, forget job-hopping. In 2013, staying put and amping up your performance at work is the way to make it happen.
“The prevailing wisdom has been that to get ahead, you should learn something from one company and move on—and up—at the next,” says Brian Kropp, a managing director at CEB, an executive advisory firm which offers data analysis of more than 50,000 employee surveys from 10,000 organizations. “But that only produces short-term effects. In the new workplace we’re seeing greater emphasis on relationships,” he says, which means veteran employees are at a far greater advantage. According to CEB research, longer-tenured workers are beginning to rise to positions of success more quickly than those who move every few years.

So what does this mean for 2013 career resolutions? Ditch the job boards and set to work making yourself an indispensable employee.
“Being indispensable is about being the best,” says Lucy Leske, Vice President and Co-Director,Education Practice at the executive search firm, Witt/Kieffer. “If you’re always striving to be a better, more valuable contributor, people will inevitably take note and you will get ahead.”
Without further pontification, seven simple strategies to becoming indispensable in 2013.

Be Flexible
“The odds are that the way you’ll do work on January 1st won’t be the way you’ll be doing work on December 31st,” says Kropp. According to CEBresearch, more than 50% of employees say they have experiences “significant change” at work in the past 12 months, from reorganizations to new workflows to massive layoffs. “Make sure that your boss sees you are someone who can get the job done no matter what’s happening around you.”
Stay Current
“If you’re not regularly reading about industry trends in trade, business and general publications, checking out online sources and staying current on trends in your industry, you’re compromising your career growth,” says Leske. “Keeping up on trends, but more importantly, being able to apply those trends to your organization, demonstrates your understanding if its place within the industry.”
Don’t Be A Loner
In the new workplace, 40% of employees work with more than 20 people on a given day, and more than 80% work with 10 according to CEB research. “The idea that you can be an individual contributor and be successful is an idea of the past,” says Kropp. “Fitting within the network of the workplace is a part of the new definition of a great employee.”
Be A Thought Leader
All of that knowledge you’ve gained by reading up on the industry? Leske says to make a habit of sharing it. “Write articles, make presentations, serve on panels or blog,” she says. “People need to have confidence in you that you know what you’re doing and that you’re willing to use it to help other peoples’ problems.”
“It’s really easy to add more things to your to-do list but just as critical—if not more so—to know what to take off,” says Kropp. It’s no secret that work can be an overwhelming place, particularly in a post-recession environment where Kropp says the number of direct reports answering to any given manager has increased by an average of 50% in the past five years. Good decision making, delegating and prioritization are the signs of an effective leader, no matter your position within the organizational matriSeek Opportunities For Management Experience
Speaking of managers, Leske advises that you actively pursue any opportunity for managing employees, no matter how small and trivial (or large and daunting) the task may seem. “There’s a difference between begging for these opportunities and raising your hand,” she warns, “but if someone says there’s a job to be done, raise your hand first and ask for help later. The biggest mistake is passing up the opportunity.”
Make Friends With The IT Guy

The average number of work-related emails we receive each day has increased fourfold since 2005, underscoring the explosive importance of technology in the office. This makes the IT department not just a vital team in the workforce, but an essential ally to any employee reaching for success as with their help you can avoid unnecessary downtime due to tech failures.
But Kropp adds that it isn’t just the IT team who have become increasingly important within the workplace. “Making friends with admins is an important move as well,” he says. As workflows have changed in the workplace of 2013 CEB reports that power, authority and decision making is cropping up in some unexpected places. “The administrative assistant of the CEO decides what’s on his or her schedule,” he points out. Underestimating their authority—or missing the opportunity to develop a strong relationship with that person is a judgment lapse no indispensable employee would miss.
What’s your workplace resolution? Need any advice to make it happen? Let me know and I’ll get to the bottom of it over the holidays.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just a little bit every day...

You probably remember all the times you brushed your teeth, right?


Well, in that case you probably remember every single meal you ever had before.  Right?


Well, of course you didn't.  I mean -- who would.  But, what would your teeth look like if you didn't brush your teeth every day?

I have a tendency to want to over do things.  You know -- if I want to start something new, like go to the gym - or make a certain number of phone calls.  I'm like -- "Ok, I'm going to make 200 phone calls today!"

Well, there's a lot of things wrong with that.  But, think about it -- if you make 5 more phone calls a day, that's 25 more phone calls a week, that's 100 more phone calls a month, that's 1,200 more phone calls a year.

5 phone calls ads up.

Think of it as the positive version of the Starbucks effect.  You ever find yourself wanting to save a little money -- stop Starbucks.  5 dollars a day, times 5... that's 100 bucks a month.  I mean, that's legit.  1,200 on coffee drinks?  That's a down payment on a car (granted, probably a used, or sub-par car -- but I think you see where my head is at)

So, besides being overwhelmed.  What little thing can you do every day that will add up?

You don't build a wall.  You put one brick on top of another.  So, what kind of bricks you building with?  What can you do 10 minutes a day that will add up?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." 

There are no mountain top experiences.  You will not go to summer camp and come back unchanged.  I mean... sure, there are things that can happen in someones life that will change them forever.  But, those things are few and far between.  Those are right up there with falling in love.  Or meeting someone you want to be with for a long, long time.  Those moments don't just happen that often.  

So, what's left?


There was a point of my life where I was drinking a lot, watching TV, schlepping around... and I remember one day looking at myself thinking, "if you are what you do.... then what am I?"

What do you do every day?

Let's face it.  You may THINK you're one thing.  You may WANT to be something.  But, it's what you do every day that matters. 

You THINK you're a writer, but you don't write every day...?  Well, maybe there's some room for improvement. 

You THINK you're a recruiter, but you don't get on the phone and make your calls.... ?  Well.... you see what I'm saying?

I've read articles about guys who wake up every morning and write out their goals, what they want, why they want it, and what they are doing today to get it.  


But, I'll bet they're a lot more focused on things then the rest of us are. 

So, if you are what you do.... what are you doing today?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

So you wanna do a startup, eh?

This is a favorite slide of mine.  I found out about the slide originally from Patrick Neeman at  Here's the slide here.  If you've ever wanted to do anything -- and it ended up getting hard -- well, that's because doing anything is hard.

I think the only things that come easy are fast food and maybe masturbation.  Neither of those is particularly fulfilling.  Every once and a while, hey -- what's a little McDonald's REALLY gonna do to you -- you have it every day... now that's another story.

It's hard to eat right.
It's hard to work out.
It's hard to come in and do your job effectively every day.
It's hard to put in the work needed for a healthy relationship with friends, family, girlfriends, boyfriends (you know, anyone other than yourself)

Anything worthwhile is hard.

I read a quote in a book, "The Best Damn Sales Book Ever" and it talks about how most people don't want to succeed, they just want to NOT fail.

Wake up this morning and want to succeed.

That puts you in the top ten percent. (because the other ten don't want to do anything).

Enjoy the slideshow:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Coding and Kids

Headhunting is fun.  There's nothing like getting a search assignment and going after the deal.  You can smell the blood in the water.  But, I'm sad to say it's not enough.  Work isn't enough for anyone.  If anyone has read 7 Habits of Highly Effective people ( you'll see that everyone has different roles.  People are often many things.  You can be a business owner, a father, a husband, a son, etc. 

The other half of Highlander Solutions is still in its infancy stages -- perhaps even a twinkle in our eye.  We're looking to take on a big problem in America: jobs.  The job landscape is changing, but you know what we don't have enough of in this country?  Programmers.  Ask any startup or software company if they have enough technical talent and the answer will be a resounding "no!"

Good people are hard to find.

That's why I'm in business.  I tap people on the shoulder who are at one job, and introduce them to a better job.  Headhuners and companies alike will move people across the country, from one state to the next, all because the position is hard to fill with the local talent they have around them.

Let's make better people.

Better is not the right word.  Let's make more employable people.  There's a CNN article that talks about the issue a little bit:

McDonalds starts getting kids hooked on Happy Meals early.  This is a trend that lasts a person's whole life.  All I'm saying is, let's get kids hooked on other things: like software development.  It's kind of like hooked on phonics, but let's get them hooked on software engineering.  Let's get them hooked on game programming.

Most software engineers I talk to say they got hooked on computers pretty early.  So, let's encourage that little habit around the U.S.

Both my parents are teachers.  I spent a lot of time as a substitute teacher and teaching sailing and involved in after school tutoring programs.

Teaching is hard.  But, you've got to do it.  And you've got to push hard and think of new ways to engage and inspire the youth.  So, we'll be tackling things like that.

I have a vision of this very similar to Dave Eggers' and McSweeney's 826Valencia.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the program, it's pretty awesome.  They have these all over the United States:

What 826 is doing is amazing and inspiring.  Go and do Likewise!  We're gonna see if we can't take what they're doing and put a little technical spin on it.

That's what's coming up!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

San Francisco Tech Law firm Opens office in LA

Thanks to SoCalTech, we have news that a San Francisco Tech Law Firm will be opening offices here in LA.  So for those of you who like the tech scene, but want the beach weather... there may be hope yet :)

"In a sign that the Los Angeles technology and startup world is starting to be taken more seriously by Silicon Valley, one of Silicon Valley's more prominent law firms has set up shop in Santa Monica. Cooley LLP said Tuesday that it has added four partners to a new, Los Angeles office, and also hired one of the most active and connected insiders in the region to head up business development efforts in Los Angeles."

You can read more about the article here

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Different Log On Screens

So, the big thing with Pomodoros and working in Pomodoro blocks is staying focused on one particular type of task.  I keep track of the days I don't bring a computer and I make calls, and then the days I have a computer -- and the numbers are staggering.  I literally make half the calls if I have a computer in front of me.  It's not that I'm not working... it's just that I'm working ineffectively.

You've been there.  You respond to emails as they come.  You look up things you could do later.  Well, I'm trying out a new way if fixing that.  Because I need the computer at work -- and we're pushing more and more towards a paperless office -- and so I need the computer for that and my software.

So, different log on screens!  In my second logon screen.  Skype is not installed on the computer and I do not have any of my emails set up.  Could I check my google or my webmail in a pinch?  Sure.  But -- that's the point -- it's harder to do.

So it give it a whirl.  Make it harder for you to multi-task.

Friday, June 22, 2012

How Employable are you going to be.... when you leave?

Trying to decide what kind of job you want next, or which job you want can be a tough decision to make.  After all, there are so many factors -- location, people, perks on Friday (maybe they have free beer!) , this one lets me bring my pet to work.  I think one of the most important things you have to think about when considering a new opportunity is.... how employable are you going to be when you leave.

That's right, I'm telling you imagine the day you and your employeer decide that it's time to move on -- and the two of you go your separate ways.  On that day when you get laid off, or you quit, or (heaven forbid) you're fired.... what do you have to show for it?

If you're a designer, what will your portfolio look like after your time at the company?  If you're a software engineer, what kind of projects did you get to work on.... what kind of technology were you exposed to.

Think like a movie star.  On some level, movie stars are only as good as their last picture.  Well, you're only as good as your last job?  Will you survive if you take a lousy job.  Just like some movie stars can survive bad movies (Knight & Day????)  But, successive hits are a lot better.

For the World of Warcraft or Dungeons and Dragons fans... what kind of spells or magical items are you going to acquire after this mission or quest?  What level of a mage or warrior will you be after you've taken on the role of Software Engineer II at XYZ company?  Will you have a mobile project under your belt?  Will you have the opportunity to lead a team?

You want to work to LEARN, not just work to EARN.  If you're familiar with any of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad  books -- this concept will be repeated over and over.  Which is good -- because let's face it, gone are the days you'll work for one company and retire.  You have to be a little mercenary about your career choices.  

So, when you're looking at job choices... what's in it for you?   

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Desperately Seeking... a Nemesis

I remember this story from a while back (  Chris Hardwick wrote about a guy who posted an ad on Craigslist asking for a Nemesis.  The post was funny, and a little silly.  But recently I've been missing the competitive nature of a big sales office.  We're a small firm, so you don't have that same spirit of competition with different teams or departments.  So... I have recently picked a Nemesis.  I'm not looking to completely destroy this person... but I definitely want to "beat" him/her.  Why not?  Everybody needs a reason to wake up in the morning :)

What about you?  Do you have a nemesis creatively?  Personally?  Professionally?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Resume Revamp - Workshop up at Jobvite

Today I'm up at Jobvite in the Bay Area talking to 75 people about revamping their resume and using social media to find their next job.  I'm speaking with my frequent partner in crime.... dun, dun, dun....!

Patrick Neeman (

Patrick is a Director of User Experience at Jobvite (  I struck up a friendship with Patrick when I tried to recruit him last year.  We hit it off and kept tabs on each other.  The first time we spoke was down at the UX Speakeasy earlier this year (

And now we're back!

If you're in San Fran or want to know more about the vent, you can check it out here:
Jobvite UX Resume and Portfolio Bootcamp - Eventbrite

I'll post it on slideshare eventually.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Always Be Prepared - is your resume ready?

In my opinion, having a resume ready and up to date is like cleaning your house and your bathroom before going on a date.  Worst case scenario, the act of cleaning your house is a good habit and will put you in a good mental state.  Best case scenario, if the date goes well, you'll have an opportunity to show it off later that night!

Why is it that so many people wait until they're out of a job to update their resume?  If you want to get philosophical about it, I suppose it's because most people make reactive decisions rather than proactive ones.  We usually wait until the check engine light is on before we take it into the mechanic.... it's rare we just proactively take it into the mechanic. 

Having a resume ready and your linkedin profile nice and tidy is a proactive thing that you can do.  It's the equivalent of making your bed before a date.  That's just you being positive! 

Now that I've convinced you to get your resume ready you're probably thinking... where do I start?

1.  Tell a Story.  A resume is your story.  It's a little movie treatment of your career life.  Please make it interesting.  You're interesting.  I would wager that not every day in your work life was sunny and full of roses.  I'll bet there was more than one adverse situation or problem you had to use your wits to overcome... well, that's the stuff we want to hear!   I'm sure there are lots of stories about Luke Skywalker going to the bathroom or harvesting crops while his friends have gone to the academy.... but we like the one about him becoming a Jedi.  It's more interesting.  So.... tell us the interesting stuff. 

How do you tell a story?  With details.  
I have two friends who go out on dates a lot.  One of them describes the date as, "oh you know, blonde hair, blue eyes..."

I'm like, that's it!?!  That's like saying I have a car with four wheels that drives.

Then I have another friend, I ask him how the date was, he says, "oh she was great.  Remember Cameron Diaz?
"From when she was in the Mask?"
"Yeah, yeah!  She came out in the dress and did the dance thing"
"Yeah, well she's got this brunette Cameron Diaz thing going.  She picked me up in her Convertible M5, and we went to Korean BBQ downtown.  It was all you can eat.  I ate this giant strips of meat and they kept bringing soju and beer and I got so drunk I was dancing with some old lady when "Play that Funky Music" came on.  Later we drove up the coast with the top down, wind in my hair, and danced on the beach."

Lots of details!

Resume writing is just good writing.  It's not a car, it's a Cadillac.  It's not Blue, it's Robin's Egg Blue. Okay, so some specific examples for resume writing... 


Give a quick synopsis of the company underneath the company name.  Don't assume that everyone knows what the company does.  So it should read something like this...
Joe Blow Software is a Software-As-A-Service Company (SAAS) specializing in Insurance Software for Small To Medium Companies across the United States. 

Then what did you do there?

Recruited to join on-demand product.  Lead the conversion from classic ASP.NET 2.0 to ASP.NET 4.0, resulting in....
Brought in Agile concepts to my team by bringing articles and success stories of the process from other companies.  This resulted in....
Took junior programers out to lunch and stayed late to help them with their code, a sort of pair programming after hours.  This resulted in XYZ

You can talk about specifics of the projects, getting into tech buzzwords.  Throw it in there.    You see there are details about what you did, and the RESULTS! 

We'll talk more about different ways you can do this.  But, throw in a little personal style.  What is your story?  What makes you different?  What was your contribution to the company? 

Some food for thought!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's not Working...

A co-worker comes up to me the other day and says, "what do you want for lunch?"  I think for a minute and then say, "I don't know... what do you want?"
"I don't want Mexican," he says.

 After much debate, we decide that Subway is the closest and although it's the tenth time we've had it that month, we go for it.  But the situation illustrates a very specific concept... people don't find it easy to say what they want.  Or perhaps, most people.... don't know what they want.

What's Not Working.
One of the most powerful tools in your interviewing tool belt is to elicit interaction from the other side.  An interview is like a date, there shouldn't be only one person talking.  As an interviewee  for a position, you could ask the hiring manager, "what are you looking for this position to do?"  And you'll get a general answer.  Probably something along the lines of, "we're looking for someone to work with the team, help us with our projects, blah blah." 

General questions beget general answers. 

Next time you're in an interview and you've gone through the question and answer period.  Get a sense of the job.  Ask a specific question.  Ask the hiring manager this.  "Talk to me about what's not working in your team right now, and how will your environment look after this position has been filled and working there for six months.  What is changed?"

This will get a better response.  You'll get something like, "well, we don't have enough help on the Database side of things.  So, ideally this person could come in and help us...."

You see?  Now that's an opportunity for you to talk about your relate able experience. 

Next time you're in an interview and you're not digging deep enough into situation, ask the hiring manager what's not working.  Next time you're talking with a stakeholder about a wire frame or a new mock up for a landing page... ask him what's not working about it.

People find it easier to talk about the negative things than the good things.

So give it a try, what's not working for you about that approach?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Producing Time vs. Consuming Time

So, as I was eating a Sandwich that I paid ten plus dollars for, I started thinking about my life as a producer vs a consumer.  I started to think about all the times I went home and watched a movie (consumer) vs the time I spent actually working (making calls, writing, pursuing something).  And I thought about how terrifying it would be to create a graph that you had every day where you logged your "Producing Hours" vs your "Consuming Hours."  Sounds scary.  Sounds exciting.  I'm going to try it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pomodoro Time!

I went to a SoCal Code Camp event in Orange County earlier this year.  The event is an un-conference of sorts.  It's a free event, with speakers coming from across the state and sometimes the country to come and speak on topics.  These speakers volunteer their time.  There are events ranging from the benefits of MVC and MVVM (see software development) -- to some other tips and tricks -- like time management.

There was a presentation by a guy named Woody Pewitt.  He's an executive at a software company and he talked about a "time management" philosophy called "Getting Things Done."  For those of you not familiar with GTD (Getting Things Done) just look up David Allen.  I was familiar with GTD, but he brought up something I really liked: Pomodoro Time.

Simply put, Pomodoro time is a method of working in blocks.  Theoretically, you work in 25 minute blocks -- take a five minute break, then go into another 25 minute block.  This has been profoundly helpful.  Raise your hand if there have been times where you feel so overwhelmed that you dont' know where to start?  Well, toss a Pomodoro at that task and see what's left and how you feel.

Most of this stuff isn't rocket science, right?  Most problems can be solved with working in blocks, taking a breath, getting a bit of sun, and making sure you get enough sleep at night.

I've recently entered into a partnership of sorts.  An accountability partnership where we text each other how many pomodoros we get done each day.  He usually kicks my ass -- but there are some days that the only reason I get out of bed earlier is because I don't want him to beat me.

Links for your reference:

Monday, June 4, 2012

What they Don't Teach you at Harvard

I'm re-reading a Brian Tracy book, Goals!  Early on in the book he references a book, "What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School."  It talks about a Harvard study conducted between 1979 and 1989.  In 1979, the graduates of the MBA program at Harvard were asked if they had set clear, written goals for their future and made plans to accomplish them. 

This is Harvard, right?  I mean, these guys have their act together.  So, when it turned out only 3 percent of graduates had written goals and plans... I was a little amazed.  Thirteen percent had goals, but they were not written down.  And 84 percent had no specific goals at all, aside from getting out of school and enjoying the summer. 

Long story short, the 3 percent of graduates who had clear, written goals when they left Harvard were earning, on average, TEN TIMES as much as the other 97 percent of graduates all together.  The only difference was the clarity of their goals. 

My dad always used to say, if you don't make the decision... someone else will make it for you.  So, let's all take a moment and write down some specific goals.

Ten Thousand Ways!!!

The title of the blog is a reference to Thomas Edison's quote (well, we're not exactly sure if he said this exactly) about him not failing, but finding 10,000 ways that the light bulb didn't work.  See link:

I could go on and on bout the value of persistence. I read a quote from Albert Einstein recently,"it's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

Lately I've been thinking about social media and how to use that as a means to foster accountability.  That's the first thing that they tell you to do when you want to lose weight, start a food journal.  Start seeing what you're actually eating -- start seeing what sort of calories you're putting in your body.  And by golly, if you have to write down every time you eat a bag of potato chips you either stop writing things down, or stop eating potato chips.  Because -- there's an accountability there.  And that's just one on one!

So check in here every now and then.  If I've been posting regularly, it means I'm staying with it -- if I'm not posting, it means I'm eating potato chips.