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.