Close to home

Several years ago, I was living just outside New York City. This particular morning I happened to be at my girlfriend's place in central Pennsylvania and we weren't even completely awake when her brother in law came to the door almost panicked. I didn't know him very well and didn't know what to make of it at first when he came running in. We turned on the television just in time to see the second plane crash into the towers.

I'll never forget the feeling I had trying to take a mental inventory of where my friends and colleagues were likely to be that morning. I started calling, texting, emailing (like everyone else at that moment) trying to make sure my friends were safe. Only a few were in Manhattan that morning and luckily they were all OK.

I will never forget

Reflections on Mother's Day

I was raised by my mother and my grandmother. Throughout my life they have provided me with the love, caring and support to make it through even my toughest days. Anything good that I have or will accomplish is in no small part because of them. They both broke their backs to provide their children and grandchildren with opportunities and experiences that surpassed the ones they had growing up. They taught me right from wrong, strength during hardship, compassion and empathy, how to improve yourself, and countless other things that one could easily overlook. I carry these things with me for all the days of my life and even in times I lose my way it is these tools that I use to find it again. There is no gift, no card and no flowers that will ever truly express how much I appreciate what they’ve done and continue to do for both me and my son.

House Keeping

I've started developing in my "free" time and as part of that I decided to fix the screwed up installations of MacPorts and RVM that I had on my primary laptop.

My machine has been so screwed up I've been developing for a while using a Linode instance, ssh tunnels and ExpanDrive. This solution has worked pretty well except for an annoying issue with TextMate freezing every time the application got focus when I had an ExpanDrive based file system opened. I started with blowing away my old installation of MySQL, MacPorts and my previous system-wide installation of RVM.

The new development tool chain uses Homebrew, RVM, and Vagrant. Hopefully the time I had to invest to get to this point will encourage me to keep things clean. The idea of building isolated VMs for project development seems solid and a number of people I have some respect for seem to be using vagrant successfully for this purpose.

Forks in the road

Tonight I found out that another co-worker is taking the next step in their career and leaving our company. Selfishly I’m sad I won’t be working with them anymore, but honestly I’m happy for them and know they have a very bright future ahead.

What really got me thinking was the conversation we had after covered the basics (e.g. sorry to see you go, where are you heading, etc.). The reality is that most careers don’t follow the clean-cut path they have in the past. Not very long ago it was common to work for the same company for decades, leave with a gold watch, benefits and a pension. That definitely isn’t the reality I live in, and I often think about the going on five years I’ve invested in my current organization. Granted my career path has been pretty interesting over those years – but I’ve been at the same place.

Today you are responsible more than ever before for your own retirement, your own career and your success. My friend made the comment that loyalty doesn’t exist anymore, I responded that I don’t think it is gone but I think it has changed. Today’s loyalty is a bond between humans, not between a human and an organization. I think I like it that way

When giving me advice at one point a few months ago a senior executive whom I’ve grown to trust said to me that the only way to build the kind of bond he and I were talking about at the time, where near frictionless disagreement and collaboration are possible, was to go through “battle” with someone. He didn’t mean this strictly in the military sense however I can only imagine the result is even stronger in that case. He was referring to the absolute certainty to the guy standing next to you will still be there, fighting right along with you, even when things get ugly. In some jobs, that might be an everyday event or an extraordinary circumstance. Either way the result is the same, you learn who you can trust. You learn who you can count on and you learn whom you can’t.

I’ve lost another one of the people who fit solidly in former category. The good news for me is that you never really lose those people; you just might not know how or when your paths will cross again. In fact, I got a call from another one of the people I’d put in that category earlier today asking me to speak at a User Group his organization is hosting next month.

360 Feedback

One of the Operations Directors at work developed an application we have started to use to gather 360 feedback from the other people in the organization you interact with frequently. This tool basically asks for a number of objective criteria to be evaluated on a 1 to 10 scale and then provides the ability to give you some structured (but largely free form) data on things you are doing well and things you should consider changing.

I like this application and the idea behind it. When it is presented to you (and your manager) it shows you all the feedback but keeps the people providing it anonymous. I will say that I wish there was a way for me to ask questions (anonymously would be fine) about some of the feedback so I can really understand of it but most of it is pretty interesting.

One of the outputs it gives you is the graphic I'm showing here, it maps your certain traits based on the objective feedback. The other most interesting part is looking at the delta between your average rating from peers and how you rate yourself.