Category Archives: Uncategorized

Thin Line

“Daddy, what are you doing on the computer?”

How can I say that I’m installing rvm for ruby 1.8.7 + 1.9.2, rails 3 and postgres on a brand new Ubuntu installation?

“Daddy is playing on the computer.”

Don’t you just love it when the line between work and play is so thin?

Quote – Organization culture

While going through Crucial Confrontation to finish up my mindmap, I came across an interesting definition of the word ‘nice’. It seems that many people describe their organization’s culture as ‘Nice’. So the authors came up with a new definition of the word:

Nice
adj. A pleasant, nonconfrontational attitude that eventually kills you.

Does that sound like your organization? If so it might be time to change your corporate culture.

360 Evaluation that Actually Means Something

A colleague recently wrote a post about 360 evaluations, asking if it really helps to become a better employee.

A traditional 360 evaluation often works as follow: you (the good employee)  ask a few colleagues to fill out some questionnaire rating different skills from 1-5. Let’s get real: everyone loves you and you get all 4 and 5, which make it very hard to find your strengths and weaknesses. The questionnaire can also has a few random questions about whether you are a generic good employee. You then have the pleasure of reading generic comments about your good behaviour as a corporate drone.

My colleague is right. That’s garbage.

However there is another way.

For the past six months, I asked colleagues to give me feedback in a face-to-face meeting. There was an enormous difference.

I feel that they were trying harder to come up with strengths and weaknesses. But most importantly, it’s a conversation – I could ask for clarification and specific examples. I could also ask questions, specific points that have been bothering me.

And let’s face it – I’m not going to improve much if all I hear is that I’m the best. I exposed some of my perceived weaknesses to see if others have the same perception. And sometimes, they didn’t.

It takes humility to handle the feedback. But in my case, there was no big surprise – I already knew (or guessed) about most of the feedbacks I received. I really appreciated that the aspects the feedback covered was very different from written 360 evaluation and I felt more compelled to act after a conversation than I did after reading impersonal comments on paper.

I believe that face-to-face feedback will make me a better person so I’ll continue to bug colleagues from time to time.

PS: another colleague tried a group therapy 360 evaluation. I hope he’ll post about his experience (Luc, take the hint :))

Asylum

Is your boss insane?

Does he take bad decision all day long, telling you to work on useless things while you know what needs to be done?

Are you colleagues insane?

Do you think their design could be better? Their code more robust? That their architecture could be more testable? That they should use this and that framework? That they don’t know how to code but you do?

Are you insane?

Do you do whatever is in your power to help your boss and colleagues to understand what you think is important? Do you know the reason behind your boss’ decisions? Do you understand the business, the competitors, how your product compares to others? Do you suggest improvements and changes of priority when you see fit or do you stay silent? Do you coach your colleagues when you know something they don’t? Do you learn every thing you can from your colleagues, either personally or professionally?

If you start to think others are crazy, think again. Bring yourself to the center and check what you can do to understand them. Sometimes it does not take much except a small thing called ‘communication’. Talk to people, understand them, know why the act the way they do. Then maybe what you saw as ‘insanity’ will go away… most of the time.

What is rubberducking anyway?

Some people have asked me where the title of my blog (rubberducking) comes from.

Well it’s quite simple – rubber-ducking is the art of talking to a rubber duck to find solutions to your problems.

Sounds crazy? Well probably a little bit…

But you probably had this kind of conversation a few times:
You: Hey Joe, I’ve got this problem with my code… I’m wondering how to… Oh yeah just saw the problem, thanks!
Joe: …

Now I’m sure Joe is a nice person, but what if he’s not available? A rubber duck can sometimes work nicely:
You: Hey ducky, I’m having trouble with this algorithm… Everything is by the book, even this tricky part here… Oh wait, got it! Thanks!
Ducky: <quack>

Anyway I wanted a medium to explore ideas and get feedback… Rubber ducks are nice, but sometimes I need the duck to talk back, hence the blog

If talking to a single duck is not enough, you can try to talk to many pixies… You never know, it might help.