Managing Expectations

by on Sep.08, 2010, under career

After nearly four years at my current job working for ‘the man’ and over a year acting as the lead dog in my team, I’ve been officially promoted to management … though of a different team than I had recently been leading.  I’m very happy with the transition, I agree with the changes that were made, and I feel that I will rise to the challenge.  But it is impossible to avoid having some level of trepidation when taking on a new role.

I’m a tech geek.  And every job I’ve had has required me to be a creative problem-solver.  In many of them I’ve been an army of one, so while I often became accustomed to being the go-to guy, the things that I flubbed on or that slipped through the cracks often were glaringly obvious and sometimes led to breaking points (usually by my choosing, but not always).  I’ve never had a job where I could blend in.  And even if I did, I don’t know that I could.  In even the more recent roles where I have had a team, I’ve managed to stand out (in a good way, of course).  But this shift has come with some hesitancy – some of which came from me.

You see, in my last job I had become a rock star in my role.  So the powers that be felt I could easily rise to the challenge of managing something bigger.  And not knowing fully what I’d be getting myself into I leaped forward with confidence and optimism.  Unfortunately, my new role was equal parts avoiding doing the things I used to do so well and being a scapegoat for anything that didn’t go well as a result.  It wasn’t a good experience.  I was fortunate enough not to get canned and ended up stepping back to my previous role after a lack-luster 90-day run as a Project Manager (they realized that the title of Scapegoat would generally be unappealing to most comers).  But as they say, with some things there is no going back – while I certainly climbed back up to rock-star performance levels and was greatly appreciated by most, some members of management didn’t know how to drop a grudge.  So I looked for my next opportunity.

Luckily that next opportunity was where I am today and my only regret is that I hadn’t discovered this company sooner.  And after I got through that initial ‘learning the ropes’ phase, I quickly attained rock-star status once again.  But any time that management came up as a career path, I gave it pause.  This job was too good and too important for me to fail again as I had before.  And the last thing I wanted was to shift to a role where I didn’t get to do the trench-work that I so enjoy (seriously!).

But this shift now is different, and it’s better.  First, I’ve had a good stretch of time to adjust to being able to delegate to and manage other resources as a team.  And as such I’ve stretched my own skill-set to be able to think as a member and leader of a team rather than a single point of service.  So now as I make this transition, I know what I’m getting into, I know what is expected of me, and I know that I can rise to the challenges I’ll face in this role – most importantly I know the team that I’m leading and I know that they won’t let me down in this transition either.  Plus I know that even with this change, I will still be allowed and even expected to ford some trenches of my own.

Am I excited?  Yes.  Am I nervous?  Definitely.  Am I worried that I’ll go down in flames?  Not in the least.  I know where I stand, I know what is in store for me, and I know that I’m not walking this new path alone.  What will I do when shit starts hitting the fan?  I’ll manage.  I am now, in fact, ‘the man’ (well, one of them at least).

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A Wedding and a Birth

by on Jun.29, 2010, under career, family

After years of trying and months of incubation, my wife’s photography business finally bloomed past its fetal development stage and into a living breathing entity.  It will still take some a good while of feeding it and caring for it and giving it a lot of nurturing and attention before it will be completely up on its own feet, but it is getting there – mostly thanks to her cousin’s wedding.

My wife has been taking on both casual and paying engagements for a couple years now, as well as plenty of practice both at home and out and about, with the intent of getting such a business effort going.  But to shoots so far have mostly been with a few couples or small families and have been too spread out and too discounted to really be called a successful business.  But with the help of a new website launched for her business (designed by yours truly) and a full wedding shoot now under her belt, not only has her confidence shot up, but so have her requests for business.

So now comes the next phase – the building phase.  Mostly likely any money that she makes for the next 6 months or so (and possible some of my money as well) will go towards equipment investments.  She rented a Nikon D300 for the wedding and wielded it well, but the D70 that she owns isn’t going to server her well for much longer except as a backup – she will need a better primary, a few more lenses, a good flash, and a more powerful computer to really manage the business well in the long run.  The tough part is convincing her to spend the money (she is incredibly frugal).  I’ll just have to get some good bonuses to use to buy in as an investor.  😉

So support her by checking out her new site (, and drop her a note to tell her what you think of her pictures.  And if you live in the area and have a need for a photographer, consider contacting her for a shoot (I know – shameless plug, but worth it).

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Travel Epilogue

by on Jun.21, 2010, under career, family, money, video games

11 cents.  That’s how much cash was left in my pocket after two weeks on the road.  I honestly only used cash for minimal incidental expenses that required it (e.g., train & bus fares, items from convenience stores and news stands) and I only started with a little over $100.  I just find it funny how closely my funds matched my needs.

Anyway, I’m glad to be gradually returning to normalcy.  Though while Saturday with the family went smoothly, Sunday my children did their best to remind me of what I didn’t miss while I was gone.  Grasshopper seems to be going through that phase in life where he is realizing that he is not in charge and is fighting that reality tooth and nail.  And Cricket seems to be giving us a preview of her teenage drama queen years to come.  All upon the backdrop of dinner with the in-laws – their older cousin got fed up with the behavior and I’m sure the parents of their younger cousin were not thrilled with the image of their possible future.  It seems my wife and I have some work to do with them.

On a good note, there were some positive aspects of Father’s Day this year.  My family made me French toast in bed, got me a nice geeky card, and got me Super Mario Galaxy 2 (which the kids proceeded to watch me play for hours).  The game is a good continuation of the series in that it keeps some continuity with the previous installment.  But it is also an improvement – the level layout is much more sensible and enjoyable.  In the first you had this huge “ship” with various rooms to navigate to find the levels of play.  In the new version you steer the ship (which is smaller and simpler) to the various worlds which are all laid out on an easy to navigate map (more similar to games like Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. 3).  And they brought back Yoshi which adds a fun new variation on the game play (plus the kids love to watch me make him eat things).

Anyway, now that my travels are done, I must return to reality and be a productive member of society.  I look forward to getting back into more interactive tasks than just sitting still and listening all day.  I look forward to getting to go home every day and enjoying some time with my family (maybe a bit less of it like this weekend panned out).  And I look forward to getting refunded all of my travel expenses so that I have more than a dime and a penny to line my pockets.

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Travelogue – Homesick

by on Jun.18, 2010, under career, family

I’m tired.  It isn’t jet lag or a hangover or lack of sleep.  I’m just tired – tired of sleeping in foreign beds, tired of being in unfamiliar terrain, tired of feeling like I’m connected to my normal life by a long tether.  I’m ready to pull that tether and reel myself home; ready to go back to dealing with chores, crazy Kamikaze children, and chicken little-esque panics over issues that take moments to right (I’m not specifying which front that comes from for fear of incrimination) – ready to re-immerse myself in my familiar routines and environs.

In truth this week has been going relatively smoothly.  The training course has been informative and useful.  My colleague has been much more tolerant and tolerable than I would have expected in such close quarters (though apparently he has been spending half of most nights beating me with fancy pillows to stifle my snoring).  We managed to catch a couple shows while in NYC … ok movies – we saw A-Team and Get Him to the Greek.  The former was surprisingly well conceived given the premise, and the latter was ridiculously funny (though they put some of the funniest bits in the trailers which sort of ruins them).  Besides that and the happy hour earlier in the week, we played our time here pretty low key, which I was perfectly happy with.

I can say with confidence that I will never stay at the hotel in which we stayed this week ever again.  The room, with 2 bed rather than one, was about half the square footage of the place I stayed in while in San Francisco and it cost almost twice as much.  The room service pricing was nuts and the service itself spotty.  Their menu is completely in Italian (since the cuisine is as such), but if you read them the Italian names for the dishes, they are confused – they only recognize them by the English descriptions.  They charge $3 for an 8 oz. soda and no food item is less than $10.  And they will forget to ask appropriate questions regarding ordered items as well as forget to bring some of them (though I assume that we were charged for them anyway).  While I avoided as much as possible eating food at the hotel in San Fran, when I did the service at least was comparable to what I’d expect of such a hotel.

Anyway, as I said before – I’m tired.  I’m tired of sitting in training sessions (there is only so much sitting still and listening one can do).  I’m ready to take that quiet, smooth train-ride home.  I’m glad that my company was willing to send me globe-trotting in the name of education and networking (though I feel I haven’t been very successful at the latter), but I’m ready not to travel for work again for at least a few months.  I’m ready to stop living out of a suitcase and go back to living out of laundry baskets.  I’m ready to be able to consider going places more than a few blocks or a transit line away.  I’m ready to drive my car again.  I’m ready to stop carrying bags everywhere and instead go back to carrying children everywhere.  I’m ready to have access to a refrigerator and a microwave and a toaster and a stove, none of which have motion-sensored food that I need to eat with plastic utensils.  The journey was good, but I’m ready to be at the end of it.

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Travelogue – a Side Track

by on Jun.16, 2010, under career, money, philosophy

As exciting as I’m sure my daily chronicles of travel have been, I’m going to take a day off from it to write about something else.  This concept was something I discussed with a colleague last week at the conference in San Francisco and got to talking about again with another colleague this week in NYC.  After chatting about it, we dug up this link and made some popcorn.  The below video is a condensed version of a longer talk – the longer talk is good to, but doesn’t include the awesome whiteboard work demonstrated in the video below.

In watching this, as baffled as the results seem to be to a number of experts apparently, to me this seems akin to common sense.  While money can be a decent incentive, it is not the great incentivizer.  If it was, then rich executives would be the hardest working people in the world (while a handful of them might argue that they are, most of them are far from it).  The interesting coincidence of this topic is that in the discussion, the company that is used as an example of a different way of thinking about incentivization is the very one that sponsored the conference I attended last week.

I am very tempted to send this video to the top executive team at my company and see how willing they may be to adopt some of the habits of it.  I’m sure they will really love the full-length version as it seems to suggest that the sales commission model may be flawed as well (well the CEO and COO would like it, sales maybe less so).  What is important to glean from this, though, isn’t that monetary incentives like bonuses don’t work (though apparently they don’t), but that what does work is to pay people what they need and deserve (so that money is not an issue) and motivate people through personal challenge and growth, a level of autonomy, and a sense of purpose.

I am also motivated to consider the lessons of this set of studies in the context of parenting.  Obviously children aren’t motivated by money (at least not most kids) and material rewards and punishments have limited results. But perhaps more intrinsically valued rewards may be more motivating.  If I have any luck with it, I’ll post an update on the matter.

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