startups and code

Finding Opportunities

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I recently have talked about soft skills of development, the social side of development. I have also talked about how I got involved in the community here in Atlanta. However, I have done both at a very high level and that doesn't really help people when you talk about "theory". I am a fan of actionable items. I like to know that I can DO SOMETHING that is leading me in the right direction. In this post, I want to define SPECIFIC things that you can do to get more involved, become a better developer (not just technical), and by doing so, I will piggy back on some very "common sense" ideas that are now making it to the forefront of leadership, business, and even tech magazines. That is a lot to cover in a single post, so I am thinking I will break this down to a short series of topics. Let's start with what I've already started with in my previous post about the soft-skills of development.

We all know how we like to be treated, what we want, and what we expect from other people. However, we often get treated poorly, we don't get what we want, and people let us down on those expectations. The part to note is, have we communicated what we want, what our expectation is, or if we FEEL we have been treated poorly, have we discussed that with the person? More often than not, I hear people complain about how this person isn't treating them fairly, or that person broke my code, or why are they never in the office and I'm always here. The simple, but not easy for some, solution is not to start a gossip column and build support with everyone against that person, but to talk to that person directly and let them know what you are thinking. Now, there are several approaches to HOW to do that, and they are NOT all correct. Here is an example:

I recently had someone break a build with a check-in, rather than emailing the entire team about how the build was broken, I simply emailed that person and said, "The build is broken, it appears to be your check-in, here is the log I have found, can you check this out?". Within 15 minutes, the build was fixed, he emailed me saying he fixed it, and I went on with my work.

Now, that was an ideal case for 2 reasons, one the way I approached it and contact that person directly. But more importantly was how he responded, he simply realized the issue, resolved it, and communicated. Now, he could have responded, "it wasn't me, that check-in could not have broken the build, I don't have time for that crap right now", or, "why are you blaming me, who else checked-in code, we have a whole team working on it, and everyone thinks it is always me breaking stuff". Both of those responses are simply a defense mechanism often created by fear or a certain level of insecurity probably created from a long history of blame. I know that because I used to respond that way. :-) I have learned a lot over the years and respond in a helpful, direct way.

Which leads me to my specific action items:

When someone blames you, help identify the problem and solve it

When someone asks for help, take the time to help them, and if not immediately, schedule it immediately

"You catch more flies with honey than vinegar" (which ironically from a scientific standpoint is false, balsamic vinegar will attract way more flies than honey, :-) ). But you understand the intention of that phrase. That is some immediate action you can take to help improve your current office culture.

Next step, refactoring personalities. We all wish everyone thought exactly like we did so we don't have to argue... However, that would be a very boring place and no innovation would happen because we all think of the same things. :-) Personalities are different and that is a good thing! We need introverts who are quiet, detailed, and focused. We need extroverts who share the vision (or a vision) with others and get the feedback to improve the vision. We need the facilitators that bring those people together and coordinate the communication to keep the extroverts from dominating a meeting and the introverts leaving feeling unimportant. Next action is this,

identify YOUR personality FIRST, then identify those around you

You will see where you fit and what you need to work on quickly. The easiest personality to refactor is your own! Don't force your agenda on others. In INC. magazine recently they had traits of successful leaders today, and the first one was this: "Empathy", followed by vulnerability, humility, inclusiveness, generosity, balance, patience.

I thought that article was really insightful on how we as a culture have changed. Arrogance != Success. Humility breeds happiness. Which leads to another article from PayScale about happiness... if you want to be happy, DON'T DO THIS:

  • Compare yourself to others
  • Dwell in the past
  • Get happiness from things or events

I think that comparison leads to more anger than anything else. We define success by being number 1. But how are we number 1, what defines number 1, the comparison to number 2. You want to work in the best job ever? Make your job be that for you! Realize that if you are employed full-time in the United States, you are making more money than 80% of the world. I think it is higher than that, due to the raise of minimum wage, but that is something I vaguely remember. Be happy for who you surround yourself with. Not because you went skydiving, rock climbing, and are the most interesting person in the world.

So the topic of this post is finding opportunities... which immediately triggers a thought of, a new network of people, a better job, a new startup plan, etc... but the opportunities exist at your current job, your home, everywhere. The opportunity is to be better... interact with more humility, empathy, and patience. I remember a quote from "Evan Almighty", it went something like this...

Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

So slow down and realize the opportunities around you to be better, to be patient, to be loving, to be helpful. My job on this planet is not to change the world, but the change my reaction to it, and by doing that, I will change it. Help your coworkers get better, take the time to learn something new to make you better, exercise, enjoy your family/friends.

Didn't mean to get all deep on this post, but I think people miss the point of opportunities that we have every day.

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do. - Gandhi

So the next post will be about how to get involved in your community, startups, meetups, and more. :-)