I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

An opinion column for developers.Brutally honest, no pulled punches.
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  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    The flow fallacy

    • 26 Comments
    In 1990, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published his famous book about achieving exceptional productivity and concentration, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience . The book’s basic idea is a familiar one to most developers: Situate yourself in a...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Level up

    • 9 Comments
    If you’re not a Microsoft® engineer and you’re not interested in finding a new reason to bash Microsoft, save yourself some time and skip this column. If you want to know how to build your skills and systematically grow your career as...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Crash dummies: Resilience

    • 36 Comments
    I heard a remark the other day that seemed stupid on the surface, but when I really thought about it I realized it was completely idiotic and irresponsible. The remark was that it's better to crash and let Watson report the error than it is to catch the...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Fixing five fundamental flaws

    • 7 Comments
    After decades as a professional software engineer, working for six different firms (large and small), I can honestly say that Microsoft is by far the best. I can also honestly say that Microsoft is far from perfect. My monthly rants typically focus...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    NIHilism and other innovation poison

    • 15 Comments
    Is innovation the act of creating something new (as the dictionary claims) or is it building upon the work of others? To me this is a fundamental question that Microsoft as a company and as a culture has gotten horribly wrong. We deal with the consequences...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    August 1, 2005: “Controlling your boss for fun and profit”

    • 4 Comments
    I. M. Wright's "Hard Code" book excerpt There’s a great gesture you can do to show just how little you care about someone who is wallowing in self-pity. You lightly rub the tips of your thumb and forefinger together saying, “This is the world’s smallest...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    I hardly recognize you

    • 6 Comments
    The annual engineering awards are being given out this week at the Microsoft Engineering Forum. Annual reviews will soon follow. These are great opportunities to recognize impactful work. It's too bad most managers are tragically ignorant of how to recognize...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    The new guy

    • 10 Comments
    “Hey, you’re the new guy!” Marvelous. You’ve transformed from a useful, relevant, sought-after authority to a roadside attraction. Whoever you were before, whatever value you used to embody, whatever accomplishments you might have achieved, now amount...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    It’s not going to be okay

    • 7 Comments
    Eric Aside This month I cover a touchy subject—getting a 4 or 5 review rating. Please know that all opinions expressed in this column (and every Hard Code column) are my own and do not represent Microsoft in any official or unofficial capacity...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    You can't have it all

    • 0 Comments
    There are two executive planning strategies: go for it all (cut later), and do a few things well (add later). Executives follow the strategy that best reflects their belief system. They use that planning strategy to drive work throughout the product cycle...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Test don’t get no respect

    • 15 Comments
    I love Microsoft®. We’ve been together happily for many years. If you’ve been in a healthy long-term relationship, then you know what this means—there are things about Microsoft that make me curse, stomp, and spit. I’ve learned...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Individual leadership

    • 1 Comments
    Want to create a noxious gas? Combine ambitious yet clueless engineers, a flat functional organizational structure, and the upcoming midyear career discussions. Soon toxic fumes will emanate from individual contributors (ICs) in response to impotent explanations...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    There's no place like production

    • 4 Comments
    As much as I love Microsoft®, and as many advantages as we have as a company in the intelligence of our people, the breadth of our products, and the boldness of our vision, there are times when people here are frigging clueless. It’s not everyone—Microsoft...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Collaboration cache—colocation

    • 7 Comments
    Software geeks know that registers fetch data roughly 10 times faster than the L2 cache, 100 times faster than main memory, and more than a million times faster than hard drives. Smart software engineers work hard to keep all the data for their inner...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Out of calibration

    • 8 Comments
    It’s calibration time at Microsoft. Time for managers to rank everyone in your peer group (same discipline, same career stage, same division) into five (and a half) ranges: the top 20 percent (and top 5 percent), the near top 20 percent, the middle...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    PM: Secret weapon or wasted headcount?

    • 9 Comments
    Microsoft is one of the few software companies that uses program managers (PMs). PMs, developers, and testers form the infamous engineering triad. Together they prioritize and cost features, triage bugs, and make design decisions. Now that highly agile...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    I’m deeply committed

    • 8 Comments
    It’s mid-year career discussion time at Microsoft®. I could rant about the HR tools we use, but that’s like complaining about prostate exams—too inflated a target. Instead, what gushes out at me at this time of year are BOGUS commitments. You’ve heard...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    A change would do you good

    • 5 Comments
    Few Microsoft engineers change positions between mid-May and mid-August—they don’t want a role change to adversely impact their annual performance ratings, which lock around mid-August. Of course, managers shouldn’t allow position changes...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Don't panic

    • 6 Comments
    In my last column, " Spontaneous combustion of rancid management ," I talked about how managers should restrain themselves from randomizing their employees. But what if you are on the receiving end? As an employee, how do you best respond to a random...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Lead, follow, or get out of the way

    • 2 Comments
    We're closing in on midyear career discussions again. It's time to place your hopes and humility in the hands of your hierarchy. I still haven't recovered from the amputation of our midyear ratings, which allowed managers to send messages and employees...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Nailing the nominals

    • 9 Comments
    People are always looking for that amazing breakthrough technology or process that solves all their problems—enhances their love life, trims their waist, and improves the productivity of their development team. That's why process manias like Agile and...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    One to one and many to many

    • 5 Comments
    Does the prospect of a one-on-one with your manager make you energized or anxious? Are your morale events packed with peers or attended only by slackers and scandal spreaders? Chances are one-on-ones are at best bearable for you and morale events are...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    You can depend on me

    • 1 Comments
    We’re getting into the end game before a big release, and I’m already tired of people whining about unstable and overdue dependencies. Of course they are unstable and overdue, what planet are you from? Yeah, yeah, a package should only...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Sustained engineering idiocy

    • 5 Comments
    Plumbing channels waste water into a series of larger and larger pipes till it is expelled. That's because sewage flows downstream, which explains the quality of goods that test, operations, and sustained engineering teams receive. After all, they are...
  • I. M. Wright’s “Hard Code”

    Opportunity in a gorilla suit

    • 4 Comments
    It's annual review time at Microsoft. We differentiate pay between high, average, and low performers in the same roles. Thus, it's time to calibrate those who've made the most of their opportunities in the past year with those in the mainstream of solid...
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