J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

January, 2010

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Career Growth


    Do you have an effective approach for thinking about your career growth?   With things like a “jobless economic recovery,” careers ending, and a “skills-for-hire” economy, it’s even more important to focus on growth while managing your career.  At the end of the day, you play the most important role in your career growth – own it.

    This past year reminded me of a very valuable lessons – follow the growth.  This means follow your own growth and growth in the marketplace.  When there’s no growth, make some.

    Career Development, Professional Development, and Personal Development
    Steve Elston, our print and web publications manager on the patterns & practices team, shared this simple frame with our patterns & practices team for differentiating and thinking about development paths:

    • Career Development – Become a stronger leader.
    • Professional Development – Become a better craftsmen.
    • Personal Development – Become a more capable person.

    I think an effective way to think of this is …

    “Are you the person, the professional, the manager, or the executive you want to be?”

    Make Yourself Bigger
    In terms of personal development, I think “become a more *capable* person” is a great distinction over something like “become a better person.”   Rather than question self-worth or value, you put the focus on improving your effectiveness and capabilities.  It reminds me of a quote ...

    “You don’t overcome challenges by making them smaller but by making yourself bigger.” -- John Maxwell

    Career Growth, Professional Growth, and Personal Growth
    Steve shared some quick ways to think about who you can leverage for your growth and what sort of awareness you need for effective growth:

    Category Requires Awareness Of Who Helps
    Career Growth
    • Business Trends
    • Industry Trends
    • Mentors
    • Leaders
    • Colleagues
    • Manager
    Professional Growth
    • Organizational Trends
    • Industry Trends
    • Mentors
    • Manager
    • Colleagues
    Personal Growth
    • Self
  • Friends and Family
  • Leaders and Mentors
  • Role Models
  • As you can see from the table, the key to career growth is awareness of the business, the key to professional growth is awareness of organizational trends, and the key to personal growth is self-awareness.

    What, Who, and How
    What Who How

    Steve also shared a sample way to think about contributing factors to overall job satisfaction.

    • What You Do – The industry, the company, the organization, the manager, and the job.
    • Who You Do It With – Co-workers, partners, customers, and mentors.
    • How You Do It – Technology, process, philosophy, organization culture.

    Steve provides some cutting questions for thinking through these concerns:

    • What matters most to you?
    • Who has the power to improve the situation?
    • How can you influence your job satisfaction?

    Knowledge, Attitude, Skills and Habits (KASH model)
    Steve shared the KASH box model with our team:

    • Knowledge – what you know.
    • Attitude – your attitudes, along with your underlying values and beliefs.
    • Skills – your capabilities.
    • Habits – what you actually do.

    The KASH box is a performance coaching tool and it’s a simple way to look at the gap between knowing and doing and the “transfer of training” problem.  People know what to do, but they don’t do it, or don’t want to.  A lot of people are hired for “skills” and “knowledge,” but fired for “attitude” and “habits.”  In other words, it’s easy to focus on knowledge and skills but often it is people's attitudes and habits that limit them.

    Interestingly, if you know what to do, but you’re not doing what you know, it’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to unleash your growth.  Just start testing your results.

    There’s a video on the KASH box at Kashbox Coaching.com.

    Mentors are the Short-Cuts
    The right mentors can help you avoid the chutes and climb the ladders more effectively.  John deVadoss, our patterns & practices team Product Unit Manager, shared his key tips on how to effectively leverage mentors:

    • Know what you want and what you want from the relationship.
    • Be proactive – you need to drive the meetings and ask the right questions.
    • Keep an open mind regarding who this person might be.
    • Think about people who have been your mentors in the past.
    • You can have more than one mentor.

    This reflects a lot of my own experience.  One of my most important lessons learned is that mentors really are the short-cuts.  If you find somebody who’s “been there” and “done that,” it’s like having a tour guide.  Their maps from experience can save you a lot of wasted time and help you avoid obstacles, as well as find shorter paths to your destinations.

    A mentor can also be great for helping you find your blind spots as well as giving your more objective feedback on your attitudes and habits that might be limiting you.  This means finding mentors that are committed to your success and you trust their feedback and perspective.  Usually a good place to look is in your past.  You can draw from people that have helped you before.

    I make it a habit to use a sounding board of multiple mentors for growth in different areas.  I have a few vital mentors for ongoing growth, and then I supplement with mentors for specific things I need to learn.

    I also give back and I mentor others to help them optimize their growth and get results.   A lot of times, life is like Chutes and Ladders. You can climb up ladders only to slide back down.

    Who’s Job Do You Want?
    One of my mentors uses the question, “Who’s job do you want?” as a great forcing function:

    • Do you know what you want?
    • Is there a proven path?
    • What experiences and skills do you need to get there?

    The other beauty of this is it gives your managers and support network a good mental model for your career path, starting with the end in mind.

    Putting It All Together
    Steve outlined a simple roadmap for putting it all together:

    1. Know what you want.
    2. Get a mentor.
    3. Build your plan.
    4. Ask for support.

    Every day, is the perfect day, to become more of the person, professional, manager or executive you want to be.  Enjoy the process and remind yourself it’s the journey and the destination, and remember to periodically check that the ladder you’re climbing is up against the right wall.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Trends for 2010


    “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker

    This is my summary of key trends to watch for 2010.  Putting it together is a time-consuming exercise, but it’s one of the most important things I do for the year.  It helps me see the bigger map.  With the bigger map, I have a simpler way to understand what’s going on, anticipate what to expect, respond more effectively, and most importantly – make better bets on where to spend my time.

    Don’t read this as a definitive list.  Draw from it to help you create your own lens to make sense of the landscape and find your path forward.  It’s long, I tried to keep it as scannable as possible.  I didn’t want to cut it short for the sake of simplicity.  Instead, I wanted to provide a solid map with sources you can draw from as you plan your road ahead.

    Key Sources
    I primarily draw from my own experience working with customers, and paying attention to what they’re paying attention to,  as well as paying attention to my mentors and smarties across the company, and whoever they tell me to pay attention to.  I also draw from the following:

    • Jim Carroll – Jim helps me see the trends across industries and look to patterns.  He’s also great at identifying where the growth and opportunities are, and more importantly how to frame the landscape in a way that makes it actionable instead of analysis paralysis.
    • Trend Hunter – It’s effectively “crowd-sources insight” and it’s a great source for consumer trends.  I’m a big believer that consumer trends pave the path for Enterprise trends.  By watching consumer trends, I learn what to expect.  I then watch how it shows up as I work with my customers.  This pattern serves me well.
    • 10 Web Trends to Watch in 2010” by Pete Cashmore – I liked the simplicity of it and the fact that it resonated with other sources.
    • Economy + Internet Trends by Morgan Stanley – This is a very nice report.  While it reinforces the “jobless economic recover,” it does show IT sector growth, and calls out key tech trends.
    • 8 Big Trends - It’s a free e-book by Jim Carroll and I think the insights are trends that continue and are highly relevant for today’s landscape.
    • Key Software Trends – It’s my summary post of trends across application, infrastructure, performance, and software development that I saw while working on the patterns & practices Application Architecture Guide 2.0 book.
    • The Enterprise of the Future – This amazing compilation by IBM is based on insights and wisdom from interviews of more than 1,000 CEO’s.  I think the key trends from here still hold true, and I like that they boiled it down into 5 key attributes: Hungry for Change, Innovative Beyond Customer Imagination, Globally Integrated, Disruptive by Nature, and Genuine, Not Just Generous.

    Aside from these, I also scoured the Web and scanned bloggers, industry luminaries, and any relevant and significant insight I could find.

    The Short List – 5 Keys to the Future
    Before the longer list, I want to shin the light on 5 key things:

    1. Agility.  Agility means the ability to respond to change.  This is crucial for both personal survival as well as surviving and thriving in a business landscape.
    2. Business intelligence.  Data-driven decisions win over guesswork.  It’s tough, especially when statistics lie and we want to trust our instincts over our indicators.  Start by asking, how do the great businesses drive their great decisions?  Between information markets and crowd sourced intelligence and social networking, the real issue is how you leverage the data and turn it into intelligent decisions and smart feedback loops, and how you learn and respond.
    3. Cloud and virtualization.   This is a key growth spot.  How else do you keep up in a rapidly changing world and deliver services and disruptors and bring new game changers to market faster than ever before?  It’s the cloud.  It marks the commodization of IT and computing.
    4. User Experiences.    Great user experiences drive adoption and make things stick.  This is a great area for innovation, patterns, and practices.  When you think about the possibilities of rich media, touch, speech, location-aware services, and “you-as-the-remote control” (think Wii), the possibilities for amazing and immersive experiences are endless.  More importantly, we can finally start showing how software improves productivity, effectiveness, efficiency, and fun.  It’s gamer + education + business + life.
    5. Mobile.  This is another growth spot – mobile Internet growth.  It’s emerging as a powerful platform and ecosystems that bring the power of software to everyday scenarios, anywhere and everywhere.

    Key Trends for 2010
    Here is my summary of key trends for 2010:

    • 3 screens and a cloud.  Rather than get lost in device explosion, think in terms of a little screen, like a phone, a mid-sized screen, like a laptop or net book or PC, and a bigger screen, like a TV or multimedia projection, and a cloud that serves them all.  See Three Screens and a Cloud by Steve Clayton.
    • Agile Process.    Cycles of change are faster.  How do you keep up?  By adopting agile processes, such as Scrum, XP, and Lean.
    • Apps move up the stack.   As the market matures, things move up the stack.  An example would be the growth of SharePoint as a rapid application platform.  This pattern should accelerate along with cloud adoption.
    • Business intelligence.  How do you make your best decisions?  You test them and you use real data in real time.  That’s how Amazon drives an effective online business.  They don’t depend on a smart user experience person to make things pretty.  They do A/B testing to experiment and test which online experience produces the best results.
    • Cloud Computing and Virtualization.   If you want to stay relevant, you have to be thinking about your cloud and virtualization story.  The opportunities here are amazing from the one-man band code slinger who spins up a Web farm for their app that changes the world to businesses that expose new capabilities to the World and help build the programmable Web.  It’s also a way to simplify computing and move up the stack.
    • Competitive advantage.   Darwinism is brutal in a global marketplace.  Sink or swim.  How do you find your competitive advantage in today’s world.  According to Jim Carroll, the four key drivers of completive advantage in today’s landscape are: Velocity, Agility, Complexity, and Flexibility.
    • "Consumerization" of IT.  A while back, Gartner said Consumerization Will Be Most Significant Trend Affecting IT During Next 10 Years ... I think we see that accelerating.
    • Global distributed development.  Competing in a global market means finding and using the best resources at the best price, anywhere in the world.
    • Jobless Economic Recovery.   This sucks.  It really does.  The upside is that businesses are getting leaner and more effective.  The downside is it’s a sign that we’re not innovating or creating enough growth, and our model for the world isn’t working.  The opportunity here is, software engineers can change the world (remember that Bill Gates guy?)  The world needs a new model.
    • Skills-for-Hire Economy.   Specialization, market maturity and rapid cycles of change drive a demand for key skills.  The key is to balance “generalist” skills in business and technology, along with specialized skills that the market values.
    • Location based services.   Talk about relevancy in action.  It’s all about specialization + location.  Location, location, location takes on new meaning and relevancy.  For example, in Where’s the Growth?, Jim Carroll identifies “Consider the concept of a “location-intelligence professional.” Today, this involves someone working within the insurance industry, learning how to link the extensive data-sets of geographic oriented information – think Google Maps – with existing insurance underwriting information, and with other statistical databases.”
    • Micropayments and virtual currencies.  Second Life really set the trend here a while back, but it’s becoming more important in today’s world.  This paves the way for real money for micro-transactions.  It also creates a model for reputation based systems, which is important in a reputation-based economy.
    • Mobile internet.    If you want to stay relevant, you have to be thinking about your mobile story.
    • Parallel computing.  On the systems side, there’s a whole new game in town.  On the user experience side, expect to have richer, more immersive and more responsive applications.
    • Reputation based.   It’s reputations that cut through the clutter and rise to the top, helped by word-of-mouth marketing and raving fans.
    • Standards / open systems.  One of the way so win in today’s world is to build great experiences on top of open standards.  Optimize for open over closed.
    • The fall of walled gardens.  It's not just B2B or B2C anymore – it’s whatever makes the most sense.
    • The rise of Social media / social networking.   Between world-of-mouth marketing, raving fans, and real time information markets for customer feedback that can make you or break you, embrace and leverage the power of the people.
    • The system of systems in the Enterprise is your OS.  Your Enterprise is your emerging mash up of systems and services.  Find a way to create an effective portfolio for analyzing what you’ve got and be thinking in terms of business capabilities, infrastructure capabilities and application capabilities.
    • The Web is the OS.  It’s the programmable Web.   Imagine how your service or capability can be exposed to the World and thrive.  Remember, it’s survival of the fittest.  Be the best or go home.
    • User empowerment.  It’s the rise of the spider and the fall of the starfish in a federated world.
    • User experiences.   This is where reputations are built and raving fans are won.  Think speed, simplicity, immersive experience, visualization, how you feel … etc.  Design working backward from the end experience in mind.  If the resulting experience suck will suck, don’t even start to build it.

    My synthesis -- stay customer connected, create value for society (it’s not a vacuum), create raving fans, build to change over build to last, learn and respond through effective business intelligence, think in terms of platforms/ecosystems/execution, be the best in the world at what you do (on the Web, you don't need a bunch of #2s),  stay flexible and adaptable, and build the network and relationships that support you and your ecosystem.

    With that in mind, here are some more keys to watch for …

    Trends to Watch in 2010 by John John deVadoss
    John runs our Microsoft patterns & practices team.  He’s great at boiling things down, spotting trends, and his super skill is providing insight for technical strategy.  Here are some of his insights for 2010:

    1. Trends to Watch in 2010 #1 - 'Bring Your Own PC'

    Economy + Internet Trends by Morgan Stanley
    Economy + Internet Trends  is a very nice report by Morgan Stanley.  While it reinforces the “jobless” economic recovery, it does show growth in the IT sector, and it calls out some key tech trends:

    1. Key Theme # 1 Mobile Internet Usage Is and Will Be Bigger than Most Think
    2. Key Theme # 2 Apple Mobile Share Should Surprise on Upside Near Term
    3. Key Theme # 3 Next Generation Platforms (Social Networking + Mobile) are Driving Unprecedented Change in Communications + Commerce
    4. Key Theme # 4 Mobile in Japan + Desktop Internet Provide Roadmaps for Mobile Growth + Monetization
    5. Key Theme # 5 3G Adoption / Trends Vary by Geography
    6. Key Theme # 6 Carriers in USA / W. Europe Face Surging Network Demand But Uncertain Economics.
    7. Key Theme # 7 Regulators Can Help Advance / Slow Mobile Internet Evolution
    8. Key Theme # 8 Mobile-Related Share Shifts Will Create / Destroy Material Shareholder Wealth

    I also like some of their distillations, such as “Facebook = unified communication + multimedia repository in your pocket.”

    Web 2.0 Trends from Scoble
    Kevin Skobac  put together a short presentation interpreting Scoble’s “principles of the 2010 web” from a user perspective:

    1. it's in real time
    2. it's mobile'
    3. it's decentralized
    4. it's in pre-made blocks
    5. it's social
    6. it's smart
    7. it's powerful infrastructure

    Key Questions I Ask to Find and Rationalize Trends
    These are some of the basic questions I ask to find and rationalize key trends:

    • Where are the investments?
    • Where's the growth?
    • Who are the pillars in the relevant niches and what are they saying?  … more importantly, what are they doing?
    • What are the results?
    • What’s the data say?
    • What are consumers doing?
    • Is it a real trend or just a fad? … and does it matter?

    The Meta-Pattern for Trends
    These are some of the patterns I’m noticing about the patterns of the trends:

    • Absorb what is useful.  Do it Bruce Lee style -- take what you need, adapt it, and throw out the rest.
    • Agility.  Stay adaptable.  Flexibility is your friend.  See The better adapted you are, the less adaptable you tend to be.
    • Be the Best on the Web.  there’s no room for #2.  Be the best at what you’re the best at.  This is Good to Great in action.
    • “Built to Change” Over “Built to Last.”  Again, this goes back to shifting from a static world, to a dynamic world and embracing change over fighting it.  Run with it.
    • Compete where it makes the most sense.  Compete on price, or quality or customer and don’t mix them up.  This depends on which stage of the maturity cycle you are in, what the state of the market is, and what you can be the best at.  For example, in a commodity market, don’t be the most expensive.  Turn competition into collaboration and find the win wins to really change your game and rock the world.
    • Consumer patterns drive Enterprise patterns.  At the end of the day, people are consumers and the patterns show up in the Enterprise.
    • Decentralize and federate.   Think starfish and spider.
    • Differentiate.  Differentiate by giving your best where you have your best to give.  Compete by dividing the niche and small is the new big (so you win with a portfolio that’s flexible and responsive to market demand.)
    • Execution is king.  Operational efficiency and innovating in your product cycle is how you survive and thrive.
    • Prosumer.  Think Consumer + Producer.  Get your customers into your production cycle earlier so they help you create and innovate in your product line.
    • Pull vs. Push.  Know the mental model from push to pull.  In Push Me, Pull You--Dueling Business Models, Steve Bosserman says, “Through the three hundred-year reign of the Industrial Age, businesses “pushed” their products and services onto consumers. Limited choice accompanied by considerable marketing hype was enough to make the consumer buy. It was a sellers’ market. Now, thanks largely to the Information Age, consumers are evolving into customers who can select what they want from a variety of providers. It is becoming a buyers’ market.”
    • Relevancy is king.  Google taught us this.
    • Reputation and brand are king.   In a social networked world, it’s the network that says who the authority is and what works and what doesn’t. 
    • Simplicity.  Simplicity always win in the long run when it comes to adoption.  Find ways to reduce friction and make things simple out of the box.  Design for simplicity and keep things simple where you can.
    • Social Value / Community Good.  In a green world, if you’re business doesn’t play well with green values, it’s not a sustainable path.
    • Results are king.  Talk is cheap.  Results speak for themselves.

    There are a lot of kings here.  In checkers, it’s easier to win when you have a lot of kings.

    The Way Foreword
    What’s past is past and the future

    • Build a firm foundation.  Know Maslow’s hierarchy and prioritize taking care of your basic needs.  Know your “monthly burn” and be mindful of your decisions to support your firm foundation.  The stronger your foundation is, the more you can help yourself and others when they need it most.
    • If it doesn't help you be your best, cut it out.   This means living your values, and playing to your strengths.  It also means giving your best where you have your best to give, as a person, and as a company.  It’s how your survive, and it’s how you go from surviving to thriving.   Any other way drains you in the long run and you get priced or pushed or competed out of the market.  It’s the sustainable path. 
    • Follow the growth.  Follow your own growth, and follow the growth in the market.  For example, in the tech industry some growth areas are mobile and cloud.  Along these lines, create the growth.
    • Get back to the basics.  Practice the fundamentals.  They work.  Among the chaos, there are always core principles, patterns, and practices that you can bank on.
    • Hone your personal brand.  Make the most of what you’ve got and make sure your differentiation is obvious.  For example, one of my differentiators is “getting results.”
    • Invest in yourself.  Inner-engineering always pays off.
    • It's your network and what you know.  People sort and sift through people they know.  In a skills-for-hire economy, your network is how you find the opportunities. 
    • Know the cycles of things.  For example, know the Four Stages of Market Maturity, the Technology Adoption Life Cycle, and the Diffusion of Innovations.
    • Lead yourself from the inside out.   Follow your values, play to your strengths, and follow your purpose.  It’s the sustainable path.
    • Learn and respond.  Your ability to learn and respond will drive your best results.  Innovate in your process and your product.
    • Look ahead.  Build your anticipation skills.  Know the system.  Things don’t just happen.  The more you know the system and the ecosystem, the more you can anticipate what’s coming down the line.  Pay attention to market leaders, trend setters, patterns, and cycles.  Everything happens in cycles whether it’s growth or decline.

    What else is important that I should know about or have on my radar and heat map?

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