Category Archives: hiring

Want a smart team? Make sure it gets the recommended daily allowance of estrogen

A team without a woman is like a bicycle with… some fish? So it would seem, according to Grace Nasri, who writes in the HuffPo about the gender gap in tech from an interesting perspective. She got my attention with a 2011 HBR story profiling research by Anita Wooley and Thomas Malone showing that the one significant factor that demonstrably upped the measurable collective intelligence of a team was the presence of females on it.

The HBR research shows that the intelligence of individual contributors is not a predictor of a group’s intelligence. And that in fact a team dominated by a bossy, know-it-all individual contributor (yes, even one who actually does know it all), will be outperformed by a team consisting of lesser lights. But the most statistically significant predictor of higher team performance wasn’t the intelligence of the members of the team at all, but the presence of at least one woman on the team. Read the HBR interview with the study’s authors to learn how they designed the study, including how they measured individual and team “intelligence.”

Nasri goes on to talk about the tech industry’s gender gap, writing that “The latest Midas List, Forbes’ annual list of the 100 top venture capitalists, for example, includes just two women,” and that “only 8 percent of new startups backed by venture capital included at least one female founder.” It’s not clear what is cause and what is correlation in these numbers–I don’t believe male VCs are overtly biased against women founders, and I think that cultural factors other than bias can account for some of the disparity. For example, I am pretty sure there are more extroverts than introverts on those lists, too, which can also be explained by our unconscious preferences for certain presentation styles–“male” styles and “extrovert” styles of communication tend to be received more favorably on first impression.

As a person who is very concerned with language, I also wonder if our use of “team” terminology, deriving as it does from competitive sports, leads us to unconsciously favor masculine, extroverted team members and the funding of teams that resemble the 49ers more than those that resemble sewing bees. Gender manifests itself in subtle ways that go far beyond sex, into culture, communication style and unconscious preferences. Our collective favoring of masculine styles of team participation is something that is more about norms than it is about biases, for example.

In 2004, when I was editor of a newspaper, I wrote an article for Inc. Magazine describing how I used Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson, rather than the ever-popular The Art of War as my management bible. Funnily enough, on re-reading the story, I find my “feminine” approach to management sounds pretty agile. I think the advice I gave then of looking to the laundry room as often as you look to the war room for management models holds very true today, and supports the HBR study authors’ conclusion that what made a difference in team success was including a diversity of thinking styles. What do you think?

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Hello Chase, Goodbye David: A change at Agile Learning Labs

Our friend and colleague David Parker is leaving Agile Learning Labs’ staff. He has received a much better offer–and one we can’t possibly counter–that of stay at home dad to Chase Kamran Parker-Katiraee, who assumed his post of infant-in-chief earlier this week.

We predict a fair bit of wrangling over just who is the customer and who the product owner on this particular project, but anticipate that development will flourish nonetheless. If we’re lucky, David and his wife Layla will supply us with lots and lots of adorable sprint demos along the way. Our compliments to the team!

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My First Week at Geekaplex: Integrating a New Hire

My friend Peter started working at EvilEmpireSoft on the same Monday that I started at Geekaplex. That Friday, over beers, he told me that he had spent most of his first week waiting for his laptop to show up. When it finally showed up, it had an outdated version of the development environment installed which couldn’t compile the code he was supposed to be working on. On top of that, Outlook was misconfigured and wouldn’t even think about connecting to the mail server. He spent an afternoon figuring out the configuration only to discover that his email account hadn’t been activated yet! “It’s as if they were surprised when I showed up for work on Monday. Maybe they forgot that they hired me? I spent the first morning waiting in HR until someone was available to give me paperwork to fill out. After that,” he went on, “I spent the afternoon wandering around looking for an empty cube to claim.”

I felt bad for Peter, and I was almost embarrassed at how different my first week had gone. My office was just down the hall from my boss’s. There was no mistaking that it was mine, as my name was on the plaque next to the door. Inside, I found a shinny new ThinkPad with a docking station and a pair of flat-screen monitors. The drawers in the desk were filled with new pens, pencils, paper, a stapler, and even a box of freshly printed business cards. My boss sat down with me and walked me through my first week, pointing out the various meetings and training sessions that were already on my calendar. There was even a welcome email from the president of the company waiting in my in-box.

“Wow!” Said Peter, “You’re like a VIP over there! I feel like most folks don’t know I exist, and if they do, they are just hoping that I won’t bother them. It really sucks. EvilEmpireSoft seemed so cool and together when I interviewed, but now I’m wondering how they get anything done. They aren’t the elite, well-oiled organization that I imagined them to be. I feel like I made a big mistake accepting their offer.”

What a big difference attention to detail and a little preparation made. By simply taking the time to provision my office, my boss sent me a strong positive message about the company, and how much they valued me. Additionally, by making sure that I had all the tools I needed to be productive, they let me know that they expected me to be productive. I felt like Geekaplex had it together, and that they would expect me to have it together as well. I felt welcomed and challenged.

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Engineering Managers Support Group – Tonight

The October 2007 Engineering Managers Support Group meeting is just a few hours away!

Where:
Round Table Pizza (event room)
61 43rd Ave
San Mateo, CA

Schedule:
7:00 PM Socializing and free pizza
7:30 PM Getting a New Hire Up and Running

You have found an ideal candidate; made them an offer, and they start in two weeks. Now what? I will share an approach that has worked for me, and some lessons learned as well. Please bring your experiences to share, and together we will unearth best practices for integrating new hires into the team.

After that, we will have a facilitated discussion where participants can share challenges that they are facing and get feedback, ideas, and support from the group. The event is free and so it the pizza! Come out, join the discussion, and become a better manager.

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Getting a New Hire Up and Running – October Engineering Managers Support Group

You have found an ideal candidate, made him an offer, and he starts in two weeks. Now what? At this month’s Engineering Managers Support Group meeting I will share an approach that worked well for me, and some lessons learned as well. Please bring your experiences to share, and together we will unearth best practices for integrating new hires into the team.

After that, we will have a facilitated discussion where participants can share challenges that they are facing and get feedback, ideas, and support from the group. The event is free and so it the pizza! Come out, join the discussion, and become a better manager.

We are meeting on Wednesday, October 24th, in San Mateo.
RSVP now

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Is it Time to Quit Your Job?

The Chief Happiness Officer has a good post today on knowing when it is time to quit your job.

If you are unhappy in your job, go read it. No really, stop reading this and go read it. OK, since you are still reading this, I’ll give the upshot of his article, but really the whole thing is worth reading.

  • Give up the idea that you can know for sure whether or not it’s time to quit. It’s always going to be a leap.
  • Listen to your intuition. Your gut may know before your mind.
  • Remember what quitting can cost you – but also remember what staying in a bad job can cost you!
  • Remember that the longer you stay in a bad job, the harder it gets to leave.
  • Most people stay too long in bad jobs – mostly because they fear the uncertainty that comes with quitting.
  • Most people, once they’ve quit, find that their situation improves. Maybe not immediately, but certainly after a few months.
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Hire Fast and Die

There are two emergent schools of thought (at least) about technical team hiring:  hire fast, fire fast (a play on the "hire slow, fire fast" adage), and no false positives.  FeedBurner founder Dick Costolo has this to say:

I buy the hire fast, fire fast line of thinking for Sales Reps or VP
Sales roles but I don’t buy it for Engineering, Marketing, Finance,
etc. The problem with hire fast, fire fast in the engineering
department is quite simple: you don’t end up executing on the fire fast
part of it and the bad hire infects the organization for an extended
period before you figure out how to remove them. Engineering goals are
more generally team goals, there can be lots of reasons code can ship
late, and performance criteria are more subjective than sales
performance criteria. The mediocre hire ends up becoming part of the
team and it just ends up taking longer to fire that person on the team,
by which point they’ve added more subpar work to the mix. So, I am a
subscriber, outside of sales, to the thesis that you have to interview
rigorously and that it’s better to leave an urgently needed role empty
than to bring in a "false positive" who will infect the organization.

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