- David Brady (twitter github blog ADDcasts)
- Katrina Owen (twitter github blog)
- Avdi Grimm (twitter github blog book)
- Josh Susser (twitter github blog)
- James Edward Gray (twitter github blog)
- Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code Rails Ramp Up)
01:43 – Going Rogue Video
02:12 – Unofficial Rogue: Mark Turner
02:31 – David Brady: Loyalty and Layoffs
05:21 – The company is not on your side
- Power Dynamic
10:24 – Loyalty and Obligation
- Profit and Value
- “Job for Life”
- Burning Bridges
- Job Hopper Phobia
- Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
- Strauss–Howe generational theory
- Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy
36:18 – Freelance Work
38:43 – The Company’s Perspective of Loyalty
41:49 – Loyalty to Your Coworkers and Peers
54:51 – Money and Making Connections
- Introversion Hacks
- How to Be Interesting: (In 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy
- Toastmasters International
1:11:02 – Employer Takeaways
- dotenv (James)
- Ruby 2.1 (James)
- Artoo (James)
- Continuum (David)
- Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy (David)
- David Brady: Loyalty and Trust (David)
- David Brady: Loyalty and Your Professional Network (David)
- David Brady: Loyalty and Layoffs (David)
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Katrina)
- The Long Winter (Avdi)
- Eagle Creek Cat Nap Blanket (Avdi)
- The Steelcase Leap (Avdi)
- James’ GoGaRuCo Talk (Josh)
- A Capella Science – Bohemian Gravity! (Josh)
- Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling by Michael Port (Chuck)
- The Freelancers’ Show 081: Book Club – Book Yourself Solid with Michael Port (Chuck)
- Michael Vey (Chuck)
- ShareMouse (Chuck)
- Tweetbot (Chuck)
- Going Rogue Video (Chuck)
Confident Ruby by Avdi Grimm! Use the discount code ROGUESCLUB for 20% off of any of the editions! Avdi will talk about the book on the show on October 16th, 2013.
JAMES: I don’t know if you all can hear, but there’s all these helicopters circling over my house. I think they’re looking for me.
[Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at BlueBox.net.]
[This podcast is sponsored by New Relic. To track and optimize your application performance, go to RubyRogues.com/NewRelic.]
[This episode is sponsored by Code Climate. Code Climate’s new security monitor alerts you immediately when vulnerabilities are introduced into your Rails app. Sleep better knowing that your data is protected. Try it free at RubyRogues.com/CodeClimate.]
[This episode is sponsored by SendGrid, the leader in transactional email and email deliverability. SendGrid helps eliminate the cost and complexity of owning and maintaining your own email infrastructure by handling ISP monitoring, DKIM, SPF, feedback loops, whitelabeling, link customization and more. If you’d rather focus on your business than on scaling your email infrastructure, then visit www.SendGrid.com.]
CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 125 of the Ruby Rogues podcast. This week on our panel, we have David Brady.
KATRINA: [Chuckles] Yo! Hi.
DAVID: I was muted.
CHUCK: [Laughs] Avdi Grimm.
DAVID: I didn’t have a funny joke, so…
CHUCK: We also have Avdi Grimm.
AVDI: Hello from Pennsylvania.
CHUCK: Josh Susser.
JOSH: Timing! Oh, wait. No. [Inaudible].
CHUCK: [Chuckles] James Edward Gray.
JAMES: I can’t compete with that.
CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.TV. I just want to give a quick reminder that I did put up the video about my story going freelance. You can get that at GoingRogueVideo.com.
This week, we’re going to be talking about Dave’s post on HeartMindCode.com, that’s where he blogs, about loyalty and layoffs. To kick us off Dave, do you want to just quickly explain what the posts were about?
CHUCK: Hang on, I forgot one order of business.
DAVID: Oh, yes. We always forget this and we suck. We have to get better at this.
CHUCK: Yeah, but we do really appreciate our Unofficial Rogues. Unofficial Rogue is somebody who signs up for Ruby Rogues Parley and contributes $50 a month to the show. And we really, really appreciate that.
Our Unofficial Rogue this week is Mark Turner. So, thank you, Mark.
JOSH: Yehey! Thank you, Mark.
DAVID: Yey! Thank you, Mark.
CHUCK: Now, Dave. [Chuckles] Do you want to sum up those posts for us?
DAVID: Okay. I will do my best to TLDR this. A few weeks ago, a client that I worked at laid everybody off and it was brutal, it was cold. They held an all-hands meeting and said, “You’re all fired. There’s no severance, we’re going out of business, there’s no COBRA, there’s no coverage. People that are outside of the state are not eligible for unemployment. You’re just all out in the cold right now.” And a lot of the people that I really like at the company had not been curating their own careers. And I was so sick at heart at how they’ve been treated and then I kind of got angry that they let this happen to them.
I know you’re not supposed to blame the victim but at the same time, I was also feeling very sick at heart that they kind of let this happen to themselves.
And so, I wrote a post called Loyalty and Layoffs. It’s an epic. It’s 3,000 words. It’s one of the longest blog posts ever written. And I’m very, very angry talking about me getting laid off and realizing that it sucks and that I would never let this happen to me again and that I needed to curate my own career.
The takeaway from it is that a corporation is just a fiction. It’s a document that exists for a purpose. And if you do not serve that purpose, you have no place there. And the CEO’s job is actually to get rid of you. Or he is incompetent or she is incompetent if they don’t fire you for this. So, being loyal to that corporation is a sickness, it’s a madness and don’t do it. But you absolutely can be loyal.
I wrote some follow-up posts to it that generated a lot of feedback, got about 160 replies. And I ended up packing them all back and qualify and say, “No, you can show your allegiance to a corporation, but don’t give your trust to a corporation. Trust only flows down because loyalty only flows up in a corporation.” And it sparked a lot of controversy on Twitter, people very angry at me that were very happy at their jobs. Some people that were angry at me because they were comfortable at their jobs and the post made them suddenly very uncomfortable. And I’m kind of happy that those people are now feeling uncomfortable because that was the entire point of the post.
Now, I’m going to stop there because I’m way past TLDR.
DAVID: Let’s move on to picks, shall we?
JOSH: It’s about that time?
CHUCK: I have to say when you wrote that, I was pretty close to the situation because I know all those folks too. And when I read it, I was just like, “He’s totally right.” And if you are comfortable where you’re at, it does make you a bit uncomfortable, makes you really think about what you’re doing.
JAMES: I guess there’s a couple of points that sounded like that maybe [inaudible]. First is this kind of idea that the company isn’t really on your side. They’re on their side.
JAMES: And if things change, it makes total sense for them to get rid of you. To add an example of my own in that, I was working on a project awhile back when they wanted to find more and more Ruby developers and they couldn’t find the amount of Ruby developers that made them happy because [inaudible] right now. And so, their system was to keep the Ruby developer team building the app and then on the side, in secret, hire a team to rebuild the entire thing in .NET. Wait till the .NET side caught up and then fire all the Ruby developers. So, that was very interesting to be a part of where the idea is that the company won’t do what makes sense for the company and that may or may not be to your benefit.
JOSH: I think going into it, it’s sort of an abusive relationship from the start. When you go work for a company, from the very beginning, they don’t pay you what you’re worth. Because if they paid you what you were worth, they wouldn’t be able to make any money off of you. If you were generating some amount of value and they were paying you what that value was worth, there would be no margin on it for them. So, working for somebody else is always something like of an abusive relationship because you’re always doing something that you’re never getting compensated fairly for.
CHUCK: I think those are partially true but I disagree a little bit mainly because in a lot of these cases, the application wouldn’t make any money if they weren’t keeping the lights on, providing you with equipment, paying their sales people, things like that. And so, I just want to clarify, if you’re taking value as the amount of money that the application you worked on as a whole and you divvy that up among the developers, that’s not the value you generated.
JOSH: Yes. And thank you for clarifying something that I didn’t mean. [Chuckles] But yeah, that’s not the point I was trying to make. Yes, companies make accommodations. There are certain tradeoffs that you get but they can never actually pay you what the value you’re generating is worth. Otherwise, they wouldn’t make money off of you. So from the start, there’s like this unfair power balance in the relationship.
DAVID: There’s actually an MBA business adage which goes ‘if there’s no margin, there’s no mission’. And so, if your company is not profiting from its employees, then it doesn’t matter what your corporate mission statement is because you’re not going to achieve it because as a company, you’re going to die.
JAMES: So basically, you don’t think about it like this that it’s a consultancy saying and we hired developers to build apps, whatever that consultancy could bill that, that’s not what they’re paying their developers. It can’t be because the company has to make some kind of money to cover the company overhead.
JOSH: And we talked about this on the episode a couple of weeks ago where sometimes, it’s just really worth taking a lower hourly rate so that the consulting firm can take care of all that business stuff that you don’t want to deal with. And if you go into those situations with your eyes open, I think there’s nothing wrong with being in that kind of business relationship with an employer. But it’s not an even-powered dynamic, “You can walk off the job, we’ll find somebody to replace you.” It depends on whether it’s like a buyers’ or sellers’ market. Sometimes if you walk off the job, they can’t find anyone to replace you and then they’re desperate and you have more power. That’s probably like more of a conversation to have a little later about that power dynamic and how that either helps or hurts you depending on which way it’s going.
DAVID: The coda that I would put on it is, is the power dynamic worth it? It can be a choice, right? You can choose to enter into that power dynamic on the downside of it because there are risks and things. And now, I’m trying to have that conversation that you said we should have later. But yeah, you’re right. There’s definitely a tradeoff there and you’d give up something in exchange for that.
I would add that if there’s anybody out there working a W2 job that thinks they’re not in an adversarial relationship with their company, not necessarily their CEO. But if you think you are not in an adversarial relationship with the company, whose lawyer wrote your employment contract? That lawyer is not on your side.
KATRINA: Speaking of contract. I think there are three things here that I tend to get confused. One is the idea of, what are my contractual obligations? And then, what are the obligations that I put on myself because I’m in that situation? I have kind of an oversized sense of responsibility. And then, what is loyalty and what is the difference between this oversized sense of responsibility that are put into things and loyalty that is misplaced?
DAVID: That is a fantastic question and it was mirrored by a lot of the people that wrote back to me that were very angry about, “It sounds like you’re advocating being disloyal and being treacherous and doing these things.” And other people wrote in and said, “No, all these things that you are discussing, I feel that they are my professional responsibility to pursue them.”
The short answer is that the responsibilities that you place on yourself are perfectly legitimate. They are part of your professional duty. They’re part of your professional behavior. They’re part of your professional character and they are what makes you ‘you’. And if you choose to give that to a company for money, great. As long as you’re choosing to do that, that is absolutely fine.
The moment it becomes dangerous is when you cross this boundary of putting your trust in the corporation and you sacrifice your career. At some point in the future, you’re going to have an exit interview. And after that point in time, if you have not been investing in your career or in your professional network or in yourself or whatever, if you have sacrificed those investment things prior to that time, you have acted in an irresponsible fashion to yourself. Does that make sense?
KATRINA: It does. Thank you.
CHUCK: I want to go back a little bit to your talking about profit and value for a minute and mainly just point out that it connects to another point that Dave made and that was that the corporation is kind of this fiction. It’s not a person that can have loyalty toward you. And in a lot of cases, if they’re public companies, the CEO has a fiduciary responsibility to basically maximize profits and increase the stock price. And even if it’s a privately held company, he still has a responsibility to the Board to basically do the same thing.
And so, what you were saying about how the company or the CEO has the responsibility to get rid of you if you are not contributing to the company in a way that maximizes profits, they have this responsibility to let you go. That’s absolutely the case, regardless of whether they’re a nice person, regardless of whether or not they like you. And the reason is because ultimately, they’re set up to serve the good of the company and that’s what they have to do if they want to keep their job and in some cases, not go to jail.
DAVID: Correct. Right now, all of the libertarians and the constitutionalists that are listening to the podcast are pumping their fist in the air and going, “Yea!”
But let me back it up a little bit or back off from that a little bit and say there are CEOs out there who will keep somebody on when they’re underperforming. And there are CEOs out there who will invest money in healthcare even though that’s a needless expense. It subtracts directly from the bottom line of the company. But these are CEOs who then go back to the board or back to the stockholders and say, “You know what, guys? If we piss off all of the Ruby developers in the company, we won’t be able to hire Ruby developers anymore and that will ultimately cost us.”
And so, there’s this…
JOSH: Is the phrase you’re looking for ‘enlightened self-interest’?
DAVID: Yeah sure, why not? That’s straight out of the libertarian playbook and I was trying to get away from that. But I think you’re right.
CHUCK: I guess the question becomes, if you can’t have this loyalty or whatever you want to call it, to this company because they’re not going to reciprocate it, then what do you owe to the company?
JOSH: I think the way that we look at our relationship with the companies we work for has changed over time and in fact, it’s really different in different places. If you go to Japan, people have a really different relationship with their companies.
JAMES: That’s a great point.
JOSH: My understanding is people tend to join the company when they’re fairly young and just stay working for that company for the rest of their life and they have a really good pension plan and retirement and all that. Is this about what other people heard?
JAMES: Yeah. Katrina, where you were previously, didn’t they have a much higher [inaudible] between company and employees?
KATRINA: Most companies in Norway have a two or three-month notice period if they’re going to lay you off or you quit. So, when I decided to leave that company, I still had to work there for three months. It’s very hard to fire someone in Norway; very, very difficult. They have to have done something clearly illegal. You can’t just let someone go with no — if someone is just mediocre, you can’t get rid of them.
JOSH: [Chuckles] And I assume that happened to [crosstalk].
DAVID: Adam [inaudible] says that Norway’s economy must be in the toilet as a result. How is this not happening?
KATRINA: I don’t know how it’s not happening. Norway is possibly one of the richest countries in the world. They have a significant oil industry which gives them a lot of money. They pour that money into health, infrastructure, and education. Going to university in Norway costs perhaps, I don’t know, $50 a semester in tuition.
KATRINA: The state provides student loans where you don’t pay any interest while you’re studying and then once your studies are over, you can either pay the interest which is often around 5%. And you can either fix that or you can go with the fluctuations. That loan does not, like if you die, that loan does not then follow on to your family members. The state just eats that.
CHUCK: The student loan program here works the same way. But our university program is clearly not as well-supported as the Norwegian.
DAVID: Our student loan, we could do a whole show about it. Our student program is absolutely freaking evil. It’s the only loan that you cannot legally default on in the US. You can go to prison even if you file bankruptcy.
CHUCK: That’s true. But if you die, it does go away.
DAVID: Let’s put a pin on that [inaudible].
JOSH: Getting back to where I was going with this digression, is that the relationship you have with your company isn’t universal. It changes over time and space. And I think that even here in America where most of our listeners are, the concept of that relationship has evolved over time. You used to be able to be a company man, and you’d just go work for a company and you’d work there until they give you your gold watch and the pension and then you’d go off to your retirement. And I think in those cases, if you’re in a lifelong employment relationship with a company, having loyalty makes sense because that’s your career that you’re taking care of.
But Dave, you pointed out, take care of your career first. I mean, that’s an amazingly important thing. And I’ve talked to younger people who I’ve been mentoring about this, and they feel really bad that they’ve gotten a better job offer and they need to quit their job and go work on this new amazing job. They’re like, “I don’t want to leave my boss in the lurch. I don’t want to be a bad person to them.” It’s great to have those feelings about your company and your boss.
But what I loved about your blog post, Dave, was that it really laid it out analytically that that kind of loyalty and putting your company’s interests ahead of your own interests is really a form of insanity. There’s no way that putting your company’s interests ahead of your own is going to work out well for you in the long run.
AVDI: And consider how many times have you read the statement ‘we were doing really well until Susan left and then the company fell apart’.
DAVID: Because Susan, honestly, was pretty lackluster.
DAVID: No. But you’re right. I mean, the company is a machine theoretically, metaphorically. And when somebody leaves, that part falls off the machine, they replace the part and then move on.
JOSH: Companies are engineered to be able to replace their parts, that’s why they treat us as replaceable parts.
DAVID: Yes. An interesting historical thing that I did not know but I learned through the Reddit comments on this blog post and that sort of thing, is that you’re absolutely right, Josh, about this evolving over time. It turns out that the boomers, the boomer generation like the G.I. babies born in the 1940’s, they’re ‘Job for Life’ people, or rather, the Greatest Generation, World War I, they are ‘Job for Life’ people.
My father-in-law got out of the army, went to work at one company, worked there until he was 65 and quit and has a fantastic pension, has a gold watch, all that stuff. And I changed jobs three times while I was dating his daughter and it terrified him. It turns out that the boomers looked back at the Greatest Generation and said, “Yes! I love that. I want a job for life. I want to be groomed. I want to be kept. I want to be taken care of. I want to not have to worry about my career.”
And then, kind of the 70’s and the 80’s happened. The steel crisis in the United States and then the 80’s, just the generation of greed or the era of greed sort of happened. And Job for Life kind of disintegrated. And so, Generation X were children at that time, I’m Gen X, and I watched my parents who are boomers. I watched them lose their job for life and they were just kind of blinking in the sun like, “What just happened to me?” And I watched it happen.
And now, the generation behind us, Generation Y, they’ve never heard of Job for Life. It is a unicorn. It’s a mythical creature to them. And what is really astonishing to me is when I sit people down and say, “Job for Life really was a thing because I watched it die. I know it was a real thing. There used to be unicorns but they’re now extinct and I watched them die.” It’s like what you said, Josh. The really weird thing is that we have passed on the dysfunctions of Job for Life but we haven’t passed on the benefits of Job for Life. And so, people go into a job thinking, “Oh, this place will take care of me forever except that I’m an IT worker. I’ll be lucky to make 18 months.”
CHUCK: I guess this leads to the next question: what are you supposed to do?
DAVID: I finally wrote a follow-up called Loyalty and Trust in which I went through the definitions of loyalty and trust and vulnerability. And loyalty just means giving or showing firm constant support or allegiance to a person or institution. And that’s good loyalty, you should do that.
People who listen to this podcast have heard Chuck and I complain about a past client that was kind of a [inaudible] for us. And it was a [inaudible] and it was kind of a rough time. But we never named names and we’ve never kicked trash on them. Chuck and I have quietly gone off and ditched the dirt back and forth to each other about it. But that’s because we both knew all the dirt. I still show allegiance to my past clients by not kicking their trash even if I didn’t have a good time working for them. Okay, that’s in light and soft and [inaudible] and new client hears me ditching dirt on past clients, they know that someday, they’re going to be a past client of mine and they don’t want that. So, no, I don’t. Even if I’m unhappy with them, I won’t be disloyal to them.
Obvious things like, I think Katrina or Josh, one of you asked, “So, if you are working for a company, what should you do loyalty wise?” And the answer is you should do your job. You should be professionally ethical. If you can see something is coming down the pipe that is going to destroy the company, you have an obligation to let your manager know that you can see this coming. You are an engineer if you are doing some kind of database search and they’re saying, “In order to survive scaling, we have to shard the database.” But you know that there’s no way to search across multiple shards without completely reinventing the infrastructure. You have an obligation to let your manager know that your scaling strategy isn’t going to work. “We’re going to go bankrupt if we do this.” You have an ethical obligation to not sit on your butt and watch the clock. You have an ethical obligation to not steal from the company, not embezzle, not do the things that your CEO’s probably doing.
DAVID: And those are the things that comprise loyalty. Sacrificing your own career like not going after that CNA — well, CNA is a really old certification, but not going after a certification in your field. A lot of companies don’t want to pay for you to get certified because then you’re going to want more money and you’re going to get that knowledge anyway. Well, screw that. Go get the certification. You should do that. If your company won’t help you do it, go do it on your own dime. That’s where your loyalty to your own career and your company’s demand for loyalty fall in conflict and when they come in conflict, you should show loyalty to yourself first.
JOSH: I want to say something about burning bridges. And Dave, what you’re saying about how not being disloyal to past clients is important. I agree with that [inaudible]. Past clients, past employers, it’s a good idea to stay on good terms with them. When you leave a company, at the very least, it’s most likely that you’re going to bruise some feelings. And sometimes, you’re going to have to burn a bridge to leave. There are situations that you get in where it’s really a tough choice and you say, “Okay, I’m the key person on this project. And if I leave, at the very least, it’s going to delay the project by some number of weeks, if not months, because of all of my perfect experience or knowledge silo or what have you.”
But then you have this other awesome opportunity coming where you just really don’t want to pass it up. It’s going to mean more money, more interesting work, working with people who you learn from, all that great stuff. And you’re going to have to make that choice. That’s what your first article was about, like if you’re going to have to make that choice, make the choice in your own benefit, not worrying [inaudible] companies. And you just have to, at some point, suck it up and be willing to burn a bridge and know that you’re never going to be able to go back to that company and work there again, maybe you’ll lose a friend or two. Those are not easy decisions to make but it’s like, for me, you got to take care of yourself because you know the company is not going to take care of you in the long run.
CHUCK: I can give you an example of this. I worked for a company out here. I’m not going to name the company. But yeah, I mean, I was basically the most experienced developer there and the rest of the guys with maybe one exception were all just there to collect a paycheck. The CEO was toxic and so eventually, I tried to leave and I tried to give him notice. I did all the things I could to make it as seamless as possible. The new company that I was going to go work for incidentally was the company I worked with data. They wanted me right away. So, I was actually trying to work things out so I could work for them part time to make the transition smooth. And basically what I got was an attempt to give me a guilt trip, I got yelled at, and eventually I was told that I would never work for them or anyone else that they knew ever again.
Ultimately, there was nothing I could do. But in order for me to move ahead with my career and move ahead to a place that was positive and really reinforce the things that I valued in my career, I had to leave that company. And there was just no way to do it without burning that bridge.
JOSH: Chuck, do you have any regrets about that?
DAVID: Yeah. One of the dysfunctions that got passed down from the Job for Life syndrome is that there is this phobia of being a job hopper. And it’s a completely unfounded phobia. In the 1960’s, it was death to your career. Somebody who couldn’t hold down a job was somebody who was problematic. Now, in the noughties and the teens, if you’re working in IT, it’s not uncommon to look at somebody’s job history in the 21st century and go, “Okay, 13 years and you’ve had seven jobs? Yeah, that seems about right.”
But there are people out there genuinely afraid of being seen as a job hopper because that means that, “We hire you, we want you to stick around but you don’t have a history of sticking around and why is that?”
The other thing that I would point out is that sometimes, you do have to burn a bridge. And this is another one of those — you’ve heard me say a lot that I think everything is a tradeoff. There is a tradeoff to burning a bridge. And sometimes, you can burn a bridge spectacularly. Sometimes, like if your CEO is stealing. There’s a really common thing out here in Utah where employers will just not pay their employees. This is completely against the law, by the way. But they’ll just say, “You know what? We’re bad on cash flow. Payroll’s going to be a couple of weeks late but we need you to keep working.”
This happened a lot in the mid-2000’s like 2005, 2006, I knew a bunch of people at multiple companies that were having paychecks come later and later and later. And I was just like pulling my hair out going, “Why are you still there? Get out, go.” Because every single one of them folded and left employees with six or 12 weeks of back pay unpaid. And there was a company that tried to do this to me and to my team and I burned the bridge. They stood up and said, “We can’t afford the cash flow.” I actually stood up in the meeting and I said, “That’s against the law. And if you have people working in this building tomorrow morning, you had better have paychecks or I am going to the Labor Commission.” And I understand that I have just fired myself for saying this. And that’s fine.
If you’re going to burn a bridge, if you’re going to stab somebody, stab them right in the chest and look them in the eye when you do it. That company, I will never work for them again. I will never work for anybody they know ever again and I’m kind of okay with that. The thing about burning a bridge is that you get one for free in your career if you are principled about it. You can burn a bridge, do it big, do it loud. Go big with it, but make sure you’ve got your principles right. You can do that once. If you do it twice, people start to say, “Lady, you’re the common element here.” But if you do it once, people will go, “Okay, you know what? That really was a bad situation and we don’t have to worry about that.”
JOSH: A couple of us have mentioned working for spectacularly really bad bosses or spectacularly bad companies. I’ve worked for some really great places, for some really good managers and had a really great time with those jobs. And I’ve also worked for places where it just really sucked, bad manager, bad management structure, et cetera. And there’s a big difference. So, what do you think about — does that affect how much loyalty you have for a company or how you interact with them or think about them?
DAVID: The two Steven’s that wrote Freakonomics, they said that 5% of the population are incorrigible no matter how much you tempt them and no matter how much you guarantee that they will not get caught, they will not break a rule and no matter how little the punishment will be. 3% of the population are incorrigible no matter how likely they’ll be caught. No matter how bad the punishment is, they will still break a rule. The remaining 92% of the population have a price. And it is important to know what your price is, like Calvin and Hobbes, everyone has a price. Mine is $0.75.
And there are jobs where the person immediately over me was so toxic that I had to leave in order to protect my sanity. I basically went to him and said, “The amount of money I’m getting for this job isn’t worth working for you. I’m sorry, I have to go.” I didn’t say it like that. I said it a lot more nicely. But certainly, I’m happier when the job is better. But the rules that I use especially as a contractor is that I’m a mercenary. And that means that my sword is for hire. And if I take Caesar’s coin, Caesar owns my sword for the period of time that it’s being rented. And that means if I don’t like my boss, if I don’t like my teammates, if I don’t like the project I’m on, it doesn’t matter. If I’m cashing that paycheck, I need to do the work. I need to get in and get it done. And I need to help that company achieve its mission regardless of the other people that I’m working with.
I probably won’t last a long time with that company because I personally derive a great deal of happiness and satisfaction from having friends at work and from having socialization at the office. But I don’t think it affects the core responsibility. And the reason I don’t think it affects it is because responsibility and work ethics come from inside me and not from anybody else at my job. I can be lazy or I can be a hard worker but that’s my choice. And it doesn’t matter if I’m working for somebody who’s awesome or if I’m working for somebody who’s crazy, there’s still a job to do. And if I’m cashing that paycheck, I have to do it. Does that answer the question?
JOSH: Yeah, I think so.
JAMES: I actually have a case where I burned a bridge with a good boss. [Chuckles] [Inaudible] and it was really good. And they wanted me to basically commit and come in and work with them forever kind of thing and do that. Just with other things I had going on, I didn’t feel that was the right move for me at that time basically. And so, I said no. But that was kind of relationship [inaudible] thing that I didn’t feel the same thing that they felt toward me. I don’t think that necessarily has to be what the personality over abuse is being applied or anything like that. It just doesn’t line up right now or something like that.
I am a little [inaudible] because I’m usually jetlagged. But I believe this concept Dave’s been talking about Job for Life stuff, I think there’s this Generational Theory which kind of covers what Dave has been calling Job for Life. And that particular generation in this theory is the profits and then Gen X that came after is the Nomads. Anyway, the idea is that there’s this generations that keep cycling where one [inaudible] really leads to the one that comes after and the [inaudible] and change based on this. You might want to read it, it’s interesting stuff.
DAVID: I think it’s very true. There’s a blog post, I’ll try and find it and bring it up in the picks. But it talks why is Generation Y and Generation Z, why are they so unhappy? And the reason why is because they’ve been told they’re special and that the world owes them stuff. Or at least, Gen X was told that. And now, Generation Z or Generation Y was told that. Now, Generation Z is even more amped up on that. They believe that they are special amongst all of the other special people and then reality shows up and they find out that they’re not special. It makes them very, very unhappy to have that cognitive dissonance.
JOSH: I have been reading that back and forth. So, it will be interesting where that goes. Go ahead, Avdi.
AVDI: I was just going to say I think the experience of the freelancers here is really useful. And for myself, I kind of wished that I had done some freelance work earlier. I feel like everyone should do a little bit of freelance. You don’t have to stick with it. But if you’re in software, you should do a little bit of freelance.
AVDI: Yeah, absolutely. But I mean, I think freelance gives you a better idea of how the world is actually working and what the work relationship really is. The thing is no matter whether you’re full-time or freelance, you’re negotiating time for money. You’re negotiating that you will give your services to some entity in return for money. And that’s really all you’re doing. And that’s very clear when you’re a freelance or a consultant, whatever you want to call it. But it gets sort of wrapped up in all this cultural baggage which is what we’ve just been talking about when you’re doing it for a full-time position at a company. But it’s really the same negotiation and it’s interesting how similar it really can be.
A lot of people think of getting a job as this sort of sign or don’t scenario, it’s sort of like a job at big co is this commodity thing. And they don’t even realize that even just getting a job at some big co, you actually have a lot of leeway in how you can negotiate your contract. You can negotiate that they don’t own the thoughts in your head when you go home and work on open source in your spare time. A lot of people don’t think they can negotiate that but you can do it.
The first Rails job I had, I negotiated that after an initial period, I would have an increasing amount of work-from-home time. So, it’s the same deal. You’re negotiating your work for their money. And the more you can view it that way, the more that you understand that you are a more or less sovereign individual who is making a choice to make a deal with this company, I think the better you are set to manage your career effectively rather than thinking of yourself as sort of a supplicant or something to these companies.
JOSH: I have a question about the company’s perspective on loyalty. I remembered when I was working at Apple years ago, there was some round of layoffs. And Michael Spindler had some all-hands meeting and we’re all gathered there. It was at the Flint Center at De Anza College and the company’s CEO and Execs are up there and they’re talking about something about the difficulty of the layoff process. Spindler says something about, “You know, Apple is not just an ordinary company. We’re like a family here.” And people at the audience got really pissed off and started yelling at him because you don’t layoff family members. You can’t layoff, as much as we’d like sometimes, you can’t lay off people from your family.
JOSH: I thought about that interaction for many years. I really wonder if the people who run companies like Apple or who knows what, if they really think of the company as something like a family or something that the people who work there owe them some kind of loyalty beyond just the work-for-hire aspect of it.
DAVID: My experience is absolutely yes.
JOSH: They do think that they are at loyalty.
DAVID: That they are owed more than loyalty, that they are owed especially with the W2 employees. When you got an hourly employee, you’re paying every hour that this guy is working on something. So, you send messages to them like, “Finish it quick.” But when you got somebody who’s salary, who’s overtime-exempt, you don’t say that to them anymore. You say, “I expect you to do whatever it takes to get it done. Work late, work weekends, I don’t care. Just get it done.”
And I’ve seen enough companies that act like a family and in a dysfunctional way, like an abusive family. I actually used the phrase with a coworker once. I was working hourly as a consultant at a company, and I had said something pretty outrageous in a meeting. I said something that like everyone just kind of went [expression] when I said it. And somebody, later, one of the W2 employees, “I can’t believe you said that in the meeting.” And I said, “Well, what this other person said was BS.” He’s like, “I know. But I still can’t believe you said that.” And I said, “Here’s the difference between you and me. You believe that you’re part of a family. I am not. I am a mercenary. And the advantage to not being a member of the family is I don’t have to pretend not to see it when Daddy hits Mommy.”
It’s a pretty edgy metaphor but in this particular case, it made that particular employee go, “Holy crap! You’re exactly right,” because that’s exactly what was happening was there was not just a family structure but a dysfunctional family structure. And the abuse was being handed out pretty cavalierly and that’s unacceptable. Even if you don’t take care of your career, that’s not the kind of loyalty you should be giving to your company. That’s giving vulnerability to your company and you should never do that.
JOSH: What about loyalty to your coworkers and peers?
JAMES: I’m actually really glad you brought that up because I do really well on managing loyalty to the company aspect. I think I understand that correctly and intuitively. And I can make the right judgments there. I totally fall down and die at loyalty to my coworkers. I totally feel like I’m in this team and I’m struggling with them and then we get into some horrible scenario. I can’t see myself getting out of that because I wouldn’t do that to my team.
JOSH: I’ve had friends I’ve mentored about career stuff where they’ll say, “I want to leave and get this other job but I love my team and I don’t want to leave them having to deal with all of my work,” that kind of thing.
CHUCK: I’ve kind of gone through that too but I take allude I’d take it to that extreme. I’ve worked with people that I would do whatever it took for them personally. And I would do whatever it took to a certain degree professionally. And I think it’s healthy to have that loyalty to those people because you kind to build the network, you get to know people. By the way, I hate the term ‘network’. You build relationships with these people that mean something. And it’s important. But at the same time, at a certain point, you’re hurting yourself too much. I don’t know what the right answer is because I think we all want to please other people and be there for them. But you still have to kind of keep respect there.
DAVID: I just want to point out that I think James and Chuck have hit it right on the head. One of the follow-up posts I wrote was about loyalty and trust. If you watched the Brene Brown videos that we picked several episodes back about vulnerability, there’s a cycle of loyalty and trust. I give you trust — or no. I show loyalty to you and you’ve come to trust me and so, you show me a little of vulnerability. And so, I eventually show you more loyalty and I respect that vulnerability and you trust me more. This forms a cycle, it’s a virtuous cycle. It’s called building a friendship. This is increasing the amount of trust and vulnerability that you’re willing to share. And eventually, you reach a point where you’re willing to share your dreams and your aspirations with your coworkers because they’re not just your team anymore. Now, they’re your friends. And this is no longer a business arrangement, this is actually a friendship.
Marcus Buckingham said that one of the top ten things determining job happiness is can you honestly say that you have a best friend at work. And if you’re a long-timer, if you’re working W2 somewhere, there’s probably somebody that you’re really good friends with at work because that person is your go-to person for vulnerability and social support.
And as a team, in the original Loyalty and Layoffs post, I basically said you should not be loyal to a team. And what I meant was the organization, the structural org chart of the team. If we replaced all the people with idiotic nephews that were all hired for nepotism reasons rather than skill, you would not have any more friends left on this team and you shouldn’t have loyalty to that organizational structure. But to the people on those teams as you make friends and build trust and share vulnerability, absolutely.
James, I wouldn’t say you fall down on this. I would say you stand tall on it that you are doing it exactly right. And the key point of this is that these are genuinely conflicts of interest because now you get this group of friends that you don’t want to let down but you’ve also got this company that is screwing up and needs to be pushed back on and say, “No, I will not do this.” That is a conflict of interest and you have to weigh them against each other. When it comes time for you to act against a company in your own best interest, that group of your friends is going to suffer for the loss of you. And you have to weigh that, you have to consider that as part of the entire mixture when you make that choice.
CHUCK: I want to point out, Dave, that you did kind of give us a little bit of a formula for that when you told us about the time where you spoke out and then the employee came to you and talked to you. And then the reason is because you do have loyalty to those people and you recognize dysfunction in the organization itself, it’s totally okay to look at them and say, “I don’t want to leave you in the lurch but this is unhealthy and you shouldn’t enable it either.”
JOSH: Has anyone read Ursula Le Guin’s The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas?
DAVID: Ah, is Omelas the one where they have to kill a kid?
AVDI: I have.
JOSH: Yes. Well, not kill but…
JAMES: Spoiler alert!
JOSH: It doesn’t spoil it. It’s a modern fable by Ursula Le Guin and she talks about basically the fundamental ethical conundrum: does the good of the many outweigh the good of the few or the one. But the point of the story is there are people who are enfaced with this untenable ethical conundrum, walk away from it. They are not willing to enjoy the benefits of a system that is based on the suffering of someone else.
I bring this up because these loyalty situations especially with coworkers and friends who you work with. I’ve been in situations where I’ve watched friend of mine get laid off. And I felt, “Thank heavens it’s not me. I didn’t lose my job.” And you feel bad for the people who leave and you think maybe there’s something unfair about the way that the layoffs were done. And, “Why did she get laid off? She’s contributed much more than I have. Why does she lose her job and I keep mine?” I have been in situation where I’ve been faced with that, not exactly that conundrum but very similar ones of feeling like something that the company is doing that sucks is pitting me against my coworkers in terrible ways. Like, “I’m now competing with my coworkers for raises because there’s a limited salary pool for raises.”
I’ve had a lot of careers so it’s hard for me to remember everything that’s happened in my career. But there have been times where I’ve been faced with that sort of ‘am I going to walk away from omelas’ kind of thing. I can’t say that I’ve ever walked away from a job just because I didn’t like the way the job was treating other people. But I’ve definitely been in situations where I’ve left a group in a company and gone to another position in the company because I didn’t like the way the manager ran things or the way the people in the team were being treated and it wasn’t the how I was being treated. I’m curious if Dave, that’s something on your radar or if that’s something you thought about.
DAVID: Absolutely. I haven’t read The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas but I watched The Hunger Games which is basically the same thing, right?
JOSH: I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. [Chuckles]
DAVID: They’re not the same at all. Anyway, yes, it’s absolutely on my radar. One of the first kind of managerial positions I had, I was the Director of Technology at a rafting company, like whitewater high adventure reservation. We were writing software to do these reservations. I’m kind of the opinion that management’s job is to be a poop umbrella that the VP should never yell at an engineer. The VP should yell at the director and the director should yell at the team lead and the team lead should yell at the engineers if it’s needed. But the VP should never come down from the tower and yell at the engineers because there’s such a disparity of power there that it’s devastating. When a VP says, “You know, I think maybe we should look into this technology.” The employees will view this as a mandate. And the VP’s just running his mouth. He’s just saying, “We could maybe do it this way.” But the disparity power is so ‘your wish is my command’ kind of thing because the disparity is so high.
And I resigned in protest because the investor was basically the VP of the company and he came to me and said, “We need to fix this problem.” And I said, “Okay, let me deal with the team. You’re not allowed to talk to the team about this.” And he took umbrage to this. He’s like, “You can’t tell me what I can or cannot do.”
And so, he came in and he sat down with the dev team and he ripped them a new one and I couldn’t do a thing about it, like I wanted to stand up for them. I stepped in several times and got slapped down in front of the team for stepping up to him. And he laid down the law, he said his piece, he made everything exactly the way he needed to be and then he stormed out. By the time he got back to his office which was half an hour’s drive away, my resignation was in his email box. I basically said, “I’m done. I have one job here and it is to protect these people from you. And if you won’t let me do my job, then I’m not going to do my job.” I was furious about this.
He calmed down, he took me to lunch and said, “Is there anything I can do to convince you to stay?” And I said, “I honestly don’t know because honestly, I’m still pretty pissed off at you.” Here’s where this becomes — this is all back story and I apologize for taking so much time on this. But why then did, and this is a very careful walking the line between loyalty to a company and encouraging people to be a [inaudible] to themselves and not being disloyal to the company. I then took take my entire team out to lunch, we got out of the building and I sat everybody down and I told them, “Look guys, I’ve resigned. My job is to protect you from that meeting and I’m not allowed to do this. So, I’m resigning in protest. I’m committing virtual suicide career-wise in protest and in the hopes that it will make our boss see that his actions have consequences. As a loyal team member, I’ve been loyal to this company, I have to tell all of you that, and I mean this sincerely, I hope you stay with the company and I hope you have good solid careers here. And I hope that my resigning has a positive effect on all of you. That said, I encourage all of you to build your own skills and build up the independence you need to be able to quit.” Because they were all fresh out of college and quitting in anger was so far off of their radar, so far out of their ability to do. They were trapped to that company because they were terrified of the thought of going alone.
And so, I kind of was walking away from Omelas but I was also, before I left, telling each of the ones I was leaving behind, “Hopefully, there will be a day when you can leave this company behind or you can choose to stay. But it can be a choice on your own terms rather than staying because you’re too terrified to leave.” And that was kind of a split for me. There are people who genuinely are afraid to leave a company and they are stuck.
JOSH: I’ve been having to confront this a lot myself recently and acknowledge my privilege as someone who can get a job at pretty much the drop of a hat if I want to. And walking away from a job isn’t actually a very difficult thing for me to do these days. If I walk away from a job, I’m pretty confident that I can get a new job that’s probably better than the old job if I really try hard in a number of days. And I’m incredibly fortunate to be in that situation. I’ve done some hard work in my career to get to that point. But I acknowledge that I’m in a very privileged position and being here is something that’s entirely new to me. It’s largely due to the circumstances of upbringing and luck and timing as much as anything else.
I feel a little bad when I’m talking about, “Oh geez, you know, follow your bliss and don’t make employment decisions based on how much money you’ll be getting.” Make a decision based on, “Oh, I’ll be working with a great team or I’ll be able to learn something.” Sometimes, people are just trying to get by. And I know a lot of people can make choices like that.
DAVID: We definitely are having [inaudible] problems, absolutely.
CHUCK: I really just want to ask because I feel like we’re all kind of in this position where we feel like if we really need to go get a job, we could find one. I’m curious, what is it about our situation that allows us to do that? And mainly, I guess the question is what assets or what skills or what ability should people be working on that allow them to have that same freedom.
AVDI: I have a lot of privileges as well, some of them lifelong. Some of them came along later as a result of working hard. But on the other hand, I’ve also had a whole family, including kids, to take care of since I was 20. And I’ve had basically no financial reserves from most of my working life. I had some early on and they went away. So, I’m a little bit familiar with, yes now, I’m in a position where I’m not too worried about that kind of thing because I could pretty easily get a job at a lot of places. But I’m very familiar with that sensation of if I lose this job, what am I going to do?
Many years ago, I did a lot of deep thinking about this, a lot of very stressed thinking about this because it was very immediate concern. And my conclusion, my overall conclusion that sort of guided my philosophy since then was that money is important. It’s a good idea to have that buffer that people talk about, the savings buffer and stuff like that. But money in this society can also go away really, really fast. And it is a truly immense amount of money that can actually give you a safety net. And a lot of us don’t even have the [inaudible] to build that kind of thing up. The conclusion I came to is that the most important investment you can make is connections. And so, I kind of set about the guiding light of my career became not where can I make more money, but how can I make more connections.
I mean, there have been some other things along the way as well with some sort of lesser values. There’s been the value of always have something of my own that I’m working on, have something that rather than just grounding for work when I suddenly lose a job have something that I think can make some money that I can work on during that period. And treat that period as the universe telling you to work on my own stuff for a little while. That’s been important too. But the biggest philosophical guiding light has been do what I need to do to build connections whether that involves participating in local users groups, participating in conferences, social networking. Just emailing people saying, “I really like that thing you did.” And of course, participating in open source, something I still wish I did more of.
It’s not just industry either. It’s also your local community whether it’s something you have through a church or synagogue or something like that or just your circle of friends or something like that. But really to my mind, the only safety net that matters, the only safety net that’s going to see me through to, hopefully, the end of my days is going to be the one that exists because I’m known because people know me, because people hopefully like me and care about me. And that is what you need to work on.
DAVID: I vowed in 2009 that I would never write another resume. And I broke that promise in 2010, I got a job. And then, after hiring on, HR came to me and said, “We have to have a copy of your resume for our file.” And I just kind of laughed at them and I said, “Okay, fine.” And I gave them a resume from 2007 and I wrote at the bottom of it saying, “I do not attest that this is complete and accurate to my best knowledge.” It is accurate to my knowledge but it is not complete. I’m just going to cut to the chase and say, “Thank you, Avdi.” You have made the most important point of the episode which is if you are in a job and you wish you could get up but you don’t know that you trust your career, build — I need a better word for it. I wrote a follow-up post called Loyalty and Your Professional Network. And the post fell completely flat. And I think it has the word ‘network’ in the title. It’s a very 80’s term.
DAVID: Community, yeah, is a good word. I think community and network are a little bit different but maybe I’m wrong. But absolutely, that is the single most important thing that you can do to increase your power of control over your own career. The only thing I would add to it is if you’re just starting out, here’s the bad news: you’re going to have to do more than just your job. You have to do your job and then you have to do more. You have to invest in community, you have to invest in your career.
AVDI: It is exhausting.
JOSH: I will share my personal secret for how to do that effectively.
JOSH: Do things to make other people feel awesome.
JOSH: I’ve watched friends do this recently. And some people just seem to have a natural ability of it. I worked really hard at this. I figured out awhile back that the things that gave me the most juice in the professional networks were the things that I did that helped other people.
When I was writing my blog, I was writing this blog, my blog got really popular and it was all about providing information that made it easier for people to learn how to program in Rails and Ruby. Then I did things like organize meet-ups and put on conferences and now, I’m doing this podcast. It’s not all self-serving like it might sound here. But a big part of that is I’m doing stuff that I know is a contribution to other people. That’s really the juice in this professional networking. I don’t think that professional networking where you go to a “networking event” and everybody’s wearing name tags and chatting among yourselves over cocktails and finger food. That’s not networking. That’s socializing.
DAVID: You can do networking there. But as a whole, that’s a very low impedance activity.
JOSH: Yeah. The thing that has two or three greater orders of magnitude effectiveness is seeing what it is that helps other people in your community and doing that stuff. So, working on meet-ups, mentoring people, doing RailsBridge training, what have you. Get out there and do stuff that helps other people. And do it in a completely generous way. Go out there and do stuff that helps people. Eventually, that will pay off in the long run.
AVDI: It does. It earns interest in a way that’s very similar to making financial investments because those people, that random person that you help now, that person that’s just getting started or something, that maybe the person who, five years from now or ten years from now, is a VP and thinks of you. You can look at this in a very calculating way. But you can also look at this as basically we’re telling you to be a healthy human being with the community. And that pays off.
DAVID: I was just going to say don’t do it because you want it to pay off. Do it just to invest in other people because it’s a fantastically human thing to do.
JOSH: It also makes doing what you’re doing a heck of a lot more fun.
AVDI: I know a lot of you are probably thinking that I’m an introvert. And you what? I am too. And it’s rough. That’s all I can tell you, it’s rough. It’s hard. A lot of these things will take it out of you in a way that even writing code doesn’t. All I can tell you is that it’s truly worth it.
DAVID: There are hacks. There are hacks that you can do to greatly leverage things without a massive cost to your introversion reserves.
KATRINA: Do tell, please.
DAVID: It’s a whole another episode. The short version is what Avdi said. Just do things nice for other people — I’m sorry, what Josh said. Do things for other people. Jamie Zawinski famously wrote stop thinking about how the software is going to leverage your synergies. Start thinking about, how is this software going to get somebody laid? A really simple hack is if you’re job hunting, don’t ask somebody, “Who’s hiring,” because you’re just some schlub who’s asking for a job. Ask somebody, “Hey, who’s working with PostgreSQL? Who’s working with PostGIS? Who’s working with GeoSearch? Who’s doing that?” That’s a very unloaded question. That’s just casual chit-chat. And you will get ten answers out of somebody. Those are great lead that you can then follow up. You can call somebody and say, “Hey, I hear you’re working with PostGIS. What are you doing?” And there’s, “Oh, we’re doing this and this and this.” And now, you’re talking about what they’re doing and it hasn’t even been brought up yet that you’re unemployed and that you’re underemployed or that you hate your job and you’re looking to get out or whatever. That’s kind of what I mean by hacks is don’t try to tackle the emotional problem of, “Oh my gosh, I have to get a job right away.” Don’t tackle it head-on. Tackle it indirectly and just talk with people. It’s really stupid but there is a book called ‘How to be More Interesting’. The take home on how to be more interesting is ask questions…
JOSH: I have a guess.
DAVID: What’s your guess?
JOSH: My guess is be interested.
DAVID: Yes. Listening to other people is — there is a quote but I can’t remember the exact quote. But hearing another person is indistinguishable from love. Being heard is indistinguishable from being loved.
JOSH: It has many levels.
DAVID: Yes, and many levels. And so, listen to people. And so, the hacks for introverts are find a series of innocuous questions and if you’re networking for a career, just find questions that are in your current job.
I found a bug in the pg_search gem yesterday and I’m going to go talk to Pivotal Labs and say, “Hey, do you know about this bug? Can I do anything to help fix it? Or is it out of scope,” or whatever. But I’m at least going to talk to somebody and somebody will know who I am as a result and that would be great. Maybe that will, someday, turn into something positive for me.
One of my personal goals five years ago was to work at Pivotal Labs. I may have taken a different route and that may be behind me now but I wouldn’t mind working with them. But I don’t know anybody there. I know a bunch of ex-Pivots but — I’m rambling, I’m sorry.
The point is that — no actually, that is my point. The hack for introversion, it feels a lot like rambling. It feels like you’re approaching the problem very indirectly because you are. You’re just putting fillers and — oh, there is actually a point to this ramble. And that is in the professional networks post, I pointed out that you cannot fish and tie nets at the same time. And when you are networking with people, you cannot be fishing. You have to be tying your nets. You have to be tying knots and tying relationships with people. And that’s by being interesting and that’s by being interested. If you lead off with, “Is anybody at your company hiring,” that’s hauling on the net and they immediately know that you’re trying to cash in some chips that you haven’t really banked with them yet.
CHUCK: One other thing or a couple of other things, that worked that are hacks for this, is a lot of times just reaching out and it stems from being interested. But what it boils down to is you find things that you know they’re interested in.
For example, I have a good friend here in Utah that is an avid runner and cyclist. And one of my old clients is also an avid runner and cyclist who is actually still working on an app for runners and cyclists. And so, I could introduce the one person to the other. And introverted or not, all I’m doing is starting a conversation between two other people.
Or if I find an article out there about running and it’s like, “Look, I’m a beginner runner. I’m thinking about getting into it. What do you think about this article?” And so, you’re starting a conversation about something you already know they’re interested in. You can send out thank you notes like physical cards you put in the mail. That’s totally unexpected for people. They just don’t see it coming.
A lot of these ideas I’m getting from one of my picks for today and that is ‘Book Yourself Solid’ by Michael Port. He actually came on The Freelancers Show yesterday. And so, it will come out tomorrow from when this one releases. And you can listen to all of his great ideas. But there are so many things you can do where you don’t actually have to go spend your introverted social energy and still reach out to people and make those connections and shrinking them without having, like I said, to go out and be face to face with people and spending energy that way.
AVDI: I have some friends who, over the years, encouraged me. They do things like encouraging me to write or encouraging me to do talks and reviewed some stuff that I’d written. Just generally, kind of push me forward over the years. If they were looking for a job now, I would move mountains to find them something. And that really just falls under the category of being interested. You find somebody who’s doing something cool, somebody who does a neat even amateurish presentation at your users group and you encourage them. That’s where it all starts.
DAVID: For me, I find that I have a small group of people that we would move mountains for each other. But through investing in community, they’ve — I can’t remember where it’s from, I’m sorry. I’m useless with citations today. But there is a study shown that loose acquaintances will actually do more for you than close acquaintances in certain regards. Like when it comes to helping you find a job, somebody who is a loose acquaintance will actually — they won’t move a mountain for you, but they’ll move ten shovels of dirt for you. Even though they don’t know you well enough to really move more than one shovel full of dirt, they’ll move ten. And the reason why is because they know that they’re in your extended tribe and there’s actually something of value to them for moving ten shovels of dirt. And that is the opportunity to move closer to being inside your close tribe. And so, there’s actually a social payoff for them helping you.
And so, if you’re afraid of talking to people, join Toastmasters. It’s the best group you can join for being an introvert and learning how to be able to open up and just talk to somebody. Like Josh and Avdi and Chuck and Katrina and James, we’re all at points where we’ve been investing in other people for ten, 20, 30 years. And now, I have literally gotten job from a tweet by just saying, “Hey, I’m available for full time contracting or full time work, whatever. I’m available.” And I had interviews lined up that afternoon. And it was because I had spent 20 years building this network of people, ten years actively building this network of people.
CHUCK: I think we have time for one more question and then we’re going to have to wrap up the show.
AVDI: Up till now, we’ve been mostly interesting the point of view of somebody who is an employee. And I just wanted to post the question, let’s say I’m listening to this and I’m in management or I’m scaling up a startup. It’s more than just a couple of founders now. And I’m looking at it from the perspective of an employer. What is my takeaway?
DAVID: Go watch a couple of episodes of Undercover Boss.
DAVID: The first few episodes I watched of that, made me feel very cynical because they went off, they worked with people, they came back and they picked five people that did something nice for them out of 30,000 employees. And everybody else got squat. But the other 29,995 people were actually moved by those gestures of magnanimity on the part of the CEO.
And so, the biggest takeaway that I can give to somebody who’s trying to run a company is on the one hand, never forget your position, never forget you have a responsibility to your Board of Directors or to your shareholders and you have to back that. But when you take off the uniform and be a human being and become friends with your employees — now remember, you may have to fire your friends. So, there’s an element of sociopathy that’s required here. But doing human things for your employees, going out of your way to create a program that cost the company a little bit of money but benefits the employees a lot, giving them things that they care about like putting recycle bins in the kitchen, it cost you $5 a month to rent that stupid bin. But your employees, who care about recycling, will be really deeply moved. And think that you’re a great CEO and that this is a great company.
The other thing is I’ve had the exit interview where I’ve had to go to a CEO and say, “I just landed a much better job. I promise you I wasn’t stepping up behind your back. I wasn’t doing this. But a friend of mine called me and they need me and they’re offering me $20,000 more.” And the CEO gave me a hug and said, “Good for you. It’s going to suck without you but I absolutely agree that you have to take this opportunity.” I guess that’s the core thing is as a CEO, make sure that the people under you are investing in their careers and that they are not conflating loyalty with trust and vulnerability to the company.
CHUCK: I think it’s interesting when you make those points, Dave, that essentially you’re talking again about these personal connections that we’ve formed with people. And as people move from company to company especially upper management, a lot of times those people are put into their positions because of who they’re connected to. And so, if you’re in that management position, you’re in that hiring position, as the employer or manager, just keep that in mind. You’re doing yourself a favor with your career by taking care of these people and building these connections to.
CHUCK: Well, unless anyone else has something to add, we’re going to get into the picks.
JOSH: Okay. Let’s do it.
CHUCK: James, what are your picks?
JAMES: I’ve got several but they’re simple. I’ll go through them quick. First is this project called dotenv which is a way to set a bunch of environment variables by sticking them in a file that’s going to be loaded when Rails or some other Ruby projects starts up. I find it very helpful recently, I’m working on a site that ties into a bunch of social networks for various things. And so, it lets you manage a whole bunch of [inaudible]. And dotenv has like Capistrano integrations so it can automatically copy over the file from a shared location on a server and stuff like that. Really lets you manage a bunch of environment variables.
Another pick I have is that Ruby 2.1 has just hit its first Rubyist candidate. And so, it might be a good time for all of us to start playing with Ruby 2.1 and see how it’s coming. [Inaudible] is this article by Konstantin Haase that discusses many of the changes. [Inaudible] or other things like that. There’s one that I really liked and I forgot now. But anyway, there are some huge changes. Named arguments being required but not happening with default value, I love that one. Some interesting changes coming into Ruby 2.1. If you want to check those out, this is the article that will get you started.
And then last but not least, I was at GoGaRuCo last weekend. Thanks, Josh, for a wonderful conference. There’s tons of cool stuff there and I’m sure you’ll be seeing us invite speakers and stuff like that. One of the great ones was a robotics talk where they showed off controlling several different kinds of robots using Ruby and stuff. That’s accomplished with this framework called Artoo. It’s a micro-framework for robotics. You can use it to talk to your Sphero or your ARDrone or whatever, [inaudible] and things like that. It’s fun, fun stuff to play with in my opinion. Those are my picks.
CHUCK: Awesome. David, what are your picks?
DAVID: I have a few and I’ll just go through them really, really quickly. One just completely unrelated to anything is Continuum is a TV show that’s the first season is on Netflix. And I find it incredibly enjoyable in the sense that we watch the episode and then over the weekend, we watch the entire series. It’s about a police officer who, from 2077, is chasing terrorists and then time travel and go back to 2012 and she has to chase them. It’s really fun. It ends on kind of a really good cliffhanger at the end of the first season when you find out who’s manipulating the time stream from the future and the past and whatnot. It’s a lot of fun.
JOSH: Yeah, I’ll second that one. I enjoy Continuum a lot and I’m waiting for the next season to show up.
CHUCK: I watched the next season as it came out. It was pretty good too.
DAVID: Really good? Awesome. And then the rest of the picks, I’m just going to recap things that I mentioned on the show. The Wait But Why blog, Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy, really lays out the generation gap of greatest generation boomers X and Y. And Why X and Why Y People Are Unhappy and what they can do about it which is why I really like that particular blog post.
And then, just the three that I wrote on my own blog, the Loyalty and Layoffs, Loyalty and Your Professional Network, and Loyalty and Trust. The most important one of the three is the one that just completely fell flat. It’s got two replies and like 50 people have read it. And that is Loyalty and Your Professional Network. I’m tempted to rename it to Loyalty and Community because I think ‘network’ is really putting people off. It is the single most important post out of the three. It’s even more important than Loyalty and Layoffs because it gives specific advice on what to do to deal with how to improve your career right now in the most effective and easily leveraged and it even works for introverts. So, those are my picks.
CHUCK: Awesome. Katrina, what are your picks?
KATRINA: Speaking of introverts, Quiet, a book by Susan Cain talks about some of the research about introverts and extroverts. The subtitle of the book is The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I’m probably three quarters of the way through the book and it’s been kind of helpful to get a grasp on what the world thinks introversion and extroversion is and some of the patterns that are there. And really, some of the strengths that I’ve treated as weaknesses that I might be able to tweak about how I actually think about things or how I actually do things. That’s all.
CHUCK: Avdi, what are your picks?
AVDI: I’ve got a few. I just came across today this article called The Slow Winter. It’s from USENIX. It is one of the funniest technical articles or article about technical things I read in probably years. I was practically falling off my chair reading it. It has to do with the evolution of process or architectures and believe it or not, makes that side-splittingly funny. It is an absolute must-read.
Moving on from technical topics. As I’ve started to travel internationally a bit more, I’ve been iterating on my travel gear a bit. And one of the notes that I made as soon as I came home from my trip to Paris was to get a blanket for use on the plane. And so, I picked up an Eagle Creek Cat Nap Blanket. It’s pretty nice. It’s fuzzy and it rolls up and folds up reasonably small into its own little pocket that’s built into it. But the coolest thing about it is that it has big foot pockets at the bottom. If you’ve ever tried to sleep on a plane or anywhere really where you’re trying to sleep while sitting up, it’s darn near impossible to comfortably sleep when your feet are cold. When you’re sleeping while you’re sitting up, the blanket falls off your feet. So, the fact that you can stick your feet and take your shoes off and stick your feet in the foot pockets is a little thing but it works really well. So, I was very happy with that purchase. I used it on my last trip to Barcelona and I was able to sleep better as a result.
Finally, I finally bit the bullet and got myself a decent office chair. For years, I’ve been sitting in some no-name piece of crap that I bought years at Office Depot. Anyway, it’s just killing me. But I’m such a cheapskate that it took me a really long time to bring myself to the point of buying myself a decent office chair. But I finally did. I got the Stealcase Leap which is the Wirecutter’s pick for best office chair. It retails for $800 to $900. I managed to get a refurbished version one off of eBay for about $500. And so far, I’m really, really liking it. As office chairs, it’s kind of unassuming. It doesn’t look like a space chair, like some of these Aeron chairs do and stuff like that. But it’s kind of like my ThinkPad. It doesn’t look like much but you can tell that they put a lot of thought into each of the little piece of it. It’s quite comfortable and very adjustable. I think that’s it for me.
CHUCK: Just for the record, I like my space chair.
DAVID: I have found that my bottom has almost no regard for visual aesthetics whatsoever.
CHUCK: Okay. So, it’s a comfortable space chair. Anyway, Josh, what are your picks?
JOSH: The risk of seeming a bit self-serving here, I’m going to pick a talk from GoGaRuCo. But I’m going to pick it here because it was James’s talk. James is well-known for his amazing brain-busting technical talks like [inaudible] could do which was actually like 8 million things. So, James did a non-technical talk for a while or for I mean, for a change. And it was one of the best talks of the program, one of the really well — I heard a number of people say it was the best talk they ever saw. So, I’m picking that one.
JOSH: Yeah. The videos aren’t up as we record this. But I think Confreaks is going to get them up soon enough that we’ll be able to have a link for it in short order.
And then, the other thing that I found was a fun YouTube science video called Bohemian Gravity. There’s a Physics grad student who’s also a really good singer and he’s recorded a bunch of — well, several at this point, but maybe someday a bunch of videos of him doing multi-part harmony a cappella renditions of well-known songs with his own made-up lyrics. This is Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with a lot of physics and quantum mechanics in it. It’s pretty awesome. That will do it for me. I’m still recovering from conference mode. So, it’s a light week for me. So, that’s it.
CHUCK: Alright. I’ve got a couple of picks. I mentioned one of them during the show that is Michael Port’s Getting Things Done. I also really enjoyed the interview we did with him. So, I’ll put the links to both of those in the show notes. Just keep in mind that the link won’t work until tomorrow of when this one gets released. It just the way the release schedule works. Book Yourself Solid, did I say Getting Things Done?
JAMES: Yes, you did.
CHUCK: Okay. It’s Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. It talks a lot about — it’s kind of in the vein of freelancing or finding clients. However, a lot of the advice is really good for just building good connections. And so, I highly, highly recommend it.
I’ve also been reading some fiction. There are these books by Richard Paul Evans about a character called Michael Vey. There are three books out right now and they’re really, really fun. It’s about some teenagers that have mutation that allows them different abilities related to electricity. And so, they’re fighting each other and stuff. Anyway, it’s really, really interesting and a lot of fun to read. I actually got it on my wife’s Audible account and the reader is awesome. So, if you’re in audio books, that’s a good way to go.
Finally, I got this program called ShareMouse. It was recommended by Sam Saffron in one of his blog posts. We were talking about software that we use in the Ruby Rogues Parley and I’ve been using that. I picked it up because Synergy quit working for me. Teleport, for some reason, wouldn’t work for me. And ShareMouse is working great. It’s a paid product but it’s awesome. So, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well.
And finally, I did put that Rogue Video out. And it talks a lot about how my network and some of the other media that I’d put up helped me find my clients during that first year. And so, it’s relevant to what we’re talking about. I’m going to recommend that as well.
That’s it. I do want to remind people about our Book Club book. It is Confident Ruby by Avdi Grimm. So, go pick it up. There’s a discount code, we’ll put that in the show notes as well. It’s ROGUESCLUB and that will give you a 20% off, I believe. So, go pick up the book.
Thanks for listening. We’ll catch you all next week.