Links and Posts: 3/25/19

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Latest “Tied to Machines” Episode: #15 Programming Languages, Growth

Okay, one more thought experiment. I’m going to describe an industry. Then, you’re going to guess which one I’m talking about. You have three choices: commerce, education, or politics.

Since World War II, the industry has been relatively stable. The big players haven’t changed. They’ve built relationships with financiers and journalists. Until recently, the industry structure looked like it would exist forever.

But now, things are changing. Within the industry, the pace of change is quick. When people talk about the industry, they talk about madness and uncertainty. Weird things are happening. The future is uncertain. The establishment doesn’t control the industry like it once did. The establishment’s decline is giving rise to a new breed of internet-natives, who are following a new playbook that the establishment cannot compete against.

Commerce, education or politics: Which industry am I talking about?

The answer: All the above. Yep, you read that right. The exact same thing is happening in all three industries.

The striking parallels between commerce , education, and politics isn’t a coincidence. In fact, it’s inevitable. In the past decade, the information environment has inverted from information scarcity to information abundance, and the effects are evident in every corner of society.

What the hell is going on?

  • I love, love, love this post. It encapsulates so much of what I’ve been learning and attempting to understand and explain.

Over the course of my career, I’ve had two to three major mindset shifts in how I approach my work. At first, I just focused on engineering — trying to know the most about whatever language or libraries I was using, being very “trivia” focused, and ultimately ignoring the concerns of others in an effort to just write good code. This wasn’t to say I didn’t try to get along with my coworkers or help them out, but my efforts to improve were all about me; after all, the team and the company do better as I become better. And to be fair, this approach isn’t totally unfounded in its merits. As engineers, we must constantly evolve, learn more, and improve because the industry is getting harder with bigger problems that need more technical solutions every day. This approach worked well enough for me for the first half of my career, where I was junior enough to have such selfish (albeit well-meaning) motivations.

Then I took a job where I worked with more engineers in one office than I had worked with in my entire career to date. This job nearly broke me. I went from being one of the better people in my role to barely scraping by… for nearly two years. I struggled to succeed, I constantly felt outclassed by the people around me, and many days I couldn’t figure out why they even hired me (a feeling, it turns out, that some of my co-workers shared). But there was no big epiphany, no single defining moment that turned it around. Just a series of hard, abject failures from which I had two choices — give up or learn and grow. I did my best to do the latter. As I moved back to a smaller startup, I saw firsthand just how important it is to cement a culture, from the ground up, based around these lessons.

My final mindset shift happened when I transitioned into management after the startup was acquired by a larger company. I didn’t choose to be a manager; management chose me, in that I was offered the position. I was also told that, while everyone really believed in me, the ultimate reason they chose me was that they felt it would be less tumultuous to promote someone from within than hiring someone from outside. We had a very aggressive timeframe after the acquisition, and my new company didn’t want to risk things by bringing in an outside leader who didn’t have the team’s trust. I found that this phase reinforced everything I had learned before about being effective in an engineering role — and turned up the dial on how hard I need to apply these lessons every minute of every day.

  • This is a long read but very worthwhile. Especially, if you are an engineer and wondering what I can do to improve and grow. My experience aligns nearly spot on with Sean’s.

Today’s systems exist in an extensive network of interdependencies as a result of opportunities afforded by new technology and by increasing pressures to become faster, better and cheaper for various stakeholders. But the effects of operating in interdependent networks has also created unanticipated side effects and sudden dramatic failures [42,1]. These unintended consequences have led many different people from different areas of inquiry to note that some systems appear to be more resilient than others. This idea that systems have a property called ‘resilience’ has emerged and grown extremely popular in the last decade (for example, articles in scientific journals on the topic of resilience increased by an order of magnitude between 2000 and 2013 based on search of Web of Science, e.g., Longstaff et al. [26]). The idea arose from multiple sources and has been examined from multiple disciplinary perspectives including: systems safety (see Hollnagel et al. (2006)), complexity (see [1]), human organizations (see [42,40,22,32,31]), ecology (see [41]), and others. However, with popularity has come confusion as the label continues to be used in multiple and diverse ways.

  • A great paper that calls out many of the gotchas, nuances, and misnomers about resilience. And as mentioned, we have so much more to learn and understand.

Quick Hits

A perfect tweet.
Read the thread
Quit doing this!

This is nonsense. Quick doing this, companies. Quit hurting current experience to “push” me to something else you have.

You can follow or contact me directly:

@lyddonb Beau



Software leadership. Helping teams with cloud, architecture, scale, performance, management. @lyddonb

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Software leadership. Helping teams with cloud, architecture, scale, performance, management. @lyddonb