Actual recent Scrabble tiles

I’ve recently “closed” a couple candidates. By “closed”, I mean “was brought into a candidate’s life at the ‘offer’ stage, as one last contact to nudge them to accept.”

It’s not something I’ve done much in the past¹, so like anything else new and important, I’ve been figuring out how to get better at it. After a particular “close” phone call, I thought about what the ideal conversation would have sounded like.

My theory is that it comes down to two things:

  1. Integrity: Be yourself and tell the truth (good advice for any walk of life!)
  2. Quality: Tell the candidate…

The most Type-A calendar you’ll ever see

[Preamble to software engineers or anyone else on maker-time: you keep doing you, the following might sound absurdly overengineered. I wrote this article with managers in mind]


I have a confession to make: I’m the type of person who gets to inbox-zero daily. I sheepishly admit this, because in a world where busy equals productive, it almost seems like a dereliction of duty to not have an inbox bursting at the seams.

5 things I learned by spending four months job-hunting for a Software Engineering Manager role

How to hire a bodyguard

Hiring knowledge-workers is difficult. People on a hiring-team get a few hours with a candidate, and then they’re forced to decide whether they want to spend 8–10 hours a day sitting next to this person, 5 days a week, for the next few years of their lives.

If I wanted to hire a bodyguard, the most important thing I’d need to know is whether they’d take a bullet for me. But I can’t determine that with certainty in a meeting room. …

What to ask your interviewers when it’s your turn to ask questions

Semi-trucks in a row, at TA Truck Stop. North Bend, WA

Interviewing with a new company is like a dance between you and the prospective employer. Both parties are learning about each other to get a sense of fit in each direction. Of course you’ll be asked plenty of questions at each step in the process, but interviewing is also a chance to have your questions answered.

Since the time allotted for you to ask questions is limited, you should carefully practice in advance, just as you’d prepare to design a system on the whiteboard, or answer a STAR style interview question.

The earlier you get good answers to your key…

Don’t over-index on how much (or little) coding you think you’ll be doing as a manager.

“Harana” by Natsue Makino

There are lots of articles written about what to do after you’ve decided to transition from engineer to engineering manager (see below), but not so many about how to make the decision in the first place. (I did find this one which was a great read)

The conventional wisdom is to ask yourself the question “When I get to work in the morning and open my laptop, do I want to see an IDE or a spreadsheet?” In other words, do you want to continue writing code or not?

This is a dangerous way to decide since it puts the…

Few scientific studies have been done about leadership in tech companies, probably because it’s so hard to quantify and it’s difficult to design a study that includes participants from multiple organizations. Few companies are large enough to have the critical-mass of leaders necessary to get a sample size that allows researchers to make statistically-significant conclusions about their findings.

Despite all that, I know of at least two tech companies that have done large research studies about their managers:

  1. Google’s “Project Oxygen” studied managers and found 8 common traits shared among the most successful
  2. Facebook’s VP of People did a similar…

This isn’t even a “book” report since I didn’t read the book by that title, I just watched a 45 minute TED-ish talk by the author. But I think I got the gist of the message, and here it is:

Humans survived in part due to four brain chemicals: Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin.

The first two can be triggered on one’s own:

Endorphins mask pain. They were an evolutionary advantage because the masking of pain allowed us to hunt food over long distances. Today, most of us don’t need to run to catch food, but just listening to a…

Hostess bows to guest in a traditional tea ceremony. Japan, Oct 2017

Conventional wisdom in management is that the hardest conversation to have with an employee is the “termination”, where you’re letting an employee know that this is their final day at your company, usually due to an uncorrected performance problem.

I don’t want to minimize the challenges of having this conversation. It’s the worst conversation a manager can have. It’s soul-crushing. It never gets easier.

But the “termination” discussion is only the second-hardest conversation a manager can have with an employee. The hardest conversation is the one that precedes the termination, which I call the “job in jeopardy” (JIJ) conversation.


It’s always a blog post about writing a blog post

Establish a reputation in your field as someone who delivers measurable results vis-a-vis improving revenue or reducing costs.

Patrick McKenzie (patio11)

I’ve spent many years working on the “delivers measurable results” part of that formula, but not so much on the “establish a reputation in your field” part. Mostly because the latter is often a distraction from the former.

Most excuses to not be blogging crumble under even basic scrutiny:

  • “I don’t have any time!” … I’m at level 70 on Wordscapes so I clearly have time for something.
  • “I don’t have anything interesting to say that hasn’t already…

“It is not upon you to complete the work, nor are you free to desist from it” — Pirkei Avot 2:16

The year is over so I guess I should write some sort of conclusion. I wasn’t able to do all 50 Acts (one a week) but I did quite a few. Many were things I’ve been doing anyway, but a few pushed me out of my comfort zone (like cooking lunch for the entire synagogue).

I think my favorite of the 50 was “Send a note to your favorite teacher.” After sending the note, my teacher wrote me back…

Joe Goldberg

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