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Awesome article by Eric Sink

Stop whatever you are doing, and go read this article.

http://software.ericsink.com/Career_Calculus.html

Eric claims he is not a legend, but once you are done reading it, more importantly working on what he says, you will think otherwise.

Good one Eric!

Prakash S
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Good article, I just added Eric to my weblog bookmark list. The beauty of blogs like JOS is that they usually link to other blogs of similar quality, so I never run out of interesting things to read.
Thanks!

Mark B
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Top-shelf thinking. :)  In fact, as a manager of developers, I've forwarded the link to all of them. 

As a manager of a team of developers, in a company with a stiflingly narrow view of the world, I'm hoping it will motivate some of them to find a new manager with another company - because we're holding them back.

This is actually another possibility for Mr. Sink to consider - that a developer might raise their cluefulness to the point where the manager can no longer challenge or provide growth opportunities for the developer.  (Something that is true in many disciplines, obviously, but poignantly so in the tech industry).

Given the paragraph above, it seems like there is a limiting function within any organization that will eventually have a dampening effect on an individual's attempts to attain higher levels of cluefulness.  If you could ascertain the severity of the function before you hired in, it would be a handy career management tool.

G Peters
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

"The hiring manager is trying to figure out if there is any chance you are worthy of the job.  Ignore that.  Instead, spend your time trying to figure out if there is any chance that guy is worthy of being your manager."

I've always done this.  I just thought it was because I was an arrogant ass.  I guess I was actually keeping a positive L!

David
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

"The hiring manager is trying to figure out if there is any chance you are worthy of the job.  Ignore that.  Instead, spend your time trying to figure out if there is any chance that guy is worthy of being your manager."


Follow this career advice and there is a good chance you will eliminate 90% to 99% of the job opportunities that come your way.  :-(

I am being serious here.  I have to say that only 25% of the managers that I worked with over the years were capable and qualifed to do what they do for a living.

One Programmer's Opinion
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Not that I disagree with the article, but I'll pick a bone with the math... G (your god-given gifts) isn't a constant.  With some subjects, people with high G will get it with enough time, and people with low G will never get it.

Put another way, going to PDC for a very bright individual will increase his abilities a lot more than going to PDC for a not-too-bright guy.  I guess that messes up the equation though.  : )

Come to think of it, L should be a function of t as well.

Andy
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Ever since Leibniz people have attempted to explain or even solve problems by simple mathematical equations and other formulas.

It won't work. Never has.

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Ok, to back it up with some meat: " Instead, spend your time trying to figure out if there is any chance that guy is worthy of being your manager". Well, one colleague of mine quit his job in feb.2003, leaving for a small country in Eastern Europe (actually following his girl-friend). He looked for a job in the field of programming. Surprise, suprise, he found none! Another story, another friend of mine finished his studies in communication design last year. Still has not found any job in that field, although he went as low as 20.000 $/yr. How might that advise by Mr. Sink help those two guys?

So, that "equation" does not only read just too 1998-ish, it's just the wrong answer to a problem that quite a bunch of people are facing today. Perhaps it's not even too brutal to label it snakeoil.

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The Rant, part III: I admit it, I never read through the whole article because it was just too silly in the beginning. But it get's even worse towards the end. "We all screw something up from time to time, but we don't always learn from the experience.  Why not?  Quite often, the reason we don't learn from a mistake is because we're too busy trying to hide it."

Actually, that's a behavioral pattern I've seen so many times in IT companies where some B type managers are in charge of B and _A_ employees. At some point those B managers realize that some of their A employees are smart enough to find any errors management makes even if those are not proclamed in public, so those managers decide to use a trick: "We now encourage everyone to make mistakes. Don't worry, we won't fire you. Everyone makes mistakes. We want you to make mistakes so you can learn from your mistakes." That way, the B managers hope the A employees can accept their mistakes and erronous decisions, because "we all make mistakes".

But make no mistake: once an employee makes a mistake which hurts the company in a way that some signifant amount of money has to be spent for correcting that error, chances are that employee will be fired. Of course, the same does not apply to those B managers.

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Didn't you get enough hugs today Johnny ?

Damian
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Perhaps I got too much, so I needed a change.

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Hi,

I somehow feel that Eric should have comments feature on his BLOG so one can discuss his articles/views there itself! Sometimes I have doubts regarding things he would have mentioned and I would like it to be discussed out. Certainly private emails will be bit too much. Eric, are you listening???

JD
http://jdk.phpkd.org

JD
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

They say that a college degree won't guarantee a good job. Correct. But it increases the chances of getting a good job over someone without the diploma.

There are no guarantees in life. But there are ways to increase our chances for a better life. Constant learning is most certainly one of them.

Chi Lambda
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Gee, what so awesome in this article ? "Keep on studying" ? "Learn from your own mistakes" ? Do you really need some Eric to tell you that ?

Evgeny Goldin
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Evgeny Goldin

Just wanted to say the very same thing: What is so special about that page?

Ignore my ignorance
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

It's all Eric, you know. Everything Joel and Eric has to say automatically becomes great, awesome, smart and brilliant. Even when they're stating the obvious, IMHO.

Evgeny Goldin
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Well I think Joel sometimes explains the obvious in an exceptionally clear and entertaining way, but also has many original insights (also explained well).  That's what's good about the articles.

As far as this one, I wasn't that impressed.  He was using the "device" of calculus to make an obvious point, but as I pointed out, I don't think it really worked.  It had some superficial charm but ultimately the device distracted from the main point rather than driving it home.

Andy
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Since I'm about to have my 1st baby in 2 months time (hopefully), just wondering how do you teach these values to your kids?

Papaya
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Papaya - don't have any and even afraid to think about ..

Evgeny Goldin
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

While the ain message of the article is well taken, I do have some problems with its context.
As Eric indicates, this writing is a response to a discussion surrounding some disharmony with respect to the pricing for the PDC.
Microsoft has been hyping the PDC quite extensively to a wide developer audience. Problem is that now there is a large body of developers that would like to attend this great event, but simply can not afford to. Entrance fee is 1.700$, so including travel expences this would quickly rise to 2.500$ at least for the week.
Now as Eric also points out there where a number of people hitting back on the "it's too expensive" mob and basically saying: if you want to be a careerwise responsible developer, then you should just eat this as a normal investment in your future.
Now don't get me wrong here, but while I agree with the "life long learning" theme embedded here, there is a finacial reality involved as well.
Let's see. Say you take down 25.000$ net a year (after taxes, social security etc.etc.). you spend around 400$ on books for keeping up-to-date, you spend around 1.000$ a year on a home computer so you can experiment with new stuff, of course you need broadband Internet to keep up, that is another 600$, spend another 500$ on user-group meetings, magazines etc. and now 2.500$ for the PDC?
That is 5.000$ spend on "being responsible for your carreer". 1/5 of your net pay.
Hey, I enjoy learnign and new stuff, and I'd love to meet al the people that will be there, but as my emplyer is unwilling to spend, I am not going to draw upon my own means for this, for the same reason I will not buy an S class Mercedes. I am sure it is a really great set of wheels, but I can't afford it.

As for the guy who asked wether the PDC would be a good way to spend the training budget: I'd rather take the PDC than two typical training courses (which will cost you about the same).

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Useless rant, reading this article and going to the PDC is about as useful as getting your wisdom teeth done. You'll feel you've accomplished something. But not really.

Anonymous
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

While the article's point may have been pretty simple, I always wonder why it's so hard for people to grasp it.

This will sound supremely arrogant, but here goes...

In 10 years of developing software, I've only worked with *one* person who actually made more than a half-hearted interest in learning and making himself more valuable. I've worked in small and large companies and with just the one exception, all of the developers I've worked with there just to fill a chair and get a paycheck.

That wouldn't be so bad but these same people bitch and moan when they get laid off or someone their junior (me) gets promoted over them.

I've met plenty of true professionals at conferences, trade shows etc, so one might guess that those places seem to attract a higher number of professionals that what you see "in the field."

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I'm not a Microsoft developer, but it sounds like the PDC is no more expensive than similar conferences. $1500-ish is typical for a major Java or Oracle conference.

If you are going to go to a big conference, and especially if you're going to pay for it yourself, one good technique is to start looking for early announcements. You can often save at least a few hundred dollars by registering before the earliest registration deadline.

Beth Linker
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I don't think I've ever learned a goddamn useful thing ever at any conference I've been to, and I've been to quite a few, including past PDCs.

After a few failed attempt to use conferences for actually learning something I now view them as a people-networking experience and nothing more.

I will allow that YMMV, and some people may really like the instruction style at conferences but for me all of my useful post-school learning comes from looking at other people's code (peers at work, code from books, open source code, whatever) and reading books or reference materials like MSDN or other sources like Google/Deja's usenet archives.

Mister Fancypants
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Wow.  I read that article, and was envigorated by it and agreed with it strongly (recognizing that the calculus was a simplistic model).

And I return to this discussion to see a lot of dismissiveness, where one-off experiences and broad generalizations are used to discount the truth of the article.

I think Eric's got it absolutely right.  You have to improve your learning, and amazingly few people do this.

Or do you think that increasing your learning is not useful?  Or do you simply not increase your learning?

The Pedant, Brent P. Newhall
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

If you read the objections carefully, no one is objecting to the truth of the article, but to its obviousness, its presentation, and the relevance of the value of learning to the issue of whether you should pay to go to PDC.

Who here is AGAINST learning is a stupid question.  But recognize that there are other ways to learn besides going to PDC.  And there are other ways to get ahead in your career besides learning technical skills (like networking, like learning not to make the boss feel inferior, learning your business domain).

Admittedly very few people do go out and learn new things, but I think the people on this board are more likely to be the ones that do.  Hence the dismissal of the article.

Summary:

Learning is good + illustration by silly calculus device => you should pay a lot of money to go to PDC

Conclusion:

Author needs to brush up on rhetoric.

Andy
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Yeah, what Andy said...

I read the entire article and what I came away with is that the author spent a lot of words telling us:

* Always keep learning

* Learn from your mistakes


Are these points really a revelation for anyone out there?

Also, I heavily disagree with the simplistic view that "some people are just smarter than you are". 

While some people are obviously hobbled (mental retardation, etc) I believe that amongst those with non-physically damaged brains we all start out at about the same place.  Some people just apply themselves more and/or find their "special interest" niche earlier in life. 

From his point of view as expressed in the article it sounds like an RPG game where you have a set intelligence and that pretty much binds you, which I think is total bullshit.

Mister Fancypants
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Eric is half a 'B'.

blinded by magnificence
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

"Follow this career advice and there is a good chance you will eliminate 90% to 99% of the job opportunities that come your way.  :-("

Given that 90% to 99% of all "job opportunities" are things that you want to eliminate as quickly as possible, I would think that deserves a happy smilie  :)

No seriously, I want to eliminate all "opportunities" to have a manager suck the joy out of my life and prevent me from learning new and useful things that will make my career and life better. Those are opportunities that noone needs.

Of course, the trick is to be in a situation where you can avoid the jobs that make suicide attractive until the good ones become available.

andrew m
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Mark Hoffman wrote:

"In 10 years of developing software, I've only worked with *one* person who actually made more than a half-hearted interest in learning and making himself more valuable. I've worked in small and large companies and with just the one exception, all of the developers I've worked with there just to fill a chair and get a paycheck. "

I've found that employers are not interested in people that want to improve themselves.  Employers want people that will fill a cog in a machine and go nowhere.

blinded by magnificence
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

These negative criticisms are what happens when you strongly hype an article that happens to resonate strongly with you. ;)  Everyone has a more critical eye...

anonymous
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

It's good to see this critical evaluation on JOS. I think anonymous and Fancypants, and possibly others, have nailed it. The article presents nothing beyond platitudes, and its central premise is contentious anyway.

I've always found that these types of events give a feeling that you're learning something, but, in reality, it's much more effective to look up the material and learn it yourself. That way you actually do know it, and it's a lot quicker.

Contrary to the assertions by Mark Hoffman and others above, I think these types of conferences are the preserve of B-graders, the people who aren't really very good learners. They sit there, soak in the jargon, and go back to make often foolish decisions in their workplaces.

.
Thursday, August 21, 2003

1. Lets start with a minor issue:

<quote from Mister FancyPants>
Also, I heavily disagree with the simplistic view that "some people are just smarter than you are". 
</quote>

Simplistic perhaps, but I would agree.

I went to the top performing high school in my country and in that environment you really do see people that are 'smarter than you are'. Not to say that they will always perform better - true. Erick makes the same point:

<quote from Eric Sink>
The truth is that some people are just naturally smarter than you are, and that's the way it is.  But G is not the sole determiner of your success.  I have known some truly gifted programmers with lame careers, and I have also known some less-gifted folks who have become extremely successful.
</quote>

2. Now a more serious one:

<quote from Mister FancyPants>
From his point of view as expressed in the article it sounds like an RPG game where you have a set intelligence and that pretty much binds you, which I think is total bullshit.
</quote>

A text without context is a subtext for a prooftext. Or, in other words, by taking a very small part of Eric's article you have made it sound like he is saying something which is the opposite of what he actually said. Whether you agree with his view that 'some people are just smarter than you are', it doesn't affect the main thrust of his argument - that you need to use Constant Learning to increase your Cluefulness. This is quite different to 'you have a set intelligence and that pretty much binds you'.

3. And another one:

<quote from Mister FancyPants>
Are these points really a revelation for anyone out there?
</quote>

There is a difference between knowledge and 'knowledge'. Maybe its something that everyone knows - but how many people actually put it into practice?

As an example, about once a week, a co-worker asks me 'how do you know all this stuff' (and we aren't talking rocket science here - I am a VB programmer). My answer is usually something like 'I read alot' or 'I picked it up a few years ago.' The concept of reading or developing your skills is quite foreign to many (too many) people.

Which is why Eric's 'reminder' is helpful to many people...

Matthew
Thursday, August 21, 2003

"Which is why Eric's 'reminder' is helpful to many people..."

He's preaching to the choir.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, August 22, 2003

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