Friday, February 20, 2009

How to Manage Geeks

My Director sent this out to us for fun, but it is soooo true. So, here are the important points.

Value training.

If a boss thinks that training is a waste of money and expects you to teach yourself, you feel pretty demotivated in any job. Training matters, especially in IT, and managers must realize that and budget for it. Sometimes you get the argument that “if I give them training a competitor will hire them away.” That may be true, but the alternative is to only have employees who are too unskilled to work anywhere else. Also, if you pay them well and have good benefits, they won't go somewhere else.

Give recognition.

Since managers may not understand the work geeks do very well, it’s hard for them to recognize and reward a job well done, which hurts motivation. The solution is to work together to define a set of goals that both parties agree on. When these goals are met the geeks are doing a great job.
Keep overtime down. Avoid taking the approach of wringing as much as possible out of IT employees just because you figure they don't lead a normal life. Wrong! That’s a huge mistake and overworked geeks burn out or simply quit. It's a complete myth that long work hours are good for business.

Avoid using management-speak.

Geeks hate management-speak and see it as superficial and dishonest. Managers shouldn’t learn to speak tech, but they should drop the biz-buzzwords. A manager can say “We need to proactively impact our time-to-market” or simply use plain English and stick to “We gotta be on time with this project”. The latter makes total sense to everyone involved.

Don't try to appear smarter than the geeks.

When managers don’t know much about a technical question, they should simply admit it. Geeks respect them for that, but not for pretending to know. And they will catch it - geeks are smart.

Act consistently.

Geeks have an ingrained sense of fairness, probably related to the fact that in IT, structure and consistency is critical. The documentation can’t say one thing while the code does something else, and similarly, managers can’t say one thing and then do something else.

Don't make the mistake of ignoring the geeks.

Because managers and geeks are different types of people, managers may end up leaving the geeks alone. This makes leading them difficult, and geeks need good leadership - the same as all other personnel groups.

Include them in IT related decisions. - This never happens!

Never make decisions without consulting geeks. Geeks usually know the technical side of the business better than the manager, so making a technical decision without consulting can be one of the most costly mistakes mistakes a leader can make.

Give them the tools needed.

A fast computer may cost more money than an older one and it may not be corporate standard, but geeks use computers differently. A slow computer lowers productivity and is a daily annoyance. So is outdated software. Give them the tools they need. Understand that tools come in many forms. Caffeine is considered a standard tool among Geeks. It's good to keep a supply of the caffeinated beverages your team prefers handy.

Remember that geeks are creative workers.

Programming and system analysis are creative processes, not an industrial one. Geeks must constantly come up with solutions to new problems and rarely ever solve the same problem twice. Therefore they need leeway and flexibility. Strict dress codes and too much red tape kill all innovation. They also need creative workspace surroundings to avoid “death by cubicle”.

Recognize the outcomes of not treating geeks with respect as outlined above.

Happy geeks are productive geeks, and the most important factor is good management, tailored to their situation. Doing the opposite to what has been outlined in this article has serious consequences for your organization, including:

  • Low motivation
  • High employee turnover
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Lower productivity
  • Lower quality
  • Bad service
For the entire story, it is a good read.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th

Totally did not realize until one of the Telecom guys said something about it. Well, I will not be touching anything today.

- Should have stayed in bed!

Happy 1234567890 day!!!

February 13, 2009 4:10 AM PST
Time for Unix nerds to celebrate 1234567890 Day by Stephen Shankland

It's won't be the epochalypse of 2038, but 3:31 p.m. PST on Friday offers a moment notable enough for some Unix fans to raise a toast.

That's when Unix computer clocks will reach the time of 1234567890--1.2 billion seconds elapsed from January 1, 1970, the official beginning of the Unix epoch. The clock is used not just by Unix, but also by Linux, Java, JavaScript, Mac OS X, and various other technologies.

Various Web sites exist to help mark the occasion. Cool Epoch Countdown, which actually counts up, is the first I saw. 1234567890 Day helpfully includes links to a few parties to honor the occasion.

I'm amused by arbitrary milestones whose significance stems from the mathematical consequences of humans' 10 fingers. At least birthdays are anchored to physical reality--the actual revolution of Earth around the Sun--but when your car odometer passes 100,000 miles, it's only significant psychologically and perhaps in relation to your warranty. All the digits neatly in ascending order on a Unix clock is particularly silly given that the computers marking 1234567890 Day aren't even counting in base 10.

But hey, there's nothing wrong with a good excuse for a party, so you won't hear any complaints from me.

Just so long as those Unix sysadmins get back to work and patch things up so the computer world doesn't grind to a halt in 2038, when today's clocks would run out of positive 32-bit integers.

Update 7:54 a.m. PST: For those unfortunates out there who'll be stuck behind a computer when the moment comes, Chris Rowe teases in the comments below that his Cool Epoch Countdown site will feature some sort of a treat.

(stolen from