I wrote the first two paragraphs of this post in early September:
A friend asked me last week if I was following the circus of the election in the States (paraphrasing). Having formulated that question right after a week of vacation, blissfully disconnected from anything not related to the task at hand, i.e., enjoy sun and roller-coasters with my better half, the only event of significance I could come up with was about Mr. McCain’s choice of Mrs. Palin as a running mate, and mostly because it was all over the news: impossible to ignore.
Ever since Loudcloud days, I’ve been interested in the science (and art) of management. Without going into the details of Mrs. Palin’s background, I found one rather interesting point of comparison between the choices of candidates for VP. One of the more resonant criticisms of Mr. Obama has been his so-called lack of experience, and, in particular, his lack of exposure to foreign relations. This stroke me as odd given his background, but let’s for a minute say he is unable to drive decent foreign policy (decent as in effective and human). He demonstrated that he can build (and quite possibly manage) team of people that can run stuff. If he was lacking foreign politics exposure, he went and found himself a running mate with said experience (as Mr. Biden’s tenure in the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations would attest). Thus, Mr. Obama seems to have approached his choice of VP as a management choice of creating a team to run the country than for political motivations.
It’s mid October, and I am yet to figure out what Mr. McCain’s choice in Mrs. Palin brings to the table in terms of building a team.
Alexei sent out this fine piece of wisdom.
“Is not that we shoot ourselves in the foot, it’s how quickly we reload”
I picked up a copy of Michael Lopp’s Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager during my trip to California, and I’ve been nibbling on it over the past few days. I say nibbling because I have not yet taken my pencil to it, which generally requires more focus than what I’m allowed to give it right this minute.
I met Mr. Lopp a couple of years ago, and in that single encounter, we had a brief albeit rather intense conversation. I am a technical indiviaul contributor by nature, and the couple of management gigs I have been involved in were not enough to drive me to the other side. Yet I find the subject and logistics of managing people very intriguing. I had the opportunity of living under Ben Horowitz‘s indirect (i.e., I never reported to him directly) direction (or, in buzzword bingo terms, leadership), and I was amazed about his enduring care about managing the company. The interesting characteristic about his management style is that it transcended all levels of the company. Early in Loudcloud’s history, Ben would go into one of our large conference rooms to tell people about management, about how he sliced and diced the very critical problem of running the company, running organizations within the company, and running groups within said organizations. Anyone was welcome to show up, and for those of us that were individual contributors, these sessions gave us a lot of context as to why things were done one way or another. It wasn’t perfect, but it was very very very good.
Which brings me back to Mr. Lopp’s book. In the light reading I have done so far, skimming tidbits from different sections of the book, I have found very useful insights, things I have not had the time to stop and think about because, well, my regular non-management job keeps me very occupied, and not being a manager, some situations are just not there for me to consider on a daily basis. Yet it’s usefulness cannot be undervalued, even if you are sitting on the opposite end of the table facing your manager.
My recommendation: buy the book. Nibble on it. Read it. No everything in there is completely applicable (every situation, job, culture and company is different), but it is likely you’ll find a lot of goodies you can directly relate to, or, at a minimum, you can infer conclusions from. And, if you’re a valley creature as so many of us are, his insights into the culture are worthwhile reading about.
More as a go from nibbling into actually jotting notes. And oh, yeah, subscribe to his personal weblog. Well worth it.
Today is a travel day, so I watched a couple of movies: Iron Man on the flight and Vantage Point in the hotel. I enjoyed the first; I wish I could get the time back for the second. I am well aware that watching any movie requires the suppression of our reality belief system to a certain degree. It is a movie. Depending on the genre (and the mood and a host of other factors) the level of suppression may go pretty deep. I expected Iron Man to require quite a bit of suppression: the premise of the movie makes this pretty obvious. Vantage Point required, at least on a number of occasions, pretty strong suppression as well, which I did not expect (maybe mild suppression).
The plot, as action flicks/thrillers go, is pretty weak. The perspective angle isn’t there as far as I’m concerned. I could live with that. But the devil’s in the details. For it would appear it is perfectly normal for American Secret Service agents to wave their guns and fire them around civilians in front of local and national Spanish police, as well as the Civil Guard. In sovereign Spanish soil. Is it the looks? The stern faces, the black suit and [conservative] tie, the ear piece. Because when Richard T. Jones is chasing Eduardo Noriega, he first fires his gun in the air once to get people moving, and then, a few seconds later, starts shooting at Eduardo, who by now has dived into a relatively thick crowd. None of the Spanish cops seem to even blink, let alone take an unidentified male shooting into the crowd out after a foreign dignitary has been assassinated. Of course, some video-camera-toting tourist on vacation from his family can be the everyday man hero who a) records several pieces of critical footage, b) also chases Eduardo Noriega (while filming the chase!), and c) saves the little girl who chooses to stand in the middle of what appears to be a relatively busy thoroughfare at some key moment in the movie, seven blocks from where a) a president has been assassinated on live TV and b) a bomb has taken out what it would seem like a large number of people.
We may be a lot of things in Spain, and we aim for a relaxed lifestyle and all that, and Spanish police may not be be poster civil order force. But the assertion that they would simply stand there in such circumstances has nothing to do with suppressing reality checkpoints while watching a movie. It’s plain stupid, and it says something about the mainstream American vantage point as packaged by Hollywood. And if those involved with the project in Salamanca knew their own police forces were going to be portrayed a complete morons, ya les vale.