An open letter to Nest Labs: please don’t outsource your support

Dear Nest,

Yesterday, you launched your new Protect smoke detector product. Pretty much my entire social feed is filled with people lusting over the device, especially those — like me — who already have enjoyed the Learning Thermostat and want the amazing experience that comes with a Nest product.

You have another experience beyond your products that also receives massive accolades, and rightly so: your product support. From what I understand, you’re about to do it a terrible disservice.

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2011, A Year In Review

I like long years. Really. Yes, I complain about when things seem to drag out far longer than they should, or if I’m busting my arse far harder than I think I should. That’s part of being human, no? In the end, though, I like long years because I get to look back and not worry about how quickly time has flown by. Time should never fly by quickly — it means I’ve missed something, and … well, darn it, I just hate missing things!

This last year was a big one for me in one major way: it was a redefinition of my professional existence. Since the end of 2009, I’ve transformed from a professional manager to a … hmm … well, my title (however formal it needs to be) is “Solutions Lead”, but that belies a lot of what I do every day, and just using “web developer” or “programmer” — even with a “Senior” prefix — completely understates the reality. This year was really about taking all the skills and knowledge I’d acquired as a leader, and merging that back into my day-to-day development practices.

And that, as the saying goes, was only the tip of the iceberg…

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Alberta communications companies suck

It’s about as official as it gets, now. We leave Costa Rica on 8 December. Which means that on the morning of 9 December, we’re going to be needing a few things. We’re trying to establish as much of that as we can remotely, so that it’s “in place” when we arrive. It just makes things easier, right?

Well, it would make things easier if we could actually set things up properly. Therein lies the problem — it’s not that easy to do! Especially when it comes to the Holy Trinity of communications services: phone, internet, and TV.

The term “rocket science” comes to mind…

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The importance of delegation

Delegation is the act of assigning work to other people, generally people who report to you. It’s supposed to be a way to ensure that the right people are doing the right jobs, and that large pieces of work will ultimately be completed. It’s something every manager will ultimately encounter, and their effectiveness at delegation often reflects the performance of a team (or department).

In many ways, it’s more art than it is skill. You have to know a lot about other people: their knowledge, their abilities, their sense of dedication, how much information they need before starting a project, their trustworthiness. It’s not something that comes easily.  

Which leads to a sobering fact: some managers don’t delegate well, or even at all.  

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The Failure of Offshoring

A couple of years ago, I engaged in my first offshore experience, when we hooked up with a small company out of Argentina to develop and deliver some additions to a website, including the addition of a simple CMS. It had been a first crack at what would end up becoming a significant change in my career.

At the time, the experience had left a rather bad taste in my mouth, like realising that the glass of milk you’re drinking is a little off. It wasn’t that the experience was horrible, just that it could have been a lot better.  

My experiences continued with other groups, mostly in Central and South America, and also included an arm of one of our regular vendors, who shifted operations from the United States to India. And I think it might have been the point at which I decided that if the opportunity arose, I really needed to find out what offshoring was like, first-hand.

Funny how life works, eh?

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Yes, I’m still alive

You’re probably looking at the datestamp of my previous entry and wondering: Where the heck has that loser Geoff disappeared to? Well, much to your chagrin (or reassurance, depending on your point of view), I’m still very much alive.  

Yes, I’ve been very incommunicado. I’ve been exceedingly busy. Busier than I’ve been in my entire life. Busy in a way I can’t even begin to describe adequately. Busy in a way I can’t even appreciate myself.  

I’ve been here in Costa Rica for a mere 9 months. And I gotta tell ya, it feels like two years.

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I swear I’m going to kill my vendors

I don’t care what the excuse is, the reality is that I’m not getting service I expect from a vendor. I’ve been told that it’s just something I have to adapt to. That it’s the way things are done. That it’s a cultural difference. I’ve encountered a variety of these aspects since first arriving here in Costa Rica. I’ve dealt with the indifferent, the incomprehensible, the insolent, and the indescribable.  

But no matter how bad that service is, nothing excuses you from lying to me.

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Where I’ve been for the last few days

I’m in Panama. Been here since Tuesday afternoon. Been really, really busy. So far, the biggest problem I’ve had here (aside from the aforementioned busy-ness and subsequent inability to talk to my family), is that I’ve had Van Halen’s Panama stuck in my head pretty much since we left San Jose.

Damn you, David Lee Roth. Damn you!

So far, it’s a great place to visit (a post coming on this soon). But we’ve been steadily on the move.

Oy.

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Setting up the office

Getting everything going here is a bit of a challenge. There’s a lot to do, and we’re starting from scratch. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. There’s currently four people down here working on all this, and only one of them is actually from Costa Rica.

It started a few weeks ago when we were down here on the “tour”, when we started talking about what this company should be called. We latched onto an airline theme, which led us down the road of a name (to be announced at a later date), but also for how it should look.

More on that in a moment.

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Costa Rican Interviews, Day 1

A tropical depression in the north of the country has created our weather woes of the last few days, and a heck of a downpour this morning.

Following our usual breakfast run, Joaquin arrived to pick the three of us up at 8:30 to take us downtown to the CIS / Rapp Collins office to interview candidates for our new office. We had a lot of people on the list, and we all knew it was going to be a long day.

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