Why your manager sucks

This year, I celebrate 15 years operating as a manager, in one form or another. I am by no means an expert, I certainly wouldn’t be the sort of person to conduct high-priced seminars that espouse “empowerment” or “entrepreneurism”. I’ve had the luxury of having some really good managers over the years, who were solid mentors, able to point out what it would take to guide others, to handle problems practically, and offer feedback in constructive ways.

My many years of not being stuck in the weeds has also allowed me to look around at those with similar roles, and see how they approach the same challenges. The ability to talk to them, to see the results of their labours, to hear from those they manage also lets me get a better idea of what I’m doing right, and where I can improve. That’s given me a strong sense of what makes a good manager.

Like I said, I ain’t perfect. But if your manager fails any of the following, they’re doing it wrong. Continue reading “Why your manager sucks”

Dispelling a myth of centralized IT

“Information Technology”, or IT as it’s more commonly known, tends to get a bad rap. It’s a black box to organizations, there to serve arcane purposes that always seem to have a habit of getting in everyone else’s way of doing whatever they need to be doing. The end result is the idea that “IT is evil”.

It’s a bit unfair, truth be told. IT doesn’t try to be evil (heck, some IT organizations actively espouse not being evil), it’s often a net effect of just being misunderstood. And like any misunderstood creature, problems arise, misconceptions arise, and pretty soon people are chasing down systems administrators with pitchforks, and…

Oh, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Let’s rewind a tad, shall we?

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The importance of experience

“Experience” is a tough word to use in the digital marketing industry. Quite often, it’s used to encompass one’s adventure and awareness through a user interface of an application. It’s one of the most common applications for “experience”, but it’s not the only one.

There’s also the definition that includes knowledge and wisdom, held by those who have spent years honing skills, learning from mistakes, and becoming enlightened from real-world execution.

And it’s the latter that I’m finding, more and more, to be a key to delivering the former.

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20 years from Ontario

Two decades ago today, I did something immensely stupid: I left home. Literally and figuratively. Twenty years ago, I was still sleeping in my room on Gatestone Avenue in Oakville. While I had lived on my own at university, and while I was on my co-op work terms in Ottawa, staying at home was … comfortable. And as my parents didn’t object, it seemed like a good idea. Literally leaving home wasn’t the problem — I’d already done it a dozen times.

Figuratively leaving home — notably the familiarity of the Greater Toronto area, but Ontario in general — was another matter. I’d not really lived abroad, where going to my parents’ house was something I did in an afternoon. I decided to throw myself into the world without any plan whatsoever.

Twenty years on, it was the smartest move I ever made.

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Marketing is common sense

I’ve worked in the marketing industry, in one form or another, since the mid-1990s (save for a couple-year break when I did technical writing, but we’ll ignore that for now). I’ve seen a lot in those many (many) years, but one thing has really stuck through all of that: what marketing does.

That’s not a question, it’s a realization. Truth is, most people don’t know what marketing is, or what it’s supposed to do. Most people think marketing is advertising: making TV commercials, radio blurbs, internet banners, print flyers, and so forth. To a degree, marketing is absolutely involved in that process, but the act of doing advertising is tactical, whereas marketing is strategic. And the end of the day, marketing does something that most people don’t realize:

Marketing is about creating common sense.

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Why calling people “cowboys” is wrong

You follow standards, you follow procedures, you follow policies. You’re making sure that things are done consistently, on schedule, on budget. You’re one of those people who have ensured that their work (and their legacy) will outlive you.

Then you see something that’s against everything you stand for, and the first word out of your mouth is that the antithesis of you is “a cowboy”. People nod, and comment how people shouldn’t be doing things like that.

But you know what? That’s an insult to cowboys.

Continue reading “Why calling people “cowboys” is wrong”

20 Years a Web Developer

Twenty years ago this month — and very possibly this week, though I’m not 100% certain of that — I entered into the very nascent industry of digital marketing. At the time, the project had been little more than a simple idea, something to possibly prove my own abilities, a problem that sort of needed solving. And yet, little did I know at the time, it would send me down a long and sometimes disturbingly windy path.

It’s also a milestone where one does need to consider … well, everything. Honestly, a bit of reflection and introspection is needed from time to time, but the decade markers seem to have a certain extra amount of importance. Though to be honest, that’s just a perceived thing; there’s no legal or social reason that I’m aware of. It’s more about having a well-defined chunk of time to really take that step back and say:

“Ye gods I’m getting old…”

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2012, A Year in Review

For me, 2012 was a bad year. Between a host of medical issues (brutal chest cough that led to pulled muscles, to appendicitis, to strep throat, a couple nasty colds-cum-killer flus, and a minor outpatient surgery), ridiculous amounts of stress, the ever-present struggle of being a parent to young children, a general malaise, and an unfulfilled burning need to travel, it’s truly a wonder I got out of bed in the morning.

So it wasn’t with any reservation that 2012 walked out of my life on Monday night, yet it still managed to leave me rather depressed. Sadly, 2013 woke me up looking already a lot like 2012, so I’m not sure if I’m able to look at this new year with much hope yet. Instead, I suppose I shall have to try harder to make things work more my way.

This not to say that I “didn’t like” 2012. It’s hard not to like an entire year in one’s life, especially one that brings so many new things to learn and experience. I just wish it hadn’t been so darned painful…
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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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The Annual Review

Sorry for the long silence, folks. I’ve been a very, very busy boy the last couple of months, and … well, writing hasn’t really been a high priority for me. Family, as always, comes first, with my job (which provides for said family) a very close second. Sanity has eeked its way into third place … and anyone who knows me also knows how much attention that’s getting as of late. Writing is in fourth, which is a very sad last in terms of actual attention.

So why now? Well, let’s go back to that second point. Today is my first anniversary of (full-time) work with Evans Hunt. While I had been kicking around here since January of last year, the full-time aspect is more recent, and in this case, also important…

…it’s Annual Review Day.

Continue reading “The Annual Review”