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?

Continue reading “Dispelling a myth of centralized IT”

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”

How to fix the Calgary Board of Education

I’ve been wrestling with the Calgary Board of Education for a couple of years, now. And it’s not for anything complicated. To be honest, all I have is a simple hope: to have my children go to a school where they don’t have to worry about if they’re staying in the school, or if there will be a school at all. Note that this is a “hope”, not anything more concrete…

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize a few nasty things about how the public education system works in this city. The internals of the CBE are highly secretive (finding out who is actually in charge of certain things is about as easy as learning the inner workings of CSIS), and so intensely political that decisions appear to be made utterly at random, against student interests. None of this seems to go through check-and-balance because … well, there’s no accountability to anyone, nor does anyone take responsibility.

As a result the CBE, as a whole, is failing. And that needs to change.

Continue reading “How to fix the Calgary Board of Education”

What Canadian politicians have forgotten

[It should go without saying that this is an opinion piece: my opinion. It may not be yours. Politically, I’ve been centre most of my life. Today? I genuinely don’t know.]

Alberta has entered another provincial election, our fifth since the beginning of the millennium (that’s every three years, on average). And in Alberta, a province of wealth and entitlement, that means the old guard fending off competitors who dare lay siege to the castle, replete with feces-slinging (we’re well past mere mud), ethically-laden promises, and scare tactics, from all sides.

Canada is also heading down the road to a federal election, which by schedule we will see this fall. We will likely see the same slinging and fearmongering, not only because the same mentalities are at play, but because we’ve been witnessing the preamble for several months, now.

And all of it has shown one thing: that our politicians have forgotten about Canadians.

Continue reading “What Canadian politicians have forgotten”

Selling the awful to the angry

Yesterday evening, my family trucked down to 96th Ave SW, invited by the Calgary Board of Education (along with the other families in the Westgate School Bilingual Spanish program) to view the “new” school, Eugene Coste Elementary. It was supposed to be a chance to see the new location, and ask questions of the CBE Area IV director, as well as the Planning & Transportation folks.

I emphasize the word “supposed” — that was the CBE’s perspective. They thought they would get a lot of interest, and a lot of people who were genuinely happy that a solution had been found for the accommodation woes at Westgate School, which is at over 90% of its rated capacity.

But, funny thing, there weren’t many happy people.

Continue reading “Selling the awful to the angry”

Calgary Board of Education: we need a decision on Westgate Elementary

Hi, CBE? I’m a concerned parent. Yeah, I know you’ve heard from a lot of us in the last year regarding what you want to do with Westgate Elementary. You’ve heard so much, you’re not listening to us anymore, which I can understand — there’s only so much you can hear before you’ve heard enough.

But we — that’s you as the Board, and us as parents — have a problem: there’s no decision. The school is still over-populated, and despite having pulled another grade out, there’s going to be too many students for next year.

So … what’s going on? We need an answer. And preferably now, and not at the end of this school year.

Continue reading “Calgary Board of Education: we need a decision on Westgate Elementary”

Marketing Red Herring: QR Codes

I’m in digital marketing. I spend a lot of time dealing with ways of people visit websites to get them to spend money. (That’s the short version. The really short, and moderately soul-suckingly depressing version. The long version is … an entire career.) So I deal with a lot of different ideas, tools, methodologies, and directions that — in theory — make everyone’s lives easier.

Every so often, we get hit with buzzwords. Sometimes, they’re tech-related, like DHTML, AJAX, and HTML5 (remember, I deal with these things every day — I know what they really mean). Sometimes, they’re things like “progressive enhancement” or “responsive design” (yes, buzzwords — they can grossly over-simplify reality). And then there’s the Big Shiny™ stuff that distracts from simplicity.

Let me tell you a few things about QR Codes

Continue reading “Marketing Red Herring: QR Codes”

Thoughts on Microsoft Surface

Okay, you know my opinions on Microsoft. They’re not exactly private. So yes, I definitely went into yesterday’s announcement with low expectations.

Microsoft has really only done one thing really well in the last decade, in my opinion: Xbox. That was a helluva gamble — I was in the gaming industry still when the first rumours surfaced — and Microsoft could have gone down hard. But the gamble paid off — they invested heavily in content, and (in the end) content helped win their position in the video game battlefield.

But on their software end — their traditional business — it’s a very different story. It’s been a long wait for something “better”. Windows XP has been around for a decade; it finally goes away in 2014. Windows Vista was an utter mess. Windows 7 appears to be decent, but the adoption seems to be more about having to leave XP than “oh, this is so much better than X”. Windows 8? Haven’t played with it yet, admittedly, but I just don’t hear the buzz about it. Office is an ancient standby that’s in need of a serious overhaul (really, a word processor shouldn’t occupy so much RAM). Internet Information Server (IIS) is so overcomplicated as to make me wonder if someone wrote it on a dare. Don’t even get me started on IE.

Microsoft has rested on its corporate laurels for most of its life, continuing along without any real serious change. (Debate me, please! I would love to be proven wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.) We’ve not seen anything truly new.

That includes the Microsoft Surface tablet. It’s a mobile device that runs Windows. It’s been done before — the Microsoft phones, for example. (Windows RT, CE, 8, etc. It’s still Windows, regardless of the flavour.) They’ve not exactly taken off with the popularity of the iPhone or Android-based phones. The platform seems solid, but the overall environment (media integration, for example) is absent.

The tablet itself is … well, just another tablet. There was not one innovative thing announced yesterday. Oh, the keyboard? That’s not part of the tablet — that’s an accessory, and it’s already been done. It’s a smarter implementation, yes, but nothing truly new. The Surface tablet, in fact, reminds me much more of the RIM Playbook than anything else — too complicated to be a simple device, which is what makes the iPad so brilliant.

And this morning, I realised the other thing Microsoft has failed upon — releasing it. They’re taunting people with the next-nearest thing to vapourware: an unfinished product. It was so bad at the launch yesterday, that demo devices were snatched away before anyone could get any significant details on them. By comparison, Apple — the very company Microsoft is attempting to emulate, here — announces hardware by saying you can buy it today. There’s a lot to be said for immediacy. Microsoft’s announcement was the marketing equivalent of premature ejaculation.

Okay, now in Microsoft’s defence — because, yes, I do see where they’re coming from. Although Microsoft has never released a real computer of its own (they’ve done some excellent peripherals; my favourite keyboard next to the original heavy-click IBM PC keyboard was a Microsoft split keyboard), they have heavily influenced PC manufacturers for years. But that influence has … well … if you’ve gone around and looked at the recent PCs, you really have to wonder if anyone has thought outside the beige box. PC designs have changed little, and, frankly, they just ain’t sexy. They’re even more boring now than the old towers of old.

So this is Microsoft telling all their vendors that “enough is enough” — if you’re going to do something right, do it yourself. So kudos to Microsoft to stepping up to that plate, and driving it hard. This is where Microsoft could potentially change the game again — as they did with the Xbox (yes, pun intended) — and revitalise an industry that is sagging like … um … see my above comment about “premature” and draw your own conclusion.

As for my conclusion on the Surface — it changes nothing at this point. The announcement was too early, the environment undefined, and until someone antes up with a real-world demo of how awesome everything together can be, I’ll remain wanting.

Wanting Microsoft to be awesome again. I’ve been waiting a long time.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑