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”
“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.
Continue reading “The importance of experience”
It’s surprising how often I’ve been asked this question over the last few months. Once upon a time — some dozen years ago — I was a technical writer. I wrote manuals, technical documentation, and various forms of other literature for a living. And, to be quite honest, I hated it.
Well, hate is a strong word. I got bored of doing it. (Long story, suffice to say, I ended up making websites for a living.) But certainly the skill has never left me (I still write documentation to this day as part of my job), and I do know a few things about writing clearly and effectively.
Sadly, it’s not something that is done particularly well…
Continue reading “How to be a Technical Writer”
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”
On Saturday, my wife Alex and I went out on our own. (We manage to do this every couple of weeks thanks to Alex’s mother, who comes over to watch the kids so we can behave more like adults for a while.) On our little excursion, we spontaneously decided to go up the Calgary Tower, for no other real reason than to take a look.
The sun was getting low in the sky, and the horizon was nearly completely obscured by haze (likely due to the city drying out from a few days of light-to-heavy rain). The shadows cast through the downtown were fantastic, the trees (most of which now have leaves) and the fields of grass were bright green, and light glinted off the glass of a hundred skyscrapers.
And I realised — almost surprisingly — that from way up there, Calgary really does look quite beautiful.
Continue reading “The need for the Big Picture”
Not so long ago, when I managed a team, I used to coach people in their career directions. (How well I coached people is another matter, and I can only leave it to those people to assess my real effectiveness.) I’d help them understand their successes, their opportunities, and help them avoid the pitfalls that were common with advancement. Everyone wants to get ahead, after all.
One thing I always cautioned more senior people was the “fork in the road”, the point at which you decided on your “next” direction. One avenue would take you down the road of the specialist, the code ninja who could seemingly pull miracles out of thin air. The other avenue was expanding one’s view beyond the initial skill to encompass the Big Pictureâ„¢. In other words, management.
Watch out for that wrong turn — here be dragons.
Continue reading “The fork in the road”
If I were to summarise the last ten years of my career prior, specifically from about June 2000 to June 2010, it would look something like this: web developer, specialised web developer, senior web developer, junior manager, manager, director, technical architect. What, in many ways, looks largely like an “upward” progression in knowledge work.
During these last ten years, and notably the latter five, I trended more and more away from programming and more into management. I managed people, I managed projects, I managed implementations, and pretty much managed to avoid coding of any kind. I convinced myself that it made more sense for me to focus on the higher-level technology planning than it did on the actual implementation — there were others who did it better than me, and it was a waste of effort to try do it all.
And suddenly, I found myself checkmated.
Continue reading “The development in my life”
Back at the beginning of the year, I took a different direction in my career. Until December, I’d been a career man — work for one company. Work your butt off, be the cog in the machine, and do the best you could to stay safe. It was what I knew, and it generally worked well. Or rather, worked me well. (I’m sure you know what I mean…)
Things changed, and I went the route of contracting, something I hadn’t really done since I left university. Initially, it was with my friends over at Evans Hunt Group. The result was VisitCalgary.com. Since then, I opted to take a vacation, and now it’s time for me to get my own little consultancy off and running.
It’s time for me to Get Geeqee.
Continue reading “Get Geeqee”
When we returned from Costa Rica, our plans had been pretty simple: take off the month of December to get settled, and then head back to work in January. Plans changed shortly after arriving back home, and suddenly I found myself without a job. Bills still had to be paid, food purchased, and because we live in a city that is far too unfriendly to public transit, we also had to buy a car.
A few years ago, this probably would have put me into a panic. And a few years ago, it would have been just me to worry about. Now I have a wife and two kids (well, one at the time, and one on the way) to support. Really, that should have put me off the deep end. Having lived through a significant amount of adversity over the last couple of years, though, I found myself not even concerned about the prospect of unemployment.
I attribute that to having kept contact with just the right people.
Continue reading “Visit Calgary: You're Very Welcome!”
No-one is ever born knowing everything. Like all animal life, we enter the world devoid of knowledge, having only the instincts innate to our species after countless eons of evolution, adaptation, and survival of the fittest. But those instincts can only grant us so much in the act of survival — they do very little for us as higher-intelligence beings. Instincts can only assist survival, in near-epic troglodytic proportions.
We need teachers to help us move past mere instinct towards self-sufficiency, and self-learning. They teach us mathematics, communication, sciences, and art. As intelligence grows, we shift away from teachers, and look more towards peers — people who are similar, but have more experience. They are our mentors, ones who offer their abilities as examples for us to learn from, and models upon which we can hope to improve ourselves.
And anyone who thinks they can survive without a mentor has truly never had one.
Continue reading “Mentorship is a must”