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Chuck Went To Hawaii

Rodney, Allstate is having an email issue and they need you onsite.

When?

Whenever the next plane can get you there. Preferably a flight today, if not, first thing tomorrow. You’re going to be be there until it’s resolved!

This was our life. We were the ultimate WordPerfect road warriors. (How I Saved the EPA, Don’t Tell Pete.) Each member of the WordPerfect SWAT team had their own speciality. I was an email expert. We had experts in networks, printers, database. . .if WordPerfect had a product they sold to corporate customers, we had someone on the SWAT team that dealt with it.

And we could be sent on a moments notice. These were pre-9/11 days. It was not uncommon to arrive at the airport 15 minutes prior to your plane leaving. I once ran from one end of Salt Lake City International airport to the other and literally had to make them open the door and let me on the plane.

But, the job was fun. We thought we were making a lot of money, and we knew we were making a big difference to our customers.

The SWAT Team had two managers, Chuck and Cary. I never really figured out why the team had two. It was rare to interact with them. We were all experienced engineers, and long time WordPerfect employees. We didn’t need a lot of management coaching or direction.

The managers were not always the most aware of how their actions affected the team. Every Friday on www.rodneymbliss.com I explain one of my management rules. Generally, I’ve developed the rules from experiences that I’ve had. I’ve seen what worked and what didn’t. I’m not sure that Chuck and Cary had a set of management rules. They were very happy being in charge. That attitude showed up in multiple ways, but two instances stand out.

I’ve talked before about the beautiful landscapes here in Utah. And even talked about the view from WordPerfect’s offices like this picture of Building G where support lived.

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Ironically, despite the gorgeous vistas, or perhaps because of them, the support cubicles on the 2nd floor, had six foot high walls, even next to the windows. Getting a seat by the window wasn’t necessarily a perk since the partition walls gave you the same drab view as everyone else.

After the team had been up and running for few months, C&C got booted out of their office and moved to cubicles. This isn’t uncommon and wasn’t a demotion for them. Although, like anyone they were disappointed to not have an office.

Imagine our surprise then when we came in the next week and found C&C in window cubicles with 3 foot partition walls. They had a gorgeous view and didn’t even need to stand up for it.

So, how’d you score a half-height wall?

We’re managers.

And that was their entire explanation. They had no concept of what effect it would have on their team. We had all been sitting in these exact same cubes for months without a window. We were told that company policy prevented lower walls. It pretty much soured us all on our managers. They weren’t looking out for us, but they were certainly looking out for themselves!

And that brings me to the second example of terrible leadership. As SWAT team members we went wherever the customers were. Sometimes, it was Nutley, NJ, or the suburbs of Chicago or Detroit. Other times it was downtown Washington DC or Seattle or LA. You pretty much had the luck of the draw when it came to locations.

So, imagine our excitement when a company in Hawaii started to have a network issue. We weren’t sure if it was really a network issue and Edward would go or if it was an email issue and I’d go. Either way, the prospect of a trip to Hawaii on the customer dime was pretty exciting and the entire team followed the developments closely.

Finally the decision was announced: Chuck was going.

Huh? Chuck NEVER went out on calls. And the absolute worst part of our job was the uncertainty. You were flying into a screwed up system and were expected to fix it. The fact that you might get a nice dinner afterwards, and get a chance to see some of the sights was almost an afterthought.

But, Hawaii. We were talking about maybe taking a vacation day or two after solving the issue and before flying back. Who knew when we’d get to Hawaii again, if ever?

And now, we were informed that management would take care of the Hawaii client. It was one more example of inexperienced managers not thinking about how their actions would impact the team.

In a few weeks I’ll address the management rule: Tell Them It’s All About You, Make It All About Them. If you treat your team well, they will move heaven and earth to live up to your expectations. I’ve had teams that literally created miracles because I asked them to. Doesn’t mean I’m a great manager, but I’ve always tried to make it about the team and not about me, the manager.

So what? you might think. It’s one trip. And it’s a trip to HAWAII!! The employees will get over it! Won’t they?

Think about this, it’s been more than 20 years since Chuck snagged that plum assignment to Hawaii rather than let it go to one of his employees. Did they get over it? Sure. Did they ever forget it? Not so far.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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Flirting With Disaster (Writing Streaks)

Thank you for reading www.rodneymbliss.com. Whether you are here for the first time, or you have been with me from the beginning, I appreciate everyone who takes a few minutes out of their day to come read my ramblings on leadership, teams, business, computers and the occasional sidetrack into canning or horticulture.

I typically don’t write about writing. There are many wonderful blogs and books about the art and science of putting words on a page, this isn’t one of them.

Today I’m making an exception. Hopefully you are reading this on Wednesday April 16th, starting at 7:00am Mountain Time. That’s when it’s been scheduled for. I’m writing it on Sunday April 13th at 8:30am.

Why is this significant? And why am I risking driving away the few readers who didn’t bail when I said I was going to talk about writing? Because there’s a chance that WordPress will screw up the posting and I’ll break a streak that is very important to me.

This blog started on November 26th, 2012 with Back Where It All Began. But, I was sporadic. I posted a couple of times per week. Starting on March 28th, 2013 I started writing every weekday with (Mom Always Said To Take a Coat).

Since then I have managed to post something every Monday – Friday for 56 weeks in a row. That’s not a hugely impressive streak when I compare it to my friend Howard Tayler. He’s been writing Schlock Mercenary every day since June 12th, 2000, over 13 years. Howard typically has a buffer of about 30 days of comics that are already complete. If he gets down to two weeks, he starts to panic and pushes other stuff aside to get his buffer back up.

But, I am terrible at keeping a buffer. Not traveling for the past year made it easy to be lazy, if you can call writing 500 to 1000 words every day lazy. I’m currently on a trip to San Antonio. I’m not sure if I’ll have internet access. So, I’m writing this buffer.

If you got this Wednesday morning at 7:00am, then my streak is intact. If not, I apologize for messing up my schedule and we’ll start a new streak when I get back on Thursday.

Again, I typically don’t find writing about writing very interesting and I appreciate you reading to the end of this post. But mostly, I appreciate you showing up every day to see what crazy thoughts on management and leadership I came up with.

See you tomorrow.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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What’s Next? (Not What I thought)

Bruce’s facebook post seemed simple enough. It was a pattern puzzle. Bruce is a friend from high school and absolutely brilliant, so I enjoyed the prospect of challenging myself on a puzzle he created.

Given the following sequence, what comes next???
Blue
Red
Yellow
Blue
Green
Red
???

Stop reading now if you want to try to figure it out yourself. I’ll wait.

. . .

. . .

Did you find the pattern? Post your solution in the comments. Here’s what I came up with

Purple

My thinking went like this:

Primary colors
Blue
Red
Yellow

Primary color with “opposite” secondary color
Blue -
Green – combine primary color above and primary not below
Red -
Purple – combine primary above (red) and not primary below (yellow, assumed since it’s the one not yet listed.)

In addition I assumed that after purple would be yellow, the next primary color and then orange, the third secondary color. After orange I assumed he would go back to blue and possibly go to tertiary colors, but I wasn’t sure I could keep the pattern straight.

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The correct answer?

Blue

That really threw me. I went back over my logic, and couldn’t find anyway that blue would be next. Finally, I admitted I was stumped and asked Bruce for the logic behind an answer of blue.

Here‘s where he pointed me.

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Google’s 1997 logo.

Sometimes I tend to overthink things. . .by a lot.

Here’s the business tie-in. We make assumptions everyday. I’m in the middle of a very big, very stressful project at work. We are working to launch a service for a very important client. The client wants us to run everything past them. We are defining what programs phone agents will have on their desktop. The client wants to approve every.single.program.

More than once we have assumed that we knew what they wanted, or knew what they would approve. And when we check with them, we discover their answer is “blue.” Not, purple followed by yellow and then probably orange. No, just blue.

And to us, to me, it sometimes makes no sense. Why blue? Why do it this way when I think I’ve figured out a way that makes sense, that follows a pattern, that is logical?

Because the customer can see the Google logo from last century and they are basing their requirements on criteria that I don’t even understand exist.

Definitely illustrates why it makes sense to ask about everything. . .and sometimes Google the answer.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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Mourning The Death Of A Friend. . . And Worrying About Zombies!

It wasn’t really unexpected. In fact, we’ve really seen it coming for months. It really became clear a few months ago that the end was close. We’ve even know the exact date for weeks.

April 8th, 2014

Whistler was barely 12 years old. August 15 would have made Whistler officially a teenager. . .ancient really.

You probably didn’t call it Whistler, that was a development name. You called it Windows XP. I got busy with other posts last week and didn’t have a chance to properly say goodbye.

The name was meant to emphasize Microsoft’s Windows eXPerience. It was a great name for a great product.

I remember the release of Windows XP, August 15, 2001. It replaced the abysmal Windows Millennium (We Didn’t Come Here To Win The Boot). Millennium was so bad that we didn’t run it internally. We were still on Windows 98 when XP became available. Of course, we were running it well before August. But, we knew it was a solid product. I don’t think anyone knew how solid.

Microsoft’s biggest competitor has often been it’s own previous versions. Trying to knock XP off been very frustrating for the marketers in Redmond.

I have a personal software Hall Of Fame. There are only a few products in it. DOS 3.3, Lotus 123, WordPerfect 4.2 and Windows XP. So, it really is with a touch of sadness that I watch the death of Windows XP.

The product didn’t really die, of course. April 8th is just the day that Microsoft quit supporting it.

Big deal, you might think. Who really cares? My copy still works great.

And it does, but the reason you should care is Heartbleed. Heartbleed is the name of a security flaw in the OpenSSL standard that governs secure connection with your bank, online merchants and pretty much any site that puts that little locked padlock image.

What does Heartbleed have to do with the death of Windows XP? Just this, if someone finds a Heartbleed type bug in Windows XP, Microsoft will not fix it. Think about that for a moment. Many of us hate that autoupdate that sometimes reboots our laptops and resets our location in our Firefly viewing marathon. But, we know that the reboot was to make our software more secure. We grumble and then take our medicine.

Well, the doctor will no longer be making a house call. We are on our own.

This is where the fear of zombies comes in. Windows XP is still running all over the world. Of the 6 Windows PCs in my house, half of them are still running XP and will for the foreseeable future.

They are the walking dead. Not yet dead and gone, but not exactly alive. And while it may not be the Zombie Apocalypse, it’s still a serious security risk. I will run my ancient computers until they won’t turn on because the hardware is too old for Windows 7 or 8 and there are apps that only run on those ancient dinosaurs (Breaking Out Of The Upgrade Cycle.)

But, for new computers I’ll go with updated software.

Windows is dead. Long Live Windows!

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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I Want The Jacks Not The Balls

rodneymbliss:

Management Rules That Make No Sense #7

It’s not what you think.

Originally posted on Rodney M Bliss:

The best developer to ever work for me did not come highly recommended. Sure, he was recommended, but frankly the recommendation came with a caveat, “Great developer, spotty work history.” The fact was he had never stayed at a company for longer than a few months. I think his shortest stint was actually measured in hours.

Dave (www.heartmindcode.com) came to work for me when I was the Executive Vice President of Agile Studios. RESMARK was our biggest client, but we did lots of other projects as well. We had a President, I was the EVP and we had a guy, Bob, in charge of the developers. Dave was hired as a code monkey. He jumped in and started making a difference right away. I started pulling him more toward the RESMARK development. Now, technically Bob was in charge of all our development projects, but Bob was a little…

View original 1,162 more words

Up Through The Rabbit Hole

One foot by one foot.

One square foot.
20140409-231645.jpg

Not big enough to hardly reach into. Certainly not big enough to climb through. And the concrete ceiling was only about 2 feet above the acoustical tile ceiling that I needed to climb into.

I was a making more money than I had ever made in the past. In addition to my campus job working in the telephone office, I had picked up a summer job working for a company hired to rewire the entire BYU campus. Three things stick out in my memory about the wiring job.

First, it was the first job that I ever got a paid holiday. No one worked on the 4th of July, but we all got paid. As a 24 year old newlywed who’s first car was $500, a paid holiday was an amazing gift.

Second, we got to see parts of BYU campus that none of my classmates even knew existed. And that led to the third thing that stood out.

I spent most of my days crawling around in ceilings. . . and hoping to not fall out of them.

How much of our daily lives do we take for granted? Do you remember how excited you were to buy your first car? I do. It was that $500 Mazda. We bought it used from a less reputable dealer with money that my inlaws gave us for a wedding present. In fact, the car had no catalytic converter, even though it was supposed to. We didn’t know to check. Oh to be that young and naive again.

The car died in a scary crash as my lovely wife was bringing me a homemade apple pie. She was turning right and someone turned in front of her. In our view she had the right of way. However, the guy that hit her was the radio announcer for BYU’s basketball team. And the accident happened on campus. There was no way he was going to be found at fault.

I still remember how I felt when she called me. . .Helpless.

Lots of memories in that car.

Today, I have three cars and while each has a history, I doubt that 25 years from now I will be remembering the times we had with them.

Many of you know I recently started a new job. It’s a very interesting and challenging job and I’m excited to have it. But, it’s a job. Now, my FIRST job? Stable boy. I told the story in The Cow In The Cemetery.

Finally, I remember the first time I came to Utah. I was a missionary at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT. (The Day I Found Out I Was A Jerk.) The mountains were awe inspiring. They still inspire me. (Rocky Mountains Of Perspective.) But, not like they did those two months back in 1984.

So, that first paid holiday really meant a lot.

My time in the ceiling was both exciting and at times scary. First, to fit through a one square foot hole, I had to take off all my tools. I had to remove my belt. Then, I would put my arms above my head and cross my wrists to pull my shoulders in. My waist was 32″. If you do the math (Circumference = pi * diameter) if my waist were a perfect circle the diameter would be 11″. It was a TIGHT fit.

After getting through the hole, it was a challenge to remain in the ceiling. Those acoustical ceilings have a deceptively solid look. I would balance on the 1″ wide metal supports. I eventually learned that I couldn’t crawl through any space smaller than my head. (That situation actually came up on a frequent basis.)

None of the other students on our crew would do it. And in hindsight, that was pretty memorable too.

So, if you are starting out on your career. Or even if you have an established career and you are making a change to a new company or a new area. Remember to look for and enjoy those firsts. I think the real tragedy of growing old is when we no longer can recognize “firsts” in our lives.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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Is It Vandalism If You Are Getting Paid?

They were drunk. Everyone admits that the only reason they did it was they had consumed too much of the free beer. Still, they weren’t THAT drunk. The leather couch was worth at least $1000, probably more. They did check for people walking below before they dumped it off the third floor balcony. It crumbled into a pile of leather, wood and stuff on the floor of the atrium.

A drunken frat party?

Nope.

A bunch of high school kids who got into their parents liquor cabinet?

Nope.

They were a collection of millionaires. And later no one would care about the couch. . .or the holes in the walls. They did get a little upset about the impromptu pool.

Where do you draw the line between blowing off steam and going over the line? I’ve seen justification for raucous celebrations by the phrase “work hard, play hard.”

The University of Connecticut mens basketball team won the national championship this week. According to a CBS News report,

Jubilant fans celebrating UConn’s Monday night national basketball championship win smashed a window in an engineering building, broke street lights and overturned furniture inside the school’s student union.

“A lot of it was alcohol-related,” Breen said. “There was breech of peace, destruction of property, and we had a fireworks charge.”

Ironically, this sounds very similar to what happened at Microsoft. Are they really that much different? Police arrested dozens in the UConn case, while at Microsoft folks got ship it awards and congratulations.

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I see three major differences:

1. The Microsoft guys (and women) had permission to be crazy. The company did eventually crack down a little. It involved the Art Department requesting that they be informed before any future Shipping Parties so they could remove the original art work from the building.

Brian Valentine, the director over the Exchange team held a meeting when the Exchange group moved into a brand new building. He announced that the parking garage seemed to have too many handicap parking spots. He then reached in to a bag and held up a tow chain.

I’ve got a chain and a truck that anyone is free to borrow to fix it.

2. The Exchange team only trashed their own stuff. Unlike the rowdy (rioting?) college kids, the guys on the Exchange team mostly just broke stuff in their own building. There was no one who was going to come and complain. . .well there might have been, but all those people were already getting drunk at the party.

3. Most importantly, the Exchange programmers, and testers, and admins, and trainers, and marketing folks, and everyone else actually contributed to the success of the product. The kids in Connecticut didn’t do anything other than get accepted to a University that has a really good basketball team. In the Microsoft case, those guys throwing the couch off the balcony just made the company millions of dollars. Buying new furniture and fixing some holes in the wall were considered a small price to pay.

I think they did draw the line at the green jello wrestling. . .especially when the “ring” broke and spilled all over the carpet. But, that’s a story for another day.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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