Tag Archives: career

pmp project management professional certification exam preparation course in a book for passing the pmp project management professional exam by william manning

New record for longest blog title I’ve ever had. I think.

First, the pros: it’s concise, finishing at a mere 91 numbered pages, including sample questions and the index.

Second, the cons: it’s 63 pages of bullet points with little-to-no explanation of terms, examples, etc.

William Manning appears to have done an admirable job of summing the salient terms and processes from the PMBOK in this absurdly-long-titled bookette.

I picked this book up recently to give an overview of the PMP exam, as I’ve been considering something of a career shift/growth move into project/product management from technical architecture and delivery. I now know that I know the vast majority of what is required for the exam, but not necessarily with the official terminology. That means I need to learn definitions and applications of terms.

I also need a “real” prep guide – one of those tomes that weighs-in closer to 500 or 800 pages, and not the mini guidette Manning has provided.

Is this a good book to get as a last-minute review of the PMP exam? I think so. Is it worth getting if you’ve never seen/done any form of PM-related work before? Absolutely not.

PMP Project Management Professional Exam Preparation Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Project Management Professional Exam. Now there’s a title.

what is the “new” python?

9 years ago, Paul Graham made a controversial statement:

[W]hen you choose a language, you’re also choosing a community. The programmers you’ll be able to hire to work on a Java project won’t be as smart as the ones you could get to work on a project written in Python. And the quality of your hackers probably matters more than the language you choose. Though, frankly, the fact that good hackers prefer Python to Java should tell you something about the relative merits of those languages.

He had a follow-up the next month to expand a little on that thought:

[Y]ou could get smarter programmers to work on a Python project than you could to work on a Java project.

I didn’t mean by this that Java programmers are dumb. I meant that Python programmers are smart. It’s a lot of work to learn a new programming language. And people don’t learn Python because it will get them a job; they learn it because they genuinely like to program and aren’t satisfied with the languages they already know.

Which makes them exactly the kind of programmers companies should want to hire.

I wonder – what is the “new” Python? If Python was what the Cool Kids™ were picking up for fun a decade ago, what is it today? R? Ruby? Or something that isn’t as well known? Ruby is two years newer than Python, but seems to have only become truly popular with the advent of Ruby-on-Rails. R may be too focused (it being designed for statistics programming), though it is also 20 years old now.

What new languages / techniques are there? Are there any? Haskell is  nearly a quarter century old. Erlang is nearly 30.

If you were a hiring manager, what would strike you as “motivated” or “must be smart” in terms of language(s) on resume?

publicizing compensation – why not?

Many (if not all) companies have provisos when you become a salaried employee that you not discuss your salary/compensation package with other employees.

Most people have been raised in a mindset, largely because their parents have worked for companies like this (and maybe their grandparents, too – it is 2013, after all, and this is not a new phenomenon), that they shouldn’t ever discuss how much they make doing job R when their friend does job H – even at a different company.

Let me state, first, that I am not going to promulgate the idea that everyone should go around bragging about how much they make – especially if you are in front of either mixed company, or in front of someone you know is having a difficult time financially- after all, who wants to be the one guy in the room making $35000 when everyone else is in the 6 figures and gloating about it? I sure wouldn’t.

However, (and maybe I’m weird – though I don’t think so) I have never cared about how much you made in comparison to myself. If we are doing the same work with the same experience and we do not have the same compensation, it implies that one of us negotiated better (I have some thoughts about negotiating, too, both published and not). If you manage to get an extra $1 an hour ($2080 more per year), that’s awesome.

Given that the previous paragraph, outside of “basic” jobs like warehouse work, cleaning cars, etc, never happens – why should anyone be surprised that not everyone has the same compensation as the next guy? Somewhere along the line we got the idea that salary+benefits needed to be “fair”. “Fair” is a concept that only exists in economic theories not based on effort. (The first thing to know about compensation is encapsulated in the book Everything is Negotiable – and a related, but highly specifized1 form for salaries.)

There are services like Glassdoor that help to provide “competitive” salary information … but salary is only a small portion of compensation. Let’s say you and I both make $5000 a month ($60000 a year – make the math easy). But you have 2 weeks of vacation, and I have 4. But I took the lower-deductible insurance option, and you took the higher. Which one of us is bringing home more per month? Who cares! My individual desires and needs are, apparently, being met on my package, and yours are with yours. So why does it matter that we not discuss salary information with each other? Transparency is vital in the security world, it also is internally in a company. And between friends (though, of course, the amount of data we dump, and the methods we choose, will vary) it establishes trust.

Do I care if everyone in the world knows how much I earn per year? No. Tax returns are not public, but they’re not exactly private, either (they’re not that difficult to get if you want them). House sales prices are matters of public record. And from a house sale, along with known mortgage rates at the time of sale, you can determine how much someone is spending on their housing payment every month within a decent error margin (eg, $200000 home, 4% interest, 30 year mortgage, 10% down, you have in the ballpark of a $1000 base mortgage payment2 – within about 5-10% (to cover taxes, insurance, and PMI)). Presuming you’re not living on your credit cards, that means you’re making at a minimum $1500 a month ($18000 a year) just to afford to have a house payment. Add-in other normal essentials of 21st century America (car insurance and maintenance (or bike/bus money), groceries, phone, internet, tv, student loan, etc), and you’re at least at the household income level of $40000 (pretax). Likely quite a bit higher – especially if you have a car payment of any kind.

Why go through the miniature exercise above? Because no one seems to mind comparing they car insurance premiums. Or how often they eat out. Or what they like to cook at home. But SALARY! Heaven forbid you ever talk about THAT! That’s the one no-no in discussion of financial data between friends and coworkers. But it’s irrational when in just a few second you can ballpark the minimum someone earns.

We can compare generalities – vacation time, insurance plans, sick policies, maybe even bonuses (but only as percentages – don’t you dare use real dollars when discussing them) … but not the salary.

I read recently an Atlantic article discussing Millennials and the slow break-down of corporate boundaries to sharing compensation information. I think that’s wonderful.

Publicizing (at least internally) salaries (even if it’s in bands, a la FogCreek, HP, IBM, or the Federal Government (and Military)) is extremely positive. It doesn’t disclose stock options, bonuses, etc, but can give some kind of indication between colleagues of their relative value to their employer.

At one former employer, I found out shortly after I started that another recent hire (with more years of support experience) was being paid barely more than half what I was. And had had no options when he started (just weeks before me), when I had a modest issuance. Neither of us was upset about how much I was being paid, but I was disappointed to finally see “in the real world” such salary discrimination going on. The entire reason he was paid so much less than me? He didn’t negotiate well.

It was technically against company policy for him to tell me how much he made. And me him. Technically, it was a dismissable offense.

That’s the ridiculous part of not sharing compensation data – that by sharing it you can have your employment terminated. Employers who are worried about little things like whether a given employee knows another employee’s salary are [most likely] micromanaging – at least from the Personnel Department3.

Additionally, if the company is concerned that finding out how much someone else is earning is going to cause unhappiness amongst the team, they’ve done several other things wrong. They’ve [at least]:

  • hired people whose only motivation is money (or believe that’s the only motivator)
  • intentionally tried to undervalue their team
  • established an immediate sense of distrust
  • decided to treat their employees like children instead of adults who can rationally and intelligently discuss differences between themselves – and not just on their preferred lunch joint

I would love to see this aura of distrust disappear.

If you really do have people whose only motivation is money, you need a better team: they’ll jump ship as soon as something more lucrative comes along – instead of changing only when the work becomes more boring .. or more interesting elsewhere.


1 I know it’s not a word – I’m using it anyway
2 Divide the mortgage amount by 180, and you have the rough base payment on a 30 year mortgage (for the under 5% mortgages I see in mid-2013); your base payment is the home’s cost *2 / 360 (number of months in 30 years) – or just price/180
3 I positively despise the term “Human Resources” – employees are only “resources” to the MBA types: they’re people, and should be accorded good treatment (including referentially) as such

annapolis

At the beginning of 2008 I interviewed with a little outfit* in Annapolis to become their head of support. (This was just a month after interviewing with FogCreek.)

Oddly enough that day, one of my former colleagues at Opsware who had moved-on was my tech screener. Needless to say, that aspect of the interview I passed with flying colors 🙂

When all was said and done, however, I did not end up with the position. I was not happy their stated goal was to be bought out in 18 months. I had just ridden through a not amazing acquisition, and was looking forward to working for a company that wanted to grow at least mostly organically.

In discussing places we might want to move someday recently, my wife and I mentioned a bunch of places we don’t want to go – like Maryland and DC. Annapolis is right smack dab in the middle of that whole capital mess.

Had I ended up with that job, I likely would not have met my wife – and that would just be No Good™.

While it didn’t look it at the time, that was certainly a for-the-best moment for me.


* a company I now have some major philosophical differences with – yet another reason I’m happy i didn’t go

mastery by robert greene

In Mastery, Robert Greene continues in the style of his excellent work, The 48 Laws of Power (which I previously reviewed and have been posting excerpts from).

Sadly, it is not quite to the level of The 48 Laws – though it still a good book. Unbeknownst to me, I’ve already been practicing most of what he preaches, starting with finding your niche. Oh, and following an apprenticeship path. And staying creative; and widening your horizons.

This is also, more or less, the path modeled by one of my previous employers, the Shodor Education Foundation through their Apprentice, Intern, and “Post-Bac” Staff programs (they have higher than “Post-Bac” staff, too – but that’s more in the “Master” level than getting to it).

I was hoping for something … well, maybe not “new” – but insightful-and-not-common-elsewhere. Perhaps I’m merely well-read already, but Mr Greene comes to roughly the same conclusion as Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers – 10,000 hours of concerted effort in learning, practicing, and presenting a given topic/field will tend to push you into the “Master” realm (review).

Through a series of case studies and repeated biographical highlights through the last ~300 years, the point is shown that while there are a few workable paths to Mastery – they’re all traversable by anyone who cares to take the time and effort to do so.

Timothy Ferriss’ series of “4 Hour” books (4-Hour Body, 4-Hour Workweek, & 4-Hour Chef) all showcase these exact traits, as well. While presented as “shortcuts for the rest of us”, if read without skimming, instead show that it is only through intense focus and hard work that you can arrive at the “4-Hour” destination.

Is Mastery a worthwhile read? Probably for most people.

Is it worth owning? Doubtful.

Grab a copy from your library (like I did) and read it. Reread it. Blog about it. Tweet it. Skim it. Then return it.

finding your niche

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

You’ve probably been asked that questions hundreds of times in your life – parents, friends, teachers, yourself, movies. It’s a common theme.

For most of us, the decision gets made sometime in our late teens or during college: doctor, mom, lawyer, electrician, plumber, teacher, policeman, musician, actor, soldier, nurse, preacher, engineer, contractor, etc.

But I’d venture to guess that *most* people don’t truly know what they want to do until they’ve been doing something else for a while: I still don’t entirely know what I want to do for a career for the long term – if you’d asked me 5 years ago (as I was in interviews at the end of 2007 – beginning of 2008), I would have said that I wanted to be running a support organization, working towards a professional services operations role. 3 years prior to that, I would have said platform/application architect for flexible large systems. My best guess for what I want to be doing in 2 years now is being an IT/Enterprise data, virtualization, and automation architect for large environments (which happens to line-out with my current title and ‘career path’ with my current employer) – or a US Representative / Senator for my Congressional District / State.

However, the most successful and fulfilled people I’ve met (not necessarily by total ‘wealth’ or accumulated money) have all followed a Blue Ocean Strategy – they’ve invented their own job, or even their own business. That business might not be unique (eg MMM‘s contracting work), but it’s something they’ve decided to do for themselves.

If you’ve not heard of The Personal MBA, you need to learn more about it – start with their list of top business books, and read what you find interesting (and a couple you don’t think would be).

Expand your horizons – browse a good bookstore’s magazine racks, and buy one or two per month that are on topics you know nothing about, don’t like, don’t think you’re interested in, etc.

Visit your local library or bookstore and grab the first book in the history section that starts with an “A” in the title – then go for “B”, “C”, etc. Then do it from some other section of the shelves – maybe relationships, scifi, teen, romance, home improvement, etc, etc.

I am convinced college is not the best path for everyone: there are trade schools, military training, family businesses, farming, etc. I am convinced that going to college straight out of highschool is almost always a Bad Idea™ – at the very least, get a summer job: maybe get a “real” job for a couple years while you figure out what even interests you. Take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). Take the ACT (it’s a better predictor of collegiate and work success than the SAT in my opinion). If you’re in college, take the GRE either just after your freshman year, or just before your junior year – the content will be most fresh then (if you’re taking enough general education classes and are not over-focused on your major).

As you start to find out what you’re good at, and what you enjoy to do, do everything you can to improve your communication skills. If you do nothing else at a college, take writing classes – take every class you can that will make you write. Communication is the single most important skill you can have: someone who can write and speak well will go far further than one who can’t. Take public speaking classes. Take classes you need to make presentations for, and follow the 10-20-30 rule. Brevity is highly key, and concision will get you much further than verbosity.

Blog. Blog about what you’re doing, what you’re interested in, what you’d like to do, where you’ve been, etc etc. The more you write, especially if you intend for what you write to be read, the better you will get at it. Aim to write frequently if you’re going to write at all – maybe it’s every first of the month, maybe it’s every Monday, maybe it’s every day, or maybe it’s every 4th of July: but give yourself a schedule and stick to it. Write for personal reasons, write for fun, and write for work.

Teach. When you learn something new, teach it to someone else. Whether you teach by writing, speaking, or showing – teach what you have learned. After communication, the ability to teach someone else to do what you are doing the most important thing you can learn how to do. You never want to become irreplaceable. To be irreplaceable is to be unpromotable. Teach at least one person how to do one aspect of your job as often as possible – spread your responsible skills across your team, and two things happen: first, you can take a vacation; second, you can move up (or out) more easily. The more you teach, like intentionally writing, the better you should get at it – especially if you intend for those you have taught to be able to teach others.

Learn. Strive to learn something new frequently. If you can do it every day, that’s awesome – but just once a month will help keep your mind sharp, and help you become even more valuable to wherever you choose to work (whether it is for someone else, or on your own). Any time your employer wants to pay for training for you, take it – you never know when it may come in handy. I am a proponent of the “Lifelong Learner” – and work to make sure I am learning something new all the time.

Review. Don’t ‘merely’ learn – review what you have learned before. You can do this via blogging and teaching, but take time to reread texts and materials you’re intimately familiar with: this is what David was doing when he wrote, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.”

No one can ever tell you what your niche is – not really. Maybe you want to be a lawyer – or not. Spend some time to figure out what you’re good at, and what you’d really like to do: shadow people in various careers; interview friends, family, coworkers, classmates, etc.

Life is too short to not try to spend it doing what you want.