Are Your Managers Listening?

A friend of mine recently interviewed for a director position at a large, well-known technology company. The role involved a leading a small team on an important but modestly sized project. At the end of his interviewing day, he got to meet the CEO for 5 minutes. This CEO covered four things:

  1. Why the project was important to the company.
  2. Gave him a virtual budget. He could spend that budget on a small number of senior developers, a larger number of junior developers, capital equipment of his choosing or any combination thereof.
  3. Told him that if he succeeded, he’d get…

A stack of resumes to get through
A stack of resumes to get through
How am I going to get through these resumes?

A lot of the work we do at Essilen Research revolves around helping tech companies improve their hiring of engineers, developers and designers. That’s because the old saying is true: almost all the value of a tech company is in the people who walk in the door in the morning and out the door in the evening. That means hiring is the most important on-going activity you do. It literally defines the value of your company.

But what’s interesting is that almost every CTO, VP Engineering, or manager I talk to will (sheepishly) admit they’re not doing as well as…

Inside a Chief Data Officer’s brain?
Inside a Chief Data Officer’s brain?
Inside a Chief Data Officer’s brain?

Data. It’s everywhere these days: in newspaper articles, books, TV shows, and endless whitepapers. And for good reason, since there really has been a revolution in how companies create and use data. The tools we now use produce a data exhaust that’s easily captured. Storage is cheap. Computers are powerful. And everyone has access to affordable data science and analysis capabilities that would have made spies and codebreakers blush 20 years ago. Data is the lifeblood of modern business, so companies do need to make it a high-level priority. Hence the rise of the Chief Data Officer.

A Chief Data Officer to get a handle on your data?

One of the…

Signpost with business principles
Signpost with business principles

Tell me if this has happened to you: you’re faced with a difficult decision at work, and so you ask a friend or colleague about it. That friend, it turns out, just finished reading the hot, business, management book of the day. So they respond with some well-turned phrase from that book:

  • Move fast and break things.
  • Start with the customer and work backwards.
  • Don’t be evil.
  • Insist on high standards.
  • Get the data.
  • Don’t worry about appearing good, worry about achieving the goal.
  • Never skimp on quality.
  • Set the example for your team.
  • Chase your vision, not money.
  • If…

And what can we do about it?

I think I’d rather just be at work.

When was the last time your company dragged you to something described as a “team-builder”? Maybe it was a simple happy hour, or perhaps even a full-day emotions course with trust-falls and crying. Heck, maybe it was an executive retreat in the Himalayas! But did you enjoy it? And more importantly since your company paid for it, did your team get built or at least improve?

How are team-builders supposed to work?

Team-builders are often just excuses to get out of the office for something someone thinks is fun. But more earnest attempts at team-building often end up far removed from the real challenges in the…

Is your interviewing truly world-class?

Over on our website, we’ve placed a short quiz designed to test your organization’s technical interviewing. The fact is that many companies have holes in their process, but there are some simple things you can do to plug those holes.

After completing the quiz and getting your score (go ahead, it takes less than 2 minutes), you can come back here for some commentary on the questions and what they reveal about your process.

1. How many interviews have you conducted?

There’s no substitute for reps. Interviewing is a difficult process, and no one is born a great interviewer. Much of what you learn as you become…

There is a video that periodically makes the rounds on business social media sites like Linkedin. It shows a Southwest pilot hanging out of the cockpit, calmly cleaning the outside of his window. I find it funny because this clip works as an excellent Rorschach test of how people see the workplace. The pilot draws praise or condemnation depending on what people choose to see:

  • A noble pilot with a can-do attitude literally rolling up his sleeves to solve a problem.
  • A failure of management that forces a pilot to do work that either (a) he’s not trained for, or…

This is your brain on data

If you’re a technical manager, you’ve probably heard of business intelligence tools, and they probably sound like something for the business and executive teams. In fact, they’re much more than that. You may also not realize how well-integrated BI tools already are in your existing environment, especially if you’re an Office365 subscriber. The examples in this story use the excellent but rather unfortunately-named Microsoft PowerBI, but the same results can be achieved with other tools such as Tableau or Spotfire.

The whole domain of so-called business intelligence is a misnomer. It ought to be called data-driven intelligence. Anybody who makes…

Ideas are cheap, execution is what matters

Execution is where companies succeed or fail. No company will survive for long, and certainly won’t scale, if they can’t figure out how to efficiently run their business. And yet, we find that many software companies recognize the importance of improving execution, but have a hard time figuring out how to do it.

Part of the issue is cultural. In manufacturing, for example, no one denies the competitive advantage of operational excellence. The Toyota Way is a well-known example. But software engineers and even managers tend to cringe at “software as manufacturing” metaphors. While it’s certainly true that building software…

Probably. Here’s how to start fixing it

There is a dark side to what we talked about last week. And among those who study how the brain works, what I’m about to tell you isn’t very controversial. It’s not even debatable anymore, really:

You are overconfident about your knowledge and abilities, especially when it comes to predicting the future.

Don’t feel bad though. Unless you’ve gone through specific, lengthy, repeated training, you’re no different from any of your friends, family or co-workers. Overconfidence is just hard-wired into us by our deep evolutionary past. But in the modern world, our natural overconfidence ends up being a big problem…

Essilen Research

Helping organizations make their best decisions

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