You need to quit living someone else’s dream

It was the year 2000. I graduated college and got a job. My mom was so proud. I worked for Microsoft. If was wasn’t going to be President or play Major League Baseball then the next best thing was to work for greatest software company in the world. And it was an amazing opportunity.

But there was a tangible divide in the workforce as the company shifted from 90’s style hyper growth to blue chip stock. On one side there were people that had been there for 10 years before I started in 2000. These people had the financial freedom to take exotic vacations, own yachts, enjoy 6 months at a time off, and work only when they really wanted to. This was a small group, but it felt like they had absorbed most of the companies wealth. You ran into them all the time.

On the other side were people like me. People were just starting new careers. People who had been told the next 10 years would be just as good. You knew it was a lie. We were the 97% and in some ways it reflected the nation on a higher scale.

The economy had started shifting. The first sign came before I even started working. I knew people whose job offers were revoked after the 2000 bubble hit the tech industry. I’ve had (bad) managers work hard to convince employees they are lucky just to have jobs… so enjoy whatever little we pay you.  The message was that you weren’t going to have it as easy or as good as the generation of workers that came before you… even in the tech industry.

There are some larger trends at play here. Trends that effect every job across all industries.

The rich get richer.

wealth_distrubtion

The message to me is clear to me. You know what side of the curve you want to be on and it’s not the 95% part who’s take home pay is worth less and less every year. If you can’t beat-em… join em. Living someone else’s dream can provide you with an educational opportunity in the short term. But long term it only helps the owners jump up another percentile in the graph. Note: This video does it way more justice than my chart.

College Means Less

Going to college isn’t a good bet. College graduates used to be harder to find for employers. In the last 30 years we’ve made it easier for more people to go to school, but job growth hasn’t kept up. I’m sorry, a degree in Ancient Roman History doesn’t trade as well as it used to.

Organizations are Getting Flatter

Software is making it easier for managers to keep tabs on a larger number of employees. When I started at Microsoft it wasn’t hard to find a lot of “silly leads” with one or two reports. This meant more opportunities for people to “climb the ladder” and earn higher salaries. That’s going away across all industries. This means, for the employed, the average salary growth potential is slowing down.

The World is Getting Flatter

jobs_not

“Those jobs aren’t coming back to the US.”

That’s what Steve Jobs told President Obama when asked what it would take to manufacture the iPhone in the US. As the worlds population starts to catch up on education and infrastructure they are going to consume a higher percentage of employer spending.

Even Software Is a Factory

Don’t kid yourself if you work in the tech industry. Building software is a manufacturing process that just happens to involve electrons. It can be done successfully anywhere. Not just silicon valley. I worked on software, at Microsoft, that was designed to reduce the barrier required to write complex applications. It gets simpler every year.

The Rest of the World is Hungrier than Ever

I once spent a week in Shanghai working with some amazing Microsoft teams and I was amazed at how dedicated their culture was to success. They were also laser focussed on educating people for the technical skills they were going to need to compete in the next 20 years… not on degrees that mattered in the previous 20 that are being eaten by software. I don’t see that same level of universal desire and focus in the US culture.

9-5 means a lot less than it used to. 

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Putting in your time is just that. Putting in time. Hard work is just that… work. Sadly most companies still believe that “butts in seats from 9-5” works best. They are wrong. It’s not success anymore. It used to get you somewhere. You’re now required to work smarter. You’ll have to. Like I said, the rest of the world already is.

This doesn’t have to be bad news. You have a choice. 

You think CEO pay is unfair and you’re not being promoted? Promote yourself and try your hand at being CEO. At least start acting like the CEO of your life.

  • Worried that someone overseas can do your job? Hire them to do it.
  • Your education doesn’t cut it? Start learning online.
  • Feeling like you work in a factory? Stop building the solutions and start designing them.
  • Not motivated? Start designing the life you want and get hungry for it.

You get to decide what rich means to you and how you get there. It’s cliche’, but the old rules are more like suggestions now and soon they’ll sound like a strange, twisted, fairy tale.

My choice was (and is) to take advantage of these trends rather than let them take advantage of me. I really had no choice. I had to make a plan, learn new skills, save money, and take a chance. Maybe I could achieve my personal definitions of “rich” as well as move up the curve a bit.

What’s the worst that could happen? I’ll see you right back in the 97% pile… and try again.

Quality Ownership Part 2: Consulting Services & Support

This is part 2 in a series of posts that examines how each role at a company owns the quality of product.  Part one looked at sales and development.

Consulting Services

If you sell additional services, and code enhancements in particular, then you also own the quality of the product that was shipped. Your on the front lines working every day with a customer who is perceiving the final experience of the product through all the customizations and integrations that you have implemented for them.

Continue…

Who is responsible for quality? Raise your hand.

When I started my career at Microsoft I was on the QA team and I distinctly remember a conversation with one of my team leaders that went something like this:

Me: “We’re responsible for the quality of the product.”

Test Manager: <Laughs>

Me: “Then who owns it?”

Test Manager:Everyone – the job of the QA team is simple to accurately measure the state of product quality consistently.”

Continue…

Create Retina Display Images in Mobile Web Themes and PhoneGap Apps

Looking at my iPhone 4 screen makes me wish all my screens had such high DPI.  Everything looks so crisp.  During the development of GoodDay I realized that the icons and images I’d used in my own app were not being rendered in high resolution.  I wanted to share how I addressed that and how you could address it with your own mobile web site/theme/app as well.   Basically the solution is to use divs and set specific sized background images for the high-DPI displays.

Continue…

First Impressions of the Harmony One Remote – Wow Experience

imageA black Friday purchase of ours was a Harmony One remote.  Normally $250 we snagged one for $140 on Amazon.  This is the first time I’ve owned a Harmony remote, but I do have experience wasting hours trying to set up “universal” remotes that cost under $30.  I want all that time back now and I’m mad at myself for not doing this sooner!

  • The packaging was minimalist, but not a joyful experience like unboxing an iPhone.
  • The remote and base station, however, feel like they have a place in your entertainment center.  The proper weight and “shinyness” make it an attractive alternative to the 5 remotes you are about to put in a box. 🙂
  • The setup of the PC software took about 20 minutes to run before I could start configuring the remote. It seemed stuck on the part where it connected to the internet so it could have been an issue with my connection.
  • Once I could configure the devices the hardest part was looking up my model numbers.
  • I was shocked it had my 12 year old Sony amp and knew all the commands that the original remote had. I don’t have to get off the couch to set the base level now! 🙂
  • I was also shocked that I had to use my current Tivo remote to make it understand the Tivo button. 🙁
  • On the first pass it set up the proper macros for basic things like “watch TV” and they worked like a charm. 
  • It took me a long time to figure out how to create a truly custom macro. The option was hidden as a radio box choice.
  • The first thing my wife said was “I thought it would have a picture of Duncan (our dog) on it”. 
  • The second thing she said was “Why does it need a power cord?”  I’m personally hoping that it stays charged for decent stretches of time.
  • I realized I’m spoiled by the awesome iPhone touch screen so I wasn’t as impressed by the screen as I was hoping I would be.

Having said all this, I’m a big fan.  The configuration is 100x easier than entering all those arcane codes into remote controls.  Its unfortunate that Logitech doesn’t spend a little more time on the configuration software since you don’t get that first “This is awesome” experience until about an hour in when you test the “Watch TV” command.  I wish the software had that feeling as well. 

The lesson here is that you’ll get people to write blog posts about your product if you can get them to say “Wow” in the first hour of using it.  🙂

Now I’m just hoping that our dogs are past the whole “oh, a shiny dog bone!” stage so I can keep this thing around.