Monday, June 30, 2014

Learning Servant Leadership from Marines

Marines can teach you a lot about
servant leadership.  You just have to listen.
The life of a software developer and entrepreneur is filled with adventure.  It is also filled with countless hours of meetings, moments of terror, and a few lighthearted memories.  This week I danced around my day jobs office like a portly fool to the popular summer hit “Happy” by Pharrell.  It did it because I had made a bet with one of the scrum teams that they could not get their work done at the end of a sprint.  They accepted my playful challenge and they came through for me.  I had no choice but to dance around the office.  This got me thinking about leadership and what software professionals have to do in order to be successful.

As a younger person, I remember being taught about leadership by two Marine Corps veterans from Vietnam.  Sergeant Major David Ogle and Lieutenant Colonel Richard Weidner were larger than life figures from my youth.  Like many teens in the classroom the lessons they gave me really did not sink in until later in life.  Both taught me a leader had two responsibilities to accomplish the mission goals and to look after the well being of the people under your command.  When forced to choose always accomplish the mission.  I didn’t understand this right away.  Marines made life and death decisions.  Getting a mission done often means getting someone killed.

It would only be later in life that I understood what this unusually lesson would mean.  First, a leader looked after his people because some day you will have to ask them to accomplish a mission.  The people you lead will have to sacrifice themselves and their family lives to get things done.  In a military context, they may risk injury and death.  The other part of this simple lesson was that the leader is not really there to lead others but to serve them.  This is why I noticed officers in the Marines eat last in the mess hall making sure their people ate first.  It is also why most senior enlisted men and officers did not rest until all of the people they led were safely back at base.

This left a lasting impression on me.  It also influenced me on how I lead software development team.  I refer to them as “ladies and gentlemen” since I have the rare privilege of working with co-ed software teams.  I stick up for my developers when there are struggling and give them a kick in a seat when they are loafing.  I purchase hard candy to keep them from smoking and dance around my office when I lose a bet with the team.  It just comes with the job of being a scrum master.  A scrum master is a servant leader who helps his people be the best they can be.

This is not an easy life but I find it very rewarding.  It is all part of the adventure.

Until next time.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Vision Thing

We have a vision.
Technology is a shambling monster of innovation and conflicting visions.  One week, we view the future being made in virtual reality with companies like Occulus.  The next week we view self-driving cars.  It is enough to make someone’s head spin.  I myself wonder about all the new innovations and changes taking place.  As an entrepreneur, do I ride the latest trends or do I follow my own trail.  This week I want to talk about where my head and heart take me.

The two biggest trends in technology are the increase in mobile computing with smart phones and the rise of cloud computing.  I have been watching both grow for years and I have been talking about it for a long time.   I think that Microsoft has been leader in the area of cloud computing with its Azure services while they have stumbled in the area mobile devices.  I think with the launch of the Surface Pro 3 that they will have a device which will knock some competitors on their behinds.

When I founded this company four years ago I saw these trends in motion and wanted to help small and medium sized businesses take advantage of these technologies.  It is not glamorous or sexy but it felt like a niche which I could fill.  This way a small business owner has the same powers and features as a Fortune 500 firm.  They can use mobile applications and the cloud to help grow their business.  I imagine a sales person for a small firm doing a sale punching a few keys on their cell phone and the transaction going through with minimal human intervention.

This is the dream of my firm and I look forward to making it a reality.  Please contact us today and we will show you how.

Until next time.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Little Help from My Friends and Family.

It is nice having people look out for you.
The biggest enemy of an entrepreneur is time.  Time to get your business up and running.  Time to develop your product.  Finally, time to pivot your business to deal with a changing market place.  It is exhausting and I do not think that I could keep it up without the help and direction of my friends and family.  This week on the blog I want to discuss the unsung heroes of the entrepreneurial movement.  

Many people have this weird notion that being an entrepreneur is a lonely business where and individual eats, breathes, and sleeps his business all day long to the exclusion of everything else.  There is a kernel of truth to this as we spend countless hours building products, refining sales pitches and marketing our organization.  It can be all consuming.  This is why it is up to friends and family to step in and make sure that you are taking time out to focus on your physical and mental health.  An entrepreneur is worthless if they are not sleeping and they are even more worthless when all they can discuss is the market capitalization of their start up.

Family members remind you to get a good meal and take some time off on the weekend.  Friends offer to play cards or have a beer with you and discuss something, anything other than work.  I am deeply grateful for the help and assistance they have given me over the years.  Without them, I would be an emotional ball of putty with frayed nerves.

Until next time.

Monday, June 2, 2014

No BS, Why people are software developers.

We don't write the software for the money.
Software developers are and odd breed of people.  We work long hours and view the world through the lenses of code.  Why do they do it? I have been thinking about it for some time and I wanted to share with you why software developers do what they do.  This week on the blog what drives software developers.

One of my favorite books on the subject of software development comes from the Bill Pfleging and Minda Zetlin called “The Geek Gap”.  The principle thesis of the book is that software and engineering professionals are motivated by building things that work.  Business people are motivated by influencing others to get work done.  Often these to world views come into conflict.  This is because business people are motivated by schedules and business needs while technical professionals are motivated by building systems that work and our easy to maintain.

I have experienced that conflict first hand as developers have argued with management about unrealistic deadlines and management has looked at the creative process involved in software development and groaned in frustration.  This is one of the reasons why agile software development has been so successful.  The role of Business owner has acted as a “go-between” role between business people and the technology staff and it has helped smooth out the rough edges between the two different tribe of business groups.

That still does not answer the question of why software developers do what they do.  David Graeber, a professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics wrote a provocative essay “Bullshit Jobs” in the article he argues about the growth of jobs which seem to do nothing more than being involved in meetings, filing reports and administrative support to the business.  Software development is the antithesis of the “bullshit job” because we are building actual things which people use- software.  Granted it is not the great American novel or a cure for the myriad kinds of cancer that exist, but every phone app, web page and application you use in business was created by hand in the mind of a software developer.

This creative process of wrestling code into something that people will actually use is pretty awesome when you experience it.  Four or five hours can drift by and it can seem like five minutes.  You are in a state that developers often refer to as flow.  When you are in flow, I compare the experience to having the hand of the creator guiding your mind toward a better solution.  It is one of the most sublime experiences that I know.

This is one of the reasons I founded my own software company.  I wanted to share that sublime experience with others and help them do better business.  Give us a call and we will show you how.

Software developers are an odd breed of people but by understanding that we are a building things people use and are not involved in “bullshit jobs”; it is one of the best professions to be involved in.

Until next time.