What Determines My Decision When I Am Looking For My Next Role

I have moved around a fair bit in my career spanning almost 15 years. But it has definitely helped me build an extensive experience over the years with organisations ranging from 10 people startups to enterprises like Telstra to global behemoths like Oracle, in industries from Financial to Sports-tech to Telecommunications to Utilities, in roles from permanent staff to consultant to independent contractor. It has helped me develop a perspective on how the ways of working differ from organisation to organisation even when they are similar sized or in the same industry and how I can add value to them. Over the years, I have developed a significant expertise in Agile Coaching and Leadership (depth of my T-shaped skills) and adeptness with other areas like Software Development, Delivery Management, Project Management, Business Analysis, Testing, etc. (width of the T). I leverage my experience to enrich my work and my interactions with my colleagues. And this experience has been worth its weight in gold for me.

Every time, I have decided to move on from a job either voluntarily or because my contract was coming to an end, I have evaluated my options and tried to make the best choice. In the initial years of my career, that choice was more of a heuristics based decision. However, in the last couple of years, I have formulated a set of criteria that helps me make this decision better. I evaluate each potential employer with respect to the following 3 criteria:

Three Criteria

1. Better Pay
Do I earn more than my current pay? Day rate contract jobs always pay better than fixed term ones or permanent jobs but do I want to take short term contract job just for better pay and then be back in the market again?

2. Learning Opportunities and Culture
Are there any training opportunities (more common with fixed term or permanent jobs)? Or do I stand to learn new things by working with experts or people in a new area? Is the culture one that fosters growth, creativity, and independent thought? Is it okay to fail (a culture that enables psychological safety)? Is it fun to work there? Sometimes you get hints about these from people in your circle who have worked there. Other times you just have to take a leap a faith and experience it for yourself.

3. My Lifestyle and Quality of Life
I go to the gym 3 times a week (nowhere near looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rock), Buddhist meditation 2 times a week (even further from being enlightened), meetups on Agile and related things, and catch up with friends frequently. Would I like to do a job that compromises one or more of these things? Can I work it out by going to the gym or meditation classes at different times or at different places?

While the above things might seem random or even vain (money, lifestyle etc.), there is a method to this madness. Underpinning the above are 3 main values:

Three Values

1. Mental Health

2. Financial Health

3. Physical Health

While I have made a conscious decision in the past to move to job that pays a bit less (when moving from a day rate contract to a fixed term one), I have made sure that I am not jeopardising my financial health. I will take up a job that is challenging over one that is boring. I will take up one where I have more avenues to stay fit and engage in social activities than one where I have to work long hours even though I am being paid way more. At the end, it is like technical debt. I might choose a job where I am less better off on one of the above factors but at some point, the debt needs to be paid off. And the question I ask myself is, “Is it worth the debt?”.

I might also add that, in the past, I have actually chosen to not go for organisations that are responsible (directly or indirectly) for destroying people’s lives (gambling, tobacco, cigarettes, etc.) or the environment (energy companies heavily invested in coal and fossil fuels).

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Master

I came across the following quote at a Meetup on Leadership:

“When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.

If you don’t trust people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, “Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”

– Lao Tzu

I believe the above aptly describes the Master in ScrumMaster.

Why You Don’t Need Superhero Developers

No Superhero

Image source (prior to modification): beliefsoftheheart.com

Most of us have worked with that one software developer whom the entire team looked up to when in crisis, the one who would come through despite obstacles, the one who would have answers to everything. To borrow a phrase from Star Wars, he was “the Chosen One” (I just had to get a Star Wars quote in). There is nothing wrong with the above except that it is “one person”. If your software strategy is hinged on one person, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment (and possibly failure).

While it is great that you have a superhero in your team who delivers when needed, what you really need are more everyday heroes. And not those one-man-army type ones but the ones who can work with a team and use their skills in harmony with others a la Fast and Furious. Yes, in a team with diverse skills and competencies, not everyone can work on everything. But it should not be the case that it is just one guy bailing the team out every time. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not advising a culture of mediocracy. In fact, I furiously fought against a culture of mediocracy at some of the organisations I worked for previously. I am all for making superheroes out of regular joes. All I am saying is that a culture dependent on superheroes to deliver instead of a team to do its job is a wrong culture.

It is not just about contingency planning (your superhero is sick or worse, leaves the company), it is also about building a culture where all the team members feel equally important and responsible. To take the analogy of Indian cricket team a few years back, some opening batsmen would play fast and loose because they knew Sachin Tendulkar (one of the best batsmen in the world) would be there to score big time if they fail. And fail they did. And when Sachin failed too, India lost the match.

We have been raised in a culture where it is good to be a maverick. Most of the movies of our times highlight that fact. But I would almost always give preference to a well-performing, highly-cohesive team of regular heroes than one that is dependent on its superhero. As the old African saying goes, “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”.

Microblogs

Microblogs

Image Source: kcet.org

Many times I come across quotes, phrases, small nuggets of information that seem profound yet do not require an entire blog post. Henceforth, I will post such pieces as “microblogs”. No fluff, no detail, just the condensed version.

UX vs UI

Lipstick on Pig

Image Source: lipstick-pictures.blogspot.com.au

Oh, the confusion! Saying UX when you meant to say UI and vice versa? Believe me, I have been there. I have watched designers and UX experts cringe when I mixed up the words. I think I understand them better now. And not because I got myself a certification in either. It’s because I am a foodie! So, I will explain you the same way I understood it.

How many times have you dug your teeth into a pie (or a burger for that matter) that looked tantalising only to realise that it didn’t taste as good. All those pretty pictures of food in advertisements (I call it food porn) that left you salivating and yet had you taken a bite of it, you would have probably ended up in the hospital. That’s all fake. But I don’t want this post to turn into a rant on how advertisers mess with our senses so I will stay on course.

How the food looks is its UI (User Interface). What you feel when you eat it is its UX (User Experience). If it looks good and tastes good, you are a winner (and so is the chef!). However if it looks good but doesn’t taste so, then you might not visit that eatery again (don’t go there on a date). If it doesn’t look great but tastes awesome, then you might want to go there repeatedly (it might be a tad difficult for the eatery to get customers in the first time though). Now let’s see how does this analogy work with digital screens (websites, mobile apps, etc.).

When you look at a website or a mobile app that looks really slick but is a nightmare to work with because of convoluted workflows, you have a great UI but bad UX. The opposite is when you have an average or poor looking screen but it does what it says and doesn’t tax your brain in the process. That is when you have a poor UI but good UX though such scenarios are rare. A winning website or app not just looks awesome but also lets the user cruise through it leaving him with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Sometimes the experience with food goes beyond eating and involves digestion or even longer term affects. You had a great meal but it made you feel bloated and you ended up farting all night much to the chagrin of your partner. Or it gave you a sore throat and you had to go to the doctor to find some relief from incessant coughing. Disclaimer: As someone who loves to try new food from different eateries, I have fallen victim to both the above scenarios. Similarly, it’s possible that the user experience with a website led you to believe that you had set everything properly only to realise later that it wasn’t so and you had to go through a lot of trouble fixing it. That qualifies as poor (if not terrible) UX too.

Summing up, don’t just put lipstick on a pig. Before you make the website or app pretty, make sure it works well too. If you really want your burger to give an orgasmic satisfaction to its eater, make sure its done well and looks good too. Now all this talk about food has made me hungry. I will go and eat something.