Skills for the ‘real world’

2006/08/23 at 13:42

Guy Kawasaki offers twelve skills “students should learn in order to prepare for the real world after graduation.” They are:

  1. How to talk to your boss
  2. How to survive a meeting that’s poorly run
  3. How to run a meeting
  4. How to figure out anything on your own
  5. How to negotiate
  6. How to have a conversation
  7. How to explain something in thirty seconds
  8. How to write a one-page report
  9. How to write a five-sentence email
  10. How to get along with co-workers
  11. How to use PowerPoint
  12. How to leave a voicemail

(Go read the entire blog post for Guy’s comments on each item)
I don’t think that these skills should be explicitly taught in college, but I agree that they are valuable career skills.
For the record, I hate it when people refer to ‘the real world’ vs. college. It tells a lot about the speaker though.

The state of computational linguistics

2006/07/31 at 08:29

As the video below demonstrates, getting computers to work with human language is hard–even after decades of research and development.

Why I like working with geeks

2006/05/10 at 10:45

The scene: Sitting with several coworkers in the conference room waiting for someone in another location to join a conference call. Everyone is awkwardly quiet.
Coworker 1: So, how about those Mavericks? Wasn’t that an awesome game last night between them and [some other sports team]?
Other coworkers and me: <blink>

On common sense

2006/05/01 at 09:19

For my new job, I’ve been re-reading Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber. In the Introduction, the author says that common sense is a critical element of the processes that he outlines.
I’m usually wary of appeals to common sense, as they are often used in conjunction with various logical fallacies. In this case, however, I really like Schwaber’s definition of common sense. He says that it “is a combination of experience, training, humility, wit and intelligence.” It really surprised me to see humility and wit in his definition, and it was a good sign that I would like the author’s point of view more generally.

New job

2006/04/29 at 14:04

Three weeks ago, I started a new job: QA engineer with Borland Software. I couldn’t be happier. The group that I’m working with is implementing a full-blown agile/scrum process. When I was interviewing with Borland, I told my interviewers that I’d used some agile methodologies in previous jobs. But now that I’ve been participating in a real agile methodology, I realize that there’s a fundamental difference between adopting some of the methodologies and adopting the philosophy of agile/scrum: it’s all about respect, truthfulness, collaboration, visibility, continual feedback, putting individual egos aside for the greater good, etc.

Y2K rears its ugly head

2006/02/06 at 12:44

I filled out a form on a web site this morning, and I noticed the date below:
It’s an awfully long time past the year 2000 for something like that to still be showing up.

Doing web page layout with CSS

2005/12/16 at 10:31

You know, I fully embrace the principle of doing HTML layout via CSS vs. the old fashion table layouts, but the browser implementations of CSS still differ so much that it’s been a huge pain every time I’ve tried to implement more than rudimentary CSS layouts. As you have surely noticed if you visit here regularly, I recently converted this blog to one the newer MovableType templates, and then have been tweaking it to my liking. But the stylesheet for this template is over 1000 lines long, and every time I’ve tweaked it, I’ve encountered different behavior in Mozilla and Internet Explorer. Frustrating.

Google Desktop Search saves the day

2005/11/15 at 15:36

So, my coworker from Professional Services walks over to my desk with his laptop and our company’s application running (names changed to protect data integrity).
Coworker, pointing to laptop screen: “Where did all this [blah blah] data come from?”
I answer: I entered it into our application from that spreadsheet you sent me about [blah blah] data configuration.
Coworker: What spreadsheet?
Me, typing furiously, then pointing to my laptop screen: the spreadsheet attached to the intranet wiki page about [blah blah] data configuration.
Coworker: Where did that spreadsheet come from? I didn’t send you that.
Me, typing spreadsheet filename into Google Desktop Search, results showing an email from Coworker with said spreadsheet attached: Ah, but indeed you did.
Coworker: I’ll be darned.
Score one for Google Desktop Search.

History’s worst software bugs

2005/11/09 at 09:43

In Wired Magazine, Simson Garfinkel lists History’s Worst Software Bugs. I’d already heard about many of these, but not all. This one is particularly intriguing:

1982 — Soviet gas pipeline. Operatives working for the Central Intelligence Agency allegedly plant a bug in a Canadian computer system purchased to control the trans-Siberian gas pipeline. The Soviets had obtained the system as part of a wide-ranging effort to covertly purchase or steal sensitive U.S. technology. The CIA reportedly found out about the program and decided to make it backfire with equipment that would pass Soviet inspection and then fail once in operation. The resulting event is reportedly the largest non-nuclear explosion in the planet’s history.

Boom 2.0?

2005/10/28 at 07:11

Colleagues have noted lately that the software job market seems to be picking up. I’ve certainly seen an increase in the number of cold calls from recruiters, which would tend to support this observation. The next question is: are we entering another software boom?
Over at VentureBlog, investor David Hornik addresses another aspect of this issue:

Over the last couple of months I’ve noticed an increasing sense of unease in the venture community about the trend in Web 2.0 company creation and financing events. While no one is officially willing to peg it Bubble 2.0 for fear of missing the next great opportunity, I’ve been having lots of conversations with venture investors about this nagging feeling that we’ve been here before. . . So why am I now getting this increasingly uneasy feeling? I was chatting with a veteran of Bubble 1.0 recently and I think he hit on the thing that makes those of us who’ve seen this movie before most nervous. He pointed out that there are a large number of “companies” being created again for the express purpose of being acquired. I certainly have seen it.
. . .
If companies are indeed again being built for acquisition rather than independence, venture investors are in for a rude re-awakening (that will be precipitated by a very loud popping sound). While a few companies being built for acquisition will be acquired, the vast majority will ultimately run out of money and be shut down (particularly as each new Web 2.0 idea doesn’t just spawn one company but three or four). So when I hear large numbers of companies pitching themselves as excellent acquisition candidates before they’ve even gotten out of the gate I can’t help but think to myself that we are in the heart of Bubble 2.0. Sadly, only one thing follows Bubble 2.0 and that is Bust 2.0.

A new software bubble might be good for my job and compensation prospects in the short term, but I’d take a steady, healthy industry any day over another crazy boom and bust cycle.