Friday, January 30, 2009


Three powerful images, that make clear the sacrifice that brave men and women have made for America. Your freedom, my life, our America.

To make it clear: Not only are the sacrifices made on the battlefront. But back home by the men and women, the families and friends, who enable the American military on a daily basis.

My wife's Grandmother passed away recently. Her husband passed away many years ago, following his honorable service to this great country during WWII.

My mother's father served during WWII in the Pacific front. He later served as a civilian in the Pentagon. With the morally challenging duty of "manpower assessment". This was literally planning what troops would go where, to serve and die to defend the country.

My wife's Grandfather served after forward deployed military duty with honor and distinction in the military. His wife gave her time and energy as well.

We miss you "Papa Joe". I never knew you, but love hearing stories about you. Especially when your ever loving wife would tell us of "the money man" in her adorable accent. She was always proud of you.

I miss you "Granny". You were always warm and welcoming to me. I hope you respected me more because I was finally able to best you in a game of cards (just the one time though!).

I miss you Grandfather Harold. You served your country with honor and distinction. A hallmark of service that the entire family seeks to honor.

Repainting our second guest bedroom

From an ugly peach to a neutral white - that's the goal of repainting our guest bedroom.

Like many of the rooms in our house, there are a number of holes from artwork etc. But, increasingly, we are finding that there are wrinkles and creases in the walls and ceiling.

This is something that I've been increasingly worried about. I'm not sure if the house is settling, or what.

The neighborhood is prone to flooding, but our plot has been manicured to funnel the water away from the walls. Plus, the original owners spent some money to waterproof the walls.

The only major change on all that is me moving in in October of 2007, and Kara moving in post-marriage in March of 2008.

So I'm not really sure why the walls and ceilings are now increasingly getting wrinkles.

But they are.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Great resume, great interview, bad performer

What to do and who to blame?

First, take a look at the job description and requirements you used. You had some, right? Were the position and the expectations properly defined? Were the expected behaviors and required skills accurate? Did the new hire actually have them, or did you take a hunch one someone who "felt" like they could do the job?

If you answered "No" to any of the above, then you (or the company) are at least half to blame.

Your goal is to hire the right employee. Their goal is to get hired. You have to weed out the bad (or improperly fitting) candidates.

How to fix this?

  • Learn how to interview.
Don't just go through their resume to learn loosely about their job experience. Ask pointed and difficult questions. "What was the budget on that project? Did it finish on time or under budget? Why not? How do you handle a challenging client?" Never ask leading questions, such as if you are in a small company looking to hire, "Do you like working for a small company?" Obviously they'll answer that with an emphatic yes.

Part of the above requires a commitment to training.
"Woh woh woh, that requires . . . money."
Yes. And remember how your company's "core values" and "mission statement" talk about how important your people are to you? Well unless that's total BS, then you need to make hiring a priority along with the money to make it happen. Bad hires = bad employees. It's simple math.
  • Have a post interview review session
You need more than one person to interview the potential new hire, and they need to discuss the results after they interview the person. Ideally, they would plan out their discussions ahead of time. One person may do the behavioral interview, the other may do the more detailed work experience interview.
  • Use a resume review checklist
A what? This is a guide that is used as a standard for reviewing a resume, that you tailor to the specific requirements of the position. You should always include education and years of experience, but with a specific approach to trading between these two. Will you *only* take an MBA? Even if they have no relevant experience? How about someone with 20+ years of killer experience instead? I know which one I'd pick.

Specific skills? Make sure you assess these.
  • Learn what a behavioral interview really is
Sadly, in today's business world where anyone thinks they can interview (and are even good) thinks they know what a "behavioral interview" is. It is not an informal 30 minute conversation. It is not a brief discussion of their work experience. It is not chit-chat to see if the person is pleasant. It is not your gut feeling about them as a person.

What it IS, is an interview focused on assessing their workplace behaviors. You want to learn about how they behave in certain circumstances. How they react to a crisis, what steps they follow, analysis techniques. Etc.

Resume from -

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Export Google Notebook to Evernote?

Not if Google won't let me:

G o o g l e    

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The requested URL was not found on this server.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Day 1 as a first time boss, what do you do know?

What do you do when you assume your first team lead role?

First, take a few deep breaths. Hopefully this isn't something out of the blue, it should be a position you sought out yourself. If so, go back to the job description, and make sure you have the expectations clearly defined. If there is a trusted advisor or mentor you have, chat with them. Ideally you will have been talking to them prior to the role.

I had to go through a panel interview, and they asked some great questions. The client had to give an unofficial approval, and for whatever reason did (they didn't know me at all). This is one of those instances where all your networking, and your sincere desire to help others pays off. Reputation matters.

If this is out of the blue, you need to talk to your management immediately. If you aren't interested (and you don't have to be, not everyone is meant for management) then you need to tell them. If you are, but this isn't a planned on occurrence, you need to learn as much about the expectations, requirements and duties as you can. You don't want to get stuck in a bad position. Make sure you ask around about the roll, you could be getting set up to fail (unintentionally)

Eventually you'll have to decide if you want to talk to a few of your new people about how the team was led etc. This would be purely insider stuff. It's high risk. You can get good info (ground truth) but you run the risk of them blabbing, or the intel being bad. This can set you up for some brilliant first steps, or painful biases. I got some info from people that I knew had my best interests, and my team's, at heart. It helped even though some of it wasn't correct. But it let me know what the perceptions were.

You'll definitely want to talk to all your people, find out what they are doing, where they are in their careers, what their goals are, what their development needs are, etc. And you'll need to define for them who you are, and how you will help them. Doing this too fast, can spook people. You have to consider their preferred style of a manager. Maybe they want you to leave them alone, maybe they desperately need your help and guidance. I had people twice my age coming to me immediately for guidance and help, I didn't expect that, especially not from some of my most senior people.

For the love of Pete, do NOT jump into all your new reporting requirements and the like. And the only time it is ok to come in and "blow up" the team and how it works is if it is clear to all observers the team was broken before you got there. And if you do this, you can't point the finger at them, or else they'll never be open to you. And they will need to know and understand that things were broken before. You'll be surprised by who does and doesn't see it this way.

I also highly recommend "What got you here won't get you there" by Marshall Goldsmith. It's a tremendous book, a great resource. If you can take an honest look at yourself, this will help you a lot going forward.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sleepy time

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Maybe these guys should have played

Watched a dismal Bucknell basketball team lose to a slightly less stinky USNA team tonight.

The highlight for me was seeing the halftime show.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

How should I store data about my house?

I've been using Gmail to store and find information on my house.
When I get the new yearly homeowner's insurance info I email it to myself and can search for it if I'm trying to find it. I also use a label in Gmail, "house", to identify that information. And I CC my wife on the emails so she has the information too.

But I had another idea recently, one that I thought I could maybe even use as a selling point to any future buyers:

A wiki.

We use a wiki in my job for a lot of corporate information. I of course use wikipedia, it's almost always the first thing I check for any info.

But why not a wiki for the house? I could use pbwiki.

The concept is that I could create a page for each room of the house, describing its layout, paint colors (including where I got them, cost, and the color mix numbers), what is in there (like an inventory) etc. I can do a page for all our utilities and bills. A page for insurance and other items of that nature.

I could do a page for our yard, describing what flowers and plants are where, the history of major yard maintenance activities (fertilizing, lime since we have a two pine trees with needles that annoy me, etc).

My wife would be able to access it. If we ever had kids they could access it.

Thoughts? Dumb idea? BRILLIANT? Overkill given my current Gmail solution? Some other service or solution that is better?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why does Gmail's email search stink?

Google is that search company right? They at one point were world renowned for how amazing their website searched, right? I mean, we all started using their company name (a noun) as a verb, meaning "to search".

If so, then why does Gmail suck so much when you search for contacts? You won't let me search by someone's email domain? I can't search on their company name? Heck I should be able to search based on their phone number or IM name!

But nope, it doesn't do this. Thumbs down.

PS: I don't know that any other email program or site allows for this either, but this is what Google does for a living.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Christmas is over

And the tree threw up on our floor.

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How to be a good new employee

Step one, show up on time and as ready to go on day one. If you are anal like me, you will have already driven the route, on a regular work day, to make sure you know what you are doing. It is perfectly acceptable (and smart) to ask them about where to park (including the cost, if any), particular roads or routes to avoid, etc.

Feel free to get in touch with your POC and ask for reading material ahead of time. Ask them what areas they may need help with on the work you'll be doing. Ideally, you should have learned about this as part of the interview process. But you may have a new POC, such as your new boss, who can give you the real information.

As part of the interview process you also should have researched the company, its industry and its competitors. Time to review those notes and make sure it is all fresh in your mind. If you will be working for, or with, a government client then I highly recommend reading every available Government Accountability Office (GAO) report you can get your hands on. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) also has a lot of good material in issues, industries and particular departments/agenies. Harder to find, but good as well, are Inspector General (IG) reports. Many of those are not release for public consumption.

Come in and listen well. Ask questions, but not too many. Too many is defined as the point in which people avoid talking to you, or start rolling their eyes when you talk.

Wait on all your brilliant recommendations, and when you offer them, start small. Offer them in a polite way, one that doesn't imply that they've been doing things wrong, or in an overly simplistic manner. And avoid the dreaded "When I worked at _____" syndrome. Wherever you were before wasn't perfect, if it was, you wouldn't have left. You need to strike a balance between being ready to go on day 1, but not being too eager.

And remember to wear pants and zip your fly. That's a day 1 no no.

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