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Comment Re:"Free" money (Score 1) 1797

"There was a time when working part time over the summer would be enough to pay ALL college expenses"

I only started college in 1981, so maybe it was before my time. But that sure wasn't the case then.

College is essentially a full-time job for 9 months a year in the US. If there was ever a time when a part time job for 3 months a year covered a full time existence for 9 months, well, I sure missed out on that era. Perhaps that was part of the mythical 1950's that everyone seems to pine for, even though if you were 15 in 1955 you'd probably be 71 now - meaning the vast majority of the population wasn't around in the "good old days" of being terrified of nuclear war, the Communist Menace, etc.

Comment Slashdot Usage? (Score 1) 417

I wonder if /. would post some stats on OS usage at /. by time of day (expect lots more XP during the day while we work for The Man), and browser usage? A percentage of the total so the /. corporate overlords don't think there's trade secrets being released (e.g., 20% XP, 15% OSX, 0.001% HURD, etc.).

Comment Re:Stay Put (Score 1) 772

I'd say you nudge him out of delivering code if you can, if your team can handle the load, by suggesting you can take that project on, in order to free him up for more strategic work - like vendor evaluation, training/skills development, a standards/process review, or whatever. Praise him when possible for anything he does that's NOT coding. Send notes to him and copy his boss that his standards review was excellent and you really appreciate his taking the managerial approach to making things better. Build a pattern of rewards for non-coding efforts. If that's not possible, or he won't give it up, then either rewrite his code before it hits production, (you will eventually anyway), or switch teams. That one's rough!

Comment Re:Stay Put (Score 1) 772

What happened to me was I was a developer happily coding away at my assigned project, writing a new system for Marketing to collect data, create reports, select segments for mailings, and so on. I had my dark cube, my radio, great friends, and spent half my time diving into the system libraries to enable my programs to do stuff no one else's could. It was great. Then, I demonstrated the system to the VP of Marketing, who told me it was great, but he had no one who could use it - would I like to become a manager in marketing, running a small data entry team, but mostly analyzing our promotions? Heck yeah, I was making $21K and this was a huge leap.

That's not scalable, unfortunately.

First choice is to think about leadership positions and if they are right for you. Here's what you get: you get everyone's problems. Easy stuff they just take care of. You get the ugly stuff. You get the political problems. You get your next higher boss who may be paranoid of your success. You get HR issues, like firing people, giving reviews to slackers, and so on. You have to fight for budget and tell your team you failed when a companywide cutback affects you. They don't care about that, they just hear your news that you can't replace the guy who left, and we all have to pick up the slack, and blame you, whether they say so or not. And if you do your job right, no piece of work goes out with your name on it - you lead your teams to create the work and their name goes on it. They make the presentation to exec, not you. And you get to spend hours in really boring meetings.

The leap to the first management position is the most abrupt and painful one possible - you have to leave behind everything that made you successful, and just manage and coordinate. No more coding. No more analysis. That is a leap many don't make successfully. It's really hard. Every instinct has to change.

That being said, here's what you get (besides money): you get to bring on good people that make a difference when you hire them. You get to steer your people down more productive paths by being a second pair of eyes. If you do it right, you'll never suggest that path - only ask leading questions to make them see the option themselves. You are teaching them to fish, not handing them a fish. And when it works it's the most rewarding thing ever. You get to shine the spotlight on your team and see them reap their just rewards. You get to set direction and avoid mistakes of the past, as much as possible. You get to build bridges to other groups to make working with them easier.

The net? Hotshot coders (or analysts, or whatever the team does) generally hate management. People who are ready to teach, to lead, to take a backseat and know you are nudging them to greater good, blossom in management.

So if it's right for you, how do you get there? Become known. Try to attend presentations. Make them. Learn to communicate, it's the number one skill. Be the one who doesn't mind public speaking. This all gets your name out. Build relationships with your boss' peers and their boss. But not behind your boss' back. If your immediate manager isn't evil and will try to hold you back on purpose (it happens), tell them you are interested in learning more about management and just want some mentors. This builds name recognition. When you go to the meeting with those other bosses, bring your work (to show what you can do) and ask their advice in how to socialize that work with other teams. They'll love that. Ask about their projects and if possible, offer to help. Volunteer for things that involve other teams and other departments. Not necessarily the United Way drive or whatever, but real multi-team projects. Build your brand.

How do promotions happen? Your boss goes to meetings and presents your name and gathers reactions. (nb: I've worked at many, many places, from startups to Fortune 5 companies, and it's the same everywhere). If the reactions are positive, you go on The List. Which may be written, or not, but they know you. Good things then happen. You're building your brand.

Is your immediate boss evil? Change teams and take a 1-2 year setback while you prove yourself. Are they all evil? Leave when feasible.

How do those things sound? Like something you want to do (mentoring, personal brand building, public speaking)? If not, leadership isn't for you. Test number one! :-) Sound OK but a bit uncomfortable? That's OK. You're flexing new muscles, there's always some soreness early on.

Good luck!

Comment Re:Stay Put (Score 1) 772

I agree, but wasn't clear. When I say not to question things, I mean barking about routine stupid decisions from YOUR management, not the business side (e.g., "Hey everyone! Let's do our time recording in 10 minute increments, updated hourly!"). The team pushing back won't get it changed, the rookie manager will just harden their position. A much better approach is let it go for a while, them go to the rookie manager and show your concerns and ask their "advice" in how to fix it. Sometimes the rookie manager will reverse the decision if they look good doing it. Especially if the analyst sends them a thank you copying the second-line manager, praising the first-line manager's proactive stance. (hint, hint)

If a project kicks off and the tech team has legitimate concerns (e.g., "Uh, dude, we don't get the data often enough to make that work") I'm all about it. But that's not where water cooler complaints focus - people quite naturally hate the little, stupid things (e.g., "We all need to wear ties or skirts when we meet with the business partners"). The number one hated response I get from my tech partners is "Business area X will never let us do that." You know what? That's my problem to fix. And I should already have done it. Or if it's new, now I need to get off my duff and get permission. Or grant it, if I'm high enough. But it too often halts the conversation.

Remember, I'm business, not technical, for the last 25 years. Can I operate your version control system? No. Can I write your JCL? ouch - probably not anymore. Can you build a multi-phase stepwise regression model using principal components factors and a k-means clustering, with 1000 lines of code to do the T in ETL? Probably not. But I can, and do, even as a VP. It's the only way to stay current in my field.

It's all about mutual respect and a positive attitude. What I'm driving at is don't publicly display a bad attitude towards management (don't be that grumpy nay-sayer, regardless of your age) if you don't want every crap assignment that comes along. And management needs to provide enough context to the business problem that the tech team can offer up alternatives that may be better than what was originally asked for. But too many older tech analysts go into work-prevention mode, which is good for no one.

Comment Re:Stay Put (Score 5, Insightful) 772

I started out as a developer, then 25+ years ago got pulled into the "business side". Now I'm a VP in a really, really huge company. So my perspective will be a bit non-Slashdot-traditional.

If the OP has a job in project management, stay there. It may not be what you love, but's a regular job, and you are more able to help others avoid the snake pits you've encountered over the years than if you were pounding code. Display a positive attitude, and see if maangement is an option. It may be safer, but is more boring (trust me). You make that call, you can ask your boss to job shadow a manager, perhaps. But this will never happen if you don't have a good attitude, which incluides not ripping on stupid management decisions. If you disagree, keep your mouth shut, unless it's an ethics or compliance violation. Demonstrating that you see through the management BS and calling them on it will NEVER help your career, will NEVER reverse a bad decision, and WILL drag down team morale when the 20-somethings see that the veterans are opposed. You may feel smug, but it will never make things any better. No one will think you're smart, worldly, or wise.

As a "business partner" here are some things never to forget:

OF COURSE the business requirements are fuzzy. If the business side wrote very detailed, very clear, actionable, testable, realistic requirements, we wouldn't need half as many tech people. Our job is to figure out what needs to be done - not to have thought through every edge-case before calling you. Please help us through that.

I dread walking into an IT meeting and seeing a bunch of 50+ people. Bear in mind I'm really close to that myself. I want to see people who WANT to get my project done. Most of the 50+ programmers I encounter are chiefly concerned with demonstrating they know more about technology than I do (rarely true), with telling me why a project CAN'T be done, why this isn't how WE do things around here, and that I'm not "following the process". Maybe my project is stupid, it's true - I've been there many times, on both sides. Or maybe you don't know as much about my job as you think you do, and don't have the perspective to effectively judge.

Every career stalls. There is one CEO - or maybe one a year - but it won't be you, statistically speaking. So you'll top out somewhere. When you near 50, and find yourself in a boring job that either isn't what you love, or you've done it hundreds of times and can do it in your sleep, then start thinking about how you'll spend your retirement, and begin prepping. Give the company 8-9-?? good hours a day, then focus on building your future. Retirement is often 30 years long. How will you spend it? Is now the time to buy a small cabin down by the lake? Start a hobby that you love? Volunteer in the community? Go back to school? Even with 10 years left, most of the rest of your life will be post-work. Don't wait for your last year to plan.

No matter what your job is, whom you work for, what industry you work in, or what country you live in, people want to work with other people who are positive and try to be helpful. Is your attitude, demeanor, and work product demonstrating that? If not, you can be sure you'll always get the crap jobs - working with the irritating business partner who has just as bad an attitude as you, most often.

just some thoughts.

Comment Re:In other words (Score 3, Insightful) 566

Careful about anti-fanboyism - auto-mockery of what others love, just as blindly. Apple has a good track record as measured by customer satisfaction on their phones, and many people have confidence that that record will continue. My family is rocking two Blackberries, a Nexus S, and two iPhones, and I'll probably replace the iPhone 3GS with an iPhone 5 if it looks decent and provides incremental value. Not an automatic decision. But given the track record, I would probably answer a survey that I'd be interested in buying one. And I'm no fanboy of Apple, having literally thrown a Mac three years ago into the garbage because I hated it so much. Though I will admit my Apple Lisa and Apple ][+ were pretty sweet in the day.

Comment Re:Alcohol (Score 1) 309

For some of us it wasn't a dream. For a particular CS class (assembler) I thought to myself, "Hmm. We haven't had a test in a while." So I called the TA. Answer: The test was this morning. I called the prof. Went like this:

Prof: "I've annouced it for 3 weeks in lecture."'
me: "Um, I haven't gone."
Prof: "... We mentioned it for 3 weeks in discussion."
me: "Um, I haven't gone."
Prof: "... It's been posted for 3 weeks in the lab."
me: "Um, I haven't gone."
Prof: "If you can get here in a half hour you can take it right now."

I get there, sit down, and realize it was an open book test and I brought nothing,


Got a B+. Turned out the last question was a huge paper debug, where you were given a long program, you had to work out what the code did, and what had to change to get the desired results. And the code was commented. So you could work out what everything did, and use it to answer the previous questions. I learned more assembler in that hour and a half than in the rest of the class combined.

Comment Re:The Real Netflix Fix (Score 1) 301

Not necessarily. Compare to the experience from DirecTV. ([rant] Netflix has NEVER, EVER had a movie streamable I wanted to watch. Ever. Anything made in the last 10 years and not mediocre or worse is never available for streaming. The only reason I subscribe is for Barbie movies for my kids. [/rant]), I order it and it slowly downloads, using available, low-priority bandwidth to "fill up the corners" as it were. When I want to watch it, I then actually agree to pay money, and DirecTV sends down a signal to enable playback. No reason Netflix couldn't do the same thing, using overnight bandwidth, always keeping 4-5 movies on my computer. On-the-spot instant PPV is available too, of course, this is just a super-convenient option.


"Farming" Amoebas Discovered 49

Researchers from Rice University have found a type of amoeba that practices a sort of "primitive farming behavior." When their bacteria food become scarce, the Dictyostelium discoideum will group together and form a "fruiting body" that will disperse bacteria spores to a new area. From the article: "The behavior falls short of the kind of 'farming' that more advanced animals do; ants, for example, nurture a single fungus species that no longer exists in the wild. But the idea that an amoeba that spends much of its life as a single-celled organism could hold short of consuming a food supply before decamping is an astonishing one. More than just a snack for the journey of dispersal, the idea is that the bacteria that travel with the spores can 'seed' a new bacterial colony, and thus a food source in case the new locale should be lacking in bacteria." It's good to know that even a single celled creature is not immune to the pull of Farmville.

Comment Re:We've seen this before (Score 1) 185

He doesn't get that the browser / OS has a main goal of getting out of the way and letting you work.

As long as "work" is defined as sitting on Facebook for an hour hitting refresh every 10 seconds so you can monitor what the morons you went to high school with had for dinner, while waiting for Glee to come on, I agree.


Chip Allows Blind People To See 231

crabel writes "3 blind people have been implanted with a retinal chip that allowed them to see shapes and objects within days of the procedure. From the article: 'One of the patients surprised researchers by identifying and locating objects on a table; he was also able to walk around a room unaided, approach specific people, tell the time from a clock face, and describe seven different shades of gray in front of him.'"

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Those who do things in a noble spirit of self-sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs. -- N. Alexander.