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When Smart People Make Bad Employees 491

theodp writes "Writing for Forbes, CS-grad-turned-big-time-VC Ben Horowitz gives three examples of how the smartest people in a company can also be the worst employees: 1. The Heretic, who convincingly builds a case that the company is hopeless and run by a bunch of morons; 2. The Flake, who is brilliant but totally unreliable; 3. The Jerk, who is so belligerent in his communication style that people just stop talking when he is in the room. So, can an employee who fits one of these poisonous descriptions, but nonetheless can make a massive positive contribution to a company, ever be tolerated? Quoting John Madden's take on Terrell Owens, Horowitz gives a cautious yes: 'If you hold the bus for everyone on the team, then you'll be so late that you'll miss the game, so you can't do that. The bus must leave on time. However, sometimes you'll have a player that's so good that you hold the bus for him, but only him.' Ever work with a person who's so good that he/she gets his/her own set of rules? Ever been that person yourself?"

Comment Conflicting regulations (Score 1) 754

New regulations for stronger roofs and better side crash impacts have increased pillar size and raised belt lines. This has greatly reduced rear visibility (and front/side visibility, driving a new car feels like driving a TANK). To have any rear visibility in new vehicles almost requires a rear view camera.

Comment Re:So being netural is the worst chocie then? (Score 2, Insightful) 192

OLIVER: How hard was it to remind neutral during World War II?

MAURER: Well, I think this is always a debate and I think we do make a clear distinction between our neutrality as an instrument of foreign policy and what we think as individuals and what the country thinks.

OLIVER: But then, the neutrality issue seems complicated. Now obviously, Hitler did some very bad things, we know that. How do you focus on the positive things to balance that out?

MAURER: It's not a question of positive. It's a question of our neutrality has always been a state-driven concept of not participating in war.

OLIVER: Was there not just a little voice of humanity inside you saying this is terrible, we should really do something about it?
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MAURER: As a question of principle, it's unadvisable for a country as small as ours to participate in war. Why should we?

OLIVER: So: Easy to take a position on neutrality, hard to take a position on Hitler.

MAURER: We did take strong positions on Hitler and many other things. We didn't participate in the war. That's two different things.

OLIVER: [imitating Hitler] "Would it be possible for me to keep my gold here?" [Imitating the Swiss] "Ah, Adolf! Of course! Lovely to see you again. Come back in! What have you been up to? Actually, don't tell me, I want to be able to say I don't know."

[uncomfortable pause]

OLIVER: Is this neutral anger, or real anger, Mr. Ambassador?

Comment Went to DePaul for Statistics (Score 4, Informative) 71

I went to DePaul and got an MS in Applied Statistics. I also work for a marketing company doing "predictive analytics". (I really don't like that term. It degrades the importance of understanding the relationship between independent and dependent variables, and places more emphasis on dependent variable fit. You can have a highly accurate model, but if marketers don't understand how their efforts affect sales the model is worthless.)

At DePaul one series of classes was mostly math theory, the remaining classes were 100% about "predictive analytics", i.e. using a computer to build statistical models. It used a more traditional approach to applied statistics with "topical" classes: sampling, forecasting, design & analysis of experiments, nonparametric statistics, Monte Carlo simulation, multivariate statistics, etc.

The statistics program is part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in the math department. This new program is in the computer science department (which has its own college). The program ( looks like a hybrid of CS, Stats & Marketing. It includes a class in neural networks which most stats programs lack, but again, this focuses on "prediction" instead of "inference", which is less useful to marketers. (Neural networks is a highly valuable topic. Just not as much in this field.) Also, the program lacks pure programming classes, which there is A LOT of in this field (data never comes in formats ready to model). Most is done in SAS or R, but any programming language teaching basic concepts (variables, logic, arrays, loops, functions) is useful.

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