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Posts by Marcus Blankenship

Games Socrates played

My boss, Rob, always to asked “Socratic” questions when I came to him with a question. And, frankly, I hated it. I dreaded going into Rob’s office. One day, after spending 20 minutes with him trying to answer his Socratic questions, I burst out, “Look, just tell me the answer! I know you know, so…

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I guess Ananya’s situation looked familiar.

Last Saturday I sent out a situation and asked if it looked familiar, and what you might do about it. I got quite a few responses, and summarize them here. Original post: Does this sound familiar? Here’s what you wrote: Edith write: After Ananya asks you “which class?”, you should have asked what she thought.…

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Does this sound familiar?

I’m using this example in the book I’m writing, and want to see if this sounds familiar to you. Ananya: “Marcus, which class should contain the method to check if we have new orders? I need to add it for the feature I’m working on today.” Marcus: The OrderUpdate class would be good. Ananya: Okay,…

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If only I’d had more time

I was having dinner with some colleagues last night, and toward the end, one of them said to me, “I’ve noticed a theme when you describe your life. You seem to make time to think.” “That true, but it wasn’t always so,” I replied. “Most of my working life I only made time to do,…

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”Grown up” issues

I believe 99% of issues which get people fired were “no big deal” at one point. But then, the issues “grew up.” Pull the weeds while they’re small, and you’ll need weed killer less often. TL;DR When a manager sees something that concerns them, they may turn a blind eye, hoping the issue will resolve…

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What Jack (probably) thought about being fired

On Wednesday I mentioned that I’d fired Jack out-of-the-blue rather than put him on a PIP. He didn’t pick up on my “performance hints”, so he never really knew there was a problem. Or, at least, he didn’t know how serious the problem was. I didn’t use any formal warning processes (e.g. formal verbal, written…

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Use a PIP, or just fire them?

If you’ve been on my list for a while now, you know I want to help you become a better tech manager. One way I do this is by helping you see situations from new perspectives, often your team’s perspective. Because it’s easy to forget that there are other perspectives. So easy that I committed…

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My haunted closet

There is a tiny closet in the front room of the beach house where I’m staying this week, in Santa Cruz, CA. The closet has no light switch. Instead, the inside light is on a motion sensor. At 2 am, I got up for a drink of water and froze in my tracks. I could…

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”Nah” – Rosa Parks

I shuffle when I walk, which means I kinda drag my feet on the ground. This results in ’scuffing’ along, as my father put it. You can think of this shuffling as a system that’s balanced when my action (shuffling feet) is met with a particular reaction (dirt or gravel which give way) in a…

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You can borrow my teaching style

If the thought of leading in-house training sounds like as much fun as a root canal, this email’s for you. Especially training with a name like “Engineering Leadership Training,” right? Let me offer a super-simple idea for a zero-level training you could start today. Here’s how it might work: Setup (30m) Choose a book on…

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Let’s play “name that bias”

My sister has twin 4-year old kids, a boy, and a girl. Both have autism and are on different points of the ASD spectrum. I was having lunch with them on Sunday, for Fathers Day, and I noticed something interesting. Our waitress happened to mention that her two-year-old son doesn’t like loud noise. My sister…

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Push training vs. Pull training

In the 1980s there were some studies about what motivates programmers, based on Job Characteristics Theory. You probably aren’t surprised to learn that a key motivating factor is “growth.” This is more than just career growth – it’s improving tech skills, communication skills, leadership and management skills, and even understanding ourselves better. You might even…

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Mental Model Machinations

Over the past two weeks, two ideas have been bouncing around in my brain. They have now smashed into each other, producing a couple of emails. Today’s email is about the first idea, which is from fourth-wave systems thinking. It’s the idea of “mental models,” which we all use, all the time. Here’s the idea:…

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Some beliefs about your training programs

I’m working on this engineering management training program, which I’m tentatively calling Origin Point. After all, everything needs a name, amiright? The origin point is the center of the cartesian plane.  It also sounds like the beginning of the journey. I kinda like both those ideas. Last night I wrote a draft of the “beliefs”…

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