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Engineering to management/leadership - you're doing it wrong

Congratulations! Imagine you’re a long-time and/or hard working engineer who has been promoted to manager/leader...

Let me tell you the story of how the transition from engineering to management/leadership often plays out in NZ...and paint the picture of what I think is a national problem faced by NZ, and a bug bear of mine.
The choice of who to promote is right – as a nation, we do this well; by merit. Rather than just promoting the most senior person on a team, we will usually promote someone has demonstrated leadership and/or a propensity to take care of their team mates; make sure their colleagues are happy and have the right tools, etc. I think that this is a reflection of our low rating on the power-distance index and perhaps our perceived relatively low level of corruption - couple of links for reference:

Power distance index: http://www.clearlycultural.com/geert-hofstede-cultural-dimensions/power-distance-index/Transparency International (corruption levels by nation): http://w…

Buying a House in Auckland - Mortgages and Interest Rates

This post retraces a section of the house hunting and buying "journey" that my Wife and I have been on recently; having bought a house in Auckland. Many aspects of the process were both trying and interesting - and I reckon, worth writing about. In this post I ramble through a few of my thoughts on mortgages and mortgage repayment, interest rates, and loosely how they relate to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC).


Interest ratesWe have found a few particularly useful resources for coming up-to-speed with what's gone on historically with interest rates in NZ and globally, including the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's (RBNZ) website, which provides a great overview of what's happened with fixed and floating mortgage interest rates since 1990. Also, Tony Alexander's weekly overview (includes a useful "If I were a borrower what would I do?" section), which is quite candid, and very useful. I found the following chart on the RBNZ website...




[Source - The …

Rewriting and/or Refactoring Software - Recommended Reading

As time goes on, the world is becoming more-and-more automated by software. This essentially also means that there is an exponentially growing surface-area of legacy application code. This matter is especially pertinent to older software product companies, which may have deep bases of legacy of code to grapple with.

Here are a few recommended readings for those who deal with legacy code...

Refactor vs. rewrite
Joel Spolsky wrote the following article way back in 2000, entitled "things you should never do, part 1":

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000069.html

Spolsky is a very good writer,  and expresses simple ideas very well. This article says that it can easily become a strategically disastrous move to rewrite an application from the ground-up. Spolsky recommends against doing that, if at all possible.

On the other hand, there Dan Milstein prodives a counter-argument to Spolsky's, in the following recent response (only 13 years later!):

http://onstartups.com…

"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" - a Review and an Observation

Watched this film yesterday, on the recommendation of a person who's judgement I trust. Also, it gets a pretty high rating from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.


[Source - Google: https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=the+good+the+bad+and+the+ugly]
What I realised is that like many great movies, above all, what makes this film great is it's study of the composition of the three main characters. "The Good" (Eastwood) and "The Bad" (Van Cleef) are consistent in their behavior; fair and ruthless respectively - they are interesting elements. "The Good" is essentially a Spaghetti Western version of "Robin Hood". "The Bad" is simply a complete psychopath. By far the richest and most interesting character is "The Ugly" (Wallach) - AKA, "Tuco".

Tuco is vengeful, confused, greedy, clever, frustrated, skilled, brave, passionate, conniving, cowardice and empathetic - the list goes on. Despite this tangled mix of characteristics, as…

Gestalten Arbeitsgruppe

People can be seen by a business as an appreciating asset - hence the concept of "human resources". 
The more time the asset is associated with the business, the more value the asset accumulates. A business is no more and no less than the historical and on-going product, of the effort of people - individuals, and teams. That's why we call formalized businesses "companies" - they are a company of people working toward a business objective.
We tend to think of appreciating assets as shares, property, etc. People who own property will tend to invest their time and energy in the property; looking to increase it's value, or at least make it a better place for them to live in. We can do the same with people also - invest in training them and helping them understand a business better.
A team can be seen as combination of an appreciating asset and a product. Like an appreciating asset, a team’s value increases over time; as the team becomes more familiar with the busi…

Rock on with your bad self

The Mrs and I have been watching Breaking Bad recently. I find this programme pretty interesting; I enjoy the irony and juxtaposition of the two main character’s partnership. They are like chalk and cheese, yet are linked inextricably by their illicit drug manufacturing venture. Their enduring relationship is the dynamo of the story. Over time, Jessie, who is Mr. “bad boy” turns out to be the partnerships’ moral compass, whereas Walter, who is initially painted as Mr. “straight and narrow”, turns out to be a gleaming psychopath.

[Yin Yang - source: http://all-free-download.com/free-vector/vector-clip-art/ying_yang_116871.html]
The show really is not so much about drugs, etc., as it is about people, relationships, psychology, and the way we operate within and around the construct of the societies we live in.
The programme got me thinking about honesty, and about being honest with ourselves. How it’s important to admit that although we try to do well, we sometimes make mistakes, and eve…

Education, Success, Training Budgets, and The Cult of TechEd®

With TechEd 2013 almost upon us in NZ, this event - which has gained "cult status" in NZ's Microsoft software development community - has inspired me to write a blog post.
The cult of TechEd A ticket for TechEd can be used by companies as a carrot – many MS developers are very eager to be able to attend this event. Admittedly, initially there is a definite sense of prestige associated with being sent by your company to TechEd (or any high profile professional development type event). I’ll admit, I’ve been there – on both sides of the fence – as a Microsoft developer in the early days of TechEd in NZ, I pined to be a TechEd delegate, and as a manager of .NET developers, I have used TechEd as a carrot.


["The Carrot and Stick Set", source - http://hikingartist.com/2012/12/22/carrot-and-stick-gift-set/carrot-stick-set/]
Having been through that process though, and experienced the awkward reality (following a spend-up on TechEd) of a near-empty bucket (budget) for tr…

HOW-TO: Apply a “baseless merge” in Team Foundation Server 2010 (and 2012)

Another purely technical post on TFS...
The scenario We wish to migrate code between branches that do not have a branch/merge relationship, in order to expedite urgent changes being made by a project team, without disrupting on-going BAU development work. Sample branch hierachy/strategy Imagine the following branching strategy in TFS (visible by connecting to TFS via Visual Studio 2010 or 2012):

Essentially you have a "DEV" branch, which has a "QA" branch, which in turn has a "PROD" branch. DEV is the branch that you would be using for BAU development. As a piece of development matures, you move it into QA, where it is tested by your internal QA team. There may be further changes made in DEV that are moved into the QA branch as the QA team pick up issues. Once the QA team are happy with a packaged of changes, they will move them into PROD, which is essentially the hand-over to the customer. The PROD branch represents the software that the customer has.

Mo…

HOW-TO: Add/edit a field in Team Foundation Server 2012 using Visual Studio 2012

It's been a while since I made a purely technical post...

So, today I wanted to make a change to a Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2012 (TFS2012) instance that I am working with to reflect "Actual" time spent on a task - mainly for reporting purposes, and because I have found in the past that making this minor process adjustment yields a relatively useful metric over the long-term.

I am using the Microsoft Scrum 2.1 Process Template (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/vstudio/ff731587.aspx) for a project that I am working with. So that I don't forget how to do this (again!) I will blog-post the procedure I've used to add this field to the template as a screen-shot-based tutorial, as follows...
Before Assuming you are familiar with the Scrum Process Template (2.1-ish) - open a task and take a look at the "Details" section, as follows:


 This is where I want my "Actual" field to show up.
Get the Power Tools Download and install the latest v…

Lean Startup in Politics

[Sir Roger Douglas - Source: http://liberation.typepad.com/liberation/2009/01/act-party-history-1-formation-of-a-pressure-group.html]
I was reading a paper this-morning written by NZ politician Sir Roger Douglas, in preparation for a talk that I'll be attending by this fellow as part of an economics course that I'm doing at the moment. The paper was written in 1990 and is entitled "Politics of Successful Structural Reform" - here is a link to it:

https://www.cis.org.au/images/stories/policy-magazine/1990-autumn/1990-6-1-roger-douglas.pdf

The paper is generally about policy reform in New Zealand through the 1980s and to some extent, as with most political rhetoric, is about the writer patting himself and his colleagues on the back. There is a clear tone in this paper however of an urge to improve the nation and look past petty political posturing and toward the "long game" of improving the nation's situation. Sir Roger urges the reduction of wasteful post…

Clarification: "our planet does not need to be saved"

Following a robust debate/discussion with a good friend at the weekend, on topics related to a previous post I have made, I thought it would be worth exploring further details of that previous post (made just under a year ago) and clarifying. The post was entitled "our planet does not need to be saved". If you find the title of this post intriguing and you intend to read further, I suggest you jump back and read the following link first (otherwise the following discussion will not make much sense):

http://blog.infostructure.co.nz/2012/05/our-planet-does-not-need-to-be-saved.html

My friend believes that the original post comes across as deeply pessimistic, and in some respects, nihilistic - whereas from my perspective, it is the opposite. So I'll try here to more effectively express myself and clarify my point.
ClarificationTo clarify up-front; from a young age I have been quite concerned about the environment and the damage that our species appears to be doing to it  (like…

Two DIY half-day walking tours of Sydney

Last year Melissa and I visited Sydney and had a wander around for a couple of days. Very pretty city - we didn't have much time, but managed to get a couple of very nice - and relatively inexpensive - DIY walking tours in.


[A manhole cover that I liked and photographed with my shoe - near Sydney Central Train Station]

Both tours start and end at Circular Quay (CQ) - so theoretically say, if you were in Sydney on stop-over for 12 hours, you could catch the train from the airport to CQ and start from there.

So, here they are:
Balmain and Harbour Bridge -  Synopsis - this tour takes you on a ferry ride from CQ, under the harbour bridge and around a couple of beautiful old suburbs. Start early/mid afternoon so that you walk back across the bridge about dusk – take in the view of the city at sunset from the walkway across the bridge.
(1) Start a Circular Quay – get a return ticket on Balmain Ferry (about $12): http://www.131500.com.au/upload/docs/sydney-ferry/DarlingHarbour-ferry-timetab…