What is the secret to networking? Make it about them.

Networking is hard! It is daunting, time consuming, and often confusing — especially if you aren’t a natural. In fact, it can be down-right scary. You probably already know how valuable networking can be; it can help you get your day-to-day work done, advance your career, lead to a new job, or open new social groups. Networking has brought me several job opportunities and is how I met my wife (friends of friends, bar crawl, long story).

What is the first step?

There are 1000 and 1 things you can do to be a good networker, but let’s distill how you should start to a single item: pick one person this week to meet for lunch, grab a coffee with, or have an afterwork drink. It is that simple! Pick someone who you know, but not well — an acquaintance who you want to know better. Think about why you want to know them better:

  • Are they someone who is great to know for business or your career?
  • Are they someone you met at a party and would just like to know better because you think they are cool?
  • Are they someone who you use to be close with, but have lost touch?

Just ask them would they like to grab a coffee or drink after work. If you are accommodating (a convenient time and place for them), they will likely say YES!

What do we talk about?

Them. You talk about them!

If you don’t believe me, go ahead and check out the classic Dale Carnegie book How to Make Friends and Influence People. In the book, he describes going to a dinner party and having a long conversation with another guest. They only spoke about the guest’s life and concerns — Carnegie asking question after question, but the guest not once asking about Carnegie. The guest ended up thinking Carnegie was the greatest person in the world, even though the guest knew nothing about Carnegie. The guest, who happened to be an influential person, became a lasting member of Carnegie’s network because he did something for him — Carnegie made him feel special.

Make it about them.

Tales like this abound: “One of the many intriguing things about Richard Branson is that he has this laser-focus eye contact. When he is talking to you, he’s not looking to his left, looking to his right, or anywhere else other than directly at you–he gives you his full attention”, says Ivan Misner. Branson makes you feel special and as if you are the only person in the world. He makes you feel important.

In other words, make it about them. Ask yourself: How can you help them, what can you do for them, how can you make their life/job easier? If you can bring value to the other person, you’ve made a strong network connection that can benefit you in the future. If you go in looking what they can do for you, well, you’ll probably get little or nothing.

But be sure to have a real conversation. Be interested in them — for real. People can always tell when someone is just being a sycophant. Find out what they are passionate about (sports, technology, lawns) and delve deep into that.


It is important you keep your network alive and active. After the meeting, build the relationship further by sending them a quick note via email, text, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Snapchat thanking them for the great conversation. In a few weeks, but no longer than a month or two, follow up with another get-together. Also, when LinkedIn notifies you of their anniversary or change of jobs, use that opportunity to contact them again. Don’t allow your network you’ve built to atrophy.

But that’s just the start. Make a personal goal of meeting with a different acquaintance every week — and track who you meet and when you meet. Check out MeetUp to find some networking events. Once you become comfortable with a weekly meetup, increase your networking to two different people a week and eventually make habitual contact with at least three different people a week. You’ll be amazed how easily you’ll get into a regular routine and how quickly you’ve strengthened and expanded your network!

If you enjoyed this article, please click recommend or share to help others find it!


My New Apple Watch Band Made All The Difference

I have to admit my Apple Watch was falling out of favor with me. I had purchased the cheapest version, the Apple Watch Sport (space gray with the black rubber wrist band) about 6 months ago. I of course went for the cheapest since I didn’t know if it was going to end up sitting in my drawer next to my Newton, I mean Pebble Watch.

My Apple Watch Sport

I wore my Apple Watch Sport for almost every work day. I loved the push notificaitons (especially for Slack) and upcoming meeting reminder (quick tap on the wrist told me I had another back-to-back meeting, yeah!). However, I started becoming tired of the watch. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I started wearing my old school (non-digital) watched more often. The rubber band also started to become uncomfortable. Then, about a month ago, I got the new woven nylon wrist band…

My new nylon wrist band

Wow, what a difference! The new nylon band looks great with the white band on black watch, is more comfortable than the rubber band, and makes the Apple Watch Sport feel new again. I don’t know if the feeling will last long, I’m certainly happy with the purchase and my seemingly new watch. Although, it still bothers me to pay $40 for something worth about $10, but that’s not the point, right?

Part 1: How Much Is Your Resume Worth?


Have you ever considered how much your resume is worth? Put an actual dollar value on it? I sometimes ask people seeking resume help how much they think their two-page resume is worth (hopefully their resume is only two pages and not the 10+ I’ve seen). I get answers from five cents to “a lot,” but the right answer is: it depends on how much I make. If I earn $100,000 every year for the next ten years, these two pages are worth $1,000,000 dollars to me. Think about that for a second. The resume I thought of as a burden to create and update, which I worked on while watching The Big Bang Theory or Game of Thrones, is possibly worth $1mm or more to me. What other documents have you recently created worth $1mm+ to you?

While your resume is far from the only factor in getting a job, it is your gateway into getting the interview. Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book “Blink” how people, especially interviewers, make snap judgments. When you first meet someone and shake their hand, you make a snap judgment about that person. A strong handshake might indicate a smart and put together individual or a weak handshake might indicate a timid and unmotivated individual. The interviewer sub-consciously continues to reinforce that initial judgment through out the discussion. For example,

“Do you know Java?” the interviewer asks.

You reply, “No, but I read a lot and can quickly learn.”

If the interviewer snap judged they don’t like you, they sub-consciously think, “Hmm, doesn’t seem to have the right skills. No hire.” If the interviewer snap judged they like you, they sub-consciously think, “Wow, seems to have a real can do attitude and has great potential. Hire!” The very first snap judgment a hiring manager makes about you is based on your resume.

A well organized, easy to read, and error free resume indicates an intelligent and well-organized individual. A sloppy, dense, or error-filled resumeindicates a lazy and “lacks attention to detail” individual.

That is why we said, let’s build something that helps people build the best resume possible, create a great first impression, and get them the right job:The Resume Reviewer.

To Be Continued in Part 2: Building the Resume Reviewer where we’ll get into the tech detail.

Why You Should Let Your Best Employee Join Another Team

Team Management

Imagine a fantastic software engineer who’s been working for the same team on the same system for a few years. Before long, she gets promoted. Her colleagues and direct reports love her, but despite getting more responsibilities, she’s growing tired of the same set of technical challenges.

A team is being put together elsewhere in the company in order to build a new system, and she has her eye on that. So she decides to approach her manager about it.


At many companies, this type of request isn’t greeted too enthusiastically. Plenty of organizations have official policies on internal transfers, but they’re seldom utilized as much as they could be. I once had a manager who would say that a team member of theirs “quit” when they transferred, and actually tried to prevent that from happening. A colleague of mine says he once got scolded by a manager who found out he was using the internal jobs site, and was then “forgiven.” In these situations, company culture undermines company policy.


Explicitly or implicitly, when the opportunity to apply your skills in a different part of the company is discouraged, you’re more likely to jump ship altogether.

For managers, though, it comes down to weighing the costs and benefits. If you discourage or outright reject the transfer request and keep that team member on board, you will:

  • Have a demotivated and unhappy employee on your hands.
  • Deliver a clear message to the rest of your team that there’s no leaving this group; there’s only leaving the company.
  • Eventually—usually within six months—be handed a resignation letter.

If you say yes, you’ll no longer have the great employee on your team, but will:

  • Have the opportunity to negotiate when they can transfer (e.g. one or two months, which is far better than two weeks’ notice), so you’ll have enough time to recruit the right replacement and bring them fully up to speed.
  • Deliver a clear message to the rest of your team that you can have a career here and not just a job.
  • Retain a talented and happy employee who keeps using their expertise on behalf of the company.


Some companies actually excel at letting their top employees move around within the organization in order to develop their skills. GE, for instance, has been known to approach top performers who’ve been in their roles for around one-and-a-half to two years and ask about their next position in the company. The point is to get the best people to stick with GE for the long haul and develop a career there.

For employees, the question is when, whether, and how to ask managers about the possibility of transferring to another team. Some companies don’t require you to do that, but some do. Regardless, those conversations should happen, and managers should encourage them. The ideal manager should be a partner to employees, not someone to hide from. Interest in working elsewhere within the company should never be a dirty secret or interpreted as a critique of a manager’s leadership style.


Personally, I’ve had two people approach me about transferring to other groups during the past six months. One person wanted to increase the breadth of their experience, and the other wanted to be in the group focused on services (back end is their passion). Both of those employees brought a lot to my team. But after talking it out with them individually, I said yes to both. I knew they’d be able to grow and follow their passions, and it was my job to encourage that.

Sometimes managers are in a tough spot. What should you do if you’d like to help your employees grow in a different part of the company, but the organization frowns on that? Some managers’ judgment will be questioned if they let top performers leave. That risk is real, but it’s better to err on the side of doing right by your employees.

If you do, you’ll ultimately be doing right by your company, too—even if it isn’t exactly seen that way. The reality is that people now change their employers more often than ever, so minimizing that churn can be a good thing. What’s more, employees whose careers you’ve helped advance will remember that. You may be losing someone great now, but they might come back into your professional life sooner than you’d expect.

Post originally appeared in Fast Company.

Managed Chaos: Empowering Your Engineering Team


I believe in the engineering team using Cobol and Fortran ’77 (so much better than ’66) to develop the best modern websites.  I believe in them using note cards and excel files and Jira and Trello to organize the Agile Product Backlog, and using nothing at all.  I believe in the teams having a leader and having no leader.  I believe in what the team wants to do.

While a bit tongue-in-cheek, I truly believe that a successful, innovative, and evolving organization must encourage its members to decide how they get the job done.  Trust the team to find what works best to achieve their goals, which of course should be aligned with the company goals.  The effective leader provides vision, values, and transparency.  The leader must protect the team by setting up the metaphorical guardrails by the cliff’s edge, but between those guardrails create an open and fertile environment for the teams, who are professionals and most likely smarter than the leader (that’s why you hired them!), to do what they do best.

If you want to achieve the best, get out of their way and trust!

That said, how do we prevent the organization from falling into chaos where one team is using Clojure, another Haskel, another Go, another Agile, another Waterfall, ad-infinitum?  If we allow that sort of chaos to ensue, the engineering team will have serious issues with business continuity (shoot, Bob the Cobol guy just left – who here knows Cobol, anyone, anyone, Bueller?), hiring, and maintainability.  The other extreme, which large organizations often adopt, is a regimented approval process for all technology, down to the version level.  Do you want to use Scala 2.11.7?  Well, write up a report, submit to the engineering committee, POC, review, and 6 months later and dozens hours of your time, maybe get Scala on the restricted list.  Maybe.

But there is a better way to do it and that is Managed Chaos.*  Chaos can be detrimental, but if properly managed, it can be a powerful tool for an engineering organization to embrace innovation and drive the business forward through technology.  When the engineering team comes to you asking to use Cobol, say, “Yes! I support you.  But, I do have some questions.  Where do you plan on finding Cobol engineers?  What about mainframes?  I don’t have any here.  Also, can you build websites in Cobol?  Didn’t know that.  How will you leverage other teams to get the help you need since no one here knows Cobol?”  If the team has justification and has reasoned out how this will drive the product and team, allow the chaos to happen.  You have managed the chaos by asking the right questions, thinking things through, and aligning to the business and product. You have embraced change that can drive the business and product forward by giving your team control (e.g. the tech stack).

Create a great engineering environment by giving your team control.

What you really are trying to avoid is the “Oh, yeah, we should have thought of that” statement after the fact.  For example, if our Data Science team wants to start using MongoDB and our Platform team wants to use Cassandra, that is totally fine if they have thought it through and discussed why each team needs to use a different no-sql databases.  That is Managed Chaos.  We don’t want to have the discussion 6-months after implementation and say, “I guess there is no reason we couldn’t have used the same.”  That is just chaos.

Another example is from a recent decision by one of our Agile teams at TheLadders.  Most teams are either singularly use either Jira or Trello.  However, one team for our Professional website decided they want the Product Owner to create user stories in Jira and the Engineering Tasks be broken down and estimated in Trello.  I was dubious – really, both?  Isn’t that, well, chaotic?  It isn’t.  The team had thought though the complexity and determined it worked for both the product owner and engineers, and I’m happy to say they were right.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid of change, don’t be afraid of the decisions your team makes, and don’t be afraid of managed chaos.

Managed Chaos is similar in concept to Fractal Organizations.  Below is a great description from Pravir Malik on how a Fractal Organization works:

“In meta-theory all instances of organization, from the smallest, such as an idea or a person, to the largest, such as global markets and planet earth herself, are fractals:  the essence of their way of being is repeated on scales both smaller and larger than themselves.  There is however, a particular class of fractals, that of progress, of which The Fractal Ladder is an ever-present manifestation, which spawns organizations that are truly progressive and sustainable in nature.  In the scheme of things this class of fractals is of critical importance, and to master its replication and to fully understand the impact it will have in creating sustainable and dynamic organizations is a practical necessity.”

The Best Podcasts (or My Personal Favorite Podcasts)

Here is a run down of the podcasts I subscribe to using my favorite app (Downcast).  While these are not all of my subscriptions, they are the ones I actually listen to.

  1. Planet Money – You would think it was on personal finance (being named Planet Money and all), but it goes way beyond that.  I just listened to a podcast on the app Haystack (sell your parking space).  From their site: “Imagine you could call up a friend and say, ‘Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.’ Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening. That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money.”  And it is fun!
  2. Hardcore History – Dan Carlin is amazing.  He creates a historical narrative that is engaging, informative, and entertaining.  I listened to a 5 part series on Genghis Khan – it is that good!
  3. TechStuff – Not as polished as some of the other podcasts, but the 2+ parters are just plain good.  I really enjoyed the ones on Atari and HBO.
  4. Serial – Ok, if you’ve haven’t heard of this podcast then you’ve been living under a rock.  The most famous, downloaded podcast in the history of podcasts.  It follows the story of convicted murder Adnan Syed and makes you ask if he really did it.  I say he….
  5. StarTalk – Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson himself with with Bill Nye or a comedian join forces to explore the mysteries of the universe.  My favorite are the Cosmic Queries where Neil answers reader question off the top of his head…his brilliance shines.
  6. Radiolab from WNYC – Moving stories that either make you think or on pull your heard strings.  Sometimes I don’t listen to them while I’m driving because they are too intense.
  7. StartUp – A series about, you guessed it, startups.  The first season was about how Alex Blumberg left his stable job at NPR to create his own startup media company (Gimlet Media).  Season 2 follows Dating Rink, a dating startup.  Extremely entertaining if you are into the startup world.
  8. Reply All – The second podcast series from Gimlet Media about the hidden corners of the Internet.  Some of the episodes are misses, but some real gems exist.

So there you have it!  Enjoy, and I hope this helps you discover something new.

I’m Back and The Apple Watch Review

watch-dmIt has been a long time since I last posted, but with today’s Apple Watch reviews coming in, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to start my New Year’s resolution of posting weekly…a little late, I know.  A special thanks to John Sonmez @jsonmez for his inspiring podcast on Developer Tea.

Since I don’t have an Apple Watch yet, I won’t attempt to give my own review (funny if I did).  However, I’ll provide the best overview I’ve yet found on the Apple Watch – a summary of review across the blogosphere at The Tech Block.  I also suggest checking out the USA Today video of using the Apple Watch in the real world.

The overall sentiment is:

  • The Apple Watch is amazing!
  • The best smart watch out there.
  • Do we really need it? (if you recall, the same was said of the iPad)
  • The watch is for pioneers…a 1.0 product.

The big question I have is should I spend the $$ now or wait until the 2.0 version?

Update: I think I will. 🙂