Monday, January 23, 2012

3 Tips: How to achieve work/life balance

I am a working mom. I have two kids that I absolutely adore and a job that I absolutely love. Yet, for the past 7 years, I face the daily challenge that every working mom that I know faces - how to balance it all.  Here are 3 things I've learned along the way to help achieve work/life balance on a daily basis.

1. Be present.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Don't let great be the enemy of good

Or, how do I know if the developer I am interviewing for my team is good enough or if I should hold out for the perfect match? 
Over the years, as I've helped technical managers navigate the recruiting world, I often hear the following comment - "We found someone we like, but we don't want to make him an offer just yet, we want to see who else is out there." 
While these well-intentioned managers are debating, the candidate is busy interviewing with other companies.  This results in one of two scenarios: 1. The candidate accepts another job or 2. The candidate gets another offer which he then uses to get a better offer from you.
One of the most important things you can do for you interview process is: know up front what you are looking for, and when you find someone that meets the criteria, act on this immediately. 
Now, I don't mean loosen your criteria and jump on the first candidate that is decent. No, what I mean is, have an evaluation process in place. If the candidate passes, don't doubt this process, make them an offer today. 
Worst case, you are wrong and then you learn from the process and improve. Best case, the candidate is great. Most likely case, the candidate is very good and your evaluation process worked. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Hire Developers in 2012

As we enter 2012, the outlook for tech in NYC is strong.  There are more start-ups here than there have been since 2007. And, from what I’ve seen, this time around folks are actually trying to make a profit rather than the way we all did it in 2000. Plus, Wall Street is now an attractive place to work again. And, several big guns like LinkedIn and Facebook have made NYC home to development teams.

What does that mean for those of us that need to hire developers this year? It means we are entering the year with a very marked 'Talent War' in NYC.   It's difficult to hire A-list developers, and even harder to retain them.

My advice – don’t settle and don’t panic.  Here’s a 3 step process to help start you off in the right direction.

First, identify what your success criteria are. Rather than focus on skills needed to create a job description, imagine what a successful developer in your organization will look like 3, 6 and 12 months from now.  Include all aspects of the job, from what this person should know technically, to how they will fit in culturally. Write these things down and use that as a basis for your job description.

Second, know what your company stands and what a successful employee in your organization looks like. Create an interview process that tests for each of these components. If developers that take criticism well tend to excel in your company, figure out a way to include analyzing this in your interview process.  (Note: Not all questions are considered ‘legal interview questions’, so do your homework and be sure to avoid illegal questions.)

Third, know that it’s going to take some time to find the right fit (thus, don’t panic). The saying “hire slowly, fire quickly” will be more valuable in 2012 than it’s ever been.  Evaluate your process and ensure you are making progress, but don’t rush. Making a bad hire quickly can take years to undo.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This Year I Resolve To... Tips on how to make your resolutions stick

Figure this being the first blog of the new year, I should write about all the great things I'm going to do this year.

First, let's back up a bit. My whole adult life, as long as I can remember, I've always made new year's resolutions. Some years because I thought it was fun, some years because I thought I ought to, some years because I felt I needed a direction.  Usually they lasted about 1 week. 

Then, about 3 years ago, I figured out how to do it right. This is going to sound silly, but I used Agile frame my new year's resolution creation.  Here's what I do each year:

1. Brainstorm. Find a quiet place and set aside some time. At least an hour, more if you can.  Think about all the things you'd like to do this year. Write each thing down, one idea per index card. Let the ideas flow, don't stop and think about if it's silly, unattainable, embarrassing.   Spend at least 15 minutes doing this, throw all index cards onto the table.

2. Prioritize. Take all of your index cards, put them into piles A (most important), B(great if you can achieve it this year), C( nice to achieve).

3. Clarify. For all the A's, turn each index card into a concrete, measurable, achievable goal (ideally a SMART goal, but at the very least, something you can read and have a clear picture of what it would look like complete).

4. Write Stories. For the A's that are now concrete, add the 'special sauce', as I once heard Jack Daly say. That is, what are you going to do each month, week, day, to implement this goal.   Each 'special sauce' is a Story, one per index card please.

5. Make Visible. Pick 3-4 A's to work on first. Hang them on the wall somewhere, along with the Stories for each one.

6. Review. Just like in Agile, have a weekly, biweekly, or monthly review of your achievements. Figure out how you progressed towards your goals. If you finish one, pull another one from the A pile, write Stories, hang it on the wall.  Don't move on to the B pile until all A's are finished.

7. Quarterly Kaizen. Every 3 months, pull out all goals, lay them out in one big pile. See how you are doing, adjust as needed. Repeat.

And now, to keep me honest, here's a glimpse of what I want to achieve in 2012:

1. Lose 10 pounds. These are suspiciously similar to the 10 I lost back in 2010, but they seemed to have found me and so I must shake them loose once again. My Stories: Life weights 2 times per week. Do cardio 4 times per week. Eat Clean every day, except for 1 day per week.

2. Get more sleep. My stories: Each weekend, plan the week ahead, ensure I get 8 hours of ZZZs per night by getting in bed 8 hours before I have to wake up.  So easy, yet soooooo hard.

3. Complete my ultimate organization plan. My stories: I already have tasks to achieve weekly, and I am staying on top of them. The problems are the ones that never seem to have to get done, which are often the things I find fun. My stories: Pick one fund task each week, leave about an hour to work towards it. Admit to the fact that many of my 'Someday, Maybe' tasks, like learning how to play the sax, are not going to get done this year. Files those away for 2013.

Happy 2012, and good luck with your goals!

5 Things to Avoid When Interviewing

I've seen tons of articles, speeches and emails on proper interviewing etiquette, do X, Y and Z and you magically land the job of your dreams. In my experience, which has unbelievably been 16 years of being involved in technical recruiting, a candidate can do all the right things, but do one thing wrong and not be able to overcome it. Reason being, interviewers are on the prowl for this, and feel when they see you do or say something negative they are seeing your true colors and this is often the tip of the iceberg to your true self. However true or false this may be, it's best to keep these 5 things in mind when interviewing:

1. Don't boss bash. We've all worked for someone that rubs us the wrong way, doesn't see our true potential, or is just simply difficult to work with for one reason or another. However, it's best to try to keep these sentiments to yourself, or somehow spin your experience into something either neutral or positive when discussing it at an interview.  For example, if your old boss thought it was his way or the highway, discuss how you came up with a really cool idea and worked in a grass-roots way to implement it and win his approval.

2. Don't lie. An interview is a sale. You are selling yourself so be sure to put your best foot forward. Just be sure the foot you choose is one of your own.  Nobody likes dishonesty and if you are caught in a lie you will likely not be able to overcome it regardless of how flawless you perform on the rest of the interview.

3. Don't ramble. If you are asked to talk about your current job, don't say "To help you get a full picture of my current job let me take you through my entire job history". Be prepared to enthusiastically discuss everything on your resume but be sure to listen closely to the question being asked and focus on answering this question only. If the interviewer wants to probe deeper he will.

4. Don't show up unprepared. I can't tell you how many times I've interviewed people, either on the phone or in person, and they've gotten the name of my company wrong. This is inexcusable. Or, my favorite is "I meant to check out your website but I haven't gotten around to it yet". This just chalks you up as failing #2, you've just lied to me.  Always be prepared. In today's age, this means knowing where you are interviewing and even knowing a bit about the folks that run the company, the team and their background.  In 10 minutes you can print out a company's LinkedIn, Facebook and home page and have a complete bio of all the executives and folks you are talking to by printing out their LinkedIn pages. Doesn't take much to show you've put in a little effort.

5. Don't settle. Know your bottom line before you send out your first email or have your first interview. Know the compensation, benefits, work environment, location, work hours and culture you need to be happy. Then, be sure to ask questions until you have a clear sense that your needs are going to be met.  If you settle for something less than what you need, you are the one that is going to lose out. A word to the wise, be realistic about needs vs wants. I need X to pay my mortgage and bills but I want Y to have a cushion. There's a difference.