M&Ms: Keep it Real
"Look, I am going to be real with you; I promise neither of us will likely retire here."
Those are the words I used to close Sahil and hire him. I hired him into what was, at the time, a nascent and relatively early-stage startup that could've still failed by all objective measures. He had reservations, and he was on the fence.
But after that conversation, he immediately accepted.
In fact, those are the words I used to close numerous phenomenal engineering hires even after we stopped being a startup. I stole engineering hires from the likes of Google & many with offers to firms like FB & Apple, which wasn’t easy to do as a startup; I am proud of that.
But there is a lesson from that which applies to more than just hiring.
In short, I was real with all of them. I told them as long as their contribution to my team is big, everything will work out. They'll move up fast; they'll earn more. They'll likely be in demand.
I told Sahil, "If you do your part, it'll work out for me; it'll work out for you. It'll work out for our team. The skills you pick up here will be real, the titles will be real, and the money will be real. We'll all be earning more & neither one of us will retire here."
You might be asking yourself, how could that work?
It is the exact opposite of what most managers, leaders, and firms do today. Most leaders still play pretend.
Leaders still pretend employment is for life even though it doesn't work that way anymore.
Pretending leaders ooze a fakeness that few buy into. They say things like, “We want people to be missionaries.” They want people to be "on the mission until the end." Right up until things don't work out, then it's "Sorry, but this is just business; we have to downsize."
As we recently learned, firms always fire people when they have to—even hard-to-hire, highly skilled, highly educated people with credentials, tenure, and all sorts of accomplishments.
Downsizigin is understandable.
But what's not understandable is the play pretend.
Many leaders fooled themselves first because it benefited them and now attempt to fool everyone else too. They think it's the only way to get people to work hard. But people crave the truth.
Even when negotiating to hire Sahil, I knew I had bigger aspirations than to be a middle manager forever. So I told him that. And why would I even pretend I will be there until the end? I won't. And that's ok.
As Puff Daddy famously said in 1998:
"Even the sun don't shine forever
But as long as it's here, then we might as well shine together
Better now than never, business before pleasure."
Sahil signed the offer with me as a mid-level engineer and became a director of engineering in a few short years. Of course, his contributions were massive to my teams. He did his part; I did my part. He grew; he hired and built up multiple teams. But the important thing here is that our relationship was built on being real with each other from day one.
That's the relationship I had with all the people I hired. And that is the relationship I aim to have with all the people I deal with, even strangers on the internet. And I have been rewarded for that, and I believe you will be too.
Just keep it real; the right people can handle it. And the ones that can't, you probably don't want by your side anyway.
Four Tweets: Computer Disease, Money & Happiness, The Internet
I recently wrote about “The Computer Disease,” which is a term used by Richard Feynman while he was working on the nuclear bomb in Los Alamos.
It refers to how much time we waste on computers but not necessarily doing bad things.
We could waste time doing really cool things too. But they are usually cool things that don’t help us accomplish what we need to accomplish in any way, which is what happened with the computer science team in Los Alamos.
Anyway, it’s nice to see that Christopher Nolan, a director I admire, also has issues with the computer disease and has interesting ways to overcome it.
Daniel Vassallo often says on Twitter how it’s possible for your income to drop significantly and your happiness to go up just as much or more.
A reason why this happens is that many of us crave more time to do the things we want to do. And if we don’t overspend, we need less money to have a meaningful life than we realize too.
The creative freedom, the ownership of what we produce, and the ability to work when is most convenient to you these are just icing on the cake.
The cake itself is being able to spend time as you want with those that matter to you, like your kids, and significant other, on your own terms.
And the money buys you less fulfillment than you’d realize.
It is still hard to internalize the power of the internet.
This guy Oliver Anthony had no social media presence, no following, nothing less than 15 days ago.
He recorded one song that struck a cord (the reaction video really highlights what type of cord it struck), and in 12 days, it has 28 million views on YouTube alone. And it is number 1 on Apple Music, iTunes, and probably most other streaming platforms.
This is someone whose primary occupation is a farmer in Virginia.
And yet when something really hits, it’s hard to comprehend what can happen.
Two Memes: Calls, Barbers
When you work a big corporate job, this is one of the best feelings ever to get back your time.
I sent Druski’s barber shop skit to my barber, who absolutely loved it.
A small update from me:
Episode 10 of the “Engineering Advice You Didn’t Ask For” podcast is out. This episode is free, and you can watch it on YouTube if you prefer.
It is all about placing Small Bets & how engineers should be thinking about side projects.
P.S. You can reply to this email; it will get to me, and I will read it even if I can’t always reply in a timely manner.