Jan 032014
Can't Sell Dope Forever

Can’t Sell Dope Forever (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m pretty much against using my blog for an out and out promotion.  I do not sell things here, nor do I try to market any companies including my own.  The hordes of people coming to this blog all the time do so because they are constantly wondering what I think about Lean and Agile stuff, and I hate to dilute that by pushing a particular product, service, or organization even if it would be advantageous to me in some way.  I’m not trying to sell anything, including myself.  That sounded weird, but you know what I mean.

I’m going to make a bit of an exception in this case, though, partly to help out my omnicompetent buddy Risa, and partly because I have a strong sense of quality control when it comes to people that I work with.  If you are reading this, right now, then I already know a lot about your respective levels of quality.  I’m just going to leave that ambiguity there.

Netchemia is always hiring these days, it seems, in virtually every department, but we’re especially angling for Market Development Representatives (MDRs, which does not stand for Massively Dope Revenue-generators like I thought).  Our original copy for these job postings looks like this:

Netchemia is looking for Market Development Representatives who demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • Highly competitive and motivated by money
  • Ability to handle rejection
  • Relatable and outgoing personality, especially over the phone
  • Desire to build foundational sales experience

Check out our Careers page for more information and to apply!

Personally, I think the exclamation point at the end really makes the whole thing pop.

Now, you’re probably looking at this and thinking, “Those first two things sound like every guy ever, and the whole thing together kind of sounds like telemarketing.”  And I can forgive you for thinking that, because it sort of sounds like you’ll be doing some variety of sales over the phone.  It mostly sounds that way because that’s pretty much what you’d be doing.  But however it might look like telemarketing at first glance, it differs from that profession we all love to hate in a number of important ways.

1. No Cold Calling

When I think of sales and the phone, I think of someone calling me during dinner and saying something along the lines of, “Hello, Mr. Ledgerweed.  I’m Joey Bananas from Phone Company X.  I know you’re interested in saving money, and I’m not interested in pausing, so buckle in and get ready to feel several Gs worth of money-saving forces.”

In this scenario, Joey obviously has no idea who I am or even if I happen to be interested in changing phone service.  All he knows about me are: A) I have a phone, and B) I am an entity capable of speaking on one – both things he realized in the first few seconds of calling me.  It’s the verbal equivalent of getting junk mail, if the junk mail could somehow attach itself to your face for fifteen minutes and read itself to you.  You could literally be anyone.  Joey is just calling numbers, and destiny brought you together.

Our MDRs contact people at various levels of school district administration.  They are people who know us.  They are people who are friends and colleagues with other people who love Netchemia’s stuff.  They are the people we drink with at conferences and make fun of boring keynote speeches with.  They are not random people who just might randomly be interested in K-12 administration products; they are K-12 administrators, and it may surprise you to know that intensive market research has shown that K-12 administrators are the people most interested in K-12 administration software.

I’m not gonna lie – I’m not saying everyone you call be will be all, “Praise the hammer of Thor you called me!  Yes, I have plenty of time to talk!  And when can one of your Account Executives get in touch with me to begin my journey to efficiency?  My life changes TODAY!”  There’s a reason it’s important to be able to deal with the fact that a relatively decent number of people will not have time to talk to you right now, or have already completed their budgeting process for the year, or have administrative assistants with a touch of sociopathy.  But you are not calling random people who have never heard of you to create a demand that doesn’t exist.

2. Sales Experience Without Selling

Most of the actual selling, dealing with objections, and pyrotechnics are handled by Account Executives.  It will be your main job to talk to K-12 administrators and get these two crazy kids together.

If you are trying to get your foot in the door in sales, this is a way to get used to meeting new people, listening to them talk about their situation, figuring out a good fit, and making the best decision to help a prospective client, and you do all this without the added pressure of being primarily responsible for closing a sale.  Sales can’t happen without you, though, and you will be learning and developing sales chops as you go.

3. Dan’s Pretty Great

Dan is the majordomo of the MDR squadron, and several of our employees can attest to his mentorship, leadership abilities, and genuine care for the people who serve with him.  He’s a lot like Yoda, if Yoda were human, spoke normally, had no supernatural powers, was in Marketing, and was very much unlike Yoda.  You will grow as a person and a professional working with Dan, and if you are even remotely interested in a sales-based profession, the opportunity to work with him is reason enough to apply right now.

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Nov 012013
The Deming Institute mentioned you on Twitter!

People smarter than I am who understand Deming liked the article

It’s pretty cool to have an article about Deming’s thought approved by the actual Deming Institute.

I’ll get back to actual blog posts, soon, and stop the shameless self-promotion, but it’s been really gratifying to have that article picked up by such prestigious parties.  Can’t wait for all the fast cars and money to start rolling in!

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Jul 092013

Writing a blog is a very inertia-driven activity: when it’s in motion, it tends to stay in motion, and when it’s at rest, it tends to stay at rest.

A month or so ago, I was very focused on helping to get Netchemia’s latest product out the door, which cut down on just about every other activity.  Now that I’ve sufficiently detoxed, I hope to get back into the zany mix of humor and insight that both of my readers have come to expect.

Upcoming topics include:

  • Recent discussions amongst my colleagues on TDD and BDD
  • Comfort as a currency
  • How to stream video from Amazon’s S3 to Flow Player without using CloudFront

Are you excited?  Have you adequately strapped yourselves in?  Are you feeling the Gs?  Reserve your seat today, but you’ll only need the edge!

I try to live each day of my life as if I know it’ll be my last.  That’s why I scream so much.

– Phil Ledgerwood, 9-JUL-2013

May 072013
Me presenting at KCDC 2013

Me presenting at KCDC 2013

Thirty-six hours before the first KCDC precompiler session began, I got a call from Kansas City’s premiere Lean/Agile expert asking if I could fill in for him at the Agile and Lean Workshop precompiler due to an emergency.  Twelve hours before the session began, the United States’ premiere Lean/Agile expert was delayed by snow and told me he couldn’t make it to the session until lunch.  That left me and this guy, or in other words, George and Ringo, and Ringo had a conference to run.

And it went great!  We had a really good group who gave us good questions to work with.  We played some games.  We talked about Scrum.  We talked about Kanban.  We talked about all the hot button Agile topics like estimation, bidding, and ongoing maintenance.  It was a good, energizing talk that reminded me how much I enjoy that sort of thing.

P.S. If you were at that workshop, please take a second and leave a rating for me at SpeakerRate.  Much appreciated.

Friday morning, Dan “Kan-Man” Vacanti gave a terrific keynote about how we serve our customers better with pull systems for doing our software development as opposed to push systems.  He also gave my own session a quick shout-out for which I am grateful, because without context, most people don’t get too fired up about a talk called “Lean Metrics.”

Next, I gave a talk called “Lean Metrics.”  Standing-room only with some people sitting in the aisles.  It was a huge fire hazard and OSHA violation, but it charged me up.

We talked about why estimation fails us and how keeping metrics can overcome some of the weaknesses of estimation, providing a better foundation for our planning and projections.  Then, I demonstrated control charts and cumulative flow diagrams, explaining how each one can help us in not only estimating, but also continuous improvement as well as challenging elements in the organizational culture that dampen agility.

Here are the slides for that presentation, and if you were there, it’d be cool if you left me a rating for that talk at SpeakerRate.

After this was over and I was carried out on the shoulders of screaming fans, I spent a little bit of time catching up with contacts from KCDC’s various sponsors.  This was an especially good KCDC for sponsors.  We had 850ish people there, which meant that, even between sessions, there was a continuous flow of activity to the various booths, unlike previous years where booth visits were pretty bursty in between sessions.

I attended an eye-opening talk on UX from John Alexander, a talk on the enterprise use of HTML5 and various JavaScript libraries from the Keyhole team, and a truly thought-provoking talk on what other languages have to teach us about object-oriented programming by Jessica Kerr.

That night, dinner and drinks with a huge crowd of people I usually only see once a year.  Also, Sugar Ray gave a concert nearby.  Nobody noticed.

I did not get to attend on Saturday, but I hear good things.

I think the venue worked out great, the crowd was numerous and diverse, and the variety of speakers and topics made sure there was at least something for everyone.  It may have been our most valuable KCDC yet in terms of investment.  If you didn’t go this year, dude, go next year.

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Mar 072013
Muteki Kanban Musume s original soundtrack

Muteki Kanban Musume s original soundtrack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s that time of year, again.  Spring is on the way, and in the spring, a young geek’s fancy turns to thoughts of conferences.

I commend to you the Kansas City Developer Conference this year – a two-day thrill ride for developers and the people who manage them that’s the most fun you can have at a conference without wearing a costume.  This year’s product has the following features:

  • Keynote by Dan Vacanti – key player in the development of Kanban (Kanban is Japanese for “the world’s best software development workflow management philosophy ever”) who also once saved Brooklyn from a power outage by connecting their power grid directly to his brain.  Also known for telepathic powers and training the X-Men.
  • Other keynote by Pete Thomas – co-founder and CTO of Pollenware, which has automated the distribution of several metric tons of pollen to flowers throughout the KC area.
  • A session by yours truly on how to use metrics from Lean to project timelines, measure quality, and ultimately improve your team. Also includes a short pre-session on tarot, bone divination, and 5-minute colonoscopies for Waterfall teams who need estimates.
  • Jon Mills will personally give a chair massage to every attendee who wants one.  You have to bring your own chair, though. Also, the chair will need to sign a waiver before Jon massages it.
  • Lee Brandt will host a live show of “Lee Brandt’s Wild World of Animals.” This episode will feature the short, brutal game of cobra polo.
  • Ian Joyce will be leading a drumming circle and talking about your Developer Self-Esteem (DSE). Specifically, he’ll be lowering it.
  • Holy crap, it’s James Kovacs. How the hell did he get in there? He probably thinks he’s coming to speak at DevLink or something. If he asks you about it, be cool. Don’t screw this up for us, guys.
  • Michael Sarchet will be singing his hits “Baby” and “As Long as You Love Me.”
  • Troy Tuttle will be running sessions of the very educational GetKanban game as well as leading a seminar on how to utterly destroy someone’s worldview with calmly worded questions.

Not convinced by the awesome lineup? How about these killer events?

  • The AdventureTech Fly Guys
  • DEG – Sogeti “Ridin’ Nerdy” Rap Battle
  • Exlcusive meeting of the Fred Durst Society for Humanities and the Arts
  • A performance by Taylor Swift somewhere in the world

Reserve your seat, today, but you’ll only need the edge!

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Jul 102012
English: Exclamation mark Ελληνικά: Θαμαστικό

English: Exclamation mark Ελληνικά: Θαμαστικό (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m going to be giving a free webinar on using JavaScript to consume data from the new ASP.NET Web API!

I put an exclamation point next to that sentence to make it sound extra exciting.  I’d like for you to read that sentence in roughly the same tone of voice as you’d say, “It turns out the reason my car got such bad gas mileage is there was a pile of diamonds in the trunk!”

We’ll be covering such diamonds-in-the-trunk comparable topics as:

  • Web API service overview and how to consume them with JQuery
  • Using Knockout,js and HTML templates for data manipulation and formatting
  • How to get JSON, XML, and other MIME types from the Web API

The webinar is this coming Wednesday, July 11, at 11am Central.  You can register for it here.

Jul 052012

For the past six weeks or so, my schedule has been coordinated by a drunk clown with his pants full of bees.

Actually, that would have been a significant improvement over the actual scheduler – me.

Travels from Minneapolis to the Ozarks to New York City, new clients, new projects – all these things have converged over the past month and a half creating a volatile time cocktail when combined with the fact that, apparently, I secretly harbor the belief that there are three of me (which would explain a lot, actually).  This is why things have been relatively quiet around here, but I’m slowly getting a handle on things and life is settling back into normal patterns of chaos as opposed to the unprecedented vortexes of it that were May and June.

Here’s some of what I’ve got going on:

  1. I’m always reluctant to share my client names because it’s valuable to blog about my experiences with client, and I don’t want to have to worry about someone thinking I’m criticizing their company online.  Let’s just say this client is a fairly large, well-known company, and you probably receive ornate pieces of cardstock produced by this company on birthdays and holidays.  Their logo is something that would have gotten you killed during the French Revolution.
  2. I finished a training DVD on Microsoft’s ASP.NET Web API for AppDev that you can see a snippet from here.  I’m still working on the course curriculum for it.  Two out of four chapters done.  But the DVD is done and about to be sold as soon as they finish reviewing my files.
  3. I have been teaching courses for these guys.  The content is good, and it’s fun to just be back in the classroom from time to time.  Yeah, I split an infinitive in that sentence.  I’m in a rebellious mood.
  4. I’ve put together topic lists for two, related books I want to write.  If this is anything like my other book projects, they’ll probably never see the light of day, but I have high hopes for these.  They’re marketable and everything.  More on this as it develops.

There are other things, too, but the upshot is that I’ve been traveling a lot and most of my time is tied up with work or something career-related, which has kept me from things I enjoy like gaming, reading, and being obnoxious on LinkedIn.  It does look like this situation is thawing, however.

Before I go, I’d like to leave you with my last six weeks in the form of interpretive dance – specifically, from someone who realized that the video to LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” matched up up perfectly to the cantina music from “Star Wars.”

Feb 242011
DOJO de TDD (Test Driven Development) no XP Ri...

Image by Improve It via Flickr

I had a very powerful encounter between 13th and Broadway this morning.

I’m not a morning person at all.  If I had my druthers, I’d stay up until 4am and sleep until noon.  But I tend to do my best problem solving in the morning.  Night is best for dreams and inspiration, but something about the cold, hard light of dawn just makes me see my issues more clearly and critically.  I often solve problems at work from the day before when thinking about them the next morning.

The problem, this time around, was this blog.  I have been working on the “TDD By Example” post for days.  It keeps getting longer and longer.  My social media advisors tell me that I have to use pictures every so often to break up the text, but there are only so many pictures relevant to TDD, you know?  Somewhere around my second test, I incorporate a picture of a juggling jester, and that was when I knew things had spiraled way out of control.

So, this morning, I realized I could make a Camtasia video and just show you what I was doing.  That’s not the big insight.

I’d also wanted to do a series of posts on each stage of a Kanban structured project – not just for a developer team, but starting all the way at the top of the business and working down – in other words, how could an entire organization become leaner and more agile?

It occurred to me that I could do that series with a blog post describing the theory, then a video showing the practice.  If I wanted to transcribe the videos, I could, but at least having the videos would allow me to pack a lot of explanation into a short amount of space as well as bypass the Example Gap.  You know what I mean – when someone uses Calculator to demonstrate unit testing, and no developer on the planet has ever coded Calculator (except perhaps the dev team that created the Calculator in your OS), and so the example has limited value.

So, other than interspersing with various posts to change things up, I am going to take a real project – one that will hit the database and use multiple layers and everything – pretend it starts all the way up the chain with the CEO, and show how this project could evolve and develop as it goes all the way down the chain, spending most of my focus on the development cycle.  The test posts will describe the theory behind what’s going on, and the videos will demonstrate execution.

One of my passions is development is to reach those 20 to 30 percent of developers who know there are better practices out there but don’t really have anyone to show them the way to go.  They’re cobbling things together from books, blogs, and hard knocks.  That’s how I learned, and that way sucks.  There’s enough books, blogs, and hard knocks even when you’re cruising in the right direction.  I hope doing both theory and practice blogs will help close that gap for some people.