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Category: Soft Skills

Failure Modes of Sending Pre-Read Materials for Meetings

Alex Velez sends us documents in advance:

This could be a hot take, but I’m not a fan of pre-reads and will respectfully decline most requests to share content before a meeting. 

Before I elaborate on why, let’s start by exploring what pre-reads are, why they often fail, and some more effective alternatives.

I think the viable but difficult alternative is to do what Jeff Bezos did at Amazon: for each meeting, there is a 2-page primer covering all of the relevant context for the meeting. After people are in the room, you distribute the 2-pager and everybody spends 5 minutes reading it first. That serves the intent of the pre-read but there are strict social cues to do the reading, something that does not exist with pre-reads. It also prevents people from going around in circles because they have different subsets of information and don’t realize it.

Of course, this is a challenge to pull off in practice and requires more effort from the standpoint of meeting hosts, but I’m also of the belief that there should be some level of pain involved in scheduling a meeting, as that will cut out many of the “This could have been an e-mail” types of meetings.

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Data Culture Needs to Come from the Top

Matthew Roche talks about tough love and data culture:

Chuy’s comments made me think of advice that I received a few years back from my manager at the time. She told me:

Letting others fail is a Principal-level behavior.

Before I tie this tough love into the context of a data culture and executive sponsorship, I’d like to share the context in which the advice was given.

This is a great article which reminds us that you need executive support to keep any substantive project going.

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Requirements for DevOps Success

Grant Fritchey lays out what you need to succeed at DevOps:

The project managers and others flip. Delivery is slipping. The amount of code being written has changed. Stuff is happening that wasn’t on the schedule. The implementation of DevOps is shut down quickly.

You have to get buy-in from management before you attempt to implement DevOps or it will fail. They have to understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and the measurable benefits it will bring.

Click through for some good thoughts, none of which is “use this software.”

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Tricky Interview Questions

Jason Brimhall talks about trick questions at interviews:

Anybody that has interviewed for a job has most likely run into the trick question. Some interviewers like to throw out multiple trick questions all in an effort to trip up the candidate and get the candidate to doubt him/her self. Sure, there can be some benefit to throwing out a trick question or four. One such benefit would be to see how the candidate performs under pressure (see them squirm).

The downside to throwing out trick questions, in my opinion, would be that you can turn a serious candidate into an uninterested candidate. So, when throwing out the tricks, tread carefully.

Incidentally, I don’t think his example question was that tricky, in that there are good reasons to do what he shows. I have one question I like to ask during phone screens which is of a similar vein. I won’t share the question for obvious reasons, but answering it requires a reasonable amount of knowledge of the product and a little bit of cleverness.

On the whole, my interview philosophy is to ask questions which directly relate to the job at hand. If the job involves doing a lot of work with warehousing and ETL with SSIS, ask questions around columnstore indexes, tuning SSIS packages, and some of the types of red flags when looking at packages. I’ve found that people who really don’t know what they’re doing sort themselves out easily enough if you ask relevant questions.

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The Blame Game

Kenneth Fisher has a board game for us:

It’s Monday morning and your manager Brent has called his usual emergency all-employee meeting. He looks more than a little bit unhappy, and this time it’s not because someone stole his cruller. Over the weekend he was demonstrating the new anatomy program Mr. Body to some investors and frankly the performance was miserable! Now Brent has only one question.

Who killed Mr. Body’s performance?

We all know Andy Mallon did it.

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Digging Into The Data Professional Survey

Melissa Connors looks at the 2018 Data Professionals Salary Survey:

This report is filtered to the United States, Private sector, full-time employees, Job Titles with more than 50 results, all primary databases, a salary between $15,000 and $200,000, and a survey year of 2018.

On the top are employees who said they work remotely 0 days per week, the middle is office employees who telecommute 1-4 days per week, and the bottom is the true remote employee who does this 5+ days per week.

The overall median salaries were $97,316 for office employees, $111,500 for part time telecommuters, and $114,163 for full time remote employees, which led to the click-bait title of this post. 🙂 It’s possible that this is because only more senior or highly-valued employees feel comfortable working from home, or are even allowed to, depending on the company culture.

Click through to see all of Melissa’s findings.

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T-SQL Tuesday Roundup

Kendra Little rounds up the latest T-SQL Tuesday:

I’m glad I picked interviewing as the topic of TSQL Tuesday #93, because people wrote posts chock full of great advice and funny stories. Get ready to learn, be amazed, and laugh out loud as you read these posts, which I’ve indexed by the author’s first name. Don’t blame these authors for the dorky jokes in the cartoons, though. That’s all my fault.

Read on for a few dozen interview stories and some of Kendra’s one-liner cartoons.

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Missing Costs

Kenneth Fisher has a post about missing important costs:

Growing up my mother used this phrase quite a bit. Penny wise, pound stupid. (In case you didn’t know the pound is the British equivalent of the dollar.) Basically, it means paying attention to the small stuff at the expense of the big stuff. My favorite example of this was a few jobs ago. Without any need to go into details, our coffee area was stocked with both 8oz and 16oz styrofoam cups. One day, one of the accountants decided that there was no point to the extra cups and got rid of the more expensive 16oz cups. Not really a big deal, but our morale was already disastrously low, so it had more impact that it might have otherwise. The most interesting part, though, was a memo that a co-worker sent out. Unfortunately, I don’t have it anymore so I’m going to have to do my best to re-create it.

The lesson is to think through the ramifications of decisions, as there tend to be unintended consequences due to an incomplete understanding of costs.

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Data Professional Survey Results

Brent Ozar has a roundup of blog posts concerning the data professional survey for 2017:

We asked to see your papers, and 2,898 people from 66 countries answered.

Download the raw data in Excel, and you can slice and dice by country, years of experience, whether you manage staff or not, education, and more.

Community bloggers have already started to analyze the results:

There were several entrants and some good posts, so check it out.

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Figuring Out Work-Life Balance

Sander Stad talks work-life balance:

The thing that comes up when I read this is that in most situations it will not work because you’re removing all the flexibility. The other thing is that most companies evaluate employees based on their availability and their flexibility.

There also a side note that employers are allowed to make different arrangements with employees.
Employers will probably adjust contracts from this point on that, if you’re in some sort of position where the availability is important, you’re obliged to answer which will render the law useless in a lot of situations.

There’s no one answer here, but it’s an important topic to think about.

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