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Tech Startups and Railroad Tracks

Whenever you talk to a person who works or found a startup they are talking about innovation. Having spent the last 15 years in Enterprise SaaS I started wondering how innovative are we in technology today? When I think about monumental technological breakthroughs, I think about the invention of the web browser and the mobile phone. Most of the current enterprise SaaS startups do not do anything monumentally different, can we even call it innovation? Can we map this situation to historical technological breakthroughs like railroads, telephones, and airplanes? For instance, the railroad evolution is a good proxy for the current situation: the big breakthroughs were the Bessemer steel process and the steam engine by Richard Trevithick. There are other huge steps in the railroad technology but for the most part the work after that was laying out the railroad tracks. Was laying out railroad tracks innovative? Not in comparison to a breakthrough like the steam engine. Did it require
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Career Roadmap

I went through most of my career without a roadmap.  I got lucky because a lot of the things worked out: some of it was accidental, some of it was great mentorship.  Some of it were setbacks that I could have probably avoided.  Over 24 years of doing software development I have accumulated a few lessons I can share with engineers that are embarking on this journey.  The number one lesson: find a mentor who can help you craft a roadmap. If you are not being strategic about your career, you might waste years bouncing around or stuck in an unhappy place.  Being strategic about your career helps you know when you are making steps that will add up to something. Blog posts or books can’t guide you through this journey.  I would recommend getting a career coach or a mentor who can help you evaluate and steer. I did want to share a document that can help you get started with that conversation.  You can’t get someone to help you unless you can figure out where you want to go.  The document belo

Platform Teams' Economics

After being involved in the Kubernetes project for about a year I have had some interesting reflections about the configuration and infrastructure space.  I have talked to a few Platform engineers and have gained some interesting insights into how these organizations operate at scale.  My observation is that in most organizations have a tough time measuring or financing their Platform Teams. A lot of the Platform teams are not sure how to evaluate whether or not their effectiveness.  This situation paired with the fact that the investment in Platform is generally removed from the business KPIs leads to underfunding in Platform resources. Most of the Platform projects are evaluated based on activity instead of impact.  In the conversations and allocation of resources the head of Platform Engineering generally can come up with only a backlog of outstanding projects without a clear indicator of why speeding up delivery of those projects will improve the company bottom line.  The usual nar

What to do about being tracked online?

Advertisers have been talking about the improvement in ad targeting and how it benefits everyone, yet consumers ask not to be tracked.  In real life we appreciate it when someone pays attention and tailors their messaging to us, why not online?  Can something be done to fix it? We get profiled in real life all the time.  Some of that is welcome, some of it is not and some of it is illegal.  A lot of the profiling is due to our conscious choice.  Those who drive a Ferrari know that people perceive them differently than those who drive a Prius.   What is broken in online tracking is that the user has no clue and no control over how they are being tracked.  A few years ago a friend of mine sent me a link to check out a dress from one of the new fashion designers. The designer had a very edgy name.  Later in the week I was doing a demo to a customer in the same browser and outlook.com had a big banner on the side of a young woman in a revealing dress with a raunchy tagline.  I felt out of

Long Form Communication in Software Development

After spending a better part of the decade with Slack, HipChat and Microsoft Teams I joined a team that chooses to work a different way and the depth of work is evident.  The engineers on the team contribute a lot to the Kubernetes codebase and it seems like hours and days of uninterrupted time are critical to the way they work.  This made me think about the necessity of “always on” culture.  Is getting someone unblocked worth everyone keeping an eye on Slack throughout the day? For those who have read the timeless classic Deep Work by Cal Newport this is a well explored subject.  I have read this book a few years ago and it immediately resonated with my experience.  I think about some of the key ways that I worked early in my life and I realize that my mentors were preaching and practicing deep work. Growing up I went to a boarding school where at night homework was done behind a desk, in the classroom with the entire class sitting there quietly.  There was a teacher present who could

Lukashenko takes Minsk off High Tech Map

A few years ago I have created a company in Belarussian High Tech Park.  I found the city’s technology scene vibrant and the favorable tax structure created for the High Tech Park a nice pro business reform.  I have recommended Minsk as a viable location for an Eastern European software team.  Since August 9th 2020 my recommendation is changing: Mr. Lukashenko’s regime has kidnapped people off the streets, turned off the internet for several days and started putting people in jail for political reasons.  It is now risky to create or keep your R&D office in Minsk and I would not recommend it.  AP Photo - Belarus Arrests In my blog I try to keep focus on technology and keep politics out of it.  Regardless of my beliefs on Mr. Lukashenko’s government, I am going to keep this post strictly to risks that the current regime has posed to anyone doing business with Belarus since the troublesome election on August 9th.  I sincerely hope that companies which are affected by the police brutal

Intuitive Programming - Comments

Comments are a topic of vibrant discussion.  Ever since programmers could leave some text in the program that was ignored by the machine the debate started: “what’s a good comment, what’s a bad comment, why comment?” There are endless instructions to programmers that say many of the following things: 1) Describe your function! 2) Don’t write in the comment what you wrote in the code. 3) Tell people why you are doing what you are doing. What I think has been missing from this discourse is the audience for comments and through those audiences there is intent.  The code is being read, skimmed or analyzed by people and tools.  So what are the audiences and reading modes? 1) Maintaining and enhancing the code 2) Skimming through the entire module or file to figure out what the overall structure is 3) Reviewing the test files to check out the test coverage and edge cases 4) Seeing the docstrings of functions while being in a separate file altogether 5) Reviewi