Lots of proposal writing of various forms going on lately. Wrote an SBIR, which we’ll hear about in a few weeks. Advised on another. Wrote an OSCON abstract, per my norm. (Hey, one way to get more women presenting is to be one of those women who presents!) Have notes for a mobile application that I’d like to write to (1) knock some socks off at work for folks who thing I’m “only” managerial, (2) demonstrate some neat technologies that may help us in various ways, and (3) build something that’ll help make next year’s charity auction a bit simpler. While I’m doing everything else with that app, I’ll use it to make me a bit smarter on Git and push forward some ideas on building a geek community.

But all of those are just ideas on paper. They’re informed ideas, to be sure, based on reading up in various areas to make sure I’m not painting us into any corners. But they’re not working code. Need more working code. I think the challenge is to just, well, start! It’s so easy to scribble ideas, to build up that portfolio of useful things to work upon and pick from. But eventually, I’ve gotta kick my tail into gear with action, and focus in on a particular area to get some specific bit of success.

Tomorrow’s goal for the evening: download jQuery Mobile 1.0, build one screen for my auction app, and commit that screen to Git. That’s it – nothing more noble. But it gets a dev environment and two bits of visible outcome (screen + code in repository). It’s something, and something to build upon.

If it weren’t 1:00 in the morning, that would be the set for today. But time to stop procrastinating sleep…

Our college ministry group is working through a New Testament in a year Bible study. It’s supposed to be 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Never seems to be quite that short to me, but, as in any time where I’ve kept pace with studies to help prepare for Sunday school or some such, I’m getting an amazing exposure through it to things I hadn’t considered or learned before.

I’m behind: I should be in John, but I’m working through 1Peter tonight. 1Peter has that passage about wives being submissive to your husbands. It’s not the one in Ephesians (5:22) that folks think of. But I was surprised to run into the same language.

That’s not what sent me to this post, though. I was more intrigued by the work connections I was seeing this evening. Any of the contexts of elders, of slaves, of masters, of governors… all of that advice to folks in those roles suddenly seemed pertinent to me. Sensitive to the idea that I might offend someone in a work context here (no reason folks would find this, but no reason to assume they couldn’t), I’ll refrain from details. I’ve just begun to realize that where the Bible calls out roles and gives advice, often that advice applies more broadly. I end up asking myself: is that insight only applicable to men? To old men? To old women? (etc, etc). Sometimes it seems it may be. But the context of ‘slaves, submit yourselves to your master with all respect’ seems applicable. The context of ‘a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight’ might not apply just to women. Of leading/shepherding ‘not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock’ sure would seem to fit a broader swath of folks than just those ordained as elders.

For those who trip across this who’re interested in the Bible study, it’s here, at least as of now: http://www.navpress.com/uploadedFiles/5x5x5_BRP.pdf

A few folks from my company are working on putting together a ‘Young Women in Computing Day’ next month.  Women are generally under-represented in the software field, particularly in the software development field. I’ll avoid stats here, but will just say that at my last job they sent out an email to the guys in the office saying that they could no longer use the womens’ rest room since there was now a girl on staff. In my career, I’ve seen women in the requirements analysts role, women in the tester roles, women in the project leadership roles, but it’s been very rare to find women in the pure development roles. So very happy to have opportunities to expose girls to fields that are harder to expose them to then the teacher that they see in school every day or the doctor who helps them get better when they’re not feeling good.  Those roles are needed – but already have plenty of men and women heading their way.  Want to have a way to more concretely expose them to the fun they can have and the good they can do in software development – and hey, the money in the field’s not bad, either.

The Wall Street Journal recently had a section, Women in the Economy, which was the result of a conference bringing business and government leaders together to talk about what’s holding women back in the workplace.  One of the phrases that jumped out at me was the statement that women are promoted based on performance, men are promoted based on potential.  It occurs to me that part of that may be that by helping young ladies recognize their own potential in the field early, we can help escalate them up both the potential and the performance curve.  What’s more appealing to a recruiter looking to fill their slots with young talent than someone who’s been excited about technology and doing things with it for years beyond their peers?

Hoping someday to look around a technical company or a technical conference and see a better mix of men and women.  Think it’s part of my responsibility to advocate and work to help make it happen.

This past week, I was part of an interview caucus at work. In these, all of the folks who interviewed a given candidate get together to make a decision as to whether to make an offer to a candidate. Each candidate at our company is typically interviewed by 5 or more people, including a mix of technical staff and executive staff. Makes for a long stint for the candidate, but at the end of it, we’ve gotten a good sense of them and they’ve gotten a good sense of us.

Our “victim” this week was a solid contributor at his previous company who was recommended by some of our current team who’d worked with him previously. I had some concerns, though – through no fault of his, his current company wasn’t really doing anything that we’d consider particularly relevant, from a technology perspective. He’d actually argued for using more current technologies, and had eventually decided to leave based at least partially on this problem. All good, so far. The challenge was that he couldn’t tell me how he was scratching his “geek itch” outside of work, since work wasn’t doing it for him. Reading blogs? Doing some coding on the side? Couldn’t even get him to give me a list of the things he _wished_ he was doing. No extra effort to get more current, other than to raise a concern with his company that he wasn’t staying current.

All of this boils down to me to a “watch what I do, not what I say I wanna do” sort of lesson. He says he wants to be more current, but isn’t doing anything about it. I called out that attribute in the caucus. And now I’m feeling accountable to myself to a bit more. Working on an OSCON brief right now, so surveying my topic and making sure all of my points look like they’ll hang together technically. Plan to poke a few components of my brief and really push ’em to their bounds, whether or not my topic is accepted. [Desperately hoping it’s accepted… need to push myself technically, and show a few more women up there, all in one fell swoop.] Looking to build these geek opportunities into my regular work-life, as well, since I’ve become more of a team enabler and leader than technical contributor over the past year.

Oh, by the way, see what I do not just what I say is spilling over into the rest of my thinking, too… called someone else on it in the work world, but I see it hitting my Christian walk, my fitness approach, my interaction with my kids and my hubby, …. starting to feel like I need to be careful when I open my mouth!

Last May I was weighing a few things related to my job: was I in a job advancing in accordance with my goals?  Should I leave to start my own business?  Was I willing to take the associated risks, given how our family financials are structured?

As it turns out, as the year went on, I discovered I was in the wrong company.  I did advance in my job, and began to see that the “quirks” I’d seen in my company as a technical contributor were a bit tougher to take in my new role as a spokesperson in the company.  It’s one thing to be in a role where you think the company’s doing things differently than you’d do them; it’s another thing to be one of the folks whose job it is to do those things.  I ended up deciding to leave.

You may notice that someone commented on that post.  That someone turns out to be my new CEO.  We both think we know each other reasonably well, having worked together before.  He knows that I’m a good great addition to his company, and I know that he runs a great company, one that I’m proud to be associated with.  As I interact with some of the people he’s brought into his new company, I’m even more impressed.

John’s comment was that he wasn’t sure if I would actually want to start a company, that I should examine my reasons.   I’ll admit that those reasons have always been of the sort “when I start my company, I’ll do it differently than..”.    I think companies should behave in certain ways, and do certain things…

Behave in certain ways… do certain things… nebulous words worthy of much more than I’m willing to go into here this evening.  Worthy of more explanation for my own sake.  All I’ll say is that the story I keep telling folks about what attracted me to this company is that in my first meeting with the team, before I was interviewing with them, I got into a discussion of business as a ministry opportunity and what that would look like.  That I could have that conversation with that group of people highly impresses me and convinces me I’m in the right place.  If I’m in the right place, though, I need to consider whether the “one [I] might consider” is my destiny.  At the moment, at least, it’s the place I’m delighted to get the opportunity to help grow, and to grow with.

Within the last month, I’ve been promoted to a team leadership / manager’s position.  Within our company, that gives me responsibility for people, budget, and client management, as well as gives me additional opportunities and responsibilities for supporting the overall health and development of my company.  This is exactly what I’ve looked for, and is a defining step in my career.  You’re never hired into one of these positions unless you can demonstrate you’ve done it well before, so it’s a significant step forward.  It’s also a milestone for me in determining whether I have or can develop the skills and talents to start my own business.  All in all, a good thing, though like in any job, there’ve already been a few challenges more significant than just the daily bustle.

Leadership challenge #1:  [can’t talk it about it here until the fullness of time has passed].  Will update later, but is causing me to stretch and weigh commitments to team members versus commitment to company, and determine whether I’m serving my office well.  If I’m not, I need to figure that out quickly.

Leadership challenge #2:  a new company policy came out that is unexpected.  There’s no argument that it’s within the company’s rights to establish such a policy.  There’s some debate in my mind as to whether it’s in the company’s best interests overall.  It’s distinctly not in the employees’ favor, which makes my leadership job a bit more interesting, particularly since I get the copy of the policy at the same time as everyone else and have no more insight into its reasoning or intended application.

Just jotting these down to remind myself of interesting items and dilemnas.  When / if it’s appropriate, I may fill in details for my few readers and figure out how I did versus should have handled these things.

Off to work to see what the day holds!  And reminding myself that there are no surprises to the One who’s allowed me to step into this role.  May my service be useful.

Our company is organizing one of those grab-a-gift-from-the-table gift exchanges.  My client’s office is arranging one, too.  I’m not allowed, for ethics reasons, to give anyone a gift at my client’s office.  But somehow swapping $20-limit goodies works, since I don’t know who specifically will get it?  (Yep, I looked it up in my client’s online ethics manual: if I don’t know who I’m giving it to, it’s completely ethical.)

Seems like then I’m not giving to make someone’s day brighter, since I have no real idea who I’m gifting to or what they’d like.  Forgive my Scrooge-i-ness, but it seems like then I’m giving so I can get something from the table.  Something which someone else has no idea whether I’d like.

I can’t help but thinking we’d be a little more in the Christmas spirit if we all just put cards on the table that said “I put a coat on someone for you today”, or “I gave someone dinner in your (non-specific, ethically pardonable) name today”.

An article link dropped in my in-bin reads “Should Remote Workers Earn More?“.  First reaction: h*** no!  (Note: I haven’t yet read the article yet – will give my reaction/thinking, and then see if the article offers any insights I hadn’t considered.)

Argument 1: Remote workers don’t have the same commuting expenses as do local workers.  Thus their compensation package doesn’t need to cover that cost of going to work.  (Counter argument: but you need to set up a home office, which does cost more.  Some of that may be covered by tax breaks for home offices, I imagine, though I’m no tax expert.)  Still come down on: no, don’t pay remote workers more.

Argument 2: Remote workers don’t have the same office distractions as do local workers, and thus are more productive.  Hmmm….  if that’s true, then that better performance would be rewarded by greater pay, regardless of the locale.  But no ipso facto relationship: if it is an effect, then better pay should be granted, but until said effect is indicated, no better pay.

Argument 3: The local office doesn’t have to pay for the cost of the office space of the worker, and thus that worker is cheaper, in terms of overhead expenses.  Ergo, the company can pay more for the remote worker.  One, that logic only works if a significant portion of your labor force works from home: no one can shift their expense structure that much for one worker being in or out of the office.  Two, so what?  If it costs me less as a company to utilize you, that doesn’t mean that you get the money.  It may mean you get more opportunities to work, because my profit rate for you is higher, but that doesn’t mean I have to share it with you.

Argument 4:  Hey, working from home is less burdensome for the employee…  It’s a perk (no commute, no dress code, flexibility in hours), that ought to be considered as part of the total compensation package.  By that logic, the remote worker should actually get paid _less_.  If one perk goes up, and that employee is comparable to other employees, the pay package ought to go down.

All arguments, before reading the article, still lead me to the “employees might be willing to take a pay cut to work from home” rather than “employees should get a pay raise to work from home”.  (Note: I could only intermittently work from home, as I have 3 kids at home: productivity with a 2 year old running around just isn’t high on any sustained basis.)

Aha: the article uses the term “remote worker” to mean the guy who works a regular day job, and then is expected to bring work home at night.  The argument against paying these folks more is that ““.  Hmmmm….  isn’t that more of a cultural/management issue, that unwanted behaviors are occurring on the clock?  That doesn’t mean you get to change the clock, particularly without specific evidence on an individual basis: ok, you took away 2 hours of “my” time, I’m going to take away 2 of yours.  (Sounds like a parenting punishment I’ve used before, actually.) Particularly since in reality it’s more like, OK, you may have taken away some amount of hours of”my” time, so I now have carte blanche to require additional hours of yours.

Note that I’m one of those sick twisted individuals who has a need to keep abreast of the field, checks her email constantly, and would probably be very addicted to a Crackberry, were I to have one.  So I’m a remote worker, just by nature.  But I do it for me, for my own twisted personality deficiencies.  I feel very strongly that I don’t “owe” that to my employer, and were an employer to ever indicate that I owed it to them in any large measure, I’d indicate that there is no compensation package large enough to cover such an agreement.  Folks quibble over vacation time in compensation packages, but allow employment overage to eat into just plain ol’ life time.

So to bring it full circle, using their definition of “remote worker”, yes, remote workers should EITHER be paid more, or work less at work.  Either way to solve the equation works for me.  But if remote workers are required to work more, over and above, just at home rather than at work, then they should definitely be paid more.  They should assess the likely hours burden over the year, and use that times their approximate hourly rate to determine what they should be compensated.

These kinds of opinions make me unpopular with services companies.  One day, when I have my own company, this post may come back to bite me when I’m older/wiser/burdened by realities of business, rather than just the philosophies of business.  I hope I hold true to my statements.

Very nice post on Brazen Careerist entitled ‘Seven Reasons why graduate school is outdated‘.  I’d like to add to her comments with a few items as to why I believe grad school isn’t as useful as I once thought.  These thoughts are shaped by both my own experiences in an MBA program (either on hold or abandoned, based on the time demands of it versus family life) and discussions with folks in Masters programs in Computer Science:

* Those who rise to the top seem to do so based on leadership and communication skills, neither of which seem to be to be readily teachable in a classroom setting.  These both seem to be shaped through use, and by watching others who succeed in those skills, rather than reading about Laslow’s hierarchy of needs.

* Reading and experimentation sticks much more when done on your own time, own interests, and in line with where it’d be useful in your day-to-day life.

* Masters programs are just too darned long!  Multiple hours in a single evening in a classroom session, learning something that may or may not stick well (see bullets 1 and 2, above), plus homework, to get the credentials.

* Masters programs have lots of classes that cover things that are “basics” that you may not get to use practically for years, if ever.  I think of accounting classes: the principles are useful, but pragmatically, I’m going to pay an expert in the field to do any serious accounting, rather than spend more hours than necessary on it and likely muck it up based on a change in GAAP or in the tax policy.  I think of compiler design: I’m never going to write a compiler, but somehow this kind of class shows up regularly in masters programs for computer science.

* The classes that are useful, you’re already doing!  If it’s really useful, you’ve likely already had a taste of it, but are forced to spend hours in class hearing lectures on things you’re already at least basically familiar with.  Sure, you’re likely to learn something in the class, particularly by the end of it, to broaden or deepen your understanding, but in the meantime you’re to spend quite a few hours in a chair.  (I think here of OO classes, or database design for comp sci programs, or classes on ethics/social responsibility, or leadership, or marketing for business.)

I’ve come to believe that these credentials do show a certain commitment to improvement and education on the part of the person who possesses them, but they may not show a respect for their own time.  (And if they don’t have a respect for their own time/life, I worry about their respect for anyone else’s time/life!)  I respect the personalmba site, questions asked/answered via LinkedIn, and generally asking questions/watching folks to see who’s succeeding, and just as importantly, what things you believe you shouldn’t copy.