Issue 2 – Learning to Code and Thoughts on Motivation and Success

Posted on May 24th, by kate in issues. Comments Off

technology & leadership news

Hello everyone!

Welcome to the second edition of the TNL newsletter.  News and info below – don’t forget to send links, content, or commentary to


To code or not to code?  That is the question….
There was an interesting debate this week on several popular blogs on if people should learn to code. The first post from Jeff Atwood was in response from a tweet from Bloomberg the Mayor of NYC that said he was going to learn to write code this year.

He makes the very pragmatic argument that if you are smart and important enough to be the mayor, then shouldn’t you be focusing on problems that only a mayor could solve – not learning to “sling JavaScript”.

Several people responded to the post – this sarcastic response took the stance that people should learn what they want and not be discouraged.  This one said that everyone should learn to code because it is empowering. And this post hit that same argument home with an example of how coding empowered him to automate tasks at work.  And of all the responses, this one was probably the most complete, and dare I say balanced.

My take:  learn what you want to learn, however, don’t spend time building skills on the job that won’t move you forward to your goals.  Everything in life (and work) is about prioritization and if learning to sling some JavaScript is interesting and relevant then go and get it done — and if not, then do something else that moves the needle.
Emerging Technologies
Have you heard this buzzword and wondered what on earth it actually means?
Well now there is a wiki page!  This way it is easy to reference things like graphenenanomedicine, and spintronics.

Inside Your Computer
Ever wondered what happens when your computer starts shutting down?
Here is the answer you may have been waiting for :) (BTW, the first response is all you really need to read – the whole thread is quite long)


10 ways to motivate anyone
Motivation is an endlessly fascinating topic for me.  I am always in wonder at what drives each person and “why” they do what they do.  I love the talk by Daniel Pink (which was made into this awesome video) where he explains that motivation is about giving people autonomy, mastery and purpose in their work.  The author does not agree with Pink though, on the all extrinsic motivation (think bonuses, gifts, time-off etc.) is harmful; and goes on to detail 10 different types of people and ways to motivate them.

I was once told that motivation could be achieved like the languages of love (words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service or sacrifice, touch) by showing gratitude and appreciation in the right way for that individual (although I would avoid the touch one at the office).

Of course, each person is different, but as a leader the best thing you can do is understand your team, peers and coworkers.  Learning what they want to do and how you can add value to their quest is the best way to build and strengthen those relationships.  And it never hurts to give real heartfelt praise – after all don’t you remember a time when someone gave you words of encouragement that really impacted you and motivated you to do more?

Ever Read Chicken Soup for the Soul?
Well I haven’t either, but I have seen the books (and what seems like at least 20 other flavors – like chicken soup for the housewife and the teenager) and this article is about the author, Jack Canfield’s recipe for success.

Namely the E+R=O formula:

  • E stands for events.  All the things going on around you – your work, your home, your world.
  • R stands for response.  The only thing you have control over is how you see, think and react to your environment.
  • O stands for outcome.  Namely the things you desire to happen or accomplish.

Having a handle on your goals and outcomes in life help you define your responses – and those are the keys to change and progress.

This was also a great quote from the article:
Know your priorities and identify the five powerful action steps that you intend to take to move your initiatives forward each day,” suggests Canfield.  “If you go to a tree with an ax and take five whacks at the tree every day,” he explains, “it doesn’t matter if it’s an oak or a redwood; eventually the tree has to fall down.”

And while the article was interesting, at the end I kept wondering why chicken soup?  In most cases I would rather have clam chowder instead – and wouldn’t most people (unless you are vegetarian in which case you are out of luck in both cases)?  Maybe I would need to read the whole book to answer that question though…..

Stuck and need Motivation?
We have all been there – you have so much work to do, but you can’t seem to move forward. Here are 5 ways to help you make progress when you hit a wall:

  1. Screen for excuses.  Do you really need to clean up your desk before solving that problem?
  2. Question the walls.  What are the barriers in your way?  How can you address them?
  3. Get creative.  Where there is a will, one can find a way.
  4. Take baby steps.  Set the clock for 10 minutes and just do something.
  5. Keep moving forward.  Don’t let yourself slow down to a complete stop.

Hard work on the right things
Wise words from this article by Seth Godin:

I don’t think winners beat the competition because they work harder. And it’s not even clear that they win because they have more creativity. The secret, I think, is in understanding what matters.

There is always more work than can possibly be completed.  This means that success is not just determined by your tenacity and effort, but also on your prioritization.  Are you working on the right things?

News to Know

Quick Bytes

Shiri – A butt robot, using butt clenching and movement to show emotion.  No joke, someone actually spent time creating this thing and a video to go with…..
The crazy part is, when I read the name I thought it was some how related to Apple’s Siri.

Fake wikipedia entries?  Note to self: check the facts.
Did you know that a professor and his students fabricated all kinds of historical tales?  The professor was caught by reddit and many people were upset at the lies and hoaxes.

And the lesson:
If there’s a simple lesson in all of this, it’s that hoaxes tend to thrive in communities which exhibit high levels of trust. But on the Internet, where identities are malleable and uncertain, we all might be well advised to err on the side of skepticism.

Double your productivity by working standing up.  This article goes into the benefits of a standing desk.

Looking for a job?  HBR has a great list of questions to assess company culture.

Can you really judge an engineering culture by the size of the monitors?
This article posits that desks with big monitors is a sign the company values the engineers. It list some other ways to tell, and I do like the idea of letting people pick their email addresses.  While the post has a point, it seems shallow at best and I truly hope people base their career decisions on something more than the hardware they get to use. And that all companies try to give employees the tools they need to get the work done. :/

Need some inspiration?
Check out this speech from Nipun Mehta at Penn’s 2012 graduation who reminds us to W-A-L-K  (Witness, Accept, Love, and Know Oneself) through our lives.

Interesting take on counter offers from your current employer when you are planning to resign.
My take: never accept a counteroffer.  Your employer won’t count on you long term and see you as checked out.  You are on a short term lease at that point so your growth and opportunity is limited.  If you want to go somewhere else, go.  If you want more money ask for it.  But be careful when accepting any sort of counter offer.

Devops reading list of useful books and blogs – I haven’t checked out any of the books, but I definitely find myself on these blogs occasionally.

And that is all the news and articles for this week.  For more content, you can check out the website for bonus articles and links that didn’t make the newsletter.

Hope everyone has a fantastic week!


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