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Career Advice From The Future

How to start a revolution at work by flattening the org, taking part in hackathons, and listening to rap music.

The Ludacris school of management
If senior management remains asleep, the next step isn't to funnel the product roadmap into hackathons. Because hackathons are a rave -- a couple of drops of acid to open up possibilities and a plastic baggy full of speed to deliver on those possibilities. The path to commercialization should be danced while sober.

For some direction on the how, you'll have to wait three years for the Agile Manifesto (2001) and a seminal album by Christopher Brian Bridges called "Word of Mouf" (2001). Push Agile hard, but always remain a skeptic. The only reason it's better than the other methodologies is that it passive aggressively tells the business that without their "leadership," IT is even more business-problem-driven, customer-focused, creative, and productive.

It's the middle finger of methodologies.

It reinforces "hyperlocal productivity," a term I just made up that says "you're either physically in the room or you're not a contributor." Oh, and just being in the room isn't enough. You're either contributing or you'll get voted off the island. Tech Darwinism. A much-needed shift in the corporate power dynamic.

You're not one for passive-aggressive crap, so I point you instead to Ludacris, who I argue missed his calling as a management guru. His four-word chorus from the third single of "Word of Mouf" is the best guidance you (or any engineering manager) will ever hear:

"Get out the way."

It's "street," which in your 40s means the sentence is missing a preposition, but nonetheless it gets to the heart of good management.

Pay it backward
You're 30 now, so you have some free time. Write a letter to your 16-year-old self (because, as you can see from the chart, not enough people fixate on 16).

Hard pressed for a message? Here's one:

College is a giant waste of money. Yes, you'll get into two top-tier schools. And you'll do well. But all you're really doing is buying into the false credentialism that justifies the inequities of our society, that allows Big to keep admiring white shoes.

Here's the thing about the diploma you'll get: No one will ever check. That's the future talking. No one! Ever!

Save yourself $150,000 and get a seven-year head start on your career.

Lie about your education on every resume that you ever send out. All the social justice reasons aside, we can justify the lie by giving what we save to charity. We can even add in all the extra money we made by working for nearly a decade more.

And if that's not enough... well, drive up to Illinois or Michigan on May 9, 2000, and play The Big Game: 3-9-37-49-56.

You'll be more dangerous with money.

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User Rank: Ninja
11/23/2013 | 7:20:37 PM
Hackathons and rocking the boat
I'm glad to see more people pushing for new ways of doing things.  This is just like the movement to DevOps, flatten the hierarchy, remove the politics and processes that kill any chance of momentum.  This has never been more true than now with the speed that cloud has added to the way we do things. Sure the executive leadership teams were good at building up companies, but as we all know, these old ways of doing things are just not effective when it comes to driving innovation.  

Not sure about the rap music thing, if you ask me, the IT industry is powered by electro.
Wendy Schuchart
Wendy Schuchart,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/22/2013 | 11:32:18 AM
Abbie Hoffman/Tiananmen Square tank guy
Abbie Hoffman's death AND Tiananemen Square's tank man both happened in 1989, interestingly enough. 

Great points about a little bit of disobedience inspiring greatness. Corporate America needs more of this kind of thinking. Well said!
Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 5:05:20 PM
Re: Hackathons
Too bad Obama didn't hold a hackathon to develop the official ACA site ...
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2013 | 2:13:49 PM
The middle finger of methodologies. Coverlet, you rock. Keep them coming.
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2013 | 11:24:36 AM
Fast Times
All I kept thinking at the middle manager introduction was:

Look at you: member of the honor roll, assistant to the assistant manager of the movie theater. I'm tellin' ya, Rat, if this girl can't smell your qualifications, then who needs her, right?

On a more on-topic note, dealing with management structures makes me glad I'm a freelancer. 

User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2013 | 10:55:12 AM
Re: Hackathons
Spot on Rob. impose structures, corporate buzzwords and insist on defined outputs renders such exercises useless.

there's a great book I'm reading at the minute by Euan Semple called Organisations don't Tweet people do which addresses the culture needed to drive the changes needed in IT and pretty much any field in business. he delves under the buzzwords to examine what it really takes to execute this, from starting to small, allowing mistakes and not imposing a grand plan all the time.
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 10:10:31 AM
Coverlet's observation about hackathons -- that senior management may "see the success and excitement and suggest a soulless alternative" -- reminds me of some of the innovation contests and rallies companies hold. Once you cap the fun and energy by layering on too much structure, you defeat the whole purpose.

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