Working Here — Week Four

So moving to California (and coordinating with my fiancé, who is not QUITE out here full time yet), starting a new job at SpaceX, and trying at ALL to do homework/research/thesis work for school has me rather busy!

But I wanted to do a quick update… this place is insanely cool.

The philosophy that seems to permeate the culture here is one of “of course we can do that”, coupled with pushing ourselves and each other to answer “how quickly can we do that, and do it well”?

Every barrier I’ve seen in other companies is torn down. Meetings are pretty efficient and only as long as necessary. No one gets upset if you don’t attend; you’re an adult, you know how your time is best used… if someone NEEDS you to attend, they’ll make it very clear. They’re adults too.
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California – Week One

Wow, so, let me catch you up:

  • Got engaged to Mary Ann
  • Moved to Los Angeles, CA last week and started a new job at SpaceX

Ok, I guess it’s just two things, but they’re REALLY big things!

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Once More Into the Bitcoin…

Last time I talked about Bitcoin, in 2011, I said this:

Prices quickly went from a few dollars to around $30, although they’ve now backed off a bit to around $20/BTC (Bitcoin).

And, you will notice, I was not predicting great things from Bitcoin (although I DID admire the underlying blockchain and proof of work technology).

Seven years later, let me follow up.

First, despite what I said, I did do some bitcoin speculation myself. I ended up losing thousands, not because I didn’t make the right choices in market timing and investment… but because I was part of the MtGox Hack. I lost several thousand dollars, the equivalent of about five bitcoin at the time, which would have been worth $50,000 today.

So that sucked.

Despite that, I got back in a few months ago, using Coinbase, gained back about the amount I lost in MtGox, sold all my bitcoin and bailed. I’m completely out now.

I’m not saying that Bitcoin prices won’t go higher. They might.

But I AM still saying that I don’t believe in its long-term stability. And let me tell you why.
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Best Reddit Yet…

Ok, I’ve only posted to reddit a couple of times, but this one will be my favorite for probably forever I expect…

I posted this thread on reddit asking about an MP3 song I’ve had lying around since college, or shortly thereafter (1997? 98? 99?).

It’s on the “Name That Song” subreddit because I wasn’t sure I had the name of the artist or the song correct. I’d transcribed the lyrics, searched the internet as best I could (and I generally consider myself fairly adept at that), and finally resorted to posting to reddit.

A few weeks go by… crickets. No comments; just a few views.

Until I woke up this morning to not only a comment on the thread, but an email from the comment-writer, who was none other than the original artist, excited to have googled himself and found me posting about a song he wrote 20 years ago!

Made his day, and it made mine too. It’s a fun little thread; check it out. Good times.

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Quick Management Maxims For Doing Things Well

I like boiling things down to useful maxims. It’s not always appropriate. The world is more complicated than one liners. But sometimes it’s useful to have these things, to focus one’s philosophy. Here’s a few.

Lead the way and Clear the way

I was asked a while ago for my management philosophy. This is as concise as I can get… good managers “lead the way, and clear the way”. Just about everything boils up to this. How to treat people, how to organize, how to drive a vision and execution; how to implement best practices… all boil down to having a path, setting people on it, and making sure they don’t get pushed or pulled off of it.

Plan to do everything a thousand million times

It’s fun to watch the modern “Six-Sigma”, “CMMI”, “Agile”, “DevOps”, “No-Ops” transitions (with a million more little steps in there). Are those things all equivalent? No, of course not. But they’re on a long spectrum that has been going on since we decided to invent wheels and farming. All of human history has been about making things easier to do, really. In software land this is all about automation, and the way to know you’re doing that right is to imagine you have to do the same task a LOT. Millions of times. This helps focus ease, simplicity, performance tuning, documentation, architecture, … everything.

The Golden Rule – Plus Perspective

They teach you the “Golden Rule” pretty early as a kid. Treat others the way you’d want to be treated. But I think it’s just one step shy of ideal… you need to understand the perspective of the other person. Maybe they don’t want to be treated the way you do? Diverse teams are difficult to manage, but an easy way to fail is to treat people like they’re all the same. Even well intentioned, treating people like you want to be treated is a mistake. It’s the best _starting point_. But then you must learn their perspective, and, where reasonable, accommodate it.

Align Ownership with Accountability

This seems simple, but it’s another one of those things that many teams just don’t harmonize on, aggravating managers and employees. If you’re in charge of something, own it – successes and failures, no matter how many people you direct to help. If you delegate, delegate the decision making as well as the glory… or fallout. Think of the military here — train people; expect what you want from them. Avoid micromanaging… hobbling people’s autonomy, or undermining their successes. Let people be creative when they can, but make clear their constraints early. Quick iterations work well for this so you can always have touch-points and chances to redirect. Matrixed management organizations make this difficult… it’s easy to have “too many cooks” floating around and people unclear of their objectives or unable to take credit (or blame) for their work.

I’ll add more as I come up with them…

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