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An Intern Speaks Out - What Makes A Good Boss (A "10 Things" List)

So we were in the grocery store and my daughter tells me that she likes working for her current boss. (She is an intern at the NIH.)

"What is it you like?" I say. 

I take out my iPhone, ready to take notes. 

"Oh, so now you want to pay attention to what I have to say," she says disapprovingly, shaking her head.

"I like work stuff, so sue me," I respond.

"Well I can't think of all of it now, since you're interviewing me," she says.

But she comes out with her list anyway. 

1. "He sets the stage for what I'm going to be doing - gives me the general idea."

2. "He tells me what the job is very clearly."

3. "If I'm done early, he lets me stop instead of just giving me busywork."

4. "He trust me to do the work. He doesn't stand over me."

5. "He doesn't make a big deal if I'm 15 minutes late once in a while."

The other 5 items on this list came up in conversation, but they seemed important to her as well:

6. "The office is a reflection of his personality, it's consistent and kind of mellow."

7. "He gave me a phone number to call if there's a problem."

8. "We got this email saying that there's a tuition break for employees."

9. "The food is much better there this year."

10. "I like what my office does. It's cool."

It's not a long list, but it's a really good list and I wondered if anyone else wanted to add to it. Maybe we say the same things over and over again, but then again maybe that's what it takes for the lessons of good management and leadership to sink in.

* All opinions my own.

The One Rule For New Supervisors

I sat down and flipped open my computer as I normally lunch alone.

Then a colleague who I knew from minimal interaction struck up a conversation. After a moment or two she sat down.

"Tell me about your job," I said.

"I have a new supervisor. She is making us read 'Who Moved My Cheese.'" 

She said that as though it were a bad thing.

"She is changing everything around. Very strong personality. Doesn't think that any of us know how to do our jobs."

It went on from there.

"One lady can't eat because of her, others can't sleep. It's really bad."

It went on from there.

"She favors her friends, who are ignorant, over the staff people who do a really good job. It's so frustrating."

I nodded.

"And every time one of us says something to another one, she somehow finds out about it."

Yes the workplace can be a small world.

"We're afraid to talk, and now she wants to go on a team-building retreat to build so-called 'trust'."

She laughed sadly and bitterly. I could see she was hyper-competent and the injustice of having to serve a new and awkward supervisor was killing her.

And then, the final blow.

"I'm looking to get out."

Later I told my daughter about it.

"Oh, teambuilding. Everybody hates it when they have to do that."

Reflecting on the whole thing, I felt bad for my colleague, and frankly felt bad myself as well. Because I've been on both sides of the coin.

And I could see both sides: As supervisor, wanting to prove yourself, and please your boss, and deliver the results you are bound to deliver in a difficult environment.

As employee, wanting to practice your tradecraft with minimal interference, wanting to not have to train all the new and awkward management folks.

What can I say, it's hard. But I do think supervisors can help themselves a lot by learning to listen more, especially at the beginning, absorbing the culture, and reserving comment for when it's absolutely needed.

*All opinions my own.

Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2014 - Key Takeaways

Deloitte came out with this white paper, and it is rich with good information. However, it's also a lot to take in. Here's my best understanding of the high points of their top 10 trends in IT for this year, Tech Trends 2014

(I have oversimplified for the sake of clarity, so please comment away if you see any errors.)

Type of Change
Old Way
New Way
1. CIO as venture capitalist
Reactive purchasing
Manage IT as a business asset
  • Talk business not jargon
  • Adapt fast
  • Hire the right people
2. Wearables
Sit at desk
Total mobility
  • Focus on business use cases
  • Don’t be distracted by flashy consumer scenarios
3. Digital Engagement
One channel at a time
Multiple channels managed simultaneously
  • Consistency
  • Keeping the viewer’s interest
  • Put the digital experience in context
  • Find a way to make money out of it
4. Industrialized Crowdsourcing
Hire one employee to do a range of tasks
Distribute many tasks among many, at the simplest repeatable unit of effort
  • Finding the right unit of work
  • Coordinating among the parts
5. Cognitive analytics (artificial intelligence)
Person makes decisions based on limited data, for rational and emotional reasons  
Machines take over much decision-making by by mining Big Data quickly and learning to adapt to business processes
  • Isolate work that can only be done with human intelligence
  • Distinguish between appropriate vs. inappropriate uses of machines to minimize risks of decision-making
6. Technical Debt Reversal
Build customized systems that incur “debt” of constant code upgrades
Reduce “debt” for both legacy and new systems (not one or the other)
  • Maximize code quality
  • Consider scalability, mobility, performance and reliability
7. Real Time DevOps
Stovepipe development from operations
Integrate development and operations, to meet business needs, with a focus on the development side (waterfall or agile software development)
  • Standardize & automate coding, building, testing (development) and deployment and operation (operations)
8. In-Memory Revolution
Limited access to data
Massive availability of data that can be analyzed for insight
  • Prioritize business areas most in need, for example sales forecasting (predictive analytics)

9. Cloud Orchestration
One-off, tactical cloud purchases
Coordinated cloud strategy
  • Manage across  complex cloud adoptions (and non-adoptions) seamlessly - it’s a hybrid world
10. Social Activation
Monitor and respond to social media and the social nature of business
Focus on “activating” - customers as brand ambassadors
  • Shift from messaging and controlling mindset to influencing customer perception

* All opinions my own. Table by me. No endorsement expressed or implied.

An Interaction @ Balducci's That Should Be A Textbook Lesson In Customer Service

Feeling a bit rushed I go into the store, which is gorgeous and everything is arranged so that I can pluck really good related items of food off the shelf and go home, which is what I want to do because it's late.

Over at the hot bar I don't see a sign saying how much the food costs, but I figure it can't be all that bad if I just take a few containers. I take some staples for the week that save me from cooking, plain spaghetti and olive oil, mac & cheese and rice pilaf. 

They look fantastic.

The cashier starts ringing it up and these five little containers quickly add up to $45.50. 

I think to myself,  Quick, have them put the food back! I could have made a box of spaghetti for a dollar!

And then I think, There is no way they are going to take this stuff back. Once you touch it, you've touched it.

I decide to be bold and tell the kid ringing up the stuff, "Wait a minute wait a minute."

"What is it?" he asks.

Pointing at the food I say, "That's $45 worth of plain spaghetti and mac and cheese and rice pilaf. I could have made it for a dollar."

He looks at me blankly. I am sure that I am in for it now.

"Put it back," I say. "That's ridiculous."

The kid does not blink an eye. He calls over his supervisor and tells him what I want.

Without even thinking, the supervisor says, "Throw it out. Ring it off and throw it out."

What? I am thinking. Oh my G-d. That is unbelievable. They took it back!

The kid says to another kid, who is helping him to bag stuff, "Throw it out."

"What?" she says.

He says to her, "She touched it. We have to throw it out."

She gives him an incredulous look. Like, she cannot believe we are throwing out five containers of food for absolutely no reason. 

"I didn't touch it," I say.

I have one finger crossed behind my back because in fact I did tuck in a stray strand of spaghetti as I packed the container.

Weakly I plead my case, thinking about how I must look to these kids. "Forty-five dollars," I say. "I mean, come on."

They ignore me and the first kid finishes ringing me out.

I take my brown paper bags, which by the way do not break like the ones at Trader Joe's, and resolve to come to Balducci's every.single.week.

Because they are just that good. They are.

* All opinions my own. Photo by me.