habits stories


As I dictated this from the community park, I got reminded of a book I read on stress management.

In this book, they talk about resiliency, and the author gives an example of their kid learning how to go up the stairs, and he describes the experience from his point of view as one of Joy.

When his small daughter runs into a challenge going up the stairs, she doesn’t give up. Instead, she smiles and continues attempting to go up the stairs, figuring out different ways of what was working and what wasn’t.

I am here at the park, and I’m looking at my kids going over the spinning monkey bars, and my daughter kept trying and trying, and then she finally made it over.

My son, the younger one, keeps looking at my daughter, and when he sees how she’s going about it, and then he tries to mimic her, but on the first switch over, he slows downs and doesn’t gain good enough momentum to make it all the way through.

He smiles, jumps down, gets up on the stairs, and tries again and the great thing about this is that not only is he being resilient, but he has an example to follow.

So how does all this relate to business?

I wrote about habits before, a.k.a. resiliency and repetition, but that’s not enough. It also helps to have an excellent person to follow — having a guide.

Someone who can show you the path is why mentoring becomes so important and having the resiliency to stick through it and learn and improve in whatever we’re doing in business.

In summary, create some good habits don’t give up. Continue attempting and trying different things. At some point, you’ll be successful.

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growth management support

Coaching with empathy

Have you initiated a PIP on one of your reports? Did they improve and maintain their enhanced performance? So far, in close to 20 years of working in tech, I have not witnessed the first individual that survives a PIP.

Imagine a world where most PIP sections are there, but we remove the “if you don’t improve, we’ll let you go.” clause

I argue that removing the option to fire someone for performance reasons makes it so that we genuinely care for a successful outcome of any improvement plan.

Here is how this would look.

Goal settings

Most PIPs will come with a pre-determined set of goals already laid out for the individual.  

In my opinion, this removes the power of commitment from the individual, so instead, I suggest you present a set of the underperforming areas with information to back up your claims and then ask them to define specific goals to improve in those areas.

Action items

After setting goals, the next step is to work on action items planned to get to the goals.

Let’s say one of the goals is to improve communication.

Specific action items could be

  • Write up a standup update daily at nine AM
  • Set a reminder five minutes before a meeting to read ahead and participate in meeting conversations
  • Set aside one hour weekly to write up about technical decisions taken during the week

This should be a collaborative exercise where both of you work on a set of actions that will get you closer to the goals you have set.


Lastly, we’ll make sure that we have a way to show progress on the actions and the goals.

Following the example above, to improve communication well be writing standup updates daily. 

To hold us accountable, we can report weekly on the number of standup reports completed. We can further survey the team on how they feel about the individual’s communication practices.


PIPs don’t have the goal of improving performance. Instead, they aim at driving someone out of the company.

By constraining ourselves by removing the option to fire for performance reasons, we change the process so that the goal is to see improvement truly.

We get there by working together to set up goals, the actions to achieve them, and ways to measure our progress.

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Use your team’s expertise

Use your team’s expertise. 

Recently I stopped the micromanager in me and rephrased my ask in the form of questions to be answered.

Let me tell you what happened.

I needed, in my mind, particular reports.

Reports that I hoped would give me some much-needed answers around specific projects.

I was in the middle of planning activities, and I needed to know

  • When will Project X be done?
  • What percentage of the project have we completed? 
  • Are there any upcoming risks that we know of for the project? 
  • What percentage of the team is working on the project?
  • What dependencies are there?

Having done similar reporting in the past, my first inclination was to do it myself.

I had failed to realize that I wasn’t leading those projects directly, so I lacked confidence in the info that I was pulling.

I went to the project leads directly and started digging around specifics for the project, asking about individual tickets and how they connected to other work, requesting links to documents, reports on who was doing the job, and additional specific information.

When it hit me, I had a plan and wanted things done, so I just jumped into action and began asking for a lot of info.

I did not provide context, I did not phrase my ask in terms of my need, and I assumed incorrectly that I was the best suited to provide the answers.

So what did I do instead? Well, I began by apologizing for jumping into my agenda without any context.

I then explained that I needed to understand various aspects of the projects and get the information consistent across projects.

After some quick ideation on how to achieve the work, they came up with a friendly dashboard that would pull data automatically and consistently from all the projects for the zone.

The results were much better than what I had envisioned, and I am glad I pulled in the micromanager in me and instead relied on my team’s expertise to get the info I needed.

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quality stories support

Customer service – learnings from airline experience

Today I had to deal with customer service for a major airline, and it was such a negative experience that I feel compelled to write about it.

If your product offers customer service, there are some suitable lessons here.


Our problem was the interpretation of essential guidance by the CDC needed to travel into the USA. 

We had the latest guidance, but the airline operator didn’t, so we lost our flight.

  • Now think about software for a minute. If you are on a team that subscribes to continuous delivery, how is your support team made aware of new changes?
  • How often is the documentation that users and support rely on updated?
  • When you have conflicting information, do you train your support team to re-validate their assumptions?

In our case, the airline didn’t propagate regulation fast enough.

They didn’t train for edge cases and trained their staff to go with their assumptions rather than empowering them to verify the information.

The result was abismal customer experience and various unhappy flyers with lost flights complaining about an easily avoidable situation.


Our situation didn’t fit the usual support request that most users deal with, so we contacted the airline via phone to speak to a representative.

Here, we ran into an automated phone system that didn’t offer any of the options we were looking for, so we got routed to use WhatsApp.

Thinking I was going to chat with a representative, I got on WhatsApp, and to my surprise, I got another bot 🤖.

This bot didn’t provide an option to reach a representative.

I went on social media, and they routed me to a form, and guess where the form sent me? Another automation.

Automation in customer service is excellent for well-defined problems, but human interaction is required for edge cases.

  • When automating customer service, do you offer the option to speak to a human?

In our case, the automation didn’t help. 

The routing from one automated system to another made the experience worst.

In the end, the support experience just added to our grievances and set a bad reputation for the airline.

Thinking back to how this relates to software and the lesson is clear, Don’t let your support process mess up your reputation instead of helping it.

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management quality

Software validation

Today I paid someone to clean my house.

Since I am on my own with the kids this week, I just went outside for a while and returned once the cleaning person told me they were ready. 

I paid them, they left, and I began checking their work. 

To my surprise, the laundry room and the half bath were not cleaned, the other areas were done halfway, and the house looked “ok.”

You can think of it as having performed user acceptance testing on the cleaning job that resulted in a negative experience.  

This made me realize that when we default to UAT as our primary form of testing, it sucks, and our reputation suffers.

Based on my experience, I will not hire them again, but I thought about how I would feel if they had performed other validations.

Could I have changed my outlook on the results?

If I had the time, I could have validated her work after every room, or maybe sections of a room.  

I could have given her a checklist and had her check the items on the list. 

Imagine the checklist as the test-first approach where you already know what success looks like, and then you implement the work to make sure that success happens and your tests pass. 

A room check could be seen as an integration test, where I would ensure that all areas looked well together and not just individually.

The above tests could have quickly surfaced the missing areas and the places that needed an extra pass.

So when UAT happened, I would have seen more minor problems easier to digest, and I probably would now hold them to a high standard of quality and customer service.

In summary, test changes early, test often, mix your test types to include unit, functional, and QA. Have other people check your work and do all of this before it lands on your users.

You could be saving your company’s reputation.

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management stories

Stress and pain at work

I had a car accident a few years ago.

I was in New Jersey, and I went to get tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich at my favorite Italian restaurant.

After enjoying my meal, I got into my rental vehicle and drove towards McGuire Air Force Base.

On my way there, I was driving around 60 miles an hour when a vehicle decided to cross over the intersection, and they stopped right in the middle before getting to the following line, so I slammed on the brakes turn the steering wheel as far as I could and crash into the back of the vehicle.

I swerved all the way outside into the grass and saw how the other vehicle spun out of control and ended up on the other side of the road.

Luckily, I had no broken bones, but I have been having on and off back pain since then.

This should be ok for the most part, but I tend to have a hard time when the pain shows up.

Here’s how I see this affecting my work.

I will show up to a meeting, and others would immediately ask me if I am ok, even without realizing it, my face it’s already showing the pain, which then indicates to others that I am not at my best, and I find myself explaining to people how I had an accident a few years ago, and now I suffer from back pain.

I sense my stress level going up, which then makes me jump to conclusions.

I just want things to get done quickly and tend to stop thinking strategically, I stop looking at the possibilities, and I just want to move forward with a solution because my pain is a constant reminder that I don’t want to be at work.

I have also been holding interviews, and while I’m usually very upbeat and I smile a lot while I’m in pain, I find this very hard to do, and the result is a poor interview on my part where I don’t represent the company as best as I could.

Lastly, I have been finding myself just quickly glancing through information and not concentrating on its contents or consuming them entirely.

Something similar happens with my writing, where I tend to write in bullet points and concise sentences, straight to the end, with minimal context just so I can get it done and over with.

That’s it. I’m still in pain, so I’m not sure that I have a final point to make here other than it does affect how I work, my personal life, and the people around me.

Be patient, smile, and remember that the pain is temporary.

Thanks for reading.

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Swimming and business

I began swimming at the age of three, and ever since I started, it looked pretty bland.

Every day, I would swim early in the morning, the afternoon, and even on weekends.

I also started going to the gym on top of swimming, and I did this every day until I became an adult.

Your upbringing highly correlates to how you handle yourself in your adult life. For me, swimming had a significant impact on how I conduct myself in business. Here’s how.


Training competitively can be grueling, but you’ll often hear people push through the pain and continue training, always looking at a bigger goal.

In business, you have very grueling times as well, and you will find yourself questioning why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Was this the right decision? Am I learning enough to determine a reasonable path forward?

Tenacity comes into play anytime you doubt yourself, and swimming, like many other competitive sports, will teach you to keep going even when you don’t feel like doing the work.


I trained every day, twice a day on weekends until adulthood.

I guess you could say I got into the habit of swimming every day at the same time.

In business, getting into habits becomes extremely useful.

If you want to be a better engineer, you can get into the habit of writing code daily.

If you’re going to be a better writer, you can get into the habit of writing a page on a basis.

Do you want to be better at public speaking? You can introduce a habit of speaking to an audience daily.

Habits allow us to get better and make things that are difficult in the beginning easy to the point where we might not think about them anymore, and then we can build more habits on top of the ones we already have.

Competing against myself

One of my swimming habits was constantly recording my times during training and after competitions.

Doing so allowed me to understand if I was getting better.

I could track my progress over time and make sure that the changes I was introducing to my training were helping me get better.

Sure, I did compare myself to other swimmers, I wanted to be the best, so I would look up to them and wonder what they were doing to get to where they were.

In reality, I needed to compete against myself first.

As long as I was improving even one percent, those improvements compounded over time, and eventually, I found myself going to nationals with the same people I used to look up to.

In business, we often look at the competition, our counterparts at other companies and wonder how they got there.

The reality is that we need to improve ourselves first, and to do so, we need to measure how we’re doing and understand if the changes that we bring to our daily habits are helping us improve even that one percent that over time will compound.

When you least expect it, you will be at the same level or better than those you used to look up to.


My sport of choice, swimming, taught me about tenacity, good habits, and self-improvement.

I keep those lessons to improve myself and add value to society and my family by getting better every day.

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management promotions

How do I get a promotion?

Start by understanding that you are your most prominent advocate.

Take notes

What this means in practice is that you need to keep detailed notes of everything you do,

consider themes such as significant projects, initiatives, recruiting, coaching, mentoring, and thinking strategically.

Furthermore, your company probably uses a growth plan or matrix.

Make sure you are following everything laid out for the next step.

Mimic success

If someone in the company you admire is already at the next level, try to mimic them.

What this means in practice is that you might start sharing more industry news or leading more projects or providing more ideas, or engaging in cross-functional initiatives.

Remember, this individual is already at the next level, and for you to get promoted, you will be expected to do the same or more things they’re currently doing.

Be explicit

Make sure you are explicit about your expected work to get a promotion.

Reach out to your manager, and ask for direct guidance and steps necessary to achieve the next level.

Market your next intentions

Lastly, but equally important to all of the above, is to make your intentions known.

Tell as many people as you can that you intend to be promoted.

Doing so helps you get feedback to understand the path for promotion.

It also establishes a psychological approach for others to see you at the next level and help you along the way.


Once you start the promotion process, you will have been working at the next level, mimicking someone successful in the role, and have everything documented so that everyone involved can quickly determine your readiness.

Best of luck!

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Hiring Interviewing

Hiring your boss

Today I had the great honor of interviewing my possibly future boss.

During the interview, I was looking not only for this person to be the right fit for the company, but I was looking for this person to be the right fit for me.

Here’s what I mean by that.


I dislike micromanagement, but sadly in engineering groups, this might be a common approach to execution.

On this topic, I am usually on the lookout for good delegation, a high-level understanding of the project, well-defined processes, great stakeholder communication, inclusiveness, and utilizing everyone’s talents to their best.

A red flag for me would be someone who feels that they have to control all aspects of the project.

This shows via lots of “I” statements such as “I did,” “I executed,” “I managed and architected,” so on.


I am empathetic, so when we ask about challenging situations, I like to hear if someone embraces a problematic situation by thinking about the other person first, starting from a position of curiosity and doing their due diligence to fully understand all sides of a given problem.

A red flag in my case is hearing that they made up their minds quickly, placed blame on the individual without holding the team accountable, and probably defaulted to PIPs as a trusted tool.


I value friendship, so when I hear about managing stakeholders and relationship building, I love to hear stories of fun moments, camaraderie and getting together to overcome challenges.

For me, a red flag is to listen to stories of political or brute force approach or battle of wills.


Hopefully, this quick rundown through my small list of desires helps you start thinking about your list of wants for your possible boss.

Suppose you ever find yourselves influencing who will be your boss. In that case, It is highly beneficial to prepare in advance and understand the questions that will surface the behaviors you would love to see.

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Thinking strategically

Stay up to date on what is happening around you

Thinking strategically means having a more comprehensive view of what is happening within your company and industry.

Not only do you need to understand the vision and direction for your area, but you need to go above and beyond what you’re required to understand and learn the broader scope of where the company is going.

To make this easier on you, it is beneficial to block some time weekly or daily to read up on what is happening around your company, your industry, and your competition. 

Make it a point to attend conferences, sign up for trade publications, and connect with external contacts.

Introduce a habit of writing up ideas

Gaining a broader scope of your industry, your company, and your company’s direction leads to getting your ideas in front of others.

One proven technique to get started with this is to introduce a habit of writing up your ideas.

The goal isn’t to write the perfect idea or direction but rather to write consistently, Regardless of how good or bad you think your ideas are, consistency is the key.

Once you get into the habit of writing out your ideas, you can start sharing them, talking about them, bringing them up in meetings, and eventually owning the execution of one of your ideas.

After some time, others will notice that you’re thinking outside the box.

You will constantly bring up ideas instead of just providing opinions on ideas from others.

You will influence others towards your line of thinking, and this gets easier since you have the industry insights to guide your direction.

You will lead new initiatives, and see their impact on the company.

In other words, you will be thinking strategically.

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