Career Opportunities

Helping to build the career you deserve!

A weekly ComputorEdge Column and twice-weekly podcast by Douglas E. Welch
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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #21 - Speck Products ToughSkin for iPod

My fellow Friend in Tech, Victor Caijo over at the Typical PC User Podcast made a specific effort to buy on of these iPod cases for his new iPod Video while we at the Podcast Expo a few weeks ago. He gave a glowing review to me for the protection and ease of use these covers provide.

Link: #21 Speck Products ToughSkin for iPod

Link: Find a Speck Cover for your iPod model

See also:
Holiday Gift Guide Items 11-20
Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

Career-Op - Something for you - from the archives

Here we are, a few weeks before Christmas. It is so hard to believe that another year is almost over. It does provide a time for a little reflection, though. Reflection on what you accomplished, what slipped away and what to concentrate your energies on in the coming year. The beginning of a new year only makes us all more aware of the passage of time and how important it is to get as much from our time as possible.

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Something for yourself

Have you wanted a new PalmPilot to carry your contacts and appointments? Are your clothes looking a bit ragged after climbing around behind racks of networking equipment or under the desks of your computer users? Have you been working so hard that your children point and ask your spouse who that unfamiliar person is? Sometimes we can get so caught up in the act of making a living that we forget the living part.

In the next few weeks do something for yourself. This can mean anything from shopping for some new clothes to taking your kids to the park for an hour or two. Take a few minutes to reconnect with who you are outside of your career. I have written in the past about the importance of defining yourself in a variety of ways. This is the perfect time of year to try it. Do you think you might like to do some woodworking? Drop a few hints to your spouse and children about that new router available at Sears. Do you like to go hiking? Gather up the family, or go by yourself, to a local outdoor area. Breathe in air that hasn't been processed through air-conditioning and neighboring cubicles. You will be pleasantly surprised at the effect this has on you.

Doing less in order to do more

While it may seem a foreign concept getting away from your job can be the best way of doing better at your job. I see too many friends who are scared to take vacation because they feel their job might be danger. They slave away for long hours, day after day, week after week, getting progressively more and more tired. Eventually it takes a nasty cold, a bout with the flu or worse to get them to take a few days off. Imagine how much more productive you might be if you regularly took some time for yourself each and every week. Imagine coming to the office refreshed instead of resigned to another back-breaking week of endless toil.

As you all probably know, there is a relatively new law that allows workers to take several weeks of family leave when they have a family medical situation such as a new baby or caring for a sick family member. Legislators worked hard to provide this option and yet so few people make use of it. Too many people feel that they will be punished for taking time for their family regardless of the legality of it. Too many employers subtly (and not so subtly) communicate to their employees that just because they have to provide family leave doesn't mean they like employees to use it..

To me, this is a warning sign that the company you are working for is less than ideal. Any smart company knows that an employee who is worrying about a new baby is not working at their highest level. Why not give them the opportunity to get through one of the most stressful moments in their lives and come back confident and refreshed instead of sleep-deprived and prone to errors.

Career Zen

While the holidays can be hectic they often yield small pieces of time that can be used for contemplation. Perhaps you have a few moments between putting the kids to sleep and heading off to bed yourself. I find that I enjoy sitting in the living room with only the lights from the Christmas tree to be a wonderful Zen-like experience. It gives me a moment to decompress and let my mind wander over all that has happened this year. Spend a few minutes thinking about the good parts of this year. Where do you wish you could spend more time? What activities made you the happiest? What is your vision of the best work and home life possible? Can you get there? Can you get close?

May the New Year bring the career you most desire.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #20 - Linksys Wireless-G Internet Video Camera

Do you have an area you need to monitor for security or other reasons? Do you already have a wireless network for your Internet connection? If so, plug this camera into any power outlet, connect it to your wireless network and you can view it directly on your computer screen, from your home computer, your laptop or anywhere with an Internet connection.

Link: Linksys Wireless-G Internet Video Camera

Link: More Wireless Cameras

See also:
#19 APC 1000VA UPS and More Uninterruptable Power Supplies
#18 Sony Playstation Portable
#17 Poppy Laptop Sleeves and A host of Laptop Sleeves
#16 Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
#15 TomTom GO 300 Portable GPS Navigation System
#14 Linksys WRT54G Wireless Cable/DSL Router
#13 Brother P-Touch Labeler
#12 Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell
#11 Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

Monday, November 28, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #19 - Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS)

As you probably already know, laptops have a big advantage when there is a power outage in your home or office. The battery power simply takes over and you keep working until the power returns. When using a desktop machine, though, you aren't so lucky. When the power goes out, your computer shuts down and you lose everything you haven't yet saved.

There is a way to protect yourself, though, if your home or office is plagued with bad power, an uninterruptable power supply or UPS. These are basically battery packs which automatically take over when the power fails. They can power your computer and monitor for 10-30 minutes, allowing you to save your work and shut down your computer normally.

These used to be very expensive devices, but now, for under $100 in some cases, you can have your own UPS protecting your equipment and your data.

Link: APC 1000VA UPS

Link: More Uninterruptable Power Supplies

See also:
#18 Sony Playstation Portable
#17 Poppy Laptop Sleeves and A host of Laptop Sleeves
#16 Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
#15 TomTom GO 300 Portable GPS Navigation System
#14 Linksys WRT54G Wireless Cable/DSL Router
#13 Brother P-Touch Labeler
#12 Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell
#11 Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #18 - Sony Playstation Portable

I am not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination, but I finally got lay hands on a PSP the other day at my local Starbucks. Two of the employees were sitting on the patio with their units and let me have a spin. The video quality is great and the game play is amazing. You can also use the unit to play podcasts and other mp3 files. Perfect little entertainment device for those long commutes on the bus, carpool or train.

Link: Sony Playstation Portable

See also:
#17 Poppy Laptop Sleeves and A host of Laptop Sleeves
#16 Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
#15 TomTom GO 300 Portable GPS Navigation System
#14 Linksys WRT54G Wireless Cable/DSL Router
#13 Brother P-Touch Labeler
#12 Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell
#11 Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

Saturday, November 26, 2005

25 Ways to Distinguish Youself from

I finally made my way through this "manifesto" from by Rajesh Setty.

One of the reasons it took me so long to finish this particular item was that there was so much "thinking stuff" in there. I found myself making notes after almost every entry. I think you will find it useful as well. Get comfortable and take your time, though.

Link: 25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself by Rajesh Setty

Douglas on the Typical PC User Podcast

My latest segement on Victor Caijo's Typical PC User Podcast is on Computers and Obsolesence.


Holiday Gift Guide #17 - Laptop Sleeves and other cases

Whenever anyone buys a laptop, PDA, iPod or other portable electronic device, the first advice I give is "GET A CASE....NOW! Electronic devices, especially those with LCD screens are more rugged than your average home device, but they are still easily damaged when dropped. They are also more exposed to dust, dirt and weather than other devices and any protection you can provide is going to increase the life span of the device.

So, before you leave the store, or before you take your new toy on its first outing into the cold, cruel world, give it a little TLC and wrap it up in something nice.

Link: Poppy Laptop Sleeves
Link: A host of Laptop Sleeves

See also:
#16 Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
#15 TomTom GO 300 Portable GPS Navigation System
#14 Linksys WRT54G Wireless Cable/DSL Router
#13 Brother P-Touch Labeler
#12 Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell
#11 Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

Friday, November 25, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #16 - Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynee Truss

Even technies need to speak and write well. This book might be the single best source for a an English language refresher.

My Review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Link: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

See also:
#15 TomTom GO 300 Portable GPS Navigation System
#14 Linksys WRT54G Wireless Cable/DSL Router
#13 Brother P-Touch Labeler
#12 Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell
#11 Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Career-Op - Accountability - November 25, 2005

Too often, when we hear the word accountability at work, we cringe, sure that this means we are going to be held responsible for something, often something we didn’t even have the authority to actually make happen. Most of us have probably come to think of accountability as a negative concept – something punitive that is sure to be mentioned on our next performance review. There is a place for accountability, though. We have managers and co-workers who are operating without any sense of accountability and this can lead to major issues in both your current job and your career.

Listen | Subscribe | Subscribe via iTunes

Discuss this column and podcast in the Friends in Tech Forums!

Accountability can come in many forms. There is the top-down enforcement of accountability, where managers expect you to be responsible for your actions and then there is personal accountability, where you expect yourself to be responsible for your actions. In many cases, though, it seems that neither of these forms apply. Managers can hold you responsible for tasks that you have no authority to accomplish or abdicate their own accountability by blaming their staff for every failure, regardless of the true cause. As individuals, we can ignore our own accountability by placing blame on others or simply ignoring deadlines and other commitments that we make. You might think, “who cares if that program is a week late? No one will notice anyway.” While you often have little control over the former situation, the latter is entirely under your control.

We have all met or worked with people who have no sense of personal accountability. They almost never do anything unless they are forced. They routinely miss deadlines. They shuffle blame around like a poker hand. It can be very frustrating and also quite damaging to have people such as this on your team. They often lower the quality of work of an entire department and, given enough people, destroy an entire company.

Hold yourself, and others, accountable

So, what do you do when faced with a group of people without any sense of accountability? First, you need to set a good example. Do you practice personal accountability? Do you hold yourself accountable for your commitments? Do you deliver on your commitments when you said you would deliver? It is foolish to expect accountability in others if you don’t first exhibit the trait yourself. That said, you will often see managers who complain about missed deadlines, budget overages and more even though they regularly fail to deliver on their own commitments. This shows just how blind we can all be.

In my business, I have to maintain the highest levels of accountability, or I will see a direct effect on my bottom line. If I do not deliver what I promised, when I promised, I have to face this client directly. I have to take accountability for my actions, as there is simply no one else around to do it. Even if you are embedded deep inside a corporate department, start thinking like an independent consultant. How would you feel if you had to sit down with the client yourself and explain why you didn’t deliver on your commitments? Would you do things differently in the first place? Then start out by doing them differently now.

Next, you must hold those around you accountable for their actions and commitments. Too often, people are allowed to ignore their own lack of accountability. If you want to make a difference in your company, department or job you need to stop “letting things slide.” Those around you might caution you to “not sweat the small stuff,” but I believe that big problems are made from small problems that were ignored.

If someone consistently ignores their commitments, they should be warned once, maybe twice. If they continue to ignore their commitments, their projects should be re-assigned to others. Finally, when it is seems clear they aren’t going to change, they should be fired. If you are a co-worker of this person, you may need to push your management on this. They could be reluctant to fire people, even when they are performing badly. You need to address the issue for your own sake, though. These people effect your own ability to get work done and could prevent you on delivering on your own commitments.

Continuing to employee people who have no sense of personal accountability impedes the work of everyone in the company. If your best workers are constantly waiting on this worker to complete a task, you are crippling their productivity. You are bringing everyone down to the “lowest common denominator”, slowing productivity to the slowest member in the group. Instead, you should be developing ways of raising everyone up to their highest capabilities.

Whether you are a manager or a high-tech staffer, working for others or working for yourself, you need to maintain the highest levels of personal accountability to succeed. Sure, circumstances change, life intervenes, others don’t live up to their commitments, but you need to try, at all costs, to achieve the highest levels of personal accountability and then hold those around you to the same, tough, standards. Without this, you could find your high-tech career mired in mediocrity.

Holiday Gift Guide #15 - TomTom GO 300 Portable GPS Navigation System

One of the best reviewed navigation systems for your car. If you don't have the option of having one added to your vehicle as an option, this might be the one to buy.

Link: TomTom GO 300 Portable GPS Navigation System

See also:
#14 Linksys WRT54G Wireless Cable/DSL Router
#13 Brother P-Touch Labeler
#12 Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell
#11 Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #14 - Linksys WRT54G Wireless Cable/DSL Router

This is the router that I install for all my clients who are adding broadband to their home or office. Setup is simple and straightforward while still allowing advanced features for special needs.It simply works and works simply. What more can I say.

Link: Linksys WRT54G Wireless Cable/DSL Router

See also:
#13 Brother P-Touch Labeler
#12 Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell
#11 Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

Happy Thanksgiving from Friends in Tech

Happy Thanksgiving from FiT

Just a little piece from Friends in Tech members expressing what we are each thankful for this Thanksgiving.


(Via FiT Web.)

State of the IT Workspace

This question from Slashdot has generated a lot of good discussion about the state of IT jobs in general and what new IT workers need to consider. This is a Slashdot discussion, so it can get a bit rough sometimes, but there are some well thought out comments.

What would you tell someone who was considering an IT career? What do you wish someone had explained to you?

Recruiting IT Students?

spacemonk asks: "I teach at a community college and our enrollment numbers are down in our IT programs. We have found that many have the perception that there are few IT jobs. We feel this is causing many students, who might be interested in IT, to enroll in other programs. There is obviously a lot of conflicting information regarding the impact of off-shoring, and so forth, but much of what we have found indicates that the IT job market is improving, and IT is still a career that can offer job opportunities to students. For example, we have had internship opportunities that we have not been able to send candidates to, simply because we don't have the students. Needless to say, this is very frustrating. How would you honestly describe the IT job market to students considering this major? What can be done to recruit more students into IT programs?"

(Via Slashdot.)

Computer Science Classes courtesy of Harvard University

Want to learn a bit more about computer? Want good introductory classes for your staff, clients or family members? Watch Computer Science E-1 with Instructor David J. Malan from the comfort of your own home.

Harvard University Extension produces each class as both an audio and video podcast which you can download directly to your computer and then move to your iPod.

Link: Computer Science E-1 with Instructor David J. Malan

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Career-Op - Describe Yourself - September 26, 2003

The success of your high-tech career may depend on how well you describe your expertise and the work you do. This became clear to me recently, when I visited the monthly San Diego WebDesign Meetup. During a quick set of introductions, I was happily surprised by how clearly and easily people described their work. In my past experience, people often stumble over these items, trying to invent something on the spot. If you haven’t spent some time thinking about your own “Description”, take the opportunity now.

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Discuss this column and podcast in the Friends in Tech Forums!

Programmer, web designer, networking chief?

Regardless of your position, or the stature, of your high-tech career, you need to be able to clearly tell someone about your work, the expertise you have and even your future goals. Have you even thought about this before? Don’t feel bad. Most high-tech workers are so absorbed in the day-to-day issues of work that they often pay no attention to such things. This is your chance, and a bit of a push, to do just that.

Allow me to use myself as an example, if I may. After 20 years of working in high-tech I stumbled across a short phrase that sums up everything I believe in regards to high-tech work – I make computing clear! Regardless of whether I am training someone how to use MS Word, setting up a DSL/Cable router or writing about technology, this is truly what I am trying to accomplish. This motto appears on my business cards and my web site. It never fails to elicit a nod of comprehension or even a chuckle over its simplicity.

I hope it doesn’t take you 20 years to find your one-line description and in that light, here are some pointers about how to develop your own job description. I guarantee you that it will come in handy whether you are dealing with a job interview, meeting with a new client or building your own business.

What are your goals?

The best place to start in developing your description is to think deeply about what you are trying to accomplish in your career. Forget about your training, your certifications, and the programs you use. Concentrate on what problems you are trying to solve for your clients, whether they be the users inside your corporation or freelance clients.

A developer of back-end web software might have the goal of “letting the web designer think about design instead of the server” or “delivering important information through a designer’s custom interface.” A web designer might think about “presenting your (the client’s) best face to the Internet world.” A computer troubleshooter or trainer might think about “helping you get the most out of your computer, in business and life.” It matters little what you come up with at first. The goal is to get you thinking about your deepest career goals. You may start with one description and then slowly refine it over the coming years. More than likely, you will find that discussions with users and clients will elicit important parts of your description. Phrases will begin to jump out at you that describe your work in greater and greater clarity.

Think about the layman

Often in your high-tech career you will be dealing with computer laymen, someone who uses computers, but doesn’t do so as a living. They know a little about the system they are using, or perhaps a lot about a few programs, but they can often be confused by an overly-technical description. You want to make sure your description is tailored to those hearing it. While you might be able to talk to the high-tech clients in terms of PHP/SQL integrated database systems using XML to deliver non-system specific data streams, your average businessman will hear only gibberish.

It is always better to start off with the most general description possible, then adding specifics as you gain a clearer understanding of your client. “I make computing clear!” has been a great introduction to a variety of people. Everyone understands the frustrations of learning about computers. I then use questions to elicit more information from the client regarding their needs. Do they need a web designer? Is this a big project or a small one? Are they having difficulties with their computer system? As I gain more information, I offer up descriptions of the specific ways that I can assist them with their needs. You would be well advised to do the same.

Can you describe yourself and you work in 25 words or less? If not, its time to apply some deep thought to the issues. Developing a clear and concise description of the work you do is a sure way to network with other high-tech workers, gain clients and build your high-tech career.

Holiday Gift Guide #13 - Brother P-Touch Labeler

Label your way to an organized life. If you are a fan of "Getting Things Done", the book by David Allen, you know he recommends a labler like this for organizing your files. It is a cheap and simple way to add a little organization to your life.

Link: Brother P-Touch

See also:
#12 Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell
#11 Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

Monday, November 21, 2005

Solving Frustrating Problems from Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina's latest podcast (#7) has some excellent advice on how to approach frustrating problems...especially either/or problems where neither choice is what you want. He then offers several ways to reframe the problems in order to come to some 3rd or 4th possibility that is more in line with your desires.

Well worth a listen!

Link: Steve Pavlina: Solving Frustrating Problems - Podcast #7

How the other half computes...

This recent post from Librarian In Black might give you some insight on what life is like on the other side of the IT help desk. LiB provides some advice on how to approach an IT department about some new technology or upgrade. Their advice is pretty solid.

I always suggest to IT workers that they should approach their relationship with their co-workers and departments as a partnership. Whenever one department wins out over another, no one is operating at their optimal level. I know it sounds cliche, but make it a Win-Win and the entire company wins.

Talking to IT

We need to be more assertive in what we want. I can't tell you how many of my conference sessions are followed by a gaggle of librarians approaching me to lament that they'd love to do these things, but their IT Departments won't let them.

I don't think that IT folks are intentionally prohibitive or limiting. It's their job to protect equipment and networks. Sometimes they just do it too well. What I suggest to people is: (Continued)

(Via LibrarianInBlack.)

Holiday Gift Guide #12 - Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell

This is on the short list of books which I will buy for my firends and aquaintances whenever they come to me with issues with organization or managing their time. Maxwell has a series of books and each one has its own strengths, but I have found that this one provides me the biggest triggers for further thought.

Link : Thinking for a Change by John C. Maxwell

See also:
#11 Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #11 - Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin

Another great book from Seth Godin. Learn how to make your customers find the Free Prize Inside your product or service. Lots of new thoughts, but also great practical ideas.

See also:

Holiday Gift Guide Items 1-10

phpFreaks - PHP tutorials for absolute beginners!

I have been playing around with php lately, working up a simple (and I mean SIMPLE) application for a friend of mine. I don't really consider myself a programmer, but I like to keep up on the latest languages. php is the current darling of the web world and many of the sites you use on a daily basis are based on it in some way.

While dealing with fundamentals, these tutorials don't sugar coat their examples. They don't just give you sample code, but also explain how each step works. If you want to dip your toes in the php waters, this is a great place to start.

PHP tutorials for absolute beginners!

Good Basic/Beginner PHP Tutorials.

(Via digg.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Robert Half Technology 2006 Salary Guide

Network World magazine has released this year's edition of the Robert Half Technology 2006 Salary Guide. It includes a tremendous amount of data and every high-tech careerist should spend some time digging into its findings.

You shouldn't negotiate for that raise or a new position without an understanding of the current state of high-tech salaries. The guide also includes methods for adjusting the data for your local market.

I know I am going to be spending a few hours going over everything to gain a better understanding of the current high-tech job market.

Link: Robert Half Technology 2006 Salary Guide (via Network World)

"Organizations of all sizes and in all industries use the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide to help them determine appropriate compensation levels for IT
staff and to prepare annual budgets and business plans. In addition, educational
institutions and government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Labor’s
Bureau of Labor Statistics, refer to the guide for research purposes."

Holiday Gift Guide #10 - Roku SoundBridge

Connect the SoundBridge to your stereo system and you can enjoy your entire music library, wirelessly, from your Mac or PC. You can also play Internet Radio stations and control all its features via remote control. You can even take it out to the patio for your parties and family get-togethers.

Link: Roku SoundBridge

See also:
#9 Reimagine by Tom Peters
#8 Maxtor OneTouch Backup
#7 Apple iPod Video
#6 Getting Things Done by David Allen
#5 Flash (Keychain) Drives
#4 iRiver 799T MP3 Player
#3 Radical Careering
#2 Apple Mac Mini
#1 Palm TX Handheld

Friday, November 18, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #9 - Reimagine by Ton Peters

A master work and a must-read regardless of your profession. Peter's brings together all of his business insight over the last 20 years into a book that seems to touch on the past, the future and everything in-between.

Link: Reimagine by Tom Peters

See also:
#8 Maxtor OneTouch Backup
#7 Apple iPod Video
#6 Getting Things Done by David Allen
#5 Flash (Keychain) Drives
#4 iRiver 799T MP3 Player
#3 Radical Careering
#2 Apple Mac Mini
#1 Palm TX Handheld

Career-Op - Fear - November 18, 2005

Fear is a powerful emotion and, as such, it can make us do almost anything. Unscrupulous people understand the dynamics of fear and some will use it to their advantage, whenever possible. They will use this power to benefit themselves at the cost of everyone around them.

Listen | Listen (Backup) | Subscribe | Subscribe via iTunes

Discuss this column and podcast in the Friends in Tech Forums!

So, what are you afraid of? Your fears can be relatively small – like the fear of fitting in, fear of not being able to afford a fancy car or fear of losing your girlfriend. Other fears can be significantly greater, such as fears of losing your home, your job or other things that are important to you. Still others are grand and dramatic, and also usually out of your immediate control, such as fear of terrorism, fear of injury and fear of death.

All of these fears, large and small can be used to control you to greater and lesser degrees. Peer pressure to fit in is used to enforce societal norms, but, even then, you can break though and do as you wish for the most part. On the other hand, life and death fears can be used to control and manipulate large groups of people. History has shown that citizens will act against their own best interest if they can be made to fear enough.

It is acceptable to be afraid, as long as you don’t let the fear control you. Fear is a healthy emotion that warns of us danger. Uncontrolled fear, though, gets blown out of all proportion. We begin to worry over problems and issues and even create new ones out of our fear.

Your job is NOT everything

Do you live in fear of losing your job? Do you feel that you can’t ask for a raise, a promotion or a vacation? If so, regardless of any opportunities your job might provide, you are being controlled. This control might be somewhat benign, but it could also be quite insidious. It all depends on how people use it. Your awareness of the fear, though, is the first step on the path to a better career.

If you see that fear is being used to control you, what are you to do? The easiest step would be to get a new job and simply be rid of the problem, but is this really wise? Suppose you begin to feel the same way in the next job. And the next... I think you need to do some clear thinking about yourself and the situation first. Does your fear come from external forces or are you developing the fear from within? Too often, and I must admit to this myself, our fear is greatly out of proportion to the actual circumstances. Perhaps those around you have taught you to be afraid of your manager instead of allowing you to develop your own relationship with him or her. Do you have direct experiences that are causing your fear or are you basing it on the experiences of others? Worse still, are your own propensities for fear clouding your reactions to those around you? If so, you are likely to carry your fear from job to job. You need to break the cycle of fear before you think of moving on.

How do you escape the fear? First, you need to believe in yourself and the benefits you bring to your work. I don’t care if you are assembling PC’s, working the help desk or creating new software, you have to remember, everyday, that you matter! If your work didn’t matter, you wouldn’t have found your first job, let alone the sixth or seventh. If your work didn’t matter, the company wouldn’t have hired you in the first place. The simple reality of being employed should bear this out. It was not a fluke. They didn’t hire you out of pity. Your company needed your skills to fulfill their goals. Once you can keep this thought in your mind, you are well on your way toward rising above the fear. You might find that there is a way to make your current job better, if you can only stop being afraid.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, or perhaps his speechwriter, was quite right when he stated, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Fear is the root cause of so many dysfunctions and bad decisions. If you can fight your way out of fear, you can achieve great things in your life and your high-tech career.

Follow your passion? It Seems so!

You have probably often heard the phrase, "Follow your passion (or, your bliss, as Joseph Campbell would say) and the money will follow. Nice words, but were they really true? Well, according to this study, it seems they are. I have fought and fought my own doubts over this idea, sometimes having nothing but faith in myself to rely on. It is great to see a little reinforcement to following your dreams and making them happen is actually a possibility.

Do What you Love and Money Will Follow?

"...A study of business school graduates tracked the careers of 1,500 people from 1960 to 1980. From the beginning, the graduates were grouped into two categories. Category A consisted of people who said they wanted to make money first so they could do what they really wanted to do later after they took care of their financial concerns. Those in category B pursued their interests first, sure that the money eventually would follow.

What percentage fell into each category? Of the 1,500 graduates in the survey, the money-now category A's comprised 83 percent or 1,245 people. Category B risk takers made up 17 percent, 255 graduates. After 20 years, there were 101 millionaires in the group. Only one came from category A, 100 from category B.

Some food for thought.....

(Via Leading Forward.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

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Holiday Gift Guide #8 - Maxtor OneTouch Backup

There are 2 types of hard drives...those that have crashed and those that will. Don't let a hardware failure destory your data. Use this OneTouch Backup unit to easily backup your data to its external 120GB hard disk. Then you can rest assured that your data is safer than it was before. For the highest levels of protection, get 2 units and store one at another location.

Link: Maxtor OneTouch Backup

See also:
#7 Apple iPod Video
#6 Getting Things Done by David Allen
#5 Flash (Keychain) Drives
#4 iRiver 799T MP3 Player
#3 Radical Careering
#2 Apple Mac Mini
#1 Palm TX Handheld

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Career-Op - Routines, not Ruts - from the archives

Career-Op - Routines, not Ruts - from the archives

Over time one of the most troublesome parts of any high-tech career can be the routine that is a large part of any computer job. Day in and day out, you punch the same buttons, change the same tapes and answer the same support calls. You might think that routine is killing any affection you might have had for your job. In fact, if you use routine in an appropriate way, you will find that it can give you the freedom and flexibility to rise above the day-to-day humdrum realities of your job and reach for something more.

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Getting it down

Routines are something you build over time. After several months or years, certain actions become almost automatic. Use this to your advantage. Whenever and wherever you find a routine, look for ways to hone this routine to the finest edge. What might have taken you an hour to complete in the past can eventually be whittled down to minutes. Improve each of your routines until they occupy the absolute minimum number of minutes in your day, while still performing them in the best way possible. Quality should never suffer, of course.

Now comes the fun part. Take each of the minutes of work that you have trimmed from your routines and apply them to doing something new, or learning something new. By reducing your routines to a bare minimum you open up the time for entirely new avenues of experience.

I can assure you, though, that if you are feeling oppressed by the routine nature of your job and do not address these issues, you will soon find yourself looking for a new job or even a new career. Routines can never be removed, so it is up to you to manage your routines, instead of letting them manage you.

What to do?

Now, the hard part; what do you do with this new-found time. What have you always wanted to do in your career or your life? Have you wanted to investigate programming in Perl? You get 30 minutes or more while the tape backup system prepares new tapes. Carry your Perl book with you and hit a few exercises while the system resets. Keep a web page behind your backup log so you can read up on the latest develops in your field. Take a few minutes to jot down some notes about a project or business you might want to start. Don’t let those precious minutes slip by. They can be the stepping stones to a better place.

Perhaps you have projects that have languished due to the routines that are out of control. Use this time to move each of them one step ahead. Don’t try to accomplish each project in one fell swoop. Find the “next action” that needs to be done to move a project ahead – and then do it. This next action could be something as simple as making a phone call or sending an email. Actions like these are easily accomplished in the minutes you squeeze from the refinement of your routines.(For more information on time management and deciding on “next actions”, check out David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done.)

Finally, you might find that the most productive thing to do with this extra time is search for a new job. There is nothing wrong with being dissatisfied with your job. There is, however, a big problem if you are dissatisfied and not looking for a way to make things better. If you have found that the routine nature of you work is driving you crazy, and you can’t seem to find a way to make it better, polish up your resume and start looking. Finding a new job will not be easy, but it won’t be as damaging to you psyche as working at a brain-numbing job day after day.

Routines may be a part of every job, high-tech or not, but there are ways to use routines to your advantage, refining them to their most precise elements. This will free up precious minutes that can be used to improve yourself, move projects forward or even find a new, and better, job. It may be difficult to change your attitude about the routines in your life, but you can use them to your advantage instead of letting them dictate the direction of your job and your high-tech career.

Holiday Gift Guide #7 - Apple iPod Video

I saw so many of these at the Podcast Expo. It was the ultimate geek podcaster accessory. While you can buy and download a limited number of videos from Apple iTunes, people all over the world are creating easy ways to bring other video to the iPod. You can load up DVD movies, video podcasts and more.

See also:
#6 Getting Things Done by David Allen
#5 Flash (Keychain) Drives
#4 iRiver 799T MP3 Player
#3 Radical Careering
#2 Apple Mac Mini
#1 Palm TX Handheld

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #6 - Getting Things Done by David Allen

I've talked about this book before. It is one of the few books I will buy for anyone who feels they are having organizational issues.

Get it! Read it! Get it done!

Link: Getting Things Done by David Allen

Link: Flash Drives

See also:
#5 Flash (Keychain) Drives
#4 iRiver 799T MP3 Player
#3 Radical Careering
#2 Apple Mac Mini
#1 Palm TX Handheld

Monday, November 14, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #5 - Flash (Keychain) Drives

Flash Drives are the greatest thing since the floppy disk, and are a whole lot more useful. Today, you can make a word processing file that is too large to fit on a floppy disk, but with Flash drives ranging from 64MB to 2 GB (and beyond, soon), there is no longer a reason to forgoe backups or moving your files from one computer to another. Heck, with a large enough drive, you can even take your whole PC -- operating system, software and files -- with you wherever you go.

Link: Flash Drives

See also:
#4 iRiver 799T MP3 Player
#3 Radical Careering
#2 Apple Mac Mini
#1 Palm TX Handheld

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Career-Op Extra - November 14, 2005

A short podcast to keep listeners up-to-date on what is happening with Career Opportunities.


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Holiday Gift Guide #4 - iRiver 799T

Everyone seemed to be walking around the Podcast Expo this weekend with one of these around their neck like geek bling. For podcasters, this is a sweet device as it allows them to record audio directly via the Line In port so they can do interviews anywhere. For your average user, it stores up to 1 GB of MP3 files in something about the size of a pack of gum. Unlike Apple's iPod Shuffle, though, the iRiver has a display to show you track information and allow you access to menus, etc.

See also:
#3 Radical Careering
#2 Apple Mac Mini
#1 Palm TX Handheld

Friday, November 11, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide #3 - Radical Careering

Some books offer a careful presentation of facts and figures leading up to the dramatic conclusions of the final chapters. Others are the literary equivalent of "A Whack on the Side of the Head," to quote author, Roger van Oech. Radical Careering: 100 truths to jumpstart your job, your career and your life falls firmly into the latter camp. It is a breath of fresh air in the sometimes stale atmosphere of career books.

People who have been "there and back again" are often the best source of frank and useful information, and author, Sally Hogshead has delivered the wealth of her experience in a straightforward and extremely useful fashion.

Radical Careering is divided into "100 truths", each 1-2 small pages in length. While some might take issue with the "truth" of each item, I found myself nodding in agreement on almost every page. Hogshead has distilled the essence of each topic down to small, useful nuggets that really jumpstart your thinking.

Read more of this book review

See also:
#2 - Apple Mac Mini
#1 - Palm TX Handheld

Career-Op - Crazymakers

We have all had some experience with them...creative geniuses, experts in their field, those who have accomplished much, but leave a path of destruction behind them. We see them as the brilliant movie director who everyone comes to loathe personally or the star programmer who alienates the rest of the staff. We see their staff catering to their every whim in a futile effort to keep them from lashing out. We see the regular workers just trying to get through a day without being abused. We see everyone apologizing for them or forgiving them because their genius somehow allows their attitude.

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To borrow a term from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, I call these people crazymakers. Crazymakers are often the most creative people you will meet, or so it seems. Nearly everyone will agree that they are the best in their industry, but, in the next breath you will often hear words like mean, cruel, unbearable and sometimes even, evil.“He is a great programmer, but no one else will work with him.” “She makes the best food in town, but she can’t keep staff.”

Whatever your business and whatever your industry, you will find crazymakers lurking. You need to be aware of them and do everything you can to avoid them. Even as they create great works, they do so at great costs to everyone around them. Even worse, once the project is complete, they receive all the accolades, while it was you who did much of the work and all of the suffering.

Crazymakers are often surrounded by apologists. These people have gone beyond simply tolerating the crazymaker and into the realm of enabler. They often attempt to explain away egregious behavior or simply apologize for it. They dedicate their lives to perpetuating behaviors that would not be tolerated in normal society. They may do this for a number of reasons. If their own livelihood is intricately tied to the crazymaker, they may have no choice. They believe that failing to protect the person may result in their own financial demise. In other cases, they are simply trying to justify the behavior as standard operating procedure, part of doing business.

Unfortunately, though, these people have made a disastrous career decision. They have decided that employment is more important than anything, even their own self-respect. They have decided that they have no other choice. Anyone who believes they have no choice left, even the choice to leave, has truly become trapped. These are the types of traps a crazymaker can create.

While apologists may experience some small benefit for the relationship, their own career suffers greatly. Instead of focusing on their own work, their own creativity, their own needs, they are constantly walking on eggshells and trying not to offend. In most cases, they continue to suffer the wrath of the crazymaker, even as they seek to avoid it. Meanwhile, the crazymaker grows in stature and power, pulling more and more willing apologists into their orbit.

It is a vicious cycle. People often express amazement at the wonderful work that a crazymaker might produce. They are praised and given awards, even when their behavior is outrageous, and in some cases, even criminal. Apologists will continue their work, claiming that it is the freedom to be eccentric, to be cruel, to abuse others, that allows the crazymaker to produce such wonderful things. I see it another way.

Imagine the crazymaker who is more kind, more giving and more open. Their greatness might be diminished slightly by being a better person, but everyone around them, from the lowliest part-time staffer to the highest executive will be given a bit more space to exercise their own greatness. Instead of being trapped in the dysfunctional orbit around the crazymaker, they will be free to grow, collaborate and create their own things. Instead of success being tied up in one over-arching major genius, you might have 10, 20 or 30 minor geniuses, each creating great results. The sheer number of ideas would be staggering if you can only break the cycle of enabling and control.

While a crazymaker might be considered "great", often they are not very good. Their greatness sits firmly on the shoulders of those who protect them, enable their behavior and subjugate themselves to their power. Should you find yourself in their orbit, it is time to break free. It is time to explore your own creativity and your own abilities outside their damping influence. Do whatever you can, today, to free yourself from the crazymaker and engage your energies in your own career.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Career-Op - Waiting - from the archives

As odd as it might sound, you will find times in your career, and your life, when waiting will be the best action you can take. Let me be clear, though, that I am not talking about being inactive, only that you might find yourself waiting for the best combination of events and effort so that you can move to the next level. In many cases, waiting can end up being very productive.

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Not procrastination

Waiting for opportunities to align is not procrastination,. In fact, you should be working very hard while you are waiting, not putting off important steps you need to take. For example, you might need to wait for the best time to leave your current job for a new one. You need to get all your ducks into a row before you can simply quit. This is the waiting part. The active part can include many steps.

Perhaps you need to improve your skills in specific areas that can make you more attractive to new employers. Maybe you should work on reducing your debt level so that you can return to school or take a vacation between jobs. If you are thinking that you might relocate to find a better job, why not start clearing your house or apartment of unnecessary items and making packing plans.

Most importantly, you should not just sit around waiting for something to happen. You should be taking every opportunity to prepare yourself for any opportunities that might come your way.

Good vs. bad waiting

If you look a little more closely it should be easy to see the difference between good waiting and bad waiting. It is all a matter of activity. If you are waiting for someone to offer you a job out of the blue, you are being extremely unrealistic. It just doesn’t happen. On the other hand, if you are simply waiting for responses to resumes and phone calls that you sent out last week, you are on the right track. Waiting for the big inheritance from your rich aunt, bad. Waiting for your investments to gain a long term return, good. Waiting for your boss to fire you, bad. Waiting for responses to resumes and doing your job well until you quit, good.

You can be reasonably sure that you are not procrastinating if you are taking some action to improve your career, even if it means you are waiting for something else to happen. As a writer, I have to make sure that I have new material being sent out all the time, whether it is a book proposal, magazine article or novel. If I don’t, I will find that I am simply waiting for lightening to strike instead of taking an active role in my career. Of course, this means I am also constantly waiting for an answer.

Letting go

Sometimes waiting can be difficult, especially if you are in a bad work situation. That said, it can be even more difficult if you spend too much time agonizing over your bad fortune. Once you have decided to take action and look for a new career, you need to let go of all the problems with your current job. Too may people continue to bewail their career problems long after they have convinced themselves to quit. Instead, you should see your job change as something that has already happened. You have already taken the first step. Let it go. This will make your waiting easier.

There is no longer a need to sit around complaining with your co-workers about this boss or this VP. Once you decide to leave, you don’t have to invest your time in company problems. It doesn’t matter that this person is a jerk, or another is nasty and controlling. You know that soon, you will not have to deal with them any more. While you want to make sure the quality of your work remains high, you will feel less stress from the day-to-day dramas of your job. You are less invested in the outcome of the company and, therefore, less inclined to take your work problems home with you.

Waiting need not have the bad connotations usually associated with it. If you are actively waiting for plans to coalesce, people to respond, money to save, then you are on the right track. Rather than jumping from one bad situation to another, plan, wait, then execute your plan when the time is right and you are guaranteed the best effect. Your career and your life are sure to benefit.

WelchWrite Holiday Gift Guide #2 - Apple Mac Mini

This is the machine I am looking at to replace my current PowerMac G4/450. I have so many program running at once these days and I am severely over-taxing its processor. The Mac Mini makes a good replacement as it is powerful, yet inexpensive and allows me to re-use my current monitor, ketboard and mouse. If you are replacing a older iMac, you would probably want to look at the iMacs, but for an exisiting "tower" system, this fits my needs exactly.

Of course, if I had the money available, I would probably move up to a high-end Mac Powerbook and use it as my only machine. As free Wi-Fi becomes more and more available around Los Angeles, carrying a laptop makes more and more sense. Of course, the price difference between a Mac Mini and a Powerbook have made my decision for me at this point. I need a new computer, but I simply can't afford the ~$2000 price tag at this time.

See also:
#2 - Apple Mac Mini
#1 - Palm TX Handheld

Local Max?

Seth Godin has an excellent discussion (and fancy graphs) which explain a phenomenon I have witnessed again and again. He calls it the "Local Max."

You can only go so far in your career or business following the same line. Eventually, you are going to have to make a major change that reduces your success in order to move on to greater success. Too many of us are so afraid of this down time that we never make the effort and find ourselves stalled.

Discuss "Local Max" on the Friends in Tech Forums

Understanding Local Max

My guess is that you've been wrestling with your Local Max.

So you try harder. And you end up at point B. Point B is a bummer. Point B is backwards. Point B is where the outcome of more effort against your strategy doesn't return better results. So you retreat. You go back to your Local Max.

And that is where most people stay. Most people get stuck at the Local Max because changing strategy in any direction (this is really a 3D chart, but I've smushed it to make it easier) leads to poorer results.

(Via Seth's Blog.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

WelchWrite Holiday Gift Guide #1

Welcome to the first installment of the WelchWrite Holiday Gift Guide. Each day I will post a new gift recommendation for the favorite high-tech geeks on your shopping list.

Today we strat our list with the Palm TX handheld, the latest entry in a long line of handheld computers from Palm, Inc.

My venerable Treo 90 has developed screen problems over the last few months, so it is about time to replace it. I don't normally carry a laptop with me when I travel or work at a client's site. My current laptop is way to large to be comfortable and 99% of the information I need can be contained in my Treo. That said, it would be nice to be able to receive email and browse the web when I am out, yet still near a Wi-Fi access point. Since many of my clients have wireless routers, this would be a great way to keep up with my email, even when I am away from the office. Sure, I could upgrade to a Blackberry, but since I would use other features more than the email, it seem a bit pricey for my needs.

Link: Palm TX Handheld from

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Douglas on the Typical PC User Podcast

My review of the RokuLabs SoundBridge and PhtobridgeHD appears today in the Typical PC User Podcast with Victor Caijo. There is lots of great content in this show, as well.
TPCU66-11-05-2005 5th Gen iPod review, Sweet Buttery Roku and much, much more

Friday, November 04, 2005

Career-Op - Everybody Does It

Often, when in the heat of an argument, one person will bring out the ultimate reason for their transgression, "Well, everyone else does it!" or its companion, "That's just the way it is!" Few things will spark my anger more quickly than these phrases. In a few words, they seem to sum up so much that can go wrong in the world. These phrases carry a sense of finality and abandonment. A feeling that seems to say, "give up!"

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To a high-tech careerist, these phrases can mean even more. This can be a sign that your management is no longer listening to you or your ideas. This can be a sign that your company has decided to ignore the future and keep doing the same old thing. Even worse, if you find yourself using these phrases, you might be in an advanced state of career atrophy. Often this means that you have simply stopped trying to effect change. For whatever reason, a bad work environment, bad management, bad times, you find you have stopped trying.

That does NOT make it right

Despite what some people might say, everyone does not do it that way. This response is usually trotted out when someone is trying to justify some unethical act. "Well, everyone overcharges for shipping and handling." "Everyone takes office supplies home." "Everyone cheats on their taxes." The truth is, just because something may have become standard operating procedure in many companies, this does not make it right. In fact, it is often a sign that some fundamental changes need to be made. Instead of taking this as a sign to give up, you need to press the issue further.

I was recently embroiled in an argument over signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and the responses I received to my first questions about the NDA made me even more reluctant to sign. Almost all of the responses to my questions were in the vein of "everyone does it", "Just sign it," "That's just he way business works today. Hmmm....I become very suspicious when people don't want to talk about an issue, but, instead, present unequivocal demands. Unable to solicit any more information than that, I decided not to sign the NDA or join the project. Just because others "do business" in this fashion does not mean that you should.

The all purpose excuse

Of course, what we are really talking about here is the all purpose excuse. It is impossible to refute that "everyone does it that way", so it is meant to bring the conversation to an end. In many ways, it is akin to saying, "Do it my way or leave." It is, perhaps, couched in a less threatening manner, but the results are the same.

The antidote to such declarations is always more discussion. Communication solves problems. Lack of communication causes them. Whenever you feel like closing down a discussion, you need to look deep into your own heart and mind and discover the reason. Are you really telling people to "do it my way?" If so, you are harming the effectiveness of yourself and those around you.

This is not about delaying decisions until you reach full consensus on an issue. Rather it is all about allowing those around you to feel that you have heard, if not agreed, with their position. If people feel that you have truly listened to their concerns and wishes, they will often be willing to follow your decision, even if they might not agree with it 100 percent.

Too often, especially in technology-related work, you will be faced with these all purpose excuses. I highly urge you not to accept them as the end of a conversation. If you truly feel that there is a problem, you owe it to yourself and your employer to address the problem. Too many times, I have seen high-tech staffers pushed down a path that they knew was wrong because someone else decided that "everyone does it." You need to make these decisions for yourself, through open and extensive communication. Otherwise you can find yourself embroiled in out-of-control situations that can damage, if not destroy, your high-tech career.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Winners of Friends In Tech Forums Contest

Four winners were chosen randomly, from the most recent registrations on the Friends in Tech forums, to receive a free copy of The High-Tech Career Handbook print edition.

The forum user handles chosen were:

Mark Sheppard

If your handle appears, please contact with you mailing address. -- Douglas

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Career-Op - Digging in

Whether you are designing a new payroll system, web site or a point-of-sale system for a new cash register, as a high-tech careerist you will have to face one issue again and again. Too often high-tech projects are instituted and managed by those people who will use it the least. If you want to develop truly useful products and systems, you have to dig down into a company's structure and find out what the workers really need, not what management thinks they need.

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Getting started

Most high-tech projects, whether developed internally or by an outside consultant, start with upper management. They have seen a need to collect better information, better manage workflow or provide better service. These same managers will probably develop a basic project plan based on their needs and their interpretation of their employees needs. While this provides a good starting point, it is up to you to delve deeper into the issues and develop a solution that meets the true needs of everyone concerned.

When you are starting a new project make sure that there is some way to gain input from the employees or customers who will be using the system once it is operating. In some cases, you might face some resistance from management, but if you want your project to succeed, this input is critical. Too often, management believes it has all the answers when, in reality, they only see a small portion of the picture. Too many times I have watched projects developed to increase productivity fail because the extra work needed to use the system takes up more of the workers time, not less. It sounds like an obvious problem, but people miss it again and again.

Roll up your sleeves

Regardless of the type of project you are developing, spend time "in the trenches." This might mean looking at an existing web site from the viewpoint of a customer, watching people use an existing system or even spending some time on the shop floor or warehouse learning how materials are moved from one process to another. Whatever the situation, you must immerse yourself in the environment in order to truly understand the needs of those involved.

There are a couple important items to remember, though, when you are doing your research. First, listen more, talk less. You can and should ask questions, but you want to avoid offering solutions or concepts at this stage. You want to spend your time taking in information that you will later process to develop your plans. Be casual about your note-taking and observations. Don't make people feel they are being analyzed every moment of their working day.

Respect the work and the worker. Don't act dismissive about the work you are observing. Every job in every company is important to the profitability of the company. If the shipping department doesn't get the product out, no one makes money. Pitch in and lend a hand if you can. I find that you sometimes get your best ideas when you are actually involved in the work you will be automating.

Finally, ask people for their ideas. Letting people know that their concerns and comments have been heard goes a long way towards building acceptance of whatever project you are developing. Too many times I have seen a system languish because there are too many "if they had only asked me" problems. Issues that could have been resolved up-front become a constant annoyance to the user of the system and cause them to look for further reasons to ignore it, if not actively campaign for it to be abandoned.

The best way to approach any new project is to first figure out the question or problem that it is meant to address. Too often we start developing solutions before we truly know the nature of the problem. People are your greatest resource and you should make use of that resource as much as possible. By talking to employees and customers, observing the nature of the work and reserving your decisions until this research is gathered, you can help to insure that your projects will be helpful long into the future. This, to me, defines true success in the high-tech world.

A special segment by Steve Holden from Tech News Radio follows the column in the podcast.


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