Productivity carrot: I’ve just started hating my task tracker less

I think next week I’ll double the amount of the things done and below I’ll tell you why.

Motivating with a stick

Using task management systems for personal productivity largely was guilt building exercise for me: I just add notes when I’m excited but I can’t do things and afterwards I totally forget what was so exciting about the thing I’m willing to do. So there’s no surprise I’m always nervous about reviewing my todo list (:

Homework: ask 10 people about their plans for the quarter, 2 will tell you something concrete other than “None”, interview them after the quarter, see more sad faces around.

Travelers probably have better chances of keeping their smile intact: for me it’s been easier to tell “In 3 month I’ll be in …”, book a ticket and then my airline will do everything to make sure. Done – I’ve got something accomplished!

The stick sticks!

Another problem is that ill-defined tasks seem to stay there for ages. For example I’m tasked with legally getting myself driving rights. In Ukraine that means 2+ months of wasted time.

That’s probably one of the reasons I don’t have Premium account with Trello (although they’re totally awesome). Staring at a bunch of text saying about things I haven’t done or I’m supposed to do during next few months is a super frustrating experience for me

Carrots time

I would not write a post just to complain. I seem to have discovered a solution to part of my pains.

The idea is to have a super sexy image celebrating the results of my work

  1. More task items done means more images reminding me of pleasant emotions
  2. No need for other people to evaluate that to release another dose of endorphin (and my experience says that autonomy drives productivity improvements)
  3. I guess I will end up doing nothing but moving pictures back and forth thus evolving to finally get myself a Pinterest account

Screenshot 2015-04-08 21
Image: I’ve figured out a workaroundish way of attaching the rear view mirror to my bicycle helmet so I’m ready to open another endorphin flood gates

TLDR

If you’re using emotions to get a bump in productivity – inject more of them into your blood stream with your task list.

(I’m already imaging myself asking my colleagues to smile for me so that I can attach that to a task tracking fixing a problem!)

Have fun, build stuff and drink responsibly – California is in drought!

Relocation: benefit or a bait

It’s not uncommon for a developer to receive a linkedin spam. I have a few filters which direct most of the trendy ways to spam people to a special folder. 70% of linkedin spam letters I receive contain offerings from “international”, “successful” companies – filtering based on these words was a huge timesaver for me.

Recently, I’ve received a message from a recruiter “revealing” me as a person interested in relocation.

I recognize that kind of approach as another trend and apart from adding a new e-mail filter (“relocation”), I analyze why it should not work for the grown-ups.

You’re selling it wrong

nasty recruiter person

From sales perspective I can understand this move as a random value proposition. The guess is based on Ukrainian people generally feeling less secure than before and willing to do something about that (you probably know about Russia invading Ukraine).

This post is a clear objection and seeing an objection from a person you’re trying to sell something to is a clear sign you’re trying to sell to early. Meaning: ask about what is valuable first.

To save some time to all the sane future recruiters, I’m writing this opus. If you’re reading this and you’re a recruiter – let’s talk, I already like you for doing some homework ; )

What is in relocation for me

Case 1: US

Recently my company decided not to sponsor my H1B (for those who’re not knowledgeable: H1B is USA visa which is considered to be one of the ways to become a citizen in the end).

Given that we talked about this for a year, my feeling towards the news best can be approximated by childhood stuff: “I am no longer a beloved kid”.

Depending on circumstances, I would qualify that as a hit to one of the stages of Maslow’s pyramid:

  • Self-esteem
  • Love and belonging

WUT: Nothing about safety and security here! You’re selling it wrong!

Maslow pyramid wifi battery

Love and belonging theme in this case is related to a bunch of teammates from the US which I love to work with and seeing them in person would feel awesome.

Thus, if I’m not in love with your company – offering me to relocate is a clear bump in self-esteem. Unfortunately, telling me that you feel I am interested – is kind of doing stuff on my territory which has nothing to do with bumping my self-esteem ; )

Case 2: Poland

A few years ago I was offered to relocate to Poland (by the company I already worked for). It clearly affected my self-esteem at first.

I also perceived it as a growth opportunity, but then they’ve made me wait half a year and I’ve quit. As growth opportunities and illusions of such are different things : )

Case 3: Japan

A random approach by a recruiter. Salary after tax would be less than I earn and that’s given that Japan is more expensive.

Could have worked 5 years ago when I was huge Anime / Japanese fan.

Case 4: Self induced

I’ve just returned from 3.5 month long trip to south-east Asia. Changing location every month or so was a huge productivity boost for me. Budget was around $1000 per month per two of us.

Generalization of my relocation experience

It is often viewed as a value proposition by a [potential] employer.

From my experience when somebody believes, you’re receiving something of value, they’re asking for something in return. So most of the offers of relocation would assume lesser salary.

Exception to this rule will be a company which is already realizing a lot of value from your relationship so they are willing to go an extra mile to make you stay.

What is in relocation for other people

One fact is that I know a lot of people who move around south east Asia year round without selling their soul to any company.

There’s a famous psychological fallacy of considering actions of others to be directed by whatever selfishness they have and your actions to be directed by the sheer good intentions.

Thus, I won’t say a thing here. I don’t understand other people and all I can do is ask them to comment.

What to do if I am a a recruiter?

Uhm. Try to talk to me like I am a normal person?

I’ve suggested this to a few recruiters and they responded with a statement that they’re just playing the numbers game in match making. More tries meaning more hires.

Playing that numbers game in this way of cold-approaching as many people as possible makes you less godlike!

As I have said so many times, God doesn’t play dice with the world. (c) Einstein

einstein

Every pick up artist knows that cold approaching people is less efficient than having some warm up (like eye contact). You can try the same approach with engineers.

warm leads recruiting

What if I would like to relocate?

Go for it. All the experiences, actions and changes count towards becoming a better version of yourself.

If you’re relocating to Ukraine – talk to me : )

TLDR

In the age of connectedness and free floating ideas location is just a tiny detail which can be easily tuned on your own.

Think twice: if you are concerned about changing the location of your body – who will be changing the world?

Geeks reflections on starting a conversation

Oh, my, it’s awkward again. Can’t I just chat with nice people like everyone else? (c) Ivan’s brain

Being a Software Engineer I was more used to talking to computers or with their help, so most of the real life conversations (especially with new people and in new contexts) had this overtone of awkwardness.

The problem was not in the awkwardness itself (I still feel it a lot), the problem was in me not entering into new conversations with awesome people just because a few conversations did not happen with a few others.
I blamed myself for this feeling for a while, until I realized a simple thing: two interested parties is what is needed to make the chat happen.

“It takes two flints to make a fire.” (c) Louisa May Alcott

Conversation initiation

- Hey, is that a #$@#^!%-zator?
– Yes, wanna see something cool?
– Sure!

If the conversation is meant to start (i.e. if everyone is interested), it will happen even if all you are a bunch of weirdoes.

Surely, being experienced communicator raises your chances to keep the chat going during the initial stages. But if the other one is not interested – the result is easy to predict. Also do you really want to talk about the weather?

If you’re reading this, you’re kind of interested : ) Understanding when the other person is not is simple too:

  • Not looking at you
  • Short responses (e.g. ‘yes’ vs ‘yes and …’)

Remember: it’s totally ok for someone to don’t care about you at all. We’re all different everybody has their unique interests and strong sides so matches don’t happen all the time. It’s somewhat a numbers game.

not you again carpet

What if I feel like a fraud?

It’s completely ok!

Probably you’ll be glad to hear that your feeling has a name, impostor syndrome. Also some studies say that it is especially common among high-achievers. If you feel that way – hit me up, I’m pretty sure we’ll have what to talk about.

What to do if the other party is not interested?

Walk on and talk to someone else.

Absence of interest might be temporary in a short term (so stop bothering the driver) or long term (so in a few years it will be your turn to be the highbrow).

not_you_again_carpet

It surprised me how changing the model of initiating the conversations on a party from ‘all or nothing’ to the numbers game bloated my ego with self-assurance.

By the way, awesome people I know have this blessing of being able to find interesting perspectives just in everyone and everything. Consequently, if a conversation did not happen – chances are you haven’t missed a thing!

Taking it to another level

It’s easier to be remembered if you ask your date unconventional questions, e.g. “What’s your deepest fear?” instead of “What’s your favorite movie?” (c) Cool Girl Magazine

I don’t clearly remember which of the teen girlish magazines was my source, but the thing does work for me still.

Recent article on NY Times uses a similar principle. Additionally the method on the article slowly transitions from commonalities to probing questions (which I guess raises the chances of not freaking out the companion).

I’d generalize this idea as a quick escalation. PUA (pick up artist) guys use that to describe the process of quickly getting to the bed, I’m ok with stopping the nonsense chat about the weather as quickly as possible!

Summary

What we’ve learned today:

  • It’s completely ok for a conversation to die off quickly
  • It’s ok for you to quit a conversation you’re not interested in
  • It’s ok to feel weird
  • It’s possible to talk to people without sedating yourself with alcohol or the like
  • I’ll kick your ass if you talk to me about the weather ; )

I know, you can do it! Get your ass out and start a joyful conversation!

TLDR Article: What makes a good Sales personality

Just spotted a study[1] which reports that manager’s evaluation of higher Job performance correlated with:

  • Employee’s self-evaluation of Assertiveness and Self-discipline had a good correlation too
  • Manager’s perception of employees having traits of Extraversion or Conscientiousness

My conclusions drawn from other sales stories confirm these.

 

P.S. Don’t forget about the difference between correlation and causation. Also nailed by xkcd:

[1] http://su.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:542263/FULLTEXT01.pdf

Why to learn? A few numbers on costs of learning it the hard way / investing in advance

Growing a decisive person off the current self, I’d like to employ all my decision making oompah-loompahs for something new each time.

Here goes a short list of life lessons learned with associated cost to help me say “Yes!” to a next educational venture.

cat_motivate

-$1000. For negotiating with a person having no authority

I was working for IT company and received a sign-up bonus for a relocation program. They were delaying the relocation for months.

Then it was a time to negotiate my pay raise. Manager told me the bonus should be considered the raise. A few months later I’ve decided to quit the company which led me to the discovery that I have to pay off the bonus back (which makes it slightly different from a pay raise).

In the end I’ve never received the pay raise and had to pay back part of the bonus all because the true decision maker was up the chain and I’ve never had a word with him.

I had another funky salary negotiation less than a year ago where my suggested raise was lower than a pre-negotiated one. Funky!

-$200. For signing a contract due to a pressure

While trying to rent an apartment I became a target of a brokers scam. Discussing the contract at hand became quite heated when I was questioning the validity.

Signing that out of guilt was stupid.

Now I know that people selling decent things don’t need to scream.

angry_birds

-$400. For lending [all of my] money to a gambler

Yes, I know (:

What was cool – I’ve learned (as well as my girlfriend *wink*) what a birthday present for $2 can look like!

Also what I’ve discovered that lending sucks. Giving money to people (especially for a cause) works much better with regards to how I feel as a result.

-$500. For not knowing how to behave in large cities

I’ve been mugged once and had my Palm (if you know what is that) stolen once too. A few basic concepts from a $10 book are saving my neck for quite a while since that.

+$1000 x 6 mo + position I wanted. For learning about career management

My manager at the company from the above (the bonus guy) wasn’t willing to let me lead a team + salary was not negotiable.

So I went to explore the market (which was a new concept to me but suggested by a training I’ve attended).

As a result, I’ve got the position I wanted, lots of moments to learn from and a higher salary (for at least 6 months – that’s when next salary review was scheduled to happen).

x2 above the average rate. For learning about sales

One of the cool things I’ve learned from sales is about the importance of being a great fit for a customer: people can buy your service because you’re cheap or they can buy your service because you’re great fit for their problem.

I use this principle whenever negotiating a new consulting contract: being asked for a discount I suggest to use cheaper providers for the simpler parts of the work, while using my service for the trickier bits – everyone wins as a result. Potential customers can walk away – that is also ok.

-50% of savings. For favoring saving over investing

Ukrainian currency declined from 8 to 25UAH/USD. Traveling most of my time outside of Ukraine I spend in USD. Thus purchasing power of my savings declined a lot.

My skills on the other hand suffer less from political situation and the more of them I have the better is cumulative return.

P.S. Hint on how to adjust the numbers if you’re not from Ukraine

Average software engineer salary is $2000/mo(we don’t talk annual salaries here).

Average salary across the country was $400/mo in 2014(now it’s apparently declined because of the fx rate).

horse jump

Summary

In my experience every trick learned saved (or would have saved if learned in time) me a few hours / a few bucks (feel free to convert according to your hourly rate).

So, why bother learning something from a $15 webinar, you say? (:

fry_think

Kiss Your Woman III: Launch stats

While my programmer woman is taking a break, I’m going to go ahead and start working on our marketing strategy.

Launch stats

Our first announcement happened on a few social networks:

  • Facebook ~ 1000
  • Vk ~ 500

Surprisingly to me, we were supported with a few reposts(like 4) accounting for like half of the total traffic(the second hump).

Screenshot 2015-01-22 13.26.18

I’m not sure about how many views actually happened as a result, but those had converted to ~150 hits to the registration page.

In the end we have received 6 e-mail signups.

All the cool marketers would draw a pipeline. Mine looks like this:

[ 1500 ]—-( 10% )—->[ 150 ]—-( 4% )—->[ 6 ]

Estimating budget

What’s cool about the pipelines is that now I can estimate how much resources I need to spent to get to a number I want.

 

E.g. if I need 100 users and Google Ads cost 1 UAH per click, I need:

100 users * 1 UAH / 0.04 = 2500 UAH

Which is not terrible amount of money but stands out compared to average salary in Ukraine of 3000 UAH (:

Btw, 1UAH per click was chosen at random – google now shows 15..40 UAH which makes things even more interesting.

Anything wrong?

Although 4% conversion doesn’t seem that bad compared to the industry average, higher values can be achieved.

stats

 

Better targeting(no more spamming all the friends) and improving the landing page(yay my non-english speaking friends) are the low hanging fruits.

What’s next?

I’m letting a Google ad into the wild and let’s see how it works – more reports to follow : )

When Olga will return, she’ll have even more fans to code for! ^_^

P.S. KissYourWoman.com is a relationship nurturing tool. Join us!

Stepping forward, no matter how small

Almost 2 weeks had passed since our start with KissYourWoman.com and nothing had happened. Like at all. Enumerating all the excuses won’t help as they don’t tell me what to do to move things further, so I’ll be telling you about the attempt to cure this.

Thinking about that reminded me of 6 people I can remember straight away which were curious about becoming a Java programmer, asked me, I handed them the plan summarizing my story and… nothing happened.

And awesome Learning how to learn, amongst other things suggesting to do whatever stupid but small and regular steps.

So small and stupid we did it. A neat drawing of a screen, LayoutIt!, some attention of a caring engineer and let’s care about project plans, awesome frameworks(hi, rails!) later.

May the fun be with us now (:

kym

Applying all of that to myself(and given that I’m into sales), I should find a sales person and stick with them until I”ll become a one.

My story of working remotely

Being asked about this on a regular basis, I’ve decided to document my story with telecommuting.

Currently my experience in the area is about 2 years working out of the offices out of almost 7 years(all of which were working in distributed teams).

Disclaimer: this article is not about how to quit working. I do code 4…15 hrs almost every day, and though I earn more than average Ukrainian engineer(, I don’t see how I possibly can stop – I’m addicted! : )

Disclaimer to disclaimer: why would telecommuting be related to quitting working? Because I hear about that mostly in a context of quitting working for someone. And I do enjoy being useful for other people(yay weird traumas).

My story of telecommuting

First taste. Days

First I’ve tried the taste of working remotely somewhere in 2008/9. Crisis just started and customers were picky. I’ve just recently entered the profession and managed to catch a cold in midst of my second billable project(first one was put on ice because of the crisis). Long story goes short. I was good, project needed me to deliver on time so all the sign-offs happened quickly. I loved this company a lot, but then I grew up and decided to lead a team for a while. Offer to do this in a year was not matching to my vision of myself, so I quit.

Love is the answer. Weeks

I’ve thought that I would love to prove myself as a team lead and was suggested to try that in… a year. I’ve found nobody in my home city was ready to give me that straight away, so my next employer happened in a few more years in Odessa.

Thus I had one more excuse to telecommute – visiting my relatives in Kiev(which I didn’t use until the very late). I was working from whichever place I could because I loved the project and because of the time differences (we had folks +8hrs from us in Vladivostok and -10 hrs in San Francisco) and synchronizing with all of them was of major importance to me. Later on I fell in love with a girl from another city spending a few weeks in her place. I can’t say my leaves were appreciated(*wink*), but nobody was firing me while I was bringing the cash in the house.

Months

Because of whatever political reasons we’ve lost the customer and I’ve decided to return to Kiev. Teamleading was thus no longer a valid option(my office was still in Odessa *sigh*), so the company & immediate management was going to lose me.

Accidentally my friend offered me a job supporting an internal project(which was lots of fun as I it made me excited about the sales and related stuff). I’ve decided that it would be fun to become a sales engineer person and I was presented with an opportunity to become a one in… a year(why people are not saying simpler yes/no things?).

So I quit and while interviewing one of my sales engineer friends, I was offered to check out their office and fell in love again.

Years

That last company was luck again and soon I’ll be celebrating my year as a remote person(though, almost quarter of that I was visiting our offices).

I love the people so much that I’m gonna commit to stay in one of the locations for a while. Telecommuting is dead? Long live telecommuting!

Random stuff

I won’t be summarizing anything as the stuff from above is just a story and your actions is what counts towards the result.

I-Have-No-Idea-What-Im-Doing-1

Links

Kiss Your Woman (.com)

Screenshot 2014-12-31 20.35.34Happy New Year and bla-bla-bla, but I have more important matters to address. This this post announces start of (yet another one) project. Me and Olga gonna be fixing my interactions with people desiring a piece of my attention.

Meet www.kissyourwoman.com.

Kind of a logbook

  • Started like an hour before midnight(22:30) on New Year Eve
  • First visitors at 01:30
  • Tried like 4 services generating landing pages. All suck in trial – nice demo of what a premium account can give me : )
  • Bought a domain name for $20 for 2 yrs from godaddy
  • Bought a month of service from kickofflabs.com for $29 :\
  • Total: 4 hours, $49 to start