Posts Tagged ‘career’

A Little Story About Personal Branding

Career, Events, Presentation, Social Networking | Posted by Doc List
Dec 13 2014

[Originally posted on Facebook]

A little story about personal branding.

I’m attending the Better Software Conference/Agile Development Conference in Orlando, Florida as a speaker. I did a tutorial on Monday on my philosophy of “It’s All About Me!™” and a short session on the subtlety of language on Wednesday.

After my session on Wednesday, I attended a session that a friend of mine delivered on personal branding. First, I’d never seen her present and wanted to. Second, I thought I might learn something new.

After her session, I wandered into the exhibit area (a.k.a. the break area). I picked up a lovely little snack and a cup of hot chocolate, and moved to a standup table and introduced myself to the fellow there. He introduced himself – he’s from the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) – and said “Oh! We know all about you at the CBC!”.

I’ve never been to the CBC, never worked with anyone from the CBC, don’t know anyone at the CBC, as far as I know. It seems that their internal agile coach has attended one of my conference sessions somewhere, and when he returned he talked about it (okay, maybe he raved about it). If it’s the session I think it is, I give out some cards that are used for a role play simulation about facilitation.

Later, I ran into my friend Jennifer, who’d done the session on personal branding. She said “I saw you in the session and I thought ‘What is he doing here? He has done an amazing job of personal branding. Get out of here, Doc!'”

This stuff surprises me. I mean, I know I’ve worked at it, and established “Doc List” as a brand and a persona. It still surprises me.

When my team gave me the nickname in 2007, I freely admit that I set out to make it my brand.

Apparently it has worked.

It’s All About Me!™ in Orlando

Coping and Communicating, Musings, Social Networking | Posted by Doc List
Nov 13 2014

I just did my first half-day tutorial on my favorite topic, It’s All About Me!™. You’d think after talking and writing about it for years, I might have done something sooner.


In reflecting on it, I conclude that I’ve been afraid that I’d put it out there and someone would call bullshit on me.

Happily, that didn’t happen. The feedback was excellent. My favorite was “Great session! Included original material rather than just rehashing existing stuff.”

I’ll be doing more sessions, and maybe sometime soon I’ll finish the book I’ve been working on.

Attitude (a little wisdom)

Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 22 2013

From my friend Kris Landato:

Without question, the most important thing in your life is your attitude. Regardless of whether it’s good, bad or somewhere in between, your attitude shapes your day and molds your future. The type of attitude you embrace daily can make you or break you.

How many of you read that and said “well, of course!”?

How many of you said “well, attitude is important, but not the most important thing.”?

Either way, I suspect that most of you agree that attitude is important.

Do you check yours?

Announcing my new position at Neudesic

Agile & Lean, Career, Musings | Posted by Doc
Sep 26 2011

I’m thrilled to share this with all of you. As of the 12th of this month, I joined Neudesic, which is based in Irvine, California and has offices in a number of cities around the United States and in India.

Neudesic is a Microsoft National Systems Integrator and Gold ISV Partner with a proven track record of providing reliable, effective solutions based on Microsoft’s technology platform. Our technical and industry expertise empower enterprises to enhance their technological capacity and respond to business opportunities with greater efficiency.

I get to work with my good friends Ted Neward and Simon Guest, both of whose judgement I respect.

My title is “National Agile Evangelist”. That means I’ll be focusing on how we can be more effective at developing and delivering our services through the use of Agile, Lean/Kanban, and whatever methodologies suit. I’ll also be focusing on how we assist our clients in adopting these practices and principles to the betterment of their organizations.

The process going from day one (“your position is no longer being funded” at TW) to making the decision to join Neudesic was thoroughly enjoyable for me. I got to spend time with people I knew and liked, people I didn’t yet know and discovered I liked, and also to learn about what’s going on in the Agile Coaching space in the United States.

For each of you that contributed to the journey, please accept my gratitude.

I hope I can do the same for others.

The impact of desperation

Career | Posted by Doc
Aug 24 2011

In my previous post about “Everything at stake“, several folks have commented to me both publicly and privately. One of the important points that came up is about the reality for some folks – especially in a time of high unemployment – that everything really is at stake.

I do get that. There are times – and I’ve experienced them myself – when getting this job is critical to me being able to feed my family, make my mortgage payment, or fill my gas tank. This may lead to a feeling of anxiety or even desperation.

If I start feeling like that, how does it affect my behavior?

I may display some symptoms of neediness. I may try to be whatever the interviewer needs, whether or not it is what I want to do, or whether it is harmonious with who I am.

Is this exciting to the interviewer? Will the interviewer recognize, either consciously or unconsciously, that I am trying to sell myself as something I am not? And if so, will the interviewer start to discount what I say because it’s clear that I’m saying whatever I think he wants to hear?

I realize that there are times when each of us feels the pressure of need, and it’s just freakin’ hard to ignore those feelings.

What I want to convey is that you will – and should – be judged/assessed/considered based on your behavior. The more relaxed you can behave in an interview, the more likely you will be accepted as who and what you are, and the more likely that you will establish a rapport with your interviewer(s).

Everything at stake

Career | Posted by Doc
Aug 17 2011

Given that I’m in the process of job searching, and spent a chunk of this year supporting my wife in her job search, I’ve had a few realizations. Some of them are things I’ve taken for granted in the past, some are new.

Today’s is something that I’ve been aware of but never before articulated.

Many people experience the job search process as an “everything’s at stake” series of situations. Every phone conversation is treated as though their entire future depends on it. Every interview is treated as though they must get this job or they will be seen as useless, unemployable, or otherwise worthless.

Of course, searching for a job is – and should be – treated as a job. After all, there is truly a lot at stake. It should be taken seriously, and given appropriate time, energy, and responsibility.

That said, though, there’s no reason that it can’t also be – wait for it – fun!

I’ll admit that I might be an anomaly, an oddity, an outlier. I enjoy interviewing. I enjoy networking. I enjoy the opportunity – yes, opportunity – to meet new people, learn about businesses, and explore where I fit into the world of business and work.

The reality is that I will not get most of the jobs I apply for. Most of the companies I talk with won’t offer to hire me.

So if I accept that as the reality of my situation, and if I approach each individual situation with the seriousness and respect it deserves, is there any reason I should not enjoy myself along the way?

In the book “Go for No! Yes is the Destination, No is How You Get There” by Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz, the authors make the case that if you are going to get 99 nos for every yes in your sales career, then the sooner you get the nos, the sooner you’ll get to the yes! And interviewing and job searching is, in its own way, about selling, and you are the product you’re selling.

Last week, while attending Agile2011, I met and talked with dozens of people. I learned more about the Agile community, the businesses in that community, and the opportunities that might – or might not – suit me. My world and my worldview are richer as a result.  When one (or maybe more than one) of those companies I spoke with makes me an offer, I’ll be in a better position to make a decision.

For me, I do much better when I approach each conversation (and interviews are conversations) in a relaxed manner.

This means that I have to avoid the feeling that everything is at stake in this conversation. And, since most of the people/companies I talk with won’t make me an offer for any number of reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with my value as a human being and a professional of some kind, then maybe I can enjoy the conversation.

If you know me, you know that I do enjoy them. I wish more people could.

The value of community

Career, Musings, Social Networking | Posted by Doc
Aug 10 2011

I’m attending the Agile2011 conference in Salt Lake City. I arrived on Sunday, and Monday was the first full day, and as always it was glorious and exhausting.

Last Tuesday, I tweeted – just once – that I was no longer with ThoughtWorks. When I arrived at the conference venue, and started seeing friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, I was astounded, amazed, and overwhelmed.

“I heard, and I’m so sorry.”

“You look great! You look so relaxed.”

“What will you do next?”

Consider that I had not personally spoken with more than one or two people about my change in circumstances. What I had done was to tweet and post on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

One of the most amazing occurrences came when I was talking with my friend Doc Norton (@docondev). As we were talking, one of his co-workers sent him a message: “Did you see that Steven ‘Doc’ List is no longer with ThoughtWorks?”

Consider the amazing power of the social networks and community we live in. A few years ago, I would have been calling and writing to people individually and in groups to let them know what’s going on. Today, one posting and BAM!

The implications that go with that are important:

  • Your online reputation is important and real
  • Since perception is reality, people believe you are who you seem to be online
  • Building your network well can mean the difference between career choices and career compromises
  • Treating people well online, as well as in person, has real value
  • Think carefully about your online persona, and craft it with intent
I know far too many people who are very different in person and online. Sadly, it’s not uncommon to find people who feel that when they are electronic and faceless, it’s okay to be an asshole, or to be otherwise rude, inconsiderate, offensive, judgmental, critical, and so on. These same people might be lovely and sensitive and thoughtful in person, but online?
Why does that happen? Why do some folks feel like it’s okay – safe – to be so different online?
I’m not even going to try to come up with the answer today (although I do have some thoughts on the matter, and would be happy to hear yours). I’m just going to encourage each of you to consider my last point. It’s important enough, that I’m going to say it again.
Think carefully about your online persona, and craft it with intent.

A poorly crafted one will come back to bite you in the butt. A well crafted one will serve you well.

Reflections on “Talent is Overrated”

Career, Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 09 2011

I’m in the midst of reading Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin. I’m finding much that resonates for me, especially in light of recent experience.

“When asked to explain why a few people are so excellent at what they do, most of us have two answers, and the first one is hard work. People get extremely good at something because they work hard at it. We tell our kids that if they just work hard, they’ll be fine. It turns out that this is exactly right. They’ll be fine, just like all those other people who work at something for most of their lives and get along perfectly acceptably but never become particularly good at it. The research confirms that merely putting in the years isn’t much help to someone who wants to be a great performer.” [emphasis mine]

Too many organizations believe that all they have to do is give employees a place to work, specific roles to play, and an opportunity to do their work over and over and over again, and those employees should get better at what they do. After all, we’re all motivated and driven and have the capability to figure out what we need to know and do to get better/more skilled, right?


“It could be put very simply: What the authors called ‘deliberate practice’ makes all the difference. Or as they stated it with stark clarity in their scholarly paper, ‘the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.'”

As he explains further, “deliberate practice” is not just doing it over and over again.

“Deliberate practice is characterized by several elements, each worth examining. It is activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help; it can be repeated a lot; feedback on results is continuously available; it’s highly demanding mentally, whether the activity is purely intellectual, such as chess or business-related activities, or heavily physical, such as sports; and it isn’t much fun.”

If I find myself in a situation where someone – someone who is supposedly helping me progress toward mastery – just says “again! again! again!”, then I know we’re not making progress. I was trying out a new gym, for instance. It was a kettlebell gym. During one activity we were swinging a kettlebell up and down, from between our legs up to around shoulder level. The instructor said “Snap Doc! Snap!” Needless to say, I had no idea what she was talking about. She didn’t help me to understand the body mechanics, or even what she meant by “snap”. She just kept snapping “Snap!” at me. Not helpful.

On the other hand, a different instructor said “Use your legs, not your arms and shoulders. Your arms and shoulders are just there to support the bell. Use your upward momentum with your legs to move the bell, and snap into position with your body upright and your butt tight at the top.” That was far more helpful. When this person said “That’s better. Now try for more snap.” I knew what was meant and how to move into deliberate practice.

In a work environment, if you are not being challenged and offered ways to learn, then you might have reason to question the situation. It’s all too easy for employers to discriminate based on talent, where Colvin would argue that talent is real, but is a relatively small influence on how skilled or capable someone is at a particular endeavor. The shift from “let’s find talented people” to “let’s find people who understand the importance of deliberate practice” is as important – and difficult – as the shift that Dan Pink talks about in Drive (intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation). Colvin says:

“…it’s one thing to say that a manager is ‘good with people.’ It’s another to ask whether a manager notices when a direct report seems no longer challenged by his or her job. If so, is that seen as a problem or an opportunity? What responses are proposed? Of these, how effective or ineffective do they seem, and which, if any, are applied?”

Management, along with its close friend Leadership, is a set of skills and a mindset. Sadly, too many organizations treat it as a job that someone can pick up on their own if they just do it day after day. Good management, effective management, requires deliberate practice. It requires mentoring and guidance and – worth saying again – deliberate practice. It really makes me sad to see people who have the potential to be strong, effective managers and/or leaders being led by people who are not strong, effective managers and are therefore being taught the wrong stuff. Sometimes the teaching is in the form of abstention: their “leaders” let them do foolish things, or ineffective things, and don’t help them to learn better, wiser, more effective ways. And this becomes generational, as each “generation” of organizational leaders “raises” the next generation.

If you’re in a situation like this, you have three choices, two of which require you to take action:

  1. Do something about it – change your organization
  2. Shut up and take it – but do it with awareness, not ignorance
  3. Leave – change your circumstances

If you have stories about situations like this, I’d love to hear about them.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Mohandas Gandhi

Look forward

Career, Musings | Posted by Doc
Aug 08 2011

Having been laid off from my job at ThoughtWorks this past Tuesday, it’s been an interesting few days.

My wife of 35 years* is not a big fan of change, and has said that being laid off would feel to her as if she were being judged, and had been judged to fail.

I, on the other hand, know that whatever reasons they gave or actually had, the people who made the decision to lay me off had their own reasons. Those reasons were mostly about them, and only a little bit about me.  Their decision does not change who I am, what I’m capable of, nor my value to an employer or to the world I live in.

The fact that it was done the way it was** is annoying, and speaks more about them than about me. Having worked at a number of startups in my career, and having been laid off more than once, I can tell you that there are good ways and less good ways. This was a less good way. It makes me wonder why.

However, the main point of this is this: looking backward makes you stumble, so look forward.

It’s possible this may happen to you at some time in your career. After all, businesses suffer setbacks, some fail, and sometimes they just feel the need to shuffle things around. You may be the beneficiary or the victim in these circumstances. If so, I hope you’ll remember this lesson.

Let me say it again: Their decision does not change who I am, what I’m capable of, nor my value to an employer or to the world I live in.

Of course, if you find yourself without income or employment, and the market is not healthy, it may be harder to see it as an exciting opportunity. Try anyway.

I know – I’ve written about change and how frightening and threatening it is. Nonetheless, I find my adrenaline pumping. I’m exploring the world. I’m meeting new people. I’m facing the challenge head on, and reflecting on who I am and what I want to do. That’s a good thing.

If you give in to the fear of change, you lose. If you let “them” lead you to feeling less good about yourself, you lose. If you forget how important and valuable you are, you lose.

For me, predictability is both essential (I am TRULY borderline OCD) and boring. As I say when I’m talking about “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools”, processes and tools (and predictability) should be enablers not the focus of my attention.

I have an opportunity. So do you.

Look forward.

* yes, I’m bragging 🙂

** no, I’m not going to fill in any more details

No longer a ThoughtWorker

Uncategorized | Posted by Doc
Aug 03 2011

I’ll keep this short.

As of yesterday, Tuesday, 2 August, ThoughtWorks Studios decided they no longer needed my services. “Your position is no longer being funded” is the terminology they used. Yeah.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward. A single tweet produced some fantastic results, and I’m overwhelmed by the nature and volume of the responses I’ve received.

More to come as I discover it.

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