I wanted to write a teardown of some dude, but I wrote this

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 27, 2023, 7:30 PM | comments: 0

There's a guy, he runs a small-ish tech company and is somewhat famous for the books that he and his partner have written (collections of blog posts, technically). The books challenge how we do things in business, and especially in software companies. I was all-in on what they had to say, but mostly the parts about how killing yourself for your job is kind of dumb. That they concluded this at a relatively young age is fascinating, because I find this to be more true in midlife as I have fewer and fewer keystrokes left to give.

But some of the things that they rally against are dogmatic in the same way the alleged entrenched process are. Context tends to matter as you apply your experience to different situations. And if your experience is almost all from one company that you've been at for essentially your entire career, chances are you have some blindspots. And your blindspots might be worse if you've had some popular books that seem to validate your ideas.

The latest rally by this guy is against the use of cloud resources in favor of privately owned hardware in a data center. Basically, their spend was crazy high and they believe that they can do better themselves. On the surface, this is not unreasonable, but there are two problems The first is the assumption that their new state will be equivalent to their cloud endeavor. It won't be, because you can't afford to build out the same level of resiliency yourself. And I'm suspect of what they were spending on in the first place. The other problem is that he seems certain that what's good for him is good for everyone, much in the same way he applied that logic in the work culture books. I've been through three cloud transitions (maybe four if you count the partial movement of the stuff my team worked on at Microsoft), and I can tell you without a doubt that we saved money every time. I have my anecdotes, he has one, but I think mine would be baseline in a larger, normalized dataset.

Now, I wanted to call the guy out by name because he just comes off as arrogant (and recently declared that diversity, equity and inclusion are a waste of time, despite research that clearly indicates the opposite). I am skeptical about anyone who is so sure that they have all of the answers, and even more skeptical if they simply haven't seen a wide variety of scenarios up close. Everyone wants shortcuts, but the hard truth is that while we can start with some guiding principles and ideas, contextual adaptation is the only consistent path to success. Yes, I'm saying that the sure thing is understanding that there is no sure thing.

I gotta say, I was really stewing about this guy, whom I've never met, and frankly don't care that much about. My weakness is letting people who have the attention of others, but aren't using that power for good, rile me up. I don't have the attention of many people, and the attention that I want is inversely proportional to my age. But also, I am acutely aware of how ineffective it is to write a bunch of stuff about some random dude that's kind of an asshole. No one cares. Nothing changes by writing that. It's an energy drain that I would lump in with keeping up the appearance of having an awesome life, or trying to convince people their religion is wrong.

But I still find it therapeutic to talk about the ideas of the person, and why I don't agree with them. It helps me center my own direction. Like I said, a lot of what your experience teaches you is what not to do.


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