# Monday, 17 December 2012
Monday, 17 December 2012 15:13:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 10 December 2012
Monday, 10 December 2012 15:46:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 03 December 2012
Monday, 03 December 2012 15:15:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 26 November 2012
Monday, 26 November 2012 13:36:16 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, 25 November 2012

One of the most satisfying things I've done over the last few years has been my work with the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG). I've learned a great deal from the people in this group and my role on the leadership team has given me the opportunity to meet some of the smartest and nicest people in the industry.

I love working with this user group because I love the people and it feels great when we put together an excellent meeting with a great speaker and an engaged crowd and tasty food.

I was not prepared this week when, following the monthly user group meeting, the officers of the group presented me with the first "Compiler" award. I received a trophy with the following inscription:
Thank you for your continuous and extraordinary service to the GANG community.

GANG President Kent Fehribach said that this award will likely be given in the future, but he did not commit to any schedule. In any case, I am very proud to be the first recipient and grateful for those who thought of this.

Sunday, 25 November 2012 15:23:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, 24 November 2012

A few months ago, David McKinnon told me he planned to organize a conference at Cobo Hall. I was skeptical. At this larger venue, he could attract a much larger audience than to the previous 1DevDay, MobiDevDay, and CloudDevDay conferences he had organized, but the cost was higher. A lot higher.

Still, Dave decided to take a chance and he signed a contract with Cobo.

Months later, over 500 people showed up to see presentations on various software development technologies, platforms, and languages. The common theme was software development.

On Saturday, November 17, the lines began to form at Cobo Hall. The registration line was so long that we had to delay Ted Neward's opening keynote presentation by 30 minutes. After that small glitch, the conference went very smoothly. Dozens of technical presentations were available to the attendees, open spaces, plus panel discussions, plus a gourmet lunch. The event finished with an excellent keynote by Chad Fowler and an after-party.

I had the privilege of serving as Master of Ceremonies for this event and I could not have enjoyed this more.  Throughout the day, people kept coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoyed the conference.

After a few days rest, we may consider a 2013 1DevDayDetroit.

Saturday, 24 November 2012 15:40:59 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, 22 November 2012

Today is Thanksgiving and I am making pumpkin pies and preparing to call my mother and brother and go to my sister’s house and enjoy dinner and an evening with my siblings and their families. But I’m also remembering the good things in my life and thanking God for them.

Today, I am thankful for my family - especially for my two sons who continue make me proud every day.

I am thankful for my friends, especially those who supported me through the difficult times of my life.

I am thankful for the occasional encounter with a kind stranger. These events renew my faith in the people of this world.

I am thankful that I am stronger today than I was a decade ago. At that time, I had no idea how I would move forward.

I am thankful for the success I've had in the community and for any respect that his been shown to me by my peers.

I am thankful that I have not had to worry about feeding my family or putting a roof over my head.

And finally, I am thankful that my faith in God has kept me focused on the future, despite my strong desire to dwell on the past.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

Thursday, 22 November 2012 15:43:14 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Many companies institute a formal review process each year. It is a lot of work, but it's an important part of developing employees. An Annual Review provides critical feedback to employees. In addition, it provides objective criteria on which to base raises and promotions.

This week, I am responsible for completing an Annual Review for three Sogeti employees. At Sogeti, we call my role "Counselor" and these three employees are known as my "counselees". Of course, I also have a counselor, which makes me a counselee to him.

My task this week is made more difficult by the fact that I don't work regularly with any of my counselees.

But here is what I do to complete this process as fairly and effectively as I can.

Start Early

The annual review process starts at the beginning of the year. Push your counselee to articulate what their goals are for the year. Some of these goals will come from within themselves and some will be a result of feedback during the last annual review process. Goals can change and that’s okay, but it’s tough to achieve anything unless you have some objectives in mind.

Talk to your counselees regularly throughout the year. I schedule a monthly conversation with each of my counselees. It’s on our calendars, so we won’t miss it. Usually, this is a phone call, but I try to meet them for lunch at least a couple times a year. Find out how their project is going. What challenges are they having? What are they doing well? Is there anything they need from you or elsewhere in the company? Have their goals changed since the beginning of the year? If they received a flattering e-mail, ask them to forward it to you.  Give them direct feedback during these meetings. If you cannot answer a question, follow up later with someone who knows the answer. Take notes during these meetings. OneNote is a great tool for this. Often, I end up copying text directly from these notes and pasting it into the Annual Review form at the end of the year. If you are meeting regularly and having open conversations, there should be no surprises at Review time.

Encourage your counselees to keep a record of their accomplishments throughout the year, so that they can more easily articulate them at the end of the year. I always tell my counselees not to rely on me to remember anything they did during the year. There is a good chance I will forget something and there is a non-zero chance that I might not be with the company at the end of the year. At one of my former company's we had a slogan: "You own your career". Employees should understand this and it’s a counselors job to make sure they do.

End-of-Year

If your company publishes guidelines for the annual review, read them thoroughly and base your review on these guidelines. The less subjective your review, the easier it will be and the more fair to all involved.

Seek input from those who know the best. Because I typically do not work with the people I evaluate, I actively seek input from those who are more familiar with a counselee's work. Send e-mails and make calls to get as much input as you can. Typically, I might reach out to

  • Customers
  • Managers
  • Co-workers
  • Salespeople

Include specific examples in your evaluation. "Bob did a great job at customer XYZ" is far less meaningful than "Bob rewrote the Shipping screen, so that it now runs 70% faster, saving the customer 2-4 hours per week." On the flip side "Joe needs to improve his communication skills" is less effective than "The customer expressed frustration because he did not know that Joe's project was behind schedule until he failed to meet his deadline. Joe should have communicated the schedule slippage weeks earlier when he became aware of the roadblock."

Be honest. Often, you will find yourself evaluating a friend and it's tempting to let personal feelings sway your evaluation. Friendship should only affect an evaluation if there is a criterion for getting along with others. In all other areas, stay objective. Otherwise, you are not being fair to the other employees. Honest feedback is how an employee improves.

Give an annual review process the time and attention it deserves. Employees deserve this.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012 15:33:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 19 November 2012
Monday, 19 November 2012 15:31:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Many companies institute a formal review process each year. It is a lot of work, but it's an important part of developing employees. An Annual Review provides critical feedback to employees. In addition, it provides objective criteria on which to base raises and promotions.

This week, I am responsible for completing an Annual Review for three Sogeti employees. At Sogeti, we call my role "Counselor" and these three employees are known as my "counselees". Of course, I also have a counselor, which makes me a counselee to him.

My task this week is made more difficult by the fact that I don't work regularly with any of my counselees.

But here is what I do to complete this process as fairly and effectively as I can.

Start Early

The annual review process starts at the beginning of the year. Push your counselee to articulate what their goals are for the year. Some of these goals will come from within themselves and some will be a result of feedback during the last annual review process. Goals can change and that’s okay, but it’s tough to achieve anything unless you have some objectives in mind.

Talk to your counselees regularly throughout the year. I schedule a monthly conversation with each of my counselees. It’s on our calendars, so we won’t miss it. Usually, this is a phone call, but I try to meet them for lunch at least a couple times a year. Find out how their project is going. What challenges are they having? What are they doing well? Is there anything they need from you or elsewhere in the company? Have their goals changed since the beginning of the year? If they received a flattering e-mail, ask them to forward it to you.  Give them direct feedback during these meetings. If you cannot answer a question, follow up later with someone who knows the answer. Take notes during these meetings. OneNote is a great tool for this. Often, I end up copying text directly from these notes and pasting it into the Annual Review form at the end of the year. If you are meeting regularly and having open conversations, there should be no surprises at Review time.

Encourage your counselees to keep a record of their accomplishments throughout the year, so that they can more easily articulate them at the end of the year. I always tell my counselees not to rely on me to remember anything they did during the year. There is a good chance I will forget something and there is a non-zero chance that I might not be with the company at the end of the year. At one of my former company's we had a slogan: "You own your career". Employees should understand this and it’s a counselors job to make sure they do.

End-of-Year

If your company publishes guidelines for the annual review, read them thoroughly and base your review on these guidelines. The less subjective your review, the easier it will be and the more fair to all involved.

Seek input from those who know the best. Because I typically do not work with the people I evaluate, I actively seek input from those who are more familiar with a counselee's work. Send e-mails and make calls to get as much input as you can. Typically, I might reach out to

  • Customers
  • Managers
  • Co-workers
  • Salespeople

Include specific examples in your evaluation. "Bob did a great job at customer XYZ" is far less meaningful than "Bob rewrote the Shipping screen, so that it now runs 70% faster, saving the customer 2-4 hours per week." On the flip side "Joe needs to improve his communication skills" is less effective than "The customer expressed frustration because he did not know that Joe's project was behind schedule until he failed to meet his deadline. Joe should have communicated the schedule slippage weeks earlier when he became aware of the roadblock."

Be honest. Often, you will find yourself evaluating a friend and it's tempting to let personal feelings sway your evaluation. Friendship should only affect an evaluation if there is a criterion for getting along with others. In all other areas, stay objective. Otherwise, you are not being fair to the other employees. Honest feedback is how an employee improves.

Give an annual review process the time and attention it deserves. Employees deserve this.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012 19:24:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)