Sunday, July 21, 2013

July 21, a new king

As Belgium gets a new king, Chris Froome is crowned the new Roi du 100er edition du Tour de France. Kittel est le prince des Champs.

I've enjoyed watching the Tour more than other years, and with reason. A lackluster Cadel Evans and the early departure of Belgium's hope Jurgen Van den Broeck aside, this Tour had a lot of excitement.

A true king
Although Chris Froome started the race as the favorite, it was not handed to him. His rivals didn't waste any time and started attacking from the first day in the Pyrenees. Unlike other years where you waited for some action only to be disappointed time after time: yes, Schleck brothers, I am talking to you. Throughout the tour the attacks kept coming. More over, Froome didn't just defend his yellow jersey. He attacked, won stages and earned it thread for thread. A calm and humble Froome rightfully crowns himself the winner of the 2013 Tour de France.

Picture: The Guardian

The battle among the knights
On the flat stages, it remained exciting. There was the battle royal between the sprinters. Cavendish got unseated by mister-needs-a-new-barber Marcel Kittel. Although Andre Greipel got a seat at the sprinter's banquet as well.

The day they attacked the castle
You would expect the legendary ascend to the Mont Ventoux or the double Alpe D'Huez stage to be the most exciting ones. Nope. The flat stage 13 between Tours and Saint-Amand-Montrond was cycling at its best. First, an unlucky Valverde got behind. Then, Froome and Sky were put on defense when Quickstep, Belkin and Saxo took advantage of the cross winds. It was fighting for every second. Finally, Cavendish finished it off nicely.

New blood
Surprises came from Nairo Quintana, the dynamic Dutch duo Bauke Molema and Laurens Ten Dam, and Jan Bakelants who won a stage and got the yellow jersey for Belgium for a couple of days. 

The jester
It was of course of no surprise that Sagan, winning the green jersey, would bring a little show as he wheelied through the mountains and across the finish lines. 

Relive the Tour with

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

My new found digital leash

Since a few months I am tracking some of my daily habits using a Fitbit Flex wristband and Aria scale. Interconnected devices. The internet of things. M2M. Oops, I've been brainwashed recently by the IoT marketeers, but got enough antidote to escape its tentacles.

Techcrunch, Lifehacker, GigaOm all have written extensively about devices such as the Fitbit Flex, the Nike Fuelband (as glorified in Casey Neistat's Make it Count video), or the Jawbone Up.

I was initially interested in a device which tracks my sleeping habits. I know I do not get enough rest. Six hours are a blessing. I wondered  how solid the few hours I do sleep are. It is a bonus the device also tracks my steps.

Although I have a "computer-job", I do tend to walk around lot (1). Now that I can track it, I am more encouraged to hit my daily 10,000 steps. I haven't hit it consistently yet. That's my next step.

Not only am I connected most of my awaken hours, I now have my version of a prisoner's ankle bracelet, albeit a cool one. When anyone asks, I'll just mention that my parole officer doesn't allow me to talk about it.

Career development is always and at least once a year

In recent weeks I have been preparing several career development plans (CDP) for my direct reports. This is a multi-step process starting with the employee answering a set of questions, and for engineers a technical skill-set self-assessment. Typically over a lunch we discuss theses answers and review the self assessment. The next step is for me to write up my opinion on the employee: strengths, areas of improvement, and development steps.

Previously when engineers asked when the next CDP will be, my answer was simple: "CDPs are always. Don't wait for a specific HR designated time period. Let's talk in our regular one-on-one about this."

One-on-ones are typically weekly. If there is one thing I want to pass along to new managers is to have regular one-on-one meetings with your team. Talk about the projects, but also about how they see things in the company or their opinion on pending decisions. Over the last 7 years, it is my habit to have one-on-ones while walking around the company neighborhood. This is a habit I picked up from my first manager at RTI: she was pregnant at the time and wanted to include walks in her daily routine. The habit stuck with me. I must have logged hundreds of miles in recent years in the Sunnyvale area. The Northern California weather helps.

I've written up my career advise opinion -'cause that is all that really is: my opinion- for several employees now. I must admit it has been quiet complementary to the one-on-one mentoring and career advise. This is in part thanks to the guiding CDP questions and the fact that we make it a special focus. Thus I've come around: career development is always and at least once a year.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Douglas Englebart got me a $100

When in March of 2012, Robert Cringely took his family on a day through computing history, he had breakfast at IHOP with Woz, tea with Douglas Englebart, and a grabble in the Google snackbar when visiting Andy Hertzfeld. That was all before visiting the Computer History Museum in Mountain View of course.

When somebody had asked me to plan a similar trip, the same three gentlemen would be part of my trip. (I probably would have tried to squeeze in a few more folks.) All three are in the quiet geek hero category and live in the shadow of Steve Jobs. Even in the valley of geeks are some of them unknown.  I once made a lofty $100 of a bet on who invented the mouse. Steve Jobs $0; Douglas Englebart $100.

Unfortunately my trip through computer history will have one stop fewer as Douglas Englebart passed away last week.