Pragmatic 41: Meaningless Token Award

18 October, 2014


Independence and job satisfaction is a consideration whether you work for yourself or for a large corporation. Understanding what matters to us the most we consider how recognition plays a role and the differences between whichever path you choose.

Transcript available
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We'll talk about them more during the show. I'm your host, John Chidjie, and I'm joined, as always, by my co-host, Vic Hudson. How are you doing, Vic? I'm good. That's it? You're good? I'm good. I'm good. How are you, John? Is the fulgus working yet? It's starting to, yeah. Fantastic. I can hear that in your voice. All right, before we make a start, it is a bit of an unusual recording time. It's a bit of an unusual situation. So we were recording this morning, but the follow-up ran over time. So we've rescheduled for this evening. Anyway, so once again, we are live streaming the show, even though it's a bit short notice so you can go to and you can access the stream in the chat room there. The show bot's running the chat room for live listeners that want to participate in the show. It accepts exclamation mark Q for Q&A questions held off to after the show, exclamation mark S for title suggestions. The show is being recorded at the same time every week except for this week. Oh, isn't that great? Anyway, the schedule's up on Yeah, I know. Anyway, I've been working away for a while now on some new features for the site specifically for this show. Now from episode 3 of Pragmatic I've been determined to try different formats and approaches on the show including splitting out the follow-up and more recently by adding Q&A after the show. Now the last episode I announced memberships for Tech Distortion. This week I'm announcing why. In future I'll be preparing an email newsletter that people can opt into but more immediately I'm opening up the site to a whole new section for Pragmatic listeners. It's located at There's also a link to it from the Pragmatic podcast main page. Now, if you're not a member, you'll still be able to see the list of upcoming suggested and proposed topics for the show and their ranking in terms of votes. But if you sign up and verify your email address, you are able to vote on anything in the existing list and you can also suggest something to add to the list, whatever topic you'd like to be covered it on the show. All the suggestions will be moderated by myself and you'll be notified if your suggestion is posted and then everyone can see it and vote on it if they like the idea. Now beyond that I'll be locking in episode topics a week or maybe even two weeks ahead of time and people will be able to see the topic and the co-host or guest host details planned for the next episode or few episodes ahead as well. Now I've wanted to give listeners a better avenue to guide where the show goes in terms of topics. And whilst I do get plenty of emails with suggestions and requests, some of which are already in the list, there hasn't really been an easy way to gauge if it was just one or two people interested in a topic or if they're the vocal minority and lots of people want that topic covered. So now you have the opportunity to tell me what you want quickly and easily, vote on what you'd like, and everyone else that's interested can let me know if they like those topics as well. and that way I can prioritize and give people what they're looking for. So the new features are live right now today. Don't wait, go and check them out right now. Pause the podcast if you want to check them out and come right back. And anyway, links will be in the show notes for all of those things. So please check them out. Okay. So today's topic is essentially a conceptual kind of show. This episode will be a conceptual episode. And I say conceptual because, well, it's a little bit fuzzy. And the reason I say that is because, OK, I want to tackle this idea of the perception of kind of independence, job satisfaction based on whether you are working at home for yourself, maybe, or in a smaller company or a big, big corporation. And one of the things that bugs me a lot, well, not a lot, but occasionally, really actually not that often, but occasionally it does bug me when I listen to a lot of podcasts and a lot of people doing podcasts. Gee, that sounds wrong. There are certain groups of people doing podcasts where they work at home, they work from home, or they have a lot of control of their own time and they have a lot of time. Well, I say a lot of time. They have some time in order to do podcasting and blogging and also stuff from home. And it sort of drives a perception that working at home for yourself, perhaps, is a better way than to get for job satisfaction than working for, quote unquote, "the man", whatever that's supposed to mean. But, you know, the expression, right, working for the man, you know. And I guess I feel like there's a lot of people extolling the virtues of that kind of a lifestyle. And there's a lot of trade-offs there, but I don't want to go and tread on all of the same sorts of arguments that usually go ahead. I want to explore the ones that people aren't talking about, because I feel like the other side of it, like being part of a large corporation is not really well, I don't want to say justified, defended even is not quite the right word, but it's not explored. It's not something that people discuss. It's like, yeah, well, I've got a JIB job. Yeah, you know, it sucks. Well, you know what? Every job sucks. There are elements of suckage to every job that you do. I don't care if you work at home. If you work at home, I'll tell you what sucks working at home sometimes is focusing. - Yep. - You know, it's like, there's a whole bunch of pros and cons and so on. So there's really just the two aspects that I mentioned before that I want to explore in this episode, okay? And that's job satisfaction and independence. So specifically those two and only those two. However, I do have to quickly list the ones I'm not going to cover, but I acknowledge their existence. So first and foremost that comes to mind is commuting time. So working from home, generally speaking, that's gonna be a lot shorter if you're working from home than driving to an office, okay? Simple, straightforward, lots of people say it's fantastic. Right, working from home, we don't have to commute anyway. Well, here's the other thing, if you've got kids, when you're working from home, you end up then doing the school drop-off, which is still a form of commuting. So, you know, yes and no, but generally, shorter commuting, if any at all, when you're working from home. Yes, I acknowledge that. Now distractions. The funny thing with distractions is that you can cut that argument both ways. Generally, I find that you get more distractions at work. However, it depends on the position you got in the company. Like if you have your own office, if you're in a cubicle or if you've been a cubicalized office culture or an open office, yeah, distractions will vary. It's also a very much basically physical position in the building. I found that I had a desk for a while that was right near an entryway and exitway into the cubicle area and there were a lot of distractions. A lot of people moving past. Because people were always, "That's it, coming in now the elevators and the lifts and so on." And they would just go through the door and every time the door would open, it would just be... Eventually, you sort of learned it, sort of tuned out a little bit, but you can't get rid of it completely. The flip side of that is at home, it also depends. If you have kids, if you're married, you're in a relationship, you've got roommates, they can come in and bug you when you're trying to work. So, I don't buy the distractions argument, but I still have to mention it. Anyway, having a boss is the next one. So, working for yourself, you think you don't have a boss, you know, but if you're doing a contract for a client, the client is your boss. You know, like if someone says to you, I'm going to pay you 20 grand to develop an app for me, then they are your boss. Yeah. At the end of the contract, you get a new boss. That is, of course, if you're any good at your work and you get another contract, you do. So if you're building a product for users, like a whole broad base of users, that's even worse because then all of those users are your boss. Well, to an extent, right? 'Cause if you don't satisfy all of your customers or a reasonable amount of your customers, then you're not going to have customers. So you've gone from having a handful of bosses or one boss to spreading it amongst tens or hundreds or thousands, or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, depending upon how popular your app is, and they're all to some extent your boss and directing your fate. 'Cause you may think, "Oh, I really wanna do a product that does this "and add this feature." And then 50% of your customers come back and say, "We really want feature blah." And you're like, "But I don't wanna do feature blah." Suddenly you're doing something because the majority of other people are telling you to do it, not because you wanna do it, therefore they are your boss and you're working. You know? So, I think that the whole argument of working for yourself means you are your own boss is flawed because it's all about how you think about what a boss is and what is the problem with having a boss. The problem with having a boss, most people will say, is because you're getting told to do things you don't want to do. Well, sure, fine. I guarantee you there are features in every app out there where they have been a feature that people have added because A, they had to have it because the competition had it, or B, they had to have it because customers demanded that they have it. Not because they wanted to implement it. And so therefore you are already doing things that you would not otherwise do if you really truly did work for yourself and only for yourself. Well, it turns out I had a lot to say about the things I didn't have anything to say about. Anyway, all right. Oh God. Right, next, security. There's the next one I'm gonna talk about but not talk about, I'll acknowledge, okay? So I acknowledge security, yes. And when I say security, I don't mean a padlock on the door, I mean that most people, I think, recognize that job security is somewhat of a myth. Yeah, certainly as I've gotten older, I've begun to see it that way. And I think a lot of people have reached that point as their career progresses, they realize that there is no such thing as a secure job. Now, companies, they can be obligated to provide minimum notice, but I've watched businesses collapse in a heap and people just lose their job, their benefits. They show up to work one day and the building's locked. Now a friend of the show, Clinton Phillips, who I think is in the chat room today. You know, it's honestly, it's honestly, it's terrible when these companies go out of business and then you're out of a job. I believe that Clinton was fortunate insofar as when it went into, I think it was receivership, whatever the word was, he actually did get his, what he was owed, which is good, but that doesn't always happen. And I've seen it happen to friends of mine. So it's no guarantee. You can do the best job, you can do the best job in the world, and if the company is run by a bunch of numb nuts, or the company is run into the ground intentionally, or it's sold off, or, you know, there's a whole list of, a litany of possible reasons that company can fail that have zero to do with you and your performance. You have no security. - Yeah. There's always a lot of variables out of your own control. - Exactly. And if you've got a contract, if you're an independent developer and you've got a contract with someone, you know, contracts, yeah, a well-written contract has always got an exit clause. You know, we may terminate at any time. And yeah, if we see fit and you have to hand over all the work that you've done so far, and you know, we will pay you what hours you can justify until this point and that's it. And again I've seen that happen too. I've been on projects where that has happened. You know? Yeah. Even a couple that I was unfortunately project managing. They didn't pull out because of me personally but you know it stings. But it happens. There is no such thing as job security. I'm sorry there just isn't. You know? And here's another example. Let's say you're working on an app and this app is for a platform and then the platform developer, oh I don't know, say Apple, then they release something that is actually a competitor for your product that's free that's baked into the operating system. And you just got I believe the expression is Sherlock. Yep. So there you go. Guess what? Your wonderful source of income that everyone loved just got ripped off by the company that was helping you to succeed by giving you a platform upon which to sell it. Yeah, well, great. So there you go. There's there's security just gone out the window. So anyway that's enough I have not to say about security. Oh my goodness oh all right. Okay. Independence. Oh dear. Independence. So here's the thing about independence and no I'm not talking about independence like as in Independence Day like that movie that was kind of interesting sort of the skull and crossbones on the computer I just I can never get that out of my head anyway I know I know it was good if you don't look too deep into the tech it was just so bad anyway okay I'm gonna go Oxford dictionary on you because well it's a dictionary anyway and says, "Independence is not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence." So to be truly independent, you cannot depend on anything else, or anyone else, sorry, for your continued existence. - So that kind of invalidates the idea of selling apps. - Yes, it does. I mean, I don't even have to go any further with that. I mean, I'm going to, but you know what? It says it all. So I'm an independent developer. Well, yes, you are independent. So long as there is a platform upon which for you to develop and when when people are starting out in the business, you know, they need to assess the platforms, but no one can see the future. No one knows what's going to happen. It is statistically not statistically. Well, yes, a little bit if you were to look at Apple, for example, and then, you know, profit and loss statement and and how much money they're making, how much money they got in the bank. There's a reasonable expectation they're not gonna fall over in a heap tomorrow. - Yeah. - You know? But then again, let's just say the big one hits, right? In San Francisco and there's a massive earthquake and it wipes out Cupertino. I kind of think that would have a big impact on Apple. If there was a major calamity that wiped out the headquarters of Apple, there would be a massive ripple, right? Natural disasters happen, okay? It's unlikely, I know. And you're probably gonna put the money on them anyway. But then you could have said the same thing about Microsoft not that long ago. Lots of people, wow, did lots of people bank on Windows Phone 8 or I don't know, did they? Maybe, some people did. But if that platform goes away, where are you? You know, if you do all this development for it, then what happens? - Yeah. - I mean, how independent are you if you are essentially dependent on someone else's platform for you to succeed. See, one of the great things about the web is that there's technically isn't really a platform. It's an open standard that's agreed to by a committee. - Yeah. - You know? - Well, I would say even if the platform holds solid, you know, it's like you said, it's reasonably safe to assume Apple's not going anywhere and the app store is always gonna be there. You're still dependent upon either someone paying you directly for your app or somebody subscribing to a back-end service for your app, or even just somebody using the app often enough that ads could pay off. Sure. But I mean, if Apple decided to shut up shop, or if Microsoft did, or if Google did, if any of them decided to shut up shop for whatever reason, litigation, or going out of business, I mean, who knows? If they did, you'd be stuffed. You'd have, if you put all your eggs in that basket. So my argument is how independent really are you? Independent from what exactly? You're still dependent upon their tool chain, their platform, and of course their infrastructure for paying you. I mean if you develop an app for a platform that's not on the app store, the way that Rich Siegel's going with Bare Bones, right? They're leaving the app store with the next version of BB Edit I believe. That's the latest discussion. Well, they can posted on their website and the platform's not going to change, the App Store may die, Apple may die, Yosemite would still exist, you know, so would Mavericks, it would still exist, you would be able to continue for a while. But if Apple died tomorrow, the App Store died tomorrow, payments died tomorrow, you'd be stuffed, you got nothing. So, that level of dependence is obviously, you know, so when people say I'm independent, what they they mean to say is that I have a different set of dependencies. I am not truly independent. I am independent in different ways. Independent from the man. Yeah. And this is why I can't stand that expression, you know, like, what the hell does that mean? So, yeah, if you're in a corp, okay, so when you're in a corporation, you will, the company will often dictate the software you need to develop in or use. right? So they say you are going to use Microsoft Office just because everyone uses it. Why not? Okay. Why on earth not? So we're going to do that. Good. You have no choice. You can't use OpenOffice because it's not allowed. You can't install it on your computer because it's their computer. You can't do any of that stuff. So to use the analogy of well, not the analogy, the example of my world like Skada and PLCs, if I'm developing on a Siemens PLC, then I'm stuck using Semantic manager. Now that's it. I don't have a choice. Yeah. In the same way that if I'm, but if I'm developing for, you know, iOS, I'm pretty much using Xcode. Although I know that there are a few other tools out there, uh, you know, they won't be able to take advantage of the latest stuff. Yeah. So you want to use Swift, you know, you're kind of stuck, I think with Xcode. I don't think there's any other third party tools currently that support that. There might be some people I think edit in a, in their text editor of choice. I think there's a fair amount that actually do that and just go to Xcode when it's time to compile. Yeah, that's it. So, you know, but in the end, though, you're still dependent upon Xcode for packaging and submission and all that stuff. So you're still dependent on Xcode as a product and to compile, obviously. So it's not really a truly independent alternative. It's simply I'm choosing a different GUI, but that's it. OK. So when you look at it that way, you're never really in control. which means by definition you're really not independent, you're certainly not fully independent. And as platforms mature, sometimes you can get more options open to you, but the ground can shift under your feet very quickly and you can find yourself trained up on a set of tools that are no longer useful. Which is why I sort of think that going down the programming language path is a better path as a generic skillset. Languages like Java, like Perl, PHP, that sort of thing. you know, that's going to be more insulating and provide more stability for you if you're concerned about that. Because, you know, learning a language that's specific to a platform, developing specific on a set of tools, you know, they could become obsolete, you know, in a very short period of time. Whereas platform independent stuff, stuff that's out there, that's in common use, that's different. I guess, you know, and on the PLC side, I guess you could argue, you know, the differences between, you know, RSLogix and Semantic Manager and... [sigh] Let's see, Unity Pro, let's say on the Schneider side of things, you know, they all program in FBD. So I want you to understand the function block diagram method. You know, there's subtle differences between them and their different editors, but it's still a similar language. So I guess it depends on how you want to look at it. Still, for many people, I guess, it's the price of working in an industry where where the platforms change and evolve so quickly. Because in engineering, generally, if you're not in the software side of things, things are pretty static. I mean, we're still using PowerCAD 5 for a lot of electrical load calculations. And that's been around for 10 years, a lot more than that. And it's still pretty much the standard, well, where we are anyway, in our neck of the woods. There's other tools out there, but yeah. So things move less quickly in different areas. And I think in engineering, because things move less quickly, I guess it's less of a problem. But there's also a lot less truly independent engineers for the reasons, not for those reasons, but for legal and insurance reasons. And that's another aspect I didn't consider. But in terms of independence, if you want to be truly independent as an engineer, and if you make a mistake or you're implicated in something that goes wrong, that litigation and insurance, it could cost you millions of dollars in litigation to fight. And it's a burden that most people either can't get insurance for or don't want to bear the risk of. You know, whereas software is relatively low risk. Like developing for iOS, for example, you know. 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I had this semi-regularly on-off discussion with my wife about whether or not you should listen to lyrics. Like, do you really want to see- If I get emotional about a song, you know, or I get really into a song or I say, I really love that song and so on and so forth, whatever reason, like lyrics, I listen to lyrics, it's really great, you know, and and she'll say to me, but I never listen to the lyrics. And I'm like, how can you not listen to the lyrics? I don't get it. I mean, the lyrics are there. They're spoken in English. Why not listen to them? But then, of course, I've asked other people. Turns out some people don't even bother listening to the lyrics. They don't even know what half the lyrics are. They don't care. And then you hear your son wandering around saying, "I like big butts and I cannot lie." And it's like, "What do you do?" And I'm like, "Alex, come on. No, do not sing that song in this." Anyway, whatever. Lyrics totally matter. I completely agree, Clinton. And anyway, I can't get no focus. Okay, so time to focus. Where were we? Job satisfaction, right. That's how I got into that tangent. The problem, the problem with job satisfaction, fundamentally, is I want to talk about it. But how can I talk about something that is mean something very, very different to every individual? What satisfies me in my job will not be the same thing, I pretty well guarantee, at least not exactly, that you find satisfying in a job, whatever that job may be. Yeah. And that's going to be different from what the people in the chat room feel as job satisfaction, which is going to be different to all the people listening to this podcast. Everyone's going to have their own checklist and say, you know, writing Word documents makes me happy. Who? I'm waiting to meet a person that says that. but maybe someone must somewhere, I think. Anyway, so I could list all of the things that make me happy about my job or my past jobs. Yeah, or you could list the things that you find satisfying about your job or past jobs. But that really, I don't think that that's really useful necessarily as a perspective, because anyone listening can simply ignore the detail and say, well, you know what, that's fine for John or Vic, but that doesn't apply to me because that's not really my thing. And that's exactly why I'm not going to attack this this way. Instead, I think it's more interesting to think about, talk about the elements that people tend to look at that are tangible and intangible. So maybe this makes sense, maybe it doesn't. So the first few I want to mention for the sake of completeness, but they're really not what I want to focus on. And geez, I started out the podcast that way. Let's see if I do better this time. It's obvious, isn't it? And that is money. Yeah. So I get satisfaction from money. And you know what? You can't write off money because more money equals better for most people. Ultimately, we then begin to spend up to whatever our new income is, and then we want more money. I mean, relatively few people that I've spoken to have ever reached a place where they are truly happy with their income until, well, even And then, I guess, until their working life is nearly over, right? They've paid off their house and they own everything and so on. And even then, sometimes they're still not happy, you know. Or, you know, and even people that are born into money or have come into money either through marriage or circumstances, you know what I mean? Even they're not happy. So, money, I'm not going to talk about it because you know what? It's one of those things, it's problematic. It's problematic so I don't talk about it. No, I guess what I mean is that I can't derive anything useful from that. So, except that I think that money should only be an element of the equation. Alright, lifestyle. That's the next one that I don't want to talk about, but I'll mention for the sake of completeness. Some jobs will give you different lifestyle freedoms that others don't. Simple examples, longer lunch breaks, flexible starting hours, flexible working days, Flexible working attire. Maybe you're like me and you can't stand wearing a suit or a collar and tie. And I can't stand wearing a collar and tie, by the way. I refer you to an article I wrote a while ago called "The Suit" on Tech Distortion. That Harry Marks really enjoyed and completely supported. Thumbs up. So the point is that I don't think that lifestyle is something that is equally possible to apply across as a generic point of discussion because what I think is useful and valuable is not useful to others some people will not have a job unless you wear a collar and tie because I don't think it's a serious job some people like to have the rigidity of you must be there at 8 a.m. you know if you're there two minutes five minutes late you're in deep trouble you don't leave until 5 p.m. not negotiable you know what I mean lunch is always between 12 and and 12.45. You know, some people like that, some people crave that. So it's not fair for me to say lifestyle in that respect. Plus, if you're working at home, that's a whole different set of lifestyles. You know, it's completely different. So I don't think that's worthy of going any further with. So I want to focus on the enjoyment sort of piece that sort of dovetails a bit into recognition. So with any job that you've got, that you may choose to reflect on, job satisfaction is really mostly driven by your enjoyment and enjoyment, I guess the flip side of enjoyment is your non-hatred, anti-hatred, what's the word? It's like, I will persist in this role because I hate it less than the last role that I had. - Tolerance. - Tolerance, yes, thank you. I have built up a tolerance to this job and therefore I shall continue doing it. I mean, it's sad, it's a horrible way of thinking about it, but honestly, it is the opposite of enjoyment. Because I don't see it as hatred, I see it as a, you know, you get a series of frustrations. So, you know, you enjoy the tasks on the whole that you do and that outweighs the things that annoy you. And when the annoying things outweigh what you enjoy, maybe that's time to move on. But anyway, so I honestly think that the enjoyment of your job has to do with affecting other people in a positive way. Now you know what, maybe there's gonna be people in the office, in the audience, or listeners right now that are just spat out their coffee, their drink, grinding their teeth, yelling into the, you know, yelling at me. And that's OK. And I don't care if it sounds douchey. Maybe it does sound douchey. If that's the wrong word, maybe it's not that much douchey. Maybe it's more that it sounds... I'm not trying to sound... Tell me how it sounds, Vic. What's the word I'm searching for? I don't think it sounds douchey. I think that's definitely too strong a word. It sounds like something an inspirational speaker would say. Cliché maybe? You know, cliché. Yes, thank you. It does sound cliché, fine. And I don't mean it to sound that way. And okay, so affecting other people. How do you know you affect other people in a positive way? Okay, you know you affect other people in a positive way through your feedback. And so that is how I'm going to break this down, is feedback. So the reason that I think that people stay in the jobs that they do, that they persist in the jobs that they do, they derive satisfaction from the work that they do, you cut it all out of the stuff that we've already sort of drawn a line under. I think a lot of it comes down to enjoyment driven by recognition, and that recognition comes from feedback. - Affirmation. - So I suppose, yeah. So you've got, there's, I suppose, different levels of recognition. So if you do a great job and it's not recognized in any way by anybody or by any system that exists in the company to recognize it, it's very disheartening. And I'm not talking about, "Oh God, have you ever worked in a..." I think you actually tell me that you have seen through this. Been in a place where the company gives you an award But everyone gets a turn Have you ever been in one of those sorts of roles? Where it's like this month. It's such-and-such. Why did they win it this month because I hadn't won it yet. It's been 12 months Yeah, it's their turn to win the award right What kind of an award is that? It's a token No kidding. Yeah, a very meaningless token. Here's my meaningless token award. You should now be now. Yeah participation award Thank you Clinton in the chat room. That's exactly what I'm talking about. It's That's not what I'm talking about I'm talking about being recognized specifically for what you do when you've done a great job when you've done a good job So I think that's that is a major driving factor between people quitting jobs, changing jobs, and giving up jobs is the fact that other people get recognition for work that they haven't done or they simply don't get recognition for the work that they have done. Yeah, whether it's recognized or unrecognized is a huge driver. Yeah. So how do you... Let's not also forget the places that only seem to recognize and acknowledge failures and setbacks and they don't really pay much attention to the positives. Absolutely. A negative feedback culture. Yeah. Where everything is, "Oh man, that sounds so management on me. Sorry." But yeah, it's a negative feedback. Oh, I said it again in negative feedback culture. Good God. Now what I mean is that, yeah, all the feedback that you're getting is essentially not reinforced. I've just realized that I've just reinstated my own, what I just said as the opposite of what I just said. Oh God. Explain something without using that word in your explanation. Anyhow, okay, I'm going to stop there and keep going. Recognition. More coffee, John. I just, I had the shot. Okay, hang on. Take a sip. Here we go. That's better. Now then, okay. Now, I just, you get that point where you're leaning on the shovel, you dig in a hole for yourself and you just realize it's time to stop digging a hole now. Move on. Keep on walking. Keep walking, which is the Johnny Walker thing. whiskey like whiskey recognition levels of recognition you can break it down I think and there's probably people that have done a better job of this maybe I don't know but as I was thinking about this today how would I break it down well recognition I guess comes from for me comes from three broad groups okay Peer group, perhaps that's the most obvious. People that, okay, hang on, mentors, and for the want of a better catch-all, and I'm not gonna say miscellaneous, but general public, shall we say. So peer group, I would define as those that are immediately surrounding you, and that could be either literally or figuratively. So in your field of expertise. So either the people that you work with on a day-to-day basis, you interact with them. Either they are part of your team in the organization you work for, or they're part of other teams within the organization you deal with on a daily basis, or even a weekly or monthly basis that you interact with. And that could be considered your literal peer group. It's also more figuratively in your field of expertise. So let's say it's another group of people that you work, that work in your organization to do the same kind of job you do, but a different department. So you don't normally interact with them, you don't normally talk with them. Or there's people that you meet outside, like let's say you go to a convention or something and there's fellow people of your fellow whatever particular discipline. And that is how I would define a peer group. And that's important because those peer group people, they know you specifically, they know you as an individual, they know the work that you've done. And specifically if they're in your field, they understand what you do better than the general public would. Now, I originally didn't have mentor, but I thought about it, but mentor recognition is also critically important as a category, because that comes from people from people in positions with great experience that are essentially mentors to people. You know, they're like teachers, lecturers, or they are high level senior technical professionals. They're people that not only are they your peer in terms of your field of expertise, but they are also your senior. and recognition from them is worth more because of that position. And then finally, general public, that's just pretty much everyone else. So honestly, I think, what do you think? Good breakdown? - I think so. - Any, yep, okay. So before we dig into that anymore, I just wanna quickly talk about our second sponsor for the episode. And that's Manitrix. 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Now that's just four of their great apps there's still five more to check out as well. Now all these apps have free trials you can download them from and try them out before you buy them. They're also available to buy from their respective pages on the site or through the Mac App Store. However if you visit that URL you can take advantage of a special discount off their very helpful apps exclusively for Pragmatic listeners. Simply use Pragmatic 25, that's Pragmatic the word and 25 the numbers in the discount code box in the shopping cart to receive 25% off. This offer is only available for Pragmatic listeners for a limited time so take advantage of it while you can. Thank you to ManyTricks for sponsoring Pragmatic. And I just want to add to that that I really do love Moom. I actually hadn't used Moom before Many Tricks sponsored the show. I used it as I was doing, as I was sort of researching a little bit for that ad read and honestly I fell in love with it. I use it now all day every day. That's cool. It is that cool. So you know how in Windows, like you drag a window to the top of the screen in Windows 7, Windows 8 and it snaps to the grate to like the whole screen or you can drag to the the side snaps to the side and so on. Well, imagine having it like a much more granular experience like you have a grid and you can literally move the window to a two by two square anywhere on the screen or a three by three square anywhere on your screen. And it'll automatically position it and size it just right to fit in that space. It's great. Anyway, okay. Where was I? Oh, that's right. We're talking about recognition. So the problem with recognition is it comes on a sliding scale and it gets diluted as the size of the organization increases. So I want to give you an example of how recognition gets diluted. And to illustrate the point, I'm going to quote four apps and some of the developers involved. I'm going to start smallest to biggest as in size of people involved to, you know, from smallest to biggest. Starting with Friend of the Show, Marco Arment and Overcast. So, next one on our list is Napkin by Friend of the Show, Guy English and Chris Parrish. Vesper is the next one by Brent Simmons, Dave Whiskas and John Gruber, we're up to three. So, with Overcast, there's no question that the app's characteristics belong solely with Marco. Louis Manti is known to have made the icon, but you know, for Overcast, but ultimately, most other success, failure, recognition lands with Marco. No doubt, no confusion, crystal clear. Now, with Napkin, guided certain parts, Chris did other parts, becomes a team effort, and that's fine, but now any recognition is split between them. Equally, not equally, doesn't matter. That's cool. Dynamic duo, no problemo. Now with Vesper, it's known that John Greer was involved as a director. Dave as the designer and Brent as the programmer. Decisions were split between them collaboratively. And again, they're a team. And as such, the attribution and recognition is as well. I'm going to get into the debate over who did what and why, but already you start to see You're adding more people to the team. It's a committee. The recognition. Well, yes, it is a committee, but the recognition now is spread across those people. It's no longer directly attributed to an individual. So the flip side of that is how do you perceive that? How do you perceive relative recognition if you are in that team? But the way I want to round out that list of four, I said four apps. Well, the fourth one, and you can cringe whenever you're ready, is Microsoft Excel. Oh, I know. God, I love Excel. So, here's the thing, how many hundreds of people do you think have worked on the code base of Excel in the past 25 years? Now, I'm betting it's a lot. Right? Yeah. Now, here's a question for you. Who was the lead designer of Excel originally? Who was the lead designer? I have no idea. Anybody got any ideas? I'm going to throw this over to the chat room. Anybody? Who was the lead designer of Excel? Do not search Google because there is an answer in Google. I would imagine somebody shot him by now. What? How... Sacrilege, how dare you? Shoot you in a minute. Excel is awesome. I use Excel a lot and I like it for what it's worth, but... Don't get me wrong, I've really warmed up to numbers. It is my favorite of the Office applications. Oh, gotcha. Absolutely. Word. I have very little patience for words. Word styles, I could happily burn and jump on and throw into a black hole and then fire a missile at it as well, just to make absolutely sure. OK, so the chat room has come up blank. We have suggestions. Wasn't it Joel? Then we have Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates. No, no, and no, unfortunately, I'm sorry. So, Douglas. I think it's pronounced Klunder, it could be pronounced Klunder. He was the original lead designer of Excel. Never heard of him? Good, because I hadn't either. Because the problem is that the more people you add to a team, the product ceases to be about the person, it becomes about the team or the company or the organisation. So, when people download something like Overcast, I'd say a percentage of them would know who Marco is, but most people would know Marco as the guy behind Overcast, let's say. The more people you add, the more difficult the story gets, the more spread out recognition becomes. So anyway, just for the heck of it, because I'm, I guess, vain, I don't know. I searched on Google to see if there was any reference at all to me, as in me, John Chidjie, being the lead software engineer on the Northern Pipeline Interconnector, which I sometimes talk about on the show, which is a big project that I did a few years ago, five years Now apart from being referenced in two LinkedIn profiles and that's hardly trustworthy source of information I mean who would trust that John Chi Chi guy he's a liar so there's nothing apart from two LinkedIn references yeah one of them on my profile one of them on someone else's profile that was associated with the project. So I'm nobody to the world and yet the code that the code that I designed, the blocks that I wrote, the SCADA and the telemetry system that I designed and wrote some of, well SCADA I wrote a lot of it, that carries water to over a million people in Southeast Queensland and no one knows who I am but you know what that's okay that's fine with me I'm not looking for recognition for a million people drinking the water besides because I realize that I am just a small cog and we'll get to this in a minute. The recognition from the general public. And that's the point, that's where I'm going with this is those are examples of public recognition. I'm OK with peer recognition, you know, and I have enough of that as a result of different projects that I've worked on. People that I've worked with that appreciate what I've done, that know that I've worked hard, that I've done a good job and that I think that's enough. And I think that the developers, I mean, I can't speak for these other people, OK? I can't even the couple of them that have been on the show, I'm not going to speak for them. You know, and honestly, I'm I am very sure that they have had a lot of recognition and respect from their peers for the for the for the apps that they've written. I mean, I can't confirm that, but I'm relatively sure that they've had a lot of recognition based on what I can glean from different conference conferences that they've spoken at and the respect that I see shown for them on Twitter and, you know, occasionally on that's dead now. You know what I mean? So the peer recognition that they get, I think, and then I get is actually what matters. But if you want to know what they think, obviously, you'll have to ask them. But this is about you, not me and not them. So here's the thing. You want to be an independent developer, an independent design, independent engineer, whatever, because do you want sole or primary recognition for what you do and create from the general public or just from your peer group. It doesn't even matter at all. But be honest with yourself, because I think if any part of you does, that's probably OK, but that shouldn't be the reason, you shouldn't let that guide you. It can be a component, just like the money and everything else, but it should not be the sole reason, the last straw, shouldn't be any of that. Yeah. You know what I mean? But I do think that public recognition is way overrated. And yeah, I think that that is a dangerous path that peer recognition is what counts. So let's assume, okay, moving down to COGS because I want to talk about COGS. Why? I know I'm an electrical engineer, I'm going to talk about COGS. COGS is mechanical engineering, whatever. Assume there's a machine you want to build, not a literal machine, just something big. Draw a box, imagine a box and there is a machine. Fixed size doesn't matter but you know, whatever. And there's a a bunch of gears and cogs that make this machine work. And you can design it any way you like. You can be a small cog in a series of small cogs and bigger cogs to make the machine work. Or you can choose to be a smaller machine and you can be the big cog in there. And that's the expression, right? So I think it's okay to be a small cog in a big machine. Just as much as it is okay to be a big cog in a small machine. If you run your own, if you are your own developer and you're running your own project, you're doing your own thing. But here's the trap, OK? Here's the thing. There are only 24 hours in a day. You cannot be the big cog in a big machine that you are making because it's just you. Yeah. Your time limits how big a machine you can build. You want to be the big cog in your big machine. You cannot do that. You have to rely on other things to build your big thing They become dependencies, they become interdependencies And that's a problem because then you're dependent, you're not independent So you have to, you limit yourself by the scale So a little bit more about scale then Let's say AppX by indie developer Y gets a quarter million downloads Doesn't matter which app, let's just say it does We'll assume that all the people that download it actually use the app. Now, how many people know developer Y's name? I'm betting it's less than half. We'll introduce you as developer X, you know, not by your name. Otherwise, how would we know who you are? Yeah. Now we're going to transplant the same awesome, talented developer into Microsoft Excel's team. Now they're working on pivot table code. Pivot tables, baby. Oh, yeah. That's about as much as I can pimp pivot tables. I got nothing left. So developer Y now quote unquote worked on Excel or worked on the Excel team. Here's the thing though, it, that actually affects millions of people. Yeah. Quarter million downloaded their app. Millions of people use Excel every single day, all around the world using pivot tables. Well, you know, maybe they're using pivot tables, but you know, for example, I mean, I, okay, I picked a random feature. You pick your own feature of Excel that they worked on. It doesn't matter. So illustrative exercise. I like macros and VBA. Fine, they were the macro VBA person. There you go. They made Vic happy. Yeah, that's so and I love VBA. That's the redeeming thing that keeps me using Excel over numbers. Yeah, that's it. So you may be a smaller cog, but you're affecting the lives of a lot more people in a hopefully positive way. People that hate on Excel, go ahead, hate on Excel and say it's actually dragging the world down It isn't, but you know, I know there are people out there that think that and that's fine It's okay, you can hate on Excel, I am happy with your hate, it's all good But, you see the difference, right? If you take that public recognition off the table and you're only interested in the peer recognition I think you're going to find that it's actually much the same If you work for yourself and you're an independent developer or whatever else you're going to end up with a very similar level of peer recognition if you're good at what you do as you're going to get working in a large organization. I don't think that you're going to get much any extra satisfaction from that especially if you make something that people like I mean mind you if you work for a big company and you do stuff that other people don't like you're not going to get recognition there either. It comes down to caring. If you care working for for a big organisation, you've got a better chance of having peer recognition and you do a good job than if you were to work for yourself. It's about your attitude, it's about how you approach it. Yeah. And that's it. To me, that's the best part. And that is where a lot of the argument, I think no one talks about it. Now, maybe it's not worth talking about and I'm wasting my time. I don't think so, though. I think that this is just an aspect that people do not explore I do not understand why they don't think about it Maybe, is it because it's considered too vain to want recognition? Is it considered, it's not, it's like it's a bad thing For you to want other people's positive feedback Like that's somehow something to be discouraged You know, like, oh, you're so needy Yeah, there's a stigma attached to it in a lot of environments and cultures. Yeah, it's like you should come with a balance in your psyche such that you do not require any positive feedback because you are supremely confident in your capability. But hang on, that makes you arrogant, that's also bad. So I don't get it because I mean, like anything, I'm sure it's a balance between having some self-confidence and then relying on some form of feedback and recognition in order to you know well I guess seeking validation I guess if you rely on recognition for validation solely then that could be problematic so maybe that's it is that that people will take it to the extreme and say well I'm sorry but all forms of wanting recognition is a bad thing and I'm not sure it is but if you are looking to make a career choice solely based on the fact that you're not getting the recognition that you like maybe you need to reset your expectations and think about what sort of recognition you're really looking for and if you're and if you're sticking it to the man or whatever in your job because you've had a bad day that's not what I'm talking about I'm talking about like a long-term thing if you're stuck in a job and you don't like that job and you've got issues with your boss or your peers or whatever else you know fine get out and do something but I mean if you're gonna do something drastic like completely change and go indie and do your own thing that's a massive leap and my word of caution would be don't expect to get better recognition because that does not come with that territory necessarily and if recognition truly is the thing that drives a lot of people and I honestly believe that it is even if it's just a little bit doesn't have to be a lot. I suppose the amount varies depending on the individual. But still, then reconsider it's maybe it's just the company you're working for. It's not working for the man, it's working for this specific individual or working for this specific individual company. That's the problem. Or your role within the company is a bad fit. And that's that's, I mean, that's a management expression. Yeah. Oh, they're a good fit. They're a bad fit. And it's one of the management expressions I like because it actually expresses in a non-judgmental way the issue is that there is a lock, it needs a key and you as a key do not fit that lock and therefore it does not work Doesn't mean it's a bad thing, doesn't mean that you are bad at everything It just means that you don't fit. That's OK There are other parts of an organisation where you can fit And I've been fortunate enough to work with some managers that understand this I've also been unfortunate that I've worked with other managers that do not understand this. That say, "Just because you don't fit, you suck, you're gone. You get no recognition, you get negative feedback, you're gone. No job satisfaction." At which point, you're happy to go. Mind you, that doesn't happen to me very often, but it has happened. Not when I was let go though. I jumped before I was pushed. But anyway. So, what do you think? Bit of a weird topic? No. I think a lot of people spend a lot of time thinking about these things and they don't necessarily discuss them. Okay, I think we might wrap it up. We got some questions for the Q&A, which we'll come back to afterwards. So, after the show, listen after the outro music and there'll be some Q&A. So, if you would like to talk more about this, you can reach me on Twitter @JohnChidji, I'll spell that for you, that's J-O-H-N-C-H-I-D-G-E-Y, and you can check out my writing at Now if you would like to send any feedback, please use the feedback form on the website, that's where you'll also find the show notes of this episode under podcasts pragmatic. Now remember, if there are topics that you would like me to talk about, you can suggest and vote on them at once you sign up for a free account at It's live now, go check it out. You can also follow Pragmatic Show on Twitter to see show announcements and other related materials. I'd also like to thank my co-host, Vic Hudson, for being on the show. And what's the best way for people to get in touch with you, Vic? - They can find me on Twitter @vichudson1, that's V-I-C-H-U-D-S-O-N, the number one. Because Vic is number one. Yes. Damn straight. Also, because somebody else already had Vic Hudson. Shh, shh. You're not supposed to tell them that. I don't know. I am the alpha. You are the alpha. Vic Hudson won. Oh, dear. Okay, fantastic. Glad we got that sorted. Okay. A final thank you to our two sponsors for the show. I'd like to thank for sponsoring Pragmatic. If there's anything you'd like to learn about and you're looking for an easy and affordable way to learn, then can help you out. Instantly stream thousands of courses created by experts in the fields of business, software, web development, graphic design, and lots more. Visit to get a free seven day trial. If you've ever wanted to learn something new, what are you waiting for? And I'd also like to thank ManyTricks once again for sponsoring Pragmatic. If you're looking for some Mac software that can do many tricks, remember specifically visit this URL for more information about their amazingly useful apps and use the discount code pragmatic25. That's pragmatic, the word and 25 the numbers for 25% off the total price of your order. Hurry, it's only for a limited time. I know I keep saying it, they are extending it because you guys are awesome. So use it while you can. And that's it. So thanks everybody for listening. [MUSIC PLAYING] (upbeat music) (upbeat music) [MUSIC PLAYING] (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ So, Tristan Lostrow in the chat room asks, how does this apply, or how do I think this applies for stay-at-home mums and dads. So I think that for me I have not been a stay-at-home dad for more than a month at a time. My wife had a few c-sections where she was out of action for a reasonable amount of time recovering after the surgery and I opted to take a month off of work. Some of that was was unpaid because the laws were not particularly flexible with regards to paid paternity leave at the time. Things in Australia have changed since then, which is great. Unfortunately, at the time, it was not the case. Alas, anyhow. So I can only give you my perspective from my time during those month periods of which there were three. I've also had other times when my wife's been out of commission for surgery where I've effectively been a stay-at-home parent for a period of time. It is not the same thing as doing it as a full-time job day in, day out, all year long. I understand that. Put my hand up, I get it. However, I think that the recognition that you get from your children is the feedback that you seek because ultimately they will repay you in ways that no paying job ever could and no reward system ever could. Now if you don't have children maybe it's harder to get your head around and I really hate this expression "you don't understand if you don't have blah" right like people can't understand if you don't have kids what it's like to have kids and I find that terribly dismissive and I don't want to say that I don't like saying that I I think, honestly, I think it's easy enough for people to appreciate that if you're doing something for a volunteer organisation or as a volunteer thing, then the recognition that you seek is the people that you're volunteering for and having children is a bit like that, is that you're sort of, you're working for them and doing things for them and expecting nothing in return. Well, that's kind of a form of volunteering. And frankly, that sort of work, they say that that some time volunteering, volunteer work is its own reward. And the point is that the recognition you get is the satisfaction of the people you're helping by volunteering. Okay, so Tristan also asks, what is the biggest platform change you've had to deal with? In professionally, what I've done is I've changed companies where I've been predominantly supporting one kind of PLC using Semantic Manager, and then I've had to learn very quickly a completely different PLC that's done in a completely different way. Although the languages were similar, the packages themselves were in fact very, very different in how they functioned. And it was extremely steep learning curve, very unforgiving project, very hard deadlines, really not a pleasant experience. And honestly, I think a lot of what you feel when you learn a new tool is you're so used to all the foibles and little niches and little things about the old tool that you get very frustrated and you're like "Oh Jesus sucks, it's terrible" Truth is, it's not. It's actually not too bad. Problem is that you're still learning it So what do you do? You just, you bag it I don't know how many people can relate to that but in any case Yeah, I mean it sucks, but you got to deal with it and sometimes you know what else can you do? Okay last question Also from Tristan asking a lot of questions There are actually plenty of other people in the chat room, but Tristan's asking all the questions tonight, and that's okay So what is currently at the top of your list for job satisfaction? And I think this would be a good question for me and for you to answer actually Vic So I'd like you to answer that one first if you'd like Give me a few minutes to think about it. Oh, that is such a cop-out fine I need a minute to think you've had minutes to think okay. You didn't expect me to throw it at you fine, okay? I'll I'll feel this one first then but I'll splice it in back to front so it sounds like you answer now I'm gonna do that couldn't be bothered, okay What's currently my list of for job satisfaction that is actually a really good question The problem I've got is that what I'm looking for is a generic thing that I don't know if it's going to be a satisfying answer. But I'll say it anyway, okay. So I've thought about it. The one thing at the top of my list is I want to be able to influence the organization and move it in a positive direction. And that's what I look for in job satisfaction. And at the moment, I'm working on a massive project. And I mean huge. It's a multiple billion dollar project. I kid you not about the numbers. And yeah, okay, it's Australian dollars. But you know what? Australian dollars really aren't that different from US dollars. The exchange rate's not that bad. So if I'm working on a project and the SCADA system has issues and I've got to be careful how much I talk about because this is my current employer and I have restrictions on what I'm allowed to talk about, what I'm not. So I'll have to be vague about certain things and the specifics. But the issue is that the SCADA needs improvements and Where I get my job satisfaction at the moment is I am able to influence aspects of that and I improve the SCADA. The SCADA is used by dozens and dozens of people. Now in an organization with 50,000 people working for it, you may say a few dozen people, big deal. They're my peers. This is what I was talking about. They are people that use the product that I am influencing. the product that I'm not creating. This is the first time I've worked in a role where I have not been the one doing the programming, but I've been the one solely guiding it and solely, not really guiding it, but, you know, critiquing it, doing quality assurance on it and pushing through improvements. First time for me. And man, that comes with a whole bunch of different set of responsibilities and frustrations, I'll tell you now. So yes, Clinton in the chat room says, I want to feel like I'm making a difference. Yeah, I do. I want to know that what I'm doing is having a positive impact on other people's lives in that company, when they're at work at that company. Okay. And I derive job satisfaction from that. And that's a bit generic. I don't think it's a cop out. I think that... No, I don't think so. Yeah, I think that it's the I think that that I guess extols some of the virtues of what I was discussing in the show Although the funny thing is I didn't start from that and work backwards So maybe I did subconsciously without realizing it but in any case yeah, so you've had a chance to think Vic. What's your answer? Yeah, all right. I think I'm ready. Okay. We're gonna we're gonna disregard my my JLB day job in the warehouse because aside from a paycheck, honestly, I don't get a terrible amount of satisfaction out of that And that's what we're gonna we're gonna disregard that and we're gonna look at this from the perspective of making apps which is what I'd really like to do full-time and make a living from but uh Okay, so I don't have any aspirations to like owning any market categories or being at the top of the stack and the top app That does X or Y or Z? Much like you in a lot of ways I really like making utility apps and things like that and I want to make apps that I feel like People use regularly and it actually makes a difference for them or make something that they need to do a little easier It makes a positive impact in their day or their routine or their life or whatever. They'd be using my thing to manage it for Obviously if I've made enough money from that so that I could quit the day job. That would be great. But Mainly, I just I want to make something that people can use and that actually makes them easier to accomplish Whatever the task is that I made it to do Excellent Well, that's fair enough. I mean if and the thing is that I've been I Haven't done that. I know a lot of people would would expect an app developer to say, you know I want to be number one at this or that on the App Store, but you would have realistic is that And there's even if you make it there's there's a lot of pressure with that and there's a lot of expectation that comes with that absolutely. Absolutely right. No I agree I agree and I think that it's a lot of scrutiny that comes with that yeah and it's a realistic expectation I mean we talked I talked with Russell about this in this the episode shop windows. Shopfront when I saw the size right it's it's it's a very competitive market It's a very small window for advertising your your wares So having the expectation of being the best or the top of you know and so on is a is an unrealistic expectation I? think So it's best to be Really good at for a niche a small group of people that really love what you do, and you've made their lives better and I think that or more efficient or more enjoyable Yeah, and if you satisfy those things, yeah, I totally get that and I think that's that's brilliant [8-bit music]
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Vic Hudson

Vic Hudson

Vic is the host of the App Story Podcast and is the developer behind Money Pilot for iOS.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

Described as the David Attenborough of disasters, and a Dreamy Narrator with Great Pipes by the Podfather Adam Curry.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.