Stories about Software


Whiteboard Interviews: How to Avoid Them and Improve Your Career

As I mentioned last Friday, I’ve lost track of the number of folks who have shared Michael Lynch’s piece about quitting Google with me.  I suppose I should expect that, since I often rail against hiring practices that people associate with Google and similar companies.  This includes the titular whiteboard interviews, of course.  And, for good measure, I’ve even written a book in which I suggest simply not agreeing to do this style of interview.

Interestingly enough, though, I don’t have anything in particular against Google at all.  Nor do I have anything against its contemporaries, all of whom I am coming to think of as Enterprise Silicon Valley, given their legacy of innovation combined with their increasing resemblance more to the IBMs and GMs of the world than the hottest new startups.  I wouldn’t agree to interview at these companies, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them.  I mean, I like Chrome and Gmail and have an Android phone — keep pluggin’ away, guys.

I’ll even go so far as to say I don’t begrudge companies using whiteboard interviews nor do I think that it’s a bad idea for them to do so, in some cases. 

But I’ll come back to the nuance of that later, leaving a dangling question of my hypocrisy until I do.  In the meantime, I want to share a tweet and a story of my own failure to follow up on messaging.

A Twitter Conversation about Breaking into Software

Amid my (now often overwhelming, sorry to anyone who tweets at me and I don’t see it) mentions on Twitter, I noticed this one from a few days ago:

That’s true.  In the part of Developer Hegemony where I explain my take on the path to, well, developer hegemony, I offer that advice.  Simply refuse to do whiteboard interviews.  Define and manage your career in such a way that you don’t need to do them.

The book covers a lot of ground, so I don’t place a ton of detailed emphasis on that point.  But I think that I should have followed up with some content that did.

Zoom out and look at the conversation.

Melissa’s tweet comes in response to someone named Daniel asking about resources for breaking into the programming world.  He appears to be attempting to synthesize the advice of people in that world, concluding that, no matter what, breaking in requires knowledge of “data structures [and] algos.”

I’ll leave it as a reader exercise to consider whether entry level work banging out forms-over-data web apps requires theoretical computer science experience.

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The Mercenary’s Guide to Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Look at that!  It’s Monday and I’m actually doing reader question Monday.  Just kidding.  Once again, I’m doing reader question Monday on a Tuesday.  In fact, I am going to pull the trigger on switching it to Tuesday going forward.  My wife and I are experimenting with a 4 day week that would make Tuesday the new Monday for us.  Also, for those of you interested in blogging advice, Tuesday is a better day to publish posts, anyway.

Enough of This!  What’s The Question?

Alright, housekeeping aside, let’s get down to brass tacks.

Do you have advice for helping one answer the age old question, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” At what point is it time to throw in the towel and move on?

I don’t want to be a quitter and always have regret that I missed out on the company becoming an awesome place six months after leaving. Yet, I don’t want to waste six months of my life and career on hopes and opportunities that never manifest into reality.

I’m well aware the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and all companies have problems. However, in today’s developer advantaged job market, when is it time to change one’s attitude from “I can make a difference” to “Not my problem anymore”?

Thanks for writing and publishing such thought provoking content. I really enjoy reading your articles; even though you write faster than I can read 🙂

Well, first of all, thanks for the kind words!  Failing to create enough volume of content has never been a problem for me, to be sure.

I Have Biases, So Let’s Get Those Out of the Way

Now, before writing this post, I need to address something.  I have, in the past, written posts encouraging you to job hop, saying that you should always be leaving, and that you take jobs already thinking of your exit strategy.  I also wrote a book with an entire part devoted to the merits of viewing the very existence of a company as a limiting illusion.  So there’s that.

I mention this because you need to understand where I’m coming from with my advice.

This isn’t to say that I can’t conceptualize enjoying being part of a larger whole or regarding a company as a potentially benevolent entity.  It’s more that I would tend to view those things as creature comforts that conflict with career advancement.  For people looking to get ahead, I wouldn’t recommend a company collectivist attitude.

That said, I’ll do my best to put aside my own preferences and beliefs.  Just know what those are as you read: I’m a mercenary and a lone wolf and, when it comes to jobs, a quitter.

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DaedTech Digest: Muscle Cars, Dark Launches and Logging Basics

Welcome to yet another edition of DaedTech Digest Friday.  I bring this edition to you from a hotel in Detroit instead of an ocean-front condo in San Diego because, as it turns out, I’m insane.

Actually, I’m just doing a quick consultation and codebase assessment for the week.  And coming to Detroit to do that may or may not make me insane.

If you were a reader of this blog last spring and summer, you might remember that I’d left this lifestyle.  Instead of spending 5+ nights per week in hotels and doing high-touch management consulting, I built location independent businesses.  Well, that’s still true, but the consultative end of that does involve occasional and focused travel.

So here I am, having flown for the first time in 9 months (wow), dusting off the traveling lifestyle.  The Marriott I’m staying in has a revamped bathroom with in-shower shampoo dispenses.  But besides that, same old stuff.


  • Going with the travel theme, I’m going to offer a dual pick of Hertz and the Dodge Charger.  Apparently, I still have pretty good status with Hertz because I reserved the cheapest rate for the week and they pointed me out at a group of cars in the “President’s Circle” and said, “go nuts, buddy.”  So I picked out a V8 Dodge Challenger.  Not only is it fast and muscle-car-y, but it handles really well in the snow.
  • Someone I’m working with this week showed me this awesome thing: “ag, the silver searcher.”  It’s like issuing a recursive grep with a regex from the Bash command line, but without the need for any flags, and it’s an order of magnitude faster.  You won’t be sorry.
  • And, finally, a former Google engineer named Michael Lynch posted this, explaining why he quit.  It’s a pretty eye-opening read about how even supposed destination employers have their own Dilbert-esque piles of bureaucratic facepalm.


Have a good weekend, and thanks for reading.


Learn from My Mistakes: Applied Positioning and Specialty Lessons

I’ve talked a lot about how not to position yourself lately.  Last week, I suggested you not do it by tech stack of framework or whatever.  And before that, I suggested you not do it by being a laborer.  In general, I’ve talked a lot about positioning lately.

But all of the talk has been pretty abstract.  Let’s switch it up today and get concrete.

Up to this point, I’ve thrown out off-the-cuff examples, like becoming “the build expert” or something.  Some of you have asked for more tangible, specific examples.  And I can actually think of no better way to offer those examples than by wandering through my own career, looking for them.

Of course, I didn’t figure all this stuff out until quite recently.  So these are all “road not taken” kind of examples, and that’s why I’m titling this post “learn from my mistakes.”  Here are all the times that current Erik would have told past Erik to recognize opportunity knocking.

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DaedTech Digest: Facebook, Dev Tools Bundles and Culture

Happy Digest Friday, readers!  As the US lurches toward an inflection point on the “I can’t believe this is necessary” subject of how not to regularly gun down its own children, I’ve been heads down dealing with logistics.  My own issues seem downright petty next to that one, but nevertheless they’re mine, and I’ve had to deal with them.

As mentioned last Friday, I’ve navigated the back end of the site migration which, hopefully, is resulting in a much better browsing experience for all of you.  Traffic is way up and Moz is reporting no more 5xx errors, so something must be going well.  Besides that, I’ve booked some short term travel (Rosarito this weekend and possibly Detroit next week) as well as our next extended stay after San Diego: Phoenix, AZ.  Oh, and also, you know, the regular business of running businesses.

But even with a lot going on and several 12+ hour workdays this week, we did manage to sneak in another opportunity to enjoy the incredible San Diego scenery.  Here’s the view from only partway up Cowles Mountain.  You can see the downtown area off to the right and Mexico to the left.

The digital nomad life certainly has its perks.  Anyway, let’s do some picks and posts.


  • First up, I threw together a small update to our codebase assessment business’s site.  It’s very much a work in progress, but it’s coming along thanks, in part, to Librestock, which is my pick.  If you need free, no strings attached photos, they’re pretty awesome.
  • For Hit Subscribe, I’ve been working on a little application to manage gathering performance metrics for blogs and to manage posts.  As part of this, I need to make use of the Trello API from a C# codebase.  If you need to do this, give Manatee.Trello a look.  It wraps the Trello API in a discoverable domain model that’ll make you think “Linq to Trello.”
  • My final pick is the professional and talented crew of authors we’ve assembled at Hit Subscribe.  I’m writing only a fraction of the client blog posts now, and focusing on building the business, because they’re doing as well as or better than I could do myself.  If you’re looking for good reading material, give them a follow!

The Digest

Have a good weekend, all!