Archive for category: Career

It's hard out there for a generalist Oct 20, 2017

Want to get the best opportunities? Better commit to a specialty

Every single day, the news overflows with doom and gloom: politics is a disaster, people are at war, the gap between the rich and the poor is higher than ever, and everything is just generally awful. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. And yet reality is very different: fewer people live in poverty than ever before, more and more people have the ability to benefit from the modern world's conveniences, and many seemingly-intractable problems are being solved.

Modern life is quietly the best it's ever been for many people, and yet there is in fact something we're losing: breadth of knowledge and ability.

History is full of praise for the "Renaissance men," who painted, wrote poetry, read all the books, studied the sciences and had tremendous impact on their societies, but these men (and similarly gifted women who, for many complex and often unjust reasons, are not as well-remembered in history) demonstrate just one aspect of the generalist knowledge that abounded in historical society: that of the comfortably well-off.

Lots of people had a broad set of skills, though: societies were smaller, and while towns had the butcher, the cobbler and the tailor, each person was capable of a wide range of tasks and possessed a surprising variety of knowledge. Most importantly, as a percentage of the sum of skills and knowledge that existed at the time, folks generally knew quite a bit, even if they only knew the basics.

How things have changed!


Coming up next Jul 16, 2016

On jobs that click, and leaving them

When I started as a PM at Microsoft in mid-May seven years ago, I thought to myself, "well, I guess I'll give this a shot for a year, and if I don't like it, I have a 'Plan B' to go work abroad through AIESEC." And if I did like it, I figured I'd put in a couple of years before figuring out my next steps.

Well, it turned out that I did like it, and a "couple of years" rapidly became the better part of a decade. Why? Because I was lucky enough to find a job that clicked for me. And yet, after all this time, and even though both my family and some of my friends think I'm a bit crazy, yesterday was my last day at Microsoft.


Talking at work Aug 4, 2015

Want a team to communicate well? Talk to groups at least 80% of the time

The rise of Slack and similar chat services is, in many ways, changing the way teams communicate at work. Day-to-day conversations are increasingly moving from the stagnant, high-overhead world of email to light-weight chat. I find this evolution incredibly exciting, and I think many companies and teams are benefiting tremendously from these changes. But most teams? Well, they never knew how to communicate in the first place. And Slack can't magically fix the fundamental flaws that make bad teams remain bad teams.

Poor communication

How do you know a team is bad at communicating?

My experience is that if you've ever been on a team that has healthy communications and you suddenly find yourself on a bad one, it'll be painfully and overwhelmingly apparent. But I suspect quite a few people haven't had that good fortune, and believe a team with stunted communication channels is actually the norm.

Here are some pretty safe indicators that you're on a team that doesn't know how to communicate:


Keep your identity broad Apr 2, 2012

Or, figuring out what I want to be when I grow up

In Jostein Gaarder's remarkable novel "about the history of philosophy," Sophie's World, the plot kicks off with the title character receiving an anonymous postcard in the mail, asking a seemingly simple question: "Who are you?"

The simplicity is, of course, a deception. It often seems the more important something is, the more difficult it is to articulate, not to mention fully understand and apply. This is true of everything from scientific concepts, where the theories that come closest to explaining...


Accomplishments require action with intent Jan 4, 2010

I took a roughly two-week vacation this holiday season. It was my first real vacation since starting my job back in May, and the first time that I ran out of reasons to push off reflecting on how my life has changed since leaving college and, perhaps more significantly, leaving AIESEC.

While I have a number of reasons to be happy with my year, my self-evaluation was mixed, largely because of one reason: I found myself falling back into an old, familiar trap. I've been fighting it for much of...


Little things Mar 23, 2009

Today I found out that an email I forwarded after giving it about 30 seconds of thought was one of the reasons that contributed to a friend applying for a year-long super cool leadership position in AIESEC Southern Cone.

Yet another reminder of the power of tiny actions that ripple out and have surprising effects. I don't for one second take full, or even majority, credit for her decision. I just know that I'm proud to have played a role, however small.

It makes me think: what can each of us...