Do No Harm

I think of the great minds in IT as purveyors of possibility and occasionally myth busters. So I was stunned to see someone in that upper echelon of excellence — perpetuating a myth that poisons the atmosphere of possibility.

What I witnessed is just a symptom of our culture in decline — in its unquenchable thirst to win without a notion of consequence in how you conduct yourself.

When I sent out my thank-you note to those who helped me attain my MCSE, I was met with courtesy and congratulations.

Imagine being with met with the quote that soon follows instead. Paul Randal’s How valuable are certifications? has elements of the same sentiment as the post I object to — but it’s at the other end of the spectrum of professionalism.

Paul’s piece is a hallmark of measured argument — a sincere effort to accurately inform and draw attention to a problem.

This bit below is crap from someone whose words carry weight. In the glorification of his ego, he takes no responsibility for the damage they do.

If you feel the same about certifications, fine — just don’t make the problem worse than it already is. By all means, tell the truth — but be mindful of the manner in which you do it.

I maintain my immense respect for Brent Ozar’s stellar skills and efforts to serve the industry.

But I was appalled by what I found the morning his 20th anniversary post popped into my inbox. And it wasn’t just his destructive words, but the suffocating atmosphere of people all too eager to go along.

This crowd — they’re not satisfied with just doing less, they wanna $#*% it up for those who want to do more. You do your thing, I do mine — and we’re all fine.

But no, you wanna be part of the parade to celebrate your scorn of others’ achievement.

Promoting sarcasm doesn’t strike me as something that a member of a community of masters would deem a virtue.

I’ve had colleagues whose sarcasm came coated in charm — I even looked forward to their wisecracks at my expense. One of ’em has such razor-sharp wit that I called him the Atomic Clock of Comedy — for his consistency in making people laugh.

There’s a nastiness in your brand, Brent — and it’s perplexing that you would let the beauty of your work be tainted by such ugliness.

I’m not a fan of anything that makes it easier for people to summarily dismiss an opposing point of view. That’s a surefire way to develop bad habits.

This nation needs an attitude adjustment — so we can start working on these habits:

Look around — that’s what this site is all about. That’s what all my sites are about.

Microsoft’s certifications have been a waste of your time and money for years. They’ve changed the certification paths, branding, and names so many times that there’s no market awareness and no value to your career. The only time you should invest your precious time in those is if your company is picking up the tab, they allow you to study during work hours, and they require the cert. Those certs are just garbage, and they’re not going to become the next hot commodity. You’re not suddenly going to be an in-demand professional just because you crammed and got some irrelevant cert.

I was well aware of that attitude long before I pursued certifications, and I’m reminded of it regularly with the casual disregard they get. But it’s poppycock like the post above that cemented that perception in the first place.

And the cultlike self-congratulations in commentary was as predictable as day and night — slinging snippets of certitude in doubt-free delight.

Since some people cram for certifications, why not assume everybody does?

Never mind the number of nights I spent beating my head against the wall with real-world problems in pursuit of my DBA certification (doing things that some actual DBAs will never do).

The joy of the demands and revelations they rendered was all the reward I need. At no point did I concern myself with being “suddenly in demand” for achieving a “hot commodity.”

Quite the contrary, as that certification was about to be retired.

Oh well, that’s life and things change — that’s the deal.

I didn’t like Microsoft abandoning the program to push their role-based route, but they did me a favor with their fixed deadline. Instead of crying foul and falling back on the “why bother since things change?” bit — I saw opportunity knocking, and welcomed it right in.

I amassed an immense amount of knowledge because I had a timeline and something to measure myself by.

And the more I learned, the deeper I dug — even as the window was narrowing.

Accountability is key — which is another thing that’s abysmally lacking almost everywhere you look these days. I love how these people peddle their pearls of wisdom as they rationalize their intellectual laziness.

They want it now and they want it for free — and anyone outside their echo chamber is a fool for taking the long view.

It doesn’t occur to them that a mix of resources (free and paid) — might be more efficient and far less costly than they think. Smartly advancing your skills might lead to more money sooner — which would easily cover the investment.

Just a thought!

Then again, I thought I’d shown up at a forum for professionals, not Facebook.

And make no mistake: A good bit of this bashing business is a convenient excuse by people who don’t have the discipline and commitment it takes to attain what they smugly mock.

Putting aside the pros who earned their attitude (however much I object) — Theodore Dalrymple’s line below captures the credentials of the crowd that wants to have their cake and eat it too:

opinions lightly adopted but firmly held . . . forged from a combination of ignorance, dishonesty, and fashion

Life at the Bottom

By late summer of 1756 Adams had made up his mind about the future. . . . Beholding the night sky, “the amazing concave of Heaven sprinkled and glittering with stars,” he was “thrown into a kind of transport” and knew such wonders to be the gifts of God, expressions of God’s love. But greatest of all, he wrote, was the gift of an inquiring mind.

“But all the provisions that He has [made] for the gratification of our senses . . . are much inferior to the provision, the wonderful provision that He has made for the gratification of our nobler powers of intelligence and reason. He has given us reason to find out the truth, and the real design and true end of our existence.”

To a friend Adams wrote, “It will be hard work, but the more difficult and dangerous the enterprise, a higher crown of laurel is bestowed on the conqueror. . . . But the point is now determined, and I shall have the liberty to think for myself.”

— John Adams

Why do I care about what these people do? I wouldn’t — if they weren’t in the way, and they’ve always been in the way.

As I wrote over 12 years ago:

It never ceases to amaze me that companies coddle people who epitomize the lowest common denominator. Rather than inspire them to rise to standards set by others, the meticulous are asked to accommodate the careless. On top of all that, there seems to be a universal rolodex of excuses that gets spun to absolve those in question.

Not everyone in that forum is like that, but their mindset of certitude is . . .

I don’t want to work with people like that ever again.

But time and my principles have caught up to me. When it comes to looking out for the customer — I’m the genuine article and have the record to prove it. As I recently wrote:

Why would anyone jeopardize a high-paying job that they love? I feel a deep sense of duty to my customers, as they’re the reason I live a life of endless fulfillment in problem solving. Since I get to learn and grow in all kinds of ways that serve my interests, shouldn’t I seek the same to serve theirs?

If I were running a company, you’d check your ego at the door or you wouldn’t work there.

I may never find such a place, so I’ve had to make concessions for the totally unnecessary. But no matter how much I adjusted over time, my allowances for the asinine could never keep up with the pace of pampering that plagues our society.

“Screw civility” is what Brent wrote in the start of his post that pounced on certifications.

I find that amusing, since he deleted my posts by playing the “personal attack” card. This “personal attack” business has gotten way of out of hand.

People need to learn to suck it up and listen for a change.

And if you’re gonna go out of your way to mindlessly devalue something of immense importance to a lot of people, you better be willing to take some heat for it.

That this gutless blowhard deleted my comments is not what bothers me most: It’s that he robbed someone of the valuable information I offered in response to her request — all to satisfy his fragile ego.

Fine, delete me — block me, but give her the goods.

But no, he gleefully erases me and essentially says . . .

Lookie here — it’s a link to my place and it’s free.

There is no one-stop shop in this business — and I wish someone had shown me the magnificent sources I discovered years later. Why don’t we leave it up to the individual to examine their options and choose what works best for them?

If he wanted to make an argument about the limited weight that certifications carry, fine. It’s true — there’s no denying it. But by piling it on with that horseshit he shoveled — he lowered the bar for his audience, and further contaminated how certifications are seen.

I’d like to think that someone of his stature would keep the door open — and recognize that not everything is black and white as his calcified convictions.

If somebody doesn’t wanna pursue certifications, fine — but perhaps there’s a component or two in my process that they could leverage in their own. How is it possible that I even have to explain that?

But once he infected his forum with his contempt for courtesy — the damage was done.

The oozing of arrogance in Ozar’s words is just icky . . .

This giant was a jerk in response to my concerns — then has the nerve to cry foul when somebody calls him on it.

A lot of that goin’ around

Ford: Rebuilding an American Icon tells of the company’s comeback after its largest-ever loss of $12.7 billion in 2006. At the helm of its turnaround was Alan Mulally — who faced quality concerns by embracing criticism from Consumer Reports. When he says the following, it’s not some fancy quote to float — it’s a mindset that makes all the difference in the world:

We’re gonna seek to understand before we seek to be understood.

This 2:20 scene shows what serious-minded leaders look like (and not just Mulally). Ya gotta hand it to the great-grandson of Henry Ford for having the humility to see what was best for the company by putting the right person in place:

Mulally didn’t invent the phrase — but his version flows a bit better than Stephen Covey’s from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The synopsis for the “seek to understand” tenet is as follows:

Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.

He had no such notion:

International Bunk Speak Organization (IBSO) . . .

This isn’t a debate over semantics on “STUDYING” — and you should be embarrassed by your emptiness above that’s devoid of intellectual integrity (or any type of integrity).

Nice work on the ALL-CAPS to drive home your stirring defense — really illuminating stuff.

How’s my sarcasm workin’ for ya? Does it meet your site’s standards?

You don’t care about being likable, fine — but don’t reduce yourself to the clown in that ha-ha haughty image of yours.

Mistaking me for one of his disciples, he offered to unblock me if I apologized, to which I replied . . .

You can’t even fathom how pathetic your ploy for an apology is in my eyes. You’re still a superstar — just a small-minded one.

Putting aside Bill Cosby’s fall from grace — he was a universal icon of goodness growing up. In just this 5-second scene from Picture Pages — a parallel can be drawn to everything I advocate on this site:

There’s a mutual responsibility in communication — and that “deal” is to hold up your end of the bargain (and it’s in your interests to do so). After all, you want others to consider your concerns — shouldn’t you do the same in return?

And wouldn’t some good ol’ give-and-take be refreshing for a change?

Until now, I never considered not using his material as a resource in the future. I would never deny myself of top-notch training just because I take issue with someone’s views.

But having gone back to get screenshots and reading some of his site again, the film of filth I feel in his presence just isn’t worth it.

I knew this guy had the goods, but I wasn’t familiar enough with him to know of his obnoxious behavior — which is why I was so stunned the morning I saw his anniversary post.

What I find most disturbing about that piece — is that you’d think that something like that would reflect a level of maturity, not some pompous punk who wallows in adulation and gets his jollies from rapid-fire ridicule.

President Bollinger . . . described intellectual inquiry thus: “To learn to ask: ‘Is that true? Maybe there’s something to what she just said. Let me think about it. That’s interesting. Maybe I should change my mind. I changed my mind.’”

When is the last time you can honestly remember a public dialogue — or even a private conversation — that followed that useful course?

There’s not a trace of “Is that true?” or “Let me think about it” in your replies.

I know the type, all too well: Rolodex of Ridicule . . .

I’m not saying that you match every bullet below, but rather that your attitude and that of your followers — fits squarely into this blueprint for the mentality of a mob:

In your amazing efforts to do so much good, you do so much wrong.

But I’m not writing to you as much as I am the Crap is King collective you represent.

At home here in Houston, I walk down the long hallway and as I turn the corner — I flip the panel of switches one by one, and each click brings me back to my industrial days from another time.

In that instant, there’s a reflection of a lifelong journey — and as the lights come to life, so do I.

Since I was 16 years old, I’ve never not been pursuit of some big goal. I could spend days talking about what I was chasing and why, but without including all the people who helped shape those pursuits and define their successes, you’d never know the whole story.

To this day, this painting remains in the Monticello, Indiana post office. As far back as I can remember, I loved going in there and looking up with wonder.

It sounds idealistic, but I’ve been around such beauty and brilliance for real — where the manner in which everyone works toward their own goal, serves a shared purpose.

I find the power of influence to be magical — that you can think one thing, take new information into account, and think another.

It’s fantastic

As I wrote 15 years ago:

There’s nothing more edifying than taking a trip to another point of view

I still remember where I was standing in this shop as a sophomore — and being mesmerized as I watched a student carve those drawer faces with a grinder. He was Michelangelo in my eyes, as this was way beyond woodworking — this guy was a sculptor.

I knew right then and there, I had to do something special — something no one had ever done before.

I couldn’t do freehand like that, but I was on fire with inspiration — and that’s all I needed.

Inside of 60 seconds, my life would never be the same.

You’ve gotta be out of your mind on a mission to pull off what I did below in the time that I did it.

Almost everyone thought I was crazy for even thinking it was possible — and central to that belief was that they they weren’t thinking about how you would go about it.

This wasn’t a woodworking project — it was more like manufacturing.

When I accomplished the seemingly impossible, the judges couldn’t wrap their minds around it — how one kid could pull this off. And my turnings were so accurate that they assumed I used a copy crafter, which was against the rules.

I had never even seen one.

And all that — was after we had to fight the committee just to enter the competitions in the first place (Regionals and State).

Well we don’t have a category for you . . .

I’ve been fighting that same mindset ever since: “You see us as you want to see us — in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.”

Even though I was within the allotted floor space, some genius told us to bring the table and one chair only — with a Polaroid of the set to place on top to judge by.

“Are you out of your #!*&%-@+$ mind?”

$*#% ’em — we brought the whole set anyway.

The blankness I faced then is the same blankness I face now.

Stick around — I’m just warming up.

As alluded to at the end, they screwed me — and it turned into a gift that’s never stopped giving. It’s a long story — but there’s one line on the The Yellow Brick Road that captures it all:

I learned early on in life that what you want gets in the way of what you see.

Took me a few years to figure it out in full, but the world would never look the same once I did.

How long will you stick to your I-beam steel stubbornness before you see my words for what they really are:

They are not aware when life asks them a question . . .

I’ve got plenty of sources — I don’t need Ozar.

I hate saying that — because he has a unique style and is spectacular at what he does.

But all these instructors have unique styles that I greatly appreciate. That’s at the heart of what this is all about — seeing people as individuals and harnessing how they can elevate your abilities and sharpen your awareness.

And that rather than representing the gold standard, the best of what you do can represent the body of excellence that sets it.

And that goes for anybody . . .

In all likelihood, in the future I’ll put this in the past — and use his invaluable expertise once again. I’m just not there yet, as this experience reminded me of the madness I left behind last year.

I never spent much time on social media (what I call Safe-Space Central) — but even that was too much.

As I wrote in You Got Gold:

I’m turning off our Crap is King culture and not letting any unworthy distractions get in the way of my goals. 

Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make.

“I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.

Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth

We get rewarded by hearts, likes, thumbs-up — and we conflate that with value, and we conflate it with truth.

You don’t really need to find out what’s goin’ on
You don’t really wanna know just how far it’s gone
Just leave well enough alone
Eat your dirty laundry . . .

We can do “The Innuendo,” we can dance and sing
When it’s said and done, we haven’t told you a thing
We all know that crap is king

Just get up off the ground, that’s all I ask!

Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something.

And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting.

Fighting for something better than just jungle law . . .

fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed.

That’s what you’d see . . .

From what I understand, the stain on certifications originated out of easier exams in the early days. Microsoft adjusted, the industry didn’t.

Reminds me of that classic quote: “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on” — a quote that’s been around in various forms for over 300 years (evidently the original being from 1710):

Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect.

Whether hiring managers care about badges or not — any good company will care about the quality of your work and what you bring to the table.

A sincere effort in attaining certifications has a direct impact on your knowledge, so it’s preposterous to suggest that they’re “garbage.” Once again, I don’t care what these people do — but if you’re not gonna contribute, the least you can do is get out of the way.

Someone proudly replied to his ridicule by saying, “That’s spot-on.” To which I wrote . . .

Indiscriminate thinking is never spot-on

Vizcaino v. Microsoft — ring a bell?

In a class-action suit, she and 7 other contractors went after Microsoft in a quest for full benefits — acting on greed under the guise of “common law employees.” The case was tossed out in federal court, but somehow they managed to pull it off in appellate.

No one captured the outcome of that case better than a software engineering contractor at Microsoft:

These are the same people that collectively screwed every happy permatemp out of decent work . . . explaining that he had been perfectly content working as a long-term contract tester on the Exchange 2000 team, with an “outstanding manager,” when Microsoft first instituted its mandatory break-in-service policy in 1999.

And right on cue, other companies followed suit with their own broad-brush policies built on bad apples.

The certifications industry was poisoned on the same principle.

I don’t care if 99% of the time you’re unimpressed with people who come decorated in stolen valor from shiny certifications:

Weighing information is just part of the job.

How did that get lost along the way? I didn’t get the memo where we’re supposed to just throw up our hands because people cheat, cram, and falsify their future away.

Certification bashing is in the same vacuum of emptiness as the earth-shattering insight of “can’t believe everything you read.”

So, if we can’t believe everything — why bother reading anything?

It’s not like I’m pushing ticker-tape parades for people who pass exams . . .

I’m just saying, knock it off!

In addition to asking technical questions — I’d wanna have a rock-solid read on the type of person I’m getting. Try these on for size:

  • When did you set out on this goal and why?
  • What was your plan and timeline?
  • What did you discovery along the way?
  • How did you practice what you learned?
  • How did you measure your progress?
  • What was the most difficult problem you face?
  • What resources did you have in the beginning
  • What resources did you have by the end?
  • How did you organize your material?
  • What advice would you give to someone starting out to accomplish something similar?

If I were a manager interviewing this guy below or the girl above — one whiff of this attitude or that rubbish on sarcasm, and it’s over.

I wouldn’t care if they answered every technical question to perfection, we’re done!

On that note

Does the site below strike you as someone into shortsighted gains?

Wouldn’t Wisdom Begins In Wonder register as quality, commitment, and creativity that would cascade into the job?

“We’re only interested job-related skills,” you say?

Well that’s why I’m here — because I say you’re not . . .

In 11 seconds, this clip encapsulates my experience at Elara — and what America has become:

That physicist is talking about people playing horseshoes in an industry where fractions of a millimeter matter.

I’ve always been on Saint Jerome’s journey:

Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best

So when I came across this clip below, it was inspiring to see someone speaking my language:

You’re asking the people that you’re working with to push you — and to be more game than you are. And to commit to things at the same level you are or more.

And if they’re doing it more than you, it’s not about bigger performances or anything — but you see somebody who really gives a s$*t, and is really committed and game, and you’re like, “Oh, I gotta . . . do what he’s doing.”

It’s one of the only spaces where it’s not cool to like, opt out . . .

I’ve bounced around a lot over the years — and I’ve seen my share of “opting out.” I found pockets of excellence here and there, and I’ve seen What Real Leadership Looks Like.

But the culture I’ve been after has evaded me (with one exception, but that’s another story).

My aim was always to find a home where I could settle in for an ever-evolving future — a quest for belonging in the right company, with a crew that continually hones its craft.

I wanted one tiny space in the world where people do right by one another — and rise to the occasion when they don’t.

Though that dream is not dead, I’ve had to adjust to the reality of the times — by repeatedly lowering my expectations.

All I hoped for was that they be in the ballpark of their beliefs — but apparently even that’s too much to ask.

my latest low: Sanity

What I witnessed at Elara was self-delusion so far off the charts that I longed for the good ol’ days of the garden-variety resident jackass.

A huge problem in IT is that you have a ton of technical people who have no business being managers.

They end up in these slots because they gotta get promoted somehow, there’s a void to fill, or they’re connected to the person who put them there — the good ol’ boy network of white-collar chaos.

It’s bad enough that they don’t have the goods — what’s worse is that are utterly oblivious to the depths of their deficiencies. So they feel no need to fill what they don’t believe to be missing.

As the great line from Avatar goes:

It is hard to fill a cup which is already full

My cup will never be full

Because I’m game — and always have been. I’ve spent my life longing to work with people who are too.

Mackenzie’s quote reminded me of my yearning for such spirits — as did this song that came to mind one night last week.

I was lying in bed exhausted but eager for morning.

So much to learn, so much to do, so many goals to realize — that’s how I feel every day.

Got you covered, just say the word

I’ve known a long line of people like that — including a bunch that played a key part in those pictures above and so many more.

Restless feeling, coming up from inside
Nothing’s easy, mountains to climb
Take my chances, got a long way to ride
Pushing, pushing, pushing it right to the top
Ready or not
Let’s go American flyer
You aim high, a race against time
I know, your heart is on fire
Going the distance leaving the others behind

“Ready or not”

<Some people are>

So it’s often been a battle with the self-satisfied who pretend otherwise.

If they budged at all, it was one millimeter at a time. I have only so much tolerance for people who lower the bar while I’m trying to raise it.

This site is chock-full of stories about people in lockstep in their March of Folly. How one can turn off their intelligence like a light switch has always fascinated me.

There are also stories where I fell short of my own standards — though never in lockstep with anything or anyone.

People love to plug the “nobody’s perfect” line, and yet so many of ’em proudly refuse to be corrected on anything. The incorrigible in that camp act like they’re never wrong, never rude, never foolish, never over-the-top, never unreasonable, and never insulting.

In the spirit of the “only guilty man in Shawshank” — I’ve been all of those things at one time or another.

For some perspective on just how far apart I am from my former manager’s immovable mind — not to mention Brent and the Doubt-Free Band . . .

Climb the Earth’s tallest mountain
To where it reaches the sky
Take a gun fire a bullet
Straight up out of sight
Where it stops in the heavens
Well that ain’t half as high
As the distance between you and me

I made damn good money in my last job — and I could have cared 10 times less and been rewarded for it. The sheer level of slop that led to glaringly wrong results was infuriating to me.

Nobody had to work with my manager’s code more than I did, and I cringed every time I touched it.

One day I got pulled away from a high-priority project to pull some urgently needed datasets — and when I got to a database under his purview, I found serious duplication problems right away.

When I delicately asked him about it, he instantly he replied:

That’s not how you get duplicates . . .

I was up till 3:00 AM fixing that nightmare he left in place on those “that’s not how you get duplicates” duplicates.

Defend before consider is his M.O.

You know how I would have felt had I made such a blunder? HORRIFIED!

My manager . . .

When I was 19, I played tennis with a guy who could crush me with ease. Eventually, I could beat him — maybe only one out of 10 times, but that was major movement. I kept my competitor’s attention because he could see me making progress from match to match.

When it comes to challenging my manager, not a trace of such growth could be found.

Contrast his manner with a key moment starting out in my career:

I’ll never forget pausing to consider what a colleague told me about his coding convention. Just walking along the hallway, I stopped to ask him about it and he said, “That’s just the way I was taught.”

I thought to myself:

So his way is more organized, easier to follow, and cleaner to work with. What are my reasons for why my way is better? I don’t have any good ones?

End of story.

My manager had no such notion . . .

To get acclimated in the first week, I started exploring the databases and saw a pattern right off the bat. Had I been given something specific to do, I would have ignored his slapdash SQL for the time being.

I’m not keen on sitting around though, so I decided to rewrite some of his code in my style (which evolved over many years of combining my ideas with what I learned from others).

As tactfully as humanly possible, I sent him an email to share my approach. He was elsewhere in the building, and it struck me as strange that he went out of his way to come down to discuss my suggestion.

It just seemed to be making a production of out of nothing.

The second I heard, “It’s beautiful, but” — I could hear the excuses coming.

He started in on his spiel about how he doesn’t have time to be concerned with style, and that he prefers to focus on function over form.

That function is some of the most error-prone work I’ve ever seen.

This man has one mode and one mode only: To race through everything (except in meetings where time is infinite as long as he’s talking).

His politely dismissive routine would become a recurring theme over the next two years. He adopted an aspect or two of my ideas from time to time — but if called into question on anything that threatened his throne, he would . . .

Insist upon “affirmation independent of all findings”

— borrowing from Peck who borrowed from Buber

That threat was not to his job — it’s the puncturing of the vacuum of how he sees himself.

And the icing on the cake is how he would recycle his tiny overtures as cover for claims of receptiveness and respect for my input.

Utterly ridiculous

After all his posturing about welcoming input, I had been observing who this guy really is all along. He and I worked in the underworld of Elara in ways that no one else did — and I challenged him in ways that no else did.

So I saw the depths of his failings in full.

He put on a good show for the team. Always open to talking about anything — as long as you didn’t tell him something he didn’t wanna hear. None of those guys saw what I witnessed on a regular basis — though I’m sure they’ve seen shades of it.

And let’s face it — they wouldn’t risk their jobs over it even if they had.

That’s not a knock against these great guys — it’s just the way of the world. It’s pure fantasy to think that somehow this is simply about me and my inability to work with him. Like most people, the team operates within the confines of the conditions set by the manager.

Whereas I’m guy who essentially says . . .

You can do a helluva lot better, and you sold yourself as someone who would!

Rollo Tomassi was my manager — a know-it-all who actually does know quite a lot. But his ego (fragile and now fractured) — got in the way of reality in just how much he knows.

There’s a lot to like about the guy — and a lot not to.

I’d seen it all before — but never self-delusion to this degree in the workplace.

Part of doing this job is not just taking in what customers tell you — but also to be tuned into what they’re not telling you. I knew that End Run was justifiably unhappy on his project we were supporting.

I have a knack for seeing what others don’t.

It’s amazing what you can see when you’re willing to look and . . .

Walking on eggshells with Rollo — one day I politely nudged him with the most delicate touch imaginable (the cloudlike fluff of “constructive” communication he lives for), asking, “Does your workbook have weeks now?”

I knew it didn’t . . .

So Rollo replies,

If that’s what they want

“If that’s what they want”?

Um, yeah — like on the crystal-clear requirements they provided over two months ago — and all the reminders, meetings, and needless niceties that followed.

Almost 3 months into the project, he was still dickin’ around defining things on the fly that should have been understood early on. But he was always off in his own world — putting reports out in the ether and expecting people to go exploring in search of his wisdom.

It doesn’t work that way — especially with those who have a clear vision in mind for what they want.

His reports on that project were painfully slow — but instead of putting a temporary fix in place, he was always broadcasting how he was going to rearchitect the database to solve the problem.

Listen, bub — they don’t give a damn about facts and dimensions, nor should they.

We’re sitting there wasting time in meetings while watching this thing spin — listening to Rollo remind us about how’s he’s gonna fix it (while week after week goes by as he doesn’t).

It was embarrassing

I can take it — what I can’t take is their service being sacrificed for his ego.

It would take me a matter of minutes to solve that performance problem — and same goes for him. But he wanted to do it his way — forcing our customers to wait while he “perfected” his design.

Not even in the earliest amateur hours of my career would I have insisted on something so senseless.

It was always about his way.

In Rollo’s split-hairs personality disorder, he would seize on that statement to cite the most laughably lightweight evidence to claim that the exact opposite is true — brazenly ignoring the totality of his history.

A lot of that goin’ around too

By definition, this man is the biggest bullshitter I have ever known:

[B]ullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.

Rollo cast blame in any direction but his own. From one meeting to the next, if he wasn’t complaining about source-data issues being so inconvenient to his code, he was making excuses for something else.

One of my favorites is the day he proudly proclaimed, “I’m following the industry standard” in a report definition.

I was in no position to know whether he was right or not, but I do know that we have a responsibility to make sure that we’re on the same page as the business. That way they can make their case for their approach and Rollo can make his. And then we just figure out what’s best from there.

But we can’t do that if you’re off doing your own thing and making such assumptions.

Rollo was off doing his own thing — a lot

Barebones and unverified reports — leaving people hanging without providing the most obvious and easily-implemented features that they would want to make the reports useful.

Top-Brass#1 on Turnover told me:

Now, I know it’s not you and that we’ve got problems with the data.

The very first time I’m talking to her — and this is what she says before she even gets to “hello”? But for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s not the “conditioning that comes from you” that I claim.

Why do you think that “conditioning” is what instantly came to mind?

He doesn’t ask those kind of questions — not with anything that could possibly put a dent his armor. Whether or not I’m right about Top-Brass#1 could only be ascertained from her — and even then, this is not yes/no territory. She might not even realize it.

But it’s irrefutable that Rollo has a history of conditioning people to think that the problem is with them before it’s him.

This man was hell-bent on being right like nothing I have ever seen in my career — and I’ve been around!

What you don’t understand is

Look around, Rollo — I understand an awful lot for someone who “doesn’t understand” as often as you sling that slogan.

When Top-Brass#2 on Turnover said, “I’m not pointing fingers, [Rollo]”—why do you think she said that?

Anybody can make the mistake of explaining themselves in a way that prompts “I’m not pointing fingers” — but in two consecutive meetings with the same person?

Most people would keep that communication misfire in mind — but the fact that he didn’t, dovetails with how he never absorbs anything from situations that call him into question (in any way, shape, or form).

She was just trying to understand the problem, and her manner was perfectly fine.

But even the slightest hint of something that could be perceived as accusation — and off he goes to defend himself. On both occasions, it was cringeworthy listening to him try to massage the situation.

When she asked a harmless question about the reporting platform, he acted like we needed to call a summit meeting to address it with Head Honcho.

I have never worked with anyone who overreacted on such a regular basis.

Trying to reach him was like playing dodgeball — for all the “Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge” goin’ on.

Week after week went by, with twice-a-week meetings with End Run. To listen to Rollo represent our team in such shoddy ways — wore on me more than anything I had ever experienced in my professional life.

An analyst doing QA was manually adding up numbers because Rollo wouldn’t take 10 seconds to put subtotals in Tableau (after being repeatedly asked to do so).

If you read the whole story, just when you think it can’t get any worse — think again!

Something had to be done

Going to Rollo would be worse than worthless. This guy would go out of his mind if I questioned his leadership and performance on the level of my concerns.

Just Wondering is an email I sent to my manager last July. If you can’t sense anything out of such fluffy language as “just wondering” on a concern of this severity — I don’t know what to tell ya.

But that was nothing compared to the gross negligence to come.

And I had serious reservations about going to the Head Honcho over him. I only met him once when I first started — and talked to him once or twice at most since. So I didn’t have a good read on him from that standpoint.

But lemme tell ya what I did have a good read on . . .

The inescapable fact that Rollo’s behavior and abysmal performance reflect on Head Honcho’s leadership.

So I opted to seek an alliance with End Run instead. He was relieved that I reached out, because he was already in the process of trying to address this problem by meeting with Head Honcho.

With End Run’s pull and my supporting evidence, this might actually have a shot.

That these are dangerous waters in our plush little worlds is deplorable.

Through unforeseen circumstances, I ended up going directly to Head Honcho — sending him an email soon after I finished working with a business partner in New York around 1:00 AM.

When I awoke that morning, Rollo was clearly rattled with the news that our customers were not getting the “attention and timeliness they deserve.” Instead of pausing for once to take stock of a situation, he was off to the races once again — trying to solve a problem in the very way he created it.

At first, I was blown away that Head Honcho acted on my concerns so quickly.

Alas, my instincts were right all along

In a nutshell, Head Honcho hired a project manager and swept the real problem under the rug . . . allowing Rollo to manufacture a new reality and rig his way once again.

The PM was fine — the Xs on the image are about their half-assed handling of it all.

I purposely chose “Flexible Fabric” — only to be delighted further when I saw “Memory-Weave.” But I howled when I saw these (especially the 3rd one):

  • Stretchable
  • Comfortable
  • Moves with you

And the reality-bending of the body capped it all off.

Their “management” style is completely in line with the times — sanctioned as if time-honored traditions of leadership did not exist for reference.

Fun fact: Elara is one of Jupiter’s moons.

Elara Email of Itemized Issues

What the powers that be in most companies don’t get — is that you create more conflict in cultures that go to excessive lengths to avoid it. It’s just that the conflict is concealed in subtleties that disguise mounting frustration and waste.

While you put out your PR and pretend this undercurrent of crap doesn’t exist.

If I were in a leadership role, I’d tell my team to inform me of their concerns in any way that works for them. I don’t care what it’s about, I don’t care who it’s about: If you’ve got somethin’ to say, don’t waste time trying to fashion it for the likes of Mike — just lay it on me.

Cultivating a culture to speak freely would eliminate the build-up of frustration — fostering real relationships and substantial growth.

In my shop, “iron sharpens iron” would be as real as it gets.

Rick’s the type of guy who would lose his job on principle

— CH (circa 2007)

How could it have come to this — again?

If Rollo had been the worst of the culprits who came before him — I could live with that.

He was worse than all of them — combined!

To watch this man weasel his way out of everything and show such disregard for our customers (and a whole host of other things) — I found it intolerable.

On top of that, Head Honcho twice ignored my request to express my additional concerns. All he had to say was — “Let’s get a PM and we’ll revisit this later.”

That would have been enough for me to let it go for the time being.

Not one word

The blankness of these guys, I swear. Just how blind and inept do you have to be to let egregious delays, mediocrity, and mounting frustration persist on multiple fronts — all revolving around one Rollo?

Paint By Numbers offers some additional insight into how these guys operate.

I gotta share this excerpt from that page — it’s just pure gold:

Well of course it could be done. Anything could be done. But it is only is done if it’s done

A text I sent to a friend on 9/25/2020:

I haven’t brought this up before — but there’s another element to the story. I’ve never known anyone more disgusted by dishonesty than I am. And what I’ve seen from this guy — telling the team things that were flagrantly false — as his claims were exactly the opposite of my experience with him.

Most bad managers I’ve dealt with — did not go so far to advertise their virtues. So this was way beyond just incompetence, arrogance, and piss-poor leadership — it’s the lie of it all that infuriates me most.

It was a text to me more than it was her . . .

I’d had it

Rollo was enraged by my letter that exposed him for who he really is:

We Need to Have a Conversation

Yeah — so you can defend the indefensible by torturing reason without mercy.

That led to a meeting on Monday morning — and inside of 60 seconds:

Rollo did what Rollo does . . .

With the ease of one without conscience, Rollo rolled out one ludicrous excuse after another — absolving himself as though his record had disappeared off the face of the Earth.

You talk about truth — you don’t want the truth. You need to be constructive in your criticism

That — is Grade-A horseshit . . .

As in the notion that it would make one damn bit of difference to him.

And after over 3 pages of harsh but irrefutable scrutiny — “you don’t want the truth” is the best ya got?

To be sure, he tossed me a token or two about how he needs to work on this and that — as if his turbocharged hypersensitivity is just some fine-tuning knob to turn.

The likes of Rollo love to take one piece of information and isolate it in their interests — as if that’s the gold standard of sound argument. I’m a bit old-fashioned in how I like to consider things.

Let’s take two pieces of testimony and try to put them together

What they/you don’t understand is . . .

My God, the never-ending deflecting from this man. It was always about somebody else.

No, Rollo — you don’t understand . . .

What sums up Rollo’s level of sincerity my death knell call:

Without authority, it’s impossible to penetrate a mind so cemented as Mike’s — so this was a managerial matter all along.

Had I thought of it, I would have gone to HR before that call and requested to be transferred out of his team. I should have known that he wouldn’t rise to the occasion, and I no longer had any faith in his leadership.

I also should have known that I couldn’t count on Dave to do his job.

But unlike them, I was still trying to find a way to solve the problem. Doing right by our customers, the team, and each other were my primary concerns.

Pride and politics were theirs

For folly of this level to persist, almost invariably, it’s connected to the relationships of those involved.

Nobody gets away with this without a guardian angel.

The notion that remaining calm equates to being aboveboard and reasonable — is an illusion. Rollo revels in that tried-and-untrue tactic — priding himself on his calmness, as he sails Scot-Free on his Sea of Chaos.

Peck would have had a field day with Rollo:

For all those who ignore the elephant in the room while having no shortage of scrutiny for those who dare to ask:

Wouldn’t we be able to move around more freely without this elephant in the way?

There’s a name For Your kind — and it’s called “The Critic”

Here’s lookin’ at you, Head Honcho:

As here’s what I think of your “Here’s what I think and here’s why . . .

When I wrote the original version of this story (starting with Letter of the Law and ending in Unbroken), I injected some background stories so you’d have some history behind why I see things as I do.

I was writing the story that I would want to read.

I’m fascinated by the wonder of when a person takes that first step that defines who they become. My construct of consideration began in April 1988: One moment of truth that set the foundation for all that followed.

That teacher didn’t need a letter or a lecture, just a look and a few choice words.

He revealed something I couldn’t see, as I was blinded by my disgust in being so royally wronged — again.

The bigger picture is a beautiful thing — as your interests can be served in ways you wouldn’t have imagined had you gotten what you wanted.

Rollo took another path

He turned away from what struck a nerve — I turned toward it.

I still had more to say — which led to Over the Moon and the 6-part chronological case (with Elara Email of Itemized Issues as the preface).

Did I actually think that Elara might right the wrong?

Of course not — that would require honor.

There’s something wildly out of whack with what our culture has become — and it’s been devolving for decades.

Once you quit hearing ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am,’ the rest is soon to foller

Seven years ago, I wrote and produced Mount Everest of the Obvious to say something about that.

The rotor speed required to separate uranium isotopes doesn’t care who’s president.

In order to maintain such speeds, material properties of centrifuges are as critical as it gets. You don’t need to interview a world-renowned nuclear scientist to figure that out — but I like to be thorough.

In every instance, the dead certain had an uncanny consistency in their counter:

You walked into the party
Like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror
As you watched yourself gavotte . . .

Well I hear you went up to Saratoga
And your horse naturally won
Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well you’re where you should be all the time

On that world-altering topic above, an “Expert” By Association replied . . .

We no longer have those principled and informed arguments. The foundational knowledge of the average American is now so low that it has crashed through the floor of “uninformed,” passed “misinformed” on the way down, and is now plummeting to “aggressively wrong.” People don’t just believe dumb things; they actively resist further learning rather than let go of those beliefs.

I was not alive in the Middle Ages, so I cannot say it is unprecedented, but within my living memory I’ve never seen anything like it.

Just Roll it Around is All I Ask

Stung like hell so I jerked my leg and mama said it would give me guts . . .

Shown here is a somewhat dehumanized, life-size bronze figure of a human being of no particular sex, age, race, culture, or environment. Compressed between the two wheels, it seems to present humanity as the victim of its own complicated inventions. The wheels also symbolize the blind ups and downs of fortune. The date 1965 is inscribed on the base, and the whole sad assemblage seems to say that human history and civilization have not exactly turned out as was once more hopefully expected.

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