Friday, April 25, 2014

Weekend Reading: Building Better Companies Edition

Both the tech-centric and my science-centric portions of my Twitter feed were aflame with gender-related issues today, and so I have been skimming it even more lightly than usual, because I have decided that I need to spend a few weeks in an artificial happy place on women in tech/science as I work to make "what's next" happen.

I can't write too many details now, but I can say that I will be setting up as an independent consultant, initially with about 20 hours per week of work. Assuming all goes as planned, that 20 hours will pay almost as well as my current full time job- but without benefits. And no, that isn't because I was underpaid before or am fleecing anyone now. It is because benefits are far more valuable than most people realize and because if you're going to set up as a consultant with an eye to having it be a long term thing, you have to have a rate that covers the inevitable gaps in work. Maybe I'll write a post about this at some point, when I've got more experience on this side of the consulting gig (I've hired scores of consultants and contractors over the years, so have quite a bit of experience on the other side of it).

Anyhow, I am feeling unbelievably lucky that my unexpected act a week ago is turning out so well, but also more than a little stressed by the number of things I need to do to get set up the way I want to be and by the strangeness of my new work paradigm. Looking at that, and also the fact that I know I face some unique challenges as a consultant/contractor who is female and offering services in a very male-dominated space... I've decided that for my own sanity, I need to metaphorically put my fingers in my ears and pretend that the world is a better place than I know it to be, at least until I've got myself set up.

That was a long-winded introduction to this week's links, and explanation for why they are ignoring some things I might usually be expected to include. Instead, I've got some great links about management and other things that make a company better.

Robert Sutton wrote an interesting article about one aspect of his and Huggy Rao's work on scaling up enterprises- Sutton covered the team dynamic. Everything I've read about Sutton and Rao's book Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Lessmakes me think it would be interesting, so I've added it to my list of management books to read during lunchtime.

Scott Berkun (whose book The Year Without Pants: and the Future of Workwas one of my previous lunchtime management books) wrote a downright awesome post about company culture.

This is a great tweet:

Having been the recipient of an attempted diving save earlier this week, I think Rands' post on the topic is pretty good. And the timing of it made me laugh- it literally came up in my reader when I clicked over for a break after telling my boss that no, I wouldn't reconsider my decision.

This post by Felix Salmon is some of the clearest writing about why you might NOT want to go work at a start up I've ever read. When I decided to go work at a start up after graduate school, I got some sage advice from someone who'd worked in a start up prior to coming to graduate school: make sure you get a good salary and treat stock options like the lottery tickets they are.

I will say, though, that I don't think that starting a company has to be something that eats your life. That is just the culture that has evolved around venture backed start ups. It would be at least theoretically possible construct a venture-backed system that had healthier expectations of founders. And of course, there is bootstrapping as an option. Our assumption that the only way to succeed at something is to dedicate yourself 100% to it at the expense of all else in your life is a little weird, really, but it is so engrained that I rarely see it challenged.

I really like the Ann Patchett quote I posted on Tungsten Hippo this week, and think it is somewhat related. Until next Friday, you can see it on the Tungsten Hippo site. Or you can see it on this Tungsten Hippo tumblr post whenever you want. It is about forgiving yourself as the key to success and happiness, and I have been thinking about it a lot as I think about how I'm going to approach this next phase in my career.

One of the things I'll need to do is get a computer I can take out in public that isn't embarrassing. So, not the super cheap, rather clunky refurbished PC I bought for my side projects and not my Mac that is older than Petunia. Which means I'm contemplating an upgrade of one or the other and since my old Mac feels super slow and cannot have a modern browser... it will probably go. It has the majority of my files on it, which means that probably have something like this xkcd cartoon in my future:

Happy weekend, everyone!


  1. Zenmoo8:10 PM

    Oh that xkcd hits the pain of computer cleaning - I've been trying to clean hard-drive space and it's driving me nuts trying to decide what to keep and what to delete. Especially now I've figured out that my hard drive is full of baby videos.

  2. Anonymous11:05 AM

    @Cloud-- Re: your twitter feed, are you talking about Ebonya Washington's paper?

    1. I don't know! But that looks like an interesting paper.

  3. Congrats on starting your new consulting business, Cloud! Looking forward to hearing more about it--it sounds like a wonderful new path for you! (flexibility and control over your own career!) Also, the Ann Patchett quote is great =)

  4. We have a chrome book that you're welcome to try out :) good luck!

  5. Glad you found a new gig -- sounds like the perfect set-up for right now.

  6. Congrats on setting up as an independent consultant/contractor! I wish you the best success.

    You more than likely know this, but be sure to consider government contracts. Women-own, small businesses are very sought after!


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