Top Ten Mistakes in Offshore Interviews

I intended to put a bunch of illustrations in my book, but only four pics made it there. Space was the major limiting factor, but I guess one of the pictures, 3 monkeys, was not included because it did not pass the “political correctness” bar. Well, I can imagine that some people in the audience could be offended with the term “code monkey”. There was no derogatory indication there, like there was no intent to portray all managers, including myself, as gorillas ;) the main point was actually quite lucid – it’s difficult to find good engineers, especially when during interviews many of them refuse to listen, see what’s going on, or talk.

Finding good engineers is difficult, especially when you are trying to do that through a third party reaching across thousands of miles via poor VoIP connection. There are not too many really good engineers to begin with, so no surprise here. But the lack of talent is not the point of today’s discussion. What I’d like to touch upon is the mistakes we often make while interviewing developers, mistakes that can result in missing those needles in haystack / diamonds in the rough.

Continue reading

What to do when your client doesn’t pay

Many of the posts in my blog are written from clients’ / buyers’ standpoint, this one is different – I am switching sides to take a look at one of the most painful issues of working with small business clients (and sometimes large clients as well) – not being paid for your services. A few weeks ago I talked with an old friend of mine who is an owner of small software development firm based in Russia. He told me that his business would’ve been extremely profitable and vastly successful if he was always paid for his services. I was shocked to hear that typically he gets paid for not more than 70% of the services he delivers. Alex’s company sells to a variety of clients in Western Europe, United States, and locally in Russia. He told me that his local clients are the worst with government clients refusing to pay being a most common scenario.

Well, there is nothing I can offer in terms of advice in dealing with Russian government clients. But they are not the only ones, many “legitimate” businesses in Europe and the States follow the suit and are late or delinquent with payments to their vendors. One of the cases described by Alex involved a fairly large South Carolina based company, that used all kind of excuses to explain increase in past due balances, and then when unpaid amount was about to kill the vendor, the company switched the tune – accusing the vendor in all kind of issues ranging from late deliveries to stealing IP. This situation, a reputable US company playing dirty tricks, was somewhat new for Alex. It caught him off-guard and almost put him out of business.

Continue reading

Wanted – Outsourcing Checklists

A few days ago I got my hands on a The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.

Not knowing the author’s background I was expecting a book from some professional organizer, a guru of “getting things done”. Maybe one of those how-to self-improvement books that I typically pick up on my way to a transcontinental flight to deal with my inability to fall asleep while squeezed in a middle seat. The book was nothing of a kind and if anything it reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell’s masterpieces. To make text even more interesting a lot of the examples and ideas in the book came from the blood, sweat and tears of the author himself, not various people he interviewed. As I shortly realized even though Atul writes like a professional journalist the writing isn’t his day job, or at least not his only day job… In addition to being a best-selling author he is a MacArthur Fellow, a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health… Wow, how one can manage all that and also deal with three kids!?

Anyway, the main message of Checklist Manifesto is quite simple – in many activities the volume and complexity of knowledge required to perform them have exceeded any single individual’s ability to manage it consistently. The only way to deal with inevitable problems is to deploy tools that improve the outcomes and minimize errors without adding even more complexity to the task itself. That seems almost impossible unless we look at a simple, age old tool, that can help almost any professional – a common checklist. Of course, it’s not “just a checklist”, there is more to a good checklist than a set of nicely formatted boxes. The author illustrates it on multitude of examples with the most interesting being in the fields of aviation (where the work of creating checklist has reached the level of art and at the same time widely accepted as mainstream tool) and in his own domain – surgery and public health.

Continue reading

“Outsource it!” is now in beta

A couple days ago my first full size book went into beta and is now available at the publisher website – http://pragprog.com/book/nkout/outsource-it. I feel very happy and relieved that the book is finally out, writing it was far more challenging than I’ve ever anticipated. At the same time I feel happy and proud, proud to be one of the authors of the pragmatic bookshelf, the group of technology writers that earned respect across very broad and demanding technical audience.

It will take a little while before the book hits the shelves of Amazon and other bookstores, but you don’t have to wait and get your e-copy of it today. While the book is in beta your comments and suggestions would be taken quite seriously and could result in changes and additions to the content, hopefully making the book even better. I am not sure how long the beta would take but hopefully much less than it took me to get here –

Roughly two and a half years ago I came up what seemed a great idea at the time – compile my blog material into an easy to read eBook. In a couple months I produced the first volume that was dedicated to making decisions on whether and how to outsource. In a short order I received substantial feedback that made it apparent that just recompiling the blog and doing surface level clean up won’t add too much value, and probably was not worth the effort. Continue reading