I’ve taken the week off between Xmas and New Years to recharge, hang out with my kids, etc. But I’m also checking in with work and getting things done here and there. The only way this works is that it’s my choice. As a leader, I have to be clear with folks about expectations, and be mindful that my actions constitute an example that my folks will look to and emulate. When I choose to also spend some time working during a vacation I make it very clear the reasons I’m doing so, and if I expect anyone else to. (In general: no, be on vacation, if there’s an emergency you’ll know.)

That’s the goal anyway. Hoping I’m hitting that mark with my team in reality.

My company uses Microsoft Teams1, and there’s no global hotkeys available in their client, which means if I’m multitasking I have to fumble to find the mouse, the Teams window, and the Mute icon to mute/unmute myself.

Obviously as a dork this cannot stand.

Using some handy AppleScripts and some icons from Scott Hanselman, it’s easy to wire up some “global”-esque buttons to toggle video2, mic, and hang the call up.

If you’ve gotta use Teams, you might as well make it easy on yourself.

Footnotes

  1. Teams isn’t as bad as people say, to be fair to it, but I’m hoping to switch away soon. It’s just not a good experience, nor does it inspire the kind of culture that things like Slack or Discord can with their many customization and clients that aren’t garbage on non-Windows machines.
  2. On my setup it just toggles off then back on, but I’m not sure if this is an AppleScript issue or a “my setup is jank” issue

In late 2018, my friend’s consultancy that I’d worked at for the past year entered into a deal with ScriptDrop, a Columbus hometown startup led by former CoverMyMeds folks, to acqui-hire the entire team. They needed to grow their development team quickly and this seemed like a great time to wind down and get back into doing product development.

I was initially slated to come on board as the VP of Engineering, which was a career move I’d been hopeful about for a long time. Prior to the deal finalizing I was told “their investors didn’t want any other executive hires” and was instead offered Director of Product Engineering. Feel free to imagine the hundreds of red flag emojis I didn’t see then. To paraphrase Wanda Pierce, “when you’re looking through rose colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.”

On the third day of my “employment”1 there, Nick Potts (founder, former CEO) and Amanda Epp (then COO, now CEO) walked into my office as I was mapping out various communications channels between ops and dev and getting priorities set.

They proceeded to explain to me that I was a washed up burnout. That perhaps I’d done some good work at CoverMyMeds (where we were all employed together) but if so it was fleeting, and certainly my best work was behind me. That several of the team had come to them to say I wasn’t fit to be in a leadership position, and they’d quit rather than work for me. That it was clear I did not have the respect of anyone in the company whatsoever and that I needed to get my things and leave.

This pattern of executives personally attacking and insulting folks, making up lies to justify their behavior, and firing people at the drop of a hat was sadly not limited to me. I tried to warn my former colleagues, but they were all in the same “rose colored glasses” phase I had been. Over the next year, all but one of the great folks who were acqui-hired into ScriptDrop would be fired, some in a similar fashion to mine. These were all good folks who put everything into their work, and who didn’t deserve the treatment they got.

After, I sunk into a depression that lasted longer than I’d like to admit.


All that to say:

In September 2020 I was brought on at Prescribe FIT as the Director of Engineering. This past month I celebrated one year with the company, and a promotion to VP of Engineering. I’ve built a team I’m proud of every day, and we’re making meaningful improvements to patients’ lives through our work. It’s thrilling to be building a small company, and an honor to be a part of their growth. My team pushes the company (and me personally) forward every day.

The abuse I experienced from folks I’d once called friends burned me hard; made me wonder if I was just deluding myself, if maybe I was as shitty as they said I was.

It’s absolutely a joy and relief to prove otherwise.

Footnotes

  1. The written offer I received day one listed my title and duties as “Software Developer” rather than “Director of Product Engineering.” It was clearly not a mistake, but I treated it as one. I notified my boss, asked for a correction, and returned it unsigned.

pexels-photo-96612.jpeg

It’s a USD$200 webcam.

Despite all the marketing jazz about how cool the lens is, there appears to be no way to set focus and blur background.

It’s not significantly better, in any way I’d care about, than the Logitech webcam I had before.

The Logitech cam is USD$80.

Thank you.

Apache OpemMeetings has been released, and just…look at the screenshots on the landing page.

File Explorer

That’s just a single example. If all of them looked like this — objectively not good but consistently not good — that might be something. But of course, none of the other screenshots look like this. They’re all awful in completely new ways.

Many years ago a coworker wanted to use some janky open source tool for some internal backoffice stuff we needed. It looked just as bad as this, but their reaction was something like: who cares what it looks like? It does what we need, and it’s free.

We build web applications.. We should have a developed aesthetic sense for the tools we build and live with every day! If I shipped something that looked like Apache OpenMeetings to my users, I’d be ashamed at best, and likely I’d lose some users.

Let me be clear: UX is hard. Complex UX is very hard, and making a complex workflow simple and beautiful is an entire career path, you can spend your life learning how to do it right. Apache OpenMeetings is likely volunteer-created, and very few UX masters are volunteering their expensive time.

But there’s a huge difference between “mastery” and “basically trying” and they didn’t shoot for either.

Not to spoil it or anything, but now that my son’s tooth is finally taken care of, I can focus on the important things.

Like how much Microsoft Teams sucks.

Look, it’s got some good ideas. The integration with the calendar is great. The video calling is as good as I need it to be.

But that’s about it.

Its concept of “channels” is confusing — they’re just named group chats? I was never prompted to choose who to invite.

The “feed” is just confusing. This isn’t social media, I don’t need a chronological list of who reacted to which of my things when.

And it’s just so horribly buggy. Half the time my Linux client decides to use inputs/outputs/cameras that it says its not using, or it just ignores when I try to change those. And lest you think it’s just Linux, my fully-updated Windows 10 machine different issues! The UI frequently juts stops responding, and this morning I couldn’t get it to connect to video chat at all, just five seconds of nothing then a mysterious error dialogue asking me to try again in a few minutes.

Is it the worst software ever? No, I’m just stressed and frustrated and bitching. But still, this seems like low-hanging fruit and if I felt like burning some VC money this is how I’d try it.

My 8yo went in for a tooth extraction — he couldn’t clean around his braces and one of his baby molars rotted.

Turns out he’s too much like me, and the multiple injections of anesthetic he received didn’t completely do the job. Last report I got, he was in tears, refusing to open his mouth anymore.

They’ve referred him to a pediatric joint that can put him to sleep while the tooth is extracted, which wasn’t even on my threat radar for this.

Super hard to focus on minding his 4yo brother, or on how I’m gonna get any real work done this afternoon, when I’m worrying about how my eldest son.

Update: Literally as I was writing this, the report came in that the tooth has been extracted successfully!

It occurs to me that the last time I posted an “oh yeah gearing up for this new position” post — a post which is thankfully bitrotted away — that the position in question had a lifetime you could barely measure in days.

But I suppose I’m a creature of habit, and so be advised: I’m gearing up for this new position. New notebooks and a fresh bottle of Noodler’s Bernanke Blue. Writing notes by hand with a good pen has always been the best way to internalize stuff for me, and the ritual of buying new notebooks helps me settle into the right mindset.

On Monday, I’ll start as the Director of Engineering with Prescribe Fit. I’m nervous, I’m excited, and we’ll see if I can beat my previous record.

Updates from the compound!

This morning I’ve learned how to on-line rescan a virtual disk so that the Linux server picks up size changes, re-size the underlying partitions, and also tell the LVM setup to resize so that I can actually use the new capacity I added to the VM three days ago that was never utilized. I swear I never want to admin servers but I always end up building and adminning servers.

I also made coffee, which was kind of weak tbh.

Just finished a reread of KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL which is one of those “once every year or so” books for me, and I’m starting in on THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES, because I was such a dork for the original HUNGER GAMES series and I was shocked to learn this prequel came out! I’m not 100% sold on the protagonist being the cruel dictatorial leader from the original books, but I’m giving it a shot.

Gonna go clean a kitchen and try to figure out how we’re going to manage our two kids’ schooling in the fall since my country is now run by incompetence.

Or, in my case, painfully slow. I haven’t actually been outside on a run in years, but I went out this morning. I think I jogged/walked maybe a tenth of a mile? My GPS tracking failed miserably, so I don’t actually know, but for my dilapidated body it was a decent workout.

I gotta fix myself now, while I’m in my 30s and it’s easy. Or possible. Otherwise I’ll wake up in my fifties, completely unable to bend at the waist or move quicker than a gentle trot.

Also I gotta clean the kitchen today because I left it an absolute wreck. But I am pleased to report the brisket turned out amazing — less pepper next time in the rub, which was just salt and pepper to begin with, but otherwise my first 16-hour brisket smoke was a success!