Tag Archives: development

3 things never to talk about


People say you should never talk politics or religion with friends (you could throw footy in there with some).

I’ll add schooling preferences in there as well. It is an argument not worth winning.

You’ve probably heard it before, “I didn’t go to a private school and I’ve done alright” or “so and so went to the local high school and he’s a multi millionaire”.

I read an interesting article in a Saturday newspaper recently comparing kids coming through public and private schools in regards to their readiness for the AFL (Australian Football League) system.

Looking at the data, players from private schools are coming into the system a long way ahead of those from public schools in terms of coping with the professionalism required.

The debate around public vs private school regularly comes up with people I associate with, usually after a few drinks have been consumed, and it was this article that spawned my last “conversation” on the topic and reasoning for putting down my thoughts.

Before I go further let me lay out these things:
1. I went to a catholic high school, definitely not private and not public;
2. My kids have/are attending a private school; and
3. I sometimes question the cost/wisdom of our choice for number 2

The reasons I have chosen to send my kids to private school are the experiences, opportunities and beyond all, playing the percentages; if this isn’t the advantage of a private school education then there a lot of highly educated, smart people wasting their hard earned (not to mention the parents busting their backsides, going without to give their children a leg up).

I suppose the gist of the before-mentioned article backs up my argument.

My friends usually bring up 2 topics that stem from talking private schooling:

1. Private schools are a waste of money, they know heaps of people from public schools who have done better than people they know from private schools.

2. It isn’t fair that private school education holds more weight than a public school education – this is in reference to comparing two resumes of people you do not know and having to choose one to interview (maybe a bit of unconscious bias here, which we all have).

The unfortunate reality is that we are not all in a position to have the choice to send our kids to a private school; I know and respect that and it is probably why I didn’t go to one.

And yes there are some who make the choice not to; we are different and it would be a boring place if we weren’t.

When someone has a choice and another doesn’t, the conversation usually goes just one way and not the good way, again especially in a social setting with a few drinks.

From a job perspective, should the school one attended come into the equation? There are a lot of factors as to should it or shouldn’t it.

From my perspective sending my kids to a private school is an investment I made in them as people and I would hope that the rounded experience gained from this would help them get the jump on those that haven’t. If I haven’t achieved that then my investment decision hasn’t been great has it?

Like politics and religion, discussing the merits of sending your kids to private schools when you are and they aren’t (and visa versa) can only lead one way and it is a way you don’t want to go.


Any Questions? No, I Know It All


It is fair to say that these days a company usually knows that they have to be a lot better equipped at bringing young people into the company with on-boarding programs, training and mentoring programs.

When I started my software development career it wasn’t quite that way.

I was one of two people hired as a trainee programmer many years ago. We had both very young and had graduated from the Control Data Institute with a Diploma in Computer Programming.

The software language we were hired to develop in was Pick (or D3 as it was later renamed), a multi-dimensional database language and a world away from the language we had learnt in our course, Cobol.

So for the first few days we were given Pick book and green screen access to a Pick system to “play around”. After a few days our manager said to the both of us “I want you to take the book home tonight and come back with any questions”.

The next morning I arrived at work with a whole list of questions which I was eager to ask about.

My new colleague was asked if she had any questions. “No”, she said. “You have no questions at all?”, our manager asked. “No, I know it all”.

We all know the person that actually thinks they know it all. When someone says or acts like they know it all, one of two things is at play: they are either over self confident or they have no confidence at all.

In this case I believe the latter was true; this person was no over confident. It was obvious she was a young girl lacking in the self confidence to be able to show that she needed some help combined with the fact that equality in the workplace wasn’t quite around in 1988.

I think back now with the benefit of hindsight, empathy, a greater appreciation of equality and wonder just how uncomfortable it would have been for her. I’m sure it hindered the experience of her entry into software development and the work force in general.

It wasn’t helped a few weeks alter when we were both mocked by a more senior software developer as I described in another post I wrote “I Think I Was Bullied“. I still wonder where that guy ended up.

Today we have much better understanding and appreciation for all types in the work environment to ensure they have all the help and tools to be successful. At carsales not only are we being proactive with a diversity programs, our mentoring program is fantastic for allowing all levels the opportunity to learn from more experienced people within the business.

Mentoring is a great initiative. As long as the mentor doesn’t think they know it all….


Football v Career – Actions Defined by Subconscious Thinking


Have you ever thought about your subconscious actions and how they affect the course of your life?

I am amazed at how our subconscious thinking defines our actions; when I think back now to the late 80’s, early 90’s it was my subconscious thinking that drove actions that set the shape of my professional life.
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This was when I commenced my employment with Reynolds & Reynolds in the automotive technology space (the space I am still around today) and played my first AFL Senior season in that same year (VFL back then).

Now looking back, the path that both of those took is a lesson in itself. This is not about me looking back thinking “what if” (maybe a little, sometimes) but more a real lesson in what shapes our beliefs and ultimate actions.

Football
I loved football and still do but it has never been my life nor did I ever set out for it to be my life. I didn’t work hard to play AFL, it just “happened”. One week I was playing local U18 football (no training, out on Friday nights before a game) and the next week I was playing with Richmond U19s, appointed Captain the following season and played my first senior AFL game the year. Yes I did all the hard training including the long pre-season but nothing extra or out of the ordinary (unfortunately). Football was just meant to be fun.
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Technology
Now I compare that with my software development career which kicked off in the same year. Almost from the start I was driven to do more and be better than the other programmers. I quickly got a reputation for not letting something go before it was done. That meant late nights, weekends, etc, going above and beyond, doing the extra work.

Dad always said to me about working to “work hard, be loyal and you’ll get looked after”. Football to me was always short term thinking. Work, my profession, has always been thinking about the long term.

What if I worked my butt off in football to get every bit I could out of myself? What would I be doing now? It might be exactly the same. It might be different. I don’t really care and don’t dwell on it because I made that choice many years ago subconsciously and divided by effort/time accordingly (or maybe I subconsciously knew where my talents really were….).

I still love football and I am still involved today as a Board member of the EFL and through my kids playing. It is and always has been an outlet for me. Would I have loved to have played more senior AFL football? Definitely but not necessarily at the cost of what I’m doing today. Remember too, it wasn’t fully professional back then either and let’s face it, I was never going to be in the elite bracket!

I like to think I’ve “worked hard, been loyal and been looked after” to get to where I am today so I’m pretty happy with my lot and it was my subconscious thinking that defined it for me.

Have you thought about your journey and how you made it to where you are today?


2 Pieces Of Career Advice


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I found a great article recently through a LinkedIn post titled “Is My CareerOn Track At Age 30” which had some significance for me.

When I was in my 20’s the age 30 held something for me. My first goal was a financial one where I was determined to be earning a dollar amount as my base salary by the time I was 30. This was a benchmark for me for whatever reason (I have no idea or good reason for it other than that’s what it was). My second goal was to run my own business.

As I got closer to 30 and not closer to my goals I started to look at what I had to do to get there and beyond.

My father had given me a couple of pieces of advice when I started work:

1) be loyal, work hard and you will be looked after; and

2) if you want to get somewhere you need to do it yourself, take charge
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So it was with hitting 30 and the second piece of my father’s advice that I left my 10.5 year secure employment (where I believe I had been very loyal and hard working) to take the chance on a start-up even though I had to re-mortgage my house with our second child on the way. I am fairly risk adverse and to this day unsure how I managed to take the jump!

As it turned out, within 1 year of starting my business I had achieved the salary level I had set at age 30. I was happy with myself that I had taken affirmative action to achieve both goals.

Fast forward to when I was approaching 40. I had sold my shares in the business I had started and was running the same company for a US based company. Whilst the previous 6 years as CEO had seen good growth with CAGR for Revenue at 31% and EBITDA 24%, I could see the writing on the wall for a decline as our legacy services were being replaced and the investment started we required to reinvent ourselves was drying up.
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I didn’t want to be running a business that wasn’t growing so it was time to be in charge of my own destiny again and start the next chapter of my career. Was it coincidence that this was at 40 when I then joined carsales.com? I don’t think it is a coincidence either that my boss at carsales was my boss for the time I was with Reynolds & Reynolds (see the first piece of advice my father gave me).

Does this mean that over the next few years I need to start looking at my next career change? You never say never and I do have new goals and expectations but given the passion I have for role and the company and given the short, medium & long term goals we have in place, I don’t think so.

I think the two pieces of advice dad gave me are applicable to most; and they can be interpreted in different ways. At the end of the day attitude and aptitude overrides skills and for me, these two things are the essence of what the advice means.


1 Massive Difference From The 90’s


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Who’s more annoying for the product & technology team in a tech/online company like carsales.com – a member of the executive team who knows little to nothing about developing product or one that knows something about it (or thinks they do)?

I’m in the latter group of this question having started as a software developer at the end of 1988 moving into the 90’s. I look at changes we need to make and get impatient on delivery times. I can’t help it. I think back to when I was developing and if I had something in front of me that could make a difference in the product, we just seemed to make it happen, “from go to whoa“.

The software life cycle for me went like this as I would:
— Scope the product;
— Develop the product;
— Test it;
— Document (in the code and for users, sometimes);
— Deploy the product into the release cycle; and
— Then support it (when a software release was made available).
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I was in total control. We had over a dozen developers all with the same life cycle for changes big and small. We would do a new software release containing hundreds of changes twice a year. The end product was used by hundreds of dealers and thousands of users around Australia.

There are quite a few differences from the 90’s to now in software development but the number 1 difference has to be plainly and simply 1 thing:

The Internet

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The rate of change, always available and number of users make the processes of the 90’s obsolete. Like today, we had thousands of features as well as integrations and dependencies throughout many products but 3 things we didn’t have to factor in were:

1. Code being pushed live multiple times per day – the quarterly release schedule that regularly got pushed to half yearly is long gone

2. 99.9% plus availability for users – we always had windows where we could bring the system down for a number of hours to fix or upgrade something

3. Having a scalable and reliable system and code base to handle millions of users and millions of actions per second not to mention hosting in “the cloud” – this adds complexity and cost, especially for disaster recovery which has to be a staple

We all take the Internet for granted and the change it has had on our lives.

Oh for the good old days of software development….