Archive for September, 2007

problem solving: build a network of people. Asking for advice is quicker and usually more insightful than learning the hard way.

In school we are taught that we must do things by ourselves. Depending on the circumstance, asking for help is akin to cheating. In addition, control freaks want to do everything themselves anyway. And sometimes pride means not asking for help when you need it. These are some of the drivers for us working in isolation. In happens in the workplace where there is a problem to solve and we are assigned to do it, we do it by ourselves. And when we are in an area that is new to us, it is easy to get bogged down in figuring out the new things. It may be the time required to learn the new tool, time to actually read the manual so we aren’t inept or dangerous, or navigating our first time through a process. The ramp-up times can be significant. But the common thread in these things is that they are things that other people know how to do, but we are new at it. It’s not cutting-edge research in uncharted territory. They are just things we need to learn.

So how do you approach it? There is a balance point. At one extreme is a brute-force exhaustive search across the landscape in a solo expedition. Or build the entire thing from scratch and learn the same lessons that other people already have. Sure, that removes your dependencies on other people and satisfies pride and control freaks, but it is also extremely time intensive. And in some cases, you are reinventing the wheel. Most employers don’t want you to spend that much time on it. Time is money. I’m afraid most of us tend toward this extreme. So my suggestion is to get more in the middle.

Find out who the people are that have experience (or may be the experts in) what you are trying to learn. Spend some time talking to them. You can ask about their experience in that area. Utilize their experience and the lessons they have already learned. They can offer pointers for an accelerated start, best practices, anti-patterns, and most importantly, a net evaluation. The knowledge you can get based on the time invested is a huge improvement over the solo expedition. And the insights that other people can provide may exceed your own capabilities anyway.

At the other extreme is lack of due diligence and not doing your homework and being a burden to other people. Don’t go that far, pawning off your core learning responsibilities to other people. Respect their time. And sometimes take other people’s comments with a grain of salt. But don’t work in isolation either. Sure, it increases your dependencies, but an appropriate level of interdependency within an organization is a desirable thing.

So next time you are working on a big problem, ask around a bit. And be willing to respond to other people’s questions too.

things i wish i knew before working marcelk 05 Sep 2007 No Comments

mosquito bites: getting rid of the itch

I live in an area where mosquitoes are common. You don’t want to be outside at dusk without repellent, or you will get eaten up. And I hate mosquito bites and the itches. A bite will bother me for 2-3 days. I am better at dealing with pain than itches. Thank goodness for DEET to keep the nasty critters away. In the event that repellent doesn’t work or I didn’t put it on, there is another alternative: After Bite.

After Bite is a liquid that you put directly on the bite after it has occurred. It reduces the itching. In my opinion, it really reduces the itching, depending how soon you put it on. If I notice an itch coming on within a few minutes after getting bit, and I put on a couple applications of After Bite, the itching generally goes away in less than an hour, and the swelling also goes down. This all may sound like a TV infomercial, but the stuff really does work for me, seriously. Of course, don’t scratch the bite area even with this treatment.

From what I can tell, the active ingredient is ammonia, it’s not an anti-histamine like Benadryl or an anti-inflammatory like Cortaid. I don’t think it smells as bad as repellent, and I wouldn’t have guessed that ammonia would have this effect, I can just say that it works for me. I have found After Bite at Eckerd and Target, so I would assume you should be able to find it at similar retailers. In the stores it’s generally located next to the repellents.

Hmm, maybe the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding was on to something with the Windex…

cool stuff that doesn't cost much marcelk 04 Sep 2007 No Comments