Tuesday 24 January 2023

The Agility Angst

First of all: let me start by showing my age. I was born in 1973, and yes, that does mean that there's a big, and I mean BIG, party coming later this year. Big Five Oh looming around the corner - and to be honest I am very, very fine with that. I am happy with my age - except when I am being dropped like a baby at the back of the cycling bunch. Then not so much - dammit.

What does my age have to do with anything? Well - it basically means that I grew up with a very, very different type of software development practice. OO was still young. The mythical man-month was still a thing. And methodologies all depended on strict, rigid waterfall development models.

Nothing wrong with the odd waterfall, of course, but with the emergence of more and more, and better and better, software tools, libraries and frameworks - this whole idea of the time consuming waterfall process has kind of become irrelevant. Who would still go through this entire process and ask their users to wait for months before they would be able to give any feedback? What users would accept that type of arrogance on behalf of their IT department? Seriously?

Wednesday 18 January 2023

The modeling mismatch

After having spent 10+ years in the wonderful world of Neo4j, I have been reflecting a bit about what it was that really attracted me personally, and many - MANY - customers as well, to the graph. And I thought back to a really nice little #soundcloud playlist that I made back in the day: I basically went through dozens of #graphistania #podcasts that I had recorded, and specifically went back to the standard question that I was asking my interviewees on the podcast: WHY do you like graphs??? WHY, for god's sake!!!

Unsurprisingly, people very often came back with the same answer: it's the DATA MODEL. The intuitive, connected, associative, visual, understandable structure that we humans love interacting with: the labeled property graph (LPG). Have a listen to what people were saying:

Thursday 12 January 2023

Pastures wide and green

Dear friends

a few weeks ago, I sent out this tweet:

Since that time, a lot has happened: a new year has started, a lot of fun was had with family and friends, a lot of bike rides were done -  and a lot of personal and professional conversations have been had. Obviously, it will take more time to move on from the wonderful world of graphs, but I feel increasingly positive about the journey behind me, and the journey ahead of me. 

With time, it's also starting to get clearer and clearer for me that I have learned so much about the world in the decade that I spent with Neo4j. Here are some bullets of what I learned:

  • Building great companies is hard. Period. It takes hard work and persistence to get to any kind of success.
  • Making people work together towards a valuable vision makes a world of a difference. Graphs are incredibly good at helping the world make sense of data - and there is not a shatter of a doubt about that in my mind. 
  • You can't build a process that beats the efficiency of organic collaboration of groups of people aiming for a common goal. 
  • The intrinsic motivation that you get from that goal will make people walk through fires. I voluntarily worked  my ass off for Neo4j for many years - because I believed in it. Still do.
  • Practitioners slash developers are ah-may-zing. They are the fuel that drives IT innovation - not the CIO up there in the boardroom. Pampering practitioners and making them love your software makes a world of sense, as they will sow the seeds of commercial success. The days of wining and dining your way to a deal are gone. Forever.
  • Helping practitioners be more effective inside their organisations is what I think a salesperson is supposed to do. Not selling TO them, but with them, building the technical and the value case for the investment - together. 
  • Selling with them means overcoming the inherent inertia that any complex system/organisation will thrive on. People don't like new things, because they don't like the uncertainty that comes with that novelty.
  • Overcoming uncertainty is at the core of selling high-tech software. The only way to do that is to focus on maximising the quantifiable value of the software, and minimizing the perceived risk of its adoption.
  • Honesty, authenticity and empathy are core to long term success. Anyone can get a quick hack success. In the long run, that never pays off.
That's just a small sample of some of the great lessons that I learned over the past decade. Going forward, I am going think through the different options that I have, and figure out where I can apply my experience most effectively. I want to find a company in a domain that I love, with a mission that I can get behind, and a team that I can fit into. 

I know I will find that place - but it may take some time. I am going to give myself that time, and in the mean while have lots of great conversations with lots of fun and interesting people. With time, that will lead me to pastures wide and green.

So: if you want to have a chat - please hit me up! You can reach me through this blog, or on the usual social media (Twitter, LinkedIn). 

All the best