1.04.2005

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» RANT: 5 ways to understand a lazy colleague
» RANT: Games traders play
» RANT: To the trader who said "because that is the way we have always done it"
» TIP: The 4 Ks of fair fight
» RANT: Are you the annoying coworker?
» TIP: Are you buying motivation?
» TIP: Getting past a celebrity obsession
» RANT: Excel - a Golden Hammer?, II
» RANT: Talker or Doer
» RANT: Well written, Badly behaved

RANT: 5 ways to understand a lazy colleague

  • A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station. what more can I say.
  • "Work fascinates me" I can look at it for hours.
  • "Hard work never killed anybody" But why take the risk.
  • The more you learn, the more you know, The more you know, the more you forget, The more you forget, the less you know So... why learn.
  • If it's true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the others here for?

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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RANT: Games traders play

(in order of passiveness to aggressiveness)
  • Play Mr. nice guy: tell people what they want to hear and just go along to get along - without making any real contribution/progress.
  • Call a long timeout: about 30 seconds into a "discussion," s/he changes the topic. No risk taken if you are not taking a position.
  • Make it personal: use his/her judgments of other participants as an excuse to disengage in the topic.
  • Subcribe to the "if you don't wanna do the dishes, break a few" tactic.
  • Subscribe to preemptive strike: get them before they get me. aka. the "You can't fire me, I quit!" attitude.
  • Play Mr. right: my way or the highway.

To navigate out of these games, put yourself in the traders' shoes and think about P&L

  • Loss: What is the trader afraid that s/he's gonna lose if we move forward? Is Politics involved?
  • Profit: What can he gain if s/he doesn't play these games?

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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RANT: To the trader who said "because that is the way we have always done it"

A young woman was preparing a ham dinner. After she cut off the end of the ham, she placed it in a pan for baking. Her friend asked her,"Why did you cut off the end of the ham"? And she replied ,"I really don't know but my mother always did, so I thought you were supposed to."

Later when talking to her mother she asked her why she cut off the end of the ham before baking it, and her mother replied,"I really don't know , but that's the way my mom always did it.

A few weeks later while visiting her grandmother , the young woman asked, "Grandma, why is it that you cut off the end of a ham before you bake it?" Her grandmother replied ,"Well dear, it would never fit into my baking pan."

Traders sometimes behave like the young woman who blindly follows an existing practice. When automating an existing manual trading process, they often want no changes "because that's how we've always done it" or "because that's how everyone else does it", failing to realize that if you automate an ineffective practice, all you'll get is a fast ineffective one.

Automating a crappy process as is only means we can produce more crap faster.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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TIP: The 4 Ks of fair fight

Let's face it. No team is without fighting and arguing. The question is, do you go into it looking for a greater control over the other or a resolution of the issue? The first can make you look childish as your collegues are entitled to give a reasonable voice to legitimate issues in a constructive way. To keep the arguments sane & fair, here are 4 Ks to keep in mind
  • Keep it private: Arguing in front of other colleagues makes it harder for your opponent to retreat if s/he wants to. Or worse, It may attract the wrong crowd (ie. your other 'enemies'.)
  • Keep it focused: Focus on the issue at hand so that a fight doesn't degrade into a free-for-all. Don't bring up unrelated old grudges or sore points (or even resort to personal attacks/name calling).
  • Keep it real: Know what you want. Get real about what is bothering you. Or you may not feel any better even if you win the argument.
  • Keep it short: Offer your opponent a face-saving way out (ie. an olive branch) when it's a good time to end the argument. Something as simple as a joke will do. Don't let the argument to stretch on indefinitely.

When done right, fair fight can actually reduce the negative effects of disagreement as well as the chances of future arguments.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

Your Turn!

 

RANT: Are you the annoying coworker?

Ran across CNN's fabulous list of behaviors that aggravate coworkers. Some of my favorites include
  • make provocative statements to "foster dialogue" or needle others.
  • recite rhyming or other cutesy messages as one's voice mail greeting.
  • The questions asked at meetings are preceded by long monologues of one's views and accomplishments.
  • often give others assignments as they're walking out the door for lunch or to catch the train home.
  • borrow staplers, scissors and tape from others' desks and forget to return them.

More often than not, there's a drama queen behind these behaviors - s/he just has to be the center of attention. S/he loves crisis. S/he is overanimated. S/he is insecure. Other annoying behaviors/characteristics include

  • None of his/her ordinary life events are ordinary (ie. Every sickness s/he has is the worst the doctor has ever seen.)
  • Every comment made to him/her is either the sweetest/warmest thing s/he has ever heard or the rudest/most vicious attack imaginable.
  • Wears his/her history on the sleeve.

Incidentally, those around a drama queen soon recognize his/her histrionics, and discount anything and everything s/he has to say.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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TIP: Are you buying motivation?

Do you use money (bonus, raises) to buy motivation and productivity from your staff exclusively? Money can effectively juice staff performance, but that doesn't always keep them from fleeing the team.

Do you know what the real issue is? Your buying habits may be a result of not knowing enough about what gets your staff going: Is it the desire to excel in his/her line of work? The desire for ever-tougher challenges? Is it climbing the ladder? Is it freedom - operating according to their own rules and procedures? The freedom to balance their lifestyle with work? Is it job stability/security? Is it the need to create something of their own and run it? Is it the chance to focus on a particular cause? Buying can be a false substitute and an illusion.

What is your persistent buying saying to your staff? You try to golden handcuff them. Or worse, you block them from advancement. A real contribution would be to understand their career goals so you can be there for them.

Feed the soul as well as the wallet. You must figure out a way for your staff to archive their career goals. Buying their motivation only puts their future in jeopardy and making the problem worse.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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TIP: Getting past a celebrity obsession

We live in a celebrity-fixated culture. We are obsessed with celebrities from magazines like "People" and "US Weekly" to TV shows like "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood." But it doesn't stop there. We fantasize about celebrity leadership at work. We don't just want to become a leader. We want to lead with dramatic style. We want to lead with outgoing personalities. We want to look like a rock star.

Do you need to pay thousands of dollars of fees to hair stylists and image consultants so that people will think you're an effective leader? The next time you write a check for the latest hot tips, ask yourself why you need to talk and walk like a celebrity - especially if that's not the true you (ie. you have an introverted personality.)

The recognition doesn't make an act of leadership an act of leadership. A leader is still a leader if nobody knows. It's the results. Great results come when one's ambition is for the greatness of the work and the company rather than for themselves. That doesn't mean that s/he doesn't have any need for recognition. It just means that at decision point after decision point -- at the critical junctures when Choice A would favor his/her ego and Choice B would favor the company and its work -- time and again s/he picks Choice B. Celebrity leaders, who tend to put the high-profile end of their jobs on the front burner, are more likely to go the other way.

In additon to celebrity leadership, there are other equally effective styles that can inspire great devotion and maximum performance

  • Directive leadership: mind the store. Pragmatism and a focus on day-to-day operations
  • Participative leadership: close teamwork with other leaders.
  • Empowering leadership: energize subordinates with delegation of responsibility

Pursue a realistic style. Put a premium on the style that best fits you - your gifts, skills, abilities, characteristics and everything that uniquely defines you - 'cos you are going to be with you for a long, long time. If you have an introverted personality and you are pursuing a celebrity leadership, you are most likely to get disappointed after investing so much energy and money.

You can be a star with your own style. You can be low-key as well as effective even in a celebrity-fixated culture. You can be in the action without the spotlight and publicity. Stop measuring your leadership effectiveness as a function of recognition - It can just be smoke and mirrors.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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RANT: Excel - a Golden Hammer?, II

Do you shop at a single place to buy milk, cars, and all other goods you need?

Don't know about you, but I get better fruit from the grocer around the corner. Although one-stop is possible, one is often left with a sense of diminished quality through lack of appropriate specialisation. And that's why restaurants don't try to cater for all types of food.

One size doesn't fit all.

Category: C++ Quant > From The Trenches

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RANT: Talker or Doer

Edith Wharton has said that there are two ways of spreading the light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Likewise, there are two ways to climb the corporate ladder: being an active doer or an active talker. What would you rather be If you get to choose?

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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RANT: Well written, Badly behaved

The other day I got a wake-up call from our support staff in London at 3:00am: The nightly job for generating risk numbers was not spitting out Excel spreadsheets...

I had to login remotely to see what's going on. The database seems fine. the batch process is also running. hmm... what could it be? Let me "dir" the directory ... wait, what was that? 10 bytes free? Duh!

Not every well-written application is well administratable. What to do to avoid the annoying 3:00 AM panic calls ... besides ignoring the calls? First of all, develop your app with administration in mind. Have the system notify you when things are going bad, rather than having to devote your time to tracking it. Your application has more patience and free time than you.

Secondly, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's easier (ie.with less pressure) to fix a problem before it happens than react to it after it does real damage. Watch for disk space getting low instead of waiting until "out of disk space" messages crash your app.

Category: C++ Quant > From The Trenches

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