Give Marissa the benefit of the doubt on the work-from-home thing

Posted by Johnny Fuery on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 , under | comments (0)

I'm a CEO. Yes, my LinkedIn says "Principal Engineer" and I occasionally toss around "President", but I'm a founder, I'm responsible for people's paychecks, and I've arguably hustled harder and pulled more all-nighters than Sergei and Larry ever have.

But I'm just trying to invoke street cred. My point has nothing to do with my accomplishments.

The interwebs have criticized Marissa Mayer of Yahoo left, right, and sideways about making folks come into the office. I don't know Marissa, I'm not sure of her abilities, and I don't have a bone to pick with her or Yahoo as a company.

I do know that it has been a long time since I thought of Yahoo as innovative. I also happen to know what it is to work for a medium sized company with a culture lacking accountability or inspiration.

I also think that Marissa deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one. The outlaw against working from home has nothing to do with feminism, women's rights, respect for employees, American competitiveness, or anything else quite so grandiose. It has to do with managing smart (we hope) people in a "maintain the status quo" environment.

Now, let me tell you something about what smart people do when faced with a six-figure paycheck and no real accountability.

  1. Leave and start your own company. This, of course, requires capital, a fantastic idea, and lots of hubris. Pick any two. Add tenacity if you're wise.
  2. Leave and join a company with better culture, probably a startup.
  3. Do the minimum, "work" from home for a couple of hours daily, and "fly low".
  4. Slightly more sensibly (or ethically), hang out, doing the minimum, until you can put together 2 out of 3 items in #1 and then start your own company. This might be the same as #3 if you're reading this.
  5. Fight the frustratingly sluggish brass at your firm and either get promoted to a point where this exercise is moot or slapped down until you give up the fight in quiet pain as your devotion to king and country is squandered at the hands of bad management. 
  6. Quit with no fallback plan because you are just that cocky. Or, perhaps, that good.
  7. Start a blog calling Paul Krugman an idiot, Marissa Mayer aloof, and Rush Limbaugh the Messiah. Hey, there are probably readers in that demographic. 
If you're seeing a pattern here, if you are a Yahoo employee that stuck around through the 17 re-appointments of Jerry Yang at the big Y!, if you think that showing up for a job 5 days a week is a travesty, then you probably aren't working all that hard.

And Marissa, for all that you might reasonably question her about, is not an idiot. If half her staff are phoning it in, she knew that her third day on the job. And that's just because she slept on it twice to sanity check herself.

The culture at Yahoo needs to change. People have to step up to the plate and give it their best. And the best is not up for grabs if you are phoning it in between soccer practice at 10:30am and the rotary club at 2.

So, Yahoos, it is time to get to work. You got some cool new smart phones, a hot CEO, a multiple month grace period to proactively step up to the plate, and a bump in your stock for little more than lip service. Now get to f***ing work. If you don't like the pressure and you think showing up is a Draconian measure, you're free to go start your own company and/or go work for someone else who will (gasp) also expect results.

Ms. Mayer would not have taken this measure if her staff were hitting home runs. My guess is that most Yahoos haven't worked a legit 40 hours (and that doesn't mean 40 hours with your ass in a chair, it means actually building things) since 2001. When that changes, you'll get your flexible WFH schedules back.

For my part, I would gladly pay six figures to an employee of my company who could produce what I can in any regard while working from home. Heck, you can phone it in as long as the results are measurable and genuine. But I'm not an idiot, either, and if you can't, you better at least answer the corporate desk phone when I call you at 9am.

And maybe, just maybe, with a little bit of discipline, you'll start caring again, and earning that "smart" adjective.

Linguistic Rules and the absence of Abstract Thought

Posted by Johnny Fuery on Sunday, December 26, 2010 , under | comments (19)

It occurred to me in passing yesterday (Merry Christmas) that the English rules around "its" and "it's" represent an absence of abstract thought on the part of linguistic rule-setters.

I, for instance, see nothing logically wrong with this:

The refrigerator is cold. It is cold because someone has set it's temperature control to the lowest setting.
Why can't the refrigerator possess a temperature control? It does, in fact, have one, right? But, alas, Strunk and White tell us to remove the apostrophe.

Obviously, linguistic rule-setters have have never, ever programmed. Every object can have methods and properties. Duuuuh. Did we really need this rule to differentiate "it's" as a contraction from "it's" as a possessive? Has anyone ever actually misunderstood the placement of the apostrophe when incorrectly applied to imply ownership or similar containing relationship?

Disclaimer: this post represents no judgment of liberal arts majors. Excepting, of course for the liberal arts major that happened to set this silly rule. Psssh.

Startup Gospel

Posted by Johnny Fuery on Sunday, November 7, 2010 , under | comments (0)

I just read this twice.

A few parts I found particularly compelling:

What matters is not ideas, but the people who have them. Good people can fix bad ideas, but good ideas can't save bad people.
There's a great line right before this about how a VC will tell you to piss off if you ask them to sign an NDA. The inconvenience of signing the damn thing is worth more to them than your stupid idea. 
The only way to make something customers want is to get a prototype in front of them and refine it based on their reactions. 
Ohhhh, so spending a year in "stealth mode" isn't actually the way to go? Whew. 
To make something users love, you have to understand them. And the bigger you are, the harder that is. So I say "get big slow." The slower you burn through your funding, the more time you have to learn.
The most important way to not spend money is by not hiring people. I may be an extremist, but I think hiring people is the worst thing a company can do. 
Funny how I just posted a craigslist ad looking for more help. 
As with office space, the number of your employees is a choice between seeming impressive, and being impressive. Any of you who were nerds in high school know about this choice. Keep doing it when you start a company.
This was after a several paragraphs about how cheap office space was in the early days. There's a line about commuting home to the burbs. "god help you" he says. Heh.

And the closest to home for me these days:
During this time you'll do little but work, because when you're not working, your competitors will be. My only leisure activities were running, which I needed to do to keep working anyway, and about fifteen minutes of reading a night. I had a girlfriend for a total of two months during that three year period. Every couple weeks I would take a few hours off to visit a used bookshop or go to a friend's house for dinner. I went to visit my family twice. Otherwise I just worked.

Top 10 Annoying Things about Running a Small Business

Posted by Johnny Fuery on Sunday, July 4, 2010 , under , , , | comments (0)

10. You know how you used to sit in those big company meetings and wonder when the rest of the room would catch up, why you were there, and how all these idiots could be making so much money while you were stuck in (wherever)? That doesn't change when you're the CEO. You just wince more, because you realize you're paying for all of their time in a more direct way.

9. Suppliers never seem to have the work ethic you do. No matter how much you trust them, no matter how much they are being paid, and no matter how critical the deadline, they'll probably be late.

8. Customers and clients don't pay on time. The single biggest surprise I've had as a small biz guy is not necessarily clients who pay late, but clients who steal -- take delivery of product or services and then file for bankruptcy right afterwards or otherwise dispute the bill. If you're going to have problems paying, at least call to proactively inform and then don't take delivery. My firm can use those resources somewhere else. Right?

7. Everyone suddenly thinks you're rich. Actually, I made far more money when I had a day job and did investing and contract work on the side. Like 20-30x as much when you factor in the pain of making a payroll in 2009. It doesn't matter if it's a business expense if you have no income to write it off against.

6. Creditors want you to co-sign on everything. What? Why did I bother incorporating, then? So I could write personal checks to the company for two years, ruin my own credit going for broke, and then still need to co-sign?

5. Investors and creditors value your life -- er, firm -- on last year's sales, but you need their money to make good on next year's promises. Except, of course, if next year's projections are less than last year's, in which case they use those numbers and discount them even further. F*** you guys.

4. Holidays. They no longer exist. Well, sorta I guess. You do have a few minutes for an annual blog post on Independence Day.

3. 100 hour work weeks. That whole work-life balance thing? The recommendation from all the gurus that you turn off the blackberry once in awhile? Sorry, I took a call from a client just now. You were saying?

2. The only women you meet also happen to be partners, employees, investors, suppliers, or vendors. I apparently don't mind dating salespeople, but "it's complicated" is an understatement.

1. Everybody hustles/hates/targets you and no one appreciates you. I totally get why presidents and CEOs go completely grey within their first 2-3 years. (pluck) I wonder if that's how this guy felt.

What's Up with All These Re-Posts?

Posted by Johnny Fuery on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 , under | comments (0)

As part of my company's efforts to live the dream of becoming completely based in the cloud, I went ahead and moved my personal blog (this one) to blogger.

To do this, I used the GData API and wrote a quick Wordpress plugin that queried wp_posts and submitted them as new blog articles to Blogger via Google's API.

Couple of things I found out:

  • The GData Blogger API has an upper limit of 50 posts within any single rolling 24 hour period.

  • It's a pain to submit comments via the API.

  • No one else has ever tried to do this. Most people want to get their data out of Blogger and into Wordpress.

  • Customizing Blogger's UI is a pain also, but mostly because I can't use standard web tools and have to do it all without server-side scripting and jump through hoops to use JavaScript.

For my almost-dead personal blog, however, I think this will suit me just fine. My income from blogging never topped $100 a month anyway, and it was an awful lot of work to keep up with.

The world needs Jot conversion tools

Posted by Johnny Fuery on Friday, January 15, 2010 , under | comments (1)

Originally Published 2003-09-16 15:40:37

I might just have to write some. No one but AvantGo could find a use for a jpeg-to-jot conversion tool. But, hey, where there's a need, eh?

I'm thinking... parse through the jpeg pixel by pixel and create a jot "stroke" for each pixel, monochrome only. Kind of an inefficent approach, but it's the simplest algorithm in terms of development time. I can't believe some linux geek hasn't already done this, but then again, no one else on the planet uses the scribble input tag, now do they? :-)

Kind of a geeky project... When I get finished with the 20 conference calls I have this week, anyway. Oh yeah, and my billable on-project work.

Sigh. How do people with real responsibilities do it? Oh yeah... they don't work out, they don't have second jobs, and they don't date hot chicks.

I definitely have nothing to complain about.

It never ends

Posted by Johnny Fuery on , under | comments (0)

Originally Published 2004-07-28 11:54:13

Are you talking about the deductions you made because the credit card statement didn't match the expense report on some of the meals?

I pay tips in cash an awful lot of the time. Is there any allowance for that? No, I don't have a receipt, yes, I paid them out, and no I'm not risking my job and integrity over $20-$30.

I don't want to fight about this and I don't want to delay $1200 in reimbursements over such a small amount, but you know how I feel about this. It's extremely lame. You spend all this time pouring over my report and verifiying literally pennies (which certainly costs more than $20-$30 in labor), then cause me all kinds of frustration... the business sense of this eludes me.

If there's anything you can do to make this right, I'd be very appreciative. If not, it's fine, I'll just make sure I don't pay out tips in cash any more. And roll my eyes after selling all my SY stock.



May S.

07/26/2004 03:10 PM



Subject: Expense Report ER00150465 - Meals


There has been a change made to your expense report. Please go to eTrip and open the above document. Double click on the line that is zero out. Click on the "notes" button to view the comments made. You can use the scroll bars on the side to navigate around the "notes" section.

Please feel free to let me know if I can help you in any way.