Welcome to Sweden

A little bit less than 3 months ago, I moved to Sweden, along with my family, all of us heading to a country known in the US, if it's known at all, for long winters, extreme day lengths, and for being a bogeyman of something described as 'socialism', which conjures up a combination of laziness, ennui, the nanny state, high taxes, and impending economic collapse as a result of high deficits.

One prior (summertime) visit to Sweden hinted at some other possibilities. The vast majority of the population appeared healthy, well-dressed, and reasonably happy -- noticeably different from the highly visible poverty and diversity in health and well-being visible in the US. Infrastructure everywhere was of high quality and well-tended. Stockholm seemed extraordinarily safe, and, as a parent, the high number of youngish, largish families who looked pretty un-stressed out was noticeable too. 

Not that everything here was an idyllic socialist wonderland -- indigent Roma people are everywhere, apparently completely unplugged from any support, assistance or safety net. Something that felt open and welcoming in the summer felt closed and stifled in the winter.

I had resolved to write regularly in Stockholm. The stresses of work and relocation have delayed that a bit. Unfortunately, I'm beyond the 'wonder' stage now, but I'm going to try and make up for some lost time. This is the introduction.


Is Amazon's Work Environment as Toxic as NYT Says?

The New York Times' says that Amazon's work culture is horribly Darwinian, it's a place where everyone cries and people get fired for dealing with their own health or family issues. Amazon cries foul, and the internet wants to know: Who's the liar?

My instinct here is that everyone is telling the truth as they see it.

Most of us are trained to suck it up. Our inner voice tells us that everyone at work has their own problems, no one has the time to deal with yours, and managers don't want to be bothered. It's hard to ask for help, and a well-paying, potentially exciting, fast-moving role in a highly competitive workplace is all the more reason to clam up and try to get through it until you just can't. People who are happy working at Amazon are likely to either have less strenuous outside-work needs, or have mastered the art of asking for help.

It's also likely that Amazon managers aren't evil people who derive glee from their reports missing their kids' ball games and their parents' funerals. But they also might not have the internal ability, maturity, or support to be the best people managers they can be in what is acknowledged to be a high pressure environment. 

It is the job of a manager to catch the subtle cues that something may be amiss with a colleague. But it's almost definitely easier to 'see no evil', at least in the short-run, and especially when you're at a company where people want to work, thus making employees relatively replaceable. Denial and self-deception are the tools of stressed out people everywhere.

Amazon's reputation in the industry is close to the portrayal in the NYT article, but the practices and underlying goals described therein are widespread in the tech world. Deeper and broader analysis of labor issues in the tech world is most welcome, and I for one would like to see more of this reporting.


#slack almost haiku 1

yes this is correct

and noted in one of the bugs

it does not accept the invite

i’m still not in IBM

Thinking and Feeling

The implied uncertainly or emotion in saying you're 'thinking' or 'feeling' seem to act as live bait for a certain type of negative argumentativeness that doesn't up the level of discourse.

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My Response to Jesse Hertzberg's Exegesis on 'Pulling A Fixler'

Jesse posted a while back about how I had developed sort of a reputation for leaving certain meetings not long after they started. That post inspired both a reply and the creation of this very blog, so it seemed apropos to start with a repost.

Pulling A Fixler hasn’t [yet] entered the mainstream vocabulary in the way that pulling pork has, but the concept is clearly resonating among the lot of us who find too much of our time, creative energy, and productive output neutralized by ill-conceived and poorly run meetings. I get that.

Taking control of your time is a powerful act, particularly in tandem with an expression of integrity and competence, both of which are wrapped in the core of Pulling A Fixler. It’s also a loosening of the grips of both FOMO and careerism, and declaring that you know that you’re not actually missing anything, career consequences be damned.

Many of us find ourselves voiceless inside organizations that are needlessly and illogically off the rails. Etsy in 2011 had gone through 3 CEOs in 3 years, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thought it was in a healthy organizational state, or anyone who believed that the level of success that the company has seen under Chad Dickerson was inevitable or assured.

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