1. Communication Skills - not just “how to do a presentation,” or “actively listen,” but how to suss out the communication style of others, and relate to them in a way that they’ll engage with. Some people are listeners. Some are readers. Some like data. Some want a summary. Some want to know what’s in it for them. Some want to know what’s in it for the team.
2. Defusing conflicts - a decent portion of conflicts come from (in my experience) lack of communication (see #1).
3. Building effective relationships - honestly - I have to work on this one constantly but it helps with #2.
4. Energy management - I also have to work on this one constantly - I used to be able to swing an overnighter and wrap up a project. That worked for a long time, until it didn’t, and I failed, and I questioned my effectiveness as an engineer. Now, having a bunch of projects (some big, some small, some urgent, some important, some necessary but unimportant, etc) being able to recognize signs that I’m in a feedback loop of going too hard, or focusing on the wrong things.
5. Organizational Theory - I’m actively studying this area now. In the last few years I’ve shifted from designing hardware and software systems to setting up or changing teams.
6. Being ruthless about focus and saying no - I could use some tips here. A while ago I wrote that I wanted to be the “go-to” person for a subject. Now that I am, sometimes I question how to balance sharing expertise while still getting what’s most important (to me) done. :-)
> My god it's all the things I do every day, and I didn't even realize it. And I bet I'm just awful at it without even knowing it! Great list.
Thanks. I really love the prompt / question. I jokingly call the above "superpowers," but I'll be blunt: By paying attention to the above you'll be a little bit better than those that don't. And with such a low bar, you'll be a force multiplier for good. Even a little bit is better than doing nothing (a waste), or causing drama (actively bad). When combined with an understanding of systems and engineering practice, it's a really, really good combination.
> Do you have any recommended materials for gaining skill in organizational theory?
First, start with Manager Tools . This is my go-to for stuff a couple of times a week. Start with their "getting started" page and they map out how effective relationships work within an effective organization.
Second, have a look at Peter Drucker. Depending on where you want to go, he's probably literally written a book on the topic. The Effective Executive  might be useful, depending on your job. I haven't read his others.
Third, tangentially, is Good Strategy / Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt . It's not organizational theory, but its adjacent, in that it pretty ruthlessly dissects good and bad strategies for various organizations and entities, and tries to summarize what a "good" strategy looks like if you have to form one, or what a "bad" strategy looks like if you're subject to one. I link to a video here because the guy's a great speaker, and for us here, he looks (in 2011) at why NVIDIA was dominating the market at the time. :-) Skip to 47m 06 seconds for the NVIDIA bit. As an aside, the way he explains the 3D marketplace, and -gets it right- makes me trust everything else he wrote. He explains how 3DFX was crushed. Along with everyone else. He explains how NVIDIA's simulators, and driver expertise helped them to fundamentally disrupt the market. And then continue to stay ahead of it, and eventually become multiples bigger than Intel, who at the time was the behemoth in the space.
Writing is the gym for the brain. It will give you a lot of clarity on your thoughts and also improve how you speak. Your mind will be enhanced and it will affect positively all the aspects of your life.
Everybody writes, but very few do it deliberately. Most of the people, just write. They rarely even think about what they wrote. You will sound smarter. Not because of choice of words, but because you will begin to think clearly.
In the first three decades of my life. My schooling was second-rate and I've started to learn english quite late. Both my reading and writing skills were absolutely inferior to kids with a privileged background. My literacy as a kid was close to zero. My main focus was math, code and video games.
Then, having progressed in life mostly because of my technical skills and hard work, at some point I've felt my career had stalled. All my peers came from a much richer background than I and have studied in much better schools and I've started to dig into what could take me to the next level and to compete side-by-side with them.
One thing I've noticed is that I've never had a writing class before. Never. Just a few activities that one could count in one of their hands during my whole school and university life.
I've started then to write down my thoughts, then think and write. Practicing different exercises. Reading more and paying attention to other writers, to their cadence and style.
Inevitably my writing started to improve. I haven't have focused much on grammar so far and will certainly do at a later stage, as I feel there is still progress to be made in organising my thoughts.
If it interests you, try it. Feel free to send me an email if you have trouble to find time or what to write about, I can try to help you out. Let's progress together.
> One thing I've noticed is that I've never had a writing class before.
It is astonishing to think about how few people have really learned to write a longer organized text.
I think this is something that severely limits organizations and companies, especially in software development. Because software is increasingly complex, and if you are not able to describe it, it is hopeless to keep a sane structure. It is also difficult to on-board new specialist people because they would need to learn from oral history, and this makes learning and committing things into long-term memory much more difficult, which is easy if you have actually readable docs, because you just can look into them again and again.
Of course, you can do tricks to limit unnecessary complexity, methods like, say, abstractinos, or micro-services, or automatic memory management, or defining stable APIs - and you should use them of course!
However, a percentage of problems objectively require complex solutions to solve them. Without writing, it will be difficult to address them, and that puts the organization at a disadvantage against those which do.
By being a human you'll constantly think. Write your thoughts down. There you go, you know now what to write about!
On a more serious note, look for anything you are interested at and start to write it. You don't need to be a professional, you can write about it as an amateur and share your journey with others in a blog post or Twitter. Hell, even facebook.
Let's say you want to learn a new programming language. You'll have many thoughts like: hey, this function is pretty neat. This and that. I like this, I don't like that.
Find a clever way of writing those thoughts that is concise and that people would like to read.
If you are too shy and don't feel like sharing your thoughts with anyone, write it for yourself. Imagine if you could open a box with your texts from 1 year ago, with how are you feeling and what you are worried and excited about. I'd bet you would be interested at it. But you don't have it now. So start stacking those texts now for the next year.
As for exercises, there are so many and they will improve your writing in different ways, it's up to you to decide what is important. Find anybody that is inspiring to you and see how they write and communicate.
Also, like any art or subjective matters, writing is all about observing. Our brain has too many things to care about. If you don't make the conscious decision of looking at a text with a observer POV, it will just be yet another text and your brain will only focus on its content, not so much with style.
Learning SQL early on in uni. I attended a course where you passed the course if you completed a certain percentage of the home exercises on a web platform. They were just tons and tons of different kinds of SQL pickles against a fake corporation Postgres database, probably more complex than you'd ever need in an average CRUD app project. This was very useful in my first job were I had to make sense of a weird legacy data platform built on top of MSSQL but also later on in basically any project ever involving a relational DB.
Git somes to mind too, where it changed the way I think about how to do the day-to-day writing of my code and that the knowledge is very transferable across all kinds of projects.
I would second this as being proficient at SQL is a 10x skill. I learned more on the job than in college though. If you want to be good at web app development that means CRUD which means understanding RDBMS and SQL.
Even though I work with Rails, I think in SQL when it comes to data relationships. Being able to just join together tables in SQL, get metrics, dive into data issues, etc. without some ORM or layer in between you and the data is a 10x skill since it will likely carry through your entire career as web frameworks, libraries, etc. come into and out of fashion.
I would extrapolate this further into knowing the base languages used in whatever you work on. If its web, a fundamental understanding of HTTP, HTML, CSS, JS without frameworks, code generators, etc. will give a solid base to then easily pick up how various languages and frameworks layer on top of the fundamentals.
Nope, sorry mate. It was a long time ago. I did find  which seems similar-ish (I have no idea what "w3resource" is) but I think our schema back then had a lot more tables and the questions were a bit more diverse.
I was made to perform on-stage since I was 3/3.5. I kept liking it, and keep doing it. It makes all kinds of public speaking a walk in the park. You face much smaller amounts of anxiety before giving a talk, writing a test. And it gave me a general practice to subdue anxiety in all anxiety inducing tasks.
I learnt writing in school from my humanities teachers. Literature, History, and Geography. Also from a Science teacher. They taught me how to write, how to present facts, how to make an airtight argument with everything I have. I have met many interesting people through my writings- both technical and non-technical. I write good documentations, good proposals and reports.
This doesn't come in the list when one talks about skills. But being a better listener, and also being able to communicate your points well are good skills together. I often discuss stuff with people. Better ideas emerge from such discussions, and I gain newer knowledge and even newer perspectives. This is priceless. Being approachable, being able to admit my mistakes and wrong concepts also helps big time.
Is reading for a long time a skill? If yes, it had paid me well. It helped me escape reality, introduced me to new cultures, perspectives and gave me good times. I have met a bunch of interesting people through talking about and writing about books.
5. Open Mind
I have an open mind and not stringent, and not prone to quickly reach conclusions and live happily with more entropy in my brain. I am eager to learn newer things, challenge my own beliefs. This is what drives my growth.
I just got started with "The Mind Illuminated" by Yates from an HN comment. It has given me much more than I ever expected. Much more focus and longer periods of focus. And everything I do for pleasure gives me more pleasure. I am much more calm and take decisions better. I am also able to decide much more quickly because I know myself better, and can predict myself better.
I just write my heart out, no barrier between me and my diary. I take snapshots of some parts that turns into blog posts or topics of discussion or future actions in general. I destroy my journal periodically because it is too bare, and nothing is held back from it.
Rule 1: be attractive. Rule 2: don't be unattractive.
Obviously in society there's a lot with this: you're born with a face shape, height, you can lose your hair because genetics, etc. With enough money, surgery, etc you can change some of these things but IMO that's ridiculous vs working with what you have.
Weight training is great from a health and longevity standpoint but it's also the most straightforward way to be "better looking".
Cliche example of the 20 year high school reunion. The beautiful people at that age were mostly coasting on what they were born with and everything that comes with youth.
20 years later the "beautiful" people who put on 50 lbs of fat vs the "ugly" people who put the work in... Needless to say most will consider the roles reversed. Resistance training goes furthest in this.
In my experience, it was the endurance athletes and people committed to dynamic bodyweight work like pilates, dance, or gymnastics that hit that “20 year reunion” mark best, but resistance training is good for sure!
I learned to watch the room and listen to side conversations in meetings. I pick up on nuances and team dynamics that I can utilize sometime in the future.
I learned when to keep my mouth shut. Never underestimate the value of remaining silent and letting someone else prove how stupid they are.
I learned to trust very, very few people. Not very many people make it into Ring 0. Some people I trust with some things. Other people I trust with other things. But never anyone with everything (except family or outside of work friends). Most everyone at work is out for themselves. Most won’t hesitate to use you for their personal gain.
I always wondered. Those people who get hit by a car and their shoes fly off their mangled body while they're being thrown up in the air like a Roman in an Asterix comic... - what kind of a sloppy job are they doing tying their shoe laces? Turns out, they're looking for 1000x returns in shoe lace tying.
The answer is as cruel as the situation. You need to lace your shoes only so that the laces carry the weight of the shoe, plus a bit of extra force when you are running. That force is mass of the shoe, times acceleration, so it is only a little extra force, compared to their weight.
If you are hit by a car, your body is subject to extreme accelerations, many many times more than the normal gravity. You can observe that when you watch videos from crash tests. And these G forces slip off the shoes.
Procrastination and lack of focus and organization...which has translated into an ability to cut thru a lot of bs , identify key value, always deliver on tight deadlines while juggling multiple projects. Yeah I could have gotten here differently but everyone always told me it would screw me in the long run and it has most definitely done the exact opposite.
I think we all have qualities that are perceived as "negative" in the larger context of jobs, but if you come to terms to it and focus on the positive aspects of those qualities things might work out for the better.
You can see this a lot with people who have stayed as ICs their whole life because they simply couldn't deal with organizational BS or they didn't have the communication and social style to charm a room of business people. If you are one of these people you can make yourself miserable about how you don't have the personality for BS and everybody else is an idiot, or you can say that while your career was limited vertically, you did what you wanted to and made decent money doing it.
The fact it is 2022 and there are still Excel users who can't do pivot tables is a travesty. Meanwhile the rest of us have moved into Power Query, M-language, and Tables; leaving those who couldn't keep up even further behind.
MS Access and "advanced" Excel. My non-development career has been based in bureaucratic organizations with systems that are very locked down. In many of my positions I have been able to automate the majority of my work and spend time saved on going 'above and beyond.'
This thread is making me wonder... what percentage of HN users don't already touchtype? I learned from a keyboarding class in junior high and I've kind of taken it for granted that schools taught that kind of thing earlier now without making it into an actual class.
 Reason 146 I'm a cynic: it was supposed to be a programming class. There was exactly 1 day that involved any kind of programming, it involved BASIC entered manually from a 1 page set of instructions, contained 10 lines of code, and the teacher, being the quintessential "school marm" of yesteryear, was not able to provide any debugging assistance. I was disappoint. To this day I can trace my undying belief that periods get two spaces after them to that class.
I was homeschooled, and I'd imagine a lot of others who were didn't learn.
I spent about a half hour a day for a week trying, because I wanted to write an article on the learning process, and on Vim, from the perspective of someone with no background in muscle memory type skills or fast thinking..
But I got bored and busy with other stuff. I was up to a little under one letter per second with hone row only excercises, still counting fingers one by one to remember which was which for each letter..
But I did discover something pretty interesting, which is that I have no idea how people can learn from failure. Like, you hit the wrong keys, and then over time you hit them correctly, instead of just hitting the same exact wrong keys every time? Seems like we need new instruction methods for people to whom that process doesn't come naturally.
I was homeschooled too, but touch-typing was part of the curriculum. The process didn't come naturally; I used a training app. It had a series of drills you'd run through which built up the skills gradually.
I agree - we spend so much time communicating via a keyboard and yet few of us take the time to learn how to touch type. Was there any specific website/app that helped you improve your typing - I know there's a ton of free resources out there.
I know several people have already mentioned it, but SQL.
Over the past nearly three decades I've learned and used many programming languages, frameworks, tools and development methodologies, most of which have turned out to be here-today, gone-tomorrow. But the 6 month SQL course I took when I was 18 is still paying my bills to this day, and probably will continue to do so until I retire.
Version control - not GIT, which is a tool, but the discipline to version control whatever you can.
When I was in the uni I was writing software for my end of studies project on a computer whose hard drive died. Of course, I had backups, etc. but I was able to keep working in less than 2 days because of good old CVS.
Years later, I put an obscure Netcool event manipulation under version control - and added tags for version - and discovered (months later) some events were kept forever in memory before a certain version - I don't know how many $$$ it saved, but at least we needed double the RAM (in 2008-2010) and that meant switching from Sun to Fujitsu servers...
Physical discipline. For me it was (American) football, but it could be karate, track, pretty much anything. Learning how to get in shape. Learning how to stay in shape. Keeping in shape even after hitting 40.
Huge payoff in terms of what I'm willing and able to do physically - not just exercise, but just living life.
Finance. At the very least, understand your tax situation and the way to make the best of it - it's basically free money. Over time, proper budgeting, investment, and tax planning will easily return you 10x. Now I'm not saying it's about making the most money - but really more making the most of your money. Being rich means having more than you need, and it's easier to have more than you need if you keep your needs simple and frugal where it wouldn't otherwise impact your life.
1. “If you want to be effective or influential you must communicate yourself completely.”
Getting comfortable writing a document, proposal or vision which summarizes and organizes the entirety of your reasoning and fully describes the problem and what needs to get done.
If you have something complex to communicate this matters. I have personally seen entire startups raise funding and get started based on having a well documented thinking like this.
If you plan to go into any complex endeavor I think this is a critical skill.
2. Sending great Summary Reports
There is incredible power in being able to write, organize and send a complete report which captures the total state of your job and thoughts about it.
Very intelligent management are dying for a tool to help them manage a complex landscape. If you are the only one capable of preparing these reports it is super useful.
3. You have to tell people how to work with you, self disclosure
I went my entire career carrying resentment around with me and frustration rather than try to provide others with guidance on what I am like and how to work with me.
Finally, this year, I joined a new company and had enough. A good friend of mine told me to tell people what I am like up front at the start of the relationship so they understand.
I have aspects of add and Aspergers and am very introverted. It effects almost everything but it can be managed but I think disclosing myself to others helps
Me to reduce the conflicts and blow ups that happen to me all too often
No idea why you got downvoted for this, maybe because it sounds callous. Being able to evaluate all things for risks and benefits to you personally is invaluable. Best advice I ever got was to treat personal relationships the way I do business relationships, and periodically review them to see if the ROI (in terms of personal enjoyment/fulfillment/<insert non-monetary metric here>) was worth what I put into them. Just doing that allowed me to stop sinking time and energy into friend groups that never provided me with any fulfillment of emotional or social needs, that only demanded things from me.
Perl for one-off tasks, especially ones involving text. It has a bad reputation from the uses it got put to outside of its original problem domain of text processing, unix scripting, and improving on sed, awk, and shell, so that (figuratively) no one understands its core strengths. It doesn't help that you can technically do the exact same things in Python...but you won't, just like you won't write purely functional Java code. You do not get like results by using a tool with impedance mismatch to the problem.
Learning to write with style, which takes not less than 10 years of practice. It gives you amazing satisfaction. You feel the power of your words. All sorts of people at work and outside respect you for it. Not sure it is for everyone, I started learning from a prized author in my family, not sure everyone can find a way into it, either.
Similar situation - my dad was a renowned academic writer and it definitely helps to have someone like that around from the time you're writing fourth grade book reports.
In the event you're not fortunate to be in that situation from such an early age my general suggestions on writing:
- Write well. Obvious things like vocabulary, punctuation, etc.
- Possibly most important: write similarly to how you speak. Writing is pretty subjective and will never be perfect but in my experience it's much better to write with your own "voice" even if it's far from perfect than stick to some rigid style taught/learned/imposed elsewhere. Assuming you'll also be actually talking with the reader at some point it comes across as much more genuine (because it is) and helps in forging real connections with people.
- Vocabulary. This one is tough... There's a fine line between sounding intelligent and educated vs sounding pompous. Intelligent and educated vocabulary builds respect and credibility but if you go too far and use "hundred dollar words" it often comes across as arrogant and alienates people. A good rule of thumb is to use more obscure "hundred dollar words" sparingly and only when you need to communicate a very specific meaning. If you throw more than one or two in a sentence there's a good chance you'll lose most people.
1. Regular expressions. By far the most useful thing to 10x (or 100x) my productivity in just about everything data related.
2. Standard Windows/MS Office keyboard navigation. Couldn't tell you how many hours I've seen others waste by inefficiently trying to select and/or modify Excel cells or portions of text, especially if they need to scroll.
3. On the same note, "advanced" Word and Excel capabilities - formatting, templating, named regions, etc.
4. Cooking my own food, and rolling my own cigarettes. Thousands and thousands of dollars saved every year, and both healthier than premade (yeah, yeah, smoking is bad no matter what, I know).
5. Speed reading and touch typing. Nuff said.
6. Public speaking, and the associated ability to present information that I'm not familiar with on the fly without fumbling about.
7. General technology - being able to plug in a projector or program a VCR or troubleshoot a printer, etc.
Basically anything DIY will cost you 10x less than hiring someone. Cooking, car maintenance, home projects, gardening, etc. Many of these are functional skills that are useful throughout life, like basic mechanical/tools knowledge.
That is true for certain types of work but to the contrary for others. Projects where the risk of doing a poor job is within an acceptable range are those that one ought to give DIY a try. For instance, I've replaced bathroom sink plumbing at least 5 times on my own. The worst that has happened was that the connections weren't sufficiently tightened and water leaked until I addressed the issue. Cutting pipes too short would be an inconvenience but still not a big deal.
Automation(especially on web browsers and mobile) and scraping, from applying to jobs, to getting dates, I think having an army of robots doing menial tasks for you at all time can be revolutionary to your life.
It can also make you really lazy, but it's still really useful
Started at the end of 2002, ended in the beginning of 2009 when I got laid off and haven’t made any contributions since. Of course not being able to touch it without penalty helps with the patience part.
The following things have introduced '10x' returns for me (which is a slightly different thing than asked, but should relate):
0. Mathematical thinking: John von Neumann said, "If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is." While this can be interpreted in multiple ways, I believe he was trying to say that life involves lot more complex mathematics than the mathematics we study at college and which some people already find complex. Economy, biology, ecology, are all big fat mathematical optimization problems, like in AI. And in fact, the notion of 'embeddings' in AI that is able to efficiently represent anything as a set of numbers has allowed seeing more mathematics in the day-to-day work. (PS: A recording of my talk related to this will be available soon.)
1. Ability to think holistically about the topic at hand: More or less, I am able to maintain the full picture in mind, ranging from the finest detail or smallest action to the big picture spanning not only a human lifespan but bio-evolutionary history and mathematical underpinnings of anything. Doing this well includes having to let go of beliefs held, questioning falsehoods, challenging the status quo. Facing traumatic situations has led me to rethink myself a few times in my life.
2. Selflessness, having and retaining clarity of the final goal: Problems happen, conflicts happen. Focussing selflessly on the goal helps letting go of smaller things and aligning people. Relentlessly work to help others; the rest comes by itself. (See also: Hanlon's Razor).
3. Authenticity and honesty: Being truthful, talking freely about ones weaknesses, experiences, readily admitting mistakes, goes a long way in engaging people and gaining their trust.
4. Curiosity and continuous learning, across diverse subjects: When I was a college student, I used to park myself before randomly selected bookshelves at the library, reading whatever books were in front of me. I barely used to be able to take any to the finish line which used to invoke a sense of guilt. In hindsight however, even reading first one or two chapters of books across a range of topics is very helpful. Needless to say Hacker News has helped a lot.
5. Having good verbal communication skills (which other commenters have already called out), and delivering presentations to large audiences: The first time I signed up, I was very scared, wanted to withdraw, but missed the deadline to do so. Do that -- sign up and miss the deadline to withdraw. The rest will happen by itself.
6. Writing: Other commenters here have already written about writing. Writing is a tool to think. It leverages the paper as a memory to bypass the limits of our working memory. It is useful for self-introspection as well.
7. Holding yourself to a high quality bar: Do not like yourself making mistakes. (#3 covers acknowledging them when you make.)
Note: Of course, the points above haven't given me 10^8x returns. :-) '10x' is to be taken figuratively only, and the returns from the above are not independent.