Alex Watt

About Hacks Recommendations

Culture Wins

Organizations are not more effective because they have better people. They have better people because they motivate to self-development through their standards, through their habits, through their climate.

— Peter Drucker (The Effective Executive)

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this. In context, Drucker is talking about how effective organizations leverage common people to achieve uncommon performance.

I was thinking about it from a talent strategy perspective: I think it’s tempting for leaders to overvalue hiring “better people” when looking to increase the effectiveness of their organization.

Fundamentally leaders are responsible for building healthy cultures, with good standards and habits.

Any leader who is hiring should ask: Is my team’s culture healthy and motivating to the team? If your culture isn’t already motivating people, then it isn’t going to motivate the “better people” you hope to hire either.

On the flip side, an amazing culture will motivate your team and attract others.

Bottom line: Organizations with good habits and cultures cultivate the best people. Culture wins.

Hack Days

There’s nothing like a couple workdays to put aside your regular work and do whatever you want. No regular meetings, no pings. You can work alone or on a team. What you do is up to you. Maybe you want to make something, fix something, or learn something (Bill Gates “Think Week” style).

Hack Days are about giving people that autonomy and freedom. It’s like a hackathon, codefest, etc., except it’s not limited to creating software.

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What I Learned About Work in 2021

2021 was a big year for me! The biggest change was getting married in May, but I also started a new job as a senior engineer at Shopify in March and got promoted to staff in the fall. As I was reflecting I realized I’ve learned a lot about work and thought I’d share some of the lessons.

I learned that changing jobs is sometimes the right move. I spent the first three years of my career at a startup. I joined as one of the first engineers and couldn’t imagine leaving. When I left, I wondered if I’d regret it. I learned that no matter how much you love a job, when you’ve given it your best, you can move on to a new opportunity with no regret.

I learned that pair programming is awesome. In software development, pair programming is when two people program together. I didn’t do this very often at my last job. I learned something from every single pairing session in 2021, and would like to do more of it in 2022. Pairing is a great hack for learning things you couldn’t easily learn any other way (“you don’t know what you don’t know”).

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Hello Africa!

In January 2020, I spent a week in Ethiopia with a team of medical professionals from my church and a sister church in Boston. It was an amazing week, and the environment was quite different from my “normal” in the States. On the return trip, as the plane was descending into Pittsburgh, I was shocked to see residential neighborhoods with large, beautiful houses, after a week of houses being very small and made of corrugated metal.

Anyway, our team was there to run a clinic. I had been told I might be able to work on a tech project, but had pretty low expectations. This post is about how that did, in fact, materialize.

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Book Review: How to Get Unstuck

We’ve all been stuck before, in lots of different ways. How do you get out of the rut? What would that look like?

Matt Perman’s new book, How to Get Unstuck, is a great resource for answering both of these questions. I was happy to find that it is more than a collection of productivity tips–Perman begins by explaining what it means to be unstuck, based on 1 Corinthians 15:

Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

Being unstuck is really about flourishing, loving God and neighbor well. It is a generous state, not a selfish one–and once you are unstuck, you should help others without judgment!

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