This week on the Boagworld Show we talk Pixar, organising your design assets and being awesome in interviews.
Paul: Hello and welcome to the Boagworld show. The podcast about all aspects of digital design, development and strategy. My name is Paul Boag and joining me as always on this week’s show is Marcus Lillington but also joining us is Sam Barnes and Andy Clarke. Hello guys.
Andy: G’day mate.
Paul: For some reason you were made extra special Marcus.
Marcus: That’s because I am extra special.
Paul: I don’t know what happened there I got carried away.
Marcus: I think I might be completely brain dead now, my birthday has finally finished.
Paul: Did you have a nice time?
Marcus: Yeah, it was great. We had the actual party, you know, the dual 50th birthday party on Saturday evening which was great fun. So that was… It was my birthday weekend two, three weeks ago and then it was Caroline’s and then we had a dual party on Saturday so I’ve kind of had enough basically. I don’t want any more…
Paul: You got your money’s worth out of it then.
Marcus: Certainly did.
Paul: Sorry, go on, err, Andy.
Andy: Yeah, me! Do know what the best thing is Marcus, you can start getting saga travel insurance, car insurance, even a cruise.
Marcus: I could be a saga lout, rather like that.
Paul: I tell you, the saga cruises are bloody amazing. Not that I’ve been on one, obviously.
Marcus: Have you been on one? You’re not old enough, you’re not allowed.
Paul: No. My dad lectures on saga cruises. That’s his retirement plan. Him and my mum just spend their life going round the world for free on saga cruises.
Sam: That’s amazing!
Paul: I know right!
Paul: I know.
Marcus: There are a lot of rich people out there who basically, they retire to cruises because it’s cheaper than going to a home and you basically live the life of Riley swanning around the world on a big ship.
Paul: Exactly. Yeah, I like the sound of that.
Andy: I would like to start going on cruises and my plan would be to engage with and seduce, possibly, a octogenarian millionairess and then swindle her out of her fortune.
Paul: You shouldn’t have said that on the show. Because we have a lot of octogenarian millionairess that listen to this show and you’ve just blown your plan now..
Andy: Yeah, no, no, no. There must be loads of people out there. I would wear a bow tie and be quite suave and I would take them into my confidence so much so that they trust me with, potentially, with their investments and then of course their legacy.
Marcus: You’re in a Poirot novel aren’t you?
Sam: Yeah, what is this?
Paul: It sounds like the plot of dirty rotten scoundrels. Did you ever see that?
Sam: Yeah, I’ve seen that.
Paul: That was an awesome film.
Marcus: It was very funny.
Paul: With Michael Caine and Steve Martin in. Very, very funny. So how are you getting on Andy? You don’t need a billionaire heiress you’re living the life of Riley now aren’t you?
Andy: Well, no. I’m living the life of Sheila right now. They have Sheilas down here. Oh, maybe you shouldn’t say that any more. Maybe that’s a bit too kind of Crocodile Dundee. I don’t know.
Paul: Aren’t you… Also it implies that you’ve had some kind of sex change. Are you not living the life of Bruce?
Andy: Ahh, Bruce. Yes, Bruce and Sheila. No, it’s very interesting actually, we’ve been down here for about 10 days now so we’ve,…
Marcus: Interesting. That doesn’t sound very good. It’s all right.
Andy: No, no, no! Works been interesting. I was just saying to Paul before we started the show, it’s interesting for me for somebody that’s worked for myself for nigh on 20 years that not only now do I have responsibilities and I have people that work with me. You know, actual people, not Internet people. I have to show leadership qualities. Can you imagine that.
Paul: Well, no. (Laughter)
Andy: Is the answer. So it’s very interesting, now we can announce of course that I am actually, I have taken this role as head of design at Ansarada which is a lovely company down in Sydney. When I came down here to do consultancy in October or November time there was one designer who tended to work just mainly on marketing stuff and now that I’ve got here they’ve actually got almost half a dozen designs.
Paul: Oh crikey.
Andy: So things have changed a lot and they’ve gone and got new products and stuff which has been happening since I was last down here. So it’s been a bit of a period of adjustment and I have been trying to sort of find out where my place is and you know how I’m going to manage things. So we’ve got a nice set of goals for the next six months in terms of, you know, what we want to do work wise. And that’s been really interesting. And the place is great. I’ve never worked for a company before like this. You know, they have catered breakfast on Friday. And gym sessions twice a week in the office.
Paul: That’s terrible.
Andy: With personal trainers, you’d like this bit, beer Fridays. 4 o’clock…
Paul: That’s better.
Andy: From 4 o’clock on a Friday is like, you know, beer Friday.
Paul: I want to go back, no, no, no hang on a minute, I want to go back to the gym thing. Is this compulsory?
Andy: No, no, no.
Paul: Is it like some Japanese kind of, you know, things where…
Andy: They have a gym in the building and you can sign up for these sort of, I suppose you’d call them HIIT training classes or something twice a week. So…
Paul: I mean I could cope with yoga or meditation and lying down.
Andy: No no no, Friday mornings is yoga if you want to do that as well.
Paul: I could possibly manage that. Although I have to say Yoga is blooming knackering.
Andy: No, no it’s really hard!
Marcus: I couldn’t do yoga. I’m not bendy enough.
Marcus: You have to put your body in weird positions and shapes and things don’t you? I would just fall over.
Paul: Yeah, that’s true.
Andy: I just tend to fall over anyway.
Marcus: Yeah, whatever. (Laughter) Whatever I am doing I just fall over.
Andy: That’s been work, and we’ve found ourselves a fabulous little house in this area called Surrey Hills which I’m really, really pleased about because it’s literally a 20 minute bus ride from the centre of Sydney and work. And it’s a really kind of hipster area, in fact on a Saturday… Saturday night come Sunday morning, it is so noisy, the sound of smashing avocados is deafening. (Laughter)
Paul: But how do you walk down the street. Don’t you feel this need to punch everybody. Whenever I go to a hipster area, I was in a hipster restaurant a while back, I can’t even remember where it was. And I just wanted to get up from my table and walk across to random people and just punch them in the face. There is something about the kind of… And it’s the conversations as well. You overhear snippets of conversation and it just makes me angry!
Andy: No, I haven’t experienced the need to punch anybody in the face just yet.
Paul: Have you not?
Sam: Give it time Andy.
Andy: Give it time.
Paul: It’s obviously just me! Perhaps Australian hipsters are nicer.
Andy: Well it is a very laid back, kind of place. But yes there is plenty of moustache wax going on. You have to be careful of that in the heat obviously because you would just drip. (Laughter)
Paul: So I must admit I am already sick of your tweets and Instagram pictures and you’ve only been there 10 days.
Andy: I know, and do you know what? I haven’t been as happy with work and stuff for bloody ages so long may it continue. I mean, I was actually saying the other day that when I look back at the BBC News, which I try not to do. But I look at BBC News and no wonder I was bloody miserable, and I actually think that the weather and brexit and all that kind of stuff was actually beginning to make me mad. So this is a real sanity saver. So I’m having a good time so far.
Paul: So, in terms of the job. I get the impression you’ve got a little bit of impostor syndrome suffering at the moment. Or is it just wrapping your head around it more than… How’s that doing, because you work for yourself for a long time.
Andy: Yeah, nearly 20 years. Yes, no, there is an awful lot of impostor syndrome. Certainly this week. I had a really slow start, Monday, Tuesday into Wednesday and I suppose I was a little bit tired or jetlagged but I was like a deer in the headlights and I was thinking “Oh my, I’ve made this massive mistake.” And then on sort of Wednesday maybe Thursday I woke up and felt like my old self again. This is interesting, I don’t know whether other people have sort of felt this but I have always been used to just being the guy that… I work with myself so when somebody comes along it’s usually my opinion, I rarely have to kind of balance with other people! And yet there are really, really talented product designers there who, you know, I needed to kind of find my level with and it took me a few days actually to realise “Hang on a minute, this isn’t a competition. I’m here to do a particular job and they are already here doing a job that I can’t do, don’t want to do, wouldn’t be any good at. Which is the mechanics of product design.” That is not what my role is at all and it just took me a few days to kind of feel confident in myself again, thinking “No, no, you’re here to do something different.”
Paul: Mmm. Sam, I’m interested because you’ve always worked in-house somewhere?
Sam: Yeah, yeah.
Paul: So do you ever imagine doing the other side of it and doing a Brett, Brett Harned, and going independent.
Sam: I’ve thought about it, I’ve done freelance bits here and there be it sort of projects, but it’s usually consulting though, going into companies and sort of, it usually starts out as something to do with their delivery process but turns into some sort of management consultancy because it tends to permeate all the layers. But what I can say, Andy, is that the job I’m doing now is the first time I’ve had to work with other people at my level. So I haven’t been “the guy” but I have been the only person doing the job that the company is doing at that time. And after 15 years of doing that and now having to work with 2/3 other people, two other engineering managers, I admit, I don’t think it’s got anything to do with your freelancing or background because I felt the same pinch. It’s just, I think it’s was like… Theres something quite nice about it not being all on your shoulders. But there’s also something quite strange about having people challenge your opinion in a way that I haven’t had before. And there’s this sort of human nature to sort of resist. But if I think about it for two seconds it is like this is the first time I’ve had other input from people who understand there isn’t this going on. You know, you get external advice from people but when there’s people actually there suggesting things that don’t necessarily make sense to you, I’ve had to learn in the last nine months to just listen, you know, and go with something.
Andy: I want to treat this as a massive learning opportunity for me. I think that for the last, at least the last five or six years I’ve been pretty much treading water when it comes to not really expanding much of what I know. And the fact that next week, next Monday and Tuesday and half of Wednesday of next week is leadership training with like the senior management team. Now,…
Paul: Oh, that will be cool.
Andy: … I have no idea what that entails.
Sam: You’ll probably find out that you know more than you think. Sort of learnt it naturally.
Andy: Yeah, but bloody hell am I looking forward to that kind of thing. And you know, I’ve always, always just joked about meetings and emails and people spending all their time in outlook, but actually I’ve decided don’t be cynical about this and think that you know best because, you know, just go for it with an open mind and see where it takes you. And that’s my whole attitude to it.
Sam: Do you know what Andy? That could make for a pretty good talk if you go through this for like a year and you can see what the journey from what you thought about that side of the business was compared to what you found. That could be quite interesting.
Paul: Yeah. It would be. It would be a good talk subject. Going from a solo freelancer to running a team. I think tat would be brilliant.
Sam: Preconceptions of what you thought it was like versus what it turned out to be like and all the kind of… Yeah. That would be fascinating.
Paul: You need to take notes as you go Andy.
Andy: I ought to write a little diary. Is what I need to do. Sue bought a little book today to write her stuff in and I think I’m going to do the same.
Paul: Oooo. So, yes, that’s good. I’m glad things are going well, I hope they continue. I mean obviously you’re still in the honeymoon period, it must still feel a bit like a holiday at the moment.
Marcus: Just to throw a wet blanket over it a bit Paul hey?!
Paul: Well, no.
Marcus: You will be miserable in a couple of months time Andy. You’ll hate it, you wonder why on earth you went!
Andy: Oh yes. You’re always welcome to come down here and, it’s not the best time of year to come but we’ve got a spare room. That’s not for the listeners by the way! I don’t want random Boagworld people turning up!
Paul: Have you been bitten by anything yet?
Andy: No, but I have been given a spider chart. So that I know my redbacks from my funnel webs.
Sam: Have you seen any yet?
Andy: No, but I did see a cockroach in our backyard.
Paul: I bet, probably the cockroaches in Australia are poisonous aren’t they?
Marcus: …the size of the cat.
Andy: No, they’re not poisonous but they are the size of a cat. I went to buy some bug spray in the local hardware shop and in fact they just gave me a hammer. (Laughter)
Paul: Ahh, I like that!
Marcus: And a gun.
Paul: Right, anyway, we ought to move on. I just want to quickly mention season 18 of the podcast that is coming up. That we are going to do this thing where people can come on and they can give a little lightening talk. And what I thought would be really fun, because I haven’t had anybody submit a talk yet, right. And I think a lot of it… What’s that?
Andy: That’s a bit odd.
Paul: I think, well, I think it’s partly because June feels like a long way away at the moment. And then partly because, I don’t know, a lot of people are honestly really nervous about doing this.
Paul: So what I was thinking is that each week going forward, right, we could just… Oh no, it won’t last each week, but just for a little while each of us could give one tip that helps them when they are preparing or giving a talk. So, anybody want to kick us off?
Sam: I can do one.
Paul: Whiskey? There’s Marcus’s. Actually, do you know that isn’t altogether stupid.
Marcus: No it’s not. That’s not something, I don’t like whiskey, but something to relax you or hype you up. I know the comedian Billy Connolly always drinks a double espresso before it goes on stage. He doesn’t drink coffee or tea at all in the rest of his life but he basically takes drugs, I suppose, is the equivalent of isn’t it? I can have a big caffeine hit. So maybe hype yourself up or relax yourself.
Paul: I like that, a glass of wine before you record your little talk. A great idea. Make a huge difference. Sam?
Sam: Yes, I think this is something I have always been told when we’ve had like a company blog whenever we’ve tried to get anyone to create content I find that the most popular reason while people don’t get started is because they think it has to be groundbreaking. They think it has to be some big idea, something that no one’s heard of, something that will sound impressive to their peers or anybody listening or reading. And I repeatedly tell them that, A, it isn’t the case. They don’t have to talk about something big and innovative, just sort of going over the basics can sometimes be as reaffirming and other people learn from it and that kind of leads into the biggest. Second point is that people don’t realise what they know that other people don’t. So what seems like common sense to them, because they’ve done it for years and years because they just have a natural aptitude for it, they don’t understand that a lot of people don’t have the same skills, I guess you could say. So I would just say no matter how… If you think of a topic, that you think, that’s been done or I’ve got no new ideas on that. Don’t stop there. Actually write it, even as a draft, and if you’re nervous show it around. Show it around to some people and judge the reaction there. Quite frankly… Sorry go on.
Paul: Well, I was going to say, my follow-up point to that is that often it’s not that you’re saying anything new, like you say. But it’s that you’re saying it in a way that will appeal to people like you.
Sam: Yes, exactly.
Paul: You know, that’s what I often think is the Internet is such a big place and there are so many different kinds of people with different mental models and you’ve got such a large reach that if you say something it will be in a way that resonates with a certain group of people.
Sam: Absolutely. I mean it’s like the impostor syndrome thing. I’ve read about this for many years now and for most of those years things that I have read or watched kind of tended to have the same points. It was always good to watch it, I always found it fascinating but only recently I watched another, can’t remember what it was, and there was the final part of the puzzle which was that everyone has impostor syndrome and how you over perform but it was the bit that when you get praised for the work that you have done whilst over performing that actually makes the impostor syndrome worse because you are now got… And it was just this one little bit of an article that was the same as most of the others but it was worth reading for that point. You never know what kind of nuggets that you’ve got that you don’t realise.
Paul: Absolutely. Andy, do you have anything?
Andy: Yes, I mean people prepare content for talks in lots of different ways. Some people start with a slide deck or some thumbnails of a slide deck on paper and then they will use that as their outline. I don’t tend to do that, I tend to write my talks out pretty much as a script. If you choose to do that quite often you can sit there looking at a blank screen or a blank piece of paper and what you would sit and write if you were to write that way, is not what would naturally kind of fall out of your mouth if you were speaking naturally. So what I like to do is to actually just get up and go for a walk and, with a little sketchbook or notebook or whatever and a pen, and go outside and talk to myself. And literally, go for a walk and walk around, talk to yourself, sound a few ideas out and you will get a lot more down on paper then if you sit there staring at a screen trying to write a magnum opus because, you know, it’s just not going to happen.
Paul: Mmm, absolutely. I think that’s a good one. I often start with a story. Even though often my talks don’t end up starting with the story the first thing I think about is, well, okay, if I’m giving a talk on style guides, I just plucked that out of the air, because you talk about it a lot Andy. But if I was giving a talk on style guides I start by thinking of a time where I have used style guides and I kind of write that out as to what happened and what I learnt from it. And that’s the kind of starting point for me. That often works well. Anyway, hopefully that has encouraged you a little bit to consider doing a talk for us. You can find out all the information about the logistics of doing that at Boag.world/season18 Also, while I’m briefly talking about talks and that kind of stuff, we mentioned this very briefly… Well actually Sam did, he talked about an upcoming conference called GroundControl and I am running a workshop there on changing your organisation to be more digitally friendly and actually looking at the broader context of our job and the organisations within which we work. If you are available to come to London in April check it out. I think it might be of interest, it’s at Boag.world/digital–workshop. All right, let’s quickly do our first sponsor and then get into our second part of our discussion. Because I think we’ve covered some good stuff, actually, in what is normally our pre-ramble. So, our first sponsor is Teacup Analytics which is an analytics package I use all the time. And also I know the guys at Teacup pretty well and I talk to them loads and I have learnt so much about analytics through talking to these guys. So just taking a random example like a question that clients ask all the time which is “Is my bounce rate good?” I had such a good conversation with Teacup about this, the guys at Teacup, about how they approach it in their thinking and stuff like that. The great thing about Teacup is that they directly answer those kinds of questions. So you can go into Teacup and you can find “Is my bounce rate good?” And you can add that to a report. But what I really love about them is the fact that they have really looked into how best to answer these kinds of questions. For example, if you take that question it looks at your historical data and your current visitors and current visitor behaviour and it shows your client whether the current visitors are engaging with the site better or worse than normal. In other words it is not comparing you to some arbitrary value. It is comparing you to yourself. Because that’s the problem with bounce rates, a bounce rate is very specific to your site because like for example, a blog typically has a very high bounce rate because people come in read one article and then go away. And that is fine, that is established, acceptable behaviour. But on other sites that would be a bad thing, if you had a bounce rate of that kind of thing. So Teacup actually measure things in context of your own data rather than comparing yourself to some other made up value. That is why I love the guys at Teacup is because they really know their stuff and I’ve learnt stack loads about analytics just from talking to them. So if you want to check out Teacup Analytics yourself then go to boag.world/teacup.
Round Table Discussion
Okay, I think Andy as you’ve been away for a little bit maybe you could kick us off today?
Marcus: Can I just jump in there. I didn’t want to go first because I’m still writing my mine.
Paul: I put to you last because you said you were struggling to come up with something.
Marcus: I’ve got something now but you know…
Sam: For the people listening putting together a talk, this is not how to do it!
Paul: Yeah, you don’t wait until you’re actually on the stage and then come up with something.
Marcus: Just make it up as you go along.
Sam: Although I’m actually quite in awe of that. That would be amazing to be able to do.
Paul: There are some people that do that isn’t there where it shows a slide and you have to talk about that.
Andy: Yes, Powerpoint Karaoke.
Paul: Yeah, I’d love to do that.
Sam: Ohhh. (laughter)
Paul: That’s just appeals to the way my mind works.
Sam: The closest you’ll get me to karaoke your gonna get, I can tell you that much.
Paul: oOh yeah, you wouldn’t get me doing real karaoke. I couldn’t imagine anything worse. Yeah, I was going to say, I b et Andy loves karaoke.
Andy: No, I do. I do country tunes. You should hear my Jolene.
Paul: Oh, just… I don’t even want to know.
Andy: Anyway, shall we talk about something else?
Paul: Yes, go for it.
Andy: I want to paint a little picture, a little scenario for you. If you are a designer like me, even if you… Let’s say you work on your own and you are working in, let’s say a modern design app like Sketch. I’m sure there’s lots of people out there that use sketch. If you are anything like me your general working design process is going to be to create a file and to keep working on that file for a certain amount of time and then probably what you will do is, if you working in dropbox, you will copy a file on the Tuesday and work on it and then you will copy the file on work on it on a Wednesday and you’ll be maybe adding a different file name or you are adding the date into the file name and then sometimes you might even be having the thing where the client wants to make changes partway through the day so you end up with the date, V2 or whatever. What you will end up with, in dropbox, is a whole bunch of files where you’ve got a sort of a version control, you’ve got a certain history of the job but it’s not really version control in the same way that we might imagine it with code. Now, if you then work on a team as I now do you then magnify that process a lot because not only are you potentially going to get conflicts if you starting to work on the same file. So if one person opens a file to get something out of it while the other one is still got it open, have you ever had that conflicted copy thing in dropbox? Or, you never really know which person has made changes to a file or a… There’s really no kind of version history. So some guys over in Silicon Valley, you’ve probably heard of them, Josh Brewer who used to be at Twitter and Tim Van Damme who is now their design lead, they have started a new product and it is called abstract. Basically, think a bit like Git hub but for your design documents. So you can commit a file, a Sketch file to abstract you then make branches whenever you want to make a branch and go off in a different direction, people can then clone your file and work on it and you can merge changes and all of the things that you would do with a piece of code you are now able to do, with comments of course, and issues and all the usual stuff, with design files.
Paul: Could you not do that anyway with Git hub? Or with Git sorry.
Andy: You know,…
Paul: Or am I…
Sam: That’s what I was going to ask, is it just an easier way to interact with that system?
Andy: Yes, yes it is.
Paul: Ahh, okay.
Andy: Yes it is.
Paul: Okay, that’s fair enough.
Andy: So they sent me… At the moment abstract is in private alpha but they very kindly sent me a account a couple of weeks ago which of course I couldn’t really use too successfully because I was just working on my own. We have actually just started to trial it out at Ansarada and so far so good. It looks like it’s going to be a really nice tool. There are obviously rough bits around the edges but I would really strongly recommend that people go to abstractapp.com and sign up for the private alpha. They’re doing a whole batch of new accounts every week but sign up for that because I actually think that particularly when it comes to collaborating and working in teams and stuff like that, this is going to be really, really, really good. And in combination with some of the stuff that Ryan has been talking about in the past, you know, the Invision stuff I think that we have probably got the best set of tools for design work flow that we have had for years.
Paul: Hmmm, I would agree. This is definitely something that is needed because we are terrible as designers are keeping our stuff organised. So absolutely I think it is brilliant.
Andy: Abstractapp.com, go and sign up.
Paul: Cool. All right, that’s a really good one actually. I’m looking through it now, I like the look of that lot. Sam, you were going to share some… Now you talked about, let me get this the right way round, you talked about some tips for people doing, interviewing other people. And now you going to talk about tips if you are a candidate.
Sam: Yes, so to just sort of split it into three sections here briefly. The first one is the approach to inerviews. Which is something I think I have learnt over the years that has proved very useful to me and others. Then I’ve got a few questions I think you can always consider asking. The not the usual ones they are not the usual ones. They are kind of to avoid disasters. And finally some red flags to watch out for during that process. So, when it comes to actually going to interviews or when you are in the interview stage, I guess you could say. The biggest thing thing I think I can advise is how to view them internally. So I think for many years, earlier in my career, and I think this is the same for many people, I found interviews to be a kind of a subservient process where I actually felt nervous. I would walk into these places and I would be desperate to please and impress. It was very much a one-sided conversation. Certainly in my mind it was. It felt like I was the one there to impress and sometimes the interviews actually backed that up. But as I have gone through my career I think I have realised that was probably a mistake and I think the earlier you can learn that it is actually a matching process with equal weighting on both sides of the conversation the better for you. So the mistakes that people make including myself, I guess, is going into interviews and perhaps even doing well and taking a job because you are so just happy to be accepted rather than making damn sure it is a good move for you as it is for them. Obviously they are offering. So you know, just little things. So first of all is to just get that mindset firmly in place. That this is not just about you pleasing other people this is about both of you finding a match. You should both feel the same at the end of an interview if it’s gone well. So I think good rules for this is don’t assume you have to conform to the rules that are laid down about the process. So for instance, a lot of people will lay out what they are what their hiring processes is, what stages you will go through. If you don’t think that that is going to be enough for you or if you, I mean for me, for instance, I always ask to spend half a day on site if I can. Some people say no, that’s fine but some people say yes and I pick up more value from that than I do the interview sometimes. You get to feel what it would be like to work. You know, it is a lot less contrived it feels a lot more natural, you can hear other people talking and pick up the vibe. You can even speak to other people. I mean I think one of the things is if you ask to speak to other people that work there and that is declined it is possible it is because of the process, but it also could be a bit of an amber flag that they are a bit worried about what people would say. So really that’s the main thing for the approach is that you know, understand that it is a matching process. It is not just for you just to impress them, they have to impress you too. I think the other thing is, this is a personal thing, very few people take this advice but I always say don’t lie to your boss. Take a holiday at the very least. My mum gave me such great advice before I even started working I think, or maybe when I was first interviewing. She said to me that when she was interviewing she would always ask the candidate “Where does your company think you are today?” And if she heard that they had said “Oh I said I was at the dentist or the doctors.” and they were kind of smiling about it it can be quite a good indicator of character. It’s not foolproof but my advice is when you are interviewing take holidays. Don’t lie to your boss basically because I think it’s wrong, call me old-fashioned. So questions to ask, to avoid disasters. I mean I’m not going to go through the sort of typical ones but these are the ones that I have asked in the past to kind of avoid bad moves. So I think you can ask things like what is the year-on-year turnover of staff in my department or the whole company. It’s quite a good one. It doesn’t always tell the whole story but it can lead answer other questions. But it is interesting to ask plus I think it makes you sometimes stand out against the other people interviewing because you are going outside of your specialised area. You could ask why do most people leave? That’s always an interesting to get answers on that, you can read body language. Why did the last person doing the role that I am applying for leave? Again, just interesting. And then following on from the same position as when I’m interviewing, I would always ask what the best things are about working here and what are the worst things. And kind of completely complementing the other side of it I think when someone struggles to answer what’s bad about working there it is quite telling. There’s always something about working somewhere how honest will they be with you about it. I think that can be very indicative of how a company may be towards you. And then of course what would the majority of the company say is the worst thing about working there. Again, these are really strange questions that I would never have dreams of asking in the early days nut these are the ones that have helped me avoid some quite bad moves I think in the past. I think one of the biggest questions that I have learnt over the years is what the company’s plans? Is it for an exit or is it a lifestyle business? And I think the reason I would ask this is just because I have spent my, a lot of my career at companies where I didn’t even realise that was a question to think about or ask because I was inexperienced and younger. And that is fine but what I realised looking back is that the amount of frustration that I felt over certain things I have tried to get moving or tried to do and I have got resistance to it in been knocked back, they weren’t actually because necessarily the people thought the ideas were bad it was because of the strategy of the company was directly in contrary to what I was trying to do. So for instance someone trying to do an exit in the next 12 months isn’t necessarily going to be focused on something that is going to be paying off in five years. But you don’t know that. So if you… and likewise if you walk into a business where you want to grow things massively, you want to change things radically or try something big but you keep getting knocked back it can sometimes be because it is a lifestyle business and people, the owners of the business and quite rightly it’s their prerogative to do this, they just want to take their salary and have a nice place to work and provide a nice place. If you don’t know that you can actually become quite frustrated in an environment where you otherwise would be quite happy. And you know where to put your efforts I guess you could say. And just finally some red flags that you could look out for when you are trying to get a job. And the big one for me is how smooth the whole hiring process goes. So you may have a company and a manager that you have spoken to and everything feels great but sometimes the actual process of getting through the door and getting all the interviews sorted or CVs submitted can be quite painful sometimes. And I just think this is quite a good indicator as to what that company may be like under the hood. So in my experience when a company seems really smooth and slick and everything seems on time I think that is the sign of a company that at least is organised. It doesn’t say much else but at least it is organised however, if you don’t experience that during that it is worth probing. None of these are like don’t take the job, but it is worth thinking about. Another really silly little thing that I have noticed, I’m not sure if everyone will agree with this but when I have been taking new jobs I would always like to take a break between jobs. To sort of mentally reset and just kind of do stuff. When I am told no, I have had that before, we can’t have you taking two weeks we need you to start straightaway. I used to just cave in and I think as I have got older I think I am coming to the conclusion that if a company can’t do without someone in that role for just two weeks it is worth probing what is going on? Sometimes it’s a start-up, small company and there are reasons why it’s completely valid but if it is a bigger company approach, it could be that they are just really under it with work but again it’s strange when… They have probably gone through more time than that to hire you in terms of money and time so it’s just an amber flag that I always find strange when people won’t do that. Penultimate thing is when you are in that process a lot of companies or recruiters will try and pressure you “We have to know by today, we have to know by a certain date.” Again, this could be true, could be true, but just be aware that it might not be true. It could be a selling tactic or to try and get people in so my advice is don’t be rushed. If you miss out on a job because you didn’t commit quick enough for them I think that is probably a dodged a bullet perhaps. Because if you wanted it that badly you would probably have committed,I think. So don’t feel rushed don’t jump into a job it is not a quick thing to get into. And then finally, it is an obvious one it is about being offered equity instead of salary or salary rises promised after an arbitrary time. Things like that, just be very wary of anything that doesn’t sound quite right and I would say get the money in your pocket rather than equity is my advice. And that is it really, we could do talks on half this stuff but just some things I’ve noticed over the years that have helped me kind of just… If anything they have helped me be more sure, they’ve helped me be more rigorous with my decisions. I guess you could say.
Paul: That very rigourous. I mean I just go with my gut. Which is terrible isn’t it!
Sam: No, I don’t think it is. I think overriding all of that is gut instinct. You kind of know whether you think you feel, if it feels right. But I think the trouble is when you are younger or certainly for myself that desire or that emotion is kind of suppressed I guess you could say by boring logic. But that boring logic is where you are going to find out any thing potentially that will ruin that emotion, you know. So I think it is obviously probably the differences between us as people as well, you know…
Paul: Well, also the other thing I was thinking was that I can’t remember the last time I went for a job interview.
Sam: Well there is that as well.
Andy: Well here’s another confession is that at the grand age of 51 I have never got a job that I have applied for.
Paul: Have you not? That is so funny.
Marcus: What about the one you are in? Or did you not apply for that?
Andy: No no no, they asked, and that’s been the way that my career has gone. People have sort of offered me an opportunity but the only time I suppose that I did get a job that I applied for was when I was about 17 and I was pushing trolleys in Sainsbury’s. And that was about it.
Paul: Crikey! I’m interested from the other side of things. Marcus, you do a lot of interviews. What do you look for?
Marcus: Actually I haven’t interviewed anyone for 18 months but I have done quite a few over the years. I’ll come back to that question because that’s quite a tricky one. But there was one of the things that you said, Sam, that I thought, Hmmm. I think it was to do with… It was when you were talking about ask people how many people leave from this department, why do they leave, why did the person that left this job. I think asking one of those questions is good but I think if you… I think if somebody kept pushing me on that it would be… I would sort of sit back in my chair a bit and think why they pushing me on this?
Sam: Yes, it’s a good point actually. I should probably frame it that when I have been in interviews and have been asking those questions I am always contextualising it into the fact that look, I take moving jobs very seriously. When I move somewhere I really want to commit and stay, therefore I want to be probably more sure than maybe someone else. So if you didn’t contextualise it I think yes, it could sound perhaps negative. It could be someone looking… I can get what you’re saying but as long as you are saying setting the entire interview up with, I just want to be sure, I take this thing very seriously. I hope that offsets the fear about it being negative.
Marcus: Absolutely, I think if you ask one of those questions I would view that as a really good question that someone would ask. If they asked all three I would I would…
Sam: You are probably right actually. These are just notes but yeah you’re probably right.
Marcus: But to answer Paul’s question thing I am looking for most in any interview is enthusiasm. By miles. I can think of interviews we have done over the years because we are not particularly tough interviewers. I’m sure we’ve given… We’ve said yes, when do you start? in interviews over the years with some people and it’s usually because we’ve just got into this like enthusiastic debate about something and you just realise that this is a great person that you really want them to be part of your team. I’m often brought into interviews particularly with developers who I can’t really test their skill as developers at all but just to see if any red flags come up from our side like are these the kind of people that we want to be part of our team and it was very interesting, that one about where you said… When you said the thing that your mum told you about asking them are they having… Have they taken time off or are they sort of skiving off. And it’s not the… It wasn’t what you said about “I’m going to the dentist,” it’s “and they smiled,” that’s the important thing.
Sam: Yes, I’m a big believer in, I’ve always told my boss that I’m going for an interview is but I realise I’m quite an oddball in that sense but you can be sneaky in the interview if you want to be, it’s entirely your choice. You can ask the question with a smile and again it’s leading.
Marcus: Sorry Sam, that is what I think I’ve been brought into kind of check out over the years. Is this person a sneaky person that we don’t really want that kind of person working at Headscape.
Sam: Well I think it’s also depending what company you are at. It’s like you can get enthusiastic developers who are naturally disruptive in a good way if that makes sense. They enjoy challenging and actually what I’d be brought into in the same fashion is to make sure that we are not bringing in someone who is actually a nice person, enthusiastic, good at what they do but actually if we bought them into this environment that would disappear. And they would probably become cynical and negative. It’s also, quite… It’s also coming back to the whole matching thing. Some could be the best person in the world but they still could be wrong for your environment or your team.
Paul: And that’s why really at the end of the day there is no point… I’m going to word this in a strong way, there’s no point of trying to impress or trying to be something that you are not in an interview because the truth is is that there is no kind of one thing that everybody aims for, that everybody wants from an applicant. It is so much about matching that really just go in and be yourself. They will either, you know, you will either be the right fit or you won’t. But even if you pretend to be something you could equally pretend to be the wrong thing for that organisation.
Sam: Very, very true indeed. Yeah.
Paul: So, yeah, because you think they want someone who is very confident and enthusiastic because Marcus said on the podcast enthusiasm matters. But you’re not naturally someone who shows enthusiasm a lot and you come across as a crazed maniac to the people that…, You know.
Sam: Very true. I think you can sometimes go… Actually I’d be curious what you think about this. So the whole dress code thing when you go for interviews. I’ve had it both… I’ve had it full gambit both as an interviewee and an interviewing where people would come in suit and tie and the next person would come in in jeans and flip-flops. Now both of them you could argue as being themselves, do you think that it matters? Do you think you should extend… You know, because a lot of people out there would say it doesn’t matter where you are going where what you are comfortable in, that’s it. But then I think when you’re going to, say, a corporate, you know, do you do it then? How far do you take it. It’s a really interesting…
Paul: Dress is an interesting one because it is about respect for some to some degree.
Andy: Yes, yes it is.
Paul: So, because we have this all the time going to meet with clients. I always think you want to be, and this is really hard to judge, but in an ideal world you want to be just a little bit smarter than everybody else in the room. Of course, you don’t know how smart they are going to be before you go in. But I always go, if you got no clue, because for example I go into higher education clients all the time so I’ve got a good idea of how they dress and I always try and dress a little bit smarter than they are. But I think most of all if you don’t know that, if you don’t have an idea of how smart other people are I always go by the rule of thumb of be as smart as I can be whilst still being comfortable.
Sam: Yes, exactly that. Same here Paul, that’s what I have ended up on. I have tried both and that’s where I’ve ended up. And I would say sometimes you can’t tell what people are wearing but if you do a little bit of online stalking of the company you can find some office pictures and actually I’ve done that before, just to feel a little bit better!
Paul: Yeah, Andy, you are going to say something.
Andy: No, I was about to say what you said about respecting the establishment. About respecting the occasion I should say. I would always want somebody to turn up looking like they’d paid attention, like they were taking care. You don’t necessarily have to wear a three-piece suit but just make sure your shoes are clean.
Paul: Yeah, and the same goes for things like language or all of those kinds of things. Yes, you want to be you and you should absolutely be yourself and you shouldn’t pretend to be somebody you are not but on the other hand you’ve also got to respect the other people that you are being in the interview with, you know. I always try and take the tone of I am speaking to somebody… I’m speaking to my grandad, right. That’s the kind of tone, I mean not in the kind of, “This is how you turn on a computer” tone of voice but in that showing some kind of respect and being nice and that kind of thing. It’s a tricky one, it is a really tricky one. Interviews suck. That’s why avoid them. I’m unemployable. Right, okay. I want to talk very quickly about my pick. Well I say my pick, it’s not my pick actually it’s Charles Roper from the slack room introduced me to this book that I am still part way through reading. I should probably have waited until the end really before sharing it but I got so enthusiastic about it that I wanted to share it. And thank you so much Charles for sharing it with me. It’s called Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull . Andy, you so should read this book bearing in mind you’re currently a design leader.
Andy: I have it.
Paul: You have it have you? Have you read it yet?
Paul: No. Definitely start reading it it’s really, really good. So it’s by Ed, Ed is the founder of Pixar so it’s this really interesting kinds of autobiography, kind of, about his life and what he did and, you know, what went on in Pixar. But more than that really, it’s not really that, it’s really a book about creative leadership. In fact even that is too narrow. To say it is just… He paints it as leadership for creative people but I would say really it’s a book about modern leadership and how to manage knowledge workers, people who are hired for their expertise and their thinking and that kind of stuff. And it is an absolutely brilliant book, I highly recommend it. It is stuffed full of mistakes that they have made at Pixar, lessons that they have learnt, things that they did well, things that they did badly, it’s got a bit of Steve Jobs thrown in for good measure. It’s just brilliant, really, really good. So if you’re in any kind of leadership position, if you manage teams, if you are in senior management of a company, whatever. Read this book, highly recommended it. So yeah, that’s all I wanted to say on that. Okay, Marcus.
Marcus: Right, yes, I was off last Thursday and Friday and I hadn’t thought of anything and then the emails came through saying I’m speaking about this and I’m speaking about that and I thought Ahh, I haven’t thought of anything. So, and I thought have I any books any apps or anything like that. Nope, can’t think of anything. I thought, what you quite good at? And I thought I’m quite good at staying positive so I thought I had to talk about staying positive. And it’s actually, bearing in mind some of the emails that have come in this morning it is quite apt.
Paul: Oh dear!
Marcus: Yes, but there you go, that’s just life and being busy and all those kinds of things. Obviously this is more of a discussion than a tip and it’s something that we’ve probably talked about in the past. Although I’m struggling to remember when.
Paul: No, I don’t think we have.
Marcus: But anyway, I’m pretty good at it and I thought well maybe I can bring something to the table in a tip kind of fashion. And I will kick it off and no doubt we will throw it around the table a bit and see what others think. For me, in life, staying positive has always been about having something to look forward to. And that could be work related or it could be out of work related so, I don’t want to go to a party ever again at the moment but it might be that there is so-and-so’s party’s coming up at the weekend so that’s something nice to think about. But that, I guess is probably the case with pretty much everyone. If you’ve got something that you were looking forward to then that’s going to likely keep you positive. So on maybe a slightly less kind of obvious tangent would be, and this, you may disagree on this one, don’t get too hung up on targets or plans or deadlines. It’s kind of like… Or allow yourself to miss targets, plans, or deadlines and if you do that then I think it’s a lot easier to stay positive with the world or your life. It’s almost like lying to yourself to a certain extent, I think if we over analyse then we can stagnate and get depressed about things so if you are kind of always fleeting and keeping yourself busy and not worrying too much about I must get this thing done now and then I can move on to that thing and then move on to that thing. Because things change, I suppose is what I’m trying to say. So if you allow yourself to kind of be a bit more fluid then you are less likely to get bogged down with things. And I think another way of putting that would be trying to see the edges of everything that you are doing at all times i.e. be totally in control, can be actually cause you worry and stop you being positive. And the final thing I put down here was do random stuff. So, just to break things, you know, break your days up, take everyone out for lunch which is one of my favourites, because I like eating! Which would be completely random, not any plans to do something like that but we’ll just, right, down tools, we’re just going to go and have top lunch. Or take a day off if you’re Paul for example. You know, go and fly your new toy.
Paul: Your drone, yes.
Marcus: From a work point of view, work on… You know it’s a good idea to have a kind of list of stuff that you’d like to work on but you never really have time to and actually do one of those things, or at least start doing one of those things that you’ve been talking about doing for ages. So keeping, yeah, keeping things fluid and ensuring that you’ve got something else you can put your mind onto is I think a really, is the bottom-line of what I’m saying here about staying positive.
Paul: And actually you would think I would disagree with you over that because I am such a getting things done fan and you know, I have lists for everything but believe it or not actually, GTD does back that up. It discourages you from setting deadlines that are unnecessary, right, that aren’t absolute deadlines and it also encourages you to be flexible as well, to work on what you’ve got energy to do that particular day. I tell you, I’m at exactly that point right now, I’ve had a really bad stomach bug over the weekend so I’ve been ill all weekend and I feel pretty crappy today but the way… But I’ve got stuff… I’ve got to do some work but I know I’ve got a big list of things that I can do and I could just pick the ones that I feel I can most bear to do if that makes sense. Rather than getting into my head that I had to do this today and so therefore I must stick with that. So I totally agree with that. I tell you another thing that helped me and load is a quote from Mark Twain. Mark Twain said “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life most of which have never happened.” And for me that is… I suffer a lot from anxiety because my brain runs ahead of itself and I imagine scenarios. I sit and imagine arguments with people, right! Seriously, so you get a scenario like, let’s say I bought something and have two return it, okay? I will have an entire conversation in my head with the shop representative over exactly what I’m going to say and they’ll turn round and say it can’t be returned because it been taken out of the packaging and then I’ll say this, and you walk into the shop and say “I want to return this.” and they go “Okay then.” And everything is fine. So we spend so much of our lives worrying about stuff that never happens that I’ve taken to writing a list, right, every time I worry about something that hasn’t happened I’ve got a list of that written down. So every time I start worrying about things I just look at this the list of things that never happened. And it lets me let go of it. Yes, but I guess we should probably move things on really. Okay, we’re pretty much running out of time for this week so yes, thank you Marcus. That was good and let’s move on to our sponsor
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Okay, Marcus do you have a joke to wrap us up with?
Marcus: Yes, a really brilliant one, not.
Paul: Ooh, that’s confidence.
Marcus: It’s not, it’s not! This is from Chris Florence on the Boagworld slash channel. What do you call a shoe made out of the banana?
Paul: What do you call a shoe made out of banana?
Marcus: A slipper.
Paul: That’s, ahh, not bad, not bad.
Marcus: Not that bananas are slippery apparently. It was MythBusters tested it, I remember watching it with my son when he was much younger and they tested the eternal hilarious falling over of people slipping on bananas and apparently it doesn’t work.
Paul: I think doesn’t it depend on how decomposed the bananas?
Marcus: I don’t know! I’m sure that I remember it didn’t work.
Paul: Because bananas get very slippy when they have really rotted down.
Sam: So does everything though! (Laughter)
Paul: That’s true, yes. My corpse would do.
Paul: Right, so let’s wrap this show up. Thank you everybody for joining us on this week’s show. It’s been really good to have you guys here, Ryan will be joining us next week when he doesn’t have an ill little baby. And I won’t be.
Marcus: And I won’t be.
Paul: And you won’t be, no. You are being replaced aren’t you.
Marcus: Rich Rutter will be on next week.
Paul: Rich Rutter, awesome. And just to remind people don’t forget to submit a lightning talk, we want your lightening talks at Boag.world/season18 but for now thank you for listening and goodbye.