Determination and Stamina: valuable stats but they’re not infinite

Typical Fighting Fantasy character sheet – what are your stamina, skill and luck stats?

I love choose your own adventure books. I read The Warlock of Firetop Mountain when it was first released and then pretty much every single Fighting Fantasy book released after it1. I also credit one of these books with improving my French reading and vocabulary after finding “La Malediction du Pharaon” in a charity shop2. One of the themes that run through all these books is your statistics: stamina, skill, and luck3. As you use these abilities they deplete. Use them too much and you will likely come to a sticky end in the books.

Real life is pretty similar, both mentally and physically. Continue reading Determination and Stamina: valuable stats but they’re not infinite

Incentivising data scientists

One of the regular Data Science discussion breakfasts. Thanks to all who attended.

I chaired a breakfast meeting for Women in Data Science recently, and one of the topics for discussion was how to retain talent. While demand is outstripping supply and the market is going crazy, it’s enough of a minefield finding good people¬† in the first place.

Add to this that even after you’ve made an offer to someone, recruiters will be contacting them regularly to try to tempt them away to other roles. It’s impossible to prevent this. I’m a big believer in not playing games with recruitment – I know what I can afford and won’t get into a bidding war. If I’m paying a fair salary and they go elsewhere for money, then they are more likely to jump when a recruiter calls regardless of how well you incentivise them. This isn’t a big company or small company thing, if you want to keep hold of your team after you’ve done the very hard job of hiring them then you need to understand what motivates them and either make sure that you continue to provide those needs or plan to be hiring again in the next 12-24 months. Continue reading Incentivising data scientists

Stop talking about your confidential research in public!

Is this what CSOs wear to breakfast? :)
Is this what CSOs wear to breakfast? ūüôā

Sometimes being part of a minority gender in IT is really beneficial.¬† There’s always plenty of people wanting to talk to you at conferences (and never a queue for the toilets!) and it can be quite nice being a novelty.¬† Also, on just about every business trip I go on, I’m reminded of the fact that when people see me, they don’t expect me to be in IT, let alone have a senior position.¬† Today, I had to laugh as a couple of businessmen on the table next to me gave me a lot of detail about their company confidential research that is directly useful to what I’m doing.

Fistly, I didn’t need over 5 years as CTO/CIO to learn the basics of business security.¬† Anyone in the industry knows that you don’t go blabbing confidential information in public, or do they?¬† It’s one of the easiest ways of social engineering – hang around in bars, coffee shops etc near an office that interests you and overhear what you can.¬† Some of it may be useful.

Continue reading Stop talking about your confidential research in public!

From the interviewer’s side of the table

I’m currently building a team for my new secret project and far more of my time than I’d like is spent with the recruitment process. However, every minute of that time is essential and we’re at a point where none of it can be handed off to an agency even if I wanted to1. ¬†So getting the recruitment process right is essential.

One of the basic principles of management in any industry is that if you set metrics for your team, they will adapt to maximise those results: set a minimum number of bugs to be resolved and you’ll find the easy ones get picked off, set an average number of features and you’ll find everything held together with string, set too many metrics to cover all bases and you’ll end up with none of them hit and a demoralised (or non-existent) team2. ¬†The same is true of recruitment – you will end up hiring people who pass whatever recruitment tasks you set, not necessarily the type of person the company¬†needs. ¬†While this may appear obvious, think back to the last interview you were at, either as the interviewer or interviewee – how much relation did the process¬†really¬†have to the role?

When I started recruiting for my new team, I knew I had neither the time nor resources to make mistakes. ¬†I had to get this right first time. Continue reading From the interviewer’s side of the table