Lately, I have been taking a step back and asking: who and what are your influences? Observing and actively shaping influences can lead to interesting results!



Over my career thusfar, I’ve been noticing the various influences that different organisations bring to bear. Various schools of thought and methodologies are applied. At the time of writing: Agile, Scrum, Kan-Ban, Design Thinking, User Experience, etc. Various ecosystems are set up, by certain vendors, of tools, applications, etc. Various words and clusters of language are used to describe things.

It seems that the people who run and staff the organisations have been influenced by ideas, which they picked up either during their tenure at an organisation, or before they joined, perhaps from their education and training or other sources. They absorb these influences and then spread them. The thinking of the organisation forms a kind of bubble.

In my own research of schools of thought, such as Agile and Design Thinking, I’ve seen that they spring up from small groups of individuals, whether named or not, who inspired the way of thinking or perhaps set up some of the key concepts and created the language.

So in macro, organisations seem to operate on influences, and in micro, individuals do.

I have noticed that I myself draw influences from certain sources. Factors such as the schooling I had, the companies I worked for, articles and books I read, ideas that I heard about from people I know, my friendship and social networks, all play into how I have been influenced.

So lately I have been trying to take a step back and ask myself: Who and what is influencing you? What have you been learning and from who? Where are you getting your information, words, language from? I don’t ask myself these questions with any judgement, e.g. of whether an influence is better or worse than another, but I just observe what’s there.

I also ask similar questions about the people I come into contact with, offline and online: Who and what is influencing them? Where do they learn, and from who? Where do they get information, words, language from? And also, what are their “stakes” or incentives in sharing something, whether it’s an idea, language, technology, schools of thought, ways of doing things, etc. What’s their motivation?

Perhaps they’re affiliated with a school of thought, vendor, etc. Perhaps they have a personal interest of some kind in some area of thought. Perhaps the company they work for expects them to promote some idea. Perhaps the idea is foundational to how they live and work. (I don’t pretend to know any of this for sure, but it’s interesting to ask the question.)

And, as with myself, I don’t try to judge the value of the influences and motivations. It’s not necessarily better or worse for someone to have a stake in promoting something or to be influenced by an idea. Rather than judge, I simply observe. And over time, I develop my own perspective on how various people, ideas, motivations and networks fit together.

By being aware of influences, I start to actively shape my own influences. For example, I might observe that I have been thinking very much within a certain interpretation of “Agile”. And I might see limitations in that thinking, which cause me to actively seek out the influence of a different school of thought, e.g. “Design Thinking”. This can be done by, for example, attending courses, reading books, networking with people in the field, etc.

So I get into cycles of observing influences, choosing new influences, observing again, etc. (Sounds kind of “Agile”-ish, doesn’t it!) Over time, I see myself shifting in thinking, and shaping my thinking by shaping who and what is influencing me. This, in turn, affects what kind of work I seek, how my C.V. looks, what kind of employers I work for, and what direction my career goes in.

This constant observing and re-shaping of influences has certainly made for an interesting and exciting career, and funnily enough, has given me more of a sense of direction. Something new to aim for, at every turn.


We’re familiar with the Delete button on our keyboards, and the warnings that pop up when we press it. But there can be advantages as well – it can free up space, and I mean cognitive space.


We’re probably familiar with the Delete button on our keyboards. And all the warnings and alerts that come up when we press that button. They’re trying to warn or inform us that we’re about to lose information, and we’d better be sure we want it to go away. And there can be catastrophic consequences to ignoring those warnings – i.e. data loss.

I’d like to talk about the advantages of hitting Delete. And this applies not only to your computer, but also your tablet or mobile phone, which you may use as much or more than your computer. On those devices also, you can delete apps or content.

And the advantage you can get from deleting things is that is frees up space. And I don’t mean storage space, I mean cognitive space. When you unlock your phone, you might be greeted by a plethora of apps and folders, which have evolved over time. You might have downloaded some out of curiosity, some because friends recommended them, some for work, etc. etc. And over time, these build up and create a mess, just like a messy house.

Keeping your digital spaces clean and orderly can be just as important as keeping your physical spaces clean and orderly. We all know what it’s like when your home is messy and you can’t find the things you need. And beyond that, mess can clutter your mind up. It can make you feel tired or depressed or anxious.

And coming home after work to a clean, orderly house, where everything is where you need it to be, can be refreshing, give you energy, make you feel lighter, and enable you to focus on what you want to focus on. E.g. that brilliant startup idea you’re working on after-hours!

So regularly deleting items on your lists, or files, or apps or anything can be a good practice. I’ve been doing this every month or so. I go through my phone or tablet and purge all the apps that I haven’t used for, say, more than 2 weeks. And after I’ve done this, I’m left with a nice, simple, clear, organised layout. This enables me to think more clearly and access the apps I need. Also, when I’m aware of the apps I do have and why I installed them, then I remember what my more general priorities in life are. And this contributes to me staying focussed on things that matter and not getting swept away.

So in summary: keep your decks clear, both physically and digitally, so you can get to what you need. And then your mind will be clearer, you’ll be able to better focus your attention, and (as a bonus) you’ll be freer to think creatively!



What are recruiters to you? Recruitment agents, head-hunters, or whatever else you call them. What do they mean to you and how do you feel about them?

I’ve been involved with recruiters for a long time now. At least as long as I’ve had a career – if you call it that. I started out early on feeling confused and sometimes antagonistic toward these people. They were fast-talking, smooth-talking, often had a British accent, and seemed to be kind of “salesy”. I felt like they were salespeople who were trying to sell a product, and I supposed that the product was me, or a job, or both!

Over time, I’ve started to notice some of the things recruiters have done for me.

They’ve landed me jobs. Most of my jobs have been through recruiters.

Another thing they’ve done is educated me. Educated me about the job market, about what employers are looking for, even down to small details. I remember one recruiter helped me out with some fashion advice, regarding what sort of clothing to wear to a job interview! They’ve also educated me about interpersonal skills and behaviour during an interview and what to expect from the interview process.

A third thing recruiters have done for me is, on certain occasions, worked with employers to create a new role for me that didn’t exist before. So, not only did they sell me to an employer, but they also sold the role – the job title – to the employer.

Recruiters do seem very much to be salespeople. I’d have to agree with that proposition. And in the past, I thought of myself as an engineer, a developer, someone who makes stuff. And I would ask, what do these salespeople do? What do they contribute to the world? All they seem to do is make things look flashy or convince a client or put on a good show. But the more I think about this, the more I think about aspects of my own role, and of job out there in the job market that are sales kinds of roles.

Even as a developer and an engineer, I have to sell myself for a job. In an interview, I have to highlight my relevant skills and show where I can help out a company. I bring up examples and case studies and what-have-you.

And even after getting the job, there are sales-like things one has to do. For example, there might be a software framework that the company is very keen on using. So I have to take a module of code and fit it into that framework and make it look good in that framework. Or I might have to present a piece of data, which in truth is just a bland list of entries, and present it in a graphical, interactive, animated kind of way, so that someone non-technical can look at it and understand what it means.

I would consider many activities to have a sales component to them. So in a sense, I think we’re all salespeople, to a lesser or greater degree. And I think recruiters are very important salespeople, who fill an important space in the job market.

And for all the talk of systems or tools that can replace recruiters, and of companies refusing to work with them (which, granted, some companies manage to do) in the main, they’ve stuck around and they’re still with us. So they’re doing something that is useful – at least to someone.

So my way of thinking about recruiters today is this: I don’t see recruiters (or employers, for that matter) as entities in a position of power over me, or ability to harm me in any way. Rather, I see them as tools.

If you have some idea of what you want out of your career, perhaps you’re feeling around and learning about the job market, but you also have a vision of what you want to do in the job market, then recruiters and employers are really tools to help you achieve that vision. And a recruiter can be a tool to educate you about the market, a tool to get you into a particular company or industry, and a tool to create a new industry or niche for you. And employers can be tools for you, where, in the course of working on a project, you acquire skills that will help you land the next project, which is more aligned with the course you want you career to go in.

Through this process of learning more about the market and then getting on the right projects, you can develop yourself, personally and professionally, in the directions you want to develop.

So I see recruiters are powerful tools. You don’t want to rely on any one of them and you don’t want to become limited by any one of them. But you want to judge them, identify which of them can help you with your strategic career objectives, and then take advantage of them. And they’ll love that, because their advantage is your advantage! If you find a role or career path that you really want and work towards it, then recruiters and companies – the right ones – will want to place you in a role. So they’ll help you get there and they’ll accelerate your growth!


How do you organise your personal information across mediums and platforms? I offer a technique for keeping information organised while benefiting from using the best medium for the job.


I would like to share with you a technique for organising information.

We are bombarded with information in today’s age. There are a lot of different pieces of data – documents, images, videos – all kinds of information and media that we need to somehow store and organise. And it’s important, when we organise it, that it’s structured in such a way that we can access what we need when we need it. There’s no use having gigabytes of recordings if you can’t quickly find and access the one 5-minute clip that you need, at the time you need it.

So we have all this different information in some form or another. And then we have multiple storage mediums. We have our solid-state drive on our computer. We have USB drives, which we can plug in, to either our own computer or another person’s computer or another device. And then we have cloud storage – services such as Google Drive and DropBox – where we can upload things to the cloud and then access them on the cloud, perhaps on our mobile phone or tablet. And we also have, more recently, some peer-to-peer systems, such as Resilio Sync, where you can sync directly between different devices, bypassing the cloud.

With both varying information and varying mediums for storing it, it can get quite confusing and messy. How do we organise all of this seeming chaos?

The technique that I’ve found useful is based on using a “schema”. I use the schema above to organise all the information I need to story across my life. For example, anything related to travel is stored in a “Travel” folder. And under that folder, there are subfolders for each trip I take. So if I take a trip to Europe, there’s a subfolder called “Europe” and so on. And there are other folders. Financial information goes into a “Financial” folder. Movies go into a “Movies” folder. And so on.

The schema is simply a set of folder names. For example:

  • Financial
  • Movies
  • Travel

If I want to access my personal budget, I might store it in the cloud, so that I can get to it when we need it, either on our mobile when at the shops or on a tablet device or on the computer.

Whereas if I have something a bit more sensitive, say financial documents, I might store those somewhere that’s not up in the cloud and not easily accessible, perhaps just on my local drive.

And then maybe I have very large files, such as movie files, and don’t want to store them in the cloud because it would take too long to upload and download them. So I might want to keep them on a USB drive, because then it will be fast to transfer them to someone else’s computer for viewing.

Based on the schema above, I can store my files in a folder structure that is consistent across any medium. So if I need to store a movie on a USB drive, I make sure to put it in a “Movies” folder on the USB drive. If I need to store a piece of financial data on a USB drive, I put it in a “Financial” folder. But if I need to store, say, a piece of financial information on the cloud, then I go into, say, Google Drive, and I store that information in a “Financial” folder on Google Drive.


Notice what’s the same across all my mediums? Yes, it’s the naming and organisation of the folders. So I’ve kept the naming and hierarchy of the folders the same across all mediums. But that doesn’t mean all the mediums contain all of my data. So my USB drive might not have a Travel folder, whereas one of my cloud accounts does. But overall, if I need to find any travel information, whatever medium it’s on, I know where to look. It’s going to be in a “Travel” folder.

And I have these folders – around 8-9 at the top-level so far – and I’ve built them up gradually over time. I started with about 2-3 folders and now it’s up to 8-9. And I’m trying to keep it under a limit. But as I do this over time, I’m starting to kind of memorise what the folder names are. It’s all in my head. So it’s very easy for me to find what I want. If I need to find a scan of my passport, to upload somewhere, I’ll generally know to look under “Travel/Passport”. I might search one or two locations, like say first my USB drive and DropBox, but I’ll be pretty quickly able to narrow it down and find it.

So over time, following this method, you get the best of both worlds: you can keep things in a logical, findable structure, but also keep them on the medium that’s most appropriate and/or easiest to access.


Ever started on a new project with a new team, and not quite known where to begin? Writers call it “blank page syndrome” or “writers block”. Teams can experience this too – people throw around lots of ideas and there’s confusion and conflict, or people are “paralysed” and don’t do anything and nothing happens. This episode presents the idea of a “runway” – that is, setting up a structure merely for the sake of getting the team moving.


Have you ever heard the expression, often used by writers, “writers block” or “blank page syndrome”? We know what they mean. They don’t know where to start. They might have a large body of knowledge in their head or a lot of ideas floating around, and there’s definitely something they want to achieve, but they don’t know where to begin with it.

Musicians get this too, but then, they have this thing called “the muse”, which comes and gives them inspiration, so they can write their symphony or concerto, or play their violin.

I’ve seen the same thing happen with teams, not just one person, where we might have a goal, say a project. We have a plan, we have strategy and structure and everything should just get going, right? And we have that empty folder or empty Git repository or CMS. And we don’t know where to get started. And I’ve seen this happen with teams, where there’s lots of different ideas being thrown around. Some people say we should go minimal. Don’t repeat yourself. Then you have other people who are interested in a particular framework or methodology. So there’s a lot of discussion and debate within the team about where to get started.

What do we do as technology teams just getting started? What gets us going?

What I’ve found useful in a situation like this, at least one time, was to just start and create a structure. And you might ask, “how did you know what kind of structure to create?” My answer is, the problem at the time wasn’t that we needed a solution or structure or architecture that satisfies the project needs. Because that’s impossible. We don’t know what the solution will look like until we flesh it out in code or design. What we actually needed at that point was something to just get people started. That was its only purpose. A structure whose only purpose was to be something that people could bounce off.

You know how an aeroplane needs a big long runway to take off. But the runway isn’t where the aeroplane is heading. The aeroplane will be in a completely different place once it gets off the ground. And yet it does need that runway. It needs something to roll along and kick off from, in order to get into the sky.

And developers, designers, whoever’s working on your project may just need a runway. And it may be a completely incorrect structure. For example, I might set up a folder structure of, say, “cats”, “dogs” and “emus”. But what we’re actually going to solve by the . end of the project is a grouping of different kinds of shapes or sizes of animals. But if we start off with that incorrect structure, it gives the team something to look at and bounce off. And that gets the energy going. See if you’re just being greeted by an empty folder or very minimal attempts at structure, people don’t know anywhere to begin because theres nothing much there. But if you set up an incorrect structure, or a correct one for that matter, people have something to look at and then they have something to either critique or to go along and agree with.

So you start with ‘”cats”, “dogs” and “emus” and someone says, hey I think we should start to group cats and dogs together because they’re a similar size and we should put elephants in another folder, and we should put emus in a separate folder because they’re kind of weird. And what you’ll end up with is a new structure. And gradually over time, the structure will change to what it has to be. So it might start out as one thing and end up being something totally different.

We have to remember that this is code, this is software. It’s ethereal. It doesn’t have a physical existence like say a building does. And so by just having something there to start developers off with, to start designers, to start a team with, just a “runway” like this can get you going.