In ‘Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager’ Michael Lopp talks quite a bit about managing nerds. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular bit of wisdom that he also shared in his ‘Managing Nerds’ blog post:
What is your nerd’s hoodie? I write better when I’m wearing a hoodie. There’s something warm and cave-like about having my head surrounded — it gives me permission to ignore the world. Over time, those around me know that interrupting hoodie-writing is a capital offense. They know when I reach to pull the hoodie over my head that I’ve successfully discarded all distractions on the Planet Earth and am currently communing with the pure essence of whatever I’m working on.
It’s irrational and it’s delicious.
Your nerd has a hoodie. It’s a visual cue to stay away as they chase their Highs and your job is both identification and enforcement. I don’t know your nerds, so I don’t know what you’ll discover, but I am confident that these hoodie-like obsessions will often make no sense to you - even if you ask. Yes, there will always Mountain Dew nearby. Of course, we will never be without square pink Post-its.
Don’t sweat it. Support it.
It turns out my ‘hoodie’ is my pair of rather large (and thus easily seen) Shure SRH840 Reference Studio Headphones:
Those things cost quite a lot but they’re really worth it. Not only do they sound fantastic they provide a strong visual cue to all my open-plan-office colleagues that I’m concentrating and shouldn’t be interrupted unless it’s urgent or important.
And, apparently, when I wear them I look like the Nova FM logo character (not sure if that’s the old one, on the left, or the new one, on the right):
Over the last couple of weeks, as I’ve been experimenting with my working style, I’ve also discovered that, if I pop these on first thing in the morning (well, after I’ve booted up my PC and have settled down with my mug of tea), my morning productivity increases greatly. Not only that, with these on in the late afternoons (right after I’ve AeroPressed my afternoon mug of coffee), I get a lot of work done towards the end of the day, too.
These productivity spikes happen for different reasons, though. In the mornings the headphones let me kick-off and focus on my priority projects for the day. (I track, schedule, and prioritise all my work via the fabulous Trello web app, by the way.) In the afternoons they help counter the productivity dip I was otherwise having because it turns out that 2:30-5:30 PM is the time that most colleagues from other parts of the office come to my part of the office to talk to the people sitting around me. With my headphone on, though, it becomes really easy to block out all the conversations going on nearby so I can focus on the work that needs to get done.
So, yaay for useful self-analysis and yaay for my awesome headphones. And, I suppose, boo for open plan offices…which I’ve never actually liked and which is why, aside from my headphones, I have the three computer screens arranged around me on my desk.
- ‘Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager’ by Michael Lopp (aka Rands)
- ‘Managing Nerds’ [Rands in Repose]
- ‘The Nerd Handbook’ [Rands in Repose]
- ‘A Nerd in a Cave’ [Rands in Repose]
- ‘Workers, Put Those Headphones On’ by Scott Berinato [HBR Blogs]