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The Steady Beat - Issue 24.6.4

Robotic painting, work conversation techniques, finding Agile mojo, and dispelling the product-manager-as-CEO myth.

June 28th 2024

by Henry Poydar

in Newsletter

Welcome to The Steady Beat, a weekly-ish round-up of hand-picked articles and resources for people who make software products: designers, engineers, product managers, and organizational leaders.

By the numbers

  • 61 - Ireland has the highest number of software testers per 100,000 people (61.2), while the USA and Canada have almost half as many (37.1)
  • 220 - The Javascript runtime for Kinipio, the idea mapping app, fits into 220 kilobytes, less than a floppy disk
  • 110 - New languages added to Google Translate in it’s latest release this month, including Afar, Manx, NKo, and finally, oft-requested but tricky to implement Cantonese
  • 2 - The number of CockroachDB databases Netflix uses to store plan pricing and code redemption information for it’s 238 million active memberships

Product management reality check

The role of a Product Manager (PM) is often glamorized as the “CEO of the product,” but reality paints a different picture. Aspiring PMs, seduced by influencers’ promises of high earnings and strategic influence, soon find themselves navigating intense pressure, uncertainty, and complex stakeholder relationships without actual authority. The real work, according to Amazon PM Apoorva Mishra, involves deep technical knowledge, customer empathy, and effective communication across teams. Frameworks and cross-functional collaboration, while important, are just tools, not substitutes for hard work and genuine expertise. Aspiring PMs must look beyond the influencer hype and embrace the multifaceted challenges of the role to succeed.

Harvard Business Review, 7m (gift)

Leveling up conversations at work

Ever felt your meetings could use a boost? Here are seven easy tricks: Say someone’s name if they’re zoning out, repeat the tricky bits or their last point with a question mark for clarity, and don’t shy away from pauses to collect your thoughts. Adjust your eye level to subtly shift conversation control, and lock eyes when making an important point. If you’re rambling, stop and let them respond, or slow down your speech. Finally, gauge the room’s reaction when you’re done—if the chat flows, you’re golden; if not, keep working on your delivery.

Rands in Repose, 3m

Reignite your agile spark, asynchronously

Agile is facing a modern crisis, bogged down by over-engineered systems, disjointed teams, and outdated coordination methods. Steady proposes a remedy: adopting lightweight async principles and leveraging AI to revitalize Agile practices. The core issue isn’t Agile itself but its implementation in today’s flexible, tech-heavy work environments. By embracing Continuous Coordination, teams can shift from inefficient, meeting-heavy workflows to structured asynchronous loops. This approach, enhanced by Steady’s automation, promises to restore predictability and consistent value delivery, ensuring Agile remains relevant and effective.

Steady, 5m

Coding and watercolor paintings

Amy Goodchild has been blending the digital precision of an AxiDraw plotter with the unpredictable beauty of watercolours, and the results are fascinating. Using JavaScript to create SVGs, Goodchild’s plotter meticulously follows paths to pick up paint, swirl in water, and dab on paper towels, creating intricate, wavy vertical lines. She’s experimented with different brushes, finding that minor variations in bristle shape and plotting speed can dramatically affect the outcome. Despite the technical setup, the process remains delightfully chaotic—bristles spread unpredictably, colors fade, and the brush’s height off the paper can make or break a piece.

Amy Goodchild, 5m

Programming note: we’ll be off next week for July 4th holiday here in the U.S. - see you on the other side!

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