CEO @polarnotion. CTO @newstorycharity. Coowner @tenrocket & @sharpp. Run fast. Stay strong. Go boldly forward. Godspeed :: morgan@polarnotion.com

One Key Metric

“How should I measure my improvement?”   It’s a common question I receive from Apprentice and Junior Engineers. For those focused on growth, they often search for a metric to track their improvement over time.    How will I be graded? What should I optimize for order to improve? How do I know I’m improving fast enough?   In software, ‘number of code commits’ and ‘lines of code written’ seems obvious. for early stage developers. It’s trackable and big numbers give the impression of progress. Unfortunately, code quality is not measured in quantity and volume. In fact, there is often an inverse correlation.   The question originates from a positive attitude, but the answer is complex and past attempts at oversimplifying have proven disastrous. There are stories of incentivizing engineers by ‘bugs found’, but that sparks the temptation to neglect proper troubleshooting up front. Incentivize overly-concise code and you may…

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CEO @polarnotion. CTO @newstorycharity. Coowner @tenrocket & @sharpp. Run fast. Stay strong. Go boldly forward. Godspeed :: morgan@polarnotion.com

Building a Marketplace

Over the years, we’ve built plenty of marketplace solutions. Unlike feature based or business management software, the value of the technology within marketplace software is in the relationship that is facilitates. The most common formation is a two-sided market place. Two-sided marketplaces connect a seller and a buyer. Examples we’ve build include connecting law firms with project attorneys, job seekers with employers, riders with drivers, or even brides with wedding vendors. Two audiences exist and the software becomes the match maker. Their interests are align, they just need to be connected. Two-sided Complexity Two-sided markets have inherent complexities. A common complexity is around value. Once the match is formed, what keeps the customer and vendor within the system? Airbnb, for instance, matches renters with home owners. Since the behavior involves real world interaction, the two parties could conduct business offline in future interactions. It becomes the goal of the marketplace to…

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CEO @polarnotion. CTO @newstorycharity. Coowner @tenrocket & @sharpp. Run fast. Stay strong. Go boldly forward. Godspeed :: morgan@polarnotion.com

Entry Level Engineers Cutting Their Teeth

I found myself drawing a distinction between code school graduates and Junior Engineers. It’s not to diminish the effort or credibility of code school. It is to elevate the importance of real world experience. Deploying to production software is key to the Junior Engineer distinction. Beyond a brochure site or public facing test app, a Junior Engineer needs time spent on a system with daily active users. Realizing it’s often hard to get the opportunity to work in a live environment, our apprenticeship is designed for Entry Level Engineers. What do you look for in an apprentice? This is by no means a comprehensive list, but we have found patterns that define solid apprenticeship candidates. Proactive learner. Pursue a deeper understanding rather than waiting to be tasked it. Action oriented. A default to ‘jumping right in’ rather than waiting for complete clarity. Inquisitive. The ability to ask good questions and digest…

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CEO @polarnotion. CTO @newstorycharity. Coowner @tenrocket & @sharpp. Run fast. Stay strong. Go boldly forward. Godspeed :: morgan@polarnotion.com

Start Smaller

In 2016, we built a streamlined recruiter management system. It allowed candidates to connect via LinkedIn, recruiters to post jobs, and employers to filter prospects. The interface was clean and polished. The value was well defined and benefits were obvious. For months prior, the client also had been working to build an email list. Every week a newsletter would be sent to job-seekers with top jobs in the industry. Employers would also receive an email with top candidates. It was basic and simple. Engagement In the end, their email list was 30x more effective at connecting people to jobs. It wasn’t much, but it worked. It wasn’t sexy, but apparently it didn’t have to be. When he approached investors, they couldn’t reconcile investing in an app when the traditional email was working well. “Comeback when you have a plan that capitalizes on the effectiveness of that email list.” The technology…

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CEO @polarnotion. CTO @newstorycharity. Coowner @tenrocket & @sharpp. Run fast. Stay strong. Go boldly forward. Godspeed :: morgan@polarnotion.com

Estimating Completion via Hill Charts

In high school, I ventured out with two friends to hike on the Appalachian Trail which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The plan was to hike for 5 days, covering about 75 miles. The distance would have covered the entire section within Georgia. On Day 3 a massive mountain was expected to be the highlight of the trip. Looking at the map and using some rough calculations, I estimated we would eat lunch atop the mountain in a few hours. We’d heard from others that it was one of the state’s best views. As you might guess, I was wrong. Ascending the mountain took twice as long as expected. Conditions were rough and visibility was poor. We were exhausted by the time we reached the top and our lunch was devoured hours before. A thick fog left us with mere inches of visibility. No view and no highlight. From the…

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CEO @polarnotion. CTO @newstorycharity. Coowner @tenrocket & @sharpp. Run fast. Stay strong. Go boldly forward. Godspeed :: morgan@polarnotion.com

Strategy Feeds Execution

Strategy is among our most valuable work. In technology, it’s easy to get caught up in apps, features, and how it looks. We must consistently stop and consider if we are building the right thing. As I look back over years of building products and millions of times of code, my proudest moments involve software we avoided having to write. In contrast, the greatest disappointments involve a tremendous amount of time, energy, and effort spent on something that was ultimately wrong. It comes back to strategy vs execution. Doing the work or deciding on the work to be done. Great technologists are able to align technology with business objectives. This alignment shouldn’t only be at the beginning of the project. It must happen over and over as conditions evolve. This is typically the role of the technical cofounder on smaller teams and Chief Technology Officer within large or growing organizations.…

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CEO @polarnotion. CTO @newstorycharity. Coowner @tenrocket & @sharpp. Run fast. Stay strong. Go boldly forward. Godspeed :: morgan@polarnotion.com

Healthy Habits for Growing as a Software Engineer

Building disciplines around lifetime learning within tech I’ve worked hard over the years to increase my skills as a software engineer as well as the value I’m able to provide to the larger engineering community. Somethings have worked well and some have been utter wastes of time. Getting started, it’s often hard to know which is which. Outside of a traditional education in computer science, the following habits have allowed my career to grow and evolve more consistently than anything else. I’ve also had the privilege of watching them do the same for others. • Ask great questions. • Experiment constantly. • Share your knowledge. • Invest time daily. Ask great questions. Active listening is the greatest oversight of most academic institutions. Neither grade school nor college offered courses on being a better listener but it has become a priceless skill. The more I learn and grow, the more valuable I’ve…

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CEO @polarnotion. CTO @newstorycharity. Coowner @tenrocket & @sharpp. Run fast. Stay strong. Go boldly forward. Godspeed :: morgan@polarnotion.com

Kickstarting a Rails Project

A practical guide for new Rails 5.2 projects I love learning how others work. Hoping to glean some wisdom or insight that could help me sharpen my skills, I’m constantly reevaluating what works best. Regardless of the nature of the rails application, I’ve found the following workflow to be quite helpful. Having built my personal site on Rail 5.2, I can confirm that each gem still works and this workflow continues to be relevant. Preliminary Notes and Assumptions Order matters. Installing each gem in the following order optimizes for their generator workflow. A few of the gems build nicely on top of one another. Reorder at your own discomfort. RailsCasts are old, but helpful. It’s been years since Ryan Bates published a new RailsCast or updated an old one, but the content is still helpful. As long as you can fill in the cracks between rails versions, it’s Rails gold. This is not an environment…

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CEO @polarnotion. CTO @newstorycharity. Coowner @tenrocket & @sharpp. Run fast. Stay strong. Go boldly forward. Godspeed :: morgan@polarnotion.com

Welcome to Code School

Actionable insights to improve your experience.Having struggled independently through much of my career as a software engineer, I love the fast paced, practical experience provided by Code Schools. While being self taught is a path many have taken to mastery, focused attention can produce greater results in much less time. If you’re just starting out and choosing to attend a code school, I’ve compiled a few thoughts I hope you find useful.Adjust Your ExpectationsOwn your own experience.Code school is not a magic bullet. The information doesn’t flow seamlessly from instructor to student. A tremendous amount of effort and mental flexibility is required to maximize the opportunity that these code schools provide. Between your instructor, community manager, and peers.. a wealth of knowledge exists but it’s up to each student to make the most of it. The students who own their own experience and take it seriously often gain the most.Learn…

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CEO @polarnotion. CTO @newstorycharity. Coowner @tenrocket & @sharpp. Run fast. Stay strong. Go boldly forward. Godspeed :: morgan@polarnotion.com

Followup Email to a Code School Student

Throughout the year I speak to students at code schools. From time to time, the most curious students take me up on an invitation to email additional questions and thoughts. After a recent visit with Tech Talent South students, I received an email from one of their aspiring software engineers.The following includes his questions and my responses.“Is it more important to be well versed in both front end and backend, or do most engineers usually gravitate toward one or the other?”I’d summarize this as going a mile wide or a mile deep. I’ve seen successful versions of both, but often recommend for junior engineers to go broad first, find what they like, then dive deep. I’ve met plenty of people who say they love frontend work but have no backend experience to influence that decision.By exposing yourself to a diverse number of things, you’re able to formulate a more well…

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