Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nags Head Beach Trip

Last week we went on a beautiful vacation to the Outer Banks, Nags Head NC. We stayed at La Tortuga, a Village Realty managed home near MP 14. While I would highly recommend the management company (who was extremely responsive to AC problems and cable problems), I wouldn't recommend the house for everyone. La Tortuga (I learned it meant the turtle in Spanish) was a nice and large home but had an extremely unusable kitchen and also was next to public beach access. If you are a light sleeper, the 2 AM visitors via the public beach access could wake you up. Also, if at any time you expect to have more than 2 people in the kitchen - think again. The kitchen barely can contain 2 people let alone 2 people actually cooking. Other than that, the house was wonderful. Even though it was oceanfront, we found out how nice an ocean front pool was when the sand was almost too hot to walk on and with all the little ones (2 mo, 1 yo, 2 yo, 3 yo, 8yo) at the house.

Nags Head
Nags Head

Because of the kitchen constraints, we ate a lot of meals out as Heather wrote about. I am going to categorize the meals the whole family had into three categories, best of the beach, good, and served its purpose...

Best of the beach:
Black Pelican (tried eat in only - tuna bites were excellent)
Mama Kwans (had both takeout and eat in - fish tacos were great even as takeout)
Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe (had both takeout and eat in - crab cakes, buffalo popcorn shrimp, tuna, and soft shelled crabs were top notch)
Austin's seafood market (Great take out and market. The only bad thing was the crab cakes had ham in them)
American Pie for ice cream (chocolate and butter pecan were hits)
Duck Donuts (made to order donuts? IMO better than Krispy Kreme)
Front Porch Cafe for coffee

Awful Arthur's (take out - oysters didn't stay crisp with takeout but flounder was A+)
Adrianna's Restaurant in Manteo (Great fresh food, not kid friendly)
Blue Point in Duck (Great Food, Not kid friendly, small menu)
Takeo Japanese for Sushi (take out and eat in - good but not anything to write home about)

Served its purpose (not going out of way to get there)
Kill Devil's for frozen custard (Goodberry's has set much higher expectations for us)
American Pie for pizza/subs (they should stick to ice cream ;-) )
Capt'n Franks (expensive oscar mayer hot dogs)
Owen's (Despite raves about their crabcakes, everyone at our table thought they were horrible)
Big Al's Soda Shop in Manteo (burgers, sandwiches, like you would expect...)
Dune's (breakfast buffet not very exciting)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Choosing family over career?

"Its impossible to find examples of people who have chosen their families over a career that was taking off," one of my friends recently lamented, "but perhaps thats just a statement of how our parent's generation choices."

Father's Day is coming up and I try to reflect on what type of father I have been during this time. It just so happens I have had several conversations relating to the work versus family tension in life. The above conversation happened a couple weekends ago. Impossible is not the word I would have chosen but it is the word that was used. It certainly can be difficult to find people who have stopped mid take off in order to be with their families more often or be with their kids as they grew up. What it had me wondering was whether it was "impossible" to find or if these people were hidden because no one was making an example out of them. Magazines and web sites are dedicated to those with success as defined by our American society and are not dedicated to those who spend the most time with their families. However, in an age with high divorce rates, heavily medicated children, and record childhood obesity from inactivity - maybe we need to define success in a different way.

"When I leave IBM it will be because of my family," an IBM executive told me a week ago, "not because of money or the promise of a more powerful position."

What does it mean to pick your family over your career truly? I know a couple of IBM executives who have made potentially career limiting decisions to keep from moving their families or to move their families near their extended family. However, there are fewer examples of people who tossed their careers out the window. Few of these folks who have dropped travel next to nothing and protect their nights and weekends for their kids. Its this latter definition that my friend and I were looking for during our discussion. What does it look like to truly choose your family over your career?

"I'm retiring from software on June 18th to relax and spend more time with my family," wrote an IBM Distinguished Engineer last night in an email to myself and others.

I am not sure of the situation above, but based on that statement that individual could be a candidate for an example of this decision. I currently am not an example of this either. I try to minimize travel and I start my days at 5 AM in order to get to the gym and be done with work at a reasonable time in the evening. While those things are probably evidence that I care about my family, they are not evidence of me choosing my family over my career in my opinion. That's a tough thing to admit with father's day around the corner.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A lot to like about working at IBM

I think in most workplaces, people tend to focus on the negatives of their work environment especially when things are hard economically. I found myself being asked a lot recently about what it is like working for IBM or why I like working for IBM. I think we need to focus on some of the good things and, for this reason, I felt the need to list some of the benefits to working as a software engineer where I work, at IBM. Caution: The views below are my own and do not represent my employers

1. Water cooler time. This varies depending on your position in IBM, but for the organizations I have been a part of this is a benefit which is extremely valuable and would be tough to adjust to something different. At IBM, the expectation is that you will get your work done - whether it takes 40 or 60 hours. Checking your personal email, facebook, youtube, instant messaging, blogging, etc is allowable during this time as long as you get your work done. While people will complain that other employers are a more strictly 40 hours, I hear that most of those employers are also more strict about people being heads down working during those 40 hours and those 40 hours are typically on a more rigid schedule.

2. Flexible schedule. If you need to get home early, go to the doctor's, run an errand, or whatever - just as long as you get your work done its no big deal. IBM used to call this part of their work life balance (work life integration now) initiative. Here is a snippet on that initiative:

Today, the interactions of a global workforce—with 24/7 activity spanning the world’s time zones and accommodating a range of local holidays—require a far more flexible environment. Flexibility matters just as much to individuals. Our 2007 Global Work/Life Survey confirms that as IBMers’ flexibility increases, their difficulty in balancing work and personal life decreases. And we’ve also learned that flexibility is a key reason people choose to remain at IBM. So we are innovating again. IBMers now have a range of flexible work options, called Flexibility@Work, enabling them to create the lives they want by devising individual work schedules and integrating their professional and personal responsibilities. Our Global Work/Life Fund provides IBMers’ families with resources such as day care, elder care and summer camps. We’re doing more to enable IBMers to find new assignments with fresh challenges.

3. Opportunities. IBM is not only a company with 400,000 employees worldwide, it is also a company with enough projects for 400,000 employees. If you are a motivated individual looking for challenges and new learning opportunities, there are few companies with the number of different opportunities that we have as IBMers. While mobility within the company can be a little more restricted during times of economic trouble, IBM still offers more opportunities than most companies.

4. Cultural diversity. The product I used to work on, called WebSphere Application Server, had over 10 development groups in 6 countries at one point. The opportunity to work with people across the world is a mind opening experience that you get at few other places. Sure, many companies are "international" but often being "international" means they have 5 sales people in Europe rather than having a development team spanning the globe. At one point, I had the holiday schedule of three countries on my calendar which alone is a learning opportunity.

5. Compensation. IBM has a great set of benefits and is very competitive when it comes to base salary. The 401k starts employees today at dollar for dollar matching for the first 6% of their money. Every year we have a bonus opportunity as engineers called Growth Driven Profit-sharing or GDP for short. IBM rewards engineers for the patent applications they file and the issued patents they receive. Also, IBM gives out a fair number of cash and stock based awards, more when the economy is strong obviously. Overall, IBM is a great compensator and tough to comparable compensation for the same job in the same city.

6. Time off. IBM starts its employees with 3 weeks paid time off plus 12 holidays, 4 of which become "personal choice holidays" in the group I work at in Raleigh. That essentially if 4 weeks off as a starting employee. At ten years, which i hit this year, you get another week off. When a lot of employers start at 2 weeks plus some holidays this ends up being an additional two weeks off. Official external text on time off is here.

7. Life support. As a large company, IBM has many programs that we take for granted. We get discounts on cars, TVs, mobile phones, computers, vacations, and more. IBM helps families with adoption and education expenses. They give employees life insurance, short term disability, and inexpensive long term care options. Leave for education, paternity, maternity, and other life events are also baked into their employee well being plans. Oh yea, and reasonable medical, dental, and vision - especially when I compare it to what my friends pay for similar plans in the area.

There are more benefits than those listed but off the top of my head, this is what I could think of. We need to spend some more time thinking about all these great benefits rather than focusing on the stuff that bothers us. Thoughts?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Happy Anniversary Heather

I find that this is a special anniversary for Heather and I. Its not because I am away on our anniversary for the first time :-( or because seven years is some magical number - I think its because we are really clicking in line with each other and we are able to really communicate better than we have before.

Here is a picture of a very lucky guy almost exactly 7 years ago.