2016 Election Aftermath

Well, I could not have been more wrong in my predictions for the recent US election.

Donald Trump was the winnier, although I (like many others) had expected Hillary Clinton to win handily. On the Senate elections, I was wrong in predicting Democratic winners in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. As a result, rather than a 50-50 tie in the Senate, Republicans maintain a majority of 52-48 (a bit smaller than their current majority).

I think I should probably retire as an electoral forecaster.

 

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Election Day 2016 – Predictions

Back in February, before the first primary voting, I took a shot at forecasting the outcome of the US presidential election process. In short, I wasn’t very accurate, but I’ll try again today, on Election Day.

What did I predict in February?

Democratic ticket: Hillary Clinton and John Hickenlooper (Governor of Colorado)

Republican ticket: Marco Rubio and Nikki Haley

Well, one out of four is 25% – not very good. Specifically, about the Republican primary, I wrote this:

I really don’t think Donald Trump is likely to get the nomination. When actual voting starts in many states, I think that he will fade (though I’ve thought this since last summer and it isn’t really happening yet). In addition, the nomination process makes it fairly difficult for a candidate with extreme positions to get nominated, even if that candidate gets the most votes in the primary.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Finally, I also predicted this, if it was a Clinton / Trump race:

  • Clinton – 347 electoral votes
  • Trump – 191 electoral votes

What do I think now?

I still think Hillary Clinton will win, with a comfortable Electoral College margin, but not quite as easily as I thought in February.

  • Clinton – 322 electoral votes
  • Trump – 216 electoral votes

(Click on the map to see a bigger image of it)

map

 

Specifically, here’s how I think the swing states will go.

  • Arizona – Trump, by 2.5%
  • Colorado – Clinton, by 4.5%
  • Florida – Clinton, by 1.1%
  • Georgia – Trump, by 1.3%
  • Iowa – Trump, by 1.1% – this will be surprisingly close, but Trump will still win
  • Maine – Clinton, by 8.0%, but Trump will win one electoral vote from the 2nd District
  • Nevada – Clinton, by 2.5%
  • New Hampshire – Clinton, by 3.3%
  • New Mexico – Clinton, by 6.8%
  • North Carolina – Clinton, by 1.6%
  • Ohio – Trump, by 0.6% – not surprisingly, the closest state
  • Pennsylvania – Clinton, by 5.9%
  • Utah – Trump, by 9.8% – Evan McMullin doesn’t, in the end, come close to winning

What about the Senate?

The races to control the Senate will be exceptionally close. Republicans currently control 54 seats and Democrats control 46 (which includes 2 Independents who vote with Democrats). Since tie votes are broken by the Vice President, a 50-50 split would mean that whoever wins the presidential election would control the Senate. To take control, Democrats need a net gain of four seats (if Clinton wins) or five (if Trump wins).

Here is how I see the close Senate races ending:

  • Arizona – John McCain over Ann Kirkpatrick by 4.5%
  • Florida – Marco Rubio over Patrick Murphy by 2.2%
  • Illinois – Tammy Duckworth comfortably over Mark Kirk (Democrat gain)
  • Indiana – Todd Young over Evan Bayh by 1.1%
  • Missouri – Roy Blunt over Jason Kander by 0.5%
  • New Hampshire – Maggie Hassan over Kelly Ayotte by 0.7% (Democrat gain)
  • Nevada – Catherine Cortez Masto over Joe Heck by 1.8%
  • North Carolina – Richard Burr over Deborah Ross by 0.8%
  • Ohio – Rob Portman over Ted Strickland by 9.8%
  • Pennsylvania – Katie McGinty over Pat Toomey by 2.5% (Democrat gain)
  • Wisconsin – Russ Feingold over Ron Johnson by 4.4% (Democrat gain)

That gives a 50-50 split in the Senate. I think there is a good chance the Democrats could get one or two more seats (Indiana, Missouri, or North Carolina) but they could just as easily lose in New Hampshire or Pennsylvania.

What about the House of Representatives?

The Republicans currently have a big majority in the House of Representatives, with 246 seats. Democrats have 186 seats and 3 seats are currently vacant. With the way the districts are drawn, it is very, very difficult for the Democrats to win enough seats to take control.

My best guess is this outcome for the House:

  • Democrats – 208 seats – net gain of 22 seats
  • Republicans – 227 seats – net loss of 19 seats

Meanwhile, there may be some drama in January, as the House determines whether Paul Ryan continues as Speaker or something else happens there.

Summary

So, there it is – just like I thought 9 months ago, I believe that, in January 2017, the US will inaugurate its first ever female president – Hillary Clinton. Tim Kaine will be Vice President and he’ll be busy, because he’ll need to break ties in the Senate.

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Is writing software more like Building a Bridge or Making a Painting?

Several weeks ago, my friend and colleague Dan Calinescu asked and answered (on LinkedIn) this question:

Is software development more like building a bridge or more like painting a painting?

Dan had asked me this question a few years ago, on the day we met, in the first meeting we had together. I had arrived in Romania (from Seattle) for the first time, to meet with the team (which included Dan) that I had just started to manage. In his post, Dan says that most people he asks (primarily in software development) says it’s more like building a bridge. Dan argues (as he did that day in Romania) that it’s the latter, stating that

Software development is more like painting than it is like building a bridge. A lot more like painting. A lot as in 80%-90%.

He’s wrong. Although Dan makes many valid points in his article, he’s wrong on the basic premise. He’s right that creative people can make excellent software developers. He’s also correct that it’s valuable to have developers who challenge requirements that don’t accurately describe the problem to solve but, instead, define a solution.

Here’s the truth:

Software must do something. That is it’s primary purpose – to serve a need; to meet a requirement.

Similarly, a bridge serves a purpose – to cross a body or water (or some other gap). It has a function and, more than anything, it has to fulfill that function successfully. It might have multiple purposes (like the Tower Bridge in London, now serving car traffic and also housing a museum). But, more than anything, it must do what it is intended to do.

ID-100111093

Once that purpose is met, other factors are important and must be considered. Bridges are seen by lots of people, so it’s valuable for them to be visually appealing. They represent (and can become an iconic symbol of) the communities where they are built, so it can be important for them to be creative. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is a well-known example.

ID-10015226

Like a bridge, once a software product meets its requirements, it must also have artistic considerations. Ugly software is worse than beautiful software. In fact, ugly software can make it fail to fulfill its purpose. Users are unable to use software if they can’t locate its features. Further, a beautiful, elegant user interface enhances a software product (or website) (or mobile app) and makes it “better”, even if its only virtue is its appearance.

A painting, unlike a bridge or a software offering, has no primary function other than its appearance. It may be intended make a political statement or engender an emotional reaction or portray an individual or a scene. However, it doesn’t (by itself) do anything.

And that’s the difference. Like a bridge and unlike a work of art, software must do something.

What do you think?

I first wrote this post to be published on LinkedIn – you can find that here.
Tower Bridge image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Golden Gate Bridge image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Daryl’s 2016 Election Predictions

Prior to the first actual primary voting in New Hampshire (but after the Iowa Caucuses), I thought I’d show my forecasting ability (or lack thereof) by making some predictions on the outcome of the US presidential election process. Note that I’m not saying what I want to happen, just what I think will happen.

I wrote the first draft of this back in November, a year before Election Day 2016 in the US. [For those not in the US, yes, Americans really do spend more than a year getting ready for an election!] There have been some changes since then. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders’ candidacy has been growing in strength, but he still seems like a long-shot to defeat Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, for the Republicans, Donald Trump continues to lead in the polls, while Ben Carson has faded and Ted Cruz has been rising. Still, I’ll stick with the same (unpublished) predictions I had in November.


 

Presidential / Vice Presidential nominees

Democratic – Hillary Clinton / John Hickenlooper

Clinton is still the obvious choice and heavy favorite. There seems little chance (to me) that she won’t get the nomination. Sanders is likely to win in New Hampshire, but Clinton will, I think, win the nomination.

Forecasting her choice for VP is trickier. Conventional wisdom says that she should choose someone younger, possibly non-white, and likely from a “battleground” state. [See explanation at the bottom about this.] It’s unlikely that she’ll find someone who matches all three of those. John Hickenlooper is currently the popular governor of Colorado and he’s my guess for her choice. Others I considered include Julian Castro, Cory Booker, and Tom Vilsack. I’ll consider myself moderately prescient if any of those is actually the choice.

Republican – Marco Rubio / Nikki Haley

I don’t think Donald Trump is likely to get the nomination. When actual voting starts in many states, I think that he will fade (though I’ve thought this since last summer and it isn’t really happening yet). In addition, the nomination process makes it fairly difficult for a candidate with extreme positions to get nominated, even if that candidate gets the most votes in the primary.  [This article describes the process and how it benefits a moderate candidate.] That makes it unlikely (in my view) that Ted Cruz will get the nomination. Jeb Bush seems to be a really poor national candidate with little strong support. Chris Christie, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina are struggling to get any sustained support.

That leaves (in my opinion) a battle between Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Kasich has struggled to get media attention (or strong poll results), but that may turn-around soon. Meanwhile, Rubio has been recognized (at least in the media) as a preferred choice for the Republican establishment. Rubio has gotten some criticism in the past week for his robot-like adherence to talking points and it’s possible that will drag him down. However, I expect the visibility of that to fade and be forgotten and I think he will be the nominee.

Rubio comes from Florida – one of the two biggest battleground states. An obvious VP choice would be Kasich, since Ohio is the other big battleground state. However, I think Rubio will emphasize youth and simultaneously try to appeal to women voters by choosing Nikki Haley, 43-year old Indian American who is the Governor of South Carolina. Rubio is 44 years old and will try to make Clinton’s age (she’s 68) an issue.


 

Presidential Election results

As noted below, the results of the U.S. presidential election are based on electoral votes. Each state gets a specified number of electoral votes, equal to the number of people that state has in Congress (two senators + representatives based on population). California (the most populous state) has the most at 55; the least populated states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming and the District of Columbia) each have 3. The winner of the most votes in a state gets all the electoral votes for that state.

Presidential results (electoral votes):

  • Clinton – 303 electoral votes
  • Rubio – 235 electoral votes

Caveat – if the Republican nominee is Trump, Cruz or (however unlikely) Carson, I expect that Clinton will win by a considerable larger margin:

  • Clinton – 347 electoral votes
  • Republican nominee– 191 electoral votes

So, there it is – I believe that, in January 2017, the US will inaugurate its first ever female president – Hillary Rodham Clinton.


 

What’s a Battleground State? 

The presidential election is the US is based on winners in each state, rather than the overall total number of votes. Because of this, states that are closely divided between Republican and Democratic votes are hotly contested. There are fewer than a dozen of these “battleground” states. Having someone from one of those states on the ballot is widely viewed as beneficial to winning that state.

 

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Returning to my blog

It’s been over a year since I published a blog post. I recognized regularly through the year that I’ve missed it. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, so I intentionally didn’t try to pick back up at the beginning of the year. Still, now that 2016 is well into its second month, I decided it’s time.

I’ll add some new topics (including my first attempt at political predictions very soon), but most of my focus will continue to be thoughts on management, leadership and organizational challenges, occasionally veering off to talk about sports, travel, wine and theatre.

It’s good to be back!

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Travels in 2014

As the year winds down, I’m looking back at the past twelve months and looking forward to 2015.  Travel has been a huge part of my life this year (magnified by the move Sheri and I made to London, which I wrote about here).  After not traveling at all in January or the first half of February, I started up and never really stopped.

In February, I made my final trip to Vietnam as part of SDL’s Social Intelligence development team.  March brought the first of many trips to Cluj, Romania, as manager of SDL’s Language Technology development team, coupled with a few days in Amsterdam.  April started with a trip to corporate HQ in Maidenhead (near London) at the beginning of the month and continued with another trip to Cluj in the middle.  Sheri and I made our house hunting trip to London with Sheri at the end of the month.

We moved out of our house near Seattle in the middle of May, beginning about 10 weeks of not having anywhere to call home. [That was no fun!] After one more business trip to Europe (Cluj and Maidenhead) and a few trips to California, it was time for the biggest journey of all: at the end of June, we made the move from Seattle to London.

After our relocation, the travel didn’t really slow down.  I’ve been to Cluj at least once a month and made additional business trips to Amsterdam, LA, Seattle, and Stuttgart.  Meanwhile, Sheri and I enjoyed some personal travel time in Romania, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Iceland.

 

Travel map 2014

 

Total count for the year:

  • 2 countries of residence
  • 3 continents
  • 7 SDL offices
  • 8 inter-continental trips
  • 9 countries
  • 11 airlines
  • 12 trips to Romania
  • 15 airports
  • 121,000 miles flown (at least)

For now…I’ll leave you with this thought:

Travel is becoming my life.  Not that I’m complaining.

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As the year winds down, I’m looking back at the past twelve months and looking forward to 2015.  Travel has been a huge part of my life this year (magnified by the move Sheri and I made to London, which I wrote about here).  After not traveling at all in January or the first half of February, I started up and never really stopped. In February, I made my final trip to Vietnam as part of SDL’s Social Intelligence development team.  March brought the first of many trips to Cluj, Romania, as manager of SDL’s Language Technology development team, coupled with a few days in Amsterdam.  April started with a trip to corporate HQ in Maidenhead (near London) at the beginning of the month and continued with another trip to Cluj in the middle.  Sheri and I made our house hunting trip to London with Sheri at the end of the month. We moved out of our house near Seattle in the middle of May, beginning about 10 weeks of not having anywhere to call home. [That was no fun!] After one more business trip to Europe (Cluj and Maidenhead) and a few trips to California, it was time for the biggest journey of all: at the end of June, we made the move from Seattle to London. After our relocation, the travel didn’t really slow down.  I’ve been to Cluj at least once a month and made additional business trips to Amsterdam, LA, Seattle, and Stuttgart.  Meanwhile, Sheri and I enjoyed some personal travel time in Romania, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Iceland. Travel map 2014 Total count for the year:

  • 2 countries of residence
  • 3 continents
  • 7 SDL offices
  • 8 inter-continental trips
  • 9 countries
  • 11 airlines
  • 12 trips to Romania
  • 17 airports
  • 121,000 miles flown (at least)

For now…I’ll leave you with this thought: Travel is becoming my life.  Not that I’m complaining.

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Commuting by Train

Since Sheri and I moved to London (which is described here), I’ve been commuting by train from home to the office.  This was our plan as soon as we decided to relocate.  It figured in our search for a place to live. The SDL office is in Maidenhead, which has direct train service from Paddington Station to the Maidenhead station. As a result, we needed to live in a location that gave me easy access to Paddington – either by tube or by bus or by foot.

We ended up renting a lovely flat in Maida Vale, in a part of London known at Little Venice.  It offers a wonderful blend of city life with a neighborhood feel that offers some peace and quiet. Maida Vale lies just to the north of Paddington and our flat is close enough that I can walk to the station.  From there, I take the train to Maidenhead, which takes about 30 minutes (depending on whether I catch an express train or not).  On the other end, I walk from the Maidenhead station to the office

Here’s a visual view of my commute – total travel time is about an hour and ten minutes (a little faster in the evening, if I catch the super-express 19 minute train back to London).   Click on each map for a larger view.

  • Walk from home to Paddington – 15 to 20 minutes – note than much of my walk is along the canals of Little Venice, which is pretty cool

Home to Paddington

  • Train from Paddington to Maidenhead – 20 to 40 minutes

Paddington to MH

  • Walk from Maidenhead Station to SDL office – 15 to 20 minutes

MH to Globe House

If I had a car, the commute would take at least as long – Google Maps estimates that the drive, with no traffic, is about 51 minutes.  Naturally, my commute would almost never encounter “no traffic”.

Driving commute

So, what’s the effect on me of commuting by train?  There’s no real impact on the time I spend commuting.  I’ve lost some weight and am getting more fit, since I’m getting more exercise – it’s about 4 miles of walking per day: a mile to and from the train station, in each direction.  In addition, I get to relax for the time I spend on the train – reading a book or a newspaper; listening to music or a podcasts; or just watching the scenery go by.  Since we don’t have a car, we’re saving money on petrol (that’s British for gasoline, for my American friends), car insurance, parking, and maintenance.  British trains are expensive, so the savings aren’t as significant as I would like, but we’re still better off.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with how this is working out.  Check back in with me in January or February, after I’ve had a few months of the same commute in a rainy, windy, dreary, grey English winter!

 

For now…I’ll leave you with this thought:

Moving from a suburban to an urban life brings a lot of changes – transportation is one of the biggest.  Take opportunities to change your approach.

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A New Beginning

My wife and I have moved to London and moved into our new flat last week. Packed within that sentence are a whole lot of life changes for both of us.

Back in January, I was asked to take a new role within SDL, to look after the development of the Language Technology products.  Though the responsibilities are similar to my previous position (managing development of SDL’s Social Intelligence products), this is a significantly larger role.  There are many more products, with a much larger team developing them.  The revenue generated by the Language products is tens of millions of pounds (compared to just a few million for the Social products). In addition, the products provide a foundation for SDL’s Language Services that delivers more than £100 million in additional revenue.

Once I agreed to accept the new job, Sheri and I faced the logistics of winding down our lives in the Seattle area and moving to the UK.  Sheri gradually wrapped up all the active projects in her interior design business and shuttered it for at least a few years.  We sold the house we had lived in for twenty years.  We sold our cars, sold some of our furniture, put other furnishings into storage, and shipped the rest (along with clothes, kitchen supplies and other household items) in a container bound for London.  It’s difficult to explain how complex and stressful those months of packing and moving were!

Now that we’ve arrived, we’re settling into life in London.  Both of us are looking forward to new adventures and new challenges.  There’s obviously the job change for me, with new products and technologies to learn, new colleagues to get to know, and a new industry to understand.  For Sheri, there’s the prospect of deciding how to fill her days and weeks, with her design business no longer commanding her attention.  We hope to have opportunities to travel through Europe, in addition to experiencing an urban life in central London.

For now…I’ll leave you with this thought:

Big changes can bring new opportunities as well as new challenges.  Don’t be afraid of them.

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Corner Office – Spencer Rascoff – Zillow

In Adam Bryant’s Corner Office column on 22 December 2013, he interviewed Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow.  The full interview can be found hereZillow is an online real estate database, aimed at providing a marketplace to help people find information about home values.  The company was founded in 2005.

Like many other subjects of Corner Office interviews, Rascoff was an early entrepreneur.  He describes his first business venture, at age 10, selling cookies and other baked goods to friends and family.  His first management role came at Goldman Sachs, at age 21.

I really like Rascoff’s answer when asked about common mistakes made by first-time managers:

The biggest mistake I tend to see from junior managers is not hiring people who are better than them. It might be subconscious — people don’t want to be shown up by one of their direct reports — or maybe they don’t know how to identify talent.

 This is part of a larger management theme: managers who are confident and secure typically make better decisions than those who are uncertain or lack confidence.  Managers who feel threatened may be reluctant to hire people who are likely to outshine them.

Rascoff provides an additional, more introspective response to the same “common mistakes” question:

 The mistake I have most commonly made, especially earlier in my career, was not acting quickly enough when I knew in my gut that somebody probably wasn’t the best person for a role. I like to be liked, but sometimes managing people is not a popularity contest. So when a manager realizes that somebody is not right for their job, they need to act quickly — not just for their own success and survival, but also for the overall team.

Again, I find Rascoff to be very insightful here.  New managers are often reluctant to replace (or reassign) employees who aren’t being successful.  The fear of not being liked frequently backfires, since other employees recognize the individual who isn’t performing and conclude, if no action is taken, that the manager isn’t managing effectively.

Finally, Bryant asks Rascoff how he approaches hiring and what questions he asks.  

What are you most proud of so far in your career? And if you ran your current company, what are some things you would change? What I’m looking for with that question is whether people “level up.” Usually their answer is very narrow and focused on their particular area. Successful interviewees have broader and more strategic answers.

These kinds of open-ended questions are good ones, in my experience.  Candidates who think of (and can describe) a broad perspective in their responses are likely to be more strategic and more creative employees.  “What are you most proud of?” is a relatively common interview question, but effective – there’s no obvious right answer and it can provide good insight into the candidate’s true achievements (rather than just bullet points on a resume).  Similarly, “What would you change if you ran your current company?” can reveal a candidate’s awareness of (and thoughtfulness about) areas outside her own personal area of responsibility.

Rascoff continues:

I then usually ask them to describe the job they’re interviewing for, which is a good question for several reasons. First, it helps force them to articulate what the job description is and how their skills would fit into that job description. Second, it helps me learn their level of interest in the company. It immediately becomes apparent whether they’ve done the research and whether they are really serious. I also ask where they think their career will go in the next five or 10 years.

Most of this is really good, although I’m not thrilled with the last question.  Taken properly, the question can reveal a bit about long-term thinking and ambition.  However, as I look back at my own career (and those of colleagues I’ve known), I find that very few people can predict what might happen over several years.  Especially in a technology field, the landscape changes too quickly and opportunities come up too frequently for there to be much predictability.  Still, the question can be useful, if the response is interpreted more abstractly.

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