Meekal Bajaj

I write about design, product, and technology. Curious about everything.

  • Hiring your manager

    Opinion · 1 minute read · Last updated August 20, 2014

    I have had 12 managers in the past 5 years, that is to say a little over 2 managers a year. I have built a few archetypes of managers over this period and when I interview, I actively look at which ones my new boss would fit in. These archetypes are not exclusive—the best ones embody some degree of all of them. All of the ones I list capture positive qualities, bad managers are toxic, and I have very little patience with humoring them.

    • The shield
      Makes sure that you have the room to get your job done. They provide you with political cover when you need it, and ensure that you are not frustrated with distractions.

    • The connector
      Always put you in front and make sure you get noticed for your efforts. If you have an idea that you have been dwelling on, they will get you in touch with the right people to move it forward. They tend to be your champions for promotions and stand up for you when you are not around.

    • The mentor
      Helps show you how you can grow. They assist you in figuring out how to turn a job into a career by expanding your knowledge and skill. When I have had good mentors, they have helped me see further, not just on how to do my job better, but which skills should I be building to be better prepared for the future. They have given me the boost to see the world from their vantage point and to give me the critical feedback to sharpen my skills in a sheltered manner.

    • The encourager
      Enourages you to find your best work. They have a way of pushing you to try harder. Their questions are insightful and make you challenge your own assumptions. They help you not be satisfied with settling through a combination of being stubborn in not accepting mediocrity, and providing perspective on what’s missing.

  • Notes for myself

    Opinion · 1 minute read · Last updated August 19, 2014

    An incomplete list of things I have learnt so far. It’s a personal list that has helped me make better decisions.

    • Play to your strengths
      Be known for something, have a clear reason why you should be included in a conversation.
    • Do the obvious thing first
      Planning too far ahead without getting feedback is little more than daydreaming and hoping everything falls in place. Eisenhower nailed it when he said, “…plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”. Start with the most straight forward version of what you are building and learn early.
    • Building something is worth a thousand ideas
      Make a decision and move on. Remove anything that’s getting in the way of you taking action.
    • Package it up and share early
      There are a thousand reasons not to, but putting something with limited functionality that works is better than something with a thousand features that no one can use. Make sure that each step is useful so that if you move on to something else, it’s something that can still help you.
    • Tell better stories
      It’s not enough to be a builder, but to share it with the world you need to capture their imagination. Sometimes, it’s enough to show what you built in action, at other times, highlighting what it can enable others to do is what puts it over the tipping point.
    • Be in the moment
      It teaches you how to ask better questions.
  • Building great tools

    Opinion · 1 minute read · Last updated August 11, 2014

    In the last few months I have seen a whole slew of new tools enter my design process. Sketch, Framer, Macaw, Origami, Pixate, and the countless JavaScript libraries have changed not only how I design but what I design.

    McLuhan once said “We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us.” He may have been talking about TV, but its an apt statement to describe the influence that our tools have on what problems we solve. But, what are the traits of a good tool?

    • The best tools build on themselves. They are extensible beyond what they were originally built to do.
    • There is a path to mastery. Every verb can be prefixed with adverbs to extend the actions the tool supports. While the tool may have scaffolding to get you started, the training wheels come off as you move faster.
    • Good tools encourages play and exploration. You learn by doing it yourself. Feedback is immediate and every action you take can be undone.
    • The best tools are the ones that get the job done. The actions you use everyday are front and center. They make every second count.
    • People will go to great lengths to learn a tool which paints the vision of what it can help them achieve. If they know what’s possible, they will push the tool to it’s edge to make it happen. Good tools don’t come with instruction manuals, they come with a story of what you can do with them.
    • A good tool encourages a dialog. It learns from you and adapts to your behavior. A good tool isn’t directly interchangeable with an identical copy someone else has, because it’s been molded to your exact workflow.
    • The best tools build a community. Mastery is collective. We grow because the advances that one person make can be remixed and built upon further by others.
  • The happiness at work equation

    Opinion · 2 minutes read · Last updated August 02, 2014

    Pink describes a wonderful theory on what motivates us in Drive. According to him, people are motivated by having autonomy, mastery, and purpose. And at a macro level, the driving factors he lists reflect my own personal experience pretty accurately.

    And yet, even during the times when I have all three, my levels of happiness oscillate wildly over time. I might be initially pulled in by the vision of what we are trying to build, but this excitement in annealed through the arduousness of the daily grind and reinforced by the skills I develop.

    All together, my rough back of the envelope equation on my motivation level as a function of time is captured by:

    where

    • , is the initial excitement for what we are building. The motivating power of the vision decays over time, captured by the constant k.
    • is the friction of the daily grind. The harder it is to get the simple things done, the higher the coefficient. Meeting overheads, process inefficiencies, ineffective approval process, broken tools all fall in this bucket.
    • is the momentum of the project, and like any project, momentum is somewhat cyclic. Ideally, this would be an exponentially increasing curve.
    • is a step function for responsibility, I feel more motivated when I know that more depends on me.
    • , salary raises, promotions, and shoutouts are impulse functions. They have a strong short term effect but their effect regresses quickly.
    • , skill growth increases over time.
    • , and lastly, the relationships you build, the growth in skills you experience, and quite honestly, the strong disincentive against leaving the familiar, are all constants that round up how motivated I feel.

    What am I missing that impacts your motivation when working on something?

  • Codon translator

    Tools , Genomics · 1 minute read · Last updated July 31, 2014

    I started learning Genomics recently. I am enthralled by how millions of base pairs define the recipes that make us. As an information process, the translation of nucleobases in a DNA to convey genetic information seems straightforward enough. Each triplet of nucleobases corresponds to an amino acid. The messenger RNA conveys this sequence to the Ribosome which then links the amino acids together.

    An educational style we employ in class is to look up a table of combinations to find the amino acid. My script makes it easier to find the corresponding amino acid for any combination of nucleobases by searching through the sequences. Heads up, works best on the desktop in Chrome, Firefox, and browsers supporting WebGL. Read more