Tag Archives: Jobs

My German TV debut (3.1m YouTube views and counting)

I was on German TV in a police comedy sketch show, and the clip now has over 3 million views on YouTube!

The show was called Alles In Ordnung? (Is Everything In Order?), and it ran on ProSieben from 2005-06. It was pretty cool, a very dry comedy in which useless police officers would bumble through serious and not so serious incidents, from shoot-outs to health & safety infringements.

The clip went viral because it featured the game Counterstrike. Two police officers had been called to a block of flats where residents had heard shots being fired. The officers busted into a flat, only to find three students playing Counterstrike, a multiplayer shoot-em-up game, at full volume.

I was one of the students. I’d only just arrived in Germany, so my language skills were, well… still developing. It’s pretty clear at times in the clip that I don’t understand what the thickly-accented officers are saying to me – e.g. at 0:40 in the video when I look extremely confused by what people are saying to me.

The students’ flat was a mess. Curtains drawn, covered in empty beer cans and pizza boxes, and stinking because we were meant to look like we hadn’t had a shower for days. One of the original guys didn’t turn up, so I was asked to stand in. I went to the costume/make-up lady and asked: “What do we need to do to make me look right for the part?“. She looked me up and down: “No need to do anything, you’re good to go on.”

That was during my first attempt to grow a beard. There’s still some work to do there, but back in 2006 I had no idea that beard trimmers even existed – I had clumps missing where I’d been over-zealous with the nail scissors.

I’ve only just passed 20k views on this blog, so it may be some time before I match the 3.1m views on that YouTube video. But I wanted to write this post to say thanks for reading. I really appreciate it.

~ Todd

Firing Einstein: Unoptimise Your Life

We should definitely fire that Einstein guy. And Newton, slacking off under that tree over there. And as for Archimedes – man, what a waster. Get out of the bath and back to work, ffs.

Inefficiency is the serpent in the garden of our techo-paradise. There’s a crusade against it. Its soldiers ask us: how do we minimise waste, increase output, prioritise correctly?

But necessity is not the true mother of invention – it’s the wicked step-mother, hassling and stressing you out. To invent, you require a little inefficiency.

The Romans had a concept called otium. Senators did it. It means spending time mixing business and pleasure. Cicero, Horace, Livy and Seneca would withdraw to their villas to practice a mixture of relaxing, writing letters to friends, patrons and clients, conducting research, composing works of art and science.

This was unoptimised time. Unoptimised time that produced some of the greatest works of the ancient world. Cicero was an archetypal orator, Horace wrote beautiful poetry, Livy was one of the fathers of history, Seneca wrote the beautiful On The Shortness Of Life (just finished reading it; highly recommended).

For St Augustine, otium was a requirement for creativity. It means making the time and space to think. It’s hard to find, and hard to justify to others. But it will get results.

Unoptimise your life.

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Picture by Jill Heyer, via Unsplash

Read next:

I Quit 200 Hours Too Late

To-do lists

A Couple Of Zeroes

One year at King / LAUNCH: Farm Heroes Saga mobile!

Today’s my first anniversary at King – hooray!

And to celebrate (or something) we just launched Farm Heroes Saga on mobile. You can play it now on iOS or Android.

It’s my second launch with the company – Pepper Panic Saga opened up on Facebook in November. AppData estimates Pepper’s current DAU as 1.8m.

My job is to analyse and optimise the games – understanding what’s happening and why, and working with the producers, data scientists and the rest of the team to keep making it better.

It was a fun first year. And what better way to start a new one by launching a game?

21st-century job hunting

On Thursday I started a new job at King.com (woohoo!). I spent the last few weeks of last year looking for work and I want to share 5 things I found out about modern-day job hunting.

Maybe everything below only applies to finding mid-level media jobs in London, or is specific to me in some way, but I don’t think so.

1) It’s a job, not a career

You’re not looking for something to do for 50 years. So don’t worry about finding it. It’s like dating. Don’t worry about whether you’re going to marry the girl when you’re on your first date. Just find someone interesting for the time being and see what happens.

2) Crossing borders

I’ve moved out of TV and into games. I also spoke to companies in tech and in music. No-one ever asked why my TV experience would be useful. This was a surprise to me – but it was just assumed that transferring skills to a new industry won’t be a problem. So I don’t think there’s a need to fret about staying the same exact industry. Don’t restrict yourself to changing lanes if you want to crash through the central reservation (NB this analogy cannot be safely applied to driving).

3) Metcalfe’s Law

‘Networking’ is a horrible word and some people who are good at it actually suck at being people. But if you think about it as building a network, instead of spinelessly fawning over the most powerful person in the room, it’s much easier to digest.

A couple of days ago I read about Metcalfe’s Law: the basic idea is that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users in the system. If you have two telephones, there’s one connection. But five telephones make 10 connections. And 12 telephones can make 66 connections.

So the value of the network increases as the number of people in it goes up. The same could be said of email or Facebook. And it could also be said of your personal network, because each person you know and trust has another set of people that they know and trust. I don’t have a huge network. But 80% of the jobs I considered came to me through it.

4) DIY track record

The most interesting projects / skills / experiences are the ones you developed in your own time. With free tools and free publishing you can build a DIY track record (see Start a project now – here are 5 tips). Back in the old days this would have been hard; now it’s easy. Most people don’t do this, but luckily I’ve done a few spare-time projects over the past few years so even though most of them were dumb, I think I got some marks for persistence.

5) One Direction

Last year when I was looking for a new job I went around asking for advice. That worked ok but it didn’t produce a lot of job opportunities. This year it’s been different – at the outset I chose a small number of directions to explore. That made my discussions 10x more productive, because I was asking about specifics rather than general stuff. And that makes it much easier for people to help you out.

I hope this post helps you out. Good luck!

 

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So I applied to be an astronaut

My life’s ambition is to go into space, so a few years ago I applied to be an astronaut.

At the time anyone could apply to ESA (the European Space Agency), so I went to the doc and to the hospital, had a bunch of tests done, filled out the application form and sent it off.

There was little chance I would succeed. But it made perfect logical sense to try.

There are two ways of getting into space: (1) become a billionaire, or (2) get hired as a professional astronaut. Maybe one day I’ll be a billionaire but I don’t want to count on it. So I just applied.

Actually, all my best decisions are made when I ignore the chances of failure and just do it.

  • Want to learn how to code? Ok, build a website.
  • Want to try building a business? Ok, start one now.
  • Want to find out if teaching would be a good career move? Ok, do it part-time and see whether it’s fun.
  • Like that girl a lot? Ok, ask her out.

These simple decisions are the best.

A) You can’t regret them

If it doesn’t work out, no big deal. You did the logical thing and tried. Your mind is at rest. Ssshh now little brain.

B) You know exactly why you made them

It’s a simple formula. You won’t get confused about your motives. Want something? Ok, have a go.

C) You always gain something unexpected

Building a website taught me how the internet works. Starting a business taught me a million things that I put into a recent post (How I lost £1,500 when I was 23). Teaching part-time right now is making me 10x better at explaining stuff and speaking in public. And the last girl I asked out is going to become my wife next summer, so that one worked out pretty well too.

Worrying about failure kills good decisions. Whenever I worry I lose the magic power to make simple logical decisions and I waste my life fretting. I’m glad that didn’t happen with applying to be an astronaut.

The physical tests and most of the application form were ok, though I couldn’t really disguise my lack of a PhD in astrophysics or biology. The weakest bit though was when I had to describe my experience in radio communications:

I did hospital radio for two years when I was at school. I was a presenter and had my own weekly show.

But since I haven’t actually heard back from ESA, I assume they’ve got me on the reserve list.

Hopefully someone will drop out soon.

 

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Do you find it hard to describe your job?

Today I spoke to a colleague who is thinking of quitting. But she’s afraid.

Not afraid she won’t find something else (she’s very employable).

But afraid she won’t be able to explain what she does, so she won’t be able to explain why her skills make her a good fit for another role.

Here are some tips if you find yourself in the same position:

1. Forget your job title

Job titles reflect internal structure – they are relative to your colleagues’ titles. So they’re of no use if you want to leave.

2. Steal from others

Maybe your current industry doesn’t have a good description for what you do. So what? Maybe another industry is better at descriptions. Example: much of my work over the last few years was as a Product Manager. I didn’t know what a Product Manager was until about 18 months ago. But it’s close enough that I can read PM job descriptions and figure out a good one for myself.

3. Word to your grandmother

Your grandma should be able to understand your description. So no jargon or buzzwords.

4. Customise

Change it if you change what you’re aiming to do. What makes your description good is its relevance to what you want to do next.

5. Practice

Get your description down-pat. It should be short and sharp (I am bad at this). That way you will sound confident and capable.

It takes time – for me, about 100 people have to hear a crappy job description before the 101st gets a good one. But I know from listening to my own crappy descriptions those first 100 times that it makes a big difference when you get it right.

 

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Image credit: Tyler Shields – Mouthful

Hearts and minds

Interesting discussion a few minutes ago between Michael Johnson, Denise Lewis and Robbie Grabarz, who had won a bronze yesterday in the Olympic high jump.

Johnson asked Grabarz what he had changed when he decided to take athletics more seriously after finishing 2011 ranked 28th in the world, and losing his National Lottery funding as a result.

He said that nothing had changed in his physical training – he’s been doing just the same as before.

But he said that the decision to commit mentally to his training – to focus on getting fitter and stronger, and back himself to jump higher and higher – has made all the difference.

And now he has an Olympic medal.

 

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Photo credit: Petr David Josek/AP, from The Guardian

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The Punctual Pigeon (part 3)

The Punctual Pigeon: tl;dr / executive summary

Time deadlines (‘We’ll finish it in four weeks’) are a mistake. The Punctual Pigeon effect means you’ll finish close to whatever deadline you set at the start.

Task deadlines (‘we’ll finish it when it’s done’) will help you produce higher-quality work, and make you more productive, more efficient, and more profitable.

This is the third of three posts about the Punctual Pigeon. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Part 3 is about the implications of task-based deadlines for pricing and salaries.

Pricing according to task-based deadlines

Don’t price your product according to the time it’ll take to make it.

Instead, price it according to the complexity of the problems it poses, its scarcity, and its importance to the customer.

That’s a much truer reflection of its value.

If you can create something brilliant in five minutes and your customer can’t get it anywhere else, don’t charge them for five minutes’ work – they will pay much more than that, and it’s fair that they should do so.

Don’t give your customers a discount because of your team members’ speed and skill.

Task-based pricing will increase your profitability.

Value the valuable

How does task-based pricing relate to salaries?

Even in highly creative industries, where value creation is not closely linked to hours worked, the bonus component in most employees’ salaries is negligible (I know this holds in TV, the industry in which I work, and elsewhere too).

If you’re pricing according to the value of the task you’re completing, not the time you think it will take, employees should be paid according according to the value they help to create, not the time they spend at work.

That means that salaries should be restructured to include a lower basic salary and a larger potential bonus.

If the bonus is fairly assessed and awarded, it should incentivise employees to work smarter and more productively, and you’ll see less of the Punctual Pigeon.

My advice to twenty-something year-old jobseekers

I wrote this out in an email to a friend a few days back. I believe in it wholeheartedly, yet it feels rather idealistic. I’m starting to think there’s interesting work to be done in bridging the gap – in helping people to find what Sir Ken Robinson would call their ‘Element’.

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In a nutshell, it seems to me that the challenge you face is this: There are lots of people in a very similar position to you. Why should someone hire you over them?

To meet that challenge, you need to stand out. I believe that it’s actually not that difficult to stand out. I think you can do it in three steps:
1. Find something that you’re really passionate about
2. Do something out of hours that demonstrates your passion for it
3. Make it easy to show people what you’re doing

#1 means thinking deeply about what you enjoy doing. You mentioned script-writing, and understanding how the TV station was set up. There are two things for starters.

#2 means finding an outlet for the thing you’ve identified. If it’s script-writing, start writing a script. If it’s how TV companies work, ask me and whoever else you know to help you learn more about it, watch a load of behind-the-scenes stuff, and read everything you can find that relates to it.

#3 means, usually, creating a record of what you’ve done on the internet. Post the script for others to read, or write a blog about your quest to find out more about how TV stations work.

That probably all sounds idealistic, or impractical, or too much hassle. But if you start by finding something you really care about, it will be interesting and rewarding – and you’ll find it much easier to stand out and get a job.

I can tell you – to some extent from personal experience! – that a lot of people spend a lot of years working on things they don’t care about. It seems to me from our discussions that you’re not 100% sure what you want to do. That’s absolutely fine – most people aren’t. But my advice to you would be to start with something you think you might want to do, and to explore it.

You said yourself that showing an interest is not enough – you need to have experience. I think that you can give yourself that experience if you want to, and that if you do, you will be the one who really stands out.

I hope that’s helpful, and that I’ve made it start to sound practical. I feel like I’ve led two lives for the past few years because I’ve always had personal projects on the go outside of work, trying to explore different ideas and things that I’ve found I like to do. I freely admit that as a result most of my friends think I’m mental (and sometimes I’m inclined to agree!). But they freely admit that they don’t enjoy their jobs, and that they have lots of interests they wish they spent more time pursuing…

So this has got to be worth a try:

1. Find something that you’re really passionate about
2. Do something out of hours that demonstrates your passion for it
3. Make it easy to show people what you’re doing

Good luck!