Epistemic #47

Don't look back, you can never look back.

My company hosted a mass hiring event this past week. On-boarding here is notoriously laborious, with the process traditionally taking up to 2 months. That means missing out on a lot of quality candidates—not everyone has that kind of time to wait to report— but usually means that you get someone who genuinely wants to be there.

After all, this is a company that once boasted that it was harder to be accepted as a flight attendant than it was to get into Harvard.

This week was different, and reflected one more data point in a nationwide story about labor shortages; applicants were receiving conditional job offers on the spot. As traffic rebounds, there’s a renewed sense of urgency. Those accepting would move down the line to get fingerprinted right then and there (this is a requirement as part of getting an ID to work at an airport).

So it was a brave new world for hiring in my industry… except for the questions asked. For as forward-looking as my company can be, for as diverse of applicants base that showed up, they still had to answer stale questions using the S.T.A.R. method.

For those that don’t know, that acronym stands for

  • Situation

  • Task

  • Action

  • Result

It’s boilerplate enough that you can Google how to game the system. It is what it is, but my main objection is that it asks a person to look backward.

Tell me about a time…” is always asked in the past tense. People usually have pat answers for these—after all, you can Google it—everyone checks the required boxes and moves on.

For me, I am much more interested in where someone wants to go, not where they’ve been. I’d ask things like:

  1. Why did you choose to apply here?

  2. If hired, what soft skills will you specifically bring to the team?

  3. Fast forwarding to your 6 month anniversary, what does success look like?

  4. How will bringing you onboard improve the enterprise?

  5. What’s one thing your references will say surprised them about you?

People looking for work or making a career pivot are looking ahead to their future. To land the right candidate (and not just a “right now” candidate), a company’s interview processes need to evolve accordingly.

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5 Commonly Used Idioms in the Tech Industry

By Karina Chow for GitConnected

Chow is talking about idioms in Tech, but in aviation it can feel like there is an entire language based on industry jargon/argot/idioms. It was bad enough that when my airline merged with another one, they put out a primer on terms each carrier used and what the equivalent might be at the other. It was only 1/2 tongue in cheek.

People working in tech (developers especially) have an interesting vernacular that makes it difficult for many to understand. Our acronyms and idioms are packed with implied meaning, coming from academia, inside jokes, famous books, or thought experiments. People in the industry love using them because it acts like a secret code to be used amongst peers, giving a feeling of belonging.

Construction, Efficiency, and Production Systems

By Brian Potter for Construction Physics

Working in airline operations, I spend a lot of time thinking about how best to deploy/utilize assets. Even at a mid-sized station like mine, it can be a fairly constant calculus, using data that changes a lot. Any decision will also have 2nd order effects to consider, so I found this particularly interesting. Construction and aviation are obviously different industries, but utilization, continuous improvement and optimization are universal.

And zooming out to 10,000 foot view, the entire construction process is not executing a well-defined plan, but gradually figuring out what needs to be built. Architects produce an initial set of drawings, send it out to engineers, who come back with questions, comments, and suggestions, and the drawings get gradually refined. These drawings then get sent out to subcontractors, who repeat the process with their own questions, comments, and suggestions, And this entire set of drawings gets sent out to the site crews, who are tasked with figuring out how to turn it into a finished building. This inevitably entails more questions, comments, and suggestions, a process that doesn’t stop until the last nail is hammered in, months or years after the process began.

In It For The Money

By Seth Godin for Seth’s Blog

Godin never misses. This quick thought-provoking bite is just another example. What if we were all more honest about how we think about money? Gratitude is nice, but does it pay your rent?

How many people would be doctors if being a doctor was something you couldn’t get paid for?

How many artists would mint NFTs if they couldn’t sell them? How many people would buy them if they couldn’t resell them?

The Long Shadow (Podcast)

By Garrett Graff for Apple Podcasts

Garrett Graff wrote The Only Plane In The Sky: An Oral History Of 9/11, and has now launched a companion podcast. Talking to people that were there and lived to tell the story, Graff weaves a story that’s amazing, harrowing, and whatever other adjective you want to throw in the mix.

Note: I’ve read the book. “I couldn’t put it down” is usually a cheap compliment people never mean literally. In this case, I went on 3-4 hours of sleep a night, because I would read until I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open.

Hosted by journalist Garrett Graff, author of the bestselling book THE ONLY PLANE IN THE SKY: AN ORAL HISTORY OF 9/11, "Long Shadow" examines the questions that linger two decades later and the enduring mysteries that still surround 9/11, the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. This is a different history of September 11th than you likely remember. But it’s one that will help you make sense of the world the attacks left behind.

"We sneaked past the crowd": Airline pilot recounts escape from Kabul

By Ognen Teofilovski for Reuters

Passengers from their flight were told to board quickly and as night fell, Rajhl and his crew decided to start engines and perform take-off procedures in complete darkness to avoid drawing the attention of the crowd.

“It was good that the people on the other side (of the runway), and I am sorry about them, could only hear noise but saw nothing moving with its lights on.”

Shortly before takeoff, the crew had been warned via radio that they would have only 10 minutes to depart, after which their “security will not be guaranteed on ground and in the air”.

Two For The Road:

The Hidden Melodies of Subways Around the World

Long Live Charlie Watts

What are you working on this week? What hurdles are in your way, and what are you doing to clear them?

Thanks for being here,
Kevin—

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