Quotes on designing (and living)

I read “The non-designers design book” a few years ago. It’s a short introduction to patterns of design, by Robin Williams, based on the principles of Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity.

Contrast: the idea behind contrast is to avoid elements on the page that are merely similar. […]

Repetition: Repeat visual elements […] This develops organization and strengthen unity.

Alignment: […] Every element should have some visual connection with another element on the page […]

Proximity: […] When several items are in close proximity to each other, they become one visual unit […]

Robin Williams, The Non-Designers Design Book

Besides all the info and advice on how to turn your amateur docx and pptx into more professional ones, what I like the most is the enumeration of rules for living that happened to be on an example of Contrast.

Your attitude is your life.

Maximize your options.

Never take anything too seriously.

Don’t let the seeds stop you from enjoyin’ the watermelon.

Be nice.

Robin Williams, The Non-Designers Design Book

Beyond Industry 4.0. It’s not people dealing with cogs anymore

Industry 1.0 brought efficient ways to transform and take advantage of energy. Steam engines transformed fire into motion and open all new kind of doors to all new ways of working.

 […]discordances were so numerous that I exclaimed, “I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam,” to which Herschel replied, “It is quite possible.” – Babbage (1839)

Industry 2.0 reduced the need for craftmanship. Division of labor and the assembly line, and Frederick Taylor happened to be much more effective for making repeatable goods.

Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black – H.Ford (1922)

Industry 3.0 brought more independent machines working altogether, and let people the job of controlling, adjusting and fixing the systems.


Industry 4.0 is about machines talking to machines and machines creating new machines. We, the people, are displaced one step beyond since systems control themselves and each other.

I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen. – HAL (2001)

Industry 1.0 and 2.0 created the need for a big mass movement from craftmen and field labourers into big factories. These workers stopped developing a craft, stopped dealing with people, and started doing repetitive, carefully detailed tasks.

However Industry 3.0 and 4.0 reversed this trend, drastically reducing the need for people in the factories and creating some new kinds of craftpeople; computer programmers and software developers.

Where did all the good jobs go?

A hint. They’re not coming back. In the following decades we are not going to deal with cogs and nuts anymore. Being a compliant worker is not going to be an advantage since machines can be more compliant than any of us.

Our place will be, once again, on people dealing with people.

  • The computer, the network and the economy (Seth): ” When a pre-employed person says, “I don’t know how to code and I’m not interested in selling,” we need to pause for a moment and think about what we built school for. When he continues, “I don’t really have anything interesting to say, and I’m not committed to making a particular change in the world, but I’m pretty good at following instructions,” we’re on the edge of a seismic shift in our culture. And not a positive one. “
  • The Toyota Way (Liker): “After all, one of the major components that Ohno believed Toyota needed to master was continuous flow and the best example of that at the time was Ford’s moving assembly line. Henry Ford had broken the tradition of craft production by devising a new mass production paradigm to fill the needs of the early 20th century. A key enabler of mass production´s success was the development of  precision machine tools and interchangeable parts”

My first football match and my first day at a job

I was six when my father first took me to the stadium for watching my town’s local team playing football. I was thrilled. I didn’t know a thing about standings, promotions or relegations, or even in which category was our team playing. But being there was excitingly terrific. By the way, C.D. Logroñes beat Sporting Atletico, two goals to one.

logrones_sporting_atletico I started coming regularly with him and some friends. Every day… and I mean EVERY, ONE, OF THEM, I was equally thrilled for being there. It didn’t really matter if it was a 1-4 defeat against Bilbao Athletic or a last minute 2-0 victory over U.D. Salamanca. I always came to the stadium thrilled, happy, expecting to take part to the experience and ready to give my best to the task.

Then I grew up and realized the football world was much bigger. I realized that each match counted, and that there were promotions, and relegations. Sometimes I was thrilled because of a promotion, but sometimes I was scared of my team being relegated. And those thoughts changed the experience. I was no longer coming to the stadium filled with hopes and joy EVERY single day. I usually came thinking on how badly the team played last match, or the fact that we had lost four times in a row, or the fact that my team was at the bottom of the table.

Football is a competitive zero-sum game. What you win, I lose. When the referee calls the end of the match, that’s it. At the end of the season you win a trophy or you are relegated.

On the other hand, the interesting thing is work is not a competitive zero-sum game. Not anymore. I can go there thrilled, happy, expecting to take part to the experience and ready to give my best to the task. Everyday. EVERY…ONE…OF THEM.

Related: Stinginess in the connection economy (Seth): “But in interactions that lead to connection, to shared knowledge, to possibility, it’s pretty clear that there isn’t a zero-sum game being played. In fact, the more enthusiasm and optimism people bring to the interaction, the more there is for everyone else.”

Related: Winning is overrated: “Sometimes you just need to lose, and losing while making your best effort is far better than winning by default.”

Persistence as the way to achieve things

The main reason why people don’t get what they want is they don’t ask for it.

shawsank_redemptionAndy, main character in The Shawshank Redemption, knew it when he set him up to get a library funded in the prison.

Andy Dufresne (reading the letter he’s just received): “In addition, the Library District has generously responded with a charitable donation of used books and sundries. We trust this will fill your needs. We now consider the matter closed. Please stop sending us letters.”
Guard Wiley: Good for you, Andy.
Andy Dufresne: Wow. It only took six years. From now on, I’ll write two letters a week, instead of one.

Red: [narrating] Andy was as good as his word. He wrote two letters a week instead of one. In 1959 the State Senate finally clued into the fact they couldn’t buy him off with just a two hundred dollar check. Appropriations Committee voted an annual payment of five hundred dollars just to shut him up.

You can track this piece of advice back to The Gospels.

One piece from Matthew.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew, 7)

Another one from Luke.

“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she will not eventually wear me out with her coming!'” (Luke, 18)

Persistence, being able of keep trying after receiving a negative, not being afraid of asking once and again, not being afraid of failing… are not the kind of personality traits we usually relate to winners.

We tend to think winners are people who always get what they want.

In fact, winners are people who didn’t stop trying to get what they want after a defeat.


  • Don’t be afraid of losing. Receiving a “no” is just another step to getting the final “yes”.
  • Know what you want, and don’t be afraid of asking for it.


  • Related: “In business if there’s one thing that successful entrepreneurs have in common, it’s just sheer determination and persistence. Often to get a sale it’s a no, the second time is a no, sometimes 7 times it’s a no and eventually it’s a yes.” (Sam Ovens)
  • Related: “Succeed as often as you can. But don’t let failure keep you from trying and learning and improving and trying again.” (On winners and dealing with failure)
  • Related: “You are going to lose. But you won’t get shaper, nor stronger, you won’t reach pro level, nor acquire enough experience just by quitting.” (Winning is overrated)

My PMP certification experience

First step: Wanting to get it

  • You are not going to get it unless you really want it. What is your key motivator? Having a clear answer is going to help you all along the way, when tired, bored or frustrated.

Second step: Training

  • You need to take at least 35 hours of training. In my experience 35 hours would be a little too little. Better apply for a 60-hour training course, which is roughly four hours of theory and two hours of practice for each of the ten knowledge areas.
  • Living in Zaragoza, the obvious choice was the one by ESIC. Quite expensive but the good teachers and the great classmates worth it. It also provides you with very convenient resources to prepare the exam after completing the training.

Third step: Applying

  • PMI is expecting you to have a few thousand hours of project management experience. The precise number of hours depends on your degree.
  • Good news is you don’t need lots of precision in justifying your hours. If you’ve been involved in projects for the last years, you should be able to demonstrate the experience. If not, you should check the CAPM certification instead.
  • Bad news is one out of ten applications will be audited. If you are one of the “lucky” ones, then you would need to contact some of your former managers or colleagues who can asses your experience. Normally they wouldn’t need to do anything besides signing the experience you have submitted in your original application so, in the end, is more of a hassle than a real problem.

Third step: Booking a date

  • Once your application is been approved, you could book a date, and a place, for taking the exam. You can take the exam digitally or in paper form. With the digital option you would have a more open set of dates. With the paper form your choosing is more limited.
  • Anyhow, I can’t find the words to tell you how IMPORTANT is to chose a date and book the exam. You are going to have a lot to study. A clear goal date will help you to find the willpower to start studying.
  • Try to take advantage of the momentum given by the training course and plan your exam for sometime between six and twelve weeks after the end of the training.
  • The exam is taken in english. When booking, you could check whether a translation in your native tongue is available as a support. If it is, ask for it. Nothing to loose.

Fourth step: keep your pace and try some tests

  • You should have planned your way through the theory. Whether you’ve planned it as a short sprint or as a long marathon, there is going to be ups and downs, so try to keep your pace.
  • You should check your progress every now and then with questions similar to the ones in the exam.

Fifth step: Passing the examproject-management-professional-pmp

  • You have four straight hours to answer 200 questions.
  • Take the first ten minutes in writing the main formulas and the table connecting the ten knowledge areas, the five process groups and the 49 different processes. It would let you use it as a guide when you start feeling exhausted, and you would calm down while doing it, so you would be able to take the first questions better.
  • If english is not your native tongue and you asked for a translation support, probably you would feel like reading some questions in both languages. Sometimes translation could misguide you.

Sixth step: Enjoy 🙂

  • You should get the results sometime between right after finishing your digital exam, or two weeks after finishing your paper-based exam.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile, take your partner or some friends to have a nice dinner, and enjoy your success. 🙂

Related: Consejos para estudiar y preparar el examen PMP y CAPM del Project Management Institute (Daniel Echeverría)

Ask for availability, not for sit hours

R&D jobs are not like an assembly line.

You don’t need to optimize each and every second. You don’t need to maintain a pace minute after minute…after minute… after minute.

On the contrary, you need to keep getting your mind freshen up every now and then.

What are you paying for when you hire someone for a 40 hour-week R&D position?
If you are working on R&D, you shouldn’t be paying for presence, but for availability.

we are not in a hurry to be in the juice

“we are not in a hurry to be in the juice”

Being paid for presence implies you need to have your butt on the chair, you need to fill both your daily hour-reports and some arbitrary empty space where work is supposed to happen. You need to use the presence tracking system and you need to show up every day no matter what, if you want to be seen as productive, if you want to avoid punishment…

But if paid for availability, you are focusing on doing the job, on helping others, on flexibility. You are not supposed to be at your desk, or on your chair or any other empty space where work is supposed to happen. In fact, you are supposed to be making work happen, wherever this needs to be done.

Make work happen. Anywhere. Just be sure you are available. Available just in case your co-workers need your help. Available if your customer is trying to tell you that the priorities have changed. Available if someone should rearrange some work because a supplier is going to be late.

What are you paying for when you sign someone for a 40 hour-week R&D position? When in doubt, don’t pay for presence, but for availability.


  • Synchronize your watches, Seth Godin. “Factories required synchronization, so that workers would all show up at the same time […]Today, of course,[…]Work is no longer time-based. It’s now project based.”
  • Trickle down workaholism in start-ups, DHH. So don’t tell me that there’s something uniquely demanding about building yet another fucking […] It’s bullshit. Extractive, counterproductive bullshit peddled by people who either need a narrative to explain their personal sacrifices and regrets or who are in a position to treat the lives and well being of others like cannon fodder.

(Software) people have the power!

Where the pure air recognized
And my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry
That the people have the power

People have the power (Patti Smith)

Hollywood blockbusters have depicted software developers or computer scientists as unstable freaks, unable of living a normal life. Best case, we were performing as a sidekick for the hero, assisting him with some dark security issue, so he can go on, kicking asses and kissing the girl.


Average software developers discussing how to hack John McLane’s way for saving the world today. One lives in his mother’s basement. The other has no friends at all.

This kind of role is normally associated with comic relief based on clothing, being fat and socially incompetent.


You are the one preventing T-Rexes from wrecking havoc so why should you worry for cleaning your desk (or yourself)?

The other role a software developer could play was as assistant to the bad guy. Just a tool for some business or military master mind who is carrying the task of dominating the free world.


Bad guys: the brain, the brute and the software developer

But, while everyone was having a good time watching this social outcasts helping the main characters, software was already filling every hole, crack and space in real life. First through the internet. Then through digitization and through cell phones. And this software is done by real developers. Not like the ones portrayed in the movies.

Programmers don’t think of themselves as people with the power to change the world. Most programmers I know, including myself, grew up as nerds, geeks, social outcasts. […] What do you do when you wake up one day and software has kind of eaten the world, and it is no longer clear if software is in fact an unambiguously good thing, like we thought, like everyone told us … like we wanted it to be?

To serve man, with software (Jeff Attwood)

And now, without anyone even realizing, real programmers are ruling the world.

We rule the world. We programmers. We rule the world. We write the rules that make our society work. […] Without software: Phones don’t ring. Cars don’t start. Planes don’t fly. Bombs don’t explode. Ships don’t sail. Ovens don’t bake. Garage doors don’t open […] Nothing happens without software. And what is software? Software is a set of rules. […] To protect our society from the power they have unwittingly ceded to us, we should adopt a code of ethics that describes our sworn promise and duty to humbly use our power to serve.

The obligation of a programmer (Bob Martin)

With great power comes great responsibility. What are we doing about it?

Then he waited, marshaling his thoughts and brooding over his still untested powers. For though he was master of the world, he was not quite sure what to do next. But he would think of something.

A Space Odissey. (Arthur C. Clarke)