Thinking, Fast and Slow

Book Review: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Wikipedia defines cognitive bias as “systematic pattern of deviation from norm and/or rationality in judgment”. And the list of biases in the same article is impressive. Humans are quite irrational and our judgement does not always follows rules of logic. The one cannot remove biases and mental shortcuts – it is not possible to override thousands years of human brain evolution. But, the one can detect situations where biases are triggered and stay alerted.

Daniel Kahneman got his Nobel prize back in 2002 for his prospect theory that basically created behavioral economics. The theory also challenged assumption that Humans are economically rational species. Here it is in a nutshell:

  • Faced with a risky choice leading to gains, individuals are risk-averse, preferring solutions that lead to a lower expected utility but with a higher certainty
  • Faced with a risky choice leading to losses, individuals are risk-seeking, preferring solutions that lead to a lower expected utility as long as it has the potential to avoid losses

A book Thinking, Fast and Slow provides detailed explanation how this theory applies to various situation in our daily life and how it impacts our decision making process. (Spoiler: it impacts a lot and we not even aware about it). However, this is just a small part of knowledge that I got from the book.

The book starts with a description of simplified version of a human “thinking” mechanism that consist of two systems that play different roles in cognitive process. It explains how associative machine works, how cognitive ease derails us from original question and makes us to substitute it and etc.

Then the book goes into details of selected biases and heuristics – availability, anchoring, stereotyping, framing and others. There are a lot of mechanisms that allow us jump to conclusions without mental effort and the book gives overview how they work and how small change in a question’s frame can sway an answer to an opposite direction.

The author concentrates a lot on two important topics – overconfidence and choice. I was surprised that there are numerous studies which clearly demonstrate how bad we are in predicting the future and how often experts’ intuition is wrong. The book also gives an explanation how overconfident view, planning fallacy and optimism are important drivers for economy.

Choice, risk assessment, value assignment are parts of prospect theory and covered in the book as well. These chapters helped to understand my own thinking process when it comes to risky decisions and gambling. It also gave an insight why the same outcome may have different psychological effect depending on the context and framing.

The last part of the book is about two selves – experiencing self and remembering self. This part gave me rational explanation why our memories of events are more important than actual experience we had during the events.

After finishing the book I became even more critical to my judgements and intuition. So, I am more prepared now to employ critical thinking when it is necessary. There are several mechanisms that I will keep for my professional life – pre-mortem to fight planning fallacy, outside view and base rate. Read the book and I am sure you will find it useful too.

Overall, 5 out 5. Thinking, Fast and Slow is a perfect book for everybody. I highly recommend it.

Check out my other book reviews!


AWS whitepapers

The Best AWS Whitepapers for Cloud Procurement

Migration to Cloud impacts whole enterprise organization from engineering to marketing. Procurement and financial teams are not an exclusion as well. In fact, these teams need to adopt completely new mental model – shift from CAPEX to OPEX, shortened procurement cycles and high pace of change.

The new way of working between Financial and Engineering parts of organization in Cloud is FinOps or Cloud Financial Management. I am going to write a detailed article about FinOps implementation in large enterprises at some point in time. But even if organization does not plan to implement FinOps practices, they still need to teach procurement and finance how to operate in the new reality.

Disclaimer: This post is on my own and doesn’t necessarily represent Amazon Web Services’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

How you do that?

The challenge is that last 10-15 years of technological innovation did not change procurement process much in large enterprises. So, the gap is significant. In my experience, organizations tend to forget about it or do not realize that it exists. As a result, engineering organization may already adopt Cloud, while for finance team it is still an unknown land and their processes are not aligned with Cloud Economics.

I came up with a list of AWS Whitepapers and other resources that can be used as “Introduction to Cloud Economics for Procurement”.

  1. We start with some chapters from Overview of Amazon Web Services, specifically – “What is Cloud Computing?”, “Six Advantages of Cloud Computing” and “Types of Cloud Computing”
  2. The next step is to get familiar with Core Concepts of AWS and take this 10-minutes virtual training
  3. After that we can move on to procurement specific topics and study Ten Considerations for a Cloud Procurement whitepaper.
  4. AWS Pricing is a next topic in your journey. This is a very long and fundamental whitepaper. Save link to it and use it as a reference for future budgeting and forecasting.
  5. One of the most important instruments for cost planning is AWS Calculator, so spend some time to review how does it work here.
  6. Final step is to become proficient with main instrument of cost visibility – AWS Cost Explorer

Cloud Financial Management is a huge topic at AWS but 5 resources above is an absolute minimum that your procurement team should read and understand.

Check out my other post about AWS Whitepapers.


5 Key Mistakes

5 Key Mistakes in Communication with Management

The post from May 2021 had created a lot of traction, so I decided to convert it to a short article and translate to English.

Bad relationship with manager may be not a first reason why people quit their jobs, but it is definitely in top 5. And is in any human-to-human interactions, if communication is broken, most probably relationship are in bad state either. Let’s try to figure out what are the key mistakes in communication with management and how to avoid them.

Everyone has a management. A person or group of people with whom we discuss results of our work and who interested in positive outcomes of our efforts. A Software Engineer has a Product Owner, a Sales Rep has a regional VP and a CEO has Board of Directors and shareholders.

And (surprise!), they are all humans. Humans are biased, they have limited amount of memory, their physical and emotional capacity is not infinite and they have ingrained or adopted beliefs and preferences. What is more important – they have own challenges and goals because they have management as well. There is no ideal manager, like there is no ideal human. But it does not mean that you cannot build a successful communication.

Here is my definition of a good manager (if we will not take functional skills into consideration):

  • They listen and not only talk themselves
  • They delegate and inspect results
  • They give freedom of actions, but they give guidance and set expectations

Now, let’s move on to a first mistake.

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Technical Blogging

Book Review. Technical Blogging by Antonio Cangiano

Summer break is over and I am back to my favorite post type – book reviews. This time I want to share my thoughts about practical guide how to create, maintain and evolve a technical blog. This book covers all steps – plan, build, promote and scale.

Writing is not easy. Formulating ideas in a concise and clear matter requires efforts and time. But even if you are great in writing it is not enough to make you voice heard and opinions spread. There are around 600 millions blogs on the Internet today but only 32 millions are active. It means, that blogging is “easy to learn, difficult to master” thing.

When I decided to start my blog, I had close to none knowledge about how to do it. I knew how individual pieces of technology enable and simplify blogging, but I never tried to create one on my own. So, I had to find “installation manual”. Luckily, I came across Technical Blogging by Antonio Cangiano book that helped me tremendously.

The book focuses specifically on tech or close-to-tech blogs that distinguish it from thousands of other materials that mostly talk about personal blogs, online retail and etc. The book starts with guiding a reader through a planning phase and helps to find a proper niche, estimate audience and generate initial list of topics for your blog.

The next step is more technical – how to build a blog. Even if a WordPress (and the book’s focuses mostly on it) is super user friendly and straightforward, you better have more detailed explanation how key elements of the platform work, how they are integrated and etc. And the book does a good job in doing that.

The cornerstone of a blog – content – is covered in a great details. The books answers on questions how to find ideas for new posts, when and how often to post and other nuances. Probably, it is a key chapter of the book. Then the book concentrates on topic of a blog promotion via multiple sources and benefits of each of them. I have to say that I did not implement even a 30% of promotion advises. Some of them are outdated, others are not applicable for my niche, but you will find something useful for you for sure.

The last two chapters are about monetizing and scaling a blog, but for most of readers there will be long and effortful journey before they come to the need of finding additional authors or making money out of the blog.

If you are looking for a beginner guide how to start a blog, this book is for you. I rate if 5 out of 5.

Check out my other book reviews!


Book Review

Book Review. The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders by Camille Fournier

There are 27 million Software Developers world wide according recent estimations. If we will take average span of control as 10, we will get roughly 2,5 million Engineering Managers. That is an impressive number. But who are those people?

While it is clear what a Software Developer should do well (write good quality code), it is not that straightforward what set of skills an Engineering Manager should have. Or how career path from a Developer to a Manager may look like in tech companies today. Of course, every mid- or large size organization has a blueprint that describe career ladder and number of job descriptions for Engineering organization. But it does not help a lot in practice.

The book outlines a path from Software Developer to a VP of Engineering/CTO in today’s IT world. It describes all intermediate states – Technical Lead, Engineering Manager, Manager of managers and etc in a very structured way. It starts from very basic fundamental knowledge and takes a reader to more complicated topics, like organizational culture, stakeholders management and etc.

If you are a manager today, this book most probably will not give you a lot of insights. But if you are in the beginning of your career and looking for a management position, it will be definitely useful. The book indeed gives a path that is almost the same in every enterprise that has an Engineering organization.

The author spends a lot of time explaining technical leads/senior engineer role in a team. IMHO, this role is underestimated in a lot of companies and the book has ready to implement guidelines.

Overall score – 4 out of 5. I can recommend this book to folks in the beginning of a career in Engineering organizations or Senior Engineers who would like to make a step to a management role.

Write in comments – how a good manager should look like?

Check out my other book reviews.


How to concentrate

How to Concentrate in the World of Distractions?

Time is a limited resource. It is the only resource we cannot reproduce. If we want to achieve more then we need to increase productivity. Individual productivity depends on how well a person can concentrate and manage distractions.

And our world is full of distractions (surprise!). Everything competes for our attention all the time. Ads, social media, Slack messages, emails. The list is infinite. The world is not going to change (in fact, it is going to be worse over the time). So, we have to adopt to stay focused and keep a steady course to our goals.

There are different opinions on what is happening with human attention span and how digitalization affects it. Some researchers are saying it decreases, others disagree with that. However, the trend to short everything from entertainment content (TikTok videos and Instagram stories) to educational content (“bite-sized” lessons 3-5 minutes each) is clear.

This article is a summary of mechanisms and habits how to manage distractions and improve concentration skills. Some of them I already adopted, others are in the backlog or in progress. I cannot guarantee they will work for you, so feel free to modify them to fit your personality and lifestyle. The mechanisms are not in the priority order and you can start to adopt any of them in any point of time.

Want to know more? Click “Read More” button.

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Book Review. Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas

I was always astonished how group of people can form an organization that successfully solves highly complex, highly ambiguous challenges and innovates. The organization can continue to produce great products or solutions for a long period of time. But at some point something breaks. Same individuals change their decision making process and instead of nurturing crazy ideas, they start to bury them.

Why it is like that? What is the root cause? Definitely, organization structure has something to do with that. But what else impacts human behaviour in a group?

Those are some of questions that the book is trying to answer. The author uses phase transition theory to explain sudden change in group behaviour. He also proves that individual behaviour has much less impact than organization structure. More is different is one of the key points of the book.

There are a lot of interesting ideas around how balance can be achieved between “artists” and “soldiers” in organization. How to manage transition of innovative ideas from prototype to stable product? This is a classical problem it IT, based on my personal experience. Too many great ideas too often never made it to implementation. So, the book provides a blueprint how to overcome this.

I really enjoyed chapters where the author applied scientific method to solve the challenge every organization is trying to solve – “Where does an employee invest last working hour of the day? Will he or she try to add value to assigned projects or spend time on building networking and internal politics?” This equation includes multiple variables – span of control, equity fraction and many others.

The author distinguishes two types of innovation – product (P-type) and strategy (S-type). In short, if a company concentrates only on “the latest and greatest” products, it can stuck in the vicious cycle. It will concentrate only on “faster and bigger” features, even there is no market for it. This what book calls “Moses Trap”.

The book is also great source of stories about how innovation products and companies were born. There are examples from almost all industries – aviation, photography, IT, pharmaceutical and etc. So, if you are collecting and memorizing stories like I do, this book has a nice pack of them.

Overall, great book – 5 out of 5. I recommend to read it together with other books about innovation. Check out my reviews here and here.


FailProject: 5 Key Mistakes in Communication with Management

I have participated as a speaker at FailProject workshop.

We spoke about key mistakes in communication with management, how to avoid them and what instruments exist to build successful communication with your manager.

Recording of the workshop is available here or here.


7 Best AWS Whitepapers and Guides for Enterprise

This post is a first of its kind. It is a summary of my recent thoughts about AWS Cloud as a system and how to manage it. More insights will follow.

Disclaimer: This post is on my own and doesn’t necessarily represent Amazon Web Services’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Let’s imagine you are an employee of a medium or large size enterprise. Let’s imagine the enterprise is investing in Cloud services. Some teams are moving their workloads to Cloud, some are not doing it yet, but senior management is convinced that company’s IT future will be going hand in hand with Cloud technologies.

A number of accounts is growing and management made a decision to establish centralized Cloud governance and create… Let’s call it Cloud Infrastructure Management team. And you are member of this team. Your task is to create a scalable and robust mechanisms to perform administrative and management tasks of your Cloud infrastructure.

So, where do you start?

The list of AWS Whitepapers and Guides below will help you to build a foundation of theoretical knowledge and practical advices. It is far from complete and covers only tiny percentage of publicly available AWS documentation.

  1. Assess where the company in stages of Cloud adoption is and familiarize yourself with AWS Cloud Adoption Framework. To create any route you need to know where you are. The same applies for an organization that going through technological transformation and adopting Cloud.
  2. A corner stone of Cloud governance system is you and your team. Read about Cloud Enablement Engine team, how to structure it, what responsibilities does it have and a lot more. Use this whitepaper as a prescriptive guidance for organizational and technological improvements.
  3. Learn about how to organize your AWS Cloud environment. This monumental whitepaper will explain you how to create most efficient AWS Organizations structure, transform your multiple isolated accounts into secure and reliable system with hierarchy and OUs (Organizational Units). It will take time to build it, so be patient.
  4. Read about AWS Share Responsibility Model and deliver this knowledge to everybody in your organization who build applications on top of AWS Services.
  5. Make sure you build your AWS environment with Cost Optimization in my mind. This whitepaper will teach you what are key Cost Optimization pillars, introduce you Cloud Financial Management theory and tools you will use for Cloud costs analysis and forecasting
  6. Start to investigate how to architect applications in the cloud. You will use AWS Well-Architected Framework on every stages of application lifecycle – development, deployment and operations.
  7. And last but not least – ramp up your or other team members with Cloud knowledge. This collection of AWS Ramp-up Guides will be a starting point for lifting up AWS competence and help your organization to be successful in Cloud.

Education is a never ending process and much more excellent AWS Whitepapers and Guides are available for you.

What is your list of best materials about Cloud? Share your thoughts and suggestions in comments section!


Book Review: The Elements of Style by William Strunk

Humanity is a civilization of text. More precise – civilization of text written in English language. Good it or bad is another debate. The fact is 1 billion people use English as second language.

I have studied language at school and university. But education system was focusing more on speaking and reading skills than on writing skills. So, I never had opportunity to learn proper English writing style.

The more I progress in professional life, the more I see importance of writing. The greatest Zoom/Chime/Teams call will not have progress if minutes of meeting is not clear for participants. You cannot transfer context of a problem without clear definition what is the problem. Plus dozens of other examples – emails, feature requests, account plans and etc.

Amazon takes writing very serious. Narrative is one of the corner-stones of Amazon culture. Text does not rely on person presentation skills. Text allows to break borders of PowerPoint slide and transfer full context from a writer to readers. Well written text does not leave space for misinterpretation and confusion.

The Elements of Style is 100 year bestseller that teaches how to write in plain and clear English. The book has prescriptive guidance about punctuation, syntaxis and style. It also uses easy to comprehend examples of a good and bad style. It is short – around 100 pages.

Some of rules and examples were so subtle that I was unable to feel a difference between good and bad. Both examples were good enough for my non-native speaker eye 🙂

A lot of daily communication has moved to instant messengers, like Slack. IM communication is shorter, more frequent and has lower bar for writing skills. But average attention span time has drastically reduced over last decade. So, a writer should very concise and clear to make people read a text. And it requires practicing and skill development.

I highly recommend this book for every person who uses English language for professional communication.