Tag Archives: reading2022

Radical Candor

Radical Candor” is one of those phrases that I’ve heard and wondered about. Is it another vacuous management phrase? Does it mean anything? I saw it in the library and thought I’d find out. I’m cynical about these things but it doesn’t mean I’m closed minded!

The pitch is “Be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity” which sounds positive but I don’t manage people at work. Even if it contained genuine insight, would there be anything I could use?

The book starts with a description of what “Radical Candor1” is and finishes with how to apply the theory, an approach that I prefer to “How To Win Friends and Influence People” where the story is scattered throughout the text.

The examples vary in how useful or relatable they are. Some I was nodding with recognition. Others were some way out of my experience.

There’s an example early on where the author says “Um” too much in a meeting and her boss immediately offers a speech coach.

How many people get that experience?

I’ve never been offered a coach, not even when my failings have been much more significant than the occasional “Umm”! Have I been working for the wrong companies or have I been in the wrong jobs?

I guess the idea is that if someone who name-drops half of Silicon Valley can use “Radical Candor,” then so can you.

But much of the rest of the book did work for me. The idea of building trust and then providing rapid, honest feedback seems (self evidently?) like a good thing. I could imagine past conversations where I could apply the advice. I understood some cases where I’d done a good job; others where I’d missed.

I don’t think you need to be in a management position for this book to be useful. Anyone in a job where there’s an element of leadership might get something from it.

Do you need to go on a training course or read the full book to get the gist? Unlikely. But is there some value here? Absolutely.


  1. I’m going to use the American spelling as that’s the name of the book, but I can’t say I’m happy about it. ↩︎

Cloud Without Compromise

I couple of years ago I did a conference talk called “On Cloud Nine: How to be happy migrating your in-memory computing platform to the cloud.” I wish I’d had “Cloud Without Compromise” back then. It covers much of the same ground but, as you’d expect in a book rather than a forty minute conference talk, in much greater depth. More importantly, it puts some concepts into context much more clearly that I did, either by explaining it better or by giving it a good name.

One of the main takeaways of the book, something that is mentioned throughout, is the mantra “Cloud is a capability rather than a destination.” In my talk I hint strongly at that but never made it explicit. I always felt that “the cloud is just somebody else’s computer” didn’t fully encapsulate the magnitude of change but wasn’t able to articulate it concisely. Well, here’s the line to use.

This book took a long time to read. Not because it’s badly written or exceptionally long but because every few paragraphs I had had to stop and think about the implications, how the subject applied to my recent work or research a new tool that I had not come across previously.

There have not been many technical books I’ve read recently that have had this impact. Naturally not everything was new to me, but even then rephrasing a concept or putting it into context can be immensely useful.

It is also very approachable. There’s a nice appendix on some of the more technical aspects, there are some nice anecdotes and even a little humour.

“You’re the most unromantic person I know.”

If there’s a criticism, it’s that some parts read as an advertisement for IBM and RedHat. The last chapter in particular, which is about automation, could be a White Paper for Ansible. Sure, the focus of the book is on hybrid cloud, where the other big vendors are pushing their own agenda, but the OpenShift advocacy would be less signifiant were it not for the fact that a couple of the authors work for IBM. On the one hand you have to write what you know. On the other, shilling your employers products in what’s supposed to be a vendor neutral book sits awkwardly.

For what it’s worth, the advice does not appear to be incorrect but I wish there had been more discussion about competing products or they’d stayed clear of talking specifics at all.

Overall, though, “Cloud Without Compromise” comes highly recommended.