Episode 46 – The Importance Of Difficult Conversations with Phil Haack

 In Podcasts

Phil Haack works at GitHub bringing the power of social coding to .NET and Windows developers. Prior to GitHub Phil worked at Microsoft as a Senior Program Manager shipping software such as ASP.NET MVC and NuGet. Phil is also a co-author of the ASP.NET MVC series of books as well as a regular speaker at conferences around the world.

In this episode Phil Haack tells us why we need to be prepared to have difficult conversations and why this can help your career. Phil also talks about the importance of taking care when writing code and why you should test your code carefully.


Time Stamped Show Notes

(00:54) – Phil introduces Phil Haack

(01:22) – Phil tells us that he is a Director of Engineering for the Client Apps group at GitHub


(01:59) – Unique Career Tip: Phil says that we need to learn how to have difficult conversations

(02:20) – Phil says that a lot of advice he had early in his career was about honing your technical skills

(02:33) – But to be able to communicate and argue well has proven to be even more important in advancing his career

(02:47) – Phil talks about the book, “Difficult Conversations” using the example of the difference between impact and intention

(03:32) – “If you can’t work well with people who disagree with you then it becomes really hard to accomplish really big things”

(03:55) – Phil talks about his own experiences with difficult conversations and some of the reasons that can cause them


(06:04) – Worst Career Moment: Phil talks about his very first job where he was working on a project for a large customer

(06:48) – It was a project called “Launch” which was later bought by Yahoo Music

(07:03) – Phil was given responsibility to build the password reset function

(07:19) – The day after deployment Phil’s boss received an angry call from one of the client’s investors

(07:34) – The investor’s daughter had tried to reset her password, didn’t receive the password reset email and couldn’t log into the system

(08:00) – Phil’s boss made it clear to him that another mistake like that would cost him his job

(08:24) – “Test your own code carefully, be careful and take your time”


(09:36) – Career Highlight / Greatest Success: Phil talks about his involvement with NuGet

(10:18) – It took a lot of effort to get the project off the ground at Microsoft

(10:25) – Even at launch there was a lot of resistance within Microsoft but it was popular externally

(10:40) – Subsequently almost the entire .Net ecosystem within Microsoft had adopted it

(10:56) – Any library being shipped by Microsoft is done via NuGet Package

(11:22) – What it enabled was greater use of Open Source and now Microsoft is the number one organisation on GitHub


(14:41) – What Excites You About The Future of a Career in I.T.? Phil talks about Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Virtual Reality

(14:58) – Phil believes that this is a field where there will be a lot of demand for skilled resource

(15:06) – Phil thinks that a lot of interesting work will come out of this area

(15:18) – Phil says that there are so many unsolved problems out there

(15:30) – Phil comments on the social impact of I.T. on society and hopes that there will be a move toward socially responsible software


(15:56) – The Reveal

(16:00) – What attracted you to an I.T. career in the first place? – “I wanted to pay off my student loan before continuing my career in Math”

(16:24) – What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? – “Receiving a copy of ‘Code Complete’ … it changed how I approached writing software”

(16:58) – If you were to begin your I.T. career again, right now, what would you do? –”I think I would spend a lot more time digging into Machine Learning and really understanding the applications”

(17:43) – What career objectives are you focusing on right now? – “I’m really heavily focused on making my team one that executes well and delivers great products”

(18:13) – What’s the number one non-technical skill that has helped you in your career so far? – “Communication. Learning how to write well and verbally communicate well”


(18:53) – A Parting Piece of Career Advice: Phil Haack says when you’re building systems and software, think about the way your software can be abused and used to harm communities that are already marginalised

(19:27) – Phil mentions a talk by one of his colleagues about the ways software can be used to attack other people

(19:54) – “Think about the social impact of the software that you write”


3 Key Points:     

  1. The ability to communicate and argue well is an important career skill to possess
  2. Take care when code write code and test your own code carefully
  3. Consider the social impact of your software on society


Resources Mentioned:

  • haacked.com– Phil’s blog
  • LinkedIn – Phil’s LinkedIn profile
  • @haacked – Phil’s Twitter handle
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