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December 2021 Menlo Bits


Wishing you a Safe and Joyful Holiday Season!


Embracing Change – The Essence and Joy of Agility

What exactly is agility? It is NOT tools, practices, certifications, or rhetoric. Agility is comprised of habits of flexibility, of continuous learning, and embracing change. The central question for organizations: can we achieve these goals systematically?
So many organizations are pursuing “agile” for “agile’s sake.” A different mindset is required: organizations should pursue agility for the results that agility produces. 

Read Rich's full blog post on how Menlo uses the principles and practices that comprise its joyful culture to achieve agility throughout the organization.


As a thank you to our Menlo Bits subscribers this holiday season, we're offering a 20% discount on any order from the Menlo Store! Use code HOLIDAY20 at checkout.

US shipping only. Offer ends December 31st.


How to Maximize Your Joy & Savor the Holidays
‘Tis the season to be jolly!

While we think of the holidays as a cheerful time, it can be easy for stress to creep in with planning, deadlines, family time, etc. To maximize our joy and avoid returning to work wondering where the time went, try savoring all the positive moments and emotions. Research suggests our brains tend to focus on the negative, so making efforts to deliberately enhance and prolong our positivity is linked to increased well-being, happiness, life satisfaction, and decreased depression. This article suggest 4 tips on how to savor the holidays and maximize your joy:

  • Bask in happy moments
  • Wear your joy on your sleeve
  • Engage in positive mental time travel
  • Share your gratitude with others
With time and practice, these savoring strategies can help bring joy to your world and a happy new year. Read more on these tips here!

Menlo Pictionary: Hybrid Style
Teams compete to draw some of our favorite Menlo lingo

For our last Thursday Team Lunch before the holidays, Menlonians utilized their teamwork and artistic skills to compete in Menlo Pictionary. Featuring all Menlo words and phrases of course!

On the left: "Chief Joy Officer" - Carol Sheridan, our Factory Floor Manager, draws a hyper realistic sketch of her husband and designated Chief Joy Officer of Menlo, Rich Sheridan. (Rich could have sworn Carol had a more advanced background in art...)

On the right: "Getting James'd" - George Lund sketches the signature pose our co-founder, James Goebel, hits just before you "Get James'd", which we define as the moment you think the problem is solved, James approaches it from a completely different angle and makes you rethink everything from a new and valuable perspective.


2022 Menlo Workshop Offerings
Come one, come all!

As you plan for the new year, consider joining us virtually on a tour or in one of our workshops! We offer public tours/workshops or 'bring' your groups of 6 or more to a private version for larger teams. View the links in this PDF to read more and register!


Every Tool's a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It

Author: Adam Savage

Recommended by: Sarah Ball, Software Developer

I first picked up this book because of my outside of work projects. When I cannot easily buy something, I often try learning how to make it for myself, whether that means knitting a pair of gloves, building a bookcase, or sewing a dress. Recommended to me by another sewer, I was delighted to find this book was also thoroughly applicable to my at work projects as well. After all, as Adam Savage notes "Coding is making." 

Beyond its relevance to makers and software developers, there is so much to learn in this book:

  • How to break down a complex project into manageable pieces

  • How to collaborate with a larger team

  • Dealing with setbacks and disappointments

  • Learning new skills and sharing that knowledge with fellow makers

  • The use of drawings and pictures for idea transfer

  • The power (and blessing) of deadlines

Several of these points rang so true to my experience at Menlo. For one, bemoaning his inability to download his ideas directly to a USB and upload them to his collaborators' brains, Adam recommends the low tech alternative: draw a picture. At Menlo, we often focus on visual artifacts to help transfer ideas and foster collaboration. "I'll just make it and then you'll see" does not work when we need several people working on executing the same vision at once. We find so much value in finding a problem (or a better solution) at the early drawing stage rather than after weeks of costly implementation. Pictures also help create a shared understanding across a team that is priceless.

Full of examples from Adam's own builds--from movie and commercial props to cosplay costumes to MythBusters contraptions--this is a wonderful book. Equal parts Adam's own story and advice for other makers, I highly recommend it.

Get a copy for yourself here!

Muddy Buddy Project

The Experiment:
For the month of December, some of our developers have been participating in this year’s Advent of Code. Seeing the high level of engagement and excitement with this style of practice, we wanted to create a similar obstacle course where team members who aren't assigned to billable work have a place to experiment with common problems and scenarios that they might see with a client project. 

But first, we have to actually build the course! Our goal is to set up a computer that houses this obstacle course for developers to spend some time experimenting with, and then reset for the next pair of developers to try. By making training part of the process, we allow for our developers to learn by doing, failing, and experimenting with, rather than combing a wiki, reading a book, or attending a lecture.

We are often asked to help teams who have a product that is 90%, 95%, or 99% done, but still does not work. They are under pressure to meet a delivery date, there are some persistent “random” bugs, and a couple of performance issues. 

In many of these cases, we find that by performing a set of rigorous, boring, tedious, experiments we can isolate the performance problems. Too often, teams attempt to fix performance problems using one miracle guess after another, making the problem worse and more difficult to diagnose. When the performance problem is associated with a database, one key experiment is to build a new set of tables, and to write some simple hand-coded SQL to validate expected performance.

The short story is that a great number of these database performance problems are one of the tools being used to make programming easier, for example the ORM tool is using a loop making hundreds of thousands of SQL calls to load records instead of a single SQL request.

The Problem:
When programmers do not use their fundamental skills, those skills can atrophy. And with today’s modern technology stacks there is seldom a need to hand write SQL. However, in order to debug, and perform necessary experimentation, programmers are well served to be comfortable with basic SQL skills, and a willingness to quickly hand-code experiments to validate the performance of a library or framework.

Context behind the project name:
Muddy Buddy comes from the name of the Tough Mudder obstacle course where participants work together without the pressure of competition. The competition describes itself as a community built on teamwork and overcoming obstacles, where stepping outside your comfort zone is the reward.

Virtual Workshops

Chief Joy Officer Book Club
Tuesday, January 11th
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM ET
Register here

Story Mapping Workshop
Wednesday, February 9th
8:30 AM - 12:30 PM ET
Register here

Project Management: The Menlo Way™ Workshop (Virtual)
Wednesday, January 26th
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM ET
Register here

High-Tech Anthropology® Workshop: Discovery and Design (Virtual)
February 2nd - 3rd
9:00AM - 5:00 PM ET
Register here

Pairing to Solve Business Problems
Tuesday, January 18th
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM ET
Register here
Virtual Tours

Menlo Factory Tour
Occurring weekly
Register here

A Fresh Taste of High-Tech Anthropology®
Wednesday, January 5th
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM ET
Register here

Prosperity Project Lunch Panel
Friday, February 11th
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM ET
Register here

Personalized Offerings
Scheduled upon request

Menlo Bits

The Menlo Bits is Menlo's monthly newsletter, filled with all the latest in science and technology trends as well as what's been happening at Menlo.