Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Treating New Team Members Well

December 14, 2011

One of the great things about working for Dave Ramsey at the Lampo Group is that they treat all team members equally well. This is especially true of the Web Development Team, which has its own flavor of generosity.

One of the Web Development traditions is to help new team members move. When I was hired, I was told that if needed, 5-10 guys would show up to help my family move in, which we gratefully accepted. When we moved in, which was a Monday afternoon no less, a total of 6 or 7 guys showed up, most of which were not on my immediate team but on our Endorsed Local Providers team. One guy even worked an earlier shift from 7:30-4:30 just to come help, and the rest showed up shortly after 5:30. We had all of our items moved in to our townhome in under 2 hours.

Since joining the team, I have joined this tradition by helping two other families move in. Both chose to move on the Saturday immediately before their first day of work, and both times we were able to move them in within 2-3 hours. They were amazed at how quickly we were able to get them in, and it allowed them to have a little more family time before starting work that following Monday. It is probably even more amazing to their spouses to see just how much effort the team is willing to put in for someone so new.

Last week something new happened. A new developer was supposed to join my team, but could not show up on his first day due to a medical condition that came up while he and his family were moving. For one reason or another, they had professional help moving them, so no moving team was assembled. It was not until the Sunday before he was to start that we knew he was going to be out. Since we all had to be at work during the week, several of the team members’ wives jumped into action. They cooked meals for this new family, helped his wife unpack and get into their house, and in general made this family feel welcome.

It’s not everyday that you get to work for an employer, a team, and with families that care so much about all team members, new or old.

What does your company do to help new team members?

We have a wonderful team here at The Lampo Group, and are always looking for more talented developers.

Treating Customers Well

June 9, 2011

We send millions of emails every year trying to help people. To help us have unique conversations with all those people simultaneously, we rely on a vendor named Exact Target. Around here we tend to push the envelope, and with very few exceptions they’ve been able to keep pace with us every step of the way.

ExactTarget Care Package

Not long ago, we had a service interruption. We use their API to do a lot of different things, and several times over the period of a week, our API requests started failing. We quickly found and used a workaround to get by it the first few times, but when it kept happening we felt like we needed a deeper investigation. After some work, they found the issue on their end, they apologized profusely, and corrected it. Two days later, I arrive at my desk and find a package from them. It included a handwritten note, a $5 Starbucks gift card, and orange-flavored candy. (Everything they do is orange.)

I sent our contact an email thanking them for the gift and got this reply:

Tim, I’m glad you enjoyed the token of our consolation for the recent issues! Obviously candy oranges do not negate the product issues, but we hope it proves our appreciation for your understanding and solid partnership. We also appreciate the feedback and kind remarks – it always helps make a day! Please let us know how we can continue to help and support your team in the future. Best, Megan

Our team strives to super-serve people and we like to build relationships with vendors that do the same.  The way Exact Target handled this situation impressed me. It’s awesome to see things done at such a high level of excellence. I’m so impressed with it that I’m showing this care package to people around our office hoping that we can learn from the example. How does your company super-serve your customers?

What’s in YOUR work week?

April 6, 2011

“Time – got the time tick-tick-tickin’ in my head” – Joe Jackson

I need more time!

Let’s take a look at the average work week.  A handful of one hour meetings, maybe one large meeting, many smaller meetings.  By mid-week the calendar is almost full.  People are coming to your desk constantly asking for small adjustments/favors/tasks.  That time-saving-must-do project you had in mind, once again, received no time.  It’s the end of the week, you’re drained, and looking back you’re not sure what really happened.

You can read time management books, take a Covey course and recite all of the key phrases.  These are all good, and highly recommended.  But I’m going to fast forward to a different ending that’s not in the popular reading materials.  First let’s post a supposition:

Jim’s Axiom – Creativity does not exist without constraints.

You may be thinking “I can’t be creative WITH constraints!”  I respectfully say you are wrong.  Let’s go back to when you were younger.  You had a clean, unwrinkled, pristine sheet of paper (or an entire pad) and a pencil.  You looked down and… nothing.  “Mom, what should I draw?”

Did you see what just happened there?  Maybe you remember that, maybe you just heard your own child ask that very question.  There are no constraints.  You (or they) can draw anything, and you draw… nothing.  Where do you start?  What should you do?  If only you had a starting point you could go anywhere.  You need a constraint.

When the pressure is on, and you need to reach the goal line you do what it takes, you look for the opportunity, and you press forward and find a way.  Once there are constraints your creativity can take root and navigate through and bring you to success.

Jim’s Corollary – Creativity is the ability to solve a problem when there are constraints.

I need to find a way to the store and the main road is closed.  Creativity.
I need to buy groceries and I’m low on funds.  Creativity.
I need to get more done and I’m running out of time.  Creativity.

The Pony Express was infamous for delivering mail.  We could have grown that system and bought more horses.  When they weren’t fast enough we could have bred faster horses.  But the limitations were real, and no matter how much you did more of the same thing you couldn’t solve the pressing issue.  It doesn’t scale properly, and was not cost effective.  There had to be a better way.

This new way did not involve a horse.  It was the telegraph.  A completely different way of dealing with the issue.  Taking a broken system and spending more time doing it doesn’t get you the advance you’re really looking for.  The same is true during your work day.  If you take your current process and just add more time you do get more done.  But at what cost?  And what value are you really adding?

If you find yourself working 60+ hour weeks I’m going to challenge you.  Are you really only smart enough to just do more of the same to beat out your competition?  Is that how you sell yourself?  What happens when the next guy comes along and works 70 hours?  80?  They win?

But what about studies that state efficiency decreases as hours per week increases?  A quick search on Google yielded this: “The average efficiency for 50 hr, 60 hr, and 70 hr weeks was 0.92, 0.84, and 0.78, respectively.”  That means that at 70 hours per week you’re as efficient as actually working 55 hours.  You’ve heard the adage… why have you denied it?  Work smarter, not harder.

• Look at the work you’re doing and note the time spent.  What’s really eating your day?  What new process can you put in place to replace the old, inefficient model?  Focus on the important/non-urgent, and manage the important/urgent.  Avoid the non-important items!  Recommended reading:  First Things First by Steven Covey (Full disclosure: I’ve taken the Seven Habits course and love his style on time management, but I haven’t read this book yet.  Ironic I know.)

• The next step is to examine your processes.  Why and when you do what you do.  Keep your meetings focused and only invite those that should be there.  Set an agenda with a desired outcome, and once reached, end the meeting, even if it’s early!  Recommend reading: Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.

• Are you trying to do it all on your own?  Who’s your model or mentor for that?  Look for strategic partnerships to accomplish more than you could do on your own.  Recommend reading:  Mentored By A Millionaire by Steven Scott.

As a young boy I heard a wealthy and successful man say something that has stuck with me.   I believe I’m finally starting to grasp the full intent, and I’ll leave it with you now:

“If you can’t do it in 40 hours a week, you’re doing it wrong.”

Brainteaser++, my first crack at Ruby

February 3, 2011

I got a new desk calendar with daily brain teasers. The advertised purpose is to give my mind a little exercise for a few minutes every morning. January 5th’s puzzle inspired me. What would be better than solving this puzzle? Writing a program to solve it for me! Even better, I’ll use a new language I’ve been meaning to pick up. Now we’re flexing the brain.

Here’s the puzzle:

In the table of letters, find the two ‘lines’ that contain the same set of letters. Lines can go horizontal, vertical, or diagonal and in any direction.

M P A F H E L
C G E H O A F
F A C M T L K
E B H F M C O
G H M L E O A
A L F O G K C
H C P T A G G

This definitely lends itself to a computerized, brute-force approach. ‘Line’ and ‘in any direction’ are misdirection.  Really we’re looking for two unordered sets that contain the same elements.

The approach

  1. Read the data from stdin line-by-line and build a collection of character arrays or strings including the columns and the two diagonals.
  2. Sort each string alphabetically. Then, I can use string comparison to see if two ‘sets’ contain the same elements.
  3. Iterate over the collection of strings, looking for two that match. It will have to be an ordered collection just so that I can output an indicator of which rows, columns, or diagonals matched.

Here’s my stab at it in Ruby.

class Puzzle

  def initialize
  	# table of characters from input
  	@char_table = []
  	# the horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines from @char_table
  	@lines = {}
  end

  def main
    readPuzzle
    buildLines
    puts findMatch or "no matches found"
  end

  private

  def readPuzzle
    while line = gets
      lineAsArray = []
      line.chomp.each_char {|c| lineAsArray << c}
      @char_table << lineAsArray
    end
  end

  def buildLines
    counter = 0

    #horizontal lines
    @char_table.each { |line|
      @lines[ counter ] = line.sort.to_s
      counter += 1
    }

    #vertical lines
    #FIXME: assumes square 2D array; ought to validate that
    for i in 0..@char_table.length() - 1
      @lines[ counter ] = []
      for j in 0..@char_table[i].length() -1
        @lines[ counter ] << @char_table[j][i]
      end
      @lines[ counter ] = @lines[ counter ].sort.to_s
      counter += 1
    end

    #diagonal lines
    @lines[ counter ] = []
    @lines[ counter + 1 ] = []
    for i in 0..@char_table.length() -1
      @lines[ counter ] << @char_table[i][i]
      @lines[ counter + 1 ] << @char_table[i][@char_table.length - i - 1 ]
    end
    @lines[ counter ] = @lines[ counter ].sort.to_s
    @lines[ counter + 1 ] = @lines[ counter + 1 ].sort.to_s
  end

  def findMatch
    until @lines.length == 0
      key, val = @lines.shift
      @lines.each{ |key2,val2|
        if val==val2 then
          return "matches found at line #{key} and line #{key2}"
        end
      }
    end
  end
end

p = Puzzle.new
p.main

I really enjoyed the exercise.  The puzzle was supposed to take about 2 minutes.  This took hours (hey, it’s my first time with Ruby, cut me some slack). However, it can solve these puzzles in well under 2 minutes, so I think I still hit the mark.

My solution is not particularly Ruby-esque.  There’s a lot of explicit iteration with indices. That may just be the nature of trying to extract strings from a two-dimensional character table. Once I got past the data-loading, things seemed to get closer to the Ruby way.

What would you improve? (Especially to all you Ruby coders on the Web, how can I make this more Ruby-like?)

Country Music Marathon: Web Dev Represented!

April 27, 2010

When Nashville’s Country Music Marathon comes around every spring, you can be sure that you’ll see many of our Dave Ramsey team members scattered throughout the field of runners.  We are very proud to say quite a few of our own web developers participated this year in the half marathon!  The conversion of this distance into Imperial units is approximately — not exactly — 13.10938 miles.  Way to go team!  We hope this will inspire others to get out there and accomplish something that’s not easy, yet rewarding for their health!  Maybe you can join us next year!  Here’s some of the teams’ thoughts on the marathon experience.  Enjoy!

“Having people come up to me before the marathon and ask if I worked for Dave was actually pretty cool. They were so excited and encouraged by what we do that they took the time to talk to me about it. One lady leads an FPU class in Macon, GA and said “you’re so lucky to get to work for Dave.” I agree. My wife and I also had people run by us at the beginning and ask if we were debt-free, to which we enthusiastically responded “yes.” Running as part of Team Ramsey was a blast.”

–  Kevin | Web Programmer/User Interface


“At Lampo, running is contagious. Before the half marathon, I was not much of a runner, but I was inspired and encouraged by many team members to participate. I’m so glad that I did! Not only did I accomplish something I thought I never would, but I am more excited about exercising and staying in shape. I will definitely be back next year!”

–  Andrew | User Experience/Interface Developer


“To be honest, I really don’t like this race. For me it’s too big … 30,000+ participants. It’s pretty well organized but just because of the shear mass of people you have to be there waiting to start for at least an hour maybe two. Then it takes almost as long to get back to your vehicle, out of the parking lot, and on your way home. That said this is the third time I’ve done it and I plan to do it next year. For me running is about getting into shape, being healthy, and trying to be a good steward with the gifts God has blessed me. Having a target like a ½ marathon gives motivation to train and doing it with a bunch of your peers gives even more. So since Dave is willing to pay the entry fee and even supply team shirts, there’s no reason not to take advantage of it. I didn’t hit my goal time but I did knock 40 minutes off the previous year’s time and I recovered much faster so I’m satisfied. I also got to see Moses (or maybe he was supposed to be a kung fu master. I’m not really sure) running the race. Next week I start training for my first sprint triathlon.”

–  Jon | Senior Web Programmer


“Two things about the half marathon stood out to me.  One was the incredible sense of camaraderie and encouragement I got from seeing fellow Team Ramsey members out running and cheering along the course.  Sometimes one doesn’t realize the power of unity until it gives him the strength to push himself harder than he normally could.  Secondly, a few times during the race someone would see my shirt and say, “Hey!  Dave Ramsey!” with a big smile on their face.  To know that what we do is having an impact out in the community and to see the faces of those who have had their lives changed and probably visited the very site we work on was uplifting not just for the race, but even when I came into work on Monday.”

Ty | Web Programmer


“This is a huge race – over 30,000 folks run, and there are loads of spectators. It really is a big event, and it feels like it. About 70 folks from our team ran or walked this year. We all wore bright yellow “Team Ramsey” shirts for the run, which has people shouting out encouragement along the way, and saying things like “Dave Ramsey saved my life!” It’s incredibly inspiring, especially when you’re pushing through some tough miles.”

– Ron | Marketing Web Programmer

“This is the second year I have run the half marathon, and I finished this year 22 minutes faster than last year, finishing in 1:58, just over a 9-minute mile.  It took every ounce of energy to finish.  I really enjoyed seeing all the yellow Lampo shirts out on the course (as runners or supporters).  I ran with my brother-in-law and even he was impressed with how many people from Lampo were there – even Dave came to cheer!  Running the half marathon is a great example of the type of people that Lampo works with: goal setters that are go-getters, positive attitudes that have fun during training and on the race day, diligence and dedication to finish strong, and providing hope and encouragement to the tired and weary.  There is a genuine sense of family support for each other.  I am blessed.”

– Jim | ELP Team Lead


We’re Debt FREE!!!

March 1, 2010

Two members of our team this past Friday made their own celebratory call into Dave’s radio program to exclaim with their spouse, “We’re Debt FREEEEEEEE!!!”

Michael, our Financial Literacy Programmer, paid off $126,000!  This took him and his wife Tracy, 3 1/2 years; knocking out a car payment and completely paying off their house.  Amazing!   At the age of 41, Michael and his wife are completely free of the strangle hold of debt and live in a house fully paid for!  WOW!

Next was a phone call in from Kevin, one of our ELP Web Programmers, and his wife Sara.  They paid off a total of $28,000 in only 21 months!  What was their debt from you ask?  That crabby old lady Sallie Mae!  They paid off all their student loans with a gazelle intense speed and are now, at the young age of 26, ready to live their lives DEBT FREE!

We are very proud of our team members Michael and Kevin. We even had the privilege of joining them in their debt free scream!  We wish them the very best as they continue to live out their lives debt free! 🙂

WAY TO GO GUYS!

Michael and his wife Tracy calling in to Dave's Friday radio program to yell, "We're Debt FREE!!!"

Kevin and his wife Sara ready to start their debt free life at the young age of 26!

“…BY EXAMPLE”

November 12, 2009

DSC_3658webdevretreat09_1

We had a Web Development Leaders Weekend Retreat this fall and it went great.  The guys headed down there Friday after lunch, for a weekend of team building, leadership training, male bonding, and some chillin’ n’ grillin’…  Oh and there was some golfing too!  Can you say FORE?!  The retreat was also to give a big “thank you” to the leaders for working so hard on the new site and to show them how much we appreciate their willingness to serve the team in so many ways.

the-five-dysfunctions-of-a-teamDuring the retreat the guys discussed the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, and took the team assessment associated with the book.  After they reviewed their survey results, the team went over what they could work on improving as everyone was given a voice to share their ideas and opinions.  Later on in the weekend they also discussed vision and plans for the future.

side-shot-of-chalet

Friday night, the guys barbecued some hamburgers and hot dogs and just had a good time hanging out with each other.  That night, Jon gave the guys a special gift he purchased for the team of an engraved picture frame for each of the team leaders that had a group shot of the guys in it and had engraved “…BY EXAMPLE” on the bottom half of the frame.  This phrase is a model these guys go by to remember to lead their teams “by example.” With the frame also came hand-written notes to the team leaders from their team members.  I believe it was a great boost for their relaxing weekend to hear how much they were appreciated from the teams they lead.

Saturday morning they headed to Blackberry Ridge Golf Course and played 9 holes!  They had a total blast!  Some had never golfed before so it was a fun experience for all.

Sounds like the trip was a success!  Thanks goes to God that we are we able to do what we do everyday!  Each day is a gift and to be cherished.

DSC_0041_cropped

Ugly Shirt Day 2009

June 18, 2009

Ugly Shirt Day 2009

Our team has been working really hard lately on redesigning the Dave Ramsey site (which is going to look amazing!  keep an eye out!!!).  The other day, a few of us were discussing the new site when one of the guys complimented another on his choice of attire for the day.  The recipient of the adulation was our very own Jon Wolski.  He is the embodiment of retro chic and that particular day was sporting a fabulous Hawaiian button-up.

In a half-joking, half-serious manner it was suggested that we sponsor a Hawaiian shirt day in honor of those who are “encouraged” to do so regularly by corporate america to support “team spirit.”  The idea bloomed to wearing some silly shirt every Friday for the month of June.

Well, last Friday we had Ugly Shirt Day 2009!  Don’t we look awesome?  🙂 So with all this shirt ugliness going around we decided to vote for the worst.

Here are the results!IMG_4065

That cool dude posing in the front, Jim, WON with his “Dream” shirt and Kelly, off to the far right received Runner-Up with his amazing “Three Wolves” shirt.  For the prize Jim received an official “Ug Mug” and ugly bird figurine trophy!  Kelly won an ugly hat.  Congratulations boys for making ugly look easy!  I didn’t do too bad myself, ehhh?!IMG_4077

Cheers to all,

Katie

“An Untamed Spirit” (It’s on my classy Sturgis 2001 shirt) 🙂

Have a great week everybody!

P.S. Chris took these radical photos!  Way to go dude!

You know... just being ourselves!

You know... just being ourselves!

Working without worry.

August 26, 2008

Well, sitting here working today, I have been challenged with many things running through my mind just like everyone does. Sometimes, it not always business… shhh don’t tell my boss, not like I would be fired, but you really can’t control human nature. We all think about non-work things while we are working. Sometimes these things vary from what’s for dinner, to what character to play on WOW tonight or what game to play with the kiddos. For some people it gets worse, how much am I going to pay the credit card company, how am I going to pay the electric bill or worse, THE RENT!

While I was thinking about the dinner part, I was happy to remember, I BUDGET! Since I came to work here three years ago I started budgeting every single month. I never did that before. Before, I was worrying about some of those other things, never about the rent but sometimes about the credit card. Now that I do a budget, I have the peace of mind that I never worry about money. Not just because of the incredible salary we get working here, but because I plan this every month, like clockwork. It was super hard the first five months, then after a year, it was easier, but I was still tweaking it every other month. Trying to figure out if my spreadsheet, a yellow pad, or the budgeting software on MyTotalMoneyMakeover.com works better for me.

Well now that I have that figured out, getting married really was easy on the ole’ budget. I even budgeted my wedding too! We took a rough cut at what we needed and perfected it as we grew. Budgeting the wedding is one way to make sure your soon-to-be spouse is on board with you financially. When she can’t have that extra thing, or you can’t have the cool new underwater camera because it won’t fit in the budget, well… you do what is most important. When it was time to bring the money together, that was easy too! Just reflecting today on how nice it is to not have to worry about money ever any time – that is a victory in and of itself.

DO YOU BUDGET?

Foam Ball Friday

August 14, 2008

Imagine this… The end of the workday is almost here. It’s Friday. You’ve had a lot of fun this week working on cutting-edge technologies… But at the same time you’ve been bouncing around between several different projects all week. First off, you had the urgent media event that you need to be ready for, you have half a dozen meetings about an up-and-coming revolutionary project that’s going to turn the way you’ve done things on it’s ear, and of course there’s always the few minor things you do to help your customers or help maintain existing code.

stress balls

Are They Stress Balls... Or Future Projectiles?

 
Needless to say, you’ve had a great week, but you’re also ready for a weekend off. Then it starts. It begins as a trickle. Slowly it becomes more frequent, and the next thing you know you’re surrounded by flying foam stress balls.
 

Foam Ball Friday has been a web-team tradition for 3 years now. It started off as a promotion. We were giving out foam footballs at events with the slogan “Tackle Debt with MyTotalMoneyMakeover.com.” Then the promotion ended and we were left with the challenge of finding a use for the extra stress balls. It quickly became apparent that you could fling these at other team members without fear of hurting more than someone’s pride. It quickly became a tradition that the programming team has kept alive. It’s an awesome, lighthearted way to cap off a week of tough, dedicated work!

So, if you’re wandering through the office late on Friday afternoon, you’d be well advised to duck first, then grab a handful of stress balls and start throwing!

If you’re looking for a great place to buy a bunch of these things… we’ve used this company before.