Rands Management Glossary

Traditionally, a glossary functions to clarify terms in a book. The fact is I haven’t used many of the following terms in this book, but you still need to know them.

Whether you’re a manager or working for a manager, there are those out there who will use these words to confuse you. They’ll throw them out in the middle of the room sans definition as a power play—as an indication that they control the conversation. There are versions of these people who throw these words out and act like they know what they mean to achieve the same effect.

The only defense against these words is knowledge.

1.0 — The hardest product that you’ll ever develop.
360 Review — Feedback gathered from your peers, which is supposed to be included in your 360 review. Spending time providing constructive feedback increases the likelihood that you won’t be working with idiots.
AA (Administrative Assistant) — Your best friend as a manager. Admins are heavily tapped into corporate machinations and are often able to work miracles when it comes to getting stuff done. They’re also usually tapped into the grapevine. There are executive versions of these folks, too.
Action Items — Things you should write down and do something about. Failure to follow up and/or deliver on action items results in a gentle erosion of your credibility.
Agenda — The things that must occur for any given meeting to be completed. If all participants in said meeting are not aware of the agenda prior to the meeting start, time will be wasted.
All-Hands — A company-wide meeting, usually run by the CEO. If you’re a manager and there are lots of surprises at these meetings, you might be out of touch. Humans often posture during these events by supplying inane questions and status updates along with really dumb questions. An all-hands meeting without an announced subject implies layoffs or other disasters.
Android — Google’s mobile operating system that uses desserts as version names.
Apple — The house that Steve Jobs built. Based on market cap, the most valuable company on Earth, but they’d prefer if you thought of them not as huge, but scrappy.
Architect — An engineer who knows what he/she is doing. If an architect says something that appears insane, it’s worth firing off a couple follow-up questions, as they are often smarter than you.
At-Will Employment — Legal definition that states that both employer and employee are employed “at will,” which means they can fire/quit whenever they please. They don’t even have to give a reason.
Automation — QA buzzword to describe testing that can be done by a machine instead of a human. Automation is always pitched as a time saver … but it’s usually a time sink.
Background Check — A pre-hire check employers use to determine whether or not you are or have ever been a serial murderer.
Beta — A milestone in the development process that traditionally follows alpha. This used to mean that a product was generally usable by customers—a select group of customers who were willing to put up with things not working quite right. No one is sure what beta means anymore.
Big Data — A term used to describe amounts of data so large that we need teams of humans to sort through it and remind us that we’re really bad at throwing anything away.
Board of Directors — The CEO’s boss. They can fire the CEO. They tend to set broad corporate policy and have amazing powers of invisibility.
Bonus — Unexpected non-recurring cash. If you’re not seeing a bonus at least every year or so, you’re doing something wrong. Your boss should be able to explain what you need to fix.
Brand — A fuzzy marketing term used to describe how you want your customers to feel about your company.
Bugs — Coding errors by engineers often found by QA. Bugs are a source of significant tension late in a product cycle.
Build — An internal version of a product that is used for testing. The final version of the product is the last build.
Candidate — A job applicant who has made it into the building.
Cave, The — The place a nerd goes to get in the zone.
CEO (Chief Executive Officer) — The guy/gal in the big office. This is a tough gig. CEOs are usually busier than you can imagine.
CFO (Chief Financial Officer) — The guy/gal who tells you how many PCs or Macs you can buy.
Checked Out — An employee who has already quit inside their head. Whether or not you want this person to actually resign, you should be aware that someone who is checked out brings down the entire team with their incessant uselessness.
CIO (Chief Information Officer) — The guy/gal who tells you whether you can use a Mac or a PC.
Cloud, The — A mysterious place where Big Data lives.
Collaboration — A word used to convince you to work with people you’d rather avoid.
Completionist — An individual who absolutely must do the right thing when it comes to designing products. What they lack in practicality they make up for with their phenomenal ideas.
Contractor — A temporary employee who never seems to leave.
COO (Chief Operations Officer) — The guy/gal who makes sure your Mac or PC arrives.
Credibility — The amount others will believe or trust you.
Cross-Pollination — The act of taking an idea generated by one team and vetting it with another. Engineers are full of pride and don’t like to do this, but cross-pollination often yields improvements that the original team will never discover.
Crunch Time — A time when there are no weekends and the food just keeps showing up.
CTO (Chief Technical Officer) — The guy/gal who tells you which is better, a Mac or a PC.
Culture — An invisible binding force that holds your company together. It’s like the Force, except real.
Database — A handy place to stick data if you like your data organized and structured.
Design — The team responsible for making the product elegant and useful. They have issues with finishing.
Director — Middle management. These are usually the last managers that are in touch with what the products actually do.
Dividend — A share of profits paid to shareholders.
Domain — A sphere of influence. (“That’s marketing’s domain.”)
Doomed — An essential, unscheduled product milestone where the product team realizes they are way behind and choose to kick it into high gear. This term originated with C-3PO in the original Star Wars.
Double-Click — Used to have something to do with a mouse; now it’s a heavily overused management term used as a segue to say “Let’s explore that a bit.”
Drug Test — A process used by large companies whereby new hires are scared into not drinking or smoking for about 30 days.
E-mail — The means by which you get spam.
EPS (Earnings Per Share) — The portion of a company’s profit allocated to each outstanding share of stock. This doesn’t happen at most Silicon Valley companies, so don’t get your hopes up.
Facebook — The means by which you keep in touch with people you’re trying to forget.
Fired — Termination of employment; usually used in extreme circumstances. (“He’s stealing from us!”) It is not to be used lightly, and never without the heavy involvement of HR.
Geek — See Nerd.
Flame Mail — An e-mail you should not send until you’ve had a chance to calm down.
General Counsel — The most important lawyer in the company.
Grapevine — A content-rich source of false information.
Google — The means by which you search for things and then receive advertising.
GUI (Graphical User Interface) — An aging term used to describe a user interface that requires you to memorize the significance of arbitrary pictograms instead of arbitrary magic words.
Hacker — A label that has acquired an unfair negative connotation. While hackers are capable of being nefarious, they’re mostly interested in being clever.
Heinous — Bad. Really bad. Horrible, sky-is-falling bad. Grossly wicked. Handy term when classifying bugs late in the product cycle.
HI (Human Interface) — User interface at Apple.
Human Capital — HR term that refers to the people you work with. You should never ever say this.
Holistic — A manager who focuses his attention across the company and not just on his team. Traditionally middle management.
Holy Shit — The moment when a piece of technology totally blows your mind and/or changes your life.
HR (Human Resources) — Happy people who help you do very unhappy things.
IC (Individual Contributor) — HR term that describes a single employee who has no direct reports. Don’t say this either.
Incrementalist — An individual who knows that better is the enemy of done. Incrementalists get stuff done at the cost of quality and completeness.
Instant Messaging — E-mail without subject lines, sent as soon as you hit Enter instead of when you click Send.
Interaction Design — The hard part of user interface design. Interaction designers are responsible for how a user is going to interact with an application, ideally with the least amount of frustration. Interaction designers know what the word workflow means.
Intern — A temporary hire, usually from college, who smiles too much.
Interview — Interviews are where you, the hopeful candidate, pitch yourself to a group of folks who have 30 minutes to figure out if they want to spend 5 years listening to your dumb jokes.
Inward — A front-line manager focused on a single product or team. Inwards don’t care much about what’s going on elsewhere in the company.
iOS — Apple’s mobile operating system, which is annoying a lot of nerds by making everything easier to do.
IT (Information Technology) — The most generic term in the world, which describes the folks responsible for that computer on your desk. You probably work in IT and don’t even know it.
Job Description — A brief, written description of the responsibilities required for a job.
Layoff — A horrible process whereby employees are terminated because the company either needs to save cash or is otherwise preoccupied with something else.
Leader — A better title than “manager.”
Leverage — A word often used in close proximity to synergy.
Linux — UNIX with an L.
Mac OS 9 — Old version of the Macintosh operating system not based on UNIX.
Mac OS X — New version of the Macintosh operating system, which is based on UNIX.
Manager — The person who signs your review.
Mandate — Order handed down from senior management. Mandates have one of two motivations: they are either used as excuses to dodge explaining rationale (bad) or they are put forth to get people to stop arguing and start moving forward (good).
Market Cap — Simple math. If a company has 1 million shares and those shares are selling for $10, the market cap is $10 million. Often used as a rough means of comparing companies or gauging corporate health. (“Company X’s market cap is 40 times revenue!”)
Marketing — The folks who gloss over what your product actually does. Essential, as most engineers are unable to successfully communicate with actual customers.
Meeting — Traditionally, a group of individuals getting together to solve a common problem that can’t otherwise be solved in email. Often, a tremendous waste of time.
Microsoft — A massive Redmond-based technology company that builds increasingly irrelevant products.
Milestone — Poorly defined, heavily over-communicated date within the software development cycle, where the software development team reflects on how screwed they are.
MRD (Marketing Requirements Document) — A mythical document said to contain “customer requirements.”
Multitasking — The ability to do many things at once. Multitasking has heavy interaction with NADD.
NADD (Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder) — A voracious appetite for consuming information at an impossible rate. Rands gets a quarter every time someone says this.
Nerd — See Geek.
NIH (Not Invented Here) — Term to describe behavior in which an engineering team will not consider working with anyone’s code except their own. It’s not that the external code is good or bad, it’s just foreign, which means it must be reviewed, reformatted . . . Oh, what the hell. Let’s rewrite the whole damned thing. Billions of dollars have been lost to NIH. I mean it. Billions.
Offer Letter — A real document handed to a potential new employee, which describes the terms of their employment. It’s important to realize that once a candidate has signed their offer letter, your job as a hiring manager is not done. They are not an employee until their butt is in their seat.
Office — The square box where you live. The models with doors and windows seem to slowly becoming extinct.
Office of the CEO — The people who surround the CEO to make sure he/she shows up at meetings on time.
Offsite — A meeting held in a place where the coffee tastes different and there is always fruit.
Org Chart — A visual representation of who reports to whom. Org charts are handy in larger organizations for figuring out who you’re actually dealing with.
Outward — A manager who focuses his attention outside the company. This person is terribly concerned with how the world views his company. Outwards are traditionally senior management, like CEOs.
P/E (Price/Earnings Ratio) — Determines how much money an investor pays for $1 of a company’s earnings. If a company is reporting a profit of $2 per share, and the stock is selling for $20 per share, the P/E is 10—the investor would pay ten times earnings.
Performance Plan — A surprisingly upbeat term that describes a depressing process. Performance plans are written instructions of what an employee needs to do in order to not be fired. Don’t even think about doing this without serious HR involvement.
Performance Review — A yearly meeting with your manager where your performance is evaluated. It’s often seen as a vehicle for justifying raises/bonuses, which overshadows the opportunity to convey actual constructive career advice.
Phone Screen — A brief conversation with a hiring manager or recruiter in which one or two key things are going to determine whether you get an interview.
Pinterest – A limitless catalog of beautiful things.
Process — A seven-letter word that begins with P. Process is not all bad news, especially for large companies where immense groups of people waste a lot of time doing the same thing.
Product Manager — Ideally, the owner of a product. This person is clear on what the product is and where it is going. They often have to deal with pesky engineers who believe they know what the customers want.
Program Manager — The owner of the schedule. Program managers are pretty much useless in small companies, but essential in any large product development group.
QA (Quality Assurance) — Individuals who find bugs. Also called Quality Engineering.
R&D (Research and Development) — Or software engineering or software development. Really all the same thing. Surprisingly little research is going on these days, what with all the incessant development.
Reorg (Reorganization) — Process whereby employees are shuffled about to accommodate new corporate goals. Also called a Refactor if engineering is running the show.
Recruiter — Person whose job it is to help you source candidates for your req (see below). Recruiters often come off as slimy, but they’ve got a tough gig balancing good people skills with actually having meaningful conversations with engineers. When you find a good recruiter, stick with them.
Reference Check — Process of calling candidate-supplied references. References are biased, as they are supplied by the candidate, so they are suspect as sources of truth. If you’ve got any concerns about your new hire, I also recommend digging up back-door references or actually grilling references with real, honest questions.
Release Engineering — Group or individual responsible for building/compiling the product. Release folks live in a confusing limbo where they aren’t quite QA, but also aren’t quite software engineering.
Req (Requisition) — A virtual document that gives you permission to hire a new employee. Acquisition of reqs can be tricky, and once acquired, they are apt to vanish without warning. Use it or lose it. Important fact: From the moment a req is approved, the average number of days to get a butt in a seat is 90 days. Honest.
Resigning — Quitting your job. Resigning sounds more professional, but it’s the same thing. You can do this whenever you like.
RSU (Restricted Stock Units) — Unlike stock options (see below), RSUs are grants of actual stock. Like options, they vest over a period of time to incentivize you to not leave.
Résumé — A very short document that is intended to describe your entire professional life.
Sales — The folks who sell your product. Not a good source of product requirements, as they are biased by the mighty dollar. Often a good source of discontent, though.
Screwed — A professional inflection point where your chosen course of action will allow you to sink or swim.
Short Timer — An employee who has resigned, but still works for the company. Short timers’ productivity decreases as a function of the proximity to their last day.
Silicon Valley — A nebulous area south of San Francisco full of money and very bright people.
Slack — A collaboration application that actually works.
Slip — A kinder, gentler word for saying that the product is not on schedule. (“We’ve got a three-week slip.”) Frequent slips are often bad career moves, but slips for the right reasons are a good thing.
Software Development Lifecycle — The time between when someone has a clever idea and when that idea is beaten to death and is no longer making money.
Spec (Specification) — A document that tells you how it is. The process of writing a specification tends to be more useful than someone reading it.
Spreadsheet — A poor man’s database.
SRE (Site Reliability Engineering) — People who keep the site up.
Staff Meeting — A weekly meeting with all your direct reports. Failure to run this type of meeting on a regular basis will result in a breakdown in communication and much wasting of time.
Status Reports — The weekly ritual where you justify your existence to managers; often a sign of corporate bloatification. You should fight the creation of these with all of your might.
Stock — A piece of paper that you’ll never see that says you own part of a company. Stocks are easy—you own stocks. Stock options are more confusing.
Stock Options — A piece of paper that you’ll never see that says you can buy stock at a certain price. Options often confuse folks, so I’ll explain. You are granted an option of 100 shares of your company’s stock at $100. Congrats. When you sell your option, you will only receive the delta between your option price and the current price. So, if you sell all your hypothetical options at $110, you are only going to receive $10 per share or $1,000 (minus taxes). The bigger your company, the more likely they’ll offer restricted stock options rather than stock options.
Synergy — A word often used in close proximity to leverage.
System Administrator — A person you should not annoy.
Technical Support — The person you yell at on the phone when something goes wrong with your Mac or PC. You really should be yelling at the engineer that designed the thing, but they never reliably the phone.
Temp — A coworker who likely will not be sitting in that chair tomorrow; typically assigned work that no one wants or has time to do.
Termination — The politically correct way of saying “You’re fired.”
Twitter — The means by which you sound like a fortune cookie.
Total Compensation — The sum of everything you are paid by a company. This includes salary, bonuses, and benefits. Total compensation is the dollar amount you should use when comparing multiple job offers.
UI (User Interface) — The sum total of every decision made regarding how a program looks to a user.
Unit Test — Literally the last thing an engineer wants to do.
User Experience Design — A discipline of design responsible for the entire user experience.
UNIX — An interactive time-sharing operating system invented in 1969 so that some guy could play games.
Version Control — A database that keeps track of multiple versions of any given file. Version control is an essential tool for development in groups of engineers.
VP (Vice President) — Usually a direct report of the CEO.
Wearables — Computers that you wear that are very hard to type on.
Weblog (Blog) — A representation of a person on the Internet.
Wiki — A web application that allows anyone to edit content. It seems like a recipe for disaster, but it turns out that people like their content tidy.
Windows — The number one desktop operating system on the planet Earth. I know, right?
Workflow — The manner in which a person uses an application. Designing an application with a particular user’s workflow in mind can improve usability.
Zone, The — A magical place where you hit max productivity. The zone is very hard to achieve and even harder to maintain.