genuinely likeable

I was once referred to as "a genuinely likeable fellow." The gentleman that used those words was an old school Southerner from the low country of South Carolina. (Please go back and read that first sentance using your best low country accent to achieve the full experience.) At that moment, I wasn't quite sure if that was a variation on "bless your heart" or a real complement. Over time, I've come to appreciate that comment and the attributes of someone's character that make them "genuinely likeable." Based on my unscientific analysis of genuinely likeable people, they all seem to share these qualities:

  • They make you feel better just by being around them
  • They always have time to listen and provide counsel
  • They treat you the same no matter the time of day or environment
  • They are always ready to help you solve a problem

The "genuinely likeable" often find that these qualities are part of their core personality. However, like most things in life, it takes work to maintain a state of genuine likeability. Some days are better than others. The genuinely likeable are always working to try to make more days better. Now, I'm not sure if I'm really "genuinely likeable" all of the time. My wife is probably the best person to speak on that because she sees all of the highs and lows. However, I have met a few people in my life that are absolutely genuinely likeable.

Lately, I've used my social media accounts more for verifying social network sign up functionality than I have for actually sharing things or staying up-to-date on what my friends are doing. (Sorry friends - I'll try to do better) While I was testing some facebook integration this week, I ran across several posts that made me pause and take a moment.

The first set of posts were all about Craig Walker, a friend from high school, passing away. I knew Craig had been sick for a while but his death still shocked me. You just never expect a great dad, husband and friend to pass away after only being on earth for a relatively short period of time. Craig was definitely a genuinely likeable fellow. Craig was on another level of genuine likeability. Compared to Craig, I'm downright ornery at times. My favorite Craig moments actually came after high school. I was working in Greenwood, SC at Fujifilm (there's a high concentration of genuinely likeable folks there). I'd just finished up at graduate school in computer science and was working on a new manufacturing execution system for one of the factories. Starting up a new factory or replacing a manufacturing system is a lot like working at an early stage company. There are a lot of long days working on a lot of really difficult problems. Everyone is depending on these systems to run the business. One morning I was in my cubicle working on the big bug fix of the day and a familiar face pops up over the cubicle wall. It was Craig. He was working in the HR department and he treated me like no time had passed at all since high school. We both stopped to catch up. It was a highlight of the day at the time. Now, after being a little older and wiser, I realize just how special it is to encounter someone from an earlier chapter of your life and not miss a beat even though you may have had many chapters in between that didn't include the same cast of characters. Craig treated me the same way in my post-graduate school/early career chapter as he did in my high school chapter. He was still joking and laughing and that made all the difference that morning. Craig's friends from high school and his current friends in the Greenwood area all were sharing similar stories about him. Even though we all knew Craig from different chapters of our lives, he maintained his genuine likeability throughout. That's not an easy task given all the things going on today that push and pull you in different directions. Being a consistent friend and counselor for your team or community is incredibly important to ensure the success of that group.

As I scrolled through post after post sharing awesome stories of Craig's genuine likeability, I encountered posts about another friend passing away. For a moment, my normal news feed switched from "look what I'm eating", "look where I am" and "look what I can do" to a series of thoughtful tributes to two of the most genuinely likeable folks I've ever known. The second friend, F. Hugh Atkins, was from a more recent chapter of my life. Hugh was pretty much retired when I first met him but he always seemed to still be working on something. He was a successful business man. He'd often tell me stories involving Jerry Richardson, owner/founder of the Carolina Panthers, and other powerful and influential people that he had done business with over the course of his life. Roads (I-85) and bridges have his name on them. Yet Hugh still maintained his genuine likeability after achieving levels of success that would cause many to develop a bit of arrogance and become unapproachable. Hugh was always interested in the things I was doing at work. He always knew when to break out one of his funny stories. I'd be excited to attend events just because I knew Hugh would be there and I could hang out with him and the other cool tenors that had adopted me into their group. Today I've received a number of text messages from people in the area saying that they were sorry to hear about Hugh passing away. I'm not related to Hugh. I only knew Hugh in the later chapters of his life. People from all backgrounds, beliefs and walks of life knew that I had a tremendous amount of respect for Hugh and they reached out to check in with me because they knew that he was such a positive influence on me. I've heard about Hugh being mentioned in most church services around town today. There was no need to form a committee or debate or vote on whether or not Hugh Atkins was the man. Everyone just knew it because he always made you feel like the man (or the woman) when you were around him. Hugh lived a much longer life than Craig, but they both had an incredibly positive impact on all of the folks they encountered.

When I was younger, I wanted to be the strongest, the smartest, ... the most-likely to be an action hero. Now, I believe living a life of genuine likeability is one of the highest recognitions you can receive from your friends and peers. It's not something you can earn during a 60 minute game or a few years of study or work. Working with friends, co-workers and customers each and every day to help make their lives better (even if it's in some small way) is incredibly fulfilling and appreciated in ways you may never know.

Craig and Hugh both loved football. Craig enjoyed reminding us about The University of South Carolina's win streak over Clemson in recent years. Hugh would always let me know what he thought about Clemson's most recent performance (good and bad). Today, while many of us pause to watch the Super Bowl (and the commercials), I'll be toasting Craig and Hugh and all of the other genuinely likeable folks that make our world a little more fun.

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from pytennessee import reflections

Two weeks ago, something great happened in Nashville, TN. Folks from the southeast and beyond assembled at the Nashville School of Law for PyTennessee 2014. This gathering provided an incredible opportunity for Southerners to exchange thoughts about software development with some of the top contributors and speakers in the Python community and beyond. Even though it was the first PyTennessee, it was very well organized and (as far as I know) there were no instances of racism, sexism, or any other bad-isms at the conference. When I travel outside of The South and people learn that I'm a South Carolina native (which typically happens as soon as I say anything because of my accent), these are the things that typically flash through their head because of what they may have seen on the news or what has happened in the past. I was very glad to see a tech conference of this caliber take place in the southeast and the focus was on the software and nothing else. Everyone that I spoke with at the conference was excited and eager to exchange information and learn new things. Another thing that made it exciting for me personally was that several members of hub.py were able to make the trip from Spartanburg, SC to Nashville for the conference. hub.py is the Hub City Python User Group that was started a few years ago to provide regular meet ups for folks living in rural areas in Upstate, SC to learn more about software development and Python. Meet ups are regularly held at the Ironyard's Spartanburg location. I've devoted a lot of my spare time over the last few years to promoting more 'big tech' in 'small towns' with a goal of encouraging South Carolina's rural problem solvers to consider doing more with computing. So it's no surprise that my favorite speaker at PyTennessee was @2braids. 2braids aka K Lars Lohn gave a talk about his work at Mozilla collecting and processing firefox crash reports using Python. An extremely gifted technologist, 2braids lives in a yurt on an organic farm in Oregon. He also is a biker and his nickname comes from the two braids in his duck dynasty-like beard (but he was quick to inform everyone in his talk that he didn't know any cast members).

2braids at pytennessee

2braids also shared a couple of lightning talks about Hacking a Pellet Stove to Work with Nest and some of his work 3D printing parts for a tool organizer in his workshop.

He's a great example of what I believe many rural problem solvers in South Carolina can become provided that we give them appropriate amounts of education, equipment, and encouragement. More cool projects, including Redneck Broadband, from 2braids can be found on the twobraids blog.

I know it was a lot of work for the organizers to pull off PyTennessee 2014, but I really hope they do it again bigger and better next year. If you're looking to host a regional tech conference, they've just set the standard and provided a blueprint for success. Maybe one day we can follow this blueprint in South Carolina and host a 'rural Python conference' showcasing some of the best work from our problem solvers. Of course we'd have to get 2braids to keynote!

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