Infinite Learner

Hello, my name is Joe Swislocki and I'm an infinite learner who is passionate about personal growth. I focus on my whole self, including both personal and professional development. By embracing a growth mindset and committing to lifelong learning, I'm unlocking my full potential. What I'm learning...

Pair programming with AI

I recently completed a LinkedIn Learning course, Pair Programming with AI, by Morten Rand-Hendriksen. Morten demonstrates a number of strategies for using AI as a pair programmer and utilizes ChatGPT, GitHub Copilot, and Bing Chat. I recommend completing the exercises. In addition, I share below some notes.

How does AI know how to read and write code?

  • Simple way to think about it: code is just language and large language models like ChatGPT are designed to create sentences emulating language based on its training data. The longer answer is that AI companies have trained large language models using examples of coding languages and as a result, these AI systems are able to generate sentences emulating those coding languages.
  • There's no actual intelligence, no conscious thinking agents inside these systems sitting there writing the code. What's really happening is generative AI interprets your prompts and responses by putting together sentences word for word based on statistically guessing at what the next word in the sentence should be. And since coding languages are far more structured and patterned and logical and model based than are regular human languages, the chances of the AI successfully putting together functional code is quite high.
  • Because these AIs are not actually writing or testing code, but instead putting together sentences that look like code, in many cases, they're just repeating the existing coding patterns found in their training data. As a result, AIs have a tendency towards repeating old coding patterns and standards. So if you're trying to do something new, the AI will probably not be able to help you.

Mental models for AI pair programmers

  • For conversational AI like ChatGPT and Bing Chat, think of them as overconfident junior developers with deep historical knowledge and a shallow understanding of modern standards. They can reproduce common patterns, but faced with newer language features and coding practices, they fall short because they rely on their training data and that training data will always be old.
  • For in-app pair programmers like GitHub Copilot, think of them as supercharged and frequently wrong autocomplete, an advanced evolution from the autocomplete on your phone that gets things right until you send an important message and then make some sort of embarrassing error.
  • And for all of these tools, present and future, when they do something that amazes you, always remember, you are talking to a machine. It's just sophisticated software. Artificial, yes, intelligent, no. AI is a tool to help you do your job.
What AI technology are you learning or leveraging?

Heart matters in business

I finished Hubert Joly's book, The Heart of Business. Back in 2012, Hubert was appointed CEO of Best Buy. He was tasked with turning the retailer around as it faced financial ruin. He led an amazing turnaround by treating employees as humans, understanding what drove them, and placing employees at the center and connecting them to a noble purpose. Employees reengaged, leading to meaningful experiences creating positive business outcomes. Hubert shares his story and I provide my favorite quotes from the book below.

“I believe that business is fundamentally about purpose, people, and human relationships—not profit, at least not primarily. Companies are not soulless entities. They are human organizations made of individuals who work together toward a common purpose. When that common purpose aligns with their own individual searches for meaning, it can unleash a kind of human magic that results in outstanding performance.”
“It start's with one fundamental change of perspective: to view people as a source rather than a resource. Employees must be treated as individuals working together in pursuit of a common purpose, rather than as an "asset". Each employee is an individual with his or her own motivations and a sense of purpose, not human capital driven exclusively by money. It is time to move past the quest to drive the behavior of a collective workforce, and instead to inspire people by connecting with what matters to each one of them. Unleashing human magic means creating an environment in which individuals flourish. Because when people are doing what matters to them and what they believe in, they will walk through walls, pouring their energy, creativety, and emotions into their job.”
“What separates great leaders from good leaders is not the quality but the quantity of decisions. More decisions create more momentum and energy. These decisions will not all be good ones. But if you know how to ride a bicycle, then you also know that it is much easier to correct course when you pedal your way forward than when you stand still. Besides creating momentum through decisions, clarifying what is the most important and keeping it simple unleashes energy; complexity creates confusion, overwhelms, and sows inertia.”
What are your leadership principles?

Acknowledging Unconscious Bias

We all have biases that can impact our actions or perceptions. It's challenging to recognize our behaviors, and I'm looking to acknowledge my own. Recently, I read a Harvard Business Review article by Carmen Acton, "Are You Aware of Your Biases?" Carmen provides strategies that helped her become a more inclusive leader.

I'd like to highlight the first section: Acknowledge that you have biases. Then, educate yourself to do better. Carmen shares a story about growing up in a privileged environment where attaining a "higher education" was considered the path to success. She believed that expertise and capability were strongly correlated with your level of education. Her limiting assumption impaired her judgment of a team member, Bob, and his skills.

Carmen suggests that the key is to slow down and investigate your beliefs and assumptions so that you can see the other person for who they truly are. She provides the following questions to help find patterns of thinking that will help you become aware of other biases that you may have:

  • What core beliefs do I hold? How might these beliefs limit or enable me and my colleagues at work?
  • How do I react to people from different backgrounds? Do I hold stereotypes or assumptions about a particular social group?
  • As a manager, do I acknowledge and leverage differences on my team?
  • How would my team describe my leadership style if they were sharing their experience of working with me with others?
  • Do my words and actions actually reflect my intentions?
  • Do I put myself in the shoes of the other person and empathize with their situation, even if I don't relate to it?

Carmen shares her experience completing the exercise and realizing that she undervalued people who were quiet in meetings because she assumed that they didn't have anything to contribute. But the truth was that she wasn't creating an inclusive environment for them to open up or share their thoughts.

I find the questions helpful and look forward to utilizing them to become aware of my own biases. Lastly, Carmen shares additional sections throughout the article that can help you recognize your biases: Let others challenge your assumptions, be open to feedback, and embrace diverse perspectives.

What are your biases?

Our life is what our thoughts make it

I recently listened to the Awesome at Your Job podcast episode, Dale Carnegie’s Timeless Wisdom on Building Mental Resilience and Strong Relationships with Joe Hart. Joe Hart, President/CEO at Dale Carnegie & Associates, shares wisdom from his book, Take Command: Find Your Inner Strength, Build Enduring Relationships, and Live the Life You Want.

Joe shared Marcus Aurelius's quote: "Our life is what our thoughts make it." It was the first time I heard the quote and it resonated with me. Joe explains that you can have two people in the exact same situation and one person is thriving and finding opportunity. And someone else in the exact same situation is fearful and "I can't do it" and so forth. What does it come down to? It comes down to our thoughts. Take command of yourself, you can't lead anyone else until you can lead yourself.

Pete Mockaitis summarizes Joe's wisdom well. Start taking control of your life by taking control of yourself. You can’t build meaningful relationships or enact your life’s vision without control of your thoughts. Get into the habit of paying attention to thoughts you have. From there, you can ask these questions:

  • Are my assumptions correct?
  • What’s the basis for this thought?
  • What are my thoughts telling me?
  • Is this thought serving me?

Pausing to reflect helps keep your thoughts and emotions from hijacking you. By doing that, you can approach whatever situation from a more rational perspective.

Lastly, there are a number of golden nuggets shared throughout the episode. Joe shared an additional quote at the end from Ralph Waldo Emerson. "In my walks, every person I meet is my superior in some way in that I learn from him or her."

Joe completes this thought by saying, "When you think about life that way, every single person has something to teach, it shifts how you see other people."

What are you learning about yourself and how is it impacting your life?

The power of routine

My daily routine is maximized in the morning. I wake up at 5:30am and prepare for my Peloton cycling workout. I drink a full glass of water before jumping on the bike. My rides are usually 45-60 minutes. I follow each ride with a cool down and stretch. My average total workout time is usually 60-75 minutes.

Following my workout, I drink 1 to 2 cups of steaming hot coffee made with a french press. I follow up with a smoothie consisting of an avocado, banana, cauliflower, strawberries, and kiwi. Fruit options can vary, however, I enjoy the texture an avocado adds.

Morning exercise, coffee, and smoothies provide me with lasting energy throughout the day. I'm able to be my best self and serve others.

What's your routine?

Newly discovered enzyme, called Huc, turns hydrogen gas into an electrical current

In the article by Monash University, Newly discovered enzyme that turns air into electricity, providing a new clean source of energy, I learned about Huc. Huc is a "natural battery" that produces a sustained electrical current from air or added hydrogen. While this research is at an early stage, the discovery of Huc has considerable potential to develop small air-powered devices, for example as an alternative to solar-powered devices.

The bacteria that produce enzymes like Huc are common and can be grown in large quantities, meaning we have access to a sustainable source of the enzyme. Dr. Grinter says that a key objective for future work is to scale up Huc production. "Once we produce Huc in sufficient quantities, the sky is quite literally the limit for using it to produce clean energy."

What do you think about Huc and clean energy?

Why the wealthiest is so wealthy

I read a Knowledge of Wharton article, How the Wealthiest Got to Where they Are, by Sergio Salgado. Sergio shares takeaways from a paper titled, Why Are the Wealthiest So Wealthy? A Longitudinal Empirical Investigation.

The paper’s findings are based on a study of exhaustive income and wealth data on the entire Norwegian population covering 22 years (1993-2015), which was sourced from administrative tax and income records. Sergio notes that there are two types of super-rich: the Old Money, with parents that are rich, and the New Money, who have higher rate of returns and saving rates that bring them to the top.

“On average, the wealthiest start their lives substantially richer than other households in the same cohort, own mostly private equity in their portfolios, earn higher returns, derive most of their income from dividends and capital gains, and save at higher rates,” the paper stated.

In addition, Sergio shares data on the striking differences between the wealthiest households and those at the other end of the spectrum.

What's your approach to wealth?

ChatGPT is impressive

You can ask ChatGPT anything on your mind and teach it. You can direct ChatGPT to provide coding solutions and learn about a new programming language, share more information about yourself and existence, and ask for recipes. You'll learn that it cannot predict the future. Overall, I'm very impressed with the application and continue to think about ways to leverage the technology. I'd recommend to give ChatGPT a test drive.

What's your ChatGPT use case?

I'm still here

Last year, I listened to a Software Engineering Daily podcast episode, Mental Health with Kelsey Hightower. Kelsey shared a number of thoughtful perspectives. I recently came across the transcript and would like to share the powerful and inspirational words from Kelsey.

“... It's a reminder to myself as well, that no matter how many material things that you have, or you acquire, or all the accolades, the thing you have that a lot of people don't have anymore is that you're still here.
Look back at all the famous people that aren't here anymore. They don't have what you have, which is time. You still have time to impact people. You still have time to experience the world. You still have time to dream. You still have time to help other people with their dreams. And so what I found is making that a serious pursuit. And I found success like that in my kind of corporate career. I pride myself on being able to jump into someone else's efforts, goals and help them execute. And what I found is sometimes you don't get the credit, but sometimes you do. And sharing credit with other people is far more sustainable than doing things that get you all the credit consistently.”
What perspectives would you like to share with others?

Embrace your environment

February weather in Cleveland is cold. I'm learning to embrace the climate and attended Brite Winter. It's an amazing outdoor festival with people, food, and music. I'm learning to better appreciate these opportunities and embrace Cleveland's cold weather.

What parts of your environment do you appreciate?

We can become a product of our decisions

I read Viktor Frankl's, Man's Search for Meaning and was inspired by the following quote:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Given our circumstances, we have the power to choose our response and shape our circumstances. We have the power to create our own growth and freedom.

What's your purpose?

People are not resources

How often in business do you hear people referring to people as resources? It's simply wrong and dehumanizing. At home, how often to you hear your family members or friends use the term? “How many resources are coming with us to bowling?” Probably never. So as we look to bring our whole self to work, and create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable company, it's on us to create a humanized culture. For example, resources don't write software, people do. We grow people, not resources.

An article from The Enterprisers Project, 7 phrases leaders should stop saying in 2020, provides a great quote from Mike Walker.

“Let’s stop referring to human beings as ‘resources.’ You hear it all the time: ‘We need more (human) resources.’ People are not the same thing as resources like gold, oil, or natural gas. We can’t just mine people. We’re talking about human beings with feelings, emotions, and connections with others. We need to avoid that term because it moves away from the human aspect into the commoditization of people. Instead, let’s simply call human beings what they are: People.”
What makes you human?

I'm fortunate for my life and well-being

As I reflect, I'm grateful for my life and a number of rich experiences. Those experiences have crafted my thoughts and motivation. I've learned not to take life for granted, as it's only a matter of when, not if. Life is short. One of my favorite motivational quotes comes from Gary Vaynerchuk.
“400 trillion to one. You’re more likely to win the Mega Millions nine times in your life than you are to even have a life. I like data. That’s data. We’ve got one life. Do something about it.”
What are you grateful for?

The importance of centering

To be the best version of myself and serve others, I routinely exercise everyday in the morning. Following the routine provides me with energy and sustainability. I started implementing a consistent exercise routine in 2021. I would often let work impact my time, however, I've found a solid rhythm. I follow up my workouts with smoothies and learning. Exercise has a number of benefits that improve your mind and body.
What is your approach to centering?

I don't miss Twitter

Back in December, I decided to deactivate my Twitter account. Elon Musk's actions and treatment of people did not align with my core values. For the past decade, I used Twitter as a tool to aggregate specific content. I enjoyed socializing with people and making connections. In taking some to reflect, I don't miss the platform and I'm happy with my decision. I've learned to live without it.
What have you learned to live without?

The Cincinnati Bengals are underrated

I've learned that the Bengals are a really good team. They feature a balanced passing attack, solid running game, and a determined defense. Joe Burrow is steady and confident. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and is an extremely motivated human being. I'm excited to watch the Bengals play against favored Kansas City tonight in the AFC Championship.
What's your pick?

Hereditary is a top 10 scary movie

Hereditary is considered one of the scariest horror movies ever according to Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, it's ranked 2 behind The Exorcist. I finally watched Hereditary and agree with the ranking behind The Exorcist. I'm still debating on whether it should be ranked 2 overall. Toni Collette's performance is Oscar worthy. However, during the movie's climax, her flying/floating scenes reminded me of Casper the friendly ghost. It diminished the horror.
What's your favorite scary movie?

Stop looking for the perfect job

I listened to The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos episode, Stop Looking for the Perfect Job – a “Good Enough Job” is Just Fine. Dr. Santos interviewed Simone Stolzoff, author of The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work. Their discussion on workism was enlightening. “When you have a work centric existence, you can neglect other aspects of who you are. Too many of us bring the best of ourselves to work and then bring the leftovers home. A job is not something that is always in your control. This is something that we have vey much seen recently with the pandemic and furloughs and people loosing their jobs for one reason or another. If your job is your soul source of community, is your soul source of identity, and you loose that job, it can really send you for an existential loop.”
Do you feel like leftovers?

Secrets of longevity with Chris Hemsworth

I enjoyed the National Geographic series, Limitless. Scientists send Chris Hemsworth on intense missions to redefine aging. I learned that exposure to extreme temperatures and four day fasting can improve your longevity. I now end my showers with 30 seconds running cold water.
What measures impact your longevity?

How to ask for something

I subscribe to Jason Feifer's Build for Tomorrow newsletter and his article, Want Something? Here's How to Ask!, captured my attention. Jason shares an email from Sonal Bahl requesting him to be a guest on her podcast. Sonal got Jason to yes. She communicated investment, she invested time researching Jason's work. She provided clarity of purpose, she explained who she is and what the show is along with the value. Lastly, Sonal built trust by sharing relevant details that made Jason think, “My time with this person will be well spent.”
How do you get someone to yes?

Lead from the heart

I completed Mark C Crowley's revised book, Lead from the Heart. The book is a modern day masterpiece. Mark provides a playbook for leaders and eloquently signifies heart-led qualities essential to recognizing and growing people. My favorite question to ask yourself, “How much more affective and fulfilled can I make employees by gaining a better understanding of the entire person, the human being.”
What have you learned about heart and leadership?