Category Archives: software acumen

The Worst PA

How to be the worst PA in the world

I walked into my interview with Mark and Ryan of Software Acumen having done all my interview preparation, researched the company, studied my CV, prepared questions for them and felt quite confident.  The interview was going well and then suddenly there it was – The Killer Question:

“What would make you the worst PA in the world for Mark?”

Well I hadn’t prepared for that one and it wasn’t just a question; I was given a pack of post it notes and a sharpie pen and told that I had 5 minutes to sit in the interview room on my own and come up with as many things as possible that would make me the “worst PA in the world”.

Was this a trick?  What was the reasoning behind this?  Surely I should be selling myself as a great PA and presenting my positive attributes, not showing my interviewers that I know how to be a bad PA.

Coming to work drunk

So off they went and left me too it.  I started writing the obvious things, coming to work drunk, ignoring all my emails,  trawling social media (although now this is a big part of my job so actually that one shouldn’t really count) etc.  The ideas kept on coming and actually I found myself filling 17 post-it notes with things that would make me a bad PA.  So that got me thinking, was that a good thing that I came up with so many in such a short space of time or a bad thing that at a job interview I came up so quickly with 17 ways that made me a bad PA.

The Anti-Problem

Well it turns out that I just got to play a game in my interview!  This was actually an innovation game called the Anti-Problem. The purpose of this generally is to help people look at a problem differently.  By turning the problem around and trying to work out how to solve its opposite, this in turn will help you look at the situation with a new approach and hopefully give you some sort of solution.

This of course gave me an insight into how my boss and the rest of Software Acumen works and a new idea and creative ways to come up with lots of excuses for being the worst PA in the world.

The New Job

So not only did I get to play a game in my interview, show that I know how to be really bad PA, I also got the job. So either Mark wants a really bad PA or he thinks I have what it takes to be a good one… I’ll let you know. Or he will…

The Worst Lightning Talk in the World

It turns out that Mark is a big fan of the anti-problem and uses it in many of the workshops that he facilitates. In fact, he gave a short talk on the technique and how he’s used it, at UX Bristol 2013. For the talk he used the format of the anti-problem to generate ideas for a great lightning talk by, you guessed it, turning that problem around to think about how to give the worst lightning talk in the world.

Mark Dalgarno – The Worst Lightning Talk in the World from Bristol Usability Group on Vimeo.

Hello from Software Acumen


Welcome to our blog! We are going to use this blog to capture information and provide resources that relate to our conferences.

What conferences? We run a bunch of awesome little conferences in Cambridge and Edinburgh (and who knows where next) in the UK. We want to run great conferences rather than big conferences that give participants and exceptional learning experience that they will want to repeat every year. But you still don’t know ‘what conferences’. We run:

  • Code Generation
  • Agile Cambridge
  • UX Cambridge
  • UX Scotland
  • FP Days
  • Cloud East

to name but a few…

So we will use this blog to upload all sorts of information from generic information pertaining to how we work, links to documents we want to make available, little thoughts, big thoughts, thoughts from other people we have invited to join the fun, how to info, where to info, all sorts of information.