Thursday, 7 May 2015

Changing Countries Weakened My Mojo but I Just Got It Back

Changing jobs always involves adjusting to the new environment and finding your feet again.

Changing countries as well is a career culture shock of epic proportions.

I've been doing this work thing I do for a while and feel pretty comfortable with my method and my madness in achieving any goals I am set. The thing is that being in a new work culture combined with a new country has shaken my confidence in what I do and how well I do it.

A lot of this comes from working with people who have their own very successful ways of doing things that simply aren't my ways. The reality is that there are many ways to achieve the same requirement with each being completely valid.

My skill set involves becoming adept at functioning inside a new environment very quickly. This is why I'm surprised at how long it has taken me to become comfortable with who I am and what I'm doing in my current job.

The environment I work in has many rules and is constantly in a highly productive state of cognitive dissonance. It works but it does involve being brutally decisive and being right a lot.

To me, the only way to be highly decisive and be right a lot is to trust the almost two decades of skills and experience that I have under my belt.  Yes, listen to others but do what you know is right for you in that context.

The two times that I have done something I felt ill at ease with but persisted with anyway, I have come out in a situation that I do not feel went brilliantly.

It is finally starting to dawn on me that I know how to do this job with my eyes closed and as long as I second guess myself, I will not rock it like I normally do.

Although changing jobs and countries weakened my mojo, I've finally found a way to get it back.

She who hesitates is lost. Just go with your gut. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

How Public Shaming Only Made Me Stronger

I work at one of those massive companies with a name everyone knows. My Mum is proud to tell everyone I work at a big book store and I'm very happy with the job I moved to a new country to do.

In the 17th year of my career, I have seen it all. The big companies.  The technical power houses that people long to work for. The money factories where I was paid more than small countries to do what I do. Even the start ups that lost me money and some that made me comfortable. The small backwater towns that I worked in while hiding out from the real tech world. Seen. It. All.

Recently at work, I was advised by my manager to send an email to an internal group of peers. This group represent the entire fleet of people at my company that work in my role. That is not a small number. So, not just my peers but people I want to be like when I grow up.

I wrote the email and sent it off.

Yes, I could have worded it better. Although, I did get a review before I sent it. All the good that did.

Then one guy said "I think you should check with the security group before you ask that" and he meant well.

Then the assault came. The public shamers who told me what I had done was equivalent to lighting orphans on fire for entertainment and selling tickets.

Then the private shamers who emailed me with a helpful tone to tell me that I had effed up and needed to consider my actions.

I did check with that security group and all was ok.

Yes, I could have worded it better.

The whole incident made me want to crawl under my desk and never show my face again.

But for each person who kicked me, ten sent me messages of support. They said things like:

  • "there are people who will make you look bad to make themselves look good";
  • "at least you didn't take down the entire US website"; and
  • "I did that once and someone else will do something soon and they will forget you."
I have pretty thick skin. Every mistake I make is a learning experience. I'll be fine.

The thing I dislike about this kind of public shaming is that it makes onlookers afraid to try anything and restricts the amazing people they hire.

Yeah, I may never mail that mailing list again for help. I will have to deal with people saying "Oh, you're that Damana from the mailing list who got her arse kicked" and other interesting comments. It doesn't matter to me.

After a week of feeling terrible about myself, I realised I made a mistake in the way I executed my objective. Next time, I will do better.

What made me much stronger was realising that I don't need to publicly shame someone to feel better about myself. That is a good trait. A better one than pointing and sniggering.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The First Is A Lie

Lately, I've been hyper aware of the first choice in web drop down lists. Yes, yes, I need a hobby.

When unsubscribing from a bunch of mailing lists, I've found I lazily choose the first option for "Reason" when I'm asked. This goes back to me wanting a one-click subscribe but beyond that, I will also choose the first option.

If you are thinking about asking a question and not putting yourself out of business then think about what your first choice in a list is. Don't let it be your worst option, even if it is alphabetical.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Spam a Lot

If I attempt to unsubscribe from a email distribution and it is more difficult than two clicks, I will mark their email as spam. If you're implementing an unsubscribe mechanism for mass mailing then keep this in mind. Systems like gmail and other mail servers will start quarantining or marking all your mail as spam. This means that your valid subscribers may also miss your mail now.

One thing I've learnt about usability is that if I'm doing it then there are millions doing the same thing. Especially when it comes to exerting too much effort.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Oakton DVS Agile

When I complete a project delivery, I like to make sure that I list the agile practices that were used to achieve this goal.

No matter what people tell you about agile, there is no one way to do it. I have delivered and managed many agile teams over the years and even the same team across multiple projects and I have never once seen exactly the same agile practices set used twice.

Just as fingerprints are different between individuals, so are agile practice sets for teams. The variables are so vast that no two will be the same, beit the product being built, the team and parts of its sum or the baggage we all carry from job to job.

This is normal and this is why I keep track of all the combinations as I go along.

In the case of the Document Verification Service that we built for the Commonwealth Government's Attorney General's Department, the picture above shows the practices and some of the tools we used.

It is grouped in to development, management and analysis (BA and QA together) practices. Some of course, overlap.

Always keep track of what worked and what didn't. Try them in your next project but don't force them. Sometimes the best practice on one team will die brutally on another and vice versa.

Just as agile allows projects to adjust with changing requirements, agile itself changes for its team requirements.

Rigour over rigidity, always.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Resume + Character is what I want

A resume does a good job of describing specific skills. Today I had lunch with a group from my last contract and then an evening of pampering with the women I work with in my current role.

Reference checks and resumes don't tell me how awesome you are as a person or why your ex-colleagues still love being around you. How do we judge a person's character when all we have is a list of jobs?

I think it's a combination of what is on paper and what you see in an interview. Let people reveal themselves face to face. Talk to people who know them. Look for character as well as a checklist of skills.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Why Organisational Culture Comes From the Top

When you are a doer, you want people to let you do your job and to help you improve at it. You need senior people who enable you.

When you are senior or a lead, you want people to let you do your job and to help people around you. At this point, you know how to improve yourself but you need to be allowed the space to grow and move.

When you are a team, group or organisational leader, you want people to let you do your job and to enable those around you to do their jobs. You want to aid in individual and organisational growth.

If one of these points in the hierarchy doesn't want to enable others and instead focuses on themselves with little to no regard towards those around them then organisational culture changes. In my opinion, it changes for the worse.

Too many places I have worked see leaders who see their career journey and their need to climb a corporate or financial ladder as more important than the people around them. When they finally achieve the power required to drive their own careers, they declare it "every man for themselves!" and start kissing up and kicking down. Or worse, they simply neglect their teams.

I asked a recent manager in a past job if he cared about his team at all and the dysfunction that was tearing his team apart. He said to me "I don't have time to care." At that point, I reached out to my network and found myself a new job.

You shouldn't work for a manager or leader or boss who doesn't have time to care about his or her team. Nothing good comes from that.

If you look above you in an organisation and don't see anyone caring about the people who work for them then leave. If you look around you and can find no allies who will fight for your team over themselves then leave. If you don't want to enable the people you work with or aren't allowed to then leave.

I once had a manager who told me to stop enabling people because it was getting in the way of them working. He also thought bums on seats was more important than productivity which ultimately drove his subordinates to avoid his desk to take coffee and toilet breaks so he wouldn't see them. He didn't want anyone to be allowed to grow and achieve in their roles. Instead, he wanted them to clock in and clock out and show him the appropriate amount of fear inspired respect. As you can imagine, his team ended up as toxic and broken as he was.

Organisational growth comes from its leaders. So does organisational rot.

If you can respect the leaders around you then you will like your job and where you work. If you can't get near them, don't know what they represent or purely dislike their ethos then you need to go somewhere else.

Organisations can not be healed from the bottom. They are shaped and scented from the top.