awaid's blog

Looking for the Next Big Thing? It’s you…

In the last 10 years, there has been an incredible transformation in society: people, now more than ever, crave the ‘Next Big Thing’, often for different reasons.  Venture Capitalists want to know what the next huge innovation is going to be, so they can seek out a Start-up, fund it, and cash-in with a 100X return on investment.  Technologists want to begin developing experience on the latest and greatest platform (or delivery mechanism) to get ahead of the curve to enhance their careers.  Consumers want to be on the cutting edge, craving the new technological hotness to retain their mechanized superiority, conspicuous consumption style.

Next Big Thing?The funny thing is that Technology is changing at such an incredible pace that it’s difficult to track it.  Consider:

3D printing, an amazing manufacturing capability, is making the production of prototypes and unique components downright affordable.

Hydrogen powered cars are on the horizon, assuming that Energy companies can deliver large profits on the safe sale of stable hydrogen bricks.

Even the evolution of current, ubiquitous smartphones allows technically challenged people to stream live TV or manage their home thermostat.

We live in an amazing age, where innovation is happening almost as quickly as we can absorb it.  At no time in human history have advancements occurred this quickly.  And yet, the single most critical thing continues to lag behind the technology curve: human beings themselves.

Now, this isn’t going to be a post about how mankind should eradicate hunger or nuclear war or poverty.  It’s not Jerry Maguire’s ‘Manifesto’.  No, this is a challenge for you, the reader, to stretch yourself in the new direction YOU want to pursue.  If you don’t have an idea for yourself, try one or more of the following:

 

  1. Be more technical – It’s funny, but I’ve never heard anyone complain “I wish I was LESS technical.”  Learn about the technical components in the solutions you currently support and how they fit together.  If you already know them, spend some time helping the BA’s and PM’s understand them.
  2. Learn your organization’s core business – Most people only live within their immediate work responsibilities.  Take a step forward and understand the direct benefits your work provides to the end user – their perspective will certainly enlighten you.  
  3. Find mentors – All of us want to improve.  Select someone you admire, and learn about them.  Investigate who they are, how they do things, and if you are able to, establish a relationship with them.  You can have mentors in your personal and professional life, as many as you like.  The key is to strive to improve yourself in the ways important to you.
  4. See the world through your child’s eyes – Start by listening to the Harry Chapin song ‘Cat's in the Cradle’.  Think about the fact that you are 100% of your child’s world the day they are born, and that they immediately start towards 100% independence every day until they move out.  It’s a sobering thought for both parents and parents-to-be, something to always remember.
  5. Do ‘It’ today – If there is something that needs your attention, try to get whatever ‘it’ is done today.  Tomorrow is promised to no one, and procrastination is a sneaky, shadowy being that can slowly take over your life.
  6. Be kinder – In today’s difficult realities, a little kindness and understanding can go a long way.  Our society’s behavior, more than ever, is shaped by snarky demagogues who make their living by ripping others.  We are better than that, and as Abraham Lincoln said almost 150 years ago, let’s strive to listen to our better angels.

Ultimately, I would prefer that you look inside yourself for inspiration and the self-improvement of your choosing.  It will mean more to you, and ultimately the rest of us, if you believe in the ‘upgrades’ you seek in yourself.  Your life is a story, and the end has not been written yet.  Keep moving forward, and don’t settle for less than your best.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

About the Author: 

Willard Woodrow, Senior Project Manager and BI Champion at Genuine Parts, has 15+ years of information technology experience in the utilities, retail, recruiting, telecom, and insurance verticals. His professional expertise includes business consulting, system implementation, project management, application operations, and client relationship management. Follow Willard on Twittter @willardwoodrow.

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PM-Agile
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“Grow Out of Introversion?”

I usually like the advice that John Rosemond, a parenting expert, gives in his columns. However I agree with Yuri, an introverted professional, who wrote to  critique a recent column in which Rosemond offered advice to a worried mother of a 4 year old twin.

She said, “My 4-year-old son is not fully engaged when he has a friend over for a play date. His twin sister makes friends easily and the difference between them is glaring. When I arrange a play date for him, he is excited but then, after the friend arrives, he gradually slips off to play by himself. Afterwards, he will tell me he really didn’t have a good time. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can help him become more social? I don’t want him to become a loner.”

Rosemond gave some advice about encouraging the boy  to socialize in small doses and wisely told the mother to relax. However his ending statement was not received well by Yuri. Here is what he said,

“….. Introversion isn’t life-threatening. Furthermore, most child-introverts are no longer introverts by the time they’re in their thirties.”

This implies, Yuri wrote, that there is something wrong with people who are naturally introverted. He told me that getting that message early on is a difficult barrier to overcome. And what evidence, he asks, does Rosemond have that introverts are no longer introverts in their 30’s! Quite the contrary. All the evidence points to at least 50% of the population being introverted.

It is interesting that society’s message to socialize and connect starts at a very early age. No wonder introverted pros have a hard time playing to their temperament in our organizations. The message in our culture is that it isn’t cool to play alone.

About the Author: 

Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., is a corporate speaker and executive coach specializing in developing introverted leaders. She is the author of the Amazon business bestseller, The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, aboutyouinc.com, and theintrovertedleaderblog.com. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her at LinkedIn.

Posted in: 
Hiring Manager
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Tis the season for neg-a-tive velo-city fa la la la la…

It’s that time of year again.  You probably have 2-3 more sprints before your production freeze starts.  Or if you’re one of the lucky ones that don’t have a production freeze, year-end looms. 

But, your Agile self-directed team has some other self-directed ideas that are weighing on their minds.  Those ideas are affectionately called:

  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas and 
  • Vacation bank (better know as “use it or lose it”).

James Garvey - Snow DaySo you are now entering the season of Negative Velocity.  As your company closes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, you will start seeing that your planned velocity will drop.

But most of our clients have planned for that by managing overall FTE’s (full time equivalents).  What is more difficult to plan for is the loss of synergy due to these vacations.  Especially when some of your senior key team members are out.

I’m offering a few strategies to help your team work through the holiday season and meet your product development goals:

1.  Get the tough items done now – normally, the product owner will prioritize what features should be built within each sprint.  As an IT leader (or potentially Scrum Master), you should work with your product owner to prioritize the really tough items prior to these outages.

2.  Simplify – analyze all of your user stories that are greater than 13 in complexity on a Fibonacci scale.  Commit to splitting at least 3 out of every 4 of those user stories into two sub-stories.  This will simplify your sprints and increase velocity (since more of the team can tackle these simplified stories).

3.  Cross train – you have 2-3 more sprints before year end.  Assess where you will have development domain expertise vacation gaps during your sprints.  Then build a cross-training map between team members so that they have development & testing responsibilities for other areas.

4.  Take your medicine  – build a reasonable plan now accounts for these outages, particularly where domain expertise is missing.  Work closely with your product owner to get the most important things done, working around your team outages.

There’s no exact science to meeting year-end sprint commitments.  Agile encourages transparency, so provide that visibility your business owners (who will also be in the season of negative velocity).  If you do that and plan for negative velocity, you can combat that with sprint plans that are success-based.  You may even find you can maintain your velocity through better planning. 

Special thanks goes out to Sunita Arora from MATRIX’s Professional Services team for their contributions to this blog.

About the Author: 

James Garvey is a Principal Consultant for MATRIX Professional Services. He has over 15 years of consulting experience working with companies like Accenture, IBM (PwC) and several software companies. He is a technology enthusiast, spending his off-hours figuring out how to make things easier to use for his clients. You can follow James on twitter @jamesgarvey or connect to him on Linkedin.

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Hiring Manager
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Unplugging - There's (not) an App for that

On my morning drive into work, I shuffle between several radio stations. News Talk, Country, Top 40, and "Family Friendly." On Monday morning, I found myself engaged in a conversation that was taking place on Atlanta's Q100.

The topic: are we too "plugged in"? Particularly, they were focusing on kids that play video games and watch movies for hours each day.

But, that evening, as I was thinking through the conversation and the amount of time that the parents and kids spend in front of their computers, TVs, videos etc., I started thinking of how social media has elevated the amount of time professionals spend "plugged in".

Twitter. 4-square. Facebook. Apps. iPhones. Droids. iPads. iPods, Kindles. Blogs. The list could go on and on.

Social Media OverloadI was sitting on the couch and took a moment to look around. The scene in my house looked like this:

My wife and I were both on our laptops.
The TV was on.
I had Twitter, Facebook, and a blog up.
Both of us had our cell phones near our lap.
One ear-bud of my iPod was in so I could hear the music I wanted to download.
And did I mention I was trying to carry on IM chats with several kids in my church youth group?

Don't get me wrong, I love social media (obviously). And the technology that our generation has at our finger tips is nothing but astounding.

But, being in a business where "building relationships" is key, it's hard to learn the boundaries. According to HR Examiner, the most influential recruiters are those "plugged in". In fact, 100% have a blog, 40% have more than one blog, 96% are on Facebook, 88% on Twitter, and on average have over seven different presences in social media (LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs etc). 

Should I even touch on how many passwords you need to remember?

So, my question to you, does our generation know how to unplug? Is there an app for that? Should one of the 3,000 text messages teens send per month say "turn off UR cell". I also believe one of the main reasons 64% of Americans watch TV online is so they can multitask.

It's hard. Trust me. I tried last night and lasted till about 9pm when I checked the weather online, then found myself bouncing off into four other sites within a matter of minutes.

My prediction for social media in 2011 - people will be seeking "balance". Learning how to leverage the powerful tools, yet not spend their energy trying to be in all conversations at all times - becoming better at targeting the right conversations.

So, now that I've written this blog, I'm going to turn-off my computer and go for a run. . . after I check Facebook one last time.

About the Author: 

Adam Waid is the Director of Marketing at Mediacurrrent, an industry-leader in helping organizations architect custom Drupal websites. Adam is also a MATRIX Alumnus, where he worked closely with the Sales and Recruiting organizations to develop differentiation strategies, create content, and drive CRM and social media initiatives with a single goal in mind - build stronger, more meaningful relationships with our clients. Leveraging new technology, the latest social media trends, and a good mix of traditional marketing, Adam grows online communities.   Follow Adam on Twitter and Read his Social Media Blog.

 

Posted in: 
Fun
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The Hardest Worker I have Ever Known.

"What does it take to be successful in the working world?".  The Junior Achievement Student from an inner-city Atlanta High School was earnest and sincere in asking this question and she deserved a serious, thoughtful answer. 

Principle #1 - Work Hard. 

Trite? Perhaps, but that’s not by my intended meaning.  What I refer to here is a process approach to learning and then applying a tremendous work ethic.  Consider it an assignment in discovery for your industry, community, company or among your colleagues.

The first steps toward this discovery occurred for me during the summer my wife and I got married – back in 1983.  I had just completed my sophomore year of college and felt a jumbled mix of carefree excitement and anxiety about the relationship adventure I was embarking upon.  The wedding was at the end of Summer, so prior to that, money had to be made in June, July and August and I got a job working on an asphalt paving crew (a decent paying job back in those days).  This was heavy duty manual labor.  As I began what I assumed would be the drudgery of this work in the midst of one of the hottest summers in Atlanta history, I recall thinking the job would be made more tolerable since I’d be working side-by-side with a fellow who has been one of my best friends since 9th grade in high school.

Donny Palmer and Kenny Cook - Western Tour - Frontier Ranch - 1979However, I didn't count on the important life lesson I learned from my good buddy. I have never, even to this day, seen anyone physically work as hard as my friend - and this was in extremely demanding physical work dealing with air-hammers and shoveling heavy, HOT asphalt (which strangely enough still has an attractive aroma to me).  We worked 10 to 12 hours a day in the middle of a humid and oppressive Deep South summer, Monday through Friday and sometimes on Saturday.

I remember being intimidated and even a bit put off by his efforts.  But by the end of the first few days I was attracted by the pure joy - yes, it was clearly intense pleasure – my friend experienced from giving his ALL to the work.  Sweating, groaning, straining and yet with focus in his eyes on the task at hand, a smile on his face and sometimes a song on his lips!  It was infectious and irresistible to me and soon I joined in with my own attempts at this kind of work effort.  It was exhausting - I had nothing left at the end of each day and simply went home, tossed my filthy work clothes in the washer, took a shower, ate some dinner, tossed the washed clothes in the dryer and then collapsed into deep, refreshing sleep in my bed - only to rise early the next morning and do it all over again. 

By the end of the summer, I was able to hang in there with my buddy and even surpass most of the seasoned crew in my work efforts and abilities.  This was transformative for me - and a very timely, valuable lesson for a newly married young man.  I knew at the end of that summer I did NOT want to do manual labor for a living!  I also knew I wanted a professional career - and work inside buildings that had air-conditioning!  I transferred that asphalt crew work ethic over into my academic studies - and what an easy job being a student was compared to that asphalt paving crew.  By the way, if you are a student, then I believe you should view your academic studies as your WORK.  I made all "A's" in school throughout my Junior and Senior years and graduated with high honors - something that was key to getting my first job out of school with IBM - an excellent company and a wonderful way to launch my professional life.

#1 Work Hard - Applying the Principle

How do you learn or discover this?  Look at "the best" in your chosen profession or the place in life that you find yourself.  Whether you are a computer Applications Developer, a stay-home Mom, a college student, an athlete or a crewmember for an asphalt paving company => Ask, “Who is the best at doing this job?”.  Determine who that person is and observe them working.  Ask them "How do you do what you do?", "What motivates you?", and "Why do you do it in certain ways?".  These questions will aid your discovery and get you going.  Once you start applying the principles you learn from “the best”, ask others for feedback and use their constructive critique to adjust your course.  Be a student of yourself (How can I work harder?, What can I do to better prepare myself physically, mentally and emotionally for giving maximum effort on my work?). 

Don't be surprised if you get feedback without asking.  Another memory I have from those many years ago on the asphalt paving crew was my buddy and I both receiving a significant raise in hourly wage from our Supervisor.  He told us both that we were “The hardest workers he'd ever had on a crew.  And you're both crazy too - because you seem to actually enjoy it!"

About the Author: 

Don Palmer is Vice President of National Accounts at MATRIX and in his 20+ years with the company has led Sales teams ranging from 2 teammates up to over 120 Account Executives, Recruiters and Sales Leaders across the country. He can be reached at Don.Palmer@MATRIXres.com.

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Hiring Manager
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