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Strengthening Your Team Through Vulnerability

by Angela 10. July 2014 11:56

This is actually a cross-post from my company’s blog… but likely you don’t go to that one very often and I didn’t want this post to be overlooked.

I go through phases where I devour books, usually when I am attending industry conferences where speakers are recommending books that have elicited “AHA!” moment for them. In many cases, it’s the same handful of books being quoted repeatedly. These 3 books in particular have been coming up a lot, and they inspired me to rethink how I work, and live:

1) Drive (which I am actually reading right now for a second time)

2) Five Dysfunctions of a Team

3) Getting Naked.

The first is a psychological study into what motivates people (hint:it’s NOT actually money in most cases). The last 2 are actually “business fables”, a genre that I hadn’t realized existed before now, and that I really enjoy. I am noticing a few themes common to all 3 of these books, that can have a tremendous positive impact on organizations. Yet in my experience, these themes rarely come up when management is discussing strategy for change, whether it be organization-wide or focused on a particular group. No matter how well thought out your processes and procedures are, or how “best of breed” your new expensive tooling is, one thing will always lay waste to even the best laid plans, is culture. Now, addressing corporate culture is nothing I can sum up in a single blog post, but one aspect of it in particular calls out to me as needing urgent attention. FEAR.

I am not suggesting the use of fear to control your team, quite the contrary. I am suggesting that to strengthen your team, you need to expose your fears, more specifically you need to show each other vulnerability. Does that sound a little odd to you? Are you thinking “how can I be a strong leader or teammate if I am showing fear, or appearing vulnerable to my team?” It seems a bit counterintuitive.

Many of the issues that prevent people from breaking old habits, from really making a difference, from moving forward, is guardedness. I see this not only on teams I have worked with professionally, but in myself in my daily life. I suspect many of us keep our guard up by default. We protect our calendars, our intellectual property, our reputations. But this often means we are effectively operating as a team of 1, and there is no real sense of understanding or trust between team members or between the team and its leadership. Adding to that, if there is an implied stigma (or explicit punishment) for saying “I don’t know” or “I made a mistake”, more focus and energy will be spent by people on protecting themselves, rather than on learning from their mistakes and improving.

For the team, it means admitting when they need to do some research before taking on a new project, admitting they need more time when their forecasts were off because they did not understand the full scope of a problem, or admitting when they have hit a wall and need some help to make progress. For management it means admitting your own mistakes to your own managers as well as to your team, trusting your team to do the right thing, and accepting mistakes as an opportunity for growth. If all of that seems overwhelming, start by sharing your stories with one another - a few basic facts like your least and most favorite subjects in school, your hobbies, the last movie you saw.  The simple act of sharing a few bits of personal back story with one another can really open people up, inspire a base level of trust, and even uncover common threads that bring a team closer together. It might seem trite, or overly simplistic, but you’d be surprised how differently you view your teammates when you find out they coach little league 3 nights a week where your kids play, or that someone else has also dreamed of being a concert pianist all of their life. Give it a try…

Until we all learn to be open, honest, and vulnerable with the people we work with, it will be extremely difficult to ever build up the level of trust necessary to truly improve and grow, both as individuals and as a team. And seriously, go to Amazon and pick up those 3 books right now.  It may just be the best $40 you’ve spent in a while.

Tags:

ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Collaboration | personal growth | Productivity | SDLC

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Join The Chicago ALM User Group on Wednesday July 23 to Talk About Octopus Deploy

by Angela 29. June 2014 19:11

So in case you’re wondering, yes this is a repeat of the May user group meeting where we discussed Octopus Deploy as an alternative to Release Management. It was a really great and interactive discussion, so we’re repeating it on the downtown location. We heard a lot of great tips and tricks based on a real-life and rather huge deployment of Octopus. So down to business…

Are you using automated deployment tools yet? No? Why the heck not?! Regain your sanity and confidence with consistent and reliable automated deployments using Octopus Deploy. Octopus works with your build server to deploy ASP.NET applications and Windows Services into test, staging and production environments, whether they are in the cloud or on-premises.

I hope to see you in Chicago at the Aon Center for this one. Please be sure to register soon so I can order the right amount of food and so that the security folks will let you in!

Speaker Bio: Ian is an ASP.NET MVC C# programmer with Avanade. A nocturnal programmer by nature, he’s often working on his own .NET projects in the twilight hours.  He’s often advocating Octopus Deploy. For more information on Octopus Deploy and other related ramblings, you can visit his blog at http://ianpaullin.com or twitter feed at @ianpaullin.

Location:Microsoft-Chicago 200 East Randolph, 2nd floor, Chicago IL

Agenda:6:30pm dinner 7:00pm Presentation

RSVP Now to Attend

Tags:

Application Lifecycle Management | ALM | Deployment Planning | Deployment | DevOps | SDLC | Team Foundation Server | TFS | TFS 2013 | Visual Studio 2013 | VS 2013 | Visual Studio

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June 25th: TFS 2013 and Git (Dogs and cats, living together... mass hysteria!)

by Angela 10. June 2014 18:07

So you’ve probably heard of Git. a free and open source distributed version control system that is really popular with development teams of all shapes and sizes these days. Problem is, that’s pretty much all it does, so if you need tools for managing work items, performing builds, deploying apps to environments, producing reports, then you’re going to be taping together about 10 different systems to make that happen.  TFS 2013 does all of those things, but maybe you still want DVCS too. Well, now you can have it all!

Join the Chicago ALM user group on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM to learn more.

Description: One of the most notable feature additions in Team Foundation Server 2013 is the ability to use Git for version control. Now your team has a choice between centralized version control and distributed version control since Git is now a first class citizen in the Team Foundation Server family. Join Dave Burnison at the June Chicago ALM user group meeting as Dave walks through the Git integration in Team Foundation Server. You'll see how you can use Git for source control and still provide traceability between source code commits, bug fixes, etc. We will see how TFS and Visual Studio provide an intuitive UI for many of the Git commands, but still allow you to use Git from the command line if that is how you prefer to deal with some of the more advanced commands. Will look at other TFS/Git integration points such as the integration with the TFS Build system allowing you to provide continuous integration builds for your team.

Speaker: Dave Burnison is a Senior ALM Consultant for InCycle Software which is a Microsoft ALM Gold Competency partner. He supports customers and the ALM community by providing guidance and best practices for Application Lifecycle Management. When Dave is not working, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, being involved in his church and following the NFL and NASCAR. Dave is very passionate about ALM and the Software Development Life Cycle. He has worked in the software development industry his entire career. Having worked for both startups and large companies, his strength is his view and knowledge of the overall software development lifecycle paired with technical skills which allow him to create and manage ALM systems, processes and procedures that enable software development teams to become as efficient and productive as possible.

Agenda:6:30pm dinner 7:00pm Presentation

Location: Microsoft-Chicago 200 E Randolph, 2nd Floor, Chicago

RSVP Now to Attend

Tags:

ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | git | Open Source | Team Foundation Server | TFS 2013 | TFS | Visual Studio 2013 | Visual Studio | VS 2013

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TFS 2013.3 CTP – What I’m Most Excited About: Part 1

by Angela 4. June 2014 19:57

Did you hear that there is a CTP of TFS2013.3? In case you missed Brian’s blog post, there is some really great stuff in there! I’m really jazzed about the big, BIG changes to Test Plans and Test Suites. They’re now work items! Now, in case you’re not sure why this is a big change, in the past Test Plans and Suites were not items you could customize or query, like you could Tasks, Bugs, etc.

The first step is upgrading.

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The process is very similar to every other upgrade or update you’ve applied. So pretty darn easy. Fortunately, it’s also a super fast process.

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Took under 15 minutes from start to finish for me, although admittedly I have a fairly small implementation with just 2 Team Project Collections and a handful of Team Projects on each. A *lot* is happening behind the scenes, including some major data transformations, so if you plan to take on this update when it releases it would be a GREAT idea to run the upgrade against a clone of your full production databases in a test environment. Not only to get an idea of the time it will take for your production upgrade, but to ensure you don’t encounter any unexpected issues. Particularly if you are heavy users of Test Plans, Test Suites, and Test Case work items. You can use these backup and restore instructions to create a test instance of your collection databases. And since I was updating from TFS 2013.2. there wasn’t even anything to configure once it was done for everything to work, just update and go!

Be sure to download it here and install it, but not in production eh? It’s not a go-live, but it’s worth checking out on your own instance of TFS :) I’m currently testing out all kinds of new features available to me, and will be sure to post a few follow-ups to this post detailing why this update will rock your world soon!

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A few more little nuggets of goodness in TFS 2013.2

by Angela 22. May 2014 13:59

Are you still hedging on installing update 2 for TFS 2013? OK, c’mon now, we’ve installed it for a number of clients and are running it ourselves.  It’s stable, it’s OK, just install it.  Not convinced?  Well on top of the great features I mentioned in my initial post about TFS 2013.2 RC, here are some additional features that might just push you over the edge to install the RTM version. None of the are mind-blowing, but honestly, they made a big impact on me personally.  Any less click I have to do to finish a daily task equates to a lot less annoyance in my life.  So here we go…

Team Days Off

So hopefully you’re not looking at this wondering “what the heck is THAT for?”. Because capacity planning is a must for any team, but entering time off could be a pain when you were looking at large teams with upcoming holidays. But if you look closely you might notice a new button at the bottom of the capacity planning tab called “Team Days Off”.

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Loved this for Memorial Day! Small change, but big impact for people managing teams in TFS.

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Sure maybe it’s only happening once per iteration, but what if you have weekly sprints? Even a small team of say 7 people equates to setting up days off 7 times a week as opposed to once. That’s like 30 clicks they just saved me, for just this one team! I have many teams on many projects. MATH.

Shared Parameters

OK, so this is a pretty big one. Something I hear a LOT is that parameter management can be really daunting for large teams where a lot of the same parameters get used across multiple test cases that are not leveraging common shared steps. How on earth do you keep track of them, update them consistently, and coordinate across teams to prevent duplication? Well, now you don’t have to! So in the client tools you’ll notice when working with parameters, that there is a new link to manage shared parameters on the web. Why only on the web? Because agile, and this is what you have NOW, which is better than 3 weeks ago which was NO shared parameters anywhere. My hope* is that it gets into the client in a future sprint, but right now it’s only on the web.

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So once you click the client link you’ll be redirected to the TFS web tools, where you will find it in the Test tab. Don’t see the Test tab? Well you need to be licensed for Visual Studio Premium or Test professional AND you have to be in the right Access Level.

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From here you can manage parameter sets to be reused across multiple test cases. 

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Any changes you make to these parameters effect every test case using them. HUZZAH!  It might not be entirely intuitive how to use them though. So in each test case work item, you now have the opportunity to not only use shared parameters, but to create shared parameters from existing ones. Simply open a test case work item and scroll down the the bottome where the parameter section is.  Here you’ll see both options:

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Lets create a shared parameter so we can reuse the set of usernames:

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It works much the same way that reverse engineering shared steps did. Pretty easy! And now I have another set of shared parameters I can leverage across my test cases:

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And here is the icing on top, there’s traceability, yes, traceability.  So you can even find out what test cases are using the shared parameters that you create, and vice versa.  Just switch to the properties view of the shared parameter in question.

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Did you hear that? I think it is a chorus of cherubs singing :)  If you don’t do a lot of QA like me, this may not seem earth-shattering, but trust me. This is going to save me a lot of time, and a lot of clicks. Hey, I have carpal tunnel, saving clicks is a big deal to me, and not just because I’m lazy.

So there you go, 2 more very compelling features to hopefully convince you to upgrade your TFS instance to TFS 2013.2. Stay tuned for more TFS goodness…

 

*seriously, I don’t know for sure and even if I did I wouldn’t tell you.

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What Conference? Yeah ThatConference

by Angela 15. May 2014 08:49

With so many conferences, it’s easy for one to get lost in the noise. But don’t let that happen with ThatConference. I know, “but Angela you’re on the conference committee, of course you think I should go”. It’s true, for several years now I’ve been working with the ThatConference gang to keep this thing growing and thriving, but it’s because I believe in it. We don’t get paid, we get nothing out of being on the committee other than knowing we got to help provide this awesome event to the community we are so proud to be a part of. OK, now I’m getting all sappy so let’s move on. The point is, this conference is literally organized by a bunch of us techies and geeks like you, not huge corporations or software vendors with an agenda or licenses to sell.  We strive to make the conference fun, educational, and family-friendly. So I mean it when I say this conference is FOR YOU.

Tickets went on sale today, and you may have noticed a slight uptick in prices. Yeah, things get more expensive every year, that’s life, but is STILL an incredible value at $399. That includes 3 full days of amazing sessions (125+ to choose from!) AND lots of networking opportunities AND a pig roast AND a private water park party just for ThatConference attendees AND a Bacon bar AND multiple social events AND a game night (I might be biased as I am running this one, but seriously, BOARD GAMES!!). That was a lot of ANDs for your money. And if you buy soon you can get an Early Bird discount of $25 making the conference just $374.99. You also get a discounted nightly rate at the water park resort if you’re not a local, which gets you some nice additional perks (last year we got free passes to the Ducks and Tommy Bartlett show with our room). That’s an incredibly inexpensive conference that you can combine with a great family summer vacation in the Wisconsin Dells! The topics being covered this year are incredibly diverse, I’d need a few paragraphs more just to cover them all and no one wants to read that much so check out the full conference schedule here. And don’t be afraid to ask your boss to sponsor your ticket, and maybe send a few of your coworkers too!  If they have any budget set aside for training, I can’t think of a better way to use it.  You’ll get exposed to a far wider range of topics and our food is WAY better too ;)

As you might know if you are a returning camper, we also have a great program for the families, so bring the significant others and kids if you have them. It’s a last hurrah before school at a water park and indoor amusement park. You’ll be a HERO and you still get to go geek out at a tech conference! If you purchase family tickets along with your conference ticket, family members are just $39.99 per person, or $29.99 if purchased before 5/22. That means the entire family can join us at ThatConference social events, the pig roast, game night, a craft night that I organize just for the kids, and of course an entire track devoted to family friendly geekery. And trust me when I say the family sessions will blow their minds! Last year my 10 year old nephew was introduced to programming for the first time (he even used Visual Studio for one session!), and ended up stealing my laptop so he could play around with it some more. How cool is that?!  This year we even have a couple of session being run by kid campers from last year! There’s even a session on writing Minecraft Mods. I know right? The family schedule is here, and it’s REALLY good so look it over, show it to your kids, then sign them up!

Hope to see you In August! Now go sign up, seriously right now, go do it.

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I’m Talking TFS ALM at the Chicago SharePoint Developer Group May 15th

by Angela 13. May 2014 07:51

So often people hear that I focus on TFS for ALM and think I can’t possibly help them because they’re not doing traditional .NET WinForms or WebForms development. Not true! TFS ALM is cross platform and technology agnostic.  Well, within reason, if you’re using a tool with embedded and proprietary SCM you might not be able to use TFS VC, but the rest of TFS’ capabilities certainly still apply.

This month I’m talking to the local SharePoint developer meetup group to talk about TFS for SharePoint ALM, how TFS 2013 can help them reach a higher level of agility, and where it can streamline their processes with build, test, and deployment automation.  During this meeting I’ll be doing a lap around TFS, pointing out what’s new and cool for SharePoint, and doing some demos of my favorite tools. If you’re a SharePoint developer, come join us this Thursday and learn more! I’m nice, and usually pretty entertaining :)

Learn more and sign up here: http://www.meetup.com/Chicago-SharePoint-Developers-User-Group/

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Automating your .NET deployments with Octopus Deploy

by Angela 6. May 2014 12:05

Join The Chicago ALM User Group on Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Are you using automated deployment tools yet? No? Why the heck not?!

Regain your sanity and confidence with consistent and reliable automated deployments using Octopus Deploy. Octopus works with your build server to deploy ASP.NET applications and Windows Services into test, staging and production environments, whether they are in the cloud or on-premises.

I hope to see you in Downers Grove for this one. Please be sure to register soon so I can order the right amount of food and so that the security folks will let you in!

 

Speaker Bio: Ian is an ASP.NET MVC C# programmer with Avanade. A nocturnal programmer by nature, he’s often working on his own .NET projects in the twilight hours.  He’s often advocating Octopus Deploy. For more information on Octopus Deploy and other related ramblings, you can visit his blog at http://ianpaullin.com or twitter feed at @ianpaullin.

 

Location:Microsoft-Downers Grove 3025 Highland Pkwy, Ste 300, Downers Grove

Agenda:6:30pm dinner 7:00pm Presentation

RSVP Now to Attend

Tags:

Application Lifecycle Management | ALM | Deployment | Deployment Planning | SDLC

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Central Region Developer Days Across the Central US – Coming Soon to a City Near You in May 2014

by Angela 28. April 2014 10:06

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Join us for these free, fun, no-fluff events for developers, by developers.

You'll learn from experts in a low-key, interactive way and get the knowledge you need to take your skills to the next level. Get up close and personal with the technologies you need to build innovative new applications and enjoy lots of time to talk shop with your peers. Check out the different events currently being offered near you and register today!
Seating is limited for the FREE EVENT so register today.

 
Events run from 8:30am - 5:00pm.

 
 

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Refactor Your Dev Skills at Dev Days 2014
Microsoft's Refactor Your Dev Skills at Dev Days 2014 is a conference where Microsoft shares the latest Operating System, cloud, device, development and developer tools. Much of the material is inspired from the 2014 Build Conference, with exciting announcements expected in all of the categories above. If you didn't have time to view as many build sessions as you would have liked, and didn't have time to pull together the key developments, this is the conference for you. These events are meant to distill an overview of the latest developments on Microsoft platforms and highlight some of the best new capabilities for developers.
5/9 - Chicago, IL | REGISTER NOW >>
5/14 - Southfield, MI | REGISTER NOW >>
5/16 - Austin, TX | REGISTER NOW >>
5/16 - Columbus, OH | REGISTER NOW >>
5/9 - Dallas, TX | REGISTER NOW >>
5/23 - Edina, MN | REGISTER NOW >>
5/23 - St. Louis, MO | REGISTER NOW >>

 
 

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Enterprise Developer Bootcamp
Do you have existing .NET client line of business (LOB) applications? Join Microsoft developer experts, and see how to modernize these applications and move them forward. Learn what the Microsoft devices and services strategy is and how existing applications fit in. See demos, and work through hands-on labs to learn how and why to move your LOB applications to Windows Azure, how to use third-party controls to add a modern look and feel, and how to provide your users the ability to use LOB apps on a variety of devices, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. And do all of this using Visual Studio 2013 and your existing XAML skills!
4/23 - Columbus, OH | REGISTER NOW >>
4/29 - Downers Grove, IL | REGISTER NOW >>
5/5 - Austin, TX | REGISTER NOW >>
5/6 - Dallas, TX | REGISTER NOW >>
5/6 - St. Louis, MO | REGISTER NOW >>
5/6 - Southfield, MI | REGISTER NOW >>
5/14 - Edina, MN | REGISTER NOW >>

 

Tags:

WinRT | Windows 8 | Azure | Cloud Computing | Windows Phone | .NET | VS 2013 | Visual Studio 2013 | Visual Studio | Mobile | Mobile development | Microsoft | development | XAML

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The Chicago VS ALM User Group Is Giving Away A Free Pass to VS Live Chicago

by Angela 21. April 2014 09:21

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So you may have heard that VS Live is coming to Chicago in early May. But did you know that the Chicago Visual Studio ALM user group has a discount code to save you $500 on registration? We do!  But before you sign up, check this out…

I just received one free pass to the Chicago VS Live conference, and I am giving it away to one lucky Chicago VS ALM user group member. Join us this Wednesday to be entered into the drawing!

 

Contest Rules:

  1. Contestants must be a U.S. resident
  2. Contestant must be over 18 years of age
  3. In order to enter the drawing, contestants must agree to provide their contact information (full name and email address) to 1105 Media / VSLive
  4. Prize awarded includes the “Best Value Conference Pass” (5 day conference pass including workshops) only. Hotel, transportation, and other expenses, are not included.
  5. Contestants MUST be present at the April 23rd VS ALM user group meeting to enter and claim their prize

 

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Tags:

ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | VS Live | VS 2013 | Visual Studio 2013 | TFS 2013 | TFS | Team Foundation Server | Microsoft

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