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Fear, A Major Speed Bump on the Road to Quality

by Angela 3. February 2017 22:26

I warned you that I’d be blogging about the “messiness” of ALM and DevOps consulting. And this is a long one so grab a cup of coffee, tea, or cocktail of your choice (whatever I won’t judge). It’s actually based on something I wrote for the QAI Quest Magazine. If you haven’t checked out the CQAA (Chicago Quality Assurance Association) community or their upcoming QUEST conference in Chicago this April, I highly recommend it!

Anyway, here is the article:

A large part of my job as a scrum master and agile coach is focusing on quality. Quality of process, quality of teams, and quality of software. While all of these can be challenging to improve, one of the hardest to tackle is quality of the team. I’m not talking about individual’s skillsets, although that is important. I’m talking about the ability of the team to work together as a WHOLE. In my experience, teams that cannot accomplish this cannot produce a quality product. Missed requirements, sloppy handoffs, miscommunication of what is “done”, and a host of other issues arise when the team just can’t seem to come together in a truly open and collaborative environment. Causes for this failure are complex and will vary from team to team. But one that I run into time and time again is fear. Yes, fear!

I’m not a psychologist and I don’t purport to know all the answers, but I can speak from experience - both in terms of myself and what I see in others. I have seen fear manifest itself in the following situations:

· Underestimating feature delivery times to hide a lack of confidence, often leading to painful sprint reviews when committed features aren’t delivered on time, or not at all.

· Code being integrated too soon to avoid being late, resulting in bugs “leaking” into production.

· Misunderstood requirements being implemented without question, and promptly being rejected by QA or a frustrated product owner.

· Resentment when team members feel someone is not pulling their weight, when in reality that person is silently struggling.

· Failure by team members to ask for clarification because everyone else surely must “get it”.

The fear of being seen as not good enough or smart enough by our peers is real and pervasive in IT. Ironically, the end result of hiding our struggles is often working extra hours and even cutting corners to make the unrealistic deadlines that we set for ourselves. This inevitably leads to doing the very thing we are fearful of … letting people down.

Tying this back to quality:

· Imagine if the team was afraid to admit that a requirement was vague, that it would be extremely complex to develop, or almost impossible to adequately test.

· Imagine if they assumed they’d figure it out as they go and plowed ahead.

· Imagine if someone on the team rushed to complete a feature and skimped on testing to prevent blowing their estimates because of fear of retribution for being wrong.

You probably don’t have to imagine it. It’s likely happening on your team right now but no one is talking about it! So, what can you do once you’ve realized that fear is holding you or your team back? What I have learned on my own journey is that it’s not enough to recognize when I am acting from a place of fear; I also have to recognize it in others. And much like quality, it is EVERYONE’S responsibility to create a collaborative and supportive environment.

As a Scrum Master, here are some of the things that I ask myself in order to help address fear on my teams.

· Is someone new to the team, or to their role, and clearly feeling overwhelmed or struggling to fit in?

· Is someone is hesitating to speak up when they clearly have a strong opinion or idea?

· Are people afraid of being judged harshly or told their idea is “crazy” or “dumb” in a team setting?

 

Now, that’s a lot of stuff to keep an eye on. (Hey…no one ever said that being the Scrum Master was an easy job.) So, let’s say that you notice something. What do you do about it? How do you head-off fear and/or actually do something about it?

Well, if someone on the team shares a concern or asks for help, be sure to thank them for bringing it up and offer them support, or try to connect them with someone who can. If people are hesitant to speak up in a large group setting, approach them after the meeting, and discuss it in a more casual environment. If they need some encouragement or support, find a way to share their ideas with the team in a less intimidating way. Find ways to bring new team members on-board and make them feel connected quickly. Make sure no one is discouraging open and honest conversation by dominating conversations or by openly criticizing ideas or opinions, even jokingly. Joking, while good natured, can be misconstrued as criticism, and simply telling a teammate that they “just can’t take a joke” is a great way to alienate them and ensure their participation in future activities is limited. Besides, some of the biggest discoveries in history started with an original premise that was totally out there!

I’ve given talks on fear at a number of conferences, and every time people have approached me afterwards saying “I feel that way too. It’s so good to know I am not alone!” Research shows that around 70% of people struggle with these kinds of fears, and based on my experience, it is higher in IT! That means that in any given meeting you attend, MOST of the people in the room are afraid to share their thoughts for fear of negative consequences. Imagine all of the great ideas being squandered and land mines we are failing to avoid.

Hopefully you’re already thinking of ways to improve the quality of your team, and ultimately of the products you are delivering. Strive to be more vigilant, more supportive, more honest, and you will be well on your way to creating a high-quality and high-performing team!

 

If you’re attending quest, I also have a few sessions there that you may want to check out if this article spoke to you.

Getting Your Agile Team Unstuck! Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Common Agile Setbacks: http://qaiquest.org/2017/sessions/half-day-tutorial-getting-your-agile-team-unstuck-tips-and-tricks-for-avoiding-common-agile-setbacks/

Fear and (Self) Loathing in IT: A Healthy Discussion on Imposter Syndrome: http://qaiquest.org/2017/sessions/fear-and-self-loathing-in-it-a-healthy-discussion-on-imposter-syndrome/ 

And if you’re not attending Quest feel free to send me a message via this blog or on Twitter!

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IAMCP WIT Chicago event - Personal Branding Panel Discussion - March 30th

by Angela 22. March 2016 16:37

Wanted to share this event in case you are not already a member of IAMCP or IAMCP WIT!

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In today's competitive marketplace, personal branding is more important than ever. Personal branding is about creating a personal marketing campaign that helps you stand out from the crowd and advance your career. In our panel discussion, you'll receive advice that will help you to establish your credibility, show your unique value, and distinguish yourself from the competition so you can become a better leader throughout your career.

Date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Time: 4:30-6:30pm

Location: Microsoft (Aon) – 200 E Randolph St #200, Chicago, IL 60601

Register Today – Seats are Limited!

Join Us to Discover

· How to develop your unique brand and use it to succeed in your career

· The importance of staying true to yourself

· Why personal branding is essential for professional growth

· Ways to powerfully communicate your brand and build credibility

· What personal branding is and what will it do for you

· How to represent your brand in today’s digital world (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter)

Each of our panelists will share how personal branding has helped them move their careers forward so they could become the leaders that they are today!

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Tags:

Women | Women in Technology | personal growth | WIT | IAMCP

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Chicago Code Camp Call for Speakers is Open

by Angela 17. February 2016 08:52

In case you haven’t heard, Chicago Code Camp call for speakers opened last week and we need you! Not heard of Chicago Code Camp? Well, grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair because we have a great story! This is our 8th year, and once again we’ll be staying in downtown Chicago at the Illinois Institute of Technology to make sure we are centrally located and easy to get to by car, train, or subway. It is a day to learn from the community. It is a day to contribute to the community. Please join us by sponsoring, attending, speaking, or all three! We cannot be successful without you. 

The mission of Chicago Code Camp is to provide a credible resource within the IT industry. Our goal is to offer a wide range of opportunities to learn about advancements in our field, to share knowledge from our experiences, and to develop valued relationships with our peers. To that end, Chicago Code Camp is a FREE, day-long event. We are here to connect the talent and expertise within the Developer community of the Windy City, and that includes YOU. Discussions for the day have previously included development and trending topics in .net, java, open sourced frameworks, web, mobile, cloud, robotics, testing, soft skills, and more.

So what ideas, technologies, or strategies do you want to share with us? Everyone has something to contribute, whether its information on a new JavaScript framework, teaching us how to leverage Docker to strengthen our DevOps practices, sharing experiences adopting scrum, or how to handle ourselves better in job interviews. We are looking for a broad set of experiences across just about any topic related to being a technology professional.

Note on our selection process: In order to be fair towards all the speakers who submit for sessions for the Code Camp, the speakers are chosen via a blind voting process by the Chicago Code Camp Advisory Council (CCCAC). The advisory council is made up of various local and regional user group leaders and industry experts. The council will only see the topic title, abstract, and level of difficulty of the talk when voting for the abstract. The council does not have access to the presenter's information. The abstracts with highest votes are then placed into tracks and presenters are notified.

So take a few minutes to absorb some caffeine, think about some topics you’d be willing to share with the rest of the tech community in Chicago, then submit your ideas here: http://www.chicagocodecamp.com/Submissions/WantToShare

 

Hope to see you at Chicago Code Camp this April!  Oh, and general registration is not open yet, but stay tuned for news on that Smile

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Chicago ALM Meetup - Stopping a Slow Motion Trainwreck: A guide to project recovery with JC Grubbs

by Angela 24. September 2015 09:59

Fall is here already, if you can believe that! Leaves are turning, pumpkin spice is flowing, and soon Christmas decorations will be singing to us mercilessly from the aisles of every store.  Wait, that started happening weeks ago Smile with tongue out  I already have a long list of great speakers slated for the Chicago ALM meetup to finish up the year, and I’m really excited about out September speaker and his topic.

Next week we get to hear from someone I have known and admired for many years, JC Grubbs of DevMynd (and now DevWrx!) software. His blog posts are always timely, honest, and full of awesome little nuggets of business wisdom. I was lucky enough to be able to get into his session at ThatConference, and was taking notes like my hands were on fire. He covered a lot of situations that I had found myself in, and had some great advice that I have already been following with success. I immediately invited him to give the talk at the ALM meetup, so I hope you can join us! JC is going to be talking about the dreaded train wreck projects that we all find ourselves living through, and some things we can do to prevent them in the future.

Below are some additional details about the event:

Description: Even in healthy organizations and on functional teams, projects can fail. It could be a lack of visibility, poorly-managed process, integration missteps, or any of a hundred other things. We’re all familiar with the immediate repercussions of failing software projects: lost revenue, delayed schedules, technical debt, etc. But, there are also less understood downstream issues which hamper or prevent full organizational and cultural recovery, even after individual project issues are addressed.

However, with some careful study, it’s possible to identify and prevent many of these cascading failures. We'll examine the entire lifetime of a failing project: we’ll look at the leading indicators of danger so we can identify them sooner, we’ll discuss common root causes and mitigation strategies so we can deal with them more effectively, and we’ll propose some follow up strategies, so we can recover from organizational, technical, and cultural damage as soon as possible.

What will people learn from this presentation?

  • - Ways to detect when software projects are heading towards danger.
  • - Mitigation strategies to prevent and minimize tough situations.
  • - What to do when a project is already in disarray.
  • - What are some of the lingering organizational, technical, and cultural issues that may accompany a failure.

Speaker Bio: JC Grubbs has been designing and writing software for over 15 years. He's worked in tiny consulting shops up to large multi-national conglomerates. Today he leads the team at DevMynd, an agile software studio in Chicago working with JavaScript, Ruby, Clojure, and Node. He is passionate about delivering high quality solutions to customers and doing it with a team that loves what they do and the people they work with.

You can find him on twitter, LinkedIn, GitHub, and at the DevMynd blog. (seriously, subscribe to his blog!)

When: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Where:Microsoft-Chicago 200 E Randolph, 2nd Floor, Chicago

Agenda:6:30 Dinner and networking, 7:00pm Presentation

Be sure to register as this event has limited seating!

 

 

Home

Special thanks goes out to our October sponsor TaskTop for keeping the ALM meetup going! They have some really great tools for integrating your ALM solutions, including tools like Team Foundation Server, HP ALM, and the IBM Rational suite - so check them out.

Tags:

Application Lifecycle Management | ALM | soft skills | personal growth

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Time’s Running To Register for ThatConference and Book Your Room

by Angela 14. July 2015 15:15

Early bird discount pricing ended earlier this month, but even at the $499 rate it’s an amazing deal! We have an incredible line-up of speakers and more sessions than your brain can shake a very big stick at! I’m particularly jazzed about uncle Bob’s talk on the future of software. And don’t forget about the 3 FREE events leading up to the conference:

  • GiveCamp and The Humanitarian Toolbox - 8/8 - 8/9
  • Kids' Coding Dojo - 8/9/15
  • That CodeRetreat - 8/9/15

Haven’t bought your ticket? Or maybe got your ticket but not you’re room? What are you waiting for?

Due to awesome demand, the Kalahari room block has filled, but don’t worry, there is another option. Great Wolf Lodge, right across the street (and walkable, I’ve done it) from the Kalahari Resort, has created a block of discount rooms ($159 a night) just for our campers that they're holding open until July 19. To make a reservation, call 1-800-559-9653, or make reservations online at the website: www.greatwolf.com. Be sure to mention our room block to get the discount: "1508THAT".  Complimentary shuttle service will be available on a limited schedule during the conference to help you get back and forth.

Rooms are selling out fast, so get in on our discounted room rates while they are still available! And be sure to use my referral link when grabbing your ticket! Sunday is my birthday, so your ticket can earn me $5 to pay for a cocktail that night Smile

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/that-conference-2015-tickets-17016560992?discount=OakParkGirl_referral

Once you get your tickets, kick back, relax, and start favoriting the sessions you want to see while you’re in the Dells next month!

Tags:

personal growth | technology | development | conference | career

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It’s THAT Time Again! ThatConference Call for Speakers is Open for Just 2 Weeks

by Angela 31. March 2015 08:30

I can’t believe it is going to be our 4th year. Seriously. Craziness.

I still remember that fateful day almost 6 years ago. I was driving out to Detroit for a conference and I get a call from my buddy Clark. He’s telling me about this crazy idea to create a conference for everyone. It would have family stuff, include all kinds of technology, and it would be in a freaking water park in Wisconsin! What was not to love? And most importantly, did I want to help?? I had over a year at that point before the the kickoff of the inaugural ThatConference. It seemed like a lifetime away, and yet here we are. Every year I flop down on my bed after the last session and think GOD THAT WAS A LOT OF WORK, and then volunteer for next year because I can’t imagine NOT being involved in something this great. On to my point before I start getting all misty eyed. WHAT?

Call for speakers has just opened for ThatConference 2015. We’re going to be bigger, awesomer, geekier, and yes awesomer is a word because I said so! Smile We need great speakers. We need you. We need your KIDS to submit. I know, who knew? Last year we had an astounding number of geeklets presenting, leading open spaces, and coming up with some amazing ideas for this coming year. I am personally so stoked to see what the kids have ins store for US this year. No technology is off the table. No talk related to anything that anyone in the tech community would be interested in is off the table. Personally I plan to submit talks around not just TFS, and agile, but around fear and how many of us battle imposter syndrome. So be creative.

Next, please, check out our conference site, check out speakers and sessions from previous years, and then submit something that moves you. Here is a preview of our speaker submission “rules of the road”:

 

Tips for making your abstract epic:

  • Counselors have roughly 60 minutes to teach their fellow campers.
  • Descriptive and edgy titles are best. Bonus points for Summer Camp Geek references.
  • Make sure your abstract description contains enough detail so we know what you're going to talk about. Don’t worry if you make any mistakes we will have the opportunity to fix it later.
  • Try not to pull any switch-a-roos last minute and talk about something completely unrelated. Campers don't like that. If something changes, please work with That Conference.
  • We can't make too many promises but if there are issues with the final speaker schedule we will do our very best to accommodate you.

Do:

  • Be passionate about your chosen topic.
  • Feel free to submit more than one abstract. We have to maintain a balance across all of the tracks and their topics. It will just help us and potentially you.
  • Consider how your presentation is relevant to all technologists, but don’t feel constrained to avoiding a talk on one specific programming language, platform or technology.
  • Consider what discussions could be sparked by your presentation. That Conference is all about meeting people and discussing ideas; consider what people will talk about after your presentation.
  • Explain what benefit your presentation will bring to the audience.
  • Tell a story.
  • Show real world examples, especially your own experiences, to support your ideas. Show code samples or demonstrate product capabilities only where appropriate.
  • Make sure you can keep the documented session time limit.
  • Stay near the stage or podium after your presentation, encourage the audience to come up and discuss the presentation with you.
  • Please invite the audience to discuss your talk with you face to face rather than just at the end. Better yet, continue the conversation in our Open Spaces.
  • Respect our anti-harassment policy.

Don’t:

  • Use your presentation to specifically promote the superiority of one platform, language or technology over all others. Instead talk about pros and cons of the demonstrated subject, and invite the audience to share their own experiences related to your discussion.
  • See your presentation as a platform to market your company or product.
  • Include unnecessary animation or sound effects in your presentation that will distract from your content.

 

So seriously, don’t wait! Submit your talk, or talks, TODAY and don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of something truly awesome: https://www.thatconference.com/

Tags:

Agile | ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | personal growth | technology | development | Windows Phone | Visual Studio | ThatConference | Team Foundation Server | Scrum | SQL Server | Mobile development | Cloud Computing

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January 2015 ALM User Group with Uncle Bob

by Angela 2. January 2015 15:32

We ended 2014 on a high note by having none other than Doc Norton with us to talk about agile metrics. It was a fantastic thought and I’m sure many of you walked away with some great ideas of how to improve the way your team works together.

Well, we are also starting off 2015 with another great speaker, Uncle Bob! You may be familiar with his work on SOLID principals, or perhaps the Agile Manifesto, of which he was one of the original signers. I know right?!  So come chat with Uncle Bob about being a professional in today’s world of IT. I can imagine that this talk will be no less inspiring than last month’s talk. Here are the details for the Chicago ALM user group this month:

When: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Where: Microsoft-Downers Grove 3025 Highland Pkwy, Ste 300, Downers Grove

What: The time has come for software developers to define our profession, and to define ourselves as professionals. We must choose the disciplines, attitudes, and practices that comprise our profession, and then we must choose to live within those bounds. We must decide what standards we will keep, and we must pledge to say "No" when asked to breech those standards. In this talk Robert (Uncle Bob) Martin reviews this history that has led us to this culmination, and suggests a suite of disciplines, attitudes, and practices that follow from that history and may well become a definition of our profession.

Who: Robert "Uncle Bob" Martin is a software consultant and author. Martin has been a software professional since 1970 and an international software consultant since 1990. In 2001, he initiated the meeting of the group that created agile software development from extreme programming techniques. He is also a leading member of the software craftsmanship movement. He founded Object Mentor Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in training their clients in C++, Java, OOP, patterns, UML, agile methodologies, and extreme programming. From 1996 to 1999 he was the editor-in-chief of the C++ Report.

In 2002 he wrote Agile Software Development: Principles, Patterns, and Practices, which gives pragmatic advice on object-oriented design and development in an agile team. He has also published a number of popular books and articles on programming and software methodologies.

You can also keep up with Uncle Bob on his blog, and on Twitter.

Agenda:5:30pm dinner 6:00pm Presentation

 

As usual, please be sure to register to ensure that you are on the security list!

Tags:

ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Agile | development | personal growth | Process Methodology

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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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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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Permission to Fail

by Angela 20. March 2014 18:04

Occasionally something happens to me that I feel the need to share. OK it’s more than occasionally, if you follow me on Twitter you probably know a lot more about me than you ever wanted to. But this was particularly noteworthy. Mostly because it has reinforced something I’d always heard but never experienced myself before.  Well, I probably had but not quite in THIS way. Today, I was given permission to fail.

I’m one of those people who wants to make everyone happy, and for everyone to like me. I know, isn’t that true of everyone? But it is an especially big part of my personality, and it bleeds into my work-life in many ways, not always for the better.  I strive to focus on the “big picture” while keeping an eye on the short term goals, but I often obsess too much about all of the possible outcomes of my actions/decisions and fear something could go wrong. This is true both professionally, and personally. Seriously, I am shocked I ever settled on fixtures for the guest bathroom because “oh my goodness what if I end up hating them in 5 years and now I am locked into those towel bars FOREVER!” The bigger failure in these  types of situations, is to take the safer route, to compromise on what is really important to minimize the risk of all possible negative outcomes, and then short change yourself and/or your client. And heck, usually the worst case scenario of making a wrong choice is a little lost time, some rework, and a valuable lesson.

My point is that you can’t be so hung up on avoiding potential failures that you constantly settle for “safe” paths that may meet your immediate needs and avoid any potential issues, but that in the long term turn out to be a mediocre solution at best.  It seems so obvious in a microcosm - if you’re going to fail, “fail fast” and do better next time. Right? But often times when I’m dealing with other areas of my life, I fail to heed the advice I so often give other people every day at work. So back to my original point.

I was getting particularly anxious about an upcoming meeting. I was definitely over-thinking it, to the point where I felt almost too paralyzed to make a choice about how to handle things, for fear of failure. Somewhere deep in my brain I’d decided that if I made one bad decision, said one thing that was not absolutely perfect, that I’d let my boss down, myself down, I’d ruin everything we had worked for, and as an added bonus I’ve put a permanent blemish on the reputation of all WOMEN in IT to boot ::cue dramatic music::  I’d think I was crazy to do this to myself if so many other people that I have talked to recently didn’t struggle through the same feelings themselves.

But then it happened. I was relaying some of these fears to my boss, he listened patiently and then said to me “what’s the worst thing that can happen? We lose this deal, we learn from it, we move on, we do better next time”. I’m pretty sure I sat in stunned silence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually shocked he said it. But it was like an epiphany, and I felt a little dumb for feeling like it was an epiphany.  It’s so obvious. But sometimes I need to not only be reminded of things like this, but I need to hear it out loud from someone like my boss for them to really stick.

I think giving ourselves permission to fail can be critical to our own development, personally and professionally.  So try it sometime, and be sure to give someone else permission to fail if you see them sinking into a tar pit of possibilities rather than making an educated guess and trying it out. Your coworker, your direct report, your significant other, heck even your kids…  You won’t regret it.

Tags:

career | failure | personal growth | XKCD

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