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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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Chicago Coder Conference is Next Week! Hope to see you there

by Angela 1. June 2016 16:41

There are a lot of conferences in Chicago this summer, well I suppose technically it’s still spring but from these temps you’d never know it! Anyway, I was invited to speak at Chicago Coder Conference this year (not to be confused with the awesome CCC = Chicago Code Camp conference), and I’d never really considered it before.  With all of the other conferences I am involved in and speaking at, it just hadn’t made the cut. I recently checked out their session list and holy cow are there some great people speaking, including a few of my coworkers. There is even a full day of hands-on sessions where you can dig in deep. It’s an seriously action-lacked 3 days. A few of the bigger names you might recognize are Doc Norton, Uncle Bob Martin, and Joel Tosi.

Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the great topics being presented by some of the folks at Polaris Solutions, including yours truly:

 

Steven Contos

June 7, 2016 - Session 1 – Coding the Most Complex “Hello World” Program Ever Written and More Hyperbole

Room 600 from 10:00 AM  -  11:00 AM

Florin Ciobanu

June 6, 2016 - Session 1 – Xamarin! The Babel Fish in the Developer’s Guide to the Mobile Apps

Room 621 from 10:00 AM  -  11:00 PM

Kevin Fitzpatrick

June 6, 2016 - Session 4 – Dear Coder: The Problem is Over Here!

Room 600 from 2:30 PM  -  3:30 PM

Angela Dugan

June 7, 2016 - Lunch & Learn – Improve your Retrospectives with Agile Kaizen!

Room 621 from 12:15 PM  -  1:15 PM

June 7, 2016  - Session 4 – Deconstructing the Scaled Agile Framework

Room 404 from 2:30 PM  -  3:30 PM

 

It’s not too late to sign up, and I may still have some discount codes I can share if you want to get in on it.  If you are interested, hit me up through the contact link on my blog for more info!

And while you’re in the mood to check out AMAZING local conferences, be sure to check out ThatConference!  I wrote a blog post about it here, including a great overview and some pictures. Check it out.  Hope to see you at Chicago Coder Conference next week, and at ThatConference in August!

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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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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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It’s THAT Time Again – ThatConference Call for Speakers is Open

by Angela 3. April 2014 12:00

So if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know about ThatConference? If you’re already a raving fan, skip ahead to the next paragraph. If not, well, let me tell you a little bit about it. There are a LOT of conferences going on if you’re in the Chicago area, but don’t think of this as just another conference. ThatConference kicked off in 2012, we had a lot of enthusiasm and an impressive turnout for a year 1 conference, it was definitely a success! In our second year, things really exploded. We had a lot more speakers, so many amazing sessions to pick from, and the family participation was out of this world. My own nephew, who lives in California, said that he couldn’t see why we wouldn’t just make ThatConference a family vacation every year. He had SO much fun, and really loved the kids programming classes.

So back to my original thought. ThatConference 2014 call for speakers is LIVE, and it’s already several days in which means you have just 11 more days to submit your talk! After April 14th, we have to start sorting, categorizing, and sifting through all of the amazing options to create a schedule that lives up to the ThatConference goal of offering a wide variety of interesting and in-depth topics that spark ideas, and will appeal to the community at large. We accept talks on any technology, platform, or language. We also love seeing talks on career development, user experience, quality assurance, it doesn’t have to be purely related to code! When you submit, please be detailed, be passionate, be unique, and be sure to follow the guidelines outlined on the submission site. We do not know who submits when voting on the talks that will make it into the agenda, we truly focus on CONTENT. And a word of advice, I can’t stress enough how important the quality of the submissions are. We get many HUNDREDS of submissions and we only have space for about 1/4 of them, so talks with vague descriptions or that cover really basic and common topics that a dozen other people are also submitting are less likely to stand out.

So hurry up! You DO have something valuable and interesting to share. And don’t worry, if you’re not the type of person who likes speaking in front of large crowds, but knows you have something to share, there are lots of opportunities to network and there are plenty of open spaces sessions too. Hope to see you at ThatConference this year!

Tags:

conference | ThatConference | technology | Azure | Open Source | Quality Assurance | Software Testing | Team Foundation Server | Visual Studio | Windows 8 | Windows Phone | .NET | Application Lifecycle Management | C# | career

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So many conferences, so little time

by Angela 9. January 2014 10:17

So since it is the beginning of the year, I am re-evaluating my conference choices this year. I always assumed that after I left Microsoft I would attend LESS conferences, and do less public speaking, not more. Turns out I have more time to do fun things like that now :)  Here is what is on my radar for 2014:

ALM Forum: April 1-3, Seattle WA. This is a rebranding of the ALM Summit from year’s past.  Some great speakers lined up including Sam Gu and Ken Schwaber! I may be going to Agile 2014 instead of this one sadly, only so many conferences I can attend in one year. Reasonably pricey at about $1,400 for a conference pass with an extra fee for some of the pre and post conference workshops. But even at that price, it’s been well worth it every year I’ve gone.

QAI Quest: April 7-11 Baltimore, MD. A global quality engineered software based conference.  I’ve attended 4 of the 5 past conferences but this year I just have too many to also make it to this one. Mainly focus on Quality Assurance, and in the past year or two they have started adding a lot of agile talks as well.

Build: San Francisco CA. Sold out in record time, as usual. Glad I got to go to a PDC before I left Microsoft because this is one of the hardest tickets to get, second only to CodeMash which is going on right now!

NewCodeCamp: Northeast Wisconsin Code Camp (Formerly Fox Valley Day of .NET) March 22nd, This is an expansion of Fox Valley Day of .NET, and will encompass whatever sessions community members wish, not just Microsoft technologies. Still FREE!

CCC: Chicago Code Camp. April 26, Grays Lake IL. Always FREE! Always packed with great speakers, definitely not missing it this year.  Polaris Solutions is a Platinum Sponsor so look for our booth, and stop by and say hi while you’re there. I will be there!

ALM Chicago: May 1-2 Chicago IL. A Chicago conference run by a local consulting firm out of Wisconsin focusing on agile practices and tooling. Cost is between $249 and $499 depending on when you register. So register before the end of this month, before the price doubles. I will be there!

VSLive Chicago: May 5-8 Chicago IL. $1800 early bird. I attended one once, about 8 years ago. I remember it being pretty valuable as long as you weren’t focusing on bleeding edge stuff. Great speakers and topics, but not as wide a range as what you get at events like Build and TechEd.

TechEd NA: May 11-14, Houston TX. I’ve actually never been to a TechEd, can you believe it? I’ve always heard there was some amazing content and speakers at this one too.

Microsoft WPC: July 13-17, Washington DC. This is for Microsoft Partners, so not sure how many of you would really be interested in this one. Lots of great content and networking opportunities for sure. Also, last year I finally got to meet Mary Jo Foley in person :)

Agile 2014: July 28 – Aug 1, Orlando FL. I’ve never been to this one, but I always know when it’s happening because my twitter feed lights up with exciting chatter about all of the awesome things people are learning. Hoping to attend, and maybe present there this year. A bit pricey at $2400 but it’s 5 days long!

ThatConference: August 11-13, Wisconsin Dells WI.  I admit, I am biased, but I love this conference! Organized and run by a bunch of techies like yourself (including me!), it’s for the nerds, by the nerds. Also, inexpensive (~$400 for a full conference pass) and super family friendly.

MVP Summit: Novemberish, Redmond WA. Only for MVPs, so if you’re not an MVP and you’re a passionate Microsoft technologist this is something to work towards. I went last year, and the access to product team people, industry experts, and other MVPs was priceless. Hoping I earn another pass this year.

STLDODN: mid-Novemberish, St Louis MO. Attended last year for the first time and it was a blast! Great people, awesome sessions, pre-compilers for some deeply technical hands on learning experience. Another really inexpensive one too, coming in at about $300 for a pass, with the pre-compilers being just a little bit extra.

 

Are there any big ones that I have missed? What are you planning to attend this year?

Tags:

Agile | conference | ThatConference | Microsoft | technology | Quality Assurance | Quest | Chicago Code Camp

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