Know YOUR Code – Not Just for Developers

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<INTRO>In this new world, we all follow certain people online, people we feel add value to us. For example, I follow the articles of Sid Clark and Bruce Kasanoff. But one person I follow is Mike Locke, a talented UI/UX Designer. He does video blogs (his chosen format for sharing) and his video Job Descriptions and Intimidation in UI/UX Design (Advice) really touched a nerve with me. The part of his message that touched me was not specifically about UI/UX Design but more about presenting our skills in job interviews. I will tell you the take-away early. It is: Play up the skills and abilities you do have while down playing the skills you do not have. </INTRO>

<STORY><SETUP>I have a very experienced colleague and friend who was laid off and was applying for a QA position. One of the requirements of this position was automated-testing skills. Now, many of us in Quality Assurance for enterprise software for some reason always think that the words “automated-testing” means coding-skills. More than that, we really think it means we must have extensive experience in programming and scripting languages such as Python, Perl, Java, C++, etc. We think it means that we must have written a piece of software or a published and app, or that we should have worked as a developer. My colleague and friend was very concerned that he did not know coding or did not have enough experience in coding to fulfill the stated requirements of the position.</SETUP>

<INTERVIEW>Well, he applied for the position anyway (so good, +1 for that). During the phone interview he was asked how much experience he had in automated-testing and what scripting languages did he know. So, my friend downplayed his coding/scripting abilities. Well, he did more than that. What he actually told them was that he had NO coding abilities or experience in QA testing. Well, he did not get the position.</INTERVIEW>

<AFTERMATH>I spoke with him afterwards and I explained that he DID, in fact, have the skills to do that job in QA for that company. For years my friend used many of the tools and frameworks that required him to understand, organize, manipulate, and work with APIs. Also, over those same extended years he had to analyze the results in the JSON and XML formats. Yes, this is not coding in the sense of a developer writing a program or app but his vast experience in working with APIs, JSON, XML, and other formats. He also has extensive experience working with the tools that use these things such as SOUP UI, JUnit, and other tools was invaluable and totally replaced the requirement for coding. We realized that in using these tools over the years he was putting a series of commands into a file and running that file in the tools. Well, that is technically a form of automated testing. He would have gotten the job if he emphasized those things versus downplaying coding.</AFTERMATH></STORY>

<POSSIBILITIES>I think we kill our chances by shooting ourselves. According to these hiring managers, here’s what we should do . When confronted with a question about a skill you do not FEEL you have: answer the question by emphasizing what skills you DO have, what you can do with them and what skills might replace the need for that missing skill, at least initially. In most case, according to these hiring managers, they will interpret that as “Wow, you have many other skills, and with that I know you can quickly learn what is needed to fulfill the job.” Or they will say, “Well many of the skills you just spoke about are what we actually need too.”</POSSIBILITIES>

<STEPS>Last, every human interaction or effort is about learning. “What’s the worst thing that can happen? We learn something!” Take the interview as a step towards learning what we need to work on. It may be our interviewing skills (as discussed above) or a skill that is truly required that we might feel we need to work on or need to learn. Mike Locke emphasizes this in his video blogs. Additionally, he comments that we should find that skill we need to work on, make some time to work on it and add it to our portfolio. Now, we have what they want when we go to the next interviews.</STEPS>

<CONCLUSION>So, I think we should take a breath and step back. Really look at your skills and you experiences. Although you might feel you do not have a certain skills, check yourself:

  • You may actually have the skill and just have not called it that over the years.
  • You may not have the skill but you might have used closely-related skills. Take the time to understand this and then be able to explain this in an interview. This means more to a hiring manager than you think.
  • You may not have the skill nor the related skills so take note. This feedback should be used to sharpen your skills by working on them immediately. Taking courses and working on a project (even a personal project, Mike Locke speaks on this in his videos series) is a great way of getting that applied knowledge and experience so that you have the confidence in the next interview to say I have that skill and can demonstrate it.

Don’t sell yourself short. In most cases, especially for job-seekers with years of workplace experience, you have the required skills to do the job effectively. You just have to sell it. Play up the skills and abilities you do have while down playing the skills you do not have.</CONCLUSION>

I hope the tags were not a distraction. I wanted to make a visual point that the code/coding thing is not the important part; it is the content in and around it that is important. 

Workflow – It is not just for engineers anymore!

Workflow

A Workflow is not a product. It is a process; it is about a process. A workflow is a sequence of processes through which something gets done. All systems have workflows. It is a clear path from beginning to end. You can have one workflow for a system or you can have several workflows in a system. You can have a string of workflows within a system or a workflow that connect systems.

The point is that workflows are all around us and we all use them consciously and unconsciously. They are designed and used in order to simplify the path to accomplishment. Creatives, such as photographers, UI/UX designers, and graphic artists, use workflows to keep all their work organized. For example, a photographer might use the following workflow after a photo-shoot:

  • upload image from camera to PC,
  • import images into an editor and edit images,
  • format images for web and for print,
  • upload edited images to cloud storage,
  • place best images into website portfolio.

That might be a workflow of a photographer. A professional chef is another great, non-tech-world example of a person who uses workflows.

As you can see, workflow makes thing we do more efficient.

In IT or Tech, engineers use workflows all the time. In the most recent years Workflow has been used to identify a specific way of doing a task. Engineers, programmers, developers, and architects love using workflows so much that they implement them into the products that we make. For example, in online streaming (OTT), Network DVRs (cDVR), or Video-on-Demand (VOD), there are several workflows:

  • There is a workflow to upload the content or videos to the online storage or cloud storage.
  • There are workflows to send and distribute those videos on Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).
  • And there are workflows to optimize quality (ABR) once the content reaches the mobile device, the tablet or the cellphone.

As a small business owner, a home-based business owner, a social-marketer, or mediapreneur, you too need and probably use workflows. Why? Because they automate your current way of doing things. As an entrepreneur, you already have processes in place to do the things you need to do and get done. Now, automate them. That is a workflow. For example, you use an organizer or notebook to write down your appointments, your to-do lists, and keep notes from meetings. Since you already have a workflow, now implement some automation to the process by having an electronic organizer on your mobile device instead of using paper.

High performance people, are the cream of the crop at using and having workflows. They use them to save time, automate the routine and mundane tasks, and simplify how they accomplish so much.

Remember, a workflow is a sequence of processes through which something gets done. Therefore, workflows are about efficiency and effectiveness. Consider what you do in your workplace and in your everyday life. Identify the workflows. Identify the processes that can be automated and improved upon to make things more efficient and effective.

How to Put Problems into Context

people-woman-coffee-meetingProblems occur every day in the workplace. My career has been spent in broadcast, satellite, cable television and telecom industries particularly on the IT side of the operations. One of my most memorable and rewarding positions was a manager of the Network Operations Center. Every day I would get a list of issues and problems from the shift-reports from the prior day. Some of the issues were what I called mistakes. I make that distinction because on the surface it looks like one of my people made a mistake and caused the problems. So, as a manager I must “deal with the problem” or deal with the person who made the mistake. Before I sat down with someone I went through a process of putting the problem into the right context.

There are four contexts that a problem can be placed into:

  1. Was the correct procedure or tool used for the action or event?
  2. Are the tools working correctly or effectively?
  3. Was the person trained to use the tools or procedures effectively?
  4. Is the problem with the person?

Notice that I did not start with the person as being the problem or root of the problem. As a rule, I never evaluate the problem by assuming the person did something wrong. Most of the time, with a competent workforce, the problem is not with the person performing actions. I usually find that the SOP or procedure was not complete, not vetted, or inappropriate for the task. Sometimes I find that the tools were not working effectively. But the most common item was that the person was not properly trained on using the tool or the procedure. The most rare case was when the person was completely incompetent. (I actually had one guy quit because he knew he was going to be fired for incompetence; he simply could not learn to do what was needed to be done for the position he was in. He actually left the company and got a new job and excelled at his new place of employment. He is now an instructor at a local college and has had a growing career prior.)

So, it appears that most of the “mistakes” in the workplace came down to training. And, after years of experience, I can now make the following statements:

  • A well trained employee is effective.
  • Effective training is probably the most important activity an employer can do and most important invest an employer can make.
  • In my youth, my uncle always said, “With the right tools and the right training you can do anything.” I truly believe that and have experienced it throughout my career.