Archive | IT Software Development RSS feed for this section

Keep your Hand up to Get Ahead…

18 Jun

There are more and more women dropping out of the IT workforce, and since the 80’s peak of 1/3 women in computer science, the statistics are at an all-time low of less than 20% of students being women in computer science programs.

In 2011, an all male team of university researchers published studies and held symposiums aimed to increase female participation in the technical engineering and computer science fields.  The answers are as complex as the questions – with no ready one-size-fits-all solutions.  Is it women not supporting women?  Is it a workplace and environment that does not allow diversity?  Is it an old-boys club that excludes women?  Do women have different needs?  It is all and none of these, but without work and interest to change the future, we will be destined to repeat the past.  Change starts with me and you… and I’ve got lots of ideas (hmmm… a book?)

Here’s a link to an interesting TED presentation on the topic – what do you think?

I LOVE the concept / quote from this video: People (especially Women) need to Keep Our Hands Up to Get Ahead!

(This was in reference to a story she tells where she told an audience she would take 2 more questions.  Once the two questions were posed and answered, most people put their hands down – but not all.  She then proceeded to take a few more questions from the persistent few who had kept their hands up.  Her advice is to Keep your Hand up to gain a step ahead.  Too often, women (especially!)  quit too early (and follow directions too readily) – just because it seems like the game is over!)

Watch and comment (please!)

Here’s the URL: http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html

Have a great week!

Carol

Why do we need to “get out of Dodge” to be recognized?

24 May

I pen this posting from International Standards (ISO) meetings here in Niigata Japan (2 hours train ride outside of Tokyo) where I am part of the USA software engineering delegation to ISO standards this week.  It’s great to visit almost any Asian country where I experience the best of western and Asian culture — and I love it! The food, the scenery, the camaraderie among countries working together are all great!

Does this seem strange coming from a single-white-female visiting a country (Japan) long stereotyped as treating women as lesser than men?  Here’s what is interesting to me: when I travel abroad, and especially to Asia (whether it be Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, or India, so far), I am treated as the American expert I am (in other words on par with men) during the day, and then treated with high regard (and even called “American eye candy” at times) at the end of the workday.  No where else have I been given such direct respect for the books I’ve published, the tomes of articles I’ve written, and the volunteer and consulting hours I’ve contributed to the software and project management industry.  Certainly not in the U.S. or Canada!

I remember growing up when Bryan Adams, the popular rock entertainer was first starting out in Canada, and he had to work years to gain respect of his peers. It was only when he made it big here in the U.S. that he was accorded star status back at home!

I wonder why it is that so many great people who deserve respect and accolades for their years of effort and achievements have to go elsewhere before they gain 1/2 the same level of respect at home?

I haven’t any idea why this phenomenon exists or what drives it, but all I can say is that it sure revitalizes one’s energy, motivation, and drive for success when one is granted “royalty” status – even fleetingly – in another country.

So, if you feel frustrated or stagnated that your efforts–  in the RIGHT direction — are going unheeded (i.e., not yet gaining the financial or other success that you know you deserve), find support overseas.  From my experience, the rewards are refreshing, and even temporary recognition makes it all worthwhile.  Imagine that someone, somewhere outside of where you are, appreciates your work as valuable and adding value to your industry.  Just food for thought…

Wishing you all a prosperous and happy week.

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Copyright Carol Dekkers 2010…

Am I the only one who…

18 May

Do you ever feel like you are the only one in the world who lives by some of the things we used to think mattered?  I’m all for the freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and government NON-intervention in our life, but lately I’ve noticed a trend where I feel like I am alone on the planet with unconventional – even radical – views.

Am I the only one who...Here’s a few examples of what I mean:

Am I the only one who…

Thinks texting shortcuts dumb us down? What is it about saving two letters that makes us think that it’s worth using shortcut words even though it confuses people? I just don’t get why we’d change great to gr8, you to u, your to ur, etc. OMG!

Thinks that good spelling is just common sense professionalism? I get lots of emails with shortcut text, misspelled words and poor grammar.  With spellcheck available with most mail programs, how hard can it be to spell check your work before sending.

Thinks that cellphone calls are not for public consumption? I’d like to know when the rules changed with cellphones that make it okay to use it as a pseudo microphone where everyone has to hear your business.

Still thinks it’s okay to let someone into my lane? I witness shoulder passing (“my time is more important than to wait in traffic with everyone else”), rude speedups (“you can’t come in my lane”), and just plain rudeness on the road.

Is tired of voice response systems (the menu systems that say “thank you for calling, press 1 for …”) where you can’t reach a real person? While I find offshore help desks frustrating when they don’t speak English, at least there is a real person somewhere at the end of the endless menus.

Thinks that if the voice system takes your keyed in information multiple times, the real person shouldn’t ask for it again. I get frustrated when an automated system asks for my Social Security number and account number and locates my account, then the real person asks for the same information as if you had never entered it.

Has turned into my mother because I find that most men my age want to date younger women, and senior citizens find me “hot”? I find that if I have to repeat what I say, wipe noses, or wait for a guy to adjust his equipment – their iPhone or a hearing aid – they are either too old or too young to date.  Oops, I forgot, welcome to Florida.

Thinks that there is a such thing as news without “spin”. I am tired of the slanted reporting and lies in the popular media and the internet. Perhaps I led a sheltered childhood, but I don’t remember questioning whether ever bit of news had a Republican or a Democratic or Socialist slant to it.  I want the facts without the rhetoric, and unfortunately Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart on Comedy Central seem to come as close to it as we can get.

Thinks that you can be friends without benefits. I used to love going out with male friends who were decent.  By decent, I mean they didn’t visibly lust at the waitress, make lewd comments to me about women in our midst, and who were interested in being out and having good conversation.  I don’t know where one can find “friends” today who simply like to go out, enjoy your company, are courteous to others, and don’t try to manipulate you to bed.

Sees the value of exploring the world. I’ve given up on acquaintances whose entire weekend plans (every weekend) involve getting drunk at the local pub every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

Can’t seem to find the “social” in the social media. While I’m in technology and have attended social media workshops, I still can’t understand why strangers with nothing to sell would want to “friend me” on Facebook. If they don’t know me or anyone I know – I just don’t get it. I’m not in the numbers pursuit (also known as the ‘I have more friends than you do’ game) and I don’t understand the “relationship” building one can do with 4000+ friends you’ve never met. I prefer to meet people the old-fashioned way – in person.

Goes to networking events without dollar signs in my eyes. I go to networking events for the sheer joy of handing out a few business cards and meeting some like-minded people in my area.  It seems that networking events have evolved into either meat market pick up joints (e.g., the bar scene) or gathering spots for ravenous marketers hungry to sell you whatever they are hawking (and they don’ t care what you do for a living).

Thinks that the world is becoming less tolerant. I find that there is more expressed racism, sexism, and general intolerance today than ever before. In our ‘flattened’ world I would expect more tolerance and not less, yet I meet people daily who dislike anyone who doesn’t share their views of the world.  Is it just me or are we becoming more judgmental as a civilized society?

Yearns for a more simple time when people said thank you, opened a door, smiled when they didn’t know you, and were interested in you as more than a sale prospect (and not a Facebook friend).

As someone who prides myself as being more open and tolerant of people than when I grew up, I wonder how my views can be as isolated as I think they might be.

At this juncture in life, I question —  Am I the only one who…. thinks like I do?

Have a productive, happy week!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Women in Technology – Novelty or Mainstay?

19 Apr

I attended a unique conference on the weekend for techies (our name badges had the slogan “You might be a techie if…”) called Barcamp – and sessions were ad hoc for the most part and arranged depending on who attended. The concept of creating a conference on the fly might sound disorganized or unplanned, but it was one of the most innovative and educational days I’ve spent in a long time.

One of the reasons I attended was that I was invited by the Barcamp Sarasota lead organizer, Sara Hand, to be on a panel of Women in Technology.  It was a great discussion involving both men and women that spanned generations (all five generations now in the workplace were represented) and included multiple ethnicities.  Students from the Sarasota high school where it was held joined in to talk about their experiences in technology and seasoned veteran business owners in their 60’s (and younger) were also involved.

We talked about the challenges, opportunities, strides, and experiences that face us all today regardless of race, gender, creed or culture with the ongoing “flattening” of the technology world.

It was interesting to find the following NY Times article link in my inbox this morning on the very topic of Women in Technology — describing how a seasoned and highly qualified female technology company owner in Silicon Valley faced serious and biased discrimination when she sought financing for a start-up business.

Titled Out of the Loop in Silicon Valley – the article provides an up-to-date and somewhat disappointing report on how gender inequality still resides in technology.

What’s your opinion?  Have you seen, been a part of, or experienced such a situation?  I know that the percentage of women entering engineering and computer science is as low as its been for decades, but somehow I “assumed” that things were changing.  Do you think that women in technology are still a novelty or are we a mainstay today?

Let me know what you’ve seen!

Wishing you a successful unbiased week.

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

Expand your horizons, enrich your life

19 Mar

For years I’ve encouraged technical conference attendees (some of you might consider these to be “nerd” conferences) to read what their customers are reading – I called it reading outside the box – to gain an understanding of what is relevant in other industries. And I’ve always adhered to that as much as possible by reading Fast Company, Travel and Leisure, Time, Financial Times, etc.  It always expands my horizons through continuous learning.  I continue to find new opportunities to apply this wisdom in my life!  Rather than simply reading about other industries, I’ve started to take part by volunteering and helping out with local community events for the City of Clearwater (sporting and cultural events), local charity events, and one of my favorites: Film Festivals.

GIFFThis weekend (Mar 18-21, 2010) is the Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF) in Tampa and tonight’s opening event was a celebratory night of filmmakers, sponsors, students, fans, and industry notables. Not only was the event fun, it was a learning experience to network with non-software industry people who are passionate about their profession.  If you’re in Tampa or the vicinity this weekend, take in a film or two and join the festivities – if you’re a software professional I can tell you that it’s such fun to venture out from our regular environment.  Expand your horizons beyond the “software industry” and you’ll be surprised at how much it enriches your (work and personal) life!

Have a nice weekend!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.caroldekkers.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com

Copyright 2010 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

Too many Choices Kill the Sale

16 Mar

It’s a basic American right to choose — we want to choose french fries or mashed potatoes with our meal, our salad dressing, our clothing, our partners, our lifestyle.  To be robbed of choice is tantamount to prison – even when it comes to minor things like paper or plastic bags at our grocery checkout.  But, can there be too many choices?

choiceResearch shows that the human brain can handle only a finite number of choices at once without losing track of what was already presented – if I remember correctly from a research presentation, I think the ideal number was six or seven – and choices beyond our limit causes what I call “choice paralysis”.  One study cited on the American Psychological Association’s website states:

“Chernev reports on four studies where he finds that the bigger the assortment, the harder it is for people to choose, except under one condition: when they enter with an articulated preference. In that case, they often choose what Nobel Laureate Herb Simon, PhD, first referred to as a “satisficing” option: the first decent choice that fits their preference as opposed to exhaustively scanning all options until finding the perfect, or “maximizing” one.”

Think about your own Encounters with Choice

If you don’t believe that too much choice is paralyzing, consider what you think is the most popular flavor at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor – despite the 53 flavors of ice cream (changing daily) the favorite remains – are you ready for this: VANILLA!  We are creatures of habit and not up for that many choices when it comes to testing our palate (or our life) on new things.

Another example is Girl Scout cookies.  I always found it easy to select one or two different boxes to purchase at a grocery store exit when there were only 5 or 6 choices displayed.  Did you know that now there are actually ELEVEN different flavors of Girl Scouts cookies available including the 2010 introduction of “Thank  U Berry Munch”?  Fortunately for me, the current display outside my grocer in FL features only the five most popular choices. This is a good thing for me – and for the Girl Guides (who make money on sales) or I’d probably leave without making a purchase (actually in the case at hand I’d always purchase at least one box since Samoas are my “satisficing” favorite!)

Derek Severs posted a blog in the fall of 2009 about research outlining the Jam Experiment where shoppers given too many choices purchased 10x less jam than those presented with a smaller array of options. Here’s an excerpt:

“For 10 years, Columbia professor Sheena Iyengar has been studying choice.  For her research paper, “When Choice is Demotivating”, they ran a great test:

  • They set up a free tasting booth in a grocery store, with six different jams.  40% of the customers stopped to taste.  30% of those bought some.
  • A week later, they set up the same booth in the same store, but this time with twenty-four different jams.  60% of the customers stopped to taste.  But only 3% bought some!
  • Both groups actually tasted an average of 1.5 jams.  So the huge difference in buying can’t be blamed on the 24-jam customers being full. “

Derek’s assessment (click here to read the entire post) goes on discuss rationale for such results but the bottom line is that those with too many choices bought TEN TIMES LESS PRODUCT — buyer paralysis indeed!

ChoicesThink of times when you’ve had too many choices on a website or on a restaurant menu – nested if’s become too difficult in our already too-busy lives — and quickly we yearn for simplicity.  For example, do you want grande/venti/colossal/mega/gargantuan/enormous, with/without/soy/almond milk/skim/full-fat/half-fat/half and half/whipped/partially whipped/steamed?  My response is ‘duh’ – not only do I not know what I want, I have no idea what my friend asked me to buy… Eventually I either order two medium regular coffees to go, or nothing at all (and all I can think is “get me out of here!”)

What can we Learn from Too Many Choices?

Following the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) we know that we can capture 80% of the market with purely 20% of the options we think we need to provide.  So, save time, energy, and development time by limiting the options available to five or less, and earn more sales and bigger profits.  At the same time, you’ll save your customers stress and decision-making gymnastics as long as you provide them with a choice – just not a vast array of overwhelming features!

Wishing you a highly productive (and stress-reduced) week!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event?      Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.caroldekkers.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com

Copyright 2010 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

Can’t Focus with all the Noise? Try Kanban…

15 Mar

Too much to do, too little time! seems to be the mantra of today.  With our minds racing at 100 miles an hour and distractions coming at us from every direction (sound, sights, demands, emails, tweets, Facebook pings, instant messages, texts, phone calls, ARGH!!!) it’s amazing that we get anything done that we set out to do…

I’ve stumbled on a solution from software development that I think is equally applicable to our everyday lives and can dim the ongoing noise and clatter of living in a modern world – it’s called “Kanban” (from Japan) and it is the newest cooperative approach to agile software development (for more information see www.kanban101.com or AgileManagement.net).  For non-technical readers, one of the advantages of the Kanban approach is to “Limit the amount of work in progress” and I’ll explain in a bit how this will benefit everyone who wants to increase productivity and the quality of life!

Turn down the Noise! Most of us who are over the age of 35 can remember the days before ipods and mp3 players when teen years were challenging to find the exact volume for music that was loud enough to hear and quiet enough to stop the lamenting calls from mom and dad.  The same thing happens these days in our heads – there is so much clutter, distraction, and ongoing interruptions as we go about to complete our days that it becomes difficult to focus on any finite group of tasks – and as a result we end up spending our days like robots – shifting focus and effort every time another demand calls for immediate attention.  If we can find a way to limit distractions to those that are urgent or minimal – then we can complete more work in less time. This is the goal of Kanban – more, high quality work, completed in record time, with minimum bottlenecks and maximum focus (my paraphrasing!)  So, let’s see what we can take from Kanban and apply to everyday life…

Kanban works on the notion of having an “Input Queue” or pile of tasks that need to get done – think of this like your weekly or monthly to-do list, from which “work” is taken off the pile and started. This piece of work or task enters the “work in progress” pipeline (my visual term) and goes through what is referred to as “swim lanes” (whatever you are doing goes through steps from start to completion) before it gets to the end where it is completed and is “done”.  At this point, the work is no longer “in progress” but finished or passed on to another person or stage or simply crossed off the queue.  Once a task enters the swim lane (forward moving progress), life happens!  The task might take longer to do or be harder than you thought (and you might return it to the queue for later retrieval or adjust your schedule to accommodate this), you might need additional help, other more urgent requests may come in – there’s all sort of things that can happen before you complete the work. The neat thing about Kanban is that you only work on things that is important (i.e., there is a priority and classification step for the queue) and you Limit Work In Progress to the capacity you have!  Wow, industry principles we can use in everyday life

Kanban Principles for Everyday Living. Here’s my short list for Kanban trials in my own life this week (I’ll  report back on my own results next week):

To-do list1. There is no limit to the amount of things that can go on the queue – but you have to document what’s in the queue! (Like the old to-do list) The difference is that each item must have a description (as short as two words – sort laundry), a requestor (who asked for it, partners who will help, etc), a work type (is it a fix, a routine, something new, what’s it going to take to do it), and priority (date driven, mandatory, nice to do, etc). Over time, items in the queue can be added, dropped, changed, merged, etc.

2. Nothing is taken out of the queue to work on by accident. Unless there is capacity (you have the time, resources, extra help,  or something else has been removed from the work in progress pipeline) – nothing new is added to the work-in-progress pipeline.  This doesn’t mean that we cannot be multitasking or attending to children’s or answering the phone while working on something – it simply means that we LIMIT the amount of items we work on at once.

3. Focus on the WIP (work in progress) and don’t go back to the queue unless something urgent arises. When we have too many things presented as urgent during the day, we end up being paralyzed by choices.  There is a limit to the number of choices we humans can handle at once (think of the overwhelming menu choices at some restaurants) – and when we try to tackle to many things at once, we become ineffective at doing anything!

4. Don’t be afraid to take WIP out of the swim lane /pipeline if it doesn’t fit today. Too often we overestimate our abilities to get something done alone, or the amount of time something will take, or the resources we need to complete a task.  This is one of the beauties of Kanban – a task can be taken out of the pipeline and placed back on the queue for later completion or can be set aside until a bottleneck is removed – and there is no harm done!  We want to limit the amount we put in so that we can guarantee what comes out!  We can also “Block” a task (and not work on it) until something downstream becomes available to complete it (e.g., after someone else picks up a needed ingredient) and work on other items in the pipeline (still within our capacity) . It is a flexible but FOCUSED approach to our work.

5. If an urgent item must be done, put another WIP item aside. Similar to #3, urgent matters can interrupt and take precedence over an item in progress. The key principle here is that we consciously take (or block) the WIP to be able to handle this new item.  We are not constantly surveying the queue to see what else might be coming (diverting our energy and focus), and we are not constantly looking over our shoulders for distractions. We are focusing on and working through whatever item(s) we have the  capacity to do at the current point in time.

6. Inform everyone that there is a limited WIP size! This goes for yourself first, then friends, family, co-workers, strangers, phone callers – everyone!  It is mature and healthy to figure out our capacity and limitations for our WIP limit – and the number should be somewhere less than six, ideally a maximum of four items depending on the size and complexity of the task.  Once you inform everyone of this capacity, they will begin to understand the impact that interruptions, urgent requests, and constant demands make on the work in progress. It is simple common sense (seldom practiced in this area) to know your own capacity for work.  The saying goes – how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time… If we place a task as large as an elephant in our work in progress pipeline – there is room for NOTHING else!  So, divide the elephant into bite size pieces and place them on the queue and tackle them one bite at a time as your WIP pipeline allows.

7. (This is the maximum number of steps or choices we can ever handle at once!) Revisit the queue only periodically or when you complete work! This is a disciplined step that many of us will struggle with. Only check your email inbox (a queue) once a day or when you’ve completed other work. I’m doing that now. My WIP is this posting and I haven’t checked email or answered the phone during this writing.

That’s it!  What do you think?  Want to try Kanban on your life today and see if it makes a difference in your week?  Let me know how it works for you.

I’ll be back here next week with a Kanban board (visual chart of what I’ve used to track my WIP) and how it worked for me.

Best wishes for a productive week!

Regards,
Carol

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event?      Email Ms. Dekkers at dekkers@qualityplustech.com or carol@caroldekkers.com or visit http://www.caroldekkers.com for details.

dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.caroldekkers.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com

Read Carol Dekkers’ other blog (Musings about Software Development) at http://musingsaboutsoftwaredevelopment.wordpress.com

Copyright 2010 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

%d bloggers like this: