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10th Annual Ann Arbor GiveCamp is just 2 weeks away!

I can’t believe it’s only 2 weeks until the 10th Ann Arbor GiveCamp!

I’ve been volunteering with GiveCamp (Lansing and Ann Arbor) since 2010, and keep coming back because it is the BEST volunteer experience ever. Sure they’re long days, some hard problems to solve, things to prioritize, usually lots of caffeine and sugar (I can’t have caffeine anymore but sugar! SO MUCH SUGAR!).

I’ve written about GiveCamp a few times before, and why it’s so important.

The past few years, I’ve lead teams which has been great but also terrifying. You’re leading a group of strangers through a complete software project in a weekend! Weeeeee!

I’m excited to be back at WCC with my pals, doing it all again in 2 weeks.

And you can join us! We are still looking for volunteers and I think 1 or 2 more days for non-profits to apply as well!

I’ll probably do a recap post when it’s all done and I’ve caught up on sleep 😀 Hope to see you there!

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Another GiveCamp done…

It’s the Monday after a GiveCamp and that means I’m tired and cranky – what’s new, right? 😛

This, however, was the first GiveCamp that I was on the board for. I participated in the conference calls, I checked in on things with WCC, (barely) assisted in the vetting of the NPOs, and put up with Mike Eaton and Jay Harris much more than any human should have to 😛

I volunteered to be on a team, as well, but didn’t expect to work much with them (which I didn’t, really). Mostly, I was a runner and all around delegatee of shit Mike and Jay didn’t want to or didn’t have time to do. I also got the crap shift Friday and Saturday nights, but it’s usually during those very early hours in the morning when interesting things happen, and I wasn’t disappointed 😛

I always tell myself I will take more pictures, and I’m not gonna cry at the closing ceremony, and I’ll drink more water and less Mt. Dew. None of those things ever happen the way I wanted. I only took 6 pics, and they are here. Nothing special, as usual. Of course I cried at the closing ceremony – it’s hard not to when you’re already a cry baby before being sleep deprived 😛 And I drank I think 2 bottles of water to the many bottles of Dew and Red Bull and coffee and espresso (thanks Jeff!).

As I noted in my last post about GiveCamp, it’s an exhausting yet rewarding experience, and they get to be kind of addictive. Not enough to want to do another one in a month (sorry Grand Rapids!) but enough to do a few per year.

Thank you so much to all of the volunteers that came out to give their all to help the NPOs. It’s always great to meet new people that are as geeky and giving as I am.

I also need to apologize again to anyone I offended with my profanity – sorry! It’s who I am, and I try to reign it in, but with sleep deprivation and too much caffeine and sugar, I’m bound to drop a few F-bombs. And talk about porn… and bondage… and Mike or Jay’s mom…

 

Of Learning And Farts and Fun: GiveCamp

Why am I a GiveCamper? First, I get to volunteer – I get to help an NPO with something that normally they wouldn’t know I could help them with, and probably don’t know many others that could help them either. Second, it’s a strange kind of awesome spending an entire weekend working on a project for someone, getting little to no sleep, and getting nothing but a few words spoken about my efforts in the end for payment.Third, you learn a helluva lot and meet some great people!

My first GiveCamp was Lansing in March 2010. Then Ann Arbor in Sept. 2010 (my NPO did an awesome blog post about the experience here), Lansing again this past March and Ann Arbor will be again this September. I was honored to be asked to be on the board for the Ann Arbor GiveCamp this year.

One question I get a lot is “I only know how to code in X” or “I don’t know how to do web stuff” etc. but “how would I be able to help?”. Yeah, we do a lot of websites, but there are often a completely custom app or two. That’s why you put your language proficiencies in your application! So we know where you’d be the best fit! Let me run down the projects I’ve worked on at the past 3 GiveCamps, so you can see the variety of skills we needed:

  • Lansing, March 2010 – DotNetNuke site
    • Going through client requirements, and weeding out what we thought could be accomplished in the weekend
    • Creating a sitemap and delineating tasks to each team member
    • Each person or mini-team decided what would work best for their part, and brought it to the team
    • Configure DotNetNuke to our specs
    • Some custom code (just a tiny little widget)
    • Data/content entry
    • Testing the completed site, and making tweaks
    • Demo the site to much rejoicing!
  • Ann Arbor, September 2010 – Ruby backend database and entry system
    • Going through client requirements, and weeding out what we thought could be accomplished in the weekend (see a theme here?)
    • Planning, normalizing, and re-normalizing database structure
    • Working through some complex-as-hell database queries (with lots of help! There’s always someone that knows!)
    • Learn some Ruby (my first real-world exposure to working with Ruby)
    • Learn some Git (ditto)
    • Testing the completed project, and making tweaks
    • Demo the project to much rejoicing!
  • Lansing, March 2011 – Drupal site
    • Again with the requirements! Project planning is key!
    • Creating a sitemap and delineating tasks to each team member
    • Configure Drupal (argh!)
    • Get crop-dusted on burrito night
    • Lots and lots of content entry
    • Testing the completed site, and making tweaks
    • Demo the site to much rejoicing!
    • I did absolutely no coding on this project…

So to recap, other than potential coding (or design, depending on your role):

  • Project planning
  • Delineating tasks
  • Data or content entry
  • Working as a team
  • Learn something you didn’t know
  • Smelling peoples farts on the day they serve burritos (which is a cruel trick the organizers play!)
  • Sleep a bit
  • Get sugar-high and caffeinated
  • MUCH REJOICING!

It really is something that must be experienced. If you’re familiar with the software development process, it would be beneficial to you to jump in with people with a variety of experience and just do it.

Dave Giard put a great video on his Technology and Friends site from last year’s Ann Arbor GiveCamp – I recommend it if you want to see what it’s all about, from the inside.

Anyway, we want to help as many, if not more, of the NPOs that we helped last year. We need more volunteers to do that! Please, sign up now!

So much failure. So many lessons to learn.

As my CEO has said, it’s ok to fail as long as you learn from it. So I’m analyzing this gigantic failure to try to get as much knowledge from it as possible. I don’t want to fail this hard again…

Let me start from the beginning of this wonderful lesson. I was asked to lead a project team for Ann Arbor GiveCamp. In case you haven’t read all of my posts on GiveCamp, it’s a weekend-long event where technical volunteers come together to help non-profit organizations. Generally the volunteers give just their weekend and walk away from the event with no obligations.

I hadn’t lead a project team before, but someone had to step up so we could help more non-profits. So I stepped up.

Failure 1: I didn’t ask anyone for advice on handling a project at GiveCamp. I know plenty of folks that have run successful projects at past GiveCamps, but I figured “I’ve got this, I’ve done enough GiveCamps.”
Lesson 1: Nope, you don’t “got this”. Ask for advice, ask for lessons learned. Ask folks that have lead teams before what do they wish they had done differently.

I got my project prior to GiveCamp like most leaders, read through what the non-profit wanted, and had a phone meeting with the non-profit rep. I had a good general idea of what needed to be done.
Failure 2: I didn’t get specific enough.
Lesson 2: Get specific details. Get the Trello board set up prior to GiveCamp. Lay out all of the work that needs to be done – Every. Single. Bit of work. Lay out the must-haves and the nice-to-haves and make sure that the non-profit agrees with everything.

I met my team on the first day of GiveCamp. After the opening ceremonies (I was trying to help as an organizer at this point, getting people to the ceremony location, etc.), my team gathered. I had us all say our names, and what we do.
Failure 3: I didn’t know my team well enough. There just isn’t enough time to get to know everyone – their strengths, weaknesses, what they can and can’t do, what they will and won’t do.
Lesson 3: Try to glean as much from each person as you can. Not just what they do for a living, but all of the above – what they can/can’t/will/won’t do. Express the importance of honesty and openness on the team – if you can’t do something (or don’t want to), let us all know so that someone can. Also, understand everyone’s schedule – some folks are only there for the first night, and rather than finding that out just when they’re about to leave and they could have been doing something much more important or helpful, get everyone’s schedule out in the open at the beginning.
Underline the importance of all of the work getting done – no room for laziness. This is for the non-profit, not for your resume.

We had a trello board with a general list of things that needed doing – each card had a checklist on it of the various things that each item needed to be done to make that thing “done”.
Failure 4: Oh man the disorganization. Not everything was on the board. Not everything was in each card. Not everyone was using it properly.
Lesson 4: Definitely need a better way to track work. Getting the board up and populated before GiveCamp would have been helpful here. Rather than having checklists, have a card for *everything* that needed to be done, including testing. And make sure everyone is using it! Check in every hour to see what’s in the Done column, what’s assigned to who, make sure we’re not spinning our wheels. Hell, maybe have a team standup every hour or so.

We find out, late Saturday, that there’s a bug in the checkout page of the store on the site we’re working on.
It’s a critical bug, we can’t go live with it.
Failure 5: It took far too long to find the bug. Why?
Lesson 5: Work, and more importantly testing, wasn’t defined properly. The site was being tested but from a user that was already logged in to WordPress – but most of the end-users of this site won’t be. And that’s where the bug was.
The person who was responsible for it said they were too lazy to set up a PayPal developer account in order to test checkout and donation (or to find out if someone else had one and ask them to test it). I didn’t flip out on this person, smacking them and telling them that if they want to be lazy get the fuck out of GiveCamp, this isn’t for lazy people this is to help a fucking charity, stop being an asshole and help for fuck’s sake. I didn’t flip out on them, but I should have. It’s inexcusable, and as a leader I shouldn’t just roll my eyes and try to pick up the slack, which is what I did. Part of that is my social anxiety/not wanting conflict thing.

We keep getting the rest of the stuff done, still trying to find the cause of the bug and trying to fix it off and on.
Failure 6: We needed a plan B sooner. But we kept spinning our wheels. And subequently, myself and one of the members of the team (who volunteered to do this) kept trying, off and on, to fix it for several weeks after. It was determined that the theme was the cause of the bug, so this other person rebuilt the theme from the ground up. For several more weeks, off and on, we tried to get this new site back to the non profit’s specifications.
Lesson 6: Be more agile – if it’s not working, fucking fix it. Ask for help during the standups. I let it get drawn out for weeks and weeks and weeks. I had suggested we go live with the site without the store, while we try to fix that bug. The non-profit didn’t want to do that. The store was integral.

Finally, months later, the non-profit asks for all of the files we have. They have to pay for someone to finish it, they can’t wait for us anymore. They need the store up and running to generate revenue.
When I get this email, I’m devastated. I knew this was coming – how could it not? We couldn’t keep spinning our wheels forever. I should be relieved, that this isn’t on me anymore. But I’m not. I’m angry with myself for leading the project so poorly. For failing so hard.
I thought that writing this out, walking through all of the lessons I’ve learned in this, would help me to work through the pain of failure. To put a positive spin on it – “hey, look, I’ve gotten better through this!”

I’m not sure that it’s helped me work through the pain of failure, but at least I know what I can do better next time, and how to not fail at GiveCamp again.

2013 Year in Review

Last year I wrote up a post with my 2013 goals and resolutions. I wanted to review what I had actually done, so here we are!
Achieve a better work/life balance. This will be the most difficult of all of my goals…

  • With my new job, I think I’ve gotten this a bit more under control. It’s easy for me to work 50+ hour weeks, but I try to keep myself to 45 hours when it’s not busy time

Attend CAST, KalamazooX, IT in the D, and maybe some other conferences too

  • I attended KalamazooX on the initial list. I also went to StarWest, which wasn’t even on my radar before because it was something I couldn’t personally afford. Thanks to my new job this year, I got to go!

Submit a talk to a conference and/or user group

  • Done! 3 or 4 times, even!

Actually do above talk

  • I did the lightning talk version at the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group. I was also accepted to do the full version of the talk at QA or the Highway in February 2014 😀 I also did a series of 99 second talks on the same topic (dev vs. qa) for Software Testing Club (note – they’re horrible!)

Submit articles to QA publication

  • I was published! In the 10th issue of The Testing Planet I wrote about Leadership (actually The 10 Habits of a Highly Ineffective Leader, which pulls from my experience over the years)

Attend at least one GiveCamp; I didn’t attend any this year and I’m jonesing for it!

  • Was on the planning committee and attended the Ann Arbor GiveCamp. Huzzah!

Assist in coordination of and/or attend Detroit GiveCamp

  • I was part of this, but the whole thing got sidetracked :/

Seek out new opportunities…

  • I got a new job! At Quicken Loans! Which I LOVE!

Finally write that Android app I’ve been thinking about for a while

  • Nope, didn’t happen

Write more code in general. Ruby, Java, C, and of course my favorite, Perl.

  • A bit, in C# with Coded UI tests. And VBScript for QTP (blech)

Continue to be involved in the QA community

  • Yeah, for the most part, this is happening 😛

Hire some people that actually know WTF they’re doing

  • I left there. I hope they have good QA 😛

Actually go to the gym I have a membership for >.<

  • Yeah, I went like a few times. Still paying for it, still don’t go *shrug*

Be a better leader

  • Constant work in progress on this one

 

So 2013 has treated me pretty well in my professional career. I look forward to speaking at QA or the Highway and whatever else this year throws my way!

On to new adventures

So I’m stuck at a Starbucks using their wifi, because of a power outage at my place. So why not post on the ol’ neglected blog?

I left my previous job back in March, and just last week revealed where I’ve been working now. I didn’t say where earlier, because my previous boss has some kind of relationship with my current company. They made attempts to find out where I was going, even asking co-workers if they knew and trying to find out through Facebook etc. Now, I could give a shit less. Plus, we were named the #1 place to work in IT in ComputerWorld so I’ve got that going for me 😛

My previous company is a startup, with 20 or so employees. My new company has been around for 20+ years with 10,000 team members. The culture and feel at the new place is WAY more startup-y than the previous one. I could say a lot more about why I left the old place, but I don’t want to get totally negative in this post…

Anyway, the new job is great. It’s challenging, I work with a ton of great, smart people and I have fun at work EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even the long days get a bit of fun. Yes, I’ve only been there 2 months but I’ve already gotten myself neck-deep in projects. But that’s me. Some people want to work their 8 hours and go home. I, for some reason, want to work 9+ hours a day, plus weekends. I have come to the conclusion that I’m insane, but I’ve always been this way – that’s why I have a tattoo of a candle  burning at both ends…

The next MMTMD is being planned by some others – I can’t make it out to Lansing on a weekday unfortunately. I am, however, involved in the planning for the next Ann Arbor GiveCamp, which will be awesome. I couldn’t get involved as much last year – the first year I didn’t do any GiveCamps since my first one in 2010.

Blah blah blah I’m rambling now, and nobody cares. I need to go find something else to do until my power comes back on at home. These chairs at Starbucks aren’t comfortable…

2012 Achievements and 2013 Goals/Resolutions

With some prompting from this post on Software Testing Club about accomplishments for the year, and my own here about resolutions for 2013, I figured a blog post was in order. So here we go:

2012 Achievements/Accomplishments

  • Became more involved in the QA community (see previous post about joining STC)
  • Started blogging more, and working on articles to submit to publications
  • Improved the hiring process at work for my team, though I have a LOT of work to do on it still (if you see my twitter feed on any given weekday, you’ll know what I mean)
  • Worked on my interviewing skills ( I interviewed a LOT of people)
  • Convinced my company to be a bit more involved in the community, and got sponsorship of a local conference out of it 😀
  • Got the ball rolling on performance reviews at my company, too (reviews themselves will probably happen after a deadline in January… I hope)
  • Became an aunt (again) to a baby that decided to arrive at home on the kitchen floor! She’s got my genes for sure 😛
  • Went to an amazing conference – KalamazooX – for the first time. Only conference I got to this year 😦
  • Had a case of mono that left me working from home for 2 weeks. It was wonderful!
  • Found a good guy, and moved him and his cat into my place 😛
  • Made entirely too many tweets/FB posts about how I was “still at the office” late into the night and on weekends. Got to know the janitors in the office pretty well, though :/
  • Attended a ridiculous amount of networking events for IT, representing my company and looking for fresh blood
  • Found a few really good gluten-free beers. Really expensive, so I don’t get them often, but just knowing they exist makes me terribly happy
  • Very nearly started a new opportunity, but was called back to the current one at the last minute. I took the counteroffer, let’s just leave it at that…
  • Launched the community edition of our software, which was a huge painful effort 😛

 

2013 Goals and Resolutions

  • Achieve a better work/life balance. This will be the most difficult of all of my goals…
  • Attend CAST, KalamazooX, IT in the D, and maybe some other conferences too
  • Submit a talk to a conference and/or user group
  • Actually do above talk
  • Submit articles to QA publication
  • Attend at least one GiveCamp; I didn’t attend any this year and I’m jonesing for it!
  • Assist in coordination of and/or attend Detroit GiveCamp
  • Seek out new opportunities…
  • Finally write that Android app I’ve been thinking about for a while
  • Write more code in general. Ruby, Java, C, and of course my favorite, Perl.
  • Continue to be involved in the QA community
  • Hire some people that actually know WTF they’re doing
  • Actually go to the gym I have a membership for >.<
  • Be a better leader

 

I think that’s all for the accomplishments and goals (except for a few personal goals I’ll keep to myself :P). What about you? Have you thought about what you want to do next year?

Resume and Interview Protips

I’ve had to review a lot of resumes in the past year and a half or so, and have done a lot of phone interviews and more in-person. I’m not a recruiter, I’m not HR, I’m QA. I see the resumes of those applying for QA positions. I see a lot of WTF in those resumes and experience a lot of WTF during those interviews, so I thought I’d post a few tips.

 

Protip 1: Don’t fucking lie

I recently got a resume from a guy saying he currently works, and has for the past year+, at a company where I happen to know the owners and several of the employees. I also happen to have one of those employees on chat when I got the resume, so I ask “hey, I got a resume from a guy that says he worked at $company”. He replies “Who, $name1, $name2 or $name3?”. I reply “It’s $liarguyname”. He says “He’s a fucking liar”. A week later, and we’re doing a phone interview with this guy to try and figure out WTF is going on. His response to every question is bullshit, which isn’t surprising. So I get to the point where I ask him “Why are you lying on your resume?” and after more lying and bullshitting, he finally admits that he lied on his resume because has has NO work experience and nobody calls him back. I tell him it’s worse if you lie! I sent him some tips after that, of what to do to beef up his resume instead of lying like a rug, like don’t lie on your resume, and if you don’t have work experience, get it from other places like open source, volunteering (like GiveCamp), or even beta testing video games.

 

Protip 2: Professional Experience is REQUIRED not BY REQUEST

I got a resume that listed some skills and tools, then said “Professional experience available upon request”. WTF?! Whoever gave you the advice to do that, please find them directly and give them a proper throat punch. No. Just… no. Don’t EVER do that shit. I went to HR and said “Nope on this one”. Toss it in the bin.

 

Protip 3: If you’re applying for a position that requires “attention to detail” show that you have it

If you’re applying for a QA position, you’re expected to have an attention to detail. You can’t just say on your resume “I have an attention to detail” and we’ll believe you. Honestly, GRAMMAR CHECK YOUR FUCKING RESUME. Run-on sentences, capitalization all over the fucking place that gives me a headache trying to read it, misspellings… If you can’t give out a resume that is error-free, which is TINY compared to the software I want you to test, I can’t trust you to test my software.

 

Protip 4: Like above, saying  you are an”effective communicator” doesn’t make it true

If your resume has unfinished sentences and fucked up grammar (like above), but you purport you are an “effective communicator” or somesuch, go fuck yourself. I don’t want to talk to you on the phone even if I can’t read a sentence you wrote, which you should have taken the time to make sure made some fucking sense. Please, have someone else review your resume honestly. For my sanity…

 

Protip 5: If you set up a phone interview, remember who you’re interviewing with

No, it’s not cute if you answer and ask what company we are again, because you’ve had so many interviews. Bullshit. If you can’t keep track of an appointment as if it’s important to you, can you keep on deadline? Would you care? Probably not. Ass.

 

Protip 6: Don’t answer another call while you’re on a phone interview!

I had a guy get a call on a different phone during my phone interview with him. He asked me to hold on, picked up the other phone said hello then asked if the person could call him back later because he was on another call. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Was it a rotary phone so you couldn’t see who was calling you? If you are expecting an important call during the time we will be on the interview, let me know ahead of time. But answering a call just to tell the person you’ll call back? WTF dude?

 

Protip 7: If you have to cough, don’t do it into the phone, and at least excuse yourself

Again, had someone do just this. Coughed into the phone several times, didn’t say a thing about it. I don’t like rude motherfuckers on my team, either. Ugh.

 

Protip 8: Don’t have diarrhea of the mouth

I know, you want to talk about yourself. You need to sell yourself. I get it. But shut the fuck up sometimes! I ask for an example of some situation, you give me 6. I’m going to stop writing my notes and put “won’t stfu” instead of the rest of the 5 minutes you’re taking to answer 1 question.

 

Protip 9: Just be honest!

If you’re not familiar with a technology, OWN THAT. Don’t bullshit about it, don’t pretend you know more than you don’t. I ask on the phone about experience with certain technologies we use. One guy responded to me that he had some experience with Linux, but it was a while ago. I asked what distro, and he didn’t know. I later mentioned Ubuntu and he said “oh yeah, that’s the one I used”. Ok, whatever. Fast forward to the in-person interview. Me in the room, the other interviewer asks him about his comfort with Linux. He responds “I’m very comfortable with it”. Interviewer asks “What distro?” and he says “Oh I run Ubuntu at home”. I wanted yell “BULLSHIT” but waited until the guy left. Yeah, we want to talk to the guy that says he’s an expert in Linux, but we also want to talk to the one that says “I don’t know Linux at all, but I’d love to learn it”. We’re looking for passion and intelligence. You don’t have to know everything right off the bat, but own what you don’t know and be willing to learn it! Be honest with yourself!

 

I’m sure I’ll add more as I review more resumes and interview more candidates. Have any good ones?