Project Management

Reboot

Some days I’m glad I’m not my own boss.

Back when I was responsible for a team, I was a total pushover. Until I wasn’t. When I wasn’t, they hated me. In retrospect I know that what they hated was the inconsistency. But that’s another story.

What isn’t inconsistent is that I’m always hard on myself. I finish something a little late, and I’m sure that I’m walking on thin ice. Something goes the smallest bit haywire in one of my projects, and I’m sure I’m going to get fired. Even if it’s not within my control.

Usually this works to my advantage. It drives me to always improve. My boss appreciates that he never has to tell me what to do better. And eventually I find myself looking back and not really understanding how my professional growth happened.

Last year was incredibly abnormal for me in this respect. I was burned out, unmotivated, had lost focus on any career goal, and had turned into the type of worker that I would be happy to see fired. At least from my perspective. I have colleagues who assure me that I haven’t been a bad employee, I just haven’t lived up to my standard.

I took a lot of vacation in November and December. Perhaps that is why I feel like they were the two least productive months of my career. When I returned to work with the new year, I was apprehensive.

And then I surprised myself.

I accomplished more on January second than I expected. And again on the third.

Somehow with all the time I took off between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, I managed to shake off the horrible habits I’d picked up in 2013 and reestablish the great habits that I hold myself to.

As I have been writing this, I’ve been trying to determine why I’ve improved, and several things have come to the front of my mind.

First, I for the majority of my vacation worked my ass off. Not work work, but work nonetheless. Hubby and I hosted Christmas at our house this year. That meant cleaning house, rearranging, Christmas shopping, cooking, decorating, cooking more, and then doing even more house work. I made myself a huge list of everything that needed to be done, prioritized, set deadlines, and executed. Sound familiar? I essentially project managed my pre-Christmas to-do list (and right up through the weekend after Christmas since we continued the celebration through New Year’s Eve).

Second, even though I was working my ass off I made time to relax. This is a big deal for me. When something big has to be done I typically go all in until I get so burned out that I’m no longer productive. Hubby and I set aside a couple of days before Christmas on which we did a bit from my gigantic task list and then spent time together relaxing and having fun. Saints Row V, Minecraft, and Team Fortress 2 all got their fair share of attention, as did my Netflix queue and my crochet project (which was good, since it was a Christmas present).

Third, I delegated. There is no end to the kudos that Hubby gets for being so incredibly helpful with everything that I wanted to get done for Christmas. When Hubby asked what he could do to help, I looked at the list and gave him a task. I left my list of work that needed to be done on the coffee table, and when he wanted to help without being a distraction, he picked up the list and took the initiative.

Finally, I said no. I said no to myself (in the form of not starting a craft project for my elder niece’s Christmas present, and not making candies), and I said no to friends who wanted to get together right after Christmas (when I really needed some down time).

Leading up to my vacation I was struggling to make progress, like a computer that is bogged down by a hung process or a memory leak. My vacation was the reboot I needed to reestablish the old habits that I expect from myself at work (and at home), but hadn’t been living up to in quite a while.

Here’s to 2014 and carrying the momentum forward!

I love change, until I hate it.

I have a strange love of change in my work place. I get bored quickly doing the same type of work repeatedly. The more things change, the more my job remains interesting. This is generally good for me because my job typically has a lot of variety, it all leads to some sort of change, small (like new reports to help improve process) or large (such as new system implementations).

When going into a project, I have always been the first to admit that change can be difficult, but that I am weird and LOVE change. I think my enthusiasm usually sets others at ease, although sometimes it can also mislead others about the complexity of the undertaking.

A year ago, the company I work for was bought by another company. I spent most of the year working on the systems integration project with a team from both companies, including about a third of 2012 traveling to the new headquarters on the east coast. In November, the companies officially merged and the system changes went into effect. It meant an ERP (SAP) change for half of the organization and a CRM (SalesForce.com) change the other half of the organization, among a bunch of other changes.

Throughout the process I did the same type of work that I’ve done for the past five plus years: a mix of Business Systems Analyst (geek-to-business-translation) work and Project Management.  Unfortunately, my BSA work was all focused on the legacy systems, not the systems that we were consolidating to.

Once the go-live data issues settled down and my focus changed to the new system rather than the old, I became horribly overwhelmed.

At the risk of sounding like a corporate dweeb… I have prided myself for years on being a change agent of some sort and as part of that, hand holding others through change, and always having the answers.

Last week, I realized that I was struggling with the change. It was taking me days to get through something that would have taken just a few hours in our old system, purely because I didn’t know the database structure and didn’t know the system well enough to find the data sources without help. I didn’t want to ask for help, because I never need help. (“Never” was definitely an oversimplification.)

It was a huge blow to my ego to realize that I was struggling with the change. And then in the back of my head I heard the advice that I give everyone else: “How are they going to know that you need help if you don’t say something? You won’t learn if you don’t ask.”

I eventually got my head out of my ass and asked for help. Things are still taking me longer than they used to, but that’s part of learning a new system (another piece of advice that I often give others and ignore when it applies to myself).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m good at change when I realize that change is happening to me, but when it sneaks up on me or I am not in control in some way I can be really bad at it.

Or perhaps I’ll just blame the SAD, I’m sure that had some influence. (By the way, in case you were curious, the light therapy thing I got is working fantastically.)

In their shoes

I’ve really been enjoying work recently.

Last week I got to move from a desk in the customer service area to one in the accounting area. I decided to move because the noise in the customer service area made it very difficult for me to focus. My new desk is in an area with much less foot traffic so I also have fewer unplanned interruptions.

As a bonus, I’m sitting next to a window again, this time on the second floor so I get a nice view of the wetland across the street. Since I moved, I’ve accomplished about twice as much as usual and I’m just generally happier.

Timing couldn’t have been better either. I’m always super busy at work, but in the next few months we have more large projects planned than we did for all of 2010.

I am excited. The type of work we have planned for the next few months is what I love: system implementations and large custom development projects (by large I mean likely to take at least several weeks, I know that isn’t “large” to some). Both of these mean I get to do more analysis, requirements gathering, documentation, and project management than I have for the past couple years, and as a result mean I will be more entertained at work.

One of the implementation projects is to take a piece of software we’ve been using in some of our locations and implement it in our office in England. This software is one that I am very close to; We had another company develop it for us, but I led the team internally for requirements gathering, testing, and implementation.

Even though I know it would be a challenge for me to keep up with my user support role, continue pushing smaller projects through, and project manage this implementation, I was really looking forward to it.

But then today I learned that I may not get to play the role in this implementation that I’d hoped for. My managers are considering having a project manager that we’re working with on another project handle a large portion of the project management for this implementation as well.

They have all the right reasons, and if I were in their shoes I would do the same. Hell, six months from now I might really appreciate that someone else got the assignment.

But not now. Right now I’m just disappointed.

What comes next: anticipation and anxiety

When I went back to school, I had a grand plan: after graduating I would be qualified (by both project management experience and degree) to take the Project Management Professional test. I would study for a couple of months, take the test, and get my certification. After being certified, I’d try to get a project management job at Turbine.

I was in love with Turbine at the time, and still am, but I’ve realized that Turbine isn’t the only place I’d like to work, so I broadened my horizons. I want to work in a role where I can contribute the creation and support of video games (console, PC, mobile, you name it).

Last year I promised myself that I wouldn’t wait for the certification. It is still a goal (for this year even), but it doesn’t have to come before finding a job in the gaming industry.

So here I am, anticipating the thrill of finding a job and company that is a perfect fit for me and anxious about all of the things that a new job might mean for me.

The thought of a new job scares the hell out of me in some ways. I’ve worked for the same company for the past eleven years (That’s more than one-third of my life, yikes!), so it is comfortable; it feels like home. It would also mean a big move for my husband and I. We live in Bellingham (between Seattle and Vancouver, BC). I hope to find something in the Seattle area so that we can move between Bellingham and Seattle so Hubby doesn’t have to leave his job, but it is still a major change for us.

A new job would be exciting tons of reasons that I’ve shared before, but most importantly because if I choose well it will be a place where I can learn, grow, and be challenged. I know I’m odd, but I really like my work, when it is challenging (unfortunately, recently it hasn’t been). I could go on and on, but those are topics for other days.

I wake up every night thinking about it. Would Hubby really be comfortable moving out of state if I were to find something at Turbine or SOE? Will I be confident in interviews (the thought of interviewing terrifies me)? How do I meet people who work at the places that I want to work? What can I do to make my resume’ stand out? Should I call about the application I submitted before Christmas, or wait a while longer? So many questions and random thoughts float through my sleepy head.

It is exciting, and will be a fun adventure (even if there are a few sleepless nights).

Resolutions for Twenty Eleven

Oh yes, it is that time of year again. I might have forgotten if it had not been for Stargrace sharing some of her resolutions.

Last year I made three resolutions: To take care of myself, complete my bachelor’s degree, and work on my blog every day. I did complete my degree, but I am disappointed in how I did with the others. There were weeks when I didn’t even log in to WordPress, and months where I didn’t post anything. I may have been a little better at making “me” time while I was in school, but I was also worse at taking care of my health. I gained about twenty pounds.

I do expect and hope that it will be easier this year, since being done with school gives me so much more free time. This year I’m going to focus on the things I missed and neglected while in school.

In 2011 I plan to:

  1. Spend more time with Hubby
  2. Spend more time with family and friends
  3. Give myself more “me time” – Painting, Reading, Walking, or whatever else I want to do
  4. Study for PMP certification, but at my own pace.
  5. Take better care of myself and Hubby.
  6. Participate in the Post a Week challenge

Perhaps when I’m lacking inspiration for my at-least-weekly posts, I’ll share my progress.

Still looking for that reset button.

Today is already getting better.

Earlier today I tweeted about my day being off to a bad start. It was. I woke up feeling hung over and aching all over (even though last night I only drank water). I had one co-worker upset about a change request I’d sent them after testing an update to one of our internal systems. I’m sure I annoyed the heck out of another with a few emails for little changes on a different project (fortunately, the second co-worker didn’t complain).

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Preparing for PAX

I get to go to PAX this year! One month from now, the gamer masses will converge on Seattle for a three days of geekyness (as will music lovers for a different event, expect traffic). This will be my first PAX.

For the past week I haven’t been able to get PAX out of my head. Going to PAX is a big deal for me, both as a fangirl and as someone who wants to work in the video game industry. My inner project manager is planning what to bring and what to do, and making lists. A good plan starts with a list of things that need to happen right? (Well, after an objective, but that is already defined: PAX + Fun + Networking.) 

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Reflecting on an Opportunity

I have always thought of the dream as something that might be attainable, but I did always question how realistic I was being with myself. Even though it is something I’ve been working toward for the past several years, it wasn’t until a very real opportunity presented itself that I really believed that it may happen.

A few months ago, sometime between when I discussed blogging about the dream with my boss and when I declared that everyone needs a dream, I was approached by someone with an amazing opportunity. This friend of a friend had heard about the dream and my professional reputation (which apparently is incredibly healthy), and thought I might be a good match for a position she was hiring for.

She and I had a call to discuss the position and get to know each other better. She didn’t want to subject me to her company’s rigorous interview process if she didn’t think we could work together. I just wanted to learn more. It wasn’t exactly the job I dream about, but it was closer than I thought I could realistically attain.

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