Doesn’t Engineer == Problem Solver?

Consistently throughout my career I’ve ran into situations where problems happen within engineering teams. I’ve heard war stories from others at conferences regarding team issues. It continues to baffle me why engineers can solve technical problems but not human issues. The primary reasons I decided that a software engineering career for me was that I love to solve problems. I’m hoping that others joined a career of engineering for the same reason. Why then do we not treat non-technical problems the same was as any engineering problem.

Think of it this way. Let’s say you have a performance problem with your web application. The first thing we probably do is think through the potential areas the problem could exist.

Potential Causes

  1. Resource Sizes
  2. Database locking
  3. File sizes
  4. Missing caching
  5. Etc.

Then we determine a way to prove them. After that we replicate the issue and work toward a solution. Why can’t we do the same thing with team problems?

Let’s take a scenario of performance to the people side. Let’s say that our scrum team that continues to not deliver on our commitments. Wouldn’t we think through the problem the same way? Let’s look at potential causes.

Potential Causes

  1. Underestimation
  2. To much external noise
  3. Client issues
  4. Inter-team conflicts
  5. Etc.

The next step would be to determine how to prove which one of the causes it really is. Let’s think through this a little further.

1. Underestimation

For number one we could just pull back our estimates for a few sprints or automatically add buffer to our sizing strategy to create buffer till we actually meet our commitment.

2. To much external noise

For number two we could start to track the external disrupters. This could be logging how many non engineering related meetings we have.

3. Client Issues

For number three we could probably just look at our ticket system to determine how often we are getting said number of tickets which could lead to number two being the problem again.

4. Inter-team conflict

As for number 4 that one is tougher. This could be done by getting HR or outside counsel to talk to team members to find out if there seems to be issues. This is sort of the elephant in the room problem though and it depends how easy your team is willing to have open conversation in the end.

Either way the same practices we do to solve engineering problems can be applied to any other issue we run against. I still find it very hard to believe how many times I run into teams or hear stories about how someone continues to come to management or others with problems without ever applying basic troubleshooting steps to their problem. Maybe if we took ever problem on similar to our engineering tool belt we would get to resolution much faster.

To me engineering is all about solving problems and we should use the skills to solve any problem we have. It’s a game to me. I really enjoy it, which is why I got into this career.

Have you ran into engineers being unwilling to solve problems that are not technology related? How did you get past the problems?

Blog hiatus

Well…I haven’t been doing a good job of blogging recently. Life has been busy for me. I’ve been keeping up on my technology but also working on music. I’ve been getting better and better at guitar recently. I’ll probably be doing some live streams eventually as well. This week is That Conference and I’m camping for realz at my summer camp for geeks.

I’ll do some posting this week of what I learn as well as some of the side topics that happen. One of the greatest things greatest things about getting together with a bunch of other geeks is that we get to share our experiences and advice. The speakers are great but sometimes the hallway conversations are even deeper. I can’t wait to get to interact with a bunch of fellow geeks.

One topic I’m looking to bring up is managing very large project teams. The current project I’m over has 11 scrum teams and continues to grow. I think I have some new insights for folks that I would love to share.

If you are at That Conference come chat.

Drawing Journey Continued

So I’ve made my commitment to improve my drawing ability. I’ve been drawing daily since the 22nd of December actually and have seen some progress already. It really is true practice makes perfect. I’m definitely not moving as fast as I would like but that is because I’m very impatient. Either way I feel I’ve made some steps in the right direction.

I’ve created a page for all of my drawings to be displayed. Below is just one of the drawings I’ve done so far. I’m continuing to work on it as well so it will evolve. I will probably bounce around between it and other work to keep things fresh though. I have a hit list of technical skills I want to learn which include using silhouettes for character development to learning better coloring techniques.

daytwoskeleton

If you are interested in following my work check back from time to time and look at my drawings page.

The journey back to Windows

I have been back and forth between operating systems many times before. I typically look at myself as technology agnostic. I love all technology. I’ve been living in the Apple ecosystem for quite a while. I actually had purged my house of all of my Windows PCs and laptops. The only non-Apple devices I had in my house were Chrome Books for my kids and a few Roku devices.

As of late I’ve been diving back into Windows due to my passion for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. I picked up a Surface Book and even got a Microsoft HoloLens. I then needed a system to run my Oculus Rift CV1 so I ordered a barebones Zotac Magnus EN970.

zbox-en970_image3

This little machine has served me very well for most demos of Virtual Reality. There are a few things that push it beyond it’s capabilities since it only has a NVidia GTX 960 in it. So I decided it was time to build a new machine. This comes on the heels of NVidia announcing the GTX 1080. Since they are not fully available other then Founder addition I decided to do the first build with the GTX 970. I’ll pick up a GTX 1080 after people stop price gouging them.

It begins

I can’t believe how much fun it was to build a PC component by component again. It was like a nostalgic moment for me. I even brought my oldest daughter in to explain all of the components. This is an experience you do not get in the Apple World. Pretty much what you get is what you get. There is something to be said for just purchasing a machine to do a job but for someone who wants to push hardware you are stuck. Unless you purchase the extremely expensive Mac Pro that is running on outdated hardware still. It was fun when everything lit up for me and I was able to Install Windows 10.

PC Started

It will still be a bit before I stop hitting the Alt key trying to open the start menu though since muscle memory is still stuck on Apple Command key. I’ll even occasionally jump back to my MacBook 12” I have. So far I’ve been pretty impressed with the migration back. The OS actually feels a bit more modern then Apple’s OS which is aging. Hopefully there will be some big news in a week or so for Apple. If they don’t start innovating again soon I’m worried they will just be an iPhone/iPad company. I don’t even feel they are fulfilling the needs of the creative industry like they used to. My Windows machine I built blows the doors off all my Apple gear I had before as far as rendering Videos and the like.

Here is to the journey back into Microsoft land.