It’s done or is it?

Working with Agile works when there is a general understanding of the tasks within the team and transparency on how progress is going on. One area that seems to cause issues is what it means to be done. When something that is not completely done the team can’t move the item forward and thus this puts the team behind on their schedule.

The Definition of Done (DOD) is something that should be established so that everyone understands what it means to be finished a task.

In the world of cooking you are assembling a dish together by having your team creating different components together. This is the same with software applications. But when you send in work that is not “done” then “it’s raw”!

raw

What can we do to improve this scenario?

  • Establish a clear checklist of tasks that must be completed to be considered done
  • Documentation, unit tests and testings should be considered in the checklist
  • Demo to someone else for feedback/pretest prior just to get another pair of eyes on the work

 

Lessons in making my UX portfolio

The one thing that you will need when applying for UX roles is a portfolio. Here are some of the things that I learnt during the process of creating a UX portfolio.

You can find my online UX portfolio at lifeofmle.github.io

Portfolio-Initial

Initial Portfolio

Final Portfolio

Final Portfolio

Not a direct translation of your resume
Coming from a development background I was very familiar with creating a resume for a developer. Usually you would want to highlight keywords or list all of the skills/programming languages you know. A portfolio is not a list of words but a highlight of your key accomplishments.

Won’t get it right the first time
I was rushed when creating my first portfolio. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I slapped together some projects that I worked on and stuck it on my blog. I just chose things that I thought would look nice or show different sides of me. However this was not good enough for a UX portfolio.

What to include
It is easy to include work that is publicly accessible. However most of the work I was involved with in the past was under NDA or not accessible by the public. I asked for permission from the company to use some of the sample screenshots. They were happy for me to use the assets as long as the branding was removed. I also didn’t have a lot of work in the mobile since my professional career focused mainly on the desktop. To fill this space, I used some of my personal time and created sample applications and created UX assets for the concepts.

Choose your best work or work with a story.

The work you show on your portfolio way not even be completed or actually ever live. To show the outside world uncompleted work was a new concept to me. This is part of a UX designer’s work, you may create something that doesn’t get funded or the product takes a different direction. What is important is thinking process of why you did something or how you solved a problem.

Know your audience
I talked to different people to see what they looked for when hiring UX designers. I was able to determine the gap between my initial design versus where it should be. I also had a chance to talk to some UX recruiters who stressed the importance of process over end product.

You are not only a visual designer. The process should be showcased not only the end product.

The final piece of work alone in a portfolio does not say much about why or how something got on to the screen. The way your showcased item should read is like a case study or a problem with clear stages.

  • Problem
  • Brainstorm/Design
  • Solution

Although you may spend a lot of time working on your portfolio and you want to write about everything in detail, in reality it will be design managers or other recruiters who will look at your portfolio. They may have a lot of candidates and may only spend seconds looking at your portfolio. Your portfolio should contain enough information for someone to understand your process but also easily consumable if they just scrolled through it quickly.

How to show a portfolio
I chose to use the web to display my portfolio. This is good because people can view your portfolio easily at their desk or on their phones (provided that your portfolio is mobile friendly). Github allows for free hosting for simple webpages. Since I already had a Github account I thought this was the best way to approach deploying and building my webpage.

I used Twitter Bootstrap as my HTML5 template and bought a theme, Shapes, which handles portfolios well.

One day I will need to create a PDF version of my portfolio to make it easier to present on a screen as a slideshow or to have as a hardcopy.

Useful Resources

Career growth is your own responsibility

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where do you see yourself professionally in 2 years?

<insert your answer here>

How are you going to get there? Have you already made moves towards this goal? Some people think that their manager or company will look out for them and put them inline for the next step. The things these people can help you with are resources and potential opportunities.

Every step you take today should be towards what you want tomorrow. Paths may change but it’s good to know that it’s not fixed in stone. These people and assets can help you but the first move and every move in between is yours. Keep opening up opportunities and be ready to jump on it when they come around.

Some recommended articles on this topic
The Smartest Leaders Make Their Own Opportunities
http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/06/the-smartest-leaders-make-thei/

Don’t Love Your Job? Teach Yourself A New One
http://www.fastcompany.com/3015726/dialed/dont-love-your-job-teach-yourself-a-new-one

What if

I was recently presented with an opportunity to change my career. This was a move I predicted in the past and was trying to build my skills to fit that area.

But I didn’t

Due to procrastination and the “busy” life, I put it aside. This opportunity passed me because I was not ready and I was a bit disappointed because this was something that I wanted to do.

What if I prepared properly? What if I didn’t go out and worked on this? What if I blogged more? What if I delivered what I had? What if I…

What if

This is a dangerous game to play because it it puts you in a negative mindset. Digging yourself out of a negative hole is harder than climbing a positive mountain. I use the word mountain here because the path to the top will not be easy, there will be boulders (obstacles) and there will be nice vantage points (milestones).
The only thing you need to focus on is to enjoy the journey up.

As for mountains, there are many of them in the world. Just like opportunities. Failing is an opportunity to learn your weaknesses. Only once you know your weakness will you be able to improve upon your weaknesses.

The question I ask now is, what if this opportunity arises again?

How will I be ready?

Extra reading
– http://sidsavara.com/personal-development/procrastination-and-excuse-buster-drop-your-if-only

Coffee Visualizations

coffee

My knowledge of coffee growing up in Canada is all from Tim Horton’s. In university I was fuelled by this type of coffee. I would get the classic “double double”, that’s two sugars and two milk. After moving to Europe and having friends from Australia I got introduced to different kinds of coffees, latte, cappucinos and macchiatos. Steamed milk vs milk froth, I was far away from the simple double double. What’s the difference between all of them?

As I was enjoying my latte (image above) at CoffeeWorks in London I thought about what makes a latte different than a standard coffee brew. Here are some menus that I came across that helped me understand the composition of the different types of coffee.

They have different colours which correlates to the intensity of flavour as illustrated in this menu at Kipferl in London.

coffeeColours

There could be different ingredients such as milk or water. Below is a coffee menu from m* cafe in Santiago de Compostela which shows the breakdown of different coffee drinks in a graphical style.
coffeeVisual-b

Watch disruption

photo (6)

I got my Pebble watch recently. I was excited for this watch for a few months. The idea of having notifications on my wrist was an exciting idea. The Kickstarter advertisements of having notifications from RunKeeper come through on my watch while running was why I wanted this watch. However this was not to be because at the time of writing this blog article, there was very little the watch could really do. The only thing it could do is tell me the time, display that I have phone calls and the ability to control my music. The lack of having a stopwatch is very surprising because that is almost a basic feature for digital watches. The great thing is that updates for the Pebble are coming soon and there are no wires required to connect to the Pebble to upgrade it is all done via the app. Having the battery die in one week was something new to get used to as watches with batteries seem to last months to years. All of these little things distract from the overall user experience but I am hopeful that the Pebble will deliver over time.

Let’s take a step back, this concept of the ability to tell time has been around for a while. First portable time devices were the pocket watch and that required people to synchronize time against the central clock at home or in the town square. This was powered by winding up the clock, no batteries yet and still very manual. The Pebble is currently better than a pocketwatch.

pocketwatch

I love my battery powered watch. It was given to me as a gift and it is better than a watch I would have chosen myself. However it suffers from the lack of connectivity, where am I, which timezone am I in? Having the ability to automatically correct itself depending on where I am or whether it is daylight savings time, would be really useful. I almost missed a connecting bus departure due to daylight savings time, good thing my iPhone changed it’s time automatically.

watch

The ability of having a watch know where I am or if it is daylight savings time, invokes the notion that the watch is somehow smart, or better worded a smart watch. But is this really a new idea? It is the current hype with Apple and Samsung since both are rumoured to have smart watches coming out. There are currently watch straps for the iPod Nano so that you can wear as a watch.  This could just be Apple observing and testing how people may interact with a watch that can do more than just telling time.

I don’t think the idea of a smart watch is a new idea because cartoons such as Dick Tracy from the 1930s portrayed a world were a talking watch was how one could communicate. It is now in 2013 that we have the technology to really make watches communicate and become smart.

Dick-Tracy-watch

I look at my current Pebble and I like it for it signals a new era for watches but I don’t love it yet. Here is a list of things I would like to see happen in this space to make the watch useful given the current hardware of the Pebble.

  1. Simple functionality such as a stopwatch/timer
  2. Show turn by turn direction of when to turn so I dont have to have my phone out
  3. Show me information like a news ticker, latest tweets, what’s happening in the world, how far I have walked tooday (like a Nike fuel band)

The Pebble’s technology with e-ink is nice but I think if Apple/Samsung step into this area, e-ink won’t be something that consumers will really care about. Having colour and touchscreens will make the Pebble obsolete. I hope that the Pebble team get their act in gear and use their current momentum to build a fan base that will support them through to the future.

Prime time of your life

You are in your late 20s and early 30s, you are out of college and probably paying the last of your student loan. You are really becoming an adult. Some say this is the prime time of your life. Now what should you do during this time?

Travel
Go see the world. I am glad that my parents encouraged me to go travel and explore career opportunities internationally. Sometimes they think I spend too much money on travel. But sometimes when you are in the prime time of your life it is the best time to travel. Going to Pamplona for the running of the bulls at 25 years old is much different than going at 50. Likewise going to a country side cottage at 50 is much different than at 25, both can be equally fun but the activities may be different. Travelling when you are in your 20s will help you see the world in different perspectives and that will only help you in the future.

Money or Passion

Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work again – Confucius

Should you work for money? Should you work all the time and max your earning potential?

What’s your passion? Should you work for your passion?

For some people it is a job title, for some it is the job and some it is the money. What is success for you? This definition is not the same for everyone, we have different motivators. Therefore you shouldn’t be in the same race as everyone else.

Professionally I work as an IT consultant. Personally I may not be the most passionate about programming but I wake up every morning excited to go to work. Why? Programming is a gift for me. I program mainly in C# during my day job but everyday utilizing the craft of coding I am able to think and learn. I get to work with people and find out what their problems are and use code to help find the solution. I get to mentor others to help them learn. In return I also get to learn from others, better techniques or different languages.

Watching television we see many cooking shows lately from Jamie’s 30 minute meals to Top Chef. Now everyone thinks it’s easy to make it in the restaurant world. My passion is food, I like eating it and making it but could it be my career? I don’t think so I don’t want to work in a kitchen 10+hr days for 6 days a week. On television we only see the good parts.

We live in reality and sometimes we are slaves to the idea of money or suffer because we can’t pay the bills with our passion. Some of us hate our jobs but can’t leave because it helps pay for the lifestyle we want. Some of us pursue our passions but the “struggling artist” scenario creeps in. What can we do?

Finding a Direction
If you are not exactly feeling 100% in the prime time of your life, answer the following questions to help guide you

  • What are your priorities at the moment? It is your career? It is your health? It is your family (or future family)?
  • Are you making time for your priorities?
  • What are your gifts/skills?
  • How much money is enough money?
  • What kind of work do you enjoy doing that time just passes?
  • What challenges do you enjoy?

Are you in the driver seat for your future? Like a driver of a car it’s never too late to change course. Here is an interesting read from the Harvard Business Review, The Top Five Career Regrets

After answering these questions myself earlier this year I was able to make a choice in my career and life.

Combining my skills and passion is what I should be doing. I like to think about problems that involve cooking/food and think about what tech can be used to help solve the problem. I try to use it as the theme for my side projects. Some ideas I have are interactive grocery lists, a sensor in your fridge that tells you want food is in it while you are not a home and visual guides during cooking. But can I quit my day job yet? The short answer to that is no. With a wedding coming up I know that I will need money but at what cost? I know that my priorities in life is my health, family and friends. I did not want to work long hours to get a lot of money. If I worked long hours I would not be able to socialize with my fiance or friends, go to the gym regularly or have the energy after work on my passions on the side. I am happy that in my current role because I get to hone my skills and time for my priorities. I work on my side projects and maybe one makes it big but no matter what I am doing I’m enjoying it because I’m using technology (my skill) to help solve problems that are interesting to me.

By giving enough time to your passion on a regular basis you can remove the risk of become the struggling artist. This takes time rather than a big bang approach. You can transform your passion into your career.

What are you going to do with the prime time of your life?