Monday, August 29, 2016

That's No Game! It's a Project Management Trainer!

"A strong woman looks a challenge dead in the eye 

and gives it a wink" - Gina Carey

About a week ago, I bought a game called Planetbase. It was part of a Humble Bundle I purchased with several other games that hopefully I'll get around to, but right now, for a lot of reasons, I'm really digging this game.

It's based on colonization and sending a bunch of people to a barren planet to set up a base camp. They have different planet types that you can unlock once you reach a certain amount of successes on the previous planet type. You have a crew and starting resources, but you have to get to the survival stage and then self-sustaining fairly quickly or the crew starts having problems, you start running low on all kinds of things like spare parts and bots and sometimes even people. 

The opening mission is on a Mars type planet. You can pick anywhere on the planet to start your base and the idea is expansion for as far and long as you have resources, colonists and room to grow. It really is like a Sim game in a lot of ways. Until you get to the challenge section.

I started the first challenge Wednesday night. It was pretty simple:

Scenario:  Accumulate 100 ore
Given I have 5 people (2 biologists, 3 engineers)
And 9 robots (4 drilling, 1 construction, 4 carrier)
And a limited supplies 
And only trade ships available
Then I should be able to accumulate 100 ore

What you find out when you click into the challenge is that the game has removed abilities. The first limitation you are told when you enter the challenge, no more colonists than what you start off with. You lose someone or a bot, you are probably in for a rough ride.
This is from normal game play - but it's still a cool day shot.

Working Towards A Goal

As you can see from the gherkin above, I had to manage people, robots and resources. When you get into the challenge, you realize it's also removed any way to make building materials from the raw sources you produce. So you either have to trade/buy the materials or recycle them from something else. It also disabled any way for you to build more robots. If I wanted more, I was going to have to trade or buy them from the trading ships. 

One of the first things I did was recycle the construction bot and two carrier bots after the initial construction was done. More building resources! Yeah! 

With limited resource come limited ways to produce power to power everything, and store energy. My first problem was with the power grid. I had enough resources dedicated to it until I realized I was going to need a landing pad, and I couldn't recycle anything else. I had used the resources I pilfered from the bots to build out a bigger power grid and now, I was going to have to adjust that, and use what I had left to build the landing pad, or I wasn't going to have a way to get trading ships to my base. I recycled one of my solar panels to build a landing pad.

This is a great example of making initial decisions and the modifying them in the iterations that come later. When something looks acceptable, and then a customer or a tester detects an issue, this triggers (or it should trigger) a triage process by which resources and people can be moved and pointed at the problem. And then, solving one problem can lead to another.

Night shot of Ice Planet Colony (called it Hoth Rebel Base)
Because I took out part of my power grid, I was had to manage the power resources during the night cycle. I had one turbine that was there when there was any wind, which was rarely, but enough to keep producing energy. The real energy makers were the solar panels. I would shut off solar panels and even the landing pad to keep power for as long as possible. When I later added storage areas for the raw materials, I would shut off power to those as well. I also would shut down a mine if a bot wasn't working in it.

The power management problem, produced previously by the landing pad problem is pretty typical in project management. If you take resources or people away from a project which had a balanced, predictable cadence of production, you have to compensate in other ways, by reassigning people, moving other resources or limiting/restricting access to a resource so it isn't used up too quickly. This is project management basics. Mistakes aren't mistakes, they are really just resource problems. It only becomes a mistake if you can't compensate fast enough with another resource.

 Once the trading ships started showing up, I traded off any extra I thought I could safely trade away for building materials, semi-conductors or other needs. Eventually I was able to build out another storage unit, another solar panel, and other power collector and a second robot repair station. At this point, I was about 75 percent done with my goal. And my project was self-sustaining. I walked away for 15 minutes to do other things around the house and came back. All was well. I completed the challenge with 100 ore, all the people and the robots I didn't recycle, and had a few resources left over.

When projects hit this point, of self-sustaining, you basically watch for any serious issues, but it becomes a hands-off affair. Everybody knows the goal, knows what they are doing, and progress is reported on a regular basis. Progress can and should also be verified. In this game, it was seeing the storage rooms fill up. In the real world, it's demos, releases, defect reports and product sales/usage. This is the time when you start working towards your next goal, setting up for the next project. It's the quiet before the next storm. 

All of this is people and resource management. It happens every day in every business on every project imaginable. The trick is knowing who to put where and what to use to get the job done. If you are any good at these games, then you might have a career in project management. You just have to learn how to deal with real people instead of the meeple that run around in your sim. And that's a different blog post. 

#ChangeTheRatio - More Voices In STEM

"Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."
- Andy Dufresne, Shawshank Redemption

Not so long ago, I jumped out of my comfort zone and into a group of lady developers, developers-to-be, and even a few testers, like me, in that group of women at a meetup, all hoping to make a difference in the day-to-day practices of software development. 

That group was Women Who Code. I also have to acknowledge that I wouldn't have thought to do that without the stalwart support Ministry of Testing, another group, run and promoted by a woman named Rosie Sherry. That group is constantly pushing forward creating a presence and acceptance of the testing profession as something valid in the software development world, and they are huge advocates of inclusion of women into the testing/development arena.

I'm on a Skype channel which has voices and new ideas from a wonderful group of ladies every day. They are from all walks of life, all over the planet; a 24/7 channel of ideas and support for women working in the testing profession and the tech industry. They advocate, discuss and disagree and have a large amount of hope for the future. I think most women do. 

From the young 20-something navigating a world, to the 40-year-old professional looking at reinventing herself, to the retired woman who did the work, got little recognition for it, and is still active in the community, we all want to change STEM for the better.  

Today, I applied for CodingHouse developer scholarship. It's a 14 week in-house program in which you live, eat and breath coding.

Testing is changing. And unfortunately, many of us are finding we aren't changing with it. Or as fast as we would hope. It's the classic problem of learning and working at the same time. The one that feeds you is going to get the priority over the one that extends what might feed you. 

It's not that I haven't been trying to learn, but I feel like the minute I focus on one thing, the next thing is hitting the shelves and then the next. I'm excited about these changes, and excited it's getting easier and easier to learn how to do all of these things. 

But what should I learn? Is Java more important than Ruby? Should I focus on back-end services or front end tech? Can I learn it all and still do a good job? Do I focus on this one thing, and learn it completely, or can I take concepts and move them from one thing to the next? 

I feel like I'm missing the Rosetta Stone here where coding languages are concerned. I feel like I'm being aged out of an industry I've loved for years. But I'm out here, pushing, trying and continuing because I can't stop - won't stop. I love this too much to stop. 

If you're out there, whether you're young or old and love this industry, tell your story. Get it out there, let other people, especially women, know they aren't alone. It may take time, but it's going to happen. Women are here to stay and they aren't giving up hope.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Are You Thinking About Attending a Conference?

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." 

- Maya Angelou

I've been extremely lucky in the experiences I've had at conferences. The last two years have been wonderful in the quality of topics, an excellent environment of learning, and the peer relationships I have built with those who attended.

TestBash NYC was a one day conference put on by the Ministry of Testing. I had the opportunity to go via a contest, where I wrote an essay which won me a ticket. It was eight hours of topics presented by wonderful people, many of whom I still have contact with today. {Here is a link to the essay I wrote about the conference itself.}

I also met other people who are industry leaders, thought leaders and testers, and had great discussions about topics, all relating to testing. The overwhelming feeling of community stayed with me long after I went home. I still talk about that experience like it was yesterday.

So this time, I want to talk about several conferences, if you are planning to go to one, or want to go but aren't sure which ones are worth the money and time. Here are a few I would suggest you check out no matter where you are on the planet.

Test Bash  - any Test Bash, there are four of them now! Get to the one nearest you and have your very own mind nova! The Ministry of Testing organizes these and I can tell you this group of people are about developing the community in ways that will definitely shape the industry to come. Passionate people about their profession and the time they invest in content and community shows in this showcase of talks and talent. The next one is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and it's shaping up to be pretty epic!

European Testing Conference (ETC) - this was another one that had a good mix of people who have roots in Ministry of Testing. There are others involved with this conference that made three days in Romania some of the most mind opening and educational days I've spent in another country. The organizers are wonderful and understand what it takes to have an event succeed. They are also mindful of the cost to speakers and those that attend. I'm very glad I had this experience and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this conference which will be in Finland in 2017.

Agile Testing Days - Seven days of testing and development heaven with some of the worlds best and brightest speaking and exchanging ideas. I have not personally attended one yet, but it's on my bucket list. This year it's in Berlin. Next year it will be in Boston, and I hope I can attend. There are smaller events around Europe and I recommend those as well. I've heard nothing but good things from people attending the smaller conferences. And a great number of good things from people who attend the week-long one as well.

If you are planning on attending Agile Testing Days in Germany and would like to receive a 10% discount, use the following code: MelTheTester_010 - full disclosure, for everybody that uses my discount code, I have the chance to get a conference ticket. So if you haven't purchased your ticket yet, here's a good discount!

Regardless of what conference(s) you choose, go with an open mind and get out of your comfort zone and meet some of your fellow testers. The experience will stay with you for years to come.
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
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I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
Read more at:
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
Read more at:
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
Read more at:
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
Read more at: