Agile Update Week 52

I have now been using the Agile project management system for a year. In that time I have learned new things, met new people, accomplished much, written regular blog entries – usually two or three per week, reviewed several books, and even worked to exercise and to try to get in better shape. I have also found and started a new job for 2016, which is a good thing. All of this through a positive program that stresses progress and accomplishments, rather than missed opportunities or goals not met. Agile is also a program that can be used cooperatively and in a true team environment – it’s never competitive. When using it for myself, I was only comparing my own weekly reflections to my weekly vision or goals, with the focus on continual improvement, not “beating myself up” over items not accomplished.

The last week of 2015 went well. I wrote two blog entries, and reviewed two books (a book and a graphic novel) on GoodReads. So that’s four total writing days, which is very good. I did not get the opportunity to do any physical exercise. My Yoga class was off for Christmas and New Year’s weeks, and I really miss it. I won’t be able to go to that particular class, at least in January because of my new work schedule. However, I did buy myself a new Yoga DVD with my Christmas Gift Cards (among other goodies) so I’m hoping to be able to fit in time to exercise at home. I really need it.

I also did well working on my professional development, as I work on completing my A+ Computer Certification.  I read and took notes for chapter 27, and 28 in the A+ book and did the homework review sheets. I only had class on Tuesday (Thursday class was on New Year’s Eve so we didn’t have class) and yet again I bombed a quiz because people were talking during it. I really wish the instructor would stop that. Anyway, I re-took the quiz at home (it’s open book) and received a 90% which was passing. I also did two of the on-line chapter review quizzes which are slightly harder than the chapter reviews that I need to turn in as homework. I always do those quizzes as close book, more to see what I know and/or remember (or can figure out, since they often quiz concepts beyond the text book). Finally, I started reading and taking notes on the next chapter (29), covering computer security. As a study and test prep I managed to finish doing the vocab review for chapter 26 laptops. My plan is to finish reading the book as soon as possible, then study, and the goal is to pass both A+ tests by the end of January and become A+ certified. This will help me with the new job I already have as you need that certification in place to become permanent, with benefits, in an promotion-track position. The position I was hired in for, which I think I will really enjoy is temporary/project based, so it won’t be considered permanent and it is not eligible for benefits. I think that’s too bad, and things may change, but that’s the most recent information that I have.

Agile Update – Week 51

Last week was Christmas week, which made for a busy week but I still managed to get things done, including a fair amount of writing. I wrote three posts on WordPress: my weekly Agile update (though it was late, and not posted until Wednesday), a review of Season 3 of The Batman, and an opinion piece about Abrams comments about women and Star Wars. I also reviewed Doctor Who Millennial Rites on GoodReads. See the widget on the lower right corner of this blog to read my review. Millennial Rites was the last of the Virgin Publishing Missing Doctor Adventures that I have in paperback, though I do have a few more to read in e-book format. I feel both very accomplished to finish off reading my collection of the Doctor Who Past Doctor and Missing Doctor Adventures, but at the same time I will miss them.

In the professional development sphere, I read, took notes, and did the chapter review for chapter 26 in my A+ review book. I attended class on Tuesday and did two labs, turning in the sheets for credit. Because of the holiday, we did not have class on Thursday.

Last week my Mom and I finished our Christmas shopping, then did the wrapping of presents on Wednesday. On Thursday (Christmas Eve) we went to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for Christmas. Because of the wind storm on Wednesday night – they had no power, which meant no heat (the furnace has an electric starter and electric blower), and no running water (a pump for a private well requires electricity). But, oddly enough we made the most of it. My brother cooked the ham and turkey breast on the grill outside (it was oddly warm). We opened presents. My sister-in-law was able to use her gas stove top by manually lighting it (carefully) so she cooked the potatoes that way, and mashed them the old-fashioned way. I even got to play a round of my brand-new Doctor Who Clue game with the twins, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my Mom. In short, it was a lot quieter, no distractions, and it made for a very happy and enjoyable holiday – even though it was also cold and dark. I went to Christmas Eve services with my parents at the Dominican center (a Catholic Chapel). It was a very nice service, if a bit long.

Overall, for a holiday week last week was very nice. I was glad to get three posts done on WordPress, though I didn’t have time to do a movie review. I also completed one book review on GoodReads, but didn’t get my next graphic novel review done. Still, overall, it was very successful.

Agile Update – Week 50

Last week was very successful personally. You’ll see why in a moment.  I only wrote two blog posts – my regular Agile Update, and a movie review (that project plugs along). And for writing I also reviewed one book, a graphic novel actually, on GoodReads. To read my review of Fractures, see the GoodReads widget on the lower right corner of this blog. Last week I attended my vet’s retirement party. It was open house style, so very brief, but it was nice to be able to stop by and say hi. I also went to my Gentle Yoga class – last class for the year. The class was awesome, and I’m going to miss it.

Much of my time last week was spent filling out paper work for, dun dun da: my new job! I had an interview on December 14, which ended with a verbal offer – subject to background and security checks. On December 22, I received my official written offer and accepted the position. Apparently, the checks are still on-going, but as of now I’m scheduled to start Jan 4. I haven’t really talked about every job I’ve applied to over the last year, or every phone interview, or even the in-person interviews I’ve had – partially to avoid jinxing anything, and partially because I just kept getting so discouraged and disgusted with it all. But I kept track of everything in Evernote, and in my Agile notebook. And if one of my unstated goals was, “get a new job”, I have now accomplished that goal. I’m starting as a Knowledge Base Writer, and will be transferred to the call center position in February. The KB Writer job is no benefits but the call center is full benefits. And training for both is paid. (Actually, the KB position is just on-the-job training, but it should be very similar to my previous technical writing job, and things I’ve done on this blog – like correct HTML.) I’m so happy! And not a moment too soon, because my situation was getting pretty desperate.

I also worked on my A+ class – because for this job, I still need to be certified, the sooner the better, and I think I really need to be done by the end of January. Which means in January I’ll be working full time and taking the equivalent of a full part-time course load because of the way the class meets (3 hours twice a week, that would equal six credits if it was an accredited college course). So January will be very busy, and I fully expect my favorite shows to sit on the DVR until at least the weekend and maybe until February. On the other hand, some shows are taking a Winter break anyway.

In terms of my class, I read chapter 25, took notes, and did the chapter review for my A+ class. I attended class both days. I did three Transcender exams, one in the classroom. I also turned in the chapter reviews for 23, 24, and 25 – which put me ahead of schedule. I just need to keep up the pace so I can finish the book, and review and study until I feel confident about passing my A+ exam. And since I’ve already been hired, I don’t have to also worry about going broke, not getting a job, not being hired, or having to wait for months to get into the next wave of hiring and training.

Agile Update – Week 49

Last week I concentrated on professional development pretty much to the exclusion of all else. Consequently, the only post last week was my weekly Agile Update post. I also did manage to go to my Yoga class. However, I’ve been working on getting not simply caught-up but ahead in my professional development, namely studying for my A+ certification. Last week I read three chapters in the A+ text, took notes, and did the homework questions. Usually I only do two a week, so that puts me actually ahead of where I should be. I also attended my class on Tuesday and Thursday. We also have a new testing tool, called Transcender. I’ve used it before, though this seems to be a different version than the one I used. Anyway, I did four Transcender tests, and managed to figure out the problem with them not going to my instructor. I also took a test on Thursday in class and received a 92% which is a passing grade. Yeah.

Overall, it was a successful week, though I was mostly concentrated on getting ahead in my studies for my A+ certification. I still managed to write my weekly Agile post and I also managed to attend Yoga for the first time in two weeks! That’s a good result.

Agile Update – Week 48

I was thinking I did really well last week, and looking over everything that I accomplished – yes I very much did. I wrote three blog entries last week. The first post was actually a discussion of the “Women in STEM” panel at Chicago TARDIS, as a woman who’s interested in computers, technology, and geeky topics – further development and encouragement of girls to consider STEM fields and support of women entering or attempting to enter STEM fields is an interest of mine. On the one hand, I see encouraging items on a regular basis – from Google’s “Girls who Code” initiative to the hundreds of Twitter accounts focused on women in business, the Arts, and STEM. On the other, I still routinely see discouraging words from male gatekeepers who “don’t want girls” in their field (rarely is it put that strongly, but the sentiment is still widely there). I also wrote and posted my regular Agile update – so I had two posts on the same day, which is something I rarely do. Finally, I watched and posted reviews of a movie to my Blogger movie review blog as well as here on WordPress.

I also did some personal things such as starting my Christmas shopping on CyberMonday (The boxes arrived in the same week – Woo hoo!). And I talked to a self-publishing house about turning my year’s worth of Agile Update posts into a book. At this time, using a self-publishing house seems much too expensive. However, I’m just in the very early stages of getting my experiences with using Agile for personal and professional development onto paper. Literally. So watch this space.

In terms of exercise, I was able to go to my Gentle Yoga class last week! Woo hoo! First time in two weeks. The class was busy, and included new people. I enjoyed it very much. Also, good news, although the class ends on December 16 – it will pick-up again in January. It even looks to be the same time and day of the week. Woo hoo!

Class – and Professional Development

Lots happened – as I realized I was a week behind. Sigh. Apparently, my vacation week wasn’t a vacation. So I read and took notes on chapter 18 in the A+ book. I also did the chapter review homework pages. So, when I went to class I was able to turn in chapters 16 – 18, but not chapter 19 because I hadn’t finished it by the first class day (I go twice a week). However, the day after class I read and took notes on chapter 19, and did the chapter review exercises – plus turned it in during the second class of the week. So, I was on time for the week, just not the day. Also, last week I read and took notes on chapter 20 and 21 and did the homework chapter reviews. It’s done. So I can turn it in on time. We are now doing completely different types of tests – both an in-class test and an at-home transcender test (which is a type of testing software). Well, I did horribly on the new test in class. But I re-took it at home without distractions and did much better – a 96%. Yea!

Last week my Twitter account went to 400 followers. Yea! Another personal goal reached. My next goal is 425, though over the last few days my Twitter account has gone up and down a lot, though not by much. I’ve noticed that plus-or-minus five to ten followers on any given day or even time is the norm for Twitter. Part of it has to do with fake accounts (hint – if you check a new “follower” and the account description promises 1000s of followers for real money, and the feed is full of advertisements – you don’t want them as a follower anyway.) And I’m sure there are other reasons for the fluctuations as well – that are never personal, or something to worry about. I’m just excited to increase my following so fast!

Twitter_400_Followers

So last week was excellent. Not only did I get a lot done – but it wasn’t solely in a single area. This is important to me as I sometimes tend to over-focus in one area of my life at the expense of other things. I also found that for my professional development, as things get busier with holidays and other Things That Must Be Done – doing a small amount daily is just as good or better than spending all day on a single task (such as reading/taking notes/studying a homework chapter). I also feel there is nothing to beat myself up over – which is a good feeling.

Agile Update – Week 47

Last week was better than the week before and was topped off with my taking a much-needed weekend off, and attending a conference in Chicago. I returned energized, relaxed, and much happier. Last week I wrote two WordPress posts, my regular Agile Update post and a post about my cat, Gabby, whom I recently had to put down. So that was only two posts for the week – but with the Holiday and travel, I really only had three days to write. And I did write every day, because I also posted a review of Birds of Prey Volume 1 to my GoodReads page. See the widget on the lower right of this blog page to read it. So I wrote every day, which means I did hit the goal to write daily.

I didn’t have class at all last week, due to the holiday, but I did finish reading and taking notes on Chapter 17, and I did my homework sheet for Chapter 17. And I started Chapter 18. I really should have 18 and 19 also done by tomorrow. Still my A+ class is going well so far.

My Twitter followers also hit 375 followers – the most I’ve ever had. My next goal is 400.

My schedule in terms of the holidays and my vacation was on Wednesday I had Thanksgiving Dinner with my parents, then on Thursday I drove to my hotel in Chicago and checked in. I had an excellent time and was able to relax, meet people, and even do some professional networking. I returned home late Sunday night but energized and relaxed and ready for the week.

My goals are to write at least three posts a week, to exercise regularly, and to work on professional development – which is currently certifying or re-certifying in A+ (a basic-level computer science certification.) Next week I should be able to get back to my weekly Yoga class.

The Agile program emphasizes setting weekly goals, writing out your daily outcomes, then writing a weekly reflection on what went right and what didn’t over the week. But rather than beat yourself up for not meeting a goal, or not doing as well as you might want – it’s a program of continuous improvement. It’s excellent for those of us who pressure ourselves to do well and then get upset when something isn’t perfect. In organizations it’s also a cooperative, cross-disciplinary team methodology, rather than a competitive one. Also, unlike waterfall project management, where the entire project is designed at the beginning with the expectation that it is perfect – Agile strongly emphasizes that one continuously improve – so with a software program, for example, version 1 is “as best as possible”, but it is improved for version 2, etc. On a personal level, Agile can be used as a framework for organizing personal improvement. For me, that’s writing, health (especially exercise), and professional development. But it can be used for striving towards any goal.