Friday, June 23, 2006

Project 4 reflections

This whole project sounds very similar to a real project that happened recently. Hmmm...

This project was probably one of the hardest ones to create. Predicting web design in a difficult thing. You can put hours of work into a design, just to have one person shoot the whole thing down becasue "I don't like green." Forget the fact that surveys showed the customers preferred green. Anyway, I always hate doing these predictions.

Another hard part for me is to watch out for the bells and whistles. I know of a lot of "cool" tools and programs that exist out there. But not every tool that is cool is necessary. But then again, some people want the bells and whistles. I found that out for a recent site I designed - I had held back on the "bling," but I was told that was what the person in charge liked. So, in with the bling...

In the end, I think that the proposal I created was a very interesting direction to take a web site. I love to explore Web 2.0 possibilities, so there was a lot of dynamic, interactive, and open-source products added to the site. It actually may be more than what anyone would want. I also proposed installing a new Learning Management System to help with communication and feedback. This would, of course, not be possible with most UTB courses that are offered through TeleCampus, because they are sticking with BlackBoard. But, I always have to get my plug for Moodle in to every class I take now!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Module 6 Reflections

And so now we tackle another tough issue - ethics. I think this chapter hits the nail on the head from the begining - ethical problems usually aren't planned in advance. They happen as a result of shifting focus or responsibility.

I have ran into ethics problems with consultants before. I think I have already gone into it, but the company I used to work for wanted to contract another company to do some Flash design work for us. When I started asking questions about certian web programming languages, I got some nervous answers. I should have spoke up then, but the CEO was there and he didn't like others piping in at the wrong time. Needless to say, I don't think anyone there knew Flash, and the rough draft we got showed us that they were probably trying to learn as they went.

Ethics seems to be an even stickier situation in consulting. You basically have to take on so many aspects of the company that you are hired by. But what if that business participates in some slightly unethical practices? Where do you draw the line between them and you? I guess it would have to depend on the situation, but I would definitely not work for someone that would drag me into their ricky business or shady reputation.

One of the interesting things on the list of things to do to remain ethical is to say no as much as we say yes. This seems to be very important, but very hard to accept in today's world. Everyone's heard of the "yes" man - but not the "no" man. Many times the CEO only wants yes people (not just men, hopefully). So, it takes guts to say no - but the longer you let it go, the harder it is to say.

Module 5 Reflections

Oh, no - politics. I hate dealing with office politics. Even though I work in a small office now that seems to be free from too many bad political situations, I have worked in some pretty bad situations in the past. Situations wehere we had to bring the entire office in to a meeting with a manager for a tongue lashing.

Of course, all offices have politics, and sometimes its just a matter of figureing out someones personality so that you can work with them and not offend them. Stuff like that doesn't bother me. But some of the other stuff does, and that's why I like our books position on politcs and suggestions for dealing with them. Remain pure and don't take sides - the best advice for people inside and ouside the office.

I'm also glad that this book takes a realistic look at resistance. I've read articles that claim that resistance will never happen if you prepare people properly. Yeah, right. At least this book is realistic, and also bluntly honest, about resistance.

In fact, these last chapters are where the book does get painfully honest. Or, at least, the reader is encouraged to be painfully honest with themselves in determining where they need to grow and learn. But we all need that encouragement sometimes.

Project 3 reflections

In creating an elevator speech, I think that I realized that it can be difficult to come up with the perfect statement. In order to be short and memorable, you might have to skip some details. These details might be what the customer needs to determine if you are the right person for them. However, if you give the details, you may go over a person's head and they will easily forget about you.

Maybe it would be better to have a couple of different elevator speeches ready. Then you can adjust and use one that seems more appropriate for the situation. Or, you can start with the basic one and them move to one of the advanced ones based on a person's reaction.

In creating my own speech, I found that I wrestled with this issue. I didn't want to leave out anything that would describe what I can do. Since I was creating a speech for a fictitious web design consultant firm (using the name of my real web design business), I knew how fickle the web design field is. Some people get a certian buzz word in their head (Web 2.0, RSS, XML, etc) and discount you as inexperienced if you don't throw it out. But them again, some people get lost and feel you are irrelevant if you throw out something they have never heard of before. So I decided to skip a lot of the details and describe the general feel of the sites that can be designed. That way, anyone that I am talking to can throw out something like "what is all this about wikis that I keep hearing?"

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Module 4 Reflections

"Run meetings as facilitated work sessions, not as presentations of conclusions"

I think that
this is an emerging theme in this book - working with the client, not just throwing ideas over the wall. Some where the book even went into good ways to hold brainstorming sessions. This information was probably the best guide I have ever seem written on how to hold these sessions. But the big word for this book seems to be COMMUNICATE.

I also like how the author goes into turn ing a solution into a complete, sustainable system. I just finished up a web design project for a company a few months ago that just did not understand this distinction. A web site is like creating a poster - you finish it and it works forever. Except, they had a dynamic website that functions more like a desktop program than a digital poster. Once the "poster" looked good, they were done with me. I looked back at the site this week and it's not working - I could tell by the error that was coming up that someone changed a critical part of the database. Oh, well. Their choice. I tried to get them to look into operational policies and procedures, support and maintenance services, documentation, and security - but they weren't interested.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Module 3 Reflections

Okay, okay. I have to admit. As a programmer, I am horrible at documenting. I recognize the need for it, I just hate to break my train of thought to put that comment in there to explain what I was thinking. And I always come back later and regret not doing it. So, lesson learned right off the bat: document everything, everwhere possible.

I know that I also like to push bleeding edge technology in all circumstances. Not that it is bad to push new stuff, but it can't always be used in all circumstances.

I also get a little concerned when I read about clients wanting to just find someone else to blame for their companies problems. I think this goes back to the documenting. I remember when I worked for another company and started to do things for their website. So many times we would tell the CEO that we needed to do things a certain way, but he wouldn't listen. Then he would come back a few weeks later and be mad at us for doing it the way we did it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Module 2 Reflections

One of the things that I found most interesting was the lessons about communication. I have worked for plenty of companies and/or school districts where gossip and rumors fill the voids. If the people in charge won't tell you what is going on, you have to find out something. Even if your source isn't know to be reliable, you'll still listen just to hear something. And usually, what you heard ends up being much worse than the reality of what is going to happen. But not always.

I have never thought of this as being part of the consultants role, but it does make total sense. Who would co-operate with an outside person if you thought that person could get your job eliminated? But if they don't know why you are there asking questions, or they don't even have the full picture, they may start guessing.

Project 2 Reflections

The person I interviewd was Robert Garza of Chimera Software. I first met him at the IOL 2006 conference. We pretty much discussed most of the questions at the conference, or on a phone call this week. He was nice enough to type out his answers, as well as adding some details in that we didn't have time to discuss.

One of the things that I was impressed with about Robert was his willingness to do things for free, just to promote his field. I think I alawys had this impression of consultants that the "clock was always ticking," and that nothing comes free. That's at least the mpression that I got from one consulting firm that my last job dealt with. They charged us over $16,000 to get a rough draft of a Flash animation. What we got was a stick figure standing a cirle. It was supposed to be a talking person standing on an island. I went out and learned Flash that day and did something twice as good as they did in one day.

Robert is a Moodle consultant. He helps people get Moodle going, basically. But he also hands out free CD's with Moodle pre-installed, and puts together Moodle groups. All of this stuff is for free, and of course, people could learn that they are free to install Moodle themselves and not hire anyone. But I think most people will go the consultant route with it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Module 1 Reflection

So far, I am getting some great insight into what goes on in the "other person's" head. I know that I can generally get a long with pople - but what are they really thinking? I have only been in a few true consultant-like situations. They seemed (to me) to have gone pretty good. Reading through some of this makes me realize that there were areas for me to improve.

One thing that I know that I do sometimes if prescribing before I diagnose. I used to think that it would give the person confidence that I know what I am doing if I offer ideas from the get got. But I think now I can give that confidence by showing concern for the person's needs and save time by holding my ideas until after I can get a better picture of what is going on.

I've also wondered a lot about clarifying the relationship. I've always known in the back of my head that if I agree to something, the person might think that I was going to get that 3am call. I never wanted to bring that up because I thought it might ruin the deal. But now I see that I need to bring it up (in a tactful way) to make sure we all know who does what.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Module 0 Reflections

I found three things that said "reflect on this in your journal, so I have three posts today. One of things that I got out of this lesson today was that I am way under-utilized at my job! But that's another issue. I never really thought much about what really goes into consulting. I would probably have gone into a consulting situation and just winged it. I probably would have done okay, and made the client laugh and feel good about using me, butwould I really have done that great of a job? Now I have some real steps that I can use to evaluate how I am doing what I am doing. Hopefully that will help me improve my ability to interact with clients.

Project 1 Reflections

Formal credentials (e.g., CPR certified, CPA, passed the bar, hold a real estate license, have teaching certification, etc.).
1) Texas teacher certification
- designing instruction for 8th grade science
- 8th grade team leader
- developing online components of learning
- classroom management
- organization
2) Certified Pool Manager
- keepinga pool clean and running
3) Certified Food Manager
- all levels of restaurant sanitation

Informal business-related
1) Computers
- html, css, xml, xhtml, php, mysql, javascript, rss, actionscript
- Macromedia Studio 8, Moodle, BlackBoard, WebCT, MS Office
- podcasts, blogs, wikis, pda, emerging technologies
2) Leadership/Management
- hiring, interviewing, scheduling, staffing
- running meetings and problem-solving
- decision-making, dealing wiht clients, bringing in new clients
- standards compliance, inspections, code enorcement
3) Instructional Design
- developing new instruction, Kindergarten through adult levels
- reviewing and revising existing instruction

Other skills
- playing bass guitar, guitar, drums, sitar
- painting, drawing
- studying other cultures

What I like to do:
(a) Communication - I prefer to talk to small groups, but I have done speaking to very large groups, too.
(b) Problem-solving - I prefer to solve problems, but Ihave also been in positions to find them and determine what they are, too.
(c) Planning - I like to keep things organized, but I am fine with ahnding off details to people who like to do certain tasks.

Personality Test

These are the results of my personality test:

- moderately expressed extrovert
- distinctively expressed intuitive personality
- slightly expressed thinking personality
- very expressed judging personality

As I was going through those questions, for about hal of them my answer was "both yes and no, depending on the day and situation." I think that I have learned a lot about adaptation. I tend to adapt my personality, relations, voice, etc depending on the situation I am in.

I could also look at several of the questions and pick out the "right" answer to look good as an IT consultant, but choose to put the answer I knew described me best. But I think the fact that I could pick out the best answer just showed that I can adapt and not be stuck with one way of acting or thinking.

The weird thing is that I came out so high on the judgemental side. I usually tend to be more perceptive and easy going. I usually have to perceive what my wife wants to do for the night, and then go along with it - even if it's not what I want :) Somehow, that doesn't how up very well on this test.