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Sunday, April 19, 2015

5 Survival Tips when dropped into the ‘Deep End’






Instead of the usual technical blog posts, this one is a pragmatic survival guide. If you have been around for a while, chances are that you have been thrown into the 'deep end' of a project before.

With rapidly changing markets and business requirements, this is becoming more common, with budgets approved late, but with the expectations for a quick  delivery. This usually means a mad scramble to fill the project team, with the eventual result of the unfortunate new hires dropped into the ‘deep end’  a few months after the project had started. These latecomers, however, are still expected to hit the ground running.

So, here are some survival tips:

1. Update your knowledge of industry acronyms and products.

No matter how experienced you are in the industry, new acronyms and products are created every day. Google them and make a list, ready for you to refer to when required. But not to worry, a lot of them are just  new marketing slangs for old technologies, like “Cloud Computing”. So don’t panic. You just need to know the right slangs quick and appear cool.

2. Learn the business and project acronyms

Businesses and projects love acronyms and the people involved use them liberally, as if they are also second nature to you. Make a comprehensive list of such acronyms quickly early in the project, grab an old hand in the organization and sit down with him uninterrupted for one hour to establish the glossary.

3. Learn the organizational structure, the relevant departments and their spokesperson.

In the old days, the development team did everything from conception, programming, testing to acceptance stages. These days, organizations are structured to have specialized departments deliver various components in your project, for the benefits of economies of scale and efficiency. For instance, there may be a permanent generic testing team that tests all projects before they are released into production in the organization. Or may be some tasks are outsourced to a third party company situated in another country and another time zone, from a different culture and speaking virtually a different language.

When you have mastered points 1 to 3, you are now able to follow what is spoken in project meetings and appear intelligent. However, you have not moved much yet, but merely holding your head above the water.

4. Build a rapport with the key persons in the project

Develop relationships. It is relationships that make things happen quickly and fairly trouble free. But develop appropriate relationships. Doing otherwise, will have repercussions later on. Karma is such a bitch.

5. Stick to officially sanctioned activities

In the old days, it is fine to help your team members with their work and sometimes with some informal tasks. Such tasks are usually safe short cuts necessary to make things happen quickly, but overlooked by the managers. However, it is more risky to do so these days, because all activities are owned, given milestones and deadlines. If you really want to help out, do so in the quiet. Don’t pen them down anywhere. The moment any activity is penned down, someone will come and ask you where this activity falls under. That to me, is a bother you and I do not need. If you are not careful, it can also make you look bad.



There are of course much more that needs to be  done in a project, but knowing the aforesaid five points is a good start.

You will then not feel lost in meetings and discussions, stop looking stupid and start to produce useful work.

Happy working!



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