My home on the web - featuring my real-life persona!

Best week ever…

Sometimes, everything seems to just fall into place. This was one of those weeks where it seemed like everything was just working out for me! By Friday noon I was so giddy I could hardly sit still. This is what happened…

Monday:

  • I started my week with a really nice email from the product manager for the Greek application thinking me for the super fast and awesome turnaround on the Greek translation. I sent him a reply back saying I really appreciate the feedback and I made a comment that I am working on a pretty old and weak laptop. He sent me back a note that they have a pretty nice laptop that no one is using and I can have it.
  • I had to hand in phase 3 of my final project for CISP314 and I believe I created a pretty awesome website layout! This is no where near the final version but I am pretty happy with the general look & feel. I am not a fan of Flash but a Flash intro is a requirement.
  • Another homework assignment went well too, an interactive Flash movie. Like I said, I am no big fan of Flash but man, Flash is HARD.

Tuesday:

  • Same PM sent me another note mentioning that he was in a phone conference where the VP of SW Engineering mentioned to the CTO how great translations are working out, how fast, inexpensive and efficient we are. Nice going, this is a great step towards job security :-)
  • I get the UPS shipping note that the laptop is in UPS - yeah, I can’ wait!

Wednesday:

  • I got some financial aid awarded for the Fall semester, a private scholarship for academic excellence for $1000 (half-time student status).
  • After I found a great deal on the super awesome HAMMER HN1200 NAS - it arrived today. Unfortunately, the included 1TB drive was DOA but the device is still a hit.
  • I did my final exam for CISP247 and got a 190/200

Thursday:

  • After I felt like I coasted through much of my class I was worried about having to develop a real functioning database. While I was starting to work on it, I realized I totally got it and just breezed through ER Diagrams, relationships, cardinality, queries and whatnot. Lots of work but I am good to go and finish it properly and without having to pull my hair out.

Friday:

  • I got a new/hand-me-down laptop at work (18.4″ screen, C2D T9600, 4 GB RAM) - OMG, so awesome! It is so huge that I was almost embarrassed. It has a UK keyboard layout and a couple of other little things that are strange but who cares? I can finally dump the Pentium Mobile 2.0 GHz that was just so slow…
  • I had bought a pair of Nike running shoes that once again didn’t work well for my feet but the store allowed me to exchange them without a problem and now I have some Asics Nimbus which simply rock!
  • I received my award for working 10 years at X-Rite
  • I received my Tastefully Simple goodies too - must bake bread :-)

I have the feeling I am forgetting something. I hope this isn’t a display of how sad my life usually is, but the cummulative “Awe Factor” of this week was just super high. Not that I haven’t had great weeks, for example on vacation, but this was just awesome and accomplished.

Now all I have to do is finish up my database and I got another class down!

School’s out - German vs. US Universities

It has been awefully quiet around here but that’s what I get from taking two accelerated classes. Squeezing the content of a 14 week semester into a 7 week course, then trying to take two of those while working fulltime has not been my best idea. Thankfully, my university is not too demanding and I came out the other end with a 98% in Global Project Management and a 96% in Applied Math.

On one of my mailing lists, I heard someone comment that the universities in Germany are lacking compared to international universities. I so strongly disagree with that. It may be true if you compare a state university in Germany to Harvard or Yale, but if you compare it to an average 4 year accredited American university, the German Uni (or in my case the Fachhochschule Köln) is so much more demanding. I am smart, but in a German Uni or even a German High School, I was never “straight A” smart. To be honest, I don’t think I ever met anyone in Germany who was a straight A student. In the US, studying in a foreign language while working full time, I am holding a 4.0 GPA.

How do other countries compare? Has anyone else gone to college in the US and abroad? Or is anyone able to compare a German university to a French or Spanish university?

Project Management Bruhaha

Since I am taking my project management class, I have been looking into some of the ideas from my book. I don’t know if I am too pessimistic, but I keep thinking that a lot of the project management principles are a lot of bruhaha. Sure, for a huge project a lot of those things apply but I think for the average project in a small to midsize company, those things are total overkill. There are balanced score cards, the PMBOK, work breakdown structures, communications matrix, project carters and lifecycles, charts and diagrams and tables, critical path analysis, change control, risk registers and risk management plans and what not.

I do believe that most of those play a role in successful project management, but the formalized character of those processes seems to create a huge overhead and I am wondering if anyone actually uses them and finds them useful aside from a certification point of view?

And as a little bonus, here is a nice slideshow I found. Again, I am not sure I am buying into all the big words, but I think it is very well done.

Discussion Question: Describe project selection and what are the pitfalls?

A general rule of thumb for project identification is that a company should come up with about twice as many projects than they actually have time and resources to do. Project ideas should come from all areas of the company, from the operations staff to senior executives. Ideas can come from everywhere - industry magazines or communication with existing and potential clients is a good starting point.

We have to create a list of potential projects with brief description so the decision maker has a good understanding of the potential project. Then the hard part starts, the project selection - a prioritization of the projects and decisions what project should we move forward with and which project should we drop.

When evaluating projects, some aspects that must be considered are value for the company, availability of resources, support from internal champions and external potential clients and how it fits into the goal plan of the company.

For the actual selection, there are three different approaches, using financial and non-financial factors:

  1. Financial analysis of the potential project and only few non-financial aspects (p. 34)
  2. Initial financial screening of potential projects followed by a scoring process
  3. Multi-factor scoring process where financial aspects are just one of many equally important factors

For the financial approach (1) we usually have four different models (NPV, BCR, IRR, PP) and each is bearing its own set of risks and benefits. In general, the main problem with the financial models is that they do not consider how the projects align with the company’s strategic goal. A project that looks good financially but does not align with the general company idea can pull it into the wrong direction and make it a bad choice even if it is fiscally sound.

Approach (2) is a process that first applies approach (1) and then uses a scoring process like (3).
In approach (3) we use a scoring model, different potential criteria for example risk, timing, resource requirements, cost and orientation with company goals are identified [if this follows (1) then cost is not a factor here since that has been the initial sort criteria]. Those criteria have to be categorized by importance and mandatory criteria have to be identified. Next, the criteria are weighted in a selection and prioritization matrix that assigns ratings and weights. With this matrix, we can identify the priority of the projects and also run through a few “what if” scenarios.

The risks for (2) and (3) are minor if the analysis has been done properly. It can be a lengthy process and take up a lot of time and energy. While evaluating the different criteria, we have to make sure that our assumptions are accurate and that the rating and weighting factors are properly set.

Monday, Monday

Happy week start! I have no idea what is going on but today is one of those days where you simply cannot wake up. I got up, rode my exercise bike for 30 minutes half asleep, got ready half asleep, drove to work half asleep and am now sitting here since almost 8 hours and am still not able to wake up. I had coffee and Vault and instant espresso, but nothing helps. The fact that my day is still a little slow doesn’t help much.

I had such a nice weekend, the first weekend that was so nice and warm that we even had breakfast on the patio watching our cats who put on a nice circus act. If you think people are happy about spring, you should see a bunch of cats who have been cooped up in the house all winter long - it’s not like we make them, but during winter the little pussies just stare out the door expecting the snow to melt in front of their eyes. I also got to sleep at a reasonable time and still, I feel like I have been partying all night.

I mentioned it before, I have two classes this session, Global Project Management and Applied Mathematics and so far I have been able to coast, but that ends now. For GPMT we are using a tool called SimProject, where we are working on a simulated construction project. We have to hire resources, we have a budget and apparently the instructor can throw roadblocks into our way like a budget cut or a strike - very interesting. Unfortunately, we are having problems getting our group of 4 together. We tried yesterday at 6pm but only two people were “there” (in the project chat area) so I sent out an email telling them all to be there tonight at 7pm - not sure what to do if they aren’t because we have to make our first group decisions.

Unfortunately, I cannot even be too mad. If I look back at my own time at university, I am pretty sure a returning adult student would have been just as impatient. Well, we’ll see what happens tonight.

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