August 12, 2013

Cover Letters and their usefulness

Category: Management — David @ 2:38 pm

As I promised in our today’s breakfast meeting, below is the blog about “Cover Letters” that we talked in our last week’s meeting. I know that I am a week behind posting about our last meeting; quite frankly I have been working and networking about 15 hours a week lately - so I finished this short note last night.

This is another session of our “job search breakfast” group meeting of PMI Silicon Valley chapter. We explored the reason behind including cover letters when applying for a technical / management position.

In my opinion, I am wondering how good we could model “human nature” and behavior! Even when applying number-crunching and numerical analysis on human behavior, one cannot get an ample picture on how better approach to any particular action! Everyone is different. However, when applying for a professional position, the size of the company and how they have been posting jobs (online or otherwise), the rationale behind their processes (if we know about), positions’ requirements, HR policies, and many other factors will play roles with regards to sending a cover letter along with a resume, or not to send any! I think the best is responding to a given job opening based on our personal experience, and hoping to land an interview. After all, sending a resume and associated cover letter is to have an interview. One manager may not read a cover letter, yet be swift in responding to follow up emails!

Noting that cover letter is one of deliverables, it’s a good idea to introduce ourselves up front to the prospect employee and make the cover letter like a sales tool. It is helpful to including our sales pitch on top, and treat cover letters like a business communication letter; something like a short dashboard of our knowledge aligned with the requirements. Resumes include the most detailed aspects of our professional expertise, and it usually takes months to polish and fine-tune. On the other hand, cover letters are composed fast; probably a few hours before sending them to an available position. Another idea that was circulated among our attendees was to address 5-top requirements of the position in the cover letters. However, hand-carried cover letters and resumes to the hiring managers have the best results. Identifying an insider and making sure that hiring manager could have a copy of the resume makes the biggest impact.

Other considerations such as styling, font face-size, stationary choice, and such are less important, yet keeping them consistent with the style used in resume is a good approach. However, referencing the salary requirements or any political / faith related concerns, and non-relevant points are strongly discouraged. Make sure that cover letters do not have any spelling error, and keeping them below 3000 characters make them more appealing. Keeping track of the resumes and cover letters that are sent out are another important factor. After all, it is a good idea to have a reference point to requirements of a specific position for which an application is sent!

Online references regarding composition of effective cover letters are in Abundance. Yet our group suggested frequent visits to other networking activities for effective job hunting. Some of the most successful network building groups (at least in the San Francisco Bay Area) are:
PMI-Silicon Valley chapter, our chapter’s Workshops, and some meet up gatherings in your area (such as Agile meet up, Big Data Analytics, etc.) NOTE that by attending these meeting you would get familiar with different vocabularies of the marketplace, as well as expanding your network of professionals you know!

Rise and Shine,
David

This is an extract from PMI-Silicon Valley Chapter’s Job Seeking group meeting in Sunnyvale, California. Some of the participants below are technical managers and members of PMISV:

Azeez ChollampatChris MunsonDavid BakhtniaDavid GazaveGary A JohnsonMichael MellengerRay WilliamsScott E PetersenScott Spetter, and Terry Archuleta.

August 2, 2013

How to form a nimble PMO office which can provide value to the company

Category: Management — David @ 9:22 pm

How to create an active and agile Program Management Office (to add prudence value aligned with organizational vision and mission)? How a consolidated approach to portfolios and programs may have any added values? This is a million-dollar question that established organizations revise in their dictionary once a while! Below is a breakfast-extracts from the dialogue between a group of technical leaders; members of PMI - Silicon Valley Chapter. I thought providing a few practical suggestions provided by our members may help transferring knowledge to our younger generation and like-minded technical professionals!

Some organizations have portfolio-level documentations with ranking models applied to projects, categorizing and sorting them to take appropriate action. Then the projects are traced for their priorities, business values, etc. There are some documented models for stakeholders’ actions as a road map to facilitate projects initiations (accept, defer, or reject) based on the impacts on business and revenue.

A nimble PMO depends on how mature is the organization. However, product oriented organizations may consider the road maps, customers, features, etc. While in IT (information Technology) there are a many projects and programs without road map. However, if one can take over 100 projects to show the forward-looking themes, it would facilitate efforts of stakeholders in reducing (or delaying) the number of low-priority projects.

A senior program manager would be careless about the number of pending projects as the team would handle projects with higher ranks on the scoring list. Scoring is based on security, compliance, usability, user experience, ROI (Return On Investment), etc. ROI based projects however, may not at the top of the list for instance (because of the nature of business, perhaps). Another example is risks, as part of IRR (Internal Rate of Return) such as taking risks, or transferring them into opportunities. All such factors would have an associated ranking number. Assigning numbers to a given project helps more informed evaluations. This type of decision making channelizes the energy of executives to decide which projects have higher priority to focus and act upon.

One important requirement is to know the audience. For instance, for PMO members of executive level (i.e. EVPs, CIOs, CTOs, CEOs), a clearly defined approach can greatly alleviate decision making. Rather than going through every project in detail, they would rather have the ability to change things faster, line up tasks, and put the important jobs in action; noting that the end results would have expedient impact on the organization’s health and wealth. A nimble PMO model therefore, would have less review processes and more of action oriented processed - with just enough information, to help audience to approve,  defer, or cancel the projects efficiently and effortlessly.

As PMPs, we can then apply fast tracking or crashing processes to programs with higher number of projects when we have lower capacity of performance; reduce the scopes, or increase the resources. This technique would be a good negotiating tool.

Please note that when executives show interest in the new projects, they imply knowing how many resources may be freed up! Hence sketched-out priorities and choices would help making another negotiating chance. By showing priorities up to existing projects, PMO may indicate that given resources can be assigned to higher-priority projects, negotiate for more resource, or fund, etc.

The usual problem in IT and data centers is the co-relation between sustaining (the business) and new development! The challenge is trying not to squeeze sustainability, yet to be able to initiate new projects. Hence, categorizing and providing road maps to streamline or automate processes would help PMO office as well. This will become another tool to make informed decisions. PMOs are not just about projects, programs, or tools, but about keeping a sustainable business while progressing towards prosperity.

Another attention is employing 10 Agile Principles, and using their simplicity to maximize productivity. Using in-take processes, we would be able to filter out low priority projects from the list. This model would cultivate the culture of asking the right question in order to regulate projects approvals. Yet another approach is progressive elaboration; once the projects are grouped to form programs, progressively look into the projects and their priorities (sometime up to story level) and rank them for informed decision makings.

Another approach is to assign a program or portfolio owner who would take responsibility of managing resources and actions within that portfolio. This would eliminate micro management by PMOs, and empower accountability policies by PMOs that would be well in-tuned for Strong-Matrix or Functional organizations.

An agile PMO would take actions to streamline processes, not just to review projects.

Up-ward and On-ward,
David


This is an extract of a group meeting of PMISV members. Some of attending members are:

Anup Deshpande, Dan Levin, Steve Enabnit, Steve Deffley, Mathew Thankachan, T. Mallie Brathwaite, Ray Williams, and David Bakhtnia

12 Agile principles are:

  1. Satisfy the Customer
  2. Embrace Change
  3. Frequent Delivery
  4. Cross-Functional Collaboration
  5. Support and Trust
  6. Face-to-Face Conversation
  7. Working Software
  8. Sustainable Pace
  9. Technical Excellence
  10. Keep it Simple
  11. Self-Organization
  12. Inspect and Adapt

If you care to learn more about Agile trends and Agile methodology of leadership, contact following sources, connect with leaders, and attend related courses below:

July 17, 2013

How to bring Agile to other departments; Marketing, Sales, Support, etc.

Category: Management — David @ 6:53 pm

It is a daunting task to convince other departmental executives to coordinate their departments’ projects with the rest of organization using Agile methodology! This was actually a question brought up by a colleague at one of our PMI-SV chapter meetings. Below are some of responses from the leading managers attending our meeting;

  • We shall think in Agile methodology before we buy-in to it! In other words, managers shall think in incremental changes by the team leading to the final product.
  • Expectations of executives must be tuned with Agile mindset.
  • Customers must also be communicated to accept Agile methodology; incremental updates, accepting increments, and proceed this iteration till the end of project / product.
  • Managers need to know that there is no UAT (User Acceptance Test) using Agile methodology.
  • All departments’ team members shall be familiar with Agile methodology.
  • Other departments’ managers and executives must accept that there would be no date commitment for intermediate processes. However, a tentative end-date can be set forth.
  • Drive priorities as set in requirements and proceed with “Stories”.
  • Only commit to what is visible to you (that can be delivered incrementally).
  • Agile is a value-driven process that depends on the value of what is set to be done. The value is known or set by the customers and stakeholders; usually using 20-80 rule (i.e. 20% of requirements will drive 80% of the bulk of the product). These are end user values that are set and delivered incrementally.
  • Agile will use “progressive elaboration” of products and end user results. However, how customers would have end results depends on progressive elaboration and incremental delivery of needs. This is the (Agile) process that shall be clearly communicated to all parties involved.
  • Other time-dependent actions and revenue-recognition event (such as Press Releases) can be addressed depend on the cut-off date set forth at the beginning of the process. However, delivery of requirements shall proceed incrementally till the set-date.
  • Important requirement (within the 20% set) shall be scheduled within the stories and delivered by the set date. All other requirements (within 80% set) are set to be delivered incrementally as the project advances.

More information regarding upcoming classes and trainings in San Jose area:
PMI-ACP Exam Prep Course (3 Days) at PMI – San Francisco Bay Area Chapter:
– Instructor: Anup Deshpande, August 3, 2013 @ 8:30 am – 5:00 pm

Anup also offers training for individuals as well as corporate teams.

Please visit PMI- Silicon Valley chapter website for more information about different activities of PMI - Silicon Valley chapter.

Up-ward and On-ward,
David

July 8, 2013

Share the collective knowledge

Category: Management — David @ 4:33 pm

Disclaimer: This is a multi-contributor blog and I would like to acknowledge credentials of the contributors . Following my last post, today (July 8th 2013) I attended another meeting of Job Search Breakfast Meeting of PMISV in Sunnyvale (CA). Below is highlights of our today’s discussion.

When it comes to “elevator pitch” at a job interview, it is recommended that we keep three things in mind and talk about them. Regarding technology for instance, touching on development, process, and delivery would be a good opening to attract attention.

A good conversation-provoking is when asked about one’s background, talk about strength, passion, hobbies, and what would be a good matching point for job seeker to fit to the culture of the organization. A recruiter for instance, may seek technical competency in interview. However, trying to find a common point of interest, one may talk about a common interest or hobby. “Eric Johnson” said in an interview with Cisco, he noticed a real guitar on the wall of the hiring manager and he used his musical talent and background and that was the connecting topic. Hence, observing the person across the table and finding a shared interest would take the communication to its natural next step. Showing your interest and knowledge about a common interest would show that because you are well rounded, you would be a better match, probably compare to the rest of candidates. It also gives the interviewer a chance to talk about something that interests him / her.

Another good point is to find a chance to ask the interviewer a question at the beginning of the interview as well as at the end. For instance, what keeps you concerned about this position? Is the position a new one, or replacing an available rank? If replacing, why previous person left? If a new position, what gap you are filling - or what would be the most pressing tasks expected? What are the challenges, difficulties, or opportunities associated with the position? What would you expect to be done systematically? How better can I perform to meet and exceed expectations? When people leave, what opportunities are unsealed? “Terry Archuleta” added that a good practice is to ask for the follow up of the interview; I am very much interested in the position and I wonder when I could hear about your decision! In other words, without showing desperation, interviewer shall have a strong sense of your interest in the position.

Remember that in any interview, you want as much information about that organization as the interviewer is seeking from you! In other words, you want to make sure that you would fairly fit into your new position. You want to know about the culture of your company, dress code (if any), financial and marketing challenges the organization is facing. And you want to make sure that you can get the job done with the highest satisfaction possible.

We had an hour of very interesting conversation. I tried to capture a glance of what we talked about. I also would like to provide this space to our team members to add their points by inserting their comments. Please note that if comments made by our attendees will carry a link to their LinkedIn profile.

Rise and Shine,
David


Following are attendants of Job Search Breakfast Meeting (July 8, 2013) of PMISV in Sunnyvale (CA).

Skip La Fetra, Scott E Petersen, Scott Spetter, Terry Archuleta, David Bakhtnia

My goal is to convey bulk of our discussion to public. I think the combined knowledge and experience of attendees carry so much value that our job seekers can benefit from every point made in our meetings. I also would like to provide a space to our attendees to elaborate on their points so that their point of view are transparently expressed.

July 1, 2013

Claim Your Online Profile and Credentials

Category: Management — David @ 3:01 pm

Being discovered and found online is very important for technical professionals! This matter is very important, especially for those trying to get the right professional position, or a consulting contract. A hiring team member (manager, HR, etc.) would search for our name online - to find a reasonable link to qualify our credential. We may lose the first step of an opportunity if one of our not-so-exciting link appears on the top of the search results!

I have been attending breakfast meeting of our PMI group - Silicon Valley chapter for the past year. I can proudly write that attendees are among the best technical managers I have ever met. Their technical knowledge, professional analysis of topics, broad examination of the subject-matter, and detailed description of their point-view, each deserves its own blog entry! As an example, in our today’s meeting (July 1st, 2013) we briefly talked about a few topics regarding job search such as how and what kind of keywords to use in our resume to bring it to the top of resume banks (like in LinkedIn)? Below are samples of what was suggested:

  1. Update your online profiles frequently
  2. A few of your accomplishments (of last position) shall be the first entries of resume
  3. Organize resume in one page – if possible
  4. Have your own blogs, or comments on others’ blogs so that your name pops on search results
  5. Add a professional picture to your profile
  6. Visit other online job search websites and participate in their system
  7. Get control of your online profile – Ah did I mention this before?

Yes, the first-and-last entries are about updated online profile. As one of attendees mentioned, if we do not own and control our online profile, someone else might!

I would like to reserve the chance to add to these topics on my next few entries as I have to go back to attend a client’s technical issue now! However, I would like to invite attendees of our network breakfast group of PMI-Silicon Valley chapter (and other viewers alike) to insert their voice as well! I am hoping to have a dynamic conversation to help each other in our networking efforts.

Cheers,

David

May 20, 2013

Technical Professionals and Recruiters

Category: Life, Management, Technologies — David @ 2:46 pm

On another breakfast meeting our PMI group, we had one of the best Sr. Technical Recruiters I have met. After brief introduction, his transparent view regarding recruiting, dilemma surrounding our job market, and the Q-A exchange of ideas among our members are what keeps me attending our meetings. Any day I get a full basket of new ideas.

Below are excerpts from our meeting. I am sure that every reader this short note can write passages regarding every point raised! These are just a-tip of floating icebergs:

  • Staffing firms shall be prompt and accurate when qualifying candidates for a specific position. They shall also retain their contacts’ information current. Recruiting firms must also avoid RADD (Recruiter Attention Deficit Disorder)!
    Note: recruiters read the first paragraph of resumes, and glance through it looking for a few keywords. All recruiters find candidates for their available positions, not fitting a “proper” position for a candidate! Recruiters are paid for finding people to fit jobs not for finding jobs for people!
  • Recruiting and staffing life cycle is broken, or very weak! Having the three components of the equation (recruiter, manager, and candidate), unfortunately the outcome is not as desirable as it’s supposed to be! The reason might be due to recruiters not being as knowledgeable! They sometimes do not get exact needs of their hiring managers. Instead of having a list of responsibilities, they need to understand the nature of needs and requirements to overcome the needs by appropriate skill set!
  • Hiring managers sometimes relax matching their needs and requirements! Often the requirements are “boilerplates”, job functions (or even the position itself) may change during the interview, skills are not prioritized, etc.
    Note that if the job description has too much fine-details, then the position might be a target req. (for someone who is already selected)!
  • Keyword-stuffing in resume leads to misunderstanding – massive use of keywords utilized by resume-screening applications may place a candid applicant in different categories. It might even make a skilled experience look over-stuffed!
  • Candidates are confused with multiple resumes and varied experience / responsibilities! Resumes must be prepared for at least a job-class / job-field, chronologically explained, with a short sales pitch atop (i.e. 1/2 or 1/3 page). Resume shall not be circulated online! Send resumes to recruiters that you know.
  • Professional and experienced managers pay more attention to skill-set; they screen-in, not screen-out!
  • The best strategy is using personal networks. Quarry your contact list; old friends, professional contacts from past, contacts of friends, and whomever you may find with links to the hiring organization / manager.
  • Note that recruiters are on the hook as well. As a candidate, we shall craft our resume for the position (without fraud and scam a skill with no experience!)

This list can go on and on! There are so many points that need to be expanded and thoroughly examined. However, there is a point that I would like to pause for a second, and that is the “discrimination” issue that one way or other we face it time to time! Without breach of legalities, as a technical professional with over twenty years of experience I am constantly compared to younger generations in many different ways (energy level, technical knowledge, offering hip solution to a problem, etc.)! Not crossing discriminatory line, an emigrant I have been dismissed due to accent in conversation – that is among engineers talking technical issues! Yet again, our elected officials are looking aboard for technical professionals to work her while we still have high percentage of unemployment!

I welcome any input to this short excerpt from any reader. Send your input or comment, please.

Up-ward and On-ward,
David

PS. This entry is posted on www.bakhtnia.com/blog/ as well.
May 13, 2013

Interviewing skills & behavioral understanding

Category: Management — David @ 1:58 pm

Below are just a few points regarding interview skills of professional (project / program) managers. I have just inserted a few points that we talked in our PMI-Silicon Valley Chapter’s breakfast meeting. Please feel free to comment and take this post to a dynamic level.

We have seen many interview skills on the Net such as top 10 skills, the best approach, etc. One of the notions that came up in our meeting was how to successfully give the assurance that you can do the job you’re being interviewed for. In a nutshell, you shall persuade the interviewer that you fit the technical and professional requirements. In other words, while responding to the questions, a colleague said “you are evaluating the interviewer as well, to see if you are fit for the rank - and if you would like the environment to stay-in”! These feedbacks are not easy to grasp in a short conversation, yet very important for anyone’s career. This requires a homework in Behavioral Analysis such that you and your interviewer delicately “manage” the interview for the benefit of both; a win-win situation.

However, one needs experience to affectively -yet rapidly analyze the question and behavior of the interviewer(s), and then assuring that you are a good fit for the position.

Boiled down, we need to accomplish three basic objectives in less than an hour:
Statement; if we are good for the position – for a meaningful length of time
Questions; what to do to proceed to the next step
Action; how to follow up and consequently succeed the employment

This topic can be expanded to many areas! I just added a couple of points I got from many experienced professionals in our team. I would love to have your input and comments.

Note: This post is inserted to David’s blog at www.bakhtnia.com/blog as well

April 15, 2013

First Note on Management

Category: Management — admin @ 1:11 pm

This is my first writing about management (project, program, product, people, etc.)
Hopefully other professional friends, colleagues, and viewers will participate in a dynamic exchange of ideas regarding management issues.

I would like to start with a note from Michel Thiry’s presentation at PMI; The Future of PM in a Digital Economy. ( Members of PMI can log-in and listen to the recorded version.

With the expansion of digital technology that affects everyone’s daily life, and while the global economy is shifting and business context becoming complex and turbulent, how can we adapt our business procedures and projects progresses in this fast-paste digitized environment? Especially a micro business like my business, I need to proactively connect my project and program management, and product development processes to global digital technology, bringing my talents to my business partners’ table! These are translated into connecting the enterprise products demands to fast-growth talents (by younger economies*) who want a share of the prosperity as well. I am trying to use any possible means to connect different stakeholders of “A” project in my hand together; so that we all can respond to any change as fast as possible so that the project can produce based on its milestones – on time and within projected budget.

* BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and other young and fast-growing digital minds (Singapore, Malaysia, Middle-easterners, Mexico, etc.)