Staying Relevant in IT: How We Foster a Collaborative Learning Environment at Daugherty

While there are many things that I love about my job at Daugherty St. Louis, there’s nothing quite like helping a developer grow in their craft. If we’re honest with ourselves, one of the toughest parts of our job is staying relevant. Technology is moving so fast, and it takes a community of caring individuals to help inspire, motivate and teach to stay on top of our game.

That’s one of things that I’m so proud of here in the Software Architecture and Engineering Line of Service. We all motivate each other, teaching and learning from everyone, to keep driving technology forward and solving some of our client’s toughest business problems.

With that, one of our goals as an organization is Alignment. We try to understand where the technology is going, what our clients are implementing, and ensuring that we train every one of our consultants to stay relevant. One of the more entertaining ways we do this is through our Annual Summit.

It’s a full day event where our teammates can come together for learning, great discussion, fun, and camaraderie. Nearly 70% of our team packed our two largest conference rooms on a Saturday for 10 distinct classes. Who says learning can’t be fun? With our passionate group of individuals, the Annual Summit is one of my favorite days of the year.

Classes this year included Responsive Web Design, Intro to Microservices, Cloud Development, and Internationalization as well as thought leadership topics like Dev Ops, Bi-Modal IT, Agile in the Real World, and Solution Architecture. Daugherty employees were able to select between classes that were newly developed for the Summit or that they were not able to participate in during our normal round of Lunch-n-Learns and evening classes.

It wasn’t all lecture and discussion… Half way through the day, the teams broke into smaller groups to participate in a team-building event. They built a deck of “cards” that was quite impressive. In fact, we were all amazed at the ingenuity of our employees.

It wasn’t all work, either. After a full day, we hit the lanes for some bowling. When you work with clients all across the St. Louis region, our team gets fairly spread out. Events like our Annual Summit, regular hackathons, and Daugherty social events remind us just how important it is to continue fostering an environment of collaboration, respect and learning opportunities for our people.

I would encourage anyone who is a developer or a manager, make sure that you never lose sight of the importance of teamwork and team building. What can you glean from those around you? Take a break, check out some training, have a discussion with your teammates, and never stop learning. (Which goes for managers, too.) We’re never too old to learn something new.

So, what’s your environment like? How can you foster more collaboration and learning among your peers? Share your thoughts with me in the comments, and of course, I’d love for you to consider joining Team Daugherty if your environment isn’t quite what you’d like.

Photo Credit: Dave Oleksa via Twitter

 

GlobalHack V Winners Share Their Experience, Lessons Learned

How does it feel to win $30,000 at a hackathon? “It feels mostly like being really tired,” Will Stampley said, somewhat jokingly. Will along with teammates Alex White and Becca Williams won first place at GlobalHack V in St. Louis. I sat down with Alex and Will on Wednesday after the event, and while they were in great spirits, they were still feeling their long weekend.

Will and Alex are part of our Software Architecture and Engineering team at Daugherty St. Louis while Becca is a colleague of theirs at RGA. The competition, GlobalHack, was founded as a non-profit by local entrepreneurs to build a better tech ecosystem through hackathons. For its fifth event, 250 people competed to breathe new life into how you navigate the municipal court systems in St. Louis, particularly how citizens navigate in relation to traffic fines.

Their were several great projects presented, including one from a high school team that took 3rd place overall.

inf_mgmt_bottom

Will, Alex and Becca’s winning platform, named CommuniSee, allows residents to look up and resolve tickets through various methods quickly, easily and securely. They also paid particular attention to how low income citizens can interact with the platform by creating a tool connecting citizens with corporations and non-profit’s community service opportunities to pay off their fines through volunteer work.

“It’s like a backwards Kickstarter,” explained Will on how they thought about this idea. “Instead of payment tiers, you have needs or opportunities. The sponsor is voluntarily offering this opportunity and the person with a ticket can sign up. Since both are opting in, you don’t need a judge.”

Their thinking… This has the potential to alleviate individuals having to take a day off of work to take care of their violations. Will explained that you don’t receive a time with your court date; it’s just a date. You also run the risk of having a continuance, meaning you have to come back the next day, effectively having to take off another day of work.

This is just part of what they created. Alex (pictured left) also thinks their map gave them a bit of an edge, too. Instead of just having a front-end database lookup, they created an interactive map that allows citizens to click on where they received their ticket. St. Louis has 84 municipalities in its county. You may or may not know what municipality you are in when you receive the ticket, but you can select it on their map to find out.

“We allowed for a tolerance,” said Alex. “If you get pulled over, even if right on the edge, it will search multiple municipalities to find your ticket.”

The team received high praise from the judges, including a nice moment with Founder of GlobalHack Gabe Lozano. During the deep dive after the first round of judging took place, Will was showing them more on their prototype. “I was telling him, it’s scalable, works like this, separate projects, all industry accepted, layered architecture, stuff we do for a living,” shared Will. “Gabe was sitting there, and he asked me, ‘How much of what you showed me is all real?’ I said, it’s all real. He said, ‘That’s impressive.’ Coming from Gabe who is always so quiet, it felt really good to have him say that.”

In just over 30 hours, Will, Alex and Becca were able to put together a very thoughtful, working prototype that wowed the judges.inf_mgmt_bottom

In just over 30 hours, Will, Alex and Becca were able to put together a very thoughtful, working prototype that wowed the judges. Not bad for a team with very little experience in the court system. “We both didn’t feel like we knew a lot about civic courts. Alex has never had a ticket, I’ve never gone to court for a ticket, and here we are trying to put together a system for it,” said Will. “There’s that moment – are they going to laugh at us? I’m a perfectionist, and until I get there I’m like every little thing is driving me nuts. Then you look in and you’re like, oh… that’s better than I thought.”

This was the second GlobalHack the team had attended, and they learned a lot from their previous experience. It was also their motivator for coming back and winning this one. “I stayed through the finals of the last one and saw what the winning teams had done,” said Alex. “I saw third place, and thought, man if we had 2 -3 more hours, we could have placed here. Next one, my weekend is free.”

They didn’t mess around, either. “We hit the ground running this time. We spent 30 minutes identifying what we wanted to do and identified our stretch goals,” said Alex. “It was almost like an agile environment, though not intentionally, we just naturally did that. We had little sprints.”

While winning was ultimately what they wanted to do, it’s about more than just the money for them. These hackathons are helping them be better consultants for Daugherty.

“It’s a really good exercise with no preexisting conditions, no management, to just say, what’s the way you want to build software? How do you want to solve a problem?” said Will. “[After a hackathon], you realize you haven’t been solving problems the best way for people. We can be so much better than this. I watched it happen at GlobalHack. Hackathons are great to get yourself in this mindset. How much can I really accomplish in a work week? How do I solve a problem really well?”

If you’ve never participated in a hackathon, Alex and Will have a few tips for winning…

  • Figure out who is responsible for what early in the hackathon.
  • Make sure you’re well-rested beforehand. Don’t go in tired.
  • There are better uses of your time than staying in your chair. Take walks, go eat dinner somewhere to get your ideas flowing.
  • Don’t be easily offended. Be respectful when you shoot down ideas, but move on quickly.
  • Keep on track to have something that’s viable and push yourself with stretch goals to come back to later.
  • And as for their winnings…

    “I’m going to buy a 3D printer and probably refinish a bathroom in my house,” said Will.

    “I’m going to build a new desktop with liquid cooling,” shared Alex.

    “Can you tell we’re nerdy?” laughed Will.

    Nerdy or not, this winning team was a well-oiled machine, which resulted in a $30,000 check, source code that could eventually help solve a big problem in the St. Louis community, and they learned a lot along the way. Great work Team Daugherty!

    We’ll see you at the next GlobalHack, which is said to feature a million dollar prize in late 2016.

    If you want to take a closer look at the winning prototype, Alex sent along the following information –

    http://gh-angular.herokuapp.com/#/ (The server “sleeps” so if you’re the first one to hit it in a while it might take a bit to load since it’s just a free solution we used.)

    Option 1: Do you have your ticket #?
    Ticket #: 754039581
    DOB: 02/26/1959

    Option 2: Do you have your driver’s license info?
    License #: O250395952
    State: MO
    DOB: 08/02/1996

    Option 3: Where did you get your ticket?
    Last Name: Cook
    City/Municipality: Valley Park (pick from list or select from map pop-up)
    DOB: 12/03/1968

    Under Pay Ticket, take a look at the Alternative Payment Options that could be available via a sponsor.

    Sponsor Login (creates opportunities/needs for alternative payment options)
    Username: DemoCompany
    Password: DemoCompanyPwd


    Photo Credits – GlobalHack Facebook Page

    Service First Design in the Real World: Lessons from SA&E Summit

    On August 23, Daugherty Business Solutions in St. Louis held its annual Software Architecture and Engineering internal summit.  I had the pleasure of teaching an SOA / Service First Design class, which focused on the fact that SOA is a design paradigm and not a suite of tools.  We spent time discussing the meaningful utility, feasibility and sustainability in putting your service design at the forefront of your architectural vision.  It was a great, interactive class on moving from application centric design to service first design.

    But, how do you begin?

    Starting something as daunting as SOA can be very difficult, since the changes are as much cultural as they are technical.  To move your organization toward Service First Design, you need to have three key ingredients:

    1. Alignment between Business and IT

    To break the application focus paradigm, both entities must begin to speak about, plan for, and measure business capabilities (See Gartner Business Capability Modeling for further reading).

    2. Centralized Governance

    You’ll need a centralized governance model that can evolve to provide oversight of the SOA governance components of service first design

    3. Appetite and Ability

    Companies will need an appetite and the ability to develop and adhere to business outcome driven roadmaps.

    The idea of implementing SOA, and the Enterprise Architecture necessary to ensure these ingredients are fully developed, scares many organizations.  That’s because too often they are presented as “tool solutions” and large “Ivory Tower” activities that are not easily digestible.  One of Daugherty’s strengths is its ability to take the complex IT disruptions facing organizations and present them with an “in the Real World” perspective.

    Yes, service first design is a large leap for organizations, but it doesn’t have to seem impossible.  To ensure your business capabilities have aligned technical solutions that can continue to evolve as long as your business does, you must begin to embrace that “Everything Is a Service.”  Service First Design is one way to help you make that transition.