Quality Assurance (Pre vs. Post)

So many people want to get their sites/projects/etc out so fast they completely overlook quality assurance (QA). I have recently worked with two extremes and wanted to comment on both.

  1. Quality Assurance pre-release Any time I work on a project – I always build in time for quality assurance. Quality assurance time is specifically spent on browser issues, adding sample content, and making changes. I recently worked with a client that spent two weeks on quality assurance and added several hundred test posts for sample content in order to work out any bugs that needed to be fixed. How did the release go? Pretty darn smooth. The initial few days were not stressful nor were they all consuming due to issues that users found. The site premiered as professional and well put together.
  2. Quality Assurance post-release I have also recently worked on a project that had to be put out ASAP and when I say ASAP – I mean frantic calls at all hours of the day, crazy status checks, and a completely rushed process. The result: the project was pushed out way to soon, and there were massive changes/updates after the site was live and people were viewing it. How did the release go? It went out early, and something was “there” but so were issues…and the issues were visible for all to see. Generally – I do not generate sloppy code or anything that would cause issues on purpose – but there are things that will show up only after proper testing is done. Since the testing was done after the site was live – the issues were much more visible because users were the ones reporting them – making the site look much less put together. How did the release go? Frantic.

The moral of the story here: I know there are times when “rush jobs” are needed – just remember that with rush jobs – you will see issues post-release instead of pre-release. If that is ok with you (beta site) then that is fine, but do not expect a completely functional and “perfect” product if you do not test it (regardless of who creates it).

Like my friend D always says:

I can give you a product that is built well, built quickly, and built cheap – you pick two.

After doing some home improvement projects in the last few weeks – I can say the same is true there. All I ask of people is to realize that there is a cost with everything. My suggestion: do it right the first time and always make quality assurance a priority – or you will end up paying more later. A little QA goes a long way.

The New Beast

I do not know about you – but the last year has absolutely been insane work-wise. I have said it before and I will say it again. I feel like the people that still have jobs – are working at a super frantic rate. I decided to work late tonight to get caught up on a number of tasks so my weekend will be semi-enjoyable. I like working late because I feel like I can get ahead.

Tonight – much like other nights this year – just as I think I am going to get ahead by closing out as many unread messages as possible – more come in. While writing these two paragraphs – I got 3 new messages from clients.

I do not know what will happen. Will those of us who are still working…and working at this crazy pace burn out or will businesses start to see the burn out coming and actually start hiring again?

In this recession – I have found that it is not that there is less work to do – there are just fewer people that are doing it…and those people are doing the jobs of 2-3 people. What will happen…who knows, but for now it looks like I am just better off stopping work so I can get some relaxation in for the day.

Long Days…

Me too...

Me too...

Man – these past few weeks have been insane. I literally have been working non-stop and feel like I cannot quite get to a good stopping point. I will say that I have been busy with three particular projects that I was just not really excited about but after a long day and getting 2 of the 3 out the door – I am glad I made good headway today and I actually ended up enjoying both projects (which is how it usually goes). As long as I continue to learn – then everything is going pretty good! Let’s hope for a relaxing weekend!

Minimizing Interruptions

Lately I have felt like I have been doing the never fun “suicides” that I did in high school during basketball practice. Running to one spot, running back, running to the next stop, running back, etc. There have been way too many tasks at hand and instead of finishing one and moving on – I have been in a rut of moving from one task to another, then back, then on to another and back…and I blame interruptions (email, phone, IM).

For the next few days-weeks I am going to limit myself with email, phone calls, and IM while I am working. I will respond or be available, but only at times I am taking a break from work or taking time to respond to incoming communication so I can regain some focus (and get caught up without working these manic 12-14 hour days).

If you need something – email me. If you want to chat – I will most likely be online after lunch or after dinner.

Wasting Money the Government Way

Here in Illinois we have been hearing about the Rod Blagojevich fiasco for weeks. I have been busy for the last few weeks and have not watched the news or his trial – but I did happen to catch that as soon as he was impeached – IL spent $15,000 to remove signs on our highways that had his name on them (Open Road Tolling–Rod R. Blagojevich Governor). PS – these signs cost $480,000 to create and put up.

I am disgusted with the waste that I continually see government organizations partake in on a daily basis. I remember when I transitioned from working for a higher education/non-profit workplace to working for my own for-profit company. The first few weeks I really saw how much more effective for-profit companies are and have to be (both mine and others that I worked with) compared to the constant flow of tax money into some government/non-profit organizations.

Not that I believe all non-profit and government organizations are extremely wasteful – but the moderate in me – would love to see some of our government and non-profit organizations have to make money before they could spend it. I bet you things would quickly change (and it drives me crazy that it would change…because organizations should spend money carefully and responsibly regardless of their profitability – in my opinion). Responsibility should not be forced…but perhaps it should for some?

Do I agree that most of the organizations have the best interests in mind for Americans? For the most part…yes, but just like with anything – you really do not appreciate what you have until you have worked for/earned it. I can guarantee you that some of the projects that take years to complete would either get outsourced or dropped as they should instead of taking up valuable resources. Ineffective managers/workers would get the boot and every dollar brought in and then spent would be appreciated, counted, and better used. I would love to see this play out because I think a wake up call is needed – especially now since our government is in so much debt, programs are bloated, and general waste is high.

Do I agree that Rod Blagojevich needed to be removed from office – yes (assuming the evidence holds up)…but do I agree with removing the signs and wasting overall almost half a million dollars? No. Please – whoever made this decision…wow. Thanks for wasting more of our money, especially when we could have used that for education, construction, etc.

Career Advice for College Students (or Anyone)

I returned from a trip to my alma mater, The Pennsylvania State University, a few days ago after getting asked to speak at the History Department career fair. I was one of seven speakers at the event. We all had various non-traditional history degree careers (which was the point) and surprisingly we all had a very similar message to give to everyone.

  • Network. We all got to where we were by connections and relationships we had made along the way.
  • Get yourself out there. Most of our first job experiences were not what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives, but it gave us a place to start and a place to start networking.
  • Find something you love and specialize in it. This world is becoming a very specialized world and there is a job out there for just about anything. To separate yourself out – find a niche that you love and go with it. This really catapulted my business (WordPress and bbPress specialization)
  • Don’t wait for opportunities to come your way – make your own opportunities. So many people think “My boss will give me a raise if I work hard” or believe that if they do well – they will get what they deserve. This is not usually the case. Look out for yourself – and go out and get what you want in life!

How to Get Stuff Done

The last few weeks I have been extremely busy and on top of that I have been dealing with a sick child and also being sick myself. There is no time to be wasted so efficient use of the time I had was crucial. I feel that since owning my own business, I have had to work very hard to make the most of my time and have a few tips:

  • Focus on 1-3 big tasks per day. Any more tasks than 3 will most likely cause you to spend too much time switching gears. I have begun making a list (yes – let the comments start pouring in as I was anti-list for a long time) of these items and then crossing each item off as I finish. This is surprisingly very rewarding.
  • Limit how often you check email. (See a post I wrote on this in the past)
  • Start the day with an easy task. It sometimes takes more time to get going mentally in the AM so starting with an easy task quickly builds confidence for other tasks later
  • Take time every hour to take a small break to keep your mind fresh
  • If you are having a problem with something you are working on – move on and come back to it later. Sometimes I can easily get lost in a problem and stop thinking about it rationally but by stepping away and coming back to it – I can often solve the problem quicker than if I would have stayed with it.
  • Set a stopping point or time and stick with it. Feel good knowing you have put in 6-8 hours of work a day and realize that there will be things to do tomorrow and not everything needs to get done today. By setting limits, you will feel much more refreshed the next day and your spouse/family will be happier as well.

Managing a Business and a Life

I have now been “on my own” for five months. Five glorious months without hoping I could leave an hour early to take my son to the doctor, sending in my vacation requests six months ahead of time, and dealing with a lot of other ugliness that I had grown tired of. The last five months have been very busy, sometimes stressful, but always rewarding.

It has been a learning process and there has definitely been a learning curve. My biggest problem: stopping work. When asked what I do for a living (own a business/work at home) I often get “wow – I do not think I could stay focused and work at home” – which I then respond – “I have the exact opposite problem, I cannot seem to stop working”. I have had to learn to deal and re-define “immediacy”. When you have multiple clients, work on multiple projects, and also get a steady stream of new and potential clients, it is easy to spend a good chunk of the day simply responding to email.

About a month ago, I decided to set up a priority list so I was less stressed about work flow and could handle my priorities better. Not surprisingly, one of my respected colleagues – Alex King – recently wrote a post on how he handles priorities which is very close to what I came up with.

I handle my priorities very similarly and added one additional top priority: “don’t forget to stop working because there will always be one more request or one more unread email”. I have been able to spend more time with my son, golf more, and feel less stressed. This is not to say that I do not have the occasional long hours or working weekends, but I now can see that those are for the most part optional and not mandatory. I love what I do and work hard, but at the end of the day I work to live, not live to work.

WordPress Jobs

I was approached a few months ago with a project that sounded like a great opportunity: to design the UI and logo for the new WordPress Jobs web site (which my company does about 90% overall business on WordPress development). If you missed the announcement for the site, check it out. If you need WordPress consulting, you could go to the site, or you could go to the company who helped build the site ;).

Over a Month Solo Now

It has officially been over a month since I left my full time job to focus solely on my consulting company and I wanted to take a moment to thank a few key people. First and foremost I would like to thank Amy and our families for believing me in and never questioning my decision. I would also like to thank Alex King for helping me grow my business and for also for his amazing Tasks Pro software which helps me manage my time and my clients. I also want to thank Doug for making me see the light, and Ken for having confidence in me. In the past month I have worked with a number of clients on some amazing projects and I am very excited to work with such a diverse group of individuals. Every day I wake up feeling fortunate to spend my day helping people who appreciate what I have to offer and am extremely glad I FINALLY made the move.