The Engineering Lifestyle, Part I

Work. It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye, right? That saying may be well suited for some industries, such as professional sports and knitting, but in the technically driven industry of software engineering it isn't quite accurate. Instead, the saying would be something like “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…” This is the challenge of the work we engineers have self-selected for ourselves. There is always some aspect of the job that is dull and mundane, and overcoming this to still achieve great things is often a problem that software companies face. How do you keep your engineers happy and engaged? How do you provide them the freedom and autonomy to innovate, yet still meet business objectives and needs?

Taking a cue from Google and their 80/20 rule, we here at ReadyTalk implemented an R&D concept that we refer to as ReadyTalk Labs. In case you haven't heard or have been living under a rock, Google's 80/20 rule is where an engineer gets to essentially spend 20% of their time working on their own thing (but still company related) and 80% of their time working on Google things. Their 20% time could be spent on almost anything across the company that they are passionate about, but often it ends up having a direct impact on the product. Things like GMail, AdSense and Google News were born from the 80/20 concept.

Our implementation of Labs began as 20% of each iteration. Our scrum teams work in 2-week iterations, so 2 days of every iteration could be spent on ReadyTalk Labs work. This continued for several months, but what we found when we looked back at how it was progressing was that we had not appropriately solved the problem. The challenge we saw in our implementation came down to the basic human challenge of balancing one's time. The engineers were challenged to be available to help work on production issues, or lend a hand to other engineers yet still carve out those 16 hours of Labs time. This usually resulted in engineers actually skipping that Labs time altogether.

So we dove into brainstorming this problem once more, and emerged with a much better implementation of RT Labs. What we chose to do was allow every scrum team to take every 5th iteration as a Labs iteration. It still boils down to 20% of their time, but what this allows is for the teams to really focus on something substantial in their Labs time. It also helps to set expectations with the Product team, so they know that a team that is on their Labs iteration will not be committing to any product driven work for that iteration, which solves the problem of forcing the team to prioritize their own innovation time against product requests. We originally staggered each teams Labs iteration so that at any given time only 1 team for a given product line was working on labs stuff. We have since modified this so that all teams Labs iterations align as much as possible, to allow for more cross-team labs work to occur. You can read more about our Labs time in a recent Denver Post article, "Labs" time elicits ideas at ReadyTalk.

In this day and age, when technology is advancing so quickly and every company is trying to find that next big thing that will launch them into the stratosphere, keeping your top talent happy and engaged should be priority number one. How are you or your company achieving this goal?

Jason Collins (aka JC) is the VP of Engineering at ReadyTalk and the self-appointed Chief Happiness Officer. He's been either writing code or managing engineers for nearly 15 years and has a passion for technology and agile development practices. The happiness of the engineering team is his top priority and he can usually be found wearing a ReadyTalk cape and the infamous "idea helmet" around the office to help keep people entertained. When he's not hanging out with his work family, he's at home with his wife and four boys doing all sorts of geeky things, like playing video games and watching campy Sci-Fi and Action flicks.

It’s National Telework Week! Here’s some tips to get you through!

Yesterday, ReadyTalk announced that we have been added to the GSA Contract Schedule and are ramping up our presence in the government space (more on that here). As part of commitment to government agencies, ReadyTalk is a sponsor of National Telework Week (February 14-18).

In celebration of Telework Week, I wanted to share some telework articles and resources that you might find useful:

Tips for Teleworking

 

Benefits of Teleworking

 

What are your tips for teleworking? Favorite resources? Words of wisdom?

Telework brings work/life balance among other benefits

The marketing department at ReadyTalk is participating in Telework week to promote ReadyTalk’s entrée into the Federal Government. Today is my scheduled day to telework. Coincidentally, I also got a last minute opportunity to stay up in our condo at Winter Park, CO and spend some time with my family. Turns out I can do both.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of teleworking, it is the act of working from home or from an alternative work place – really from anywhere. Today’s technology enables this possibility. With smart phones, corporate VPNs, web mail, instant messaging – and, ahem, audio and web conferencing – workers can be more productive, efficient, green – and get a little more time in with the family.

This morning I’ll be working from the condo. This afternoon I’ll step outside into the beautiful Colorado sunshine and enjoy my first ski day in seven years with my twin 6-year-old boys (who said they will go easy on me). Work/life balance at its very best.

ReadyTalk will be doing more in the next few months to support our efforts in the government market. Watch our webinar series for presentations on how to work with the government and more on telework practices. We’ll be attending Telework Town Hall and the GSA Expo in DC in April and May.

To learn more about how ReadyTalk’s technology enables teleworking for the Federal government and other companies visit www.readytalk.com/gov. ReadyTalk services are available through our GSA contract number GS-35F-0084X. Our services are also available on GSA Advantage! For more information, visit the GSA Advantage! site or contact our Government Sales team.

ReadyTalk hits the streets of Vegas at IFA’s Annual Conference

ReadyTalk attends several industry trade shows every year. There is one in particular that we attend time after time and that is the International Franchise Association (IFA). The IFA is the oldest and largest organization representing franchising worldwide. The mission for IFA is to protect, enhance and promote franchising through government relations, public relations and educational programs.

Cultivating the relationships with the franchises is a priority at ReadyTalk and in the past nine years ReadyTalk has exhibited at the Annual conference. This year the conference is in Las Vegas and Josh White and Mike Ligon will manage the ReadyTalk booth. This event is a great opportunity for Josh and Mike to reconnect with customers and build relationships with new prospects. The show is a smaller scaled event with approximately 2000 attendees and 200 vendors.

It would be great to see old and new faces. Please stop by booth #149 at the IFA Annual Conference. Mike and Josh would be thrilled to show you some new features in the pipeline for ReadyTalk services.


Melanie is rounding her third year at ReadyTalk. She works closesly with the sales department to coordinate and excute ReadyTalk's tradeshow presence. She's also the goddess of ReadyTalk schwag and party planning. In her free time, you'll find her spending time with finacee and dog.

Recipe for the Perfect Webinar

Here’s a tried and true recipe for the perfect webinar, but feel free to make it your own. Before you get started, you’ll want to gather the following ingredients:

  • 3 cups Engaging speaker(s)
    2 lbs. Interesting content (fresh, original topics always work best)
    2 1/2 cups of ReadyTalk webinar technology
    1/3 cup PowerPoint presentation
    1/4 tsp. Polling questions
    3/4 cup Recording technology (great if you plan to serve your webinar later on or want to reuse some of the ingredients)

     

    For the promotion:
    1 tbl. email invitations
    1 tbl. social media
    1 tbl custom registration page

 

Combine equal parts email invitations, target marketing and social media to begin building the base for your audience. Promotion can begin as much as six weeks in advance and can be tracked with ReadyTalk’s integrated campaign tools. Consider baking small, bite-size webinars (2 minutes in length) that can be recorded and shared on your website and blog.

Stir together the speaker, presentation content and ReadyTalk technology. Do this two to three days in advance and let chill. This will ensure a smooth delivery.

Mix the speaker, PowerPoint presentation, audience and ReadyTalk webinar technology with high energy for 40 minutes. Stir in a pinch of polling to engage the audience further. Add 15 minutes of direct audience interaction with a question and answer period.
Serve with a post event survey, recording, and follow-up materials for participants.

Serves up to 3,000 people.

 

As the marketing communications and PR manager, Bo gets to wear many hats (but her favorite is a tiara). When she isn't tackling branding, messaging, social media and collateral, she enjoys skiing with her husband, running with her dog and playing board games with friends.