Government as Start-Up?
Posted by: Scott Johnson, Co-Founder and Principal Dec 06, 2013
How is government using agile workflows to create leaner, smarter government tech?
That was one of the ambitious questions that framed the two day conference, Nextgov Prime 2013—and Rock Creek was there to gather and share key insights for 2014.
Hundreds of federal innovators and private sector thought leaders took the opportunity to explore the parallels between private sector technology workflows and those of the most forward-looking government agencies.
Federal Tech Superstars L to R: Panel Moderator, Former Presidential Innovation Fellow Ben Balter; Erie Meyer, Policy Advisor, Open Data, Office of the U.S. CTO, Office of Science and Technology Policy; Mark Schwartz, CIO, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service; Rob Roberts, Director of Digital Strategy at U.S. Department of Energy; Dr. Robert L. Read, Presidential Innovation Fellow, RFP-EZ
Most importantly, the conference drew many interesting analogies between federal agencies and tech start-ups, which operate with ambitious goals, agile development methodologies, and quick turnaround, to help improve the outcomes of government tech projects.
One excellent breakout session, The Federal Start-Up, included a clever look-back approach from the perspective of a successfully-completed tech project. We condensed the notes of panelist Dr. Robert L. Read into 5 principles:
Dr. Robert L. Lead’s process is featured in full below.
The agile development framework that underpins this approach has gradually become the norm. Now, it’s up to us to bring these smarter, more iterative methods into our daily workflows.
It’s not surprising the panelists had this to say about the process —
Scott Johnson: Can you think of any example of a tech project in government or industry that should not be managed within an agile framework?
Dr. Robert L. Read, Presidential Innovation Fellow: No.
Remaining panelists: Agreed. No.
We were thrilled to hear from Read, Meyer, Balter and so many other tech leaders committed to making government better.
My Top 5 Design Books for Designers (and Everyone!)
Posted by: Lauren Moore, Senior Graphic Designer Nov 14, 2013
Successful graphic designers are curious—they continually explore ways to remain creative and relevant. Often, designers turn to blogs and websites to connect and learn from one another, and stay on top of trends. These web resources are a great way to stay current and plug into vibrant communities, but the immersive experience of reading a great design book often can’t be replicated online. Here are some of my favorite design books that can inspire experienced designers, and provide great introductions to design for new- and non-designers alike.
A Smile in the Mind by Beryl McAlhone and David Stuart showcases 30 years of witty and playful design projects and great commentary about wit’s role in memorable design. Not only is “A Smile in the Mind” helpful for sparking ideas, it’s just plain fun to flip through. The end of the book features some of the world’s best designers explaining how they got their big ideas. It makes me eager to come up with a clever concept for my next project!
The Brand Gap is a great book for those involved in building or managing a brand—or anyone interested in an organization’s success for that matter. Author Marty Neumeier explains how successful brands are clear about who they are, what they do, and most importantly… why it matters? Neumeier outlines simple steps to bridge the gap between business strategy and design to create a brand that distinguishes itself…one that we can’t live without!
The Information Design Handbook provides a comprehensive look at information design by exploring cognition, communication, and aesthetic principles. Authors Jennifer Visocky O’Grady and Kenneth Visocky O’Grady show case studies for a range of projects, including infographics, signage, maps, games, and brochures, and present clear evidence for the value in human-centered, accessible design.
Designing for Emotion details the benefits of creating interfaces with personality. Author Aarron Walter, the user experience design lead at Mail Chimp, explains how technology that feels human builds audience engagement and lasting emotional connections. Walter shows examples of interfaces with great personalities (Spoiler alert: one of them is Mail Chimp!).
79 Short Essays on Design by esteemed graphic designer and design critic Michael Bierut is fun and informative. The essays are eclectic, ranging from observations about design’s influence on our everyday lives, to stories about pioneers in the industry. They remind me what I love about design…if you’re looking, there’s always something new to discover and inspire us.
We’re interested to hear what design books you’ve read and have inspired you! Let us know in the comments below or tweet at us!
Dipping Your Toes Into Agile Project Management (Part II)
Posted by: Stephanie Schreibman, Senior Project Manager Oct 30, 2013
Part II: How You Can Join the Agile Revolution
How do you get started with adopting agile into your day-to-day work? In the first part of this blog post, Part I: A Brief History of Agile, I provided a snapshot of the history of agile, including the guiding principles contained in The Agile Manifesto. Here, I will share my experience delving into the world of agile and how you can join the agile revolution too. Read on to learn more about dipping your toes into agile project management.
To Join the Revolution, Join a Project That Uses Agile
For most of us, the best way to learn is to do. We can read about agile, watch videos, study textbooks, and take training courses, but none of these activities will help us learn better than actual hands-on experience. For me, I was fortunate enough to be able to join an experienced agile project team with a certified Scrum Master at the reigns. Scrum is one of many different agile methodologies that have been developed over the years. It provides a good platform for learning some of the basic, more popular tools and techniques of agile. I attended daily scrum meetings that were held for 15 minutes each morning, during which time each team member gave a brief rundown of what they worked on yesterday, what they were working on today, and any obstacles or impediments. I also attended weekly iteration planning and bi-weekly release planning meetings, which consisted of reviewing lists of requirements or features and helping to prioritize them based on customer needs. Through my involvement in these meetings, I began to acquire a baseline of agile knowledge and skills, making it easier for me to absorb information and learn about agile in more formal professional development settings.
Seize Agile Professional Development Opportunities
Now more than ever, a myriad of educational and professional development opportunities centered around agile exist. The Project Management Institute (PMI), considered to be the world’s leading professional association for project management, frequently offers professional development events focused on a variety of agile topics, from the basics of agile to specialty topics such as Kanban, another specific type of agile methodology. By attending these seminars, events, and training sessions, many of which are free to PMI members, I have had the opportunity to hear from a diverse group of project managers about their experiences with agile.
I recently attended the 2013 Project Management Symposium, held by the Washington, DC Chapter of PMI (PMI-WDC). A testament to the increasing popularity of agile, the Symposium program was divided into three different tracks, one of which was “Agile Project Management.” By attending the five presentations offered as part of the agile track, I strengthened my agile vocabulary, widened the breadth of my knowledge of agile methodologies, and learned about new trends in agile and additional resources and offerings in the industry.
Get Agile Certified
At Rock Creek, project managers are required to have Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, so I have experience with earning a certification through PMI already. The Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) certification process is similar to the PMP certification process, as it requires each of the following steps:
- Submit your application: In order to apply for the PMI-ACP, you need to have both general project experience (2,000 hours, about 12 months, within the least five years) as well as agile project experience (1,500 hours, about 8 months, within the last three years) and an additional 21 hours of training in agile practices.
- Study for the exam: The PMI-ACP certification was first offered in 2011, so it is still relatively new. Given this fact, the number of study guides available is currently limited, which I have found to be quite a relief in comparison to the hundreds of different books available to choose from for help with passing the PMP exam. Unlike the PMP certification, which is based on the PMBOK® Guide (developed by PMI and considered to be the official text for all things PMP related), the ACP certification draws from existing resources on agile (developed and published by independent experts in the field). The ACP exam was developed by a steering committee that chose to base the content on a select list of 11 books. The main takeaways from those books and the key concepts in the exam have been synthesized in the PMI-ACP Exam Prep book, the premier study guide for the ACP exam.
- Take the exam: After your ACP application is approved, you will need to schedule your exam at one of PMI’s testing locations. You will have up to three hours to complete the 120-question, multiple-choice exam, which is considered to be more rigorous than any other agile certification in the industry. Anyone who has taken the PMP exam knows that nothing can compare to the feeling you get at the end of the exam after submitting your answers, when you are provided a simple “Pass” or “Fail” rating at the completion of the exam on the final screen.
Beyond Agile Certification
Through this two part blog post series, I hope I have helped prepare you for dipping your toes into agile project management. What lies beyond, after achieving ACP certification, I have yet to discover. But after I do, I will be sure to write a new blog post to share my experience with attaining ACP certification and putting my agile project management knowledge into practice.
Extreme Recess Simple Changes’ Therapeutic Horse Ride
Posted by: Lauren Pritchard, Marketing Strategist Oct 25, 2013
This past Sunday, October 20th, Rock Creekers gathered at the Simple Changes Therapeutic Riding Center in Lorton, VA to volunteer for the 2013 Dreams for Kids Extreme Recess Simple Changes’ Therapeutic Horse Ride. The annual event features a special horse-riding clinic for children with disabilities as well as arts & crafts, face painting, and the opportunity to enjoy a day outdoors with friends and family.
Rock Creek Volunteers Jeff Riggs, Danielle Chonko, Janessa Worrell, Mariya Ho, and Andrea Paton-Ash pose with their new friends outside the Simple Changes Therapeutic Riding Center.
When we arrived, the riding center was already buzzing with kids who were excited to get started with arts and crafts activities and horseback riding. Each Rock Creek volunteer was paired with a child and took off towards the barn. While waiting for their turn to ride, kids could choose from a range of activities like decorating pumpkins, getting their face painted, meeting local firefighters, or even painting a horse!
Rock Creek volunteer Lauren Pritchard, and extreme recess participant Elias, are instructed on the proper way to pet a horse.
Local firefighters open up their truck for participants to explore.
Both kids and volunteers alike enjoyed the particularly beautiful fall weather, and the welcomed chance to contribute to an exciting and memorable experience for disabled children. We want to give a special to thanks to the Simple Changes Therapeutic Riding Center and Dreams for Kids, for making this day possible! We thoroughly enjoyed our time with you and look forward helping with future events.
Rock Creek Volunteer Danielle Chonko poses with participant Marta after face painting.
Highlights During my Week at DrupalCon Prague
Posted by: Kalpana Goel, Web Developer Oct 22, 2013
DrupanCon Prague was my 4th and most enjoyable “Con”. I was able to work on Drupal core longer than any of the other Cons and had the opportunity to connect and learn from really intelligent people.
Saturday, September 21st through Monday, September 23rd
The days leading up to the Con we spent sprinting at Hub Praha. Code sprinting is always a great opportunity to make friends, share tips and tricks, and get live feedback from other sprinters. It‘s so much easier to speak with someone face-to-face, than on IRC or in the issue queue.
While sprinting, I learned some really cool Git tricks and made some new friends. This scene continued through Monday, when I was given a chance to mentor some new people working on core.
Tuesday, September 24th
After the kickoff, I attended a session called, “D8 lessons learned and how we can make D9 better”. If the title didn’t give it away, we spent the session discussing D8 challenges, such as disinterest in project management and resource issues, and what we could improve for D9.
My next session was a lab: “Your first Drupal 8 module,” led by Palantir’s Larry Garfield and Robeano. In the lab we were given tasks, like create a new D8 router, schema, and form to display favorite animal names and a value for how needy the animal is. These tasks helped us to understand how routing, services, plugins, and controllers worked in D8.
After the sessions were finished for the day, I made my way back to the coder lounge where I ended up sprinting until 4 A.M.. In the lounge, I had the pleasure of meeting webchick. We had an invaluable conversation regarding her lab “Upgrade Your Module to Drupal 8”, which emphasized using ControllerBase to avoid a Dependency Injection, and PHPUnit Testing.
Wednesday, September 25th
The day started with a Core Conversation covering the pain points of media handling in Drupal.
Later I attended webchick’s lab session, “Upgrade Your Module to Drupal 8”, where I started working on a menu example module and upgrading it to Drupal 8.
In the lobby I discussed the wide aspect of Configuration Management Initiative (CMI) in Drupal 8 and using the Dependency Injection, with other conference attendees. We ended the day with more sprinting in the coder lounge until 4 AM.
Thursday, September 26th
The day’s sessions started with a “Drupal 8 leadership Q&A,” where initiative leaders answered questions from the audience. An exciting moment from the session was when we learned the migration module would be included in the Drupal 8 feature release, and that work would be done on migration from D6 to D8, and D7 to D8.
Another important Thursday session was led by Larry Garfield on “Future-Friendly Evolution and the Drupal Release Cycle,” in which he proposed not opening the D9 release cycle until one year after the D8 release, making feature releases for D8.
Friday, September 27th
My day started with a big “Get Involved with Core” sprint. I was there as a mentor, and it was an exciting opportunity to help others work from the Drupal 8 core issues page. In total, I was able to mentor 6 people that day and assist them in writing patch. I then reviewed their patch to mark it as complete or incomplete. People were working on different core issue and were motivated to commit code to core.
It was a pleasure to see that two of my mentees actually listed me as their mentor on Drupal.org. I especially enjoyed the moment when RunePhilosof was able to get his first patch committed to D8 core https://drupal.org/node/2040269.
Friday was very busy, but an extremely rewarding day for all the mentors who worked hard to help others, and to get them working on Drupal core issues.
DrupalCon Prague wrapped up with a brief visit to the Castle and Astronomical watch, and the historic Charles Bridge, with more sprinting on Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully, I can visit the beautiful city of Prague again with my family and get to see much more.
I will be attending BADCamp this year for the first time and look forward to more sprinting. I am so grateful to the BADCamp committee for selecting me for the scholarship. Stay tuned for my future blog post on mentoring and BADCamp!
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