Wow, the whole “I’m going to write up all the things I learn” thing went out the window pretty quickly. I seem to have made a rather large judgement error when thinking about how much work this previous semester would be. The last 3 months have been the hardest that I’ve worked, both at university and at my job. That’s not to say I didn’t learn anything. I’ve learnt a lot, but most of the learning I did was regarding the interpersonal things, such as team building and management.

But I’m one man, and a busy one at that, so I might as well jump in
Me, about 4 months ago

My current career goal is to learn to lead a small team to victory. I’m fortunate enough to work with some pretty cool people who are more than willing to give me the opportunities to test myself in the sort of scenarios I may come across if I was to run a small team, the most empowering of which was running a morning scrum for a team of approximately 20 people, and if the comments I received from some co-workers of mine afterwards are any indication then I did a pretty good job of it too!

It’s not all roses though, I have also had to deal with some of the negative aspects of leadership, namely under-performing teammates. For the final year project for my software engineering degree we have been placed in a 13 strong team, and tasked with building an application for a client. This is a rather large number of quote-unquote developers to wrangle, especially for a group of people with absolutely no real project management experience to speak of. A stereotype of the university group assignment is ‘the slacker’, someone that rides on the coat tails of their peers, enjoying the sweet, sweet marks that the rest of the team worked tirelessly for. In a group of this size it was pretty much a guarantee that we would get at least a few people that wouldn’t pull their weight, and while I think it would be an impossible task to ask for equal input from all members, there is certainly a minimum quantity and quality of work I would expect from people.

Probably the biggest problem I think we encountered as a team was communication. Despite having some pretty nifty tools such as HipChat, Confluence and Jira set up, it really wasn’t possible for us to function as a team when we weren’t using these tools. One of the unfortunate downsides of not being co-located is that if you aren’t ‘online’ then nobody can really contact you. Another problem we seem to of faced was that many of us operated under the assumption that if someone else was assigned a task that it would get done. This sort of ties in with the poor communication I mentioned, because it wasn’t until the assessments were almost due that we discovered that there were still a good handful of tasks to be done and the people that were assigned to do them were pretty much ghosts at that point. Apparently the problem teammates are serial offenders, but it’s still pretty disheartening when you try and get people engaged and fail.