In the first two parts of my retrospective series I revealed I had the opportunity and experience of traveling a lot to the client’s site.
What about working on client’s site?
Now, this is an interesting topic, because, until this project, I worked mostly remote, in the Altom office.
Working on client’s site was a request I knew about from the beginning of the project and I found it intriguing and challenging at the same time. I was told I should be available at client’s site in Germany as much as possible in the first three months. I knew this would take me out of my comfort zone. No sooner said than done.
The first three months were defined by three week trips to Germany, followed by a couple of days, maybe one week, back in Cluj, then again travel to Germany and so on.
After those 3 months, the trips to Germany continued at a medium pace. While being in Cluj, I started to stay at the client’s offices in Cluj, but at the same time I was hoping to be able to work remotely from the Altom office. My first thought was that I was the only tester from Cluj, so I didn’t see any good reason why I couldn’t stay at Altom 🙂
The client’s team in Cluj started to grow, and I slowly realized I needed to be with them for a better collaboration. Everything went well, I was present at the client’s office both in Cluj and in Germany until something incomprehensible happened. The thing was that, after about almost 1 year of regular trips to Germany, I started to no longer find value in that idea. I suddenly found myself I disagreed to go on those trips. I wanted to let the others go, while my desire was to stay at the client’s site in Cluj.
Thinking now about that, I consider it was my “fallback” period. I remember I didn’t want to go on those trips anymore, but what was the real reason behind that?
Analyzing myself retrospectively, I realize there were multiple factors behind that behavior:
- Firstly, one of the set expectations was that the trips would take place until the knowledge was transferred and I gained experience and understanding on the project. Having been there for quite some time at that point, but still seeing that the trips took place, my expectations were not being met.
- Secondly, I didn’t have the motivation (“the trophies or trouble, the push or pull that moves the people involved”, said G. Weinberg in “Becoming a Technical Leader”) to go anymore, because I didn’t see any benefit coming from it. I didn’t understand why I needed to travel ~ 1200 km to do the same thing I was just as good doing in Cluj. Everything was the same (or, at least, that’s what it seemed to be for me) when going to Germany, as when being in Cluj.
- Then, there was the “timing” factor. I was tired of waking up at 4 AM, in the middle of my ”good” sleep (being ironic here, because I would never have a good sleep knowing I needed to wake up that early…) to catch the plane. On the other hand, I was not willing to give up my Sundays for being in Germany one day earlier (at a more decent hour).
The thing I appreciated the most is that neither the client, nor the lead, or other colleagues pushed me to change my mind. Indeed, I was given advice that I should reconsider the trips, but I was given the freedom to decide when I wanted to start traveling again.
It was only after 8 months, in June 2015, when I resumed the trips. I remember there was a massive trip planned with the entire team (by that time, we were about 10 people). That was something new, since we had never managed to all go together before, so it triggered my interest. Another thing which prompted my willingness was a team-event I knew was being planned in Germany, involving the rest of our German colleagues. I also remember that I was curious about the new building/place the team had been assigned to and the new team members I hadn’t met until then.
I notice these reasons have two common threads: people and newness. It was the unfamiliarity that triggered my curiosity, and I was reacting to it! I didn’t care this time that I’ll ruin my Sunday to fly to Germany, because I was expecting it to be fun and helpful since we were all going. I was awaiting to see how we would organize ourselves in the new office and how we could work together. I was looking forward to all having an enjoyable evening at the team-event. From my point of view, it was a good trip which awakened my interest.
I then attended another trip which required all team members to meet in a new city from Germany, where we were all hosted by our colleagues from there. We all had a common scope to focus together on an important topic for the release and, besides that, there were also some team events planned for that trip. Again, the new town, the new office, new colleagues I hadn’t met in person before, new team-event, sounded all interesting to me.
Another trip took place in November 2015 and that was my last trip to the client’s site in Germany, as new decisions started to form in my mind.
- Understanding the need of working on client’s site in Cluj and in Germany
In the beginning I understood the need of staying in Germany during the first 3 months and I was willingly and enthusiastically embracing that decision.
The challenge came after those months, when I realized the trips were still going on as before. I should have realized earlier that I needed to be consistent with the trips to the client and try not to oppose so much.
Another challenge I detected in the beginning of the project was to stay on client’s site in Cluj. I could have realized earlier in the project that being 100% on client site in Cluj is better for the entire team.
What I’ve learned: Everything has a price.
On the one hand, working in the same place with the rest of the team is crucial for building a trustful relationship and a professional environment for generating good results. In order to maintain relationships, one needs to make an effort in this sense.
On the other hand, working on client’s site has its own risks: one can become more engaged in the remote team, than in the team back at the Altom office.
Sharing with someone the need of being motivated or of seeing the outcome of going on the trips is a natural thing. This way, I can ask for a change / think of a solution that would work for me and would trigger a new feeling/challenge or inspiration.
Asking for feedback periodically could help me/the team not to accumulate frustrations and could have the benefit to help people improve during the project, and not only after the project has ended (in case feedback is received when the project is done).
- Keep the will of learning
When being engaged in different activities while working on the client’s site, I felt the risk of my desire to learn narrowing down.
Still, I kept my desire of learning alive by completing two BBST Courses (Bug Advocacy and Test Design – one I can remember really well, because I was in a hotel in Germany when having some deadlines I needed to meet). I also wanted at one point to learn Selenium, but I gave up on that course.
Also, I attended training sessions, testing events, engaged into a contest with the Altom team, participated in international conferences (e.g. Agile Training, Rapid Software Testing, Critical Thinking, EuroSTAR, Mobile World Congress, Romanian Testing Conference, etc…).
I was willing to improve my German, by attending some German classes at the client’s site.
What I’ve learned: Always be open to learning new things.
Once you’ve started to learn something, try to be consistent and achieve an objective.
In my case, I should have been more consistent when starting the language class (do my homeworks, attend the classes, practice, practice, practice). The same applies to the Selenium course.
Another thing I learned is that I should take breaks from the daily tasks and invest some time in reading daily/periodically something that could help me (in testing, communication, team, technical subjects, etc…).
Also, I should take some time and analyze more often my experiences to detect what I’ve learned, what I can improve, what I can apply.
- Keep in contact with Altom
I was aware that being 100% allocated on the client’s site might prove a challenge as to keeping in contact with my colleagues from Altom.
It’s tricky sometimes, when working on client’s site and having some deadlines, or needing to work together with your colleagues on a specific topic, to say: “Stop. I need to go now, because I want to meet my other colleagues.”
What I’ve learned: Be aware of the risks of working on client’s site and overcome it.
It’s important to integrate well in the new team/s you’re working with, but as important is also to hold close to your old team.
I managed to visit my “Altoms” almost weekly, by participating in the Friday lunch events. I tried to keep a balance between teams and got engaged in different activities with each of them – nights out, lunches, team buildings, special events, etc…
Keep calm and keep your curiosity running. In the last part of my retrospective, I will tell you about my influence on the project and the end of the project.