Focus Group Discussion – the Cloud – February 2018

Thoughts on the cloud:

The Cloud is maturing at an astonishing rate, it’s a great concept, it has big potential but it has a long way to go, and it’s awesome!  The Cloud is as secure as you make it, it’s not a cost savings like it was originally marketed towards, I love the Cloud and there is a time and place for the Cloud.

Having access to data, resources, docs from any platform/device is invaluable.  With all these different devices, there are a lot of factors in play that will need to be supported in the Cloud before it can do all we want it to do and all that we dream it can do.  The Cloud continues to introduce new capabilities and add tools each quarter in hopes to accommodate the quickly changing needs of technical professionals performing the work and also the end user.

Clients / End Users:

There are some skeptical end users who question security, speed and functionality and maybe just need to be educated a bit on the benefits it can offer them/their business.  Even so, for some, it can be tough to wrap your head around the complexity of the Cloud if you’re used to being able to see what you own and how it’s working.  In addition, for the Cloud to be successful, it is essential to have a great internet pipe with guaranteed uptime and solid facility wifi coverage.  In addition, it is a must to have a knowledgeable person on site that can troubleshoot any issues that might pop up.

Smaller companies and startups, looking to have lower overhead including hardware costs, will be more likely to embrace the Cloud.  BUT it still needs to make sense for them.  Function over form!  This goes back to “there is a time and place”.

Focus Group Discussion – Remote work / WFH – January 2018

Productivity definitely depends on the person, their personality and discipline.  Some people thrive inside the 4 walls of the office and others can lose themselves in a flurry of productivity at home.  Key word “some”.

It is agreed, the office allows for focused work where systems are already set up to allow for better flow and face to face collaboration builds relationships and strengthens the team.  However, some people are easily distracted by others so WFM offers the comfort of being secluded in an environment they can control.

I think it goes without much saying that new team members should spend some time in the office to build rapport with the other team members and get up to speed on the position and responsibilities prior to taking advantage of the WFH benefit.

Here are a couple of things to think about prior to allowing remote work:  Has the employee proven to be trustworthy and productive in an office environment?  Has the employee shown good time management skills in the office?

Several of our respondents do not have a formal policy and it’s left up to the Manager’s discretion.  The Manager needs to provide clear direction and expectations and they are responsible to ensure their department runs smoothly to meet its goals.

Here are some tips and tools to assist in making WFH/remote work successful:

  • Policies and practices should be in place to ensure productivity and effective communication. How is progress/work tracked?
  • Use the variety of technologies to keep in touch; video conferencing, daily group chats, Skype, o365, shared documents, etc…
  • The employee must be logged into the system, provide a summary of work completed and must be available during business hours and attend meetings via webinar.

One manager stated that she doesn’t look over the shoulders of the employees who are sitting in the office and she would not do that with a remote employee as they should be treated the same.  Certainly something to think about….

Having a good balance of WFH and being in the office is most common among our respondents.  Those who currently offer a benefit of WFH do not see their policy changing.  Companies that do not currently offer a WFH option foresee implementing some sort of WFH opportunity in the future.  Studies have shown that remote employees are more satisfied with their roles.

Some agreed upon closing sentiments:

  • Nothing can replace the face to face interaction for creating stronger teams, collaboration and capturing nuance. Relationships and trust build quicker when you are working personally with someone.
  • If you can’t trust your employees to hold themselves accountable, then don’t hire them!
  • If you’re not currently offering a WFH policy, then it’s something to look into. Offering this kind of benefit / flexibility will help with retention of employees.

Focus Group Discussion – Code Camps – December 2017

Some common thoughts on Code Camps are that they’re focused and purposeful and can provide really good value once the base programming knowledge already exists.  In general, the perception is that they provide theory behind writing code; teach a bit more in depth knowledge and offer some hands on training.  The drawback?  Code camp graduates are lacking real world experience where they have a feedback loop.  One of our participants has attended a code camp (as a leader) and he states “the focus is not on learning or changing behavior, but to get the facts and strategy to pass an exam” which directly coincides with another CTO’s perception that “only so much theory can be applied when you are faced with deadlines, technology challenges and interpersonal challenges…”  Meaning, someone who already possesses real world experience could benefit more so from the training.

One participant brought my attention to another type of boot camp, outside of the coding world, for Project Management.  The PMP boot camp was 10-12 hours/day for 4 days that lead up to an exam on the 5th day.  Again, this person had some pretty significant experience under her belt already, but this particular boot camp enhanced her existing knowledge and provided her the opportunity to get deep into project management methodology.  Overall, a positive experience for her.

I think we can all agree, there are quality boot camps and not so quality boot camps.  Each camp differs in length, entry requirements and expectations in terms of participation and collaboration and completion.  It’s important as an employer to understand and maybe dig (or have your recruiter dig) a little bit deeper to find out what that particular boot camp has to offer.

I actually met with the Director of Grand Circus (code camp) a couple of weeks ago and learned a bit more about what they offer.  Grand Circus is new to GR in 2017; originated in Detroit in 2012 for corporate trainings and then transitioned to a boot camp in 2015.  Having been a recruiter in the tech industry for a while, it was interesting for me to hear more about their offerings.  I was undeniably educated during my visit with him.

At Grand Circus, the potential students must pass a “test” in order to get into the code camp.  Each individual must have some sort of coding knowledge in order to attend.  Someone like me?  Not a chance to get in!  8 weeks in length; 6 weeks of training and 2 weeks for a project.  If someone is not at a certain point in terms of learning after 6 weeks they will not move onto the project and will receive more training.  It’s very important for the leaders at GC to see their students graduate with a good knowledge base.  They offer a .NET (C#) boot camp and also a Front End boot camp.

One participant said it best, “boot camps have a place and a purpose”.

Paragon Parks Tour 2016 – #33 and #34 – Musketawa Trail and Grose Park

Musketawa Trail and Grose Park, #33 and #34. We traveled to the very NE corner of Ottawa County to visit these parks. The Musketawa Trail is a 26 mile trail/abandoned rail line that is great for running, biking and even snowmobiling in the winter. 10 miles of the trail goes through Ottawa County. Paved and 12 ft wide. Lovely! Grose Park was closed since it’s after November 1st, but it overlooks Crockery Lake, has some picnic shelters, a playground and a dock.


Paragon Parks Tour 2016 – #28 Eastmanville Farm

Eastmanville Farm is located on Leonard street just west of 68th avenue.  There is a lot of history here!  This is home of Ottawa County’s Poor farm  which providing housing and work for indigent residents. Now an Ottawa County Park, the site is a breathtaking array of rolling open fields, steeply sloped stream corridors, and 1367 feet of Grand River shoreline.  On site is also the cemetery where the “poor farm” were laid to rest.


Paragon Parks Tour 2016 – #27 Eastmanville Bayou

We checked out Eastmanville Bayou on 68th street, on the south side of the Grand River.  There are some great hiking trails here.  Eastmanville Bayou is on one side of the trail and the Grand is on the other.  This park has a great kayak/canoe launch if you decide to take the river by boat, some picnic tables and a covered shelter.