Thursday, September 25, 2008

Switching Hats

Over the years, I think I have managed to do excellent multi-tasking in my career. What made me a bit of go-getter in any stream of activity in an organization today may be because I am kind of a soul ready to wear any hat. From the basic office administration, consulting, training, recruitments, customer service, requirements handling, business meetings, sales and service, test analysis and test management, migrations, change management, Release management, configuration and build control, research and technical analysis, feasibility studies, support functions, business analysis, strategic planning, corporate training, documentation, team mentoring, management reporting, coordination, community service, organizational events, innovation and Project Management. Be it any area of business, I think I had an opportunity to do it with zeal and dedication. Be it any flavors of business, the concepts are the same and if applied right will achieve the end results.
It is not an aim to switching my roles from one area to another, in a particular industry or switch from one industry to another. It is being active and surviving in a project that requires myriad of tasks to be done by the team. The roles can be parallel or for few days in the project lifespan. The value addition that it makes is much larger than being confined to one limited role, for this gives you an opportunity to learn and deliver much faster than others in the industry. At the same I need to concur that the challenge is big and vital for you have to do justice to multiple roles you are handling. This also gives you a chance to see a project from conception period to consummation, in different roles. This process had given me required knowledge to understand how a specific product or service can be delivered in any industry (Healthcare, educational, banking and financial sector or auto-domain) from head to tail on macro level.
You may now doubt what I have been stating here. This will sound impractical unless I give you an example of a story.
My first role started when I started to assist the project manager on the planning of the project. Process and project activity go hand in hand and I was involved in drafting all the project documents necessary to support initiation of the project as a quality representative. Right from estimations, cost and budgeting, resource plans, actual recruitment, scope management, communication, business requirement and documentation pertaining to project, quality, risk, tailoring of standards, configuration, security, testing and release management. Here you get an opportunity to dive deep into the industry standards, organizational guidelines and project objectives and arrive at set standards and goals for the project. Once we were done with the planning and defining the scope of the project, getting a blueprint of our implementation strategy, and got the budget approval, I quickly changed my hat to getting details of understanding the existing and proposed system that we are going to deliver.
Once we were done with knowledge transition, I was wearing multiple hats as a SQA, project lead, test lead, CM lead and Release Manager which infact looked weird in reality but practically involving in parallel analysis. I was helping the team on coming up with the business process, functional requirements and identifying the right resources for right technologies. This task once accomplished followed actual development activity, close coordination of various team, and testing the system under various testing categories. Once the test strategy was designed, agreed and executed, the coordination with the development and business to bridge the gaps becomes a vital task. Here I was donning the hat of a business analyst and also a test manager. Once the system was ready to be delivered to the customer, I had to move closer to the Business. So moved as an onsite coordinator closure to the actual users of the system and started to get ready for the launch. My final and current hat is a red hat, like the one fire fighters wear, making you run on toes. Meaning, everything is getting done and the client has to agree to implement the new system. This period is critical and complicated as you can always expect anomalies in the behavior of the system. It need complete coordination, efficient communication, rapid response, immediate actions and end you in a highly charging environment where you have to be very alert, aggressive and proactive to the business expectations. A small slippage on your part can cost a lot to the project. It’s like you are representing the entire efforts of your team to the client and you are actually pulling the apple cart for the final bid. My manager once called this team a SWAT team. This team will also have to train and get the actual business representatives acclimatized with the new system by user review sessions. Was also responsible for triaging and escalating any issues that come our way by pointing them in the right direction using our extensive project background knowledge. In fact, we become the helpful support team to look for when you run into a bit of trouble during implementation. This is the most exciting and challenging role because you are a part of the crucial team and also coordinating with various people from your own teams and of the client and has to keep everyone on the same page.
Managed to do these roles so far so good and one year’s time which might sound long actually gives you many long years of experience. Given the kind of technical complexities and multiple time zones, multiple interfaces and multiple people across the globe, it is great that my team is able to meet the challenges. I am fortunate to be working on such complex project for I get to taste various flavors of the industry. The pride is being there from the beginning and get to see it go through and can conclude happily when the client gets the return on investment they envisaged and give us a note of thanks at the end of the project. This sort of experience makes you a strong professional ready to wear any hat and still manage it successfully.

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