Camaraderie Over Cocktails: The Benefits of a Weekly Office Happy Hour

It began during layoffs. A pall of dread had fallen over the office, and day by day everyone was just awaiting word on whether they would still have a job. People would gather in the office of one of the managers, commiserating about the situation over beverages. People brought in different types of alcohol, and the manager mixed drinks. Eventually, the period of layoffs passed, but the tradition of gathering continued. Once a week, every Thursday at 5pm, something wonderful happened. Now, to be sure, this gathering met the company requirements. It was set in a time period in which office drinking was permitted, and it had the approval of an SVP. He was one of the regulars at the gathering anyway. Everything was above board as far as policy was concerned. And good things came from it.  This weekly happy hour brought together people who didn't often talk in person, and at times connected people who only knew one another from email threads. Often I saw team leads or department heads

The Freedom to Reinvent Ourselves

In our professional lives, many of us reach a point where we desire—or need—to reinvent ourselves, whether it's transitioning to a different industry or pursuing a passion that differs from what we originally studied. However, the ease with which we can make these changes often depends significantly on cultural and systemic factors that vary by country. Take, for example, a story from my time working in Brazil about a decade ago. I encountered an individual who, despite having a degree in accounting, had no desire to pursue it as a career. This scenario might seem easily solvable in the United States, where career paths are often non-linear and individuals frequently shift fields. However, in Brazil, the professional culture tends to pigeonhole individuals into working within the confines of their academic degrees. During an interview for a freelance project management role in Brazil, I faced this cultural starkness firsthand. Despite having a solid background in project management

Language Learning in a Globalized World

In 2000, a year after I graduated from college, I volunteered at a week-long church camp for high school teens. During this time, I happened to overhear a discussion between a camp counselor and a camper about the benefits of learning a foreign language. The counselor, aware that I was learning Portuguese, sought my support to convince the camper. Contrary to his expectations, I advised, "Learn a language if you enjoy learning, or if you're actually going to use it. Not out of a sense of duty." Decades later, I still uphold this perspective, although it's understandably subjective and may not resonate with everyone. While I am fluent in Portuguese, its practical application in my professional life has been limited. Nonetheless, the advantages of learning other languages extend beyond mere utility. Acquiring a new language can serve as a gateway to understanding different cultures and forming meaningful social connections that broaden one's worldview. This immersio

Taking the Initiative: A Lesson in Project Management

With project management, the adage "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission" can sometimes hold a kernel of truth. While this might sound like a reckless approach, I learned through a challenging experience that there are moments when taking the initiative is not just beneficial, but necessary. At one company where I worked, there was a clear distinction between project and product management. This separation of roles was something I believed in and respected. However, I found myself managing a project that had been passed from one project and product manager to another until it landed in my lap. The project was in trouble, and to complicate matters, some of the key personnel had moved on to other companies, leaving me without their insights. My instructions were clear: stick to project management and leave product management to the designated product manager. Our deadline was looming, and I relied on the product manager to set the priorities. However, there wa

Bridging the Gap: Translating Business Requirements into Technical Deliverables

One of the most crucial challenges in project management is the translation of business requirements into technical deliverables. This process, sometimes referred to as 'bridging the gap,' is essential for ensuring that the final product meets the expectations of stakeholders and adds value to the organization. As an Enterprise Agilist with over a decade of experience in program and project management, I've seen firsthand the importance of this translation in achieving project success. Understanding the Gap The gap between business requirements and technical deliverables arises from the different languages spoken by business stakeholders and technical teams. Business stakeholders typically focus on the 'what' and 'why' of a project—what they need and why they need it. On the other hand, technical teams are concerned with the 'how'—how to build the solution that meets those needs. Steps to Bridge the Gap Clear Communication: Effective communication is

The Art of Project Management

Teaching English in Brazil: More Than Just Grammar My journey as an English teacher in Brazil offered me profound insights into language learning. I encountered students across various comprehension levels, many of whom believed mastering grammar was the key to fluency. While understanding grammar is undeniably important, I observed that practical usage takes precedence. The ability to recall grammatical rules spontaneously during a conversation is less about memory and more about practice, about developing a sort of linguistic muscle memory. I vividly recall an instance with a student who incessantly sought one grammatical rule after another. In response, I shared a perspective that would reshape her approach to learning: "You need to understand...English is more of an art than a science." This statement was a reflection on the intricate and often inconsistent nature of English grammar, highlighting the numerous exceptions that baffle even the most diligent rule-learners. Pr

Transforming a Traditional Engineering Team into an Agile Powerhouse

Embracing Agility in a Major International Entertainment Company In the fast-paced world of technology, agility is not just a methodology; it's a necessity. This was the lesson learned when I joined a team responsible for the core technology at a major international entertainment company. The team, a traditional engineering group, had been working in a siloed, manager-driven approach for years. They had a strong bond but lacked visibility into the broader picture of their work. The challenge was to transition them from their conventional ways to a more agile and efficient system. The Initial Roadblocks: A 50-Page Document and Reactive Workflows The first hurdle was the team's reliance on a 50-page document for requirements management. Buried in these pages were years-old issues and bugs, making it challenging to prioritize and address current needs effectively. Furthermore, the team juggled development and support for their mission-critical system, leaving little room for delay