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May I ask a question?

This has become a personal mission: I want to help build environments where nobody starts a sentence with “may I ask a dumb question?

The group welcomes questions.
The group encourages questions.
People feel safe asking questions.

Questions are asked to:

  • clarify understanding
  • identify coaching and mentoring opportunities

But how do we build such environments?

Here are some ideas:

We may think we know something because “that’s how we’ve always done it”. Well, that’s not true. That might be how we’ve been doing it for a long time since we learned it.

But what if we learned it wrong?

Or what if we learned it right but eventually got sloppy and turned it into the way we’ve always done it?

That question from someone who doesn’t know something might be just what we need to challenge our assumptions, our biases, our beliefs that went into auto-pilot and never gotten updated.

Here’s something I’ve been pondering (by Marie-Christine Gasingirwa):

In life there isn’t a single person that knows everything and there is no person that knows nothing.

It’s not too late to learn because you just need to develop that interest, talk to people, share with them what you have and learn from them.

There is no breakthrough in this world if you are isolated, you can only make a breakthrough by talking to people.

 

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Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2021

Here are some of my favorites books read in 2021, in no particular order.

Unshakable

I had been planning to review my approach to personal finances and this book helped me quite a bit with that, validating some of the things I’ve been doing for decades, as well as teaching me things I had no clue about and making act on it.

The Art of Mentoring

This was a re-read. I’ve first read this book in 2004 and decided to pick it up again. I’ve enjoyed it as much as the first time through. I really like books that teaches things as a novel (some of my favorites include The Goal, The Phoenix Project, The Unicorn Project).

The Artist’s Way

This book was first recommended to me back in 2016. For years, I kept seeing it recommended by many people whose opinion I value. I finally decided to pick it up and read it, and I’m glad I did it. I’ve gotten a lot out of it, as it helped me improve my journalling, finish lyrics for new original songs, practice my creativity in many aspects, organize and add more clarity to my thoughts, validate my thoughts about hobbies, just to name a few things. It’s the kind of book from which the lessons learn will stick around with me for a long, long time.

The Pragmatic Programmer

I remember reading the first edition of The Pragmatic Programmer in the mid 2000s. I thoroughly enjoyed reading its 20th Anniversary edition with other Improvers in a book club. It was great seeing how many things I’ve learned from that book have stuck with me after all these years. I’m yet to create my “must-read list” for software developers, but this book is very likely to be included.

How to Lead when you’re Not in Charge

This was a book that I had to work hard to read through the author’s style and get what I needed out of the content. While the book was “ok”, it inspired me to write one of my favorite posts last year, as well as it made the core message stuck in my mind: “lead through influence, not through authority”.

Yes, And

After taking classes on Improv and leading some Improv sessions at Improving (I’ve talked about some of those experiences), it was great to have a book club dedicated to this book.

How to Live

One of my favorite books in 2020 was Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, which I heard about through Derek Sivers (the author of two of my favorite books in 2020!). In 2021 he published his own book inspired by the style he learned from “Sum”, and it’s such a great book. When Derek asked his readers to write a review, this is what I sent him:

As I was reading this book, I kept highlighting sentences and paragraphs on it. At times, I noticed I highlighted almost entire chapters! Besides writing my own notes on the pages.

Derek’s skills to boil important thoughts down into something that grabs my attention is insane. It has been only 2 months or so since I’ve read the book, and I’m planning on reading it again very soon, setting aside time for self-reflection.

The year isn’t over yet, but this is already among my favorite books in 2021!

Now that 2021 is over, I can confirm this was one of my favorite books, and I have started reading it again pretty much on January 1st.

Implementing Domain-Driven Design

This one was also part of a book club at Improving. This is a dense book, and it took us 4 months to go through it. The group decided to revisit certain chapters, add meetings after we were done discuss some topics again, and we closed it with a round of lightning talks offered to our internal AppDev community, with the book club members sharing their main takeaways from the book.

It had been a long time since I’ve read Eric Evans’ seminal book on DDD, and it was great to revisit the topic. It was interesting to see some things that I didn’t quite grok when I first read that book but ended up learning through other means over the years.

Rainbow in the Dark

Ronnie James Dio is one of my all-time favorite singers. I’ve listened to his music (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio) since I was a kid, and I continue listening to it with the same level of enjoyment. I’ve picked up this auto-biography to read as soon as it came out.

Fifty Quick Ideas to Improve your User Stories

I have been blogging about user stories, as well as giving talks on the subject and leading a few workshops. This topic has been hot for for several years now. This book validated some of the ideas I’ve been trying out over the years and it also gave me some new ones. Highly recommended! Developers, take a moment to put down that book on JavaScript, C#, (name your language of choice), and read this one instead.

Intro to EventStorming

This book came in handy as I work in a project that includes DDD, CQRS, and Event Sourcing.

Even though I’ve read many books published by LeanPub in the past, this is the first time I have actually read one that isn’t fully finished yet. I enjoyed the experience: many chapters are missing big chunks, but still, I’ve learned enough to enable me to run some EventStorming sessions and get great value from it. This book was also a great compliment to the DDD and the User Stories books mentioned above.

Badass: Making Users Awesome

If you’ve been following my blog, you might remember that this book was featured in my favorite books read in 2020. And here it is again. Yes, it is that good for me.

Since I’ve read it I’ve been putting lessons learned into practice with great success! So much so that I wanted to read it again, and figured I should drag Improvers with me, so I’ve led a book club. The conversations were great, and we’re just about to have a round of lightning talks to share our takeaways with our internal community.

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Beware Analogies

I love analogies; but only when I can relate to them. It’s not just a matter of whether or not I know them, but rather if I can relate to them on a deeper level.

Analogies can be detrimental. I’m not a fan of American Football. I’ve tried watching the Super Bowl three times, two of them with someone explaining to me what was going on. It has put me to sleep every single time (sorry, folks). When I read a book or watch a video where people heavily draw comparisons to that sport, talking as if everybody can relate 100% to what they’re saying, as if everybody cared, I get very frustratred and usually give up on the content.

I love analogies that allow me to lean on my pre-existent knowledge to learn something new. If I need to learn two new things at the same time (whatever the topic at hand is, plus the analogy being used), I lose interest and move on.

A lot of computer people immediately assume other computer people’s level of nerdiness is high, so they draw comparison to nerdy things. Those usually don’t work for me, either.

For example, the first couple of times I’ve heard software developers say “we’ll practice TDD using the Game of Life as an example”, I thought they meant the Game of Life board game. After listening to the conversation and realizing that my understanding of the Game of Life didn’t align with what they were describing, I did some research and found out they were referring to Conway’s Game of Life, which I had never heard of before. Yup, I guess I’m not the typical computer nerd. 🙂

So, beware analogies.

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Building my Book Library

I’m slowly building my book library. I enjoy books in all shapes and forms: paperback, e-book, audiobook, animated book summary, etc. My library reflects that.

Most of my technical books are e-books. I usually get their PDF version and put it in a “Books” notebook in Evernote; its search feature goes into those PDF files to find what I’m looking for. Quick access when I need that information.

My fiction books are either paperpack or e-book (usually in Kindle format).

The non-fiction, non-technical books are well spread out in different formats.

I’ve been reading more and more of my e-books on Kindle (on my iPad), using its features to highlight and comment; I often review my notes and highlights.

I’m getting more and more paperback books. Sometimes, I end up getting them after either listening to the audiobook or reading the e-book versions.

I have books in my library that I’ve purchased over a decade ago and haven’t read yet. I also have been acquiring more books that I don’t know when I’ll read them, but I do want to have them readily available. I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I tell myself “oh, gee, I really want to read something, but I have nothing to read”. Seriously, dude? Just go to your library and pick something up!

When I get book recommendations from friends or from reading other books, I look them up on Amazon and add them to my “books wishlist”, and I add a note to remind me where the recommendation came from.

To keep track of my backlog, books I want to read soon, books I’m currently reading, and books I’ve read, I still use the same process I’ve described in 2016.

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Speaking at Houston Tech Fest on Saturday, September 12

I’ll be speaking at the virtual Houston Tech Fest this Saturday, September 12. You can register for free here. After registered, you’ll get information with the schedule so you can registered for the sessions you’re interested in (there are 30 sessions to choose from!!)

Here are my talks. I hope you get to attend to any or all of them!

All times shown in Central Time.

  • 10:10-11:10am – Beyond the Daily Stand-up: An Intro to Scrum
  • 1:40-2:40pm – Navigating and Refactoring Code, and other Productivity Tips
  • 4-5pm – Preparing and Giving Sprint Reviews (and Demos)

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15 Year Anniversary!

Wow. It has been 15 years since I started this blog!

It’s kind of cool seeing the areas that stick out:

Productivity, Testing, Evernote… that sounds about right.

Fun Facts

  • Most popular post: A Good Example of Liskov Substitution Principle (Nov/2010). It’s such an old post, but it still gets many views. The 2nd most popular post doesn’t have even 1/3rd of the views .
  • Total Posts: 426
  • Average Words Per Post: 342
  • Year with the most posts: 2007, with 75. This is post #51 this year, should I look into setting a new record?
  • I can think of at least two occasions when I googled something and ended up finding the answer on my blog, having totally forgotten I had already run into the same problem and written about it.
  • While I don’t get lots of comments left on the blog itself, countless times somebody mentions one of my posts in conversations. My point: people are “listening”, and that’s why I write and post, regardless as to whether I’m generating tons of views and a buzz or not.
  • I still look at zero-based arrays and think “what the heck?”. 🙂

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Who do I know that can help me with this?

When I shared my thoughts on “Fake until you make/become it”, I summed it as follows:

Instead of being a “fake”, I rather make it clear where I want to get to, get help, and give help on my way there!

At a recent update to my Now page a few weeks ago, I’ve included the following:

“I am studying Angular (version 9, at this point). For the last 2 and a half years, I had been mostly using React on the front-end. I had some previous experience with the old AngularJS and decided to take a look at the current version of Angular to see where it stands. In the process of learning, I’m building a little sample inspired by “Your Life in Weeks”. I’m also building a small proof-of-concept for a feature that can be very valuable to my current client. So far, I’m enjoying this version of Angular.”

Not 5 minutes go by and I receive the following message on Facebook, from an old buddy with whom I hadn’t spoken to in 5 years!

Not only was I made aware of a good old friend who’s willing to help with something that’s currently important to me, but also had the chance to catch up. Double win!

While I’m at it, let me share one of my favorite TED Talks: Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking.

So, after asking yourself “What Can/Will I do about it?”, move on to the next question:

Who do I know that can help me with this? – James Clear

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What have you been up to?

I had seen Derek Sivers’ “Now” page a while ago (this is what that’s all about), and I finally decided to create my own Now page. So, now whenever anybody send me an email or text asking me “so, what have you been up to?”, I’ll point them to that page. Check it out: https://lassala.net/now/

I’m not sure yet how often I’ll update the page. At a very minimum, at least when I do my monthly review, at which point I check my current plans, which are derived from my previous year’s Annual Review. That’ll be a good way to make sure I’m still on track, and/or reflect upon course correction throughout the year.

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Houston Agile Shift 2020: Registration is Open!

Registration for the Houston Agile Shift 2020 is now open!

After its successful debut in 2019, the conference is back in 2020, bigger and better. I enjoyed presenting there last year, had great interactions with the attendees, and stayed in touch with them even months after the conference was over.

This year I’ll be even more involved with the conference and can’t wait to see attendees learning and networking, speakers sharing their experiences, and a vibrant community coming together!

If you’d like to speak, the Call for Speakers is open for only a short period of time, so hurry up and submit your session proposals.

If you’d like to be a sponsor, this is also a good time to reach out.

If you’d like to attend, grab your tickets!

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Agile Shift 2020: Call for Speakers!

I’ve had a great time speaking at Agile Shift this year and am excited to know the conference will happen again in 2020; bigger this time! Check out the conference’s website for more info.

At this time, there’s a Call for Speakers. If you’d like to speak at a great conference, this is a sweet chance. You can also let your favorite speakers know about this opportunity!

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