Archive for June, 2009

Afternoon Kayaking

It was absolutely beautiful today in the Puget Sound area, so late this afternoon the boys and I went down the hill to Liberty Bay and went kayaking.

Mt Rainier
Mt. Rainier looms over the marina.

Jeri in Kayak
Me in my (rented) kayak.

Ben & Zach
Zach and Ben conferring about something. Zach has his own inflatable kayak; it’s not quite as efficient as a traditional one but boy is it portable!

Ben in front of condo
Ben takes a break and waits for us in front of the Gran Kirk condos. The bottom right one is for sale and I can afford it, but I’ve resisted going to look at it.

The breakwater was inhabited by a very tame colony of seals.

It was a lot of fun – and we’ll definitely try to do it more frequently.

Posted on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: Poulsbo, Puget Sound | 3 Comments »

Swimming with the Ducks

You may have heard of Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ famous book, Women who Run With the Wolves? Well, I have photographic evidence that I am, instead, a woman who swims with the ducks.

Swimming with Ducks

Back in April, inspired by my son’s slightly insane bike ride, I set a goal – to swim an open water distance swim. The swim I had in mind, the punishing 3.5 mi Puget Sound crossing, is not being held this year, but there are several lake swims scattered around the Puget Sound this summer.

I set my sights on the first one scheduled as a ‘maybe’. I completed it today – the Green Lake open water swim, a mile across the lake and back. My goals for the event were simple – to finish the race, and to not be last. I accomplished both, plus, I was very pleasantly surprised by my time. (Until, of course, I compared it with my 15-minutes faster high school mile time… LOL)

My wonderful mother was my companion, supporter and towel holder for the event – thank you, mom! While mom is not a distance swimmer, she is swimming a few events in August in the Senior Olympic Nationals, held at Stanford, so it was great having another swimmer cheer for me.

One woman she was chatting with while I swam asked, “If this is your daughter’s first open water event, why did she choose the mile instead of the easier half-mile?”

Sheesh. ;) Some people. Why do people climb the TALLEST mountain in north America, or in the world, rather than one that’s half that high? If I could accomplish it – and I routinely swim more than that in training – of course I wanted to swim the longer event.

Shoot, I’d like to try the Puget Sound crossing. Catalina Island. Long Island. Maybe someday the English Channel! (although probably not) These aren’t because I love the activity so much – it’s because they’re the big mountains on the horizon worth climbing.

So, back to today’s swim. In some ways it was harder than I anticipated, and in some ways easier.

The Start
Please note that I am not in this picture, but just to the right, out of frame. This is on purpose. :)

The cold water, at about 68° was more of an impact than I expected. I chose not to get in and warm up, ‘warm’ being a bit of a misnomer. My initial plunge started me hyperventilating a bit and I had a hard time evening my breathing out and establishing a rhythm for about the first 200 yards.

Then I had a tough time staying on track. I know the drill, swim X strokes head down then 1 stroke head up to sight on a point across the lake, and I did 5:1, but I still tended to wander a bit, worse toward the end when I was more tired. The general lack of visibility in the murky water was a bit distracting, I couldn’t see other swimmers until I was nearly on top of them.

I got foot cramps a couple of time, which I never do in pool swimming, bit swam through those easily by just not kicking for a couple of minutes.

The distance itself was only a little tiring – and my shoulders are a bit achey tonight – but I expected that because this distance was unhelped by turns & pushing off the wall every 25 yards, like I do in the pool.

Lake Swim
This is our finishing group. The swim went all the way across to the building at the other end, around a buoy, and back.

All in all, I’m very glad I did it. It was a low key event, 120 swimmers in the mile event, and folks were positive and supportive. I’ll do it again – maybe Lake Washington later this summer and perhaps the swim portion of a team triathlon in Olympia in September – both depending how my travel schedule works out this fall.

Posted on Sunday, June 28th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: seattle, swim | 14 Comments »

Politics and Communication

A friend (the wise and articulate proprietress of AK Minority Report) and I were talking last night about the subject of politics and communication in the workplace, and we decided we’d both write blog posts about it and see how our perspectives compare.

This is going to be a little difficult to write, as it’s a standing rule of mine not to write negatively or in inappropriate detail about my workplace or colleagues. Still, I’ll make a stab at it on general principles.

Am I affected by workplace politics? You bet. When I took my most recent IT project management position four years ago, I thought it was going to be managing straightforward implementation of bigger and sexier projects. Instead, it seemed to shift my job away from the nitty-gritty of project management and toward a very political, impact-and-influence oriented role – perhaps 75% of my time is spent on the latter.

When do I encounter politics? When do I not?!?!

  • At project initiation, I work with multiple departments, reconcile wishes against strategic goals and favored vendors to scope a solution and develop a business case with a meaningful return on investment.

  • During project planning & detailed requirements gathering, I fight for the resources necessary to accomplish my project and resolve requirements conflicts.
  • During implementation, I work constantly behind the scenes to continue to have my resources’ full attention, and push the vendor as hard as possible to focus on our build and issues.
  • Testing requires that I track down yet another set of resources to test, as well as push hard on vendors to resolve issues.
  • Deployment requires getting the customer’s approval to go live, managing various change management processes, as well as high visibility internal and external communication.

I try and follow some simple, sensible rules for communication – these apply to basic human relations, not just my field of project management:

  • Communicate frequently, often, and to the right people. Nobody likes surprises.
  • Learn preferred channels of communication for different team members and customers and use them for best problem-solving.
  • If you have a problem, go directly to the source of the problem.
  • If you need to escalate, involve both the source of the problem and his/her manager in the discussions so there is no he said/she said conflicting stories.
  • Practice Covey’s fifth habit – seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  • Deliver praise and positive feedback in public; criticism in private. Always.
  • Follow the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.

It’s important to me, as project manager, to understand my role. Primarily, my focus is typically supportive/facilitative management; I’m there to handle all the logistics and issues so that the technical team can focus on the project. At times, I do need to shift into a more assertive taskmistress role and require extraordinary focus from my team, and I need to understand when to do this and how to most effectively make it happen. Still, at the end of the day, when the project is successful, it’s my team that has done the work, every line of code, piece of hardware and late night cutover; I’m the most dispensable person there, and I make sure the team knows their efforts are appreciated.

One final note on politics, management and communication: there is a continuum of behavior that ranges from total, obsequious yes-person to completely obstructionist obstacle. I am not a yes-person. My personal sense of integrity requires me to be honest, realistic and forthcoming, while still trying to remain positive and constructive. One of the best pieces of career advice I ever received , from PM consultant Neil Whitten, is to do your job as if you don’t care if you get fired. Do the right thing, work hard, satisfy your own work ethic and be a champion for your project and your people.

Posted on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: communication, work | 4 Comments »

Day in Port Townsend

Yesterday my awesome sister and I spent the day wandering the picturesque town of Port Townsend. (This town is where Officer and a Gentleman was filmed, oh so many years ago.)

Port Townsend main street
Port Townsend main street.

Wonderful old buildings.

Even more architecture.

Port Townsend from the water
Port Townsend from the water.

Tall Ship
One of Port Townsend’s many tall ships.

I’m glad I had great company for the day; it was my first Fathers’ Day with both my father and Bryan now gone, and it would have been my 12th anniversary.

For anniversaries, we used to find and buy a piece of art we both loved. Port Townsend has wonderful art galleries and antique stores, but I didn’t see anything that screamed, “Take me home with you!” (Besides jewelry, which is coals to Newcastle.) And, I guess coming home empty handed is ok, it’s the thought that matters.

Posted on Monday, June 22nd, 2009 by Jeri
Under: boating, Puget Sound | 6 Comments »

Happy Father’s Day

dad at airportThis fathers’ day is more than a bit bittersweet. Dad’s been gone ten years, since Thanksgiving 1999. Bryan, a devoted stepfather, is gone too, now.

Still, I’d like to think they watch over us, and I’m certain that as long as they remain in our hearts and memories they live on. I’m so thankful for the time I had with all of them, they’ve taught my boys to be excellent human beings, great boyfriends, and hopefully, someday a long time from now, really good fathers.

This picture is of my father, ca 1970, and he was probably getting ready to fly to Vietnam. Cheri’s the younger one; I’m standing, leaning on the fence. Thanks, dad – I remember you still in countless different ways.

Posted on Saturday, June 20th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: family | 2 Comments »