Happy Christmas From Your AI Overlords

Happy Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays!

Your AI overlords are here!

And they are coming for IT jobs, too.

There are hypothesis by people that creative jobs will survive the AI onslaught and so people should concentrate on these fields.  This is factually incorrect. Music, paintings, ability to determine a factual statement given human created evidence (Google’s AI Drawing Game) show that AI is not only able to be creative, but that it can be inferential on levels equivalent to humans.

However, being able to create art does not make an overload unless you are Hitler.

The first link is in regard to a company that is transforming the daily business activities by basically replacing middle management with an AI ratings system. In essence, it allows employees to rate and critique each other and stores and analyzes this data. This emphasizes the role of people as “cogs” in a machine or a clock. Like in the movie “The Incredibles“.

Bridgewater even reports that one-fifth of its hires cannot handle a year at the company, and those who do survive are often found crying in the bathrooms.

This statement in the article seems to indicate that crying in the bathroom of an employer is a result of AI management. I have seen management make people cry in the workplace – with no AI involvement at all. I have seen management bully people in to working excessive hours with no AI assistance.

I’m not sure I see a difference between a human manager making a person cry at work or an AI manager making a person cry at work.

As far as the creative arts are concerned – well, I think that would be an easy computer algorithm to “assist” artists to make better art. I’m envisioning a “Black Mirror” episode where people’s like rating directly impacted their daily life. Why not set up Facebook pages – and you’ll know if the next piece of art you create is better than the last – by the number of likes you get? Instagram and a little data analysis would work even better.

So, say hello to you AI overlords – they are already here – a bit earlier than expected.

The Necessity of Planning – and not following the Plan

Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential. – Winston Churchill

There it is. A quote. Obey the quote.

Well, don’t do that. In this age of memes the fact that is lost is that detail is important. Saying a single independent statement doesn’t mean anything without a structure, evidence, and an explanation of why that meme is something other than just a sequence of words.

I have done a lot of interviews for project management jobs. I have had discussions with many people in the project management field. People talking about planning and then staying on that plan. The importance of dates and hitting dates and finishing projects under budget and on time or early.

They all miss the point of planning. Planning in essence has two components. Estimating time and costs is one of those two. Estimating tied up with planning is where these problems are introduced about following the plan. The second core function of planning is understanding the major risks in a project and anticipating them.

I know, you are going to say “That’s risk management”. Yes, it is; however, long before you get to risk management there are major forks in a project that have to be addressed long before discussions of risk management. In addition, as with many parts of project management – Risk Management has to occur at the same time as planning.

Still, though, all of the above are just words strung in sequences. Let’s take a trip on the beginning of the first generation ship.  During the selection process Juno is the asteroid selected for this generation ship. It is chosen symbolically as well as for the physical characteristics – it was the generation ship in the series Eon by Greg Bear.

Sequence of Events – Version A

During the planning process it is outlined that remote drone diggers will be sent to Juno. These will work to hollow out the interior of the asteroid. Creating tubes from several points on the surface digging down to the center of Juno. Then, digging a sphere in the center outward for the volume for humans to live.

Sequence of Events Version B

During the early planning phase of the generation ship – many scientists are invited to consult on the steps in the project. During a brainstorming sessions one of the scientists raises the question – that Juno and many other larger asteroids that are relatively spherical in shape may have an iron or metal core.

An intense and lively debate is subsequent to this potential. A team is set up and an alternative plan is formed should the digger drone units run in to iron or any other metal in the core of Juno. Other possibilities are introduced that there might be streaks of metal in sections of Juno as well.

Additional drones are developed to melt metal that may not be required. However; since it is unknown if there is a metal core in Juno everything needs to be prepared if the drones run in to metal as they drill to the core of Juno or at the core.

Convergence.

In sequence A – if there is no metal core then all is well. In sequence B, if there is a metal core or not the plan will work either way. Melting units are sent – while causing additional costs – in preparation for the worse case scenario that the digger drones run in to metal. They do run in to metal – and instead of halting the project and incurring massive costs and time loss – the project is able to continue to hollow out Juno for use as a generation ship.

Project Management, Leadership, and the US Presidential Election

Project Management can be difficult in many organizations. Depending on the organizational structure it can be near impossible for the project manager to have the power, influence, or resources to complete a task.

Communication is core to project management. Some estimates run that 90% of project management is communication. In fact, the definition of a project is a temporary endeavor to create a new product or service. By this definition I find that the President of the United States of America is both a project manager and a project.

The end product of a presidents term is an improved (by their standard) United States of America. Hence, the President of the United States of America needs to be very strong in communication.

Difficulties in this project are nearly all involved in stakeholder management. All members of congress are stakeholders. All citizens of the US are stakeholders. And the job of the president is basically change management – as you won’t find many candidates for president that run on a platform of ‘everything is fine, lets just keep everything the same, we don’t need any new laws, and no old laws should be removed from the books.’  That might be a great end point for the long term interrelated projects of all the presidents.

Stakeholder management is a problem because (as in many project I have worked) there is little agreement of what exactly is wrong that needs to be addressed by the project ‘President of the United States of America’. In addition, no one agrees on metrics to understand the current state of the USA. Many followers of Donald disagree with the numbers that are provided by many organizations inside and outside of the government that indicate that things are getting better.

How do you convince a stakeholder that doesn’t believe in your data of the ‘as-is’ state of the project? Well, you might take them out to dinner, show them by taking them to certain operations and showing that there is a low error rate (maybe fewer items in the garbage at a 3D printing company), and take them on interviews with customer stakeholders that agree that things are going well.

But you can’t do that with 40% of the electorate. Even if you could there may be problems in the decoding of your communication that they might still not agree on the current ‘as-is’ state.

What I think almost all citizen stakeholders can agree is that where we are today as a country requires improvement.

There is a massive problem in communication with Donald Trump. This alone really disqualifies him as being project manager for the United States of America.

Based on his speaking during the debates he is unable to communicate clearly or even in sentences that can be parsed by everyone. ‘Word Soup’ many people are calling it. Imagine you are the project team (or the members of the government) following commands that they cannot parse? Even worse, he often makes statements and then contradicts those statements in the future. Anyone attempting to follow his leadership will quickly learn that perhaps taking no action is better than taking an action based on Donald’s words – since you could get in a huge amount of problems if you do anything based on his communications.

I have seen this in organizations that I have worked. It is a stressful situation for employees. Clear communication is a requirement for leadership in business or in government. It also lends to employees wondering that if something their leader has stated doesn’t work out – that their leader will suddenly have vanishing executive support for their ‘project’.

So, the communication problems that Donald has  – word soup and countering his previous statements – turn in to real world leadership problems.

I have also been a member of the US Military. Military processes require clear communication. Suppose we have some of our military being made fun or taunted by members of another countries military. Based on Donald’s statements, perhaps they should shoot at them? But, we don’t know if he really meant that, so perhaps we shouldn’t shoot at him. He is the commander in chief. His orders to the military overrides any general. Although, typically, what the president says directly doesn’t give orders to specific people in the military. It flows through the chain of command.

Still, though, if they were taunted, and should one or more of them behave like children and fire at another countries troops starting a war – you can’t really blame them, can you?

The prevention of war is a pillar of improving life in the United States of America. This questionable communication is a threat to everyone.

Problems in Programming Job Infrastructure

Full disclosure: I have been a programmer and project manager in the past and I’ve been unemployed for a while now so if this comes out as a rant – well maybe it is.

I’ve been searching for a job for a while and I’ve noticed some things about the so called programming job market.

The first thing that is noticeable is that everyone wants to hire ‘full stack’ programmers. By full stack they mean programmers that are experts at programming in the back end (to servers, databases, ERP systems, etc), architecture and design of systems and applications, the middle tier and ETL, and the front end (presentation layer) to the end user.

Now, I’m going to make a statement that I’ve taken from my experience in the SAP world. If someone tells you they are an expert in all of SAP they are lying to you.

I will make a statement right now – if someone tells you they are an expert ‘full stack’ programmer – they are lying to you.

I am very honest about my strengths and weaknesses as a programmer in the pursuit of a job. I think though, that the key to getting a job must by lying. Everyone must be lying (virtually everyone) and employers just don’t catch on.

That doesn’t mean that programmers in general don’t know the different aspects of coding. On average they do. What I am saying is that we all have weaknesses and strengths. To claim you are an expert full stack programmer is to deny that maybe you are really strong on the back end and weak on the front end or that you have no experience interfacing with other systems or something like that.

To continue in this subject; however, is that a lot of job requirements extend the programmers required skills in to project management. For me, this isn’t an issue. I have certifications in T-SQL, PMP, and my CSSGB.

If I have these things isn’t really the point. The point is that just because you are a programmer, doesn’t mean you do everything.

To use an analogy – look at a construction site. There are specific people there to perform specific tasks. There is even a specific job where a flagman guides people on the ground and guides crane operators so that no one gets hurt. Different people are experts at pouring concrete, metal work, there are architects that design the buildings, project managers that guide all the workers, truck drivers with CDL to bring the concrete and there are different truck drivers than the ones that bring the supplies for construction.

So, with these job requirements it would be a fair assertion to make that in programming, they expect the architect to design the solution (ok), build the building, pour the concrete, do the metal work, drive the trucks, and manage the project.

It doesn’t make any sense, does it? Yes, a single programmer *can* do everything. They just aren’t going to do everything well. Yes, an architect can design the building and do all the parts of construction, but they aren’t going to do a great job with everything.

How I achieved my PMP certification

If you are interested in achieving your on PMP certification I can tell you how I prepared for and passed my PMP exam on the first attempt.

First, while I passed the PMP on my first exam attempt, this was not the first time I desired and performed some work to attain the PMP certification.  The first attempt was aborted due to being overwhelmed at work and with a heavy duty commute.

I purchased the PM Prepcast two times.  The first time more than two years before my eventual taking the exam and then the updated version for my actual attempt.  At $179 it accomplishes the contract hours required in order to take the exam as well as is a great way to learn and study for the PMP.

You are required to have three years experience as a project manager before you can take the PMP exam.  I have about 10 years experience as a PM so that required was easily satisfied.  If you don’t have the required experience you can use the PM Prepcast to study and take the CAPM certification.

My approach was to watch the prepcast videos and pausing frequently to take detailed notes.  I also followed the instructor’s recommendation to watch the first video lecture for each section first and then watch them again with the rest of the video lectures for each segment.  This really helps with multiple exposures to the content.

There is some memorization required for formulas and when you use the formulas; however, this is pretty minimal if you have gone through a college level mathematics course.

Before taking the exam I studied my detailed notes by just reading them and finally, I attempted (but did not finish) just watching the prepcast video lectures as a review before taking the exam.

I also purchased the Exam Simulator and went through as many questions as I could.  This was good preparation for the exam.

I had purchased (twice) different versions of Ritas PMP Prep book, but I found the attitude in the writing really put me off.

In any case, with a few months of dedicated time to study for the exam I was with the above preparations able to take and pass the exam – on the first attempt.

Some NOTES: There are additional costs of becoming a member of PMI and the cost of taking the actual exam that need to be considered.  The application process (filling in your experience as a PM) can be quite lengthy and overlapping experience does not count extra toward your 3 years experience.  Schedule your exam in advance as I bungled this a bit and didn’t schedule until I felt ready to take the exam.  This resulted in some more time before actually attaining my PMP certification that was actually required.