On Virtual Meetings

In the past weeks working as a Product Management Intern for Blizzard I have discovered the real art of planning and running meetings in a virtual working environment. So far, I have been in charge of directing internal meetings for sprint planning (preview, review, etc), backlog and bug grooming, and others. I have also planned and run meetings externally for cross-team collaboration such as weekly global publishing sync meetings, and several presentation and review sessions for my summer data organization project.

Remote work is tough for all of us for a variety of ways. Sometimes we’re distracted by house chores, social media, or our Amazon shopping cart. Other times we find it hard to focus or stay engaged with an image of someone on a screen, or sometimes only the sound of their voice.

Here are few things I found useful for learning, preparing, and running these meetings.

Video on, and look into the camera!

It is hard to read a room when you can’t get feedback from body language; smiles, gestures, eye contact all of this is critical when you’re leading a discussion or presentation. Even though most meeting participants will have themselves muted during a meeting, it’s good to see smiles if you made a funny or nods of approval if you’re asking for confirmation. With video enabled in meetings, things just feels more polite, genuine, and shows some proof of engagement. Silence is hard enough to handle virtually, going in blind too just doesn’t work well!

Have a clear agenda, take notes, and share them with attendees

Having a structured agenda helps participants know what to expect, it keeps you on track, and it ensures you will address all meetings goals without forgetting any details. Sending out meeting minutes or notes serves as a reference and reminder for those who may have been tasked with something. Give an extra few minutes for questions, “parking lots”, or comments at the end of a meeting; and include those in the notes too!

Attitude is everything

Learning how to lead a meeting is tough. For me, I learned to walk the walk. On top of knowing how to lead is also knowing how to keep an upbeat, engaging, and positive attitude. Luckily that second part wasn’t hard for me, but joining a team as an intern and being told to start leading everyone is rather intimidating. Having my agenda (point I made above) helped me a lot in getting used to the flow of leading meetings, and keep track of what topics I should be covering.

Those three things have helped me immensely this summer in being a successful leader for meetings with anywhere from 1-50 people! If you lead meetings, or participate in them, try implementing a new technique to keep your listeners engaged and on track.

Happy Friday!

Over the Hill

My first formal review is done! My team is happy with me, and I am happy for their support and transparency. Here we are, halfway through week 6 of the Blizztern program. I can’t believe I only have 3 more weeks left; it feels like I just got here. My project is coming to a good hand-off point, and I have trained my team on its functions and how to maintain it. Next week I’ll present to the team leads since they might be interested in implementing my search tool too. Over the next couple of days, I’ll polish up the present version to the final product!

Uncertainty is in the air, and anxiety is on the rise for what comes next. In the Fall I am enrolled in an elective “Linux Fundamentals” course. I’m also thinking about taking a couple of extra elective courses later because they look relevant and fun! There’s an elective for game development, which might be really cool to experience.

Happy Friday!

Short and Sweet

As my third week interning at Blizzard comes to an early holiday weekend close I realize I only have 6 weeks remaining! Time is flying, but I couldn’t be happier with the team, the culture, and work. It is such a refreshing change to have everything I’ve wanted in a job: a mentor, a positive work environment and culture, mobility, and compelling projects and products. I’m pretty much on cloud 9.

I have a few goals this summer:

  1. Manage and coordinate the deployment of a seasonal OW event page.
  2. Architect a searchable database for past study data and findings in Confluence while linking action items to Jira. Create templates, help documents, and teach the team how to use and maintain it.
    1. Use my shiny new search tool and DB to make meaningful connections for product moving forward.
  3. Work with UX research team to learn the process for studies and some data analytics.
  4. Present my summer project information to my team, fellow interns, and colleagues.

I’m so happy so far because I’m ahead of schedule for my PM deployment project, and I’ve got an approved architecture for the study database and I’ve already moved more than half of it over! The rest is just polish, standardizing data entries, and adding more small improvements for user experience!

Interning remotely certainly has its challenges, and I hope to continue to make meaningful connections with my teammates for the remainder of the program. Although it certainly isn’t the same as being there in person, I think everyone is doing a pretty good job considering the circumstances. Next week is a performance review; it feels like I just got here!

Pre-Internship Jitters

Things are starting to feel real; I received a shipment of all my hardware from Blizzard today! I’m racking my brain wondering about the kind of work I’ll be doing every day. There is an everpresent concern that I need to be an all-star immediately. I’m trying my best to remember this is intended to be a learning experience! I’ve never done product management before and I’m here to be a sponge.

It’s only the weekend between me and my start date now.

Virtual Life & Snake

The world is holding its breath for normalcy. All has gone virtual, my internship included. It is a critical time to thank our lucky stars, continue moving forward with our goals, and keep in touch with those we care about. I am grateful to have a summer internship to look forward to. I received a phone call from the university relations recruiter, and will officially be a Blizzard intern for the summer of 2020. *Sigh of relief* I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to gain invaluable experience in an industry I thought I could only dream of breaking into. Life takes another step forward and this chapter of isolation will end soon enough.

In coding project-related news, I made a copycat version on Snake in Python; how ironic. Having never installed new modules in Python before, I had the opportunity to briefly learn about using pip and installing with the command prompt console. Below is a screenshot of me killing it in my Snake game. I’ll add polish to it I think. Maybe a score counter or something? There’s also a funny bug I need to fix where my snake will allow a collision with itself and will somehow lose its head and chop itself into smaller snakes. It adds a whole new level of depth to the game if you keep playing it like that!

Figuring out how the squares are supposed to move and behave was difficult to wrap my head around. I am grateful to have a tutorial in situations like this to guide the general logic flow. This project will be pushed to my GitHub account (link in footer) and updated as I fix or change little things here and there.

Something About Practice

Good news! Classes have not been canceled; everything has been moved online. I’ll be able to finish out the semester just fine!

Since the COVID pandemic has most businesses closed and there isn’t much else to do but go for occasional walks and stay at home, I’ve had lots of time to think about a suitable project to showcase some skillset with Python and coding in general. I think I found a fun project that will cover a couple of difficulty levels of programming by creating classic games like Pong, Snake, Connect 4, and Tetris.

So far I’ve made Pong, and it was incredibly simple and fun. I’m making a few silly changes to the game to make it “mine”. I have a couple more tiny tweaks to make to it before it’s done. I’ll add each game to my projects page as I complete them.

Finding motivation and concentration in this time of social distancing and quarantine has been surprisingly difficult. Between having a small personal project and my remaining coursework, I’ll busy for the next 8 weeks at least!

Pong! It’s not quite done yet. Check my projects page for the completed version.

Spring of 2020 and COVID-19

Who would have guessed a virus would decimate the world economy, shut down travel, and bring every conference and social event to a screeching halt? Halfway through the Spring semester, my Python course has been officially put on pause. My assumption is everyone is preoccupied with their kids being out of school, losing their job, etc. because of this virus and the school is cutting everyone a break. It’s also likely that they can’t put all classes online (too much website traffic), therefore nobody gets to continue class.

Meanwhile, the general population is being told to work from home if possible and to not come into work until April. Everyone is supposed to be isolating themselves from each other. I don’t really know what to do with myself, and everyone else seems to be at a loss, too. Kids are playing in the street and people are taking their dogs for walks several times a day. It’s wholesome as hell but really strange at the same time.

What is particularly troubling to me is the email I got on last week concerning my internship-of-a-lifetime. In short, it said, “we’re monitoring the situation”. This scares me for a few reasons. First, it might be pushed to summer 2021 (me speculating). Second, it could be canceled altogether (me wildly speculating). Third, I could go out there, get sick, and DIE (me throwing COVID-19 statistics and rationality completely to the wind). Of course, I have no actual evidence any of these scenarios have any odds of actually playing out. Yet the fear continues to creep in.

It’s funny how normal everything seems when you take a walk down the street and listen to the birds singing. All of this pandemic anxiety seems to be stemming from people simply worrying about what could happen. Perhaps I should unplug for a while, maintain immaculate hygiene standards, and just enjoy the business-as-usual around me. I think I’ll try to get ahead in my Python class and plan a DnD campaign session (my new hobby).

What Are the Odds?

The best thing has happened. I accepted an offer for an internship with a major gaming studio for the summer of 2020, and will be working on a product management team. This is exciting for a multitude of reasons. I’ll name names and share more specifics once it all begins in late May.

First, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from industry experts in a super fun and friendly working environment. Second, it is a foot in the door to prove my worth and absorb as much as possible in my short time there. Hopefully, that means I can land a permanent position after the 12-week program is over. Lastly, even though it’s “only an internship”, this company provides fair pay, covers transportation costs AND housing, and puts together bunches of fun events for interns to build positive relationships with other interns, employees, and senior staff. And here I was, ready to work for free and trying to figure out how I would afford to pay for life during that 12-week term… derp. The craziest part is it didn’t really start to all sink in until many hours after signing the offer, as I was reading more about the program. Let me explain.

In the previous year, there were over 24,000 applicants and only 93 were accepted as interns. That’s less than a 0.4% acceptance rate. I’m sure my eyes bugged out of my head for a second when I read those odds. Though I don’t know what the statistics were for this year, it’s still extremely empowering.

Another aspect of this process that caught me completely off guard was the response I got to the question, “How did I stand out as a candidate?”. I was told it was my honest cover letter. I talk about my change in direction, highlight my tenacity in this major shift, and talk about how I’m looking forward to continuing progress in the industry. One interviewer mentioned my cover letter resonated with her personally because of her own journey. She started in pre-law and left to work in the video game industry for many years before landing a gig with this studio. Now THAT’s a transition! It was nice to hear that my cover letter was actually read in the first place, but also that it did a good job connecting to my target audience.

Now comes the waiting game for the next 83 days… It will feel like an absolute eternity, but I’ll do my best to stay occupied with coursework and learning valuable skills that will help me perform this summer.

Stay Curious

Finding purpose through lifelong curiosity is a goal I hope to always achieve. When do we lose the child-like curiosity for the world around us? I think when this innocent curiosity dies, a part of our soul and livelihood goes with it, too. I take pride in being able to entertain myself with something as seemingly trivial as the intricacies of an anthill. Call me weird, whatever. Ants are spiffy and there’s so much we’ve learned from them and how they interact with each other and their environments. Anyway, moving along here.

The journey of changing my career path is a big undertaking and nowhere near over, but it has helped push me into a world I would have otherwise never known. I am grateful that I have been able to slowly chip away at this enormous task, one class at a time. Looking at my progress now, a mere 3 classes left until I’m eligible for the Computer Programming Certificate. They’re all 4-unit classes and sound incredibly scary, but I could hypothetically complete it all in a single semester! I might not be a programming whiz yet, but I’ve had steady exposure for 4 semesters now. Tenacity! Woo!

Back to the moral of my monologue… In my life so far, many of the best people I know never really decided “what they want to do with their lives”, in the general sense. They are fun, well-rounded and curious people with open minds and heaps of interesting life experiences. There is so much we can learn in our short time in this world, and I think it’s paramount we savor the flavor of life and stay curious!

Coping with Failure

Yesterday I was fired and given no reason for my termination. My last employee review was perfect, I had never been written up or warned for behavior or shortcomings of any kind in my work, and I had received a 10% raise. Nothing but positivity. Why am I being fired with a day’s notice if I did nothing wrong? Even more importantly, how can I learn from something like this with no feedback whatsoever? I knew we were doing poorly as a company, and I have to imagine this was the root cause of my job’s demise. Perhaps by not saying anything about poor company performance, my employer was hoping to avoid widespread employee panic? I’ll likely never know; my efforts should be focused on securing another job and moving forward.

I want to take a moment to specifically drag the grueling process of modern-day job searching into view before I continue. In today’s world of applying online, filling out forms, recruiter calls, and ghosting, it’s extremely difficult to keep your head high when you’re suddenly dropped flat on your face. I’ve had recruiters ghost me after the 3rd interview (an alarming number of times) and I’ve had hiring managers no show to phone interviews. You would expect much more professional behavior, right? It’s easy to feel defeated, expendable, and worthless. But maybe it’s a good thing these opportunities didn’t work out. Who wants to work for a company that treats potential candidates this way? Interviews are a two-way street, after all!

It had been extremely hard for me to deal with yesterday’s failure because I blamed myself for being laid off. I know this might sound short-sighted, but let me explain. I spent hours thinking about what I could have done wrong, and why nothing negative was ever mentioned in my reviews. Ultimately, the answer was right in front of me. There wasn’t any information other than what I had been able to glean about plummeting company sales and inability to afford employee raises, and I didn’t know what I did wrong because the problem wasn’t me. The issue that caused me to lose my job was completely unavoidable and out of my hands. I had to simply accept it and move on. Did I feel utterly wronged and left “high and dry” by my boss? Absolutely, 100%. Will it matter in 6 months or a year? Nope, I’ll survive. Time to move forward and put my interviewing hat on.

Identifying new opportunities from a winding path of life choices is a superpower I think I have developed over the last decade. I like to call it being resourceful or dynamic. In the pursuit of my academic and professional goals, I have seen stumbles, U-turns, and plenty of hiccups. I have found that instead of worrying about one door that may have closed, I try to open my eyes to identify the plethora of doors that are open because of the winding path I have taken to my current self. I can continue to see my options, as opposed to being blinded by how things could have been different. Each bend and turn in my life experience has given me a new tool or perspective to use in my current life.

What I’m trying to say is long, straight paths are boring; take the scenic route and make sure to follow the sunshine. Time to update my resume, I ready for the next big thing 😉