2020 Reflections, 2021 Goals

2020 was a pile of hot garbage, but it wasn’t all bad. I spent some time briefly reflecting on my accomplishments for the year. Here’s what I’ve done to stay in motion and continue to strive for personal and professional growth, even in a year that kept me pivoting.

1. Completed coursework in Python and Linux, and am even closer to a computer science degree.
2. Developed my personal brand and story by expanding my professional network and seeking mentorship from accomplished women in gaming and tech.
3. Took on an enriching new role as a Blizzard PM intern with the Overwatch game site team, where I delivered the Summer Games event page project as well as a Confluence data organization project in just 9 weeks of 100% remote work and onboarding.
4. Successfully completed coursework and passed the exam for Scrum Master Certification.

Moving into 2021, new opportunities with dream employers await on the horizon! I will be exploring these options and finding the best path in the coming weeks. Academically, I plan to have accomplished 2 more of my required courses by the end of the year (possibly all 3 that remain), meaning I’d be done with my computer programming degree!

Certified Scrum Master (It’s Official)

This last week I made the decision to tackle a certification that will hopefully help me in my next position. After asking a colleague from this summer on their opinion for the most widely useful cert and the most sought after, I landed on the scrum master certification through Scrum Alliance. Surprisingly, I found a course section for that weekend (which was just a couple days away), and completed all the instruction time, coursework, and the final exam by Sunday afternoon. Lightspeed!

Our course covered the principles and values of agile. It covered the scrum values, theory, purpose, team structure, events, and artifacts of scrum. Use cases, quizzes, group activities and examples were peppered throughout the course, keeping the class actively engaged. My instructor, Brett Palmer, was great at keeping it all upbeat and informative, too.

I found it interesting to have the official scrum structure and guidelines laid out in front of me; same with the agile values and principles. Through many helpful examples from the course instructor, Brett, I learned how many users of scrum and agile aren’t actually users of scrum and agile at all! We hammered out all the details and fundamentals over the last two days and found it all to be extremely enlightening ad empowering. When it came to the final certification exam, I was very well prepared.

Maybe in the near future I will consider taking the next level of scrum certification. Maybe some day I’ll start chasing down a PMP, too!

Summer Reflections

As my last day as a 2020 Blizztern ends, I reflect on my wonderful journey of learning over the past 9 weeks. Not only was I immediately embraced into the kindest and most helpful team I have ever known, but I was guided and mentored throughout the entire process. I worked with my mentor early to have defined goals and objectives, I received help when I hit a road block, and I had access to an enormous network of individuals who could share their knowledge and feedback with me at any time.

Product management takes many forms, depending on the company and the individual team you are working on. Product management with the Overwatch game site team was a technically light role that focused more heavily on design. For me, this was a great soft introduction to a new work process, and I am curious to see what a more technical product management role entails.

I am happy to have worked on a variety of projects:

  1. Facilitated and coordinated the on-time deployment of the seasonal OW event page, Summer Games. It is also outperforming 2019 in CTR!
  2. Organized the team research and study data into a searchable mini Confluence database and linked action items to Jira epics. I created templates and help documents for ease of maintenance, and trained the team on it’s use.
    1. This project was presented to many other team leads who were very interested in this project. I helped the Hearthstone implement similar prototype to test on their team, too!
  3. Worked with UX research individuals, engineering members, and global insights team members to learn more about the scope of each team and what their responsibilities are.
  4. Presented my summer project to my team, fellow interns, and colleagues in many meetings. Also discussed my projects during the 2020 intern expo.

Although my time as a 2020 Blizztern is up, I will take my new skills and insights and carry them with me into my next role, whether it be with Blizzard or another awesome company. In the meantime, Fall semester begins in about a week and I’m working with the Blizzard recruitment team and my professional network to find a permanent full-time position.

Thank you, Blizzard, for this incredibly valuable experience– it has been life-changing!

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).