Develop.Idaho 2015

dev idaho poster by @developidahoWith over 4 million acres of wilderness, rolling farmlands, rivers, and a statewide population of less than 2 million people, Idaho might not be at the top of your list when you think of the tech industry, but if you walked into the Stueckle Sky Center at Boise State University during Idaho Tech Council’s (ITC) Develop.Idaho (#DEVID15) you would have thought differently.
Nearly 500 tickets were sold for the event, with representation from dozens of Idaho companies in the tech community around the state.
Develop.Idaho is an annual event put on by the ITC that brings Idaho tech companies together to brainstorm, collaborate, and help each other grow the tech industry in Idaho.

hadi speech kids and codeThe theme for this year’s conference was “208: Code For Growth,” which focused on how software creates growth opportunities for Idaho companies. The event was held at the Stueckle Sky Center at Boise State University.
Keynote speaker Hadi Partovi, co-founder and CEO of Code.org, talked about the importance of introducing coding to school-age kids, especially girls, so we can prepare a future workforce that is increasingly technology-focused.

ryan's speech benefits copyFollowing Hadi’s keynote, our own MetaGeek CEO Ryan Woodings (also an ITC board member) kicked off the conference by challenging attendees with a simple question: “Are You Building Something Awesome”? Ryan discussed that to build a great company that does great things, you must first start at the “Why” level. Companies need to ask themselves not, “what does my company do”, but “why does my company exist?”
After your Why question is answered, you can use it to check the alignment of every single other thing you do as a company. MetaGeek’s Why statement is short and sweet, but speaks volumes: “We believe that work should be awesome; something that we love.” It seems simple enough, but how do you turn a platitude into a real statement of how your company is going to operate?

ryan's speech packed crowdCiting companies like Netflix and Apple, Ryan explained that companies must have an intentional and purposeful culture that only retains high-performance “A Player” employees, but treats those employees with respect and freedom (not to mention fun workplace perks.)

 

“Deliberately teaching company culture through actions”, as Ryan posited in his presentation, will rally your entire team so you can work together to build something truly…wait for it…awesome.

Following the main speakers, attendees then had the opportunity to participate in three breakout sessions, where panelists discussed everything from surviving the “Valley Of Death” (periods of financial stress in your business), to “Learning to Lean” (implementing agile development) and the Continuous Deployment model of software releases.

Ibrian paneln the breakout technical panel “What Differentiates Top Engineers”, leaders from MetaGeek, Clearwater Analytics, Bodybuilding.com, Cradlepoint, and Keynetics discussed hiring practices and how to source the best engineering talent. One audience member asked if, in this merit-based day and age, a degree in Computer Science was a mandatory requisite for consideration.

“I look for someone that’s committed to self-improvement.  That oftentimes coincides with a degree in Computer Science, but not necessarily,” explained Brian Tuttle, MetaGeek’s CTO. Other panelists agreed, and went on to discuss the necessity of writing actual code during an applicant’s job interview, degree or no, and emphasizing the word “Viable” in building an MVP.

After the breakout sessions, there were more social opportunities to round out the day, including networking sessions from local Boise meetup groups like Girl Develop It (led by our own Marianna Budnikova) and Startup Grind Boise.

The overall theme at Develop.Idaho 2015 wasn’t necessarily nitty gritty technical stuff, but addressing how to grow tech-focused businesses that face all the very same challenges that all businesses face – hiring talented people, keeping money in the bank, and building a great products. If the success of Develop.Idaho is any indication of the tech industry in our state, then 208 truly is “Code for Growth.” 

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Get Creative with the SSID Name

In the Wi-Fi world it can be difficult to get creative, but we all have networks that need to receive a SSID, or service set identifier. Many people enjoy naming their SSIDs and spend some time coming up with a name. Perhaps you’ve seen your neighbors’ network names and wonder what in the world compelled them to name it that? If we think about it, in homes, offices, or business, people are signing on to your network daily. Devices are constantly scanning for Wi-Fi and when they’ve found a network, the name pops up in their feed. So why not have a little fun with that name and come up with something creative?

Here are some MetaGeek employee favorites:

  • SSIDnameblogimage

    Creative SSID Name

    Pretty Fly for a Wi-Fi

  • [Your Neighbors Address] Bathroom Cam
  • Wam Bam Thank You LAN
  • Do you want some Wi-Fries with that Shake
  • Silence of the LANs
  • Sorry My Kids Are So Noisy 

If you want more ideas, check out this article from BuzzFeed for entertaining names to read through!

Besides providing a little entertainment as people look up your SSID or one near it, having a creative name can also benefit you. Take, for example, the typical Centurylink SSID name like CenturyLink 7899. If another network that your device comes into contact with has the same name, which can happen, it is quite possible you could run the risk of joining that other network. If there is no password protection, this means you’d be exposed to potential data theft without even knowing it. Or perhaps your neighbor has the same name, then both wireless clients could associate with the wrong access point and cause confusion resulting in slower speeds or interference.

Another side to naming your SSID; make sure you don’t hide the name. I know it’s tempting for many of us to uncheck that box saying “Broadcast Network SSID”, and we think this will create added security, since no one will be able to see it. Let’s be honest though, having a hidden SSID only makes it more appealing to those who may want to hack it. Even if you hide it, your network will still send out probe requests, so in the end your network is still detectable. Just read this article on our knowledge base to learn more about hidden network SSIDs.

Have a little fun and name your network with something original. That way, if the person coming to troubleshoot your network has a MetaGeek product like inSSIDer Office, Chanalyzer or Eye P.A. where you can see the many SSIDs, they can enjoy it too.

 

 

Scrum, It’s Not Just for Software Anymore

“I will never not do Scrum again” ~Jay Bowen, MetaGeek’s Fearless Marketing Leader

MetaGeek believes in Scrum. Completely. Our software teams have been “agile” since 2010, and after reading Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time we decided to go all in on Scrum… by the book. We wanted to experiment with the entire company using the complete Scrum process. Everyone from shipping and accounting to software development, and IT… even the leadership team.

Our Scrum Bible

Our first step was to form random groups of people into book clubs to review and discuss Sutherland’s book. We had originally planned to have Sutherland’s team at Scrum, Inc. come to Boise to give us a 2-day training, but everyone at MetaGeek was too excited to wait for the training, so we just went ahead and started Scrumming. The entire company has been using Scrum for about three months now with tremendous success and a few surprises. Here’s a glimpse into what it’s like when the entire company embraces Scrum.

Software Teams

The transition to Scrum by the Book was easiest for the software teams that were already familiar with Scrum and agile methodologies. Prior to Scrum by the Book, our three software teams were doing 2-3 week sprints, using Jira to track sprints, and scoping stories by “engineer days.” We switched to 1 week sprints and bought some Planning Poker cards from Amazon to properly scope complexity instead of time. We also added “Definition of Done” to stories. 

Planning Poker Cards

Planning Poker Cards

Although the software teams had been using “Scrum but” for four years, switching to Scrum by the Book has been the biggest boost in productivity that we’ve ever seen! The shorter sprints focus on higher value stories; when planning a 2-3 week sprint a few low value stories seem to always sneak in toward the end of the sprint. By putting more effort into a clear, unambiguous “Definition of Done” for each story the team and the Product Owner are now aligned on the desired outcome. And the weekly retrospective ensures process improvements are immediately implemented before the team gets bogged down.

Sales and Marketing

Half our marketing team had never heard of Scrum, much less seen it in practice, so the first couple sprints were kind of rough as the team figured out how the process should work. Jay, our Marketing Director has stopped giving verbal instructions to individuals whenever new tasks come up, and now writes a story to #putitinthebacklog. Instead of doing a little work each week on a dozen different projects, the team now focuses on a bite-size chunks of work that can be completed in a single sprint.

The team has learned to focus on the highest priority stories first instead of grabbing the more interesting, but lower priority stories that aren’t as valuable to the company’s success. There is more collaboration on projects as the team rallies to finish the sprint, and there is more upfront request for clarification to make sure the work will produce the desired outcome before the work is begun. Now that the team has figured out the process and found a rhythm they are accomplishing an amazing amount of excellent work.

Support

At first we weren’t sure if using Scrum for Support made sense, because so much of their daily work is interrupt-driven tasks like answering support emails and taking calls from customers, but we decided to try it anyway. Currently Joel, our Support person, is part of the Marketing team and counts 2 days each week as “on sprint” with the rest of his time devoted to the interrupt-driven tasks. The “on sprint” time keeps the sprint as the highest priority for him, as opposed to allowing the interrupt-driven tasks to fill up all of his time. Without working more hours he is now regularly creating training content, videos, knowledge base articles, and other support-related content that has reduced the number of support tickets created, which in turn has freed up more of his time for “on sprint” work.

Finance, Operations, and HR

At MetaGeek Finance, Operations and HR are all handled by one team of four people that all wear very different hats. The challenge with moving this team to Scrum, was that 90% of their weekly tasks repeat each week with other tasks repeating monthly and annually, such as closing the books and reconciling inventory. While most of the company is currently using Jira, this team opted for a physical Jira board of sticky notes that can be moved from Done back to Backlog and To Do during sprint planning. Before the team started using Scrum they each did their own set of tasks with little overlap. Now they are becoming cross-trained and are more capable of helping each other succeed.

Physical Scrum Board for FOHR Team

Our Finance, Ops, and HR Team uses a physical Scrum board

 

Leadership

Since MetaGeek began ten years ago, nothing has had as great an impact on the company’s momentum as our leadership team embracing Scrum. We were already following Patrick Lencioni’s advice from The Advantage of having a Daily Check-In Meeting and a Weekly Staff Meeting, so switching to a Weekly Sprint was simple. The biggest impact on our team has been the shift from doing mostly tactical work during our first few Sprints, to mostly strategic work as our process has evolved week after week and we have continued to focus on doing high value work.

By breaking down all of our work into Stories and Sub Tasks and agreeing on the prioritization of Stories, the Leadership team now collaborates on work so much more than we did when goals and progress weren’t clear to everyone. Anything we do that isn’t in our Sprint has to be declared in Daily Stand-Up as a Blocker, which has pushed us to stop doing tasks that aren’t high-value even if they seem urgent at the time. Another positive outcome for the Leadership Team is that we quickly realized that meetings are big blockers, and we’ve worked to reduce the number of meetings we attend.

Company

A lot of companies say they are transparent, and they probably think they are transparent, but there’s nothing quite as transparent as Scrum. Every team’s Scrum Board is public for the entire company to see, and every team has a public Sprint Demo to show off and explain what they have accomplished each week. This has increased communication flow between the different teams, and created accountability to the entire team to ensure the work you are doing is truly adding value to the company.

Moving the entire company to Scrum wasn’t simple, and is still a work in progress, and I can’t imagine ever going back to our pre-Scrum ways of doing business. Company-wide Scrum FTW!