Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer 2016

Well, trying to write more regularly proved to be difficult, especially when you have your hands full. Some things which I'm going to describe may deserve separate posts... I'll see what I can do about this later. So these are the things I did in the past 7 months:

Leaving old job:
I left my job, which I had for 2 years and 8 months. The decision was long overdue, but better later than never. The long project, on which we worked, was completed (as much as possible), the prospects were unclear and I didn't have an increase in salary since I have completed my internship. So it was time to move on. Two weeks were spent on healing a cold, which I caught accidentally. Immediately after that I got an offer for a position of analyst in a company in Skolkovo (yes, that Russian innovation center). After a couple of interviews and another two weeks I got this job. What happened there is another topic.

Self-improvement books:
I have read various self-improvement and business books in previous years and several more this one. IMHO, most of them can't be used by usual people. It's not that such books are bad, they just work only in certain conditions. If this is the book's target - it is okay, but when the book is aimed at bigger auditory... The reason is that the technics and ideas described in the books can be applied only in limited area of expertise - for people with certain cultural background, in certain countries, maybe in certain work spheres or even only in certain situations with certain people. Often it sounds like a millionaire telling a poor man how to live and work. Of course there are some useful things in these books, but they can be usually summarized in a couple of pages. Also many books blatantly use other authors' ideas. So I think that it is enough to read several suck books, take the key ideas and use them. The books better be good such as Psycho-Cybernetics, Seven habits of highly effective people or even Meditations (by Marcus Aurelius).

Reading Bible:
I'm atheist. And I don't like a principle of "didn't read but criticize", so I decided to read Bible (because Christianity is better known to me than other religions). I took an audioversion of King James Bible and listened to it. I went through Old and New Testaments and decided that my atheistic believes only strengthened. Here are some points which I didn't like. Some of them are borderline jokes, some are my personal opinion, in some points I could be wrong; in any case I have no intention of insulting anyone with these words:
  • Old Testament was full of violence, adultery, infidelity, stupidity and so on;
  • New Testament was better, but still had a lot of ideas, which I don't like - for example forgiveness of everything bad which is done to you, propaganda of suffering, humble and insignificance of life in this world, submission of women to men and many other ideas;
  • A lot of internal inconsistencies;
  • Bible was written when people had very limited knowledge of the world and wasn't update since that;
  • There were other people besides Eva and Adam. How did they appear?
  • Exodus story was very cruel. Considering it was God who made Pharaoh not willing to let the Jews go.. and then punished Egyptians for that. Well, there are many cruelties in the Old Testament;
  • Jews make the same mistakes again in the Old Testament. For example Moses and Exodus. Jews get angry on something, Gods punishes them or wants to punish them, Moses pacifies him... But Jews start irritating God again;
  • Why was Judas betrayal necessary? Why Jesus cursed a Fig Tree? How people can understand that they meet the Beast and not the true God?
  • And many other things...
  • In the end after having read the Bible I continue living as I have lived before: trying to be adequate and honest and not hurting other people unnecessarily;

Lean Six Sigma:
I did several more things for self-education. First of them was learning about Lean Six Sigma. This is a methodology of quality management. How to eliminate variation of the process (so the results are better and within the necessary limits) and waste (remove unneeded steps from the process). It is a solid and useful methodology used by many companies. And it heavily used statistic methods. I heard about it from my colleague and decided that I want to learn it. There are several levels of proficiency with exams for each level: Yellow Belt (beginner), Green Belt (medium), Black Belt (team lead), Master Black Belt (even better than Black Belt). After two months of study I was able to pass Green Belt Certification! I hope to be able to use these skills and knowledge in my job.
LSS Green Belt Certificate

Touch typing:
One more thing which I decided to learn is touch typing - fast typing on keyboard without looking on it. I can type fast enough, but I have to look on keyboard sometimes. As I need to type huge amounts of text sometimes, I need to be able to type fast and efficient. At first my speed dropped dramatically, but after two months my touch typing speed in Russian became faster that typing speed which I had before (almost 400 symbols per minute)! Now I'm going to learn touch typing in English;

New job:
Now about my new job... I'll start from the end - last Friday I left it (5,5 months of working) and was very glad to do it! What went wrong? Almost everything. This is a really long story, I'll tell it some other time, now I'll describe only main points.
  • So, I was offered a position in this company. Of course, I decided to look for information about this company. I have found this (text in Russian). The company has several contracts with Pension Fund of Russia. The company and some other companies with the same leaders have contracts for 300+ million rubles... Well, it doesn't directly concern me, so not a big deal, but still a thing to ponder over;
  • So, I got the job. The first task? "Let's see, we have a big client with a system of internal budgeting on SAP BW/BI. You have 1 week to understand how it works and a create a first prototype/design of dashboards for it!" It took me one day more than planned, but I delivered it! And heard about it only a couple of months later...
  • Then I spent almost two months writing documentation for this budgeting system. It became boring very soon. But there was a possibility of something more interesting and I waited for it. And when I finished it I had to change formatting of all documents and had to stay until late due to poor organisation and communication;
  • Then a new project began. Developing a web-reporting system for the budgeting system (with the first description done by me previously). The team: junior front-end developer, senior back-end developer, analyst-tester-pm (me), ux-designer, outsourced designer and project leader. And two bosses (who lead the company). It was a mad project, describing all of it would be too long, so just several points. The planned length of the project was ~3 months. Design was thought to be done in one month, but it continued till the end of the project, because the scope of design was revised several times. The scope of project was changed several times. Client didn't take any part in this project. Internal reviews by bosses were full with criticism and unfounded expectations. Project leader and me didn't have any idea about web-development so we had to use a trial and error method. Also I had no experience in managing. So it was crazy. When it was acknowledged that it can be installed for clients (despite a number of bugs and unfinished functionality) I resigned;
  • Company's bosses preferred a stick and carrot policy. Only without a carrot. They didn't value human resources and were sure that their decisions are almost always correct. Now wonder there was s serious staff turnover;
  • So I'm really glad I left it at last. Now I can have a rest and look for some interesting job;

HTML, CSS, JavaScript:
While I worked on the aforementioned project, I decided to acquire new skills in relevant spheres. I learned HTML when I was in school and it didn't take a lot of time to remember it. CSS took some time, but I needed only basics - just to be able to understand how it works. JavaScript is another level for me. I don't know programming languages so I just repeated the things which I found. I think I'd better put it on hold for better times :)

I had little possibilities to actively learn Japanese. So I just read raw manga and random articles in Internet, watched anime and so on. Good news is that I feel progress, bad news is that I need to really concentrate on learning Japanese to reach a decent level. I hope I'll have time for that.

More attention was paid to Spanish. I read a lot of news articles, watched news video and tried to immerse - like switching my phone to Spanish. Also I went through La Sombra del Viento one more time, translating unknown words. I even tried to write something in Spanish, but it was really bad, It seems more practice is necessary. Will try to do something about it.

Big Data:
Recently big data became a popular trend. Maybe too popular. But the fact is that many big companies use big data analysis to increase their profits. And it is interesting. After all I'm economist by education. So I want to try myself in this sphere. Two main areas of knowledge which I have to explore are mathematics and programming. I had experience with mathematics in University - linear algebra, mathematical analysis, theory of probabilities, econometrics, statistics and so on. But I didn't have success in all of them, so excelling in this area will be challenging, but it would also prove that I became smarter (at least I hope so). As for programming - I have little experience with it, so it is like a black box for me. But the more difficult it is, the more interesting will the learning be!

So I lot of things happened to me in the past months and I learned a lot of new things. And I hope to learn much more soon :)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Several situations at work

The project I was working on for 2,5+ years is ending.
Today I was looking through my mail and discussions in various messengers and have found several funny (at least from my biased point of view) situations, which I'd like to share. They show a difficulty of producing a big project with a lot of developments. The situations are modified a bit to be less personal.
Consultants (C), testers (T), Developers (D). managers (M).

3 developers and 2 consultants are discussing a report. User's expectations of the report are unknown, but all the participants of the discussion have different opinions on how the report should work...
M: This video "The expert" (about 7 parallel lines) is really funny! Clients are so crazy and unreasonable sometimes!
C, T, D: Should we tell them that mirror may show them a similar thing? :)
T: A bug! I have found a bug! Here is it!
D: Let me see... several minutes of hitting the keyboard - there is no bug, I don't know what are you talking about!
T: But it was there! *pouts* I have no proof, but I sense that it was your doing!
D: I won't tell anything :)
C: You test bad! The quality is contrary to our expectations!
T: Could you tell us your expectations at least now?
C: You should test better!
several days later
T: Here is a bug, one more, another one, also this and that...
C: Stop it! There are too many bugs already! :)
C: Why additional document for this document isn't created? I told you to remember about these cases! How are you testing? Must I retest everything myself?
T: Well, here is the same example of 2 weeks ago. You told that time, that it is correct. And the responsible team checked it.
C: ...
T: We need to show this functionality to users now, so that we can fix all the problems in time.
C: Nope.
3 months later.
C: Today is the training session on this functionality and nothing works! And only 1,5 weeks are left before UAT.
T: ...
C: We need you to create test examples for all functionality of the system, check and fix all issues and prepare master-data for all test scenarios. You have two weeks.
T: But this is impossible!
C: You are telling us that you can't create several simple objects in the system?
T: We can, but...

C: Then do it! You have clear requirements after all. Ah, almost missed one more thing: write manuals and train users. And don't forget to be motivated by having an opportunity to work on this awesome project!
T: If I enter "*random strange text*" there will be dump! And I you copy the object, delete the new object, copy this deleted object and repeat this exactly 6 times, there will be another dump! Also if I use a price of a milliard $ for a gallon of oil, there will be an overflow dump! And if I select this line and delete it with a keyboard shortcut, there will be a strange dump! And if I..
C,D: Shut up, crazy pervert! How do there abnormal creatures even appear? :)
And the last one:
- No one likes testers!
T: It isn't true! We like ourselves!

Monday, January 4, 2016

The end of 2015

I wrote nothing for almost a year, because I had a tough year: my grandmother was slowly fading away in her bad for 10 months. It was hard enough both physically and emotionally, but it was doubly worse due to her spiteful nature. It is quite exhausting to take care of the person, who considers you almost an enemy, isn't it? Now this is over, but some time is necessary for a complete recovery. During this year I maintained my mental health with language learning and some games, and this is what I have to say:

  • Last year saw a rise of so called "idle games". Previously there were some games in this genre: Progress quest - RPG, where you could create a hero and then only to watch his activity without any interaction; Godville - the game, about which I wrote earlier, where players have limited possibilities to interact with hero and several other games. But in 2014 Cookie Clicker appeared. Basically it is a game where you... click a Cookie.

Yes! You just click this cookie and gain money. Money can be spend on the upgrades - like getting more money with each click and, more importantly, on earning the money automatically. The main feature is that money continue to be earned even when the game is closed = idle. Also many games have a so called "prestige system", when the progress in the game can be reset to get some additional bonuses. There are big upgrade trees in some games, the games themselves could be really different But the core is the same in most idle games - players click something to earn money, which are spend on upgrades for earning more money. And money can be earned with the game closed. That's it! Sounds strange? But these games earn there share in the market. At first they appeared as browser games on Flashplayer, Unity, HTML 5 or something like this. Then they became popular on mobile devices, for example, "Tap Titans" have more than a million votes and 5-10 million plays.
And idle games earned their place on Steam. So why such a popularity? Firstly, they are really addicting! Try, if don't believe... You click - and there is an immediate reward. Figures grow fast. Achievements can be earned. And so on... Secondly, they can be played even with little free time. Thirdly, after some time most games turn from micro to macro managing which is also interesting.

I spent a lot of time on them and it was fun. But I'm glad, that I was finally able to drop them, as they could consume a lot of time.
  • As a part of deepening my knowledge of Japanese I continued playing visual novels. One of classifications could be based on the presence of gameplay in the game or it's absence. In some games gameplay is quite unique and captivating with no need to repear something. But some companies produce games with an insane amount of grinding! I think that some MMORPG have less grinding. For example, let's take a game "創刻のアテリアル" with a card-based battle system.
There are heroes which can receive experience and level up for bonuses? Cool! But there are 33 levels and heroes can't be leveled to max level in one game...
Cards can receive experience and grow? Cool! But cards receive only 1-4 points of experience in each battle (100 points are necessary for a level up), and cards can have up to 9 levels (so up to 900 battles to max one card)...
Some cards can be crafted? Cool! But for one high level card several cards of a lesser level and tenths of ingredients can be required...
And this isn't a full list! And this isn't the most grindy visual novel I met either.

On the other hand I have read a visual novel without gameplay called "Dies Irae". It was fantastic. Epic story with really different routes; many unexpected twists - you never know who will live and who will die, main hero don't always win and so on; wonderful art; memorable characters; and author likes to you quotes in different languages - "Faust" by Goethe, some French phrases, German hunting songs, Latin requiems and many others. I was enchanted and fascinated by the story and definitely will read it once again.

  • Speaking about language learning. For Spanish I have found an excellent free audio course. The essence is making you not to just learn a language, but to think. The form of the course is a dialogue between a teacher and a student. At first we are shown that there are a lot of words in Spanish which can be guessed from English, or more precisely from Latin. Then we learn general structures. verb tenses and other things. The course is 14,5 hours long and gave me more than several months of self study.
  • And once again I realized or remembered that learning a language requires an immersion. So now my mobile phone is in Spanish, my browser is in Spanish, I follow Spanish pages in my social networks, read in Spanish and even try to think in Spanish. The progress can be really felt.
Well, there were other things in my life, of course. But that's it for now. I'll try to write more regularly from now on.