Group Projects: Precision of language, Pageantry, and Questions

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.Net / Always Learning / APIs / Asp.Net / JavaScript / Open Source / Web

Three weeks ago after  being  a Technical Evangelist for three years , I joined the Visual Studio and .NET team as Program Manager . Moving from one great job to the next.

Joining the Visual Studio and .NET team has been amazing!  Not only I am a part  of a team that makes great  developer and user experiences, I have presented in Hong Kong, and helped build a demo for Build 2016 within the first couple of weeks.

My post  today is all about working on  group projects.  As remote a PM, my team is spread across multiple states and continents so, when working on a group project,I have to make sure that I can accurately explain and express my ideas.

Over the past week and a half leading up to Build, I learned so much on effective communication and project expectations .  Here are my lessons.

Precision of language

Conversation A

Conversation A

Conversation B

Conversation B

Precision of  language is probably the most important skill you’ll need to work on throughout a career. When trying  to figure out  a bug,  a new language, or an API  it is easy to get anxious; especially on a group project.  In situations like these being able to ask precise questions is essential for getting a project finished.

Let’s  have a look at  the two conversations above.   In  conversation A,  you are giving  a lot of unnecessary information. This will not only confuse you but, confuse the person you’re working with.  In conversation B  you are giving a precise description of what you are trying to achieve hence, giving you an immediate solution.

Precision of language comes in different forms and extends beyond emails and chat messages. One of my new favorite tools to use  is CodePen.  My colleague Jordan Matthiesen recently introduce me  to using  CodePen as a way to sandbox your code and share it with your team. This makes it easy  to identify bugs and share ideas.  Consider  using this if you ever get caught in a conversation A scenario.



Don’t get caught up in the pageantry!

When working on a group project it is easy to get caught up it in creating something “amazing”!  The problem here is you get caught up in the pageantry; this leads to high or  unnecessary expectations.

In my last group project, one of the things  I needed to do was plot latitude and longitude on a map.  Sounds simple? It is. So, don’t  try to make it more than it is actually is.   Don’t get caught up in creating amazing animations in D3.js, OpenLayers, Leaflet JS, Modest Maps etc. Concentrate on  getting  it working first.  Your team will appreciate a working prototype before,  you show them the fancy D3.js overlay on Bing maps.

Start simple, then add to your project you will achieve so much more.

Ask questions


If you have questions don’t hesitate to ask. When working on a group project asking questions and getting clarification on project goals will save  time. You never want to spend time working on code that just isn’t needed.

Initial project meetings spark a lot of excitement because building stuff is fun! It is so easy to get swept up in it all and start making assumptions  about the project goals.

If  you are uncertain or need clarification on the project’s  scope make sure:  send wireframes, screenshots or workflows to your team,  and ask for a follow-up meeting. The most important thing is to make sure you are all on the same page.

At the end of the day seeing something you helped build being presented does give you a huge sense of accomplishment.

I hope that this post helps you or your team work a little better.

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