This week on the Boagworld show we are joined by Larissa Scordato to discuss a lack of knowledge, missed deadlines and unwilling project managers.
Paul: Hello and welcome to the Boagworld show, the podcast about user experience, digital strategy, digital management and everything in between. This week, as always I am being joined by Marcus. Hello Marcus!
Marcus: Hello Paul, just got here in time.
Paul: Well you got confused as to how to record the podcast. The fact that we’ve done this 300+ times.
Marcus: You send me a link every time but this time you didn’t.
Paul: I am sure I did. Have you got the show notes?
Marcus: Yes you sent the notes but you didn’t send the link. So it’s your fault.
Paul: It’s always my fault. Oh yes, because I didn’t cope you in on the email that I sent our guest, [Larissa/(http://bureauofdigital.com/scordato/). Hello Larissa.
Paul: How you?
Larissa: I’m doing great, how you both?
Marcus: It’s a nice sunny afternoon.
Paul: It is. Do you know, I think after this, I might retreat to our nearest beer garden to celebrate the incredibly unproductive day.
Marcus: Or the fact that you got through another day?
Paul: The problem is I am writing this stupid book and I’m so near the end of the first draft now, it’s like when you get so near but so far and everything becomes an effort and it’s a pain?
Marcus: I’ve never written a book.
Paul: Well it applies to anything big doesn’t it? If you go on a car journey, it’s always the last hour that is the tough bit.
Marcus: I don’t know though, as I’m not sure I necessarily agree with it. I always find starting things the hardest. Whereas there is normally a momentum and you have just filling in the gaps at the end.
Paul: Okay, so basically you’re just saying I am lazy? That’s what’s going on here isn’t it? Shall we talk to Larissa? We’ve met a couple of times I believe.
Larissa: Yes we have.
Paul: But we’ve never sat down and had a conversation about what it is that you do. I’ve worked out that you are a digital project manager but where is it that you work, and what is it that you do?
Larissa: I have a unique situation as I work mostly for a company called Phuse who are a remote digital agency, so people are scattered all over the world. We have people in South Africa and the UK and Canada and we just added a second person in the United States, so I am no longer the sole American in the company which is nice as I’ve been bearing the brunt of all the jokes they throw my way.
Paul: There is so little to joke about when it comes to America at the moment. There’s just nothing to say. So is the company a U.S.-based one?
Larissa: No, Canadian. The owner of the company and a couple of our co-workers all live in Toronto. We are entirely remote and I’m there only project manager so I manage all the projects for the company and its fun. I get to work out of my kitchen or my basement and my office.
Paul: I am guessing from that statement you don’t have kids?
Larissa: I do not.
Paul: That’s why it’s fun.
Larissa: I have dogs. Three dogs.
Paul: That’s an excessive number of dogs.
Larissa: We have a small zoo in the house.
Marcus: Dogs are great.
Paul: Oh here we go, we don’t have a dog conversation.
Larissa: I could talk for hours about my dogs.
Marcus: Tell me about your dogs. What type of dogs are they?
Larissa: There are three and I’ll start with the biggest who is Dexter and he is a Beagle rescue. Then there’s Charlie who is a golden retriever/border collie mix who is just the sweetest dog.
Paul: That sounds like a good mix, I like the sound of that.
Larissa: Yes, he just wants to snuggle everybody in this you take him to the dog park and then he herds, which is hilarious.
Paul: That’s a very collie -like behaviour.
Larissa: It’s really funny as he just gets all the dogs running in a circle. Then the smallest one who rules the house is Harley who is a rat terrier/chihuahua mix.
Marcus: That doesn’t do it for me.
Larissa: She’s very slightly but she basically owns the other two.
Paul: It’s the smallest person syndrome.
Marcus: We have up to 5 dogs in this house. We have two dogs, we’ve got a black lab and a labradoodle and my son and his girlfriend who live here most of the time have got two chihuahuas, they are quite difficult, and my daughters dog comes round every now and again and he’s here at the moment and he is a Puggle – half Beagle and half Pug. He is just lovely and really sweet but what you are saying is true, the labrador is a big brute but he is the bottom of pile and gets picked on by the little ones.
Larissa: That’s how our retriever is, he just lays on his back and the other two beat him up. He loves it.
Paul: I think with size, comes a, just don’t care mentality.
Marcus: He’s not the brightest, his not a very clever dog. All looks and not much in the way of brains.
Larissa: We say the same about Charlie. My husband has just recently started posting me memes of our dog. He got a hilarious photo and now there are memes on Facebook about Charlie.
Paul: It’s really funny because that’s what my wife says about me. All looks and no brains.
Marcus: Really Paul?
Paul: True, absolutely true. No it’s not, I made it up.
Marcus: I could not possibly comment.
Paul: So one of the things that caught my attention when I was looking at your Twitter feed Larissa, was this thing about wanderlust. I seriously into travelling? I feel I can bond with you over the dog thing but travelling…
Larissa: Yes, I love travelling. My husband and I don’t really give each other gifts for birthdays or anything like that, we’d rather just have an adventure somewhere so we both really into travel. I’m actually flying to England today.
Paul: Oh really? Where are you heading? And don’t just say London because you will have to be punished.
Larissa: I’m not actually, I’m really excited. I’ve been there several times and is usually just London but this time my very good friend Rebecca has a friend of hers who is getting married in Hastings. So we’re flying into Heathrow, renting a car and driving to Hastings. I’m a little terrified of the drive.
Paul: I was going to say that’s quite brave of an American who has to drive in England.
Larissa: It’s time.
Paul: So when we hear about a pileup on the M25, we know what’s caused it.
Larissa: We were making jokes that we were going to write in the windows, with sorry, we are American. That can be so misinterpreted.
Paul: Americans seem to worry about the roundabouts but once you done a couple you’re okay. The thing you’ll forget is turning right on a red light. You can’t do that over here.
Larissa: But you can turn left on a red light?
Marcus: Nope. If you coming up to junction and there were traffic lights and its red you have to wait until it’s green we can turn.
Larissa: That works for me. It’s very clear.
Paul: And obviously remember, get on the correct side of the road.
Larissa: We’re not going to drive in London stop when we leave Hastings were going to spend the night in Bath. I got to spend couple of hours in Bath when I was last in the UK and it was such a wonderful place.
Marcus: Go to Brighton as well as Brighton is right next to Hastings.
Larissa: It’s on the coast as well, right? When we leave Hastings to go to Bath were going to drive the whole southern coast and go up through Salisbury.
Paul: Now Salisbury is my neck of the woods. I live about half an hour away. You may well pass through or around the town I am living in, a little town called Blandford. If you’re driving up from the coast to Salisbury then you will go through Blandford. They going to Stonehenge if you heading to Salisbury?
Larissa: We are.
Paul: Prepare to be deeply disappointed.
Larissa: I’ve been before. She’s not been before and we free bought some tickets online. She should see it. I love how when they show people at Stonehenge, they always show them walking amongst the big stones and when you go, you’re behind this fence hundred feet away.
Paul: They always photograph it either at sunset or in the fog to make it look mysterious and normally from a very low angle, to make the stones look bigger than they actually are.
Larissa: I read when I saw it, I think we took a bus tour from London and were driving. We came upon this hill and it cleared and I thought, oh, okay.
Marcus: It is quite impressive though how they managed to get rocks that size from Wales.
Paul: Absolutely. But it’s a bit like the Northern lights. Everybody says how amazing the Northern lights are but in truth, is just a bit of a blur in the sky and doesn’t look like it does in the photographs as you’re not seeing it in long exposure. Since been little bit built out of proportion. At anywhere it’s worth going, did you going to Salisbury Cathedral when you last time?
Larissa: No, I very much want to stop there.
Paul: Is worth stopping in Salisbury Cathedral because it’s got the Magna Carta in and the Magna Carta is the document that your constitution is based upon.
Larissa: Yes, I would love to do that. My degree from colleges actually in art history so we will be spending lots of time in cathedrals and museums and libraries. Luckily my friend is very much excited about that.
Marcus: I’ll apologise for the traffic before you get here by the way. It’s not going to be good this weekend.
Paul: And let’s apologise for the weather, just on the assumption.
Larissa: I always assume it’s going to be chilly. The day I actually went to Stonehenge, I think we were there in July and a cold front came in and actually dropped to freezing. So my mum and I are at Stonehenge together in very light jackets, freezing to death in these pictures and is very windy and in these two pictures we just look miserable, standing there, clutching each other and freezing, trying to get pictures.
Paul: It won’t be that bad.
Marcus: Saturday is full sunshine and in American it’s about 71/72 degrees.
Paul: I don’t imagine it’s that dissimilar to Seattle, but with more rain.
Larissa: I’ve been looking at the weather and it seems to be pretty similar, may be a few degrees Fahrenheit colder.
Paul: I’ve just suddenly remembered we are doing a podcast. This must be really boring as we are essentially discussing the weather and traffic. Shall we talk about our sponsor and then to go do some questions and be vaguely on topic.
Fullstory, our first sponsor which I don’t imagine them sponsoring a traffic podcast, what they describe themselves as is a pixel perfect session playback tool. That sounds fancy! Essentially what they do is that they allow you to watch sessions. I have it running on my website, on boagworld so every time you go to my website, I am watching you! I know, it’s creepy. When it’s not really, because this is the interesting thing about it because obviously it is all anonymized, but it’s a great way of me learning about users and how they are interacting with the website, so I can watch the user sessions back. It’s a tiny little script that captures every click, every swipe and every scroll on your websites. This is the really cool thing is you don’t need to add any manual events tagging to it. In other words, let’s say in your analytics you notice there was some problem with the newsletter signups. If it was something like Google analytics, you would then have to add event trackers onto the newsletters, to see what’s going wrong there. Of course the problem is that you won’t get any historical data. With Fullstory, you don’t need to add event tracking so essentially you can select any element, like the newsletter submit button and you can see anybody that’s ever clicked on that, you can watch the sessions and you can watch what they do. And it records the full dom and console logs which enables you to really easily fix any bugs or problems because you can see the user and see what went wrong. Then of course, you can search on particular people, so one of my favourite searches is to search on people that rage click, that are so frustrated with my website that they repeatedly click on something. Obviously there aren’t many of those because my website is perfect, but is a useful little indication. You could say, show me all the users that have viewed this post and then gone on to sign up for the newsletter – really quite powerful stuff.
Larissa: That sounds interesting.
Paul: It’s really good.
Larissa: I feel like American Airlines should put that on their website because I was rage quitting a bit last night when it went down.
Paul: There are so many organisations that need to know quite how bad experience is.
Larissa: I almost started tweeting at them but then thought no. We’ll see how it goes in the airport today.
Paul: That’s what Twitter is for, ranting uncontrollably about bad experiences. Look at Jared Spool and his ongoing criticism of United airlines. Is like a constant tirade.
Larissa: He’s right though.
Paul: Oh yes.
Larissa: I have to fly them later this year to Mexico and I’m not looking forward to it but they have the best flight for us unfortunately.
Paul: American Airlines aren’t too bad.
Larissa: I haven’t phoned them in a while, so I’m hoping. But the check-in process on their website was a little bit less than perfect.
Paul: The trouble is working in the industry that we do, your super aware of those kinds of things aren’t you and it just drives you nuts.
Larissa: I wish I could open and incognito window in my brain and do things as if I was not one of us. I’m so hypercritical, I want to know what people really get upset about this is what I get upset about.
Paul: That’s a very good point.
Marcus: I am reminded again of the irony in being hired by a company to do UX work and then being sent to their purchasing system to login and to register as one of the new suppliers. This one is just completely unusable and they even warned me it may take a few weeks for us to get you on the system. We are never being hired to sort this mess out.
Larissa: We should be.
Paul: Oh yes, absolutely. I have to say enterprise systems, the back-end systems that they use is always shockingly bad because I think management focus on bringing in new sales and increasing profit but they don’t think about the cost savings benefits that user experience can bring.
Larissa: If you think about how much extra time people that work in purchasing can spend on other things if they are not constantly unplugging somebody from the system and debugging issues that they’re having.
Paul: I think it was Chris once who did a presentation, Chris Scott our MD, he did a presentation where he calculated the number of employees that they had the booking holiday off which took one minute to complete the task and how much, based on the average salary, that cost the organisation. It was phenomenal. Of course there is always that famous story about Steve Jobs and the first Macintosh. He was complaining about the fact that it was taking too long to boot up and the engineer was saying there was nothing we can do is we can’t spend time on this. Steve Jobs said no, you’ve got to take of 10 seconds from the boot time. The engineer said, 10 seconds? That doesn’t really matter much. Then Steve Jobs started calculating booting up so many times a week times the 2 million people using it, actually costs a lot of lifetimes. Basically, by having this Mac booting up slowly, you are killing people. I just think that such a great way thinking about it, you are costing lives. And it does feel like that, these kinds of things.
Larissa: My husband has to use a regular laptop for work. He is a content strategist so he doesn’t have a fancy MacBook for work yet and turning it on takes like a year. When he started there and they gave him this thing he also did remember how to use it!
Marcus: I wouldn’t, I would remember how to use one.
Larissa: I tried to get on it to quickly browse something and no.
Paul: I have to support my sons PC. Is the only Windows machine in the entire house and it takes more effort to support that one machine then all of the macs combined. Anyway, we’ll get hate mail from the PC lovers.
Discussion with Larissa
Paul: Our first question is from Matthew and he says, ‘how do you deal with teams/clients who have a fundamental lack of knowledge of modern programming practices where their mindset is stuck in the, we’ve always done it this way, and the team manager ignores requests for training? So it’s that kind of stuck in the past attitude. C must have come across clients that are like this?
Larissa: I have.
Paul: How did you cope with it?
Larissa: We had a client, not at my current agency but at my last agency, we worked with a very large software client. They put out a type of software and their website was pretty dated and they wanted to redesign their website. We went in today discovery with them and came to find out that their current website for this global company was handled basically by one developer who built this proprietary CMS system and he had gotten to a point where it wasn’t very flexible for people to update. People couldn’t get in there, is very much dependent on him so God forbid something happened to him, nobody would be able to change the website if the website crashed. It was not a good situation. But it was really hard because we had to work together with him in order to do this because after we built this website they were going to be maintaining it long-term. We found that it worked really well for us to 1st of all, have them do a complete walk-through of their whole website. So we bought in our development team and our designers and myself and we sat down at a conference table and he walked us through the entire backend of their system that he built which was really a spectacular system. Then we were very clear with the team there just to say, we not trying to come in here and take your job, we’re not trying to come in here and say anything negative but at the same time, this is a global company and you have a global sales team that are trying to get into this website and throw up splash pages or whatever they are sending people to check out a product listing and they’re not able to do it. You’re basically running 24/7 customer support system with your sales people and is unrealistic for you to be dealing with that way to. So we let him realise that we were on his side and trying to make life easier as he would be woken up at crazy hours of the nights with questions from someone at the other side of the world, to change something that they are stuck and they can’t get their major new client in Japan to view this splash page with all this product stuff on it, so it was rough but by think by the end he had been a pretty good working relationship.
Paul: I think that thing of making it clear that you are there to help them, as I think there are very few programmers or developers that want to be stuck doing maintenance, they want to do the cool new stuff and they don’t get to do that if they are supporting some legacy system that is horribly out of date. The other part of this is that team managers ignoring requests for training that struck me. It reminded me of one of the things that we have done at Headscape in the past which is that it’s very easy when you get an external agency in that they take over and they build the website and hand it back to the development team, but more and more we are embedding ourselves into teams. Have you ever done anything like that and actually worked side-by-side to develop stuff?
Larissa: Yes, we are actually doing that right now on a site that is launching this week. We have our client and they work with a proprietary company that builds an API for the system because they have customer service people that deal with this and people register for stuff on their websites so we’ve been working side-by-side with the company that built the API for them as their development team so we check in with them constantly and were constantly chatting on the phone and walking through processes and doing testing with them. It really makes a project so much more successful when you are able to do that. You are saying that when an external agency comes in, they become ‘they’. No, it’s we.
Paul: We’ve even gone as far as doing paired programming and taking one of our programmers that has got experience and best practice et cetera and pairing them with one of their internal developers, like the guy that you were talking with and actually code it hand-in-hand because then effectively you are training that other developer up at the same time as building whatever it is that you’re building. It’s training by stealth.
Larissa: Because another project were working on right now where the client that were working with, we working together for one of their clients when the building website. They did design and we came in and did the front-end development and they have this interactive map feature that we did a react map for that’s getting embedded and now they’re integrating all-round development into a CMS for their client. So we’ve been doing this back and forth. It makes it a little bit more of a partnership.
Paul: It doesn’t always work though, mind. Recently I went into a company that I’d been asked to help with their digital strategy and they had an internal development team, an ITT that consisted of three full-time employees in a contractor. I discovered as I dug around that everything was proprietary built by this team, very much like the scenario that you just described. Even to the point that they were hosting the website and all of the systems internally in the building. They had physical servers running in the building. And so I worked with them to understand what they had and then I recommended that they needed a more robust digital team, they needed to appoint a digital lead, that these guys needed external training, and management entirely bought on with all of this and so they advertised for the digital lead and their entire IT team resigned and left. They just couldn’t cope with the change. So from being entirely reliant on this IT team to run this infrastructure that they had built internally and only they understood, they all suddenly left.
Larissa: That’s a nightmare scenario.
Paul: It’s awful. I think in the long term it will be good as I think getting those people on board are getting them up to speed would have been a huge challenge, but in the short term it’s like, oh crap I’ve just made everybody leave and there’s nobody to support the website. Fortunately, I managed to solve the problem using an external agency and help sort things out. They’re doing the same as you described in your scenario, they’re starting with an audit – how is it all setup let’s understand what’s there.
Larissa: I think that’s so valuable in what we do. When we go into a website or a redesign, it makes sense to become an expert in the old product, the old website because then you know the pain points in and out yourself.
Paul: So no doubt that amuses you Marcus that I’ve managed to cut things up.
Marcus: I’m just wondering how you are feeling about that Paul?
Paul: I’ve got mixed feelings about it because on one hand obviously I didn’t want those people to go until we had something else in place and ideally I didn’t want them to go at all because of continuity and I would have much preferred they had got up to speed. But on another hand if they were that unwilling to change, if they were that unwilling to accept the situation was changing around them then it’s probably best that they went.
Larissa: I agree with that.
Paul: Not all at once not that quickly. Actually the contractor guy is staying around so there will be some continuity but it’s still not ideal.
Larissa: If you are going to work in technology nowadays and you’re not okay with change then you are shooting yourself. These things don’t work together.
Paul: I have a confession to make which is that you mentioned something and I confidently mention something in the sponsor section which I never had heard of, which is React. What’s React?
Larissa: It’s a framework for creating an app, for creating some sort of functionality that helps things to
Paul: Is the Facebook one? Or have I found something different?
Larissa: So for example the thing that we are building is a map feature for different places that you can go fishing and camping around Ontario, Canada. Is a really neat features is an interactive map, as you hover over the map you can see properties and is hover and have things come up click into that. So it’s a framework that allows you to do that kind of stuff, but you can use it in lots of different things. My developers tend to favour it over Angular.
Paul: Now that’s it, there’s going to be war in the comments.
Larissa: It’s like celebrity death match. Angular vs React.
Marcus: We’ve had questions like this throughout series and really my response to Matthew is, you need to show what the right thing is to your manager and the rest of your team and if you don’t get anywhere, leave. If you’re in an environment that so cost X that is not willing to change and doesn’t want to hear what good advice best practices, then you are better off out.
Paul: I got a post that would have come out by the time this is released and it’s a sponsored post, it’s a post by a recruitment agency, but the post that I’ve written, is really interesting is the way this recruitment agency is working is saying that people like us are so in demand that essentially they will pay you $2000 if you accept a job by them, and there are always other kind of great benefits that come with using this recruitment agency. But what that led me to do is write a post that essentially said what you just said Marcus. Just don’t put up with that kind of shit. If they went change, then go elsewhere there’s no shortage of opportunities.
Larissa: Yes, that’s how I found myself at Phuse.
Paul: Is it really? You through a strop one day and left?
Larissa: Well not quite like that. The place I used to work for does really wonderful work and they are some fantastic people that work there but it’s a very large digital agency and they also do traditional advertising as well and I’m just not into advertising so much, I am more interested in project design and app design. I like to work on stuff that maybe provides a service to somebody or a benefit or does something good for humanity.
Paul: The kind of projects I really like are the ones that pay me a lot of money. They are the best.
Larissa: But you want to be able to sleep at night.
Paul: I don’t have a problem with that. Because if you can earn a lot of money can take a lot of drugs and you sleep well.
Larissa: Would you build Donald Trump’s new website then?
Paul: Quite happily.
Larissa: I wouldn’t do that.
Paul: Oh no, I couldn’t. There are limits on there? I’ve worked on the sex toys sites, I’ve worked on a site for chicken incinerator plant.
Larissa: I have a friend who is working on a sex toy site.
Paul: Is quite an interesting challenge.
Larissa: It is very fascinating.
Paul: So all of those, absolutely fine but working on Donald Trump’s site is the line I draw. Should we do next question? There is far too much waffle, even by our standard and I blame Marcus. Because he talks so much on the show, you can’t get a word in edgeways.
Marcus: I bring reason to the show, mostly. Sometimes.
Paul: So the next question is from Ross. ‘No matter how good your team, things sometimes go wrong and deadlines get missed. How should you deal with these kinds of issues to minimise the impact on the project and the reputation of your team?’
So go on then Larissa, solve that one for us.
Larissa: I don’t ever miss deadlines, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Deadlines fly by all the time, right?
Paul: Like the Douglas Adams quote? ‘I love deadlines, I love the wooshing noise as they go by’.
Larissa: I chuckled a lot when I read that. Because it’s true, we will miss deadlines as we are building really large interactive products and there’s loads of weird things that we can’t predict. Dave Pryor likes to say that we are trying to manage things and we can’t predict our jobs at all but we are trying to. So being a project manager is really like banging your head against the wall sometimes. But I think that’s the fun part of its. For me, since I can realise that a milestone is going to be missed, the first thing I do is go to my team and make sure they know we’re going to miss this but check overall what the impact is to the whole project, is there an impact to the budget, can we make this up? Figure out a strategy and a solution to missing this deadline and then go right to the client and own up to it.
Paul: That’s what it comes down to isn’t it, going back to the client as soon as possible. The grey area is where you think you might miss the deadline but you’re not sure. I’m a great believer that we should warn the client that we might miss it anyway and then exceed expectations.
Larissa: Totally, I love doing that.
Paul: Yes, could it makes you look incredible.
Larissa: It helps your client trust you to because they know you are willing to talk to them about difficult situations. It’s not all sunshine and roses as it’s sometimes hard but we do. I think that if you are properly setting expectations from the beginning and if you’re really making sure that you talk to your client as often as you should, we like to do biweekly check ins so I am talking to most of our clients twice a week, whether it’s just a chat over Skype or an actual conversation. If they are that’s involved in the project from the beginning and it’s a lot easier because they are even sit to as they will be like, oh I asked for that feature to be changed a little bit and what’s going to do to the deadline? That’s the best situation to be in because then it’s easy.
Paul: The more they are embedded in a project, the more the sense of ownership they have over it and the more responsibility they take for it.
Marcus: One of the things I’ve found over the years is that many projects slip because, and I’m not pointing fingers here, not because of the agency but because the client. They weren’t expecting that organising stakeholder interviews would take a month as I thought it might take a week, for example. So you’ve almost got to allow for that. What I’m trying to say here is that if we took on all the work we do and I’m talking about Headscape now, and he went exactly as the original timelines whence, then we wouldn’t be able to do all the work. You just know that some things will take longer than they will and that’s the hard part of managing projects and managing who is working on what at the time. I have no answer for that but it’s just more than observation and it seems that every project slips a bit and it’s quite often nothing to do with us and dealing with that is hard.
Paul: That’s a thing you can only learn with experience because when you first engage with the client try to the beginning before they sign up for anything, you can get a pretty good sense of whether their project is going to be one that slips from their side because of the type of organisation or even the personality of the client and all of those kinds of things but it’s only when you’ve been doing it for 20 odd years that you can begin to notice those kinds of things.
Larissa: You start to recognise patterns. I have an enterprise client has five project stakeholders in three different cities and three different time zones, and you should probably plan for a little extra time for feedback and for meeting scheduling and for requirements gathering this is somebody who is local and doing a start-up and you has all the time in the world to partner with you and shop for meetings and stuff.
Marcus: We don’t do any of those which is why I guess more of our clients are like the former.
Paul: Which is why you can plan and make presumption that something will slip somewhere. So the basic answer to Ross’s question is, just communicate often, both when things are going well and as soon as you think things are not going to be going well.
Let’s do the last question from Sander. Sander says, ‘do you have some tips for junior developers who are forced into PM roles but also needs to code and get the job done?’ So this is Sander saying basically that they don’t have dedicated project managers. And I’m expected to do development and to run a project at the same time and so what happens is you get into this scenario we are constantly being interrupted with project management type stuff when you are trying to focus on coding, which is impossibly difficult. This might be one of Marcus’s, leave and go somewhere else.
Marcus: See my previous response. No, it might be a great team and they might be new and they might only be two of them, they might have to do sales as well.
Paul: So Larissa, have you ever been in this situation, have you got any tips for him?
Larissa: I’ve been fortunate to work for companies that have project managers but I know for my current company, I’m about to be in England for eight or nine days so my developers are going to be running need on some projects. I think the biggest thing to do, especially for people that coding is to set boundaries and be okay with telling people that they can’t manage things might now and they need to spend the next four hours coding because they got to get this done. Literally, depending on what communication tools you use, when I want to write a project plan or some intense budget thing I really need to concentrate on, I sign out of Slack, I put my phone on silent, I do everything I can to minimise those interruptions. If you’re in an actual office, something that we’ve started implementing at my last office was that we would have cards at our desk. Amber and green and yellow cards which basically said, if the red card is up, don’t talk to me unless the building is on fire. But yes, set boundaries and more than likely things can wait a couple of hours, and then check your email go for that stuff.
Paul: I think it’s good to let people know when they can expect a response, when I put the cards up on my desk saying go away, I would normally say come back at 3 o’clock. And equally there are some emailed recently and I got an automatic out of office notification, an automatic reply from them that essentially said they only check emails three times a day – first thing in the morning, at lunchtime and then in the evening so if it’s a few hours before I reply, be assured that I will reply when I next check email that way you know where you stand.
Larissa: If I got a client with an urgent request but trying to get something done and I know that the urgent request isn’t necessarily something that they need right now but they just want me to answer a question, would normally shoot them a note right back and say hey, I’m in middle of something here, but I will respond to you in two hours.
Paul: Seems to have your email open them?
Larissa: I tend to do that although now I have a dedicated office space in my house, as it stops got a certain window with my email open in one monitor and I shut the monitor off if I want to work on something else on another screen and come back to it.
Marcus: I say financial tipping off is that if you really need me, pick up the phone. I think in answer to this question is don’t deal with all the project management stuff all the time.
Paul: What I was about to say is that have designated times at the beginning of the day, end of the day or every other day whatever way you can do that kind of stuff. It’s like Larissa said, sitting boundaries.
Larissa: My first agency that I worked for, we used to have a thing called maker time because we were all in a big room together and so I would be the only project management then then we’d have our CEO and our ops manager and all outsiders and content strategists in the same room altogether. So if you get loud in there, you couldn’t really talk to the CEO about your project, so we actually dedicated certain calendar blocks, Monday afternoons, Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Wednesday afternoons and those will make a times a.k.a. quiet time. So if I had to phone calls or whatever I would go into another room in the office and that way they had their dedicated time and everyone but them.
Paul: It sounds very much like having kids. You say to them it’s quite time now, everybody lie down on the mat and be quiet. Sometimes my wife works in the office with me and it drives me nuts. I can’t do stuff because she talks. Not to me necessarily but is on the phone and it’s really hard to concentrate on stuff when other people are making noise.
Larissa: We had that. My husband and I moved to Seattle in March from home because the agency that he worked for in Phoenix allowed him to move and stay working with them remotely. So he was home for 3 ½ months and I was downstairs in the basement and he was upstairs, but we are renting a very historical home see could hear people walking around and I could hear his conversations as clear as a bell. For the first few weeks it really drove me crazy
Paul: Noise cancelling headphones saved my life.
Marcus: It’s funny though isn’t it, I’m in my home office at the moment and it’s totally silent, I don’t have music on because I can’t write, yet I go to the office and there is music on all the time and people having three different conversations and I still carry on.
Paul: There is a level I think. I think no noise and a lot of overlapping noises fine because for a lot of the overlapping noise becomes background noise. I could sit and work in a coffee shop where there is lots of people talking and there is background music on as well, but if there’s just one conversation going on, you end up listening to the conversation.
Larissa: It’s also your space too. The Home Office is your space is your very used to the environment that you have created for yourself and so when there was a change to your environment you are hyper- aware of it vs when you go into the office you go into the copy shop, you are expecting that white noise.
Marcus: I’ve also discovered that the music thing is if I choose the music, then I listen to it if someone else does, then I can ignore it.
Larissa: I can’t listen to music with words. I usually listen to classical or jazz or something.
Paul: Movie scores for me. Anyway, we’ve gone off topic again. I like these more wondering episodes.
So let’s talk about our second sponsor which is FreshBooks. FreshBooks have created a super intuitive tool that makes it really easy to send invoices to clients which is always good because let’s face it that’s the one bit of a job that we don’t want to do. I like getting paid but I do like doing the admin to get paid. So using FreshBooks, it only takes about 30 seconds to create and send an invoice. You can customise it with your own logo and your own colour scheme and all that kind of stuff so that the invoice for Flex your branding. Your clients can pay you online, which can seriously improve how quickly you get paid in many cases and FreshBooks will show you whether or not the clients have looked at the invoices that you’ve emailed them so they can’t go, oh I didn’t get the invoice or whatever else. You know exactly what’s going on which is so invaluable. FreshBooks can send late payment reminders for you see don’t have to chase your clients as is done automatically which again saves a lot of time because we don’t get paid for admin and the more we can automate it, the better. You can also use FreshBooks deposit feature which streamlines how you invoice your money upfront for example when you want to invoice upfront a deposit for a project, it streamlines the whole of that process when you are kicking off a project. So is all about invoicing but they do have other great features as well. They have a really good expenses feature for tracking your expenses in making that really easy, no box full of receipts anymore which I hate. And then they got a really good mobile app as well which lets you take pictures of your receipts and organise them for later and create expenses reports and all kinds of things that you need for claiming tax back and that kind of stuff.
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Marcus, joke time.
Marcus: Yes. Thanks to the people who responded to my plea for more jokes on the boagworld Slack channel. Last one about the Vikings I don’t get.
Paul: No, I feel like he missed a fundamental part of the joke at some point.
Marcus: Yes, so please whoever posted that, please re-edit your jokes I can tell it sometime. Anyway, this is from Jason Fosse and it starts off with a note that Coles is a supermarket chain in Australia.
‘Yesterday I went to Coles to buy cabbage. There is a new law that if you buy a cabbage from Coles you are legally required to purchase carrots and mayonnaise as well. Coles law’.
Larissa: Oh no. My husband and my boss would love that joke. They will laugh.
Paul: Just, yes. That is a perfect joke for this show.
Larissa: It’s like a dad joke.
Paul: Absolutely. We only do dad jokes here. So thank you Larissa for coming on the show. Really appreciate you joining us. So where can people find out more about you and what you do that kind of thing?
Larissa: You can check out the company website if you want – Phuse.ca, otherwise you can find me on twitter – @Larissa_Scordato. I try to treat a little bit about project management mostly though recently I have been a little bit enraged with American political things but that will be over in November hopefully.
Paul: Your be moving to Canada won’t you?
Larissa: That’s actually the joke my bosses on at the moment – when emailing to Canada?
Paul: Is inevitable at this point I think, you are all doomed. I don’t think moving to Canada is going to be far enough.
Larissa: I feel like 2016 is on an interesting road, let’s see what happens as I’m a little frightened.
Paul: I’m thinking about signing up to that thing that helps to colonise Mars. Have you heard about this?
Marcus: I haven’t, no.
Paul: So there is this private venture that is looking for couples ideally to move and go to Mars for the long-term.
Marcus: Not old couples like you Paul.
Paul: Well no, young, people like Larissa. So just move to Mars. Even Trump can’t get you there.
Marcus: It will happen one day.
Paul: What? Us living on Mars? I think it’s the way to go.
Larissa: Extreme hot and extreme cold, I used to live in the desert so kind of used to that.
Paul: See, they you go, it’s all fine. So, thank you Larissa for joining us. Next week is the final show this season and what we’re going to do is to do a little bit of a test run for what I think I’m going to try next season which is to try a new roundtable format. Instead of having just one guest like we did this week, we going to have three whole guests. Three for the price of one, can you imagine how chaotic that’s going to be?
Larissa: That’s fun. Done a few pod casts like that where there is a panel discussion. I’ve done one for louder than 10 and then I just did one for drunken p.m.
Paul: See, I thought this was a new format but apparently everybody’s done it before then.
Larissa: It’s fun. Lots of tangents.
Paul: Oh I can imagine. I think a pod cast might double in length or triple in length as there is three guests. Marcus you a bit unsure about this idea aren’t you?
Marcus: I think as long as each of us got something to cover then it can work.
Paul: There are three project managers on the show next week so hopefully one of them will take control. We’ve got Brett, Sam and Holly.
Larissa: That’s going to be such a delightful conversation.
Paul: So join us next week, thanks for listening and goodbye.