Many Pies

Many Pies

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

How should you develop yourself as an IT professional?

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

One of my colleagues was picking my brains recently as they were creating career development materials for a variety of jobs across our organisation. They specifically wanted to point to organisations that had good guides. For professions like accountancy and HR there were some very specific Chartered Institutes that had CPD materials. For IT though, I think it's very different.

I've been with Wycliffe for nearly 25 years, so I don't have a lot of wide experience. However we have recruited three people (developer, IT manager and a tech support role) in the past few months, so I've seen several CVs and what people are saying on them.

As far as Chartered Institutes go, I'm aware of the BCS and the IEEE in the UK. However, none of the CVs that I looked at mentioned either of them. From my perspective, when it comes to recruiting people experience counts for more than anything else (though specific qualifications in, e.g. Azure AD are of some use). 

Through the BCS and their SFIAplus I came across the SFIA skills framework. It does seem quite comprehensive. I'm open to debate, but I think IT is a much wider field than Finance or HR. 

I think SFIA will answer the question "in my particular area, where should I be putting my effort to gain skills" or progress in my career, or other ways of describing getting on. However, is there anything more generic. In fact my colleague had already come across the Research Development Framework. Although it is aimed at the research profession in fact I think the topics in the inner circle and the quadrants, with a bit of tweaking, could apply to IT - creativity, self-management, professional conduct - all good things.

So in the end we pointed people at that framework and the IEEE CPD materials. I hope you find them useful.

It would be interesting to get the perspective from both of my blog readers - does experience count for everything in IT? Is there any field in which being a Chartered Engineer is a distinct advantage?

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Management lessons from powerboating


Ariel view of a powerboat driving away from a partly submerged rock formation
I recently filled in my quarterly review form. One of the questions was "Outside of your work context, what opportunities do you have to learn and to grow? How do these influence you when you are at work?" (OK two questions.)

I answered that I'd done a powerboating course, but this had no influence on my work. I've submitted my review now, but I realise that I was wrong.

One of the exercises we did was to go and retrieve a boat moored to a pontoon out in the lake where I was being trained. I was at the helm and we drove by it and the crew didn't take the action I'd expected. The fault was in my communication - I hadn't communicated clearly what I'd expected them to do, just suggested what could happen.

On a boat whoever is at the helm has the responsibility for steering it, but also getting the crew to do whatever is necessary to implement whatever manouvre is in progress. It's very much a positional responsibility - if you've got the steering wheel (or tiller) in your hand, then you're in charge at that time. During our training the instructors and my fellow trainees took in turn to take the helm. Experience or seniority didn't count for so much - though we were listening to the advice of the instructor!

In work, leadership and management isn't so flexible. There are roles, and organisation structure, and levels of authority. However, in any given situation it may be clear who is in charge, regardless of structures, and that person needs to take the helm and lead.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Google analytics engagement time not working - how I found out the problem

A graph showing a zigzag line, but on the left hand scale the scale values are all zero. At the top it says the average engagement time is zero.

This is very niche, and is mainly of interest if you're using the Webtoffee Cookie consent plugin (there is a free version available too). However, if you're interested in debugging analytics problems, then this gives you some techniques.

The problem showed itself that the engagement time on our GA4 analytics was zero. As you can see from the graph above, not exactly zero, but certainly very small. I turned to and got a response from jen. It didn't give me the answer, but pointed me to an analytics debugger extension for Chrome. I could see that using that the engagment time (_et parameter) wasn't zero, but was a small number of milliseconds, less than 50.

I tried a number of things on the cookie plugin settings, such as putting the Google Tag Manger code into cookie categories, as recommend by this article (only for the free plugin though). That made the analytics script run when you accepted the cookies, but never after that. I tried disabling it, but it still didn't make engagement time get registered.

In the end though, the problem was that there was code in our site theme designed to work with GTM, but we hadn't been asked to do the corresponding changes in our GTM config. Once I removed that code the engagement time was a healthy number of seconds. I don't quite know why that caused this problem, but my theory is that the events it was triggering ran pretty quickly after the page loaded, and at that point the user engagement was recorded on those events, rather than when the user subsequently did something (scroll, navigate).

Other things to help with debugging

  • Chrome application tab, cookie section, has a handy clear all cookies button to the right of the filter box.
  • Make sure you enable the analytics debugger extension when trying to debug!
  • Clear the site cache after making changes to the cookie plugin settings

Friday, March 10, 2023

What's the difference between disconnecting from a remote computer and logging off?

 I put this in one of our internal chatrooms, but it may be useful generally.

Some people are disconnecting from remote computers (using Remote Desktop) and not logging off when asked. If you disconnect all your programs are still running, even though you can't see them. If you log off, they're all closed down. Disconnecting is like leaving an office with your stuff all over your desk. Logging off is like putting everything away and leaving your desk clear, before you then leave the office. I got Dall-E to illustrate these:


a woman walking out of an office door with books and papers still on the desk
Logging off

a man walking out of an office leaving a clear desk behind
To disconnect:
To log off (ok, sign out is the new fangled word for it)

Click on that icon of a person to get the sign out option

Thursday, February 02, 2023

We all have supercomputers now

Judson Rosebush, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I was watching a TV programme of 80s and 90s music videos the other day. I was marvelling at just how relatively advanced the video techniques and transitions were - such as the picture rolling up and zooming off the screen. In my mind I kept going round this little loop - "isn't that amazing for the time" - "but the technology I was using was so primitive" - "isn't that amazing for the time" - etc.

Then a realisation struck me as to why I was in this loop: These days I have access (though I don't use it) to such the type of technology that is used in, say, Avatar. I'm sure there's a bit of software out there that I could use that would do motion capture. I've heard of things like Blender which I could use to create 3d environments. I'd need to learn some stuff, I might want to buy some hardware to reduce render times, but it's all within my grasp.

In the 80s and 90s though, the height of what I could reasonably expect to be able to create myself (given time and skill) was Manic Miner and Doom. Those video effects came from computers like the Quantel Paintbox, which at $150,000 cost more than a house. (OK, not a fair comparison, as you could get houses so cheap then. It cost more than an expensive car.)

So, we all have supercomputers now. What are we doing with them?