Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Career Day at the Middle School

My sixth grader, Landon, had a career day in one of his classes recently. He could either interview someone about their job and write up a report about it or a certain number of people could invite someone to discuss their career in the classroom. He opted for inviting me to talk instead of him having to write a report. Smart. The following are my notes that I prepared. The asterisks are where I was asking a question and would throw out a piece of candy to anyone who would answer. Two or three kids raised their hand for my first question. As soon as they saw the candy flying across the room, 90% of the kids raised their hand for every question.

How many of you know what you want to be doing 20 years from now? What? *

How many don't know?

That's okay. About 20 years ago, I remember a professor telling me that many of us would have jobs doing things in 20 years that didn't exist at that time. How awesome is that to know that some of you will be doing things that don't exist today?

20 years ago I did have an email address, but most people I knew who weren't university students didn't. At the time, only a few people had cell phones. If I needed my parents to come pick me up from somewhere, how do you think I let them know? * I'd use a payphone, and if you didn't have a few coins to put in to make the call you called collect which meant that the person you were calling would agree to pay a ridiculous amount of money to accept your call, and it would record your name, and then ask the person if they were willing to take the call. So if you were a fast talker you could just say something like comegetmefromschool, and then it would call and your mom would hear "Will you accept a collect call from 'comegetmefromschool'" and then she would hang up and come get you. That was the old school method of voice texting. You all think that's so new, but it's been around for a while.

So now I work for WGU. Anyone want to guess what that stands for? * Western Governors University. I teach college courses in business, technology, and project management. The school is completely online, and it did not exist 20 years ago. I have students all over the country and even in some other countries. I work from my office in my basement. Are you guys pretty busy outside of school? Do you ever have things that keep you from getting your homework done or that you'd rather be doing instead of coming to class? What? * WGU was designed to help adults who are working full time to get their bachelor's or master's degrees on their own schedule. So instead of having to come to a class at a certain time, you just slip in your studying wherever you can on your lunch break, on the train, waiting to pick their kids up from soccer practice, or late at night after the kids go to bed.

In order to teach in college, I earned three degrees. If any of you want to follow in those footsteps, you probably have another 15 or 16 years of school ahead of you. I know some people who just did degree after degree straight through, but I stopped and worked for a while in between each, which I liked because it gave me some more real world perspective instead of only knowing what we talked about in the classroom. I worked for a manufacturing company that was spread across three different states, did quality assurance testing at a company that made videoconferencing equipment, managed the database of alumni and donors at USU, and then moved into teaching. One of my favorite jobs was doing quality testing. Why do you think that is? * Because I got to be creative and try to find ways to break things and tell other people to fix what I broke.

What are your favorite classes? Why? * One of the things I like to talk about when I teach is how the things we discuss can be used in real life. A fun thing to do is ask your teacher how you would use what they are teaching you in real life. They really like it.

One of the things I teach is project management. Who knows what project management is? * One concept is the difference between operations and projects. Logan High is a good example - from an operations perspective, they have people who teach classes, play sports, clean the bathrooms, and that kind of thing. Every year, the same thing. But what's been going on at Logan High these past couple years? * Construction. That is a temporary situation, which means it's a project. It has a beginning and end with a transformation taking place in between.

Because projects have limited resources and need to achieve a specific result, a project manager helps define what they call the triple constraints - money, schedule, and scope. If you increase or decrease any of those three, it affects the others. If you try to do something faster, what happens? * It probably costs more money. What if you increase what you are trying to do during the project? * It will probably take more money and time. And if you are running out of money, how do you deal with that? * You have to reduce what you expect to accomplish.

With limited resources, it's important to use those resources efficiently. Landon and I were cooking dinner on Sunday. We made biscuits and gravy. You should have him make some for you sometime. One of the things we made sure to do was manage our critical path. It took about 15 minutes for the meat and gravy to cook. It took about 5 minutes to mix up the biscuits and 20 minutes for them to bake. Overall, how long is that? * 15+5+20 = 40 minutes. Well, instead of doing the gravy first and then having it sit there for 20 minutes and get cold or burn, we made the biscuits first. Why? * So we mixed up the biscuits for 5 minutes and put them in the oven for 20 minutes. During those 20 minutes, we made the meat and gravy. We did the same amount of work, but by managing the schedule efficiently, we got dinner done in 25 minutes instead of 40 and everything was hot at the same time. Now imagine a 3 year project to rebuild Logan High School taking 2 years or 4 years because of good or bad management of the schedule. That's where having a good plan and a good project manager comes in. The PM takes a large project and breaks it up into small pieces, schedules all those pieces at the best possible times, and then helps the team stick to the plan until the project is over.