Archives for July 2015

July 22, 2015 - No Comments!

Jamie Fallar: From intern to employee

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Jamie Fallar, project manager for Infor Rhythm™ for Commerce, joined Hook & Loop as an intern last summer and became a full-time team member in January 2015.

What was your first week like at Infor?
Being thrown into the role of project manager was daunting but awesome. From day one, Iris Wong, my mentor, gave me the opportunity to work on a lot of different projects. I clicked with the office culture very quickly, and now when I walk in I feel like I’m walking into my second home.

How did having a mentor help you?
Iris has been instrumental in my career. She has always had my back and really prepared me for my position. She encouraged me to sit in on a lot of meetings and taught me everything that she was doing. Iris is everything that a mentor should be: understanding, caring, supportive, and always ready to celebrate my achievements.

What was the most important thing you learned during your internship?
Hook & Loop crushed the stereotypes of what I thought working in tech would mean. You don’t have to be a techie or a programmer to be in the industry because so much more goes into it than just coding. Tech is like an art form with many different facets.

How is being a full-time Infor employee different than being an intern?
In terms of roles and responsibilities, it isn’t different at all, which really speaks volumes about our internship program. I was able to fully explore my role.

I hear you have a background in theater. How has that experience helped up you at Infor?
Theater is all about playing different roles. Now, as a project manager, I wear many different hats, so to speak. I need to act differently depending on whether I’m working with the internal Hook & Loop team, talking to clients, or just working at my desk. Coming from the theater world, there really isn’t any room for shyness, and as a project manager I need to draw on that confidence to get the work done.

Are you still involved in theater?
I volunteer at a local elementary school in Astoria where my sister teaches special education and recently helped with their end-of-the-year show. I played the part of a red carpet reporter and interviewed the kids, which they absolutely loved.

The arts bring out something truly magnificent in kids. One boy who suffers from social anxiety was cast as the lead in the “The Jungle Book.” He did an amazing job, and on stage, he wasn’t a boy with a disability—he was a star

What advice would you give to this year’s summer scholars?
Honestly, it might sound cliché, but this experience is what you make of it. Go above and beyond the work that it is required of you. Infor puts a lot of emphasis on forward thinking and that’s really why the scholars program exists. Infor scholars have such unique perspectives. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas—because that’s exactly what you’re here to do.

What has been your proudest achievement at Infor?
Working on Infor Rhythm has been my proudest achievement. I am part of the team that is growing it into a fully fleshed-out solution. I believe it will be a game changer in the industry and for our customers.

Author bio
Adam Poplawski is an Infor Summer Scholar on the Hook & Loop writing team. He attends Macaulay Honors College and is a part of the CUNY Baccalaureate Program. This fall he will study abroad in Prague.

Photo by Dominique Goncalves. Dominique is an Infor Summer Scholar on the Hook & Loop video team. She attends the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

July 16, 2015 - No Comments!

I design processes

Kevins_Blog_071415_MD_1
Whenever I visit my family, I dread the question: “How’s work?” Because it’s inevitably followed by: “Wait… what do you do again?”

Then we go through the usual back-and-forth:
“I’m an information architect at a software company.”
“So you do all that coding?”
“No, it’s more like designing.”
“Like Photoshop? Didn’t you go to library school?”
“Well, yeah, but…”
(confused silence)
“I design processes.”
(more confused silence)

“So, how’s New York?”

I’ve always opted for hard-to-explain jobs, but information architecture has been the most confusing to the uninitiated. It’s not easy to sum up the totality of information architecture in an elevator pitch. As is often the case with “big picture” jobs, there’s no tidy way to convey: “I’m the person who thinks about all the parts that make up a thing, look at how all the parts interact and affect each other, and then make sure they all play nice.”

However, there is an all-encompassing term for that process and it’s called Systems Thinking.

Very simply put, Systems Thinking is this:
Circle of Arrows
Everything affects everything else. And that’s it! Whew—I should just go around with this logo in my pocket and when asked what I do… whip it out… right? Problem solved… Well, kind of.

So, what exactly is a system? The snarky answer from those who have recently read James Gleick’s “Chaos” or watched Carl Sagan explain how to make an apple pie is that everything is a system. Everything is connected, from butterflies in Sumatra to earthquakes in California. And while that may be true, the scope of that idea is just too daunting. This is the problem with systems: they quickly become very complex—because they expand exponentially. Therefore the skill one needs in Systems Thinking is to determine how far to zoom out (or in) when defining a system and its processes.

With that in mind, how does one know “whether you are looking at a system or just a bunch of stuff?” as Donella Meadows, the late environmental scientist, asked in her pioneering book, “Thinking in Systems: A Primer.” Meadows outlines a few questions you should ask when evaluating a potential system (paraphrased below using Sagan’s pie metaphor):

  1. Can you identify all the parts?
    Yep—ingredients: apples, eggs, flour, sugar, etc.
  2. Do the parts affect each other?
    Mix them together in the baking process and they are altered.
  3. When you bring the parts together, do they produce an outcome that is different than when you experience the parts individually?
    Ever try eating a raw egg? I don’t recommend it.

This simple evaluation method has been invaluable in my current project for Infor HCM (Human Capital Management), in which Hook & Loop was challenged to make this system work, well, more like a true system. When the HCM team came to us, the solution was chock full of parts (or sub-systems) including—human resources, succession planning, performance reviews, benefits enrollment, time tracking, and so on. Each of these sub-systems, of course, affect one another within the workplace, but within the Infor HCM solution they were each operating on their own.

Let’s take the sub-system of performance reviews, for example. User interviews told us that managers and employees alike dread annual reviews. Many employees felt that their milestones and key successes were often overlooked. And managers were overwhelmed trying to remember and track down everything their employees had accomplished in a year. To mitigate the pain of annual reviews, we started by adding new features like more frequent check-ins, but the real magic happened when we incorporated features from an already existing sub-system: time tracking. By bringing these previously disparate sub-systems together (performance reviews and time tracking), we gave employees a clearer picture of their performances by day, week, project, etc., and empowered managers to make better-informed decisions about promotions and raises.

While working on Infor HCM, we constantly had two thoughts. Is this something that can be solved by software or by people? And where do these ideas intersect? Ultimately, the Infor HCM project is about people and whether or not they’re happy and satisfied by their work. A half-hearted performance review—done briskly, to get it out of the way—does nothing to better the employee or managerial experience in the workplace. But by fixing the software side of the review, managers could complete the once dreaded task with ease. The software gave renewed value to the experience.

It was the place where the human and the software merged (not in a cyborg way) that made this improvement possible. When working with software systems, it is important to keep in mind that one of the parts of the system is the human using it. When the user is frustrated, the system breaks down. By fixing the software, and seeing how all the parts—including the people who have to use the software—fit together, we can actually Increase the user’s happiness and make the systems make sense. And that’s the answer to what I do at work.