Sunday 10 November 2019

Workshop 1 - Day 2 - is it over yet?

Starting to feel that way even about the blog posts of the experience - does that tell you how simply awful it was?

Day 2 - I think we all came in at least prepared for the experience to be bad - but it made Day 1 look like a fun day at the park.

This was another of those days where we'd asked questions about what would be covered in the assignment, only to be told to stop worrying about it, we'll cover it this afternoon.

Much of this day was spent trying to create a Software Requirements Specification for our fake system.  However, I don't feel like we actually created much, we asked for examples as none of us had experience of this level of documentation, we were signposted in the task to some formal specifications, however a 130 page document is not really an appropriate format for an hour's worth of discussion with colleagues.  Once again we were accused of 'wanting the answers', and at this point something finally snapped, and the course descended into a yelling match.

Several of us were very vocal about the fact we just weren't being listened to, that he wasn't answering our questions, and in fact half the time he wasn't even listening to our questions.  We just wanted to get some idea of how his mental process worked when it would come to marking our assignment, what kind of things he found good and bad and why.

I can't really say the afternoon got any better, but we did finally get to look at the module assignment, which should be helpful in guiding our focus on the learning for the rest of the module.  And from this we were able to glean that making sure you cite lots of sources for your argument seems to be the most important thing the tutor is looking for on this module.

Finished the day with some scathing feedback on the train ride home, and then salvaged the day by going to the fireworks display with my family.

Phew....what a ride.... can't believe we get to do it all over again in less than 4 weeks for Workshop 2!!

Workshop 1 - Day 1- Just tell us about it, already!

Yeah, I know, this has been a pretty rambling post - but I don't know if I've ever had so many thoughts tumbling around trying to be heard, all from one single experience.

Nothing to see here

So, our module tutor finished off with the introductions, and we thought, "Great, now we get to learn some stuff"....ah... that's not what the tutor had in mind.... it's going to be a facilitated process where we will work in teams to complete some exercises which you should have looked at before now. 

In the midst of this, a latecomer arrived, having attended at the original address from the invite, to be greeted simply with a very rude "You're late", and no welcome from the tutor.  Did he think that someone really wanted to be turning up halfway through the morning at their first workshop?

OK moving back into the module then... we'd seen the exercises (some as late as the day before the workshop due to yet another admin error), but there was a lot of stuff in there that we didn't exactly know how to begin... like the first question, around completing a risk assessment for our fake system to be designed.  So we shared that fact with the module tutor - and the general theme for the experience began right there.

"You are all supposed to be here studying at Level 7, you should know this already" (errr.... how does someone straight from a maths degree get experience of writing risk assessments please?), and then there followed a 15 minute lecture on the difference between Level 4 learning and Level 7, (with slides) which I'm sure might have been more useful and helpful if it wasn't being used to berate us for not knowing something. "Anyway, I haven't got time to teach you about that". (you just wasted 15 minutes where you could have explained in telling us about different levels..)

On the plus side, working through the exercises with people employed in different workplaces enabled us to discuss the differences between our working practices.  There was also a lot of discussion around the difference between a simple analysis and a critical one, which I'm sure will be of assistance when it comes to completing the module assignment.

However, it would have been much more helpful if the tutor had been less, well, critical, and more eager to show us the difference between how to structure an argument for L7 versus L4/L6.  Anything helpful that he did show us, he would scroll up and down really fast, with no proper discussion.  By the end of Day 1, I had a headache and was totally regretting putting myself through this.

It was the same whenever we asked a question, "You don't want me to give you all the answers you are Level 7 students" - no we didn't want the "answers", just guidance on what he thought was a good answer, given that he will be the one to mark our assignments at the end of the day.

Building a team
I guess the positive outcome of Day 1 was the camaraderie that grew between us students, out of sheer frustration at the module tutor and his unwillingness to listen to questions.  We finished Day 1 at the pub, and had a good old rant about the experience with each other, and learned a bit more about each other along the way.

Yeesh that was one long day.... so much so that I will start yet another post....

Workshop 1 - the one with the funny name - part 2's Hallowe'en, and it's time.... for Workshop 1 - Transunion.

Why the name then?.... ah .... I will keep you in suspense a little longer methinks, cos it's part of the tale.

So, instead of the traditional 'creeping death', we were to question the person next to us, find out about them and their lives, their reasons for being here (on the workshop not existentially...), what they hoped to get from the day, and any hobbies or activities they enjoyed (or would like to enjoy if they had the time).  I sat next to a lovely lady from Harrogate called Sophie, who didn't have time for hobbies as she'd just finished a maths degree, and had just started in a software engineering role about 5 weeks ago.

One of the things I 'hoped to get from the day' was 'to find out why the course was called Transunion', and Sophie was quick to answer that one - the majority of the class were employed by Transunion!!  So, with the exception of 2 government students including me, the rest of the class were familiar with each other.

So - there you go - that's why the workshop had a funny name - ah well, I'm not going to learn any special new principles from that one then teehee!

And then it was time for the workshop as a whole - but I think that one may need yet another post..... I have lots of thoughts to sift through around this workshop, and I feel like they would result in a gigantic ranty post if I try and sandwich them all into one (or two...).

So - more in another post.

Workshop 1 - the one with the funny name - part 1

So, the end of October came around (as it appears to do with increasing speed every year now), and it was time for the first instructor-led part of the Masters journey - my first Workshop.

I'm not entirely convinced how positive I can be about this part of the experience, but I'm going to try to provide a slightly more balanced description in writing than the emotionally charged conversation with my BFF (or anyone else who asked me how it went) in the first week or so afterwards.

(That good eh??)

  • I got an invite to the Workshop early in October.  Rather than being in Newcastle as expected, my first Workshop was in Leeds - and the invitation also said it was in an outer suburb of Leeds as opposed to directly in town.  Fair enough, it's within reasonable travel distance but to get there decently early, it required an overnight stay on both nights, which I booked in advance so my employer could take advantage of the best rates.
  • Fast forward then, to 2 days before the event, when I received a text reminder - for my workshop in the centre of Leeds!  Argh!! So a quick check to ensure that the central venue was correct, and a hastily arranged second hotel booking (as my prior one was an advance booking it was not cancellable).
  • Oh - and the course was called 'Transunion'.  Googling was no help, I couldn't find a software engineering principle anywhere called Transunion.  But I figured that all would eventually be made clear once I started the workshop, so I shelved my worry on that one for now...
So - this was the first introduction to the Module Workshop process.  Pretty much as smooth as the rest of the process so far.
Bear this in mind when you continue to read the next post - part 2 - where you might get to find out about the funny name too.....

What's it all about - Roni?

Well - I've been promising myself, and my reader(s) that I would get back in here and do some blogging as there's been lots going on with the Masters.  So, time to update you all on how it's going so far.

Hmm - writing all these posts a little after the fact so feeling a bit calmer about the whole process now - but the process of the Masters following the induction didn't feel any smoother.

The structure (for us in my part of government at least) is supposed to be a single module per term, spread over 24-25 months.

However, on commencing the Masters on 7th October, I was presented with two separate modules, with work and reading tasks showing in both of these.  "Gulp!", methinks... but I started plodding on - largely with Software Engineering Professional Practice module, as there were fairly structured tasks in there, 'read this, comment on your own experiences to support your opinion' type of stuff, which looked really interesting.  I got part way through starting the second task there, alongside one other student.  Now, I did think it was quite odd that there were only 2 of us that appeared to be participating online.  However, it being the very start of the module I thought maybe we were just too quick off the mark.  Any then - the other guy's stuff was DELETED!

So, me being me, and unable to contain either my curiosity or worry that something was going on, I messaged the guy to find out why it was deleted.  Turns out we'd been shown 2 modules instead of just one in error!

Shame though, cos the module I'd worked on seemed like it would be really interesting, and teach me lots about 'reflective models'.  The module I'm currently on, Software Engineering Principles, covers, in the main, stuff that I'd already learned about while doing my OU degree.

So, I guess what I'm mostly learning this time round has changed.

  • How to write a professional critical academic report, as opposed to just the technical kind of reporting I did in my degree.
  • How to use referencing software to simplify the process of citations
  • How to summarise the content of lengthy academic journals and decide whether they're appropriate to support my points in a report.
A bit more to come on the correct module and the highs and lows of the experience so far, in a later post.

Saturday 31 August 2019


Hmm... what does the word 'Induction' say to you?

Having had a long, drawn out experience of birth with my child, 'induction' doesn't just say to me that something is beginning, it suggests a world of pain with an eventual happy ending.

And I guess that could be descriptive of the Induction phase for the MSc too.. after a day of completing multiple tests and essays, we got round to the initial meeting with the Skills Coach, which was actually a whole lot less painful.

This one involved bringing in your line manager too, to ensure they were fully aware of the support and timescales that would be involved.  I have a big advantage in this case, as my line manager is also doing a Masters (albeit through one of the other pathways), so some of our modules and processes will be similar along the way, and he's fully aware of the requirements for time off-the-job to do learning as well.

In a nutshell
So - to keep it brief (as there was a lot of paperwork to read through and a lot that might make more sense to me as it goes along, but wouldn't make particularly interesting reading in the blogosphere).

The MSc is made up of 4 core modules - Business & Technology, Technical & Digital Leadership, Major Postgraduate Project and the Portfolio.

In addition there will be a 'Principles' module specific to my chosen pathway of Software Engineer, and a selection of 3 'Professional Practice Modules', to be chosen from a list of 9 available courses.

I'm not entirely clear yet on the timetabling for it all, although I do have a rough list among the induction paperwork somewhere.  All in all, it should take 25 months, which feels like SUCH a short time after my OU degree and the mammoth 12-year journey.

There's another 'birthing' expression that would describe induction - 'bringing you on', or 'bringing it on (labour)'.  So I think I will take that analogy and run with it.... I have been Induced, BRING IT ON!!!

Back To School (again)

It's that final weekend of the school holidays, and once again there is an air of excitement (and terror) in the offing!

On my first day back at work after our family summer holiday, I had what can only be described as a mountain of work to get through prior to being officially (finally) accepted and enrolled on the Masters.

So - for the first time I will be studying a named path to a degree rather than fully tailoring it to my own interests.  This will be the MSc Digital and Technology Solutions, for which I'm following the Software Engineering pathway.

These degrees are offered as a part of the Apprenticeship scheme, so they're fully supported by work and financially underpinned by an Apprenticeship levy - which means that for the first time, I'm not stressing about how much my learning is going to cost financially.

Testing, testing!
Despite being exempt from the 'functional skills' requirement of the course (Maths & English) by virtue of my existing qualifications, there were some preliminary Maths, English and ICT modules which were required prior to my induction meeting.  It having being several years since I'd done any Maths tests, I found myself needing to Google the formulae for surface area and volume of a cylinder, and how to calculate probabilities when throwing a pair of dice... not how I'd imagined spending my first day back, which is usually filled with extra caffeine and catching up on the work I've missed.  I also realised that I need to know more about different styles of writing - although I can structure a sentence very well, I find it harder to determine what style the author has used.

Back to essays
In addition, there was a short essay required on my current employer and position within the company, along with the requirement to produce a stakeholder map, to show the major stakeholders for my current work.

All of the above were required within the space of a day, before I could do my official 'induction' meeting with my Skills Coach.  More on that one in another post though, I think - as this one is becoming very long already! (as was the first day back at work teehee!!)

Wednesday 24 July 2019

The Start of a New Chapter

Well... it's been a long time again - a very long time with no posting since March.  I'd hit that point of running out of words and ideas again, so much so that I was contemplating what was next (for the blog and for life in general I guess).
Image result for question mark
So... what's new? it's another one of those 'new-old' times, am back with my second project, which is moving onwards in the development process.  I've taken my friend along for the ride this time though, so with two of us pair-programming on lots of stuff it feels like a more positive ride, at least, although I think there's quite a way to go before we are fully developing anything properly 'for real' rather than prototyping.

But, that's NOT really what this post is about, so I guess I'd better get to the better stuff!

I've only gone and signed up to do a Masters in Software Engineering!!

Work were offering Apprenticeships to do a taught Masters.  It seems like too good an opportunity to turn down, as I'd been really missing the structure of formal learning - although I'm very good at being 'self-led', it's harder to do that without the structure and deadlines of a formal course to work on. 
 Image result for question mark
What does it mean for me in the context of work?  I dunno really, although there is an expectation that they will allow all relevant time off for exams etc, and there will be some formal classroom learning which is likely to fall in work time.  Will it result in a different job title etc, nah, not that I'm aware of, although I feel like it will look very good on a CV when it comes to applying for the next grade.... definitely no rush for that one though!

My BFF says that it was a bit of a drastic way just to find something new to blog about!!

....but I have to admit that I look forward to doing exactly that.... watch this space as there will doubtless be a pre-course set of procedures etc that I need to follow, so I shall endeavour to keep my blogpeeps entertained with the machinations along the way.

Sunday 10 March 2019

How do you pronounce 'pwfh'?

Stupid post title, I know, but coming at the end of a tiring couple of weeks, it's kind of all my brain was capable of as a title... so I figured that I'd go with it!  You know that blow-out kind of knackeredness, well that's the feeling that goes with it.

It's 'good-tired' though.

Life on the new team is fab, there's still a lot I don't know, but I can feel some of my coding confidence slowly coming back.  It's very helpful pairing on most work, if we struggle jointly through something hard, then it's obvious that it wasn't just me.  Trying to take on the odd bit separately too, though, to embrace the challenge.

And I've even embraced a little bit of home-coding this weekend too, sometimes I just feel the need.

I'd like to progress past the point where I've got so far with my personal 'play project', but for today at least the brain-fog has settled in and I think I need to pick it up on a different day.  But, thanks to the stuff I've been picking up at work, I've had a bit more confidence writing tests for my code, so although it hasn't progressed in in functionality, I feel better about it as a whole.

Well, that was a bit of a ramble, really, as I had nowt much to say and just wanted to be typing something.

So I will 'sign off' for now - more later when my brain catches up!!

Sunday 10 February 2019

Moving On

So - once again things have moved on (at work).

There was a massive team re-shuffle, where the developers on the team got to make a choice which project they wanted to follow and why.  For me it was a no-brainer - there is one project up and running which is in a position to be properly working and making changes.  The rest of the work is in a state of flux, and I needed to make a decision that would get me coding again properly, and quickly!

Weirdly (for me at least), that's also the project I started my career with.  Feels a bit like coming full circle, but in a nice way.  I'm also now working with one of my colleagues from training - we get to keep each other from going too far down the 'rabbit hole' of code, and we have someone there whose job is primarily to support us.

We're in the very early days of restarting stuff - so we're in the midst of trying to understand the code and the business rules, while simultaneously updating and improving some of the current automated tests to support the work that's already there.  Some bits are proving easier than others, but that's good as it provides a challenge.

There will be some new stuff to come, and we're looking forward to getting into that as well, but for me it's just SO nice to be working on a supportive team with enough work to keep us going properly.

Sadly the girls on my 'mini-team' have gone forward with my old project, which is still in the very very early days of its redesign, so there's not really a proper structure of work for them yet.  I'll miss working with them, but this move has come at the right time and provided what I needed for this point in my journey, and I needed to make my choice based on what was right for me alone this time round.

I'm also going to be working alongside my mentor of old, who is a senior developer/manager on the team.  So there are plans afoot to provide a proper development plan and help rebuild my confidence with regards to my coding abilities.

OK - enough waffle for now - more later I think, once I settle into the team.

(no further news on 'new' blog yet, the changes have involved a fair bit of travel and brain-work, and I've not made decisions on how to proceed yet) this space...

Friday 11 January 2019

Out with the old... and in with the New

Happy New Year blogpeeps!

Yes, unbelievably, it's 2019 already.

Looking back over the year just gone, it was a big year from a working point of view - finally through that long-planned promotion, which made for a much more comfortable festive season, financially speaking.

I'll also freely admit that it hasn't been the easiest of times from the point of personal confidence, both in work and 'real' life.  Somehow life and work and changes just got on top of me quite a bit, and my confidence in my own abilities suffered as a result.

So... we have a new year, and a new start, physically, emotionally, and more confidently.

Things are moving on at work, albeit slowly.  Our 'mini-team' has completed a piece of work that we're in the process of finalising before it can go live.  And the 'main project' has been given a bit of a reboot, with a different approach.  It's quite early days in the new version of the project, so I'm not sure how much code will be needed for a while yet, but if the plans come off then it will be an interesting development and a chance to learn lots of new stuff.

I'm starting to get ideas for 'play projects' to work on and practice my skills, including some work with voice technology on Alexa.

And....I'm even contemplating a new blog, on a new set of watch this space for links and such.  I need to get my own head around how to start afresh, and whether to use the same hosting platform to do so, or create something of my own along the way as a learning opportunity.