Traveling to Ukraine? It Could be a Mixed Bag Experience, So Check Out This Post First

kievEven though I have been to Ukraine over a dozen times the country never fails to amaze me with its beauty and hospitality. I always wonder if that’s just me, but all my friends who live in Ukraine or moved from claim that friendliness and hospitality are the common character traits  and beauty is genetic.  Whether it’s true or not, chances are you will love the country, and yet, traveling to Ukraine is an experience a foreigner should be well-prepared for.  So before you jump on a plane, please consider a few tips from a road warrior:

Before You Decide to Go

I would not be surprised if you are considering Ukraine as an outsourcing destination: Ukrainian IT and R&D specialists have gained plenty of recognition over the recent years. In 2011 Ukraine became the “Outsourcing destination of the Year” and since then consistently have taken the leading spot in the Eastern Europe IT outsourcing market.

Of course the recent political crisis and military activity currently taking place in Ukraine made many businessmen have doubts about outsourcing to this country. Fortunately, these doubts are not well justified, as political turmoil in the country did not affect the IT outsourcing industry to any degree of significance.

While this crisis indeed affected the local population, it it also provided many foreign companies with an opportunity to negotiate better terms, reduced employee turnover, and put offshore providers on their toes.

The opportunity as usual comes with risks though.  Nobody knows how the situation in Ukraine develops over the next few months.   Understanding your own risk tolerance and risk tolerance of your company is critical.  And if you believe that outsourcing to Ukraine remains a great option to consider but you never been there you may want to check it out, as a matter of fact you should. Continue reading

Afraid of Using a VA? Here are Proven Tips To Minimize Your Risk

halo-cortana-1Even though using a Virtual Assistant is now considered to be common practice for many entrepreneurs and companies, delegating tasks that you’ve always done yourself can still feel scary. It is a frightening concept to give important tasks to someone you have likely never met in person. It might make you feel like you are losing control. The most common thought is probably an old cliché – If you want something done right, do it yourself. It’s old, but not good. In fact, for many of us “DIY” is pronounced as “die” :) Being a superhero (superworker) rarely pays. And I promise you, using a VA can actually be very rewarding.

There is always a risk when hiring a new employee of any kind, and there are steps you can take to minimize the risk you take on. Here are some tips to help you minimize your risk:

Start with the right hire. Remember it’s not about the best VA. It’s about the right one.

  • Take the time to do your prep work. Before you ever begin the hiring process with a new VA, you should know exactly what you want from them. This helps to minimize confusion, find the right person for the job, and maximize productivity for both of you in your working relationship.
  • A great way to know exactly what you want is to record what you do. You can use screen-capturing software such as TinyTake to record your actions and use it to explain the tasks to your VA.
  • If the scope of work your VA will be doing is likely to expand (which is often the case if the VA is good) you want to look for someone who can deal with more complex tasks that those you currently have on the plate. Don’t aim too high though, because your VA may be costing you too much or even worse be under-challenged and unmotivated to do their best work from the beginning.
  • When you are evaluating VAs for your new job, it is important not to focus on the rate.  Rate (however important) is secondary, because the quality of the VA and the work he or she will provide should be your main focus and motivation.
  • Get your paperwork in order. Before your VA begins doing any work for you, make sure you have an established contract with specific deliverables and requirements attached. This would include pay, hours per week, when payment should be given, the start date, specific tasks, quality expectations, and reporting frequency.

Once you believe you have found the right VA, it is important to spend the time needed to establish the best possible work environment for both of you. Continue reading

Offshore Destinations: Ukraine

ukrainiansIt’s no surprise that I have a strong predilection towards outsourcing to Ukraine – both my parents were born in Ukraine, my wife grew up in a Ukrainian city, and many of my friends have Ukrainian roots.

My own experience in working with development teams in Ukraine along with what I learned from my friends and family proved to me that Ukraine is an attractive IT outsourcing destination. I am not the only one to think this way as according to the analytics data recently released by top$dev, Ukraine takes the leading position on the IT outsourcing market of the Eastern Europe. At the moment, Ukraine takes 33% of the market, Russia is on the second place with 21.8% and the last of the top three East European outsourcing countries is Romania with 9%. Just a few years ago Ukraine was named the “Outsourcing Destination of the Year” by the European Outsourcing Excellence Awards.

Of course the recent political crisis and ongoing military operations in the eastern part of Ukraine raised a lot of concerns across business community.   But even a cursory look at the situation in the country shows that the crisis did not negatively impacted the outsourcing industry. On the contrary, this situation presents you with a lot of opportunities, for example a chance to employ qualified professionals for a lesser cost. The difficulties that Ukrainians face at the moment make them more eager to work for stable foreign companies and ready to accept lower salaries.

Personally, I am convinced that Ukraine remains a great outsourcing destination and with that let me share with you some of my personal knowledge and the information I’ve gathered through my network. Continue reading

The Secrets of Getting the Best Price for Your Virtual Assistant

Virtual-AssistantWhere hiring a virtual assistant used to be out of the norm, it has now become much more mainstream. Every day, thousands of companies and individuals are hiring Virtual Assistants to complete a variety of projects for their business. And even more, these companies are finding that hiring a Virtual Assistant is beneficial to their business in many new ways, often far beyond of what was originally expected.

There are many questions that come to mind when you are first considering hiring a VA. One of the questions that you might ask is, “what kind of rate can I expect?” And unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer.

Can you hire a Virtual Assistant for $5 an hour? Absolutely! But will that person prove to be a beneficial member of your team? Maybe. Maybe not. The point to hiring a Virtual Assistant needs to be getting the biggest bang for your buck. You want to use your dollars wisely to hire the best assistant possible for the least amount of money. Continue reading

Not Giving Up Is Overrated and Why You Should Fire Your Provider Now

I do not know how many times I’ve heard some form of a “never give up” cliché.  Google returns 185M results for “reasons to never give up”, every motivational speaker has a supporting story in their arsenal, and chances are you heard it at least 10,000 times as well.

Yes, we all have seen a plenty of examples where tenacity and perseverance paid off.  We know that in some cases a call to never give up may help us to get up and go on after we get knocked down.  And yet, in far too many cases “don’t ever give up” is nothing much but a banal saw or even worse – a dubious guidance that leads us in a wrong direction.  “Never give up” mantra can become the shackles fettering us to failures, doomed concepts, or wrong partnerships.  It may keep us stuck, limit creativity, and reinforce mistakes.

Determining a course of actions based on slogans, role model’s mottos, or old proverbs is not going to get us far.  We need to make a decisive action when the need is indicated, and this action could be to throw in the towel.  That in particular applies to terminating a less than successful offshore partnership.

I don’t suggest that we should stop trying at a first sign of difficulty or fire our providers as soon as we some problem brewing.  Nobody is perfect, it’s only fair to give your provider a second chance, and the cost of switching providers could be significant.   What I am 100% clear on is that in many cases sticking to outdated decisions, keeping existing partnership, or trying to fix something hopelessly broken is not the best strategy.

More so, if you decide under the circumstances that the best step forward is to fire your freelancer, offshore vendor, or service provider you want to “give up” on them as soon as possible.  In 99 cases out 100 the only regret you will have later is not doing it earlier.

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Squeezed between Automation and Outsourcing

rise-of-the-machinesFrom a standpoint of an IT professional offshore outsourcing used to be the biggest threat, a menacing ever-expanding presence that reduced salaries, profit margins, and market size. Large chunks of traditionally local business such as system administration or DBA went offshore into the hands of far less expensive professionals. High salaries and practically guaranteed employment for sysadmins became attributes of the past. And if offshore was not enough, IT industry got hit with a new wave of commoditization – dramatic changes brought about by virtualization, cloud price wars, and IT automation. And these factors affect offshore vendors with the same vigor as they impact local provides and individual contributors here in the USA.

Not so long ago to support a small data center powering a $100MM a year eCommerce operations I needed 4 full time sysadmin resources, had to bring contractors for solving specific skill or peak load issues (that averaged to 2 FTE per year), plus 2 full time DBAs, InfoSec consultants, and a full time IT manager – roughly 10 FTEs. All busy and charging market rates. A roughly two times more complex system supporting $250MM in revenue is operated today by two sysadmins, remote DBA team with the cost of less than a half of an FTE, and a few fractional FTE outsourcing partners for security, monitoring and so on. With very conservative estimates no more than 5 FTEs all together. Thanks to VMWare and Puppet volume of mandarin IT work decreased dramatically with inevitable impact on headcount needs. In meanwhile the quality of service went up a great deal as well. The focus can be now on utilization and productivity rather than firefighting.

And that’s just a beginning. Puppet is a great automation tool but it’s doesn’t take us far beyond copy and paste mentality, new AI powered technologies are taking IT minutia by storm, take for example IPsoft “autonomic IT management services dramatically improve efficiency while driving a predictable high quality of service. We guarantee the outcomes you specify. You will see a positive business impact. IPsoft service models provide the outcomes you need, across your entire environment or one specific tier. Virtual engineers have already been deployed for 1 in 20 Fortune 1000 companies. They deliver IT savings starting at 35% while freeing human engineers to work on functions that drive value.” Freeing human engineers to work on functions that drive value OR look for a new job…

That trend is fantastic for the businesses, not so much for junior IT professionals who are just entering the employment market and even more experienced sysadmins, it’s not a good news for a broad range of IT providers, not even for offshore vendors. The rumors are that in less than 10 years there will be no more IT jobs for US to outsource. You do not need to have a crystal ball or resources of Gartner to see the writing on the wall – IT job landscape is changing and it’s becoming far more challenging with higher demand for advanced skills. Squeezed between Automation and Outsourcing IT professionals to remain marketable must invest in several core technology skills (automation, scripting, virtualization, complex networking and storage) and even more so in soft skills, the only differentiator that has a chance to help them against Rise of the Machines.

Offshore developer rates or how flat is the world?

Substantial difference in employee wages remains one of the main reason for US companies to go offshore. And thus the question of rates comes up often and yet, finding an answer to it remains a never ending straggle. The last few years thrown a few new dimensions in the salary picture making the rate discussion even more ambiguous and complex (I’ll expand on this point shortly). So I was quite excited when an outsourcing advisory firm sent me an offshore pricing guide. Unfortunately, the guide turned out to be rather shallow filled with dubious statements such as: India tends to be inexpensive, due to the huge labor pool; Russia/Ukraine/Belarus tends to be more expensive, due to high education and skill levels; South America tends to be expensive, due to similarities in time zone, language, and culture. Oh, well, no easy answer.

So what really goes on in the world of offshore rates in year 2014?

First, let me expand on the topic of “new dimensions”. Well, they are not new, they just became far more pronounced and in many cases the pivotal factors – changing compensation landscape driven by the ability of people to land first class jobs. Top ISVs and cash rich technology companies like Google or Microsoft took a very simple approach to offshore salaries – “we don’t care where you live, we care what you can do for us”, and just in a few years, that turned offshore recruiting on its head. For example in India 50 lakhs (that’s roughly $100K) a year salaries are no longer unheard of.

50 lakhs is also about 10 times an average salary of a software developer working for company like Tata or Wipro which averages depending on skill between 400,000 and 600,000 rupees a year (1 lakh is 100,000 rupees). At this point only a few chosen ones can get this kind of money, you have to be far above average in your IQ, live in one s/w hubs, and be lucky enough. Such an incredible hike in the upper bar naturally established a new frame of reference and much higher expectations. Good developers are no longer afraid of asking for twice the salary they could get a year or two ago.

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Bookshelf Revised

As with any topic a number of books covering offshore outsourcing could be intimidating. To simplify a task of picking a few “must-read” books, the books that delivers most value, I’ve chosen about 20 titles that give you the best bang for a buck. That list was created a few years ago and needed some refresh work. Naturally my own book had to be added to the list, plus I found a few more very helpful books. Let me mention a couple that are worth considering:

  • Software without Borders: A Step-By-Step Guide to Outsourcing Your Software Development By Steve Mezak. It’s a solid pragmatic guide for offshore outsourcing. The book offers plenty of practical advice in areas such as vendor selection, keeping control of the engagement, SDLC, etc. Written by experienced S/W professional / outsourcing advisor the book is indeed a step-by-step guide. In some areas it overlaps with content of my book, in some it offers more information, e.g. it offers a mode detailed approach to country selection, and goes in a great deal of details about packaging requirements for transferring them to offshore team. Some of the material in the book is a bit outdated and it misses a few critical points related to traps and pitfalls of outsourcing but with $10 price tag and lots of helpful info it could be a great addition to your library.
  • If you work for a large company and offshore outsourcing is a major portion of your job than Outsourcing Professional Body of Knowledge – OPBOK Version 10 is a “must have”. Modeled after famous PMBOK the books goes in great depth on many topics that are particular important for large outsourcing initiatives.
  • And of course Tim Ferriss’s “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.” This book is a definitive guide on “outsourcing your life”. While this book has very little to do with professional offshore outsourcing I found it very helpful in several aspects and generally fun reading. Plus the volume of dopamine that reading the book will infuse in your brain is astonishing and probably can only be challenged by pinterest or instagrams of this world ;)

To simplify navigation I put the reference to the list (organized as Amazon book store) in the main menu of the blog – just click on Bookshelf and add ‘em all to your shopping cart, well, at least the first one :)  Note: in the same store you will find my book-lists on a few other topics such as Management, Leadership, SDLC, Negotiations, and others.

Blogroll Revised

I’ve been off my blogging duty for almost a year; needless to say the blog has lost some of its pooling power, traffic, and most important its up-to-date-ness. And even though my focus has never been on “current affairs” and most of the content here is not very time-sensitive I owe to myself and the audience some serious housekeeping / refreshing. The first task is to revise the blogroll – most permanent battery of links on the topic. Unfortunately some of the blogs I used to enjoy are no longer active and some do not even exist anymore. The good news is that some of the old-timers are still going strong, and there are a few new ones with interesting content.

So RIP “Go East – Outsourcing to China”, “Offshore Outsourcing Center”, “Offshore Outsourcing to China”, “Offshore Outsourcing World Blog”, “Shared Services & Outsourcing Network”, “Software Sweatshop”, “The Dao of Outsourcing”… These blogs no longer exist or have moved on to a completely new topic. Sadly, a lot of casualties; and some really interesting material is no longer available.

It looks like a few blogs are dormant or reached the end of life such as “Services Shift by Robert Kennedy” but given that some good data / info is still there I may keep some of these links.

And the good news is that nature abhors a vacuum and thus we have an opportunity. Either my blog will become wildly successful again or we’ll see even better blogs coming up soon enough.

Application Release and Acceptance Guidelines

Oh, not again… How many times do I have to go through a basic process of application release and acceptance? Yet, here it comes again. Lack of understanding of software testing basics, misunderstanding of the roles severity and priority, bizarre views of the acceptance process. It seems like déjà vu all over again ;) And so far I’ve seen it with it with every small offshore s/w development shop that uses waterfall or similar type of process.  So with no more ado let me just state these ABCs of the application release and acceptance…

To accept or not to accept the software should not be a philosophical question. As a matter of fact it should be as subjective as reasonably possible. To stop feelings and egos getting in our way we need to start with setting up a process of release and acceptance. For example, something as simple as that:

Release & Acceptance Process

  1. Offshore team delivers the software change package (SCP) to my secure FTP site. The SCP must include properly named and versioned build, configuration files, metadata, resources, and release notes.
  2. My release team takes the SCP and installs it on User Acceptance Testing environment. If installation is successful release team notifies offshore team. Project Manager and QA/UAT team. If install fails the release team notifies offshore team and Project Manager.
  3. QA/UAT team performs testing according to test plan / strategy that is based on the nature of changes included in SCP. If the system passes Acceptance Criteria QA/UAT team notifies offshore team, PM, Release Team, and Product Manager and clears the SCP to be promoted to staging/production. If the system fails to passe Acceptance Criteria QA/UAT team notifies offshore team, PM, and requests a replacement SCP.

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Recruiting: Getting Organized

An old post that I wrote for me CSM blog. It applies equally well to onshore and offshore hiring.

Common Sense Management

One of my friends has a pretty amazing quality – he manages to pack unbelievable amount of activities in his life. He spends every weekend, holiday, vacation day in actions and activities with his friends and family. The main difference between him and many of us that his activities are typically complex and require a lot of preparation, for example a scuba diving trip to the Great Barrier Riff, hiking in Peru, or racing in Sea of Cortez.

Anyone who has ever been on one of those trips knows that the key to having fun and enjoying these trips is careful planning. Even a day trip on a familiar trail can be easily ruined by lack of preparation. Planning takes time, as a matter of fact a lot. For some of outdoors enthusiasts planning trips becomes a full time job. But how many of us can afford to spend so…

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5 C’s of offshore success

I just got off the phone with David, an old friend of mine and a VP of engineering for a stealth startup in Boston. His team is doing very well, and who knows, we all may hear about him and his company pretty soon. Needless to say, after half an hour discussion of his great idea and the business model we dove into technical aspects. My friend’s technology stack selection is of no surprise – RoR, MySQL and DynamoDB running on AWS. His SDLC is also far from innovative – SCRUM. What I found rather unusual for this stage of the game was a heavy utilization of offshore that he described as one of strategic decisions he made early on. Over 80% of his engineering workforce is based in Argentina, and given the fact that he’s never been outside of this country, it was somewhat a surprise. David rates his experience of using offshore as “one of the smartest moves I’ve done”. We let the time be the judge of that, but in meanwhile a few observations –

David’s motivation for using offshore was very common – bootstrapping the company with current local salaries is close to impossible, finding local talent is not easy and far too time-consuming, especially, getting agile web development skills. So offshore seemed like a sensible path to take. Near-shore preference came from his “control freak” nature. “I just want to see them on the Skype, want to be able to check, ask, re-focus in real time. Time zone differences is not for me.” Having gone through a lot of “bad” and very little “good” experience with offshore he used a small advisory firm to find partner and manage the offshore relationship. But that was not the key to success. “What makes us successful in using offshore are the 5 Cs –

  • Clarity – know exactly what the goal / objective is, what result/outcome you expect – in a great level of details.
  • Conviction – be absolutely sure that you can achieve your goal / objective – research, analyze, what-if to death, and then cut off alternatives and move forward.
  • Commitment – be prepared to put the effort required to achieve your goal / objective; the problems will happen, don’t let them deter you from the path you’ve chosen.
  • Consistency – execute with persistence, keep your eyes on the ball; do not drop best practices, even though they seem at times to be nothing but unnecessary overhead.
  • Collaboration – make sure that every aspect of your activities has been properly communicated to every member of your team, discussed and accepted by them.

I asked David whether it’s possible that he just got lucky with his partner, but he did not support that idea – luck has no place here since it begins with L :D

Offshore Fears and Disaster Recovery Planning

fearThe most common emotion associated with introduction of outsourcing in organization, running offshore engagements, and even terminating relationship with an outsourcing vendor is fear. At least that is what I’ve observed over the years. Fear comes in many shapes and forms – anxiety, worry, distress, alarm, panic, paranoia and so on. We worry about so many things – deadlines, turnover, communication failures, key contributors… the list goes on and on.

We worry about many things, and most of them never happen. As a matter of fact, experience shows that 99% of things that we worry about to do not happen, and when things do happen events come at us so fast that we have no time to worry.  Yet we continue to live in paranoia thoroughly convinced that outsourcing world is out to get us. Continue reading

Another Offshore Manager Daily Routine

daily routineA good friend of mine, Alexey, is an “offshore manager” for a mid-sized technology company with offshore offices in Ukraine. After reading my last post he decided to sent me his daily routine. I put “offshore manager” here in quotes since it’s my friend’s role, not the title. Anyway, in his case ODC is wholly owned by his company, and he has a full time job of overseeing development and QA activities performed by the offshore team.

Interestingly enough, Alexey is not an engineer, but for all intents and purposes is a project manager, very good one. His team in Ukraine is over 60 people and is responsible for product that generates at least 50% of his company revenue. Alexey’s offshore team is doing exceptionally well and is considered one of the key ingredients of the company’s success.

I think in a large degree offshore team success is due to Alexey’s work, leadership and unyielding dedication to quality. And now without further ado let me present slightly edited Alexey’s daily routine –

  • 15 min Categorize (not read) emails received
  • 90 min Participate in up to 3 daily SCRUMs (high risk projects)
  • 30 min After SCRUMs I usually have 1 or 2 one-on-one meetings with my team members scheduled at this time. My goal is to follow up with each tech / QA lead at least once a week, with every other member of the team – every other month. Most often via Skype. Meetings are scheduled in advance as recurring appointments.

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Offshore Manager Daily Routine

Last night I met with Chris, an old friend of mine who manages relationships with a large group of software developers and QA engineers located in Campinas, Brazil. He’s been working with this team for over a year after being brought in for a short term contract – an offshore “rescue” operation. The relationship between his client and offshore provider was going nowhere quick. Milestones missed, quality of deliverables deteriorating, blame shifting and finger pointing proliferated. The relationship was clearly falling apart and management frustration reached a point where they no longer were prepared to deal with the vendor.

Apparently the history of the offshore relationship for Chris’s client was rather consistent – find a new vendor, go through 3-6 honeymoon period, then things start braking here and there, the company attempts to improve situation by assigning one of the employees, s/he attempts to salvage the situation, but after a some period of temporary improvements things go from bad to worse and the search for a replacement vendor is initiated… and the cycle repeats. By the time Chris came on board his client was on fourth vendor, this time a small company from Brazil.

The problem was “100% with the vendor” – “lack of understanding of the company’s objectives, poor English and overall communication skills, high turnover, mañana attitude, etc., etc.” – at least that what was what the client told Chris.

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The Bottomless Pit of SEO

bottomless-money-pit-seo-If you are a novice blogger, an affiliate, or plan to make a killing by placing Google ads on your site you may believe that SEO will bring you tons of money. It may, but unless you watch every step and invest a great deal of efforts in building the traffic, it won’t.

A couple months ago I started a mid-sized SEO project. I guess by now, after going through a few dozens of SEO engagements I should not be too worried, yet I was. The SEO world has changed a great deal since my last project. Also this time I needed to start from scratch – new site, new for me, very competitive market, and as usual very small budget, both in terms of money and my availability. So, eLance / oDesk here we come.

As it’s typical for SEO engagements I started getting responses to my project almost instantly after I submitted it. 20 or so proposals came in the first hour, about same in next 24 hours, and about a dozen afterwards. Most of the proposals came from India with cost ranging between $5 and $15 an hour. Pretty much all proposals I got were boilerplate documents some of which were slightly modified to acknowledge my name and the project. For follow up I picked about 10 companies with near perfect rating and high number of hours billed in the last year.

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Finding VAs just got easier

Activities that call for out-tasking, ad-hoc outsourcing or “outsourcing your life” inevitably bring us to a not so easy to resolve dilemma – where and how to find a decent virtual assistant (VA). In some cases we can engage resources from oDesk or elance, in some cases we need to find an established VA company. And like with most of vendor selection challenges choosing VA vendor is a task not for the faint of heart. Sheer number of resources that fall into VA category makes proper selection a seemingly daunting task. For example, a search for “virtual assistant” brings 29K entries on oDesk and 19K on eLance.

Interestingly enough an approach here could be using another layer of outsourcing – getting an assistant who can find an assistant… And as luck may have it a few days ago I run into someone who offers exactly that kind of services – Nick Loper, the founder of Virtual Assistant Assistant, the leading directory and customer review database on personal and small business outsourcing companies. Nick also wrote a book “Virtual Assistant Assistant: The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Hiring, and Working with Virtual Assistants” that is now available on Amazon and published a white paper that discusses the current state of the personal outsourcing landscape. Here is a summary in his own words:

It looks at some of the macro trends impacting the industry, including large scale geographic shifts in supply, and the growing confusion over what exactly is a “virtual assistant.”

The study also addresses the demand side of the equation with an analysis of proprietary never-before-released survey data from prospective outsourcing clients. This includes information on desired work functions, anticipated workloads, preferred working relationships, and more.

As demand for outsourcing services has increased, so has interest from venture capitalists. A number of high profile companies and startups have raised funds to grow their business.

Finally, the paper looks at some of the demographic data on website visitors seeking out information on virtual assistants.

Outsourcing service providers may be able to use this data to better cater their offerings to meet the demands of the market.

VA market is going to grow considerably and selecting companies that can match your specific needs would become increasingly different. In that light services like VAA could be extremely helpful. I hope Nick continues growing his business…

Finding a great outsourcing coordinator

About six months ago one of my old friends, VP of Engineering for an East Coast based company, asked me to help him to find a good offshore manager / outsourcing coordinator. That by no means was an easy task and in this case, a not-so-rich relatively small company, it was even more challenging. It took us about two months and few dozens of candidates to find someone who we perceived as a great match. A few weeks later our pick hit the ground running and now, three months after starting the work, he is continuing to exceed our expectations and has proved to be a rock star of an offshore manager. I guess that’s at this point we can give ourselves a pad on a back a look back and see what we did:

First, the task & landscape: the task was to find someone who would manage/coordinates offshore activities for a small product development company. The company’s product, written primarily in Microsoft technologies, has been around for ~15 years and inevitably grew in complexity, size and not so much in quality of code within. Some of the new product development and the lion’s share of maintenance has been outsourced for almost as long as the product development itself. SDLC is a modified waterfall with some elements of agile. The outsourcing team size has fluctuating around average of twenty.
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Staying Healthy – progress update

A couple months ago I started a “healthy” thread with a discussion about Staying Healthy on the Road, the topic that should be near and dear to most of us involved offshore  and in particular to road warriors.  I guess it’s high time to take the stock of my advancement on the path to better health. Bottom-line-upfront: the progress has been somewhat limited. Nevertheless, I made some progress and am going to continue till I reach my goals. Here where I’ve got myself so far –

  • BMI – I started at 31.6 and assuming 7 lb loss am at 30.6. That still puts me in dreaded “Obesity” category (Normal weight = 18.5-24.9, Overweight = 25-29.9). The good news is that less than 5lb will move me to an Overweight category, I’d say not so bad. Check yours using a BMI calculator.
  • Resting Heart Rate – I consider this is a very important metric. Three month ago I was in “Below Average” group with RHR around 78, today I am in “Average” group with 72. This is a huge step forward. See where you should be at here.
  • VO2max – pretty important metric as well. See Maximal Oxygen Consumption Test (VO2max). I was at 29.47 and am now at 32.14, and that moved me from “Below Average” to “Average”. Not too bad for a couple of months.

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Top Ten Mistakes in Offshore Interviews

I intended to put a bunch of illustrations in my book, but only four pics made it there. Space was the major limiting factor, but I guess one of the pictures, 3 monkeys, was not included because it did not pass the “political correctness” bar. Well, I can imagine that some people in the audience could be offended with the term “code monkey”. There was no derogatory indication there, like there was no intent to portray all managers, including myself, as gorillas ;) the main point was actually quite lucid – it’s difficult to find good engineers, especially when during interviews many of them refuse to listen, see what’s going on, or talk.

Finding good engineers is difficult, especially when you are trying to do that through a third party reaching across thousands of miles via poor VoIP connection. There are not too many really good engineers to begin with, so no surprise here. But the lack of talent is not the point of today’s discussion. What I’d like to touch upon is the mistakes we often make while interviewing developers, mistakes that can result in missing those needles in haystack / diamonds in the rough.

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