We were all Agile: Agile Greece Summit 2015

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I spent last Friday in Athens in a conference taking place for the first time in Greece. Agile Greece Summit 2015 was the first of its series in Greece and I do hope that more will come. Not only the speaker roaster sounded very promising on the announcement, but it proved an exciting one indeed. From Spotify to Swiss Postal services and from Vodafone to IBM, every session proved revealing.

Photo Courtesy of Jason Carter @Flickr

I did not have the chance to follow every speaker since the programme was deployed into two parallel sessions, but I did manage to have a full day of interesting discussions, provoking arguments and inspiring ideas.

I particularly enjoyed the presentation from Spotify, on “Why autonomy is at the heart of agility”. Kristian Lindwall & Cliff Hazell talked about Spotify and the autonomy of every worker. You can get an idea of their talk from a previous presentation you can find here.

I liked the approach of Gunther Verheyen, from Scrum.org for scalling scrum, although before we scale scrum we first have to impelment it successfuly and to really hone it. If you are new to agile and scrum by the way, Scrum.org is an excellent starting point, which also offers a range of Scrum Courses and Certifications.

Ben Linders, a world class agile expert, showed how using different exercises can help you to get more value out of agile retrospectives. You can find his presentation along with other very useful material in his web site.

Niels Pflaeging at Stage

Claudio Perrone, another speaker with many capacities and even more skills, presented PopcornFlow, his new model for continuous evolution through rapid experimentation. His web site is full of interesting information and tools.

But probably the real revelation (at least for me) was Niels Pflaeging. It wasn’t just his relaxed American style, nor his humour and provoking (to some) language. More than that, it was his profound ideas and fascinating arguments that engaged the whole audience. Niels is worth reading. His short and nicely illustrated book that we got as a freebie proved a great companion in my way home. Niels has a whole universe of books, white papers, videos and presentations and it’s worth looking at every one of them. (Start here).

All in all, it was a great workshop and I hope we’ll have the chance to build further the agile community and knowledge. Maybe some day we’ll manage to even actually use it in Greece.

Up there on the mountains

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Summer. Just a few weeks ago, end of July and instead of being at a beach and listening to the waves, you drive for about 3,5 hours to be in Zagori. Along with you another 1000+ athletes waiting to climb Timfi as fast as they can and run it downhill even faster. Before that there was Olympus Marathon, and half a dozen other races on mountains all over Greece.
Snow, mud and icy trails during spring. Dusty, dry rocks and hot sun during summer. Almost every weekend, you are there, standing at the starting line, regardless of the weather, the season, your problems and your worries. Read the rest of this entry »

One last hope

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Photo by Rania Hatzi @Flickr The Greek Parliament behind bars

Ι recently read a great article in HBR by Michael G. Jacobides entitled “Greece’s Problem Is More Complicated than Austerity“. I’d like to urge my FB friends (especially non-Greek ones) to read it carefully and give it some serious thought if they want to really understand what is taking place in Greece.

After the latest Greek deal in July, the parliament indeed voted for some (not all) prior actions necessary to re-start negotiations on a new long term bailout program (the third since 2010). Nevertheless, the ruling party is (as most of us expected) heavily divided between more than one of its political components. The most influential of which are the radical neo-communists led by the Former Minister of (non) Development, P. Lafazanis, who believe that the new Drachma is the solution to all our problems. Unfortunately, they are not offering any solid justification of how leaving the Euro will actually help the country and not their own political nomenclature. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to change! Greek crisis & reforms.

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18576973764_2c2156c253_kSo, we now have a result. The Greek people have voted no to our recent referendum. I’m still not exactly sure what the question was in the first place, or even why it was necessary to go through such a process, at this particular moment in time. Regardless of all these, I follow the ubiquitous social media and I am convinced that we’ll need considerable time to heal and recover, from this friction and conflict. I see fear, distrust and genuine concern from those of us who voted YES, bitter and arrogant comments from many that supported NO, unbelievable accusations (from both sides) and masses of people celebrating in streets and squares as if the war is over and we have won the lottery, both as a nation and as individuals. Either I totally get something wrong or I’m biased and pessimistic by nature (which, I probably am). Read the rest of this entry »

Time to study! Part 2: Beyond MOOCs

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Learning session. By Per Gosche @Flickr
Learning session. By Per Gosche @Flickr

In my previous post “Time to study! Part 1: MOOCs & Certificates“, I covered MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). I presented just 3 major providers: EdX, Coursera and Udacity although there are many more out there, simply because in my humble (totally subjective opinion) these 3 provide an excellent user experience and offer a really massive course catalog from some of the best universities worldwide.

You can find extensive lists of many more providers in aggregation web sites like mooc-list.com or a much more well designed Class Central. By their definition: “it is an aggregator of MOOC course listings and continually looks for and bring you high-quality MOOCs from reputable providers (and not just from the major providers)”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Time to study! Part 1: MOOCs & Certificates

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Stockholm Public Library
Photo of Stockholm Public Library by Samantha Marx

You have no excuse. Start learning now!

There was a time (before the Internet) when learning new things was actually not easy. The dominating educational institutions, the universities, demanded your physical presence and your adherence to structured courses leading to recognised diplomas and professional degrees. This educational system definitely served a purpose and is still relevant. But it is not the only choice.

Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Today you have no excuses. You have the Internet and broadband and the web and an endless list of sites where you can learn virtually everything (from wedding planning to salsa dancing). Seriously.

 Do you feel you want to refresh your knowledge on a forgotten subject? Do you feel overwhelmed by the unstructured and usually cluttered and “noisy” information you find in the web? Do you want to learn new stuff or even change your career? Take your pick.

For the last six months I’ve tried most of the services below and I have to admit that I’m quite impressed by some of them. I’ve tried to organise them more based on their purpose and what should be expected. The list is by no means exhaustive but I hope it is a good start. Feel free to add your comments.

Technology at Work, Glasgow Caledonian University
(Technology at Work, Glasgow Caledonian University) Photo from Jisc Infonet at Flickr

Take your pick:

You basically have 3 major choices. edX, Coursera and Udacity:

1. EdX is a non-profit online initiative created by founding partners Harvard and MIT and offers free courses (more than 400) and verified certificates (paid) from some of the best universities in the world including Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, Cornell, EPFL, KUL and many more. As it mentions at the site: “Topics include among others biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, finance, electronics, engineering, food and nutrition, history, humanities, law, literature, math, medicine, music, philosophy, physics, science, statistics and more.”

My experience is that it has a great User Interface at its web edition with clear information and top notch quality. Unfortunately not all courses are available in mobile.

2. Coursera is a similar service with an equally impressive list of university (Yale, Stanford, Brown among others) and non-university partners (like the World Bank and National Geographic Society) from all over the world. Apart from the Verified Certificates (paid) you can take a “Specialization Certificate” which brings together related courses and a “capstone project”. You can find some really interesting Specializations like “Data Science” from John Hopkins,  “Business Foundations” from The Warton School of the University of Pennsylvania and many more.

I have already completed a few courses and I have to say that it was a fantastic experience. Pay attention to the way the course is structured and of course who is offering it. Some are more interactive than others. Their mobile app is adequately good and you can download and watch the lectures offline.

3. Udacity is not free, but it is powered by some of the tech giants like Google, AT&T, Facebook, Salesforce, Cloudera, etc. They offer paid certification programs called “Nanodegrees” focused on technology. Web Developers, Data Analysts, Mobile Developers, etc. Our students acquire real skills through a series of online courses and hands-on projects. I found it quite expensive (approx. $200/month) but you can access the instructors videos for free and you can always try it for 14 days to see if it fits you.

These are some of the most complete and well known online courses portals. Whether you want to learn a new skill to enhance your CV or you just want to widen your horizons in a more structured and curated way, this is the place to start.

In future posts I’ll cover less formal learning offered. Stay tuned!

My 2014 Blogging in review!

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Well this is probably my easiest and most beautiful designed post. It’s an auto created report from The WordPress.com with stats on 2014 blogging. Very elegant.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A European in China

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IMG_0332It was my first time in China. Many years ago, I had gone as far as Singapore for a business opportunity that never took off. Back then, I was impressed by the tall, shiny skyscrapers, the smells and the colour of a modern far east. I tasted food I had no idea what it was, I walked in exotic places and I saw things completely new to me. I also experienced the exhausting humidity of the tropicals and the extreme difference between indoor and outdoor climate. No wonder they call it the air-conditioned nation.

Last month, more than 15 years after that first encounter I found myself wandering in Beijing. The journey to arrive there involved 3 different planes, one delay, a missed flight, 4 airports, a car, a train and 2 taxis. Cut the long story short I arrived at my hotel exhausted after a journey that lasted more than 24 endless hours. Read the rest of this entry »

Ένα μεγάλο ευχαριστώ για έναν Αυθεντικό Μαραθώνιο. Αθήνα 2014

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10807472_10152801592623908_2040632966_oΔεν έχουν περάσει περισσότερα από 2 χρόνια από τότε που άρχισα να τρέχω συστηματικά και να στέκομαι στην εκκίνηση διαφόρων αγώνων δρόμου. Θυμάμαι πολύ καλά τα έντονα συναισθήματα στον πρώτο μου τερματισμό μαραθωνίου, μετά από 5 ολόκληρες ώρες από Πέλλα, Θεσσαλονίκη. Τον πρώτο μου κλασσικό μαραθώνιο στην Αθήνα και την είσοδο στο Καλλιμάρμαρο. Τα τελευταία οδυνηρά χιλιόμετρα στον ορεινό μαραθώνιο στο Ζαγόρι, φέτος το καλοκαίρι. Κάθε αγώνας νέες εμπειρίες, νέες συγκινήσεις. Read the rest of this entry »