The Next Stage of My Evolution

So I have quit my job at UBC.  My last day is March 4th, 2011.

Strange – I thought things would work out really well there.  Well, they did work out in many ways, just not the way I thought they might.  I lost 12 pounds while working on campus – at the very least I’m more physically fit now than I have been for many years.  However I also have made touch with some fantastic people and organizations during my time with UBC.  These contacts may very well become my professional lifeblood, so how can I say things haven’t worked out?

I joined UBC in a time of transition, or so I’m told.  I can affirm that things seem to be in a large state of disarray, with very few people actually knowing what’s going to happen 1 month from the day you ask them.  That can result in a lot of internal strife and general unhappiness.  Couple it, however, with a seemingly glacial pace of change, and UBC just doesn’t seem all that … agile.

So I am moving on.  The pasture looks green enough, and the fence isn’t so high to jump over … I think it is time for me to spread my wings a little more than I have ever before.

Entrepreneurs: Then And Now – Guy Kawasaki

A quick (10 minute) video capture of a lecture Kawasaki gave to a Stanford audience about entrepreneurial-ism then (late 90’s) and now.

Also note that the video is part of a cool site (Academic Earth) that lets you review some videos of academic presentations from Stanford, Princeton, Harvard, MIT, and other schools.  There are even entire courses online.

Other interesting ones after a little browsing:

Creativity vs. Control

Why Not?

Innovation at Large Companies

Talking About Creativity Isn’t Enough!

My Future Master’s Thesis Topic

Health Care is an interesting field to work in. So is Open Source. Combine the two and you might read an article titled Tivo Healthcare. What is Tivoization? I’m sure you’ve herad me mention DRM? This is a nice, complex topic that I think is going to become a massive, massive problem in our technologically-oriented health care industry. But that’s just me – what do I know.

What the Tivoization traps is the data, which for Tivo means movies and television shows recorded digitally. But what happens when the data that is trapped is infinitely more valuable? When we discuss DRM, we should be thinking of an EHR that has been Tivoized, (perhaps a health-Tivo) rather than a television recording device.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about – let’s talk! I’m serious about there being a looming problem in the health care industry. Well, I actually see two in the States – technology and policy. I’ve been meaning to post something about the “Choice Paralysis” idea since, well, the summer. I’m still reading a related book though so look for that in the future. I’ll link to this topic in that future post. You’ll read it in the future and the light will go on and you’ll sit back stunned and say “Good Lord … what are we doing to ourselves!?” You just wait, soon I promise.

Hogan’s Hero

Hey, you know me – right? I mean, if we were to bump into each other on the street you’d be able to say to yourself that you know me. You may not know all about me, but you have a general sense of who I am, right? Now what about if you were to be hired by my employer tomorrow, and we bumped into each other in the hallways in Richmond? Would you feel as confident that you know me? Or would there be a niggling doubt that perhaps, just perhaps, Kirk at work is not like Kirk at all.

Some people really do act differently at work, both in how they approach people and problems. Some people pride themselves on being able to have two disparate personalities: the work Kirk and the home Kirk. I imagine salespeople must do this or they’d be shunned from society permanently – but I digress.
Continue reading Hogan’s Hero

McKesson? Who’s McKesson?

Many people who hear that I work for McKesson say they don’t know the name. Fair enough – I didn’t know it when I applied for my position here either. So here are a few tidbits to give you an idea what McKesson is if you’re curious.

June 19th there is a free webcast of a conversation with the CEO and CIO of McKesson. You can sign up here. I doubt anyone will (should) sign up, but the preview (silly Flash format!) gives you a very brief glimpse at what this company is trying to do, or what they claim they’re trying to do (other than make money – naturally). Yes, Randy Spratt said over $80 billion in revenue – that’s a lot of money.

I work in a business unit called “Medical Imaging Group”, or MIG. You can find their website here. Originally MIG was an independent software vendor (ALI Technologies) who was purchased by McKesson some years ago to add to their portfolio of products – specifically medical imaging products. The office is located in Richmond, a 30 minute drive from home (traffic permitting).

My position is officially called “Functional Analyst”, though some refer to us as Business Analysts in other companies. You can see a general description of what an FA does in a current job posting here. I work in the infrastructure side of the team, rather than the clinical. So I look at how our products work behind the scenes, or for user who aren’t clinical such as hospital site administrators. This quote is pretty much the job description:

The Functional Analyst (FA) reviews customer business problems and develops high level use cases and requirements that drive the development teams efforts to meet customer and business needs. The FA authors, publishes and facilitates review of requirements and establishes and maintains requirements traceability. The role of Functional Analyst (FA) is to be the product clinical or technical expert that ensures that customer’s (and other stakeholders) needs are met via product requirement documents. The FA is typically an expert at understanding the details of customer workflows and is able to translate these needs into high level use cases and requirements which drive the development process.

Just a little blurb about my work, as I seem to spend a significant amount of time doing it. As you can see I have moved on from technical support (finally) and am now working in Product Management – sounds auspicious, but see my previous post about demotivational sayings to get an idea of some of the new challenges I’m seeing in my new role.

What Do I Do?

I’m moving into a new job tomorrow, and I’m being asked (understandably) what exactly I’ll be doing. Since I haven’t actually started the job yet, it’s tough for me to give concrete examples of what I’ll be doing, but let’s see if I can’t shed a little light on my super-secret mystery.

My official title will be “Systems Analyst / User Interface Designer”. Now that’s a mouthful. However it is also nice and descriptive. As you may or may not know, when it comes to computers, I’m deeply interested in usability and the user experience. I’m able to do programming when I want or need to, but in the end I’m not terribly passionate about the inner workings of programs. I’m more interested in how people interact with them.

So what does a Systems Analyst do? In a nutshell I’ll be looking at customer requests for improvements and new features in our software and I’ll be trying to figure out the best way to fix our software up. The best way may or may not be what the customer asks for exactly, but requirements elicitation should be part of the process so their initial needs may end up changing as our discussions continue.

It’s still a little abstract, I know. However I came across this great example of systems analysis (in the guise of the term “Information Architecture”) to a batch of today’s emerging music players. For anyone interested in IA or SA, it’s a neat, simple read. Anyone not familiar with the things we do, it’s a simple introduction because we all understand digital music players to some extent.

As for the title “User Interface Designer”, that’s where my heart lies. Designing the interface and workflow that users are confronted with when using software is my real area of interest. I enjoy the designing phase of things so much because I find it to be so creative – implementing mock-ups of the interfaces and running user trials to see how they work in real situations is just plain fun for me.

So this position is my first step away from supporting technology and users (Systems Administrator, that kind of thing) towards my real area of interest – usability. I’ve been dipping my toes into whatever Usability waters I can find, such as recently joining a project at Open Usability and participating in several discussions on the Gnome Usability Mailing List. And now I am finally moving into this fascinating area professionally.

Huzzah! Wish me luck!