Project Fi: One Month In

It’s been about 6 weeks since I activated my cell phone service with Project Fi. For those who haven’t heard about it yet, Fi is Google’s pay as you go, contract free cell phone service. It uses the T-Mobile and Sprint Networks  (via dual-sided SIM card) and will place calls over wi-fi if the signal is good enough. I think the big “pro” of Google Fi is that you truly only pay for what you use. You buy data on a per-gigabyte basis, but any unused data is credited back the next month as a statement credit. I purchased a Nexus 5x from Fi to use – you have to use a Fi enabled phone. Fi allows you to spread the cost of the phone over X months without any interest or financing fees, so that’s what I did.

Here are my thoughts on a few different aspects of my Fi experience:

My Phone: Nexus 5x

  • No bloatware! (Mostly from no longer being on Verizon. But I’ve really loved having full control over my phone and what’s on it. At this point it would be hard for me to go back to a phone with a provider that force-installed apps and updates)
  • Heavy use of maps/navigation leaves phone hot to the touch
  • Good fingerprint scanner
  • Poor battery life
  • Uses a USB Type C charger, which is impossible to find anywhere except online, and is not compatible with any other device I own. I miss the USB 3.0 charger that my Galaxy S5 used.
  • The charger that came with my 5x was dead on arrival, and Fi originally said that I had to send my whole phone back in order to get them to replace the charger. After refusing, they agreed (at my suggestion) to give me a statement credit for the $ amount of a new charger on Amazon.
  • More built in storage than my S5. I got the 32GB Nexus 5x. I was constantly out of room on my Galaxy. This one should take a lot longer to fill up.
  • Lack of aesthetics. I got the white 5x, but only half of it is white. The front is still black. I think that this makes it look cheap and I should have just gotten the all black one.

My Bill

Well, long story short, my bill is a lot lower. Including the ~$10/month for my phone, my bill is $45. On Verizon Wireless my half of the bill was about $75. Considering that my Fi bill includes the cost of my phone, and my Verizon bill didn’t, the appropriate comparison would be $35/month on Fi vs $75/month on VZW.

Fi Service

Obviously this varies by region. I have definite issues with Fi service. I live in the Pittsburgh metro area and many times when I look down at my phone, it has no service. Verizon is king around here, and for good reason: their network is the best. I’m not used to not being able to send a text message because I don’t have service.

My biggest pain point with Fi, though, is the call quality issue I have. Whether I have WiFi calling off or on, I have issues where the person on the other end of the phone can’t hear me. Other times my voice is distorted or has a severe echo. At times I feel like my phone is not a phone, it’s only good for things that require data or WiFi. I’ve been dropped off the call for important work meetings more times than I can count.

Customer Service

I’ve only ever used the Project Fi e-mail customer service. Sometimes I get a response within a day, other times is takes a few days. One time I waited 8 days without a response before I replied saying so, and that was answered within an hour. It seems very hit-or-miss.

I’ve also found that the customer service reps seem to follow a template. Whatever your complaint is, they will sympathize and say that they hate when that happens to them, too. “Hannah, I too have had service drop during important work meetings so I know your frustration!” “I once had a charger break on me, I was so annoyed!” It’s comical to me at this point because it’s painfully obvious that one of the points in their script is to sympathize with the user.

The e-mail customer service reps also love to send you links to Project Fi help articles that you’ve already looked at. They’ve sent me the same articles on troubleshooting service problems over and over. It’s probably to the point now where I need to call, but it makes it hard to call when your phone hardly functions as a phone in the first place!

Verdict

The jury is still out. I can’t decide if the savings are worth it. Right now, I’m leaning towards “no”, because what good is a phone if it doesn’t function as a phone? If I didn’t have to dial into so many meetings for work, I may not be as bothered by the cell service issues. But 6 weeks in? The cell service and call quality issues I’ve had with Fi have overshadowed the cost savings of the switch.


A Lesson from Weebly

Photo Credit: Penn State IST Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BEMhEW-sGs6

Photo Credit:  Chris Fanini, Penn State IST Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BEMhEW-sGs6

I saw this picture on the Penn State IST (my alma mater!) Instagram account. They’re right in the middle of IST Startup Week, and have some great speakers. The picture didn’t mean much to me…until I read the caption:

So, what’s going on here? This is a capture from an #ISTstartup Week presentation by IST #grad Chris Fanini, Co-founder and CTO of @weebly on the company’s ride to success. It shows the total number of registered Weebly users at the time (6913) and the total number of users logged in to the service (3.) As Fanini put it, “There were three of us working on Weebly, so you can just imagine who those ‘logged in’ users were.” At 6 months in, he said, most days they had zero signups. “At 11 months in, we had maybe 50 signups a day.” Success? It takes a while. Be persistent. Be passionate. And don’t give up.

Wow. Imagine how discouraged the Weebly founders must have felt when they were the only 3 actively logged into their application. I just love that they have the picture to prove it, too! What a good reminder of how far they have come. As I’m currently struggling with putting a ton of effort into my startup and hardly seeing any glimmers of hope (usually it’s more like…complete darkness for a few days or weeks, THEN I’ll get a glimmer), this post felt like it came at the perfect time for me. It reminded me that I’m not the only one who has felt this way, and to keep on keepin’ on.

By the way, it would be an absolute dream if someday I could be a speaker at IST Startup Week. Maybe I could open with an anecdote about this very post – how an Instagram post during IST Startup Week years ago encouraged me to keep going.


“I Quit Facebook” – Before it was Trendy

I quit Facebook just shy of 5 years ago. It wasn’t that big of a deal. I still exist. The people that matter to me, and that I matter to, know I still exist. My life is better off for it.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts and podcasts with instructions on how to quit Facebook. How you can narrate an hour long podcast on something so simple is beyond me.

Here’s how I did it – deactivate Facebook and don’t look back. Yes, I know, Facebook makes it extremely easy to look back. I’m sure it’s changed from 5 years ago, but they used to e-mail me at regular intervals inviting me to re-activate my account. Ignore them. Archive them without reading. Create a rule and send them straight to your trash. Decide that once you deactivate Facebook, you are done for good. The pull of Facebook weakens rapidly with passing time, and now, you couldn’t even pay me to sign back up.

I was never one to share much on Facebook, anyway. I prefer to share details of my life only with people that I keep in touch with on a regular basis. So out of about 300 Facebook friends, this was is about 10 people. I’d rather have 10 real friends than 300 Facebook friends.

I hear other people complain about Facebook. When I suggest they quit, there is always some excuse. “I’d miss out on family updates!” “It’s the only way I can stay in touch with people!” Simply not true. If you care enough about a person, there are plenty of other ways to keep in touch. Ways that are much more meaningful than clicking “Like” on a Facebook status update. Important news still manages to make it’s way to me. I don’t feel as if I’m missing out on anything, other than Beachbody Coaching advertisements, POLITICAL RANTS, stories of how Plexus probiotics helped someone overcome a mental illness, and how ItWorks Wraps can work for me, too. It’s been said a million times before, but Facebook is the highlight reel of people’s lives. Competition is the thief of joy, and I’m not going to subject myself to hours of scrolling through everyone else’s highlight reels.

So no, you don’t need multiple podcasts, blog posts, webinars, and how-to’s on how to quit Facebook. Just deactivate and don’t look back. Your life will be more meaningful for it.


The #1 Barrier to Millennial Professionals

Today I listened to Myleik Teele’s most recent podcast. Someone wrote in with a question: “What is the biggest hurdle young African-American professional women will face in 2 years?” Myleik said that the biggest barrier that ALL young professional women will face is that “All good things take time”. All of us millennials grew up in what Myleik calls a “microwave culture” where things are accomplished very quickly. We are able to accomplish things in a fraction of the time it would have taken even a decade ago.

While this is a good thing, it’s also a hurdle, because some things cannot be hurried along. For example, personal growth and maturation can’t be “microwaved”- perspectives shift and grow with time. This is something that I’ve certainly found to be true. I’m nowhere near the person I was even 5 years ago.  I also know that I am extremely guilty of possessing the attitude of the microwave culture, expecting things to happen quickly, or else I must be doing something wrong. So I’m going to be a little gentler with myself and remember the lesson Myleik reminded me of today:

allgoodthingstaketime



Wool Socks

Now that we are finally getting some cold weather in Pittsburgh, I’m making use of my wool socks daily. If the temperature is 40 or below, they’re the only thing that keep my feet warm, but never sweaty. As someone who is perpetually cold, this is a big deal.

For some reason, I didn’t discover wool socks until my early 20’s, when my then-boyfriend (now husband) introduced them to me. Now I’m hooked, and I feel obligated to spread the word about just how awesome wool socks are. However, not just any old wool socks will do. Wool socks with the following characteristics are far superior, and, dare I say, worth the money (if you know me, this should mean a lot):

  1. Fabric content of at least 70% merino wool. This information is on the packaging of the socks and is the most important factor.
  2. Above the ankle – the higher, the better. What’s the point of keeping your foot nice and toasty if your ankles are cold?! Winter calls for boots, and high socks work better under boots as well.
  3. Fabric content has some spandex or stretchy feel. If there is no stretch built in, some wool socks can be difficult to put on. And…ain’t nobody got time for that.

Personal Recommendations:

  1. If you are a woman with size 8 feet or above, consider men’s wool socks. In my experience, they are thicker and therefore last longer.
  2. Smartwool socks. The best brand I’ve found. I find them at TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Sierra Trading Post for half the price of Amazon.
  3. Costco also makes a nice 4-pack of wool trail socks. They have them in the warehouse, not online. Not as good as Smartwool, but they are less than half the price.
  4. Dry them on low, or air dry. They do shrink easily – and can be stretched back out – but it’s better to not shrink them in the first place.

Treat your feet this winter with a good pair of wool socks, and I can guarantee you’ll soon be ditching the cotton blend socks all winter long!


Podcasts: Inspiration in Audio Form

I’ve listened to podcasts before, but it was always spotty listening, an episode here or there. I never took the time to procure a list of podcasts that I liked and stuck with them. Recently, Emily gave me some podcast suggestions. I started with her lists, and listening led to more listening, and now I have quite the list of podcasts that I enjoy.

I find that listening to podcasts really helps to pass my commute time. I also listen to them when I’m cooking, cleaning, or walking. I’ve tried listening to them at work, but I can’t seem to listen very well while also critically thinking (which is necessary for the type of work I do).

I’ve been using the Podcast Addict app, which I really like. I haven’t had any problems with lagging or the app freezing. I download a bunch of episodes while I’m at home on WiFi so that I don’t have to stream them when I’m away from the house. Have I mentioned that I really need a bigger data plan? 2GB just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Here are some of the podcasts I’m loving, and why:

1. The Lively Show

JessLively

Jess’s tagline for The Lively Show is “This show aims to uplift, inspire, and add a little extra intention to your day” and IMO, that’s exactly what the show accomplishes! This is my favorite podcast right now. Jess has a lot of awesome free content on her website, mostly focused on intentional living. Through Jess’s podcast, I’ve found out about #2…

2. Happier  with Gretchen Rubin

Happier

Both Gretchen and her sister, Liz, narrate this podcast. At the end of every episode, they do a “Demerit” and a “Gold Star” where they bring up one situation each weekwhich was a happiness “Demerit”, and another which is a “Gold Star”. I like hearing real life experiences. Sometimes it’s easy to think that someone like Gretchen, because she’s a happiness expert, is always happy. The Gold Star/Demerit section makes her more relate-able.

I also found out about this quiz through Gretchen’s podcast. It’s called the “Four Tendencies” quiz and it was created to help you understand yourself better, so that you can understand how to make or break habits. I’m “The Questioner”! Here’s a link to explanation of the results.

3. Ask Altucher

Altucher

This podcast is all over the place, content wise, but that’s part of the reason I love it. I’m a big fan of James and I would describe him as a free-thinker who will challenge you to do the same. Be prepared to leave your assumptions at the door for this podcast!

4. Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert

 

LizGilbert

You probably know Elizabeth  Gilbert as the author of Eat, Pray, Love. While this is true, Liz has also written other books (including Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – which I am dying to read. It’s on my Amazon wishlist!) and she now also has a podcast. It’s still somewhat new, I believe there are 9 episodes as of this writing. Liz’s podcasts are all about getting “unstuck” and discovering what is holding you back from living the life you want. She takes questions from people like you and me, which is a nice change of pace from “celebrity guests”.


Feeling Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Lately I’ve been making an honest effort to get more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Just because something is uncomfortable does not mean it is a bad thing.

In fact, I know the opposite to be true. The times I’ve felt the most uncomfortable are the times when I have made progress in my life. So bring on the uncomfortable situations – the things I don’t want to do – the stuff that makes me nervous, pains me, weighs on my mind.

When it’s over, I’ll be glad that I weathered the uncomfortable feeling. And I’ll go back for more. Because uncomfortable is the only way to grow.


3 years ago

3 years ago, I took the first step to change my life. However, I had no idea that that’s what I was doing! It was just doing the first day of Couch to 5k over my lunch break. It wasn’t set out to be the start to a 145lb weight loss journey.

Except it was. And I didn’t even realize it until months later. Sometimes the journey of 1,000 miles really does start with one step, and you don’t even realize that the first step was “it” until you’ve walked 1,000 miles.

So, go ahead, take a step. At the worst, it’s a step, not a 1,000 mile journey. And one step is better than staying still.

Journey


What exactly does a Business Analyst do?

So, what does a Business Analyst do? We analyze the business! Just kidding – that was a cop out! I’ve gotten this question in one form or another a few times recently, so I thought I would post my thoughts on what a business analyst does within an IT organization. It should go without saying, but this is my experience only, and experiences can vary greatly from organization to organization.

Simply put, the business analyst (BA) is the bridge between the needs of the business and the needs of the software developers who are actually writing the code to fulfill the needs.

If you ask the customer what she wants, she will probably say something like “I need a website that has my contact information an my picture” (apologies for the boring example…I’m trying to keep things simple!). The software developers may ask a few questions, but would probably go to work developing the website for the customer. Fast forward to the developers saying “we’re done” and the customer seeing the website. Hmmm…it’s nothing like what she thought. She wanted a simple black and white theme, they added lots of color. She wanted her picture in a circle shape highlighted in the center of the page, they put it in a square in the upper right-corner. They thought by “contact information” she meant e-mail address, when in reality, she was more concerned with physical address and telephone. It’s all WRONG! However, the developers argue that they fulfilled their end of the deal: what she asked for was a website with her picture and contact information, and that’s what she got. Who is right here?

I hope this example illustrates the importance of the BA role. Just imagine how important it is for the business analyst to bridge the gap on much more complex (and expensive!) projects.

The business analyst meets with the stakeholders on the project and asks lots of questions: questions to uncover what is truly important to the stakeholders, what is a “nice to have”, what aspects may not be worth the effort for the reward, etc. The BA must filter out the “noise” from the valid requirements elicited from the stakeholder. Considering the viewpoints of ALL the stakeholders, the analyst then goes back and writes requirements (even if they are rough) to run them past the stakeholders. There will likely be some changes, and once the requirements are relatively stable, it is time to share them with the developers.

So far, the business analyst has done a lot of interfacing with the customer, uncovering his/her wants and needs and coming up with a solution. Now, the BA must take that solution and present it to the developers so they can get started on it. This requires the analyst to break down the big solution into smaller chunks so that progress on the project can be reported. If it’s all worked on in one big chunk, it becomes almost impossible to track if the project is on target or not.

Undoubtedly, the developers will come up with scenarios and questions that the BA didn’t think of. This is when the BA may need to go back to the stakeholders for clarification, or make judgement calls/decisions based on previous interaction with the stakeholders.

As soon as the developers have demo-able work, it is best to get it in front of the customer for feedback. At this time, requirements will (of course) change, and the BA may need to go back and update the tasks, and the developers will have some re-work to do. This part is never enjoyable for the BA, Development, or QA teams, but it’s part of making sure the customer is happy and that the solution fits their needs.

I’d consider the following skills essential to being a good BA:

1. Listening/Synthesizing skills – Not only listening, but separating the important bits from the noise

2. Ability to take big problems and break them down into manageable chunks

3. Ability to focus (and re-focus) conversations on productive information

4. Motivation to understand “WHY” on the business side – what is the business need for the project? What are the highest priority needs?

5. Ability to communicate effectively with both technical and non-technical audiences

Next time you get angry at your friendly neighborhood BA for “missing” a requirement, try to think of all the things a BA must balance in order to make both the customer and the development team productive and happy. It’s not an easy job!