Sunday, October 30, 2005

Things to be Prepared for in China

First of all I think I need to say that I am still greatly enjoying working with great people in China and enjoying great food here.

Originally I put the title as "Things that I don't like in China". But later I thought about all these stuff I realized that they probably won't change in a short period of time. So the only solution is to watch out and try not to get bothered. (Granted, the city we are staying is not as a big city like Beijing or Shanghai).

Private Space

I know it always happens in a place where there are lots of people and limited spaces. However, from time to time, I still get surprised.

For example, now I have learned that when the elevator reaches your floor, you need to step right in from of the door and get ready to block the door so that you can push your way out easily. Otherwise, there will be people pushing their way in so quickly that you might have a hard time getting out.

Another case is that when talking to the front desk don't get offended if someone else just budge in and start asking question to the person who you are talking to at the moment. And don't get surprised if that person will switch attention to him or her right away and let you stand there waiting for the answer.

Limited Services

Traveling in United States, I have gotten used to stepping in a hotel and have iron board, steaming iron ready in the room. When I travel for over a week, I know I can always find a place to wash my clothes, most of the time inside the hotel that I am staying at. However, that is not the case here. Both hotels I stayed at in Shijiazhuang don't have iron and board. And I had to buy an iron because the second hotel has only the old style ones that burn shirts easily. Laundry has been a problem because I cannot find any place to wash them myself.

The other guys found two apartments to stay in. I was hoping to be able to do laundry at their places. However, the apartment services here is hardly any good. The washing machine in one apartment does not work, and the other one is missing a water pipe. What's more, there has been some repairing or construction going on and they have been out of hot water for over a week. Calling the owner or the property management has been in vain. The guys have been pretty cool about it by taking the shower at the shower room of the swimming pool downstairs. Still, I don't find it satisfying.

Task Management

In our working environment, there seems to exist a tendency of setting the task without setting the date. At the beginning the reply we here very often was "ok, let me discuss with them about this". In a project that has only 3 months and still working on requirements at the third iteration, this kind of got me nervous. However, all we needed to do was to ask for a date, either for the answer or a follow-up date about the date.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

One Week in China

This moment exactly one week ago, I checked in the Great Wall Sheraton Hotel in Beijing, and began my life as a consultant traveling oversea.

One week is not a long time, but it has already been a blast. The ThoughtWorkers in China get along very well (not that the ones in US didn't) and there is always constant conversation during the day as we cranking off the story cards. Because of this tight relationship (the other four guys actually live together in two apartments of the same complex), conversations are very open. For example, the CruiseControl server is in the same room, on a Windows machine, so the guys set it up so that every time there is a broken build, it will play a 20 second clip saying in Chinese something like
"What the !@#$% are you doing that for... Would you ever stop? I have already told you that I cannot handle it anymore, but you keep on doing it, doing it, doing it. You just don't care if I can stand it or not. If you do it one more time I probably will have to stab you..."
The original text can be found here and it is definitely much funnier to hear it in person. Because it is long and loud, it easily gets annoying, and with the good team relationship whoever broke the build definitely gets a lot peer pressure to fix the build.

There is also a bonus for me on this project. That is I get to get involved in a lot of project management stuff. With the client speaking Chinese, I am helping the manager whenever we need to talk to the client or whenever they need to talk to us about project plan and arrangement. The current crucial task is the story list. Because there is not a full-time BA, and that we are only developing one part of the system, and because that the time is limited, we are trying to finalize the story list, so that we can track the project progress with higher accuracy. So I am also going to play the role of BA for a little bit whenever there is a translation needed.

On Monday, we had a kick-off meeting. Because this is the first time that the customers were involved in iteration planning, and that this is the second time that they were presented with Agile Software Development, we decided to give them a second presentation of agile software development, focusing on the benefit, role and responsibility of the customers, and we were able to invite the deputy director. I believe the presentation was well received, because the deputy directory got excited and spoke at the end that we should receive the full support from their side. The full-time customers that have been assigned to us also turned out to be good natured and knowledgeable to the domain.

One more reason that I love this team is also because that the guys are very comfortable with me adding the Dvorak keymap to each laptop that I touched. We set Alt+Shift+8 for QWERT and Alt+Shift+9 for Dvorak and it works out pretty good. Someone even showed interest in learning Dvorak. Hehee... Maybe sometime we can finally say bye-bye to QWERT in the China office.

It is also interesting to learn the Chines meaning of the terminologies that I have been working with for the last 6 years. The following is a list that is on top of my mind:
  • Development: 开发
  • Iteration: 迭带
  • Document: 文档
  • Release: 发布
  • Deployment: 部署
  • Class: 类型
  • Method: 方法
  • Agile Development: 敏捷开发
  • Project Management: 项目管理
  • Test: 测试
  • Run Test: 跑测试
  • Constructor: 构造函数
And learning Wubi (五笔), a Chinese input method, is fun as well.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Arrived at ShiJiaZhuang

After a 12-hour flight, half hour Customs Service (The 'Paul and Jamie Buckman' behind me sure made it seem like 2 hours), one night hotel, 2-hour train ride with half hour delay, I finally arrived the city of the project, ShiJiaZhuang (石家庄).

I have finally met three of the four ThoughtWorkers in China office, Li Mo, Li Chaoqun and Li Xiao. (Yes, Li is a common name in China), and I got a chance to talk with Li Mo on the train. Sid's comment of ThoughtWorkers was "young and super smart" (sounds like the early days of ThoughtWorkers?) and talking with them sure confirmed it.

What I have gathered so far has already shown that projects in China is definitely different from the states, unfortunately I cannot reveal much. As much as I want to keep this blog on my experience in ThoughtWorks, the special condition in China might force me to log lots of them on an internal server. I guess we shall see.