Beginning again...

Being a yogi, we learn that we are constantly beginning again, thus, I begin again this blog. My musing will be focused on databases, yoga, women in technology and general thoughts about society. So... with that, I bring you my first post for the year and hope to post on a regular basis (note, I didn't give a time frame here, so I don't box myself in.... ah the beauty of yoga).

Our lives have taken a sharp turn, and it's wonderful. A new being in our lives fills us with joy and much work. I've decided to begin a new chapter as full-time parent and part-time database consultant. As you might know, my focus has been with and working primarily with nonprofit organizations. My goal is to teach rather than do the work for the organization, thus building the organization's capacity to continue to maintain and manage their own database. I would say that mostly it has been a success, by mostly I mean that sometimes I find myself going back to the place of "doing the work" rather than "teaching how to do" primarily because it's easier for me and the person doing the work at the organization. I do catch myself, which is good, and put it back on them to finish it up.

It's been at least two years since I have begun this work and there are a few things that keep popping up to me over and over again. These are some of those issues/things that have come up:

  1. Turn over of staff: This has probably been the most challenging issue to deal with in this teaching model. I have been of the mindset of teaching two staff at the organization (thus one is a back up for the other), but have found on a couple occasions that both individuals leave the organization, leaving a gaping hole! I've had one organization actually say to me that they wished I had built it for them and then they could just have come back to me. Oh well, I guess the point is that 2 in 20 isn't bad. But turn over is an issue that I need to address somehow.... I'm still mulling this over. I'll get back to you later on this one, but I'm open to any suggestions you might have.
  2. Understanding process: On more than one occasion, I have asked someone who works at the organization how they manage a process (whether it be intake of clients or managing events or accepting donations) and I get this blank stare and sigh. For example, when asking the person who manages events, "how do you do it?" I get the big sigh and then a stream of consciousness on how they do it. Nothing solid, a lot of ums, ahs and such. There process is called "by the seat of their pants". This is always a sign of problems for success with a database, BUT, there is always a solution. When this happens, I usually have them diagram the process for me (usually a handwritten flow chart or steps) with a detailed explanation (where I can asks tons of questions). This does get us closer to understanding their "stream of babble". And, in the process, they are helping their organization to document and clarify processes. I love this part of the design phase! It's so... so... neat and tidy. I think database people like neat and tidy (although we often get curve balls, but that's another story for another day).
  3. Focus: In this education model, I've found that many individuals wander into other territories. What started out as a volunteer database ends up being a volunteer, donor and client management database. Which isn't a bad thing, in the long run, but NOT TO START. It's important to focus in the beginning because of the learning and doing process. Since I am a yogi, this is an important learning for me and for my friends learning with me. I always try to bring them back to the focus and remind them that the other pieces will be waiting along the sides. But, to stay focused on this for now... until you are ready to move on. And, you'll know when that time has come. But, during this beginning phase, focus.
  4. Time: As a young yogi, I always believe there is more time, but I forget about roadblocks that might come up (such as other work, a special event, illness, etc.) thus I ALWAYS underestimate the time it takes to get through the beginning stages of learning. I am learning. I am getting better at this. After all, it's not a perfect science and we all (come on, you know you do this too) guesstimate the time.

So, these are some of the key things I have learned since beginning this journey in combining my yoga practice with database development. I am so excited to continue this path and hope you will join me on my journey!