Notes From Spectrum Futures 2017

This week I attended Spectrum Futures 2017, sponsored by Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC) at the Pullman Bangkok Grande Sukhumvit on Asoke Montri Road in Bangkok. The conference was rather lightly attended, which allowed for a very collegial, clubby atmosphere to prevail.  Gary Kim and the PTC Events Team did a super job organizing and presenting the conference.

I can appreciate the paradox conference organizers face, wanting enough participants to make the conference profitable, while not destroying the right mood for collaboration and discussion.  I don’t know the finances of the event, but PTC definitely got the atmosphere right.  There were several outstanding presentations during the conference.  For me, the best part of the conference was the level of audience participation and interaction.  During many of the presentations, audience questions often led to continued discussion and further questions.  It was a very positive feedback loop. Continue reading “Notes From Spectrum Futures 2017”

Excel BTS Project Tracker (Date Buckets)

What kind of Engineer are you, how would you describe yourself?  Are you the kind who uses a straight edge when you write so the lines will be beautifully aligned, or do you scribble something barely legible to get done and to move on to the next thing?  Do you calculate cell boundaries using 8-digit precision, or do you close one eye and squint through the other to make your best guess based on the data and your experience?

I know that it takes all kinds to make the world.  There will always be a need for the beautifully aligned, 8-digit precision types.  For myself and the work I do, I always preferred the scribblers and the guessers.  I’ll take a Master of the Pareto Principle (https://goo.gl/P63YH5) over the i-dotters and t-crossers any day.

No slight intended to those people.  They do fine work, and there are times when that is essential.  Like rocket launches, aircraft manufacturing, pharmaceuticals.  But in my experience, Telecoms never respected that quality of work and the time required to do it.  Most of the time, whatever work we did today, ended up being redone, with a slightly different set of requirement, within a few months time.

The point I want to make is that there is a time and place for everything.  As Engineers and Technologists, we must maintain our situational awareness to know what kind of effort is required.  Know when the absolute best is required, and when going a little faster is more highly valued.  Put cavalierly, “Don’t make the Best the Enemy of Good Enough“.  There is a time and a place. Remember that. Continue reading “Excel BTS Project Tracker (Date Buckets)”

Spectrum Futures Conference in Bangkok, 18-19 September 2017

Just a quick note to encourage all my friends in Thailand to attend Spectrum Futures 2017 conference next Monday and Tuesday.

The conference will be held at Pullman Bangkok Grande Sukhumvit next Monday and Tuesday.

I’ll be a panelist Tuesday morning at 08:40 for Moving Up the Stack: Where and How Can it be Done? 

Please find me to say hello if you make to the event.  It’d be a pleasure to meet you.

Excel BTS Project Tracker (This Technique is Much More Useful)

I’ve been writing about how to create a BTS Project Tracker using Excel.  Let me tell you a bit about why.  Frequently in my career, my teams have had checklists they needed to perform at every BTS or Site in the network.  These checklists were of a manageable size.  I couldn’t justify a dedicated Program Manager.  Nor could the cost of a full-blown project management software.  Besides, for smallish projects like these, use of project planning software like Microsoft Project would be overkill.  So I had to rely on my team to report and track their progress themselves.  All too often I found that few of them were skilled enough with Excel to do this well.

But these types of projects are very common.  I realized that I should be teaching my teams how to do these things for themselves.  Not only did this seem like my responsibility.  But training the team would also serve both our interests. They would acquire new skills for their careers, and I would get a more capable team, besides the better updates I would get on these projects.  It was a fabulous win-win opportunity.

None of these techniques is very challenging.  And all of them use basic Excel functionality that can be used every day in many other circumstances. Please join me as I work towards a complete project tracker with a comprehensive dashboard. Continue reading “Excel BTS Project Tracker (This Technique is Much More Useful)”

August 2017 Writing Roundup

Every month I summarize my work during the previous month.  I hope that by pausing to reflect on my activities and reviewing my progress that I can learn how to do better in the future.

August was my second best month ever.  I’m excited to tell you about it and hear your reactions and comments.  It’s only through your feedback and support that I can continue giving you my best service.

Below I review the articles I published, the progress made working on my book and updated traffic statistics. This month has been truly surprising and satisfying. Continue reading “August 2017 Writing Roundup”

Excel Project Tracker with Task Weighting

Have you ever tried to use Excel to track the progress of a project? How did you do it? Did it work out OK? Or was it a huge mess, one that barely succeeded in reporting the status of the project?

Often, before people start using Excel, they imagine a piece of paper that might represent what they want to accomplish. Then, they set about to create that piece of paper using Excel. But this approach takes no advantage of Excel’s power to automate, simplify, and beautify.  They end up with something too labor-intensive, error-prone and ineffective.

I’d like to show you why Excel is truly outstanding for tracking projects. It’s also completely fantastic at creating dashboards, doing analysis, and at communicating complex concepts to non-technical audiences. But you have to know how to use it properly. I know you can do this.  Follow along with me to learn what you need to know about Excel.

This is the second article in my “Excel BTS Project Tracker” series.  In this series, I’m creating a completely functional project tracker using Microsoft Excel.  With each new article in the series, I enhance the previous version of the Tracker and teach you a couple of new Excel techniques at the same time. Continue reading “Excel Project Tracker with Task Weighting”

Excel Project Tracker (with the Coolest Excel Function Ever!)

One of the most common projects in Mobile Telecoms is to complete a checklist of tasks for each BTS in a group.  In this series of blog posts, I’ll show you how to create an effective Tracker for this type of project using Excel.  If you work with Excel, and especially if you are a Technical Manager, this series is written for you.

You’ll not only get a reusable project Tracker, but also some new Excel skills to save your time, reduce your workload, and maybe even get recognized for the quality of your work.  You’ll use these techniques again and again.

With this first post, I’ll create a complete project tracker.   I want to show you how easy it is to do using Excel.  This will be a fully functional project Tracker, which you can use immediately. Continue reading “Excel Project Tracker (with the Coolest Excel Function Ever!)”

A Technologist Tackles Digital Marketing

I want to describe my experience trying to learn Digital Marketing, also known as Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Email Marketing.  These terms are not 100% interchangeable. But I hope by listing them all it puts us, you and me, on the same page for this article.  Fundamentally, it’s about finding an audience and offering them things of value.

monthly_traffic_reportAs a Technologist, I’ve always thought I ought to be able to make money on the Internet.  After all, I understand and actually use many of the technologies underpinning the Internet and World Wide Web.  So making money should be a breeze, right?  But I was wrong!

I first tried making Internet millions when I set up a blog in 2007.  I’ve maintained that blog off and on over the years, and this, Bangkok Beach Telecom, is the latest incarnation.  On several occasions over the years, I actively tried to monetize the blog with ads.  But I never made more than a few dollars in a month.  Mostly, that was because I never achieved any significant volume of traffic.  Not many people visited my blog. Continue reading “A Technologist Tackles Digital Marketing”

July 2017 – Writing Roundup

I spent much of July doing software development.  Mostly, I worked on the LinkedIn Tip of the Day application, and also my book.

Both these efforts cut down on the time I had for writing articles.   I plan to publish more articles this month.  As always, if there is a particular topic you would like write about, let me know in the comments or visit my survey on Google docs,

What would you like me to write about?

Thanks for reading! Continue reading “July 2017 – Writing Roundup”

Web Development Tools for the Well-Rounded Technologist

I’m a big fan of the Perl programming language.  A very long time ago, before computers became ubiquitous, I had a technical job which depended on computers.  Back then, computers typically were housed on a raised floor behind glass walls, and only the anointed elite actually worked ON the computers. But in my job, we had access to an AT&T 3B20 computer running UNIX. Our System Administrator was a pretty switched on guy and when I ask him to help me learn UNIX he was excited to have a pupil. I was totally jazzed to have a teacher.

The work environment was a Network Operations Center (NOC) for the telephone company. We monitoring telephone switches, which allowed us to experiment and play around to automate small tasks.  Our NOC monitored dozens of telephone switches, all of them writing their log messages into the 3B20.  Parsing those log files and creating reports was how I first learned to program using the Bourne Shell, sh. Continue reading “Web Development Tools for the Well-Rounded Technologist”