Navigating the Storm of Change:​ Five Keys For Exceptional Leaders to Thrive in 2024

Navigating the Storm of Change:​ Five Keys For Exceptional Leaders to Thrive in 2024

The January 2024 Tech Talk was presented by Alan Willett

Abstract

The past decade has been challenging for leaders everywhere. But the surge of challenges coming in 2024 may make the preceding years seem like the calm before the storm. ​

Looking ahead, it is easy to predict additional supply chain disruptions, increasing pressures of geopolitics, volatile economic changes, and dramatic increases in the powers of artificial intelligence. These are just some of the external forces of change that leaders will face.

We must also consider rising internal challenges, such as the need to lead a virtual/hybrid workforce, the rise of workplace toxicity, and the accelerating demand for more value,  faster.​

Alan Willett, an award-winning author and leadership expert, will provide insights into five keys that leaders will need in order to not just survive in 2024, but to thrive – and to hone their personal system for “perfect balance.”

About the Presenter 

Alan Willett

Expert consultant, speaker, and award-winning author of Leading the Unleadable: How to Manage Cynics, Divas, and Other Difficult People and Lead With Speed, Alan Willett is co-founder of Exceptional Difference. For more than two decades, Alan has worked with clients around the world, including the UK, Turkey, South Africa, China, India, Canada, and Mexico, and throughout the United States. Alan’s passionate work has focused on leadership, with laser focus on the unique challenges of leading in the elevated pressure environments of high-technology developments.

Alan’s background in technology started with the first program he wrote at age 13, and his passion has continued to this day. Earlier in his career, Willett was a key leader at Xerox and designed high-end production systems. After leaving Xerox, Alan joined the world’s leading think tank for high-technology development, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), located at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. At SEI, Alan joined other renowned thought leaders in developing cutting-edge methodologies adopted by corporations globally, including the Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI) and the Team Software Process (TSP).

His personal backstory enlivens his writing and his speaking. He grew up on a dairy farm that had been in the family for over 170 years, and which was honored as the dairy farm of the year for New York state for many years running. Alan encourages everyone to get out there and make a positive difference in the world.

From Sprints to Marathons – Sustaining Speed to Value

From Sprints to Marathons – Sustaining Speed to Value

The October 2023 tech talk was presented by David VanEpps

Abstract

Technology leaders know the pressure to deliver high-value projects with speed. When projects turn to portfolios, the game changes. The rules of speed-to-value still apply, but now there are different dimensions required to make that speed sustainable over the long haul. Delivering sustained speed-to-value isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, and much like running a marathon, there are some clear guidelines that can be followed. 

Specifically, we’ll address the need for setting the right pace, managing a different set of metrics, balancing the needs of competing forces, managing enterprise expectations, and future-proofing the organization.

About the Presenter 

David VanEpps

David VanEpps is the VP of Engineering at Ursa Space Systems, where he brings a passion for software engineering excellence and exceptional leadership. Prior to his role at Ursa, he served as Senior Director of Delivery for Acxiom, a global marketing technology company, where he rapidly scaled technology teams while improving both client and associate delight. He has held numerous technology leadership roles at high-tech companies such as OnStar and Vynamic. David has consistently led technology organizations to deliver solutions that exceed expectations while delighting clients, associates, and shareholders. His cross-industry experience and principles of execution have enabled teams to drive exceptional speed-to-value and quality.

David graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a bachelors in Computer Science and a masters in Software Development and Management. He resides in Harrison Township, Michigan, with his wife, Charlotte. Outside of work, he actively volunteers and serves on several non-profits, and he enjoys running, cycling, writing, and speaking in his spare time.

SEA 2023 Summit

SEA 2023 Summit

Our Passion for Excellence – Keeping the Torch Alive

The SEA 2023 Summit was held September 21st in Pittsburgh PA.

Summit Overview

The Software Excellence Alliance is an international network of professionals who share a passion for software development. The pandemic kept us from gathering in person in 2021 and 2022, but it hasn’t dimmed our zeal for excellence.

All were welcome to attend, to discuss their challenges and celebrate their success stories. We encouraged each other with updates on the ways we’re continuing to honor our outrageous commitment to change the world of software engineering, including:

  • New exceptional introduction strategies that are changing lives and transforming organizational culture from the bottom up – Alan Willett
  • Newly released and upcoming tools to support exceptional individuals and teams – David Tuma
  • New accelerated growth up-and-out into systems engineering excellence – Jeff Schwalb
  • A new global data warehouse of project metrics for planning, benchmarking, and research – Bill Nichols
  • Continued community growth through the sharing of best practices and great ideas – Julia Mullaney
  • And the exciting things YOU are accomplishing in your teams and your organization!

We’re on the brink of momentous changes, and the opportunity to make a difference has never been greater. Accordingly, the opportunity for synergy with one another has never been more important. We discussed the ways we can support each other’s efforts, and shaped our shared vision for 2024 and beyond.

About the Speakers

The Summit was a collaborative event with opportunities for everyone to share, present, and exchange information. The following community members shared ideas and success stories.

Alan Willett

Founder, Chief Engineer, Exceptional Difference

Expert consultant, speaker, and award-winning author of Leading the Unleadable: How to Manage Cynics, Divas, and Other Difficult People, and Lead With Speed, Alan Willett is co-founder of Exceptional Difference. Alan works with clients around the world, including the UK, Turkey, South Africa, China, India, Canada, and Mexico, and of course, throughout the United States.Alan is the founder and Chief Engineer of Exceptional Difference(R) LLC, a consultancy that elevates engineers, leaders and organizations to world-class performance. Alan’s passionate work has focused on leadership, with laser focus on the unique challenges of leading in the elevated pressure environments of high-technology developments. Alan Willett has consulted to HP, Oracle, Microsoft, NASA, General Motors, Intuit, NAVAIR, Orbital ATK, OnStar, Cornell University, Rutgers University, Technological de Monterrey, Acxiom, and many more. Alan encourages everyone to make a positive difference in the world.

Jeff Schwalb

Jeff Schwalb

NAVAIR Performance Resource Team (PRT) Lead and NAWCWD Associate Fellow, NAVAIR

Jeff Schwalb is a software engineer supporting the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) since 1984. He has over 20 years of experience developing and acquiring real-time embedded software systems for avionics, weapons, and range instrumentation systems. He also began collaborating with the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), learning and applying CMM key practices, becoming a certified Personal Software Process℠ (PSP℠) instructor and then a certified Team Software Process℠ (TSP℠) coach. Over the last 25 years he has taught and consulted hundreds of scientists and engineers in various forms of personal engineering processes and coached dozens of projects in the launch and operations of team project planning and tracking. In 2017, Jeff connected with the SEI on the establishment of the organization we know today as the SEA. Today, Jeff continues to work within the SEA to identify and establish pragmatic, value-added solutions to problems currently affecting the Software Community. He is currently serving as a member of the SEA Executive Team and as a supporting member of SEA working groups in areas such as Community Networking, Membership, and Knowledge Transfer.

Jeff Schwalb

Bill Nichols

Software Engineering Institute

Dr. Bill Nichols is a senior member of the technical staff in the Software Solutions Division of the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. He has more than 30 years of technical and management experience in the software engineering industry. His current work focuses on software process measurement, project management, quality, security, and improving development team performance. Dr. Nichols is a Senior member of IEEE and a member of ACM.

During his tenure at the SEI, Dr. Nichols has worked with the Team Software Process (TSP) Initiative and Software Measurement and Analysis. He has coauthored several TSP publications, including the PSP and TSP Bodies of Knowledge and the TSP Coach Mentoring Program Guidebook. Recent work includes software metrics and software security metrics including the government’s guide to using security tools in software development.

Prior to joining the SEI, Dr. Nichols earned a doctorate in physics from Carnegie Mellon University after completing graduate work in Particle Physics. He later lead a software development team at the Bettis Laboratory near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he developed and maintained nuclear engineering and scientific software for 14 years.

While working in physics and nuclear engineering, he contributed to technical articles appearing in Nuclear Instruments and Methods, IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science, and Physics Review Letters. Since Joining the SEI, he has published articles on software metrics, process and quality in IEEE Software, Software Quality Professional, Transactions on Software Engineering, and the Journal of Empirical Software Engineering.

Jeff Schwalb

Julia Mullaney

Principal, Exceptional Difference

With a commitment to changing the world of software engineering, Julia Mullaney, a co-founder of Exceptional Difference, is an award-winning engineer, instructor, leader, and consultant who has worked with software companies in many industries across the globe.

While at IBM, Mullaney was instrumental in process improvement efforts and had a major role in defining and implementing defect prevention. At the Software Engineering Institute (SEI,) Mullaney was a key contributor to the Personal Software Process (PSP) and Team Software Process (TSP) through the development of training, certification, licensing, and applied research at leading software organizations. She is a Certified Smart Grid Maturity Model (SGMM) Navigator, PSP Developer and TSP Coach, and served as Chairperson of the IEEE/ SEI Watts Humphrey Software Process Achievement award from 2018 to 2020.

Her cybersecurity work at the SEI includes participation on the Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model V2 project, Team Lead of the Expert Guidance and Strategic Support to DHS, and the management, development, and release of the SGMM. Mullaney currently serves as the leader of the Software Excellence Alliance (SEA) Executive Team and is focused on growing the SEA into a sustainable network of professionals who are passionate about software excellence.

Jeff Schwalb

Gerardo Lopez

Gerardo is an entrepreneur, businessman, and software engineer with more than 45 years of experience in transforming software development to well-established software engineering practices in order to achieve top quality and reduce development cost and time.

Gerardo holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Tec de Monterrey, and spent two years working for a Master of Arts degree in Computer Sciences at Texas University.

From 1982 through 2000, he founded and grew Softtek, a software development company in Mexico, to become the largest in Latin America. In 2002, he started Towa with the vision to excel in software quality and lead Mexico to become #1 in software quality in the world (“Mexico should achieve in software what the Japanese did in car manufacturing 60 years ago”).

Jeff Schwalb

David Tuma

Tuma Solutions

David Tuma is a graduate of MIT with a passion for exceptional software development. He has contributed to the success of numerous projects in roles ranging from architecture to coding, security assessment to causal analysis, and project management to coaching. In his support for exceptional practices, he created (and continues to evolve) an open-source toolset called the Process Dashboard, which has been used by tens of thousands of developers worldwide.

Software Excellence through the Agile High Velocity Development℠ Process

Software Excellence through the Agile High Velocity Development℠ Process

Abstract

The Advanced Information Services Division of Ishpi Information Technologies, Inc. (DBA ISHPI) performs all aspects of the software development lifecycle using its High Velocity Development℠ (HVD) process. We have studied many methods and frameworks (including Personal Software Process, Team Software Process, CMMI for Development, Scrum, Kanban, CMMI for Services, ISO 9001 (Quality Management), ISO 20000-1 (Information Technology Service Management), ISO 27001 (Information Security Management Systems), Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, and more), adapted them, combined them, and made them our own. The result is an innovative, cohesive process that works for us—our agile HVD process. We have shown that diverse inputs need not be contradictory choices, but instead complementary building blocks. By evolving, implementing, and utilizing the HVD practices, AIS Division teams have achieved significant improvement in productivity and performance. ISHPI’s customers have benefited from shorter schedules, lower costs for development due to minimal rework costs, lower costs for maintenance, and an overall positive experience during each project.

About the Presenter 

Stephen Shook, ISHPI’s Vice President of Software Engineering & Quality, brings more than 25 years of experience in senior management, business development, development management, project management, software engineering, and implementing Capability Maturity Model® Integration (CMMI®). He is one of the principal architects of ISHPI’s award-winning Agile High Velocity Development℠ software development methodology, which is appraised at CMMI Development Maturity Level 5. As an experienced instructor, coach, consultant, and subject matter expert, he leads and mentors software teams to achieve exceptional cost, schedule, and quality performance in order to achieve customer business goals. Stephen has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematics from the University of Illinois.

Barti Perini, ISHPI’s Vice President of Software Process Improvement, brings over 25 years of experience in software engineering, software development process improvement, project management, and Capability Maturity Model® Integration (CMMI®) and ISO implementation. She leads ISHPI’s Software Engineering Process group, Configuration Management group, and the Quality Assurance group, working with senior management, software development managers, project managers, and engineers to initiate, define, track, evaluate, and implement new methods and technologies to continuously optimize the software engineering capability of the organization (currently appraised at CMMI Development Maturity Level (ML) 5 and CMMI Services ML 3). Barti holds a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute. Barti has a Master of Science in Computer Science from Northern Illinois University, a Master of Technology in Industrial Electronics from Mysore University, India and a Bachelor of Engineering in Power Electronics from Nagpur University, India.

The 5 Keys to Crushing Technical Debt and Reclaiming the Joy in Engineering

The 5 Keys to Crushing Technical Debt and Reclaiming the Joy in Engineering

The March 2023 tech talk was presented by Alan Willett and Julia Mullaney

Abstract

Are you feeling weighed down by technical debt? Are you tired of constantly putting out fires and struggling to keep your systems running smoothly? It’s time to reclaim the joy in engineering! In this talk, we will explore the five key strategies for crushing technical debt and bringing back the enjoyment to your work. We’ll also delve into the seven types of technical debt, including gordian knots, trap doors, barnacle ware, and more, and show you how to identify and tackle each one. Join us and learn how to eliminate technical debt and rediscover the satisfaction of building high-quality systems.

About the Presenters

Alan Willett is a globe-trotting Principal helping organizations to improve the speed and power of their engines of development. Alan is the award-winning author of Lead with Speed and Leading the Unleadable.

Alan Willett was the youngest of six kids on a dairy farm in Hunt, NY, which was (and still is) about a 30-minute drive to any stoplight. In Alan’s opinion, a stop sign would be okay in that town. The stoplight is a bit of high-tech overkill. The dairy farm has been in the family for almost 200 years. In Alan’s teenage years, the farm won Dairy Farm of the Year multiple times, while other farms failed. Alan learned how to be lucky by using data, technology, hard work, and logical decision-making.

After the farm, Alan went to Rochester Institute of Technology. There, he ran track and cross-country. He actually did run across the country with his team. The team was in the Guinness Book of World Records for running a relay from ocean to ocean in record time. While at college, as a side hobby to his athletics, he received a degree in computer science, which later became a Master’s degree.

When Alan started working in the high-tech world of high-pressure product development, he found that most of the projects used data much less than they did on the farm. On his projects, he put into place the use of data and logical decision-making. His travels eventually took him to work at the world-renowned Software Engineering Institute, the think tank of the world on high-tech development work. There, he was able to work with many of the geniuses that have pushed the state of the art. He worked with and was good friends with the late Watts Humphrey.

Julia Mullaney has been involved with software excellence since starting her career at IBM in 1988. At IBM, she was instrumental in process improvement efforts, having a major role in defining and implementing defect prevention, for which she won the IBM Quality Award.

At the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), Julia was a key contributor to the Personal Software Process℠ (PSP℠) and Team Software Process℠ (TSP℠) through the development of training, certification, licensing, and applied research at leading software organizations. She was fortunate to take the first PSP class from her mentor, Watts Humphrey. Julia is currently the chair for the IEEE CS/SEI Watts Humphrey Quality Award and also sits on the IEEE CS Awards Committee.  

Julia’s passion is software excellence, and she has been channeling that passion into growing the Software Excellence Alliance (SEA) as the SEA Executive Committee Leader and as a member of SEA Website & Social Media working group. She previously chaired the Working Group Training working group.