Self Awareness

As part of a Mentor Program, I had an assignment to take the Clifton Strengths Finder Assessment. My top five strengths are listed below and are aligned with my values:

  • Lifelong Learner
  • Strategic
  • Intellectual
  • Self Awareness
  • ,Maximizer

I find this article interesting on leadership from the Harvard Business Review, Self-Awareness Can Help Leaders More Than an MBA Can, is worth reading. What we believe to be good Leadership traits have changed recently due to inclusion, diversity, and transparency becoming expectations in the workplace and organizations. Leading with authenticity, empathy and integrity requires one to be self aware in their environment. Knowing what your values are and how they impact your relationships with others will affect your success as a leader.

Mentoring Benefits

Mentors

Having mentors throughout my career has been an enlightening experience for me. Mentoring others has been equally rewarding. Mentoring can be within a formal program or occur informally. A mentor – mentee relationship is a commitment between two people.

The role of a mentor is to encourage the personal and professional development of a mentee through the sharing of expertise and knowledge. The mentoring relationship is developed through mutual trust, respect and communication. Both parties agree to meet regularly to exchange ideas, discuss progress and set goals for further development. Mentoring is a process.

Benefits

Guidance from a mentor can offer a mentee the opportunity for personal and professional growth. Mentors can offer advice on how to develop ones strengths, develop new skills, or expose them to new ideas and ways of thinking.

Confidence and Self Awareness

My first manager after college graduation was my first mentor I realized years later. He taught me to be selective of the battles I fought and told me to take my seat at the table, I earned it. Those words of wisdom have guided me throughout my life and career, especially with the “imposter syndrome”. Another mentor guided me through the maze of office politics in the federal government. I learned through her how political alliances materialize in the workplace. You can be an outstanding employee, but if others do not see your brilliance, your career will stall.

Insight

I have observed people that I have mentored develop to become outstanding speakers or improve their technical skills. Watching a mentee give her “Ice Breaker” speech in Toastmasters, thrilled me to the core. Watching another mentee learn cyber skills was rewarding. Through mentees, I have gained technical expertise and honed my leadership skills. Mentoring is more than the transfer of advice, knowledge and insights. It is relationship building.

Feedback

The reciprocity for mentors and mentees is an opportunity to reflect on ones personal and professional goals, exposure to new perspectives, and recognizing ones self worth. I am grateful for mentors who took the time to guide me through my professional journey. Thankful for the mentees and mentors who guided me through the labyrinth of life.

IRS – Tax Updates 2021

Tax Filing Date 2021

The IRS has delayed tax filing date for 2020 taxes to Monday, May 17, 2021. Texas has already been pushed back to June 15th, due to the snow apocalypse that shut down the state for a week.

This relief does not apply to estimated tax payments that are due on April 15, 2021. These payments are still due on April 15. Taxes must be paid as taxpayers earn or receive income during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments. Estimated tax payments are paid quarterly to the IRS by people whose income is not subject to income tax withholding, including self-employment income, interest, dividends, alimony or rental income.

Unemployment Benefits, 2021

For Unemployment benefits, The Stimulus act makes the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits tax-free in 2020 for taxpayers making less than $150,000 per year.

Recovery Rebate

Latest IRS information regarding refund timing for returns claiming a Recovery Rebate Credit that do not match IRS calculations. The IRS initially indicated these refunds would arrive within the normal 21-day window, they recently indicated they may take an additional 10 to 14 business days. 

More information from IRS on the Recovery Rebate Credit link.

Filing Extensions

Taxpayers who require more time for filing their taxes after the May 17, 2021, deadline can request a filing extension until October 15, 2021, by filing Form 4868 through a tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Filing Form 4868 gives taxpayers until October 15, 2021, to file their 2020 tax return; it does not grant an extension of time to pay taxes due. Taxpayers should pay their federal income tax due by May 17, 2021, to avoid interest and penalties.

How to File Taxes for Free

IRS Links for filing tax returns for free and other tax guidelines

Resolving Disputes with IRS

From IRS Website, Preventing and Resolving Disputes with IRS

Cogs of Reflection

Despite all the craziness, we need to count the moments of joy in our lives. This is the time for reflection, resilience and moving forward. Reminding everyone that this time will become the past and the future lies before us. Cogs grinding forward. The human spirit still breathes

 “Resilience is knowing that you are the only one that has the power and the responsibility to pick yourself up.” – Mary Holloway

March Hackathon

Hackathons generally begin with a presentations about the event or a specific topic. Participants suggest ideas and form teams, based on individual interests and skill sets. The main work of a hackathon can last anywhere from several hours to several days. 

Democracy Lab

Democracy Lab hosts hackathons every other month. Currently, I am on a team that is developing a web application for nonprofit organizations and people to share resources. Due to the pandemic we have been meeting virtually. The team is adapting to the virtual communication model.

Team members are from different time zones and countries; diversity is a benefit. Despite the distance, I think we now have the right skills and people to finish the project on the near horizon. Exposure to ideas, tools, techniques, and mindsets from many points of view is an asset. I do miss the pizza at lunch and the personal interaction. Sharing a meal is a bonding experience. Eventually, I think a hybrid model of virtual and onsite hackathons will develop as a result of technology and communication. The pandemic has forced the Digital Age upon humanity. The world is shifting from gears to clouds.

Collaboration in Agile Teams

Sharing what I learned from the “Collaboration & Communication Tools for Agile Team Leaders” webinar, hosted by Seattle Puget Sound Chapter, Project Management Institute (PMI).

Agile in project management is a process used to monitor a project throughout its life cycle. Agile  life cycles are composed of incremental steps, adapting to changes and repeating cycles to measure the process while working towards project completion. The Agile process is used in software development to define requirements and developing solutions throughout the collaborative effort, cross-functional teams and end users.

The webinar focused on ‘Collaboration’ which involves consensus brokered by a facilitator to engage partnership and alignment within the team. Trust is important when cultivating a team. People are more productive when they feel safe and can team members can take risks and make mistakes without a blame culture. Lack of trust within a team can be a result of technology, lack of transparency, egos, or poor communication. Culture change starts with us through processes and procedures.

Build a Psychological Safety Net
  • Create working agreements and establish boundaries
  • Be vulnerable; acknowledge your own vulnerabilities
  • Frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution issue
  • Ask a lot of questions

Leading teams implementing the Agile process in a remote environment has its own set of challenges. Face to Face communication is the best method to convey your message to your team. Listen, be in the moment and practice empathy. As a leader, trying to understand another persons point of view can be challenging. It is critical to listen to different approaches to solve a problem, especially with tight schedules.

The webinar introduced a few tools for Agile process for Project Management, I listed them below.

Agile Tools

Playtime in March

March winds chill the air

Ducks swim

People watch

Three Ducks

It was a beautiful day at the lake and playground. I wanted to be only five. I improvised; I can still act like five at the playground. Climbing the plastic mountain. Traversing across yellow and orange steps with glee.

I had a blast swinging from the monkey bars and sliding through tunnels and slides into the dirt. I did skip past puddles as I dashed towards the swing set. Swinging back and forth was uplifting.

Being silly is good for the heart and overall health Play promotes an inner joy that we tend to suppress as adults when we focus on responsibilities from daily life. It is time for a break from the dull routine.

When was the last time you played as if you were only five?

Embrace Change

We choose to embrace change, or to go with the safety net of familiarity. – Seth Grodin, It Is Your Turn to Lead, and It Is Always Your Turn to Lead

These words quoted by Seth Grodin are encapsulated in my brain as I am preparing for Memphis GiveCamp 2021, as a project manager overseeing three teams.

GiveCamp

GiveCamp organzations host weekend-long “hackathons” for good throughout the year in cities across the United States. During Memphis GiveCamp hackathon, programmers, designers, software professionals, project managers, tech support, and other volunteers, are donating their time to build web, desktop and mobile software for non-profit organizations in the Memphis area.

Working with a fellow GiveCamp organization virtually offers new challenges, ideas and creative answers, forced by the dynamic push to build virtual platforms in the “Cloud”, in a socially distance world. Leadership and team work crosses barriers that are fading as new hurdles become visible. The projects are designing websites, creating forms, and building apps. We have 34 projects and over 200 volunteers.

My past experiences at GiveCamp and other hackathons have taught me that implementing collaboration, critical thinking, planning and optimism can lead to developing a working product for the end user by the end of a weekend. Embrace change and what it can teach you.

Memphis GiveCamp 2021

Project status for Sunday morning at Memphis GiveCamp, volunteers are scurrying to finish and test the final product. It is amazing to watch creative and technical talent merge across time zones and countries. Closing ceremonies showcased weekend accomplishments!

Positivity Check

“In life’s vicissitudes, there is golf, music and macaroni”, I read this quote on a tombstone years ago. It still makes me smile. Starting this work week with smiles, happiness and positivity.

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” ― Robert A. Heinlein

“A smile puts you on the right track. A smile makes the world a beautiful place. When you lose your smile, you lose your way in the chaos of life.” ― Roy T. Bennett

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
 Helen Keller

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