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This is a headshot of Jillian McBurney.

I have been training REM clients since I started almost 5 years ago.  In the height of my training days, I used to train clients 2-3 times a week.  When I was promoted to Account Manager/Project Manager the number of training sessions that I led became less frequent.  Now my training is limited to new REM employees and our clients if our primary support staff are on holidays or unavailable.

 

I enjoy teaching our different tools and I have become an effective trainer during my time at REM.

 

Here are some general rules that I follow in my approach to training.

 

I Come Prepared

I make sure that I understand the tools that I am teaching.  If I were to second guess myself or fumble over my explanations, I could very easily confuse the person that I am training.  I could also make myself, and the company, look foolish if I were underprepared.  I take the time to learn the tools that I am teaching inside and out.  Being prepared allows me to speak confidently and answer any questions that I am asked.

 

I Keep on Track

Quite often our clients will begin to ask questions that start to lead the training down a different path.  Although I encourage our clients to ask questions, I recognize that answering their questions right away isn’t always the best approach.  In many cases the questions that are asked will be discussed at a later time, so in the interest of keeping the training organized, I will acknowledge the clients question and let them know that it will be answered at a later point. This allows everyone to stay focused and on schedule.

 

I Listen

This may seem like a no-brainer but it is imperative that I actively listen to the individuals that I am training.  I listen to what they are saying so that I can correctly address their questions and concerns.

 

I Am Patient

Yes, training sessions need to keep moving but I also need to give our clients a reasonable amount of time to jot down notes, look at the examples that I am providing and allow them to see what buttons I am clicking as I navigate through the system that I am showing them.  When I train a client, it is typically the first time that they have ever seen the tools that I am showing them, so I slow down a bit so that they can absorb what I am teaching them.

 

I Provide Training Documentation

The documentation that we provide at REM for training is limited.  We provide a small synopsis of what will be covered but we do not provide step by step instructions.  We do this for a few reasons but the biggest reason is that we want our clients to be paying attention to us, the trainers, not reading along to a lengthy “how to” document.  The documentation that I hand out allows our clients to add their own notes on the points that are important to them and forces them to become a more engaged listener.

 

I Am Ready to Explain a Process Multiple Times and in Different Ways

A set of instructions that I give to one client may not resonate with the next.  I must be prepared to explain and show processes more than once and in many cases, in different ways.  Sometimes this means that I simply walk through the process again and sometimes I am required to explain the process in an alternative way, such as using different terminology.

 

I strive to lead training sessions that are relaxed and informative.  I want our clients to leave my training sessions feeling comfortable with what I have shown them and empowered that they can use our tools with minimal, to no assistance.  I believe that I am able to accomplish this by following my self-imposed rules listed above.

 

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This is a headshot of Jillian McBurney.

Although REM does accept projects that are better suited to a Waterfall methodology, the vast majority of the projects completed at REM follow an Agile methodology and in some cases, a hybrid of both. 

 

There are three primary types of projects that we work on at REM; website design (including our proprietary Content Management System, WebWiz@rd), custom functionality for these said websites and internal tools to make REM more efficient and precise in our day-to-day operations.

 

Because our websites are designed from scratch, it is important that our clients are involved throughout the duration of the design process to ensure that the design accurately represents them and their company.  Along with our client interactions, our team often collaborates internally during different phases of a website project, especially if the scope of the project changes during the design.   This is a great example of an Agile procedure that we follow.

 

On the same hand, WebWiz@rd, that is included with all of our websites, was built using both a Waterfall and Agile approach.  Although our developers primarily used their initial architectural plans from start to finish, which would follow a Waterfall approach, they did request insight from the rest of the REM team to get our input on usability and other factors that would directly affect our clients and support staff.  Incorporating both of these methods was necessary in the creation of WebWiz@rd and remains important as the tool is maintained.

 

When we are hired to build a custom solution for our clients we use a Waterfall methodology.  We gather all of the requirements from the client and then we design, build, test, (fix any issues) and deliver the tools to the client.

 

Similar to the way we built WebWiz@rd, when building tools exclusively for REM we follow a hybrid approach.   Our developers build the tool based on our requirements and ask for the teams’ feedback on particular pieces of functionality to ensure that our tools meet our needs.

 

There are pros and cons to both methodologies but I believe that REM has found a great balance and recognizes when one approach is more appropriate than the other, or when to combine the two.

 

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This is a headshot of Jillian McBurney.

Growing up I would have never thought that I would find so much interest and enjoyment in validating data; specifically, in data quality and data integrity.  My interests and strengths were in the arts and to be quite honest I don’t even think I mentioned the word “data” for the first 25 years of my life let alone understood what data quality and data integrity meant.  Even if I had been told their meanings at a younger age I was never in a position to understand their definitions in a practical way.

 

As I write this blog I am trying to think of any instances throughout my adolescence that would have predicted my interest in this area.  I’m coming up empty handed for anything obvious.

 

Regardless, it is something that I enjoy now and it is something that I am very good at.

 

Data quality isn’t optional.  It is a must. 

 

It is essential that our data is unambiguous and accurate to ensure that our day-to-day operations remain productive and straight forward.  This level of quality prevents costly errors and when analyzed allows us to make informed decisions. 

 

Data integrity is essential.  Full stop.

 

In our business there is no excuse for a lack of data integrity and as part of my job I am tasked with reviewing, correcting and enforcing data integrity across a number of REM’s systems; project databases, client datasets and financial systems.

 

Providing high quality data that is accurate and consistent across all systems can be a bit more time consuming but it is worth the extra effort.  Incorrect and disordered data can have very negative ramifications and can take much longer to fix (if any issues that arise can be fixed at all).

 

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This is a headshot of Jillian McBurney.

REM holds a weekly production meeting every Friday morning. 

 

With a coffee or tea in one hand and last week’s schedule, next week’s tentative schedule, and additional notes in the other, the REM staff gathers in our boardroom to discuss the-state-of-the-REM-world, as it relates to projects.

 

As the Project Manager at REM I am happy to lead our production meetings.

 

The format of our production meetings is very typical.  We discuss incomplete tasks from the current week and talk about the tasks that I have tentatively booked for the following week.

 

The meetings give everyone the opportunity to share feedback from our customers that could alter the status of a project and scheduling.  For example, if a customer is going on holidays for a couple of weeks this may force me to adjust the deadline of their project.  Likewise, if a customer has requested a new feature I will need to shift the effected schedules in order to accommodate the additional work. 

 

Our meetings give me the chance to confirm which members of our team can complete certain tasks in order to help balance the overall work load of the company. 

 

Our conversations help provide insight into our processes and customer relationships which is imperative for us to mature in our individual roles and as a company.

 

It is essential that everyone has a solid understanding of the projects that affect them, and in many cases, their colleagues.  Our weekly production meetings are an important part of our internal communication.  They help us remain prepared and productive and help ensure that our projects are completed accurately and on time.

 

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This is a headshot of Jillian McBurney.

I have spent the last 2 weeks working away at writing mid-term reviews for my colleagues.  I have a couple more to wrap up early next week.

 

This is my first time writing reviews.  It is a very time consuming task when one wants to do it well and I want to provide my peers with sincere and helpful reviews.  My colleagues deserve it.

 

While writing these reviews I am so strongly reminded of what an incredible team we have here at REM.

 

The amount of knowledge, initiative and productivity that this team encompasses is brilliant.  Our communication skills, our problem solving skills and our enthusiasm towards process improvement are top notch.

 

Individually and as a team we are a force to be reckoned with!

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This is a headshot of Jillian McBurney.

Product testing is a crucial part of our project development here at REM.

 

As part of my responsibilities, I am tasked with testing all of our released software.  This includes software for our clients as well as REM’s proprietary programs that are used exclusively by the REM team.

 

I first learned that I was a strong product tester within my first year at REM right after WebWiz@rd 3 was built and before we released it to our clients.  As with any software release, our tools needed to be tested for bugs, inconsistencies, inaccuracies and user experience.  I was asked to test the entire system and report on all of these factors and I did so very effectively. 

 

As a software product tester you must have a strong knowledge of what the software is supposed to do so that you can identify aspects of the tool that are broken or don’t behave as expected.  You can’t be afraid of “breaking” anything.  If you can “break it” there is good chance that your user will be able to break it as well and that must be avoided.  You must have excellent attention to detail and you can’t be in a rush while testing otherwise possible issues may be overlooked.

 

There are multiple reasons why deliberate testing is essential to any successful software release; a positive user experience and data integrity are two incredibly important reasons.

 

I have tested hundreds of tools and systems over the past 4 years.  I have examined systems as substantial as REM's WebWiz@rd and REM's proprietary internal CRM & Project Management System.  These systems take hours to thoroughly test. I have also tested much smaller programs that take only 30-45 minutes to test.  All of the testing that I complete shares equal importance.

 

I am quite proud of my contribution towards REM's hundreds of successful software releases.

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This is a headshot of Jillian McBurney.

At Work

 

Role at REM: 

Project Manager.  I ensure that REM runs like a well-oiled machine.

 

Education: 

Mohawk College – the 3 year Applied Music program. The trumpet was my instrument of choice.

 

Previous Lines of Work: 

How far back do I go?  Babysitting (which I couldn’t stand), Retail (which I tolerated), Landscaping (which I loved), self-employed wedding photographer (which I found very rewarding), REM Support and then REM Account Manager (which I thoroughly enjoyed).

 

Something That Makes Me Smile at Work: 

The quirky nature of my co-workers.

 

One of the Things I Find Fascinating: 

The Universe. 

 

Favourite

 

Web site:

http://www.wpja.com/  Wedding Photojournalistic Association.

 

Books: 

Anne of Green Gables.


Food:  Pizza, Toast with Peanut Butter and Honey, Fruit.
 

TV Show: 

Call The Midwife
 

Musical Artists:

Jann Arden, Loreena McKennitt, Harry Connick Jr., Great Big Sea, Sarah Harmer, Led Zeppelin - just to name a few.

 

Time of Day: 

The morning.
 

Season: 

Spring.
 

Places in the World: 

My home, my family’s homes and my friend’s homes – anywhere I’m having good conversation.


Recreational Activities/Hobbies: Kung Fu, scrapbooking, walking my dog, playing board games and cards.
 

Sport:

Kung Fu.
 

App: 

I don't have one.

 

Least Favourite

 

Food: 

Anything spicy.
 

Activity: 

Driving.
 

Time of Day: 

Between 12 and 3pm on a hot summer day.
 

Season: 

Summer.


Place: 

Hospital.

 

More Info

 

Best Thing Someone Said to You: 

“You did a great job Mommy.” 

 

Life Motto:

Try to be empathetic but do not be taken advantage of.

 

My Hero: 

My husband.

 

One of the Things I Find Fascinating:  

The human mind.

 

Most People Don’t Know This About Me:  I once said, “I like animals more than I like humans.”  I sometimes still feel that way!

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This is a headshot of Jillian McBurney.

Almost two weeks ago now REM hired another team member: Todd Hannigan!  

 

Todd is REM's new Customer Success Manager and I have the pleasure of introducing him to the WebWiz@rd tools over the past few days.  Each day we have jumped into a new module (or two) and I have shown him the basic and more advanced features of our tools.  We still have a number of modules to cover, but I think that we have made great progress so far.

 

Todd is an active, engaged learner and I am confident that our clients are going to be very pleased with Todd's attention to detail, his eagerness to help and his personality!

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This is a headshot of Jillian McBurney.

I'm not sure when my daughter snuck this lovely letter into my work notepad, but I found it this morning.  She's such a sweetheart.

 

Letter from Kylie
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This is a headshot of Jillian McBurney.

My favourite female designer here at REM (ok, the only female designer here at REM but she's still my favourite), is in the process of designing a new website for Merry-Hill Golf Club and Innerkip Golf Club.

 

I am particularly excited about these two new projects for two reasons.  Firstly, their existing websites are showing their age and are due for an update and secondly, their timing is perfect. 

 

They contacted us for their new websites during their off-season with the goal of having them populated and ready to go for the spring.  They have the energy and excitement for their new sites but more importantly they have the time to dedicate to these projects to meet their objectives.

 

I am eager to see what Christine, (my favourite female designer here at REM), has come up with!  I have no doubt that our customers will be really happy with the end result.

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