Gene Kim – The Phoenix Project

Why did I choose to read the book?

I really liked the description of this book. It is marketed as a business novel, of which, as far as I can tell, there are but a handful available.

What is it about?

It’s a novel about the newly appointed Head of IT trying and fixing IT processes in his department. By streamlining processes, via treating IT similar to  a manufacturing line and implementing new concepts, saves the company and it’s most important project, the titular Project Phoenix.

How did I like the book?

This is not a classic business book as it does not share the same inner-monologue style, inherent of most business books I have read, but has it’s themes and concepts woven into a story (and makes it a novel I think…), which – to my surprise – is exiting and very fun to read. And I cannot express what a joyous read it was, it may even become my favourite so far. It’s content was easily accessible, incredibly smart and I found the story astoundingly exiting, almost like a good thriller. The concepts and ideas presented were great and even if these were meant to be implemented in IT context, it may just as well be used in other business contexts and departments, if only in part. The only thing I didn’t like, it referenced and in some parts spoiled a similar business novel “The Goal”, which, much to my dismay, I haven’t read yet, but at the same time bumped it up my reading list, so much so, that it will be my next read. Overall, amazing book. Hope the authors will do something similar in the future, as it will be a day one buy for me.

Learning Japanese

I have been learning Japanese for a whole year now and have to say, what might have looked as a easily doable task in the beginning (its but a language, how hard could it be) has resulted into an enormous project.

First off, why did I start in the first place?

This one is quite easy, every time I read something from japan, may it be novels, comics or other stuff, I always felt (and still feel) I should be able to read this in its original form, not in this (often) badly done translation. Also, I have wanted to learn it for a very long time, but always found it to be the wrong time or not to be a priority. When I passed 30 I thought I might as well just do it, otherwise it won’t ever work out.

What am I learning exactly?

All of the following things need to be learned in order to reach proficiency and to be able to read most anything Japanese:

Three Writing Systems, need to be learned. Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji

The so called Kana, Hiragana and Katakana are “easy”. Each compiled of about 50 characters, representing the sounds of the Japanese language. Both cover the same sounds, but are used in different ways.

Kanji are hard. Punishingly hard. Each Kanji can represent different sounds. Which sounds to use, depends on context / its combination with other Kanji or Kana.

What else must be learned?

Vocab and Grammar (as with every other language as well).

What have I done up to now?

  • Reached proficiency of both Kana (Hiragana and Katakana)
  • Learned about 300 Kanji (of approx. 3.000 – 10% – yay!) with their respective readings and meanings.
  • Vocabulary of about 1.000.
  • Teensy bit of grammar.

What am I using?

     Grammar:
          Genki books
     Vocab:
         Memrise (for Genki and Additional vocab)
     Kanji:
         WaniKani
 

What is next?

Straight to the point, my grammar is bad. Without it, I have no hopes of reading or understanding anything. I have a fair vocab and kanji knowledge, but this does not help with text. Its always “yay I know these words and they somewhat make sense” but that’s it, no context, quite frustrating.
Therefore, strictly books and their respective vocab only, until both Genki books have been finished, then back to learning more Kanji.

PRINCE2 Foundation Certification

 

Thanks to my employer DKV Euroservice, I was able to make my PRINCE2 Foundation certification. Thank you very much for the opportunity!

The certification test itself was scheduled at the end of a three day training, which included all the basics and then some, of the PRINCE2 project management methodology. The training was held by Mr. Armbruster who is a trainer and consultant at Copargo GmbH and thanks to him and his teaching materials, the test was a breeze.

Before the training, we were given two books (you always get bonus point for free books from me), to prepare for the course and the test. Those were Mr Armbruster’s very own “Grünes Gold” and Ms Friedrich’s “PRINCE2 Kurz und bündig”.

“Grünes Gold” especially was a blast to read, as it was very informative and a business novel (if you followed my blog for some time, you will know my fondness of business novels and edutainment), a very entertaining one at that. All thumbs up here, as it transported all the basics in a very well presented manner. The other book is a good summary of the PRINCE2 methodology, and great for looking up details on the fly, but nothing to write home about.

Overall, passed the exam, got my certificate, the course and materials were a blast, therefor, once again, thanks to everyone involved!!

prince2-kundbgrunes-gold

Martin Ford – Rise of the robots

Why did I choose to read the book?

This book has been the winner of the 2015 Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award and I wanted to know what the fuss is all about. Also, the books subtitle “Technology and the threat of a jobless future” sounded interesting enough to warrant a read.

What is it about?

Ford shows with this book, how technological advances, specifically those in software and robotics, will render a lot of jobs, currently considered safe (paralegal, nurse, truck driver…) obsolete. He starts with an historical analysis, how automation has changed the world and availability of jobs, then introduces technologies which are partially available today and are expected to upend whole industries.

How did I like the book?

I really like the book. I like the way it has been written and I really like the theme and content. Also, I find this book scary, terrifying even. At the same time, a lot of the content should be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, a lot of jobs are even today subject to automation, but I doubt all of the impending changes described will come to pass as predicted. Still, the realistic descriptions on what jobs will likely be automated, on how politics and the whole economic system is not far off an paradigm shift is simply terrifying and too realistic and close to home. Everyone interested in the possible ramifications on oneself, one’s family and job should certainly take a look.

Michael Lewis – Moneyball

Why did I choose to read the book?

First off, I know next to nothing about baseball. I played some in High-School, during my time in the US, but aside from some basic understanding of it’s rules, I know next to nothing. Why then did I choose to read this book? To my understanding, this book is not solely about baseball and I felt it outside my comfort zone, which made me bump it up my reading list, as I hate missing out on great stuff and knowledge simply because its outside my comfort zone.

What is it about?

The book provides an inside look on how the Oakland Athletics (short: Oakland As), a relatively poor US baseball club achieved success, while being one of the least funded clubs in pro baseball at the time. It describes how it’s general manager and former pro baseball player Billy Beane together with his assistant Paul DePodesta, used statistics and market inefficiencies to assemble the best possible team he could afford with what little money he had, making his club’s ratio of money spent vs. games won by far the highest in pro baseball at the time.

How did I like the book?

I liked the story of an underdog rising to prominence via outsmarting the competition. I also liked the authors approach of telling his findings in little personal stories of people involved. Most of the book and stories were very interesting, especially all parts covering the personal stories of Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta and how they proceeded in their endeavour. As stated at the very beginning, I know next to nothing about baseball. Which brings us to what I did not like about this book, it is written with a certain type of reader in mind: baseball fans. While most stories are interesting, the name dropping, baseball stats and insider intel presented mean nothing to me. Often times, names were dropped where I had the feeling, the author expects you to know who this person is and be in awe, which….I don’t and I’m not….. Had I been a baseball nut, I probably would have liked the book better, as it stands it was okay. Overall, when the book was about how David used his cunning to fool and outsmart Goliath, I loved it and it inspired me to question conventional wisdom and to search for inefficiencies to exploit. Whenever it was about baseball players, their stats and play styles, I was bored.

Peter F. Drucker – The Effective Executive

Why did I choose to read the book?

When starting to write this blog, and wanting to write about books which I have read, why not start with the basics and a business book, more often than not, placed in must read or top business book lists. Also, the book has repeatedly been detailed as essential reading by Jeff Bezos, head and founder of Amazon.com, for whom I hold great respect.

What is it about?

The effective executive by Peter F. Drucker, originally  written in 1967, has often been named a basic and must read book for managers and executives alike. It explains the principles of management as defined by Drucker.
In essence, the book elaborates on the following:
  • What is effectiveness?
  • Why must an executive be effective?
  • How can effectiveness be achieved?
All these point are explained in detail with many examples and advice or lessons of how to learn and internalize the steps to reach effectiveness. The books main emphasis is on how effectiveness can be achieved and explains this in great detail, with a lot of examples and recommendations on how daily routines should be managed and on what the executive should focus.

How did I like the book?

Why the book has been named as essential reading in so many places makes total sense to me. It is very easy to understand and entertaining, but at the same time very dense in content. Drucker has included several examples to each point being made, and summarizes the main points very well. Though some aspects of the book show their age (written in 1967, before the Internet and Email was a thing) and the author’ views on American politics can be distraction at times, the key aspects of what executives are and should be (doing) remain relevant today. Also, because of it’s density and scope, I will likely reread this book at a later date, as I can see a lot of points given by Drucker, which are not yet relevant to me, but will likely be in the future, depending of job context. Overall, short and easy to understand book, which every top and bottom executive should have read at least once.