All Posts By

Bryan McLean

Need to build out your Agile Team? Think Veterans

By AgileNo Comments

As a product manager, when I go to networking events I often get asked, “What did you do in the past?” Most people are not surprised when I tell them I served eight years in the Marine Corps. What is surprising for many is when they find out I served in the infantry. Many people have a preconceived idea that the infantry does not provide transferable skills to the tech world. In this article, I’m going to explain reasons why veterans make ideal team members for the Agile process and benefit your organization as a whole.

Logs Fitness Exercise Teamwork Training Cooperation

  1. Veterans Know Their Team

    Being a scrum master or product manager is a lot like being a fire team leader. A fire team leader is usually in charge of 3-4 other teammates. Each member of the fire team has a unique skill. It is the job of the fire team leader to know how to maximize each individual team’s skills and exploit their capabilities to crush their objectives.

    Similarly, a scrum master is part of a small team of people with unique skills. Whether it’s a frontend, backend, or quality assurance engineer, a scrum master needs to know the unique capabilities of each member and how that role affects the team. Knowing how each team member approaches problem solving from their unique perspective allows the scrum master to execute better sprint cycles, reduce stress on teammates and allows them to perform at an optimal level.

    Agile Team

  2. Veterans and Scrum Masters Excel at Removing Impediments

    In the military, I was occupied with the concerns of my team’s welfare and the three B’s: Beans, Bullets, and Bandages. Beans meant you made sure they were well fed, paid and that their basic necessities were taken care of. Bullets meant a person was well supplied with the right tools for the job. Bandages refer to a member’s health. If a member was sick, I made sure they went to medical. The concept that was drilled into me was the necessity to take care of your people and help them remove the roadblocks from their life.

    In an Agile environment, scrum masters are also obsessed with similar concerns. For example, when my team works overtime for weeks on end, it is my responsibility as the project manager to make sure they get the breaks they need to recharge. If a teammate has an issue with their pay, I will stop everything I am doing and resolve it right then and there. I do this simply because they would be preoccupied otherwise. Having distracted workers who cannot focus on the ticket in front of them brings down the whole team.

  3. Veterans and Agile Team Members are Adaptable

    Veterans were trained to be adaptable in any environment and under extraordinary situations. The field phrase often used is “improvise, adapt, and overcome.” The Agile process is designed to be flexible to adapt to the complex and ever-changing environment of the market and stakeholders. Given a two-week sprint, most teams can accomplish a lot of work. If a change occurs, the team is well poised to regroup and begin work on the priority almost immediately. Adaptability for an agile team is a key skill needed to survive in any environment, especially in the hostile free market.


  4. No is not an Option

    Military members are trained as a group to understand the concept of mission first. Once the goal is clear, the finish line will be crossed. This means they will stop at nothing to do what is necessary to succeed. Often in the military plans go wrong, and it is up to the fire team to make sure that plans are executed.

    Recently, my software development team worked 70+ hours a week for several weeks through the July 4th holiday. It was necessary to launch our client’s web platform. Military people understand this concept and experience of grit at a level that most do not. Sacrifice during critical times may make the difference between success and failure.


Final Thoughts

I’ve only discussed a few of the things that make a service member an ideal teammate in an agile process. In my experience with careers in both the military and in the software development world; knowing your team, removing impediments, being adaptable, and having grit are the transferable skills that most employers want in all of their employees. It just so happens you don’t have to look far for a veteran, even if their background is from the infantry. Oorah!

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Oh No! Your Website is down! Did you forget to renew the SSL Certificate?

By DevelopmentNo Comments
It’s an early Tuesday morning, and you stroll into the office pleasantly and leisurely since it’s a beautiful day. You stop at the coffee station and pour yourself a cup of reheated, lukewarm, leftover coffee from yesterday’s late afternoon brew. After you go back to your computer, you stumble upon the fact that your website is down.  You immediately start to go into crisis mode trying to find out why. 
Despite multiple reminders and emails informing your team that it was due to expire, you discover that your team did not renew their SSL certificate in time. In this pinch, one would have a thousand questions, and I hope to answer the big ones.  


What is an SSL Certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It is the SSL which enables the encryption of your data and securely transfers it from one device to another. Every time you use a web browser and want to visit a website, your computer (the sender) will submit a request to the web server (the recipient) for that website.  

The web server receives the request and generates a public key (a way of encrypting the data) and replies back to the sender saying, “Ok go ahead and send your traffic with this code!” The sender transmits the data using the public encryption provided by the web server. The web server receives the encrypted message and then uses its internal private key (unique to that device) to decrypt the code. SSL and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are both recognized standards to implement this encrypted process.  

Why is it important?

To those not in the tech world, an SSL simply means that your data is encrypted as best as humanly known and ensures that the websites that you are visiting are secured. The emails you send are transmitted safely, and you can even purchase your dachshund’s cute hot dog bun Halloween costume in a secured manner.


What happens if/when it expires?

Well, it depends on if you planned for it to expire or not. If you have a new site, which requires its certificates, then you can let the previous certificate expire. There will be no issues provided the new site launched before the certificate expires on the old site (more on that a little later). If you did not plan on it expiring, in most cases you will simply renew with the vendor you currently have the certificate with. You can also have your developer install the newly purchased certificate on the server. This can usually be done in under an hour for someone who is inexperienced.

Many complications can arise to include your website hosting. They may have been sold and bought by other third party companies. Or perhaps you can’t verify the domain name with the set of email addresses because the owner of the account is out of town.  

What Kind of Problems can arise? 

Consequently, replacing a certificate can involve many steps: one being the tracking down of who has bought the domain. This can usually be discovered by talking with customer service representatives at your hosting company or with your IT staff. It may take several customer service representatives and a huge time commitment to track down the information, to set up new admin accounts, and to provide the right privileges. If you do not adequately plan for these contingencies, it is possible you may run out of time, and, at best, the site will go down and be unavailable to the user until the new certificate can be put into place. Further complicating the issue, the new third party vendor you just recently discovered may not even have normal operating business hours to help. In short, many of problems can arise that you may or may not have thought about initially.

Small vs. Large Businesses

If this is a small company, then the business loss will be minimal. But it is embarrassing for you as a professional that this was allowed to happen. In the case of a huge organization, a site being down could result in the loss of a considerable amount of money due to losses in opportunity and operational costs (per hour!). It is imperative that a detailed plan is pursued to ensure this process is not costly.


How to prevent it from expiring

  1. Document your process. This process should not be underestimated. Many companies start out with a plan and never update their system plans and documentation. A company that sells ice cream makes its money producing and selling ice cream, not updating their network documentation. You will inevitably need to dig into the process deeper than you anticipate.
    Three days may not be enough time, and for a larger organization, a week may not even be sufficient. Even if all goes well, the process should take approximately an hour. It is possible to spend upwards of 20 hours with multiple people over many days if things are not straightforward.
  2. Have clear and well-defined practices documented and laid out for employees to follow. It is important that this documentation is reviewed and updated accordingly as time and technology changes.
  3. Know the vendor and what they are capable of handling. Plans to use a wildcard certificate may fall flat if the company hosting the website does not support a wildcard certificate “at this time.”  This one issue could cost the team already in crisis at least an hour to resolve the issue.
  4. Be nice to the customer service representatives. They have an enormous task of helping people every day. Most of the time people will be angry when they call. You will get far better service and support if you are friendly, proactive and helpful. Finally, remember they are the only way you will get the solutions to your problems.


Have any more questions about the exciting world of website certificates? Was our advice helpful?  Please let us know. We are happy to help at