Fail fast. Fail often. Fail forward.
This phrase has been ringing in my ears ever since I started my rotation, one that has been communicated to me through co-workers and leaders in the business. It describes an important methodology and mindset that I have learned to appreciate and love during my time here so far.
This summer is my first rotation as an ITLP (Information Technology Leadership Program) intern at GE Aviation. I work in Blue Ash, Ohio on a fastworks (GE’s term for agile) team with three other interns. My team and I have gotten a unique, hands on experience with the Product and Platform Services organization, where we’ve been able to work on several projects with a big impact on the overall business. Our first sprint focused on developing a solution to analyze the log files of a quality assurance tool used by technicians. As a Computer Science major, I love developing programs, but the fastworks methodology pushed us towards finding more efficient solutions. We discovered Splunk, a log file monitoring tool that could do everything we needed it to. Splunk will allow us to understand when and where outages in this tool are occurring, because outages create a huge loss in revenue. Our second sprint focused on testing two file transfer products. Currently, GE Aviation uses an archaic tool for transferring files which has a serious need for replacement due to it being 15-20 years behind industry standards. We tested use cases with two vendors to determine if they could meet our needs in this space. While the vendors that were selected did not have the full range of functionality that we needed, I learned a lot about the complexity of GE’s network and security standards. Currently, we are on our third and fourth sprint, where our third sprint concerns adding functionality to the solution from sprint one, and the fourth sprint focuses on writing a web application framework for viewing the progress of work orders.
From day one, I have been invited on a journey where I am able to address real needs of the GE Aviation business. Through events such as All Hands, lunch and learns, and 1x1s, I have been able to understand where I fit in the business and how the business operates. However, my rotation has not been easy. GE is a changing business, and because of this I have failed fast and often. During our first sprint, my team pivoted about seven times before embarking on the path that led to the best solution. My manager was aware of this, and encouraged us to have an agile mindset. It’s easy to become stiff and rigid in work, which makes it harder to adjust when things change. However, having a mindset where you fail fast, fail often, and ultimately fail forward should be your goal. Failure is unavoidable, but you must choose the direction you head after it. Will you go backwards or forward?
Having an agile mindset such as this has allowed me to truly grow during my time here so far. I have been able to learn through my projects, through conversations with leaders, and even through my peers. Thinking in this fashion has also helped me to stop fixating primarily on the small pieces of the puzzle I am working on and instead focus on the big picture. It also prevents me from becoming sidelined by unexpected changes and has allowed me to assume more roles and responsibilities. Ever since I started to apply this methodology to my work, my sprints and projects have operated in a better, faster, and more efficient way. Thinking back to when I first began my rotation, I am amazed in how much I have learned in just seven weeks. Whether you are a current ITLP intern or you are considering joining the team next summer, I encourage you to become agile. It’s okay to fail fast and often, as long as you continue to fail forward.