Virtual Team Events – Gaming Night

If you are working in software development it is likely that your team is somehow distributed, eigther due to local distance or home office work. Outsourcing coding tasks to countries with lower labor costs looks promising to many managers, but often the challenges of communicating over a large distance and in a different language are underestimated.

The problem of distributed teams

In my current project, which is located in Germany, we collaborate with developers and testers  from Romania, that are members of our agile teams. Due to the physical distance, we face the common challenges of knowledge transfer and building a good team culture and personal involvement.

Lately the projects financial situation was bad due to overruns in development, mostly caused by lack of communication between the german and romanian devs.  The project got some management attention and after a root cause analysis the big question was:

How do we improve the relationship between the distributed team members?

In one of countless status calls with the management, a consultant who was hired to help us improve the efficiency pointed out how important it is to cultivate personal relations by visiting each other and have non-work related team events. “Well, we can’t do virtual team events, right?” was the reply of my project manager.


This made me think. There are many ways that people interact in a virtual way and not just for working. One that came to my mind immediately was gaming. There are many online multiplayer games that people can play together all over the world. Our dev team is relatively young and most developers I know like playing video games. The idea of gamification is spreading to other areas and also to the working spaces – so why not?

So the idea was to schedule an after-work event where we meet online and play some games together – a project Gaming Night. I proposed the idea and the other developers loved it, soI decided to plan the event.

What you need

We decided to pick only free-to-play online games, so the barrier to join the event is as low as possible. The ideal case would be a browser game, that does not even require installation or a beefy gaming machine. These games are rather simple and the long-range entertainment is rather low. We collected some ideas:

  • is a free browser game. You can create a private room and invite other players. One player picks a secret word and has to draw it –  the other players have to guess and get rewarded if they guessed correct.
  • World of tanks is also free to play, but requires installation. The players can create private games where they battle each other with tanks.
  • Team fortress 2 is a team-based shooter where players can pick different classes of soldiers and battle the other team.
  • Fortnite Battle Royale is a 100 player PVP game where up to 4 Players can team up and fight other players on a map that randomly gets smaller and smaller. The last standing man or team wins. The game principle is similar to Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds which is the current top hit in the gaming community.
  • Blizzard Heroes of the storm is a action strategy game where players can control a hero of their choice form the Blizzard Universe. There are two teams competing on an arena-like map where they have to conquer the other teams base.

Second you need a way to communicate during the games. There are multiple options like discord or teamspeak. We picked discord because it is easy to use and free. And last but not least, pick a date where most of your team members have time, we usually use doodle to organize our events. So that’s all you need, setting this up does not take much time (except installing the games might take a while depending on the internet connection). Put your game face on and have fun 🙂


Our first event was great fun and we already scheduled the second. Our team was relatively balanced, we only had one pro-gamer there, the rest where beginners (especially in that game) but we picked the teams so, that also the other team could win, if they used good tactics. I had a lot of fun and even if this does not improve our efficiency at work, we had a great evening together. We will see what the future brings.

What do you think about this? Do you have ideas for other games? You want to try this out in your company? Please let me know in the comments or dm me – I am looking forward for feedback and ideas!

An agile journey | Part 1_Introduction

In the last time I found myself obsessed with thinking a lot about agile software development methods and the whole idea around microservices, DevOps and continuous integration and deployment.

I think it started with reading the “Lean Startup” and “Lean Enterprise” books and listening to a lot of tech-podcasts covering microservices. These books really got me and helped me a big deal with understanding the fundamental ideas behind the above mentioned concepts and how it all fits together in a certain way (at least I think I got it …somehow).

My interest in these books was highly motivated by the fact that my current project faces a lot of trouble that affect my everyday work-life (and my private life as well, due to overtime and working through weekends). Deadlines are exceeded, scope has to be reduced although everyone on the team works his ass off and more and more people are pulled to the project and everyone is under constant stress.

Reading those books (and several others, I will link a list of books somewhere) and listening to podcasts, describing awesome architectures and this culture of getting things done on my way to work ,was such a big difference to the world I found when I arrived at the office, that I started to question more and more aspects of the way we worked, but also saw great potential in applying the things I heard and read.  Like every average worker would do, I started to complain about the points that frustrated me to the person I thought was in charge and capable of solving this issues.

The effect was depressing. Nothing happened, it always resulted in “yeah…we really should to this sometime” and everybody “being to busy to improve”. And things got worse, the project team was really unsatisfied and overworked and at some time, the project-manager resigned and left the company. A new project-manager was assigned and everybody was confident that everything will get better. But nothing really changed…I started to discuss my ideas in the team, talking to other engineers and architects, trying to plant little seeds of hope and pushing people to the direction I thought was best. And I was surprised as most people agreed and saw my suggestions as a way out, or even developed thoughts in the same direction.

Now it is 2017, a new year and yet still no specific actions have been taken, even though everybody sees, that we need to change the way we work and there are a lot of good ideas on improvement. I think this is due to uncertainty or the lack of experience how to implement these ideas in a practical way and of course the lack of time, because the workload and pressure did not really decrease. It is a circle.

I decided to stop talking and complaining and take action now to do everything I can, to strive towards an agile organization that delivers high quality software in an efficient way that people enjoy working in.

The “agile journey” is going to be a diary-like series of blog-posts on the actions and progress it takes. I have not worked in an agile project so far and lack any practical experience, but I am convinced, that this the right way for my project. I will try capture as many impressions and experiences I make on this journey in these posts and hopefully it leads to some productive discussions, new ideas or maybe even help somebody out there, who finds himself in a similar situation.

Lets get this done!

Side project – Building my own little software engineering lab

As a developer or software architect I always strive to explore new technologies, build some stuff by myself, try something or just hack around for fun. For most of these things, it is sufficient to have my stuff running on localhost, but the real fun starts with really distributed systems.

So my plan was, to build my own infrastructure to run stuff on using raspberry pis. They are quite cheap, don’t consume that much energy and are sufficient for most of my use-cases.
As I succeed with some of the things I wan’t to do, I will try to post a new article here.

The steps I already did:
– setup raspberries
– setup git repositories on raspberry pi
– run Jenkins on raspberry pi
– run docker on raspberry pi
– run docker container with mongo DB on raspberry pi

Next steps:
– run some of my node.js applications on raspberry pi
– automation with Jenkins

If you are interested in one of these topics, please let me know!


Go the extra Mile – Sally Challenge

This is the first part one of a little series I am planning for a while now. I would like to share some little games we use to do in our training group, usually after the workout that are fun, but also challenging, especially if you do them in a group.
Sally Challenge!

There is this song – Flower by Moby. The lyrics are quite easy – its basically just two lines:
“Bring Sally Up. Bring Sally Down.”
You can do this with a variety of exercises, we usually do pushups (but squat or pull-ups do also work). Every time the line “Bring Sally Up” comes up, you bring your body up and hold until the “Bring Sally down” comes up, then hold until the “Up” part starts again. Important when doing pushups: Do not lay down, hold your body just a few centimeters above the ground.There are just a few people in our group who make it to the end of the song. I think my record is around minute two. Here are some videos of me and people from my training group doing the challenge:

The song is available on sound cloud:

How long can you bring sally up?! Try it!

Does information technology have a positive effect on your health?

I Everybody, I am planning on writing a seminar paper on how people are using information technology for their health and fitness.
Therefore I need your support!
Please take part in this quick survey ( it is in german only):

Thank you!!

Hey Leute, ich schreibt eine Seminararbeit zum Thema “Informationstechnologie für Freizeitsport und Fitness”. Dafür brauche ich Eure Unterstützung!
Bitte nehmt an dieser kurzen Umfrage teil, das würde mir sehr helfen 😉

Vielen Dank!!

Freeletics coach – Week 15 HELLWEEK!!

Freeletics - coach week 15 Part 1

Freeletics – coach week 15 Part 1

The 15th week of a Freeletics program is essential – it’s the Hellweek! That means 7 days of training, no rest-day and always giving everything. The mere amount of exercises might seem impossible at first – but you are a Free-Athlete and nothing is impossible! Just keep going, you will be surprised what potential you developed over the past weeks.

During this week you will put your body under huge stress, so the key elements of a healthy lifestyle (like mentioned many times before) are more important than ever! I can not stress it enough: Eat clean, sleep enough (7-8 hours) and trink a lot of water! During Hellweek the recovery phases will be extremely low so you need to provide your body with the best you can do in this short periods.

Freeletics - coach week 15 Part 2

Freeletics – coach week 15 Part 2

The most challenging part will be the mental negotiation to do a workout every day. After 3 or 4 days you will reach the edge of your physical capacity. Your workout times will become longer and that is normal. You might want to take a day of and if you must, you can. This was my second Hellweek and as I remember, during my first Hellweek I did a rest-day on day 6 – but did the 6th and the 7th workout on the last day. This time I went through with the whole thing and even did some extra exercises and broke a lot of PBs even on the second half of the week.

During this Hellweek I did:

  • 595 Burpees
  • 280 HS-Pushups
  • 560 Pullups
  • 705 Pushups
  • 905 Situps
  • 1550 Squats
  • 275 Jumps
  • 425 Straight Leg Levers
  • and a little bit of running

To overcome this immense workload will make you strong – mentally and physically. But let’s not talk – let’s do it! Have fun with the Hellweek and don’t let it get you – you can do it!

Freeletics coach – week 13 & 14

Hey, I am back! Sorry for not posting for two weaks – but I had a lot of things to do. My project at work is at a critical state and everybody had to work a lot of extra hours. It is a software development project and we are slowly running out of developers – to complete my currently assigned tasks in time, I would have to clone myself three times 😛

Freeletics coach - week 13

Freeletics coach – week 13

But anyhow, now christmas holidays are about to start and it got a little more quiet and I finally found the time to write this post. During the past two weeks the freeletics workouts were a really good distraction from work. Nothing is better to clear your mind after a hard business week than a good and intense workout – besides alcohol, but you feel much better afterwards…So, today I want to talk about how freeletics – or sports in general – have an influence on my performance at my working place.

Training made me much more resistent to stress and increased my productivity. Before I worked out so much, being at the office for 8 or more hours exhausted me. It was hard to work extra hours and if I did one day, I left earlier on the next day because I had no more energy. And even on a normal working day, I felt that my productivity was at a really low level for the last 2 or 3 hours at work. On a stressful day, this point was reached even earlier. Most of the time, when I returned from work I was so tired,  I didn’t want to go out  anymore.

Now – here are the differences. I worked almost 10 hours every day for the past 2 weeks and this feeling of having my head full of things, that always gave me a headache during the day did not come. Many of my coworkers, who had to work extra hours too, were on a bad mood after short period of time or even got sick because of the stress. I didn’t. I can not really explain why – I had more to do then ever before, and even much more demanding things – but they never tied me down. I suppose it is because of the following things:

Freeletics coach - week 13

Freeletics coach – week 14

First, I feel better than ever before in my life. Eating healthy and habitually doing sports are the basis for this. If you are in a healthy and physically good state, progress will come and with progress comes self-esteem and confidence. And other people realize this and they will treat you in a much better way. You can work much more productive because your body is much more reliable and during stressful times it is easier for you to focus and keep your head clear. I realized this in many grueling meetings during the past days where complex things were discussed over hours. Most of the people got confused, lost their focus, got angry or backed down completely. And even though I was a rather small fish among these people, it was me who tied the important topic back on the agenda or showed solutions when it seemed like we ran into a dead end many times. Before I changed my lifestyle, I was rather the guy who was sitting in meetings and just trying to follow and it was always another person who brought up the solution.

Another key factor is the will to take challenges. If you are doing high intense sports, you will not be able to avoid challenging yourself. And if you do, you will see that almost every challenge can be achieved if you just try it. You may fail for the first time, but in the end you will succeed. You will learn that every challenge, however big it may look, can be beaten. You just have to keep going, focus on the next step but not loose the main target…And always care for yourself. As I said, a healthy body is the basis for all this. Eat clean, do sports, sleep sufficient, trink a lot (water or tee) and no or at least just a little alcohol.

You can see the workouts I did in week 13 and 14 in the two pictures. Week 15 is going to be the last week of this coach ( the coach will continue but I will stop to write a post every week). It is going to be a hellweek, I know this because I am already in it and almost at the end, as I am writing this lines. But you will see it next week. Until then, keep going, take your vitamins and remember: even though life is hard some times – you can be harder!

sincerely yours


PS: here are are some inspirational pictures of healthy food 😉

fish with vegetables, brown rice and tzatziki

fish with vegetables, brown rice and tzatziki

whole-grain noodles with prawns and pesto

whole-grain noodles with prawns and pesto

wholemeal sandwich with grilled vegetables, sheep milk cheese and salat

wholemeal sandwich with grilled vegetables, sheep milk cheese and salad

Freeletics coach – week 12

This week I decided to take 5 training days instead of my usual 4. It wasn’t really so, that I had more time this week…but I just wanted to try something new and to change my workout-ryhtm. It’s all about variation to keep things interesting. So, getting the 5 days done was hard, furthermore I had a really hard week at work and stayed in the office much longer than usual – but I made it and it feels like a huge progress now.

Freeletics week 12

Freeletics week 12

If you remember, I unlocked the “Handstand-Pushups” skill last week, and this weeks workout plan already included a lot of them. Doing 100 of them on the third day was almost impossible, I had to switch to pikes after 10 repetitions. But thats another great thing on Freeletics, it always gives you new challenges you can work on.

I also got the Freeletics nutrition guide this week. Lately I ran out of ideas for healthy and protein rich meals and ended up eating a lot of low fat quark, eggs and protein muesli. The nutrition guide provides you with recipes and general tips for a healthy nutrition. There are two kinds, one for loosing weight and one for building muscles. I chose the second one. It starts with an introduction that reminds you to eat more protein and less industrial sugar, fast-food and instant meals – but I already stopped doing this when I started with Freeletics. It also has 6 recipes, two for each meal of the day. I tried everything this week and I have to say, they are really good. The recipes are rather simple and usually I cook in a more advanced way. But I tried all of them without any modifications and the result was always good. Here are pictures of my breakfasts this week. The bircher muesli was really good to take to work and I could prepare it in the evening – very nice.

Scrambled eggs with tomato and feta

Scrambled eggs with tomato and feta

Breakfast: Bircher muesli

Breakfast: Bircher muesli

Sandwich with carrot and cotton cheese

Sandwich with carrot and cotton cheese

There also was huge a jubilee this week – I completed my 200th workout. And like my 100th it was Zeus…amazing coincidence or what? So I am looking forward to the next 200! Cheers everybody and never give up!

Freeletics coach – week 10 & week 11

Freeletics coach - week 10

Freeletics coach – week 10

This time it’s two weeks in one post. The first day of week 10 was hard – a lot of Burpees. If you hate Burpees and sometimes ask yourself why you are doing this to you, check out this page and join the million-burpee-challenge. To see how many crazy people are doing this many Burpees every day might push you.

Apart from this my week had the usual Venus sessions. I think almost all of the past weeks had at least 2 Venus workouts..and I can see and feel the 200 Push-ups on my chest. I would say it is in a better shape than ever before. I also broke my PB again, slowly but constantly I continue to make progress.

Freeletics coach week 11

Freeletics coach – week 11

Week 11 started with a lot of Burpees too, Burpee Frogs are even harder than normal Burpees I think. They are not done by counting the repetitions, but by doing them on a given distance. How many repetitions you do, depends on how far you jump – and jumping takes strength. So when your legs start to feel heavier and your jumps become shorter you need to do more repetitions to reach the required distance. It is cruel but effective…and looks kind of ridiculous 😉

My workout-plans became a little bit one-sided lately, a lot of Venus, Artemis  and Poseidon. To unlock new workouts, you must acquire new skills on your freeletics profile. These are advanced exercises that are extra tricky and you might need a lot of strength or balance. Do not worry if you can not do them from the beginning – I think no average person can do this. In the image below you can see the available skills and wich I unlocked. You unlock a skill by doing one repetition according to the rules in the describing video.

Freeletics advanced skills

Freeletics advanced skills

This week I unlocked the Strict-Handstand-Pushups. This is a crazy exercise. You need to stay in balance while all of your blood rushes to your head – and then you do pushups. It took me a while to find the right balance, take care that your hands are not too close, as it is much harder then. Also try not to make a hollow back – tense your shoulders and your back.

I did around 5 repetitions to find the correct technique. During the first two I bent one of my legs – this stabilized my stand and helped me to find the right position for my hands. Go ahead and try it. Now I will see how this new skill influences my weekly workout plan.

I also tried to do a one-hand-pushup…but this was too hard. My upper body did not move an inch away from the floor…long way to go!