The Before Time, Where There was Weeping and Wailing, and Gnashing of Teeth
One aspect of my career transition consists of writing a lot more.
And I found that I had truly missed it.
Sure, I had typed tons and tons of stuff before. But a lot of it covered such thrilling topics as documenting queries, or making lists of terms used by public service officers. It very rarely encompassed topics with wit, or style. And I certainly did not have permission to make up any of it.
NaNoWriMo, I Love You
I had known about NaNoWriMo for a while, but hadn’t thought I had anything to offer.
In 2013, I woke up with an idea during the last week of October. I created a wiki and an outline for it, and signed up.
And I wrote. And wrote.
Then about halfway through the month, I had finished. By the end of the month, the story was edited.
It was and is the right thing to do, and the right path.
In addition, it feels fun. And it feels exciting. It feels like it’s a fit.
Furthermore, it does not feel like something where I’m stretching to fit into someone else’s idea, or parallel someone else’s vision. And I certainly don’t feel like I was going through the motions. In addition, it does not feel like ho-hum, same old-same old.
Furthermore, it releases a pent-up inner artist who was shouted down by pretty much everyone I knew for way, way too long in my life. And that is exceptionally freeing.
It feels right. And it feels honest. So it feels free. It feels good.
Hesitation Generation. So as I travel around the ‘net, I also take note of what is happening in my own backyard. What I have seen is an odd and somewhat disturbing trend.
I am the Project Manager for Able2know and in some ways it’s got its finger on the pulse. But, a caveat, the pulse is rather limited. This is a mere fraction of the web and therefore, by extension, an even tinier fraction of the world. Yet this is the world I know, and so I will report on it.
A2K is a generalized Q & A website where people can post all manner of questions. The availability and quality of the answers varies greatly. Keep in mind: no one is paid to answer questions on Able2know.
Hence inquiries about voltage are generally answered with an admonition to hire a licensed electrician. Requests for medical advice are answered vaguely, and nearly always involve telling the poster to follow up with their personal physician. Inquiries about the law receive a nearly identical treatment, save for the advice to contact an attorney.
You don’t need a degree in psychology to be able to dispense advice. Anyone who appears to be clinically depressed is told to seek treatment. Anyone who appears to be abused is advised to leave, and to contact their local authorities.
But it’s the people in the middle who I’m talking about.
What does it mean when someone stares at you? What is a good idea for a first date? How do I ask someone out? How do I get someone to ask me out? And the saddest – how do I get over a heartache?
And it’s amazing to me (and it really should not be anymore) how many people are paralyzed at the thought of actually speaking to the object of their desire. They wait and think they are seeing signals, and then they ask what those supposed signals mean. It’s like reviewing the Zapruder film, frame by agonizing frame.
My advice is usually – ask.
How do you feel about me?
Do you want to go out for coffee?
Are you seeing anyone right now?
What would you like to do together?
So many of them thank me and promise they will ask (I have heard back from some, and they tend to report either success or relief that they finally know).
But why the heck couldn’t these people have figured that out from the get-go?!?!?!
Back to Ike
It can be a little bit like the 1950s, where girls preen and sit by the telephone, waiting for Prince Charming to deign to call – and heaven forfend he should take more than 20 minutes to get on the stick and call! And guys hem and haw about the most letter-perfect thing to say, when the reality is that the perfect thing to say is something, as that beats the pants off saying and doing absolutely nothing. The same is true in non-cis relationships, of course.
I’m not so sure who that dynamic favors, except for the phone companies. Because minute numbers go sky high, and Facebook’s advertisers benefit as people check each other’s statuses and relationship statuses obsessively. And then they get to serve yet more ads.
It seems as if everyone wants to fast-forward through the movie, and cut the suspense. Instead, all they seem to want is the sunset and the fateful kiss. Dorothy clicks her heels together before she ever leaves Kansas. And nobody seems to miss the Munchkins and the Wicked Witch and the Tin Man and the rest of the middle part. All that matters is the destination, and never the journey.
Something is missing here, and what’s missing is the taking of chances. I get that these are generally rather young people. The vast, vast majority of them are between the ages of 13 and 28. That 15-year span is the worst – it’s a combination of raging hormones and self-absorption. But nowadays that’s spiked with a seemingly inbred inability to take a chance. Plus it’s all fueled by the artificial immediacy of far too much social media.
Instead of risk-taking, everyone seems to want the risks scrubbed out of their lives. They want the endgame handed to them on a silver platter yet refuse to do even a smidgen of the legwork required in order to get there.
A second caveat – this is, to be sure, a small group of people. Furthermore, they are self-selecting. Very confident folk are far less likely to request advice in any endeavor. Plus there is the age issue, as I have already mentioned.
People in their forties ask relationship questions, too, but those tend to be different. They are less about an initiation of connections and more about either reentering the dating pool or the dynamic of being a parent (or dating one) while in the game.
Upshot, Kinda, for the Hesitation Generation
So, where does that leave the Hesitation Generation and the rest of us?
An inability to take risks does not bode well. It clouds decisions on everything from trying a new brand of fabric softener to consenting to an experimental drug trial. It colors employment and investment choices, and keeps people out of new business ventures and away from new books, films and music.
The upside, naturally, is that it may be preventing sexually risky behaviors. That’s a good thing, of course.
However, risks are often good, and a life without them is rather dull indeed. It can be mindless consumerism as people give themselves the same personal rewards over and over again.
The trick, as in all things, is to find a balance.
And now, a bonus.
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?
One last thing – here, for free, for Hesitation Generation, is my standard heartache cure. Your mileage, of course, will vary.
Expect to feel lousy for a while, and understand that that is a natural reaction. Congratulate yourself – you were affected enough to really feel something.
Relationships often keep us from doing other things, such as seeing other friends. So spend some time with your friends.
Explore things to do on your own. Some are inward, such as making art or even baking cookies. Others are more outward, like taking a class.
More You Can Do
Fill up your time. Being busy gives you few opportunities to wallow in misery. Your boss is likely not without sympathy, but you still need to write the reports, etc. or do whatever it is that you do. Treat your leisure time a little bit more like a job, in the sense that you should make some commitments and stick by them. If your leisure time is to paddle a canoe, then paddle the damned canoe. Don’t back out of that.
Do something physical. Exercise can not only fill up your time, it can also help with depression.
Do something for someone less fortunate than you. Read to a blind person. Serve at a soup kitchen. Visit people in a nursing home. Volunteer at a group home. These actions don’t just help the community, they can also help you gain some sorely needed perspective.
Don’t jump into a new relationship right away. Being single does not have to automatically mean being lonely. This is a time to cultivate your inner resources.
If you think you need it – and in particular, if you are experiencing suicidal ideation – please seek out the care of a professional. There is no shame whatsoever in getting the help that you need. If you need medical help to mend a broken heart, it should be no different from seeking medical help to mend a broken arm.
Adventures in Career Changing means, well, a lot of job applications. Beyond networking, education and research, there are just sometimes some forms to fill out. I have filled out – I have no idea how many. And they come as a bit of their own special Dantean circle.
#10 – Keeping the Company’s Identity a Secret
I get that there are legitimate reasons for keeping quiet about company identities. They might not want to tip off competitors that there’s an opening. Or maybe they don’t want the person currently in the job to know that they are being replaced. I recognize this. I get it. But it’s also a bit of serious unevenness. You know who I am. And you get to look up all sorts of stuff on me. Yet I don’t get to do anything even remotely like that where you’re concerned. Where’s the fairness in that?
#9 – Multiple Job Postings, While at the Same Time Penalizing Job Seekers for Multiple Submissions
This goes along with the previous one. When you don’t tell me who you are, and you post the same job on, say, Monster and Dice, how, exactly, am I supposed to prevent a possible double submission? What happens when you also distribute this opening to a half a dozen recruiters? Yep – I end up with multiple submissions. And guess who gets blamed for that? Hint – it’s not the prospective employer.
#8 – You Make Me Fill Out a Form Even As I Give You My Resume
I know that you have laid off your entire clerical staff, and you likely did so in 2003 or earlier. I am also well aware that you are looking to get my resume into a pigeonhole pattern so that it can be readily compared to others that are in the same pigeonhole pattern. Because taking 25 seconds to scan my resume with your eyes is just too much time.
Okay, perhaps that wasn’t very nice, but every career counselor I have ever known has said to spend hours and hours and make it a mondo-perfect document. But the reality is that resumes are barely glanced at. Hence, rather than creating exciting visual presentations (unless you’re in the arts), the focus is on keywords. And I’m fine with larding my resume up with keywords (unfortunately, BTW, this also means adding misspelled keywords).
I also get how badly you want uniformity. But – surprise! There’s software that will do this! So, instead of making me jump through this particular hoop, could you invest in a system such as that? The beauty of your software doing that, rather than me doing it manually, is that you can also do some filtering. Buy yourself a good system, and you’ll get a lot more done.
#7 – S…l…o…w Sites
I know, I know. The server is down. No one’s been able to fix it since Employee X left three months ago. Whatevs. But in the meantime, I am supposed to be putting my best foot forward (and all the time, I might add. I’ve had employment counselors who’ve essentially told me to look sharp every time I leave the house, as I never know if I’ll be seeing a potential employer. Evidently this includes grocery shopping and running 5K races. Silliness). But you aren’t. You want me to apply and not get frustrated while doing so? Then fix your site.
#6 – Ignoring the Fact that I Will Not Relocate
If it’s available, I always (always!) check the box that says that I will not relocate. And I will not. There is no coaxing me. There are no perks to sending me to Minneapolis (or wherever). I ain’t goin’. And it is all over all of my applications, profiles, etc. This is one of my really annoying pet peeves.
Yet I am still called by recruiters who tell me about some awesome, kick-bun opportunity and everything sounds wonderful and then, oh by the way, where is it? And it’s in Plano, Texas. I live in Boston. That’s a helluva commute, don’t you think? This is so basic, it should be like a standard production of Romeo & Juliet. Shouldn’t the only people who audition for the role of Juliet (in a traditional production) be, I dunno, female?
I recognize that your job is to get a person into an opening at some company. And I further understand some people who will change their minds with enough incentives. I also know that there are folks who rent apartments briefly. But really – at the very least – be up front, immediately – with the location, and stop wasting both of our times.
#5 – Vagueness
Oh, man. You can’t be bothered to say anything about the position? Then how the hell can you honestly expect to get the right people in? I know that, a lot of the time, HR is the one writing the job description. But, truly (and this goes quadruple for large organizations), the job description should be a part of the company’s overall records. And so when HR (or whoever) writes up the job description, they should pull the basic framework of it from their records. And said records should be updated, perhaps every year, with things like new software versions and anything else that’s fairly major that might have changed.
Case in point. I used to work in data analysis. And this should have a basic description, which should include the system(s) being used, the version(s) of software and the general day-to-day activities. So is the opening more report creating, or report running? Will I train people in how to read it? Will I perform analysis in order to help senior management interpret it? Or am I supposed to just churn out whatever the system spits out? Of course, the upside to all of this is, I get to have ready-made questions in the event of an interview.
#4 – Requiring Salary Expectations Way Too Early in the Process
I have seen, on several occasions, vague job descriptions requiring some form of salary expectation mentioned up front. So I get that you want to weed people out early, and waste less time. I get that, and I do appreciate it. However, this is so early, it’s not funny. Plus, if I don’t know who you are, I have few ways of figuring out whether my # is anywhere near jibing with yours. And I change my expectations, depending upon what, exactly, you want me to do. The application stage is a lousy time to ask about money – on both ends.
#3 – Requiring Me to Waste Time Updating Preexisting Information Manually
A rather large employer in my area (Boston) uses a resume management system with both a resume piece and a manual piece. I filled out the manual piece in – no lie – 2008. It remains that way, even as I provide an updated resume. What to do? Do I erase the entire shebang, and just send in the resume? Or do I update? Something else? It provides a distorted picture of where I’ve been. Make up your mind – resume or manual entry. Or, better yet, just take my resume. I suppose this is the corollary to #8.
#2 – No LinkedIn Functionality
While I suppose this is not strictly necessary, it’s awfully nice to have. And, in particular, if you’re advertising the job itself on LinkedIn, why can’t I just apply by connecting you to my profile there?
#1 – Security to Beat Fort Knox
Of course, I want to maintain my own security. I certainly don’t want anyone else to be able to mess with my profile. But why, oh why, do you need me to change my password every other month, to some wacky combo of letters, numbers, special characters and, I dunno, cuneiform?
I swear, the security on some of these apps ends up more complicated and Byzantine than I have for my bank account!
Huh, maybe I should just change banks. Harvey’s Money-o-Rama might no longer cut it.
Two Dishonorable Mentions
A – Seemingly Endless Questions
And the pet peeves continue! Because apparently, you do not trust me enough to self-select out of the running because I don’t know Software version infinity plus one or whatever. But, really, folks! Save something for the interview! Because I guarantee you, you will not get every single thing answered beforehand.
B – Interviewing Too Many People
Screen on the phone. Then screen with your resume software. Screen with your keyword searches. And then screen with your well-written job description. Screen with your HR people calling. Screen with your published salary range. Finally, screen with a little social media investigating. And then your interview process can be for 1 – 5 people who can do the job. And decide amongst them based upon the intangibles.
Yet I have been in interview situations where there were a good twenty people up for one position! Sheesh! You are wasting everybody’s time. And, frankly, behavior like this makes me wonder about you as a company, and about you as a manager. Do you always hem and haw like this? Do you know naught of efficiency?
Don’t worry, I’ve got good things to say about the job search process. And I’ll post them. But for right now, these are the real stinkers. Got any pet peeves you’d like to share?
Do you like collaboration? C’mon, all the cool kids are doin’ it.
Well … maybe.
We Mean Well
We all start off life (or, at least, us American type folk – your mileage may vary) learning to collaborate. First of all, we learn how to share. And we are broken into little groups. Furthermore, we pass our science classes because of, in part, how well we work with lab partners. In addition, we might try out for a class play or community theater, and become a part of an acting troupe. Or we play on sports teams or join a fraternity or a sorority. We join churches and volunteer groups.
So why is it so difficult for so many people to collaborate at work?
To be sure, I think a lot of us try. We dutifully send out some sort of an enormous email to the people on our team. And we attend meetings, and we might even take notes at them. In addition, we put our two cents into various documents. We may even attend various team-building exercises and emerge from them confident that our collaborative hurdles have been overcome and from now on, it’s cooperation all the way.
However, lots of us, aside from what is almost forced togetherness at work, end up as Lone Rangers. And we don’t even have faithful sidekicks.
I think that some of it may have to do with work itself. The process of education is competitive. And the process of interviewing is competitive. The process of advancing a career is also competitive. No wonder it’s tough to get together and set all that aside.
I think that email fosters the siloed feeling of being alone out there, just you against the onslaught of various missives. When was the last time any of us truly enjoyed the process of grabbing emails, opening them and answering them?
I mean at work, people.
Email feels like nagging. And it feels incessant. It is a baby bird. And while I love little baby critters as much as the next person, I have to say, these little guys can get annoying awfully quickly.
So … what to do? How to deal with the baby birds or, maybe, deal with fewer of them?
Collaborative Software, Forums, Wikis and Spreading the Wealth
Email is so last week!
The thing of it is, email is a perfectly fantastic medium for a lot of things. And Word, for example, is a perfectly fantastic word processing program. But just like Word is not the best tool for making spreadsheets, email is often not the best tool for collaboration.
Instead, you need to work with software that truly fosters communication and collaboration. You need to draw upon the wisdom of crowds.
Oh my God, you want me to do what?
I want you to talk to a bunch of people. In a forum.
But they’ll be mean to me. They won’t answer my question. They’ll steer me in the wrong direction.
Not necessarily. Consider (insert shameless plug here) Able2Know. Yes, it’s true. There are people who will be less than wonderful to you. There are people who will misdirect you. And there are people who will be friendly but, essentially, cannot answer your question, and so their presence on your question thread is a waste of your time.
There are also people who will take time out of their day to Google for you. In addition, there some people have actual knowledge, and will help you out with things like Latin translations, geology inquiries and philosophical arguments. And there are others, because it is a large and (mostly) friendly forum, who don’t know the answer but will steer you to the people who do.
Wikis, Databases and One-Stop Shopping
There are plenty of other places online with common, pooled information. Memory Alpha, for example, is a large wiki about canon Star Trek in its various forms. SparkPeople, while it has dedicated health, fitness and nutrition experts, also has a huge section filled with the weight loss and maintenance wisdom of people like you and me. And IMDB (The Internet Movie Database) is the product of all sorts of people working together, including actors and actresses, agents and fans, to get the most comprehensive information on film and television, all together into one neat, easy-to-use package.
What do these three rather diverse sites have in common? They all have people who have a passion for the subject matter, who are willing to do a few things –
Research and make sure that their information is as accurate as possible
Spend time getting the information onto the site and
Work with IT in order to assure that the site remains fast and easy to use.
Oh and, except for IMDB Pro, they all have another thing in common.
Amazingly, they are all free to use.
Collaboration: Bringing it All Back Home
So what’s in it for you, to use a forum or a wiki at your place of business?
Get out of the email rut and make it easier to actually find what you’re working on. 1,000 emails in your inbox are not possible for you to read, digest and work on. You may as well delete them. Because you are not reading them.
Make it easier for everyone to see, at a glance and at the same time, what you’re working on. The mass email to fifteen people will inevitably begin to splinter, as someone changes a status from the To: field to the CC: field, or leaves someone off the distribution list entirely, or hits Reply instead of Reply All. Using a forum or a wiki eliminates that as a possibility and fosters collaboration better.
Urgency can more granularly be communicated. I use Yahoo mail at home, and I like it, but there are only a few possible modes. Read/unread, star/no star. Well, what about urgently starred? As in, it’s not only important, but I need to do it yesterday. Alas, the only way I can get this across in my own mailbox is to use an “Urgent” folder. But that doesn’t tell anyone else, at a glance, that a particular item is red-hot. Life is not binary, not really. Why should your communications be that way?
More Benefits of Collaboration
Oh, and one more thing. Collaborating on one thing can often lead to collaboration on other things. The people on Able2Know who get together to help solve problems that someone might have in introducing a new puppy to a household also do things together like play Fantasy Baseball. They rally around when someone is ill, congratulate users when they marry or become parents or grandparents and even meet on occasion. In short, they reach through the pixels and become friends.
Social Media background check being used for jury selection
Social Media background check? What? So in 2010, the ABA Journal reported that lawyers admitted to using the Internet to ferret out information about potential jurors.
And essentially what happens: in some instances, while reading off the names of the members of a jury pool, a lawyer or paralegal Googles them. Sometimes the names are released the night before (at least, in Los Angeles County they can be), but it can also happen where lawyers only learn who would potentially sit on a jury on the day of selection.
However, preventing counsel from checking potential jurors’ backgrounds online might pose a Constitutional question and may very well violate the First Amendment. Though the law remains fluid in this area, with no decisions or tests yet.
With all of the above said, I don’t know where I fall on the spectrum. Preventing Googling doesn’t just seem like a First Amendment issue – it also seems to exist as more of a common sense one. Because with the invention of the telephone, when a lawyer suddenly could learn more about jurors (and far more quickly than sending letters or asking a messenger to run somewhere or another), was that ever questioned? And did it bother the jurors? Or did they perhaps not know about it? Or, maybe even if they did know, were they still so dazzled and flattered by the use of the brand-new technology? Did it make them not care, or see any implications?
And then we have the other end of things. Do I really want to be Googled if I’m in a jury pool? Welllll, lawyers look for every other possible advantage and nugget of information, so what would lead me to believe that they wouldn’t look there as well? If I exist as a somewhat sophisticated potential juror (and I’ve practiced law fer cryin’ out loud), I know that, in particular in an expensive or high stakes (read: death row) case, both sides will look for every possible angle. They scrutinize my bumper stickers. And my dress. My hair. Whether I’m wearing nail polish. My voter registration records. My work product, if available. Because they look at anything and everything.
Plus, as an avid Facebook and Twitter (and LinkedIn, and SparkPeople) user, I well understand the openness of my online life. And, for me, particularly after losing a boatload of weight, I feel it’s important to be open about a lot of things. Perhaps I overshare. No, wait, I definitely overshare. I know my life is open and there are all sorts of cracks in the armor.
Yet at the same time I, like many other people, feel there’s still a place to put on the brakes. Somewhere in there, there are vestiges of privacy. However, are they still available to me if I end up in a jury pool?
However, I’m not in a jury pool under my own volition. Hence I believe that, even as I share yet another “before” photo or mention that I’m turning a particular age or whatever, that I can throw up a wall.
Can’t I? Even a little bit?
I’m curious as to what others think. Is this a squishy, I-want-to-be-left-alone area, or should we all just get over it? Is it the crest of a slippery slope? Would it would erode privacy even more? Or did I get all hot and bothered over nothing?
The Auto-Service economy is coming. And as computers have increased in sophistication, as have other aspects of automation, it appears that the fundamental underpinnings of our lives are being altered.
The Twentieth Century
Consider how life was at the start of the twentieth century in the United States. Many people did not own a refrigerator. Automobiles barely existed. A trip in an airplane (excuse me, aeroplane), was an occasion for diary entries and letter-writing and was practically a media event unto itself. A lot of people lived and died within a small area.
The economy was mainly driven by the production of goods, and by farming. Jobs existed in service industries, of course, but a lot of folks made their livelihoods in factories, steel mills, coal mines, and the like, or they stayed down on the farm.
End of the Twentieth Century
As that century ended, however, the economy had changed to more of a service model. Factory and farming jobs went to machinery and, increasingly, to robotic workers. All of these people needed to have jobs and so they changed over to service industries. In particular, as the population aged and also became wealthier, many of those service jobs migrated to the medical and hospitality industries.
However, given the rise of the internet and customers’ familiarity with tablets (and their impatience with slow, inattentive, or error-prone servers), the service economy seems to be on the cusp of changing over to what I’ll call an auto-service economy.
Humans Replaced By Robots?
Instead of getting a human at the other end of the line when calling customer service, we’re lucky if there’s a phone number at all. As I have told numerous people complaining on Able2know – you’ll never talk to a human when seeking Facebook help. Unless, of course, someone could legitimately answer your call with, “How many I help you, Mr. McCartney?”
The Boston Globe published an article about how to handle this new paradigm shift. Because it happens as we move further and further away from human interaction. We move away from service, and help, and into the realm of mechanized assistance as the norm. In Use tech to your advantage when seeking customer support, perhaps the most helpful tip they provide: mention in a never-ending customer service phone call that you want to ‘escalate‘ the problem. Evidently that’s the magic word which gets you to a supervisor.
But if the supervisor is a robot, well, you’re on your own.
Now, Phil and I had known each other for a few years. We met through LinkedIn.
We have never actually seen each other, in person. He’s not even on the same continent as I am. Yet I wrote the article all the same. It’s on Food Addictions and Treatments.
Now, did I expect fame and fortune from all this?
Well, I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be nice. But do I honestly think that empires will rise and fall based upon my one little article?
Of course not.
Karmic Wheel Spinning
But I think it illustrates the point I have made about collaboration. That is, sometimes you just up and do something for someone. And you do it because you just, well, want to do something for someone.
So that ends up a reward unto itself, is it not?
And by the way, I hope you do read the article. Because I think it’s the kind of thing that’s got to be written about. And it continues to shock me that other writers wouldn’t touch the subject matter with a ten-foot pole, as if it would give them cooties to talk about addiction. As if being at all sympathetic with people who are ill would, somehow, mean they were condoning those lifestyle choices or admitting that they, too, were imperfect.
Hey, I will shout it from the rooftops – I’m imperfect!
And if I’m not mistaken, the sky did not just come crashing down.
Go forth, and I hope you’ll collaborate, and do things for others. And the karmic wheel will turn for you, too.
Robot Building for Beginners by David Cook serves, as to be expected, as a beginner’s guide to building a small working robot. In this case, the robot’s body is mainly constructed from a sandwich container, so the robot is named Sandwich. Its intended usage is to follow a line. I purchased and read this book in an effort to understand more about my colleagues and work at my employer, Neuron Robotics. It did not disappoint.
In order to construct Sandwich, Cook walks the reader through various aspects of not only robot building and design, but also basic electrical engineering concepts. While the book is certainly no substitute for even one semester of Electrical Engineering, it does help to bring some understanding to a layman like me. In the interests of full disclosure, I majored in Philosophy in college. However, my father and father-in-law are both engineers, and my husband works as an engineering draftsman. I have heard some of these terms before. Cook explains terms like multimeter, capacitance and resistance fairly well. This is in a lively and engaging style that never talks down to the reader.
Cook’s good humor extends to a section showcasing equipment that he’s fried by making various mistakes. He makes it clear. Be safety-conscious and budget-conscious (he provides specifics and current pricing for most of the items used and referred to). However recognize that, sometimes, stuff is just going to happen. You’ll break or burn things, or just not get them right the first time. Shrug it off and move on – it’s all a part of the learning experience.
The book is large and difficult to digest except in small bites. It is intended as a step by step guide to Sandwich’s construction, but I think a better usage – in particular for laymen reading the book but not actually building the ‘bot – comes as a reference and resource guide.
It almost makes me want to try soldering again – but I’ll have to fight my coworkers to get to the soldering station.
I was hired by WebTekPro, a Houston web design company in December of 2014.
But the story of getting a job is a bit amusing.
For the past few months, I have been performing various social media tasks for a Star Trek podcast. Its name is, ‘The G and T Show’. This entails things like live tweeting the Sunday shows, preparing interesting lists and notes for Facebook, optimizing blog posts, adding appropriate annotations to YouTube, crafting pins for Pinterest and posts for Tumblr, and growing all social media presences. It’s been challenging, fun, and rewarding.
Along the way, we interview any number of Star Trek professionals, including legend Larry Nemecek. Nemecek has been interviewed several times, but this time it was in conjunction with an effort called Enterprise in Space. It was a group interview, and that included Johnny Steverson, the Chief Development Officer. Steverson was impressed with the interview and with this small podcast’s social media presence. He asked the hosts, “Who does your social media?”
We talked less than two weeks later, and I had a job. I’m an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Specialist. I like the work.
Sigh. I really had wanted the work at WebTekPro to work out. But such was not to be. I will not go into the details. But suffice it to say, everyone out there should protect themselves. Here it is, over 5 years since this post first went live. And the lesson remains.
For my first job via UpWork, I never received payment. And, they tried a limited form of identity theft.
So that first part? It was all eerily, achingly, familiar.
To be a worker online, sometimes that means you need to be trusting. But at the same time, you need to be cautious.
Getting everything in writing is helpful. But in this case, even that was not quite enough.
I was uninspired, and didn’t want to just subject all two of my readers to my ramblings. Plus, I was looking for an actual day job.
Well, I found one. It’s a temping gig for a large financial services company which shall remain nameless. I am a Financial Analyst, preparing and running database reports. The job is rather similar to several other gigs I’ve held. And then I will be back in Social Media full time.
In the meantime, the Bot Boys are not forgotten, and I actually blog more for them that I had been. The need for Social Media exposure does not diminish just because I’ve got a new gig.
But I wanted to reach out, on this blog, for the first time in quite a while, to offer up some of the things I’ve learned along the way. So gather ’round, and hopefully I can help someone else to navigate the wild world of startups.
The best gift that anyone can offer startups is money. Advice and expertise are great, and they are helpful, but it all pales in the face of do-re-mi. And while startup competitions may not want (or, truly, be able) to part with too much of it, it is money that is most needed because, to truly succeed, someone has to quit their day job. You know, the thing I just got a few weeks ago? Yeah. Someone has to take a flying leap into outer space – but that person still needs to be able to afford ramen and a futon.
Speaking of ramen and futons, the startup game is, often, played by the young. This is not to say that those of us who were born during the Kennedy Administration have naught to offer. Rather, it is that we have mortgages. We may have children. We have lives that often require more than minimal Connector-style health insurance. We may have aging parents, credit card debt or any number of things that make living off ramen, on a futon, nigh impossible.
However, this does not mean that the not-so-young do not have a place in the land of startups. But that place is often a different one. The enthusiastic feel of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney
(now I’m really dating myself) yelling, “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show! We can get the barn!” is replaced with “Let’s see if we can get this thing to work before defaulting on the mortgage/Junior needs braces/gall bladder surgery is required/etc.” Our needs are different, and we may be more patient with setbacks. This does not necessarily spell being less hungry but, perhaps, less able to truly go for broke. The not-so-young person’s role in a startup is often more advisory. We are the ones who can’t quit day jobs until the salaries are decent. And that day may never come.
Startup events are best when they have a focus. Mass Innovation Nights, I feel, is something of a Gold Standard. There is a coherent beginning, middle and end to each event. It’s not just a lot of business card trading. The participants and the audience get good conversational hooks. Making contacts is vital – I hooked up with the Bot Boys at an event like that – but it can’t just be “Hey, let’s get a bunch of startups together, eat pizza and trade business cards!” The startups that are succeeding are too busy for such activities. And those that aren’t ….
Cloud computing, apps and software companies are everywhere in the startup space. With the Bot Boys, we can stand out a bit as we are a hardware company. Having a product that people can see and feel is valuable amidst a sea of virtual stuff.
The downside to that is that hardware companies have spinup problems that cloud computing companies just don’t have – app companies do not have to worry about shipping and packaging. They do not have to perform quality control checks on shipments. They do not have to work on product safety.
No one wants to talk to the job seeker, but everyone wants to talk to the entrepreneur – and those are often the same person! Human nature is a bit odd in this area, but I have seen people who are barely past the “I’ve got this great idea I’ve sketched on the back of a napkin” stage where there is a flock of interested people swarming around, whereas a person honest about looking for work is often overlooked.
Charisma counts. While one founder is going to be the inventor or the developer (the idea person), the other pretty much must be the socializer. Otherwise, even the best ideas are all too often buried. Someone must be willing and able to do public speaking, elevator pitching and sales. This need not be an experienced sales person, but that person has got to be a lot friendlier and a lot more fearless than most.
Most startups and most entrepreneur groupings will fail, morph, coalesce or break apart before succeeding. And perhaps that is as it should be, for being nimble is one of the characteristics of a successful startup. If the product sells when it’s colored blue, but not when it’s colored green, dip it in dye, fer chrissakes!
We all work for startups, or former startups. Even the large financial services firm was, once, a gleam in someone’s eye. Every invention started off as an idea. Even day jobs were, at one time, in places where the founders were living off that generation’s equivalent of ramen and sleeping in that era’s analogue to a futon. Yet somehow, against the odds, they made it.