Categories
Career changing Personal Work

They used to call me Robot Girl

They used to call me Robot Girl

I haven’t blogged for a while. Yeah, I know.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
    Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland and Mickey ...
    Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney from the trailer for the film Love Finds Andy Hardy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    (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.

  4. 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 ….
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.

And a lot of today’s startups can, too.

See you ’round the scene.

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Categories
Career changing Social Media Work

Demand for Social Media Jobs is Rising ….

… but don’t go celebrating the end of the recession just yet.

US News and World Report states that there were about three times as many jobs with “social media” in their titles in November of 2010 than in the same time period in 2009 — at least on the Indeed job search aggregator site.

This trebling occurred over the course of all of 2010 — November is no fluke.

Um, okay. So, that’s one website and one kind of title. What about other kinds of job titles, such as “New Media Marketer”, “Community Manager” and “Facebook FanPage [sic] Marketer”? The US News study hardly seems comprehensive. A quick search just now, and just for Boston yields over 1200 jobs with the word “social media” somewhere in their descriptions. When the search is narrowed to just the job title, the number of job postings plummets to 57.

So are there more jobs out there, or fewer, or what?

More, maybe. A savvy job seeker should certainly conduct as thorough a search as possible. And, that same job seeker should load up his or her resume with as many key words as possible, in order to match as many openings as possible (this is what a job seeker should be doing, no matter what the sought job is). But it’s a bit tricky knowing what an employer wants, and is going to emphasize. Some want a community built from scratch. Others want to grow a Facebook page from a few dozen fans into the hundreds of thousands. Still others want a blog to take off, or for Twitter to be mastered and monitored. And a lot don’t know — they just know they have to get out there. Somehow.

Many of these openings seem, to me, to indicate that a lot of companies may have one very specific idea in mind. Perhaps they are looking to clone one beloved employee who is suddenly retiring or otherwise moving on, or maybe they are attempting to follow just one vision. And that vision might not be as broad as it should be. Social media is going to continue to be a source of employment openings. And some lucky few will get to fill these openings. My crystal ball continues to be cloudy but I strongly suspect that 2011 will see some tightening up of requirements and wish lists. I think that companies will look to places like HubSpot for more standardization and certification. I feel that it will continue to become less and less of a free for all. As always, your comments are welcome.

For more information, see the December 30, 2010 edition of Brain Track.

Categories
Career changing Events Work

WPI Venture Forum

Without getting into too many specifics, let’s just say I know where I’m going to be on Tuesday, November 9th.

WPI Venture Forum.

Wish us luck.

Categories
Social Media Work

Maker Faire and Mass Innovation

Welcome to Maker Faire and Mass Inno!

So Maker Faire and Mass Inno are where it’s at. Seriously.

My company, Neuron Robotics, has two events coming up.

I am more or less in charge of events so I am hopping. I put together tweets, I have a boatload of work blog posts going out, I’m updating LinkedIN and Facebook and adding the events to those calendars, I’m adding the events to other calendars I know about, and I’m sending emails.

I’m a little tired.

Maker Faire and Mass Inno Make Good Sense

Now, I don’t mind doing this. And the two events both make a lot of good sense for us. Maker Faire may have customers. And Mass Innovation will have people who will probably tweet about us.

My main source of anxiety right now is making sure that we get enough votes for Mass Innovation. See, we can come, and we’ll get a table. That part is no problem. But only the top four of the eleven nominees get to present. I know we can kill on a presentation. And I have plenty of confidence in the process. But it’s like your child running for Student Council President. You want it all to work out.

So, if you would, please, I hope you’ll Vote for Pedro. Er, Vote for Neuron Robotics.

Thank you.

And as for that Other Event…

Almost 10 years later, I can honestly say that the best thing we did at Maker Faire was have cold water and cups. It was a scorcher! And we had candy, as I recall.

If that does not sound like sales then ding ding ding you guessed it!

So, I was learning. And so were the guys. Neuron Robotics, as of the writing of this update, is pretty much long gone. But it lives on, in a small way, on a WPI wiki and even Wikipedia.

 

Categories
Career changing Events Work

TEDxBoston!

My company is presenting there!

Wanna say hi? Then swing on over to here and register (it’s free).

July 27th, 6 – 9 PM, Microsoft NERD Center (1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA). 11th floor.

Or, if you like, watch the webcast, here.

Our hashtag is #NRBR.

Be there. Aloha.

Categories
Work

More about our first event

Last night, I helped host our first event to promote Neuron Robotics. Our first idea from it was to provide considerably more notice, as we could have promoted it better and gotten it listed on a good half dozen or so calendars.

I also learned that the really high heels look good, but I pay for it the following day. I suppose I knew that already.

My boss and I each brought a DyIO and we talked about not only it but also the Bowler Communications System (BCS). Our Development Lead, Kevin Harrington, did an excellent job explaining not only the system but also how the company was initially put together.

I think our guests were impressed (we were certainly impressed with our guests!). Plus we had a great time — we just enjoy each others’ company.

A special thank you and shout out to the lovely Paula who joined and supported us. Thanks, Paula!

And thank you for reading. We’ll have another event soon!

Categories
Events Work

My First Hosted Event

I am a tad nervous.

My company is sponsoring an event tonight. It is a Meetup for Tech Crunch, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in Harvard Square. The venue is John Harvard’s Brew House on 33 Dunster Street. Here is a map, in case you want to follow along.

I have clothes picked out. The camera is packed (I hope the batteries work). I even have calories saved up.

I want very much for this to go well.

At 8 PM, I will be taking a deep breath and plunging in. Big smile, business cards at the ready, DyIO ready to rock and roll. Only a few butterflies.

Categories
Social Media Work

My New Job at Neuron Robotics …

… or, how Janet Met Bob.

I had been looking for work for a while. The same things had been working all right, but it was time to shake things up. I was in a rut!

I received a notification of a job fair at the Microsoft Nerd Center, to be held on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010. Great!.

Except for one thing.

The subject was robotics.

My knowledge of the subject spanned R2D2, Lost in Space, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Star Trek.

In short, I was about as over my head as anyone could possibly ever be.

The event was free, and I figured, well, everybody needs social media marketing, right? So I decided to go anyway.

I got a haircut that morning (completely unrelated, I swear!) and prepared for the event by printing up business cards and generally doing pretty much everything but think about it. Onto the bus I went.

The space is interesting. It’s a two-level area, where there is a huge staircase in the middle, splitting up the lower level. Being that in a former life I was an insurance defense attorney, I always look at that big, beautiful staircase and think: someone’s gonna trip.

But I digress.

I walk in, and I am easily a good 20 – 25 years older than everyone in the room who isn’t an employer. I am one of very few females. And most of the job seekers are in corners or staring at their shoes. There are two skateboards in the room (fortunately, they are not being used — see tripping hazard, above).

I do not belong.

I do not belong.

I do not belong.

And that is all I can think of, but I plunge in anyway, and I talk to some people but, frankly, I can only reel off about five words before I’m done. I drop cards wherever I think I can.

And then I retreated to the sidelines, to an area where there was a large wall that showed information on all of the companies attending. I stare at the names, and I am having an existential crisis.

I do not belong.

I do not belong.

I do not belong.

Gawd, this is not good. I look up and I see this guy standing nearby. He is, perhaps, thinking some of the same things I am; I can’t tell of course (it turned out, he more or less was). He looks at me, I look at him, and perhaps there was a flash of recognition or sympathy or commiseration because he smiles, says, “What the hell!” and sticks out his hand.

He’s Bob Breznak. He owns a robotics company.

We chat, and I find myself becoming animated again. It is a free and easy discussion, on topic and off, and it is, above all else, easy. Hallelujah, saved from despair.

We part ways in order to mingle and network, but keep circling back. We are not there together, of course, but keep circling back anyway, you know like you do when you are at a party with a friend and comparing notes or taking a breather.

The evening ends and the next morning, I send a note. I hear nothing, and chalk it up to experience. I continue, as always, to go to networking events.

In late April, I get my reply. We start emailing, and agree to meet on May 10th. Coffee okay? Sure.

I get in early, and the coffee shop is playing The Smiths. This I consider to be auspicious. Bob arrives and we again chat easily. Finally it comes down to brass tacks. Do you want to help us out?

Sure. Details are discussed over the next few weeks, and I meet the rest of the team, and we hit it off, too. We agree on a shmancy title: Director of Social Media and Public Relations.

And I think to myself:

I belong.

I belong.

I belong.

The Name Side of my business card!
A bad scan of my Neuron Robotics business card! Meet me and you'll get a much nicer one.

Oh, and we make this: The DyIO!