I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. I’m not the most technical nor the most social. I’m not the most athletic nor the most sedentary. But I enjoy helping people learn. Helping people grow.
In my view, there are two types of learning: structured and unstructured. Structured being the classroom setting with a set curriculum and standards which those goals are measured. Unstructured is the learning that happens when the teacher turns their back the smart kid next to you helps you understand a concept. Unstructured learning is equally as or more important than structured learning. Allowing groups to self teach has benefits far greater than the butts-in-seats environment corporations often try to emulate. A sense of community is born out of unstructured learning.
When I formed the Co-Op Community at my college internship I wanted to connect my fellow students and to provide them chances to explore their skills. It was important to me that the community members benefited not only by recognition but through personal growth. With monthly meetings, a co-op could present skills or topics they were passionate about. This allowed the group to learn from a peer and for our peers to practice their presentation skills. I remember one meeting where a programming co-op presented about Linux. This guy could talk Linux all day but he wasn’t comfortable in the spotlight. The presentation went OK. He was a bit shaky but I delighted in it. I understood I had fostered an environment where he felt comfortable to try something new. Now the next time he presents Linux to a group, I know he’ll be more confident and will perform at a higher level.
“Give them enough rope to hang themselves.” What a freaky saying but one I think presents an important message. It’s about fostering an environment which allows people to fail. Through failure we’re taught many lessons and learn more about ourselves than when we succeed. I have a failed plenty of tests – most of which never made it to the kitchen table – and through that I learned how I learned best. The same idea can be applied to the work place. If you never let your employees get into a little trouble every so often then they’ll never grow personally or professionally which means your business will never grow. Where’s the fun in that?
*I’m pretty bad about staying on topic and fully developing my ideas but I’m running out of WiFi on the plane.
I haven’t been at this consulting thing for very long but I can already see huge personal growth in my self. I contribute this to being a “sponge”.
What do I mean?
When I say “be a sponge” I’m not talking about the fry cook from Bikini Bottom. I’m talking about absorbing as much knowledge, experience, information and advice as possible.
Close your mouth and open your ears. Listening and observing are the keys to absorbing as much as you can. As consultants and employees we’re paid to have opinions and sometimes we’re all too anxious to have it heard. Be patient and let the other half of your conversation express their views. And listen. Instead of assuming you know what they’re going to say and then be seen as rude, let the other party tell you what they think needs to be said. This is important for two reasons: 1. the speaker feels listened to and understood before you begin to construct your response; 2. you can observe a lot subtleties in how a person presents their point of view.
And ask more questions. The more questions you ask, the better you get. You’ll begin to start asking the “right” questions and learn more. I don’t think college grads ask enough questions. They’re too intimidated or scared. They don’t want to seem unintelligent or uniformed. But in my experience, it’s the opposite. When new employees, especially college grads, don’t ask any questions it’s concerning for managers. It is your responsibility to get clarification when you’re unsure of some aspect of your work. When you begin to ask better questions, you become more informed.
So be a sponge. Eat some sponge cake. And welcome to the club.
There’s something about getting lost on a drive that feels right. Not knowing where you are almost feels dangerous. We could all use a little more danger in our lives. That’s what I love about Atlanta. I’ve had to use a GPS two miles from my apartment in an area I’ve been driving through the past four years. I’m like the Evil Knievel of joy rides. Next I’ll be jumping over buses.
I tend to get lost in thought when I write my blog posts. It doesn’t help that House Hunters is on. I don’t get HGTV at my apartment so I have to watch it while I am on the road for work.
Traveling every week has been interesting. The key to consistent travel is routine. The first week back on the road is always hard. About midway through the second week the routine begins to set in. I’ve got may packing routine together. My body begins to adjust to the time change quicker including my stomach. As I stay up later (going East to West), I have more time to kill, ideally becoming more productive.
Driving around and learning the new city is strangely rewarding. I feel like Lewis of Lewis and Clark the great explorers. Or maybe I feel like Clark? One dies early and the other one goes crazy. I should find new explorer role models.
During these explorations my goal is to get lost just so I can have feeling of danger again. That’s why Walter White really sold meth: the danger. He should try getting lost on a joy ride.
When I got my Moto X in August, I quickly devoured apps which Windows Phone 8 lacked. Even though I missed some of the functionality from WP8, I was very content with my switch to Android. Each tile was filled with apps and widgets, meticulously grouped and placed for maximum performance. Life was good. Then I dropped my phone.
The screen cracked leaving nothing but a dark void where apps used to illuminate my life. The cost of replacing the screen was almost the price of the phone off contract (which is how I initially purchased the phone). The worst part was the phone still worked. I would have been happy to be the guy from the T-Mobile commercial but no such luck.
Long story short, after buying a lemon of a phone off Craigslist and reverting back to my Lumia 920 for a week, I was gifted the Moto G. The Moto G is the Moto X’s slightly underweight little brother. He can do most of what the Moto X can but just isn’t tall enough yet to live up to his older brother. I’ve done by best to refill the tiles of my screen but the far left one has stumped me. It’s blank. There’s nothing there and I don’t know why. I’m having some sort of mental block. Please help. What should I use this side for?
* I tried to put the screenshots side-by-side. Depending which medium you’re using to view this will affect how you see the images.
WordPress sent me a nice little email summarizing my blog in 2013. They also gave me the option to quickly create a post out of it. What you see below was created by them. I have no graphics skills as evident by all the high school band t-shirts I designed that were denied by the director. Enjoy the post!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.
Click here to see the complete report.
The views expressed in this post do not reflect those of my employer. Unless they match, then they do. Not sure if I really need this but I figured whynatte.
So. I’ve been a consultant for two months exactly. And I’ve learned a lot. A whole lot. This series will help explain some of the life lessons I’ve learned.
How to Fly The Window Seat
The Window Seat is the holy grail of airplane seats – besides the aisle seat. So really it’s the Stanley Cup. I mean it’s cool you won the Stanley Cup but it’s still hockey. The Window Seat holds a lot of power that many travelers do not realize and therefore should read this blog post on how to avoid any costly mistakes in the future. Below are a few tips and tricks to fully exercise your newly found power.
- The Window
- The namesake of this section. I’ll make this brief. Leave the window open unless there’s a painful glare and there’s a real fear of blinding your fellow passengers. Sit back in your seat as to not hog the view real estate. Many of us like to see where we might plummet to our deaths instead of it being a surprise, so be kind and grant us our last wish.
- The Pillow
- You have a built-in pillow – the wall. We know. You don’t need to curl up against your pillow and act like you’re the King of Sudan. Your row mates are not your oppressed citizens who should be subjected to your gloating. Save that for your friends.
- The Bathroom Break
- If you know ahead of time that you have The Window Seat, please use the restroom before boarding the plane. A lady on my flight last night got up twice to use the restroom disrupting the Social Fabric of the row. But if you don’t know ahead of time and you’re pleasantly surprised by the fact that you have the window seat, just hold it. Think of the Social Fabric before displacing two strangers. Or Karma.
This past two months has taught me a whole new dialect hidden in the depths of the English language. By using the phrases below, you can almost guarantee yourself a spot at any consulting firm. I’m also compiling a list of terms that I think should be in everyday use.
*Warning – strong language below disguised with strategically placed symbols
- Current Terms
- Swivel Chair – To utilize two disconnected systems to perform a single task.
- “Will this be a swivel chair process on day 1?” – Yes, don’t be lazy.
- Heartburn – To cause internal strife.
- “Does doing it like this cause you heartburn?” – No, that was my lunch.
- Futureproof – To allow a system to be adaptable to the future
- “Will this be futureproof?” – I don’t know. Come find me tomorrow and I’ll check.
- Clusterf~ck – A big mess.
- “Day 1 is going to be a clusterf~ck.” – So I’ve heard.
- Sh!tshow – A big mess
- “Day 1 is going to be a sh!tshow.” – So I’ve heard.
- Proposed Terms
- #RiseUp – General term acceptable in any situation
- “Time to go. Let’s #RiseUp.” – You too. #RiseUp
The Time Paradox
For the past two months, I’ve been traveling to and from Utah. On Mondays, I catch the 8:15am flight out of Atlanta to Salt Lake City and on Thursdays I catch the 4:50pm flight out of Salt Lake City to Atlanta. Let’s get lunch Monday morning at gate A at Chick-Fil-A if you’re around. Oh yeah, the Time Paradox is when you travel across multiple time zones at least twice a week and lose track of the time zone you’re currently in. I constantly add and subtract hours to figure out what time I’m really in and by the time I get back to my apartment I can’t break the habit. So, if I’m late by two hours this will be my excuse. “Sorry, thought I was still in Utah.”
And that concludes this brief introduction, you may return to your regularly scheduled programming.
I am a big fan of the video work done over the The Verge. They recently released a new series titled “Small Empires” where the founder of Reddit and fellow entrepreneur interviews tech startups in New York city. The series serves two purposes in my mind: 1. Gain insight into what small businesses are doing and how they are helping shape the world (especially with Fitocracy). And 2. Give exposure to these small businesses so that those of us not in-the-know become in-the-know.
The first episode of Small Empires features this neat company called ZodDoc.
In short, ZocDoc acts as the Open Table for the medical field. ZocDoc has compiled a healthy (see what I did there?) database of doctors and specialists of all kinds. You access the site and specify what kind of doctor you’re looking for and what kind of insurance you have. ZocDoc filters down by address or zip code and presents them with a list. This list displays all the doctors and their profiles. Where they went to school, how long they’ve been practicing, what kind of insurance they accept, etc. But the real value add is the reviews. Just like OpenTable you can read reviews about this doctor and rate them with a 5-star rating system. This easy to consume kind of data is awesome. Once you find a doctor to fit your medical needs, you then register an appointment with them through ZocDoc’s website. It provides a list of available times and sends you notifications of when your appointment is scheduled. And the best part, it’s all free for patients! Who needs Angie’s List when you can use ZocDoc to find the best local neighborhood podiatrist?
ZocDoc makes their money by providing a subscription-based scheduling system to the doctors listed. When a patient books their appointment through the website, it goes automatically into that doctors schedule. You can see real-time what’s available and what’s not. No more playing the “How’s Tuesday at 3:22pm in 4 weeks?” game. There’s a reason why that game hasn’t played well with consumers. And ZocDoc is aiming to fix that.
I write this post as not just a fan but as a user. I needed a dentist appointment before there was a gap in my insurance from starting a new job. I went immediately to ZocDoc and found a nice enough looking dentist. I ended up at Dr. David McNay’s dental practice. He has 5 stars for a reason. I made sure to leave a glowing review for him. I went in for a cleaning and he found two cavities which he was able to fill that day. He made appropriate jokes the whole time and was very personable.
I convinced my girlfriend to find her new dentist through ZocDoc. She scheduled the appointment and was good to go. Then that dentist’s office called her and said the time she chose was unavailable and offered her a new time which she accepted. Here’s the good part of the story. ZocDoc called her 10 minutes later and asked why she was rescheduled. ZocDoc apologized for the inconvenience and for her troubles sent her a $10 Amazon gift card. Now that’s customer service!
I would highly recommend anyone looking for a doctor to check out ZocDoc.
I was not paid to write this but I’m happy to write fake reviews about your company if you pay me. I’m very reasonably priced
Have you used ZocDoc before? What’s your experience with them? Let me know in the comments below.
If you haven’t heard by now, golf as a whole is in a tough spot. In my opinion, it is one of the harder sports to get access to. All your regular high school sports can be played at a local park with some friends at no cost to you but golf is a different story. Not only does the equipment cost a pretty penny but every time you want to play a real round you have to shell out $50 or more depending on the season, the course quality and the time of day. With these barriers being so high, it discourages newcomers to the sport from really getting involved and the PGA understands this. If they want their business to continue to be profitable they need to find ways to get their fans more involved.
With programs like the First Tee, the PGA seems to be making strides by making the game more accessible. As I perused Facebook this morning, I saw an interesting link, Pick the Hole Location Challenge, and decided to do some research. Just like American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance, the PGA is allowing fans to be a part of the action. But instead of picking which dancer goes home this week, golf fans get to vote on the hole location of a par 3 at the PGA Championship. Now fans have the ability to shape the golf course where their favorite players compete for prize money.
I think it’s a great idea. The PGA and the sport of golf needed a way for fans to feel like they play a part in this game. And by following seasons of reality shows, the PGA risks very little with this experiment of theirs. If successful, I bet the PGA will do this for all four majors. It will have a direct impact on viewership. Fans will want to know how their choices affected the game they love. Did the location I pick win? Did I make it harder for Tiger or easier? And if it fails, then no harm has been done to the sport and everything will remain the status quo.
For the record, I picked Location C. I wanted the water to be in play but for the players to try to challenge the pin.
What do you think? What location did you vote for? Let me know in the comments below!
At least that’s what I tell my manager.
I decided to take an “extended lunch” yesterday since things were slow at work. So to fight the boredom I walked over the CNN Center from the office. About a 15 minute walk. I was too lazy that morning to make lunch so it was a perfect excuse to get some Taco Bell and really feel great about myself.
The CNN Center does a good bit of business during lunch but tables are generally available but not yesterday. The place was crowded. In line for T-Bell a group with “Western Europe” jackets cut me in line. Clearly part of some sort of conference, I let it slide. I didn’t want to cause a raucous since I’m such an intimidating guy. Once I received my healthy selection for lunch (Crunch Wrap Supreme with a soft taco), I scoured for a seat. I made three laps before a tall table appeared. You know, one of the tables you find at a bar; tall, round, bar stools, only room for four.
I felt bad for hogging the table for myself. When an Indian gentleman with a baller mustache asked to sit there I quickly accepted. I was slowly building my very own Knights of the Round Table.
This guy had a conference name tag on, so in an effort to avoid a really awkward lunch I asked what conference it was. Turns out some big Microsoft convention is in town full of Microsoft employees from all over the world. And the Knight of Great Mustaches is also an MS employee. He’s a Visio Product Manager out of New Delhi, to be exact. And it’s his first time in America. (USA! USA! USA!) We chatted and passed the Kool-Aid back and forth. I showed in my WP8 and he said how great it was. I said I have a Surface Pro and he said how great it works. Normal Kool-Aid talk.
Before I left made sure to get his card and thank him for having lunch with me. I looked the guy up on LinkedIn and he has a very impressive resume: MBA in IT Project Management, worked for Oracle, now at MS. I sent him an email and hoping he replies when he gets back to the motherland.
The key takeaway from this experience is to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to eat lunch with someone new and put some effort into growing your network. You only get as much as you give.
OK, I should probably do some SharePoint stuff now.
I’m sitting on my couch watching tv with my girlfriend and she asked me Google something for her. Well, being the MS guy I am I figured I’d Bing it on my Surface Pro. Yes, there’s a detachable keyboard and a well made onscreen keyboard but I was feeling vocal. My phone (WP8) lets me do voice search so I figured my computer could too. Boy, was I wrong.
I opened the Bing app and scoured for a little microphone icon. No such luck. Then I pulled up the onscreen keyboarding hoping it was hidden there. Nothing. Now I go to Bing.com to see if their full-blown site supports voice search. Still nada. I actually had to type in my search query. What is this, the stone ages?
Microsoft needs to adopt Geico’s slogan, “So easy even a caveman can do it.” And then they need to execute on it! Apple and Google make it very easy to use voice search on their devices. Whether it is through Siri or Google Now or some random widget on Android, users can easily voice search. I hope a Bing product manager reads this and says, “You know what Nik, you’re right. You’re the man. I’m going to have my summer intern from Princeton work on that right now. Thanks broski!”
No problem Bing guy. Happy to help! Don’t get me wrong, I like your keyboards and all but my voice is much more soothing.