March 19, 2009

Networking outside the firewall

March 19, 2009 - Categories: connecting, speaking

In a large company like IBM, it’s easy to forget to interact with the outside world. The internal network of people is rich and varied. We have our own conferences, our own mailing lists, our own communities. If you’re not paying attention, you can easily forget about what’s going on outside.

But reaching out to people outside the organization is important, because it will let you:

Anna Dreyzin invited me to speak at a breakfast meeting for a women’s networking group at IBM. While thinking out loud about what new tips I can share in 10-15 minutes, I realized that I can share a very different approach to networking that can result in a lot of benefits for less effort.

You see, traditional networking is active. You reach out to other people, cultivating your network with frequent contact through e-mail, coffee, shared lunches, and other activities. You can build strong relationships, but this takes time.

Active networking can be hard to fit into your schedule. When you have a full load of work, it’s difficult to take time to meet people for coffee or lunch. When you’re daunted by the number of messages in your inbox, you probably won’t feel like sending off another note to keep in touch. When you’re busy working inside an organization, you might not remember to make an effort to connect with people outside it.

Active networking doesn’t scale. With traditional networking, you tend to be limited to people you’ve met or with whom you’ve had direct contact. You can grow your network by attending events, getting referrals, and working on projects with different groups of people, but your network grows slowly.

In contrast, I would characterize my way of networking as mostly passive networking. Instead of actively reaching out to people, I focus on making it easier for people to keep in touch with me, and to giving them reasons for doing so.

This is all because I’m shy and I have such a hard time starting conversations or calling people on the phone.
When I started giving conference presentations in my third year at university, I realized that it was much easier to connect with more people if I gave them reasons to start the conversation. When I started blogging at around the same time, I learned that blogging was an even better way to reach out. And when social networking sites like LinkedIn came on the scene, I found them to be a great way to keep track of my growing network.

By combining social networking, blogging, and public speaking, I can invest a little time and effort into sharing what I’m learning, reach far more people than I would have the time or courage to approach myself, and build relationships I would not have expected to have. People find my website through search engines, the business cards I hand out, and the web address in my e-mail signature. If I provide enough value, maybe they’ll subscribe to keep up to date with what I’m learning. I also occasionally receive e-mail and requests from outside the organization, which reminds me that yes, there is a world out there. ;) A little bit of effort, a whole lot of reward.

So let’s flip networking around. If you find it difficult to reach out to people, make it easier for them to reach out to you. Here’s how to do it:

Drupal Gotcha: Watch out for $user during update.php

March 19, 2009 - Categories: drupal

If you disable access-checking on your update.php, there’s no guarantee that the update script will be run with the superuser as the active user. This could mess up your update functions that delete nodes or use other access permissions.

To fix this, temporarily assume the identity of the superuser in the update functions that need it:

global $user;
$old_user = $user;
$user = user_load(array('uid' => 1));
$session = session_save_session();
session_save_session(FALSE);

and then restore the old user afterwards:

$user = $old_user;
session_save_session($session);