Category Archives: work

Dealing with professional envy

One of the things that both rocks and sucks about the Internet is that it’s easy to find people who are better than you.

This is great because you’re surrounded by inspiration. It’s easier to figure out what “better” looks like when you can see it. You can try on other people’s styles to see if they fit you, and when you do that, you’ll learn more about your own.

Being surrounded by all these role models can be hard on your self-esteem and your determination. Not only are you surrounded by all these people who have spent decades into being amazing, you’re also getting overtaken by younguns who come out of nowhere.

Such is life. I could get caught up in it, or I could see it for the game that it is, step outside of thinking of it as a contest, and invent my own rules. I’ve gone through this before, and it gets easier and easier to choose a way to see life.

I’ve been learning about drawing in the process of cataloguing the sketchnotes that are out there. It’s difficult to imagine getting to be as good as the people I see, but I make myself remember that they started from somewhere. Besides, the alchemical combinations of life are what make things interesting. Maybe my technical background or my interests can open up other possibilities.

Envy is good as long as it’s useful. Self-doubt often tries to creep in, but the truth is that it’s optional.

Thinking about ways to help people who are in between

A number of people I know are in transition, looking for their next job. Some people are giving the independent lifestyle a try. What can I do to support people?

Let me break this question down in order to make it easier to think about.

What do I know? I know about building a reputation and growing your network by sharing what you know and what you’re learning online. Many people are curious about this, but don’t know where to start. I can help them start sharing. This isn’t something for immediate payoffs, but it’s a great professional habit. I also know the basics of consulting, and I can help people get started. I know about lots of books on career advice and entrepreneurship, too. I know Web development with Drupal, Rails, and WordPress, and I can help people learn. I know what it’s like to be an immigrant, and what it’s like to be introverted.

Who do I know? I know tech meetup organizers and participants in Toronto. I know enterprise social business consultants. I know mobile, web, and open source developers and designers. I know marketers. I know writers and bloggers. I know independent consultants, freelancers, and startup founders. I know sketchnote artists and illustrators. I know virtual assistants. I can help people with informational interviews, and I want to get even more organized in terms of keeping notes on what people want and what people can offer.

What do I have? I have sketches and notes from business and technology books, meetups, and products. I have a place where people can get together. I have a website where I can share ideas. I have a fledgling that’s doing well. I have blog posts from my business experience.

What can I do? I can keep in touch with people, especially those who feel suddenly cut off from their professional networks. I can help people get started in freelancing by coaching them, referring clients, and connecting them with people who have complementary skills. I can help people brainstorm ideas, stay motivated, and improve their communication. I can share what I’m learning from business. I can cheer them on as a friend.

Are people around you in between opportunities too? How can you help?

Sketchnotes: Dave Ley, Jen Nolan, Leo Marland and me at the University of Toronto Faculty of Information’s career panel

ischool_to

(Click on the image for a larger version)

Kelly Lyons and Isidora Petrovic invited Dave Ley (CIBC), Jen Nolan (IBM), Leo Marland (IBM), and me (… figuring things out! also, formerly IBM…) for the March 12 career panel for the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information students. People were curious about the job process. They wanted to know what managers were looking for when hiring, and how information graduates could differentiate themselves from people with more technical backgrounds. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had lots of stuff to share about learning, sharing, working with passion, and getting hired even if you don’t have any actual work experience. It turns out a few people were interested in entrepreneurship too. Yay!

I’ve condensed some of the points from the discussion into this graphic, and the organizers say that the video will be up on YouTube sometime. =)

Adjusting

Adjusting to early-morning wake-up times and 45-minute commutes. I’m still a little twitchy – a little sleep deprivation plus a two-hour timeshift earlier than my previous schedule. I can tell by the tic near my eyes, a slight tremble in hands. Handled with tea in the morning and the occasional walk through the rows of cubicles. With a little more sleep and a few more weeks, I’ll settle into a new normal. Fortunately, I still feel mentally there, not fogged, and I get lots of things done. It’s good work, and I’m glad to help make a difference.

It’s a little bit weird typing a full day on a QWERTY layout and then coming home and typing in Dvorak. It takes me a little while to adjust. Typing words, no problem. Keyboard shortcuts, isolated movements – that’s a little harder. I wonder why copying and pasting opens a download window in my browser, and then I catch myself and press the correct keys.

I need to find new rhythms for writing. I can’t blog externally about what I’m working on at the client, but there’s still so much I’m learning and sharing. I could keep posting book notes – there are so many to do! – but a little variety is good.

Today I helped J- edit some of her writing homework for her English classes. The essay was easy: trim unnecessary words, make tenses consistent, clarify wording… She wasn’t sure where she was going with her fiction chapter, the first in a new story. I read through pages of dialogue that went back-and-forth without much progress. I pulled out one idea and suggested starting the chapter with something like this:

My dad isn’t my real dad.

My best friend hates me.

And my shadow just told me to hit a chicken.

“That’s awesome!” she said. Now she’s off and writing, curious about what happens next in the story. I’m curious too.

Adjusting. Tightening things up, dropping the unnecessary, getting the hang of a different flow. We’ll see what happens. =)

Visual book notes: The Start-up of You (Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha)

20120304-visual-book-notes-the-start-up-of-you

(Click image for a larger version)

The Start-up of You is a book about networking and career planning using tips pulled from the startup world, sprinkled with hip jargon such as “pivot” and “volatility.” It’s a decent book for people who are new to connecting or cultivating their network and who also like reading about technology and entrepreneurship. If you’re a fan of The Lean Startup and similar entrepreneurship books, The Start-up of You is like seeing those ideas applied to other parts of life. It’s easy to read, and it flows well.

I liked examples such as the “interesting people fund” and the idea of having A-B-Z plans. There are good tips for asking your network better questions (p208), too. If you’ve read a lot of other networking or career growth books, though, you might not come across many new aha! moments here, but it’s a good startup-influenced view at managing your own career.

The Start-up of You
Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha
2012: Crown Business
ISBN: 978-0307888907
(E-book and audiobook also available. The Toronto Public Library carries this book.)

Are you a visual learner? Check out my other sketchnotes and visual book notes!

Event organizer or conference organizer? I’d love to help you help your attendees remember and share key points. Talk to me about sketchnoting your next event!

Analyzing my Lotus Notes sent mail since January 2011

Today is my penultimate day at IBM! Having successfully turned my projects over to another developer (hooray for the habit of organizing project-related files in Lotus Connections Activities), I’ve been focusing on getting things ready for the traditional goodbye e-mail, which I plan to send tomorrow.

I dug around in the Lotus Connections Profiles API to see if I could get a list of my contacts’ e-mail addresses. I fixed a small bug in the feed exporter of the Community Toolkit (w4.ibm.com/community for people in the IBM intranet) and exported my contacts, giving me a list of 530 IBMers who had accepted or sent me an invitation to connect.

Not everyone participates in that Web 2.0 network, though, so I wanted to analyze my sent mail to identify other people to whom I should send a note. I couldn’t find a neat LotusScript to do the job, and I couldn’t get the NSF to EML or mbox converter to work. Because I didn’t need all the information, just the recipients, subjects, and times, I wrote my own script (included at the end of this blog post).

I used the script to summarize the messages in my sent mail folder, and crunched the numbers using PivotTables in Microsoft Excel. I worked with monthly batches so that it was easier to find and fix errors. I decided to analyze all the mail going back to the beginning of last year in order to identify the people I mailed the most frequently, and to come up with some easy statistics as well.

image

Spiky around project starts/ends, I’d guess.

image

I wanted to see which roles I tended to e-mail often, so I categorized each recipient with their role. I distinguished between people I’d worked with directly on projects (coworkers) and people who worked with IBM but with whom I didn’t work on a project (colleagues). The numbers below count individual recipients.

Role

Number of people

Number of individual
e-mails sent

Average e-mails sent
per person

colleague 407 827 2.0
coworker 50 562 11.2
client 21 387 18.4
manager 4 109 27.3
partner 9 51 5.7
system 9 21 2.3
other 8 11 1.4
self 1 5 5.0
Grand Total 509 1973 3.9

As it turns out, I sent a lot of mail to a lot of people throughout IBM, mostly in response to questions about Lotus Connections, Idea Labs, or collaboration tools.

Now I can sort my summarized data to see whom I e-mailed the most often, and add more names to my don’t-forget-to-say-goodbye list. If all goes well, I might even be able to use that mail merge script. =)

The following agent processes selected messages and creates a table with one row per recipient, e-mailing the results to the specified mail address. It seems to choke on calendar entries and other weird documents, but if you go through your sent mail box in batches (Search This View by date is handy), then you should be able to find and delete the offending entries.

Option Public
Dim TempNitem As NotesItem
Dim TempNm As NotesName
Dim session As  NotesSession
Dim db As NotesDatabase
Sub Initialize
	mailAddress = "YOUR_ADDRESS@HERE"
	
	Dim ws As New NotesUIWorkspace
	Dim uidoc As NotesUIDocument
	Dim partno As String
	Dim db As NotesDatabase
	Dim view As NotesView
	Dim doc As NotesDocument
	Dim collection As NotesDocumentCollection
	Dim memo As NotesDocument
	Dim body As NotesRichTextItem
	Dim range As NotesRichTextRange
	Dim count As Integer
	
	Set session = New NotesSession
	Set db = session.CurrentDatabase
	Set collection = db.UnprocessedDocuments
	
	Dim FldTitles(3) As String
	FldTitles(0) = "E-mail"
	FldTitles(1) = "Subject"
	FldTitles(2) = "Date sent"
	
	Set maildoc = db.CreateDocument
	maildoc.Form = "Memo"
	maildoc.Subject = "Summary"
	maildoc.SendTo = mailAddress
	Dim ritem As NotesRichTextItem
	Set ritem=New NotesRichTextItem(maildoc,"body") 
' passing the rich text item & other relevant details
	Set ritem = CreateTable(FldTitles, collection, ritem, "Sent items", "Summary created on " + Format(Now, "YYYY-MM-DD"))
	maildoc.send(False)
End Sub
Function CreateTable(FldTitles As Variant, doccoll  As NotesDocumentCollection, rtitem As NotesRichTextItem,msgTitle As String,msgBody As String ) As NotesRichTextItem
	'http://searchdomino.techtarget.com/tip/0,289483,sid4_gci1254682_mem1,00.html
	'Takes  Documentcollection & creates tabular information on to the passed   rtitem (rich text item)
	
	Set ritem=rtitem
	Set rtnav = ritem.CreateNavigator
	Set rstyle=session.CreateRichTextStyle 
	
	'===================================================
	'heading in the body section of the mail
	rstyle.Bold=True
	rstyle.NotesColor=COLOR_RED 
	rstyle.Underline=True
	rstyle.NotesFont=FONT_COURIER
	rstyle.FontSize=12
	Call  ritem.AppendStyle(rstyle)
	ritem.AppendText(msgTitle)
	
	rstyle.Underline=False
	rstyle.NotesColor=COLOR_BLACK
	ritem.AddNewline(2)
	
	rstyle.FontSize=10
	rstyle.Bold=False
	rstyle.NotesColor=COLOR_BLACK
	Call  ritem.AppendStyle(rstyle) 
	ritem.AppendText(msgBody)
	ritem.AddNewline(1)
	
	'===================================================
	rows=doccoll.Count +1
	cols=CInt(UBound(FldTitles)) 
	
	Call ritem.AppendTable(1, cols)
	Dim rtt As NotesRichTextTable
	Call rtnav.FindFirstElement(RTELEM_TYPE_TABLE)
	Set rtt = rtNav.GetElement 
	'=================================================
	'heading of the table
	rstyle.Bold=True
	rstyle.NotesColor=COLOR_BLUE 
	rstyle.FontSize=10
	Call  ritem.AppendStyle(rstyle)
	
	For i=0 To UBound(FldTitles) - 1
		Call rtnav.FindNextElement(RTELEM_TYPE_TABLECELL)
		Call ritem.BeginInsert(rtnav) 
		Call ritem.AppendText(FldTitles(i))
		Call ritem.EndInsert
	Next
	
	'=================================================
	rstyle.FontSize=10
	rstyle.Bold=False
	rstyle.NotesColor=COLOR_BLACK
	Call  ritem.AppendStyle(rstyle)
	Dim count As Integer
	count = 0
	Set  doc=doccoll.GetFirstDocument
	While Not (doc Is Nothing)
		subject = doc.GetFirstItem("Subject").values(0)
		posted = doc.GetFirstItem("PostedDate").values(0)
		Set sendTo = doc.getFirstItem("SendTo")
		For i = 0 To UBound(sendTo.values)
			Call rtt.AddRow(1)
			Call rtnav.FindNextElement(RTELEM_TYPE_TABLECELL)   
			Call ritem.BeginInsert(rtnav)
			ritem.appendText(sendTo.values(i))
			Call ritem.EndInsert
			Call rtnav.FindNextElement(RTELEM_TYPE_TABLECELL)   
			Call ritem.BeginInsert(rtnav)
			ritem.appendText(subject)
			Call ritem.EndInsert
			Call rtnav.FindNextElement(RTELEM_TYPE_TABLECELL)   
			Call ritem.BeginInsert(rtnav)
			ritem.appendText(posted)
			Call ritem.EndInsert
		Next   
		count = count + 1
		Set doc=doccoll.GetNextDocument(doc)
	Wend
	Set CreateTable=ritem
	MsgBox "E-mails summarized: " & count	
End Function

I find it helpful to save it as the "Summarize Recipients" agent and assign it to a toolbar button that runs @Command([RunAgent]; "Summarize Recipients").