GreaterIBM: Turbocharging real-life social networking events

When Todd Waymon connected to me on the Greater IBM Connection, I remembered a story that he and his wife (Lynne Waymon, author of Make Your Contacts Count) would probably find interesting. I was looking for my blog post about it, but I must’ve forgotten to tell that story then. Well, here it is!

It was September 2006. I was a graduate student researching Enterprise 2.0, and my blog was one of the most popular ones in IBM. I heard about the Greater IBM Initiative’s planned launch party in New York, and I really wanted to go. When the organizers read on my blog that I was trying to figure out how to get there, they invited me to become one of their Core Connectors. Kevin Aires called me all the way from the UK to invite me personally. I was thrilled! What a great opportunity to see corporate social networking in action, and to learn more about social networking in the process of supporting real-life connections.

I asked my research supervisor if I could have travel funding. He said no; our budget had already been earmarked for the research conferences. I asked the IBM Center for Advanced Studies for travel funding, seeing as the trip was mainly for the benefit of IBM. They said no, because they didn’t want to set a precedent. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity, though, so I searched and searched until I found a bus ride to New York for the round trip price of USD 100. My mom connected me with a family friend who let me stay on her couch. I was going to make it happen.

With the logistics out of the way, I focused on making the Greater IBM launch party the best possible event. I remembered how good introductions helped me bring together my mostly-introverted friends from different circles, and I wanted to create that same kind of friendly atmosphere at the event. We had been using Xing as our social networking platform, and all the attendees had profiles there. I browsed each profile, copying their details and their pictures into a document – a social networking dossier. Their profiles included their current positions, their former IBM positions, their interests, and what they were looking for. I sent this dossier to the organizers, who printed it out and inserted it into each attendee’s event bag.

To make the most of the 8-hour trip, I printed out a copy of my social networking dossier for myself. I also created flashcards, putting names on one side of the card and interesting details on the other site. I noted common interests, too. I couldn’t print pictures, but I had those in my main dossier. As we rattled along the highways in a small van, I thumbed through my flashcards, committing as much as I could to memory.

That totally rocked.

As guests filtered into the swanky NY venue, I greeted them and often helped them find interesting conversations. Some had written only their first name on their nametags, but after I asked them their last name, I could remember everything I’d learned about them. I really enjoyed being able to delight people by introducing them with a few choice details – their current positions, their previous positions, the interests they shared. For example, in one conversation, I revealed that both of the other participants liked skiing enough to put it on their profiles. I think everyone walked away feeling like a VIP!

There are so many interesting things we can do when we combine online and offline social networking. I can’t wait to see how we can make the experience even better. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this by organizing or helping host events!

Alumni networks and business networking sites

The Greater IBM Connection

My notes from last month’s Greater IBM
networking party are in my backpack, just in case I find
the time to write a trip report. They get me thinking: how useful are
alumni networks, anyway? How can we use social networking to support people even when they leave an organization?

Pauline Ores pointed out that alumni need to find:

  • Candidates for open job positions in their company
  • Jobs for themselves or other people in their network
  • Clients or vendors

There’s also a fourth need that I think alumni will definitely
appreciate: keeping in touch with people in the organizations they’ve
left behind, even when those people have moved on to other
organizations.

Hmm. Are any of these needs compelling enough for some people to
actively participate in a space, or can they be handled by basic
social networking without the additional structure of an IBM group?

What value can IBM bring? I’ll split this up into several blog posts
and reassemble them into an article when we’re done thinking out loud.
Here’s one of them.

Looking for candidates for an open position

IBM hiring is a vote of confidence in the person. Experience at IBM
may be an asset that employers could look for. Would people explicitly
search for IBM alumni when looking for candidates to fill a position.
Does IBM want to encourage and support that?

We’re looking at two use cases:

  1. Finding a list of people who are interested in a different position
  2. Advertising an open job position

It’s unlikely that business networking sites will ever support case

as such information is sensitive. Would you indicate on your
profile that you’re looking for a different job? Probably not.

Case 2 can already be done with current business networking systems.
LinkedIn allows people to post job
advertisements to their personal network. People can see these job ads
when they log in. A group affiliation allows you to be part of a
larger network without having to make all the connections yourself,
which is useful.

If organization networks and other affiliations were automatically
considered part of your personal network, the volume of information
from IBM and all your other affiliations could be overwhelming.
Filtering will become essential as volume grows. A smart social
networking site would make it easy to filter displayed jobs by area of
interest.

Jobs advertised through second- orA third-degree personal networks
make sense because of referrals. Does it make sense to use second- or
third-degree affiliations in your network? I think that affiliations
might only be useful for the immediately-connected.

How would it work? If I want to advertise a position, it would be
useful to be able to either explicitly activate a network (such as my
Toastmasters network if I’m looking for people with good public
speaking skills) or advertise to all my networks. It wouldn’t make
much sense for these jobs to be advertised to people without those
affiliations, though.

To support the search for candidates, business networking services
should make it easy to advertise jobs to selected networks of people.

Hmm…

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Random Emacs symbol: sacha/bbdb-gnus-ping – Command: Add a ping for authors/recipients of this message.

New York, New York!

Okay. The New York thing is going to happen. Awesome!

Travel. I found bus tickets for $100.
Sure, I have to leave at 6:00 AM and arrive at 2:00 PM, but I can deal
with that. I’ll just have to take the night bus on Thursday, and…
errr… deal with New York at 5:00 on Monday. That’s okay. I can hack
that. Simon suggested just going ahead and booking a flight, but the
backpacker in me resists the idea of spending nearly five times more
money than I have to, even if IBM might end up paying for it. When I’m
a high-powered executive, sure, they can fly me in. But if I can nap
and write on the bus, I might as well take the bus.

Okay. Ticket booked. Next.

Accommodations. Chaya’s offered her couch. Yay! The party probably
won’t run too late – the Greater IBM thing ends at 8:30, and there
might be a later event that ends at 10:00 or something like that. I
should give myself margin on the first day to account for travel
fatigue, etc. Still, I don’t want to inconvenience Chaya, so I can
stay at a hostel (or with an IBMer?) for the first night and then stay
over for the weekend. *Somehow* or another, it’ll all get sorted out
and I’ll find myself back in NYC for the 6:00 AM bus trip back on
Monday.

Check.

Goals. What do I want to do in NY? Whom do I want to meet?

Greater IBM Initiative: My primary goal is to link up with the
Greater IBM Initiative folks. There’s just something about meeting in
person. I’m so looking forward to swapping tips and ideas with them!
I’m going to do that entire dogear thingy there again. Oh, I
absolutely have to wear The Shirt.
Other IBMers: It would be totally awesome to have a blogger
meetup at IBM in New York. There is one, right?

Family friends: I wonder if Tita Inda would like to come over
and help us learn how to cook…

My friends: I’ve pinged Byron and Ernest. Who else might be in
the area?

Other people: Anyone here from New York, or know anyone I
should definitely meet while I’m there?

This probably won’t be my only trip to New York, so I’m not too panicky about organizing a geek dinner or cramming my sched full of interesting things. I’ll get around to watching a Broadway musical eventually, and someday I’ll focus on tapping the New York tech scene. =) But yeah, it’s all good.

Send me your number if you’ll be somewhere near NY this weekend, or if you know of something interesting I should do!

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WOW!

Kevin Aires of IBM just called me up to tell me to check my e-mail. I just might make it to the Greater IBM Connection party in New York! Woohoo!

I *really* love this company, and I really love this universe!

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Networking party in New York that I really, really want to go to

The Greater IBM Initiative is having its first party in New York City on Thursday, Sept 21. I really, really want to go and meet all these people in person. Why? Because I can do really really well face-to-face, and because I’d love to make those deeper connections. How can I make it happen?

First, let’s set that up as a deal I make with myself. After I finish
five articles about networking that I can post on the Greater IBM
blog, I’ll give myself permission to go on this trip.

In the meantime, I need to plan ahead. How can I keep my costs down?

  • Transportation: I’ll keep an eye out on rush flight ticket prices. Can I hitch with anyone driving down from Toronto?
  • Accommodation: Maybe one of the IBMers at Corporate HQ will let me crash on their couch.
  • Party: How can I make the most of the event? Is there a program that I can get onto?
  • Events: What other events should I hit at that time?

How can I raise money for this? (Hah. Maybe a donation jar at the event!) Ideas?

Let’s make this happen!

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