Category Archives: new-hire

New hires, ignorance and innovation

It’s pretty amazing to think that at IBM, people value not only what I know, but what I don’t.

People tell me that the way that I work is very different from the way many people work. I bring a different perspective to work. I connect across business units and geographies. I share what I know. I share what I’m learning. I write a lot about what I’m thinking and how I work. I ask for help. I’m happy. I work with IBM, not just for IBM. I look for the bright side of things. I explain the big picture, and I find the big picture if I need to.

I don’t know that I’m supposed to be an IT specialist just working on code, or an entry-level employee who hesitates to talk to higher-ups. I refuse to learn that a big corporation should be soulless and passionless. Instead of learning cynicism and grudging compliance, I approach our standard paperwork with deliberate empathy and excitement, thinking about the reasons why people created these processes and about how I can use these processes to help me grow. I don’t know any other way to work except to reach out, learn, and share.

Ignorance can be useful. When you don’t have tried-and-tested ways to work, you’re forced to experiment. When you have a different set of perspectives, you can ask questions that test assumptions. When you’re new, you can help more experienced people think.

(And then people go: “Oooh, I hadn’t thought of that…” and then people experiment, and they end up working better too!)

The trick is to stay new; to keep that beginner’s mind, while sharing as much as you can of what you’re learning.

Why do I share this?

There must be many new people out there who are also coming in with a different set of perspectives, and who wonder what they can contribute to their companies. If you’re one of them: you can teach and learn at the same time.

There must be many people who worry about becoming ossified in their habits. If you’re one of them, remember: you’re new to something, too. Find out what you don’t know, and help people learn from that.

Ignorance can lead to interesting ideas! =)

Here’s a short presentation I made on the topic some time ago:

Happy BlueDay to me!

Today is my one-year anniversary at IBM! Yes, I know, I’ve been on the IBM network for a couple of years now, but I was a graduate student then, and before that, I taught university-level computer science. This is my first year outside the academe and my first year working with IBM, so I’m going to take this opportunity to look back, celebrate what I’ve learned, and celebrate the people who made this possible.

Over the past year, I’ve grown tremendously as a developer. I learned how to develop on the Drupal content management platform, and I’ve contributed back to some of the modules we’ve used. Applying the principle of relentless improvement, I invested time in setting up unit tests and functional tests, creating build and deployment tools, integrating the tests into the deployment script, and managing multiple branches of source code. I also acted as the system administrator for our project, developing installation scripts, setting up multiple testing and production environments, and keeping them running. I’m a much better developer now than I was one year ago. I’m looking forward to growing even more. Thanks go to Robert Terpstra and Ted Tritchew, who arranged my first Drupal project; Jennifer Nolan, who worked with me on my first and second Drupal projects, and from whom I learned a lot; Daniel Kumm and Kamran Khan, who gave me that second Drupal project where I learned how to really rock it; Stefan Nusser and the other Drupal-using folks in IBM; Waclaw Ferens, whose CSS skills helped me avoid the frustration of cross-browser coding and just focus on the code I really liked to do; and the tons of open source developers out there who shared not only their code but also their insights on how coding can be done better. Yay!

I also grew a lot as a speaker. This year, most of my presentations were about Web 2.0, Gen Y, or social networking. While helping another IBMer, I stumbled across a distinctive personal style of hand-drawn illustrations that resonated with people. Applying that style, I won a category prize in’s worldwide Best Presentation Contest, delighted senior-level clients, and helped many people think of IBM as just a little bit cooler and more creative. I’ve spoken at numerous conferences and delivered part of two keynote speech, one of which was in front of 700 people. I’ve delivered remote presentations that informed and energized people. I’ve participated on panels, facilitated workshops and brainstorming sessions, and even helped organize conferences. I’ve presented to fellow new hires and to IBM’s technical leaders, to internal teams and to our clients. Presenting teaches me a lot about a topic, and I enjoy making things easier to understand. I’m looking forward to even more presentations, particularly when that intersects with my consulting. Thanks go to all the people who gave me opportunities to speak and to learn from other people, to my manager for being fairly liberal when it came to travelling to speak at conferences, and to the wonderful people who listened to what I had to share (and especially to those who gave me a high rating afterwards ;) ). Particular thanks go to Laurie Friedman, who nudged me to figure out a way to explain to Gen Yers coming out of college that Web 2.0 _does_ work at work.

I haven’t been doing as much Web 2.0 consulting and coaching as I’d like, but I’ve been able to help a few clients learn more about Web 2.0, incorporate the concepts into their strategy, and learn how to use these tools more effectively. My youth and my lack of industry experience means that many clients and account teams feel more comfortable with the more senior consultants on my team. However, I occasionally get to offer a Gen Y perspective, pitch in for others, or help with background work such as doing industry scans, brainstorming ideas, or capturing the discussion. I’m good at that work, though, and I can see how it adds value. I also help connect the dots, bringing opportunities into my team and helping my team members find resources throughout the company. I can get even better at this by exposing myself to more ideas, by exploring clients’ interest in Gen Y and collaboration, and by developing marketing materials for my team. Thanks go to Aaron Kim for getting me into this terrific opportunity and for encouraging me at every step of the way; Robert Terpstra, for giving it a try and bringing together this team; Bernie Michalik and Jennifer Nolan, for guidance and good examples; Jenny Chang and Tom Plaskon, for helping our team grow; Jennifer Okimoto, Pauline Ores, Kathryn Everest and all the others who sent insights and opportunities our way; the account teams we’ve worked with; and the clients who figured we had something good to share. (And we do!)

I’ve helped a number of IBM communities, teams, and individuals. Again, I’ve not been able to do as much as I’d like (still no New Bee’s Cartoon Guide to Web 2.0 at Work), but I’ve tried to make sure that people could reuse as much as possible. Next year, I’d like to not only help put together that guide for new hires, but also make it part of the new employee orientation process, link it up with all the new hire groups and campus hire groups, and set up mentoring and reverse mentoring relationships among many people. Thanks go to the totally awesome Web 2.0 evangelists; people all over IBM who are interested in learning about these new tools and who keep us busy; to the new hire network AS Foundations which made IBM feel even more welcoming; to the new hire networks and the other people around the world that I’ve had the pleasure to reach; and to everyone who, through blogs, other social computing tools, e-mail, or instant messaging, shared their insights with me and mentored me.

I’ve been really lucky to learn from and share what I’m learning with lots of people. I’ve not only been able to post chunks of what I know, but also learn from other people’s contributions and get a sense of the value I’ve created and passed on to others. I’m thrilled that I’m one of the top contributors, and I’d love to help more people contribute there and on our other tools.

It hasn’t been a perfect year. I’ve seen a number of my mentors and role models leave for other companies, and that frustrates me. I’ve heard some of the difficulties encountered by fellow new hires and experienced IBMers, and that frustrates me, too. On the plus side, I’ve been glad to share my energy and enthusiasm with lots of people, and I’m glad I’ve helped some of the people I look up to remember why they enjoy their work. Many people have returned the favor, including David Singer, who shared a great perspective on the bigger picture.

When things get really bad, there’s always getting a hug from my partner. He’s awesome. And we have a cat who loves giving massages. My parents and I have worked out the distance thing, I think. People in IBM are amazing, too, and there are even more people and things outside IBM helping me find energy and happiness when I have one of those maybe-I-should-start-my-own-company days. ;)

And of course, there’s so much more I won’t be able to fit into this already-long blog post… but thanks. =)

What an amazing year. I’m looking forward to the next one. I would love to keep myself booked doing things I love: developing quick community sites using Drupal and other open-source platforms, helping people learn more about Web 2.0, brainstorming ideas, developing strategy, designing and implementing systems, and coaching people and groups.

There are also a number of things I’d like to help do in order to help make IBM a better place. I want to see the campus hire and new hire networks around the world linked up (maybe even recognized as a formal diversity group?) so that we can share resources, get representation, and make it easy for people to bounce ideas off us. I want to help put together different guides to Web 2.0 at Work that can be incorporated into the new employee orientation process or into the community-building cookbook. I want to put together a set of conference social networking tools that’ll help people make the most of those face-to-face or virtual get-togethers. I want to teach everything I’ve learned (or at least capture it somehow) so that I can understand it better, so that I can share it with others, and so that I can go and learn even more. There are a lot of things I want to do, but there’s plenty of time, and there are plenty of people who are passionate about similar things who can help make it happen.

At the end of it all, I want to be someone who’s contagiously happy: someone who loves her life _and_ her work, someone who helps other people be happy with their life and their work, and someone who’s making a difference in people’s lives. I’m already like that, on a small scale, and I look forward to growing.

So that’s what my year’s been like (fantastic!), and that’s what my next year will probably look like. Why am I sharing all of this with you? Not just because I’m patting myself on the back – although I literally do that even for small victories, as it’s fun to celebrate the small things… Here’s why:

  • There’s so much to share and not enough time to share everything, so if you’ve come across something I know that you’d like to know as well – ping me or leave a comment!
  • I’d love it if you spent some time reflecting on your year, too. What did you learn? What did you get better at? What do you want to do next? Who do you want to become?
  • I want to help other people have this kind of an amazing year. What would it take? How wonderful can it be?
  • And hey, if you know what I’m good at and what I’m interested in, maybe you’ll think of me next time an interesting opportunity comes your way. =) Share what you’re interested in too, and I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for you!

Thanks for an amazing year. Let’s see what the next one can be like. I’ll keep you posted!

(UPDATE: Fixed HTML tags. Teeheehee!)

Networking for new hires

I gave a presentation on social networking for new hires to the GBS Application Services Foundations new hire network.12 people attended, and a few more dialed in, including one person from Poughkeepsie. (Yay international companies!) We had a lot of fun during the roundtable introductions. After things settled down, I gave my presentation.

The key thing I learned while preparing the presentation is that people can get by without paying special attention to social networking, but some effort can help people really transform their lives into extraordinary ones. I talked about the intersection of passion, knowledge and skills, and opportunities. If you learn more about what you’re passionate about, you’ll find or create or attract opportunities to learn more about and practice those passions or to use your knowledge and skills. The more you learn, the more you’ll be able to appreciate your passions, and the more opportunities will be open to you. It’s a beautiful cycle that makes things get better and better.

I also gave a number of quick tips on how to be more effective at social networking using events, conversations, notebooks, business cards, personal sites, blogs, articles, presentations, and other tools and opportunities. All these things can help you learn, reach out, and share what you’re learning.

The key thing I learned while giving this presentation was that although people could quickly identify passions outside work, job-related passions didn’t come to mind. I believe that it’s possible to love your work. My dad taught me this. I know that even if there are difficult days and boring days and lost days, if there’s that underlying passion, all those days will be worthwhile.

I’m glad to say that my work allows me to exercise some of my passions. So, what am I passionate about?

I’m passionate about helping people connect. I believe that interesting things happen when we bring different kinds of people together, and that’s why I love how blogging and other forms of social media allow people to bump into people outside their teams. I not only get to help people connect and collaborate, I even get to help companies figure out how to help their people do so.

I’m passionate about helping new hires connect with the rest of the organization and vice versa. I believe that a good social network can not only help new hires learn what they need to learn but also get opportunities to discover and make the most of their passions. I want to help new hire networks challenge and catalyze people’s growth in addition to providing basic social support. I want to help new hires get connected and share what they learn. Because I’ve been helping people connect using these new tools, new hire networks approach me to find out how I can help them. =)

I’m passionate about helping people share what they’re learning. I believe that teaching as you learn helps you learn more effectively. I want to help people share the tidbits that they’re learning and passing those tidbits along to others who are learning too. I not only get to lead by example, I also get to coach others.

I’m passionate about spreading enthusiasm, energy, and passion. I believe that people can be happy at work and in life. I want to learn from people who are happy and successful, I want to be an example to others, and I want to help others along the way. I not only get to share my passions with my coworkers and with other people outside the organization, I also get to encourage others when they need that extra burst of energy.

I’m passionate about communication skills, presentations, public speaking, and storytelling. I believe that presentations should be more than just bullet points and that communication should be more than just talking at people. I want to share what people are learning, inspire people to action, and help them inspire other people in turn. I not only get to learn more about communication skills and practice them by frequently giving presentations, I also get to share what I’m learning and influence the way other people communicate.

What are you passionate about? What knowledge or skills do you want to develop, and what opportunities would help you be even more effective?

Are you neglecting new employees? Web 2.0 can help you with relational onboarding

When you’re new to a company, you can feel quite lonely. Who will you eat lunch with? Who can you ask for help? You can also feel lost. Why are you working there? What can you do to make a difference? Where do you go from here?

This can be hard to remember this several decades after you’ve joined the company and when you’ve developed a wide social network, but people who are starting out might not only feel tremendously isolated, but also not know about opportunities to use their strengths.

Gallup has an article about helping newcomers make friends in order to increase employee engagement and retention. This reminded me of the Human Capital Institute’s webcast and whitepaper on relational onboarding and how social networking accelerates new hires into star performers, which said:

Rather than abandon highly motivated new hires to orientations, hard to navigate intranets, and stacks of dusty manuals, successful organizations help new hires build a strong network of relationships with colleagues who can help transform them into star performers. Building strong relationships from day one makes new hires feel more connected to the workforce, resulting in decreased turnover, shortened time to contribution, greater engagement and job satisfaction. This webcast will examine how HR executives can make the shift from ‘administrative’ onboarding’ to ‘relational onboarding,’ and how Corporate Social Networking technology can help build the network of connections integral to a new hire’s and the company’s success.

Sally Colella and Nancy Wheeler, Human Capital Institute

I’ve been with IBM for seven months, and I want to share this kind of onboarding experience with everyone. As a new hire, I’m learning so many things every day. Writing about what I learn helps me not only understand and remember things better, it also helps me share what I’m learning with other new hires and with other people throughout the company. Isn’t that amazing? I get to create value for other people while I’m learning. Blogs have helped me make friends, ask for help, give help, get plugged in… It’s terrific stuff, and I want to help as many people connect as I can.

That’s one of the reasons why I love working with IBM. I want to help organizations figure out how to use social networking to help bring new people on board, connect passionate people with each other (employees, customer evangelists, whoever!), and join the conversations inside the company and in the world. This is challenging because it’s not just a matter of introducing a blogging platform or putting up a wiki – it requires a lot of thought about the work culture, and yes, even the occasional cheerleading. But this is work I love to do, and if there’s any way you can help me find organizations who want to consult with me and my team, please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]. =)

I worked on a little sketch presentation on “[email protected]: In Pursuit of Passion” over the weekend, trying to explain why this is just so cool. I put it up on Slideshare on Saturday, and today it’s the Slideshow of the Day. That probably means lots of people are interested in this topic. =) Are you? Let’s talk about it so that we can figure out how wonderful it can be!


Link from myventurepad: Make Friends with Employee Engagement