Reinventing60 – Advice to a New Father

To my son John,

On September 7, you became the father of a beautiful baby girl named Katie, and I became a granddaddy.  When you said “my daughter” the other day, I thought of Steve Martin in the movie Father of the Bride when his daughter said she was getting married.  Martin had flashback to an 8-year-old girl announcing that she was engaged. It doesn’t seem that long ago that you were an 8 year old, and yet here you are now, a father.

I already know that you will be a wonderful Daddy, but it’s in my nature to give advice so here are my top ten suggestions for you and Katie:

  1. Everything you say and do will be heard by Katie – from the compliments you give her mother to how you argue to the bad Dad jokes you tell. If you go through red lights or use your phone while driving, it really won’t matter what Katie hears from you because your actions are saying it is OK.

 

  1. There is no such thing as quality time – this is a myth invented by Baby Boomers to rationalize not spending time with their children. Sometimes Katie will just want to be around you. Nothing fancy scheduled.  Just her knowing that you’re there for her.

 

  1. Love your spouse – children learn a pattern for how to treat their future mate by watching their parents. A most telling statement was when David told your mother and I that we sounded just like Nana and Grandpa.  While there was no question that they loved each other, my memory is of their arguing. Say and show Anna that you love her every day.  If you’re not sure why, see #1.

 

  1. Read to your child daily – as a writer, you already know this one. There is a wealth of literature which indicates that children that are read to can express themselves better and do much better in school.  Don’t wait until Katie is 3 or 4; start reading to her now every night.

 

  1. Eat dinner together as a family – this is when the family discusses how their day went. So many family moments are created over the inside square of chocolate cake or quesadillas.  The meal doesn’t matter; just the time together with no distractions.

 

  1. Spent time outside – some of my best memories are of bike riding with you and your brother in the area that eventually became Bedford and the Neuse Greenway Trail. We explored.  We talked.  We had fun.  And the walks you and I took as the Greenway was being built, climbing up ladders we shouldn’t have, trying to ride bikes through areas that were flooded.  And Anna losing her sandal in the mud of an area we thought we could cross … but couldn’t. Big fun.

 

  1. Say I love you daily – I grew up in a house where my father never hugged, and we never said “I love you” to each other. When the world throws its worse at Katie, she needs to know that her father loves her.

 

  1. Signs of a bad parent – Katie is going to cry. At least half of the time you won’t ever know why. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.  Babies cry; that’s the only way for Katie to communicate right now.  This time is short.  Enjoy it while you can, even the tears.

 

  1. Your glory days were in past – sorry to tell you this, but I’ve seen too many parents who wanted to be the teen baseball or soccer star, failed, and now they’re trying to remake their children into the image they wish they were. Don’t live thru Katie; it is unhealthy for both of you. You can tell Katie about the time you got 3 fouls in 5 minutes in basketball, though.  Celebrate the small victories.

 

  1. Share your life with Katie – I failed at this one. I don’t believe that you and David ever figured out what I do each day at IBM. I go in to the office, or I work from home, or sometimes I travel to exotic places and bring home Belgian chocolates.  What I did in any of those places was a mystery to the two of you.  Katie needs to hear about your childhood.  Your dreams.  Your successes and your failures.  And of course, what you do every day.

 

John, you will be a great father.  I can see it already in the way you look at Katie.  And she looks right back thinking “that’s my Daddy!”.  And you are.

Love you always,

Dad

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Reinventing 60 – Why I Quit Facebook

I joined Facebook in 2008.  After my second church mission trip to Port Elgin, Ontario, I realized that most of my new Canadian friends were on Facebook and didn’t use e-mail.

My list of Facebook friends grew as I connected with old high school buddies, college friends, some co-workers, and others I met in Canada.  We shared pictures of our travels, our children’s antics, families, and for some friends, their grandchildren.  A pleasant place to be, exactly as Mr. Zuckerberg envisioned.

And then Facebook started morphing, by reading all of my posts and changing the ads posted to the right.  When I mentioned that my back was sore, then all of a sudden there were many chiropractic ads.  I should have been smart enough then to realize that if you don’t pay for it, you are the product.  Later, we learned that Facebook sold our data to Cambridge Analytica that used it for Republican political campaigns (national and in NC).

And then politics reared its ugly head.  Posts were first about Obama – for and against.  Friends that had children and grandchildren, took vacations, and were all pleasant suddenly started posting memes and news articles either supporting or assailing the President.

Things got worse with the election of Donald Trump.  There were articles posted on how he was the greatest president ever, and others comparing him to Hitler and the Anti-Christ.  Daily.  Five to eight times a day or more from some people.  Posts from friends that were normally fairly quiet on Facebook completely disappeared in the flood of political posts.  Did the grandchildren stop being cute?  Did this person sit at home all day trolling the internet for conspiracy theories and things to post for or against?  I can understand being angry but be realistic – nobody’s mind was ever ever ever (yes that is 3 times) changed by a Facebook post.  Each political post had the same responses from the same folks who liked it or commented on it the same ways.

First, I tried to unfollow some people, which meant I, for the most part, only heard about their birthdays; their daily tirade disappeared so other, friendlier pictures could be seen.  Some folks I completely unfriended because I discovered that all of their comments were mean and spiteful.  What happened to the friends of my youth?  They raised kids, worked, went on trips – you know, had a life.

After several years of this, I realized three things about myself.  First, that I could not resist responding.  Since I have friends on both sides of the aisle (most people don’t seem to), I was amazed at the ugly, petty comments belittling people they had never met.  Is that what our country has become over the last several years?  The second thing I realized was that responding kept me angry all of the time.  And third, it was very addicting – seeing ugly posts, getting angry, responding, and staying angry.

I gave up Facebook, which had somehow transformed from a nice place to meet your friends into an angry place where your politics are right and anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot.

I wish my friends had kept politics off of Facebook. I don’t miss Facebook, though.  Life is more peaceful now, although I miss my Facebook friends.  Now if I could just stop seeing the news.  I miss Walter Cronkite [“Uncle Walter”], back when people were civil.

Reinventing 60 – The Rule of Threes

For many years, I’ve heard that life runs in threes.  While I suspect that is superstitious, I’ve noticed that it is often true about deaths.  At our church, whenever someone passes away, it always seems like two more deaths happen in less than a week.  We saw the same recently in the United States with the deaths of Senator John McCain, singer Aretha Franklin, and playwright Neil Simon.

For me, the threes took on a weird turn in August.  Some of you may remember an earlier post about my fateful trip to New York City last February where the marble bathroom sink in my hotel room attacked my head (I passed out), resulting in my first ambulance ride, my third visit ever to the ER, a million tests (I glow in the dark now), 31 stitches, and an overnight stay with the nice folks at Bellevue Hospital.  No, I was not in the section for mental patients.  You can see from the photo on the right that I healed.

Stitches NYC   ER NYC   Healed from NYC

I filled out a lot of paperwork to submit a claim for workers compensation because I was in NYC on business and had had a very short turn-around from another long business trip to Las Vegas.  Five months later, Liberty Mutual denied the claim, indicating that I said I was likely dehydrated when I was on the ambulance gurney in the ER (a personal health issue).  To me, this is a very weak response.  I also said I was a pirate since the EMS bandage covered one eye. If I had been a construction worker, got sunstroke or dehydration from doing my job, passed out and hit something, surely that would that have been workers comp.  This is why you see so many commercials for personal injury lawyers on TV.  Do I “lawyer-up” to get Liberty Mutual to do the one thing they’re paid by IBM to do?  I’m not sure yet.

The next thing that happened was also early in August.  Beverly was in Boone, North Carolina, for a baby shower for my daughter-in-law Anna.  Anna and John are expecting a daughter the first weekend in September.  This will be the first girl born on my side of the family in over 80 years, and our first grandchild.  I was in the garage and decided to move some compressed hardboard that we used to relocate our piano while we got new carpeting in the living room.  I was barefoot and dropped one of the boards on my foot.   Yes, barefoot in the garage is dumb.  So is waiting 10 days before going to the doctor.  This stylish boot is because the podiatrist concluded I may have fractured a bone.  Can you see the swelling in the left foot?  No, those aren’t gorilla legs in the right picture!

shoe boot       gorilla feet

And finally, one day I opted to work from home.  My car was in the driveway, like normal. I went by my car at 7:30 AM to get the newspaper, and mid-day to get the mail.  It was not until around dinner time that I noticed that a vandal decided that my car needed additional ventilation.  Someone in the neighborhood reported that they saw the hole when they were walking their dog in the early morning, so I passed by it two times.  Unlike Liberty Mutual, my auto insurer Nationwide handled the claim quickly and to my satisfaction.  I know who I want on my side. My car now is back to 6 windows and I don’t need to worry about it becoming a swimming pool during the frequent rain we had in August.  You can see on the right that the rock is pretty big.

rear windshield   the-rock-through-the-windshield.jpg

So today is September.  I wonder what this month will bring.  For sure a granddaughter, since Katie is due September 2. And 2-3 trips back to NYC.  Should I stay at the same hotel with the “attack sink”?  The folks at the Hilton Garden Inn – Chelsea were extremely nice.  Kudos to their manager, who sat with me until the EMS crew came, escorted me right to the ambulance door, and called later to ensure I was OK.  I think the answer to this one is easy.

Happy September!

Or as some of my family and friends say, Rabbit Rabbit!

Reinventing 60 – Canada: A Week of Firsts

I’ve written in the past about how Beverly and I go on a church mission trip each year to Port Elgin, Ontario.  We participate in a Vacation Bible School / sports camp and generally are the huddle coaches for 12 year olds – either all boys, or boys & girls.

You would think that after 12 years, there would be nothing new about the trip except for new 12 year olds.  Not true.  This year had several firsts for Beverly and I:

  • This was the first year we ran two camps in parallel within 10 miles of each other.
    • We ran the traditional camp in Port Elgin at the Saugeen District Secondary School.
    • For the first time, we ran a camp for children at the Saugeen First Nation.  For those that don’t remember the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the First Nation people were highlighted with native dancing and traditional costumes during the opening ceremony.  The members of Saugeen First Nation are Ojibway.
  • We stayed at a new Quality Inn in Southampton, instead of at the Colonial Motel in Port Elgin.  The manager of the hotel was very nice to our team of 28.  His son was one of the youth leaders, while his daughter was a camper in Port Elgin.
  • We visited beaches in both Port Elgin and Southampton.  Generally, we just visit Port Elgin because that is where we’re most likely to see our campers.
  • I ate ice cream … well, actually sorbet.  This may not sound like much, but to someone who is lactose-intolerant, it is nice to find something sweet to eat.  In the past, when my fellow travelers ate maple walnut ice cream, I generally wandered off with a frown on my face.  But in Southampton, we found a place that sold THREE flavors of dairy-free sorbet – Mango, Lemon Basil, and Raspberry Lemonade.  I ate more than I should, and was happy.
  • We partnered with a team of 17 adults and youth from Listowel, Ontario, to run the Saugeen First Nation camp.  I only have wonderful things to say about that group, and look forward to working with them again in 2019.

Some things did not change.

  • I went to Tim Hortons as often I as I could.  Their glazed cinnamon roll is something I cannot find at my favorite Raleigh location – Duck Donuts.
  • The sunsets were wonderful – probably the best I’ve seen.
  • Our flight with Air Canada to Toronto took off 2.5 hours late, even though it was scheduled for 6:05 AM.  Since the plane was likely there all night, you would think a maintenance issue wouldn’t arise first think in the morning.   Originally, it was going to be 6 hours late because the airline had to get a part from Toronto.  Really?
  • The folks I worked with – both Canadians and from North Carolina were wonderful.

 

Here are some pictures from the trip, with commentary:

This is the team that went the first week to run a soccer camp.  Since I didn’t go with them to Port Elgin, this is the only picture I have … at the RDU Airport at 4:30 AM.  Does anyone look awake?  After wishing them bon voyage, I paid for parking, drove home, and went back to bed … getting up at a reasonable hour.

Team 1

These are some of the folks who held down the fort at the camp in Port Elgin.  The picture on the right includes girls from Raleigh, Zach from Port Elgin, and 3 guys from Brampton.

img_3484.jpg    On the Beach

I took a lot of pictures at the First Nation camp, but we agreed to not share any pictures with camper faces.  In the middle is our camp pastor, Mark Bainbridge, getting drawn out at the entrance to the James Mason Cultural Center (on left).  No, he’s not dead, although the outline looked pretty convincing … until the girls decided to add girl’s hair to Mark’s outline.  Many of the campers also enjoyed the sidewalk chalk

Cultural Center  Mark  artwork.jpg

Our rallies always included Christian music with LOTS of hand motions.  I think the song playing here is “The River“, by Jordan Feliz.  Maybe not, but was my favorite of the camp songs.  The lucky dancers are the Sherrod family.  They ran the basketball at both camps.  Emma, our worship leader at the First Nation camp, is in the middle.  Yours truly managed to hide when they were selecting people to dance.  Beverly will confirm that dancing is not one of my gifts.

Sherrods

And leader games, with Owen and Calvin wrestling.  The match was close.

owen-vs-calvin.jpg

Our kitchen crew provided breakfast, lunch, and 2 snacks.  These are John and Owen.  Missing are Jeanne, Lynne, Jim, Mia, and Alex.  The last time I posted a sassy picture of Lynne, I got covered with silly string.

Kitchen crew.jpg

These wonderful folks are Cisa and Leah.  They ran our crafts each day.  Thankfully, we had no rain so Crafts could be done outside.  What you don’t see is Leah’s 10 month old baby.  She did much to entertain both the campers and the adults.  I’m guilty.

Cisa & Leah

The playground was a popular spot during camp – for children, youth, and adults.   Our playground fared better than the one on the right at the lake (on the lake?) in Port Elgin.  For whatever reason, Lake Huron has been many inches higher the past 2 years.  More lake, less beach.

playground.jpg  swingset in lake

And finally water games, the staple of every summer camp.  It was hot all week so I think Isaac and John enjoyed it when the campers “accidentally missed” trying to fill the buckets.

Water games

And of course if you go to Port Elgin or Southampton, you have to have a few sunset pictures:

Sunset  Sunset 4sunset 3  Sunset 1

Sunset 2

And one artistic picture.  This house had glass for its deck railing.

artsy fartsy

As always, this trip left me exhausted, but ready to return in 2019.

Take care!

Reinventing 60 – House Shopping on a Grand Scale

Beverly and I went house shopping a week or so ago.  This was one of our choices: a cozy cottage with 255 rooms, 8,000 acres, an indoor swimming pool, an indoor 2 lane bowling alley, and 2.5M cubic feet.  We passed this one up, though – not spacious enough 🙂

Biltmore

This is the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home.  The home was built by George Vanderbilt when he was a bachelor.  He eventually married and had one child.  I cannot figure out whether I’d be lonely as a child in such a magnificent setting, or spend every day exploring the land, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, NC.  When George bought the home, it was surrounded 100,000 acres.  Much of it became part of the Pisgah National Forest.

Beverly and I have been to the Biltmore Estate 3 or 4 times.  Once was just the two of us, once was at Christmas time with both of our boys, and our most recent visit last month to see the Chihuly glass exhibit.  Seeing the Biltmore isn’t cheap.  Parents, take your children when they’re 9 or under.  They will be free.

Officially, Dale Chihuly is an American glass sculptor.  Having seen his works, I would call him a glass artist. His creations are incredibly imaginative, fanciful, and always beautiful.  At 76, Chihuly has been blazing a trail in glass for over 40 years.  Check out this site for some of his creations.  I think one of the things I like the most is that he hasn’t retired.  For Chihuly, this isn’t a job; it’s a calling.  I suspect he will work until it is no longer possible.  As I reached the amazing milestone of 39 years with IBM last month, I realized that’s my goal as well – as long as I love what I’m doing and can make a difference, I will keep working.  And should that end, I will pursue another dream.

Beverly and I purchased both day tickets and night tickets to the Chihuly exhibit at the Biltmore Estate.  We wandered through the house during the day, following behind busloads of tourists that stopped at random places to oooh and ahhh.  My legs were tired.  If George Vanderbilt had a Fitbit, he would have recorded many steps just traversing his house every day.

I’ve included several photos below of the Biltmore and many of the glass exhibit.  I hope you enjoy them.  The exhibit is at the Biltmore from May 17 to October 7.  It is worth checking out.

 

 

Reinventing 60 – Time Is On My Side

I thought I’d co-op an old Rolling Stones song for this blog title.  Is “old” and “Rolling Stones” an oxymoron?  Mick Jagger is now 74.  Time found him anyway.

Two sayings I’ve heard often in my years at IBM are

  • Work smarter, not harder
  • Nobody ever went to the grave saying they wish they had spent more time at the office

Both of those sayings sound good, but they are a real challenge to put into practice.

For example, when I have more work that needs to get done, I come in earlier than my usual 5:30 AM, I work after dinner, or I sneak in some work over the weekend (like when my wife is in the shower).  That doesn’t sound smarter.

I looked up the phrase “work smarter, not harder” to see if the internet had any secrets to offer.  I learned:

Allan F. Mogensen, the creator of Work Simplification, coined the phrase in the 1930s.

Thanks Allan for when I can’t figure out how to work smarter and just feel stupider.

“Work smarter, not harder” does not mean “try to get away with doing as little as possible,” to me it simply means think before you act and make sure your actions are not a waste of effort.

Trying to get away with no work isn’t part of my makeup, but how do you know your actions won’t be a waste of time?

The internet has no shortage of advice.

One article suggests:

  1. Take more breaks.
  2. Take naps. …
  3. Spend time in nature. …
  4. Move and work in blocks. …
  5. Check your email first thing.

I can work smarter by taking breaks, naps, and walks?  I like this way of thinking, but I’m not sure how it will do more than get me fired.

Morten Hansen suggests

  1. Do Less — Then Obsess
  2. Use “The Learning Loop”
  3. Feel Passion & Purpose

Clearly, I’m going to have to read his book because he’s discovered speaking without communicating.

And Forbes has 14 tips to Work Smarter, Not Harder:

  1. Delegate What You Shouldn’t Do; Prioritize What You Must Do
  2. Tighten Up Meetings
  3. Hire People Smarter Than You
  4. Control Your Habits
  5. Do One Single Thing at a Time
  6. Slow Down
  7. Stay Focused and Tune Out The ‘Shiny New Ideas’ Until You’re Done
  8. Turn off the Internet
  9. Follow up on Tasks
  10. Use the Collective Power of Your Team
  11. Understand the Value of Your Time
  12. Use Technology to Streamline or Automate Tedious Work
  13. Build Processes You and Your Team Can Follow
  14. Repurpose Content Assets

After nearly 39 years at IBM, what are my top 12 tricks to working smarter?

  1. Maintain a list of what needs to be done – a Things To Do list, with due dates.
  2. At the start of each day, decide what you need to accomplish by days end.
  3. Take good notes, so you can build on what you’ve heard and don’t ask people to repeat things.
  4. Only attend meetings where you can add or get value. Too many people like to invite everyone.  Reply All is another crime that should be punished.
  5. Don’t wait until the last minute to start a project. It rarely worked in college, and it will rarely work in business.
  6. Color code your inbox, if your mail system allows that. My family is one color, my close friends are another, and my boss is a third color.  That way the important stuff stands out.
  7. Handle a piece of e-mail once. Don’t look at it, and decide you’ll handle it later.
  8. Take frequent breaks, walk around, drink lots of water, stop a co-worker from accomplishing stuff.
  9. Block off time to do “real work”. I may block off half a day on my calendar with the “private” flag (i.e. nobody can see why).
  10. Learn how to say “No” or “I need help”, especially if you feel overwhelmed. Would you rather have an employee who is smart enough to ask for help, or one who waits until the last minute and then misses a deadline.
  11. Don’t fill up your day with meetings. The context switching from one meeting to another, where your brain swaps out information for the last meeting and loads up information for the current meeting is extremely wearing.  You will be worn out just being at meetings.  Guaranteed!
  12. Take advantage of the weekend to get outside, suck in fresh air, visit with people who don’t care about your job, and maybe even exercise. I had a British boss once tell me “In the United States, you live to work; In Europe we work to live.”  Too many people let work consume them, can’t shut it off on holiday, and then when they retire or have a major health issue, there is nothing else.

I got proof of the value of stepping away when I was working on my undergraduate degree in Computer Science at Virginia Tech.  I didn’t mind pulling all-nighters (I actually enjoyed it), but sometimes I would just get stuck and could not figure out why my program was not working.  Late at night (usually 3 AM), I had to make a decision – stay up and keep trying to fix it or go to bed and see if sleeping gave me a fresh perspective.  100% of the time, when I went to bed, I came up with the solution upon waking, the recoded program worked first time, and I was done.  100% !

I would love to hear your tricks and tips.  Post a response and we’ll all learn.

Take care!

Dilbert - Harder Smarter

Jobs Blog – So What Do You Do?

If you’re new to business, one of the phrases you will hear fairly often is “elevator pitch”.  Last week, I heard an exec ask for a 2-minute elevator pitch describing where we were on a particular project.  Yesterday, I asked a co-worker for a 1-minute elevator pitch on Blockchain for an IBM Cloud podcast that I host with a friend.

If you haven’t heard the term before, you might have the following questions:

  1. What is an elevator pitch?
  2. When would I use an elevator pitch?
  3. How long should my elevator pitch be?
  4. What should be in an elevator pitch?
  5. Can you give me an example?
  6. Do I have to be in an elevator to use it?

Let’s start with the basics – what is an elevator pitch?  The term came from the following scenario: You get in the elevator on the ground floor of your office building.  Right as the elevator is about to close, the company’s senior vice president steps in.  Being the ambitious [and now nervous] employee that you are, you say “Hello”.  Since she has no clue who you are, she says something innocuous like “I haven’t seen you before; what do you do?”  Looking around and realizing that the elevator currently holds just you two, you brilliantly realize that she probably is talking to you.  You’ve done your research and know that she will get out on the 15th floor – 30 seconds from now.  How will you answer?  Why, with your elevator pitch, of course.

The term has expanded to describe a succinct and persuasive pitch or speech.  Wikipedia describes it as follows:

An elevator pitch, elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short description of an idea, product, company, or oneself that explains the concept in a way such that any listener can understand it in a short period of time.

With the above definition, the subsequent questions become easy.  When would you use an elevator pitch?  When you are trying to sell or persuade or briefly explain a concept.  That’s what you were going to do in the elevator – sell yourself to the senior vice president?    Think of the goal of an elevator pitch as sparking an engaging interest in a project, an idea, a product, your organization, or even yourself.

In my elevator example, you had 30 seconds.  Sometimes, you might have as much as 2-3 minutes.  If you are cold-calling sales prospects, you won’t get 10 minutes; hook the listener in the first 15-30 seconds.  The length may vary, but the goal remains the same – get a concept or idea across clearly, and quickly in a convincing manner.  Isn’t that what your resume is – a brief synopsis of your objective, education, skills, and experience so the reviewer tosses out his resume stack because he’s found the best candidate in you.  When would you use your personal elevator pitch? At a job fair right after you shake the hand of the recruiter. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Most elevator pitches follow a similar approach.  Let’s assume that you are trying to convince the leadership of your company to fund a brilliant new idea of yours.  Your elevator pitch would include

  • The goal – what idea you want to get across
  • The value – how your idea be a game changer and make your company a leader in your industry, or save your company millions of dollars
  • The hook – something unique and compelling about your idea, with market research and statistics to back it up
  • The closer – engage the person you’re speaking to. Ask what else the company is doing to become an industry leader, and how your idea will get them there for an investment of “just a few dollars”.

Let’s look at this approach in the context of a job fair.  You walk up to the recruiter, shake hands, state your name, hand the recruiter your resume, and launch into your 20-30 second elevator pitch:

  • The goal – to get a job interview
  • The value – your skills and experience
  • The hook – point out something not likely on the 200 other resumes the recruiter will see that day (e.g. special projects, research, unique classes, prior work experience). One of the best students I met at a college job fair “drove” me through his resume, highlighting key items so I wouldn’t miss them.
  • The closer – summarize, for the recruiter, why you’re the best candidate they’ll meet at the job fair for the positions that they’re trying to fill.

In my IBM Jobs blog post on Resume Tips [shameless plug], I mentioned that as a college recruiter, I would go through a 2” stack of resumes after a Computer Science job fair.  At best, I would spend 15-30 seconds reviewing each resume.  Your resume is your elevator pitch to that college recruiter.  It should be an example of your best work.

Here’s one version of the 1-minute elevator pitch to explain blockchain:

  • The goal – A blockchain is an open, distributed ledger across computer networks that is inherently resistant to the modification of data (i.e. it is secure by design).
  • The value – Blockchain reduces the costs involved in verifying transactions through the use of smart contracts and digital currencies. For example, blockchain-based smart contracts are contracts that can be partially or fully executed or enforced without human interaction. A World Economic Forum report from September 2015 predicted that by 2025, ten percent of global GDP would be stored on blockchain technology.
  • The hook – Companies like Walmart are using blockchain to shorten the time it takes to track produce from six days to two seconds. Walmart is getting suppliers to put food on a blockchain, which it says will reduce waste, as well as improve contamination management and transparency.  SK Group in Korea expects blockchain to “… allow users to manage all bank accounts, credit cards, mileage points and other non-financial assets, including crypto currencies, in one basket, and enable transactions of the assets based on trust”.
  • The closer – Harvard Business School said that blockchain “has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems”.  In other words, be a part of it or get left behind.

Here are two articles with elevator pitch examples: Elevator Pitch Examples and Writing Tips and Elevator Pitches: Examples and Suggestions for Students.  I’m sure a short tour through Google results will yield a trove of examples.

And finally, the marginally silly question – Do you have to be in an elevator to deliver the pitch?  No, but you never know when you will need to deliver it.  That senior vice president will be riding the elevator every day to her office.  Make one day special – when she meets an amazing employee like you.  Practice, practice, practice, and be ready!

Jobs blog – Your #1 item

For the past several summers, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to the interns and co-op students at IBM-RTP (Thanks Mike Billau!).  Sometimes I talk about the resume & interview tips captured in these links.  I always offer to review the resumes of the 30-50 students in the room.  You’d think that would be a dangerous offer because everyone could send me their resumes.  Nope.  Historically only 10% respond, even when I made the same offer to a sophomore Computer Science class of over 100 at Virginia Tech.  Not wise.  In 20+ years of recruiting, I’ve seen tens of thousands of resumes.  I probably know something about what makes a good one.  I’ve also spoken on Making the most of their summer internship or co-op.

My favorite topic for the students is around how will they choose what company they want to work for upon graduation.   Even though many (including me) would say that I like to hear myself talk, this is always a group exercise.  I warn those in the room that I will call on everyone present at some point.

First, I pose this question to the students:

What is the #1 item that you will use to decide who to work for after graduation.

The answers are always interesting – culture, work/life, leading edge, well-respected, opportunities for advancement, location, and more.  I write the responses on the board with these rules: 1) everyone must answer, and 2) you cannot give an answer someone else provided.  I try to capture the student’s name and school as they respond.  I poke and probe to make sure they’ve thought through what they mean by their response, rather than something they read on social media. Surprisingly, salary does not show up until later.  Studies I’ve read say it is typically 5th on the list, no matter what the college major.

The second question is where it gets interesting.  For each item on the board, I ask the student that supplied it this:

Your summer internship with IBM is 10-12 weeks.  During that time, how will you determine whether IBM satisfies your #1 requirement?

Sometimes the answer is – look it up on the web (e.g. a company’s propensity for innovation).  Sometimes the student has to “phone a friend” – I don’t know, but others in the room have good ideas.    The group discussion is where the learning takes place.

My goals with the two questions are as follows:

  • Think through what is most important for you – a Must Have.  This applies to your first job, but also to your next job for experienced folks like me.
  • Actively seek out answers to your top criteria.  Your summer internship is a 12 week interview.  You know your manager is evaluating you, but you also have an outstanding opportunity to determine whether this is a company you want to work for.  For experienced employees, be aggressive.  If it is #1, then act like it.
  • Get out of your comfort zone and talk to people.  The answers are not in your office! For an intern, your co-workers can tell you about their careers, whether they are innovative, how much time they spend in the office, or working on the weekend, etc.   This also applies to your next job.  If you want to work in a particular area in your company, see who else is in the target department.  Reach out to them for a casual chat.  You’re bound to learn something useful.

 

Let me know what you think.

Take care!

Reinventing 60 – The Colors of Spring

I always enjoy Springtime in Raleigh because of the colors.

Spring in Raleigh is always weird.  In the same week, you could have 80 degree weather combined with a prediction of snow or ice.   You might flip from heating to air conditioning in the same week – multiple times.  These memes captures the season well.

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One colorful aspect I don’t think anyone in Raleigh likes is the pollen.  North Carolina is the “Pine State”.  For about 2-3 weeks, every car that is outdoors is yellow from pine pollen.  People with allergy problems tend to react to the smaller pollen – like oak. Aachoo !  The picture on the left is at the start of yellow pollen time.  The picture in the middle shows the yellow streams of pollen when it rains.  The one to the right has some turtles on a rock.  Both the turtles and the water to the left are yellow with pollen.

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Our neighborhood uses the Yard-Nique lawn service to keep things looking pretty – mowing, planting, pruning, etc.  Flowering cherry trees, the maple trees budding, and a beautiful array of daffodils on a main drive through the neighborhood are all their handiwork.

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When Beverly and I bought our first house, my goal was that she would always have color in the yard.  So lots of daffodils, azaleas, and flowering trees.  Now we’re in our third house and my goal is the same.  Here are a few pictures from our yard.

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Beverly and I like to visit the WRAL Gardens in downtown Raleigh.  WRAL is a radio and television station.  They have a huge garden that in the Spring is full of beautiful flowers and hundreds of azaleas.  Very few azaleas were in bloom during this trip so you can guarantee that we’ll be back.  And WRAL is planting hundreds more azaleas – Encores this time which means they will bloom again in the Fall.  Beautiful!

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And some times you are at the Gardens when something exciting happens, like this proposal.  The young lady thought she was posing for a picture with the flowers, and didn’t realize that her fiance was in back of her with an engagement ring.

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While I don’t particularly like the pollen, I cannot imagine missing out on all of this color.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Take care !

 

Reinventing 60 – Viva Las Vegas Part 2 !

I don’t know too many people that love Las Vegas so going there twice in 30 days wasn’t at the top of my travel list.  This trip was for IBM’s Think conference.  In prior years, each of the IBM brands had their own conference – Interconnect, World of Watson, and others.  In 2018, all of the conferences were combined into one that had people staying in 6+ Las Vegas hotels.

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Think 2018 was attended by more than 30,000 people from across the globe – prospects, clients, partners, and IBM employees.  There were times I could “feel” the presence of all those folks.

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Remember my last trip where I called my hotel room in the Venetian palatial?  Not this time.  The room in the MGM Grand was dark.  I had to open the closet to get a light for the desk.

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The MGM Grand is a beast of a hotel.  I was on floor 11.  Getting off the elevator, you could choose 1 of 3 hallways.  My hallway (below) had 100 rooms.  I was at the far end.  After that first long walk, I discovered an elevator on my end of the hallway that, on the ground floor, put me out on the Strip.

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Each day of the conference would start with a walk from the MGM Grand across a bridge to the New York New York, across a bridge to the Excalibur, and finally on a tram ride to the Mandalay Bay hotel where the conference sessions were held.  Below are two pictures of the New York New York, with the roller coaster on top (did it in 2017), and one of the Excalibur.

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Most days, I was in meetings with business partners, either in private sessions or on the Expo Center floor.  The Expo Center was huge, and there was no question that I got sufficient exercise that week.  The last picture in this group is Shantenu, the offering manager for the Watson Visual Recognition service on IBM Cloud.

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This is a human sized Battleship game.

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And this is my boss, Adam giving a talk on the Expo Center floor.  Or is he playing air guitar?  Ian and I have had Adam on our IBM Cloud podcast twice and he is a very comfortable speaker.

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Some of the major sessions I found particularly engaging, including one by IBM Research talking about 5 innovations that will help change our lives in 5 years.

This is a picture of the quantum computer in the Expo Center.  Or maybe it is a hotel chandelier, how do you know?  Instead of two states (0 and 1) like a traditional computer bit, the quantum computer has qbits which can take on a vast number of states.  Quantum computers can be used to tackle problems beyond the ability of traditional computers, although they need to be cooled down to nearly absolute zero.  No, it doesn’t come with legs sticking out the bottom.

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I also enjoyed the keynote by Ginni Rometty, IBM’s President & CEO.  Ginni spoke in the Mandalay Bay Event Center to a packed room.  She has clearly mastered the ability to speak on a round stage.  Ginni said that artificial intelligence is not just about your business being “smart”, it is about putting that “smart” to work in your workflows and your business’ decision-making processes.  Since my role on the Watson team is to help business partners do just that, I felt that Ginni was speaking to me.

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One example of “smart work” at a later keynote came from the CEO of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Medical Center for Cancer Care.  He said that while the very best cancer care occurs at teaching hospitals, whether you live or die from cancer should not depend on where you live.  Africa, for example, has 1 oncologist for every 10,000 people.  That oncologist has to be current on recognizing and treating at least the 10 most common cancers.  The U.S. has 1 oncologists for every 100.  Which cancer patients will get better treatments?  That one is easy.

There were some good bands at the conference.  My spirit was willing, but my brain remembered that it had just recovered from a concussion, and my legs were screaming no more walking … so no concerts for this boy.

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Wednesday I spent the day in our With Watson Studio, along with Ståle Bjordal from Apple.  We had the opportunity to demonstrate how iPhone users could tap into Watson, even when their phone was in airplane mode.  I was excited to be part of this announcement.

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I mentioned in an earlier post that I was looking forward to spending time with my friends Ian and Felix in Las Vegas.  Ian couldn’t make the trip, but Felix and I had good meals together. We spent a lot of time at in 2017 and again in 2018, Nine Fine Irishmen … even though my favorite Irishman Ian was still in Ireland.  The same Irish band from 2017 played there again in 2018.  Irish songs can be fun.

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I am looking forward to Think 2019 … because it won’t be in Las Vegas!

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Take care!