Pontification

Corporate Relations: How to Keep Your Job

Linköping, stångebro, tekniska verken.
Image via Wikipedia

Whether you're someone that is deeply in love with their job at their company or someone that is less enamored, keeping up corporate relations is, and will continue to be, one of the most important ways for you to stay employed.

Let me start by saying, "I LOVE MY JOB" - if you're reading this and you're from my company, there is no need to fret, I am actually quite happy with my role and this is simply observations that I've made over the last few weeks.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about how do you keep your job!  You need to get yourself out of the line of FIRE, and I mean company separation, as quickly as you can.  Right now is not the sort of time that you want to have less than firm footing for your career.  The job market is hard up, housing is crap, living expenses aren't cheap, and your parents just announced a strict no "son living at home" policy.  Here are some thoughts on how you can keep the job and avoid heading back to the nest:

Become too Valuable to Fire

Convincing your company to spend money on you is like catnip for both of you.  Magically, overnight, the company has decided to spend $xx,xxx on you and firing you would invalidate that investment.  Training, vendor training, is a great way to get $$ invested in you.  It's painless to you and has a low barrier to entry for the company as well.  I bet you can get one training class a year plus expenses related to the training without having to sign a 5 year contract.

This year, I was lucky enough to get training authorized for a week.  This one time expense from the company will make an approximate 6.5% of total salary investment added onto my total compensation for the year.  That doesn't sound like a lot but if you are still in a junior position like me, I bet that most other analysts aren't getting that sort of spend from their firm.

Sell Something

Another great way to get well known in your firm is to sell something as a junior level employee.  This is no trivial matter to accomplish, BUT... if you can do it, you've got your next promotion pretty much in the bag.  How do you do it?  Get to know your client or project REALLY well.  Understand their concerns as your concerns.  Find their fears as your fears.

Then, tell them something they know but they don't want to hear.  Give them the problem AND A SOLUTION.  Use your corporate-foo to convince them you're the man/company for the job, and then immediately make it your boss's win.  Making him or her a winner will and you will win too.  I've recently seen how making my manager look good makes me look good too.

Networking

The old addage, "It's not what you know, it's who you know" no longer applies.  That makes you the center of power in the networking game and you're not it.  The new phrase is "It's not who you know, but who knows you!"

If you play golf with the VP of Sales, that's fairly good insurance that you're not going to walk into the office to find a pink slip on your desk.  This isn't as easy as getting training, and not as easy as making your boss look good.  This is a project that takes time and tact.  Use this step wisely.  That said, great risk comes great reward as this will probably have you where you want to be the fastest.

These strategies will hopefully help you win the battle of corporate relations.  Your mission, whether you choose to accept it or not, is to keep your job and be happy doing it.  I know that I'm happy with my company and I know that I'm working on these strategies - I need them and they need me and that's how we will work together and move forward.

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Let's Play For Change

Playing For Change | Song Around The World "Stand By Me" from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

http://playingforchange.com - From the award-winning documentary, "Playing For Change: Peace Through Music", comes the first of many "songs around the world" being released independently. Featured is a cover of the Ben E. King classic by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it traveled the globe.

Play For Change - What a wonderful concept.  This video and the campaign that goes along with is has been absolutely inspiring.  Think about it... not just the technical merits but the message of it.  Music is a universal language that we can all speak, that we can all connect to.  Our world doesn't need more war, we need more things in common, more hands to hold, more ways to get to know one another.  Play For Change is the beginning of that mission.

Technically, I enjoyed the video too.  It's really cool that the single song can be brought together all over the world and then put together and work beautifully.  It's like the music group, The Postal Service - each musician recorded their track on a tape and then mailed it to the next to record theirs.  So too did each of these musicians play their part and then got sliced and diced together.

Visit their website at Play For Change to learn more about their project.

Please enjoy these other videos from Play For Change:

Twitter is Penetrating My School

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

That's right, the little tweeting bird is all over the place on campus.  Every department, administrative office, and student now has an @ handle.  I walk down Commonwealth Avenue and hear college kids debating whether the posting to twitter is "tweeting" or "twitting" (I'm in the tweeting camp...).  It's just so strange to think that Twitter has become a main-stream(ish) service that the masses, at least at the college age/level, have seemed to adopt and run with.

Last week, my friends @DeanElmore, @JohnBattaglino and Tom O'Keefe (@bostontweet) led the first Boston University "tweet crawl."  Here's a concept for you.  Combine Twitter/social media, with the age-old tradition of imbibing intoxicating beverages and you've got yourself a dangerous combination.  It seems that the crew didn't have a schedule or even a route prepared but they tweeted their next stop and a crowd formed to follow through the standard BU haunts - the BU Pub, Cornwall's, the Dugout.

It's funny to think that I joined Twitter 643 days ago, according to www.whendidyoujointwitter.com - it was a time when twitter was still VERY new and definitely didn't have the sort of following it does now.  Really, it was just the insiders, the ones that knew about it because they were truly geeky.  To say that you tweet, was an automatic admission of your geekiness and further, proof that you probably were of a technically inclined nature.

Twitter activities here at Boston University and in Boston as a whole have increased significantly of late.  There was even a discussion of which campus in the Boston area was most with it when it came to twitter... I think BU won: Boston tweet debate.  The real question here is whether or not you "get it" and use the service or just use it because everyone else is.

One can see this clearly by the high number of people with protected tweets.  Very few hardcore twitter users will protect their tweets but so many students are worried about what employers can and will see, that they are cutting out the greater twitterverse in lieu of keeping their messages for their close friends.

I guess that means that the real question is why do you use twitter?  I know why I do (a topic for another night), but why do YOU use twitter? P.S. you can follow me on twitter at @jamesconnors.

Rituals That Keep You Grounded

old religion
Image by wanderinghome via Flickr

At the core of most belief systems are a main set of rituals or acts that the group performs either together or on their own as part of their celebration of faith.  Though not a religious act, I have a few rituals that I enjoy and that sometimes stand in the way of moving forward or being productive.

Cleaning My Room

Most mothers would love to hear this... unfortunately my mother knows the real source of this one.  I can't work in my room if it is dirty.  Not even dirty in the sense of dust or dirt, but rather the clutter and chaos of being a college male.

I don't pretend to understand it really.  Perhaps it's something about the energy in the room but I find myself constantly cleaning up the room - putting things away, doing laundry, vacuuming, making the bed, etc. whenever I need to work here - generally on the weekends.

So the next time you need to buckle down and do some work... especially if you need to procrastinate a little longer... consider cleaning your room and doing your laundry!  It's good for at least a couple hours of time killing and the OCD voices in your head will be satisfied.

Ironing

Shocking, I know!  This might be a hold-over from the military academy thing (as most of these are...) but it's a really productive thing... right?  In all seriousness, there is something about making my dress clothes look THAT much better than they were when I took them out of the drier.  Sure, they're all wrinkle resistant dress shirts these days but that's nothing a little light starch and a good hot iron can't make look 100x better.

One late night of doing laundry sophomore or junior year in South Campus, a girl came up to me and complimented me on my folding skills as I was putting creases into my t-shirts as I folded them on the tables while they were still warm.  She worked at Banana Republic and was trying to get me to come work for them to fold stuff... I thought not. BUT! It did remind me that I take great pride in stuff like that.  At USAFA I had a near perfect record for my military inspections - one of the highest in my flight.

These days, though I do iron more dress clothes than I ever did before, the most relaxing moments are when I go through and heavy starch my CAP uniforms.  There are days when the BDU's (The camo uniforms) can stand up on their own when I'm done.  Razor sharp arm creases, stiff front and back panels - so good.

Polishing Shoes and Boots

How ironic is it that this is THE most zen ritual that I have?  It all started in high school when Civil Air Patrol met every Thursday night and sometimes on the weekends.  In the beginning, I would spend hours trying to get any sort of shine out of my boots but over the years I picked up tricks that got my shoes looking like glass.  Heading to USAFA, I was able to share this with my fellow classmates.

We would bond over late night polish parties.  These polish parties were some of the few times the upperclassmen would leave us alone - maybe that's where the big tie comes from.  These days, I don't have anyone else to shine shoes and boots with so it is a solitary thing that I do to refocus and clear my mind.  It's amazing how making tiny little circles with handkerchiefs and Kiwi polish can flush everything bad out of your head.

These are the rituals that bring me back to center, that relax me, that make me concentrate when I can't normally focus.  What sorts of things do you do to bring you back to center when everything else seems to be going crazy?

MEME: Interview Tag

Grand Canyon, Arizona. The canyon, created by ...
Image via Wikipedia

It's been a while since I posted last and I've been looking for a reason, an impetus to start blogging again.  Well, my friend Jenn over at www.youllgrowtoloveme.com tagged me in an interview meme.  Of course I wanted to take part, but then I saw the questions.  Oh well - here are the answers to her juiciest questions:

1. How many times have you been naked in public? Elaborate.

I guess the first question is what is public?  I can't really remember any time that I've been out streaking or naked in public on purpose.  The only time that I remember was a hot summer day at Aquabhagan - a water park in Maine.  I was on the racing slide that goes incredibly fast and you race your friend in the lane next to you.  When I hit the bottom pool, my bottoms decided that they had had enough and slipped right off.  My times naked in public = 1. 2. Now that you've been knighted, what else is there to look forward to in life?

As amazing as being knighted has been, there is plenty more to look forward to.  I'm still waiting for "the one" - the woman that I spend the rest of my life with.  I'm still looking forward to my first job and even my last job.  I'm looking forward to having children, a dog, a family.  I can't wait to go skydiving, continue to blog and write.  I look forward to meeting all the rest of the people that will be part of the story known as my life. 3. What is your favorite sound in the world? Why?

I think my favorite sound is the complete lack of sound when I am out in the woods alone except for nature all around.  Living in the city, there aren't many times of quiet... I mean COMPLETE silence.  When my mother's side of the family went whitewater rafting down the Grand Canyon, I experienced a complete silence that was indeed "deafening."  Yes, the river burbled at the shore and the wind blew through the grass but the air was completely devoid of human sounds.  I found the quiet comforting, rejuvenating, and personal. 4. What is the best thing about women?

I think the best thing about women is that they make men want to be better men - at least when things are going well.  Have you ever noticed that a coed apartment is generally cleaner than the frat house you used to party at?  Have you ever seen the way that men dress when they're trying to impress women?  What about the man that learns about something from a woman and because they said something, they stick to the change.  Recently, my friend Rachel made a cup of tea for me while I was sick.  I've had tea before but her lack of coffee drinking and this amazing cup of tea seemed to spark something within me.  Since that day, I've forgone coffee and slashed my caffeinated beverage intake to nearly none.  Women are great - and they're pretty too. 5. How would you propose to me?

Jenn, the one who tagged me on this, loves to travel.  She went abroad while in college and was in a different city each weekend for a time.  At the same time, I have always wanted to travel with someone I love because I think there is nothing better for two people than to experience something together and make some amazing memories.  This particular trip would be throughout Europe, backpacking style.  In Paris, my favorite city in Europe, we would spend the day seeing museums, the Tower, and lounging by the river eating a baguette.  As night falls we would walk towards the Tower once more and the timing would be perfect where it flashes just as I get on my knee and ask her to marry me.

Okay so here’s the deal. It’s now YOUR turn to be interviewed! Here’s how:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me!” 2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions. 3. Update your blog with the answers to the questions. 4. Include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. 5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you get to ask them five questions.

Even if you’ve already been interviewed by somebody, you can still play. I’ll be sure to e-mail you new and exciting questions

My Real Education Is Outside of the Classroom

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 05:  Dan McGoff #19 of the B...

When describing how to best take advantage of Podcamp Boston 3, Chris Brogan said something to the effect of, "It's not what people are teaching in the classrooms that makes Podcamp special.  Rather, it is what goes on in the hallways, lounges, and small informal gatherings that makes the magic that is Podcamp" (Loosely quoted).

It was soon after podcamp that I started to learn this same principle while interning for the IT consulting firm, Accenture.  We had formal training, workshops, on the job learning and the rest but what made working for them so special was the day to day interactions passing by a coworker's desk.  It was the informal talks at internal networking talks that provided huge value, not the formal reports and speakers.

As I've entered my final year of college, I've brought the lesson of informal gathering, investing in intertactions, and the value of uniting others to my every day life within the University.  It is easier to parse through the lecture notes and find the important chunks.  Focusing in class is far less challenging now that I know what is important.  All the classwork prepares me to work with peers in the hallsways and on teams.  My experience informs my actions in student groups and guides the decision making I use every day.

So what are the next steps?  Here are a couple:

  1. Find what drives you - focus on it and develop it.
  2. Get extroverted - we all have introverted days but getting outside yourself lets you see the value you have to bring to others and vice versa.
  3. Get involved - you can find something that excites you every day that you're alive, I promise!  Find it and follow it.
For me, I have found a new energy investing in the Student Alumni Council at Boston University.  It wasn't until I took a leadership role organizing our members to assist with the University-wide Reunion and Alumni weekend that I actually rediscovered my love for the group.  I do a lot of grunt work but the few hours of networking and the fun pay-offs of meeting new people were more than enough to jumpstart that drive within.  SAC will be a new priority for me in the coming months.
What are you passionate about?  Have you started to find the value in the hallsways and informal gatherings?  What are you favorite conversations to have in the halls of conferences?

 

Go to Office Hours

It's a lonely place here in the School of Management Starbucks... I'm all alone while waiting for students in my IS323 class to come and pick my brain about their projects.  Let's be honest, they're not coming.  The only team that stopped by today did so when I wasn't even officially having my hour.

Yet here I sit, waiting to make their lives easier, impart knowledge and experience, and maybe -just maybe- make their days a littl ebit brighter.  The SMG Cross Functional CORE Curriculum is a challenging experience for everyone involved but I'm here to make it easier.  The school is literally paying me to help make students' time easier, yet no one is here.  I shouldn't be surprised, people rarely take advantage of this "free" help.

But why?  Why don't students admit that they could benefit from some help and keep me company and learn something.  I promise, I'll even crack a few jokes when you're really feeling down about your homework.  Office hours are your chance to get in touch with students that have gone through and been in your shoes if they are for your Teaching Assistant.  We're not worht THAT much, but what about your professors.

Academia is probably the only place where genious professors, people with high knowledge and value are literally being paid to sit there and talk with you.  It doens't matter what you talk about; the weather, the Red Sox, the financial crisis, or even your *gasp* assignments.  Take advantage of your professors - their time is worth a lot more than you can afford.

Responsibility, Hazing, and the Lawyer Nation

Since when have we lived in a state where people are so afraid of litigation that we purposefully change our lives (that are well within the rules) just to appease those that stand to sue us?

Today, I experienced for the first time the empty feeling of caving into someone else.  We had traditions, all of them legal and safe, but they must be broken because of the mere threat that an administrator would choose not to like our activities and censure us.

The laws pertaining to hazing in this state are broad, open, and seem to encompass just about anything that one could possibly want to do.  They set forth a few examples of common issues but then throw in a wildcard stating that "any other activity or practice" that harms mentally or physically another person is considered hazing.  Take that a step further.

Boston University is so afraid of litigation that they have taken the wildcard and applied it to all manners of activities from scavenger hunts to dress codes, wearing greek letters to how we term certain things, and everything in between.  It's ludicrous .  Now, on a mere rumor, we are changing our process because of the possibility that it maybe out of line w. their interpretation of the laws/rules etc.

Individuals need to take responsibility for their organizations.  We aren't hurting people, honest.  Our practices do serve a purpose.  We are indeed helping them learn and though we are open to changing, why are you forcing us to because you're afraid of being sued?  Shouldn't the student experience mean something?  Shouldn't the fact that we are preparing our members for the real world be important?

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 12:  Brian McGuirk #28 of the Boston University Terriers is surrounded by teammates Kenny Roche #6, Tom Morrow #21 and Pete MacArthur #16 after McGuirk scored the game winner during the Beanpot Tournament Championship Game on February 12, 2007 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston University defeated Boston College 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brian McGuirk;Kenny Roche;Tom Morrow;Pete MacArthur

Before you flame me, yes, I understand the issues involved.  Number one - hazing is a VERY touchy subject... no one is contesting that.  However, we are not hazing.  No one is being hurt by our process, no one has complained, no one is distressed or altered.  Number two - Boston University cannot afford litigation and even if not a lawsuit, the bad PR that would stem from the mere alligations of Hazing.

So I leave you with this thought for the evening: When did we become so sensitive to hurt feelings that we are allowing ourselves to compromise our missions and objectives?  Why are we so trigger happy to sue when most issues could be worked out with a mature conversation?

Getting Back on the Horse - I need to Write

18-Story Accenture building located at One Fre...

So... it's been a while hasn't it?  So many things change with time; school has started, my internship has ended, I'm applying to jobs, I have offers - there's so many things that have moved forward in my life since the last time I made time to write here.

I'm not going to apologize for not writing - I've been filling my time well, I promise you that much.  This summer I worked for Accenture, a global consulting firm, doing systems integration and technology consulting for EMC.  It was an absolutely amazing experience and has given me much more than employment, but confidence, ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and perspective.

One thing that has been missing, however, has been the thrill that I get from writing on a regular basis.  Back in Ireland, I was writing for the University College Dublin paper - the observer.  In addition, I was blogging often, podcasting weekly, and had all the time in the world to engage audiences online.  In contrast, the summer has been amazing but busy - I barely had time to deal with anything outside of work and a rather interesting social life.  My goal is to write every day, either here on Jamesmconnors.com or over on Collegetechcentral.com but hopefully both.  I want this to be a part of my life that doesn't go away anytime soon.

So best of luck to me and best of everything to all of you - thank you for continuing to read and stay involved!

America Can Learn A Thing or Two; Part Two

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 05:  A crowd gathers for the annual lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree on the West Front of the capitol December 5, 2007 in Washington, DC. This year's tree, a 55-foot balsam fir from Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest, is decorated with strands of energy-efficient LED (Light Emitting Diodes) lights as part of the Captiol's commitment to save energy.   

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

One of the biggest energy hogs for any building would be the lighting and the climate controls.  I've seen varying amounts of integrations both in the US as well as abroad.  I have to say, though, the Irish design and architecture do a great job of using their designs to reduce the consumption of energy for airconditioning and lighting.  By leveraging open dynamic cooling, novel insulation methods, and available lights, the United States could reduce their consumption of energy.

One of the first things that I noticed when I walked into the Quinn School of Business was that the atrium was wide open... I mean WIDE open.  The ceiling was transparent to let in as much light as possible - there were even trees freestanding on the ground floor.  It gave the entire building a spacious, airy feel that limited the use of artificial light as much as possible.  It was always bright and this allowed supplemental lighting by way of indirect light - it wasn't as harsh on the eyes at all.  Take note, USA.

Where the two come together is another interesting thing that I've never seen anywhere but Ireland.  At the top edge of a line of windows on the exterior of buildings, there is a grill arrangement with angled slats.  These slats angle off the light depending on the sun's position in the day.  It allows two different savings.  First, by giving a shade to the window, there is no need to lower shades which would block out too much light and therefore require the use of lighting.  The second is that by reducing the need to tint the glass, as is the custom in the states, colder climates such as Ireland will be able to utilize the natural convection heating and not need to turn on the heaters.

When it comes to design, besides the transparent ceilings and the like, there are a few design characteristics that Ireland just nails.  The first was that shade above windows - that's great for reducing consumption.  The second really noticeable and beautiful design feature is the use of what I would call buffer space inside windows.  Basically one completely clear pane of glass is either outside the line of the building's walls or flush but then about a foot or two behind that is the interior pane.  By creating an open buffer, a wall of air, between the structural glass, heating and cooling efficiency is greatly improved.  It's similar to how double paned glass keeps windows from leaking heat but on a grander scale.  Colder air in the shadows would be able to cool the heated air in the sunny parts to make for a temperate average temperature.

By combining technologies such as these with designs discussed here, I think that the United States could do a lot to reduce electricity consumption and ultimately the need for oil dependency.  More to come this week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Weekend Of Lasts

Trim Castle  

Image via Wikipedia

This is our last weekend in Ireland...

This thought screamed through my head this morning as I woke up.  Tomorrow is the last full Saturday that we'll be in the country, the last Sunday, Monday et all, following too.  This weekend is last bit of our European adventure.   I'm left stunned at all we did.  I'm stunned with all that I've done.  I came here saying "no judgement" and "no regrets" so it's been a few days that I've been thinking back through trying to evaluate my successes on that account.

It's time to remember the great times, the trying times, the hard times, the late nights of laughs, and the early mornings of tears.  It's been a trip filled with a lot of firsts and a lot of lasts.  Funny how the time seems to have been stolen back away from us.  It was just yesterday that I was feeling the same bits of anxiety as I prepared to embark on this adventure in January... I have those feelings again.  What will Boston, the US, the summer have in store for us - for me?

At the same time, I feel myself getting ramped up for production.  I fell into this semester from the highest functioning lifestyle that I've ever experienced.  Needless to say, my Irish lifestyle did not match the fervor of that pace.  Having completed a number of phone interviews in the last few days, the first few conference calls for Accenture and some student groups, I'm reminded what it feels like to be back "on edge."  Listening to my fellow interns address the analysts on the call while my mic was muted gave me the first example of how we Americans are always "on edge."  They sounded tense, wound up but held back - like a mouse trap ready to spring.  Is that really how we are?

This weekend will be busy with seeing my Irish friends and saying goodbye to them.  We have the International Street Performers Championship going on too - I hope to make it over to Marrion Square for that one.  Here's one that I never thought I'd find here in Ireland - International Gay Rugby Championship.  I was on the bus with one team and helped steer them to the pitches the other day.  In any event, they will be playing for an international cup this weekend just a few hundred meters away from our accomodation.

My projects are on their way to completion.  I was able to collect over 115 responses to my online survey regarding student experience - that was amazing!  Thank you to all that participated.  That will be going into my research project that I will present to my office on Tuesday and hand in a report on Thursday.  Also due on Thursday will be my research project comparing the Irish and American teaching methods at University as well as a internship journal.  So, needless to say there will be a lot of working to be done... and of course, as soon as I say that the roommates are telling me that we're going to some gardens.  So stay tuned for further info, I guess.

PS - photos are now up at my new flickr account.

 

 

 

 

America Can Learn A Thing or Two; Part One

A red tank of diesel fuel on a truck in Bombay, India.  

Image via Wikipedia

This will be the first of a few posts that I wanted to throw together that address some of the lessons that I think the United States can learn from countries like Ireland. CNET published a story about how green technology could make Europe a technology power house - story found here. At the same time, this is a chance to try BlogDesk as a remote blogging software tool.

Anyone that has gone outside of the United States will know that we waste a lot of energy (in the US). I have a feeling that I'm going to be a little shocked upon my return. Maybe, just maybe, someone with some pull will read this and make some changes. It's really not hard to conserve a little bit but making change is the difficult bit.

I'll address some background first. The Irish consider themselves "hardy folk" as Mary McClosky put it upon our first meeting. They keep the heat down, take short showers, turn out the lights when not needed, and unplug appliances when not in use. It's an attitude of conservation brought on because electricity costs are EXCRUTIATING.

Not only does Europe pay amazingly high prices for gasoline, equivalent to ~ $8.20/gallon, but the energy costs are easily twice what we pay in the US. Just looking around cities in Europe, it is clear that costs are a significant issue on everyone's mind - there are barely any cars on the roads and many that are use diesel fuel instead of unleaded gasoline.

What these environmental factors breed is a culture of conservation. The "hardiness" is less about being strong willed and more about being sensible. I've learned that it is possible to use all that you need and not overuse. In reality, it's very easy to do but hard to keep in mind. Just keeping in mind that I should unplug the computer or turn off the lights has been a large change mentally for me just because I've been so conditioned to not care.

One thing that Ireland has that makes this easy is that every outlet has a circuit-breaker in it with a switch. I can shut off the power just by throwing the switch and it keeps power from flowing to the machine or appliance. It's stupid simple but apparently is too difficult for Americans to ever want to implement.

Take aways from today's entry would be:

  • Foster a mindset of conservation
  • Use what you need and no more
  • Unplug when done
  • Switch off when leaving
  • Find circuit breaking plugs to manage power leaks

Thanks very much for reading and I'll see you next time!

 

 

 

 

Google As a Social Commentary

 

Image via Wikipedia

I'm not sure if this is the post that you were looking to find on this blog but stay with it for a few minutes because I think it's going to turn out fine.

For many of us, "Googling" has become the new standard for information searching.  I know for my own self, Google has become the center of my world.  After UCD blocked our access to outside mail servers (they were afraid of scary viruses...) I had to find other email solutions outside of Boston University infrastructure.  Naturally, I turned to the one parent figure in my digital life - Google.  Gmail, GCalendar, and GTalk are now the focal points of my information gathering.  I have embraced the Goog and it feels good.  I know that I am an early adopter of sorts but I can't be the only one doing this.  Google is now inseperable from our society and we from it.

Yesterday, Thursday the 5th of June, Google announced a new feature to their ever popular GMail service - GMail Labs.  This beta service, along with many other Google Labs program, is a way for you to access non-mainstream features in order to make your life easier.  Features such as changing the way your signature is displayed, adding the old Snake game, or even locking yourself out of GMail for 15 minute email time-outs are all part of the offering.

So, that's all well and good, James.  We know you are a geek and love this stuff but what about the social commentary part of all this?  Here it comes.

Google doesn't do things lightly - they move relatively slowly, though much faster than other corporations of its size.  The launch of a new service is a definite sign that there had been interest in such a feature as well as someone that was interested in developing the tool - perhaps part of their progressive 15% time allocation for employees to pursue their own projects.  To me, this is a sign of a new wave of human.  In my mind, this is the same sort of movement that is propelling Barack Obama through to the Democratic party's nomination - we want change and now there is a voice, a drive to get it.

Let me expand.  As part of this new feature, private users will be able to code their own features for GMail and have them integrated with the service.  Sure, you can do similar things using extensions and personal scripts such as Greasemonkey and Better Gmail 2 for Firefox.  Those services are great but they aren't native, each user has to go out and get it for themselves.  GMail Labs will be for the masses and supports all those that are out using Google products.

Some are bashing Generation Y as the generation that will ruin the world with our preoccupation with social networks and social media.  I happen to believe that we will be the agents of change that our parents could never dream to be.  We have a drive, a carnal need to change things.  We are driven to make an impact on the world around us.  Generation Y will be a seen as the network of individuals that come together to make change in this world.

The launch of GMail Labs is a perfect example of this.  When a company like Google makes a move, it's for a good reason.  Their strategy reflects society and our passions, our desires.  I would look to Google to become the next Microsoft... but in a rather friendly, positive partnership rather than the hostile prisoner relationship we have with Redmond.

 

 

Studying Early Is Not Fun

Surprise, surprise - James is having a hard time studying for these exams.  I hate studying.  I really dislike the way that classes are taught and here's why. Our educational system is built to reward small impulses of work.  What I mean is that tests measure a student's performance on one day; papers measure how well a student can prepare less than a day's work; cold calls measures a student's ability to scan the text before class.  How can educators figure out a way to constantly assess a student's true knowledge and understanding?  I don't have an answer to that.

I know that some may say that rewarding knowledge will then disenfranchise those that aren't as "smart" as another.  I dissagree.  I'm not a smart person in so much as that I can't just walk into tests and beat them.  I have struggled and toiled for every grade that I've received ever since middle school.  There has never been a subject that I could simply do well in without a lot of work.  This tells me that someone can build knoweldge through hard work.

If we reward knowledge, as a society, then we maintain the balance of rewards as they stand today: some people would still be able to get by with less work than others.  However, the shift would change society in a positive way.  By rewarding knowledge, our culture would have the opportunity to have a larger mean knowledge compared to today.  The benfits of this are far reaching and go well beyond my ability to ponder amid exams.  But think, what would our world be like if we cared more about knowledge than grades? Or if grades measured knowledge and not temporary recall.

All this was a bit of procrastination on my part but I think it has value.  What do you think?  Do you think that our system and society would be better served if knowledge were rewarded rather than tests etc?

Irish Education or American, You Decide

This semester, I have been studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland through the Boston University Dublin Management Internship program.  Unlike many of the other BU abroad programs, we directly enroll in a host institution rather than taking classes at a Boston University student center.  This means we are taking the actual Irish classes along with Irish students as they work towards their degrees.  This interaction and firsthand experience has allowed me to gain an interesting perspective on differing educational systems. Here at the University College Dublin Quinn School of Management, the curriculum, course requirements, and credit hours are very different for equivalent degrees in the United States.  There are a number of reasons that I think the educational environment is different here.  First, students do not pay for their school tuition, the government does.  As much as it is elitist to say, I think this may contribute to student buy-in as far as the educational process goes.  Since they have no financial responsibility, as compared to US students, students may not take classes as seriously as they might otherwise if there was a financial stake in their coursework.

Second, many Irish students have a three year program to earn their Bachelor's Degree as compared to the American four year system.  When looking at the curriculums, the Irish spend their entire university career in the college of their major taking courses that relate directly to that major.  There are not the same sorts of "general education" or "elective" course requirements as we have at Boston University.  It seems that by reducing the course load of outside classes, Irish curriculums are able to graduate students a year faster than most American colleges.  I wonder whether this has an effect on the work place and hirability.  One might question maturity and experience given students are hired into firms for full time work at the age of twenty-one rather than our traditional twenty-two.

Finally, the Irish curriculum and teaching style that we are experiencing is very different from that which we are used to at Boston University.  Classes are almost exclusively lecture style with little to no classroom participation and minimal feedback.  The instructor will generally talk about notes they have prepared in a PowerPoint presentation or an Adobe PDF that then displays on a projector.  Classes tend to be about three hours long with a break in the middle and meet once a week.  In contrast, the longest class I had experienced prior to UCD was two hours, met twice a week, and was VERY interactive.  Even our large lecture style courses tended to interact either by cold-call, interactive clickers, or other real-time feedback.

I have not yet formed my opinion about what system is "better" since I have not really gone out and experienced what it is like to work alongside these students.  In a little over a week, I will be starting an internship in downtown Dublin where, among other goals, I hope to experience firsthand what it is to work in Ireland.  I personally prefer the BU system and curriculum because it works better for me, or perhaps because I have grown up with it, so to speak.

What do you think?  Does the Irish system of education sound better to you?  Is it more fun?  If you were a hiring manager, who would you rather hire?  Post a comment or drop a line to james.m.connors [dot] gmail [dot] com and let the community know what you think.