46 Years in the Making. . . .

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to attend a pretty unique event, at least by today’s standards.  I have the pleasure of supporting a Fortune 250 ‘clicks and mortar’ client with a very proud history and strong corporate culture.  It’s a pretty unique place for a lot reasons, but one in particular is that many of the organization’s employees have been with the company for 20 plus years.  A lot of employees began their career in the retail organization and eventually grew into an IT role as their knowledge of the organization expanded during their tenure…

120anniversary/images/1930/1930Getting back on point, the ‘unique event’ I am speaking about is a retirement party.  Sounds mundane enough, I know, but this particular retirement party was for someone who spent 46 years working for this organization.  That’s right, he spent his entire career working for one company.  This wouldn’t be that unique in the Dot.com era, where many people only worked for one company, and then retired internet millionaires

However, PJ (not his real name), he had one employer from the time he graduated to his retirement.    Let that sink in for a moment.  Yes, he changed roles, positions, titles, and responsibilities many times.  Offices, locations, buildings and cities too.  He saw the organization evolve around him, watched sales double time and again and again.  During his tenure, he came to realize that dollar totals that once represented annual sales came to represent monthly sales, then weekly, then daily. 

While all that was going on, he also watched the entire evolution of technology from mainframe and punchcards to programming languages, to personal computers, to the internet, to SmartPhones.  He saw the entire IT industry evolve and mature in front of his eyes, all within the confines of one company. 

I didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time with him over his career – I was only there for the last little bit of it, his victory lap if you will.  However, he made a big impression on me.  One of the many memorable qualities about PJ is his sense of calm and control.  Even when people presented him with ‘corporate bad news’, I never saw him raise his voice or become emotionally charged.  His response was measured and focused, typically something along the lines of ‘How can I help you’ or ‘What do you need’ or ‘What’s the impact here’?
PJ is a good 20 years older than I am, or effectively, one generation removed, give or take a year.  But his patience, his willingness to give situations time to develop, his attention span, seem almost like lost artifacts from an Indiana Jones film.  Virtually no one from my generation stays with a single employer for their professional life, cradle to grave so to speak, particularly in Technology.  People in today’s world are always looking for a better situation, a new angle, a cooler opportunity, or the fast buck.  Team members leave routinely for what they hope are greener pastures in a constant parade that has  become a rite of passage.

So, now comes the Sociological analysis that drives my Wife and friends crazy – why are we Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, and Gen Y people so different than those who preceded us?  Is it because we were raised with television or laptops or everything ‘instant’?  Is it because we are the continuing evolution of rugged individualists who have less in common with each other than ever before?  Is it because our culture is de-volving into the mindless worship of Greed, where nothing matters but getting our mogul on?  Is it because we mistrust Authority at all levels?  I wish I knew the answer, and for that matter, so do a lot of HR professionals. 

I guess at the end of the analysis, everyone wants is to be happy and feel like they make a difference in some way.  That’s a technology-agnostic perspective, but I believe it’s fairly consistent.  Jobs are only jobs until people invest in them – then they become careers.  Happiness is what we define it to be, in our own terms, for ourselves.  Yet, this entire thought comes back around to PJ – what did he find working for a single employer for all those years that others didn’t?  The best answer I can come up with is Satisfaction.

I’ll say this much, though – it was a nice retirement party.  Great testimonial, really cool evolutionary photos of PJ, his career and family, and the biggest sheet cake I’ve ever seen.  I’ll probably never see another one like it…

About the Author: 

Willard Woodrow, Senior Project Manager and BI Champion at Genuine Parts, has 15+ years of information technology experience in the utilities, retail, recruiting, telecom, and insurance verticals. His professional expertise includes business consulting, system implementation, project management, application operations, and client relationship management. Follow Willard on Twittter @willardwoodrow.

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Confessions of a Creeper (Facebook that is).

I admit it. I am kind of a Facebook creeper. Actually, I used to be. Now I am a recovering Facebook creeper. For some time I have felt gradually more uneasy about poking around on peoples pages, looking at photos and posts and then moving on – undetected. I didn’t participate much. Something about broadcasting my thoughts and opinions out to people who I am not necessarily that closely connected to, “creeps” me out. I am too private a person for that to be comfortable. So I was definitely taking in more than I was giving out.

The creeperRealistically, my original desire to be on Facebook was just to monitor the social media activities of my teenage son, to make sure he didn’t do anything stupid or get into trouble. I made him “friend me” for that reason. Nothing worrisome has happened in three years and I am confident he is savvy enough now to avoid the social media mistakes that can get you fired, or suspended, or sanctioned, or arrested. So I don't really have that excuse anymore for creeping.

With my “adult” Facebook friends I would casually peruse the various postings a couple of times a day. This started off as a pleasurable activity. However, More often than not I would come away with negative feelings following these perusings (is that a word?) and I began to wonder, why am I angry at this or that person’s strident opinion, envious of their vacations, or dismissive their “ trivial” updates. “

I was becoming way too involved in posts that I didn’t have to read, and which had nothing to do with me. I found myself rehashing posts in my head while I was offline.  This was clearly my problem, not the fault of the postees. I confessed my angst to our online community manager. Simple solution, he said “Engage or get off. That’s my advice.  Either way you'll be happier."

So I made the choice - I got off. Cold turkey for two weeks.

An endless stream of status updates passed by... and I was not there to observe them. Did I miss some party pics?  A beach outing?  A funny video?  I was curious.  To avoid temptation, I changed my password to a real difficult one with x’s and z’s and numbers , wrote it down, and promptly hid the information. The first couple of days was kind of like kicking a nicotine habit, I kept scrolling to my Facebook url, but was able to suppress the urge to view what was going on. To pass the downtime, I immersed myself in Netflix and watched the entire seasons one through four of Mad Men. That was a great substitute but now that is over and season five hasn’t begun yet. Now it’s been a couple of weeks and I have become adjusted to a non-Facebook existence. Every now and then I do check up on my son, but just to update myself on his life (how else am I going to find out what is going on with him?) I am in a good place with FB and really don’t anticipate going back to my old ways. I’ve even read a few Kindle books.

I will admit, however, that I have re-discovered the seduction of Twitter and have found some interesting hashtags to follow.  Jeepers.

About the Author: 

Rick Sanders is Digital Content Strategist/Writer. He has broad experience in technology-related marketing, and writing for the tech-savvy crowd. Rick sees the explosion of social media as a great reason for revisiting the basics of effective communication.  He can be reached at rsand@bellsouth.net or on Linked In at www.linkedin.com/in/ricksand

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A Candidate's Guide to Working with a Staffing Agency

I’ve been approached by a few candidates over the past few weeks who are new to using a staffing agency and aren’t quite sure what the process is.  If you are a candidate who may have previously only considered permanent positions and applied directly to companies, I would encourage you to look at staffing agencies as a viable option to find your new position, both for contract roles and to leverage our relationships with our clients in order to get around HR for permanent roles.  Please excuse the lengthy post - it's a lengthy process.  Here’s an abridged blueprint of how it works:

The Staffing Agency Job Search Process

  1. Initial Contact: You apply for a job with us, or we contact you because we believe we may have some good opportunities for you now or in the future.
  2. Career Model: We obtain your resume and work with you to define your professional aspirations, location preferences, rate requirements, and any other pertinent information.
  3. Job Search: We search for jobs based on your search criteria (rate, background, skills, company culture, etc.) and present those opportunities to you.  The number of matches we have depends on the market and how stringent your requirements are.
  4. Holding Pattern: If you are not interested in any of the available opportunities, we keep your resume on file and you reconnect with us periodically so we can run a new search.  The MATRIX website is constantly updated with our new jobs, so keep an eye out and contact your recruiter if you see something you like.
  5. Resume Editing: If you are interested in a particular job, we review your resume again with the target job in mind, and discuss tweaks for the job if necessary. 
  6. Submittal: After perfecting the resume, we submit your resume to the client company.  In each case, we will let you know how quickly we will receive feedback, and how detailed we expect that feedback to be. 

After Your Resume Is Submitted

  1. Updates: After we submit your resume to a client company, we will set specific follow-up dates with you based on expectations of how quickly we will receive feedback. 
  2. Feedback: We will stay in contact with our client in order to obtain updates on their current hiring outlook, obtain interview timetables, stay abreast of any delays, and give you as much information as possible every step of the way.  If our client decides not to interview you, we will obtain as much feedback as possible about why they came to that decision.
  3. Interview: Upon obtaining an interview request, we will prep you for the interview by suggesting online resources for company information and personally providing you with all the information we can disclose about the hiring manager, the company environment, and the project you will be working on.  It is then your responsibility to review the resources we provide, and go ace that interview!
  4. More Updates and Feedback: After the interview, we will follow up with both you and the hiring manager at the company to get your impressions and address any questions or concerns you may have post-interview.  You should send a quick thank you note to the hiring manager to reiterate your interest in the position.  We will also obtain any additional information we can about other candidates in process and the final decision timeline.
  5. Offer: Finally, the offer stage!  We will do everything in our power to ensure that you are on the receiving end of that offer.  If for some reason, the client company decides to extend an offer to another candidate, we will do everything we can to find out what it was that led them to that decision and what you could do next time to improve.

As you can see, it starts with identifying a position that matches your skills and ambitions, but the magic of working with a good staffing agency really happens after we submit your resume.  Our established relationships with our clients mean that we can offer candidates a way to get around HR when applying for a position (often the most difficult task) and provide superior feedback when compared to applying with a company directly.  Information is the most valuable commodity – and when you work with a company who makes it their business to be able to provide you with more information about what the hiring manager wants and needs – what you can do to secure an offer – you are in a better position to win that offer.

About the Author: 

Kathryn Smith is a Technology Recruiter at MATRIX Resources and has been recruiting for over a year. As an Economics graduate and prior Economic Research Analyst, she continues to follow the labor market and emerging technologies closely. Look for future blog posts about the recruiting process as well as labor market outlooks.

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Job Seeker

Technology Introduction – Will Grandma Use it?

I was on a cruise when I learned that Steve Jobs had died. I watched a short news story that tried to discuss why he was such an important figure in technology but I think they completely missed the mark.

Will Grandma Use It?New technologies need to pass the grandma test: if the average grandma couldn’t figure it out or just plain wouldn’t use it, it’s likely not going to be successful. Whether you think Apple products are aesthetically pleasing or not, the majority of their design focuses on simplicity; I think this is the essence of their success.

While on the ship almost everything works through a single plastic card with a magnetic stripe and a single bar code: room access, payments for purchases, and tracking ingress and egress. Everybody seems to handle this well, even grandma. There are more advanced things you can do with the card like balance tracking on your in-room TV and modifying information on an interactive touchscreen kiosk. The fact that the card does almost everything and is simple to use is why it’s a winner. The fact that more advanced users have the option for further use makes it even better.

This is exactly what someone at Apple likely figured out. If you cater to the widest possible audience by making something so powerful easy to use you’re almost guaranteed success. The pair of 80 somethings taking about sending picture messages and using cell phone video conferencing is certainly evidence of this. Make it simple, make it powerful, try to manufacture it fast enough to keep up with demand.

About the Author: 

Brian Cribbs helps realize the dreams of companies; advancing their efficiency through systems automation, changing their public image through web presence, and allowing their clients new opportunities through rich web-based applications. As an inventor, Brian helps solve problems that affect many people around the world on a daily basis.

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What’s Your Problem?

As every manager knows, you have two types of people on your team: Problem Bringers and Problem Solvers.

Problem Bringers

Problem Bringers have a great talent for identifying anything that’s wrong and needs fixing. They spend a fair amount of time looking for issues to package up and drop right outside your door. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but we have a real problem here…” is how they call attention to what you or someone else needs to jump right on. They can tell you in detail what the issue is, how long it’s been going on, how bad it’s gotten and, most importantly, how much trouble it’s causing them.

While Problem Bringers have an eagle eye for recognizing problems, the one thing they want no part of is doing something about them. Just try asking, “So, how do you think we could fix that issue?” My experience is they’ll almost always do one of the following things:

  • Get all huffy and point out that the problem is not their fault.
  • Recommend you or someone else on the team take care of it.
  • Begin cataloging all the other things they’re busy doing that prevent them from tackling the issue.
  • Look confused, back away, and pretend they didn’t hear you.

The Problem Solvers

Problem Solvers

On the other hand, Problem Solvers just take care of whatever needs fixing. When they identify a problem, they don’t waste time getting frustrated because no one is doing anything about it. Instead, they jump in and take ownership of it. You’ll often hear after the fact, “I had this roadblock pop up on the project, but here’s what I did about it. I hope that’s okay.” Are they kidding? Of course it’s okay—you wish all your employees did it that way. Even if they don’t know how to deal with something, they at least take the time to investigate and come up with some ideas for how to resolve the issue before they even tell you about it.

You know someone is a Problem Solver when you regularly find out about problems after the fact that he or she has resolved without any input from you.

You know someone is a Problem Bringer when your initial reaction to seeing him or her walking your way is a sinking feeling followed by the thought, “Oh, great. What now?”

It’s a good idea to assess where you are vs. where you need to be when it comes to your current team. Because surrounding yourself with one group and not the other can really make a difference in what you accomplish as a manager.

What experiences have you had managing Problem Bringers? Have you found a way to turn them into Problem Solvers? We’d love to hear your ideas.

About the Author: 

Janna is Vice President of Client Services for The Berke Group, where she leads their education initiatives and serves as their key client advocate.  Berke provides powerful assessment software that measures personality, talent, and intelligence and helps companies hire the best people.  Janna develops Berke’s  learning programs and provides both on-site and web-based management training for companies and individuals. She also writes about people management strategies, trends and best practices.

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Hiring Manager