Posted by: tgrevatt | December 2, 2009

Place matters to self

Several years ago I relocated for a job. It was fascinating work in an area I was passionate about – professor/coordinator of an innovative applied degree program, teaching real world skills. Unfortuanately, I really struggled to settle in to that region – St Catharines/Niagara. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem though, I just didn’t seem to fit.

After three years I returned to Ottawa, and it felt as comfortable as slipping off the smart shoes at the end of a tradeshow. Ottawa feels right to me, I can be myself and entertain all facets of my personality & interests, easily. For a good read about the importance of place to self, and its ramifications to your work-life, read Richard Florida’s book ‘Who’s your city?‘ . It turns out that Ottawa is ranked amongst the top cities for percentage of residents employed in the creative economy (right up there with DC) – note, the definition of creative class is much broader than you’d expect. And creativity in this context means the process of having original ideas that have value.

Tonight I had supper with one of my former students and he recounted exactly the same feelings over one of his job moves. We concluded that you don’t realise what you value in a community/location until you experience a place that doesn’t work for you. Once you work it out, move to a place that is a good cultural fit, and get happy. I highly recommend it.

Posted by: tgrevatt | November 22, 2009

Locked out of Twitter?!

Posted by: tgrevatt | November 20, 2009

Reframing your message

“If you’ve ever felt frustrated when someone hasn’t “gotten” your message, you’re not alone…” So started the description for tonight’s CATAWIT Ottawa Chapter PD session with Kim Dixon, VP Sales & Marketing, TalkSwitch. Who hasn’t felt this way at one time or another? What can we do to reframe our messages so that are received and understood? Like the stereotypical American tourist on vacation in a foreign land – speaking more loudly will not improve your situation.

Kim gave a talk rich with personal and professional anecdotes – using marketing research data to convince the engineering community of necessary changes to a company website (the trust earned during that project smoothed the way for effective future projects), crawling around to effectively baby-proof her home by taking the child’s eye view; and adapting to the different learning styles of her children. Each solution came about from understanding the perspective of her audience and adapting accordingly, even if it meant taking a novel approach.

Take the time to stand in your target’s shoes and see things their way – what matters to them is what matters to you since that is what will help you reach your goal. Instead of trying to make your audience ‘get it’, try to figure out why they aren’t ‘getting it’. Perhaps you have failed to consider the cultural lens that your audience is viewing your message through, the terminology you are using is unfamiliar or there is not clear understanding of the shared goal that is being worked towards.

Here are some highlights of the post-talk discussion on techniques for effective communication:

  • be genuine, honest and sincere in your communication
  • focus on a solution not problems
  • consider using a storyteller approach
  • be consultative or collaborative rather than dictatorial
  • focus totally on who you are talking with, as if they are the only person in the room
  • be enthusiastic and passionate
  • ask the ‘what if?’ questions
  • speak the language of your audience and address their needs
  • know the influencer(s) in the meeting
  • it’s not about you! (be mindful of cultural and other factors)
  • be clear about your message or your ‘ask’
  • learn to say someone’s name properly and learn a little about them
  • be open-minded
  • use the power of silence, don’t rush to fill a conversation void – let the other side do that
  • know your desired outcome, and last but not least –

  • understand how to manage your exits (closing the deal or closing the conversation)
  • Posted by: tgrevatt | November 19, 2009

    Attracting & retaining women in IT

    An interesting link came my way on Twitter today from US-based National Center for Women in Information Technology. The percentage of women working as IT professionals has dropped from 36% to 24% between 1991 and 2008 and only 18% of IT degrees in 2008 were awarded to women down from 37% in 1985. Wow, these drop-offs are huge and quite disturbing for the IT industry – there are looming staffing shortages independent of gender. But why would anyone care how many women there are in IT? Well, did you know that patents produced by mixed-sex teams are cited 26-42% more. Diversity really does impact the business in positive ways.

    I wonder what the similarities are between women going down the engineering path. Anecdotally in my circles there seem to be many women who went to single sex schools. Also, do some women have role models for engineering as they are growing up? My dad was doing a correspondence degree in science and I had a great time hijacking his labs – my mum still hasn’t recovered from the horrors of the moth massacre (turns out they were only anesthetized when I pinned them to the display boards).

    Retention of women is also an issue, many are not practicing in science, engineering and technology (SET) after a few years. The quit rate is more than double it is for men. Why is this? Is it the culture of the SET workplace? Is the career in SET failing to meet the expectations of women?

    Cate Huston has also been considering these issues over on her blog. She points out that often courses fail to engage the students. I think many of us, male and female, have supplemented the taught materials with interesting content (a fondness for Feynman got my friends and I through school). The Ontario colleges have also made great strides in relevant curriculum development in their applied degree programs, co-op programs like Waterloo and Carlton also help engage students with real-world problems whilst they are in school. I had the courage to dream of a PhD after a summer coop placement in my 2nd year.

    Now we do know that the employment environment has changed and most of us can expect to have more than one career (let alone several jobs) throughout our working life. Are women keener on change? Several of my peers have made sweeping career changes in their mid-thirties, moving from SET corporate life to health or wellness services – perhaps they were looking for a career more aligned to their values. Others have gone the entrepreneurial path, finding fulfillment in the challenges and freedoms of self-employment.

    It’s sad that the same discussions are still happening now that were when I was an undergrad, and shocking that the numbers are even lower than then (and they were pretty poor then).

    Posted by: tgrevatt | November 18, 2009

    A community call for help…

    It is with a heavy heart that I am writing today. In the last week two womens’ shelters in Ottawa were burned down. One women died in the first fire. The second one was caused by a Molotov cocktail thrown at the house – how someone can do such a thing I cannot comprehend. Now forty women are homeless and missing the few possessions they had with them. A tragic turn to an already tough situation to be in. I’m galvanized by the actions initiated by two members of the Ottawa blogging/PR/social media community – the fabulous Bob LeDrew and Ian Capstick.

    Bob is going to be taking some time on Friday afternoon to collect donations. Click on the names above to see their original blog postings and information on donations if you are interested in helping.

    I don’t have much to offer up but plan to pull together a toiletries kit, some towels, lightly worn clothing (I knew all those race shirts would come in handy sometime and whatever else I can track down). Thanks for reading.

    So these days I hear an awful lot about the Golden Rule (one of the main tenets of Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion). Rightly so, we should never forget it – whatever our religious or spiritual beliefs. The Golden Rule regards reciprocity of justice – and is often written as ‘do unto others as you wish others to do to you’.

    This is important stuff, but today I present to you a light-hearted universal law – inspired by my experiences and a myriad of my friends. It always raises a smile and can perhaps be considered one of those universal laws of dating and attraction. I shall use the language of a dear friend, with most recent practical experience. The law goes like this ‘if you wear nice underwear, shave legs and pits, the odds of getting laid are practically zero. If you are badly in need of maintenance inevitably you will find this being revealed – to one’s initial mortification.’ This law is closely related to Bridget Jones’ law of granny-pants, which works in a similar, and equally embarrassing way. I think we can postulate an inverse relationship between preparation time/effort (or practicality/comfort of undies) and probability of success. Similar to this is the law that the messier your house, the more likely you are to have an unexpected visitor.

    Posted by: tgrevatt | November 11, 2009

    What would you do with 45.5 Million GBP?

    A friend from high school days sent a message to me on FB. A grad from my old high school and her husband have just won 45.5 Million GBP (approx 80 million $CAD) on the lottery. Wow, can you imagine that sort of win?! He’s a cancer survivor and had been unemployed for a year. They plan to donate to cancer charities and the hospital that treated her father for a heart transplant.

    The article is heart-warming, two very down to earth folks coming to terms with a magical piece of luck. I wish them well as they make the adjustments and hope that they are NOT inundated with demands and fake friends.

    So how would you feel if you had this kind of windfall?

    Posted by: tgrevatt | November 10, 2009

    Remembering 20 years ago

    Twenty years ago today the Berlin Wall fell. I’m surprised how little mention of it there has been in the Twitter stream. Google US has the Count from Sesame Street on their page, at least German Google is suitably reflective. We had no world wide web back then, radio, newspapers and the television were our source for news. There was no citizen journalism from behind the wall on cell phones and social media. People were shot trying to cross the wall to freedom. Now the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is from the East. I wonder if she ever imagined becoming head of a unified Germany when she was going through high school.

    I was eighteen years old, entering my final year of sixth form and struggling with A levels and work-life balance (a wonderful euphemism for partying). The fall of the Berlin Wall was the largest global event to occur in my life – hence, I am surprised at so little mention online over here. Maybe it was a bigger deal because we were in Europe. One high school friend traveled over there shortly after and I’m sure she still cherishes her piece of the wall.

    For your entertainment, here’s a pic of me circa 1989 – I thought I had the coolest damn hair out there! I’ve enjoyed this reminiscing, and sit with a fond smile on my face because I’ve also remembered that it was 20 years ago last week that…. well, let’s just say the Berlin Wall wasn’t the only thing falling. Oh and by the way, yesterday was my 4 year anniversary of being a Canadian citizen, I didn’t imagine I’d be here back in 1989 either.

    At the British Orienteering Champs 1989

    A spectacular 80's hairday

    Posted by: tgrevatt | November 9, 2009

    Laughter is serious business

    I’m a big fan of Twitter. It works as a huge filter of information, depositing tens of interesting links to me daily. Someone else has gone to all the trouble of finding and filtering them and I reap the benefit of stumbling upon something I would never read otherwise. This evening a new article from Harvard Business Review Online came across my Tweetdeck.

    Social intelligence and the biology of leadership‘ by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis continues on the earlier themes of mirroring from Goleman’s social intelligence books but adds data tying them to the behaviours of successful leaders. They found that the manner of delivery of a message affected the mirror neurons of the receiving team member and that negative feedback delivered with positive emotional signals resulted in feeling better than when negative signals such as frowns were used. They advise that to get results, make demands in a way that fosters positive feelings in your teams. It’s not what you ask for, but how you ask for it. Top and mid performing leaders elicited much more laughter from their subordinates. A great read for anyone interested in the role of social intelligence in the workplace.

    Posted by: tgrevatt | November 8, 2009

    Musings of a new blog owner, day 2

    Well, the euphoria of the blog creation from yesterday wore off by the morning. I admired my new blog, sitting there in all it’s puppy-like eagerness just begging to be updated. Rather annoying really – it just served to amplify my angst about writing. What could I possibly write about? Well, I’ve always been on an interesting path and now is no different – except at the moment the path is unpaved, unsigned and possibly about to involve a good bushwhack. You see, I’m trying to work out what my next adventure will be – there’s one in mind that is particularly exciting and scary – and I’m trying to do all that terribly important reflecting upon my skills and passions, etc. Of course, this is utterly excruciating for an English person to do, but I gain immense pleasure and satisfaction about helping other people do the same things. Funny that.

    So I lazed on the couch, feeling increasingly guilty about my inability to go out for a run on International Running Day – the tweets kept coming in from all the sprightly souls in the city who had managed to go out, grrr. It was an exquisite day, that I shouldn’t &*%$ away so I got cracking. Would you believe the difference it makes cleaning the patio windows!? Doh, why did I wait (cough) 18 months to do that? Leaves got raked, cupboards got tidied and still the blog sat. No inspiration came.

    I am blessed with many diverse, creative and skilled friends. I grabbed one and we went for a sunset stroll along the Ottawa River. I’m happy not to live next door to the hundred of honking geese settling down for the evening, noisy buggers, but the sunset was lovely (no pics, not organised enough to remember camera yet). Anyway, we got chatting and the ideas came tumbling out. A little encouragement and brainstorming and I’ve got a list of topics that have been stewing for awhile, just waiting for a little nudge.

    The blog now has a name. A bimble is one of those delightful, slowly paced meanders that you can take when you have no time pressures, or are feeling a little whimsical. I am fond of bimbling, but don’t often slow down and actually go on one – always rushing here and there, setting and achieving goals and forgetting to pause for reflection. So here’s hoping for more bimbling.

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