Susan in the Tub/ DUB-DUB-DUB

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

SUSAN IN THE TUB

Recently I have been under a lot of stress. My good friend and quintessential practical networker Ramona, seeing that I was definitely in need of a therapeutic experience, invited me to join her and another friend to visit West Virginia’s Berkeley Springs spa. Never having visited any spa—and pretty well burned out—I agreed to the adventure. Soaking for 30 minutes in a huge ceramic tub of minueral water heated to 102 degrees  was a delightful experience I will never forget. I’m hooked on the experience. I recommend the experience. I’ll be back.

Bathhouse

                                                            DUB-DUB-DUB

(Now Optional)

A while back, my Toastmaster friend from California George—a webmaster by profession—pointed out that for anyone to visit my website, the infamous “WWW” (aka “dub-dub-dub”) had to precede PEQUODSYSTEMS.  All that has now been changed, and you can now get to our website by simply entering PEQUODSYSTEMS.COM in your browser.

Thanks, George! Much appreciated! 

 

 

Susan Ellsworth

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Volunteer to Apprentice to “Real Work?”

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

What is a good definition of “real work?” Evidently it’s not quite as easy to define as some would think—especially in a large international organization whose very existence depends upon the coordinated efforts of the hundreds of thousands of members who pay to belong to it and deliver leadership and communications skills training. Some members even contribute time and skills learned elsewhere to expand upon and deliver improved technical services provided by the organization’s paid employees. That organization is Toastmasters International, and the issue was brought up by a Past International Director’s FaceBook post which said, “Fellow Toastmasters: PLEASE do not list your volunteer work at Toastmasters under “employment”. You’re not an employee, you’re a volunteer. And there’s no need to helpfully suggest that I should also list myself as an employee — even as a (past) International Director, one is still not an employee. That’s for just the people who get paid at WHQ.” That post was quickly followed by “And yet, what are we to make of the new district leader titles that are coming out next year? District Director, Division Director, Area Director, Finance Manager, etc. I believe they are intended to make Toastmasters experience, when it appears on a resume, more directly translatable into equivalent business or nonprofit titles. I might quibble with whether an Area Director is in any way equivalent to a corporate Director position. But, it seems clear that Toastmasters wants to be on our resumes in the professional experience section.” Then there was this insight: ” Many of us forget that directing a district, overseeing a budget, and supervising volunteer staff is like running a Department for an organization. We need to think of our service as a learning opportunity. When I was District Governor, I said it prepared me for my current position as Executive Director for a small Chamber of Commerce.” Several years ago, I myself ported technical skills I learned in a Toastmasters setting to paid professional work. Along the way, however, I also took formal technical skills training, passed exams and obtained a widely-recognized professional certification. I am not the only member to have  ported skills learned in “real jobs” into our volunteer organization. And I am not the only member to have ported skills learned in a volunteer organization into a paid position. Potential employer or potential employee…learning experiences are learning experiences. Skills are skills. They are completely independent of how much one earned—or did not earn—for applying them in a setting where those skills are valued. It’s all about how the knowledge, skills and abilities are talked about when they are ported from one environment to the other.     Susan Ellsworth         https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

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The Swipe Generation

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

Today’s blog came to me in a flash of insight. My other half, struggling with his tablet, presented me with today’s topic: the Swipe Generation. (and you thought I am some other generation? read on…) He was trying and trying and trying to set the correct date and time on his tablet. The more he tried, the more frustrated he got. Finally, I realized what his problem was: He’s still in the Point and Shoot/Click-Here generation. I, with my smart phone, had discovered Swipe a long time ago.

Many years ago, Microsoft and friends taught us to Point and Shoot. Or at least to Click Here. Many of us still belong to that Point-and-Shoot/Click-Here Generation. The Point-and-Shoot Generation’s challenge? To learn that a down arrow means to swipe down rather than click on something and expect a result we want.

The Swipe Generation’s challenges?

There are two. A little compassion for our friends who have not yet mastered “The Swipe” will go a long way to maintaining friendships.  Also, tablets and smart phones may still have some features that are quite similar to Point-and- Shoot. Upgrading your tablet or your smart phone? What will you swipe next?

tablet

Happy swiping!

Susan Ellsworth

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Your Profession: Does your Volunteer Experience Really Matter?

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

Recently Dan Rex, the CEO of Toastmasters International, announced that the TI Board of Directors had decided to institute new District officer titles that, among other reasons, would “Create a parallel between district leadership and leadership in the corporate and volunteer sectors.” Basically, the idea is to help volunteers easily explain to current and potential employers what knowledge, skills and abilities they were likely to have acquired by participating in these roles.

All very nice and mostly window-dressing, insofar as many members have thought.

The real question is, does your volunteer experience actually prepare you for paid work? Does your volunteer experience really matter?

Recently, I sat down with George Marshall, whose online Toastmaster Tools are used by members around the globe. I asked him that very question, and here is what he said.

During my year as Toastmasters Area Governor, I became very interested in the big differences in club quality, and as I gathered data about each of my clubs to try to help them, I realized that the information I wanted was sometimes hard to gather in useful form. I learned a lot that year about downloading the reports and doing my own analysis in spreadsheets.

After a while, I decided to automate the more time-consuming tasks. I started working on what eventually became the Tools for Toastmasters website, summarizing some of the reports in real-time. After a year or so, I realized that the data would be more useful if it were in a database, which I knew nothing about. But I sat out to learn how, and with the help of mentors, within a year or so, the core of today’s site was in place, with built-in summaries and analysis of several types of Toastmaster data.

I have learned a lot about databases with this project, some of which I have been able to apply to our business. [Freemont Web Solutions].

Susan Ellsworth

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Talking about Technology

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

As the 2013 year winds down, I find myself musing about the language we use to talk about technology. As a friend of mine observed a while back, every time the online technology comes up with a new feature/experience, the technologists and their marketers struggle to find the right words to describe that experience and its unique selling proposition.

Many of a certain age will remember when “hanging out” was a bad thing tinged with the suggestion of juvenile delinquency. Not since Google brought out Google + Hangouts.  I participate with a group that recently struggled with whether to call itself online  or virtual. Gone are the days when a cloud was simply a fluffy vision in the sky. Now it’s a fluffy way to tell end users that the computer they are using to communicate with others is not in the same facility they are.  Just as there are hybrid cars, there are hybrid clouds, which the Webopedia says is a ” combined form of private clouds and public clouds in which some critical data resides in the enterprise’s private cloud while other data is stored in and accessible from a public cloud. Hybrid clouds seek to deliver the advantages of scalability, reliability, rapid deployment and potential cost savings of public clouds with the security and increased control and management of private clouds.Really old-timers still think of a tweet as a sound made by a bird. Avatar spawned the word Gravitar for WordPress users. Bitcoin has been around for a while, and now has been entered into the Webopedia.  My picture in this blog is a selfie—a picture I took of myself. Then there is BYOD —Bring Your Own Device, a concept that used to scare corporate systems managers into hiding. The phrase Software As A Service is a yawner from yesterday. Now we have Anything As a Service and Everything as a Service, both of which are abbreviated as XaaS. Now that’s just plain weird. I think I’ll go have an eggnog and wish all of you a happy holiday and a great new MMXIV.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Susan Ellsworth

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An Open Letter to Malala Yousufzai

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

Dear Malala,
We at Pequod Systems hear you loud and clear. And we were deeply moved by your recent speech at the  U.N. Youth Assembly in New York City. We look forward to the day there is a documentary about your efforts to encourage the education of all girls, women and children. While we  are blessed to be in a country where women are not shot for trying to get an education, we have also been around long enough to have watched a dramatic change in the numbers of girls and women being encouraged to enter technical fields as technicians rather than as secretaries. 

Malala, as a young girl, I was encouraged only to be a secretary to someone who would be far more intelligent than I was assumed to be. Enter my  husband and first computing mentor Grant. He knew I have a mind of my own and gently encouraged me to learn to use his first computer—an Apple II+.  Later, he bought a server on which I managed a database created by my second mentor, Ed Fox.

Ed taught me one of the best lessons I would ever learn about data management: Where does the data come from, who will benefit by its use, and what is your plan for managing it when your first plan does not exactly work the way you thought it would?

David Rorabaugh was my third computing mentor.  David had no truck with those who minimized women for any reason, and was a visionary who understood and talked about the future of Windows. He was a Certified NetWare Engineer when I was on a government contract with him. Eventually we both were taking—and passing—the same professional examinations and comparing notes with each other.

Today, while the number of women computer technicians is still significantly lower than the number of men in the field, I believe there has been a generational attitude shift among younger men about women and computing. A Google search shows a lot of articles about women in computing. Most encouraging (to me, at least) there is a Philadelphia-based Network of Women in Computer Technology which focuses on mentoring young girls who might want to enter the field.

Malala, keep speaking out as you did on your birthday. In some parts of the world, women are making progress. In others, we still need an army of your friends who believe in supporting the education of all women, girls and children just as you do. Thank you for your inspirational example.

Susan Ellsworth

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How Embarrassing!

Do you — or a friend—have a name that others just seem unwilling or unable to pronounce or spell correctly? We do.
There was a time when we thought that of course everyone would be able to say PEQUOD Systems. But no, cold-caller after cold-caller mangles our name, and it comes out as “Prequad.” Advertiser after adveretiser mis-spells our name as PRQUOD or PREQUAD or PREQUOD.

Over this past weekend, while I was observing the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s 17th Annual Marathon reading of Herman Melville’s MOBY DICK, I decided it was time to take action. This will be my first annual blog about how we pronounce our name.

It’s about time I did so. Last year, I participated as a team member of my Toastmasters Club in a high performance leadership project whose objective was to get all our multi-cultural members learning to say each other’s names as we all wanted those names to be said. Our group leader chose to implement a version of the International Phonetic Alphabet as a tool with which to educate the 25+ members of the club. He also recorded individual members saying their own names, so that we could later on download and listen to those recordings.

Our club is not alone. There are multi-cultural Toastmasters International clubs around the globe where one can find members who come from a wide diversity of backgrounds all sitting in the same meeting. And we said so in a letter to the President of Toastmasters International at the time.

Having said all that, and often having said that the real value of being a Toastmaster is when one is outside meeting walls, I must stand up here and say: PEQUOD rhymes with PEA QUAD. Can you please say PEQUOD?

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Which comes first: the Word or the Attitude?

Recently I saw Michael Hyatt’s blog about how our words impact others. How true that is. When I was a young adolescent, my mother told me in a rather condescending tone that I would have a very hard time in school with math and sciences. Dutifully, I had a hard time with math and sciences. Except for geometry—-which, thankfully,neither my mother nor my father had mentioned. Fortunately, I married someone who had and still has different words that also impact me. With his words, I learned how to build and manage a computer. With his words, I studied for and passed systems management exams that would have blown my parents away. With the words of friends, I plunged into technical platforms I had never visited before. It was all because they believed in me…and said so.

Continuing along, I read another Hyatt blog. That one had everything to do with how a shift in one’s vocabulary could change one’s attitude.

Wait a minute! I thought. Isn’t that a bit backwards? Change in attitude is what changes one’s vocabulary, right? Not exactly. Consider the number of social media posts that simply copy what someone else has already said. Consider the number of posts that make you say “Hmm..when is the last time I heard that person use that word before?”

I’m inclined to think that associating with positive-thinking people who are open to ideas not necessarily their own and spending just a few minutes a day checking an online dictionary or thesaurus can grow the language we need to express a change in attitude. The two things—-attitude shift and change in vocabulary—work together. And that taken together, these two elements can make a huge difference in all aspects of our lives.

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Teamwork and Leadership are great…and how are they Rewarded?

 Linda Finkle’s newsletter from the Incedo Group is the exception to my general practice of hardly ever reading every newsletter I receive. Her November 8 “Generate the Power” about corporate team-building landed in my inbox just about the same time as a lead from NIMBLE did. In a strange quirk of coincidence, I’ve been in an online discussion about teamwork and leadership.  And recently I’ve been working with two small and delightful Toastmasters teams.

One of Finkle’s key points about corporate team-building is that “teams can’t function well if everyone is the same personality type or of like mind on everything. You need a mix of the right technical skills and the right interpersonal skills for a team to jell and work together successfully. ”  She’s absolutely right. Furthermore, she points out that “”When individuals on a team enjoy working together, corporate team-building is the natural outcome. It isn’t something you have to create. As in all relationships, the members will have little spats, disagreements and challenges, and that’s healthy. They will also most often work through these problems without intervention on the part of management. That’s what makes a strong team.” And she’s right about that, too.

What does that have to do with NIMBLE, the simple, affordable Social Relationship manager? One of NIMBLE’s core values relates directly to working with teams. Last month, an iconic note to partners opened with the sentence “Nimble is a lot more fun and productive when you invite more team members to nurture and grow business relationships as a team. ”  There is a congenial shared LinkedIn Nimble Partners group to which even the founders of Nimble contribute answers to questions posed by partners.

My favorite global life-time learning organization Toastmasters International encourages teamwork by promoting annual change of local leadership roles. A lively official LinkedIn Toastmasters Members group with 28,500 politely discusses virtually every aspect of our organization and its programming. That includes building teams.

Yet in the paid day-job world, how is teamwork rewarded? When is the last time you and your team evaluated yourselves *as a team* ? To what extent is your compensation based on how effectively your team works together? Rather scary, wouldn’t you say? The simple truth is most of us succeed at doing those things for which we are rewarded, and it makes sense to reward teams that work well together.  That’s my thought for the day and I’m sticking with it.

Cheers!

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Where are YOUR Red Barons?


The late Charles M. Schultz’s PEANUTS characters went viral with an audience of 355 million in 75 countries before he ever passed away over twelve years ago. Yet one of his characters—his version of the Red Baron—never showed up in person. Instead, Snoopy—the beloved beagle who fantisized himself as a World War I ace flying his  Sopwith Camel (actually his doghouse)—would curse his invisible enemy as his plane went down in flames.

Lately, I have been thinking about the Red Barons in my life, and what I have learned to do to outmanuever them.  The Red Barons in my corporate life include the government agencies that periodically send us notices of pending contracts that in less than 24 hours are corrected, withdrawn or updated.  We know those are wired for someone else, and we will never get our arms around the government system that requires an agency to solicit openly for business but that quietly has already decided upon a vendor it wants.  Curse you, Red Baron! Then there are software manufacturers that put the business buck so far ahead of service to customers that those customers become former customers.  Curse you, Red Baron! Is there any way for a Sopwith Camel to emerge victorious?
Curse You Red Baron

There is.

I am reminded of the recent story told by Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America and others.  In his May 29 piece on Office Ties and the Company Dress Code , Branson talked about the almost identical school ties worn by a group of erstwhile orderly kids. About half the kids had ties so short that only a few inches hung below the knot. Evidently the kids hated wearing the school-mandated ties. When they realized that the rules did not specify how long the ties had to be, SNIP! and the ties were cut short. Rather than cursing their Red Baron, they found and took advantage of their his vulnerable point.  I love that ingenuity and determination not to be shot down.  These kids really became Joe Cool.
Snoopy as Joe Cool

Where are the Red Barons in your life? Lack of organizational support for a change in marketing? A change in your business model? Fear of revealing a deep secret you have held onto for ever and ever? What would happen if you realized that “the rules” might be equally shot down by a lack of some sort or another?

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