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

        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

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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

        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

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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

        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pequod-Systems/46475331027

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“If It Ain’t Broke, don’t Fix It.” Here’s a BETTER idea for Business IT

copy-of-susan_headshot4

Unless yours is a one or two person business and you conduct most—if not all—business on a personally-owned laptop and/or your cell phone, managed IT services should be a standard part of your present and future business plans. Why? What’s wrong with “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

On average, companies lose thousands of dollars a year to network downtime—in the incremental minutes and hours of lost productivity and lost opportunities as people wait for problems to be resolved. Furthermore, on average, 70% of IT management budgets are spent on systems maintenance, leaving only 30% to invest in new technologies

Consider  IT support that significantly reduces your downtime by identifying and solving issues before you and your staff have identifiable problems—and solving the problems took minutes instead of hours to resolve the remaining issues that were not anticipated.

Now consider  shifting funding from administrative tasks to more strategic infrastructure investments that would keep your network more secure and save money in the long run.

Managed IT services generally include

  • Remote support for rapid problem resolution
  • Detailed site inventories of hardware and software
  • 24 x 7 x 365 proactive network and security monitoring
  • Scheduled maintenance and upgrades in consultation with the customer

Those who offer these services successfully generally

  • hold  standard industry certifications
  • are experienced partners of major,  leading hardware and/or software solutions
  • are experienced partners of major hardware and software vendors
  • regularly receive product updates and notices about special offers from those vendors

Transparency Tip #2 Hardware today comes with internal code that identifies its manufacturer, its version number, and its serial number. Reading that information and knowing how long that hardware has been in service and paying attention to special offers not advertised to end users can give the managed services provider some insights as to cost-savings for upgrades.

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