Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tech and Science jobs

It's been a debate that has come up a lot this summer. The papers often say that jobs are still opening in the   technology sector(s), the counsellors are telling the teens to look at technology; the recruiters tell us there is a 'war for talent' coming and yet many remain unconvinced.

While I believe there is space for women in the IT sector and that just about everyone should do one turn of some sort in a technology area to really look at what's underpinning most industries, there are some interesting arguments around pay, gender and what even defines true technology.

posting by Philip Greenspun (whose blog is up-to-date but this posting is one of his older ones) looks at the financial implications of seeking jobs in mathematics or scientific fields - more on the academic and research (R&D) side but still interesting. He examines a "fourth possible explanation for the dearth of women in science: They found better jobs." Greenspun then goes on to examine how a career in R&D math/science tracks against other choices.

"Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it." -- Albert Einstein

Toss into the mix the current saying that one should follow one's passion and the money will come. What if the field doesn't have the money? Pure arts, pure mathematics... As a mentor, do you counsel folks to follow their heart or their wallets? Are we forced to choose between the two? 

Daniel Pink and Richard Florida both write about how money cannot be the prime motivating factor for any knowledge worker. While we need to feed and shelter ourselves (and our families), not all the reward can come from the paycheque itself.

So - are careers primarily a matter of being very practical or a path with chosen meaning?

I think steps/jobs along the way of a chosen path should be done with your head -  but the overall career/direction should come from your desires and dreams. (Which means that a side journey or deliberate path through technology can still fit a plan)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Talking to strangers

There is no magic pill. Mostly, it's a deep breath and "just do it" decision. Our mentors will encourage us. Our networks will support us. But, in the heat of the moment, it's just you and a big world full of strangers.

There are some terrific blogs out there on this topic - some with great perspective and some with checklists.

For large events, the blog Do the Work has a great post about meeting folks at professional events. My blog has covered the topic over many posts. Feel free to leave your favourites here for others.

But why start swimming at the deep end of the pool? You meet folks every day. Do you find yourself hiding in corners at work? Ducking behind the cereal displays at the store? Lurking behind a tree when someone walks down the street? <grin> You might even nod and say hi.

Try not to think of meeting strangers (or acquaintances) as something you only do at events. It's a daily practice and, like all well-cultivated habits, you can master it till you don't remember how not to smile and greet new faces.

I can write about how to do it till my keyboard wears out. You first need to simply decide you will try.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Connect today

It's summer. Patios. Sunshine. Better moods. And yet we're still avoiding eye contact, using our smartphones as defence mechanisms, and rushing by before any one can say "Hi, nice day, eh?".

Resolve to smile at folks as you walk by them today.
Respond to "How are you?" by actually halting in your tracks and responding "Great! And how are you?" and expect an answer.
Share an eye roll with a stranger when that teen pushes through the crowd forgetting about the massive backpack that swings within inches of your phone.

I'm sure you've got a better list than mine but you get the picture :-)

We don't have to take everyone home. We do need to be a bit more open to meeting the folks who share our path.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Everyone is creative

Really. Everyone.

The issue is in how we define creativity. Most folks associate it solely with the arts and large acts such as writing a film or composing music.

Think of creativity as either producing
1 - something from nothing (e.g. a script; a painting; etc.) or
2 - something new from something existing (e.g. problem solving; repurposing everyday objects; etc.)

This puts the idea of creativity on a scale and takes some of the pressure off having to be dazzling with every effort. Not everyone will be a concert pianist or executive (virtuoso levels) but everyone can potentially play some piano and add value to a team (craftsmen levels).

By the same argument, given there are only 7 notes in a music scale or only (supposedly) 7 plot lines, perhaps creativity is more about repurposing than anyone imagines! lol

We need creative thinkers. They figure out how to save projects, the environment and health risks. We need visual, emotional and cognitive stimulation from our artists.

Creativity is, ultimately, about offering perspective. (Mentoring is therefore a creative act.) And so everyone can be creative.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The matrix that is your community

Yes, it was a movie title. It's also what a good network /community looks like. Mirriam-Webster defines matrix as "something within or from which something else originates, develops, or takes form"... (which I admit I had to read a few times to work it out)

Matrices are all around us. It is the web (pardon the IT pun) through which we navigate to achieve ends and in which we participate. You build your own, large or small. (However, you are not a spider in the centre waiting to take advantage of unwitting prey!)

Our own network is simply one of many intersection points. In theory, we're all part of one global network if we can just find enough connections points. It's the six degrees of separation theory.

One person can be part of and move through many points across the matrix. This allows your question/request/idea or even influence to be spread wider than you could possibly do by trying to reach everyone yourself.  

Which means a few things:
1 - everyone can be of some value to everyone else unless you're a hermit on a mountain top (and maybe even then...) so it's less about hierarchy or finding only folks more senior to you (in age, rank, social standing, etc.) and more about building some honest relationships in your matrix
2 - the folks you have around you today may ebb and flow into other circles closer/farther over time but, if you have a good connection, they will always be part of your network
3 - everyone is part of the matrix /network whether they believe in networking or not. Those who actively cultivate relationships will simply have a broader reach across the matrix but everyone (unless you're that hermit) is in a network every day.

Networking is not about the big event and schmooze. Networking is simply how the world works.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Life gets in the way

My kid is "camping" in the home office this month. He's renovating his room... which really means excavating 7 years worth of clothing on the floor, odds bits of wood/string/mechanical parts/guitar pics and probably some dishes with mummified remains. So he is crashing on our spare couch and graciously asking me if I need computer time just as I get ready for bed.

All of which means it's awkward for me to get to my computer (as I prefer to write this blog at home - lol).

And then Blogger keeps having issues and locking us bloggers out for a day or two at a time.

Which means I don't write a post.

And then... it's summer... and... well... you know...

Which means I don't even remember I write a blog.

All of which made me realize how easy it is to let life get in the way.

We all tend to gravitate to what is convenient, simple or quick. From email spelling (u no wht I mean) to a 'to do' list (more fun to write than tackle), we allow ourselves to be gently steered off course.

Some days, that's just fine. We need a break or a moment of reflection or perhaps just a nap! As long as the detours don't sabotage the life you're hoping to create, go ahead. Our kids/friends/parents can take precedence over a meeting! Our health can trump an obligation. A good book can circumvent laundry sorting.

Life is meant to be lived and not planned to the last second; life is a freestyle event. Things will arise and you will need to 'go with the flow'.

As long as you don't let the little things pile up in your way too often that you get off course - whatever a "course" means to you.

I can share my home office for a while this month; there are books to be read on the porch while the sun still shines after dinner.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Failure is an option... the first time

"If you at first you don't succeed, you're running about average." M H Alderson

The world has become risk adverse; for good or ill, it has. We're more careful about the jokes we make, the way we bank, the food we buy, the environment we effect, etc.

As individuals, it has been argued that we are also more reticent to experiment in our day-to-day lives and make a potential mistake. The word "mistake" has often become synonymous with the concept of "disaster". 

No one gets it right all the time. No one - if you actually ask them - expects us to get it right each time. Should we be more careful and deliberate with the big projects and decisions that can ripple across many folks? Absolutely!  Should we be tiptoeing through our daily decisions? Probably not.

Every week, I try and challenge myself to do try something new: a food; a process; talking to a stranger... often it doesn't result in any great insight, rarely does it give me a rash or nightmares , usually it's just me pushing at my own limits.

And regardless of how it turns out, it's ok to make a second attempt. We can't predict the perfect outcome each time; we can only improve on what we've learned from previous attempts.