February 25, 2017

Communicating in Presentations

It is easy to get up and start to lecture. President Obama was known for lecturing during his press conferences. But facts and opinions are not necessarily communicating.

It is easy to fall into thinking you have to tell everything during a presentation. All the details and history may bury uncomfortable facts, but is not communicating.

Communicating is thinking about your audience.
Who is going to be there?
What decision needs to be made? (Reason for meeting)
What information do they need to have to make their decision?

You communicate when you make it easy for the audience to learn, ask questions, discuss and decide.

February 18, 2017

Solid State Drives - Fast & Prices Have Come Down

Own 2 Early 2011 MacBook Pros. When my wife’s hard drive failed, Apple does not stock the old hard drives any more. Our machines are now “Vintage”. (I resemble that)

Investigating further, SSD have come down in price. We had 500 Gigabyte hard drives could be replaced for $50 - $60. Got a 500 GB solid state drive for $160 instead. When her last hard drive failed November 2015 the price of the same SSD was about $350. 

Why spend the money? SSD have no moving parts, are much more reliable in laptops, generate less heat, and vastly speed up your computer. My MacBook Pro takes several minutes to boot up. My wife’s take less than a minute. Hers browses the Internet faster too.

If you need more than 500 GB, the prices are still high. 1 TB is around $270 - $350. Would use standard hard drive for large backup due to price. Some manufacturers offer Hybrid drives, but the SSD part is usually too small. Operating systems like Windows and Mac take over 100 GB to operate.

Intend to replace my original 6 year old hard drive with a SSD. Already increased DDR3 to 16 GB. Seattle Laptop (Route 99 & 76th Street near Green Lake) will install a Kingston SSD and clone my hard drive for $240 plus taxes. My wife’s cost more because of the failing hard drive $280 plus taxes. Note - data recovery cost much more depending on the failure. (If you go tell Dan & Mike I referred you)

New 13” MacBook Pros cost ~$1,999 for the same memory. Think will get 2 plus years on our Vintage units before buying new MacBooks. If you want a faster computer, an SSD may be a reasonable answer. Especially as prices fall.

February 11, 2017

You Are Not Alone

Whenever something bad happens to us, our normal reaction is “Why me?” Often we think we are the only one. It is not true. Even in the rare diseases there are people who have had your disease before.

Remember Drew Carey’s character talking “You hate work. There is a name for that. It is called ‘Everyone’. We meet in the bars.”

There are tons of painfully shy and awkward teenagers. God knows I was one of them. I understand and struggled to overcome that.

You have a weird family? Me too. Think we are part of that ‘Everyone’ group, with weird uncles. Oh wait, was I one of those too?

See this great video about putting people in boxes. Each group is in their uniform. But they ask questions where members of each group join in. My favorite part was a young man who admitted he was bisexual. He was alone. So everyone there supported him clapping for his bravely coming forward.

Credit Channel 2 Denmark

Go find others who are or have been through something similar to you. Ask them how they got through? Get support. Learn from their successes and failures. Go teach others what you learn.

You would not believe what WW2 vets I worked with taught me about living. The big lesson is we are more alike than different. No matter where we come from.

February 4, 2017

The Non Shortage of STEM Graduates

In the good old days of my father, you would join a company for life. Dad worked 30+ years for Eastman Kodak retiring with a golden handshake. He had a job for life and the company took care of raises, savings, investing, pension, medical and dental care.

Today you are working on projects. The automobile industry went to this model first. Every year you look for a project on the next model year to be delivered. The company no longer guaranteed you a job unless you found a project.

My work experience is in varied industries and seven states. Been on my current job for 7 years, working my 9th and 10th projects for the same program. One year had 3 different managers and 3 senior managers while working on the same project.

The Atlantic has a very good article “The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage”. Forget the dire predictions of a looming shortfall of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.  https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/the-myth-of-the-science-and-engineering-shortage/284359/

If there were a shortage of Engineers and Software Programmers, you would see salaries going up. “Salaries for STEM jobs in Decline” CIO.com reports “Though STEM-focused jobs experienced a slowdown, growing only 1 percent year-over-year, they're still near the top for wage growth. Since 2006, jobs in STEM fields have experienced growth of around 10 percent, according to the PayScale Index” in 2015. 1 percent salary growth is not showing a labor shortage, but an abundance of potential employees.

This supposed shortage is why H1B visas are offered. Instead H1B have been used to get businesses lower price help. My wife got her Masters in Business Administration in Oklahoma, and went to work under a H1B for mortgage companies originally earning low $30’s in California in 1998. Businesses have always worked to keep expenses low. Offshoring and H1Bs gave business more tools to lower labor costs.

If you are going to enjoy a long career in STEM, my advice is the same for most careers:
  1. You need technical knowledge, and you need to keep learning. Budget time and money to keep your skills up to date. Paid to learn Solidworks on my own when closing my business and getting back into engineering. Take at least 2 classes or seminars and read a dozen books every year.
  2. People skills are as important as technical skills. Stop your distractions and focus on the people in front of you. Meetings go quicker and more gets done.
  3. Presenting your ideas is key to your success. Toastmasters is an invaluable way to learn speaking & presenting. I can talk to groups of a few hundred, and teach 2-3 hour training classes keeping people engaged and involved in learning. No problem speaking up or facilitating a meeting.
  4. Networking is an invaluable career skill. Learn to meet people, make them confortable, connect them with others, and get business done. Act like a host and you will never be out of place.

 This post is a wake up call to new scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians who like me, lacked these skills coming out of college. The work world is not easy, and truly never was. Your advantage is being humble enough to learn new lessons.

January 28, 2017

The Resilient Employee

Do you want an employee who over-reacts to provocation from a customer? How much business could you lose because of one overstressed reaction? No one really wants to find out.

Resilient people do good work on bad days. They don’t take it out on customers, nor on their co-workers. You can tell they are tired, you can tell they don’t feel well, but they still do good work with a minimum of drama. Tomorrow they are back at it, feeling better, listening, collaborating and doing good work.

Resilience comes from having survived tough times, coming back from events out of our control, and preserving through failures and bad experiences. It is a faith that we can make it through crazy customers, clueless bosses and co-worker visiting from outer space. Just another day folks, nothing to see here. (or is there more?)

Emotional strength and intelligence comes from knowing life is about more than you. Common Goals and values drive better behavior. It is taking care of others. Serving the public. Loving people. Especially when they don’t deserve it.

What do you do when your world changes? Where do you find your resiliency? Is it in your history? in your family’s stories? Your uncle who served in the war? Your neighbor who is always calming and interested? Or is peace something deeper. After all God is Love.

January 17, 2017

Misconceptions About President Trump

It has been a few months and both the press and opposition have not figured out President Donald Trump. Let alone why Trump won the election. Lets clear some misconceptions:

1) Rural / Country Votes Defeated Hilary
Not enough rural votes to matter. The Democrats struggled with the Suburbs. People on government support voted for Hilary, the people who pay the taxes did not.
Hilary won California by 4 million votes. She lost the other 49 states by 2 million votes.

2) Expecting President Donald Trump Will Act Like a Politician
Donald Trump won the election despite the Republican Party, despite the Press, and despite the Democrats being incumbents. He ran as an Anti-politician. He has said outrageous and provocative statements to shake up the election. Look at his selected Alpha business CEO advisors who get things done to lead his government. They will act very different than politicians.

3) Donald Trump Will Stop Responding to Criticism
Donald does not operate under  ‘attack each other to a draw’ politics of the last 20 years. He will respond like a Media star.
Obama tried to ignore the unfair ‘Birther’ attacks during his presidency. Donald Trump responded forcefully to the unfair ‘Illegitimate President’ personal attack no matter how respected the speaker is.
He will respond forcefully no matter how important the Country criticizing him.

4) The Republican Party is in Charge
Donald Trump is not stuck on an ideology. He is a Moderate. While rare in DC these days, still very common among non-politicians. He will take allies where he can get them on each issue. While the Republican Party is weak, per Chuck Todd “The Democratic Party is in Disarray, and is Irrelevant.”

5) Donald Trump is a Negotiator
Master negotiators have an agenda, do not reveal everything up front, and read the opposition before reacting. He is use to people playing hardball with him. Has progressed through life he has accumulated power, and negotiated at different levels of power. Not much will throw him.
Expect outrageous opening positions in public. But people & governments who want to work with the US will find a reliable partner. Government who try to overpower the USA will be rebuffed. Deals are made where both sides can Save Face.
Government negotiations will change from the weak tactics used by the last administration. President Trump has the advantage President Bush 43 had has ‘The Cowboy’. No one is certain what he would do.

6) President Donald Trump Does Not Owe the Establishment
The people who elected the President are the Unprotected. Average working people who pay taxes who use to be The Silent Majority. These citizen are his clients.
Not even sure he will want a second term, unless his supporters request him.

President Trump’s first term is not about being reelected. It will be Getting Changes Done. Expect things will be different in DC.