Leaving it behind

The “it” in this title is university, which although might sound negative, is nothing further the truth. It’s really just a reflection and Femi and Amesrecollection of the moments that made university life so frustrating and rewarding at the same time.

Not really knowing too many people at convocation (Hey Amelie!) which seemed to be common chatter for many other people made for an interesting graduation day. None of my university friends were present and I was more likely to notice the random guy in Media Industries than anything else. Furthermore, being one of three grads of the Honours Bachelor of Public Relations, and the FIRST (insert applause) from the Algonquin College to University of Ottawa side of the program, the other two were from La Cite, I was really on my own. But you come for the gown, the cheers from the family, and the poses with a piece of paper that cost way too much money.

As a graduate, the obvious unavoidable question you get repeatedly is what are you doing next. I told those who asked about things that were in the works, such as a start-up offer and an interview at a company, but mainly was thinking about the guidance I got from one of the recent books I read.

Books adding to perspective 

A small book entitled “You are Born an Original don’t die a Copy”. It provided me with a level of comfort and guidance in my approach to what’s next to come in my career.

I’ve always liked being aware of what others around me are doing, but try not to envy. This point is further expanded in the book. The book is divided into sections called “nuggets”. The title of this nugget is “If You’re Ripe With Envy You’re Ripe For Problems”. This book is full of quotable material and two of the many I like in this section are:

Some people seem to know how to live everyone’s lives but their own. Envy is the consuming desire to have everyone else a little successful than you are. Don’t measure your success by what other’s haven’t done. 

and

Don’t envy anybody. Every person possesses something no one else has. Develop that one thing and make it outstanding.

Self-help sounds and feels good. It’s fuzzy and gives us that warm feeling. But this was different because this type of self-help was good in the fact it already reinforced my approach, allowing me to believe in what I felt was a positive approach for myself. Everyone has a unique path and looking around at my peer group, with some people married, in long-term relationships or in South East Asia, you see this. But to reach your potential, you have to do what you do, do it well and follow that path wherever that may take you.

Toronto here I come

After spending my living and schooling years in Ottawa  it’s time to make a move to the big city. It’s funny how some people think I’m from Toronto because how much I talk and visit the city. But it’s a pure career move, as job prospect wise it makes sense. Things at the Government where I have four years experience are not looking good. As well,  I come from the camp where Ottawa and Toronto are both fabulous cities but I’ve been aiming for Toronto for a while, as there is a reason I escaped to TO as often as I did, to destroy my wallet in the process, so hopefully in time I’ll find what I’m looking for to experience more rewarding and undoubtedly, but not hopefully, frustrating times.

Investing: How to invest in uncertain times

You know you have to do it. But, you’re not sure how to do it. No, I’m not talking about finally talking to the hot girl eyeing you in your condo, which you awkwardly smile at. I’m talking about investing – taking charge of your personal finances.

So how do you do it? It’s a question I get asked a lot by friends when I tell them about my relative investing success. Other questions follow. How did you get started? What should I invest in? What are you going to do with all that money? I made up the last one. Furthermore, when looking at the world economy, it’s in shatters. Words such as “austerity”, “bailout” and “contagion” (which was a kick ass movie) are constantly talked about by economists on TV, acknowledging our unstable global financial predicament. It’s all a lot to take in and you don’t know what it means. So I’m here to get you back to the basics of investing and help you take the leap in uncertain times.

1. Start small

Now John will make fun of you because you’re saving such a small amount. But he has a girlfriend who he panders to by taking her out for expensive dinners, so don’t listen to him.

Before you get concerned about chasing the huge returns, you have to start somewhere. You’re just new to the game. Like any game, it’s time to learn the rules in the beginning. So start small.

Firstly, starting small means a few things. It means setting aside a small amount, in the form of a pre-authorized contribution (PAC) into your investing account. You can contribute as little as $10, $25, or $50, from every pay cheque. It’s basically just one dinner outing every two weeks you’re letting go. As these savings build up, and trust me they will, you’ll soon have quite a storage of savings, the first success of starting small.

Next, it’s about investing small. Say you like a stock such as Microsoft, because you’re not into the whole Steve Jobs watching your investment from the grave thing, then buy shares in Microsoft (this is not investment advice silly, just a column). Buy a small position, a few couple hundred dollars investment in Microsoft, to get your feet wet. This will allow you to see the ebbs and flows of the market while you get invested in a company you like, with a good dividend yield (2.7%) for the technology space, which also happens to have a fairly scary looking CEO in Steve Ballmer. Mission accomplished.

2. Buy and hold

I know it’s hard but this is what you have to do. We have a tendency to think that we can time the market, getting in at the lowest lows and selling at the highest highs. Sometimes you’re able to do it  and that’s sweet, but it’s not the norm. A better strategy, is to take a buy and hold approach to your portfolio.

What buy and hold means is exactly that, you buy then hold your position through the rough times, like we are in now. The benefits are obvious. You get to forget about the daily price fluctuations. You’re able to rest easy because over time things tend to average out. Although the headlines are bad, money has to go into something, which it always does…so relax. If you play your cards right by picking stable, blue chip companies listed on the S&P 500 or NYSE, which have good dividend yields that compound over  investment over time, it will actually pay to wait. Quoting one of the greatest minds of our times, Albert Einstein, it was he who said: “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.”

3. Be realistic

Know that you’re not going to make a 10% return in a month. It’s rare and more indicative of a riskier investment. While these types of investments can be rewarding, it can put you at a disadvantage if it goes the other way. So, you have been warned.

Being realistic is also about having a purpose for what you want to do with your investment dollars, whether it be that vacation getaway, new tech toy, or bigger items like a partial down payment on a home or condo. It’s all about your time horizon, so if you have a short one, one to three years or a longer one (three years plus), be sure to keep this in mind when picking your investments. .

Conclusion

Talking about your finances isn’t the most sexy topic, but it’s a necessary one. If you follow these three steps: start small, buy and hold, and be realistic, it will put you in a better position for financial success as you get older.

Goodbye 2011

First things first, I have to say I was very blessed with a big capital B in 2011! It was a year in which the good things that are opportunity, luck, and desire came together to make things happen for me.

At times it felt overwhelming to work three jobs, go to school full-time for five classes, and volunteer but everything I was doing I was really into and in the end luckily (there’s that word again) it worked better than I thought it would. So with that  said here is my goodbye to 2011, or review of 2011 if you rather, looking at what happened in work, school, and what I learned in 2011.

Disclaimer: The following views are my personal views and not the views of my employers.

Work

Work dominated my life in 2011. Things started fairly simple enough with my continued employment at my government job of three plus years, but by the end of 2011, I added two others, pushing my work commitments to three. Surprisingly, It  went very smoothly. The two positions, both at school, one with the University of Ottawa (uOttawa) and the other with Redwood Strategic working on campus, added to my creativity, leadership, teamwork abilities.

uOttawa – Student Online Community Manager

Being a Student Online Community Manager (SOCM) for the uOttawa was a position I really wanted. The position is one where me, along with a team of three others, engage students at the university through social media, primarily using Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. You can follow some of the conversation on our Twitter account here.

After attending various networking events that I have written about here, being a SOCM has really allowed me to jump deeper into social media, gain experience in public relations, and help grow the school’s brand online. With planned presentations and a better understanding of what the student population is like, I’m looking forward to connecting with more students at uOttawa this year.

Windows Leader for Redwood Strategic

Getting the SOCM position definitely helped in getting this job.  It was a quick turnaround from applying to the job then getting it but it was amazing how it all worked out.  The first perk of the job was an all expenses paid flight to Toronto. Having not been on a plane since 94’, this was great experience. As well with all of my fun trips to the city  earlier in the year, I welcomed going back again.

In addition to myself, I travelled with three other students from uOttawa. Our group would be joined by other students from provinces all across Canada, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, for  two days of training and getting to know more about Windows/Microsoft. It’s really cool being able to say you know someone in each province of the country, but there was way more too it than this.

There was more to learn about Microsoft as a company, and what the program, being a Windows leader on the uOttawa campus is all about. Basically our job is to hold personalized demos with students one on one, teaching them how to use Windows 7 effectively in all they do at school.  After having these short demos, for each student that listens to me blab, they get a token of appreciation that enters them into a draw for gift cards as well as a new PC. But it gets better. Microsoft will also donate $5 for every token redeemed, to a maximum of $500, to a campus organization  we choose ( I chose the Centre for Community and Global Engagement) which in short, helps students, faculty and staff at uOttawa find volunteer opportunities as well as supports grassroots initiatives.

In the end it’s a big win for everyone involved, as I get to do what I love doing, networking, the student learns something new, and the organization gets another source of money. As well for Microsoft, they get to re position themselves again as a leader in the tech space, by building a community of people who use their products. After an intense two days, one in which there was a lot of product training on Windows 7 and brand new laptops, the Samsung Series 9 notebooks, the experience was over. I learned so much from true leaders, the founders of the program and those from Campus Perks, who have made their dreams a reality, as well as my  fellow peers from across the country.

School

I’m going to miss school life (I think) when it’s all done. Being six years into postsecondary schooling, now with only one more year left, has me thinking about this. Going to campus, connecting with your peers, is a unique time and experience. Although I won’t miss the bad profs, horrible groups, and useless assignments. With that said last years fall semester went so smooth, as I only had two exams for my five classes, and not a lot of homework. So it wasn’t all that bad.

Three important things I learned in 2011

1. Leadership

I want to be a leader. It’s very satisfying having the responsibility of putting others around you in positions to be successful, being in charge, and also part of the reason for success in what your doing, whether that be on an assignment, project, or another initiative. In 2011, through these different jobs and in school, I got the chance to develop my leadership skills. The respect you get as someone who is counted on for anything, be it opinions, advice or what have you is great. But being able to encourage change and progress is so much better. I think I embraced not standing around, waiting for others to take charge and realized I could do it myself. However, it really is important who you surround yourself with, which leads me into my second point.

2. Teamwork

It’s really important who you surround yourself with. I always thought I knew this in my personal life, with my parents who kept hammering it home to me, in regards to my friends, but it’s clear that in the work and school world it is just as important. In 2011, being on good teams made coming together fun and enjoyable, as everyone was on the same page. This lead to some great results (90 percent on a research project, Windows demos on campus). I’m looking forward to doing more of this in 2012.

3. Preparation, Deadlines, Goals

I learned that paying close attention to each of these three areas was a key for  my success in 2011.  They are intertwined and rely on each other, basically from the point of view that your preparation leads to you making deadlines, which in turn help you reach your goals.

Before I used to set goals that were far in the future, without putting more emphasis on my short term goals. It was important to learn that I need to take more logical steps, to get from A to B first should be a priority, rather than A to C. .

Goodbye 2011

2011 was a amazing year for me to grow more and mature through all these experiences in work, school, and life. Hopefully, using a common sports reference, it was my “breakout season”, and I can continue the momentum into this new year, 2012. There is so much out there and so much possibilities in avenues to take, it’s going to be exciting how it all plays out in 2012.

BlackBerry Playbook Review

What kind of BlackBerry Booster (as per my Twitter bio) would I be if I didn’t write about the company’s tablet I picked up over Christmas? A very bad one. So here are a couple thoughts on everyone’s favourite 7 inch tablet.

First things first

We all know BlackBerry had a horrible year last year. However I’m surprised that they didn’t sell a ridiculous number, like 1 million of these Playbooks. And I don’t know why not. The build quality is awesome, it fits nice in your hand, (key for reading in bed or lying on the couch) and the OS (Operating System) is slick.

Furthermore, video looks great on it  and its in black (my favourite colour, which isn’t a moot point because even though I’m not an Apple guy, their old black MacBook looked sick) and the price for a 16GB model at $199 (the model I have) is now changed so all three are priced at $299. It just doesn’t make sense. Ah well, they should sell more because of what’s coming.

What’s coming

The Playbook update in February, OS 2.0, will introduce native e-mail, a video store for downloading content (only available to start in the U.S), more apps via Android, and autocorrect/predictive text. As well,  talking to a fellow student I met on campus, who has this own web development/app company, the Playbook might even have support for Windows apps in the future. For more on OS 2.0, A really good in-depth review courtesy of mobilesyrup.com is available here.

It’s simple

With the attractive price point, great quality, and fluid OS, the Playbook is a nice, powerful tablet. If the update comes on time, with everything working as RIM says it will, it’ll be hard to see why they won’t sell a few more Playbooks, which will require me to do less BlackBerry boosting.

12 things I’m looking forward to in 2012

I like lists like this. 12 things I’m looking forward to in 2012. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time coming up with the list. I just thought about 12 things which may be in the headlines (and definitely in my headlines) throughout the year. So with that I present to you what I’m looking to in 2012. Note: There are a lot of sports related things.

12. Apple

The ball is in now new Apple CEO Tim Cook’s court to launch the next wave of innovative products for Apple that everyone so desperately desires (not me!). We know Apple’s slick marketing of their products, or often the case slightly upgraded ones, that capture people’s imagination, should always be there, but speculation exists as to what these products will be. Maybe an Apple TV, along with the updated releases of the iPad and iPhone coming this year? With Apple you never know what’s coming until it’s here, but the bigger question is will Cook be able to deliver?

11. CES

One day I’ll go to CES (Consumer Electronics Show. It’s going on right now and it is impossible for me to ignore all the tweets about the event. CES would be a great place to see the new technology coming this year, and meet celebrities, such as Justin Bieber, who was there this year.

10. U.S. Presidential Election

Will it be Mitt Romney vs. Obama? The U.S. presidential election is always of interest. They are still the worlds largest power and most influential nation in the world. However, with the U.S. in a crisis because of the financial meltdown, this is a very important election for our neighbours to the south. Will the next, or current president in Obama, be able to turn the economy around?

9. Movies

We’re specifically talking the Dark Knight Rises here, which comes out this summer and is the end to the Batman trilogy by director Chris Nolan and starring my boy Christian Bale. The previous film, The Dark Knight, is one of my favourite films of all-time. Check out the trailer here.

Oh and the Hobbit is coming out at the end of the year. Sorry, not a huge fan. Although I remember when the trailer came out some people on my Twitter timeline and on Facebook posted excessively about it. Just can’t get into the cheesy movie music.

8. Super Bowl

Whether you actually love the game itself, and we’ve had a run of amazing games the last few years (Giants beating the undefeated Patriots, Steelers over Cardinals, and last year Green Bay over Steelers) or the commercials the Super Bowl is a can’t miss event. Period.

7. Euro 2012

Since there is no World Cup this year (I’d better start saving my money for Brazil in 2014), the next best thing is Euro 2012 this year. What’s at stake is who will be crowned the best team in Europe. Players playing for national pride will make for some exciting football. I’m rooting for Netherlands!

6. NHL playoffs

Playoff hockey is the best. No other word can describe it accurately. It’s so intense, that you are on the edge of your seat for every hit, goal, and save which can change everything in an instant. There is nothing quite like the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the two month battle to see who will be crowned the best in team in the world of hockey and lift sports most famous trophy is a definite must see event every year.

5. Mad Men returns

Mad men returns in March, with everyone’s favourite womanizer in Don Draper (Played by Jon Hamm). I devoured all of the series last summer, after my brother had been telling me for years to watch it. Glad I did. It’s one of the better drama’s on TV, if you like the whole 1960s advertising angle.

4. Canadian economy

As long as we have hockey, the Canadian economy will be fine. I’m joking. The reality is we are a export nation which is largely dependent on exporting our natural resources and commodities, whether that be two valuable ones for us and the world in fertilizer with Potash Corp or oil with TransCanada Corp.

When looking at issues specific to the country, I’m looking at the housing market, household debt levels (I can’t put down my credit card at times too!) and politics (how will PM Harper finish his term). We’ll continue to get answers on all of these in 2012.

3. European Debt Crisis

It is something I’ve been following for over a year now and there seems no end in sight. In fact, most pundits/economists think things will get even worse in 2012. Leaders of European countries are unsure about the next steps to take to save their nations with their oversized debt loads. Things look to get ugly this year.

2. Finishing school

In 2012 I will be done school, if everything runs it’s course, of course. After 6 years of post-secondary, I will celebrate this achievement, then get onto the full-time quest of finding employment. Yay!

1. Olympics

London is the spot for this year’s summer Olympics. There is no event that unites the eyes across the globe more so than the Olympics, with the Word Cup, the only thing that comes close. I remember back to our nation’s pride with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Everyone in Canada was so pumped to be Canadian, it felt like we drew closer as a nation. The Olympics are a special time, and everyone is watching, making it the #1 thing to watch for this year.