Doing more in 2012

The new year is here! I started it off right, celebrating NYE in Montreal, which for those who live or party there often know, is a really fun city. It reminded me of the last time I was in the city, to celebrate mine along with two of my close two friends 21st birthdays. Although it didn’t top that experience, nonetheless it provided great memories and stories. Now onto the blog….

Doing more in 2012. I’m a very optimistic person. it’s in my DNA to be positive. But it’s also good to look back as well (need to get my 2011 review blog up) to things which I did a bit of last year that I’d like to do more of this year.

Blogging

The drafts are there. The posts are not. The excuses are there. The results are not. With that said, I’m just going to do a blog at least once a week in 2012 and see how that goes.

Volunteer

I volunteer at school doing broadcasting a couple uOttawa women’s Gee-Gees games in basketball and soccer respectively, since 2010. I blogged about one of my experiences doing a game last year here.  Doing broadcasting is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was young but this year it would be nice to align myself with volunteer opportunities outside of school, on issues that I’m passionate about (mental health, ageism/elder abuse being the two most prominent ones).

Entrepreneurship

I’ve had this idea to write a book, or an e-book, or short story, basically I’ve had an idea to write something that people will find enjoyable to read, for over 1 1/2 years now. Lets start piecing the pages together and seeing what comes from it.

Let’s do more in 2012

These are three things which I did a bit of in 2011, that I want to do more of this year. Share your own list of things and good luck in doing more this year.

Advertisements

5555

Ottawa-20111205-000645555. My work office is on the 5th floor of the building, and elevator number 5 was not working today on December 5. 555. But there is one more important five to consider: the five people, including myself, who were using BlackBerrys on my bus ride home. 5555.The fourth five of my day and the one which I want to talk about for a bit. (Picture at the right is one of my paintings I bought last summer)

I’ve wanted to write about BlackBerry and its parent company RIM for a while now but wasn’t really sure what to say. RIM has had a horrible year. If you pay any attention to what I call the big 3 in tech (Apple, Google and Microsoft) you would know that RIM this year has fallen far behind. Its share price is at its lowest levels in years and the buzz around the company is almost nil. It’s tough to say where the company will end up, especially while the other 3 are continually pushing new products which have consumer bases that are fanatical/evangelical about them.

But today on the bus showed me that people still care about BlackBerry. To see 3 people on the left of the bus with their BlackBerrys out and 2 others, myself included, with ours out on the right side, it was a telling reminder that the company might still have life. To be honest, the tech space is one of the most emotional spaces, arguably the most emotional place on earth to invest in. People wear their iPhones or BlackBerrys on their sleeves, display their MacBook Pro as the piece that differentiates them in a sea of PC users and their crappy Gateways (I had one which died on me badly).

When looking at my personal investing experience in junior mining small caps, much risker investing, where losses of 20% in a month are not uncommon should the slightest production hiccup occur, investing in the tech space is comparably safer. Also, by investing in companies worth millions rather than billions, you expose yourself to more risk.

So when looking at RIMs dramatic decline, it’s hard to say they have been that bad to dive over 60% this year, from a high of almost $70, to under $18 currently. Because if you go into what the company has been doing, rather than not doing you see a company making a recent $100 million dollar acquisition, having cash on hand, and trying to transition to what everyone believes is their last hope with QNX or BBX or whatever name the operating system for their new phones next year will be, is hardly a resume of a company on its way into oblivion.

With everything considered, whether BlackBerry and RIM get back to being number one in the smartphone game when it debuted or back into a favourable light with consumers and analysts as it was earlier this year, I’m just hoping that the iconic Canadian company gets back on solid footing. It’s hard to fight against the trend and popularity, where Apple and Google are so dominant in the tech space. However, to borrow from what Jim Prentice, a former Federal ministry leader in the Canadian government wrote so well in this piece for the the Globe and Mail said, I’m keeping my BlackBerry and cheering for RIM. And waiting patiently for my ordered PlayBook to arrive as well.

Hanging out at Social Capital Ottawa

This past weekend I had a great opportunity to network  while meeting some of Ottawa’s social media minds by attending Social Capital Ottawa. It was a great time.

Social Capital Ottawa, an all day social media workshop, explored through presentations, roundtable discussions, and case studies, what local PR, marketing, graphic designers, mommy bloggers and other professionals are doing in social media. My favourite part was probably the one on one conversation, since I could finally talk to those who I follow on Twitter…in real life! Unfortunately, I can’t rehash everything that was said (your attention span, not my writing ability) so I’ll just dive into 3 areas I want to highlight as my key takeaways from the conference.: the big message, the underlying message, and quotes.

The big message

Something that I gathered from all the speakers is they took action in social media to make things happen. They brought  their expertise to the conversation going on in social media and added value. Sometimes it was a success, other times it was a challenge. Whatever the case, the message is you have to be willing to take action. You can wait on the sidelines thinking about what to do or jump into the fray. For me this hits home when looking at the small things (finishing the multitude of half done blog drafts) to the big things (working on an e-book).

The underlying message

We have a large social media community in Ottawa. I guessed 200 people attending. I was off by 10, as there were 190 people who attended. In the opening keynote, when Glen Gower (@Glengower) asked the audience what social media networks are you on (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn), 99% of hands went up. This was the same when Glen asked who had a blog. Apparently we aren’t a sleepy, government town! People are writing, sharing their thoughts, and pushing change in the community. When Glen asked: “What can we do to get more people participating in social media in Ottawa?”, it made me think. We have a community that is connected online (social media networks), sharing (blogs), but this is only in this small sample of 190 people. Ottawa is over 1 million people. We can’t have success with social media just in this vacuum. There is indeed much more work to be done in the community at large.

Favourite quotes from the conference

The following is a couple of my favourite quotes I collected from the sessions:

Shannon Smith (@cafenoiredesign) on why she writes her blog:

“A blog is a toolbox of support that can be shared to the next person.”

Craig Fitzgerald (Craig_fitz) on measuring social media:

“Its all about experimentation – there is no single formula, measurement is the eyes and ears of the marketer.”

Kneale Mann (@Knealemann) on teamwork:

“Teamwork is about finding who is the strongest for a particular area, not about everyone pitching in.”

on an organizations structure:

“Lower the walls in your organizations and start to share.”

And a favourite of many who attended the conference from Stacey Diffin-Lafleur (@TheStacey) on her social media strategy:

“Proceed until apprehended.”

Thoughts on Blink, learning from Gladwell

I did it. By finishing the book "Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell yesterday, I am now done all of the Canadian author’s fourblink1 books (The Tipping Point, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw being the others ). All of them were entertaining reads although Blink, the #2 book in the quartet, was probably the least enjoyable of them for me.

Blink’s main message is whether it is better for us to rely on our instincts when making decisions or whether studying a situation for a long time, then making a decision is a better idea. Gladwell, as he does so successfully in all of his books, is able to sway your opinion to the former being true and throughout the book he points to examples as to why this is the case. One striking example in the book Gladwell uses is the real story of a group of 4 police officers in New York City and their misjudgement of a “criminal” who they shot  at 41 times to death. The “criminal” was merely an innocent civilian. Gladwell goes on to argue that if the officers had studied the situation better, particularly his face, which would allow them to read his mind, they would have seen the man as not a threat, and would not have made the decision to kill an unarmed man in cold blood.

This was the most fascinating part of Blink. Some other parts of it gets repetitive at times. Perhaps this is because I was so used to Gladwell’s writing style. Nevertheless Blink sticks true to what is typical of a Gladwell book by being  thoroughly researched, thought provoking, with a great, tight narrative.

So with that said, and now having read all of Gladwell’s books (thus far), what you come away with from this quartet of books is the common themes of very interesting social experiments, stories, and case studies that allows you access into a deeper understanding of the people, situations, and world that we find ourselves in. It is fascinating how oftentimes we tend to view things as completely open and shut, but through Gladwell’s books he continues to refute this notion showing that , in fact, there is really another way(s) of approaching things. For me, who has a strong interest in research, building relationships, and being a part of my community, my interest in the books was constantly piqued. I couldn’t put any of them down while reading them mostly on the commute to work. I’m glad a friend of mine, who was chided by his boss to read more, has taken that challenge and recently started Outliers. He is in for a treat.

What Online Brokerage Do You Use And Why?

I’m sort of in a bind. I’m undecided of what to do with my current online brokerage that I use for trading, RBC Direct Investing. I want something with lower trading fees. Paying 28.95/trade seems ridiculous, especially as a young investor/student trying to save for school in the fall. So I’ve continue to snoop around to one of my favourites: Questrade, a Canadian online brokerage company.

Recently, a close friend of mine in Toronto, jumped onboard with Questrade. At $4.95/trade to never more than a max of $9.95, that is some serious savings. As well, another friend on Twitter was posing the same question as to what is a good online brokerage to get. I’m pretty stumped. The one big reason for keeping RBC is because I do all of my banking there and my heart is there. But common sense is telling me otherwise and go with the savings and Questrade.

So a quick question to you. What online brokerage do you use and why?

Meeting with the DM

Yesterday, I was invited along with a number other students, to meet the Deputy Minister (DM) of my department which I work in, at the government. Should have tweeted it out that I was attending. Got lazy. Anyways, the meeting with the DM was an informal discussion. He was dead panning throughout the one hour chat, sharing with us in broad strokes what the department/government is all about, while we as students brought to him our myriad of concerns, in the form of questions.

Most of the questions posed to the DM were predictable. “What do you think about the Canadian government downsizing the size of the government and its employees?”, “How can we make the federal government more efficient”, and “I was in line for a job and didn’t get it. What’s the best way to force my manager to hire me?”. Ok the last one was a little exaggerated but it was something along those lines. As I sat 4 rows back from the DM, I was thinking of these all valid, thoughtful questions. But here is one statement I would have posted to my fellow colleagues to quell all their fears:

“You have all the skills right now to make yourself a valuable employee to the federal service or anywhere for that matter. Trust in them and grow with them.”

Quite frank, I know, but not totally out of the blue if you care to follow.

When you look at the current trends, high unemployment rates in Canada, U.S. ,and across the world, the rise in term/contract work, apparently in teaching profession in particular, according to the DM, and the desire to hire experienced (I’ve seen a lot of PR postings requiring 5+ years experience in my little job search) your pointed in this direction of the this job reality. Yes, ideally, you want a full-time job in the government or elsewhere. But what happens if it doesn’t come? What happens after your finishing masters program, there isn’t a position? Or after your student contract, they look elsewhere and hire another candidate? Well, what happens is you have fall back on your skills, your area of expertise, probably from your subject of area of study in school, that you’ve invested so much time into, to be your fall-back plan or number one option.

Today’s job market is extremely competitive. I remember being younger and applying to jobs and getting many call-backs. Not anymore. When observing my peers, I don’t run into many of them who aren’t thinking about adding a masters program, MBA, or other courses to push them ahead of the pack. This is the new reality for the next generation of workforce in Canada, both in the government and private sector, where the masters is the minimal requirement. Happy trails Bachelor of Arts!

Does this route guarantee employment right away? Of course not, but it is a trend worth noting so you aren’t caught in an unemployment situation. That is why this blog, as an outlet for my thoughts, ideas, and writing is so important. Prospective employers are always looking to what gives you an edge, and why you as an individual would be an important addition to the team.  For me I think that’s my personality as well as my skills/knowledge I have in my writing, investing, researching in the world around me. Whatever your passion is, putting time into it has the potential to create greater opportunity for yourself down the line. It’s never a waste of time. Something I which is much better than waiting on that job which may or may not come through.

Getting A Little Bit Better Everyday

When watching professional sports there are a variety of feelings that one can see clearly when watching your favourite team throughout the season. They can be simplified in three categories: joy when your team wins, anger when they lose, or pride when they give it their all but come up short. One feeling, a lot subtler than those three, which I love seeing in sports is inspiration. This week I found no better example of inspiration than that from the new coach , Paul MacLean aka the man with the killer moustache , of my hometown NHL team, the Ottawa Senators.

We had a rough season in Ottawa in terms of  Senators hockey. No playoffs. At one point during the 82 game season we were the worst team in the NHL, before coming to a “positive” finish of 5th last in the league. But there’s always another season in pro sports, and with that comes change. We traded a lot of our  veteran players on the team, and fired our head coach. Insert MacLean, to take control of the team. He had this gem of a quote I picked out from his introductory press conference to the media on Tuesday:

paul maclean

“Were just going to get a little bit better each day”

Those words just stuck to me. Yes, it’s a coach saying all the right things to try and get himself acclimatized to a passionate fan base in a highly competitive league. However, it made me look in one area where I strive to get a little better in everyday: reading.

Reading

Everyday, as part of my morning routine, I read the local paper as well as the what is closest to Canada’s national daily (The Globe and Mail) to soak up what’s going on in the local/national environment. As well, I read a book on the commute into work (Malcolm Gladwell’s third book, Outliers is my book of choice right now). Throw in some investing and business reading from online websites, as well as Canadian Business magazine and I’m done in this department. When you break it down that’s a lot of reading and it keeps me learning of what’s going on around me in the world.

As well, reading is something that enhances other areas such as your comprehension skills, vocabulary, and writing one of the key skills in the PR professionals toolbox, and one I’m working hard to develop, both professionally and creatively. Not to mention it’s fun getting lost in another writer’s thoughts, which in turn is usually intellectually stimulating.  Especially on warm summer days.

What do you do to get a little better everyday?