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.

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Thoughts on LinkedIn IPO, future IPOs for Facebook, Twitter

I won a bet today with a friend. I said that we would get at least one social media company that went public this year.linkedin 2 It was an easy bet to win. Many of these social media companies, Facebook, Twitter, being the two big ones had been in the news for over a year with plans on going public. But today, LinkedIn, was the 1st to pull the trigger. I’m on all 3 sites (as a PR student it is quite necessary) and use them almost everyday, so I I’ll tell you what I think of all 3 of them as focus on Facebook and Twitter my views on them having an IPO (initial public offering or simply being listed on the stock market) in the future.

LinkedIn is an interesting case. Of the 3, it is the most professional and I appreciate that aspect. Apparently so do a lot of my peers. The past couple months it seemed every week,  I have been adding old colleagues at a feverish pace, to keep in touch with them all on LinkedIn. Besides this though, I haven’t used or rather dived into LinkedIn as much as I’ve liked to…yet. But it’s use is evident. It is a networking tool, with a global network, a key point in this new reality of economies being so closely tied together with each other more than ever.

I have heard that their groups, which I am a part of about 10 related to PR/communication, really makes LinkedIn a valuable source in organizing people for business development discussion. This is definitely something I want to explore more. When I put my investor hat on and seeing how LinkedIn quickly doubled from its IPO price of $45 to an intraday high of over $122/share, to a close of a healthy $94.25 with over 30 million volume, this is positive news for their company. Obviously it won’t do 30 million everyday but impressive nonetheless and good on them for this amount of initial support  for their target valuation.

Facebook is a different story. Their IPO will no doubt be a top news item, but  I’ve grown rather tired of Facebook, as a company, to be honest. Two big reasons are one being the growth of spam on that site, and  two the messaging system or Facebook chat.

Spam has gotten so bad I find myself filtering so many people, this filtered list is becoming the same size of my hundreds of friends. The messaging system, Facebook chat is a mess. It is that simple. Throw in the recent bad press of Facebook using world renowned PR firm Burston-Mueller to smear Google’s reputation, and you really see that maybe the movie “The Social Network” really wasn’t that far off in portraying the company. Not helping my career or other PR professionals when we have to deal with being labelled “spin doctors”, as the profession is so commonly wrongly described.  All of these types of "soft feelings” I’ll call them, because they pull on my emotional attachment  in regards to Facebook. Throw in their just insane valuation (roughly 70 billion market value) and I would have a hard time, going for this in an IPO situation.

Twitter I like a lot more. It has half as many people on its site (300 million) as of today that Facebook has. (Yes it was big day for social media if you’re following). It has become the most efficient way to break news, as evidenced by the story of a journalist Pakistan directly or indirectly breaking the news of the U.S. Navy Seals Team Six killing of Osama Bin Laden. It’s fun as well. Some of the people I follow strictly use it to ply their comedic antics and this is accepted and adds to Twitter’s fun factor.

Personal views are encouraged, which makes for great back in forth between celebrities, media personalities, and just regular people like you and I. Twitter has a broad appeal,  in both professional and personal use, making it a great blend, more so than LinkedIn which is more purely professional and Facebook which is more purely personal. This makes it a more attractive target for me if I were to pursue it in an IPO.

Being in the field of PR, it  is exciting to see how social media is growing and impacting everyone. In terms of these companies. whether they become sustained profitable entities, without the fear of  them imploding is anyone’s guess. I would rather invest, as I have done so, in hard assets (gold), dividend funds, and equities. Of course, those that made a quick double and then some on LinkedIn today would argue to the contrary. However, herein lies an obvious, although key point. Regardless of whether my predictions are right or wrong, for both my stocks I’m invested in or those that invested in LinkedIn today, you only make as much money in investing as the amount you of money you put on the line. As was proven today, with the 30 million shares traded, this has occurred in such an impressive manner, which LinkedIn hopes is just the start of great things to come for them as a company.

Birthing birthers

You’ve probably have heard of Donald Trump recently stirring up quite the controversy through the media by requesting U.S. President Barack Obama to show his birth certificate to prove he is an American citizen. Trump, who may be vying to be Obama’s opposition in the 2012 U.S. Presidential race, has been adamant that Obama was not born in America. He has also made remarks on how did Obama get into law school at Harvard, saying something along the lines of he has friends whose kids which have high marks and can’t even get into Harvard, so how could Obama, who according to Trump was “a poor student” get in.

This aside, the real issue Trump has is the first one, believing that Obama was not born in the U.S., thus making him illegible for the U.S. Presidency. This is the “birther” issue. You are a “birther” if you reside in Trump’s camp, which is that Obama

What is sad about Trump is I actually liked him before all this. I enjoyed the early seasons of his Apprentice TV series, that gave you an interesting glimpse of reality TV, of real people trying to make it in the business world. He seemed honest, open, and even with the silly scripted “You’re fired” thing, he seemed human. But that was all in the past. From a PR point of view it is clear what he is doing here. He is positioning himself as a champion of those  who want to question, undermine, bring him down and Obama’s character and stature as president. Obama, being a soft spoken non–Caucasian U.S. president, is quite an easy target, for Trump’s claims, which definitely have a racist tinge to them.

Another part of the problem is the role the media plays in providing Trump a stage. Traditional media, such as CNN, entertainment media like TMZ and social media like Twitter and Facebook, all come together to create what can be described as a highly sensational environment. This environment is one which I feel has hit a critical mass, especially in America, where the media helps elevate individuals agendas. Why? Because it makes money of course, and sensational headlines bring in viewers. With the rise of social media and the competition being as fierce as ever, traditional media has to pander to the tastes of the population. Take a look at  what Charlie Sheen is doing on Twitter as the perfect case and point. Over statured and overexposed in the media.

Back to Trump. This attempt is just something to dominate headlines, with him leading the fight against this supposed “injustice” as a way to accomplish this. Whether Trump, or Sheen are mentally inept, trapped in their ways of thinking or it is part of their PR strategy I have no clue. All I know is discovery is a good thing, however  ignorance is not.

Night of Networking – Part 2

It bears repeating that in networking, like so much in life, you get out of it how much you put in. Mind you, it also helps to have a gameplan. I came into last month’s networking event with a gameplan. I wanted to gather information on my interests, specially in writing, starting my own business, grad school, and French. I know. Very ambitious. And yes, I am a dreamer. Nonetheless, I received great infromation that night pertaining to my interests which I thought it would be worthwilde to share.

Writing

My first stop at the networking event led me to a technical writer at Oracle, one of the largest computer software companies in the world. At the table I sat down and starting talking to our friend at Oracle, we’ll call him Jeff, pestering him with a bunch of questions. However, there were 2 problems. First, the networking session hadn’t started yet. Second, I did not have a notebook and pen. So I retreated back to gather both of those things and begin to write things down.

One of the first things I wrote down and learned from Jeff was that small words really do matter. This really hit me. Especially when looking at this blog. The ideas on what to write as content come out fairly quickly (as evidenced by the number of categories on the home page). But to make everything flow and come out the way I have it in my head to the screen requries editing, which to be honest, I hate.

A big part of editing is about finding the right words, usually the small ones, that make things flow perfectly. Jeff’s job as a technical writer, is all about having the small words in place and being having a good deal of consitency to what you write, the same lay out and look all the time, as key requirements for his job.  Thsese two things, paying attention to the small words and being consitent in my writing, are things I definitely want to transfer here at my blog and in other creative writing endeavours…

Business

I have been reading a lot of business books lately. Just finished The Knack, will have a review on it in some point on the blog. I am convinced of 3 major things regarding business, specifically owning your own business. One, it gives you the opportunity to define your career more in your own terms. Instead of your career focssing soley on your day job, you can put time into a business which may be more suited to your true passion and what you want to do. Two, having a business provides a tax benefit. The ability to write things off as business expenses is beneficial to growing your business. Three, and probably most important is having a successful business, gives you control over your freedom. I like to think of myself as a creative person. Being able to use my creativity and talent to provide a service to others for money is awesome. Think Facebook. Zuckerberg is a billionaire because of an idea, being a computer wizard, and being a bit sneaky (if you believe how things played out in The Social Network). Who wouldn’t want to be like that? Those gears for having my own business, that already had been moving, are cranking up a little faster now…

Grad school

Some people can really sell things well. They are the types of people who are able to make you leave with the product even if you thought it was too expensive in the first place. On my networking evening, this person was  one of my communication professors, who did a great sell job on me in regards to grad school. I always had the idea of contiuning my education to further expand my learning as well as to delay “real life”  as much as possible. I find school fun, even though this last semester sucked, and the things you can get in school (building new relationships with diverse people, the academic challegenge/grind, and campus life) really make it a unique and well worth life experience to go through.

So with all that in mind, my professor talked a good game. She asked me a question that I would explore in a master’s environment. I answered with the effect that Facebook is having on people in terms of them wanting to do what they saw their friends doing. For example, your friend posts pics on Facebook of a trip to Cuba. Now you think you should go to Cuba since it looked so amazing. She said that is the sort of research question that you could explore and possibly people are exploring, social media and its effects on people. Cool. Grad school. Another avenue to keep open…

French

Living in Ottawa and working in the government are two things that just seemingly go hand in hand. A third thing that completes this picture is being able to speak French. As a bilingual city, it is a necessity that for many government jobs you can speak French or your going to get screeened out. So at one of the tables I got some really good tips on taking steps on how to learn French.

First, I learned that I should try and emerse myself in the French environment. What that means is to not be shy, ask a lot of questions and try and conversate with French people. Taking it a step further, I do know of people who would go to a French universtiy in the summer to study French or to go to a small town in Quebec and live with a family to learn French. Probably a bit too much for me at this point but perhaps something to consider as a last resort if this tip and these other two don’t work.

Secondly, she said to teach English to a French person. This was interesting. I had to repeat what she said to make sure she actually meant this. I’m figuring that what she meant is by me teaching them a language that they are not familiar with they could in turn teach me a language I’m not familar with, that being French. That would be interesting. Have to test it out.

Thirdly, she told me to watch a movie in which you know the plot well and have seen many times in English, but with French subtitles. By following the conversations of the characters in the movie that you know well in English with theFrench subtitles, your ability to undertand what conversational French is like will improve.

Conclusion

Hopefully you were able to learn a bit from my night of networking. It was a great time and these are the types of events that really complement traditional classroom learning. I’m equipped with useful information that I can actually put into action in hopes of improving myself. I’d call that a successful night of networking, wouldn’t you?