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.

Fast Five

Fast five, the latest movie in the Fast and Furious movie series comes out at the end of April. As much as a fan of the series I am, the 1st movie, Fast and Furious is on my top 10 movies list and I’ve watched it at least 10 times, this post isn’t about the new movie. No, the “fast five” I’m talking about is it being a fast five years for me in terms of postsecondary schooling. I’ve been in post secondary for five years, 4 in college and 1 in university thus far, with 1 1/2 years left to go. This has been the fastest year to date as well. I confirmed this by talking to my peers who are also in school. So what has happend during these 5 years in post secondary? Lots. But I’ll try to sum it up best in 3 major areas: school, work, and love.

School

I graduated high school without a clue of what to do. Well I had one clue. I didn’t want to go to university to do a 4 year degree in Poli Sci or English, something very general and I was barely interested in. So with that in mind I turned to Algonquin College. Didn’t know much about the school, or that we even had a college in Ottawa to be honest. But I went into General Arts and Science, the pre-media stream, a 2 year program, and decided to try it out.

Two years of pre-media ended up being one year. Because in pre-media, specifically in media dynamics class, I chose to do my major project on PR. A passion was born and I was outta there. For the project, I interviewed the communications director at Casino Lac Leamy and a woman (who has been a helpful mentor to me to this day) that runs her own PR firm downtown. I learned more about PR as a profession and career and since it also so happened that Algonquin had a PR program, I took the test and got in to start the PR program for the next year.

It was supposed to be 2 years of PR, but ended up being 3 (7 classes/semester and too much fun I guess). Which was fine because it just so happened (I’m a lucky guy if you haven’t noticed yet) that UOttawa created a PR program the year I finally graduated Algonquin. Sweet. I could continue learning about PR, for a degree now, with my diploma in my backpocket. And here I am. Uottawa PR student.  Little over a year to go.

Work

I’ve worked a lot of jobs since high school. About 8. All with a female manager or supervisor. All of them in either retail or customer service. These are the entry level jobs where you have people who stay for 3 days, 3 months, 3 years or 3 decades. You get people from all stages in their life, which makes for interesting conversation while on the job. From these conversations I was able to learn a lot though. By taking other people’s views and opinions and compairing them to my own perconceived ideas, I discovered I was way off on some things, bang on with others, and perhaps had to think more on certain things. Overall, these conversations increased my knowledge of the world around me and for that I’m greatful.

However, sometimes I wonder if all the job changes were necessary. I left jobs, quit jobs, got fired from one job. But in the end, looking back at where I am today, it was necessary. I’m really one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason. The jobs I liked I held down, starting with my first job at a major department retailer and with my current job at the government. The ones I quit, where not important as I had already secured another job. And the job I got fired from, I decided that talking to my friend was more important than working.

It was with holding down my first and current job though, is where I felt I’ve learned the most. Because as you grow older in an organization, other moving parts (like co-workers from different stages in their life as I mentioned earlier) come on board and you have to adapt and adjust to this newly created work environment. As well, you might get added roles, responsibility, and more pressure. So with those challenges, I’m glad I’ve lasted this long in my current job and ready for the new opportunites that await.

Love

Love can be mushy. Let’s try not to make it that way. However, thats probably impossible. Looking back on my “1st love” (so lame writing like that) it was crazy all the things we got into. Being young and in love applies here. Being in love you grow, learning more about your needs and your partners. After 2 years in a deeply commited relationship, I decided that this was not the way I wanted things to go in terms of my needs. The future looked very cloudy. So I left and moved onto something different.

That something different was very different but just as exciting as the 1st love. You have to agree, that the beginning of a relationship is the best time. You’re full of excitement and the possbility of what can happen is pretty much wide open. Possibility is the positive word in a new relationship but sometimes another p word, problems, becomes something that you can’t escape.

Romantic relationships are tough to say the least. Saying they are rough is probably better. However, it’s all in the way you handle them. In my 5 years of being in romantic relationships, I’ve always been extremely honest. To the point where I have a clear conscious and know I didn’t fool myself or lead on my partner for the duration of the relationship.

I’m not a big fan of being in a relationship for the sake of being in one. Over time, I think that in your 20s as you have love for someone and as you mature, you run into the decision of how you want to make it all function along with school and work, so everything can co-exist in a beneficial way for you and your partner. I have a lot more to say these 3 areas (school, work, and love)  for y’all. Stay tuned this summer.

Fin

It’s been a fast five. So many lessons learned in school, work, and love. Makes me feel old. I’m more knowledgeable than the 18 year old kid who stepped out of a clicky, abnormal social envrionment, into a world with endless possibilities though. That is probably the greatest thing about today. In all 3 areas, there is limitless potential. I just hope the next 5 years are as good as the last 5. And that they go a little slower.

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?