my first YouTube video

I have finally done a YouTube video.

Several years ago I looked at the idea of doing a video blog to supplement my written blog. I decided against it. First, there were a fair number of wackos out there recording YouTube videos and I did not want to be like them or be associated with them. In particular I think of a fellow who went on about how the Large Hadron Collider was going to punch a hole in the Van Allen Belt and allow Satan and his minions to return to earth. Please! Keep me away.

More importantly, as I thought about undertaking such a project, I realized that my medium is the written word. I am not a video commentator. I write. And what I write is intended to be read, not heard.

However, I am out there seeking employment, or at least contract work. One of the sites I am set up on is a platform for bringing contractors and clients together called upwork. They allow for, and in fact encourage, contractors to do a short video describing their background and skills. I’ve been on upwork for several months now, and decided that it was finally time to do that video.

It took me a number of takes to come up with something that I felt comfortable with, but I finally did. I’m not sure how many takes I did. I would say more than ten and less that fifty. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here is my first YouTube video.

Plan B

The phrase “Plan B” makes sense to anyone familiar with idiomatic American English. Anne Lamott used it in a book title and it has become the common name for a contraceptive pharmaceutical.

Terry and I are thinking about implementing our own Plan B.

On Friday the Department of Labor announced that the economy added 257,000 jobs in January. The unemployment rate ticked up to 5.7% from 5.6%, but they claim that was due to people who had given up looking for work returning to the job market. A headline segment on Morning Edition on NPR included a sound bite from an economist who noted that data point and said that those people would all find jobs soon.

Oh, yeah? I’ve been busily, actively looking since July. So has my colleague and friend Maribeth in New England. We both have solid experience and marketable skills. We both have come up planbempty so far, in spite of our concerted, daily, focused efforts. It is frustrating (to say the very least) to have promising opportunities for positions that are a near perfect match for my skills and experience evaporate. My final unemployment payment is due next Thursday. Meanwhile, despite all of her efforts, Terry has been unable to generate a decent commission check for many months.

It may well be time for Plan B. Time for a significant change in strategy and lifestyle.

I’m not yet prepared to share what that might look like, but I will before long. Terry and I have been discussing this actively and doing some investigation.

We’ll need to make a decision soon.

changing the routine

My friend the Tahoe Mom wrote recently about changing patterns in her daily routine. I have made some changes of my own.

When I was working (and working from home) I would get up at 7:00 a.m., turn on the computer, feed Tasha, and then get started on my work day before having breakfast and taking a shower. The timer on the downstairs light is set to go on at 7:00, so Tasha equates that with getting her breakfast. More recently, being in the mode of looking for work, I had been feeding Tasha at 7:00 and then going back to bed until the heater came on at 7:45, when I would take a shower.

I decided, though, that such behavior was sending the wrong message to the universe. I have started staying up when I feed Tasha, turning on the computer, and checking the job listings that are waiting for me in my email.

I don’t know that I actually accomplish any more by the time I reach the end of the day, but I feel better about myself, and that is worth a lot.

a strange experience

I received an email on Thursday 15 January in response to a resume I submitted. It asked to schedule a phone interview for Friday 23 January. I thought eight days in advance for a phone interview was strange, but of course I was agreeable. The interview was conducted by the HR person and lasted all of five minutes, perhaps seven. That was fine, though, because I received an email that very same afternoon scheduling an in-person interview for the following Thursday.

The company is housed in the Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley. It is a busy, bustling place with lots of people coming and going. In the parking lot you can see both new Mercedes and Hyundais that are a few years old. There’s businessmen in suits and programmers in T-shirts.

The interview was held in a quiet conference room, a stark contrast to the Plug and Play lobby. Present were the founder and CEO along with another company executive. If they had reached thirty years of age they had gotten there only recently. The interview was cordial, positive, friendly, and upbeat. And lasted all of twenty minutes.

A strange experience all around.

I should hear something by the end of this week.

at loose ends

This week things are not what they have been. It’s a return to the ordinary.

The week before last I had my colonoscopy. That takes time and mindshare until it’s over. My sister-in-law’s visit has come and gone. Last week I was on call for jury duty. I never had to go in, but I did have to check the Web page twice a day. I took advantage of Tuesday, a govermemnt, and hence a court holiday, to interview at a company that employs a long-ago former co-worker. Then, on Friday, I had my final meeting, by phone, with my coach at the outplacement firm. That benefit ended yesterday.

So the colonoscopy is history. My benefit with the outplacement firm has ended. Julie returned home a week ago yesterday. My long-ago former co-worker who holds they key to my possible employment at that company is on vacation until after Thanksgiving.

Here I am at loose ends. All I can do is to keep on keeping on and to keep the job search process moving forward.

And so I will.

(virtual) duct tape

My blog friend, Tahoe Mom, wrote about how her stage manager skills served her well at a picnic she helped organize. Her secret of success at the event, as well as in her long career as a stage manager, was, se wrote:

quoteOrganize, delegate, make rather quick decisions
and keep your eye on the duct tape.

That struck a chord with me. I realized that those are the same skills I employed as a Web content manager. I posted a response to her blog and told her that. She responded, “Even the duct tape part?”

Absolutely. Even the duct tape part. I can’t tell you how much HTML virtual duct tape I and my content team applied to the Web portal over the years.

So here’s to finding a new position in the world of Web content management, virtual duct tape and all.


yes, it can

That is, yes it can happen to me. I was never under any illusion that it couldn’t. Getting laid off that is.

I was notified on Friday. I can’t complain. I’ve dodged the bullet many times. This time I didn’t. To change metaphors, I’ve said for years that it’s like the children’s game of musical chairs. It’s all about where you happen to find yourself when the music stops.

That doesn’t make it any easier when it actually happens. As I wrote of Facebook, “Did you know that it is possible to cycle through denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance multiple times in a single hour?” That’s what Friday afternoon was like.

So I move ahead. I trust that this is the beginning of something bigger and better.

business travel

I hate business travel. I hate being away from Terry and Tasha. And I hate airports. Flying is a pain too, since the airlines have been reducing the number of flights to keeps the planes more full, but mostly I hate airports. But then who has had anything good to say about the airport check-in process since 9/11? As much as I cringe saying it, it’s one place where the terrorists really seem to have won.

But when the VP says everyone needs to show up in Houston for a team Face-to-Face (or F2F as we say these days), you simply suck it up and go.

Ultimately, I’m glad I did. There were plenty of presentations that put me to sleep, I got sick of people who so enjoyed hearing themselves talk that they couldn’t restrict themselves to their allotted time. As usually happens at such gatherings, I got a serious case of PowerPoint poisoning.

At the same time I got to meet in person for the first time people with whom I have been working remotely for a long while, including my manager. I got to reconnect with people I have worked with in the past. I saw people I haven’t seen in person since my old campus closed.

Getting people with different roles and responsibilities and different priorities together in the same room is not the same as doing a teleconference. The dynamic is entirely different. It’s good to have that interaction.

Making the trip was worthwhile. Being back home is better.

wishing her the best

I wrote some weeks ago about my co-worker Jan, as I called her, who was moving off of the project we had worked on together. I was cleaning up my instant message contact list the other day, and noticed that her status was “presence unknown.” That invariably means that the person has left the company. Took me by surprise.

I tracked her down on LinkedIn, and we finally talked on the phone last week. She had been working remotely from a small town outside of Redding, CA for some time. Turns out that she was nervous about her perception of how getting ahead (or even surviving) in her business unit seemed to require a physical presence in that business unit’s new office tower in Silicon Valley. When early retirement was offered at this time last year she raised the issue with me, but we never discussed it thereafter. I assumed that she had considered the option and dropped it.

Turns out that was not the case. She applied and was accepted (as was everyone who applied), but had her departure date deferred by ten months. She had kept that all very quiet.

HawaiiBut here’s the thing that struck me. She had moved to the Redding area with her significant other some years ago when his job took him up there. She told me when we talked that they had been together since high school, and that they had recently split up. How disruptive and disorienting is that? She took these big changes in her life as an opportunity to make another big change and move to Hawaii, where her brother is. She’s looking for remote contract work.

Jan, as I’ve known her, has always been hard-shelled (biting the heads off of nails, as I used to say) and expressed minimal emotion, except, at times, maybe anger. I detected a slight crack in her voice as she was telling me about the breakup, but for the most part she remained stoic. Still, what a major, life-changing disruption this had to be for her. There must be some significant pain and emotion just under the surface.

I do wish her all the best. I wish her an orchestra with which to play. I wish her contracting success. And I wish her love, and the chance to emerge from that hard shell.

that’s not exactly true

“Ted Striker. Do you know him?”BuckMurdoch

“Never heard of him. That’s not exactly true. We were like brothers.”

— Airplane II

When I was direct assigned to my current role at work two years ago, right at this time of year, I had a counterpart in another organization with whom I was required to work closely. I found Jan (as I’ll call her) grating, irritating, and difficult to work with. In general I didn’t much like the job in those days (things have since changed). I was unhappy with my then-manager for her role in my being assigned the position, and I was looking around for other options, of which there were few.

Still, Jan and I developed a good working relationship over time and a mutual respect evolved. When it came time for performance reviews and my manager polled my peers, Jan’s praise of me was glowing, almost to the point of being embarrassing. When the company offered an early retirement program for which we both qualified, she told me one day, “Please don’t tell this to anyone. I’m telling you this as a friend, not as a colleague. But I’m thinking of taking early retirement.”

Eventually priorities in Jan’s organization changed, and the close collaboration came to an end. She was later assigned other tasks. Recently, however, interest in the project revived within that organization, but under another individual. Jan came to one last cross-organization meeting where we introduced the new person.

I took a few minutes to thank Jan for her contributions and mentioned how I appreciated her help in showing me the ropes in my early days in the new position, when I was a deer in the headlights or drinking from a fire hose (depending on which metaphor I was in the mood for). Which was in fact true, despite the other stuff that was also true. She said that this was one of those projects where ten years from now you would remember the people you worked with. She said it was fun in those early days.

I said that yes, it was fun. That’s not exactly true. It wasn’t. And I don’t like lying. But there was no reason for me not to maintain a cordial relationship with Jan. We can each go off working on our separate projects maintaining a good feeling about our past collaboration.

That’s not a bad thing.