Thursday, January 22, 2009

Starting a New Blog

I haven't even reached 100 posts yet and here I aPunk Rock HR and Brazen Careerist. There is a whole social network cloud of blogs and bloggers adjacent to and around both these sites. To see what I m

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.

George Steiner's book succeeded in shedding new light on a subject that was, for me "all part of a school syllabus and television past." Thanks to the history channel and Schindler's List (and our culture's propensity for reducing things to the lowest common denominator) I had a very one dimensional perspective on WWII, Hitler, and the holocaust. I can't say this book reshaped my understanding of those events, but it gave me a new and unique perspective on them.

Steiner describes the places so well you can really feel what's it's like to be there. I enjoyed the structure of the story; many chapters and characters have only the thread of A.H., and the possibility of his existence, connecting them. I think this allowed Steiner to set a variety of scenes, further highlighting his ability to really put you somewhere, and still keep the book focused.

I'm going to have to read the ending again. It would have been nice to be in the dark until the end, because it's quite a climax.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Learning From Tim O'Reilly

I mentioned in my initial post about Twitter that one of the first people I started following was Tim O'Reilly. It's been one of the best following choices I've made. I've only read two of his blog posts, but I learned something from both. And not the kind of things that just make you think "oh, that's kind of interesting". The type of things I will try to remember and apply in the future. Things that, in a small way, shape who I will be in the future.

The first was posted shortly after Bernard Madoff's giant Ponzi scheme hit the news. Tim's post included a quote from Herman Daly differentiating between a growth economy and a steady state economy. The idea that stuck with me is that we need to transition from an economy based on using things up to an economy based on taking a fixed amount of things and constantly remaking and improving them. In Daly's own words: "Growth is more of the same stuff; development is the same amount of better stuff (or at least different stuff)." This idea builds on what I learned from The Story of Stuff: that a linear system with a limited amount of resources is unsustainable.

The second was a little more recent: an explanation of Tim's "work on stuff that matters" mantra. In particular I like the second principle: create more value than you capture. In summary, he insinuates that creating and capturing value are more or less mutually exclusive activities; if you're focusing on capturing every last cent of value, you'll find yourself creating less and less. On the other hand, if you capture some of the value of a constantly evolving value creation string, you'll actually end up capturing more value in the end. And you'll have a stronger sense of accomplishment.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reflecting on a Big Day

I've been working in Human Resources at Whatcom County for almost two years, and yesterday I told my boss and several of my coworkers that Michelle and I are planning to move to Canada soon after our daughter is born. We are due March 11, so that means some time in April we will be moving (most likely). I was nervous about sharing this, particularly because I decided, with Michelle's help, that we were confident enough about the timing that we couldn't keep it a secret any longer (even though it's still almost 4 months away).

Both my actual boss and my practical boss were incredibly gracious in receiving the news. Both of them communicated that in life you need to pursue dreams and go after the things that you want to do, and they wouldn't want to hold me back from that. It was refreshing and encouraging to have their support, but also nice to know that both of them felt that I had made significant contributions in my time at the County, and that I would be missed.

Telling my work really adds a sense of finality to the decision. We are for (almost) sure that we are going, and more than likely it will be sometime in April or May. I can now start the job search process in earnest. Wow - lots to process. Better start working on the 'ol resume.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What Brazen Careerist Should Do

I'm taking a page from @ev's book. Evan recently wrote a post about what Blogger should do; I'm going to try to do the same for Brazen Careerist. The main difference here is that I didn't start Brazen Careerist, nor did I sell it to Google for like a gazillion dollars. Evan did both with Blogger. So, for what it's worth, here goes:

I joined Brazen Careerist a few weeks ago, sometime in that pre-Christmas blur. Since then, the number of "careerists" has probably quadrupled, which is a good sign. Anyway, I found Penelope Trunk's blog, which I usually enjoy, and she started Brazen, so I decided to check it out. It's a place for Gen-Y type people to discuss work, share their thoughts, and develop their careers. And there's also something nebulous about interacting with companies looking to hire bright people. Which is what initially interested me. More on that later.

What Brazen Shouldn't Do
I'm a little worried, because a lot of the features ("Fans", Profiles, Blog Feeds, etc) are reminiscent of all the other social networking sites, including Facebook, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, etc. Don't focus on the social networking thing. Why? All those other sites have been doing it a lot longer than Brazen, and they're doing it better than Brazen. So Brazen must be more than a place for people to connect and get to know each other. Which I believe it is, or can be.

What Brazen Should Do
The thing that attracted me to Brazen in the first place was the opportunity to interact with potential employers on a personal level. That's a revolutionary idea, and I don't know anyone else who is providing that. Unfortunately, as a Brazen Careerist I haven't been able to connect with any companies or their representatives (so far). So, as a first step, if individuals from sponsor companies haven't joined Brazen, they need to. Get some young recruiter-types from each company participating in the community. Then:
  1. Help me find them. Set them apart, so I know who they are. An icon, a different font, a different color, their company's logo, something. And differentiate their contributions throughout the site so everyone knows a company's response or opinion from a Careerist's.
  2. Give them a different profile template with info about the company, the individual representative's job, personal and corporate goals, mission statements, etc.
  3. Feature their blog postings about their company, it's culture, their personal as well as corporate struggles, successes, and problems. Help them solicit feedback from the community, and allow them to provide input (and value) to the community.
In a sentence, Brazen should facilitate personal interaction between companies (reps, recruiters, marketers?) and the Brazen community. In fact, in addition to finding a source of great people, participating companies may gain new perspectives, innovative solutions, and access to critical feedback. And Brazen Careerists can get to know the companies offering the opportunities they're looking for. Imagine having a window into the decision making process, culture, and environment of a potential employer. That's what I hope I can get at Brazen Careerist.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Flooding in Whatcom County

Warm weather, melting snow and heavy rain combined to cause earlier-than-usual flooding in our neck of the woods today. Lucky for us, we're on the fourth floor. Stay high and dry!

Photos from the Bellingham Herald