Having a Career – Where That Education Led Me

dogbert  call center drone

 

 

 

“To love what you do and feel that it matters–how could anything be more fun?”
– Katharine Graham

The place was Ohio Northern University (ONU), Ada, Ohio, the year was 1984, and there I was in my cap and gown with my new diploma in hand ready to conquer the “professional” world. I was both excited and nervous at the same time. Having work experience and having supervised people gave me an advantage, but at the same time I also had the disadvantage of venturing into the uncharted waters of the office environment.  So it was with some trepidation that I began interviewing for positions with local CPA firms. As I commenced the interview rounds, I saw a small posting in our local paper for a position with a local Accounting Software company.  I diligently sent a cover letter along with my resume. Within a week I had two interviews lined up.  The first interview was at a large local CPA firm that supported the majority of the businesses in our community preparing their taxes, giving financial advice, doing their payroll, etc. The second interview was with the Accounting Software Company for a Customer Support Representative. I don’t know which was more exciting, just getting the interviews or the fact that they were both in areas that were very interesting to me.

The interview at the CPA firm came first. I thought it went well. During the interview I found that the offices were plush (by 1980’s standards) and the dress codes as well as the work environment were very professional. I would need my high heels and hose for this job. The only downside was that the owner was an older gentleman who chewed on his cigar during the interview and called me “girlie.”  I can live with that, I thought.

Then came the interview with the Accounting Software Company.  I drove past the office a few times before I realized it really was that pole building in the middle of the corn field just outside of town. The building also served as the offices of an Engineering firm.  I later found out that one of the initial investors and founders of the software company was also the owner of the Engineering firm, so it made sense for him to “donate” office space to this fledgling software company.  The offices were not plush by any standards, but were typical for a small privately held company just starting out in the business. The dress code, while still professional, became a bit more relaxed after you entered the section that housed the programmers.  But I was interviewing for a Customer Support position, so my dress code would be a bit more like that expected at the CPA firm.  The atmosphere was where everything differed. The founders, the managers, and the entire staff were young and excited to be a part of this little company. While everyone did work long hours, they all seemed to be happy to be there and having fun.  Several of the systems programmers even were alumni of ONU.  I felt at home.

After a few days of chewing my nails and waiting for the phone to ring with an offer, it finally did ring and twice. I was offered both positions. So I did what I normally do when making a big decision. I started a list of pro’s and con’s. On the side of the CPA firm the two big ones were Pro- it was extremely professional and was focused on my first love Accounting, but on the Con side I’d be greeted every day with “hey girlie.” The list for the software company was a bit different. The Pro – an exciting and energetic place to work was balanced by the Con side it was sitting, answering phones and listening to customer complaints all day.  Even today my husband is still amazed that I chose the software company. He knew that I hate sitting all day, I especially hate the telephone as a means of communication, and don’t even get me started expressing how much I hate to hear customers complain (remember those darn frozen turkeys). But I did choose the software company and I am extremely happy that I did. My only concern was that when I started work I found out my “office” was a small room shared with my manager and three other support staff and to top it off they ran out of real desks so mine was a makeshift desk made up of two sawhorses and a door thanks to the engineering firm owner. However, the shiny new computer on my desk more than made up for my office and desk.

So that’s the short story of my entry into the professional world and the door to it was opened by my degree. That paper was worth all of the hours spent gaining it. While I left that first software company behind many years ago, at the time I left it was receiving a lot of positive press and awards for the features and quality of the products I had helped produce.

What I learned from all of this is that sometimes what you think is not the perfect job may lead to that perfect job in the future. In my case, I am happy to say that is what happened. I am grateful for those early years and all of the things that I learned both personally and professionally from the founders, the management, and staff at that small software company.

Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

olddogsnewtricks

Walk tall because, as Dr. Seuss said, ” you have brains in your head – you have feet in your shoes – you can steer yourself – any direction you choose.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve been reading my blog this year, you will remember that my commitment was to share my life experiences and what I have learned from them.  When I look back over my posts I have mainly been true to this commitment. What I have not shared is the circuitous path that I have taken to get to where I am at today.  A high level view of this path is below.

  • Early Years  –  Having a mother who had a career      outside the home – March post
  • Formative Years – Choir practice with the Nuns – April post
  • First Job –  Fired for sitting down on the job – May post
  • First Professional Job – I.B.M. and the metal monster – May 17 post
  • Punching  the Clock – The job that put the food on that table – Coming soon
  • Back to  School – Seeking That Professional Career – Coming soon
  • Running a Small Business – The Agony of Defeat – Coming soon
  • Having a Career – Where the education got me – Coming soon
  • Founding a Non-Profit – The Legacy We Leave – Coming soon
  • What’s Next? – Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks – This post

As you can see I am going to run ahead and go to the end of this path and then go back and walk you along with me. The reason I am jumping ahead is because I am experiencing one of those “significant emotional events” in my life. I have a new boss and for the first time in a long time I have someone who is going to give me some coaching to get forward momentum on my career.  The start of this coaching has me wondering if I can indeed change some the things that will help me to progress. When faced with a challenge you may realize by now that I turn to reading. This time is no different. I have purchased three books (I need a lot of help), “Reinventing You” by Dorie Clark, “What To Ask The Person In The Mirror” by Robert Kaplan, and” What You’re Really Meant To Do” also by Kaplan.

I am just starting to read these books, but one theme that they all have in common is the need to solicit honest feedback. They suggest 360 reviews from not only your peers, but in order to get a full perspective, that you include feedback from a subset of everyone that you interact with on a daily basis.   My “coach” has started this with my permission by getting some feedback. The focus of this feedback was what was seen as my strengths and weaknesses.  This feedback was welcome but at the same time a bit daunting and caused me to wonder if there are just some aspects of being me that I may not be able to change. Not that I really see myself as an “old dog,” but let’s face it I have been around for a long time and some of these things that may just an intrinsic part of who I am.

In her book, Dorie Clark writes about changing your personal brand.  She recommends that in order to start this effort you need to understand how you are perceived today and then determine how you need to be perceived in order to move to the next phase of your career journey.  Some feedback that I have received is that I need to be “less casual” and that I often give less informed input on “technical topics.”    I can rationalize both of them, but in the end it is all about how I am perceived. With that in mind, I am trying to determine if what my coach has said are “just small changes to my approach,” or are these really behaviors that will be much more difficult for me to change.

I would like to think that my casualness is an asset in that I treat all levels of the organization with equal respect, from the night janitor who I see often to the CEO who I see less often. I will continue to smile and interact in the same casual manner. As for the input on technical topics, I have found that it is very effective when in a discussion with highly technical individuals to ask a dumb question or make a seemingly less informed statement. This normally causes them to rise to the occasion and explain what is really happening in terms that any layman can understand. It challenges them to think and interact in a different manner. I call this “get the crayons out” we’re going to talk to Doris.

My commitment is to finish reading the books and continue meeting with my coach.  Once I have done that, I will then determine how I can make some changes in my behaviors and personal brand. I would like to invite you to give me your thoughts on my strengths and weaknesses. Please feel free to email them to me at doris.amstutz@sage.com. If you prefer to remain anonymous, just write them on a slip of paper and slip it under my office door.

Oh and to close the “old dog” comment, here is an article from Cathy Perme that I find puts it all into perspective. http://www.cmperme.com/pdf/cmp0513.pdf

Elephant Soup Anyone?

elephantsoup

 

 

 

 

 

 

One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know. Groucho Marx

As I was getting ready for work this morning my husband mentioned that you could tell how busy I had been with work because I have not posted anything yet this month. Of course he was right as he always is or at least likes to think he is when he gives me advice. As I was driving to the office, I pondered a bit on my busyness. These past weeks have gone by in a bit of a blur. When I reflect on what I have been doing I see it as trying to eat an elephant. I love this analogy as it says it all. The work project I am focused on has many moving parts and at times has seemed like a wooly mammoth.  But when faced with something as large and important as this, I just need to step back and remember, “when eating an elephant take one bite at a time” (Creighton Abrams).

Analyzing the project and determining for the milestones what the key tasks are to make those significant milestones happen on time was the first bite. The second bite got a bit easier to define and swallow. Just brainstorming with the team and getting down on paper those things that needed to be in place in order for us to be able to consume the elephant bite by bite has helped to alleviate the project stress.

I have found that it is very easy in our agile development environment to get so heads down focused on what has to happen to make each weeks sprint deadline, that we can easily lose sight of where we are at for achieving the end goal – eating the entire elephant.  We get lost wading through the elephant dung instead of jumping up and making sure we are really eating part of the elephant itself. Can you tell I love this analogy?

The teams dining on this elephant are talented, capable, and have a big appetite. They just need a few Tums once in a while.  Well, I guess that must make me the Antacid of Development. Hopefully, I am not seen as the cause of their heartburn.

The essence of our agile Development methodology, SCRUM, is to break down the project into small deliverables (stories) that can be achieved in a short time frame (sprint) to demonstrate progress. It’s those little bites of the elephant that we nibble away at every week. When faced with what can seem an insurmountable task, whether it is a wooly mammoth or just an ordinary elephant, stepping back and breaking it down into bite size chunks is the only way to really finish the job. It can just be a bit overwhelming if we don’t look up once in a while and gauge the progress we have made and understand whether we’ve still got only 4 legs and the tail left or if we have only taken a bite out of the rump.

For those of you familiar with SCRUM you might ask why the burn down chart does not show us this. But if you have lived in a SCRUM world you also know that sometimes the burn down chart becomes a burn up chart or in other words the elephant grew a new tusk along the way. Controlling this during the sprint cycle is the key to success for the project.  Being agile means letting the elephant grow a bit or change color but still gnawing away at it.

By now you probably think that this is all elephant dung, but it’s my story for why I have not been posting as faithfully as I would have liked so far this year.   I am confident that we can eat this elephant and I will wade out of the dung and post more diligently.one_bite1

Exercise Your Brain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten what you went in there for? Or misplaced your keys for the fourth time that week? Or perhaps been shopping and had someone greet you by name and you just couldn’t place where you should know them from? If any of these have happened, don’t worry, you’re normal! From time to time these happen to all of us no matter what our age or IQ.  I’ve found that these things happen to me most often when I am either under stress or when I haven’t had my morning coffee.  However, it still bothers me to have these occasional incidents, of what I fondly call “brain burps.”

So, when I saw this article http://bigthink.com/ideafeed/primates-thinking-power-augmented-by-brain-implant   I was intrigued by the thought that somewhere in the future I might be a candidate for a brain implant. Just think of it, instead of bigger female body parts I could spend that money more wisely and invest in a bigger brain!  Then I read the article all of the way through and determined that maybe in order to be smarter I needed to develop a very bad habit. How disappointing and a bit sad when I read what this poor primate had to go through for the sake of science.

After my initial disappointment, I then went on a quest to learn how I might be able to solve my case of brain burps without having to wait for someone to invent Brain Beano.  On my journey, I found and joined Lumosity http://www.lumosity.com/why-lumosity.  I am now on my way to exercising my brain daily. You might think that my job with it’s continual problem solving would be brain exercise enough, but knowing that stress has a negating effect on the brain I reasoned that my brain muscles could use a little de-stressing exercise.

I feel brighter already after just having joined a group called Lumosity.  I’ll keep you posted as I start my exercise routine.  Just think, when I get on the scales and gain a few pounds I can say “well you know, brain muscle weighs more…”  And as I grow more gray matter we’ll see if the old adage holds true; “it’s not what you have between your ears, but how you use it.”

Feel free to join me and exercise your brain too. Darn, now if I could just remember my WordPress password I’d be all set to post.

Business anytime anywhere made possible by Sage!

Business anytime anywhere made possible by Sage.

Many of my friends know that I work for Sage but you may not know exactly what we do. This video
does a great job of explaining our vision and what we do as a software solutions company!

Be sure to “like” it and put your comments on the Facebook page in the video.

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet? That Is The Question.

 

 

Do you know what Lady Gaga and Barack Obama have in common? Probably not difficult to figure out given the title for this post!

Okay, I admit I too have a Twitter account , but seldom use it. It sits there in the same realm as my Facebook account. Once in a while I brush off the cobwebs and do actually post a comment on Facebook, but I view this as a “personal” tool and in that light I leave it up to my husband to keep his Facebook current with family news. He does after all have the largest family and extended family. Just within the Amstutz’ clan there are enough Facebook connections for me to play Word With Friends for hours using his account. They now all think he has an extraordinary vocabulary.

Back to Tweeting, perhaps I should examine this more closely and determine the how, why, and what I might use it for. I know from the below link that Lady Gaga is the supreme Tweeter with the most followers.  Just to be considered in the same league with her leaves me breathless. What would be next for me? How about a new carnivorous wardrobe?  Nope, don’t think so. Well, what then might I get out of a steady Twitter stream? Would I gain valuable knowledge? Would I be able to impart nuggets of my wisdom daily in addition to my weekly posts?  While I ponder this a bit, you might want to view the link for some interesting fast facts about Twitter.

I see the use of Twitter as a marketing engine, I see it as a way to quickly send a sound bite to family and friends in one fell swoop, I see it as a way to stay connected with current happenings when at a conference with a group of business associates, but I just don’t see it as useful for me.  Does that make me less technically adept? Or does that just confirm what my closest friends and family already know? I would prefer to think the latter. Let me clarify, I am by nature an introvert, yes, that’s right, I have that “I” in my Myers-Briggs profile. But even so, I am open to change. While I do prefer reading a good book to going to a party, I am open to the fact that the whole world seems to be Tweeting away and I might just be the only twit who does not Tweet daily.  So in my mission to continually grow and expand both personally and professionally, I will be examining the cost (time) benefit (visibility) equation of Twitter.  With Lady Gaga and Barrack Obama at such opposite ends of the spectrum and both of them Tweeting prodigiously, why would I not want to join their ranks?

As I begin this adventure of Tweeting discovery, I will be happy to share with you what I learn along the way, or better yet just follow me @DAAStutz as I Tweet my journey. Hey, I think I just may have found a use for my Twitter account after all!

http://www.baselinemag.com/c/a/Intelligence/40-Fast-Facts-on-Twitter-890793/?kc=EWWHNEMNL05232012EOAD