Friday, June 05, 2009

Observations from 35K feet

  1. Flight turbulence and Linkin Park on the iPod are well matched companions. Like the chairs built for gaming, maybe we need chairs that react to the music being played.
  2. Sunsets at 35k are like no others. The sun is a blazing orange button on the edge of a bowl. The top rim of the bowl discretely fades from orange, through purple, to gone.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

My Mini

I splurged this past weekend. About to be away for four days on a business trip without a computer in my possession (yes, I'd have one at my company's branch office that I'm visiting but not at the hotel) I decided to buy a netbook. Welcome to 2009. Welcome also to the 1990's.

Now that I own one, I think the word netbook is mostly marketing hype. What I'm typing on right now, is a small, lower powered, lightweight laptop computer. It's a bit of a throwback machine, because of the small screen and keyboard. It's not quite as small as a Sharp Zaurus (yes, I had one of those) and the screen technology is way better than the early laptops, but it's certainly not a desktop replacement. In fact, on all the store netbooks, they had a little Q&A to make sure you really wanted one. For example, "Is this machine going to be your only computer?" If you answered "yes", it would tell you that it doesn't have an optical drive or any way to expand the machine itself.

I went in with eyes wide open. After a recent trip to Baltimore with family, sans machine, I decided I wanted something I could use when I traveled. I wanted to be able to check a map on Google, or Yelp a restaurant. I know a Blackberry can do all that, but the one my company gave me is so locked down that's it's useful only for company email. Plus, I do enjoy the 10 inch screen over the 3 or less inch screen of my Blackberry bold. The downside versus Blackberry or iTouch is that I'm not able to connect unless I'm near a wireless port. Well, I suppose I could connect, but I'm too cheap to pay for a phone network data service for my netbook.

I did a bit of research before I bought, but as with anything else you research before buying, you find your tradeoffs in terms of specs and your favorable and unfavorable reviews. I was ready to buy a eeeMachine but since I wanted one before leaving on my trip and Best Buy was out of those, I ended up with a very capable Dell Inspiron Mini 10. So far so good. I do enjoy the somewhat larger keyboard than some of the competition and the screen seems nice. And goodness, the 3 pounds or so it weighs makes it almost as light as the paperback books my wife loves to buy. I have yet to really explore the machine, but that will come with time.

Anyway, I hope that having easier access to a computer (yes, I'll probably become like Kreblog and have It on my lap while watching TV) along with it's form factor will make it easier for me to get back to things I did before I got a job. Namely, blogging, posting on Facebook and a bit more communicating through email or IM to friends.

I mean I'll do these things after I come down from 35,000 feet.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Business Trip

I work for a company headquarted in Bermuda. They have offices in the UK. I am very involved with a project for our Scottsdale AZ company. And yet, here I am on my first trip for my new company, in WESTBOROUGH MA. Yeah, that's what I'm saying. I added 30 miles to my normal commute to come to Westborough. Woo hoo.

But it's good. I'm at a vendor conference for a software product that I'm supporting as a project manager. A couple of AZ employees have come east to the conference and it's been great to meet them. And I am staying overnight at the conference so I could fully partake in the evenings festivities.

I'm sure the more distant travel will come and I'm not really complaining. Just laughing at the irony.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Learning my Lessons

It’s been almost two months since I started my latest job. Two months that I haven’t looked for work. Two months of focus on my current employer and situation. Two engaging and fun months. But even as I try to turn my “temp to perm” situation into “perm”, I wonder if I should have throttled back on the job searching as much as I did. I do want to dedicate my time to my newest employer, and I have been giving them 10+ hours per day. My commute soaks up another 2 hours per day, leaving me with little spare time. In my job hunt days, I’d put in 8 hours searching but my commute was easy (bedroom to family room). So I haven’t had the time I would like to do the other things in my life that are also important.

I am still staying in touch with my core group of associates. I have been attending a monthly networking event. However, the conversations have turned from “what opportunities do you know about” to “here’s what’s happening with my new job”. I do read two or three job agent postings per week and I read two or three emails from a networking group I belong to, but it’s not with the same sense of purpose. Oh, and my resume is up to date with my latest accomplishments. So I’m not totally slacking.

I guess this is normal. I am happy in my new position and I do feel like it will work out. In my experience, I’ve learned that it’s more important to invest in the current opportunity than to always be looking. But I remember how far behind you feel when you have to initiate a job search. While I’m hoping not to be searching for new position any time soon, I don’t want to be unprepared. I want to keep applying the lessons I’ve preached through this blog. It’s the least I can do.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ice Out 2009

It's that time of year again. Yep, ice out 2009. As I pulled out of the driveway this morning, there was one small piece of ice left floating on the pond. With today's predicted 50+ degree sunny weather, I'm pretty confident it won't be there when I get home. It's a bit early this year. Drop back to last year's post to see prior ice out dates.

Now, if only the snow piles left by plowing and snowblowing would melt...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I can feel it fade

I’ll be starting my fourth week of work tomorrow and the unemployed feeling is fading. I have some place to go every day. I’m commuting. I only have weekends to get things done. I’m no longer dependent on other people to read my resume and make a decision on me – a feeling that although you own your own job search, you don’t own the results. At my job, although I work with others, I can own the results of my efforts. My contributions have more predictable results. While I’m still meeting people and “networking” at work, the co-workers more often than not need something from me. It’s not just me needing something from them (a lead, some information about a company or an industry, a job). And time passes much more quickly. I mean really fast compared to working at home on finding a job. I get to the end of a work day and I wonder where all the time went. The fade feels great.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It Happened

I've told several people this, and certainly, my loyal friends who were with me the day I was laid off from my last job heard it, but on the day I was laid off I said, "Someday, I'll look back on this (layoff) and feel like they did me a favor". That someday was last night.

I met up with a few former co-workers from my last job. As I sat there and listened to them discuss the problems with the project that I left, the consulting firm that continues to take over, the management of the department and the disfunctional executives at the company, I thought of my new position. I'm still new and I'm not an employee yet, so anything I say should be tempered with the joy of a new job. But I really like working at my new place. The people are very helpful. The work is interesting. My boss expects me to know what I'm doing and doesn't look over my shoulder. It's so much more like a start-up than an old line company. I don't miss what I was doing at the old place. Yes I miss the people. But they did me a favor. There, I can say it now. It happened.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

On the phone

Yes, that's where I'll be. On the phone. After three days in my new job, I've learned that this is a significantly virtual IT team. I have yet to see the person who hired me and from what she said, it might be a couple of months before she shows up in the office where I'm located. But I'm on a couple of status phone calls with her twice a day and she's accessible by email and instant messaging. Besides, I'm experienced enough that all I need is a point in the right direction and I can run. I do miss getting to know some of my team members in person but let's face it - after an introduction I usually forget the name anyway. Here's some locations where my boss's team members are located:

Other Project Managers: Toronto, Dallas, Atlanta, Woburn
Business Analysts: London, Scottsdale, Bermuda, Woburn
Developers: NJ, London, Buffalo, NH, Woburn and other places I haven't figured out, yet.

My first two projects will involve working on systems for subsidiaries in Connecticut and Arizona. In the first case (CT), it will involve working with a vendor to adapt a system to something it doesn't do today. In the second case (AZ) it will be installing a brand new system, still to be selected. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Slow Start

I began my new job today. It wasn't like they were ready for me. It started on Tuesday when I was supposed to conference call with my new boss, but she never joined the conference. Never mind that, I thought, I'll show up tomorrow and get things sorted out.

I, of course, arrived in Woburn about 30 minutes early. I mean, you never know how it will go on your new commute and I didn't want to be late. After killing some time, I walked into the office at about 5 minutes before 8 a.m. I was the third person in what turned out to be a very small office. I introduced myself to the other two guys and asked them if they had my boss's phone number. One of them looked her up in the directory. When I called her, she apologized for missing the phone call - she's in Bermuda on business (yes, that's where the home office is) and got very busy. She asked me who was in and when I told her, she had me hand the phone to one of the guys. He talked with her for a minute or two and then hung up. She had given him instructions on where I should sit and how to set me up.

He lead me to a desk - it is a small office so I got one of the 16 desks that were there outside the two enclosed offices. He got me signed on and I began to poke around. After looking at various documents on their intranet, I got an instant message from my boss. Apparently she was going to have another one of the project managers show me the ropes, but the woman was out sick. So she sent me a long document describing the systems and how the companies use them and left me on my own. Ultimately, at the peak, there were a total of 11 people in the office that day, including a very nice admin who showed me around a bit (supplies, copier, etc).

At the end of the day, I sent my boss a note telling her what I had done and asking for more direction. As I checked my home email account, I saw that she sent me instructions on how to get in through the VPN, and then I checked my work email to find more direction. So I think I'll be a bit busier tomorrow.

And the commute? Not too bad - 50 minutes going in and 55 coming home (in snow). Of course it's a holiday week in MA so the traffic was probably at its best. Updates later when I have time. It's late and I need to sleep.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A few details

Starting next Wednesday, I'll be working as a Project Manager at a reinsurance company in Woburn, MA. The job starts as a contractor role, with the intention that they will hire me in 6 months or less, assuming I don't screw up. I'm o.k. with this - if you remember one of my earlier posts, I need to be the president of "You, Inc." anyway. There's no better way to learn how to act like a consultant than to become one.

The office is located in a brand new building on 128 in Woburn, about 50 miles door to door, only slightly further than my last job was from my house. Unfortunately, the last 10 miles are the on craptastic RT 128 where the traffic usually crawls at rush hour. No complaints from me though. I'm happy to have a job.

For those of you interested in the technology, my first assignment may be a data warehouse project or it may be a .Net development project - I'm still waiting on details. The recruiting firm has indicated that they may want me to drop by at the reinsurance company on Tuesday to get assigned and oriented.

I'm very excited to be joining the ranks of you employed people again (those of you who are) and I hold out my good wishes to the rest of you unemployed people. Keep looking; good things can happen. Thanks to all the folks (and there are so many of you) that have supported me in my time of unemployment. Remember, I have a lot of experience doing this, so I'm happy to help anyone who needs it.

I'm not sure how much time I'll have to post in the future. I'll try to write a few after I start the new job just to give you my first impressions. It's a very good thing that I won't have the time to chronicle my unemployed life anymore...


This is the official announcement that I have a job, starting next Wednesday. I'll fill in the details in a while, but I thought I'd get this out there for my loyal readers, whoever you are. Big, big, big sigh of relief and a lot of excitement.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I know in my last post, I talked about the two interviews I was having last week. As it turned out, I had one and one half interviews last week and finished the half interview yesterday. Here's the story.

The long distance drive interview happened last Tuesday, a day where snow was predicted. I drove the 75 miles in about an hour and 1/4, arriving about two hours early. It's always good to be early because you never know what can happen. There was some snow on the way down, but since it was mid-afternoon, the traffic moved along and the drive was not bad. Little did I know....

After locating the office, I waited in a nearby coffee shop, reviewing notes on the company and trying to prepare. About 15 minutes before the appointed time, I went into the office. By now, the snow was coming down pretty good. The interview was a panel interview with 4 people barraging me with questions (their word, not mine). I'm not sure how well I did on this one. While I leave most of the interviews feeling good about how I did, that wasn't so true with this one. I felt like I handled their questions o.k., but it's hard to make eye contact with four people at once and at one point, I know I heard a yawn. Perhaps the extra doses of coffee caused me to talk too much. They said they would probably be making their decision within two weeks - it's been one and still no word.

The drive home was horrendous. As I left the interview at 5 p.m., the snow was falling fast and furious. It took at least 20 minutes just to get out of their office park (less than one mile). The first part of the drive was o.k., albeit at reduced speeds. And then I hit about 10 miles of stop and go traffic, mostly stop. By the time I got home, I had spent about 2 and 1/2 hours in the car. I guess that's probably the worst commute I could expect short of a truck crashing across the highway. I've had that long a commute to drive 45 miles about 5 times in the 7 years I worked at my last job.

The second interview last week was supposed to be a one hour phone interview. It got cancelled on Monday, rescheduled for Tuesday, cancelled for Tuesday and then happened for about 20 minutes on Wednesday without scheduling. The interviewer said she would call me back later Wednesday to finish, but no call came in. The recruiting firm through which I am working this opportunity eventually set me up with an on-site interview in Woburn, MA, which I had yesterday.

This interview seemed to go well. I felt like I did a pretty good job connecting with the interviewer and explaining how I can help her with her needs. But I've learned that a good interview experience is never an indicator of the ultimate decision, so I can't get too excited about this job either. Her boss who I briefly met said they would be trying to make a decision by the end of the week, so I now have two possibilities that I might hear about within a week. I'm hoping that one or the other turns into something because, let's face it, it's ugly out there.

And now, I have to go reload my pipeline because after these two, I have no opportunities that I'm working....

Monday, February 02, 2009


I have two interviews this week. One on the phone and one in person. In fact, the phone interview is supposed to be going on right now, but the hiring manager never called. I have alerted the recruiter and she's working on locating the hiring manager. When the interview was set up, I thought the Monday after the Superbowl was maybe not so super an idea. But here I am, all ready and prepared, sitting by the phone with no ring.

The phone interview is a second interview for a temporary to permanent job (try before you buy) at a company in Woburn, MA. Funny how 8 years ago, I was living in Woburn and not liking it very much. I'd much rather live in NH and bear the commute than to move back down to MA.

Which brings me to my next interview, an on-site interview in Canton, MA. Canton is about 80 miles away. Now, an earlier interview I went on was 90 miles away, to the north. This is 80 miles on the other side of Boston. Unlike the hour and a quarter it took me to get to the one up north, this one will probably take an hour and a half on a very good day and more like an hour and 3/4 or two hours on most days. One way. So I'm not real excited about the prospect of the commute, but let's face it, I do need a job and if this turns into the only offer I get, I will probably have to take it.

So, some activity on the job search, but nothing solid yet. C'mon phone, ring!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Monday is Networking Day in Portsmouth

After traveling to Wilmington, MA, a for a couple of WIND (Wednesday is Networking Day) meetings, I decided to check out the one in Portsmouth, NH. It's held twice monthly instead of every week. Having seen the growing "success" of the one in Wilmington, I wasn't sure what to expect as I arrived at Franklin Pierce College branch at the Pease Tradeport. The first problem was finding the meeting. The building was mostly deserted and there were no signs indicating where the meeting was being held. I finally noticed a guy climbing the stairs at one end of the building and decided to follow him. The meeting was there and a number of people had already arrived. I did the usual thing, introducing myself to some of the others and having conversations about what people did and how their search was going.

The group was decidedly smaller than the Wilmington one. With two new members to Wind, and two or three people I recognized from Wilmington, there were a grand total of 12, not including the facilitator and the speaker. This made it easier to get to know a few people, and to learn more about the people you did meet. The speaker was really good. She was a 60+ year old career counselor. I mention her age only because she had more energy than most people half her age. She was also very funny, as well as being useful. She did a bit of talking, then we all worked on our "commercials", which is about the same as an elevator statement or positioning statement. Some of us got to give them to the group and got critiqued. I wrote one and was chosen to give it to the group. I received a few good ideas for improvement which I will add. I also need to practice saying it some more.

The meeting was useful and in the whole, entertaining. One thing I got out of today's meeting was that there are so many project managers on the market that I need to find something to differentiate myself from the other project managers. I think I'm going to go with my ability to rescue projects in trouble, a.k.a. "The Closer" as my hook. You have to do something to stand out.

I liked the closer venue, the smaller size and if they keep having speakers as good as the one this week, the MIND is definitely a win over the WIND.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


One of the most essential tools for job seekers is LinkedIn. My buddy Kreblog wrote an excellent post about it (click here). I'm here to tell you it actually works. I've had two situations in the past few weeks where people have used LinkedIn contacts to commuicate with a person at a company they were targeting, in both cases with two people in between them and the contact. In the first case, I was the first one in the middle. An associate I met at my outplacement wanted to get a message to a woman who was a connection of a connection of mine. LinkedIn produces a nice graphical view of the chain so you know whose in it and which link you are. I emailed (via LinkedIn) my contact asking him to forward the message to his contact, vouching for my associate. He did this and they connected.

In the second case, I was the second one in the middle. A woman I had linked with from my outplacement (a career counselor who taught a course on LinkedIn) forwarded me a message from a contact of hers to reach a contact of mine. I framed my message appropriately and passed it on. Very easy and all done through the service.

Finally, yesterday I used LinkedIn to research a person with whom I was going to have a phone interview. I found that two of my connections were directly connected to the interviewer. I emailed them both asking for information, and one of my connections turned out to know him very well. He gave me permission to name drop and during the course of the interview, I did so. It was like getting a seal of approval. I'm sure it doesn't always work out this way, but it was very helpful in this case.

It's not dating, but it is a great way to build and maintain relationships. I encourage even people who are not job seekers to sign up. Why not build your network now, before it becomes essential? We used to have to do this stuff on the phone, which is hit or miss. LinkIn now, babeee.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


It was September 11, 2001. I had been out of work for over two months. After finishing my morning routine, I sat down to my computer to check the emails, job boards, etc. I noticed a story on my home page about a plane flying into the World Trade Center. Immediately, I turned on the TV to watch the situation. I was horrified to see the second plane hit, and riveted to the TV for the day. With the gloom of that event, I felt a decided loss of hope - in a personal way, hope that I'd be able to find a job in the near future.

Today, I sat in the same family room at the same desk (different computer and TV). I've been unemployed for 4 months to the day. I decided to watch the inauguration and listen to President Obama's (doesn't that sound good?) message. This time, instead of hope draining from me, hope began to fill me. If you've been reading my blog, you know that I'm some kind of a mix between realistic and optimistic. So I know that I'm not going to get that call tomorrow about my perfect job. And I realize that economically, things will likely get worse before they get better. But the messages from the President, and his world view, give me hope. Hope that we can once again have an economy based on peace and not war. Hope that the US will lead the world. Hope that will translate into a rebound for the economy and selfishly, a job for me.


Monday, January 19, 2009


The snow was so fine that it looked like smoke exiting the chute of the snowblower. 16 inches total. Snow like this make me love winter.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sign of the times

Yesterday I attended my first WIND meeting. WIND is an organization that has been around for at least 15 years. WIND stands for Wednesday Is Networking Day. People gather each Wednesday (and other days in other locations, although the name remains the same) and trade "clues" - clues being leads about companies that may be hiring or tips on searching for a job. Often there is a speaker at the meeting. Yesterday's meeting in Wilmington, MA, featured a recruiter who spoke on how to work with recruiters. The meeting was useful and informative. I plan to continue to attend the weekly one in Wilmington and the bi-weekly one in Portsmouth.

The "sign" was that there were almost as many first timers showing up as there were regular members. I was told that there were normally around 20 to 25 people who show up each week in Wilmington. This week, there were 18 newbies and about 20 returning members. This is on the same day that Good Morning America held their highly publicized job fair in Boston. I can't wait to see how many people show up next week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I get it!

Warning: Non-job search content below.

Enough of the digital TV conversion chatter on my local station. You'd think it was a major storm the way they keep yapping about it. What technological rock must you be under not to understand what is going on? Enough.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Not all bad

Yesterday was a relatively good one, in terms of the job search. I had an interview and met a person who may be able to help with another job.

The interview was for a very small IT shop (can you say "count the staff on one hand"?). They were looking for someone with my level of experience. Give the location (up north in NH), I never expected that they could pay me a salary in my range, but you don't get to find these things out unless you take the interview. So I traveled north (way easier than going south) and visited with the hiring manager and the person filling in the position right now. There are a number of challenges in the job and there's a lot of stuff that you take for granted in a big shop that isn't going on at this place right now. But I think I have a lot to add in terms of making sure this organization is on the right track. And they mentioned a salary that was acceptable to me. Both interviews seem to go well, but they'll be seeing other candidates, so you never know.

And last night I went to a networking event that involved beer (my favorite kind) where I met a highly placed individual at a more local company to which I had applied. We had a nice conversation and he said it would be o.k. to contact him. So today I sent him an email asking for help in identifying the hiring manager for the jobs to which I applied. Hopefully I won't get sent to his spam bucket and he'll give me a hand.

Now I can get ready for another weekend of working on the house. Woohoo.....

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Slow Start

I set myself a challenge with my last post, one that I may not be up to. I promised my next post would be more uplifting. But with the way 2009 is beginning, that's a tall order. The job boards are not filled with jobs, although I'm always finding a few to which I can apply. I got a call at the beginning of the week from a recruiter on a job I had phone interviewed for right before Thanksgiving. The company with the opening is holding off until March before filling any positions. Another possibility, a job a friend of mine had told me about, probably won't be created until March. I've received a couple of "thanks but no thanks" emails in the last week or two. So that's the not so exciting news hurdle I have to get over to be more uplifting.

One ray of hope. I have an interview tomorrow for a job that required 3 years of experience in an industry in which I had none. I submitted an application the Tuesday before New Years with a cover letter that said why I didn't need 3 years of experience in their industry. And the next day, New Year's eve, I got a phone call with a request to come up and interview tomorrow. You can be sure that I am researching that industry before the interview.

My friends and family are staying positive with me. They are continuing to help me not lose hope. My mother in law called with an article from AARP that she thought might be helpful. A guy I play hoops with who is also in the same predicament had a good phone interview on Christmas eve and he told me about it last night, as if to disprove any pessimism I may be having. So, if you want positive, the signs are there. After all, as my outplacement counselor tells me, even when companies are laying people off, it's just a matter of finding the right match between and employer and my skills. It can happen.

How was that? More positive?