Showing posts with label Skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Skills. Show all posts

August 13, 2019

Born With The Music

Saw an incredible segment on 60 Minutes on Sunday about this amazing girl named Alma

Alma Deutscher is a British-born (of Israeli-descent) musical whiz kid who was playing piano and violin at age 3. 

And she composed a whole opera by the time she was 10. 

They call her the Second Mozart, although she prefers to just be the First Alma!

She literally hears music playing in her head all the time, and she says that there are different expert musical composers in her head that she calls on to solve whatever musical challenge she is facing or sound out the emotion she is trying to get to. 

In her interview, she did not seem like a 12-year old, but rather an old soul who has come back perhaps many, many times. 

Listening and watching Alma is sort of like watching a walking miracle--as there is no way she learned these skills at such a young age and has "comprehensive mastery" over all the music and instruments. 

If there was ever a question about where knowledge, skills, and abilities come from, with a child prodigy like Alma, there should be no lingering doubts about G-d's complete role in everything.  

With Alma, G-d graciously let's us in to the mysteries of creation by showing us the source of all is Him. 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 23, 2019

Trying To Be A Plumber

It's wonderful when we try to help others.

Isn't that one of the reasons we're here? 

But sometimes we are trying to help and it's really something beyond our capabilities. 

My mother-in-law said something funny about this:
Sometimes you're an electrician, but you're trying to be a plumber. 

Isn't that true, we are really one thing, but we are often trying to be something else that we're really not. 

We can't help someone that needs a plumber, if we're an electrician. 

We have to know who we are and what we can do--as well as what we can't. 

No one can do everything, no matter how smart, strong, or able they think they are.  

Each person has strengths and weaknesses.  

We need an electrician and a plumber. 

And you can't be what you're not. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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November 2, 2018

At The Border: Immigration Or War

So it's interesting how this whole immigration crisis is playing out in real life and simultaneously on TV. 

In real life, we have a caravan of thousands of people marching from Central America (Honduras and Guatemala) to the U.S. border seeking asylum, mostly for economic reasons. 

On TV, we have the Last Ship Season 5, where South and Central America are at war with the U.S., "no longer willing to sit at the children's table of international politics," and they are coming to the U.S. to fight.

In the U.S. today, there are over 40 million people that were born in another country.  Of these, there are over 12 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S. (55% from Mexico), and we know that we need immigration reform.  

In the truest sense, we are almost all of us immigrants to this country, with ourselves or our families coming over at one time or another, and we are grateful for the generosity and open doors that allowed us to come here and make a good life.

Of course, we want to pay it forward and give others the same asylum and opportunity that we had and which they as human beings deserve. 

Yet, the country continues to debate the mix of compassion and giving to the oppressed and needy versus the merit principles for bringing in needed skills, talents, and investment, and how many is the "right" number to allow in at any one time.

In real life, we are beefing up border agents, building a wall, and calling in the military to halt the illegal flow of immigrants, so that we can channel immigrates through a process and vetting that leads to legal and safe immigration to this country

On TV, we are fighting in the air, on land, and at sea an alliance of countries from the south and central that want to take over the U.S., and we are also holding our own and holding them back.

In both cases, we need to have and maintain borders to be a sovereign country, to protect our country, and to ensure that caravans of illegal immigrants or foreign troops are not crossing the border and doing harm. 

It's high time for true immigration reform that is compassionate yet principled, but overrunning the border isn't an option that is practical or fair.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 6, 2018

Jack Of All Trades

I saw this quote hanging on the wall. 

It's by science fiction writer, Robert Anson Heinlein.
"A human being should be able to:
  • Change a diaper
  • Plan an invasion
  • Butcher a hog
  • Conn [control] a ship
  • Design a building
  • Write a sonnet
  • Balance account
  • Build a wall
  • Set a bone
  • Comfort the dying
  • Take orders
  • Give orders
  • Cooperate
  • Act alone
  • Solve equations
  • Analyze a new problem
  • Pitch manure
  • Program a computer
  • Cook a tasty meal
  • Fight efficiently
  • Die Gallantly
Specialization is for insects."

It's sort of fascinating all the things that are expected of people to be able to do. 

And this is a short list--I'm sure you can think of many, many more things that people have to be able to do to survive, to live, to thrive. 

What complex and magnificent creations of G-d we are! 

Not only in terms of our physiology, but also in terms of our cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual capacities and desires. 

We are flesh and blood, but with a breath of life from the living G-d, and we are capable and can do so much. 

At the same time, we are imperfect, limited, fallible, and mortal. 

- Jack of all trades, and master of none. 

Expect the best, but plan for plenty of mistakes and disasters along the way. 

Live well, and return to the creator a better person. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 24, 2018

Got Skills?

I thought this was a very telling sign right off the highway in Washington, D.C. 

"Does your child have life skills?"

And then it lists things like:
"Cooking, budgets, sewing, ironing, time managment, communication, and fun"

The classes are offered by ActualLifeSkills.com.

I took a look online at what a typical 6-week class offered on Sundays for 3-hours at a time and at a cost of $345. 

It even covered things like:
"Handshakes, eye contact, and conversation starters
Voice projection and confidence
Party/guest etiquette, gifts and thank you notes"

And of course, aside from the cooking and budgeting already mentioned, there were more of the foundations such as laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping.

I would suggest adding things like computer basics, child rearing, human relations, home maintenance, car mechanics, hunting, fishing, gardening, first-aid, fitness, and even self-defense. 

Since, we spend so much time teaching book skills, I have often thought why we don't spend more time teaching these fundamental life skills. 

We are raising a generation of kids that can score 1500+ on the SATs, but they don't know sh*t about real life and couldn't survive a week without electricity, Internet, or mom and dad taking care of them. 

Back to basics. 

Back to life skills. 

Back to survival. 

Back to being self-sufficient. 

There is no reason that we can't add these items to our broken school curriculums. 

You shouldn't have to go to special classes to learn to live life. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 3, 2017

Tooting Your Own Horn

So I always try to see the best in people.

But sometimes it is hard when they are so intent on tooting their own horns. 

Bragging, boasting, patting themselves on the back about how smart they are or a job so incredibly well done.

Oh, you've got to ask yourself...

Is it all really true?

OR  

Do we have perhaps some slight exaggeration going on with a dose of self-aggrandizement, a spoonful of self-promotion, and more than a pinch of big ego?

Perhaps, also the person is in denial as to what their own capabilities--and limitations--really are. 

For example, many artists are enthralled with their work and themselves.
"Isn't this so good?"
"Can you believe I made this?
"Wow, this is impressive, right?"

Sure, there are plenty of talented people out there doing good and even amazing work. 

But even then tempering your achievements with a little modesty and balance, like "I do this well, but I need to grow more in that area"--goes a long way to making the admirable talents and achievements more honest, humble, and believable. 

Always, people are good at some things, and worse at others.

We all have things to work on and improve, and nobody is so perfect in this world!

We can try to come close--that's our job to strive for it--but true perfection belongs to G-d alone. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 6, 2017

Driverless Cars - New Beginning or Part of The End

Driverless cars are exciting to so many.

But doesn't it also seem so boring?

There is a lot to be said for being the driver and doing the driving. 

We control the destination, trajectory, speed, etc.

Occasionally, there is even time to stop and enjoy the view. 

We've given up on doing or even knowing how to do so many basic things.

Probably 90% plus of us would fail at any sort of basic survival test. 

You can't hunt, you don't know how anything really works, and you don't even have a green thumb.

You'd be dead in under a week or max three

The only thing you do know how to do is sit at a desk, push papers, go to meetings, and post endless nonsense on social media--congratulations you're an imbecile!

When Axis of Evil North Korea, Iran, or Russia decide to hit us with an ICBM, EMP, or a massive cyber attack your gonna wish you knew something (anything) real, let alone how to drive a simple automatic. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 23, 2016

All American Chair

Got to love this all American chair. 

Red, white, and blue. 

And stars and stripes everywhere. 

The only thing that I seriously wonder about is whether this chair was manufactured in the U.S. 

With the U.S. losing 35% of it's manufacturing employment between 1998 and 2010 (from 17.6M to 11.5M), due in large part to outsourcing, there is a good chance this chair was made overseas. 

Now manufacturing makes up less than 9% of total U.S. employment

Also noteworthy is the loss of 51,000 manufacturing plants or 12.5% between 1998-2008.  


Manufacturing are agriculture are strategic capabilities for this country and any country. 

It's not just what you know, but what you make!

Sure we can make things faster and easier with automation, but at this point there is a serious skills shortage (with millions of jobs going unfilled), and we need to safeguard the strategic knowledge, skills, capability, and capacity to make things vital to our thriving existence.

We need to be a more self-sufficient nation again and not a one-trick service pony. 

We need to use information to be better innovators, creators, developers, and builders. 

Information is great, but you can't live by information alone. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 29, 2016

STEM Lost And Found

So this was a shirt of a local college campus that I took yesterday. 

It shows aspirations to be all sorts of things...from a doctor and lawyer to a cowgirl and princess. 

However, in this list of  22 professional aspirations there is a noticeable lack of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

Yes, doctors do have to know science, but not necessarily the type that opens up the world of discovery and innovation like a researcher or scientist!

STEM are the fields that over and over again have been reported as grossly lacking in this country. 



Another article in IEEE Spectrum (August 2013) claims that while the "STEM crisis is a myth," still "we should figure out how to make all children literate in the sciences, technology, and the arts."

From my experience, while I certainly get to see a lot of awesome technical talent, I also see and hear too many moans and groans when it comes to a lot of basic skills in STEM.

One colleague said the other day (and in a public forum), "Oh, don't depend on my math skills for that!"

Others that I know have difficulty with everything from simple spreadsheets, backing up their computer files, or even balancing a checkbook, and other such fundamental skills. 

Growing up with a dad who was a math whiz, a sister with a PhD in bio-medical science, and me majoring in accounting, business, and later diving into IT, I learned to appreciate, on many fronts, how important basic STEM skills are, and I in turn used to drill my own kids with workbooks and worksheets--and they perhaps at the time resented me for it, and maybe only later in life, started to love me for caring and trying.

In school, I found a lot of the education in STEM to be lacking coming across too often as esoteric and disappointingly devoid of day-to-day meaning and application in the real world for the regular people not building bridges or spaceships, so I certainly understand the frustration of young people who while they may be interested in pursuing these critical areas of education, may be turned off at the way it's being presented to them. 

We need great teachers who not only know the material, but love what they do and know how to make the material come alive to their students. Also, we need jobs that pay commensurate to the value of the talent and not nickle and dime the developers, researchers, and engineers while lining the pockets of the executive suite. Finally, we should focus the hearts and minds of our people on the real meaning of the work they do and how it helps people and society, and not just on what often comes across as isolated tasks or the organization's free dry cleaning and all you can eat buffet lunches. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 9, 2016

Who Sells The Cookies

So we see the traditional setup with cookies being sold on the street corner by the Girl Scouts. 

My daughter says to me, "Why is it that only the Girl Scouts sell the cookies, while the boys learn outdoor and survival skills?"  

Good observation and I didn't have a good answer, except thinking to myself that sexism is unfortunately still alive, well, and institutionalized in America.

I'd be interested in hearing a comment from a representative of these organizations as why this biased, sexist nonsense continues, especially at a time when we have a viable women candidate for President of the United States (2016)--what gives here? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 25, 2016

Stack Theory Doesn't Stack Up

Christopher Mims' article in the Wall Street Journal today on why big companies get disrupted by others doesn't make a lot of sense to me. 

He discusses the "Stack Fallacy" of Anshu Sharma a venture capitalist that it "is the mistaken belief that it is trivial to build the layers above yours."

Mims explains that the stack is like a "layer cake of technology"--where one layer is built on another.

Similar to the OSI technology model where there are architecture layers for physical, data, network, application and so on. 

Basically, Mims explains that tech companies can only invent at a single layer of technology (or below). 

But when companies try to invent up the stack, they fail.

Here's why...

Mims says that companies despite their size and resources can't innovate up the stack because they don't understand the users there. 

But this doesn't stack up to me. 

Companies can and do use their resources to study and understand what users want up the food chain and what they can't easily build, they can acquire. 

Apple successfully went from a iPod and iTunes music player and song store to producing a highly sophisticated and integrated iPhone and Apps store where music is just an afterthought.

Similarly, IBM went from being primarily a mainframe and desktop company to being a top-tier consulting firm with expertise in cloud, mobile, social, artificial intelligence, and analytics computing. 

But it isn't easy for a company to change. 

And to me, it's not because they can't understand what users want and need. 

Rather, it is because of something we've all heard of called specialization. 

Like human beings, even extraordinary ones, companies are specialized and good at what they are good at, but they aren't good at everything. 

A great example of this was when NBA superstar, Michael Jordan, tried to take his basketball talents and apply it to baseball...he was "bobbling easy flies and swatting at bad pitches" in the minor leagues. 

As even kindergarteners are taught that "Everyone is good at something, but no one is good at everything."

Companies have a specific culture, a specific niche, a specific specialization and expertise.

And to go beyond that is very, very difficult...as IBM learned, it requires nothing less than a transformation of epic proportions. 

So I think Mims is wrong that companies can't understand what users want in areas up the innovation stack, but rather it's a monumental change management challenge for companies that are specialized in one thing and not another. 

So welcome to the world of Apple after Steve Jobs and his iPhone and to the the recent 25% decline in their stock price with investors and customers anxiously waiting for the possible but not certain next move up the technology stack. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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January 18, 2016

The Science Of The Interview

Job interviews seem to have evolved into elaborate psychosocial and behavioral tests.

Almost as if there is an exact science behind trying to pick "the winners" from "the losers." {hate those harsh terms about people]

Many questions look at how quickly the interviewee thinks on their feet, how prepared they are for the interview, and how well they present themselves for the job.

However, my question is whether these things are truly determinant of the fit between the person and the job, the culture, and the supervisor and team, as well as indicative of integrity of the person, their work ethic, or how well they would actually perform in said job. 

The interviewer proudly blurts out from his or her script:

TELL ME ABOUT...

- A time that you came from from work and said "I completely nailed it--a home run out of the park!"

Or

-  A time that you came from work and said "Oh shit, I completely screwed everything up."

Ah, like work--or life for that matter--is generally that black and white.

Are we forgetting about the 99% of the time that people go in the office, put in a solid day's work for a solid day's pay--and did a good job, made a decent contribution, and got along with the team. 

Also, let's face it, the vast majority of people are not the Einsteins or Steve Jobs of this world. 

They don't come to the interview having invented the driverless car or negotiated the end to World War II.

How about this question...

"Why do you want to work here?"

I heard someone actually asked this question about a job working in mining regulation--yeah right, your and everyone else's dream job. 

What an incredibly narcissistic question, where the interviewer is looking to hear about how great their organization is or their department is, how superb a leader he/she is known to be, and why the person just will fit in perfectly to a place that alas they probably really know very little about from an insider's perspective.

Okay, let's try another one...

"Where do you see yourself in 5-years?"

Let's see I want to be kissing your ass in 5-years and actually until the day I die or maybe better what your really afraid of hearing is that I'm gunning for your and would like to take your job and show this company what a real XYZ can do to improve things around here. 

Here's another one a colleague told me about recently...

Pretend your David Ogilvy and sell me on one of your ideas. You have 15-minutes to prepare. 

Ok let's put the pressure on, because the candidate coming in today for the job interview with a mortgage and two kids at home to feed isn't enough.  Do these conditions really demonstrate what the person could do with amble time and preparation and for something they really believe in?

Let's not forget to give an IQ and personality test to the person, so we can peg their intelligence and Myers Briggs or perhaps we should give them some puzzles and let them really sweat with the pieces. 

Let's face it we've all had some people wow on the interview and on paper and turn out to be duds on the specific jobs, and others that you weren't so sure about that turned out superbly.  

Assessing people is hard and many people are great at the poker game of landing the offer. 

It's the interviewers job to look beyond the playbook and the acting, and try to see the real person sitting in front of them.

Yes, presentation is important, but even more so can we get down to the work ethic and the integrity of the person?  What they are good at and where do they have weaknesses? Are they able and willing to learn and grow?  What do they like to work on and what do they recoil from?  How do they relate to others and can they get along?  When they face problems, challenges, and conflicts, can they and are they willing to work through it? 

I don't know any supervisor that hasn't hit the jackpot on some hires and made mistakes on others...those that claim they've made an actual science out of bringing on the absolute talent--I wonder how well they do in their next interview. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 22, 2015

Measured {Leadership + Management} + Staff = Success!

So I heard from a colleague this week an argument about:

Too much leadership dilutes good management. 

AND [similarly]

Too much management dilutes good leadership.

What is this a tug of war (without the showy skirts please!)?

Or 

Can you ever have too much of a good thing? 


Typically, leaders provide the vision and managers the execution.

I don't see how it is really possible to have one without the other and have anything useful at the end of the day.

A vision without delivered execution is just another big idea.

And

Execution without a meaningful vision is just chasing your tail.

Too much leadership with grandiose vision after vision overwhelms the ability to manage a successful execution.

Too much management of the devils-in-the-details and even the best leadership vision isn't going to see the light of day.

So the conclusion:

Great leaders need to set the goal posts high but doable and then get out of the way so that talented managers can make sure to get the job done and done right.

And don't forget that it's a diverse and skilled staff that actually does the heavy lifting and need to be respected and appreciated.

Tug of war over! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Jamie McCaffrey)
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October 11, 2014

Taking A Bow

Wow--this is some an awesome piece of art!

Aside from the beauty of it, what do I think about looking at this?

Something like this:

Some people take a bow in arrogance and self-aggrandizement, while others are bowed in humbleness and grace.

Those who see only their own greatness fail to see all those people, factors, and most importantly, G-d's mercy that enabled them to achieve what they have. 

We are but agents of the heavenly maker above who endows us with creativity and the ability to capitalize on it. 

We should be bowed in thankfulness to G-d, but unfortunately all too often instead stare in the mirror admiring our own image that we imagine is so talented and successful because of who we are and what we ourselves have done--that we can't even contain our bursting self-satisfaction in wonderful selves. 

Yes, it's good to recognize when we do something good and when we make mistakes so that we can learn from them, but G-d is not only our one-time maker, but he gives us the knowledge, skills, abilities, and good fortune to succeed in what he wills. 

I remember being taught in Jewish day school that not a leaf falls from a tree without G-d wishing it--that G-d is not only the creator, but is intimately involved every moment with us and the world.  

Like the most brilliant computer that can calculate gazillions of calculations a second, G-d can orchestrate the fates of all his creations in a just and masterful way that takes everything we do and don't do into account.

May it be G-d's will to endow us with what we need to succeed and for us to be deserving of it, and to recognize from where it all comes and not be so in awe of ourselves that we fail to see our innate limitations and mortality that is us. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 11, 2014

Govgeddon Is Not An Option

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about how the Federal government is falling to attract young people. 

"Employees under the age of 30 hit an eight-year low of 7% in 2013...[while back in 1975, more than 20% of the federal workforce was under 30."

Conversely, 45% of the federal workforce is older than 50.

Moreover by September 2016, a quarter of the all federal employees will be eligible to retire--that's the retirement wave we've been hearing about for years, but never seems to really come (because of the economy). 

Without "a pipeline of young talent, the government risks falling behind in an increasingly digital world."

It's not the older people can't learn the technology, but rather they aren't digital natives as those born in the later part of the 20th century.

To see just a glimpse of the digital divide, you need to go no further than when many of these folks snicker at us for even just sending emails--something so uncouth to the younger crowd.

With years of salary freezes, no awards, benefit cuts especially for new hires, and shutdowns, the federal government which used to be "an employee of choice," is "now an employee of last resort."

Further, "the reputation for bureaucracy and hierarchy is driving away many workers." People want to be productive and get things done, not spin their wheels. 

Yet, the government offers so many exciting jobs performing critical missions in everything from national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, and so much more, it is ironic that we cannot attract young people, who are often the most idealist. 

Diversity in the federal workforce means that people under 30 are not a rarity!

Everyone--no matter what age, sex, race, religion, and so on--provides an important contribution, so that the sum of the parts is greater than whole. 

We need people to clearly feel the honor in public service, to see the importance of the missions performed, and to be treated like valued workers and not political pawns in partisan showdowns and Washington shutdowns. 

Let's actively recruit with an attractive smorgasbord of enhanced salary and benefits, especially in critical fields like cyber security, information technology, biotechnology, aerospace engineering, and more.

It's time for the federal government to become attractive for young (and older) workers again, and not apologetic for providing important jobs in service of the nation. 

The federal government needs to compete for the best and brightest and not resign itself to second-tier, ever. 

Our young people are an important pipeline for fresh ideas and cutting-edge skills, and we need them to prevent a govgeddon where we can't perform or compete with the skills and diversity of workforce that we must have. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 6, 2014

How NOT To Interview For A Job

So I am at this place of business this evening, and I overhear someone trying to apply for a job.

Note, I feel bad for the guy who is looking for extra work, but the interview just is going all wrong. 


- Easy-Smeasy - He asks "What is the easiest part of the job?" Ugh, didn't sound exactly like he was looking for a challenge.


- Keep your head down - He exclaims, "And never do someone's else's job!" What about helping where the help is needed?


- Great facilities you got here - He ends with, "And when I work here, my kids are really going to love coming to use the facilities here all the time!" Not exactly, a what will I do for you strong ending. 


I didn't get to hear the whole interview dialogue, but this was enough to get the idea about some things not to do in an interview. 


The funny/sad thing was, I think this gentleman really thought that he was going to get the job after all. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 5, 2014

Archaic Federal Hiring Practices

So the Federal government has some archaic hiring practices.

Some common critiques of the system:

- While gone are the dreaded KSAs (knowledge, Skills, and ability essays), in it's place are what many could consider meaningless multiple choice questions that enable applicants to game the system and answer what they think or know is the right answer just to get the highest points. 

- Also, there is always the potential (however infrequently) that there is a favorite candidate of someone or someone who knows someone, but knowing doesn't necessarily mean best qualified, but rather well-networked or connected. 

To be fair, there are protections in the hiring system to include an oath of truthfulness on the application as well as security clearances which are used to help ensure accuracy. Additionally, there are the Merit System Principles that prohibit favoritism and nepotism of any sort.

However, when it comes to hiring, what you can't really do in the government is just plain and simple see and recognize talent and bring someone on board. 

Anyway, this came to mind today, when we ran again into this amazing lady at Starbucks. She works there right out of college. 

She's a barista and has the most amazing customer service skills I've seen in 25 years of professional experience. 

She remembers us every time we come in and recalls what we talked about on our last visit. She regularly asks about things like my kids talking their SATs, visiting colleges, and more. 

But she doesn't just do this with me, but with all her customers.  

She has a big welcoming hello, and smile for all of them, and doesn't just take their orders, but engages them as human beings. 

I tell you this young lady would be terrific as a customer service representative in my IT shop or any other...and if I were in the private sector or had my own company, yes, I'd conduct a more thorough interview and background on her, but then I'd probably shake hands on the spot and offer her a job. 

I can see her interacting with my customers, capturing their requirements, problem-solving, as well as routine troubleshooting through engagement with the customer and the subject matter experts.  

Why?

Because she is a natural with people and intuitively understands how to work with them, engage, and establish trust and good service ethos. 

However, if she applied on USAJOBS in the current system of hiring, I think she'd never make "the cert" (the list of qualified applicants that gets referred to the hiring manager), because she's currently working in a coffee shop. 

Something is wrong that we can't easily bring in young or old, talented people from the private sector or out of school, and grow them into federal service, even if they don't have the perfect checklist answers. 

Unfortunately, this is a problem in many bureaucratic-driven organizations, where if it's not checklist-driven, then it's usually not at all. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 15, 2013

Survival Is More Than An iPhone

Please see a new article by Andy Blumenthal at Government Technology

We "need to learn ever new technology skills and simultaneously retain, old tried and true, core survival and self-sufficiency." 


This is a serious topic, and there will come a time when the lights go out and those who blend old and new skills will survive, while unfortunately, others who don't, will not. 


Hope you enjoy the article. 


Andy


(Source Photo: here with attribution to U.S. Army Africa)

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November 1, 2013

Why Memorize?

G-d, I remember as a kid in school having to memorize everything for every class--that was the humdrum life for a schoolchild.

Vocabulary words, grammar rules, multiplication tables, algebraic and geometric equations, scientific formulas, historical events, famous quotes, states and capitals, presidents, QWERTY keys, and more. 

It was stuff it in, spit it out, and basically forget it.

This seemed the only way to make room for ever more things to memorize and test out. 

In a way, you really had to memorize everything, because going to a reference library and having  to look up on the stacks of endless shelves or microfiche machines was a pain in the you know what. 

Alternatively, the home dictionary, theasarus, and encyclopeda were indispensible, but limited, slow, dated, and annoying. 

But as the universe of knowledge exploded, became ever more specialized, and the Internet was born, looking something up was a cinch and often necessary. 

All of a sudden, memorization was out and critical thinking was in. 

That's a good thing, especially if you don't want people who are simple repositories of stale information, but rather those who can question, analyze, and solve problems. 

Albert Einstein said, "Never memorize something that you can look up."

But an interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal by an old school teacher questions that logic. 

David Bonagura Jr. proposes that critical thinking and analysis "is impossible without first acquiring rock-solid knowledge of the foundational elements upon which the pyramid of cognition rests."

He says, "Memorization is the most effective means to build that foundation."

As a kid, I hated memorization and thought it was a waste of time, but looking back I find that more things stayed in that little head of mine than I had thought. 

I find myself relying on those foundations everyday...in writing, speaking, calculating, and even remembering a important story, principle, saying or even song lyrics.

These come out in my work--things that I thought were long lost and forgotten, but are part of my thinking, skills, and truly create a foundation for me to analyze situations and solve problems. 

In fact, I wish I knew more and retained it all, but short-term memory be damned. 

We can't depend on the Internet for all the answers--in fact, someday, it may not be there working for us all, when we need it. 

We must have core knowledge that is vital for life and survival and these are slowly being lost and eroded as we depend on the Internet to be our alternate brains. 

No, memorizing for memorization's sake is a waste of time, but building a foundation of critical skills has merits. 

Who decides what is critical and worthwhile is a whole other matter to address.

And are we building human automatons full of worthless information that is no longer relevant to today's lifestyles and problems or are we teaching what's really important and useful to the human psche, soul, and evolution. 

Creativity, critical thinking, and self-expression are vital skills to our ability to solve problems, but these can't exist in a vacuum of valuable brain matter and content.

It's great  to have a readily available reference of world information at the tips of our fingertips online, but unless you want to sound (and act) like an idiot, you better actually know something too. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chapendra)
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September 29, 2013

Instructions For the Modern Age


We went apple picking today and it was a nice time, thank G-d. 

The weather was beautiful and the apples were plentiful and delicious. 

One funny thing that I noticed was this sign with instructions for how to pick apples. 

Like we need instructions for one of the most natural things in the world. 

Even in the Bible, in the Garden of Eden, the first man and woman figured this one out. 

Perhaps, with all of our technology we now possess, there is a feeling or realization that we have lost touch with our more primitive instincts. 

Often, I wonder if a major calamity were to actually strike, how many of us, especially in the big cities would know the basic skills to survive. 

Heck, we can't even leave the house without our smartphones--we'd feel naked--like Adam and Eve after eating from the Tree of Knowledge. 

Technology has made us more capable, but it has left us lacking knowledge on how to grow things, build things, fish and hunt, and much more, leaving us in many ways more vulnerable.

How can we live in an information age, and yet be stupider for it?

As I learned in college, you can have wonderful book knowledge, but have little to no practical knowledge.

I would say we need to do a much better job balancing the teaching of theory and practice...so we won't need signs that have to tell us how to pick an apple anymore. ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)
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