Archive for category Creativity

Reputation

A marketing campaign from the 1970s is being credited today with aptly capturing the spirit of today’s social media. “You tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on…” I could not remember the name of the product the campaign advertised until I “Googled” it today – and that’s because it was the theme that resonated with me.

In everything we do personally or professionally, we build our reputation one brick at a time. The best university or the right degree might earn a “foot into the door.” Crowdfunding might provide the impetus to starting your own business. Having friends in the right places might kickstart a career. Credibility is what keeps you there.

Personally, I have been told “not to care so much” (about a project or other effort in which I might be engaged). Certainly, managing what you care about and when you care about it is an art. And there may be a fine line between knowing when to fan the fire and when to put it out. But I choose not to live in mediocrity.

Whatever we do should be done with passion. Passion is noticed. Passion can’t be ignored. Passion puts our own personal stamp on everything we do. Passion is memorable.

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Shapes and Sizes

I was not a born leader. Well – not in the typical sense. I was not raised by parents who led me to aspire to being the President or even a manager. I wasn’t even strongly encouraged to go to college (although I wasn’t discouraged either). I was raised by parents who provided enough guidance to make good choices, and then let me try and fail and try again. When I entered the workplace, I entered as a secretary. (These days, we call these bright and invaluable experts “administrative assistants.”) When I received my college degree, I did it at night, while working full-time and while raising my daughters. I did not have aspirations to be a manager. I aspired, rather, to do interesting and intellectually stimulating work. I thrived on relationships I built in the business community and in learning about their thoughts, ideas and experiences.

Over the years, however, I found that my natural curiosity seemed to inspire others to dig deep, to find the right answers, to stop and question their own thinking or the way in which things were always done. And, ultimately, I was asked to lead.

I am enormously proud of all I accomplished. But – trust me – I didn’t set out with a personal roadmap. And perhaps because of that I am more aware of the possibilities that exist when individuals and organizations refuse to allow perceptions, sterotypes or expectations guide choices.

Forbes recently conducted an interview with Angela Yochem, CIO at BDP International. The title of the article is “Former Musician Turned Board Level CIO, BDP International’s Angela Yochem’s Unconventional Path To The Top Of IT”. The headline is attention grabbing. Why? Because we remain fascinated and surprised, when a declared right-brained person excels in a left-brained world.

The fact is that diversity of thought is essential to business success. Diversity of thought will not arise from hearing the same voices repeatedly.

Leaders — those who can guide others thru transformational change — come in all shapes and sizes.

“The collection of capabilities that a CIO must bring into that role is so much broader than it used to be” Angela Yochem says and continues “If you’re a technology leader, you’re the one proposing transformational technology opportunities.”

Transformational technology. Transformational implies an innovative and creative culture. I’ll have a second helping of that, please! And please serve it with a surprise side dish of mixed milieu.

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Seriously Perfect

In my early 20’s, I was incredibly serious about how others viewed me and whether or not I was being taken seriously. At a friend’s picnic, someone sprayed me with a hose and I was upset because my hair was ruined and my cute outfit had to be taken off to dry. Seriously.

I have been taking that perfectionist attitude to work too. EXCELLENCE demands getting it all absolutely 100% right – right? I mean, you agree, don’t you?

Here’s the thing that working in technology taught me: the 80/20 rule. Sometimes you have to sacrifice something to get to the bigger picture. If your budget is tight and timeline is short and only 80% of the business requirements will be met, can the 20% be handled in another manner?

For those of us who are perfectionists, this is difficult to accept. You have to step back and see the entire view. How much more money will it cost to do it “the right way?” And – as rapidly as things change in today’s world – how long will your “right” design be relevant? What are you really trying to fix? Really dig deep and work together to understand the core issue. Sometimes the answer to the problem is much simpler than you initially thought. Sometimes, there really isn’t an issue at all – but a perceived issue or a misguided process.

Most days I still dress pretty impeccably for work, believing in the mantra dress for the job you want, not the job you have. As I raised my two daughters, however, I cannot always afford to be as impeccably dressed as I would like. But, I’ve learned that it really doesn’t matter what my hair or clothing look like if I am not bringing quality and productive results to the table.

In a large organization, we’re all in it to make money — and not just for ourselves, but for the company. When the company we work for wins, we all win.

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Blissfully Unaware

In 1999 I had just been thru a divorce, was forced to move from part-time to full-time work, moved into a new home and was raising my daughters, ages six and nine, most of the time on my own. Did I mention I also started an entirely new job? . . . In Information Technology (IT)? . . . On a special project to implement SAP Software? If you have ever worked in IT on the implementation of new software, then you know how much effort, attention to detail and long, unexpected hours it can take.

I, on the other hand, had no idea. I was blissfully unaware.

My job on the IT project team was to translate the business I knew well (employee benefits) into something that would work in the new system (which I didn’t know at all). I sped through an introduction to SAP class; traveled to Boston for a week of intensive training on SAP benefits and then was placed in an office with a consultant to begin to build the system. In just three short months, I was told, I would present what we developed to management. (Even now I am laughing my head off at the prospect that was placed before me.)

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Was I scared? No. Terrified might be the better word.

The thing about the project is that no one else really knew what they were doing either. It was a great workplace leveler. All at once, all of us had exactly the same knowledge and experience: We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We were forced to rely on each other and our own wits to solve issues. We had to question everything. Gone were the days when we knew our jobs and knew (rather instinctively) what to do. Gone were the days of sitting in our own cublicles busily creating and solving issues independently. We needed each other.

I learned more in 1 year than I had in the past five years.

Mostly I learned that the workplace benefits the most when each of its contributors work together like connecting gears on a well-oiled machine. And when our employer benefits, we all benefit.

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Keeping It Real

Icy streams of water slide from my hand down my raised arm and sizzle to my bare thigh as I take a long swallow from my sweat-coated glass of iced tea. AAHHHH…refreshed. A breeze runs it’s long steamy fingers through my should-length bob. I inhale the scent of crisp, salty ocean air, mixed with coconut scented sunblock and I curl my toes into the cool depths of the sand.

I wish I were at the beach. But I’m not.

I am actually sitting in my Pennsylvania home, inside my study surrounded by sea shells and ocean themed art. A ceiling fan rustles my hair. So – aren’t you wondering about the sand?

I really do have sand in my study — a recent gift from my 24-year-old daughter — who brings her inner child to her job as a Fresh Foods Manager at Wawa every day and makes sure that I keep the same spirit alive myself. Chelea has been found singing in the deli, handing out Cowtails candy to a coworker who made her day or playing practical jokes on others.

photo sand2.

Your inner child is shorthand for your “authentic self”. The thing is, Chelsea gets up every day and brings her whole self to work. Her whole self prepares the food, makes the sandwiches, maintains the inventory, cares about her Wawa team, wants to be proud of the work she does, and wants to have fun while she’s doing it. Is there anything better than enjoying what you’re doing for 40+ hours a week?

Dress for success. First impressions count. Define your own personal “brand”. But the most important thing you can do for those with whom you work – and for whom you work – is to be authentic.

Keep it real. Stick your toes in the sand every once in a while.

sand

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Doing more than showing up

When I get ready for work in the morning – or even Sunday night before my work week starts – I do a little bit of mental preparation about the day ahead. What’s on my calendar? Who will need what from me? Should I research or read anything before a particular meeting?

The point is to show up prepared — prepared to contribute your best to whatever activity in which you will engage.

As I know from my daughter (http://www.blondeshavemorerun.com/) – but certainly not from my own experience – runners prepare fastidiously for every event – often for months in advance. Runners don’t just show up.

Recently, a Frontier Airlines pilot (GMA 7/9/2014) did way more than anyone expected in terms of showing up. He bought pizza.

In a rare demonstration of passion and commitment to one’s job, Captain Gerhard Brandner took his own initiative to call Dominos and order pizza for the 160 passengers and crew onboard a flight that was already two hours delayed and had been sitting on the runway for over an hour.

The little things are sometimes the big things. And in all things, the people you work with and for are the most important.

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Leaning In to Get Published in Technology

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“How Design Thinking is Making ERP Software Better” is featured on Page 78 in the May issue of CIO REVIEW. After proudly posting this picture on Facebook, one tech friend (@MicoYuk) tweeted in response “YES!! I LUV to see women on top of their IT game. Congrats to @SherryanneMeyer for bng featd in @CIOReview p 78 #WIT http://www.cioreview.com/magazines/may14/SAP2014/ …” I realized – remarkably – that the publication was a bigger deal than my byline. I went back into the magazine to check the conributors. I counted males and females. I was one of only 3 women who contributed to that issue of the magazine.

I want to be clear: I do not think the lack of female contributors is because the editors overlooked female candidates. I think it’s because women who are willing to put themselves out there are harder to find. I have a sense that when women draw attention to themselves it is not well received, and that therefore, women avoid opportunities that may shine too bright a light on them. Being vocal as a female is a fine art requiring delicate and adept balance to avoid inciting resentment among one’s peers. (I don’t know that I have mastered that art yet.)

Mico’s tweet to me made me sit up and take notice to how many of us are not leaning in to speak our minds on the broader technology platform. Nearly everything I’ve been taught has come from textbooks authored by men. Nearly every speaker I have had the pleasure to hear at a technology event has been male. And I checked who I follow on Twitter, and – GUESS WHAT!? – of the individuals I follow (not organizations), the majority are men.

Why is it that women don’t step out, say more, get quoted, write, speak, or publish more? Is it too risky to “Lean In” to put your thoughts in writing? Are we too busy being wife, mother, friend and tech genius all at once?

My Point of View: We need to be heard for the generations of young men and women who follow.

Your thoughts?

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Outsourcing, Uphill

First you cry. Well, I did.  I cried because we had a phenomenal team and the move to outsource our team’s work meant that what we had built together would be torn apart. I cried because colleagues who solved the worst of technical challenges with me, who worked day and night and weekends with me, who always had a laugh to share – even in the middle of the night when we were dead tired – who taught me everything they knew, who celebrated Christmases and weddings and births with me would be gone.

I cried for all the right reasons. . . and some lesser reasons.

I cried because the familiar comfort of a job I knew well was suddenly gone.   And that made me realize.  This wasn’t personal.  This was business.

In 2005, Thomas Friedman had explained that the world was, indeed flat.  The walls had come down and the economy would be different.  We would work differently.  I remember reading his book – with a gulp of  incredulous fear  – and then stuffing it away on my bookshelf as if, safely ensconced there, it couldn’t be true.  And here it was looking me smack in the face.  I had lived in a fabricated reality in which the type of work I did would never be outsourced – let alone to another country.  I had ignored the truths that Thomas Friedman spoke.

I had to move forward.

What we needed most of all was someone to talk about how to move forward. I had no ready answers. But I had the will to listen, to hear what others were saying — whether it was about the “new normal” or the old ways or how impossible it was going to be to transfer everything everyone knew in just five short months. We could have all fallen apart at that point – divided by anxiety, jealousy, fear.  But for the most part, the team remained intact, committed to delivering the same high quality results on this “project” as they had for every other genuine project.  With compassion and understanding, I listened.  I learned.  I tried to get answers for the team.  I improvised when I had no answers and we needed answers.  And I honestly said “I don’t know” when I had no answers.  But I committed to get answers.  What I tried not to do was to let any one person stand alone, be scared or feel hopeless.

Over the course of the next five months, I would host three retirement and five farewell luncheons, but not before the collective team left their legacy of knowledge  in hundreds of hours worth of recorded training sessions.  I was as proud of us as we dismantled as I had been in the early days when we first formed our team.  No – that’s not true.  I was more proud.

I was lucky to have worked with such talented, skilled people – people who managed this most difficult challenge of their careers with integrity, discipline and self-esteem.   They left in their wake an awakened leadership.

The United States is now well into the midst of a labor renaissance. The industrial revolution, the technological revolution – these are gone.   Textbook management styles that serve hierarchical organizations and mass production will not serve us well in the near or long term.

What I learned as I climbed the outsourcing hill was that there  was more than one way to scale the mountain.  What I learned was that being right-brained was not a technical handicap.  You see, creativity has its roots in diversity…diversity of thought and  culture and people.   And diversity is showing us the way.

The Uphill Climb - Adapting to Change

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