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    Entries in career (158)


    Welcome Back - News from Steve

    Requesting your kind indulgence today, as I have some personal news to report today on the blog.

    Recently I accepted a position with Oracle Corporation, working in the Fusion HCM Product Strategy team, and I will start in my new role next week. I am excited by the opportunity to work with such a fantastic team of Human Resources technology professionals, and with a set of new technologies in Fusion HCM that are driving innovation, capability, efficiency, and business insight for organizational leaders and managers. The Oracle Fusion HCM team has spent several years designing and building an incredible set of applications, and I am thrilled at the chance to help continue the momentum, and help customers with their critical Human Resources and Talent Management initiatives.

    Some of you might know that I have a long history of working with Oracle Applications, from my earliest days with AT&T implementing what now seems like a quaint 'green screen' Oracle Apps version 10.4 in the dusty desert city of Riyadh in the 90s. That project was simultaneously my first real experience with a true enterprise-class set of technologies, and my first taste of seeing up close how the implementation of the right technologies, by the right people having a shared commitment to the desired outcomes could truly transform an organization. It was the perfect project to get introduced to the world of enterprise software, large enough to have significance in the organization, but with just enough self-governance and individual accountability to keep the engagement levels high, and the spirit of teamwork alive.

    Eventually I moved back home from Riyadh, and continued to work with Oracle Applications for most of the ensuing stops in my career, (including working for Oracle Consulting directly), in roles ranging from client implementations, project management, enterprise HRIS management, and more.  But even as the geographies, industries, and responsibilities changed for me, I consistently stayed close, (some might say loyal), to the set of Oracle technologies that I first encountered many years before on a 115 degree day in Riyadh. Consistently, I derived the most satisfaction by learning new technologies, working with clients to assess their needs and goals, and finding and delivering solutions that could help them to meet these goals. And sure, getting the chance to 'play' with cool new tools is always fun.

    So for me, to return to Oracle, and to work with Oracle Fusion HCM Applications at this point in my career is, I think, a natural fit. As I said, the Fusion HCM team is the best in the space, (sure I am biased), and the Fusion HCM Applications that have been delivered, and the ones that are on the way, are on the absolute cutting edge of our industry. I am looking forward to the chance to contribute to the team, and most importantly to be back helping customers achieve their goals.

    Some other notes, (continuing the navel-gazing theme of this post), I do plan on keeping this blog active here, contributing to Fistful of Talent, and continuing to produce and host the HR Happy Hour Show, (although I am taking tomorrow night off).  In time there may be some changes to one or both of these projects, we will just have to see how that develops. Going forward, I will have to manage and determine my participation in other events and projects that I have been associated with in the past and balance the needs and objectives of my employer and our objectives. But I do plan on remaining active and visible in the HCM community, and look forward to continued engagement and dialogue with the many, many fantastic and intelligent people it has been my great pleasure to come to know in the last few years.

    Lastly, I wanted to say thanks to all the fantastic friends, colleagues, blog readers, show listeners for the assistance, kind words, advice and counsel over the last several weeks. One thing I have learned for sure is the value and power of community, and I am humbled and appreciative for all the generosity directed to me. I only hope that I can find a way to repay at least some of the good Karma in the future.

    That's it for now - tomorrow we are back to our regularly scheduled program of technology, innovative ideas, basketball, and barbecue.

    Have a great day!


    Kid Business Cards and the Permission to Dream

    The most popular post on this blog over the last couple of months was a take on a job application cover letter written by a 6 year-old boy.  I liked the post, (or I would not have published it), but I was really shocked how popular it was. So in the grand tradition of pandering, grasping, and shamelessly playing the 'kid' card again, once I came across this piece, about a Brazilian Ad Agency's project to design and print business cards for the 'dream jobs' of a bunch of schoolkids, I figured, why not share?

    Here is the backstory - Red Balloon, an English School for kids in Brazil, asked the students at the school what they wanted to be when they grow up. Certainly a question we have been asking kids since well, there was potentially a different answer than 'chase saber-toothed tigers and try to kill them with stones in order to survive'.

    Based on the children's answers, the ad agency Ogilvy Brazil designed personalised Kids Business Cardsa few examples you van see in the images  below. The answers, combined with a bit of information and insight about the kids, created a really amazing set of artifacts and a kind of tangible, phyiscal representation of the kids dreams. These cards say - 'your dream is not just in your mind, it can be real, here is a bit of what it might look like'.

    Below is a close up view of one of the cards - for a girl whose dream is to be 'the most pretty ballerina in the world.'

    After the project was completed reps from the ad agency gave this assessment of the outcomes  -

    Result: more kids believe in their dreams and more parents believe in the importance of English for their kids' future."

    I posted about this project mainly because I really loved the creativity and artistic qualities of some of the kids business cards - quite honestly they just look cool.

    But I do think there is a larger point to this, we do ask our kids, nieces, nephews, cousins, students, etc. all the time 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' And we know that 99% of kids won't actually pursue the 'dream job' they identified at 9 years old. While that is certainly normal and expected, I also think that we as parents/teachers/adults sometimes jump too quickly to downplay, discourage, or even fail to even consider these childhood dreams. We are old. We know better. We know that we did not become astronauts, runway models, or relief pitchers for the Mets, (that last one was mine), so it is only responsible and realistic to assume that the random 4th grader won't become any of those things either.

    But in our haste to be 'adults' I think we can forget what it was like to see the world as kids do, a world where still, mostly, anything was possible. Becoming a pop star, soccer hero, or a great inventor with a mansion - these are not at all unreasonable or unreachable dreams. Having these dreams is still 'allowed'. I thought about that when I read about these 'kid business cards'. A quick scan through them shows rock stars, sports legends, captains of industry.  

    All things that for our kids are fantastic and possible.

    Even if we did not become those things ourselves.



    Good advice at any age

    Last night I had the chance to catch my friend Lauren Berger, better known as the Intern Queen, speak to a group of students at St. John Fisher College located near Rochester, NY.
    If you are not familiar with Lauren, or her website, InternQueen.com, the basic premise is to match college students seeking internship opportunities with organizations that offer these opportunities. Hundreds or organizations across the country have signed up with InternQueen.com, and the site provides a kind of unique platform to help facilitate this niche labor market. Kind of like what TheLadders.com does at the high end of the market, InternQueen.com does for the internship space. Except of course that InternQueen.com does not charge students to use the site.

    Lauren’s talk at Fisher was not really about InternQueen.com though, it was more focused on strategies and advice for students that are just starting out on their professional journey. Some of the recommendations were pretty specific to the college internship space, but surprisingly much of what Lauren advised would hold true, perhaps in a more general sense, for job seekers at all levels, or anyone interested in furthering their careers.

    Some of the highlights of the talk:

    Know what is important to employers

    Lauren suggested that quality internships are critical to today’s students because the first question prospective employers will ask is “Where did you intern?”, not what your GPA was, what clubs you were in, and how many awards you won at school. Those other things are still important, but unless you have a good answer to question number one, you won’t get too far in the process.

    Control your image

    Lauren gave the students the expected, and solid advice about being in control of your image and projection on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Even in 2011, with stories of employee hijinks and inappropriate behavior all over the web, I still get the sense that many college students don’t fully realize the potential negative impact that wild pictures on Facebook or late-night Tweets can have on one’s image.

    Lauren also described some example of how students could turn this around and use social to their advantage - by connecting with potential employers and hiring managers online, and contributing to the dialogue in their fields of interest by participating in discussions, commenting on blogs, and even creating their own blogs.

    Networking is everything

    Probably the most compelling part of Lauren’s talk were her stories of how she was able to leverage the connections she made in her early internship positions later in her college experience, and in her new entrepreneurial venture. She advised the students that during their internships they must connect with everyone that they can, learn, volunteer for assignments and tasks, and connect some more. And just not with your boss, or the company executives - forge connections with your fellow interns, they are quite likely to be as driven, ambitious, and intelligent as you - exactly the kind of people that form the foundation of a great professional network.

    How can students (or anyone for that matter), stay connected after the internship is over? Lauren advised the students to stick to their college schedule and make sure you reach out to these contacts three times a year (Fall, Spring, and Summer), just like college semesters are typically configured.

    All in all it was an excellent talk with advice and information that while directed at students and the market for internships, had many salient and applicable points for anyone in the job market.

    If you are a college student, or an employer that is looking to source some of the brightest and most driven college interns around, I suggest you check out InternQueen.com.



    Cards of Change

    I came across the site Cards of Change, a collection of images of business cards uploaded by people in some kind of career transition or crossroads, usually caused by a layoff or other involuntary circumstance.

    Participants take one of their former business cards and imaginatively and creatively edit, adapt, and improve the card's content in a kind of 'rite of passage' that visually and tangibly helps to mark the passage from one career stage to the next.

    The site's mission is 'to collect as many business cards and stories of positive change of people who have recently been laid off and connect them with new opportunities from potential employers, business partners and people who make the effort to look on the bright side of life.'

    Of the many hundreds of cards loaded to the site, there is most often seen an excitement, optimism, and enthusiasm from the recently separated workers.  In many cases reading their adapted cards, cards that with a few pen strokes and cross outs they have turned from 'business' cards to personal ones, we get the sense of relief and release.  We can feel along with the card owner the weight of stress or pressure of having to be someone else for business, and the lightening of their spirit once they saw that weight removed.

    Of course the stress and pressures of being out of work had not likely set in yet as the card owners took to constructing these new creations, but still, I imagine the physical act of transformation of the old into something new has to be seen as at least starting the transition process on the right note.

    The other observation I had from reading through the card collection was that there were and still are a lot of unhappy people out there and when presented with a better and more enriching (both financially and emotionally), opportunity, many of seemingly productive and happy workers will race to the door.

    I wonder if many of us were provided the opportunity or the necessity to design our own cards would they look at all like our 'official' ones? Or if we could, would we start crossing out words and phrases, replacing them with ones that match our truer selves?  

    I recommend checking out Cards of Change, I bet you will spend at least a few minutes looking at the cards and tiny stories.



    Builder or Custodian

    In the world of big-time college athletics success on the field or court often results in ancillary benefits to the institution in the form of increased donations, an uptick in applications for admission, and in the case of so-called ‘Cinderella’ type schools that have not been traditionally strong, a surge in awareness and name recognition for the school to a wider audience.

    In the college ‘money’ sports of (American) football and Men’s Basketball, a successful season or two, or a deep run in championship competition can be a springboard of opportunity for coaches at these smaller schools to make the jump to a larger school (and substantially raise their compensation), and can also create exposure for players at these small schools that perhaps might lead to a shot at professional contracts in the NFL or NBA.

    Not unlike many industries or even geographies, there is a kind of hierarchy in college athletics; schools ‘know’ their place in the hierarchy by virtue of their level of competition, the conference and peer institutions that they choose to organize and affiliate with, and this hierarchy guides and influences the players they can recruit, and the quality and experience of the coaches they can employ.  Schools (and fans, alumni, students, etc.) all know their ‘place’ in the hierarchy, and while their is occasionally some institutions that ‘climb’ the ladder to higher levels of affiliation and competition, most of the upward mobility is personal, e.g., a successful coach at a lower level of competition gets a similar job at a bigger, top-flight school.

    Last spring Butler University, a liberal-arts school with less that 5,000 students made a remarkable run to the Championship game of Men’s College Basketball, only to lose by two points to perennial power Duke, 61-59.  Butler’s coach Brad Stevens, was purported to be a candidate for several ‘bigger’ jobs (he stayed), and star player Gordon Hayward was seen as a potential NBA star (he left, and now plays for the Utah Jazz).  The movement of coaches and players from these small school successes is not really news anymore, and not terribly interesting (even to me).  

    But another piece of employee transition news from Butler caught my attention over the weekend - the surprise resignation of Butler’s President Bobby Fong to take the over the same position at even smaller Ursinus College (I had to look it up too), a school of about 1,700 students located in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. Fong has been President of Butler for 10 years, a period that has been marked by rising enrollments, a successful $150M fundraising campaign, and capped off last spring by the exciting run to the Men’s Basketball Final Four and the Championship game.

    If Fong were a player or coach on the basketball team, we’d expect his next move to be ‘up’; to take over at a big school like Michigan or South Carolina.  But to drop down to a tiny, off the map school like Ursinus?  In sports, this would be considered a step back, a career hiccup, or even the first step on the road to obscurity.  But look a bit closer and we see that what matters to Fong is the job he will be doing, not necessarily who he will be doing it for.  After 10 years of building up Butler, Fong wanted to start all over again the process in an environment where he would have that opportunity.  The money quote from Fong - “"You always want to be able to help an institution improve, and I tend to be a builder. I am not a custodian."

    Super line, and one that reveals much about Fong as a leader, and that can also help anyone better understand and assess potential career moves.  Sometimes moving ‘up’ only means you get a nicer office to sit in while you simply look after things and try not to screw up. Sometimes you have to take a step ‘down’ in order to keep building.

    Good luck at Ursinus President Fong, and if you make the Final Four again, I will demand an NCAA investigation.