• Eagle Scout Project

    It’s been almost 7 years since I planned and built my Eagle Scout Project while a member of Troop 45 in Chapel Hill.  I thought I would go visit it earlier today (and finally take a few good pictures) and see how it is doing.  Just for a little background info, the project is located in Camp Chestnut Ridge and was completed in 2004.  If you are interested in the write up, it’s here and in PDF.  The base plans (we modified them somewhat for the project) can be found here.

    And a few from when we were building it.

  • Call Me Old Fashioned, But I still Write Thank You Notes

    Business and society are funny things.  We talk about the rapid pace of technological progress and how technology ultimately improves our lives (and businesses), but rarely do step away from our infatuation with technology and talk about what we lose as we continue to do things quicker, faster, and “better.”  And that’s something we should do more often.  Stepping away from technology for a few hours not only allows us to reflect on what we have achieved, but in my experience, it allows us to learn how to use technology better.

    I was recently reminded of this while reading a blog post from Paul Gumbinner, a NYC based Executive Recruiter who often writes about advertising jobs, interviewing, and his experiences in the Madison Avenue Advertising World.  I’ve sourced Paul a time or two for my post on Beyond Madison Avenue and I highly recommend reading his blog.  It’s good stuff.

    As a whole, we are technically more connected with each other today than in any period in history.  But at the same time, I continuously find that we are much less personally connected.  In fact, I often feel like we are quickly becoming almost impassive.  Yes we email each other in what seems like a near constant stream of messages, participate in involved Twitter based conversations, and interact via social media, but less and less do we communicate via real personal interaction.

    This is especially true in the business world where anonymous job posts are becoming what seems like the standard.  As a result, we have become a society that seems to feel contacting potential employers via a phone call is rude.  Furthermore when we do initiate a connection, interview with a potential employer, or even ask for advice from someone, it seems like it’s become a rare thing to write a real thank you note.  And that is  rude.

    In the “old days” (the days before email, Twitter, Facebook, etc), we relied on three major forms of communication: personal interaction, snail mail, and the telephone.  And although snail mail and the telephone seem impersonal compared to a personal meeting with someone, sending a letter to someone or making a phone call can in fact be a very personal way to communicate.  Think about all the letters soldiers sent to their friends and family during the American Civil War.

    Although business letters are not exactly in the same league as Civil War letters, both types of letters share many common threads; most of which stem from the effort involved in writing and sending a real letter.  Compared to email, which seems to have been reduced to quick informal messages, writing a true letter takes time no matter if the letter is three pages long or three sentences long.   And that effort shows; especially when it’s a thank you note to a business contact.  Add in the fact that the business world is increasingly tough and guess what, that extra thirty minutes may in fact lead to great opportunities.

    That being said, call me old-fashioned, but I still write snail mailed thank you notes.  Yes they take time, but in my experience, they make a real impression on people.

     

     

  • Not Getting the Job, but Making the Right Connection

    The business world is a tough place.  And if you think it’s going to get better in the near future, let me introduce you to this novel concept called reality.  It’s something that the governments of the world are currently being introduced to (If you are unfamiliar with Marx’s Das Kapital; it’s a long, often difficult to understand set of works discussing the functions of capitalism, the history of capitalism, and most importantly, Marx’s famed view on capitalism’s diminishing rate of profit.  Like I said, it’s not an easy read.  Nor is it what I call uplifting).

    But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today.  I wanted to talk about the value of being rejected by a potential employer.

    Like I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m currently in a purgatory like state of employment/unemployment.  I’m in that fickle and highly stressful stage of life between my undergraduate degree and my graduate degree.  Yes I graduated from a top tier university with a true liberal arts degree (I could of graduated in 2.5 years… I studied 4) and a work ethic that most employers would kill for, but the fact remains that I’m also competing in a world that is in all honesty a wash of “cheap” undergraduate degrees.  (Notice how I did not describe the undergraduate as inexpensive.  They are anything but inexpensive).

    But I do not let that detour me.  Doing so seems in my eyes unproductive as worrying about things that you can’t do anything about is simular to travelling via rocking chair: you expend a lot of energy, but you don’t move anywhere.

    What I can do (and I encourage others to do) is continue forward progress.  It may seem like you are constantly being pushed back 4 steps, but if you make 5 forward steps, that’s still a net gain of 1 step.  It’s not a huge gain, but with the college football season coming up (and my string of productive Saturdays about to start disappearing), a gain is a gain.  It’s not a touchdown, but neither are most plays in a game.

    And that brings me to my point.  When you get rejected by a potential employer, take it for all it’s worth.  Make a connection with the people at the company, make a solid impression, and initiate a relationship.  It’s not a job, but it’s forward progress.

    That being said, I want to leave this post by re-visiting an old idea (the SaySomethingNice initiative) that I was reminded of by a recent (and non related) Improve Everywhere Campaign.  On a side note, Charlie Todd, the founder of Improve Everywhere is also a UNC alum and one smart guy.

     

  • If you can draw it, you can develop it: Flash Catalyst

    Rarely do I find a piece of software that I adore.  Most of the time I can easily find some critical flaw in the software and that seems to kill my love for it.  Adobe software seems to be the exception.  I fell in love with Adobe CS2 years ago and don’t let me get started with CS5.  It’s brilliant.  CS4 wasn’t my favorite, but CS5 more than makes up for all of CS4′s flaws.

    But within CS5, there is one piece of software that I really do adore above all else: Flash Catalyst.  I’ve played around with Flash enough to know it’s an untamed mythical beast.  Yes, a good Flash designer can do marvelous work with Flash, but for 95% of developers, Flash is just too much.  It’s the odd program of CS that really isn’t approachable by novice users.  One can’t really do much with it without a lot of knowledge.  It’s not instinctive like AI or Photoshop where absolute beginners can build basic outlines and teach themselves the basics via just playing around.

    But that’s where Flash Catalyst is absolutely brilliant.  It allows wanna-be Flash developers a bridge between Flash and AI or Photoshop.  How so?  Well for starters, it’s designed with the AI and Photoshop user in mind.  In fact, you can build your site in AI or Photoshop and import the file directly into Flash Catalyst.

    From there, Flash Catalyst offers users a limited, but wide enough range of interaction options to build a function Flash based website without the need for intricate timelines or interactions.  In fact, with just a little practice, Flash Catalyst becomes dare I say it, very easy to use.  So anyone interested in looking good on the web… listen up!  Yes, there are some major limits (I tried to add a mailto: link with no success), but the limits are in the whole view of things very minor.  And best of all, unlike Flash, you don’t need to know any sort of code to make things work.

    So need a quick example?  My latest project… NewYorque.  It’s going to be good.

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