GU@SXSW: In Photos

Georgetown had a distinctive presences at SXSW this year! Whitney Pezza, Associate Director of Alumni Career Services moved her office to Austin that week and met a ton of Hoyas along the way. Here are a few highlights.

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On Wednesday evening (3/5), Provost Robert Groves, CIO Lisa Davis, and Vice Provost Randall Bass met with alumni at Hoya-owned restaurant La Condesa in downtown Austin to share some remarks from their panel earlier in the day on Designing the Future(s) of the University. 

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On Friday afternoon, alumni met with Randy Bass at the first ever co-working space in Austin, Conjunctured, to participate in a Design Lab, an exercise in unbundling higher education and taking a close look into where education ends and begins. For example, does it start in high school and you can take credits towards your degree so in 4 years on campus you wind up with a BA/MA? Or is it less traditional? There was also discussion about alumni life-long learners, and integrating more technology into the classroom and using it so we can see where a student’s mastery is and isn’t.

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  • On Saturday, alumni met at Little Woodrow’s on 6th Street to hang out and watch the Hoyas play against Villanova, which was a welcome respite against the rain and constant action happening at SXSW.

Collecting No’s

Tonight’s homework: collecting no’s.

First, I must give credit where credit is due.  Joe Scafidi (B’95) casually mentioned the concept of “collecting no’s” when I ran into him an a Hoya networking event. I was immediately and enthusiastically intrigued. In fact, I think I might have scared him with how I reacted to this little exercise. It’s brilliant on so many levels.  It’s a short experiment in human nature and social behavior, but one that has daily implications.

The concept is this: ask people for things. See what they say.  And you’ll probably be surprised how often the answer is yes. Ask a stranger for an umbrella.  A professor for an extension on a deadline. Ask your boss to leave early.  Ask someone for career advice.  The only rules are you can’t ask the same person twice and each ask must be different.  What you typically learn is that very rarely is the answer no and that everything can be a negotiation.  The question is, how many asks do you need to make in order to get 10 no’s? Probably more than you think.

Here’s what we learned:

  • Just ask.  Someone once told me that FEAR stands for “False Expectations About Risk.” Many times we assume the answer is no before we even ask so we don’t even bother.
  • We all want to be liked. Human nature general seeks to please (or at least makes us feel like it’s socially unacceptable to say no).  This works in your favor when you are the one asking, but also provides lessons for those of us who can’t say no to the barrage of requests that abound daily.  The fact is, it’s often easier for people to say yes than to risk conflict and if the ask is in the future it’s easy to say yes in the present.
  • It’s all about the negotiation.  Things are rarely as black and white as “yes” and “no.” How do you get to the place of “yes” by understanding the needs and wants of the other party?  If you’re really negotiating there isn’t a “winner” or “loser,” you both walk away happy.
  • It’s all in how you ask. How can you ask in a way that makes it even tougher to say no?

And some implications:

  • The good news: When it comes to career networking and reaching out to acquaintances and strangers for advice, this is great news. People will probably say yes more often than they say no.  If there is a mutual connection (friend, alma mater, etc.) I would venture to guess that this increases the likelihood of yes.
  • The bad news: When it comes to our own time management and work/life balance this tendency toward yes works against us.  We over commit and wonder why we are stressed and exhausted.

Let us know how your “collecting no’s” goes!  Tweet us at #GUCollectNos

The Year Without Pants: Part I

In our blog post a few weeks ago, I talked about the book I’m reading, The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun.  I’m a few chapters in and it’s already a really interesting read about company culture, how we work, and how we think about our work.    Here’s what I’ve found particularly fascinating so far…

Customer Service: The Happiness Team

  • WordPress.com calls their customer support team “Happiness” and it’s employees “Happiness engineers.” The author admits that he began working for the company he was suspicious: can you change the reality of an onerous job and often overlooked team by changing a name?   All employees begin their tenure at WordPress with a few day stint in customer support (i.e. Happiness Team).   It puts employees on the front line, responding to customers, and learning the intricacies of their company.
  • The Happiness Team analyzed not only the types of problems coming in to them, but data around ticket numbers, response time and the experience of the customer when they submitted a ticket.  They strategically changed the process by which customers submit issues so that it sets a tone of responsiveness as opposed to interrogation.  They ask each customer, “What did you do?” “What did you see?”  and “What did you expect?” in order to gather the most information.  This thoughtful approach to the process and content of customer service, beyond just providing “good” customer service in terms of response time and problem solving, was very interesting.
  • They also analyze the success of new employees in the support role as data showed that it was an indicator of future performance.
  • The performance dashboard of each support team employee can be seen by all others, instilling a sense of healthy competition, importance, and accountability.

Management Trends: Fads Must Fit

  • “Every year new trends in work become popular in spite of their futility for most organizations that try them.  These trends are often touted as revolutions and frequently are identified  with a high-profile company of the day. Concepts like casual Fridays, brainstorming sessions, Lean, Six Sigma, Agile, matrixed organizations, or event 20% time (Google’s policy of supporting pet projects) are management ideas that become popular in huge waves, heralded as silver bullets for workplaces. The promise of a trend is grand, but the result never is.  Rarely do the consultants championing, and profiting from, these ideas disclose how superficial the results will be unless their places in a culture healthy enough to support them” (p. 29).  Read: We all can’t recreate the Google headquarters, nor should we.
  • It’s easier to utilize the latest trend in company culture than to honestly examine and attempt to change company culture.
  • In the case of WordPress, it was founded based on the principle of open source programming to “democratize publishing.” As a growing start up, this tended to attract like-minded individuals with shared values.  Their philosophy eventually distilled down to Transparency, Meritocracy, and Longevity.
  • “Talent is hard to find, especially at new organizations, which allows leaders to justify rushing to hire people who are selfish, arrogant, or combative” (p. 36). Hiring for immediate needs creates problems in the future.
  • Even their employment offer letters are non-traditional examples of the culture, values, and ideals of the company. They come across as more of an inspirational mantra or manifesto than an offer of employment.

These are just a few tidbits… stay tuned for more blog posts as I read on.  I haven’t even covered HOW employees at WordPress do their work yet (only 1% of their work is via email)!

Questions that have arisen for me as I read have been: How do you change a negative company culture? How do you hire for culture?  How do you know which management trends (read: fads) will work for your company/organization?  What is the role of team culture vs. company culture?

Interested in reading it on your own? http://scottberkun.com/yearwithoutpants/

Pitch Perfect

The elevator pitch. Your matchbox statement. Your tagline. Your brand. 
When I think of these I think of something rehearsed and awkward sounding.  Like a kid playing grown up.  Like creating a headline for an online dating site.  Gimicky.  Salesy.

An elevator speech doesn’t have to be a series of contrived, memorized sentences.  If you do some thinking in advance about your personal brand and professional experiences it may not feel so awkward.   An elevator pitch is rarely one sided – it’s part of a conversation – so don’t make it feel like a monologue.

Here are some tips to consider: 

1.  Keep your audience in mind.   Are you talking to an investor?  Fellow alum?  Potential employer?  Friend of a friend? Your company CEO? This will not only change the content but the tone of your elevator pitch… from formal to friendly, from focused to familiar.

2.  It will change over time.  While you may have your standard elevator pitch in mind, also spice it up with some recent highlights or developments (and some of those developments may be episodic or over time). Did you just surpass a goal? Host a recent event? Attend a conference? Complete an educational endeavor?  Travel for professional purposes? Has your company grown significantly in the past 18-24 months?

3.  Have a few different versions.   This goes back a bit to #1.  If you run into your boss or boss’s boss in the elevator your elevator speech is probably going to be more about some recent happenings in your area.  In this case you may want to mention some of the headlines in your work as of late.  Did you just launch a new program or product?  Did your team just pass a significant milestone?

4.  What makes you/your work/your company unique? How do you stand out from the competition? What is the compilation of key attributes that make you different from people in a similar role or with a similar background?

5.  Be interesting.  In other words, if someone says “what’s new?” have an answer.  What’s the most exciting part of your work?  What is your proudest accomplishment?  What project have you been working on most recently? Sometimes your personal and professional brands collide.  In a networking environment, preliminary talk often lead to conversations about what connects us – hobbies, interests, activities.  Those are just as much a part of your personal brand.

Check out this great article from FastCompany about The Problem With Your Elevator Pitch and How to Fix It.

Expand Your Twitterverse

Top 10 Twitter feeds to expand your career.

Forbes
Forbes
Forbes Woman
@Forbes
Homepage for the world’s business leaders.
@ForbesWoman
For entrepreneurially minded women who mean business.

Fast Company
Fast Company
@FastCompany
Inspiring leaders to think beyond traditional boundaries and create the future of business

Washington Post on Leadership
@post_lead
Leadership in the news.

Entrepreneur
@EntMagazine
Entrepreneur Magazine’s handle. Inspiring, informing, and celebrating entrepreneurs since 1973.

Lindsey Pollack
@lindseypollack
Millennial workplace expert and LinkedIn ambassador.

Anita Bruzzese
@anitabruzzese
USA Today columnist and author.

Cali Williams Yost
@caliyost
Flexible workplace strategist.

Jacquelyn Smith
@JacquelynVSmith
Writes about jobs, careers, and the workplace for Forbes.

John Keyser (GU Alum!)
@johnkeysercoach
Leadership coach… and GU Alum & webinar presenter.

Talane Miedaner (GU Alum!)
@talanemiedaner
Life coach & executive coach… and GU Alum & webinar presenter.

And obviously don’t forget to follow Georgetown Alumni Career Services! @GeorgetownACS

What twitter feeds do you follow for your career?