Tag Archives: Twitter

Choctaw Bowman


Choctaw Bowman - Military ManMy Grandfather (on the left) during WWI

At one time, it was easy to conceal your past. We have all heard stories of men who went West for a new beginning. It was easy, 100 years ago, to leave your past behind. Actually, it was difficult for your past to follow you.

When I attended my first defensive driving class (in the early 1970s) the instructor wanted to make a point about how we all had different degrees of training for operating a motor vehicle. He asked if anyone had received a drivers license without a formal test. Today, we would see this as a “set up” for calling in the officials to make an arrest, but in the 1970s, if we’d done everything by the book, we had no concerns. An old man in the group raised his hand and stated that he received his drivers license by filling out a form and paying 75 cents. That was it. No test, no training, no background check, no ID, no birth certificate to prove he was of legal age. 75 cents and a short form got him a drivers license.

We have all heard stories about Civil War veterans who joined the cause by lying about their age and joining their army of choice. This continued well into the 20th century. My Grandfather, Charles Bowman, lied about his age to join the infantry in World War I. I have to wonder if he questioned the wisdom of his decision. He saw plenty of bloodshed on the fields of France as a bugler in the infantry. However, he followed Black Jack Pershing, after the war, into the battle against Pancho Villa on the Texas border. He was a military man.

Eventually, he moved to Austin, TX with his young bride and became the first trolley car driver down the streets of ATX and continued his career with Austin Transit Company, eventually becoming the Vice President of Charters for the bus line. All of this under the name of “Charles Bowman”.

We did not learn of his duplicity until 60 years later, when he was too feeble for my grandmother to take care of in their home on 1509 6th Street. My older brother drove him from his home in Austin to the Veterans Hospital in Temple, TX. While checking him in, and presenting his enlistment papers to the administrators at the VA hospital, my brother noticed that “GrandDad” had joined the infantry under the name of “Choctaw Bowman.” The man I had known for 40+ years as “Charles Bowman” was, in reality, born “Choctaw Bowman”.

My grandfather had spent all his adult years under an assumed name.   Sometime after his military career, he decided that “Choctaw” was not a suitable name for a young man with career aspirations. At that time (1920s), all you had to do was to fill out paperwork with the information you wanted employers to believe was true. I guess they could have checked his military record and “outed him” but they did not. He continued his life under this new name, with impunity.

Things are not like that now. If  you were arrested in 1970, there is an on-line record of that. It is easy to find all the dirt on you that anyone might want to find. This brings me to a recurring theme. Your future employer will look for information on you on-line. If you are not found, they will dig deeper. If there is information that you do not want them to find, make it easy for them to find good information about you. Get your LinkedIn profile up to date (there is little reason to go back more than 20 years with your work history….no one cares that you bused tables in grad school).

Post updates about your good work and “good works”. If you wrote a published article, include a link to that on-line article on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you were awarded a patent, put that on LinkedIn. If you volunteer at the homeless shelter on Thanksgiving Day, post a picture on Twitter and an update on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you are not doing good things, start doing them. Earn new certifications. Update your programming skills. Brush up on Spanish at the community college. Do things that make you employable and make sure to broadcast that on social media.

If your future employer can find dozens of things about you on pages 1 – 20 with a Google search, there is little reason to continue on to page 21 where they may find images of you dancing the Hula with a giant Mai Tai in your hand. Make it easy for them to find the information that will make them want to hire you. Social Media is just as effective in getting news on the Internet as a press release. Make it work for you.

Good Luck and Godspeed.


Frozen Pipes


frozen-pipes

When my wife and I were married less than a year, we decided to buy a house. It was a bit fool hardy as we were barely making any money, but we lived in a marginal neighborhood on its way back up from hard times. Houses were going for cheap and renting did not make sense. The houses in our neighborhood fell into two categories: beautiful and expensive or cheap fixer-uppers. We bought a wonderful Victorian cottage in dire need of fixing up.

Our first winter there, I learned more than I wanted to know about frozen pipes. It was a particularly cold winter and previous residents had done little to insulate the water pipes. I tried all sorts of things to “unfreeze” the pipes, but the only effective method was to wait for the temperature to go back up. I opened faucets around the house so I would know the second we had running water again. When our pipes finally unfroze, I discovered three bad things: our kitchen faucet had been damaged by the freeze and would no longer turn off the running water, the substandard plumbing had no water shut offs underneath the sink so there was no way to turn off the water in this sink and the drain in the kitchen sink was also frozen shut. I had water quickly filling up my kitchen sink and no idea where the water shut off was. I called to my wife to get a neighbor to come over and shut off the water. I was madly bailing water out the kitchen window.  It was only the next morning that I discovered that I was bailing water out the kitchen window and into the old VW Beetle parked in the driveway. Some neighborhood kids had broken the back window so I was forced to drive the car, in the dead of winter, with a missing back window. Soon I could add mildew to the list of problems that poor Beetle had.

At times like these, you can either laugh or cry. We chose to laugh and laughed many times as we retold this story over the years. We were young and assumed that we would never be this poor again and that these hard times were only temporary. Good times would come and we would love to tell the stories of our hard early years. Stories such as the times we would go into a laundromat, pull the agitators out of the washing machines and get the spare change that accumulated there (I replaced the agitators. This is a story of ingenuity, not vandalism) then we’d eat dinner at McDonald’s.

But what happens 20 years later when you lose your job and your next job is hard to find? Can you still look at this situation as temporary and as the basis for good stories in your future? The hard truth is, we can not be as confident that things will get better as we were in our 20s. There are many people in their 50s and 60s that are having to make some hard decisions because things have changed and they have limited runway left ahead of them to make the adjustments.

When the great recession took me out of circulation, it gave me an opportunity to take a look around and see what was happening in the rest of the world while I was busy working. I discovered that digital marketing had come a long way since I first discovered the magic of email and web pages as marketing tools (circa 1995). It gave me a chance to learn new things that would help me get back into the job market. I formed a Social Media Lab for people my age who had no idea what a Tweet was. As you can see from the following picture, we were able to muster that sense of adventure that you will need to navigate your way back into the job market. We pulled each other up when one was down, explained the esoteric changes to Facebook and made sure everyone was able to create and update the social media platform(s) of their choice. You may be on the sideline now, but now is the right time to learn those things you never had time to learn while you were heads down in a cubical.

Good luck and Godspeed!

MAGC Soc Med Lab

James Snider
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development
214-377-9817
Learn about TFX:

http://portal.sliderocket.com/BOOJC/TFX-NonStick-Presentation


Gallant


My wife is a substitute school teacher. After 10 years of teaching public school in Fort Worth, she took off 20 years to raise children. With our youngest in college, she has returned to the classroom. She told me a story this weekend about an incident in her classroom last week.

There was a second grade boy in her class who just could not get with the program. He spoke out instead of raising his hand. When he did raise his hand, he made all sorts of pained noises. He was always talking to a neighbor, getting out of his seat, fidgeting and dropping things. My wife has a special tolerance for this sort of thing. Our own son was like this. She home schooled him for 5 years to make sure that no one mistook him for a bad kid and crushed his tremendous creativity, affectionate self-confidence and passion for learning.

As it turns out, the class she was teaching needed to borrow rulers from another teacher. My wife is very serious about taking perfect care of borrowed things. She is loathe to lend her carefully maintained property and frustrated when people return it damaged. She stressed over and over to her little second grade class that they needed to be careful with these borrowed, plastic rulers.

The active boy I mentioned was happily working away on this assignment, talking up a storm and bending the ruler constantly as he worked. As could be foreseen, he broke it in three pieces. With dread visible all over him, he brought the broken pieces to my wife.

With a voice full of compassion, she informed him that he needed to do the right thing and take the ruler down the hall to the owner and tell her that he was sorry but he’d broken her ruler. He beseeched  my wife, with tears in his eyes, to not make him do this. She asked him if he knew what the word “gallant” meant. “It means to be brave and do the right thing. I need you to be gallant and tell the teacher what happened.”

Slowly he walked down the hall with the pieces of ruler in his hand. With shoulders stooped, he explained to the teacher what had happened. She listened with a soft heart and thanked him for telling her, then sent him back to his room. My wife thanked him for being gallant and had him return to his desk. She saw little second grade hands reaching out to him as he worked his way back to his desk. Everyone wanted to express their admiration for the brave boy who did the right thing.

When the project was completed and the rulers were collected, my wife asked the active (gallant) boy to take the rulers back to the teacher who lent them. She received them from him warmly and thanked him by name. She did not know his name before that day but since returning the broken ruler, she knows his name and his reputation is fixed in her mind as a brave boy who does the right thing.

Maybe you find yourself looking for a new job because your reputation was not everything it should have been. If some of your past life is alive on the internet, social media is a great way to move it off of page one and to page 15 of Google search results. Take some classes, learn some new skills, work on your greatest weaknesses and update LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc to reflect the new person you are working to become. Become involved in causes that help other people and promote those organizations via social media.  Now is the right time to be brave and do the right things. The people who meet you now will know you for who you are and not who you were.

Good Luck and Godspeed!

James Snider
Engstrom Trading, LLC
VP Business Development
214-377-9817

Learn about TFX:
http://portal.sliderocket.com/BOOJC/TFX-NonStick-Presentation


The Palantír


For those of you familiar with Lord of the Rings, you will recall the scene where the always feckless Pippin looks into the “seeing stone”, the Palantir, was transfixed and then rescued by Gandalf.

” ‘So this is the thief!’ said Gandalf. Hastily he cast his cloak over the globe where it lay. ‘But you, Pippin! This is a grievous turn to things!’ He knelt by Pippin’s body; the hobbit was lying on his back, rigid, with unseeing eyes staring up at the sky. ‘The devilry! What mischief has he done – to himself, and to all of us?’ The wizard’s face was drawn and haggard.”

A similar scene played out in my life this week concerning malware and my 91 year old mother. OK, it is not the end of the world as we know it, but the ability of malware to infect computers and wreak havoc can feel that way sometimes.

She received a fairly standard piece of suspicious email (the latest one going around….I see it about twice a day) from a “trusted friend” so she clicked on the link. After that, everyone she has ever emailed received the same email from her computer.

She was astonished that I was not fooled. After all, the email came from my own mother and the message said “wow this is crazy you should give it a look.” The fact that “wow this is crazy” does not sound at all like my 91 year old mother was a clue, however, I get so many of these sorts of emails every week, spotting them has become instinctive. It is probably because my email address is all over the place. I am on dozens of job hunter email lists and I exchange emails with bunches of people I barely know.

My mother asked me how I size up an email as being suspicious, so I sent her the following:

1) Does not call me by name. Just has a call to action such as “You really need to see this”

2) Tone is too familiar from someone I do not know. “Hey, I am rolling on the floor laughing at this picture of you on the internet”

3) Tone is too excited or threatening. It appears that it is trying to get me to click on a link instinctively. “Your email account has been hacked. You must verify your account immediately or we will close it in 24 hours”

4) The email is one sentence pointing me to a web page.

5) There is nothing in the subject line

6) The language is awkward like a non-native English speaker wrote it.”Please to verify your order placed that we are to be shipping soon”

7) I have seen the same email before

Essentially, any time someone sends me a link to a web page or sends me a file to open, I am cautious. If they want me to click on anything, they’d better call me by name and give me a little bit of detail. A short note like “Good article” or “You might find this useful” is not enough.

Make sure you give me enough detail that it shows that you know me. “Good article about what recruiters look for in a resume” is only enough information to motivate me to write you back to verify. “James, If you missed this article on LinkedIn, it is worth reading. A lot of it is what Dirk Spencer already told us, but this adds some details on what recruiters look for in a resume.” That is enough information that I will click the link to read the article.

In today’s world, you just can not click links or open files that people email you. There are no trusted people. Viruses get on their computer and they will never know it. Or, viruses will get on Tom’s computer, look up people in his email account, then send the email out with Mary’s name on it. Mary’s computer is not infected. Tom’s computer is infected, but the virus makes the email look like it is coming from Mary’s computer. Or, the virus will infect the Yahoo or Gmail computers. Your computer might be clean, but the virus is sending email from the Yahoo computer and making it look like it is coming from your computer.

With social media, the trickery has been going on for a few years.  On LinkedIn, the worst I have seen is simple spam. Some stranger from Bangalore or Shenzhen wants to LinkIn with me. I accept and they start spamming me with various sales pitches. LinkedIn makes it easy to tag the message as spam and that tends to stop it quickly.

On Twitter, I get messages about the funny picture of me on the internet that has some stranger rolling on the floor laughing. A more interesting Twitter ploy is a mention from someone I am not following and who is not following me. Occasionally I click the “@ connect” button to see who has mentioned one of my tweets. About once a month, I see something like “@JSnid fhq4.co.cc/rgm7.” I check the Twitter account of the person mentioning my Twitter handle only to see that they have zero followers and are following zero people. Strange. Don’t click!

I get invitations to connect on Facebook and Google+ from strangers from foreign lands….not interested. Don’t accept.

Frankly, I am real tired of malware.  Am I wrong here? I would love to see the G7 propose a million dollar bounty for the capture and conviction of people who write and release all forms of spyware, viruses, trojans, worms…all malware in general.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama….are you listening? I think we have a real vote getter here.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

Pinning for a job on Pinterest


Perhaps you have been hearing a lot about Pinterest recently. It has become the fastest growing social media site ever. It grew to 10 million users in just 9 months and is currently enjoying hockey stick growth. Marketers have been scratching their heads to figure out how to use it to market products. Pinterst is pretty blunt about not wanting their site to be overrun with “Billy Mays” pitchmen. They encourage sharing and discourage selling. As a result, the selling is very artistic and subtle.

However, your concern is how to use it to enhance your job search. Before I address this, let me tell you a little bit about Pinterest.

It is like Twitter but it is image focused not word focused. You would follow people because you think they will post images/webpages/videos that you will find interesting. Maybe you love pug dogs and you will follow people who will post things about pugs. They will post cute images of pugs and maybe videos, but mostly they will post links to web pages about pugs.  This is a social bookmarking site where you share interesting links with people who follow you. However, keep in mind that this is image based. You will not attract much attention with text about “This is the best site for treating heartworms in pugs.” You will attract much more attention with an image of a pug in a zebra pattern snuggie. A web site without a show stopper image does not make a good post on Pinterest.

Like Facebook, the content stays there and doesn’t scroll off the screen in 20 seconds as it does with Twitter. Pinterest users can sort content into categories. These are called “boards” and when you post content to one of these boards, it is called “pinning”. It is as if you are pinning really great pictures on a bulletin board for your friends to see. If you are like me, you find that cluttered Facebook format to be annoying. You have to scroll down past all the stuff your friends think is interesting to find those few things posted by people who you care about or who really are interesting. With Pinterest, you can go straight to boards with content which interests you. If someone has a board called “Cats” and you are a dog person, you will skip that and go to “Places to Visit” or “Cakes” or “Bucket List” etc.

A great feature of Pinterest is the ability to follow only the  boards that interest you.  There is a general Pinterest section called “Pinners you follow” which is somewhat like Twitter. You can get a quick glimpse at all the newest stuff to be pinned by the people you follow.  If you are following a person who posts something you find objectionable, you can simply unfollow that board on her Pinterest account. You will still see the other stuff she posts without having to see her “Politics” or “Humor” boards. You do not have to “unfriend/unfollow” her completely as you would with Facebook or Twitter.

You will notice that I used female pronouns. That is because most Pinterest users are 18-34 year old upper income women from the American heartland. This did not start out among the techies on the east or west coast. According to TechCrunch:

The Pacific and North East regions contained the most Pinterest users in May, now its strongholds are in the East South Central and West North Central States, such as Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, and Mississippi.

If you have a product or service which could be interesting to this target market, there is some marketing potential for Pinterest. I have a client who imports cookware from Sweden. His biggest issue right now is lack of awareness. People just don’t know about the product so they walk right past it in stores. With his Pinterest account, I pin incredible recipes and images of crazy impressive cake competitions. As I build followers, I can occasionally slip in information about the product….but will keep it light. I am building brand awareness among his target audience; cooking professionals and hobbyists.

As far as job seekers are concerned, I can not see the usage model unless you are in a field where your work can be demonstrated visually. If you are a photographer, interior designer, architect, baker, wedding planner, jewelry designer, graphic artist, etc. you can use Pinterest as a free web site to show samples of your work. It is a alternative to using a free, basic site like Weebly.com but it does not give you the same option to include a paragraph describing your work. Pinterest is fast to assemble and very visually rich. It will give the viewer a concentrated look at your work. If you have a lot of good stuff, you will blow them away.

If you are in marketing or communications, you need to be aware of this platform. You should create an account and give it a test run. You are going to look pretty bush league if you can not talk intelligently about this social media platform. Smart people are predicting that this will replace Facebook and will have a major impact on the Internet.

If you need an invitation to join Pinterest, drop me an email.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

Phone call from Andreas


When I first moved from software engineering into semiconductor marketing, I was given the assignment of promoting a new technology (FireWire). This technology had been slow to take off and management was running low on patience. For a couple of years, they had been told that success was imminent. Soon we would start giving them some return on their considerable investment. With a small marketing team assigned to make this happen, we had to be careful how we spent our time. The rule of thumb was that we should never talk to anyone who did not have the potential of placing a 100,000 unit order. There were plenty of small start-ups that wanted to develop FireWire enabled products, but we simply lacked the resources to deal with all of them. Besides, it took exactly the same amount of time to send samples to Sony or Dell as it did to send samples to Bob who is developing a new product on his kitchen table. Chances were good that Sony or Dell would eventually order 100,000 units. Chances were equally good that Bob would never amount to anything.

It was with this mindset that I answered my first phone call from Andreas. He wanted samples and was willing to pay for them. However, he worked for a company I’d never heard of. I brushed him off. The next week, I received another phone call from Andreas. Same request. Same friendly, unassuming tone of voice. Same result. I brushed him off. This went on for months. I quit picking up the phone and let it go to voice mail. Every week, I heard the same friendly, humble request. “I would like just a few samples. I am willing to pay for them. Please call me back…”

One day at our staff meeting, one of the other marketers said, “Who is Andreas? I am getting a phone call from him every week asking for samples.” I responded, “Me too!” The other marketing guy responded that he also got weekly calls from Andreas. Somehow, Andreas had figured out who the three FireWire marketing guys were and made weekly phone calls to each of us. We all agreed that we admired his persistence and that he was always nice about his request, even though it had been going on for a few months with no results. One of us said, “We should just give him some samples. Don’t charge him…just give them to him. He has been so nice about it and he obviously wants them badly.” We all agreed and Andreas got his samples.

As it turns out, Andreas was the president of this small company we’d never heard of. He was developing a debugging tool to help people who were designing FireWire into their products. This was something we’d never even thought about. And, as it turns out, was vitally important to the success of the technology. If Andreas had never gotten his samples, the roll out of FireWire products would have been delayed again and my management would have pulled the plug on the whole project.

Andreas went on to become a major player in the FireWire industry and to build a successful company which he sold for a small fortune. Years later, I was in town on business and gave him a call to see if he wanted to get together for dinner. He was delighted and picked me up in his shiny red Viper. As we drove to dinner in his $65,000 car (this was a few years ago), I related to him the story of the staff meeting where we decided to send him the samples he’d requested so many times. Then I asked him, “How did you remain so nice after we ignored you for so long?” He responded, “I was nobody from a company you’d never heard of. I desperately needed your product to be successful. I had nothing to offer you and you had everything I needed. All I could do was to be nice and ask again.” The tone of his voice let me know that he was still that guy. Viper not withstanding. He was still that guy I heard on the other end of the phone so many years ago asking once again, nicely, if I would please sell him some samples.

Andreas did two things right. He was nice and he was persistent. When you come across that great job that you really want, you should persist. Check out the company Facebook page. Web pages give you business information (product lines, sales locations, press releases, documentation….) Facebook (if it is done right) will give you interesting information about the company (charities they support, corporate team building events, mentions in the major press, industry trends…)  which will make for a much more interesting interview.

Check out the company on LinkedIn. If the company is a small one, you will probably be able to figure out who just left the company, making the opening you are interviewing for. Do a “People” search, but enter the company name instead of a person’s name. This will show you who works for the company and who worked (past tense) there.  If you determine who your predecessor was, look them up on LinkedIn. Tell them you are interviewing for their old job and invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn. Then set up a call. I have done this twice and found the people to be willing to talk and ready to share extremely useful information.

Once you actually have the interview,  mail a “thank you” note ASAP. Call a few days later. Invite the hiring manager to LinkIn with you. Even if they turn you down, stay nice and keep in touch. I heard somewhere that 30% of people who are hired, leave after 3 months. I am not sure if that is the case in the current economy but I have seen a number of people return to Southlake Focus after a few months because the job was just not right. Mail or email a note to the recruiter and the people with whom you interviewed a couple of  months after your interview. Let them know that  you are still interested in the company.

Follow them on Twitter and retweet them. Comment on their blog. There are so many things you can do to keep in touch. Be persistent and be nice.

Good luck and Godspeed.

 James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

Too Clever by Half


Last week, I heard the expression “Too Clever by Half” on All Things Considered (NPR). I have been eager to use that expression in this blog since hearing it. That is one problem with people who have degrees in English; we have a real fondness for words and figures of speech which is not shared by most people.

When people learn that I have a degree in English, they often perk up a bit and ask, “How interesting. And what did you do with that?” My response is usually, “I did the same thing everyone I know did with their English degree. I went back to school and got a degree in Computer Science so I could get a job.”

The rest of the story, however, is that I was a poor software engineer, so I went back to school, yet again, and got a degree in Marketing. Finally I found something I could do.

More recently, I have reflected on my disparate degrees and have concluded that the one degree which would not get me a job, has turned out to be my most valuable one. I never used a bit of the math I took for my Computer Science degree, but I had to write daily. From documenting code to writing the users guide, good writing was helpful. If I could get all CS departments to change one thing, I would get them to drop one math requirement and add a semester of technical writing.

In marketing, good writing is essential. Press releases, collateral, ads, presentations, web pages….the list goes on forever. I have never used the Accounting I had to take for my MBA. A course in Business Writing would have been much better.

So, what does this have to do with social media and the job search? Let me encourage you to use your time out of work to improve your writing skills. All your efforts in keeping your various social media sites updated will be for naught, if you can not figure out if the comma goes inside the quotation marks or if you consistently use the wrong “your/you’re.”

I am particularly fond of http://www.grammarbook.com/ when I am a little uncertain.

You don’t have to become a total prig, but all of us can use some improvement. Despite my affection for words and writing, you will find errors all over my blog. I revisit each post 10 or 20 times, adding or removing commas, rewriting poorly worded sentences and substituting better words. Good writing is important but it requires work….and rework.

Get your PMP and Black Belt….study the effective use of Twitter…finish that degree…but in your learning, learn to write clearly, improve your spelling, add some vocabulary words and finally learn the difference between “effect and affect.”

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

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