Tag Archives: FaceBook

Onward Thru The Fog


I am sure that we have all wished we could go back and do things differently. As for me, I am not sure how far back I would have to go before I could make things turn out the way I would like. Maybe my Freshman year of college would be enough. I would have remained in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas (at Austin), which is where I started. I would have ignored the fervent advice of my father (a prominent Radiologist in Austin) who instructed me that I would hate being a salesman “groveling around, buying coffee and laughing at terrible jokes simply to make a sale” ….and I would have gone straight into sales as soon as I graduated with my BBA. I love “sales” and those terrible jokes are a lot funnier when they are attached to a commission.

However, more recently, I have seen “going back and doing it differently” with a more sinister view. Maybe it is because I have officially left “middle age” and moved into “old age” but I see “having a do over” with a mixed vantage point….like “It’s A Wonderful Life” written by Rod Serling of “Twilight Zone” fame. If you went back and did it over, what makes you think things would work out better? They may work out worse!

Would you wake up every day at exactly the same time? Would your words be exactly the same words as you spoke originally? Would you leave the house at exactly the same time? Would you walk down the street or drive at exactly the same speed as before? No, impossible! The “redo” would be different in ways you could never control.

Every one of us has had “close calls” where we almost received life changing injuries or perhaps death. In the “do over world” we may have very well died at 12 years old, or 18 or 30…. If you believe in a God who is in control of all things, who would protect you a second time, do you not believe that He has protected you the first time as well? Do you not believe that you stand today at a cross roads?

We will never receive a “do over” and that is a wonderful thing. Who would want to relive the miserable years of middle school, even if you could be 20% richer today from what you learned? You lived your life. Now it is time to get on with it, based on what you learned. Do the things you should have done and broadcast your new accomplishments via social media. Those who are looking for people with your experience on LinkedIn will be interested in what you are doing now to sharpen your skills. If there is dirt on you from the past, cover it up with new entries on Facebook and Twitter. Prospective employers are going to look for information on you on the Internet. Make the good information easy to find based on your posts to social media. They will never make it to page 18 of Google search results if they find information (that you controlled) on pages 1 – 17.

Good Luck and Godspeed!



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


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
Learn about TFX:



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

Learn about TFX:

The Fukushima 50

As we approach the one year anniversary of the 4th strongest earthquake in recorded history, I am hearing stories about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. More specifically, the events following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and related series of nuclear accidents last March 2011. In one story, the “Fukushima 50” was mentioned in passing.  This was a small group of volunteers who stayed behind to do what they could to bring the crisis under control. Actually there were 200 volunteers who worked in shifts of 50 people.  These brave, self-sacrificing people, who largely remained unknown, sparked a flame of curiosity in me, so I did a little research.

The daughter of one of these men stated, “I heard that he volunteered even though he will be retiring in just half a year and I my eyes are filling up with tears…. At home, he doesn’t seem like someone who could handle big jobs…but today, I was really proud of him. And I pray for his safe return.”

These were highly experienced technicians who understood how the plant worked. They could troubleshoot and resolve a wide range of problems. It was risky, not only for them, but for the future of the power plant. If this small group of highly experienced workers were to die as a result of exposure, the best people for solving the myriad problems facing this nuke would be gone. Consequences would be dire and long-lasting.

Sometimes compared to the fire fighters who rushed into the World Trade Center on 9/11, the Fukushima 50 were lionized by the worldwide press. March 11 (the day of the earthquake and ensuing disaster) is referred to as 3/11 in Japan. These men worked with little food or sleep for days on end to restore the plant to a stable condition and save their country and their loved ones. Most of them had no idea if they had family to go home to or if they’d been washed away by the tsunami. However, they continued to work on, around the clock.

Astonishingly, these men are now caught in terrible predicament, somewhat like the veterans who returned from the Vietnam War. Heroes who were treated badly by those who owed them so much. According to a recent article in Newsweek:

As the nation prepares for the first anniversary of the tsunami, the Japanese are preoccupied with radiation fears, the anti-nuclear debate, and bashing the operator of the Fukushima plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), for its response to the crisis. The workers who risked their lives remain faceless and nameless. Increasingly, they are also voiceless, because they fear being associated with the now-vilified power company if they speak about what went on in the plant. Six workers spoke to Newsweek on the condition that their real names not be used so they could provide a rare firsthand account of the fear and courage of these men…

As is the case with so many stories about heroes, the truth is not so glorious. Some men responded out of a sense of duty, some out of fear of shame, some were pressured or even tricked and others just needed the money. As time went by, more people showed up beyond the initial 200. These men were exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation and are still waiting for the results of the tests run on them to determine how badly they were damaged.

Once the imminent meltdown was controlled, the world lost interest but the clean-up was difficult and protracted. Today, these heroes live in fear. Fear that they will be vilified by their fellow countrymen and fear that their lives will be cut short by cancer, if they live long enough to develop it. In the Chernobyl disaster, some workers died within a matter of hours. In Japan, we do not know the extent to which these workers were exposed.

In closing, I will relate a few comments from an American worker at the Fukushima plant who was within minutes of getting off work when the earthquake hit. He worked on the turbine deck, which I can relate to. Last year, I was on the turbine deck at the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in Rochester, NY picking up some extra money. He was the first person to feel the earthquake among his co-workers. The rest did not notice it at first but the earthquake increased in intensity and continued to rumble about 6 minutes. The spinning blades inside the turbines started to give off a “demonic scream” as they lightly touched the inside of the turbine and became increasingly deformed. A turbine deck is an enormous open room so that anything that falls, falls from a great distance. It is one of the worst places to be in an earthquake. The lights went out and they were trapped in total darkness with objects crashing around them.

On LinkedIn this week, I have been involved in a discussion on a crisis of a different sort.  Companies are using Facebook to size up potential candidates, but they are going beyond what they can get from a casual Google search. There are horror stories from MSN about government agencies, colleges and even employers who are insisting that prospective employees or students give them their Facebook password before making the offer. They are snooping into your private life, as chronicled on Facebook, to see if they want your kind around. I had one MIS professor tell me that companies can get into your Facebook account without your password.  “Even a so-so MIS or Computer Science undergrad can hack in in 30 minutes.”

There is an Onion News Network video which pokes fun at this, but what they have to say is disturbingly on target.

Facebook has actually become a treasure trove of information about you when it falls into the hands of a prospective employer. Forbes has carried a couple of articles on employers using Facebook to size you up as a good worker. Supposedly, they have moved beyond just checking for drug references or complaints about your boss. They can tell if you are going to fit in and how hard you are likely to work.

The living victims of the Fukushima disaster are dealing with their crisis by keeping quiet. They are staying as invisible as possible. In your case, as a job seeker, you can not afford to do that. This is not the first time I have alerted people that prospective employers are looking at their Facebook accounts. The reaction is almost always hostile with most people dismissing the warning as rubbish, but the evidence is mounting. The workers on the Fukushima turbine deck could not afford to simply hunker down. To survive, they had to take action. They were guided out by a dim sliver of light coming from under the door which took them out of the cavernous room. Doing nothing is not the answer. You must educate yourself about what employers are looking for when they look at your social media accounts and fill your accounts with the right sort of information.

For the Fukushima 50 interview, I refer you to the Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/03/04/heroes-of-japan-s-nuclear-disaster-all-but-forgotten.html

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

Peanut Butter and Dill Pickles

I was talking to a friend the other day who is having money problems. As a result, he has started bringing his lunch to work. That day, he’d had a peanut butter sandwich. Being a Texas boy, I figured it was a peanut butter and banana sandwich. To my total disbelief, he told me that it was a peanut butter and dill pickle sandwich. He assured me that it was good and that I should try it. So I did. Not bad but not great either. I’m going to stick to peanut butter and banana sandwiches but I did, at least, give it a try.

That started me thinking back to something my sister-in law told me. She and my favorite Aggie brother-in-law expatted to England a few years ago. He works for a British company and they made it worth his while to spend a couple of years in Cambridge. The friends they made at church and in the neighborhood found certain American eccentricities to be marvelous fun. For example, each time a new person visited their house, they just had to see the enormous “American fridge” (refrigerator). The British use refrigerators about the size of a dorm refrigerator.

Not everything they observed at my sister-in-law’s house was typically American. For example, she loves flavored creamer in her coffee.  When she would invite friends over, she would hear them make reference to “American coffee.”  These Brits came to believe that every American drinks coffee with vanilla, hazelnut or caramel macchiato creamer in it.

I’ve come across a number of odd instances during my visits to the UK which show a funny perception of Americans. For example, I went out to dinner one night and ordered a cup of tea. The waiter brought me the water, a tea bag and a timer. He then explained to me how to brew a cup of tea.  I guess they thought that the Boston Tea Party was the end to our drinking tea in the States.

One thing the Brits just can not understand is our love of peanut butter. They can not imagine spreading that “ghastly stuff” on perfectly good bread. When my sister-in-law mentioned that we occasionally put a banana on it, nausea was clearly visible on their faces. Not being at all deterred, she added, “Or sometimes we put jelly on it.” With clear dread registering in their voices, they would ask, “What… sort… of… jelly?” The horrific answer, “Grape” was far beyond their wildest expectations. What sort of creatures are these Americans?

We can not really understand a culture until we have spent some time there.  Some people would be much happier watching a TV show about England or Egypt than to actually experience the country and the culture first hand. The problem is, you just don’t understand it if you have not been there.

I have often said that the problem with a resume is that we are so much more than a two page Word document. This is like seeing the pyramids on TV rather than riding the camel up to them, going inside them, wandering around through the dimly lit walkways, finally making it back out into the daylight and being ripped off by the old guy who just stands at the exit with his hand out like a tour guide (even though he has nothing to do with the pyramids).You can not experience the pyramids on TV. Can you know anything about me from my resume?

This is where platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn can be very helpful. Share a little bit about who you are. Help me to get to know you.

Business Insider had a great article on what the top high-tech companies want to see in your LinkedIn profile. In addition to the usual stuff such as a complete profile, lack of worn-out buzzwords and specific skills they also want to see what you are passionate about. If you are a social media marketer, do you have anything about social media marketing on your LinkedIn profile? Are you reading books about it? Are you going to the Social Media Club in your area? Are you connected to social media experts? Do you belong to the social media LinkedIn groups? Do you update your network with the latest social media news? Does your LinkedIn profile connect to your Twitter account….and do you Tweet social media stuff? Do you have a link to your personal blog….and does that show any passion for your field?

Your resume may get you in the door but your personality is what will get you the job. Show me that before I pick up the phone and call you. Give me a reason to keep your resume instead of deleting it. I really can not understand much about you from a two page overview of your career. Your resume may make you look like an uptight stuffed shirt. Show me a little passion, a good sense of humor, an interesting person and an intelligent person and I will be more inclined to give you the benefit of a doubt.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

 James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944