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Archive for the ‘Think’ Category

What’s the poop?

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on April 19, 2008

From Dictionary.com:

–noun Slang.
relevant information, esp. a candid or pertinent factual report; low-down: Send a reporter to get the real poop on that accident.

Wow, what a turn of events since I last wrote anything. Here’s the not very short of it:

  • 10/17/07—”Redeployed” from my job in IT. This is Intel’s predominant way of doing layoffs, but it’s actually a pretty good deal. After you’re notified, you get about a month to choose if you want to just leave, or if you want to join the “redeployment pool”—two months to do nothing but find another job at Intel. The timing was great. I was bored to death in my IT job and I decided to make this an opportunity to find my dream job at Intel. What could that be?
  • Late October—In my mind, those dream possibilities included social media stuff such as blogs.intel.com, corporate social responsibility (green, health, classmate PC, …), employee wellness, and internal communications. Luckily for me, a job on the team that produces Intel’s central, worldwide intranet news site, opened up. I sent a creative little cover letter to the hiring manager and got an interview.
  • The value of blogs—After I received my redeployment notice, I blogged about it on my intranet blog and got a ton of feedback. I’ve been blogging for a few years internally, and I’ve built a network of friends through my blog that wouldn’t be possible through any other mechanism. Because of this, I knew some of the folks in the communications department, but better yet, I had a nice set of writing samples. Plus, the hiring team was looking for someone with social media experience.
  • Mid-November—Start the new job! I got the job, and I’ve been having a ball since.

So, what do I do? I’m building a new slash career. My title is communications specialist, and the primary part of my job is writing and editing global news stories on our intranet. The writers on my team split the various business groups within the company, and I cover the support groups—HR, IT and finance—and Intel’s software group. I’m learning the political dances that occur between our group, the business groups, and the communicators embedded within those business groups. Our group is essentially independent, and we cover topics with journalistic honesty as much as we can. The business groups, on the other hand, often see the global intranet site as a recognition tool for their teams. So we’re constantly pressing for what’s really new, as opposed to pushing so much “you should really know this,” Pravda-type of stuff.

But I’m talking about the tough part too much. One fun aspect of my job is the fact that I get to interact with Intel’s best on a continual basis. And I’m constantly learning about new things the company is doing and telling that story to employees. Plus, our beats aren’t so rigid. For instance, I recently interviewed an employee currently delving into cloud computing, simply because I was intrigued by the topic. We have freedom within our roadmap to cover different topics.

The second part of my job is management communications. Intel has nearly 10K managers, and we have various communications for that audience. Content varies from simple tasks to be done (store employee reviews here) to fun stuff like quizzes on recent business news. We’re trying to increase our efforts here, but I’m still trying to find out exactly how we can help managers better do their jobs. I don’t want to just tell them fun stories; I want to help them be better managers. The trouble is, a lot of other groups are trying to do the same thing and we risk creating a bunch of noise.

The next part of my job, informally, is acting as the team’s social media guru. Internally, we have blogs, forums, and a central wiki that are available to all employees. We’re using these tools more and more within the communications team, and it’s working quite well. We’re finding that employees are hungering for more quick, direct interaction with company leaders. So I’m always seeking new ways we can use such tools to better connect employees, while also keeping up some of the external social media activities happening on various intel.com sites. Matter of fact, I may start blogging at blogs.intel.com soon. That could be a lot of fun.

What else is happening? More poop soon. But no promises. In the meantime, I’m playing with twitter and you can find all most of my feeds on friendfeed.

Posted in Think | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Grow up already

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on September 7, 2007

In order to get a little more out of work, I decided to join Toastmasters. Although I’ve felt fairly comfortable giving prepared speeches and presentations, I could definitely use some help in thinking on my feet. Further, I think it’s valuable to be able to both plan and deliver an exceptional speech on just about anything.

I’ve been attending meetings and dipping my feet in table topics here and there, but on Tuesday I delivered my first speech. To achieve the first level of the communication track, you deliver 10 speeches. Each speech has a specific goal. The first speech, the Ice Breaker, simply gives you the opportunity to get started with a speech and you talk about yourself, however you choose. In my speech, I spoke about my career path, or in reality, my lack of one. Or at least until this past year. The speech went really well, and I was completely invigorated by it for the rest of the day. I think that was the clearest sign yet that I’m building a strength here, rather than fixing weakness. If you’ve got some time on your hands and want to learn a little of my history, here’s the Kerouac-written essay that shaped my speech:

(I’M HANGING OUT ON THE SWINGSET WITH A FRIEND)
ME: What do you want to be when you grow up?
FRIEND: I don’t know. As long as I get to 2nd base before high school, I’ll be happy.
ME: (LAUGHS.) Come on, really.
F: Well, it would be cool to play guitar for Pat Benatar or some rocking lady singer like that. You?
ME: I want to be Lee Iacocca.
F: Who?
ME: LEE IACOCCA! He’s this billionaire business man.
F: Oh, ok, cool.

What do you want to be when you grow up? We ask ourselves this question from surprisingly early stages in our lives, but the funny thing is that we’re usually not taught how to make this decision. We’re not given the tools to look inside ourselves and to not only determine our natural talents and strengths but also to recognize the activities and situations that really light us up. This pretty well explains how I got to be standing here in front of you.

Going back a couple years, I was a mostly average student through grade school. There were however, some flashes of excellence along the way. In second grade, I remember doing those 3 minute, 100 question timed math quizzes forced on us seemingly daily. I feared these tests when we first encountered them, and I typically finished about 60 problems when the bell rung. But before long, I was finishing the tests with time to spare. I found I actually enjoyed them! Into third grade, my teacher posted my handwriting for the entire class to view as the example of good penmanship. Mrs. Stapley would be disappointed to see my scratch now! Maybe if she saw me wield a keyboard, she’d feel a bit different. Moving along to fourth and fifth, my math skills evolved and my ability to write well began to emerge as well. I hated to read. I think I felt slow. But I still had to do it.

During those years, there was a group of students, “gifted” students, who left class one day per week to participate in ELP – Extended Learning Program. These students were the crème-de-la-crème, and many of them were my friends. But I was an outsider, an underdog. Each and every time I topped them in a math score or another grade, I relished it. It motivated me. In 6th grade, however, I broke through. Late in 5th grade, I absolutely crushed the standardized test we took at the time, the Iowa Test, scoring in the 99th-something percentile in the math portion. After summer, just after the start of classes in sixth grade, I got a visit from Mrs. Lloyd, the ELP teacher, asking me if I’d like to join. Of course I would! I can handle the extra work, bring it on, baby! ELP was absolute bliss. We did mind-bending math problems and puzzles, had open discussions about things we were learning, and played “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego” on 5 1/4″ truly floppy disk. And during this time, I came to believe that I had the ability to do absolutely anything I wanted, and with hard work, I could be among the best.

This philosophy carried me successfully for a long time. I raced through junior high and high school, learned to enjoy reading, and found myself shunning team sports. I wanted to stand on my own accomplishments. I didn’t want to be dragged down by any single slacker. I earned a tuition waiver for college and for the first time, encountered THE BIG QUESTION head on: what do you want to major in? How about, everything! The Industrial Engineering department sent me a packet explaining, at a high level, what IE’s do. And of course, it pointed out the fact that they were the highest paid engineers out of college. Sweet! I took the bait and started this way, but I quickly found myself tormented with other possibilities. My diverse interests and thirst for learning pulled me in all directions, considering everything from mechanical engineering to English to physical education to anthropology. Somehow, after speaking to counselors and professors across the university, I convinced myself that I needed to learn how to do something, to solve problems, rather than get a degree I could receive by simply going to the library. So back to Industrial Engineering, the broadest of the engineering disciplines, I landed.

My scholastic excellence continued through college, and I eventually landed a couple of different internships, the latter being here at Intel. In school I had taken an Information Systems course where we used Powerbuilder, a rapid-application-development tool that has now almost faded away. The Intel recruiter mentioned there was one job that was “IE related” and another that was “IE related and also used programming.” So I took the latter. And I used that work ethic to succeed in fairly short order. Although I had little software development training in school (or at work for that matter), I learned the way of developer quality and excellence, and over the years, had numerous great successes.

Despite those successes, I noticed an increasing dissatisfaction to my job. Programming began to feel tedious; I was solving the same problem, over and over, and was just using different tools to do it. Worse, a lot of time was spent fixing badly written and/or designed software by folks who probably shouldn’t have been developers in the first place! We have a joke here that asks, why is it that bad developers get to write new code and get promoted, and good developers are then brought in to fix and maintain it? This unfortunately gets an agreed laugh as most folks here have seen it.

If not programming, then what do I do? At various points during the last couple years, I explored other possibilities within Intel. I conducted informational interviews, attended innumerable “planning your career” seminars, and got mostly nowhere. Finally, last fall, I decided to hire a career coach to help me find my way. I had been reading this coach’s blog for a couple years before I contacted him, and always liked his approach. We began meeting regularly and we examined all the things I’ve ever done that I enjoyed and/or succeeded at. We dug deeply into these things, and from this we generated what he would call my “passion profile.” This profile is now a framework that I can use, for the rest of my life, to evaluate and generate career moves and project decisions. For the next step, that’s exactly what we did. I generated, to his surprise, over 300 remote possibilities, and began chunking down the list. I narrowed it to 30, and then devised a way to score and rank those. This gave me a top 5 to really dig into. For each one, I did a lot of reading and a battery of informational interviews. I met a lot of great people!

And now, I have it down to one. It’s going to be a big change, and it’s going to take a while to get there. But I’m dreaming of work where my talents AND desires are in alignment – imagine the productivity and energy! And I have an awful lot of career left. Why not make it the career that kids dream about? Somebody has to do it, and I choose me.

In the speech I also mentioned that my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Barilar (buh-LAR), told my mom that I’d end up either a mass-murderer or a genius. Don’t let your fifth-grader watch R-rated horror movies, you never know what kind of stories they will write! Luckily, I landed somewhere closer to Mr. Barilar’s latter prediction, or at least I’d like to think so.

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Even computers have a sense of humor

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on April 26, 2007

This week, Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org reported that the Mayor of Portland had left out continued funding of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan Update process. As a citizen who prefers to get around town by bike, I care about this issue. Up to this point, the process has been rolling since last year and would go a long way to enable efforts to come up with new, creative solutions to some of Portland’s transportation problems.

To help get this policy changed and keep the update alive, I accepted Jonathan and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s calls to action: I wrote an e-mail to the Mayor and some of the city commissioners. Rather than state the obvious benefits of more people on bikes (cleaner air, less congestion, fitter citizens, less land/infrastructure needed for cars, …), I took a different angle. I brought up the statement that the Portland area is likely to grow by one million people in the next 25 years and posed the question, “What kind of people do we want to attract?”

Funding decisions such as these shape a city’s future significantly. Small, early investments in good planning such as this has measurable long-term payoff in developing a livable city that attracts the kind of folks who prefer bicycles as transportation. These folks are very often progressive, hard-working, civic-minded and choose to help solve the city’s problems and shape it into an inspiring place. They are not just subsisting and hoping for more of the status quo (freeways and cheap gas).

That’s how I put it. Composed in Yahoo! Mail. Write, spell-check, re-read, send. I received the two canned replies and nothing yet from the Mayor. When I received the first reply, I noticed the footer that Yahoo! Mail automatically added to my message:

Ahhh…imagining that irresistible “new car” smell?
Check out new cars at Yahoo! Autos.

Ah, dammit! Stinky free e-mail stole a bit of my thunder. But not too much. The BTA reported today that our comments set a record at the Mayor’s office. Hopefully our avalanche of feedback will lead to action!

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Brutal reality in fantasy

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on April 24, 2007

Somehow or another, there’s been an increasing theme of brutal reality in movies lately. Have you noticed? Maybe it’s just the movies I’m choosing to watch (OK, I know this is part of it), but I think there’s a bit of shift in movie-making these days. It used to be that you’d have your yearly Se7en or Saving Private Ryan, and the rest of the year was spent laughing at comedies or ooh-ahh-ing at over-done action movies ala Armageddon (by the way, does anyone make comedies besides Will Ferrell anymore? I’m getting sick of this guy.). I used to complain about predictable Hollywood endings and yearned for more realism. But now, movies increasingly have no ending; they are a snapshot of time, after which the camera shuts off and the credits roll. Here’s the growing list of not-so-Hollywood-ending movies I’ve seen in the past few months that fit this bill:

  • Tsotsi – story of a young South African gangster who car-jacks the wrong BMW
  • Hotel Rwanda – ok, this one’s a true story, but if you haven’t seen it since I last recommended it, you still should
  • Babel – keep a close eye on your kids
  • The Prestige – as the second of the two-movie magician trend, I think I enjoyed The Illusionist a bit better with it’s unfolding love story and peerless ending
  • Hollywoodland – another true story, whoops! The original TV Superman, George Reeves, struggles with his super powers. I actually really liked how they unfolded the story in this one. No happy ending here, my friend.
  • Crash – fairly self explanatory
  • Junebug – this was just painful, don’t see it
  • The Black Dahlia – by the end I was thinking, “did we really just sit through that whole thing?”
  • Little Miss Sunshine – award winning and everything, but this was more sad than funny to me. I know it’s supposed to be a “go ahead and laugh at them, that’s the point” kind of thing, but I just don’t go for that.
  • Borat – whoa, way too much naked man. I think a couple of the folks that Borat threw water on needed it, but to continue the trend here, this movie became more and more painful by the time it was over.
  • The Constant Gardener – just read the IMDB “plot keywords:” AIDS, Diplomat, African, Third World, …. You get the idea, not exactly ingredients for cookies.

Wow, putting this all down, I think I’ve answered the question: quit renting only these types of movies! Maybe I’m selfish; I seem to lean towards movies where I learn something. In most of these stories, the characters learn something: about themselves, their world, or others within it. Maybe I should rent less movies and spend more time reading the eight or so books I have lying around waiting to be read. I know I’ll be learning something then!

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Rottweilers get Jack Bauer tattoos

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on April 23, 2007

A friend of mine at work forwarded me a list of Jack Bauer truths. I was rolling on the floor over some of these:

  • When you open a can of whoop-ass, Jack Bauer jumps out.
  • The bumper sticker on Jesus’s car reads, “WWJBD?”
  • Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.

I used to be devout viewer of 24. I never missed an episode during the first three seasons (I think that’s right, this year is the fourth, no?). This year, I’ve stopped watching, for two reasons: 1) we got rid of the Tivo, and I really hate live TV now and 2) the show actually adds stress to your life. I started to watch the first of couple of episodes this year and I realized that I was getting some gray hairs. The show is so action-packed, non-stop, pile-of-rocks-in-a-hard-place that I started to feel like it was a detriment to my health. But now that I’ve heard of the Jack Bauer Dammit drinking game, I might have to rent the season 4 DVD when it comes out and throw a small bash….

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Recent movies

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on January 14, 2007

Before I go back to the sabbatical, I’ll tell you what’s on my mind of late. For one thing, Kimberly and I have been renting quite a few movies lately. The reasons for this are many: way cheaper (our awesome local video shop lets you buy a block of 10 rentals for $30), convenient (no driving, no gas burned, more money saved!), pause, fridge, and on and on. Some of our recent rentals include:

  • Memoirs of a Geisha – much better than I expected, awesome soundtrack, recommended – Japanese culture is fascinating, all they’ve accomplished from that small island, a history to be explored further….
  • Equilibrium – kinda Matrix/1984, a bit cheesy filming, but good story, recommended
  • An Inconvenient Truth – a little more about Al Gore than I expected (guy would’ve been elected easily if this had been made before the “election“), but this is a must see for everyone on Earth
  • Who Killed the Electric Car? – documentary about the death of the GM EV1 electric car, good view into the power of the oil/corporate lobby, very good
  • Tsotsi – story of a troubled gangster in South Africa, pretty gripping and a good insight into the juxtaposition of the rich and poor in that country, great stuff
  • Hotel Rwanda – story of the uprising that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 where an extremist group of Hutus kills the president and proceeds to kill 1 million Tutsis and others in one of the worst (the worst?) genocides of recent history, barely covered here in the U.S. – gives you an insight into the results of the ravaging endured by Africa from Europe, the US and other powers over the last few centuries – must see

There have definitely been more; we’re on our fourth block of movies! But these are the ones that left some kind of an imprint in my mind.

In any case, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about globalism, sustainability, urban planning and history. As I’m in the middle of my inward career search, it’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

Posted in Think | 4 Comments »

Welcome to 2007

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on January 14, 2007

Yikes, I allowed two months to pass since I last posted! Please accept my apologies, riders. I still do intend to continue to chronicle the sabbatical, for no better reason than to relive it again in my own mind. As you might guess, I struggle with repetitive tasks. I need a “straight from the brain” blog editor. Actually, that’d probably be a bad idea. There’s already too much blog-noise out there to be able to manage!

Is this blog just blog noise? That’s debatable. My point with it is simply to capture the goings-on of my life. That might include some tips and how-to’s, maybe a little commentary, but mostly not. How do I make this a habit?

Those last two months have treated me exceptionally well. But more on that later, I swear. Until then, I wish you and yours the best year of existence yet! Cheers to your health and balanced well-being. See your future with new eyes:

Open Your Eyes

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Why do used car salesmen get all the credit?

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on November 8, 2006

Big chain gym membership salespeople are just as sleazy. I’ve belonged to quite a few different gyms over the years, and I’ve always favored the mom-and-pop gym over the big chain. Unfortunately, there isn’t one near us here in Portland. I have a “gym” at work, but it’s really just a handful machines that they call a “fitness center” that the company likely uses to lower their insurance costs. Plus, it’s just not convenient. So, that lead us to a nearby Gold’s Gym. Maybe I was being naive, but we have a couple friends who work out there, and it is Portland, so maybe they’d be a little more open and friendly.

We walk in, and the gym looks pretty nice. They have us fill out an information card, which includes cheesy questions such as “how serious are you about accomplishing your fitness goals?” and “how long have you been thinking about your fitness goals?” In other words, “how hard are our salesmen going to have to lean on you?” We get a quick tour, and then are sat down to the salesman’s desk.

First thing he does is ask a bunch of questions straight from a questionnaire on his desk. When was the last time you were in shape? Would you be happy in 5 years with your current regimen? Uggh. Then, he whips out his spiral notebook and shows us a page entitled something like “Dis-Illusion the Gym Membership,” a cute little laminated pamphlet in Gold’s colors that explains that they are completely honest and open, and won’t charge any hidden costs (aside from the $69 initiation fee imposed by Gold’s, we have no control over that).

Finally, he turns to the rates. First thing I notice is a new column called “processing fee” with a charge of $100. Hmmm, must’ve missed that on the “dis-illusion” page. He explains the overall rates, and how you naturally save with a longer commitment. Then he pauses for like 2 minutes, not sure what has happening there. Made me think of a recent “Scrubs” where Zach Braff says something, then thinks to himself, “pause for effect, pause for effect, pause for effect.” I guess we were supposed to say, “$169 up front, $64/month for a year, GREAT! Sign me up now!” Then he tries the old you-weren’t-expecting-so-now-you’re-gonna-love-me technique by saying, “we had this special, I know we’re not supposed to do it anymore, but you could do $20 down and $44/month for a year.” We explain that we really just wanted to check it out and see what else is out there, and then they really start to belittle us. “When are you thinking of joining? End of this month? Ah, it’s not hot for you right now, I see, we won’t bother with the passes then.”

This just kills me. What is with the “golly gee, I just don’t know how I’ll go on if you don’t join our gym” BS sales attitude?  How does it persist? I felt pity for the people I saw in the gym. Each person sat through that in some form or another, poor souls. In 2006, I’d hope for a no BS, open, friendly kind of human interaction. But I guess that only happens at the mom-and-pops.

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The beauty of the world grows…

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on August 28, 2006

… proportionally with one’s knowledge of it. Wisdom of the day, for ya. I find it interesting how much life I’ve lived to learn who it is I am. It’s one of those things you don’t really ever complete, but I’ve found you have to be able to stand upon your own two feet. It sounds so trivial when I write it now, but it’s a realization I’ve only recently discovered. I have been bored as hell at work for way too long now, and I think the biggest cause is the lack of learning needed in my current job. BizTalk and integration were new to me, but the underlying technologies, .NET and SQL Server, are old hat. In the end, development is a formula to be applied. There’s some room for creativity in tiny details, but overall, there’s a pattern you can apply to solve a lot of problems. Worse, I can’t believe how much time I spend solving problems that were caused by someone else’s lack of the basic, minimum practices required for quality software. Give me a NEW problem to solve so I can LEARN something and DEVELOP a better methodology. Ack.

Funny how my mind went here. The title sprung into my mind when I was thinking back to a television show about albino animals. There was an alligator, monkey, hippo, lion, porcypine, and more if I remember right. The fascinating part of it was the fact the albinism created a pretty serious survival challenge for each animal. In almost all cases, the animal had evolved to it’s “common” color as a step in evolution. For example, the lion is normally colored like golden wheat, allowing it to stalk unseen within tall grasslands of Africa. In most of the cases, the animal learned to atone for the weakness of its color and developed unique talents. The alligator, for instance, learned patience and to approach it’s prey from a deeper angle.

So there you have it. Embrace the obscure, there is much to be learned from it! Bellittle your weaknesses by embracing your strengths!

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Podium Champagne Spray

Posted by Jeremy Schultz on August 24, 2006

I was writing a quick how-to for deploying a piece of code today, and along the way I decided I’d throw in some instructions for celebration:

Find nearest bottle of Moët et Chandon, shake well, pop the cork, and spray onto anyone within a 15 foot radius.

To construct this fine piece of teaching, I had to do a little research. I discovered that the champagne spray originated at Le Mans in 1967 in an act of spontaneity by American racing legend Dan Gurney. He had just teamed up with A.J. Foyt in a Ford to smash the highly-advanced Ferrari team. Great story. Within that story, I noted the reference to MOËT ET CHANDON, so of course I had to look that up. That Wikipedia is just filled with good stuff.

Until next time, POP!

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