Saturday, November 17, 2007

Chowda Chat: Margaret Meloni

"Chowda Chat" is a periodic Beantown Web installment that features a conversation with an influential member of the Greater Boston technology community. The purpose of "Chowda Chat" is to provide Web technology professionals with information to help advance their careers. The format involves three questions and responses followed by one final thought.

Today's issue of "Chowda Chat" presents the thoughts and observations of Margaret Meloni, MBA, an executive coaching consultant for information technology professionals. She has more than 20 years experience in the information technology field and is a Certified Project Management Professional. Margaret visits us from the Left Coast . Through her company, Meloni Coaching Solutions, Margaret helps Information Technology professionals 'Find the Joy in the Job'.

Information technology professionals are sometimes stereotyped as technically competent, but lacking in people skills. How might a lack of attention to the "soft skills" affect an individual's prospects for employment and advancement?

Let's map this out. When all other conditions are equal, most people will work with people they enjoy being around. We typically do not enjoy being around people who are unpleasant, difficult or treat us badly. (All examples of someone lacking "soft skills.") So, more opportunities come to those who are good at the technical aspect and the human aspect of their jobs. More opportunities generally lead to the better and more interesting assignments. Performing well on these assignments leads to advancement.
Advancement may equal a leadership position or it may equal a better raise, a bonus or a senior technical position. As you progress you will be expected to be able to clearly and confidently express your ideas, have productive conflict with others, form good relationships with your customers and contribute to your team's success. Those who cannot do this will be left behind.
For more on this topic, please check out Wanted: Workers who play well with others at CNN.com.

For someone who is transitioning into a technology job from a more "people focused" profession, how can someone who lacks technical experience play up their people skills during the interview process?

I think that in technology we should invite more people to cross over from other areas of expertise. If you are working on this transition consider approaching it from this angle:
You can speak the language of the customer, this means that you can take technical requirements and discuss them with my business partners. In turn you can help the technical team understand the business needs and how they relate to technology. You can act in a customer facing technical support role and be the liaison between the business team and the technical team.
The right company and hiring manager will see your value, the wrong company.... Well who cares about the wrong company, you do not want to work with them anyway.

In January you are conducting a four-week "Coachinar" entitled Your Professional Brand, Guard it with Your Life. Why should Web technology professionals care about personal branding?

Where does your reputation come from? It is word of mouth. Others define your reputation. But they do it based on your behaviors.
The smart professional gets to know themselves. They know their strengths and they use these strengths to carve out a brand or to differentiate themselves from the pack. Then the make sure that their actions map back to their character and their brand. Now when someone describes them to others, they are accurately broadcasting that person's brand.
Let's say I am hiring a Web designer. I interview four candidates. They all do well on the interview, they have the basic experience that I need. What will make one candidate stand out above the others? It's going to be something unique about them. It will be their differentiation. That's the brand factor. It's is taking your technical expertise and flavoring it with you.
Think about people you meet in networking situations or on the job. When someone stands out from all the others, it is because of their own personal and professional brand recognition.

Final Thought

We all spend a lot of time and energy working. Our behavior at work has tremendous impact on one another. So whenever possible, let’s make this a positive impact.

Margaret offers of FREE monthly eZine entitled The Positive Punch to help you take control of your reputation today. Sign up now.

Previous Guest Bloggers

Chowda Chat: Dan Keldsen
Chowda Chat: Dean Fossella

Monday, November 12, 2007

TechCrunch Boston

TechCrunch is coming to Boston!

Who is TechCrunch?

TechCrunch was started two years ago by Michael Arrington, a Silicon Valley startup veteran.

What does TechCrunch do?

TechCrunch is a weblog "dedicated to obsessively profiling and reviewing new Internet products and companies. In addition to covering new companies, we profile existing companies that are making an impact (commercial and/or cultural) on the new web space."

TechCrunch Boston Event

TechCrunch is hosting its first Boston event this Friday, November 16 at The Estate, adjacent to the Boston Common (map). Attendance is limited to the first 700 registrants and more than 600 have registered already, so don't delay. Registration involves a $10 cover charge.

Product and Partner Launch Sponsors include the following:

Additional sponsors are listed at the TechCrunch Boston information page.

Moola will tell you how many TechCrunch Boston tickets remain -- 97 at the time of this posting.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

We Are All Self-Employed

Regardless of who signs the paycheck we are all self-employed.

Some of us have one employer and a paycheck that doesn't stretch to the end of the month.

Others have one employer and receive a paycheck that is part of a compensation package including benefits, bonus and stock options.

Still others have multiple employers (customers) who provide compensation based on the products and services we provide. We go by different names -- small business owners or consultants or freelancers.

Regardless of who signs the paycheck we all have customers!

Bottom Line

Each of us is the President of our own personal services corporation. As Presidents we have Top Line (sales) accountability, as well as, Bottom Line (profits) motivation.

Here are three services that can help us be better Presidents.

Eight Tips

CIO.com offers Eight Tips for IT Professionals Interested in Pursuing Careers as Independent IT Consultants. While the focus is on information technology professionals, the advice is practical for professionals in nearly every field of endeavor.

Of the Eight Tips I found the final one -- Brand Yourself -- to be particularly beneficial. Knowledge workers who have to sell their services and demonstrate how to add value can benefit from the six ideas offered to help you build your own brand.

Ten Steps

Startup Nation offers 10 Steps to Open for Business.

This website offers a detailed, multimedia, step-by-step, process to help you achieve startup success. Whether you are considering freelance or consulting opportunities or you are an employee in an organization looking to grow its current business, this practical website can help.

Just Start

Finally, Intuit, makers of the popular QuickBooks and Quicken accounting software, is in Boston this week to help us all be better Presidents.

The Boston Just Start event will take place at South Station from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm on each of the following days:

The event will feature Rhonda Abrams, a syndicated columnist, best-selling author, and popular public speaker who advises small business owners. For details and registration information access the Just Start Meetup Group.

Check out Intuit's JumpUp website for additional information about getting your business up and running quickly and successfully.

Next Step

Presidents know they can't get the job done by themselves. They need a team of reliable specialists. Check out these resources and seek out one new member of your team this week.

Remember: Regardless of who signs the paycheck, we are all Presidents of our own personal services corporations.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Web Innovators Group | WebInno15

If you are interested in previewing the latest innovations on the Internet and mobile devices, check out the next gathering of the Web Innovators Group.

This 15th installment (WebInno15) will feature the following presentations:

Main Dishes

Side Dishes

Details

Tuesday, November 6, 2007, 6:30 pm

Royal Sonesta Cambridge

Registration is FREE and the networking could prove invaluable! Check out the Attendee List of more than 500 pre-registrants.

2007 WebAward Winners

The Web Marketing Association recently announced the winners of its eleventh annual WebAward Competition for Web site development. More than 2,400 sites from 40 countries were considered during this year's competition.

Entries were judged on the following criteria:

Web designers and developers can review these award-winning websites to spark inspiration and benchmark industry trends.

Best of Show

Disney took home the best of the best award for the following site: Disney.com / Disney XD

Best of Industry

Here are the Best of Industry winners in 96 categories:

Additional websites are available for review in each category by searching the WebAward site. A press release is also available for review.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Boston Market -- November

The employment picture in Boston is currently giving mixed signals.

On the One Hand

The Hudson Employment Index reveals that Bostonians are a little gloomier about job prospects than their counterparts in other metropolitan areas. Boston registered its lowest scores in the last 12 months.

The Monster Employment Index revealed that New England recorded larger than average gains in job postings in the last month compared with other regions of the country. However, its Index for Boston (pdf) is tracking the "slowest annual growth rate on record."

On the Other Hand

The same Hudson Employment Index revealed "a huge demand for skills, and some of it is going unfilled," according to a Hudson representative quoted in InformationWeek. Web development skills that are most in-demand include Ajax and Java programmers.

"Demand for IT workers in the U.S. remains healthy and will likely remain that way for the remainder of the year,” according to a spokesperson representing the Spherion IT Employment Report.

Small and medium-sized business (SMBs) are optimistic about the business outlook for the next 12 months and plan to invest in technology and staff. A Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) survey of more than 700 business owners with less than 1,000 employees reveals that technology investment is a vehicle for enhancing productivity.

What to Ask

So, what is a web technology professional to do? Focus on implementing technology solutions that help both you and the organization(s) you represent become more productive.

Ask yourself the following three questions:

Question #1

Can I demonstrate that the most important project I am currently working on is enhancing the productivity of my organization by increasing revenue or decreasing expenses?

Question #2

Do I have a plan for developing a technology skill that has value in today's marketplace (see the Top 20 Web Technologies in Boston in the right-hand column)?

Question #3

What networking activity can I undertake to enhance my contacts in the marketplace?

Where to Go

If you are looking for a way to enhance your technical skills and develop new contacts, consider attending Flex Camp Boston. The day-long series of seminars on Friday, December 7 is designed to introduce you to Adobe Flex 2, an entry into the emerging Rich Internet Application (RIA) marketplace.

Flex 2 is not yet a Top 20 skill. However, you can't go wrong when you get to learn an emerging technology and network with your peers for only $10! Register now while seats are still available.

What to Do

If you are looking to develop two Top 20 skills (PHP and SQL) that are in demand today, consider taking an online course entitled PHP & MySQL: Building Web Applications.

The course is FREE and made available compliments of Hewlett-Packard. The course runs from November 2 through December 7.

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