Monthly Archives: February 2011

Shuttle Discovery Launches on Mission STS-133

Space Shuttle with American FlagWe missed the opportunity to watch a live shuttle launch while visiting Florida for Lotusphere 2011. The mission was delayed, but today Discovery launched. If you have never had the thrill of watching it in person, I can tell you it’s an amazing thing. Growing up in Tampa, I had the privilege of watching the launches from my back yard. Yes, from Tampa, 100 miles away! Space ShuttleI can remember watching Columbia, the very first mission, launch in 1981. I can also remember watching Challenger. While I could not be there for the launch in person today, thanks to the Internet and streaming HDTV, I had the best view possible without being there. Check out the ongoing live video stream of the shuttle mission.
You can also get cool images and information at the NASA website.

In honor of the few remaining shuttle missions (the program ends in 2011), I used it as the theme for these images in a project I’m working on.

Space Shuttle


In case you thought the student thing was limited to Lotusphere…

Kudos to GBS’ CEO Joerg Ott for keeping the momentum going on professional development for college students after Lotusphere. The following quote comes from an email sent by the Employer Relations Coordinator at University of South Florida to the student body:

“GBS CEO and Sponsor for College Day at Lotusphere2011 Joerg Ott will be visiting the USF campus and hosting a motivational presentation named “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” For those of you who attended Lotusphere2011 and did not get the opportunity speak to the dynamic and enthusiastic CEO, this is your chance to ask your questions! If you were not able to attend Lotusphere2011, this is the opportunity to meet the head executive who was instrumental in organizing the event.”

In addition to driving the College Day at Lotusphere 2011, Joerg invited 8 students in attendance to his home for an evening to mentor them where they could further develop their entrepreneurial goals. Clearly Joerg is not just doing this as a part of his job. It’s his passion. Joerg sets a great example that we can all learn from. You have your own passion. You have your own sphere of influence. Be sure those within it know your passion and are moved by it.

Public speaking tip for presenters at Lotusphere and elsewhere

Eight months ago I joined Toastmasters.    I will never be able to watch a Lotusphere session (or any other presentation) the same way again.  Did you ever wonder what it’s like to present at Lotusphere?  On the positive side it must be rewarding just to be selected.  You’ve been chosen by IBM as one who stands out among your peers.  On the other hand, giving a presentation is challenging and even more so when presenting somewhere like Lotusphere in front of your peers where you are expected to be the subject matter expert.   More people fear public speaking than anything else, even more than dying.  For most technology experts, their expertise lies in the technology, not in public speaking.  They may give presentations just a few times a year.  Even without the fear of public speaking, it is difficult to be good at it without frequent practice.  Imagine if you only administered your servers or wrote code a few times each year?  Quite a challenge.  So as you watch their presentations, keep that in mind.  It’s not easy.

On the other hand, if you find yourself speaking at Lotusphere or anywhere else for that matter, consider this:  you’re already an expert at your subject matter.  So if you’re trying to improve the quality of your presentation, you’ll probably get the biggest return on investment of your time by honing your communication skills rather than your topic competence.  There are a few speakers out there like Chris Miller and Mat Newman, who have somehow mastered the techniques AND know what they’re talking about.  But for the rest of us, it takes lots of practice and feedback.  And I have stumbled upon what I think is the best venue for this.  It’s Toastmasters.  If a Toastmasters club meets somewhere near you, join it.  Toastmasters is one of the very best paths to develop good communication skills that you will find.  Toastmasters is an international non-profit organization of people who want to improve on their communication and leadership skills.  It’s a fantastic way to minimize your weaknesses in public speaking in a positive, supportive, and fun environment.  You will uncover things like

  • How many times do you say ‘uh’, ‘um’, ‘so’, or ‘you know’ while giving even a short 5 minute presentation?
  • Do you commit “death by Powerpoint” (or Symphony Presentations)?
  • Do you ramble on without pauses for emphasis?
  • Talk monotone without any inflection or energy in your voice?
  • Are your slides packed with text and complex graphics?
  • Do you read your slides to the audience?
  • Do you use gestures and body language and make use of the whole stage or do you lock yourself in behind the security of the podium and stand motionless?
  • Do you read from a script (e.g. Open General Session!) or worse, do you try to memorize your speech?

You get the idea.  Whether you are currently a presenter or aspire to become one, until you have mastered all of the skills (and even the best speakers practice to improve), you should practice and get feedback from people who know the intricacies of public speaking and can help you can improve. (I’m not talking about the feedback forms at the end of the sessions.  They mostly cover content, not delivery, and the observers are not watching with a critical eye for communication skills, they are there to learn the content.)  Toastmasters is a great place to do this is.

I have been in Toastmasters for less than a year and while my peers in the club give me great praise and support, I learn every time I give a presentation or evaluate someone else giving theirs.  If you think you’re good enough already, check out this list of famous people who are in Toastmasters.

Lotusphere suggestion: Going virtual lightens the load, now about those Lotusphere backpacks…

How many Lotusphere attendees will be visiting their chiropractors or massage therapists this week? Wouldn’t it be great if those backpacks had a hip belt to take the load off the back and shoulders?  Please put that in your evals.  Every year my back and neck suffer from lugging around the laptop and other junk.  It was nice to see more information was provided in electronic format, but not everything can be done that way.  So please, IBM, get backpacks with a hip belt.

This reminds me of a story that one of my computer science college professors told back in the old days.  It went something like this…

My professor told a story of how he was working on a military project writing software for the F-16 fighter jet.  At one point in the process a military guy came to him and asked how much his software weighed.  “It doesn’t weigh anything.  It’s software.”  The sergeant insisted that it must have a weight and that they needed to have an exact measurement as they need to measure every ounce that goes into that plane.  After several minutes of arguing, the professor realized he wasn’t going to be able to convince the sergeant of the lack of mass of a program.  So he reached down beside his desk and picked up a big box of punch cards — yes, those punch cards that he was using to write the software.  One 3×7 card for each line of code.  This was circa 1970’s.  — and gave it to the sergeant and told him to go weigh it.  Off he went with his box to be weighed.  My guess is that as a result, the F-16 fighter could carry about 20 pounds more than anyone realizes.

Making your own luck: My trip to Lotusphere this year so far.

I am a firm believer that you make your own luck, that one can make opportunity materialize before them if they persevere and don’t let fear stop them from trying.

“Life is not about what happens to you.  It’s about what you do when things happen to you.”  — from an article in this month’s Toastmasters Magazine

I don’t have time to blog it all right now, but my trip to LS11 has been much like Leonardo DeCaprio’s adventure to secure passage on the Titanic in the storage hold only to work his way to the captain’s table.  It’s not blind luck.  It is creating the path in front of you as you go, capitalizing on every moment.

On a very personal note to my readers: My Mom is having surgery today in Tampa.  Keep her in your thoughts.

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