Remembering 9/11

This weekend marks the 20-year anniversary of 9/11. People ask where were you? It’s not so much my story that counts. It is the stories of others and what happened next.

I was on vacation at the Oregon coast sleeping in. My boyfriend was in bed next to me, and he had turned on the TV for the morning news just in time for us to watch the second tower fall. I’m glad we were together off work that day to grieve and watch the news. Shock and then concern filled my mind because I had three instructors, my coworkers, in New York only 10 blocks from ground zero that day.

I grieved for the New Yorkers. Images ran through my head of all the people I had met in person while working and living there for weeks at a time, part of my work as a technical trainer and curriculum architect. I stayed in a Marriott hotel one block from the twin towers. I walked to work, shopped, and became connected with the community. The little Amish market. The family-run Italian restaurant. The kind and diverse hotel staff. I knew their lives were forever changed if they had escaped to safety.

But there was nothing I could do. There was only silence for a long time. No airplanes in the sky and no news about my coworkers for days. Later I heard the stories. 

The Manhattan IBM office where we taught our classes was in a skyscraper 15 floors up. One set of classrooms had windows directly facing towards the twin towers. So there was direct witness of what happened only 10 blocks away as well as the large clouds of debris billowing through the streets. At first, everyone gathered in shock to watch. Together, they made a decision to wait inside the building to be safe until some of the debris settled. A few hours later, the three instructors joined forces with their students to move to safety in small groups. 

One instructor lived in New Jersey, and was able to coordinate with her husband to drive their family van to the end of a bridge. She led a group of students on a long walk over that bridge so they could deliver everyone safely to destinations. It was what everyone was doing to help each other that day. No questions asked. Just stepping up, reaching out, and doing the right thing. 

Another instructor realized he left his wallet in the hotel that morning, so he banded together with another student and attempted to go back to the hotel. It was the Marriott where I had often stayed, only one block from ground zero. They didn’t make it all the way there because the hotel was on fire, and the debris was unpassable. Body parts were everywhere and it was quite traumatizing. So they turned back. They formed a new plan. His student stayed with him, helped him, and vouched for his identity. With all this help, he was able to ride an Amtrak train all the way back to his home in Arizona. 

In the days that followed, our business model changed. It became incredibly difficult to sell our core product of information technology training, 3 to 5 day classes in person. Who wants to get on a plane, stay in hotel, and risk being in a big city for a class? I had already started to design blended learning classes with a combination of in-person and remote work two years before. Now our customers only wanted remote training which took us a whole new direction for the coming years, just as the current pandemic has done today for the workplace.

The grief and sorrow over the loss of so many Americans cannot even be expressed in words for most of us. For the people who were there that day, the memories have changed and affected them for a lifetime. 

In 2009, I was at a small local company where I met an IT administrator who was a young New York firefighter at the time of 9/11. The subject came up because he was always playing music when he worked alone in the classrooms. He told me it was because of 9/11. He had been tasked with going back after the second tower fell and searching for the victims. But he said there was only silence, too much silence. So he deals with it, and fills silence with music years later. 

This weekend as I sat in my backyard watching the planes pass overhead, I remembered 9/11 and the day that all the planes stopped. Across the United States, we all stopped. When we started moving again, we remembered what was really important. People evaluated their relationships, divorced, had kids, or married. I did too. I split up with my boyfriend and started a completely new life within a year. Everyone’s focus turned to quality of life and what matters. Above all, we learned we could tackle adversity together. The power of good deeds and open minds following something so terrible has pulled us forward to a better future. 

Writing for PDXWIT – Danny Lopez Member Story

My first member story was published this month on Danny Lopez!  It is so heart warming.

http://www.pdxwit.org/dannylopez

The writing of this story was a volunteer team effort. First, I worked with Danny via email and LinkedIn to set up the tasks and timeline. I then reviewed Danny’s LinkedIn profile, and came up with all the questions about his background. He answered me in his own words. I did a round of rewriting and editorial work, and I then passed it on to the official PDXWIT.org editor for a final round. Once we agreed on the changes, the member story went to the publishing team. Once a month, the member stories are published on the PDXWIT Member Stories page. The publicity team then takes over, spreading the word.

Engaging Your Audience

Team Meeting

Team Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Engaging your audience is critical for designing effective documentation, videos or online training.  With needs analysis, you can build the right tools at the right time, saving hundreds of hours of rework or waste.

Here is a recent example. Not long ago, I was told by a leader in product development to build an internal training video on a new software feature in our software-as-a-service or SaaS offering. We had added the feature to stay competitive, and we were charging clients an extra fee for it.

I know video projects can easily take 50 to 75 hours. So, I set out to engage and meet the end users of the video. I found the product owner plus team leads in implementation, sales and support teams. I asked “Are you interested in a video on this topic?”

I found out there was only one client purchasing the new feature, a pilot client. A handful of people were engaged with the pilot client, including the product owner who already knew a great deal about the new feature. Within the largest teams, the implementation and support teams, the team leads told me this feature was simply too new to learn because it was not being used by the majority of clients.

I also knew from my own experience working in software companies that a new feature is subject to change, just like the first model of a car rolling off the factory line. Based on the pilot client’s feedback, the feature itself could be very different in a few months, both in workflow and appearance. Building a video too early might mean hours of redoing and adding content later.

In this case, instead of making a video, we simply made sure all product documentation was in place for our teams. The marketing team assembled a short slide deck to help our sales team explain and sell the new feature.

Then we waited for client adoption. I always keep proposal backlogs, and I kept checking back every month to gauge client interest on this feature. Once the pilot client had successfully implemented the feature plus a number of clients were starting to buy it, it was time to start making the video. I engaged the pilot team plus the product owner, and we made sure the original release documentation was updated based on what we learned in the pilot. I then produced, released, and advertised the new feature video with many successful views, because it was the right tool at the right time.

Building a piece of documentation, a video, or an online training course is often done without a direct connection to the audience. This may seem like an easy way to do the job. We just go build it, and keep our fingers crossed that someone uses it. I have seen this pattern over and over in different jobs, similar situations.

However, there is a great deal of risk in this method, and often many hours wasted. What if we spend 50-100 hours to build something too soon, and then we have to rebuild it again in a few months? What if the new feature cannot be sold for a year or is sold to only a few, reducing the value of the product documentation, video or course?

Engaging your audience and asking a few more questions before you start a large project is the smart and efficient way to go.

 

Robot Thoughts

Check out these three TED talks for some interesting ideas about robots, how we interact with them, and our future.

Kate Darling tells a fascinating story about our human nature and toy or household robots. I do talk to my floor robots, named both of them, and they sometimes call for my help. I have deep empathy for other people and animals. So I do expect if I had toy robots, the bond would run deep quickly.

Social scientist Leila Takayama shares interesting ideas putting remote workers into robot bodies. She too starts with household robots. However, when her team experiments deeper with robots and remote collaboration, it becomes fascinating how people can quickly lose track of human on either side, the ones interacting with the robot or operating it. On the other hand, the robot does put a face to remote workers, giving them a place at the table or in meetings.

Marc Raibert introduces us to a very large dog or delivery robot that I find a little creepy. Happy Halloween! Spot is a very useful robot with a very sophisticated design. The size, design and scale for mobility and item delivery make this robot look and act much more like those we see in the Terminator movies. Despite feeling uneasy about this one, I had to laugh when his team pushed and pulled this robot through real-world challenges.

 

 

Inspired by Dr. Pat Selinger

I was inspired last month by a volunteer writing project, a history speech for PDXWIT.org on Dr. Pat Selinger, a true pioneer who changed the future for relational database work in her very first job at IBM over 40 years ago. Plus in recent years she has paid it forward in mentoring since that was the key to her success.

“What I think mentoring does for people is to bring a third view, an experienced practical view, and it gives people a sense that they do have choices and that they have much more control over the directions of their careers than they think they have.”

I agree. I think highly of my mentors who helped me launch my tech career and pay it forward often.

Tips on Joining Professional Groups

Joining professional groups requires a little research to ensure a good experience and that your money is well spent. See this article for some good tips! Written on September 18, 2018 by author , sharing her personal story of layoff and discovering new territories in networking.
Glassdoor Blog – Should you join a professional group?

Solid Relationship Advice

One of the most enjoyable articles I read this week was from Jacki Zehner:

Best Advice: Invest in Relationships in All Directions

Jacki Zehner makes some excellent points about how every contact we make in business counts, no matter how small it may seem at the moment.  I like how she states:

“As a professional, you need to care about every single contact point you have with every single person, both internal and external.”

Ms. Zehner not only points out the value of having a “360 degree perspective“, but she challenges us as readers to take stock of our own experiences in the workplace. Her personal story in the article makes this a compelling read.

Social Media Tip:  I found this inspiring story and person thanks to LinkedIn. From there I was able to read more about Jacki Zehner’s background and locate her personal website to read more articles and view her videos.