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  • Thankful Tuesday – Expertise and Kindness

    I had two opportunities today to reflect on expertise and kindness and the relationship of these two attributes.

    I had an update meeting with a company where I am providing consulting in my area of expertise – technology strategy as a CIO. The three people I met have no technology background and are currently challenged with overall technology issues at their company. They described the issues and it was obvious they were frustrated and a bit perplexed how things had evolved to the current state. They wondered aloud if they could have done anything different along the way to prevent this outcome.

    I described how we could make specific changes to resolve the issues and create a foundation. This would allow visible progress to be made quickly on small items as we created the roadmap for continuous improvements. I added that the issues were not unique to their company or even to companies of their size, and also talked about what they had done right that enabled the ongoing execution of their critical business services. They were doing a lot of things right and one of the most important things was that they cared about their business and supported their team members.

    After this meeting, I ended up in a small cafe through pure chance. Traffic was heavy, the sun was out, and I decided to explore the area of town I was in to find a place for quiet reflection. The cafe was one of the cute, comfy types where the tables are approximately one foot apart.

    This led to a second less expected encounter for the day. I witnessed three young women having a business meeting. One of the women was pitching an idea to the other two and I could feel it wasn’t going well. The woman pitching was aggressively stating that once they agreed to hire her and pay her, she would share her ideas for how she could help their business. The other two women were trying to understand details of the services that would be provided and what they could expect in terms of timelines and costs.

    I didn’t listen to details of the business, but I was intrigued by the interaction and the professionalism of these two women.

    When the ‘pitcher’ left, I asked if I could share my perspective. I apologized for listening in, but said I didn’t think the pitcher was up to the task of delivering on what they needed. I went further to say I thought these two were confident, professional, and organized and should expect no less from people who would provide services to them. They thanked me and said they were relieved becuse they didn’t think this pitcher was right for them, but wanted to make sure they weren’t being too rash. After 15 minutes of conversation, they asked me to stay in touch and I offered to be a casual advisor if they ever needed someone to help assess their suppliers or ideas. We exchanged contact information and said goodbye.

    I felt the thread of expertise and kindness. My only intent was to help. I came away with as many learnings as I contributed, and met some amazing people in the process.

    I was heartened to think about how I was able to provide expertise (technology in the first case, and an outside perspective in the second), and do it in a kind way so the people involved didn’t think I was talking down to them or trying to show that I was smarter than they were. In both cases, these people have loads of expertise in areas I don’t and I was also able to learn from each of these interactions.

    Thankful Tuesday indeed.

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  • Thankful Tuesday – Busy!

    What a fantastic day. Busy from early morning to late evening. I reflected that being busy can be experienced as a good or bad feeling, in response typically to whether the busy-ness is filled with things of joy or not.

    My day was filled with meetings, connections over lunch and coffee with friends, an update meeting on my interim CIO engagement, a focused discussion on culture and innovation with fellow CIOs, and a meeting with my co-author Debra for the book we are writing.

    All interesting hours, and all enjoyable people. And after all that joy, three mini-bonuses:

    1. I saw this sign in the photo above as I finished up and headed for my commuter train – It’s a good day for a good day.
    2. I opened my Perrier on the train to celebrate this great day and it exploded on me. I must have been walking and shaking that beautiful green bottle more than I realized. The man beside me, without a word, pulled two napkins out of his pocket and handed them to me with a smile. I only lost a small amount and enjoyed the rest.
    3. When I got home, I received an update from my co-author – the grandchild had been born and all are healthy and happy.

    A good day for a good day. Indeed.

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Data Centre Strategy

    Cloud Strategy

    Do you have a data centre strategy?

    If you work in technology at a tech company or the technology team supporting a business strategy, you should have a comprehensive data centre strategy. This will typically include Cloud, but not be only Cloud.

    Have you ever had one of these conversations?

    • Do we need all of these data centres?
    • Why do we have data centres? Aren’t we in the Cloud?
    • Is there opportunity to outsource some of these services?
    • Are we in compliance with data security laws with our current data centre locations?
    • Do we have appropriate redundancy for our critical applications and services?
    • Why is this application down? I thought we had a DR plan.
    • Has this been architected, built, maintained as a hot / hot application or service?
    • The only person who knows those answers has retired.

    These are just a few of the signs you’re in need of a data centre strategy. It’s easy to wave your arms and talk about Cloud, and get people excited about the future implementations. It takes a real leader to create and execute the strategy that defines the target state and a realistic roadmap to get from here to there.

    It can be fun if you approach it right and engage your team. Step up, show your leadership, and develop that comprehensive data centre strategy! When you do it right, you’ll see how the Cloud integrates with everything else. Just like in real life.

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Sleek Hard Drive!

    Who knew? I was moving to a new laptop for personal use and needed to move a lot of data, okay … 11 years of photos and music. I talked to my resident tech support, a.k.a. computer science graduate child. If you don’t have one of these in your family, I highly suggest you nurture one in this generation or the next. Not only are they highly marketable for employment, but they also come in handy for help in the home when they are in the right mood.

    So, back to the challenge. I needed to move a lot of data and I didn’t want to do it in multiple copy / paste / delete, start over steps and I asked for help.

    My son came home with an external hard drive (HD) for me. When I took this out of the box, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This hard drive, now called “mobile drive” is beautiful, stunning, sleek, and attractive. It’s a Lacie Porsche Design one terabyte (1T) hard drive. It’s described in marketing material from Lacie as a combination of speed, design, and technology resulting in a different breed of mobile drive.

    I was so taken by this HD that I looked up the Lacie brand and learned they make many beautiful technology products, and I also looked up the Porsche Design to find out if this was really the same Porsche. You know, the ones who make cars.

    Yes. It is. The same company who makes cars designs technology for the everyday user. The idea of Porsche Design was started by the grandson of the Porsche founder, and this same grandson, Prof. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, also designed the Porsche 911.

    They also state … “Out of a collaboration born in 2003, a trailblazing Tech firm and an iconic design house have forged another functional showpiece.” No debate from me.

    I tested it out and this HD works like a charm. It’s fast, quiet, and reliable. The device itself is smaller than my mobile phone and light, yet sturdy. It comes with two cables (USB-C and USB 3.0) and works with PC/Mac and next-generation computers.

    One terabyte storage for less than $100. I still remember when we bought “jump drives” with 250MB for about $19.99. And they weren’t even cute.

    Well done, Porsche and Lacie, well done.

  • lifestyle
  • Thankful Tuesday – One Grad’s Story

    We received the grad photos today for my son’s graduation from University.

    We attended the graduation ceremony a few weeks ago. As I sat in the audience, full of pride and nostalgia, my mind reflected on our journey as a family to this point and then to thoughts of every graduate in the ceremony. Each graduate has their story, their journey, their moments of struggle and triumph.

    We have two kids – both Queen’s graduates now, and yet so different. This one felt like the graduation that wouldn’t be. This kid – intelligent, wise, independent, and personable. And yet, challenging, stubborn, and sullen at times. This one never enjoyed school, worked since the age of 14 and wondered what he would learn from formal education that would be better than what he was learning on the job. And he was committed to his own path.

    In second year of University, he announced at our family Christmas dinner that he planned to stop going to school. It didn’t go over well. After several hours, many words, and some tears (mine, not his), we came to an agreement that he would continue school if he could tell everyone he was only doing it for his mom.

    I didn’t care what he told people as long as he continued. I knew he could find jobs and thought he might even be fine without the degree, but I didn’t want him to regret the choice. And with this child, I knew a break from school would probably result in him never returning.

    He continued with school. He stayed connected to his family. He kept working at a job he loved – to balance with the school he didn’t. He persevered. We traveled over these 4 tough years, him to us, us to him, and many lunches and dinners where we met halfway. Once a month, we checked in physically to see him. My style is to see the kid to understand the kid. It’s easy to hide things from your mom when you just text or call, but the face tells the story.

    Other parents gave me advice to let him do what he wants and said he’d make the right choices. It didn’t feel right so we took our chances. We pushed when required and stepped back to give breathing room.

    This child of mine…
    – could have graduated in the ceremony in June but didn’t file the paperwork in time
    – could have had his photo in the school yearbook, but had the session 2 days before the grad ceremony
    – forgot we were having family Thanksgiving dinner the night before the ceremony, but changed his plans to join us anyway
    – sent me a picture in line with his robe on so I wouldn’t worry that he would be late
    – posed with his sister, and his girlfriend, and parents and smiled for his photos in front of the school landmarks, all without a complaint

    So dedicated and focused at work. So loving and caring to his family as he has matured over the years.

    It’s been a long and winding road to this graduation. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Here’s to all the graduates. And all the parents. And grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, professors, and school counselers who helped them on their individual journeys.

    Bask in the success. You’ve all earned it.

    The night before grad when I was teasing him about the time he told us he was quitting school, he said with a twinkle in his eye – “funny, I don’t remember that”. I responded with an equally light tone “Oh, yes, must have been someone else.”

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Application Strategy

    Do you have an application strategy?

    If you work in technology, either at a tech company or the technology team supporting a business strategy, you should have an application strategy.

    Have you ever had one of these conversations?
    – How many versions behind is okay for our software?
    – I wonder where we can get parts for the infrastructure this old application requires to run?
    – We can’t make changes to this application any more so we’ll have to create another application and integrate them.
    – We have multiple applications that already perform that function.
    – One business leader wants his own application that is a duplicate of something that exists because he hates dealing with shared services.
    – We don’t know how many applications we own and there is no application book of record.
    – The only person who knows that application has retired.

    These are just a few of the signs you’re in need of an application strategy. It’s easy to talk about the new shiny technology and rally around a team to implement it. It takes a real leader to create and execute the strategy to address all the sins of the past.

    It can be fun if you approach it right and engage your team. Step up, show your leadership, and develop that application strategy!

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Innovation and Public Speaking!


    What a fantastic day I had! A public speaking engagement I enjoyed, and talking about Innovation.

    Reflecting on the day, the first thought I had was how blessed I feel and all the people who were instrumental in bringing me to this day.

    The obvious ones:
    – My parents who have always been my biggest fans.
    – My two brothers who are both extroverts and make the public speaking / meeting people aspect of their jobs look so simple.
    – My husband and kids who think I can do anything, and listen to me practicing the words.

    The professional contacts:
    – The boss, Dominique, who told me it was important for me to give public speeches for my team and the people who needed to hear the messages, not for me. This was a life changing moment for me 15 years ago that I never forgot.
    – The communications expert, Ann, who I worked with many years ago and taught me that the words we use matter more than we think.
    – The executive team work with who drives Innovation, always pushing for “what’s next?”.
    – The technology team I work with who delivers on the Innovation agenda every day.
    – My many professional colleagues who supported me over the past week, saying things like “you’ll be great” when I told them I had this engagement on my calendar for Thursday.

    And the IBM colleagues who believed in me:
    – Ayman Antoun, President of IBM Canada, who graciously shared the stage with me.
    – Bill Steele and Brian Medeiros, who believed in our Innovation message.
    – and all the supporting characters who walked me through the prep and stage directions, provided tips for getting through the curtain in the dark backstage, and then whisked me back offstage when the time was up!

    My second thought was on how the message went.
    I delivered the key points and was proud of the work I am involved with, both at my company delivering for Economical and Sonnet Insurance, and also the industry forums I participate in to develop the next generation of talent for these jobs in technology.
    The key points:
    – Digital Innovation – let’s Listen, Learn, and Surprise. With my favorite definition of surprise being “to cause someone to feel unusually delighted”

    – Integrating emerging technology – putting complex technology solutions together in a way that creates simple transactions for our customers (including Feedzai, Cloudera Hadoop, Guidewire, SpringBoot, Pentaho, and delivered on the IBM Cloud)

    – Investing in talent – integrating technical experts with new grads, and diversity in age, culture, experience, and thought. Remember diversity is accepting the presence of people different than you, and inclusion is embracing their participation. girlswhocode and IBM’s “Pathway to Technology” are two great examples of how we can support young people to embrace technology and technology careers.

    – Implementing agile practices – and let’s remember that agile is just a way of delivering. Our goal should be to deliver at velocity and not be focused on the word or the method.

    And the third thought I had was how our stories connect us.
    – Strangers talked to me afterwards and told me how one sentence I said was exactly what they were going through.
    – 4 people in the audience approached me afterwards to reconnect. People I had worked with at companies in the past who shared with me an update on their life.
    – and the people who wished me well checked in to see how it went.

    The event was the IBM Innovation Forum 2018.

    All in all, a good day indeed. And tomorrow it’s back to work and reporting into the Risk Committee.

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  • Thankful Tuesday – Strategy and Cakelet?


    What a day…

    I attended a long strategy meeting today and enjoyed it. The topics were interesting, the team dynamics positive, the outcomes important, and there was food. Discussion about the future, the company strategy, and how the technology my team delivers fits into those plans.

    It is also my birthday and that was fun too! One last swim for the season – this is saying a lot for October in Canada. A delicious dinner with family, flowers from my kids, a call from my parents, a bouquet also from my team, and a cakelet. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Cakelet. Enough cake for everyone to have a taste, and not so much that you wonder what to do with it.

    I am thankful and I feel blessed. Work and colleagues I enjoy, and a family who knows how much I love my birthday and all the traditions that come with it.

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  • Thursday Tech Talk – Deskside Support Experts


    I got a new laptop yesterday. An excellent deskside support person came, delivered the laptop, set me up, and had me running in 15 minutes.

    This is her job so maybe that’s not a big deal. The interesting aspects to me were these:
    – she was extremely pleasant and personable
    – she was effective and knowledgeable
    – she taught me a few things without making me feel dumb
    – she was a girl geek

    I can’t remember the last time I had a technical support person help me who was a female. Yes, help desk reps, but not hands on deskside support people.

    We’re establishing standards for devices and I’m testing this out as a small, lightweight option for heavy travellers like myself. I have 30 days to assess and make a decision.

    Getting new equipment can be fun, or can be painful. This was an excellent, positive experience. I was inspired and smiled all day.

    Well done, girl geek. Well done.

    If you’re wondering…

    Lenovo X280
    Intel i7, 8th Gen
    DDR4 SDRAM
    2400 MHz
    17 hours battery life
    12.5 inch screen, 2.9 pounds
    And yes, that’s a built in webcam shutter 🙂

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  • Leadership Thoughts – Two Feet of Perspective

    A busy week including working in 4 cities, literally commuting via trains, planes, and automobiles, temperatures that varied from 90F+ to a dip of 55F in a matter of days, preparing for two major presentations, and a neighbourhood bbq to top it all off.

    Busy – productive – fun – and by the end my head was full.

    I realized I needed to let everything find a place in my brain, and I would benefit from some perspective. I found it without having to go far from home.

    A beautiful lake, a warm sunny day, and 30 minutes of free time on my hands. Perspective, POV, frame of mind. Whatever you want to call it. It always fascinates me how taking a few minutes to think frees up the required thoughts I need to pull it all together.

    Two feet of perspective. And life is good again.