Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When Worlds Collide (good stuff happens)

As everyone now knows, I have a new full time job as CIO of a company based in Manhattan. This has unfortunately taken me away from my beloved Google Plus community and severely limited the time I have to read and contribute to the content there. It also forced me to throttle back on my personal blog site and to miss, this week, for the first time my self imposed deadline for a column.

Yes, Wednesday came and went with no time to think about, let alone write a column for my loyal readers.

But something else happened this week which I wanted to share with all of you. My two worlds collided for the first time.

There I was faced with a deep technical challenge and limited access to the kind of resources I needed to address it. Our company website was not accessible from within the four walls.  Oh, I knew it was a DNS (domain name service)  issue but this particular environment was still foreign to me. This company network with its servers, routers and firewalls, was still a confusing pile of documentation, diagrams and notes to me. I lacked the history and familiarity that comes with building and operating a network from the start.

The senior manager who owned it for the last six years left during my first weeks on the job taking all that knowledge and experience with him. He would have gone straight to the source of the problem. Not me. I had to step back and try to look at this like a big puzzle and investigate one element at a time.

Worse, I have been in senior management for the last 15 years.. I'm still top of the heap when it comes to theory, strategy and planning but my hands on technical skill level has come down a few notches.

It was important to confirm that the web site was still up for the general public. Easy enough, I thought. I'll just "ping" someone and have them check.  But everyone on my corporate instant messaging system is inside the company.

Popping over to my Google Plus account, I saw that several of my good friends were on-line.  Using GTalk, I asked Eileen McAllister to please verify she could reach the web site.  She not only confirmed it but provided me with the correct external IP address which would play a key role in troubleshooting later on.

I had checked the obvious hosting and DNS service providers and now, armed with the correct address, I could see that all was in order.  That meant it was an internal DNS issue.

Next, I saw my friend Robert Redl, an IT professional in Austria and long time Google Hangout buddy. Opening a hangout, I was relieved to see that friendly face and we set about discussing my technical issue. Combining screen sharing with my cheat sheet of administrator accounts and passwords we managed to remote access various servers and check the configurations. Poking around we eventually found the "A" record which had an incorrect address.

The problem arose from the web site host changing servers. Some changes had been made but this one entry had been overlooked.  It meant people inside the network in a couple of offices would still be pointed to the old site. With active directory, making the change in the DC (main directory server) fixed it everywhere in a matter of seconds.

Having good and knowledgeable friends with the ability to leverage a tool like Google Plus positioned me to overcome a most difficult situation in less than an hour.  Some of  my old crew members had come to save me from perils encountered during my new voyage.


Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Behavioral Interviews: Three Steps to Great Answers

Here is another article contributed by my friend Deborah Walker, career coach.  This is great advice and so I am delighted to be able to pass it along here on the bridge. 

Some of the most challenging interview questions are found in behavioral interviews which are designed to test your abilities in three ways:

  1.  Determine how well you work under pressure
  2.  Find out how well you work with others
  3.  Establish whether you can resolve conflicts

Sample Interview Questions

To test your stress-coping skills you may get a question like:
 "Tell me about the most stressful situation you’ve encountered in your current position.”
To find out how well you work with others you might be asked:
 "Tell me about a time when you strongly disagreed with your team?”
 "Tell me about a time when you thought your boss was wrong?  How did you handle it?"

Finally, employers want staff members who can resolve conflicts to gain win-win results for all parties. To discover your conflict-resolution skills you might be asked:
 "Tell me about a time when you had difficulty resolving a customer conflict?”

There are three steps to preparing for a behavioral interview.

1. Behavioral questions ask you about specific events. Take inventory of the stressful or difficult situations you've encountered at work.  Think back to times when you didn't agree with your boss, or when your peers drove you crazy, or when customers made unrealistic demands.

2. If the workplace doesn't provide much to choose from, expand your thought process to include other circumstances where you work or must cooperate with others, like community activities, neighborhood associations, or church functions. For instance, planning a school fundraiser, participating on a neighborhood committee or participating on a professional association board.  Any of these situations are ripe with opportunities for conflict and cooperation, where something must be accomplished for the betterment of the group.

3. Once you've thought of several situations, plan how you will present them in a positive light. For situations you didn't handle well (like your boss yelled at you and you ran off crying) present them in terms of what you learned, like this:

   "Yes, I learned an important lesson about following directions and asking questions for clarification when ..."
For situations that did turn out well, present them based on what was accomplished, like this:

   "Yes, I had to deal with a really angry customer just last week. But when I calmly asked a few questions I was able to get to the heart of her issue.  I was able to fix the problem, and she was happy with us again."

With the right interview preparation, you can turn nightmare behavioral questions into opportunities to sell yourself.  You’ll be seen as an employee who is able to stay calm under pressure, work well with others to promote corporate goals, and retain key customers, contributing to revenue growth.  In other words, the type of person all employers would want to hire.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Practice Is Underrated by David O'Malley

My good friend David O'Malley has been a faithful and supportive reader and asked if he could share some of his "view" from the bridge. He submitted the following column for your consideration and enjoyment.  He writes well and makes a good point. Perhaps I better practice more ....

It dawned on me, a little while ago, that my daughter was really starting to pick up on the Cello. The tortured cat sound was gone, mostly, and she was playing with a timing, skill and grace that made me enjoy the performances. “When did that happen?”, I thought.

I should provide some back story – my daughter, Zosia, is five. She has been playing for almost two years, and man, has it been a struggle. Trying to get any child to sit still and concentrate on something is tough enough, let alone when that “something” is hard to do! Late last year, we faced a very real deadline for my daughter to get good enough to make graduation by the end of term, so we resolved to do something radical.

We practiced.

Every day.

Sometimes, twice a day.

The improvements were so significant it got me to thinking, “There could be something to this whole ‘practice’ thing”.

Shortly afterwards, I had the pleasure of reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, ‘Outliers’, and it turns out the whole “practice” thing isn’t as radical as I first thought. According to studies performed on the subject, and summarized in the “Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance”,  10,000 hours of dedicated, focused, practice is what it takes to become an expert at something.

Dancing, Chess, Music – turns out the Beatles put in thousands of hours performing in Hamburg, Germany, before they made it big in England, and then America.

Public Speaking, Project Management, Coding - Bill Gates did the same as a young computer programmer in high school, spending countless hours in the Computer Labs.

But less about the established Billionaires of the world – what about you? Do you strive to be recognized as an expert in your chosen field or profession? If so, what do you practice? Do you live by a strict regimen, set goals, seek feedback? How many hours have you put in? Across professions and industries, the pattern seems to be the same. Those at the top of their game have put the time in, diligently, with the expressed aim of getting better, one hour at a time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my daughter has a recital in two weeks, and we – the teacher and the student – need to practice.

Captain Joe

Follow me on Twitter @JPuglisiLLC