Monday, May 18, 2009

My Favorite Networking Groups

As I've begun my search for a new position, I've increased my attendance of local networking groups. In that process I noticed a few things.

Quite a lot of folks who attend networking groups aim to make new connections through whom they wish to find their next position, opportunity, or sales lead. They each offer their own help for that purpose. I'd always found this symbiotic relationship interesting, but one that often leads to only cordial relationships.

My goal when attending a networking group is no different than when I start a new work relationship: I aim to make friends and invest in their professional growth through mentoring, advising, or simply listening. My reward, whether in personal or professional settings, comes from knowing that I've somehow helped a fellow human being reach their potential. This is far more rewarding than finding my next employer.

With that said, I know this is what I want out of networking, not necessarily what you do. We each aim to gain something different from our encounters. In fact, I'm a firm believer that what you want closely ties with your personality type and how you feed your strengths and weaknesses.

It's with this preface that I list below some organizations and groups I attend for the purpose of meeting new professionals:
  1. CafeNet
    Founder: Cindy Pickens

    Schedule: Every other week on Wednesdays

    Location: Anounced to members via monthly email

    Membership: By Invitation attendance. Requires sponsorship by an existing member and an Interview with Cindy Pickens

    Website: Yahoo Groups site with membership-only access

    Description: Cindy started this organization as a result of her search for a new position. It began in a coffee shop with a handful of friends. She now has in excess of 50 regular attendees. The group is limited to CxOs to Directors and Managers that understand what it means to cultivate a relationship.

    Format: Meetings start with Cindy describing the history and purpose of the group for the newcomers. This is followed by each attendee giving their 30 to 60 second elevator pitch. Given the meeting time limit, each person's pitch is tracked by a time-keeper. At the end of the elevator speech, a guest speaker presents a career-search related topic, such as how to use LinkedIn or how to improve your body language.

  2. TechBiz Connect
    Founder: Jack Bicer

    Schedule: Third Wednesday Each Month from 6 PM - 9 PM

    Location: Knobbe Martens in Irvine, CA

    Membership: None


    Description: Per TBC's home page, it "is a non-profit professional trade association that organizes monthly events helping Southern California executives, technology professionals and entrepreneurs to more effectively network, and to learn about key technology and management trends that affect business performance."

    Format: Buffet-style meals and snacks are available before the formal meeting begins. You can start open-networking during this time. The first formal section of the meeting is the organized networking where you're assigned to groups and asked to pitch your elevator speech along with a memorable statement about yourself like, "My name is John and I'm the botanist CIO" to a roundtable group of eight or more people. You may be asked to rotate between two to three networking roundtables during this part of the meeting. Later, a panel discusses the subject of the night which is often related to technology, during which you can ask questions or provide your view of the answers given.

  3. Toastmasters International
    Founder: Ralph C. Smedley

    Schedule: Depends on the club you choose. Schedules vary from early morning to noon and evenings. The meetings typically last 1.5 to 2 hours.

    Location: Depends on the club you choose. They are a worldwide organization

    Membership: Approximately $45 every 6-months, depending on the club


    Description: Toastmasters International is "a world leader in helping people become more competent and comfortable in front of an audience." This is done through organized meetings that teach you how to lead a group through discussions, provide impromptu speaking opportunities, as well as prepared speeches. You may wonder why I chose to include this group here. The intent of this group isn't networking, but it provides you with opportunities to both practice speaking, a necessary skill for networking, as well as speak with some great people who are mostly employed and always eager to help you grow.

    Format: Each club has a slightly different flavor of this, but the general format is one where an MC (the Toastmaster for the day), starts the meeting and announces each person that'll fill some functionary role for the day. The impromptu speeches follow this when the leader for the segment, the Table Topics Master, introduces the theme or subject of the day, along with the word of the day. Table Topics Master then asks individual members, not necessarily guests, a question on the topic. The member called upon then has one to two minutes to answer or side-track on answering the question. Following this segment, two to three members provide prepared speeches based on Toastmasters International speaking manual topics. Each speech is then evaluated by a member. In the last segment of the meeting, after everyone has cast a vote for best Table Topics speech, prepared speech, and evaluator, the Table Topics Master awards a ribbon for each category. Givne the group makes every effort to insure your success, each member is assigned a mentor that's often an experienced Toastmaster eager to answer your questions and encourage your continued participation.

I'll likely add more groups to this list as the days and month progress. You can certainly attend other local groups, such as Laguna Niguel Connectors that meets in Laguna Niguel, CA monthly. What I've found is that an increase in attending various networking groups means you get to see some of the same people repeatedly. So, the meetings may take away time that you should spend meeting with individuals and creating a deeper relationship with each person.

So, I wish you good luck in your networking. Please feel free to share your thoughts on the above positing as well as other worthwhile networking groups that may provide something of great value.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Searching for New Career Opportunities

Brief Summary
I’m back on the market in search of a new career opportunity. Most recently, I worked in a software solutions consultancy for the past 18 months (details of my efforts / accomplishments are on my LinkedIn Profile). I’m now turning my focus back to working in a corporate environment.

Specifically, I’m searching for a Software Development Manager or Director role with oversight for development efforts of a department or division of a Fortune 1000 company, healthcare provider or higher education facility. I’m also taking this opportunity to help my peers and friends through postings on my new professional blog, here, and answering any of your questions or making connections.

Details of My Ask and How I can Help
My experience encompasses helping bootstrap software product companies, to leading technology migrations, deployment and support of title and escrow transaction management solutions, infrastructure planning, build and deployment, as well as integration solutions for the banking, financial, and the automotive industries.

Most recently, my work at the consulting firm focused on Business Intelligence, portal, system integration, and custom application development solutions for health insurance general agencies, automotive, banking, and market research firms. In all cases, I’ve delivered on process improvement, business-value definition of technology solutions, resource management, and teaming. I use a mix of my own brand of humor, long-term perspective and professionalism for customer-centric results.

As I progress through this new journey, I’ll likely pickup new contacts and information that I intend to share with you. By doing so, I hope to make the road to a career search easier for my friends and readers. You’ll find this information posted here. I also intend to send out an email update to my personal network distribution list on a monthly basis, providing links to these posts, providing any additional insights I may have gleaned, and answering or posing questions. If you wish to be added to this list, please feel free to ask via email.

Last, but very important is that I’m here to help you as well. For those of you that know me well, you know this is not just a gesture. Whether you have questions about software development, specific information about my experience with particular management methods or Microsoft technologies, as well as what information I’ve gathered about the companies I’ve worked with in the past or interview with in the future (not including NDA protected information), please feel free to contact me via email. If you’re in the job market now, or expect to be in the near future, please count on me as one of your resources. The reason I offer this is quite simple. As a part of my lifetime goal of “living an inspiring life,” my intent has always been to help at least 10 people realize their lifetime dreams. I’m already on my way with two people, including my Little Brother that I’ve been matched with for the past five years through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Orange County.

Now for my ask: I’m currently targeting the following institutions. I’m in the early phase of my due diligence to learn more about them. So, I would appreciate any insight you, or one of your contacts, can provide about their culture, health, and business pain points.

  1. Pharma / Medical Device Manufacturing
    Abbott Medical Optics
    Beckman Coulter
    Edwards Lifesciences
    Valeant Pharmaceuticals
  2. Healthcare
    Hoag Memorial Hospital
    St. Joseph Health System (and related facilities)
  3. Technology
    Quality Systems, Inc.
    Quest Software
  4. Education
    Chapman University
    University of California, Irvine

I thank you for reading this post. I'll follow it with a listing and description of some of the local networking groups I'm familiar with.

In the meantime, please feel free to forward me any thoughts, suggestions, questions, or criticism.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Start of Professional Blog

I've read many times, over the past few years, about how a blog could be used for professional communication of ideas. When considering whether to create such a presence on the Internet, I've been quite reticent. My reluctance didn't have anything to do with a lack of understanding of the technology or its purpose. After all, working in the software development industry since 1996, I was well exposed to the idea when it was first introduced. In fact, I started using a private blog as a daily journal in late 2003.

My reluctance was focused on my inability to verbalize the value of the experience. It seemed obvious that what lessons I'd learned were likely already documented by people much smarter than me. After all, I didn't learn these lessons nor came up with the axioms I live by simply on my own. My approach and philosophy is very much shaped by the many teachers I've had. Clearly, some of my teachers don't use the web, but most do. So, they must exist in some fashion and, likely, much of it online.

As the months passed since I was first tempted to write a business blog, I've learned through my consulting experience that many companies face the same challenges I did when starting new development departments in startups or Fortune 500 companies. They're struggling with the same questions. Sometimes the managers know what they need to do, but lack the executive or development team support to properly deploy it. Other times, they're not sure what to do and they're reluctant to change.

None of this compelled me to begin writing until I realized how sometimes, as humans, we ignore the advice of those we work or live with, but accept the written words in a journal or online. So, the seed was planted yet again, and this time I decided to take action. I realize many people will question the efficacy of the methods I propose. I certainly welcome such criticism or questioning. To help solidify these ideas, and pull them out of the realm of just idealism, I'll provide examples where they were applied and what success, or failure, they had. The failures are especially important as they teach me...all of to better mold the approaches and ideas so that the odds of future success in their application is substantially increased.

So, I thank you for reading this first posting and I hope I've tickled your interest just enough to return for future postings.