Morning Routines

I was just looking at my basic Twitter feed, and amidst the Salesforce and Mass Effect and election posts, there was a Promoted Tweet from the Wall Street Journal –

(I’m sure you’ve all seen the article in the journal, but I want to stress that it’s all conjecture. 

My feelings journal?

Michael, he means the Wall Street Journal.

Oh. The Wall.)

– interviewing the CEO of Slack, and the first question they asked was “What is the first thing you do in the morning?”

It just got me thinking about causality, causation, correlation, all of those fun C words that are similar but different. (Connotatively speaking, but also concretely.)

I seem to see a lot of things like this. People want to measure success by common threads of habits, and while there is likely something to that – successful people tend to work hard, sure – it also contributes to imbalance of power.

Because here is the thing.

I work hard. Absolutely. I don’t even have time to update this blog so often anymore because my job keeps me busy. But I ALSO worked hard when I worked at Geek Squad, and most people would not want to interview me when I was in that job to capture the things that made me successful. Strictly speaking, at that point in time, most people would not have seen me as successful. The way people spoke to me when I had that job definitely made that clear.

I am not even close to being the first person to point this out, and I won’t be the last. But asking a white guy what he does in the morning, and correlating that to his success in the tech industry, just isn’t meaningful.

I honestly don’t know how he answered because I really didn’t care. Most of the answers are irrelevant. Because what they do in the morning isn’t what makes them successful.

A working single mother who isn’t leading a Fortune 500 company probably has more on her plate in the morning. If she made enough money, sure, she might meditate or read the paper or whatever, but she doesn’t. Her morning probably starts just as early, and maybe she makes lunch for her kids, and then she gets them ready for school, sees them off, and then goes to work. Or maybe she has to be at work so early that she can’t do those things for her kids.

Asking an already successful person who started life on Easy mode is like asking a native language speaker how they managed to get those pesky verb conjugations right. Sure they had to practice and learn, they probably made mistakes, but since most everyone around them was speaking the same language, it made it easier.

I don’t begrudge the guy his success. And I’m not implying he doesn’t work hard. I AM saying that morning routines mean less than I think people give them credit for, and I’m also saying that I am just really tired of seeing those things come up on my Twitter dashboard.

Travel as a metaphor

I got back into Michigan from New York on Saturday afternoon, only about 13 hours after my originally scheduled time. Other at Arkus were far more delayed than I.

It was all of the storms – crazy thunderstorms and a few tornado watches all along the Eastern coast that had flights coming in cancelled, which means no planes to carry us all home. I was holed up in the Delta Sky Lounge, courtesy of Coworker, when my phone buzzed with the cancellation notice.

Cut to about an hour in line, with a lot of other tired non-passengers, hoping to get something other than a three leg journey through Syracuse, then Atlanta, and then home just shy of Sunday morning.

These kinds of things are exhausting and anxiety-inducing to me, but they’re not something that makes me mad. The poor saps behind the counter can’t do anything about Mother Nature’s wrath against her ignorant children, so I’m not about to scream at them.

“If weather could be controlled, Delta would have bought it by now,” was my favorite line from the helpful attendant who patiently refreshed his screen to see if he could get me to Atlanta (impromptu family visit?) or Minneapolis (daily flights back to Michigan).

The wait (and my volunteering to sort some info cards for them while I did so) was worth it. I got on a flight to Minneapolis that night, stayed with Coworker for free, and hopped back on a plane the next morning to come home. Cue celebratory Electric Hero sandwiches, cocktails, and blessed sleep.

Travel, man, am I right?

Sam, you haven’t posted in months, and now you’re going on about travel, and you mentioned a metaphor, but…?

Allow me to use your question as a convenient transition and take you back in time about 4 months.

Another Coworker made the decision to move on to other things after some life changes, and so I took on a few extra projects that needed to be closed out. I also got a promotion – not sure I’ve mentioned that? Anyway, yeah. So I had the experience of onboarding an employee.

Things were kind of crazy. A lot of pressure systems moving around, as you can imagine, and accordingly, a lot of things were delayed, some things were cancelled. But during that time I learned a lot – got hands on with some new things, got creative with some other things, and also just did a lot of work.

Skies have cleared. I got a lot of things off my plate, and not a moment too soon, as we enter Dreamforce season (already?) and very soon after that, holiday season. I still have some behemoths hanging around, major projects that are ramping up, but it’s so good to just breathe. I feel in control again – finally, after months of feeling like I was on a loop, digging and digging and digging but never seeing the surface.

And isn’t that the thing that’s so frustrating about travel issues?

 

 

Online Proctoring: My Horror Story

I enjoy my creature comforts. I like working from my couch some days, with blankets all bundled around me, feet propped up, and a cup of coffee nearby. Most importantly I like all of those things in my own house. If offered an opportunity to get coffee at a fancy coffeeshop or make myself a cup of Chock Full O’ Nuts at home, I’m going to pick home. Every time.

So when I learned that certification could be done from home, those many years ago, I signed up immediately. The first online proctored exam I took was not actually for Salesforce. It was my Marketo Certified Expert exam, and I took it in December after signing up for a training course that came with a voucher. I figured it couldn’t hurt. And given that December is prime time for crap weather, I was excited, despite the “it’s not awesome” warnings available online. How bad could it be?

Well…

First my webcam just stopped working. It had been fine, doing its thing, and literally just before it was time for me to sit down and show my stuff, it stopped.

Kryterion was super chill. Their support team rescheduled my exam for an hour later, and I ran out to get a new webcam. Done.

Fun fact: new webcams are better than old webcams. The resolution on my new one was too good, in that it couldn’t match my face because the old picture I had on file for facial recognition didn’t have as high a resolution.

No worries. Super awesome support team reset that. Face recognized. Typing recognized. It was time to take the test. Aced it.

When it came time to take my first Salesforce exam, I figured I had worked out the kinks and could handle anything.

Well…

I just couldn’t log in! After about three or four attempts, calling support, and still not being able to access my exam, we discovered there was a server error on their side. They told me they would reschedule my exam (for free, again, thank you super awesome support team!) and call me when I would be able to log in.

I made myself a drink and watched an episode of the Office. I was halfway through my vodka-cran when they called and said I could get started. Aced it.

I took a few onsite exams after that. Switching it up, I guess. But the testing location was not a huge step up from the headaches I’d had at home, so it was back to online for me.

Testing with a Mac is different. Testing with the new MacBook Pro (with its nearly universally despised Thunderbolt 3 ONLY connections) is actually impossible. Literally. If your external webcam (which you have to use) is connected via a dongle (which is has to be), the feed won’t go through.

For my Pardot exam, it took us about 2 hours to troubleshoot. If not for the super awesome support team at Kryterion, I would still be in the fetal position upstairs. I ended up needing to use the gaming computer to take my exam. Sweet graphics, anyway. I still had to stop like five times to adjust where the camera was or the microphone volume, or whatever.

I’m really not trying to scare you off. Legitimately not my purpose here. But I want you to KNOW what you’re getting into, if you go the online route.

First of all, your test may go way smoother. I had at least two that went off without a hitch. But just in case, keep these things in mind:

  1. If you have a brand new MacBook Pro, just plan on taking the exam onsite or with a cheap-o PC you pick up at Best Buy for like $200.
  2. When they say that you should buy their specific webcam…consider it. I didn’t. I had to buy one last minute, and I just wasn’t going to reschedule. But they have one that works, so you might as well.
  3. Download Sentinel and do your “biometric scan” in advance but not TOO in advance. Like two or three days beforehand is fine. But if you sign up for the exam in June to take in November, just wait.
  4. Be prepared to spend some time getting INTO the exam.
  5. Be prepared to be interrupted DURING the exam to fix something.
  6. Lean heavily on the support staff there. They really are awesome, really patient, and they have the answers.
  7. Be NICE to the support staff. Their job sucks. They just watch a bunch of under-dressed, maybe showered, work-from-home people take exams and get mad all day. And they can help.
  8. Maybe make a drink beforehand?
  9. Definitely eat beforehand – it might be HOURS before you get another chance.
  10. Be prepared to retake the exam. After fighting with computers and getting interrupted and feeling like NOTHING YOU DO IS WORKING, you might not be in the best place to take an exam…so be patient with yourself, too.

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but I’ll probably continue doing the online proctored exams. That is how much I hate driving in snow.

 

Time flies etc.

I have had a few people lately approach me to ask about what it’s like being a consultant. I’m always a little surprised by that because I think “why would they ask me? I haven’t been at it very long.”

I looked at the calendar recently. It’s already almost September. 2017. What the actual…anyway, that means that I’ve been a consultant for over a year now. And being the annoyingly introspective person that I am, that led me to hours and hours of thinking about that question and my answer.

I still don’t feel like I’m the right person to ask. There are still days where I haven’t quite gotten my feet underneath me. The treadmill is still just a tad too fast sometimes, and I stumble. Being human means that I focus a lot on those stumbles and less on the increasing number of successful steps.

Here’s how I’ve been answering that question.

Becoming a consultant is like any other major change in life. Day to day, nothing changes. I get emails from clients – sometimes I know the answer off-hand, and sometimes I have to do some research. I build things in Salesforce, and then I test those things and rebuild them. I provide insight into what the platform can and cannot do, what it can do natively vs. custom, what might be better left to a third party app, etc. I encourage admins to learn, and somewhere in all of that, I manage to occasionally put on a virtual meeting for the West Michigan WIT group.

But then I look back over the past 3 months, and I realize I have learned quite a bit. Over the past 6 months, 9 months…a year. I see things that I did early on that I would do differently now. Not that I was wrong then, but I’d be better prepared for them now.

There are little things, too. I speak more confidently about some things than I used to. I recognize patterns that I hadn’t noticed before. Gradually, I’m getting faster with some things.

Even I keep waiting for something to click. Some obvious and clear sign that says “You are now a Consultant.” But that’s not going to come. My business cards and job description say that. What I do on a daily basis says that.

That’s been the biggest lesson for me. I’ve learned in every job I’ve ever had – that’s what we do. This time it just feels more intangible. I can’t say “I now know how to complete an OSHA 300 and 300A form.” It’s more things like…”I now know that I can use Talend for data transfers and transformations.” But that encompasses so many things, not just a single task or ability.

As one of the least patient people I know, this kind of slow adaptation and realization of what I’ve learned has been both the most difficult and most rewarding part of the transition for me.

I don’t know if that’s the kind of answer people are looking for when they ask. Being a consultant varies depending on where you work, on what kind of team you’re working with. Just like being an admin at one place will be different than being an admin at another. But that’s the best answer I can give.

Regardless I’ve appreciated the questions because they forced me to take that long look and give myself some credit for how far I’ve come. And it’s made me really excited for whatever will come next. What will I know 3 months from now? 6 months, 9 months, a year?

If nothing else, I can safely say that being a consultant is never dull, and that’s probably the most important advice I can offer.

 

Obligatory apology and excuses blog post

That’s right, folks, it’s that time again, where I fish for flimsy excuses about why my (now paid) blog site has lain dormant as Moria for the past…can we say weeks? I’ll feel better if I say weeks.

Right, so let’s get it over with.

I’ve been working. Really, truly, I have. Statistically speaking, it takes about 12 months for someone to become (or at least feel) proficient in a new job. I’m about halfway there! In the meantime, I still forget details, sometimes – little things like checking a box or something. And then bigger things like balancing time or wrapping my head around how long it takes me to do Things. I still don’t always know if something is going to take me an hour or six days…

I’ve been meaning to write. As I was explaining to my Professional Writer father the other day, at any given time I have at least 3 draft posts, and then there are times that I have 7 or 8, all sitting there, wondering if I’ll ever get back to them. At least one of those drafts has been around longer than my new job…so….I’m sure I’ll finish it one of these days.

To be fair, I’ve had a lot going on. After Zoe left us so suddenly, I can safely say that the very last thing I wanted to do was…anything.

The first time you skip or forget something, it’s minor, right? It’s just a hiccup. The problem is that if you then skip a second time, or a third, it starts to snowball. And it snowballs fast. I guess that’s kind of the point of that metaphor, though, right?

Eventually going back seems that much more daunting. What do you mean I have to roll this 2 ton snowball back up the hill? It was so much smaller when it started falling! I’ll just wait for it to thaw a bit.

It doesn’t thaw. Winter has officially arrived.

My point is just that after a while writing a post seemed like an insurmountable challenge. It had been too long. I put in work to provide regular content, and then I let it fall to the side, in order to take on some more pressing things, and coming back to it means facing that gaping chasm in between last post and this post.

I don’t even want to THINK about how many of these posts I’ve made. But whatever. I’m only human. I disappear sometimes. The weight of things gets just a little too heavy, and my response is to tuck myself away.

So maybe this can be my blanket post moving forward? For the next time I need to limp away to lick my wounds and can’t work up the energy to put this kind of stuff into words.

I have some ideas in the works, though…all of the “well at least I’ll think it’s hilarious” variety. But it’s something, at least.

Disappointment

In the immortal words of The Rolling Stones, “you can’t always get what you want.”

There are some days I feel the statement should be amended to “you seldom get what you want” (and apparently, so did they. Looking at you, “Satisfaction”…), but then that’s not really the point of the song.

In every day use, we just stop there.

“I had hoped to do X, but it didn’t work out.”

“Well, you can’t always get what you want.”

“Gee, thanks for that insight.”

We forget about the second part of it. “If you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” And frankly what we need isn’t always what we want. I want to smother my face in melted chocolate and eat pizza all day, every day. But my body needs “vitamins” and “nutrients,” so I eat sensibly. Most of the time.

Of course the reason we don’t complete the sentiment is because disappointment sucks. It’s a shallow victory to hear “well, this didn’t go the way you wanted, but it’ll work out in the end.”

Yeah, the end was supposed to be successfully obtaining X. Now it’s…what? Unknown. Unknowable. Until you’re some days, weeks, or months beyond, and you look back to see the worn path behind you, and that light clicks on. Ohhhhh.

Sure that part is satisfying. I like to retrace my steps, counting them and watching the twisting way that they got me to where I am standing now.

But right now now it sucks. It just does. There is no sugar coating it. There is no “well, everything happens for a reason.” No. It just sucks.

Still, you know, in the scheme of things. I get it. My disappointment, on the world’s scale of sheer craptastic things, this is like….in the thousands. High thousands. I know that. I really get it. There are people out there who can’t even rely on the second part of that lyric because they’re not very likely to get what they need either.

I keep telling myself that, when I take a breath, and for whatever reason, the air I’ve breathed in seems to just carry all of the things that I’m even slightly bitter about. I keep telling myself that, when the little, nagging things that don’t usually bother me suddenly snowball, and I’m just running frantically from the avalanche. That’s right, running. I’m not about to face a giant snowball of little nagging things. Frankly, if I wasn’t dealing with them when they were tiny, why would I deal with them when they’ve become so big? No, thank you.

And I guess by now, you’re wondering where I’m going with this.

I’m not really sure. Haven’t gotten there, yet.

Sorry to disappoint.

 

Resolve

If I haven’t mentioned it thousands of times before, I went to college to study writing. Both of my parents are writers, and I had big dreams of becoming the next Maxwell Perkins. Things worked out a little differently.

I haven’t lost my love for writing (she types in her blog), and I haven’t lost my love for language – all of it. Morphemes, phrases, clauses, tropes, schemes, diction. Nothing that I learned in college has proven to be useless; as a Salesforce consultant, I communicate a lot. Even were that not the case, I still enjoy it all.

For my senior seminar, we had to read The Professor and the Madman, which is a compelling tale about the history of the Oxford English Dictionary. Worth the read, even if you’re not big into that kind of thing. What set the OED apart from other dictionaries at the time was that it provided the spelling of words, the meaning, and the background of those words – when did it come into being? When did its meaning change, if ever? All fascinating things.

Taking that a step further, Bill Bryson wrote about the history of the English language in his book The Mother Tongue – another very good read, if you have the time (obviously you do, right?)

Words change over time, frequently because of changes in society. People start to use a word ironically or sarcastically, and the word changes. That’s the beauty and frustration of the English language.

It’s January now, and that means the time for resolutions. I read this blog post about New Years being a time to drop old commitments, rather than take on new ones, and it got me thinking about words. I thought about the word resolution, how it’s used to describe a way to solve a problem. Which made me consider the word resolve.

Resolve means to close an issue or come to conclusion, but it also means strength of will. Do you have resolve? How will we resolve this problem? I wondered how we, English speakers, came to the meaning.

Resolve entered the English language in the 14th century from the old French resolver or the Latin resolvere. The original meaning was to loosen or unyolk; it described freeing something or oneself, not shackling to something new. Through the typical indirect, winding way that this language tends to use, it came to be what it is now.

I haven’t made a real New Year’s resolution in years. It has always felt empty to me, like a silently understood and agreed upon thing in society – we all are meant to make resolutions, recognizing them as void contracts with ourselves. No one expects others to keep to their resolutions. I imagine the whole thing started with someone drunkenly proclaiming that this would be the year they changed things for themselves. Did that first resolution maker follow through?

So this idea of giving up something, rather than taking on more, led me to the etymology of the word resolve, and I find myself thinking that maybe all of this comes back full circle. What was old is now new again, right? It’s a common trope in literature, trying to recapture the glories of yesteryear.

This is where I make some grand statement amount refusing to make a resolution because of its emptiness, the void contract, instead proclaiming myself free of the burden. Eh. Why bother?

I have goals this year. 2016, while not my favorite year, was good to me professionally. I worked hard, and I reaped the benefits. I’m ready to do more. More certifications, more engagement, more…Salesforce, more Ohana.

But words can change. 100, 200…500 years from now, the words I use today might sound different, mean something else. But actions will always be the same. Helping someone, offering a hand, lending an ear – these things will never change the rewards, the sacrifice, the connection. So rather than shout to the rooftops or the servers about what I aim for this year, I will continue trying to do. To be.

Happy New Year