Sherry Noik writes, edits and fixes your grammatical errors

Before Christmas, I had the opportunity to hang out with some graduate students at Columbia’s Journalism School. I was surprised at their optimism in regards to their profession, their career prospects and the role of traditional media houses. That surprise meant I  then jumped at the chance to talk to Sherry Noik, an editor and writer at Sun Media about what she does all day. 


Sarah: Sherry, what do you do for a living?
Sherry: I’m an editor and writer (print and online) at Sun Media, a media chain based in Toronto. I also occasionally write articles for other (non-competition) publications.

Sarah: Did you always know what you wanted to do? How did you end up where you are today in your career?
Sherry: It’s funny, when I was a kid, there were exactly two things I wanted to do: work in radio and be a writer. So that’s what I did. First, I spent 10 years in radio in Toronto (sometimes on the air, mostly behind the scenes). Then I switched careers and have been a writer/editor full-time for eight years.

In both cases, I started at the bottom, so to speak. In radio, I interned at a station and was lucky enough to be hired on. When I left, I sold a few articles to newspapers (I’d already had a few articles published over the years), and then kept at it. Oh – and I majored in English in university. See? You CAN do something with an English degree.

Sarah: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Sherry: I get paid to read, write, tweet, travel and talk to interesting people!

I recently tried to come up with an estimate of how many actual words I read in a typical day. I think it’s probably in the neighbourhood of 20,000 (that’s 1/3 to 1/2 of a short novel!). That’s articles I’m editing, articles I’m reading, research and keeping up to date with multiple “news” sources (blogs, social media, etc.).

By the way, having to keep up with blogs and social media and whatever memes or trends are making the rounds is also a really enjoyable part of the job.

Overall, it’s that no day is ever the same, there’s no routine. I might be quietly working away at fixing subject-verb agreements one day, then get offered a great interview the next. Occasionally, I get to travel somewhere interesting in order to cover a story. At the office, it’s a dynamic work environment, full of intellectually curious and creative people.

One final thing: I still get a kick out of seeing my byline on a story!

Sarah: I’ll have to follow that up by asking what you enjoy least about what you do! Is there anything you wish wasn’t a part of your job requirements?
Sherry: What I least enjoy: bad writing and sloppy writing (not necessarily the same thing). Did I mention I read, like, 20,000 words a day?

Sarah: The way people consume news and media is changing. Where do you see Sun Media fitting in with people’s changing habits?
Sherry:I’ve been here a few years, and I’ve seen the print and online sides of the business begin to collaborate much more effectively. We’re all watching what’s happening in the marketplace, and trying to respond to it. That’s become easier with the digital side of publishing because you can track, in real time, what content is resonating most with readers.

As a company, Sun Media is keeping its hand in print publishing, digital publishing, television and mobile apps, so I guess the strategy is to stay diversified and provide content to people wherever, and in whatever form, they wish to consume it.

As individuals, my colleagues and I are constantly adapting to and embracing the new tech tools at our disposal. We have reporters shooting BlackBerry videos, print editors creating online slide shows… And, of course, everyone (almost) is following the goings-on on Twitter – more than any invention since the printing press, it has changed the way news and content is done.

Sarah: What do you see changing in your industry over the next year?
Sherry: That’s a tough call, and everyone wishes they knew the answer. Clearly, digital is the way everything’s going. The trick will be how to monetize it profitably. I think crowdsourcing and user-generated content will continue to grow – but I still firmly believe we will always need trained journalists and editors to filter out the noise. (There is A LOT of noise.) Maybe I’m biased.

Thank you so much for the interview Sherry. If you’d like to know more about Sherry, you can follow her on Twitter, or check out her blog, a place for cunning linguists, teehee!



Ira Haberman listens to music all day

I met Ira through twitter. He has what I consider to be a really cool job. He spends his days listening to music, developing content around music and being all strategenius for Corus Entertainment’s interactive radio properties. Ok…that’s the simple version of what he does, but don’t panic, he explains in detail below!



Sarah: Ira, tell us about what you do!
Ira: No. You tell me. Ha. I’m the Creative/Content Director for Corus Entertainment’s Interactive and Integrated Solutions and am the Brand Manager for ExploreMusic. I help develop content and strategies for Corus Entertainment’s stable of interactive radio properties, specializing in social media, community building, content devlopment and mobile experiences.

Sarah: How much new music do you listen to each week?
Ira: A lot. Everyone says that, but I seriously listen to a ton of music. For a music lover, that’s a good thing I guess. I’ve always listened to a lot of music. I can remember listening to CHUM AM back in the day with my dad, driving around town or back at home where he’d slap on some Dave Brubeck on the hi-fi system. I owe my eclectic taste to those early experiences I guess. I’m pretty fortunate to work in a field where I have to listen to all kinds of music for work. Not just the artists we get to feature and talk to for ExploreMusic, but people have started to send me stuff to get my opinion on their sound, their marketing, etc. Band managers, artists, record labels, all kinds of people do. I’m often sitting at my desk at work with my headphones on. And really, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I’m constantly digging up, scrounging for new music. We’re also working on these cool emerging artist platforms which are a total howl, cause we get to hear bands in their earliest, rawest form. I love that. Truth is, for me, it always comes back to my faves. If you’re on my Blackberry or Ipod Touch, you’ve arrived for Ira Haberman. That’s what I usually listen to on my commute to and from the office.

Sarah: What path did you take that led you to where you are in your career?
Ira: A long and winding road, to say the least. When all this started (my career) all I wanted to do was be a sportscaster. I idolized people like Dan Shulman, Elliotte Friedman and Mike Wilner growing up in my formative years, and really thought for a few fleeting moments that one day I would grow up to be like them. I even did some sports reporting for great radio stations like CFRB 1010 and 680 News here in Toronto. The bottom line though, is unless you are one of those dudes or as awesome as they are, it’s a rough ride. So that sucked, but I knew I loved radio, from a very early age, so a few really awesome jobs and experiences along the way led me here. I’ve worked every shift in radio, mostly behind the scenes, but sometimes in front of microphones. I’ve also worked for news/ information and rock stations. Originally I was brought into this division at Corus to work on nationally syndicated programming, like the Ongoing History of New Music and the Legends of Classic rock, but like technology the role has evolved. One thing remains though; I have a great face for radio.

I’ve always been really into making compelling content and most importantly connecting with an audience. I’m convinced that no matter what platform or gadget is cool, if you create compelling content an audience will check it out. And so here I am today, part of a team trying to leverage the power of audio entertainment (radio) and its deep connection with people into a new era. We’re still doing the same sorts of things that Uncle Milty did, but the circumstances are different. People aren’t huddling around a radio in the living room anymore, but instead are connecting with our stations or our personalities on our station websites, on a variety of social media, mobile apps, or their radio (there I said it!).

Sarah:You seem to juggle several responsibilities at work. How much of your time is spent on strategy and how much of it is spent creating content?
Ira: Ha. The ole’ chicken and the egg question. I’d say I attend to each with equal amounts of time, but not all the time. So one minute I could be interviewing some singer-songwriter dude that nobody has heard of, and the next minute I could be talking to one of our programmers about their social media strategy. It really does run the gamut. Does that make sense?

Sarah: What is your favorite part of what you do?
Ira: Evangelizing radio and taking radio into the new digital era (or whatever you call this period). Seriously, I love radio, and still think it has a lot to offer. I’m not talking about the physical radio on your mom’s kitchen counter, or the one in your car, I’m talking about audio entertainment in a more generic way. Our newstalk stations were chat rooms before we knew what that word meant and when done right like the way my pals Charles Adler or Dave Rutherford do it, it’s magical and translates really well on-line, on demand, or as part of a podcast. Charles Adler is one of the most prolific twitterers out there, cause he gets that all of this new tech stuff is just an extension of what he’s already been doing for so long. . Before Pitchfork was hip, people like Alan Cross were the tastemakers, letting us in on what’s cool to listen to. He’s still doing just that for ExploreMusic We’re extending the life of what people in the radio business have been doing for so long.

So yeah, I care passionately about the content our people create, and still think it’s very relevant, and for me, its fun telling people just that.

Sarah: Is there anything that takes up your time that is no fun at all?
Ira: I can’t really point to one thing that isn’t fun. I mean we all have paperwork to do that isn’t the most exciting, but you know what, I’m pretty lucky to have a gig like this. I could be outside in the cold rain and snow right now digging ditches. How fun would that be?

Sarah: Do you have any predictions for us for 2011? Where is the Interactive/Entertainment industry headed over the next year?
Ira: I have no idea actually. Things are moving so fast. It’s hard to predict anything these days. I suspect tablet computing will take off this year in a much bigger way, and that Apps will be the key to our collective existence. I think this also might finally be the year of cloud entertainment. You know, having your junk on a server somewhere, so that you can listen to it from multiple devices wherever you are. I use dropbox, evernote and love them both, because I can access my stuff however I want. Wish I could do that with my music. Believe it or not, the smartphone market is still emerging, and I think we’ll see penetration amongst more and more people. The dominant players in this space will continue to dominate. I’m really excited about these emerging artist portals that we’re building with the radio stations. Seems like a great way to leverage our megaphones and build community around local artists and fans. I’m pretty psyched about new records from Nicole Atkins, The Beastie Boys, Bright Eyes, Robbie Robertson, My Morning Jacket and Radiohead just to name a few. I’m sure there will be some killer indie stuff along the way as well…

Thanks for filling us in on your cool job, Ira! if you’d like to check out Ira’s excellent music suggestions, go to his website, ExporeMusic. If you’d like to follow what Ira is up to, you can check him out on Twitter.




James Sherrett mixes crowdsourcing and advertising

I’ve known James Sherrett for several years now. We met when he was in Calgary for a conference (not through anything to do with crowdsourcing, which is kind of funny). Recently, I was surprised to learn that he wrote a novel a few years ago. Not a bull-shitty marketing book, but a real, honest-to-goodness piece of fiction. How cool is that? I’m not going to lie, finding out stuff like this is one of the reasons I’m loving this blog :)


Sarah: How did you come up with the idea for AdHack?
James: I was a frustrated ad buyer who wanted a better way to do digital advertising. We needed to work fast and deliver great campaigns in days and weeks. Everyone in advertising was talking about the next quarter and the quarter after. It was impossible! So I started out to solve my own problem and build an ad agency that worked like the web — fast, flexible, responsive. Now we have 1,000+ people in 21 countries.

Sarah: What did you do before this?
James: I ran the Internet marketing, content and web development teams for Intrawest where we sold vacations to places like Whistler and Cancun. Yes, I got a season’s pass at Whistler. Then I did the same for Teligence where we sold phone ‘entertainment.’ Yes, there were late night ads featuring Evangeline Lilly. Before all that I wrote a novel. I guided fishermen.

Sarah: What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
James: Hugh Jackman is the global spokesperson for Lipton Ice Tea. He’d done a great ad called Tokyo Hotel Dancing that blew up all over the world. Lipton Ice Tea (and their agency DDB Paris) worked with us on an open casting call on YouTube for folks to submit videos and get cast with Hugh Jackman on the sequel ad. We did the project in 9 European countries and 8 languages and it was amazing how people responded. We got tons of entries. Then we started getting parody videos of the first ad. People had incredible passion for the project.

Sarah: What’s the most interesting thing about working with AdHack clients?
James: The range of problems we get to solve. It’s an awesome challenge. Some days we’re creating teams to build apps for the iPad. The next day we’re organizing teams for a global beer brand’s event coverage across North America. Another day we’re recruiting filmmakers to remix a global TV ad to redistribution. We’ve found some really solid basics of process and approach to work across these projects, but the projects always amaze with their diversity.

Sarah: Why do you think people are turning to crowdsourcing?
James: I think the bigger picture is that people are responding to the huge flood of digital content that we’re all immersed in today. They’re finding just like us that an open, collaborative, curated process, working with their customers and advocates, is the best technique to swim with the flood and influence its path. Crowdsourcing is one name for that response.

Sarah: Where do you see this industry going in the next year or two?
James: I think the biggest change we’re seeing in advertising now and continuing over the next 5-10 years is the “80 / 20 flip.” Here’s the 30 second overview:

It used to be the standard rule that you made an ad and repeated the heck out of it. That’s a model for mass media and why you see the same ads over and over. The ad (creative) was 20 percent of the budget and the space / time to run it (media) was 80 percent of the budget. That ratio is in the process of flipping. The ‘creative’ part of advertising is exploding in size and complexity: In size because we’re living in a world of media abundance where replication costs are near 0; in complexity because we’re in what I call a ‘smoosh’ time where our digital world includes all types of media: video, images, audio, software, text. All of that (with more coming) can be ads.

So crowdsourcing in advertising is a response to recruit more people to build more stuff to meet the demand for more creative in a world affected by the 80 / 20 flip.

Thanks for sharing with us James! If you’d like to know more about James, you can follow him or his company on Twitter. If you’d like to learn more about the 80 / 20 flip, he’s got that on his blog. If you’d like to buy his novel, it’s right here.



Andrew Lane talks digital strategy

Toronto, how’d you get so lucky with all these smart people? Today, I’m interviewing Andrew Lane. Andrew and I met at a conference in Banff one year and he remains one of my favorite people to run into at any conference. Where ever Andrew is, fun will surely follow. 


Sarah: What do you do?
Andrew: I work at Weber Shandwick Canada.  We’re the world’s largest PR/Communications firm and I work as a member of our rapidly growing digital communications practice.  In Canada, my role is to provide strategic support for our 5 offices (Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Calgary, Vancouver) and I also work with our North American Emerging Media Team keeping our network up to speed on developments in the mobile and tablet markets.  I think it’s a pretty great job for a nerd. 

Sarah: How long have you been there and what’s the career path that lead you to your current role?
Andrew: I’ve only been at Weber since March of 2010 so I’m still a relative newbie.  My career started out at Ryerson University, studying television and  writing.  I then got into the industry and quickly shifted my focus to the digital storytelling side of things with a great company called marblemedia.  After a while I moved on to a few tech startups but found myself drifting away from that storytelling aspect of my work that I loved so much (for anyone who’s ever met me, that statement should come as no surprise).  That brought me back to the entertainment side of the industry where I ran my own consulting business (shameless plug: before getting the opportunity to work with Weber Shandwick.

Sarah: I think it is pretty reasonable to call you a networking pro, do you think this helps open doors for you?
Andrew: I’m not sure it’s possible to be a “networking pro” but I really do like meeting people.  In the age of social media, it seems people consider it novel to meet “IRL”.  While online relationships can be great, I’ll always prefer knowing someone face to face.  People open doors for people they trust and I think being face to face with someone is the best way to build that trust.

Sarah: Have you always been this comfortable meeting new people, or did you have to work at it?
Andrew: If you’ve ever met my dad it’s obvious that talking to strangers runs in my family.  While it’s fairly counter to what you’re supposed to teach your kid, I think my dad’s natural curiousity in life rubbed off on me.  So I guess the answer is no, but I really think that if you’re genuinely interested in learning about other people, there’s very little work involved in meeting someone new.

Sarah: What’s the most interesting part of your day?
Andrew: The most interesting part of my day is the end of it.  Once everything has finally slowed down, I consistently find interesting to reflect on everything that happened and see if I managed to learn something from it.  I believe in the saying “you learn something new every day” but I think you only retain that learning when you take a few minutes to acknowledge it.  So I try to.

Sarah: Of course, I have to follow that up with what’s something you really wish you didn’t have to do?
Andrew: Say “no” to people.  Is that vague enough?

Sarah: What advice can you give someone that would be looking to follow your career path?
Andrew: My career path has been a bit of a winding road but I’ve learned a lot of lessons everywhere it’s taken me.  While I wouldn’t encourage anyone to replicate it, I’d say that ‘go with your gut’ has been a saying that’s consistently served me well and I’d encourage others to do the same.

If you’d like to find out more about Andrew, you can find him on Twitter, or at his website. To find out more about the company he works for, Weber Shandwick, check their social page. Weber Shandwick was just mentioned in Mashables Top Employers of Social Media Professionals!




Saul Colt is magic

Saul Colt is smart, so he definitely makes the list of smart people I know. He travels all over giving talks on how to build a really, really great community.  


Sarah: You’ve carried around an interesting job title for quite a while now. What is it and what does it mean?
Saul: My job title for the last few years (as well as currently) is Head Of Magic. The origin of the title is pretty simple, I have a unique ability to make a lot out of nothing and on top of that a very pretty woman told me that I did was “magical” so it seemed like the only appropriate title.  

Sarah: As Head of Magic, how do you spend your day?
Saul: Every day is a little different and hard to describe (kinda like a magic trick) but on any given day I can be writing strategy documents/plans around Customer Activation, Customer Acquisition, Customer Re-Invigoration, Social media Plans, or Real World Stunts. Also I am a little crazy about my ideas and like to manage the execution so I also can be executing on stuff or maybe just maybe I am on a plane, speaking at a conference or like at this moment I am sitting in an Airport Lounge in Brazil answering your questions in hopes this interview will make me more attractive to the opposite sex or impress my Mom. 

Sarah: I’ve no doubt your mom is very impressed. What’s the career path that led you to this?
Saul: Like most people who have jobs that they really love, the secret to my path has just been head down hustle and not stopping so people can tell you your goals are unreasonable. As for actual path I have worked in several industries (packaging supplies to automotive to publishing to creative agency to startups and Online Invoicing) but the common element was the style I developed to market products and communicate with people. I made myself the very best at a very specialized skill and worked hard to develop all my skills to be transferable.  

Sarah: You speak often. How long does it take you to prepare for each talk you give?
Saul: I spend more time on preparation then a lot of folks I know because of two reasons. I very rarely give the same talk twice (it only happens if I am asked to do something last minute) and my process is that I will “walk around” with the idea around the talk for a few days (or longer). I’ll roll it around in my head a bunch of different ways. Once I find a way I like I can usually write the presentation in a few hours and then I do a final polish a day later and add some jokes or a picture or two with fresh eyes. 

Sarah: What is your favorite part of what you do? 
Saul: Dealing with people and solving problems.  

Sarah: We always hear the idealized version of people’s jobs. What has to get done that you hate doing
Saul: I don’t like planning farther then a quarter at a time even though it is usually insisted on. Some of whatever success I have had has come from being able to not only adapt to situations but recognizing when you need to adapt to new information. Because of this I try to leave a lot of room for interpretation in my plans and this also is part of why I am so crazy about wanting to execute my own stuff.

Sarah: What are you excited about outside of work?
Saul: When I am not working I get excited by sunsets and long walks on the beach in a warm rain. 

Thanks for answering all of my questions Saul! If you want to know more about Saul, you can check in on his fave recent accomplishment, his fave client, a friend he thinks is cool and an Emmy Award winning comedy write who is a potential BFF candidate. You can can also read his blog





Hanan Chebib creates relationships to help find missing children

Hanan Chebib is today’s interview for I know smart people. She is definitely smart and has chosen to work in the non-profit industry. I won’t lie, I got a little teary-eyed over her job and what she does all day. Get a tissue ready :)


Sarah: What do you do?
Hanan: I’m the Manager of Development at the Missing Children Society of Canada. I create relationships to get people engaged in our cause so that our investigators can continue the search for our families.

Sarah: What was the career path that led you to this?
Hanan: It’s not so much a path but more of a leaping from one rock to another. I have a Bachelor’s in Physical Anthropology, as I was going to be a Forensic Anthropologist when I grew up, made the leap into becoming a pharmacy technician for 5 years, then another leap into photography for 11 years, then another as an event producer for 3 and half years…. then my most exhilarating and challenging leap was into the non-profit world this past April. Each time I jumped into a field it had a huge learning curve and its own special challenges, but what they have in common is the fantastic mix of the technical and the creative.

Sarah: Is it motivating or disheartening to learn about Missing Children?
Hanan: It’s a stark reality that children in Canada go missing at the rate they do…. the number shocked me when I first heard the stat. The RCMP released that over 50,000 cases of missing children were reported in 2009 alone! In the first 48 hours, 50% are recovered, but what happens to the rest? What was motivating was to hear that an organization like MCSC was actively doing something about it. And I mean, really doing something about it! The investigators at MCSC are all retired cops with over 25 years of experience each in detective work and they are actively looking. How amazing is that!

Sarah: What’s the best part about working for a non-profit?
Hanan: I know it’s cliche, but knowing that whatever effort you make in your job, it has a direct positive result in making a difference in someone’s life. A couple of weeks ago, MCSC assisted in a reunification between a father and his daughter. He had been looking for her for two years. He stopped by the office with his little girl and his mother to thank us for helping him out. It was amazing! Nothing compared to that in my corporate job.

Sarah: What are some of the things you do at your job day-to-day that people would be surprised to find out about?
Hanan: Well, how creative it is. We have an environment of openess where people from every walk of life can sit down with us for a brainstorming session. I get to converse with people everyday and listen to their ideas on how to do something better, or how to use something that exists in a new way. We have partners from all over Canada that have developed one of a kind initiatives to help us with our cause. How exciting is that! I, too, know smart people!
Oh, and we laugh a lot here at MCSC. We all love coming to work and we get charged by each others successes. We’re never short of smiles here. I think that would surprise people the most.  

Sarah: Where do you see a non-profit like Missing Children going in the next few years?
Hanan: One of our volunteers, Jason Long summed it up beautifully, we’re one of the best kept secrets in Canada. I’d like that to change. We’re moving in a direction where each and every Canadian will be empowered to prevent child abduction simply by recognizing their own strengths  and it’ll be our job to celebrate and share that story. Every day we receive emails, letters or phone calls from Canadians who made a decision to take an small step to help and each and every single contribution will ripple into a societal change.

We have a farmer in Milton who grows a crop of pumpkins every year. It’s an honor system, he places a table and a box at the end of his lane and neighbors drive by, pick a pumpkin or two and drop a couple of dollars into the box. This year he made a decision to donate the dolars to MCSC and he made a sign to share it. He noticed that more than not, people put an extra couple of bucks into the box. He raised $521.00 dollars! When we talked to him, he said it wasn’t a big deal. It’s what he does. He grows crops. He sold over 200 pumpkins this past fall. What he really did was engage an entire community to make a small action in helping us, just by being good at what he does. That’s a big deal to us!

In the next few years, I’d like to see all Canadians become part of the movement to stop child abduction, in the way that speaks to them personally.

Sarah: Does the Internet make it easier to solve cases?
Hanan: Oh, yes! Google alone is a key tool. Our investigators can use Google Search on the names of our missing children and monitor the information. Or if there is an address that comes up in the course of their search, they can sit at their desks with Google Earth and do a preliminary look. Not to mention that nowadays our search has become global and it’s much easier to source contact information and to build relationships critical to a case when you have it right at your finger tips.

We have also partnered with Marketwire this past year and they push out through their channels on the web all our child search alerts with helps us get realtime information out to a greater audience. Their reach is over 300,000 people, not to mention the secondary ripple of information sharing that occurs. Which is critical to our success in a case.

Sarah: What can other people do to help?
Hanan: Sometimes, it something you’re already doing, but you may need a bit of help to tie it in to what we’re doing. We can help with that. We all do something in our lives that can be a source of charity. You just don’t know it yet! Send us an email to start a dialogue, or join our Facebook page, or go to our website and become a monthly donor.

Hanan, thank you so much for sharing what you do with us. You can follow Hanan on twitter if you want to know what she’s up to next. 




Michelle Sklar is a media and marketing maven

That’s right, I know more than one smart person! Next up, find out what Michelle Sklar, one of my best friends is up to:


Sarah: What do you do all day?
Michelle: Many things! I am the Director of Marketing and PR, Europe, for Poynt Corporation.  I am the online video host for Techvibes video programming.  I serve on two boards and one committee.  The Board positions are with Digital Alberta and the Missing Children Society of Canada; I am on the Steering Committee for TEDxYYC.

Sarah: How did you arrive at where you are today?
Michelle: I have been an entrepreneur my entire professional career.  I am passionate about innovation and social change.  I have been in online broadcasting as host, producer and business development, where I have been able to build a broad network of people, gain a unique and comprehensive understanding of digital media, emerging technologies and business models.  I turned a corner on my career… pulled a lot of my skills together and fashioned them into what I am doing now.

Sarah: Is this what you thought you would be doing when you were in school?
Michelle: No, I wanted to be a lawyer! 

Sarah: What is your favorite part of what you do? 
Michelle: Working with people, being around innovation and creativity.  I am a builder and a connector, and I am to do that with all of the activities I am involved with.

Sarah: …and the other side of that, what is the most annoying part of what you do? 
Michelle: Navigating bureaucracy – I am an action oriented person and not all that patient! 

Sarah: What gets you out of bed every morning?
Michelle: I love my job – my team, the industry and what we do are exceptional and I am so excited to be a part of building out this company. I am thrilled to be serving on the boards and engaged in other community based activities – I have lot’s of energy, and I love being an agent of change, a builder and a connector.

If you would like to know more, you can follow Michelle on Twitter. You can also read/watch some of her interviews on Techvibes and Technorati.




Harley Young helps clients imagine and deliver technology solutions

I am finally on track to get posting on I know smart people. I meet so many smart people and I always find myself saying, “Oh, if only you knew so-and-so” all the time. Well, I am a (wom)man of action! Instead of just hoping everyone could meet each other, I thought I’d share some info on some of the coolest people I meet on this blog and a little bit about what they do all day. So let’s get to it. 


Harley Young

Sarah: Harley, explain to us what you do with your time.
Harley: I cook with enthusiasm. I run to remember what’s important. I read voraciously. And, I help clients imagine and deliver technology solutions that improve their business. Sometimes that means I help companies merge another company into their business. Other times, it means I help state governments rewrite their entire disease reporting and surveillance system to improve public health outcomes. Each time there are some things that remain the same, and some things that differ, but it’s generally fascinating.

Sarah:That’s pretty impressive. How does one end up with a job like that?
Harley: After undergrad, I helped start a small software company in Ottawa. After sleeping under a server box at the office 2 nights a week for a couple years, we were acquired by a bigger US firm (Manugisitcs, now JDA Software). I resigned shortly after the acquisition, and went to graduate school thinking that I’d do my PhD and then dedicate my life to teaching. While I loved teaching, I didn’t care much for academic research, so I left graduate school with a MSc, and rejoined Manugistics as a technology consultant. After a year flying around North America, I was invited to join another startup in Toronto. 2000 was unkind to many dot-coms, and my new start-up was no different. After 3 months we were out of money and closed the doors. It was then that I joined my current employer, where I’ve mostly been since…save a 20 month break for a backpacking trip around the world, and about 7 months with another consulting firm. 

Sarah: Did you have any idea this is where you would end up?
Harley: Oh, absolutely not. I was initially a student of accounting and economics, figuring that I’d eventually become a Chartered Accountant (CA). It wasn’t until my third year of undergrad that a professor who taught one of my electives remarked that I often arrived at very clever solutions to technology problems. His compliment was followed by the suggestion that I might want to consider switching majors. Since no one in my family knew very much about technology, discussion of this around the dinner table was met with no-small amount of skepticism. “Do you really think there will be jobs in that field?” my mum asked. Don’t worry. She uses the Internet now.

Sarah: What is your favorite part of what you do that people might not think about right away?
Harley: I have two favourite things:

  1. Travel. As part of my job, I spend a lot of time moving around, so I have the opportunity to visit many new places. Sometimes they’re big cities full of thrills, and other times they’re tiny towns that move at a slower pace. Both are great for different reasons.
  2. People. Since I work for many different clients, I am always meeting new people. I enjoy the chance to learn new skills from them, offer some advice and guidance, and sometimes make new friends. I also enjoy connecting people I know to each other. Sometimes it’s just for a coffee when someone moves to a new city. Other times, it’s because I think they have something neat to offer one another.

Sarah: What’s the worst part?
Harley: A few weeks ago, a guy who was about 27 was on his way from Toronto to Fort McMurray to start a new job. I had a window seat, and he was sitting next to me in the middle seat. As we pushed back from the gate, he kept craning his neck to sneak a peak out the window. I turned and asked what he was looking at. He told me that it was only his second flight and he loved watching the takeoff. I switched seats with him, and he sat with his face glued to the window while the plane took off, and while it later touched down. He was completely enamored with the magic of flight.

The ability to visit new places is one of my favourite things about my job. However, the process of actually going through customs, being frisked (or backscatter X-rayed) by security, and having your neatly packed shirts all rumpled by well-meaning inspectors multiple times each week has eroded the magic. About that, I’m sorry.

Sarah: I was thinking that all of your travels must have made you an expert packer.
Harley: If you’ve seen Up In The Air, you know my packing and airport strategy. The two keys to packing well are:

  1. A good rolling bag (Zuca Pro)
  2. Smart choices about clothing and shoes

There are lots of vidoes and sites about this. You can check out One Bag, or hit your favourte search engine and video site for one-bag packing or travelling light.

Sarah: What are you most excited about?
Harley: I am excited about a lot of things. I’m really excited about my girlfriend and her enthusiasm for providing kids with a solid foundation in math (she’s a grade 5/6 teacher). I’m also really excited about the future. There remains a lot of tragedy in the world, of course. But there are also a lot of people getting online for the first time, discovering and learning new things, connecting to each other and realizing that we’re all part of a community. I see how transparency, participation, conversations, and shared experience have changed my clients, and I’m excited to see how it will help support the desires we all share to help make life better.

Thanks to Harley for being one of the first people on I Know Smart People. You can follow Harley on Twitter or stay up-to-date on his whereabout by reading his blog.




Online friends vs offline friends

I often refer to hilarious things I’ve read on the Internet as being from “one of my Twitter friends” This qualification is fairly new. I used to just call them friends, but people tease me when I tell them about friends I’ve never met in real life. I’ve never understood this. Is there a difference because I haven’t been able to shake their hand? Is a friend more valuable because I’ve been lucky enough to meet them in person?

Wait, of course there’s a difference. You’ve never shared a drink, or a cup of coffee, or been able to hug it out with your online friends. However, you’ve found your online friends through a shared connection, one that isn’t based on location. If we assume that connection has something to do with your interests, work or emotional needs, wouldn’t the connection you share with your online friends be more valuable?

While I love having friends over for dinner and spending countless hours all over town with my crew, when I need something, I often turn to my online friends. I ask them for advice and for introductions to people I haven’t met before. I have even asked them for work.

Is it still that nerdy to meet friends online or is it a great way to meet likeminded people? Do you see a difference between online and offline friends? Do you value one group more than the other?

Update: A comment from @myownbiggestfan  

I was hanging out with some friends last week and I had just checked my phone and a Twitter pal in L.A. had posted a picture of their dog and it was pretty cute.

ME: “Oh, look, my friend posted a picture of their dog. So cute.”
FRIEND: “Who’s dog is that?”
“A friend from Twitter”
“Have you ever met?”
“No, not in real life”
“So, not a real friend then”

I bristled at that. The “not real” friend is the wife of a “real” friend’s ex-coworker from years ago. I got along with both of them pretty much instantly. We recommend TV shows and movies to each other, we know each other’s tastes well. I had helped design their wedding invites, which they repaid me (without me requesting or even wanting) in a small, thoughtful gift. I also play iPhone boardgames with them, more so than I can get together with “real” friends. We even converse with each other more than either of us do with the person we met through, who lives in the same city as me. (not by design, just circumstances)

(sorry if that paragraph is unintelligible)

I was actually a little offended that someone would try and characterize my friendship with these people as less than tangible, I didn’t say anything though, because it really wasn’t worth it. Some people are open to having a friendship that is buffered by some mode of communication, some aren’t.

The fact is that the internet isn’t “nerdy” anymore. When bar-stars are using it to get laid just as much as the role-playing game geeks, it’s just mainstream. This hasn’t been an issue for almost 10 years now. What is in dispute is how much time people are willing to put into an online friendship, and from that follows how much weight that person is willing to put ON that friendship. I spend quite a bit of time here, so my online friendships are important.

That said, I’m still fucking awkward whenever I meet one of you people in real life.






Too many cooks spoil the Twitter account?

I’m currently in an awkward, social media situation that I need some advice on. 

I’m suddenly getting complaints from followers about one of the Twitter accounts I help manage.

The good news: The tweets in question aren’t mine.

The bad news: It’s an office politics situation where my hands are tied – I really can’t do anything about the spam-like tweets. 

The worries: I’m concerned this will reflect poorly on me and people will assume I don’t know how to use the Internet (uhh…I totally do and I think my love of proves it). I’m concerned that if I say anything, they’ll hand the whole thing over to the other person and the community around the account will suffer. I’m concerned that people out there don’t like me and I hate that! 

How do you proceed in a situation like this? Does anyone else have any work social media war stories to share that can help me out?