Thursday, 19 July 2018

An Attitude of Gratitude

This post to thank some of the people, organisations and projects that I've met on my travels over the last few years.

It is a post that's been drafted for over a month, but various stresses and strains - and a dash of procrastination - mean I'm only just getting around to it now.

I'm publishing it today due, in part to the #KilledByMyDebt program, that aired last night.

My World of Work has been an interesting journey and can best be summed up with the following questions I posed to all three of my kids recently:
  • A job with lots of money but a mean boss and nothing much to show for your work after 10 years?
  • Doing what you love, love what you are doing and being proud of the 'work' even if it doesn't make much money?
I'm delighted to say that all 3 of my kids opted for the latter... and not only that I've tried to give them permission to live a life of purpose and to find projects where you can bring your whole self to 'work,' I've done my best to model this for them.

One way or another things are going to change, in the less mindful/more angry moments the thoughts are along the lines of "I don't know why I bothered," ...that Malcolm Gladwell was right, family background is the only thing that determines life chances. But even in those moments, while I may be skint... I've never been bored, so it definitely beats this kind of scenario:

The diagnosis is boredom, a much underestimated factor in the explanation of undesirable human conduct. As soon as the word is mentioned, they pounce upon it, almost with relief: recognition of the problem is instant, though they had not thought of it before. Yes, they are bored—bored to the very depths of their being.

Why are they bored, they ask me? The answer, of course, is that they have never applied their intelligence either to their work, their personal lives, or their leisure, and intelligence is a distinct disadvantage when it is not used: it bites back. Reviewing their life stories, they see for the first time that at every point they have chosen the line of least resistance, the least strenuous path. They never received any guidance, because all agreed that one path was as good as another. They never awoke to the fact that a life is a biography, not a series of disconnected moments, more or less pleasurable but increasingly tedious and unsatisfying unless one imposes a purposive pattern upon them" Lost in the Ghetto

In the more positive moments it's more a case that I very much hope the change (Even at this late stage) will be the kind I've been waiting for, but even if it is not and it is more short term pain - I hope that we will either recover or, at the very least, my kids will benefit from the example I've tried to set.

"We don't often look back at what we've accomplished, but now seems like a good time to do so. Not only is nostalgia fun, but it's important to be reminded that anything is possible" Bill Gates via Inside Out - Microsoft in Our Own Words

I thought I would take a moment to thank a few people I have met along the way. I sincerely hope that I have not missed anyone out, my abject apologies if I have.

Education (By Education I Mean School)
I did not do so well at school, but I agree with Thomas Friedman in that you should take subjects of the teachers you like.

I did not excel at Biology, Craft and Design, English or Geography, but I did enjoy the lessons.

I have not used biology or craft and design much in my career, and doubt that I'd get an A for Ikea flat packs... But I have used English and Geography on a regular basis.

I don't think it's any accident that I use the subjects that included my favorite teachers

Thank you to all the educators - formal and informal - that taught me so much

Athletics & Leisure Industry
At 16 I took up athletics and gave this everything I had... with little or no thought of a back up plan, I was going to be a full time athlete.

I recall thinking when I got invited to an invite only international event

"This is either the first of many (And I hope I'm always this excited about each race)... or this is as far as I get and should celebrate the fact"

I worked at minimum wage jobs in the Leisure industry as I got time off to train and compete.

At 26 it was time to call it time. The real success of this period was

1) The people I was in contact with who had successful careers, and
2) Learning how to keep my mind occupied during long runs and spending 8 hours on pool side.
3) The discipline, will power, grit and determination that competing and running 120 miles a week provided

Thank you to all the coaches and athletes that provided so much sound advice.

Open University
When I finished School and was working as a Lifeguard I had the view that education was a snobby and abstract pursuit... not one for people like me. I was later to have the following belief:

"There are two extremes to be avoided: one is the attitude of contempt toward education, the others is the tragic snobbery of assuming that marching through an educational system is a sure cure for ignorance and mediocrity."

In 1999 my Wife got a prospectus for the Open University and, when I saw the Degree on Human Geography, it looked really interesting! When I looked at the individual courses I signed up.

I was not a great student in school, enjoyed the classes and was well behaved enough, but not the best results... nor did I read much for pleasure.

I got a Karl Marx biography, read William Cronon's "Natures Metropolis" and Jane Jacob's "Life and Death of Great American Cities" for prep before starting the course.

It was not until I was 29 years of age that I picked up a book and read for leisure... And that has made ALL the difference.

Today when packing up and moving out of our Vince-Cable-Government-Bailed-Out-NRAM-mortgage-withi-24-hours... packing the bookshelf up was really tough and one of the worst things about living in temporary accommodation is having so few books around.

Cold Calling
I worked in customer service for a while which was pretty much a dead end job and, with few options, felt that sales might be a good route to progression and took a job at £100 per week (Before minimum wage) and went up once you hit the set targets.

I went on to become the top sales person, but grew more and more concerned that clients were not getting value for money and were being misled... and as a mere sales person, had limited input regarding the practices employed.

I spent a year looking for the right job. I had 7 interviews and got offered every position I applied for... but felt that it would be more of the same.

Field Sales
I applied for a job in field sales and after 5 minutes of the first interview was told,

"I'm going to want to see you again... I've never seen anyone as organised as you" (The information I take to interviews includes lots of detail and evidence of projects I've worked on)

In the second interview I was told
"I could not have someone like you come through the door and see them go by... I don't have a role for your skill set, so I've made one!"

My skills were not where they needed to be and I lasted 3 months... but returned 12 months later in an operations role and excelled in every post that I held at an organisation with 5 members of staff but grew to over 30.

I spent 10 years with this organisation, worked in a number of different projects/roles and developed a number of skills and insights.

Culture & The 5 Stages of Decline
Education is a tricky business... not least because of the variances of politicians Every Child Matters (ECM) and National Indicators under Blair, Department for Education and Skills get replaced with BIS when Blair and Brown fall out, David Cameron scraps ECM for epic fail The Big Society.

In their infinite wisdom they bail the Too-Big-To-Fail-But-Not-Made-a-Profit-When-Money-is-Their-Job-in-Ten-Years-and-Just-Been-Fined-£3.6billion-and-Closing-Lots-of-Branches-#GoDo-RBS

These "Austerity" conditions made working in the education sector and decision making problematic and I was fortunate enough to see what it was like to experience conditions that I felt were consistent with Jim Collins' "5 Stages of Decline"

Painful to live and work through... but one of the best things ever to happen in a professional capacity.

For evidence of this just look at my insights re: The SNP being in decline two days after their record result in 2015... and being accurate about every election since 2014 too.

Social Nation 
Up until 2010 everything achieved was done using phone and email, I had no digital footprint. When setting new long term goals I included: Work at Major Tech org

A quick call round some education leads at Microsoft, Google and Apple the advice is:

Social Media comes with the job if you want to be in EdTech today

Social Nation - Barry Liebert
At the next AoC Marketing Conference I go to the complaint is

"We're being asked to do more with less, but are not able to use Social Media" 

Thanks to the advice from some Microsoft Execs I've been reading Social Nation and my first ever tweet leads to collaborating with the author on my Twitter in FE Report, which remains relevant (And the situation largely unchanged 5 years on: Because Edu & EdTech is tough).

Barry reviewed countless drafts over a 6 month period until the report was good enough to publish.

THANK YOU! Barry! I'm sure that other reports would not have followed if it wasn't for this support!!

Fake FriendsTwo former colleagues at the company above started their own company and asked me to join them on three separate occasions... on the third (And due to the company above down sizing), I agreed to join them.

I set out my career goals before joining them (Uncannily like Community Management) and when I left asked

"What is there here in my career goals doc that I have not delivered on?"
"Nothing!" came the reply... "We just didn't know what was involved"

The founders wanted me to bring money in from the Education sector but refused to provide the resources required as they were spending it all on other sectors

Not the best fit and I'll think twice before working with 'friends' (The more recent #DigCitSummit experience where I was a volunteer has added to this with: Today I look at the actions of friends and collaborators more than any flowery words they come out with!)

But the troubles from this 18 month period were worth it for the Informatics Ventures/MIT workshop
"Entreprenurial Product Marketing: Listening to the Voice of the Customer"

I got 8 out of the 10 recommended reading books on Bill Aulet's website after this event... And WOW!

A Lesson in Product Market Fit
I wrote my Business Development Ideas for FE in collaboration with Hubspot with 11 ideas that innovative companies were using that I felt could apply to education.

I had over 300 colleges come back to me after sending a single email about the "College Commercial Services" idea within two weeks.

At the same time I worked on a year long Social Norms pilot project with 3 colleges and, when the indicative results came out... had 5 local authorities committing £15,000 within 2 weeks (£75,000 in total).

Collaborating and co-creating with users + not scaling until "product market fit" had been achieved = the way forward.

These two project was the reason I felt at home when I found the #Cmgr community (And why The Community Manager Round Table State of Community Management 2018 is such a big deal!)

Market Research - EdTech Report
I took the experience of these books and tried to apply them to my EdTech Report - Developing Relations and Delivering Value.

I'm extremely grateful to the awesome authors for sharing their experiences in their books AND for kindly giving me permission for using the extracts from these invaluable books.

Every project that I have worked on since has it's basis in this report.

From exploring the companies who were part of the Imagine K12 EdTech incubators in 2011 I was aware of EdShelf and, because I was planning on doing something similar in UK Further Education, I wondered if we'd meet and collaborate somewhere over the Atlantic.

In July 2014 I saw a heartfelt post that EdShelf CEO had written to say that he was closing shop. I wrote a post in support of EdShelf and EdTech review sites... and pre-service teacher (And Twitter newbie) Alicia Leanard successfully secured $30,000 from a SaveEdShelf Kickstarter campaign.

I am grateful to EdShelf and for helping me see that the idea I had spent 2+ years on in FE were sound... the sector was not.

Despite having worked with over 50% of FE colleges in the past, the decisions of the banks and politicians that led to "Austerity" meant that the public sector budgets and mindsets were frozen.

Nurph & Chat Salad
I found out about Nurph and Chat Salad via a Community Manager Google Hangout #Cmgrhangout, had a few conversations with Neil Cauldwell about Twitter EdChats and pulled a few resources together.

It's sad that I've nothing to show for all the time and work put into curating all this information as the Nurph and Chat Salad apps are down... But I'm grateful that this work allowed me to establish a relationship with EdChat moderators.

Some of these connections and conversations - even if just a brief side convo consisting of 2-3 Tweets - REALLY helped. For example 40 companies being mentioned 400 times in the first few weeks followed by a convo with Susan Bearden during EdTechChat helped me to see that Educators would soon be taking roles that would traditionally have gone to EdTech sales people.

It was fantastic to be able to help get a few educators to ISTE through Pledgecents and #Get2ISTE.

I maintain that this idea could go mainstream and help with other education crowdfunding projects, but requires a little hustle.

At the end of 2010 I made some new career goals one of which was "Work at a hot shot Silicon Valley startup," through being an active member of the Declara community, I achieved this goal.

As someone who tells their kids that they can do anything they set their mind to (IF they prepare and do their best), I am extremely grateful to Ramona Pierson and James Stanbridge for helping me achieve this.

While the core values, motivation and friendship of the "Safe. Savvy. Ethical" #DigCitSummit Founders may have been questionable, I am extremely grateful to everyone who took time out of their busy schedule and got involved with this event through my recommendation.

It was also through this movement that helped me to write one of the best posts I've ever written:

Using Core Values to Find a Brands Voice

Through the Infomatic Ventures/Bill Aulet workshop I saw how and why my sales calls and emails were becoming less and less welcome.

Through reading books like Inbound Marketing, Social Nation, Crossing the Chasm, Why Startups Fail etc I discovered what to do about the fact that cold calling was dead.

The impact that #CmgrHangout and CMAD has had on reskilling from sales to community management cannot be underestimated.

Pokemon Go
Remember Pokemon Go? Remember the 6 weeks in which every man and his dog in education had an opinion about the role that this AR game was going to have in Education?

I sure do! Because I read hundreds of articles about it during that period and tried to make sense of what everyone was saying. They were not terms at the time, but I tried to make sense of all the 'Fake News' from the facts and to save educators time by organising and summarising what was being said.

This was a great opportunity to demonstrate how ideas get traction, and how companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple etc work 'Under the radar' and make the early version invite only - usually with techies before rolling the product or service out.

Pokemon Go became an overnight success after 2-3 years of serious hustle.

This also highlighted ideas from Crossing the Chasm regarding how and where the tech enthusiast educators can actually hamper the adoption of technology as well as progressing the use of tech in their schools and districts.

When you look at the data from events like the 2015 Skypeathon, where hundreds of educators across the world are connecting and collaborating... but only 2 in Scotland (Or 40 or so across the UK).

A little bit of work is required... and whose doing any work with this? The people who stand up at conferences and say "Educators need to collaborate more?" the "We want to empower educators" Education Secretary a role where it's a different person every 4 years who's record with the Attainment Gap, inspiring educators, literacy and many other areas = "Could do better" (That's an understatement!)

In 2010 I set out to work with Google, Apple or Microsoft and, as far as me telling my kids "they can do anything they set their mind to" is concerned, I'm calling this activity a win... I collaborated with, and got the attention of, Microsoft.

When Carrie Melissa Jones' CMX article came out about Edcamps and the fact that there was no central mailing list... I put my skills for sourcing sales leads to good use to go looking for as many Edcamps as I could.

The Edcamp Foundation estimated that there were 1,500 Edcamps. I found 2,100 but some of them may not have taken place... I plotted 1,900 on one of my Zeemaps

Through exploring Edcamps I got a sense of how much Flipgrid (Who I first heard about in 2014/5) had grown. As of 2017 they had not appeared in any ISTE or BETT exhibitor list, but they did appear frequently in Edcamp sponsors and supporters.

I suggested a pre-ISTE #FlipGridFever event in 2017 and met Ambassador Andrea Tolley and her Son Jayden and we've connected, collaborated and chatted with one another since then.

Andrea is the reason that I want to see more educators in Scotland connect via tools like Twitter and Skype... More to follow on this topic in a forthcoming "Skype Master Student" post.

@TolleyA has helped us out at such a horrible time... in more ways than I think even she knows, I'm extremely grateful to know people like her!

Oracle & Spy Quest
Tech and EdTech companies have no problem in expressing their exasperation with how behind the times educators are and frustration about the lack of uptake for their exciting, shiny new gadget/gizmo.

But how many of them need to take their own advice when it comes to cold calling and sending spammy emails? How many employ sales and marketing people Vs community managers?

I had the privilege of collaborating with both James Stanbridge and Spy Quest author David Goutcher to demonstrate the value of pulling the relevant data together and present it in a way that educators can find and assess quickly and easily.

I knew James through working with him at Declara and found out about Spy Quest through East Kilbride MSP, Linda Fabiani.

One of the highlights of my career in education is the day that my son joined me in my work - and turned Pirate Spy Guy: Spy Quest Mission.

We tell our kids that their words are the most powerful things in the world, so it's fitting that one of my most prized possessions from my time in education is the comment at the end of the blog post above:

Hey William - you have a different eye; I constantly feel for you, the visionaries dillema is that just because you can see it so clearly, it doesn't mean translating for the blind is any easier... but still you plug away and I admire your rectitude. Wozniak is an interesting role model for you, but like Woz, you know that your mission is diminished if no-one knows what you are doing. Woz, despite everything, he has become a cultural icon, and many many people would identify as being 'on his team'; those he has and never will meet or be in the same room with share a set of values and aspirations and he becomes an accidental leader.

I think there is a simpler way to think about this; you can never lead by following. That defines a tough, sometimes impossibly lonely path.

These too are tough lessons for our Children, our instincts are often to guide them on the path of least resistance. But resilience is what got us here, so why wouldn't we pass that along too? Staying true to our core, standing up for what believe, being creative in the face of sameness. Why I mention these things is that Skype and Twitter and their ilk are the most dangerous or most powerful tools the difference being the user and their choice to be resilient or compliant to the crowd.

Thank you again for being the agent of debate, the facilitator or data and the connector of invisible dots - but most for role modeling resilience. James Stanbridge (@Stanbridge)

I'm doing what I can to help one more project on it's way... one that I hope will finally see my kids be able to make a Skype call with other educators, classes and industry experts in the hope that some of the people will help to inspire them in the way that many of the people I've met on my travels have inspired me.

The irony of it all is that I've longed to find a group where the sense of belonging that Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant achieved through the early online community The Well and just when it feels like I've found it, it's time to move on.

I knew the risks, knew the chances of success... The "Wild West of the Internet" is no different to the fact that for every one of the 49ers who struck it lucky there were as many who went home broke (And no doubt broken) - I tried to reskill to areas that I thought would be in demand when cold calling and bots replaced me in my old job, I don't think I was wrong... just a little too early, or perhaps it's because Bill Aulet was right when I met him in 2010: EdTech is tough.

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