Entering the military communications security world in the late 1970s, I was told that the “paperless” revolution was upon us. Forty years later, paper is still central to many bureaucracies and the legal system. Though communication systems have been modernized, technology that is older than most working adults is still being used in education and by Government agencies.
Fax machines were developed to convert documents and images for transmission over telephone lines around the globe. While Internet data rates now approach the hundreds of Gigabits (billions of bits) per second, a fax generally transmits a document at 33 thousand bits per second. A single sheet may take thirty seconds to reach its destination once a link is established. When a hundred or more documents must be transmitted back and forth over the course of several hours, poor connections or errors requiring re-transmission, cause a significant impact on an otherwise efficient work day.
One of the reasons fax machines have endured as long as they have, is that digital “signatures” validating the sender of legal documents via the Internet, have not been reliably secure until very recently. Other than representation of a personal signature on legal documents, it is also excellent for imaging pencil marks. To expedite processing volumes of similar information, a 19th Century technology, Optical Mark Recognition (OMR), was adapted and patented by Scantron. Typical uses for such forms are in Federal student aid, voting booths, at the DMV and so forth. Most schools, universities, government entities and testing centers continue to use “scantrons” as a fairly cheap method to administer multiple-choice tests thousands of times per day. A common No. 2 soft-lead wooden pencil, an answer sheet with ovals or squares and a fax machine line to the test clearinghouse, is technology not soon going away.
Owning a niche business which serves test-takers, the expectation is for the fax transmission of tests and reception of pass/fail reports goes smoothly. Sometimes, any number of issues can stall progress. Telephone line quality, an issue with the equipment or line at either end, or an overwhelming volume of calls being processed by the host computer (the test processing center) create a negative perception among test takers. When customers are accustomed to receiving information at the speed of present-day Internet and wireless communications, managing expectations among clients is the key to a successful day. It also is important to earning additional business from the schools whose graduates are the clients being served. When students are satisfied with the test processing, they may recommend more peers to their school. And in turn, the school may feel their students are being properly and efficiently taken care of. Which in turn creates more entrepreneurial opportunity.
As for the testing centers that process all these results? Adoption and fielding of new technology, like the example of the “paperless” world, is a long, long, long process.
My at-odds relationship with technology, like copiers and fax machines is very likely material for a Steven Wright comedy bit.
I have spent nearly forty years employed in the technology sector. Beginning with vacuum tube systems and basic electronics, by the later years of my career, I would assemble, program and debug very complicated encryption devices.
Nevertheless, copiers, the collating, multiple paper-size, scanners-with-email, touch-selection types have me looking like a kindergarten kid with paper,crayons and glue. I make a call to my ‘work wife’, our senior department Admin for assistance – or I avoid everything but printing.
In the Navy, I was first introduced to facsimile machines in the late 1980s. Who knew that these would be part of my job description with my new business. Between the drum life “nearing the end” messages (what is a drum?), a Mode button (one must select to actually RECEIVE the fax transmission!), and what to do when either the power or the telephone line drops out, I have learned how to respond appropriately. I do not get exasperated.
I learned steps from my IT point of contact at our customer sites (somehow nursing instructors always seem to fill in for technical experts on staff):
Hit the “Mode” button.
Cycle the “power” button.
Call the “Help Desk” or the site administrator’s assistant.
My wife and I are well-suited. Her strengths complement my weaknesses. My strengths do the same for her weaknesses. We both help the other with a soapbox commentary on blogs and Facebook posts. I get on one (sometimes), and she helps me back away from publicizing commentary that makes me sound like the old opinionated Chief I am.
And then we tend to have random -topic conversation on the way to COSTCO.
“Meh. I just love the videos that have goats interacting with people.” My dearest love continued, “Meh? I wonder if that really is a word. Or just a sound? Sounds like a goat.”
There was a time when I might have known the origin of this. I was raised to be both physically-active and a bookworm. But I digress.
In the decades before iPhones and Androids, I might read a lot of books to invigorate my vocabulary; these days not so much. On my smartphone, Internet dictionaries tell me “meh” in indeed a word.
Meh: used to express indifference or mild disappointment
What other words became part of the lexicon in 1992?
With everyone using text, Snapchat, Twitter, or other app – the spoken word is probably going to disappear. The written word is already only trendy – but is my stock in trade so I cannot believe it will ever become an archaeological artifact. Is language going to hell? Meh!
Not just the sound goats make. At least this post has not been a time suck.
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When I was a younger Sailor, traveling from foreign port to foreign port, I encountered a lot of outgoing people engaged as vendors, tour guides, shopkeepers and restaurant owners. Often their families were the wait staff that ran these places or made the things that provided their living. When your livelihood depends on people, there is an advantage in being a “people person”.
When I was a kid, I was actually an introvert. A gangling kid with poor eyesight, I was not the best athlete nor a glib talker and jokester. From several moves, a lot of activities that caught my interest, studying people, and experience in several professions from ranching to construction, furniture sales and auto parts counter work, I got to talking with and taking an interest in people. I worked as a bartender and waiter before I went into the military. One of my dreams, long before I became a technical worker in the telecommunications industry, was opening a bar or restaurant based on what I visited in foreign places. A kind of dive that had “atmosphere”. With all that experience of these exotic places and tourists from every part of the world I thought it would be fun. I had been working in bars and restaurants prior to my military service so it was somewhat familiar. I learned to speak, or at least communicate in three foreign languages, Spanish, French and Russian.
The service industry depends on people-skills as well as a strong work ethic. Marketing. Being a good listener as well as an observant and diligent service provider. And have a good memory for people’s names, their likes, and so on. In France in he early 1990s I saw the “smash sandwich” vendors – paninis as America now knows them – and thought it was a novel idea to bring to these shores. With the buxom women staffing these kiosks, the Toulon vendors served a lot of sandwiches. In Turkey, shoeshine boys mobbed visitors, appearing at the dock where our ship’s water taxis deposited them. These kids knew how to say “shoe shine” and make small talk about sports, whether you were an American sailor, a Brit, an Arab or perhaps even Chinese tourist. Even sailors wearing sneakers were not overlooked by boys with pats of shoe polish. In the markets, almost every vendor spoke some foreign tongue.
Interviewing, like selling, takes skill and people-smarts
Just as there are people who do not understand the difference between “selling” and “buying”, there are people who do not understand that the interview is a skill that one perfects. Preparation, listening, knowing what and how, to answer a question is part of the interview. Confidence, balanced with humility, and understanding the requirements of the job being sought as well as knowing something of you prospective employer, can win the interview.
Technical professionals I have coached have earned an offer of employment, not only from their preparation, but knowing how to “answer the question being asked” with sufficient detail, but not enough to get bogged down. It is a marketing opportunity to show that you will be an asset to those doing the hiring, but not telling them as much. And to win their trust, through your personality and likeability.
I know others who are successful gardeners, pool men, insurance agents and financial counselors. Some are musicians. Others are artists and writers. And still others with a love for and enough experience in hunting, fishing, camping or motor sports, they made professions as guides and teachers. And they connect with their clients and employers, with the same people-smarts.
Commitment and self-improvement
Practicing interviews, such as the “elevator talk” or meeting people in social settings, is valuable. Listening to people’s names and observing details about those you converse with, not only makes the other person feel valued, but aids in your ability to connect with your message.
Books I have read recently and recommend to everyone, engineer, actor, or military member in transition, include How to Start A Conversation and Make Friends, by Don Gabor (Simon & Shuster), and the classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People , by Dale Carnegie. Another great read and short, is The One Minute Sales Person, by Spencer Johnson, MD, and Larry Wilson (Harper Collins). There are also many good books and websites on personal development, the interviewing process in the social media age as well.
In a job interview, a prepared and confident person builds a relationship and earns trust with the interviewer and the employer. Beyond the hiring process, as an employee or consultant, you continue being a student of the company, the people you meet, and learning by asking the right questions. There is also the times and places you can market yourself for new opportunities in the company, and by demonstrating value – increasing the bottom line, can use the same interviewing skills to ask for raises as well.
As a manager, you are still engaged in the sales profession. Whether as team leader, morale booster, mentor, recruiter or discipline agent, you still show the “customer” the value of the company and role that person fills, which provides their needs and their relationship to the team.
People do not want to be “sold” but they do want to “buy”
Just as someone who shops for a new vehicle, kitchen appliance, or bringing on a new team member, the skill is in recognizing what motivates, interests or is valued by the customer. A customer looking for the security of business insurance is not going to respond to the agent’s ‘hot buttons’. And an employer is not going to be encouraged by a prospective employee’s focus on pay rate, vacation earned or working hours.
Interviewing requires diligent effort and practice. But the military member also has what many other applicants lack. Focus. Endurance. Attention to detail. And maturity. As well as experience working under stressful situations and deadlines. So take charge and carry out your mission. Interview, interview, interview. And I have benefited from fifty years of practice. I am no longer gangling, nor introverted. I have been a recruiter and meet people everywhere I go. Though my best friends will tell me I am still not “glib”.
Fair Winds and Following Seas. – Senior Chief (Ret.)
* Wikipedia repeats the quote attributed to Ronald Reagan that a politician is the second-oldest profession. Prostitution is frequently quipped as the “oldest” profession.
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Do you think “outside the box”? In other words, when you were a child were you chided for coloring outside the lines in a coloring book or for using “wrong” color crayons for subjects? Did you ask a lot of questions? Were you someone who could ace your tests in school but were bored with rules, homework, and projects that “wasted” your time? At work, do you get easily frustrated with the forms, chain of approvals, and eventual denial of your ideas for improving productivity?
Why is it that some of the best marketers and entrepreneurs came from humble beginnings, school dropouts and the like? Perhaps these individuals are an anomaly. Scholarly articles on the subject of entrepreneurship indicate that past success, “coloring outside the lines”, and stellar educational credentials predispose a person to be a successful entrepreneur, it is not necessarily required to make a successful venture. Some of the people I am familiar with personally have built businesses though focused effort and personal ambition. Yet many of today’s workers never achieve a level of comfort that is not mortgaged (homes, cars, recreational vehicles). We all become chained to our standard of living because of company health plans, steady paycheck and known, if not satisfying expectations. Whatever happened to the people who threw everything they owned into a covered wagon and headed West into the undeveloped land in the 1800s?
What happened to the “American Dream”?
As one of the last Baby Boomers, I have spent more than forty years. half in the military and half in the private sector, employed by someone else’s vision. A year before I turn sixty, I am wondering whether playing by “rules”, following the “Baby Boomer” model of (1) get a good education, (2a) join the military, (2b) get a good job , and (3) through hard work and long working hours/effort buy into the “American Dream”. Is getting married, raising kids to have the same dreams, sending them to college; and retiring comfortably at some age around sixty or sixty-five still possible? Somehow in the past forty years, everything got more expensive, taxes, fees, and legal restrictions got ever-more difficult to compensate in order to obtain that retirement. And so, for many, a second-income became necessary just to stay “even”.
Entrepreneurs are self-made
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was not born into wealth. He was the son of a teenage mom, and adopted by his mother’s second husband (who had arrived from Cuba a few years earlier knowing only a few words in English). He held a variety of jobs growing up. Brilliant and obsessed to make a better life, he was a garage-inventor. Perhaps the early struggles in his family, helped him focus on academic achievement, which in turn lead him to Princeton. When he decided later to follow his passion, it was then he founded what would become Amazon. And we know how successful Amazon has become.
Richard Branson, son of an attorney in England, has childhood dyslexia. He dropped out of school and at sixteen founded a music magazine. The billionaire founder of the Virgin group began with money from that venture to found a music studio. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Corp, was a brilliant college dropout who created the company in his parent’s garage. While Mark Zuckerberg attended Harvard after very impressive scholastic achievement, he certainly built Facebook from a combination of intellect and ambition. Logan Green and John Zimmer , former college students, created the ride-sharing service from improvements they learned from a service Zimmer built to help college students get around via Craigslist and Facebook linking.
At the end of the Nineteenth Century, my maternal great-great-uncle, Philip Ward, an impoverished immigrant from Belfast (then Ulster) Ireland, established a mail-order business ( Bullock and Ward), in Chicago and the Mid-West, a rival to Sears, Roebuck and J.C. Penneys. It did well until the beginning of the First World War. Other maternal Irish family forebears had built businesses in the linen trade and chocolates (confections) in Ireland that prospered up until the Second World War. My paternal ancestors came to New York from Poland and became tradesmen and entrepreneurs, engineers and shopkeepers.
Members of my family and extended family have been motivated by necessity as well as intellect to have successful careers. A Registered Nurse and single mother who went to school, worked, and raised her children, excelling at each to create a balanced life. Mothers who achieved position and higher income with the largest corporations to support their families. Entrepreneurs and marketing trainers who helped a national network improve their businesses. And some have followed a path a little more “outside the lines” to create opportunity for themselves and for others through a nationally recognized network marketing firm.
Find your why
What sort of vacation have you taken this year? What trade-off have you made to have that new(er) car so you can get to work? How often have you used that 5th wheel in your driveway since you signed the payment plan? What size apartment have you been limited to because of income? Are you working harder and longer to pay for the child-care for your kids? Do you spend more time ill or seeing a specialist than enjoying mid-life?
For me, I have driven eighty (80) miles or more every work-day for eleven years to my employer. And that employer pays me enough now, to pay for my home – small that it is – and my new used car, but also means that my wife also has to work very long hours to pay our bills and hope for retirement someday. We do not have a pile of money. And the years spent in search of “retirement” is perhaps the motive for wanting something better.
Finding “time and money”
The old saying about being able to have time OR money, but not both has certainly had some application in the second decade of the Twenty-first Century. But the additional reality is that your Government will take its cut of whatever you do extra. However, the way to continue to earn is through residual income. That is income that continues and increases beyond your own effort and time to earn it.
And with health problems for the last twenty years, a focus on healthy living and exercise – so I can afford to “retire” and ENJOY it – are reasons I chose to get involved with Beach Body. I’ve seen what a niece has built through diligent effort -hard work- over eight years, in that she overcame health issues, and can work from home – a home her business afforded herself and her husband, while being mom to her two kids. And she has been actively involved helping about 1600 people through her business build income and better lives in the process.
Like everything else in life, the amount of effort put into an education, a career, a business venture, or a personal life is directly responsible for the achievement. In the military, just about everyone who maintains an “average” performance can retire after twenty years with an average stipend. But additional effort and preparation can result in someone being selected as a Chief Petty Officer. And of those, even more effort, preparation, and focus, someone may retire as a Senior Chief ( or Master Chief). With effort, and single-minded focus, someone may achieve an Amazon, an Apple, a Facebook. or a Beach Body enterprise. Or even the 6 AM commute, ten-hour day, and 5 PM commute home.
Entrepreneurs. Work Ethic plus an American ( or Latino, Canadian or British) Dream.
I have to go. I need to go workout.
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