Like any other phase, it’s a learning experience. Let’s do it.
~See Lemons Suit Up
Random Observation/Comment #523: Never stop questioning. Doctor who?
Especially if you are starting your early career, you should consider asking these questions of your Mentors. Mentorships are extremely valuable and one should always be prepared with questions. If you’re a mentor, you should formulate these answers clearly.
- What’s your expertise?
- What were some big milestones in your career?
- What was your favorite project?
- Why did you choose your industry?
- Have you ever considered moving?
- What are your next big plans?
- What do you love doing every day?
- What do you like to do outside of work?
- Who do you admire?
- What do you think will be an upcoming technology to invest our skills in?
- What philanthropic events are you involved in?
- How have you distinguished yourself in your career?
- What do you do for fun?
- How do you deal with stress?
- How do you motivate your team?
- How do you know what to focus on?
- What are your best productivity tips?
- How do you manage your time effectively?
- How do you stay in touch with your networks?
- What was the most important thing you realized when starting your career?
- What would you differently in your career?
- What is the most important part of culture for your team?
- How do you say “no” to certain opportunities?
- How do you juggle your work life balance?
- What routines do you rely on?
- What tools do you use on a daily basis?
- How do you make hard decisions?
- How do you deal with bureaucracy and red tape in the workplace?
- What are you working on improving at the moment?
- Are you happy?
~See Lemons Still Ask
Random Observation/Comment #521: Enjoy the little things – the details are what make life unique.
Happiness comes in little doses. If you see it, stop whatever you’re doing and commit it to memory. Store it in that happiness cache and bring it up whenever you need it.
- A genuinely selfless deed
- A hug that lasts a little bit longer
- A look from your fiance that you know means she/he loves you
- A random high five
- A clever quip or pun (I see what you did there)
- A nod of understanding from students
- An obscure reference you understand online
- A father teaching his son how to read
- A son swelling his father with pride
- An amazing set of table tennis rallies
- A compiled piece of code with no errors
- An old song comes on and you know all the lyrics somehow
- A long inhale of fresh air when out in nature
- A smell of a home-cooked thanksgiving dinner
- A message from an old friend
- Anything handwritten addressed to me that’s not solicitation
- A sense of appreciation of your work from a complete stranger
- A toast between friends to celebrate the special moments
- A look of sedated happiness from friends who ate your home cooked meal
- A smell of the ocean and heat of the beach
- A soft purr and nuzzle from your favorite pet
- A surprise gesture of friendship
- A feeling of exhaustion after pushing yourself further on a workout
- A shared inside joke said just at the right time
- A really good laugh about seemingly nothing at all
- A feeling of productivity by 5pm
- A playful squeeze while holding hands and walking in the park
- A helping hand that relieves stress and burden
- A helping ear that heard your final complaint about work and doesn’t think differently of you
- A glance at your fiance sleeping in the morning
The interesting thing about this list is that most of it has almost nothing to do with personal accomplishments and everything to do with other people’s appreciation and observing such a bond forming. Maybe that’s the meaning of life – fortifying bonds to bring us all closer together in harmony.
~See Lemons Love the Little Things
Random Observation/Comment #520: When you’re up there, imagine everyone’s on your side and waiting to be inspired and learn something new.
A long speech may be daunting to you, but at one point in your life, you’ll need to stand up there and present your ideas. Whether it’s a technical presentation of your work pr the vows to your significant other, you will be speaking some words for others to hear. It behooves you to prepare. For the interns this year, this was my advice to them:
- Focus on the core of what people want to know (tailored to your audience) – What is the value of your presentation?
- Check your slides have useful diagrams and figures
- Structure your prototype presentation – focus on Pain Points, Design addressing those pain points, and Working Prototype
- Explain it with an analogy
- Make sure your conclusion has Next Steps and Lessons Learned
- Review this with your team and TA leads
- Write out your script in one sitting as if you were making the speech
- Do a reverse outline of your speech into core points
- Check again that the summary and take-aways cover what you want to say
- Go back again and write a new script based on the reverse outline (this will help you say it in different ways)
- Know your material inside and out
- Don’t worry about the exact words, but instead focus on the message (like how professors talk about the subject)
- Time your presentation (25-30 min max)
- Reduce using generic/obscure words like “stuff” and “things”
- Make sure you tell a story with your project
- Give honest feedback to each other and check each other’s postures
- Practice to reduce filler words (verbal pollution). Pause and think instead.
- Practice where you will emphasize your words to add gravitas – tell it like a story to a 5-year-old
- When standing up there, reduce your body language distractions (stop shifting weight from one side to the next and stop touching your hair)
- Take a video of yourself speaking
- Watch that video (and try not to throw up in your mouth)
- Practice once more with eye contact and only looking at the script a few times
- You are allowed to have a script with you, but you should not rely on it too much
- Consider printing out something to give to your stakeholders – requirements outlined or designs
- Practice your transitions –
- “Next, we will have <name> describe the design of the project” …
- “Thank you <name>. … We designed …”
- Prepare for the typical Q&A about your project
- How were the tasks divided?
- What about this new feature?
- How did you choose the technology or implementation?
- Practice all together in the finalized location.
- Wear business professional clothing on the day of the presentation
- Follow-up with your audience, hiring managers, and stakeholders with more information after the presentation
- Smile and have fun!
~See Lemons Help Interns Present
Random Observation/Comment #519: Internships are just 10-week 2-way interviews. If you’re smart, we’ll want to hire you and then we’ll try to impress the crap out of you so you accept.
This is the 5th year managing the summer intern projects, and I’ve always had a good time being a mentor (and overall having coffee with everyone). Since I’m all about lists of 30 now, I wrote this list to get interns thinking about how they can take advantage of their internship opportunities with their short time here. Best of luck and finish strong!
- Get to know your intern group better – your peers are probably pretty smart and will be valuable as a part of your network (as well as feedback for different common preferences)
- Have the numbers of the people in your group/teams – bare minimum know how to reach these people in case things happen for meetings or even if you want to meet up later on
- Keep a list of people you meet and something about them – It’s so much easier for following up when you remember who you spoke with and what about.
- Provide your personal contact information – I usually send this out in an email on the last day with all the people I’ve met BCC’d. We’ll probably add you on LinkedIn and shoot you a happy birthday message
- Meet with people from your school – we have alumni from all over the place (especially from our target schools). If you haven’t already, reach out to core alumni that can introduce you to others
- Meet with people through networking events – branch out and talk to more people at these events instead of circling around the same comfortable group. Ask about what people are working on and follow-up with them the next day.
- Follow-up with people – it’s always a good idea to send a follow-up and then keep them in the loop if they’re a useful contact. Grow this genuinely.
- Ask for introductions – if you give a focus to your question, people will know others that may answer it. If you want to know about being a consultant, I’m sure there are 2-3 we know that could be called up
- Know your group (especially hiring manager and mentors) – think about work dynamics and don’t always just sit down and work. There’s a lot of bonding and culture that happens around the water fountains.
- Build trust with your team – this means incorporating people’s feedback and producing some artifact you can all be proud of. Make sure you’re on time with your deliverables.
- Write an email to your managers about your achievements – this should be a general catch-up conversation, but it could also be a link to the work you’ve created. Instead of just saying “the projects are going great”, you can show them the status updates and make the extra effort. It’s also a good reminder to managers to catch up with you. Managers also want to be helpful and reaching out for helping/asking questions is the biggest compliment
- Learn about the business – if you’re working in Fixed Income, it’s probably a good idea to know what a bond or loan is. It’s sometimes the basics that will get you hooked into a new profession.
- Learn about the bigger picture – finance is a monster that effects almost everything around the world. Global economics depends not just on the stock market, but the overall liquidity provided to large institutional investors and clients.
- Learn about the organization structure – the entire bank as a company is broken up into different products and horizontal initiative groups. If you think about any large company, you’ll realize that the basic hierarchy tree only goes so far. In reality, working for a team in a big company is actually like working at a smaller company in a cubicle floor with other small companies. You’re all working on maybe related projects, but there’s probably little overlap in clients.
- Learn about architecture – this is actually the first thing I try to figure out when looking at a big company. What are the major components? How do the systems connect (messaging, core data sources)? Are there major projects around optimizing these systems? How are the groups divided amongst components? How many applications are run by my group?
- Learn about accounting – this is more advanced, but it’s always good to know what your team is working towards. Each team gets a certain amount of budget for core Run the Bank and Change the Bank projects. Get to know those Change the Bank initiatives.
- Learn how to manage your managers – managers are doing a lot of juggling for projects and their team happiness. If you make it easier by reaching out to them (and also making them look good with your achievements) it’s just an easy win.
- Learn about new technology – what is your group innovating with? Are they looking at big data, machine learning, or blockchain? Is it relevant to their group?
- Learn about etiquette – this is less obvious to some people, but there are those unwritten social rules that comes with working in a financial company
- Remember names – there’s a system you can create for this. Whatever it is, names will always be helpful later on
- Learn how to unwind – this doesn’t always just mean drinking. The working world is very different from college with all that free time and overall freedom. Pick the right things that can change your mood for the better. I personally love table tennis, blogging, and crime fighting.
- Limit the number of Most Important Things – even with all this time, we somehow don’t have enough (or maybe don’t spend it wisely). I always consider the Most Important Things in my life and try to work towards completing those first.
- Learn how to learn – there are no more exams or homeworks in real life. You create your own curriculum and decide your own next steps. If you need slides to copy or workgroups to teach, then you should know this is the class environment where you’re most productive. If we can just leave you with a web browser and you’ll figure it out, that’s fine too.
- Practice public speaking – you will all be giving some type of presentation at one point. Make sure you practice and prepare. It’s hard to escape representing your project work in the real world.
- Comment your code – Please
- Give back to your community – whatever this may be, you have a certain set of skills that people find valuable. Being helpful and useful is a wonderful reward
- Branch out of your comfort zone – you don’t have to do this all the time (or else you’re always uncomfortable), but be sure to keep a healthy amount of new things for you to review and process
- Write your ideal job description – what do you want to do? Were you happy this summer? What didn’t you like? These are all preferences that will determine which industry you enter and what type of work you want to do. Know that our company has an awesome foundation of continuous learning and personal career growth to offer.
- Build your reputation – What are 3 words you want someone to describe you with? Do you represent those values on a day-to-day basis?
- Learn to describe your project in 3 sentences – this is crucial because this entire intern experience will boil down to those 3 minutes at the next interview
Hint: Some of this definitely applies to early career.
~See Lemons Learn
Random Observation/Comment #512: You never start working thinking “Man, I’m going to become a PowerPoint guru”, but it happens quickly.
After working for over 5 years on at least a dozen successful projects as a business analyst for an investment bank, I’ve seen all flavors of documenting business and functional requirements. It’s not that one is better than the other (since they all show similar information), but certainly some are more effective for communicating the purpose of the document to a specific audience.
The key to being a good BA is also knowing the right tools for the job, so here’s what I’ve seen as a general banking trend for documentation:
- Summary: This is the most standard and fundamental way of producing a document. It focuses on business text and for me is usually a consolidated set of requirements scribbled from notes, random conversations, and emails. For the most part, this is just a formality, but it does require sign-off from the business. In reality, I don’t think this document ever gets fully reviewed or read. For functional requirements, you’ll see many more diagrams, summaries, and use cases.
- Intended Audience: all, but mainly business, management, lead dev, and project managers
- Actual audience: other BAs or PMs looking for information to put together a deck.
- Content: Text describing clearly the objective and outlining the business context and requirements for delivery.
- Summary: In business jargon, we call this a “deck”. This basically means a condensed summary in slide-content form to let senior management quickly review and take lists of broad strokes to escalate. If your project has high visibility, there will probably be a lot of decks out there giving this information. In very rare occasions for the banking industry, you’ll find elegant Presentation Zen decks for actual presenting through the material without reading from the slides.
- Intended Audience: senior management and PMs
- Actual Audience: other BAs and PMs who are learning the business context and technology from the slides (instead of reading through a document)
- Content: Diagrams galore with bullet point ideas that summarize something that probably requires a lot more examples to teach. Pretty pictures and graphs.
- Beware: Death by PowerPoint. It’s been a more prominent trend of abusing PowerPoint for everything – screenshots, documentation, design mock-ups, etc. People like to be able to independently read the PowerPoint and not necessarily need to even have a person present to give the presentation. This drives me crazy, but I’m just as guilty to provide “slide versions” of full docs.
- Summary: Every business user I know is a spreadsheet power user. They use it for collecting all data and running personalized reports. It’s become the core method for keeping track of any calculations and verifying information on formulas and templates. In some cases, I’ve seen spreadsheets used to list requirements and project plans. There’s a separate project plan application for this, but I’ve actually seen quite a few amazing data dictionaries and really comprehensive documentation written within spreadsheet pages. The table of contents or “readme” type of main sheet maps to each individual sheets for context.
- Intended/Actual Audience: BAs, PMs, Devs – book of work view
- Content: Reports, tables of data, data dictionaries, lists of book of work items, pivot tables
- Summary: Wikis are online shared pages/documents that can be edited by your set permissioned users (anyone in the case of wikipedia). For me, it’s a powerful way of representing a larger summary of information to other groups who may be interested in our projects/groups. You can embed photos/diagrams and share a lot of updates from Project Managers. Confluence also communicates with the Atlassian JIRA product which is used for keeping track of tickets and BOW items.
- Intended/Actual Audience: Everyone, especially other teams
- Content: Pretty much everything public. I love wikis for the ease of use and sharing of the full story around the higher level projects covered by a team. I highly recommend organizing this as a story and encouraging separate groups to contribute within the same space in an organized manner. Crowd source and share that Subject Matter Expertise.
What do I use? It depends, but in my system of learning and showing what I’ve learned, I like to begin with creating PowerPoint slides for everything I’m learning. It’s an easy way to draw diagrams and visually describe important pieces of information I’ll eventually need to dumb down anyway. It’s very clear to me that people hate reading documentation as much as people hate writing it, but it’s one of those necessary evils.
As a final thought, I’d personally recommend trying to explain things visually with process flows and architecture input/output landscape diagrams for the broader context of what you’re trying to build. I usually copy the PowerPoint slides and share them within the wiki so there’s just one place to keep everything instead of uploading/check-outs within SharePoint. It’s also a given that you should always comment your code. It’s a great best practice and I often comment my SharePoint slides in the ‘Notes’ section for the same reason of refreshing slides with content I intended to describe.
~See Lemons Document
Random Observation/Comment #510: When did “culture” become a buzzword again?
Culture is what makes and breaks a company. It’s an underlying mentality that shouldn’t even be a discussion, but yet always comes up as the first thing to fix. Clearly, we want happy people that work together towards getting things done while having a great time doing it. So how do you do that?
- Create a rotation of people to management meetings instead of the same core team
- Grow your own talent and have management invest in their team’s career goals
- Form natural groups and communities based on outside interests
- Let technology work for you – create standing chatrooms for #coffeechats
- Give your employees free coffee – I don’t believe you need to shower us with perks, but coffee is a great motivator and an easy win
- Encourage people to share their network connections
- Give people on your team creative titles like “innovation lead” or “ambassador” (even though everyone will do this at one point anyway
- Encourage people to use open source technologies and stay in touch with the latest
- Allow people to collaborate between teams
- Ask people to give presentations and teach material they know to others
- Start a group that shares geeky news with each other
- Encourage people to ask questions
- Ask management to join and support philanthropy programs – this is a great way to identify high potential candidates
- Create a mentorship program for all levels of employees
- Host a TEDx to share ideas from all levels of employees
- Create groups for common employee hobbies (e.g. photography, scuba diving) that involve connecting outside work
- Encourage teams to start outside work sports groups
- Allow members of your team to attend conferences
- Encourage paired team coding
- Be transparent with firm strategy on architecture and outside vendors
- Recognize people who are doing awesome things for fun inside and outside of work
- Provide budget for team lunches instead of team happy hours
- Provide interesting innovation projects for people to pursue
- Trim the proposals and status update meetings – just build it so you can fail early
- Encourage people to also be tech-savvy – if they don’t know a technology, they should ask developers to give them a dumb-down version of it so they can at least get the lingo without glazing over
- Create a solid routine within the group – grab lunch once a week, grab coffee at the same time a week, play Settlers of Catan after work, host birthday pizza lunches, etc
- Encourage people to network outside of the team and ask them to present debriefs of what other teams are doing
- Provide internal training for courses
- Use wikis to share what you know and which tools you use to make things easier
- Challenge the status quo
I believe the core to solving this problem is realizing that culture is contagious – the best way to spread it is to make people feel involved and important by providing ownership, responsibility, and stake without measuring it so it’s a competition. If you’ve hired good people, they will foster a positive and productive environment.
~See Lemons Love the Culture
Random Observation/Comment #507: We’re all busy, but your messages can make people smile and feel your appreciation for sharing ideas.
Sometimes the follow-up is even more important than your first impression. In a world where we don’t necessarily take the time to personalize messages and remember nuances about each other, take the time to treat your network contacts as humans.
We all may have a motive, but try not to push your own. Instead, help others and others will help you. Kindness is contagious. Keep that shit up. I may have 30 items, but I think the old school format is more effective in this case:
Met with a good friend? Met with a senior person for the first time? Met a bunch of awesome people at TEDactive? Take the time to send them all personalized messages.
What do you say?
- Part 1: Comment about meeting up. Thank for sharing contact information.
- Part 2: Mention a common topic discussed.
- Part 3: Provide an actionable thing to stay connected, and know who’s responsible to make the next message.
This is nothing new. Most people are great with the first simple follow-up and have their own flair around it, but as we all grow and add more people, we often get so excited with writing the new connections, we forget those who matter most.
How do we improve on that?
You can make a system to categorize all your networks or actively use your Google+ circles or any list system so these people can represent their hobbies, categories, and topics.
- If you read something new and relative – mention it to them.
- If it’s close to a holiday or birthday – message them early.
- If a long time has passed without seeing them – tell them you miss them.
Each act of reaching out puts you back on the radar.
How does that look?
Each person has a brand they’re pushing forward and topics both of you discussed. I don’t know if I can visualize or effectively represent each topic conferred between a group or one person, but it’s a pretty vast web of overlapping interests. The key is to remember what people are interested and continue asking questions beyond your first impression. Get involved with their causes and do your best to help.
Above and beyond?
To get to this well-connected and helpful community, we should not closet our friends. We should promote each other’s strengths, interests, and brands to encourage collaboration across industries. This is truly how we get the real diversified perspective. If you know someone that can help, introduce them to someone else and grow your mentor/sponsor pool into a simple community. If you’ve made an introduction between co-workers, follow-up on those as well.
One may say, that’s a lot of work!
Yea it is, but I think it’s worth it. You should also know that falling out is not the same as burning bridges. Hopefully, out of sight does not mean out of mind, and you don’t always message someone because you need something from them. Even if this is the only reason, be sure to dress it up a bit.
~See Lemons Follow Up
Random Observation/Comment #504: TEDactive is like an adult summer camp. I never even went to summer camp, but I’m sure it didn’t have an open bar.
I’m going to state an obvious fact here: TEDactive was a well-oiled machine that thought of almost everything for your attending comfort and enjoyment. It goes without saying that this isn’t their first rodeo show, but sometimes it is yours and there’s tons to learn from attending one of these massive conferences.
For all the TEDx organizers, I think we can all learn from their execution:
- TEDConnect – incredible mini social network for all attendees helping with scheduling and connecting
- Facebook group and community with tips and tricks from the crowd
- Warm welcome from TEDactive alumni and comfort from other TEDactive first timers
- Facebook group early networking – it’s what you make of it
- Very early and succinct weekly communication (T-6 weeks)
- Method of signing up early to group activities and conference schedules
- TEDactive badges as great conversation starters and also awesome security passes
- Great preparation suggestions on packing from the conference and commented by group members
- Daily personalized emails when close to and during the conference for almost everything
- Very fast and easy registration with iPads and fast fuzzy name search
- Personalized welcomes during check in – the registration at the front digitally informs those in the back to bring the printed badges to you when you reach the next area (photos help here)
- Extremely well organized communication and events
- Gift bags of awesome with UPS shipping for gift bags
- Fun group networking events that are not explicitly called networking events
- Digital lost and found
- Extremely friendly staff all around who are very helpful and knowledgeable
- Lots of caffeine options
- Gift exchange between TEDx’ers
- Common spaces to just relax and connect with like minded people
- Freedom – we’re not forced to attend every session, but it’s clear where things are
- Categorization and sub themes – sessions are broken out into different subjects so you can attend
- Zero tech viewing in main space with open tech and whispers in middle space, and open wandering in far space
- Creative smaller breakout groups – TEDactive salon and creative zones are great when they’re also hosted and organized by attendees
- Social Media pushes through fun group activities
- Provides easy ways to help with the bigger cause
- While partnerships are there, they aren’t blatantly flaunted and it’s very tasteful
- Consistent branding with creative ways to show clear information – I loved the tower with 5 sides that had a calendar view of events for the week on each side
- Promoting comfort and independence – it was clear that it’s not a suit and tie event. We’re here to be ourselves and be comfortable. I also loved the meditation room.
- Amazing staff and excellent job with being very helpful
- A focus on stories and the attendees – yes, there are speeches, but I feel like the conference was less about the talks and more about the people coming together
While there were issues with technology, scheduling, or logistics, I think the whole group of volunteers were extremely flexible and adaptable to all the issues. As a TEDx’er putting together something for 200 people within a company for 3 hours, I can’t even imagine the collaboration and delegation required for 2,000 people over 7 days.
Props to you all and thank you so much for an incredible experience!
~See Lemons Learn from TEDactive
Random Observation/Comment #502: It doesn’t feel like work if you love doing it.
As some of you may know, I’m working on a book that I hope to finish by the end of April. It’s a memoir and partial self-help jumble of advice called “My Life in Lists of 30”.
If it wasn’t obvious, I love writing lists of 30. They help me sort out my thoughts and stretch my imagination (the last 5 are always a challenge). I think I’ve been asking better questions and shuffling concepts in my mind more effectively.
Since I already had around 35 lists from the 30 day challenge and miscellaneous overflow, naturally the next step was to put it all together. Writing this book consisted of some reorganizing, grouping, and categorizing. From there, I’ve been writing the clever transitions and fillers to tell the story of my 20’s.
As a sneak preview, here are the high level chapters:
- A Few of My Favorite Things
- Writing & Travel
- Career & Ambitions
- Making a System that Works
- Smarter Everyday
- Day Dreaming
- Writing for Me and You
As with all things I do, they have a deeper meaning and purpose than what they seem. You bet there’ll be a lessons learned.
Wish me luck!
~See Lemons Write a Book
Random Observation/Comment #501: Find a common ground where all of your interests become an intellectual discussion.
To prepare for TEDActive this year, we were asked to create a badge with a section named “talk to me about”. These are 2-3 topics you’d love to kick off a conversation about and will be printed on your badge for all to see. I guess by the end of all this, we’ll all know how it feels to be a large breasted women wearing a low cut top or anyone wearing a funny t-shirt with small print.
This exercise sounds easy (and it may be for some people), but it certainly isn’t simple. Whether you’re struggling to find your true expertise or struggling to narrow down your list of 100 things that you do, this is a complex and deep psychological question. Essentially: “What’s your brand in 45 characters or less?” (it has to fit printed)
More importantly, what would you like to talk about with a random stranger? If you had those words drawn on your face so anyone you speak with can automatically know these are your passions and comfort zones, then what would these topics be? Should they be funny? Should they be generic? Are you going to make it meta?
I thought about this in the shower (where I have my best thoughts – really the bathroom in general), and I decided to put something common ground that I know enough about and can lead to other conversations. I thought about it as “who do I want to meet at this conference” instead of “how do I want to be remembered?”
From Monday Night Alive with Ariel and Shya, I heard a very interesting quote: “You don’t have to try to be interesting and impress other people. Instead, be interested and actually listen – be in the moment with that person and the interesting will follow.”
Complex, right? Perhaps the badge shouldn’t be about yourself, but about the true nature of being open-minded and friendly.
What did I write? 30 Day Challenges | Travel | Noms
Of course, if you think you messed up, you can always bring a sharpie and just write something creative afterwards.
See you all at TED Active!
~See Lemons TEDActive