How We Inspire and Teach Each Other at Work

My 10 year-old son Noah woke up at 3 AM Saturday morning with only the second earache of his life and recurring bouts of nausea that really need no further detail.  What a blessing.  I fully attribute it to being hooked up to a breast pump machine like Elsie the cow for the first two months of his life during my maternity leave 11 years ago.  If two months of short-term aggravation have given Noah sterling immunity, it was a great gift all around.  Another blessing, in contrast to my childhood, were the emergency weekend hours at Noah’s pediatrician’s office.  He was dosed up with antibiotics by noon on Saturday.

As we caught up on our sleep yesterday and today, confined along with Noah to the house, I decided to tackle building my first WordPress website.  I had purchased the very cheap hosting and even cheaper themes at least a month ago, and the timing seemed opportune.  I previously built free Google websites for my husband Joel and my friend John, and this was my next personal challenge.  Some people hike higher and higher mountains; I geek-hike this way.  Viva la difference.  Given our earache quarantine, it was more stimulating than tackling our taxes:  next weekend’s project.

As I wrestled the plugins, widgets, themes and other WordPress quirkiness, I thought of the chain of events that brought me to this WordPress weekend:

  • My friend Deb recruited me to take her place as the Director of Publications at a lobbying firm, so she could start her own business.  Thanks to Deb, I learned how to use both an Apple computer and Adobe PageMaker.
  • I proceeded to do freelance copy-writing work for Deb on my own time, introducing me to contract / consulting work.  I purchased my first fax machine 20 years ago, as Deb and I worked collaboratively via fax and floppy disk. That fax machine (which burns the images on paper) still works, and we just moth-balled it last month due to the purchase of our HP wireless all-in-one printer.
  • Thanks in part to my PageMaker knowledge, I got my first job at GE in Human Resources / Employee Communications, where one of my responsibilities was writing and developing the weekly plant newsletter  (Graphic layout, BTW, is not my strong suit.  Dammit Jim, I’m a writer, not a graphic designer). We had PROFS email back then, which was an IBM green-screen email client.   We were only permitted to email each other internally, and we were able to send TXT extension files as attachments.  The fax machine was still the main communications channel.  I loved email, and started sending shorter version of the plant newsletter via PROFS email.
  •  My brother Rob got a job with Prodigy and kept handing me down his outdated computer equipment. He suggested that Joel and I join America Online (AOL).  We did.  Thanks to Rob, I was able to research and write the business plan for The Best Framing Company (Joel’s custom picture-framing business) using AOL in 4 months without stepping foot once in the library.  That business plan got Joel the unsecured SBA loan to start the business.
  • I suggested to Deb and Professional Women’s Network, the group that Deb invited me to join, that we all get America Online accounts so that we could email each other rather than fax each other, as a time-saver.  Not well-received.  Too radical-geek.   However, they did all eventually get AOL accounts, and soon thereafter, work email took over.  I love how attached they all are to their smart phones today, remembering the AOL uproar all those years ago.
  • On the weekends, I would design simple postcards in PageMaker to market The Best Framing Company. It helped grow Joel’s business and reinforce his reputation as a great custom picture-framer.
  • When I worked with my friend Ron, Palm Pilots were all the rage at work:  all the cool kids (e.g., Ron) had the color Palm Pilots.  For a number of years, before the advent of smart phones, my purse was weighted down by both my Palm Pilot and my cell phone.  No stinkin’ planners for me.
  • A few years ago, I started attending Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley.  As a LinkedIn geek, it caught my interest, particularly the panel on blogging.  I hadn’t written anything for myself since I was a senior in college.  I put a pin in the blogging presentation for later use, maybe.
  •  My friend and fellow writer Katie (we’re both members of FUSS) kept talking about how she wanted to be paid to be a writer.  For 4 months, I joined Katie’s husband and noodged her to set up a blog for free and start writing; I had just seen Julie & Julia and I was freshly inspired.  From my FUSS work with her, I knew that Katie was a talented writer, and frankly, I wanted to watch her swim in the blogging pool first before I gave it a try. She finally relented and started writing her WordPress blog, Capital District Fun.  Katie, by the way, is now a paid writer.  I watched Katie blog for 4 months, and then created my own blog, Deb Best Practices, when tweeting only 140 characters was no longer sufficient expression for me.  It’s a Google Blogger blog, as my girlfriend Google is my BFF.
  • My friend Keith is the Webmaster on our project, and because of the nature of the work we’re currently doing, he needed to teach me how to use Interwoven to update our website in a pinch.  A frustrating and quirky program.  WordPress,  in comparison, is a dream.  However, thanks to my experience with Google Blogger and building Google websites, I’m able to stumble my way through Interwoven successfully.  Keith is building our new website in Joomla, and I’m looking forward to learning Joomla as well, as Keith tells me it’s a lot like WordPress.
  • My friend Linda, who I met when we were both PWN members, asked me to teach the opening course, Strategic Thinking and Leadership, at her organization’s Leadership Institute.  This year will be my 6th year teaching the course, tweaking the presentation I developed in MS PowerPoint.  A few years ago, there was a student in the class;  a brilliant, young and up-and-coming lawyer:  my friend George.  The break-out exercise that I ask the students to do each year is the secret sauce that always sparks them to a new level in their professional development, even if it’s just a small step.  In George’s case, it was spontaneous combustion.   He manifested and later implemented his vision:  his growing firm, LaMarche Safranko Law.  He’s still on fire, and it’s great to see.  George has a great WordPress website.

Just a few of the wonderful family members, friends and colleagues who inspired my WordPress weekend; and really, so much more.



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