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This is my Now page and here’s what’s up for me in September (as posted on 09/05/21)

It was good to be back out in the world a bit recently with my first professional appearance in 18-months. But the experience certainly has me reflecting upon my chosen profession and questioning things a lot. I’ve been dancing around within L&D for a few years now, trying to find where I can fit. The question I’m asking myself for the first time now is…what if it isn’t me? More to come on this, I’m sure.

I’ll be returning to Panama to renew my Residente Permanente visa in a few weeks. Because of this visa, I’ve actually been able to travel there throughout most of the Pandemic. Even when they close borders, they don’t generally close them to citizens & permanent residents. But given the ongoing issues with travel safety, it hasn’t made sense to go again until about now. I’m looking forward to being back, even if it is just for a few days.

Yesterday, I was part of a fundraiser for a local community preparedness group that I joined over the Summer. While I do enjoy helping my neighbors be ready for disasters that may strike, it’s really brought to my attention just how in the minority I really am. We all share a great many of core values, but under no circumstances can I discuss or react to any discussion of religion or politics. It just won’t go well. And unfortunately both religion and politics are really important to people here. I don’t know where I belong, but I certainly don’t belong here in one of the reddest of Red States where only 1 in 5 people have been vaccinated and almost everyone reads about God from the same book. Maybe that’s why the chance to get out of the country for a minute is so appealing.

It’s still been really smoky here, just as it has been for many months now. We’ve had a few storms that helped clear the air some, though in general it’s still pretty bad here in Central Utah. Not as bad as the areas West of us that are up in flames, but bad enough. I’m still walking around the lake at dawn most days, as it dwindles to a muddy puddle. Some days it just doesn’t look like a good day to go out breathing though.

Taxes are finally getting done for 2020, which is good. I’m getting a refund for once! That never happened while I was running my own business, but last year when that stopped and I took up employment from an employer who pays the employer end of those taxes, wow it’s a big difference. I was accustomed to it so I almost forgot, but there really is a serious penalty for being self-employed or having a company of your own in the US. It’s just another one of the perks that I didn’t realize I was getting when I started working for ConvaTec last year.

That’s it for me. How about YOU? Hit me up or leave me a comment below. Hope all is well with you :)

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I’ve been trying to help build community in the Learning & Development space for the last 5 years or so. In that time I’ve spoken at probably a hundred industry events, and connected with fellow L&D Professionals from all over the world on issues we care about.

I’ve argued and advocated, joked and questioned, and changed my mind about lots of things along the way. That is to say, I’ve learned and developed :)

When I encounter people or companies that I don’t like, I try to say either nice things or nothing at all — at least in public. I keep the more honest private conversations private. Even then I try to be upbeat and see the bright side.

That said, in the last week I’ve witnessed some things that angered me, and that made me sad for us. I’ve had too many private conversations with others who feel the same.

Overall, I’m feeling a bit embarrassed by the lack of care that some within our community give to the community itself, especially to those who have invested so much of their own time and effort because they really believe what we can do together.

It’s a weird time for everybody, granted. Still, as a community I believe we can treat each other well, and that we should withdraw our support from those who don’t treat our community well.

^^^ I posted that much to LinkedIn, here’s what I didn’t want to say there…

ATD does not treat our community well.

I just attended ATD21, the Association for Talent & Development’s International Conference & Expo in Salt Lake City, and it was an embarrassment from start to finish. It’s supposed to be a professional organization, but there was little that was actually professional about it, IMHO.

Now I should say upfront that I’m predisposed to dislike the top level of ATD. For the last few years, I’ve only supported local chapters for this reason, many of whom do some really good work organizing folks at the local level. A lot of those people are friends of mine. It’s what all that rolls up to is a mess and has been for some time from what I can tell. I don’t have or want any friends there.

True, there were plenty of COVID-weird adaptations to this conference that had nothing to do with ATD as an organization, but at every opportunity they failed to do things respectfully. The lawyers and accountants may have been happy, but everyone else must have been an afterthought. At every opportunity, they made the situation more awkward, not less.

Fortunately, I’m good at awkward, so I still had a good time connecting with many people I’ve known for years and hadn’t seen for the last two. And meeting new people too! I’m glad for all that, and I did have a good time — because I decided to have a good time anyway.

But I believe that ATD does not deserve to exist anymore. It’s time to let it go. I kinda did this quietly a while back, but going forward I’m recommending that others do the same.

On what grounds?
  1. Taking advantage of Speakers & Authors, which they’ve been doing for years
  2. Ripping off Vendors, which they certainly did this year
  3. Not valuing Volunteers, which they rarely do and certainly didn’t this time
  4. Mistreating Attendees, which they often do and certainly did this time
  5. Generally running both their event marketing and events themselves poorly, which they usually do and absolutely did this time.

Now I’ve never run anything on the scale of ATD, though I have helped produce conferences and festivals both online and off. I don’t know how you get to be as perpetually clueless as ATD is about producing events and still have people show up to them.

Well, actually I guess I do. When you have keynote speakers like Oprah or Barack Obama, you have plenty to skate by with. Without headliners like that, you don’t have much of anything though.

This year’s keynotes were all fantastic, by the way. They just don’t have the draw of an Obama is all. This COVID-times decision was a good one, though I’m sure it came from a budgetary place, and the value to the community didn’t factor into it at all. I’m sure because the community never seems to factor into any of their decisions. ATD may be good at business, but they’re bad at community. Like really bad! Like, Ew, seriously?!? Do I want to be associated with these people? bad.

Y’know, this conference could have gone SO differently! This could have been the moment when ATD stepped up and energized their base support, creating diehard fans from those who braved a pandemic and 18-months of bizarre to be there in person. This could have been a celebration of who we are in L&D, a doubling-down on all that we stand for and all that we believe in!

Instead, from every angle I could see, they just pissed off most of these believers-in-waiting. It felt like we were being punished for showing up. It felt closer to watch sessions online than to be there in person. There was no recognition of the “Us” that were all right there to be part of something.

These people may not say so publicly like this, but many did say so privately to me. There’s just not enough in it for them to return. ATD burned some serious bridges this week, and they may have a hard time rebuilding.

Frankly, I hope they do. I hope they have the good sense to stop and step aside. It’s been, what, 78 years now? That’s a human life expectancy. So let’s not be sad when they pass, we can celebrate all that they did and that they had such a good run! It’s okay to do that when it’s time. Sometimes death is the most compassionate path, the best choice to make.

I wish ATD would declare success and get out of the game, letting others who actually care about the community and are willing to keep pace going forward to take it from here.

But they won’t. So I will do it for them.

This was the nail in the coffin experience for me. I’m no longer interested in giving so much to keep them on life support. I’ll remember the good times, and politely never work with them or support them in any way again. They don’t represent me or my views, and I’m not going to pretend anymore. I don’t want to be associated with any professional organization that is this awkwardly unprofessional.

I have plenty to give to those who treat people well! But no more time for this shit. It’s embarrassing, and I’m out.

What about you? What do you think? The comments below are for your commenting

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Just as the chef is not ready to cook with
Contaminated ingredients
The fanciest of processes are unprepared for
Dirty data

So we clean, peel, and chop
We scrub, type, and bin
As we prep so do we reduce
Condensing our possibilities
From many to few

This is exploration, yes
Working with what is at hand
But our inquiry is not open
It is targeted to an outcome

Typically, some form of
Transformational effort is then applied
Heat, acid, salt
Algorithm, calculate, anonymize
The very nature of the material is changed
Prepared for intended consumption

Once the meal exists
The Masterful Chef is only getting started
Few guests want to peer into the pot
And pull up their own meal

Presentation is yet another everything
The finessed aesthetic further focuses
The eye of the beholder, and
Primes people to appreciate
What was prepared
Just for them

Then, let them feast!
Taking this in
Savoring the experience
Telling stories for others to envy
To remember
And to repeat

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I’d almost forgotten about this little video I made a couple years back. But yesterday I found myself sharing it to someone in conversation on LinkedIn and then realizing I’d never shared it here! So here’s me fixing that :)

Care to join me? Care to hold this line? Comment away, my friends.

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Sometimes it happens
The data contradicts
That which we know to be true

People then accuse this data of
Being flawed

Perhaps it is

But it is always we
Who create the flaw

Either we gather our data
Poorly
Being sloppy with our beliefs
With our methods
With our maths

Or
What we know to be true
Is not quite
True

Such moments are real
And not the time for
Crises in faith
In data or in reality

Rather, these are
Simple clues to fuel curiosity
Moments to question deeply
To be more expansive in thought
To get more playful and creative
To do what we do better

Each such moment
Is a precious occasion
To learn

This is the most venerable gift
Our data can ever bestow

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