Friday, March 18, 2016

Drive and Determination...

Every once in a while, you meet someone that you immediately know is destined to change the world in some way...

No – this isn’t the opening line of a sappy employment recommendation or valedictory speech. Instead, it is my first thought every time I come in contact with a person I know, whom we will call ”Michelle” (not her name, but a sobriquet to protect her identity).

While I could go into a huge list of her many accomplishments and adventures (some of which would just completely blow your mind), what made me put down words is her incredible passion and drive.

As I told her earlier in the day today, I have met some of the most fascinating people in the world through my own work and personal experiences.  But none are at quite the same level as Michelle.  She has worked with Nobel Laureates, traveled (in most cases by herself) to six continents, earned multiple Bachelor and Masters degrees (all for free, BTW, through scholarships and raw determination), been a CEO of a tech start up, a motivational public speaker, an ice skater, and a college cheerleader. She joked with her sister about a beauty pageants, was basically dared to enter it, and won (again, something else she doesn’t really publicize).

Today, she shared with me that she is pursuing another of her life long dreams to become a cheerleader for a professional sports franchise.  She is not doing it for the money. She is not doing it for the publicity. She is not doing it to hook up with a sports player. She is doing it because it is something she has always wanted to do.  Unlike most of us (myself included), she is completely able and willing to dedicate whatever she needs to do to accomplish her goals. 

And she will become that cheerleader.

I am reminded of that line in Legally Blonde, when one of Elle Woods professors says "Do you think she just woke up one morning and said, 'I think I'll go to law school today'?” I think that Michelle has bolted upright out of her bed on several occasions and said “I am going to do X tomorrow”.

And she does it.  Regardless of how crazy it may seem to you and I.  She just does it.

I admire drive and ambition.  I have it in spades.  But never have I met someone who is so much more passionate and driven than myself that it makes me feel boring. 

I could say that we need more people in the world like Michelle.  But we don’t.  The world is completely unprepared for the extreme few that we do have like her, and more could cause a massive unbalance in how the world works (I am being completely serious here). 

The point in all of this: if we had 1/10 of the drive and determination that Michelle has, think of the incredible things we would be able to accomplish.  You don’t need to be a Michelle to be passionate about the things that are important to you. Even those things that others might find odd (I have an abnormal obsession with all things cheeseburgers, as many of you may know) can be channeled in a way to be of interest to others.  And people like Michelle push me to be even more crazy than I already am. Because – if she can do it, I know I can as well. 

But I will likely NOT be a cheerleader.  No one wants to see that. No one.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The President and the SCOTUS Nominee...

Today, President Obama will nominate a person to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), filling the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  The President will be nominating Merrick Garland, the chief justice of the US District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

I am not going to go into a huge review of Garland’s resume, except to say that, regardless of his political bent, he is undoubtedly qualified to fill the open seat on the Court.

The President has performed his Constitutional obligation, and now the ball is squarely in the court (excuse the pun) of the Republican controlled Senate.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said that there will be no hearings for any nominee that the current President chooses, instead leaving the next President to fill the seat.  And in the truest form of irony, various conservative media outlets have produced video of President Obama and Vice President Biden recommending that exact position as Senators while George W. Bush was in office.

The larger question is: Should the Senate hold hearings and confirm the President’s nominee to the SCOTUS?

The simple answer is yes. And here’s why:

First, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(highlights for relevance, italics for importance)

At some point, the “Advice and Consent of the Senate” clause has been bastardized to mean that the Senate gets to scrutinize every aspect of a potential Presidential nominee (and for the record – both parties are guilty of this abuse). Constitutional scholars and historians are at odds as to the meaning of the phrase, but nearly all would agree (I hope) that the Founders never envisioned the type of circus that exists now over Presidential nominations.

One could also argue that the nomination of a SCOTUS Justice is one of the most important powers that a President has, given the lifetime tenure of the appointment, to promote their ideas on government. This is not a new concept – Adams and Marshall’s plan to fill the judicial branch with Federalist judges was the first of MANY examples. There may be another discussion here about the lifetime appointment of federal judges, but what is relevant is that a SCOTUS lifetime appointment makes the nomination ever more important to the President and their values, but also to the Senate to confirm the appointment (which is a partial explanation of the rancor surrounding SCOTUS nominations).

Just because the nomination or the appointment is “high stakes” such as the SCOTUS appointment, does not grant the Senate the arbitrary purview to ignore the nomination.  

For the record – I believe that the Senate is obligated to conduct hearings on the President’s nomination.  Further, I believe that the Senate should confirm the President’s nominee, unless they find an extraordinary reason to suspect that the nominee is somehow unqualified for the position (which they will not find).  Political views or leanings are NOT grounds for finding a nominee unqualified for the position, regardless of any diametric opposition the Republicans may have to the nominee.  

My view will likely not win the day with the Republicans in the Senate – they will continue to preach their mantra and stall as long as possible. But it is not the right thing for them to do. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Good Bye Old Job - One Year Later...

Today, about the time that this blog has been posted, will mark one year since the company that I had been working for decided to eliminate my position as the Director of Information Technology. It came as a shock – I knew that I had accomplished most of the projects that I had been hired to do, but I still had a number of things I wanted to do to improve the enterprise infrastructure and solidify the corporate office transition.  Alas, it was not to be.

Instead of bashing that company (which is never productive), I wanted to share some insights that I learned from that experience.  Maybe they will be helpful to you, or maybe not.  

Your job should not define who you are.  Especially in the IT universe, we (IT workers of the world) are given labels. And those labels come with an identity.  And for many, that identity becomes part of who we are as a person.  I don’t know why this is the case, but it usually is.  But as much as I enjoyed being an IT Director (I even had a t-shirt made – no kidding), it is / was not who I am.  Yes, I am a bit of a nerd, and I do like pretty much all things computers, and I did have a job as the IT Director for a cool company.  But I am also a Boy Scout, politically active and educated, a renowned burger expert and (according to my wife) a pretty decent husband.  I decided long ago that I work to live, and that I did not live to work.  I appreciate the comforts that a good job affords me, and I work very hard at the job.  But there is more to me and my life than to be “owned” by my job and my employer. If the job you have is more important to you than your family or living, maybe it is time to re-evaluate your priorities.

Your skills are yours – your employer rents them from you.  The IT Industry (as well as many other verticals) are filled with specialists – educated individuals that are often hired to fulfill a specific task or role within the company. In the IT realm, you may be a security specialist, a database administrator, or a project manager.  Sometimes, you may even be all three.  Whatever your particular skill set may be, it never hurts to be able to do more.  Most people have the dreaded “other duties as assigned” line somewhere in their HR approved job description.  I know many that hate when their boss / manager asks them to do something not within the confines or comfort zone of their usual tasks.  But you should always take the opportunity to improve and increase your marketable job skills – if / when you leave the company you are currently employed by, the skills and experience that you take with you are far and away the most valuable thing that you can take.  To that end, go to as many trainings as possible. Even if they are free online webinars, the company is paying you to learn something that will make you more valuable – initially to the employer. But also to the next employer.

A job is a job is a job. As great as your job was / is, it is only a job.  There are others exactly like it (more or less) if you look.  Chances are, the skills that you brought to your job are the same skills that another company is looking for.  Now, you have to find them.  Networking, social media, even those free conferences – all great ways to let others know about your skills and availability.  The job I Have right now came from letting my Facebook friends know that I was looking.  72 hours after that initial post, I was interviewing, and eventually hired.  I am incredibly grateful for that, but I also know that I am not alone.  While I don’t have statistics, an unbelievable majority of jobs are never posted, and are filled by word of mouth – a friend knows a guy who is looking for a guy that can do .  Don’t for a second think that you are not hireable.  There is a job out there waiting for you, almost regardless of the market conditions.  Keep looking, keep talking, and you will find the job (or the job will find you).

I could go on and on, but I hope these suggestions have been…interesting.

And to the company that let me go - I know how things have been going since I left.  I still talk to people, and follow the goings on at the company.  I wish you nothing but the very best!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Political Recovery Wednesday...

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately for work – mainly on cloud security topics. And it has been fun. But I thought I would take a few minutes and write a good ol’ political blog, seeing as I haven’t done so in a few years, and it has been on my mind a ton lately.

This election may very well prove to be a tipping point in American politics.  On the Democrat side, you have a centrist woman, former first lady, who is often thought to be one of the nastiest persons that has ever been in government service.  She is facing a self-proclaimed socialist from New England, who has about zero racial diversity appeal, but is very popular with the Millennials and the other left leaning lemmings that are still looking for the “Hope and Change” they were promised with Obama.

As if that wasn’t crazy enough, the Republican cast of characters include a neurosurgeon with ZERO government / political experience who also happens to be black, but has about as much racial appeal as the socialist from Vermont; a right wing ideologue from Texas who was born in Canada and may also believe that the world is flat, a Cuban American that is part of the Republican party establishment, but is also so centrist that he does not really know what he believes, and a reality show populist with REALLY BAD HAIR that has to wait for the latest polling data before having a position, and that position only lasts as long as the next poll.

For those that have yet to embrace the horror, I am here to tell you that it will likely be Trump vs. Ms Clinton in the general election.  And here is why:

Love them, hate them, indifferent to them, the process used to nominate candidates for President (and, for that matter, elect the President) are not directly related to the popular vote.  They are based on a representative system of delegates (and electors).  So, while NO ONE seems to like Trump or Clinton as an individual, enough delegates have pledged their support (through various means) that they will likely be the nominee from each of the two parties.  

The Democrat rules are different than the Republican ones, but it still amounts to the same thing – Trump and Clinton have amassed a huge majority of the convention delegates for the states that have had primaries / caucuses.  So by the time the party conventions come along, the nomination process will be little more than a formality.

There is also some talk of a brokered convention on the Republican side (that is the level of animas the party leaders have for Trump). But unless something significantly shifts in the coming weeks before the primary, I just don’t see how that is going to happen.  It isn’t like he only leading by a couple of delegates – after Super Tuesday, he has more delegates wrapped up already than all of the other candidates COMBINED.     

Strangely, while the main stream media would have you believe that no one likes Trump, they were obviously not polling any of the hundreds of thousands of party elites (defined as those that attend primary elections and caucuses) that voted OVERWHELMINGLY for him in primaries and caucuses across the country.  So either they are wrong (the media is NEVER wrong) or something just doesn’t add up.  

Regardless, the weeks and months leading up to the general election will be interesting, and will likely be different than anyone has seen in politics in their lifetimes.  

Buckle up, this ride is just starting.