About Mike

If you're reading this, you probably know me. If not, poke around and maybe you'll learn something.

Getting creative for employee on-boarding

Working for a small, international, non-profit has many challenges. One of the biggest I’ve encountered is managing all the internal details involved in on-boarding employees and helping new staff get sufficiently oriented regardless of their location or technical competency. One tool I’ve been a fan of for years is Trello and, based on an idea they shared, a colleague and I got to work. The solution created has been in use for almost a year-and-a-half with over two dozen new employees brought onboard since that time.

When a new employee is slated to start, a workflow is kicked off using an internal Trello board shared by a few different people involved in the process. It represents a master checklist of steps that will be needed to complete the numerous necessary tasks. Some of the steps include:

  • Confirm that an offer was accepted
  • Confirm employee’s contact info and title
  • Get a headshot and bio
  • Create email and other server accounts
  • Create orientation board and account
  • Send welcome email with getting started instructions
  • etc.

As an operations-minded person, myself, I like to standardize whenever possible. A multi-cultural organization, however, demands acknowledging and accounting for differences in culture. The balance I shoot for is 80/20: 80% standardized and 20% contextualized. We took that into account with our solution. The bulk of the board is the same for all staff and covers the baseline common to everyone. Things like our mission, vision, staff resources, and must-watch or must-read items. Folded into that are lists specific to the team they’ll be joining as well as the country which they’re located. All combined, it’s proven to be a great resource. We also incorporate the feedback of each person that uses it so it can be improved in future iterations.

The best part is that it’s a free service which is always a good thing when the goal is to apply every dollar possible towards our programs. Want to donate?

Remember your future self

 

At its most basic, productivity is all about getting as much done as possible in a given period of time. Improving your efficiency is certainly one way to accomplish that; completing a task in less time does let you move on to the next. The problem with that strategy is that you sacrifice the future for the benefits in the present. Whenever I find myself considering a shortcut that I know will have consequences later, I try to think of how I’ll feel and see if it’s still the right thing to do. I refer to it as remembering my future self. Continue reading

The Blessing and Curse of the Zeigarnik Effect

In the early 20th century, the psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik studied what became known as the Zeigarnik effect after her professor noticed that a waiter had better recollections of still unpaid orders than ones that were completed (Wikipedia). In these modern times where considerably more tasks abound, it’s often referred to as ‘open loops’ or ‘dangling threads’ and everyone can relate to one degree or another.

Whether by nature or by practice, I am personally quite susceptible to the Zeigarnik effect. As an avid GTD‘er I try very hard to capture the various open loops as they come up so I can circle back and address them through providing an update or otherwise following-up. That allows me to provide closure and move onto the next thing. Continue reading

A replacement for CrashPlan

Last month, I wrote how CrashPlan is discontinuing their home service and that I had to find a suitable alternative. Backup solutions aren’t the most thrilling kind of software and investigating and evaluating the different options can hardly be considered fun. The complicating fact is that I have an atypical arrangement, or I suppose you could call it a specific set of requirements. I have a server along with other computers at home and another server at my mother-in-law’s along with her computer. Since I’m a firm believer of the 3-2-1 backup rules, I wanted to make sure everything is suitably protected.

Continue reading

The Search Begins: A New Backup Solution

This past week, Code42 Software announced they are going to stop supporting their CrashPlan backup solution for personal or home use. That is unfortunate news since I’ve been a customer for over ten years and was quite satisfied and invested in their service. While they have every right to run their business as they choose (especially if the economics don’t work in the long term) the impact to a significant portion of their userbase is not one that will be easy for them to recover from.

My current subscription is only good for a few more months and I now must find an alternate solution that allows my data to be sufficiently protected in a way that is still practical and reasonably priced. So far, the two leading candidates are Arq by Haystack Software and Backblaze. Neither one is a direct replacement so the decision isn’t clear. There may also be other options that should be considered. It will likely come down to the tradeoffs that I’m willing to make. Do I not back up as many computers as I have? Do I no longer also utilize a local backup?

Another possibility is to engineer a bespoke solution by one method or another. That would probably cover my needs better, but would also likely require more upfront effort to implement and ongoing maintenance. Clearly, the classic “build vs. buy” decision isn’t just limited to the domain of business IT.

Peay It Forward

Ok, I admit that the title’s lame, but I thought it was fun. You’re here reading this so I suppose it’s not all bad…

As one progresses through life and their career, knowledge and experience naturally accumulate. As you get exposed to new things and tackle the novel or unexpected, you generally amass a significant catalog of skills, insights, and, hopefully, wisdom. Over time, you consciously (and subconsciously) incorporate those numerous learnings into your day-to-day playbook to make yourself more efficient or effective. It happens almost automatically because nobody wants to spend more time or effort on something if they don’t have to. Continue reading

A Good Trip to Ghana

Last week, I returned to Ghana to participate in Edify‘s 2nd annual Education Technology Conference. The conference was well-attended and I enjoyed being part of the launch of our e-reader project in conjunction with our partner, Worldreader. Using Kindles to improve the reading ability and enjoyment for students will be a big benefit for many.

Following the event, a group of us had lunch at a rather unique local restaurant: La Tante DC10. Built out of an abandoned DC10 next to Kotaka Airport in 2013, it’s not surprising that it stands out. Very memorable.

 

 

Not just a team, but a family

Not surprisingly, in working for Edify I’ve learned that life in a non-profit requires being very thoughtful and judicious about how we use our resources and spend our money. Certainly, we could expand our manpower by hiring more staff or simply ‘throw money’ at every challenge that arises. That doesn’t work very well in the long run. In daily practice, the challenge is to find creative solutions or strategic trade-offs to keep our focus on our mission: To improve and expand sustainable Christ-centered education globally.

I’m happy to say that there is one thing, which comes at great expense, that is one of our wisest investments of our time and money: our annual team meeting. Each January, our (growing) team gathers to spend time together in fellowship, devotion, training, and sharing. In the past, the meetings have been in San Diego, but this year’s was our first in the field: Ghana.

When you think about all of the effort and expense that goes into flights, visas, lodging, food, and all the related logistics, it would be so easy to for our management to decide against it. Instead, the commitment to the time by our founders and senior management gets stronger each year.

I was fortunate enough to join Edify shortly before last year’s meeting so the one I’m just now returning from is my second. We now total 53 with over a quarter added in the past year alone. As I’m involved in getting each one set up and oriented, I have the benefit of being familiar with names and roles from the start. Hearing their voices on a weekly prayer call or other phone conferences only goes so far to really get to know people. Seeing them in person, sharing a meal, trading stories, is the only way to truly make a connection. That I did at every opportunity.

I can honestly say that my family has grown considerably since I joined Edify. It’s an honor and a pleasure to share my time and talents in service to them and our collective goals.

I have been blessed by the opportunity I’ve had. I cannot wait for us to be together again in 2018!

 

 

Learning to Fly

As a belated birthday present for our daughter, we took a trek yesterday down to the glider port in La Jolla for her to participate in a falconry lesson led by Denise and Kirk of Sky Falconry. It was an absolutely great way to spend a Saturday morning and being an observer of these beautiful raptors is quite an opportunity to learn quite a bit about the birds and the history of working with them. It was almost as enjoyable as being able to interact with them. Almost.