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Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict

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Startup life: It’s a family effort

One month into the summer vacation and the kids are pretty busy. They keep themselves occupied, they don’t get bored, and they seem to be really happy with their freedom. I get to see them during meal times mostly. They don’t complain, yet I can’t escape the guilty feeling that’s creeping on me: What a terrible mom, not dedicating quality time to my kids during their summer vacation.

At the height of it, when I finally decided to take an hour off emailing and social networking to play a board game with my 9 year old son, he accepted me with a hug. Enhancing that guilty feeling.

But they know, and I even heard them explain it to their friends, that their mom is working, working really hard, working a lot. Sure, mom is at home, but mom is in her study, and shouldn’t be disturbed.

So it’s not only me paying the high price of a startup set up. Not that I ever believed it was only me. I can safely say that I am lucky my family accepts my crazy work hours and supports the startup effort.

Nothing Much.

I’ve been so terribly preoccupied lately I didn’t get a chance to complete any of the blog posts I’ve started to write. Each paragraph bursting out of me in a rage of passion to this topic or that. But then I get all entangled with the actual doings, and the post gets abandoned.

Well not this time. This one is going up.

There is a mix of topics I am dealing with. If an outsider would have looked at my browser windows at any given point of time – they might consider a multiple personality disorder…

At this time, for example, I have a bunch of Facebook games I am trying out. Then several windows explaining about World of Warcraft and how to play it, and an additional bunch of windows all related to the use of World of Warcraft at school. There are many recommendations there. I’d start with Lucas Gillispie’s web site http://edurealms.com/.

Then I have another set of windows open and they relate to the efforts to bring some innovation into education in Israel. There is a list of 29 elementary schools in Israel that are considered “experimental”. 21 high schools and 34 nursery school classes. It’s a drop in the ocean really. Some of the experiments described do not present any education innovation at all. But some do, and I cling to then with hope it may hint of a positive direction.

Seems impossible to be online without some of my favorite networks: at this time it’s firesidelearning.ning.com, where I follow the discussion on NYTimes: “Building a Better Teacher” by Elizabeth Green and http://rezedhub.ning.com/ where I follow the wow-in-school group http://rezedhub.ning.com/group/wowinschools.

As a side kick I need to check out the weather in far away Thessaloníki in Greece, since my daughter would be traveling there tonight, to participate at a Model UN convention. There are some un-answered email messages about the Eurekamp unconference I am helping to organize. I also have to check out some sources regarding a TV documentary I am planning to do and …oops. My alarm clock just went off. Got to pick up the little one from school. Time for a break.

The Story about the Suspicious Man

“This is a suspicious man”, I told my partner as we were browsing through résumés of potential employees or co-founders for our startup. “How comes?”, said my brother, “he strikes me as an experienced techie, very impressive resume, mentions all the terms we need…”. “Yes, but I can’t find any social networking info about him. That’s suspicious”.

For a minute there was silence. If my brother was here, next to me, and not beyond the sea, in New York, he would probably be staring at me, with the look of “are you for real?” – one lifted eyebrow. But as he was at the other end of a transatlantic phone call I was spared the look.

The silence was disturbed as one of my Facebook contacts sent me an online message about a coming event. As I replied my brother said: “You know what, not everybody has the time to manage a proper online presence. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the professional for us”. “No way”, I said, “Our venture is all about social networking. If this person isn’t a social networking animal we are going to waste tons of time just explaining things to him”.

As this resume was dropped to the floor* and we moved to discuss the next candidate I started to think. Can someone looking for a job, especially technology or marketing related job, afford to not have a properly managed online presence? I can’t take seriously anyone from a tech related profession who isn’t taking part in any type of social networking. It’s like a thing of the past. Who wants a thing of the past when you are looking to move forward?

So here are some tips to job seekers, from someone who is a co-founder/CTO seeker, about some minimum social networking expectations and requirements:

1- LinkedIn – the number one professional social network. Put your résumé online, don’t forget to connect to colleagues, bosses, team members, clients and suppliers to create your work network. Make sure you connections are visible – what we look are mutual acquaintances. Make sure you do not connect with people who may speak badly of you. Try to get references from any connection who can speak nicely of you, first from those people who are widely connected and have strong network presence. Don’t forget to upload a photo. Yes, we do want to know how you look, so when we set up a meeting at a coffee place we can recognize you. The photo has to show your face clearly – a full body on a 40 pixel image is ridiculous – and it will better be up to date, not a 10 year old photo from when you were a lot thinner.

2. Facebook – yes the face photo is probably the first thing you should upload here. Your short version of a resume can also come here – but it’s not a must. The most important thing about Facebook is the connections, the social network you create. Don’t think “the more the merrier” because that’s not true. When I see people with more then 400 connection I doubt the quality of every connection on their list. Make sure you connect with those people who can reference you and even better – if you connect to people who can help you land that next job.

An important tool on Facebook is the events. If you haven’t been invited to any event yet, go into the events application and look for friends’ events. Some might be informal like parties, drinks, breakfasts. Other might be professional – conferences, unconferences, workshops, and others might be social networking events like meetups and group meetings. Choose only relevant groups. Ask your friends for their recommendations. You can start with free events. There are plenty of those and they are not any less effective then paid events.

3. Status updates and Twitter. If you are unfamiliar with social networking or feel you don’t have the time – don’t do it. No status updates, nor Twitter. It’s not necessary. Start by simply following, about once a day, the various updates of your friends and their friends – your relevant network.

What are status updates good for?

You will discover that potential employers publish their want ads first as a status update. Sometimes your friends will re-publish, or re-tweet, a want ad by a friend.

You will also learn how to publish your availability to the potential audience. But don’t rush into it. First follow others to learn what sounds right and what sounds out of place in this new medium called social networking.

**PS: the story is half fictional, for my own literary pleasure I tend to exaggerate. However the guide is 100% true.

Full Time Job. Think Full.

When I set out and decided I am going to pursuit my dream and become a full time entrepreneur I couldn’t imagine this. That endless number of hours spent on thinking. I mean, of course you’ve got to think. I think there for I am. But we’re used to thinking and acting. Thinking and doing. Thinking with team members.

Yet here I am, a struggling early-stage entrepreneur and I find myself spending a lot of time on thinking, as in reflecting. Not writing, though sometimes scribbling. No team work, though I often talk it out with my colleagues or mentors. Still most of the work is thinking.

I want to be able to be totally focused when I finally go out there and recruit or raise funds. I want to be able to have an answer for every question. I don’t want to postpone dealing with these questions to a later stage. I know, from my experience as a consultant, how wrong it can be so start up with not enough ready answers.

So thinking it is. Strangely enough, though it is time consuming and energy draining, it doesn’t “feel like work”. There is no actual product for every hour of work. And that thinking job consumes every minute of my being. When I shower, when I drive the kids to their afternoon classes, when I do my daily Sudoku, when I eat, or talk with my friends, when on vacation. There isn’t a stone on the street that won’t be able to generate inspiration when I am on the job. It just gives a whole new meaning to a full time job.

Summer observations.

Longer days. More hours of daylight. More demand for fun. Less time to work. More time with the kids. Vacation – a must. Thinning events. Too hot: Less time outside. More time for writing. Reading? Too hot. Nothing new. New projects? After the summer.

Writing again

I think I need to start writing again.

Something is squeaking in my head.

I have given up on writing a long time ago, but I have to admit it: it’s like giving up a part of your soul.

Why is it so hard to get back on that horse again?

I think my left brain has taken over the right brain for some time. Forcing the emotional, spontaneous creativity out in favor of the analytical creativity.

It’s only when I saw the dancer turning to both directions that I realized – I must use both. Can’t let one side wins. It’s like leaving something out all the time. Like always forgetting if you locked your door.

So slowly, but surely: writing, here I come.

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