Sunday, October 28, 2012

Everyone is an Entrepreneur

I've had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica frequently over the past few years. I have found it a wonderful place with wonderful people.  If you are not familiar with Jamaica, it's a poor country with a socialist leaning government.   In order to survive, though, I've noticed there are lots of enterprising individuals who are entrepreneurs. There are the drivers, own vans to drive around tourists; there are the merchants who retail tourist 'trinkets' by the side of the road;  there are the craftsman-peddlers who sell custom carvings; and there are the boat captains who run tours. Most of these folks probably didn't  wake up saying "I want to be a entrepreneur", more likely they said "I want to eat."  None of them came up with blockbuster ideas, they just filled a need. They are not billionaires with public companies, but they make enough to survive and even grow their businesses. No one told these Jamaicans that they were or were not the right 'type' to run a business. Don't let the society tell you what you can and can't do, because if these folks can do it without benefit of formal business educations, venture capitalists, and government programs, so can you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Professional Development

I've been working in IT for more than 20 Years. I never intended to do the job I do. I graduated College in 1989 with Business Degree, with every intent of going into some type of sales, then business management. In fact, at that time there were very few degrees in IT outside of engineering. There were  fledgling MIS (Management Information Systems) programs, but what they were teaching never appealed to me.  I ended up in IT because of circumstances outside my control  and a knack for being able to figure out computers and programs.

But one thing that is obviously missing is formal education. For a long time, I figured that formal knowledge really wasn't that important ,as long as I could do my job. Recently, I've concluded that my knowledge is more spotty then I had imagined, And I have begun to to try to fill in the blanks. To be able to talk with my peers, I need not only to know how to do the job, but also the terminology.  Frequently, I have discovered, there are tools and methods that I wasn't aware of, that could have helped along the way, had I actually gone to a class on the subject sooner. I've worked hard recently on professional development,  because I need to fill in the holes.

Don't skimp on professional development, especially if you are a product of early days of IT. You may have a lot of experience, but there are most certainly holes in your knowledge.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The end of paper as we know it.

Back in the '90's there was lots of talk about "going paperless", a utopian vision of a world where we no longer used paper, notepads were passe, and file cabinets were for suckas. That never happened. We still have notepads, laser printers, and lots of file cabinets. But the role of paper has changed since the digital age came upon us.

Since the 13th century paper as been used for record keeping and communication.  Paper has some very unique properties  made it successful for 700 years. It's light, cheap, easy to add data to (writing), data can be retrieved easily by anyone without special equipment (reading), and its durable. These properties made it the go-to method  for record keeping and communication. Its biggest disadvantage was that if you want to see the data, you have to go to it or have it brought to you.  Reports were written on paper, if you needed to collect metrics, someone reviewed the paper, made calculations and wrote it on a new piece of paper. Paper was so important to the successful operation of society, that the governments created agencies to transport paper under protection of the law (postal service), and other laws to protect content (copyrights).

Enter the late 20th and Early 21st century. The ability of computers to process and disseminate information have relegated data that used to be stored on paper to databases and file systems. Information  that used to be disseminated on paper is now transmitted digitally. 50 years ago business records like invoices and customers data were stored in file cabinets, now they are stored in databases. Paper is not just another method to display content.

While this revolution has allowed us to make great advances in almost every field of human endeavor, it has also led to new challenges. Age old institutions are searching for relevance (the postal service); hundreds of years of legal precedents no longer are relevant (copyright). Most importantly, since access to data is governed by technology, as that technology progresses we run the risk of loosing information forever.

We are moving into a new age, we need to start thinking about how we will manage data for ourselves and future generations.