Privacy Thresholds

I was tasked with collecting biographies and head shots for our technicians in the shop. The plan is to send the customer an email at each stage of their engine overhaul with a little bit of information about who is doing what to their engine. We deal with many overseas customers, so it’s hard to put a “face” on the company. As a marketer and a millenial, I think this is a great idea. It keeps the customer apprised of the engine progress, assures them that a real person with real experience is doing real work on their engine, and makes all the technicians, customer service reps, and sales reps seem like one big happy family. We’re a unified company, partnering with you, our valued customer!

Interestingly, some people did not want their picture and a summary of their work experience put out into the world. Again, being a marketer and a millenial, this is very odd to me. I realize that my privacy threshold is lower than most people’s, particularly when it comes to professional information. You can put my name into a search engine and find out my entire work history, picture, and phone number in less than a minute. The crazy part is that this was intentional! I WANT people to find me. How else will I advance my blog, my career, and my success? If no one knows I exist, they can’t offer me an opportunity! In my profession, I’d wager that if a potential employer or client can’t easily find me on the web, they’d be suspicious of my qualifications and education.

This is not the case for prior generations, and particularly those in professions that require hard skills or specific licenses to practice. Marketing skills can be difficult to quantify or assess, so the big picture shown by my online presence is pretty crucial to my ability to prove myself. For technicians in an industry that will soon face a shortage of qualified workers, simply showing their A&P license is enough to get them to a probationary period, if not a full-time job. And, since many of these workers didn’t grow up in the age of the internet, the thought of putting their face and identifying history in print is pretty scary.

While I understand their concerns, it’s just so hard for me to relate. I don’t share every detail of my personal and professional life online, but if I can say it in polite conversation to a random stranger in person, why would I hesitate to put it online? I guess I feel that if someone really wants to steal my identity or cause me harm, I’m going to have to significantly disrupt my entire life to prevent them from doing that. I’d have to forgo all credit card use, online and offline (I mean really, we let 16 year old waiters take our credit cards out of our sight for an unspecified amount of time!), never put my address ANYWHERE, and ditch any phone communications! Is it really so bad for someone to know what I look like? Is it really so bad for someone to know that I attended UNT? Is it really that harmful for someone to know I go to boot camp on a regular basis? Sure, I keep my whereabouts off the internet, my schedule off the internet, and my super secret passwords out of publication, but I have a low privacy threshold. I wonder how this debate will change over the next 5-10 years, as millenials ascend to positions of power, and social networking becomes even more normal and pervasive than it already is. How’s your privacy threshold?

Should You Even Go To College?

I’ve had some interesting conversations and read some interesting articles recently that made me wonder if you should even go to college at all! Obviously, I value the piece of paper, as I’m currently working on my MBA, so I’ll end up having more college than the average person. And, that’s the point, right? To make myself “above average” so that I can have a higher paycheck, more prestigious title, cooler work environment, and generally more awesome career! But in today’s economy, should you even go to college?

I will say that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that Americans put way to much value on college degrees. Or, at least, all the people I’m surrounded by put a lot of emphasis on it. I admit that I’ve always kind of looked down on people that chose not to attend college, that somehow, they just couldn’t hack it in the real world. This is actually quite false, as several people I know were more than able to hack it, they just opted out. Our generation has been told to “do something we love”, and quite frankly, not everyone loves a desk job. Not everyone gets warm fuzzies from a glowing computer screen. Not everyone wants to exercise only their brain every day. Some people enjoy… gasp… working with their hands! Or exerting their leg muscles! Or being a starving artist in a garret! How dare these people choose to forgo a boring class that lends nothing to their practical daily lives because it is required by a degree plan? How dare they accept hourly wages over salary, muddy boots over patent pumps, and wrenches over a briefcase? Sometimes I look out my office window at the gorgeous 70 degree day, and think that maybe I’m the crazy one. I could be out mowing a lawn in the sunshine to make a living, or taking tourists scuba diving to earn a wage, or heck, staying inside making cards to sell to pay the rent. There are plenty of people that make a living wage doing blue-collar work, and many of them love their jobs. What’s so wrong with taking a job that allows you to feel good about yourself while to make a paycheck?

This is not to say that everyone with a college degree is miserable, while all the non-degreed people live a life of rainbows and roses. In addition to “passion” you do have to be practical and realize that most college-educated professionals earn more over their lifetime. I would also say that there’s a lot of skills you can learn in school that will improve your ability to move up the ranks, which is difficult to do without outsourcing in a blue-collar job. And, since many blue-collar jobs take a higher toll on the body, you might face physical limitations that force you into retirement earlier than a white-collar profession (we’ll save the debate about stress-induced heart attacks when you’re 40 for another blog post!). For example, take landscaping or construction work. Both require significant physical labor, and to move up in the ranks or start your own business, you’ll need management skills, accounting skills, marketing skills, and possibly engineering skills. For many of those, you’ll need a college-educated or licensed professional, so if your aspiration is to move into management, going to college earlier might have been the better choice.

I do think that post-high school education is necessary to ensure that the US (and the world, since it’s a global economy these days) has an effective workforce, but I think we should make a path for technical or vocational education, the way we’ve done for college. For example, the aviation industry is facing the real concern of a shortage of trained, qualified technicians, because all the youth are heading to college, instead of mechanic school. This article details vocational programs in Arizona high schools, and mentions that in addition to training students for immediate work after high school, the vocational programs are actually encouraging students to attend and graduate from 2- or 4-year colleges! It mentions a shortage of welders and auto mechanics, noting that you can make great money in either of these professions. It’s unfortunate that many high schools are unwilling or unable to offer these types of programs to their students, and that many parents are unwilling or unable to allow their children to take advantage of these programs if they are offered. My cousin went to an ag-centric high school, complete with animals and farm land on the school property. She mentioned that some transfer students made rude comments about the smell surrounding the school. Her response? “That’s the smell of money! You smell cow manure and hay… I smell dollars in my pocket!” Note that my cousin went to college for poultry science (you know, the people that engineer a better chicken for power players like Tyson?) on scholarships from her winnings at county fairs and FFA shows!

So, who’s making the better choice? Me, with my MBA, and my sister in her pursuit of a doctorate? Our one-class-shy-of-a-bachelor’s degree friend, that’s currently working 7 days a week as an electrician, making $20 per hour? Or, a family friend whose son skipped college altogether, went to a trade school, and is now working as an auto mechanic? The word is that he loves his job, he’s contributing to society, and he’s paying his own way these days! I’m not saying that college isn’t important, and I definitely have a hard time accepting alternative paths. But, the more I read, and the more people I meet, the more I realize that a fancy piece of paper isn’t the only way to have a fulfilling, well-paid, successful career.

I Kind of Suck at Vacation

As you know, I just returned from a wonderful 13-day vacation. My husband and I did a road trip around Texas to make our way to a friend’s wedding in El Paso, and we went without cell reception and internet for several days at a time. What an odd sensation, to be unplugged for nearly two weeks! Anyways, back to the fact that I kind of suck at vacation: it took a few days to just quiet my own mind, and about a week and a half into the vacation, I started making up ad campaigns for all the products we were using! Sigh… I can’t even go two weeks without doing business.

I’ve come to realize that in order to truly shut off the distractions, I need about 4 days of vacation. This two-day weekend nonsense is not for relaxation, but rather for chores, errands, and other responsibilities that I put off during the week. Humans need some down time in order to function at optimal capacity, but I never schedule any down time. I tore through 3.5 books on the trip, including a murder mystery by Agatha Christie, an FBI-thriller by James Patterson, a philosophical and psychological rabbit-hole by Aldous Huxley, and great progress through a religious/philosophical challenge by C.S. Lewis. It’s amazing what my mind can contemplate when it’s not weighed down by all the clutter of daily life! You’ll notice, though, that only two of my four books were somewhat “mindless escape”. Even when I’m attempting to turn my brain into mush for a few days, I can only handle so much “blank space” before I start craving some serious mental stimulation.

Then there’s the physical stimulation… I REALLY suck at relaxation! Fortunately, my husband does to, and his inability to relax is actually worse than mine. We backpacked for the first 3 days of our trip, logging about 15 miles of hiking. We did a 14-mile, 2,000 ft. elevation gain hike, and a 6-mile “easy” hike during the last week of our trip. We meandered on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, and danced quite a bit at the wedding. In short, while most people gain 3-5 lbs. during their vacation, we actually lost a pound or two due to our level of physical activity. I think we managed to sit by the river to read for 4 hours one afternoon… and that’s as lazy as we could make ourselves!

And finally, the business of doing business on vacation. My company Blackberry went dead a few days into the trip, and I didn’t bother to charge it. This, however, did not stop me from dreaming about owning a Bed and Breakfast with my husband, starting a photography business, or working for a year at different State or National Parks. Then came the ad campaigns, complete with taglines, artwork, and social media strategies (I’ll be featuring some of my “work” on the blog over the next few weeks!).

My tagline here on the blog is, “When business is your life”, and my vacation really made this concept hit home for me. I love challenging my mind, making money, and being productive. I kind of suck at vacation in the traditional sense, but man, I feel energized, reinvigorated, and ready to take on the world after my random parade of ideas. I think that’s the real point of a vacation, so maybe I don’t suck after all 🙂

Friday Funday!

Well readers, today’s links are all the same: albums from my recent vacation (fear not, we consolidated it down to 15-20 pictures per album)! What does this have to do with business, you ask? PLENTY, as you’ll see in a few upcoming posts. On a broad note, the concept of sharpening the axe is a perfect segue between my talk of business and my talk of vacation. That, and I know you’re all dying to see what I’ve been up to while I’ve been absent from the blog 🙂 So, without further adieu:

Pedernales Falls State Park: Our first stop was in Pedernales Falls, near Austin, TX. We decided to camp in the back country for 3 nights, so we loaded up our packs and hiked in 2.5 miles to pitch our tent. We went on a decent hike around the park and read books by the river. My husband was insistent on a hair-flinging picture in the river, so that was fun practice using the high-speed continuous mode for me!

Natural Bridge Caverns: We stopped at Natural Bridge Caverns en route to San Antonio. I’d been there when I was really young, but man, I was impressed at the caverns! My husband took some AMAZING pictures underground (fellow photography nerds will understand the difficulty in shooting in low/no light, sans tripod!). Natural Bridge is a living cavern, which means that water is still flowing to create the rock formations in the caves. I highly recommend the Discovery Tour if you’re ever in the area… but avoid the touristy “mining” nonsense that seeks to sell an over-priced bag of dirt in hopes of retrieving some “precious” rocks. It made me cringe, even as a marketer!

San Antonio: We stayed for 2 nights in San Antonio, at a place we found on Air BnB, which I also highly recommend if you haven’t used the site before. We strolled along the Riverwalk, ate fancy steak at Ruth’s Chris, and generally enjoyed some “civilized” fun between our camping adventures.

Seminole Canyon: We stayed for one “layover” night in Seminole Canyon to break up the laborious drive to Big Bend, and it was… interesting! It was really windy when we arrived, and, being a weekday, there was literally one other person in the entire park! It was a flat desert for miles, so I took some cool shots of the sunset and our tent. We went on a tour of the canyon in the morning, and learned about the wall paintings by indigenous people from 5,000 years ago!

Big Bend National Park: This place is HUGE! We stayed in the Chisos Basin area of the park, and we opted to car camp vs. backpack. Big Bend is gorgeous, with mountains and cool cactus plants all over. We saw rabbits, bears, lizards, deer, and a road runner during our trip. Our most epic hike of the trip was up the South Rim Trail, which let us climb about 2,000 ft., and hike 14 miles round-trip. We had a very scenic lunch on top of a mountain 🙂

We haven’t edited and posted the photos from El Paso, where our mutual college friend held her wedding. Her wedding was actually the impetus for the trip, and we shot quite a few photos of the wedding itself. I’ll be posting those separately over the next few weeks (or, you can just check back on the SmugMug site periodically until they post, if you’re just chomping at the bit!).

We had an amazing trip, and we took a TON of pictures with the Canon 60D, Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 ll, and Canon 50mm f/1.8 ll. My husband is a pretty accomplished photographer (remember those insane cave photos above?), and I’m learning, slowly but surely! If you have specific questions about the trip, let me know in the comments or Twitter.