Monthly Archives: November 2010

I am a funny man !

I try to be fun, , , even funny , , , and at times, I’m extremely funny. The problem is that maybe no one else realizes it except my wife. She laughs at me all the time because she gets my sense of humor.

The challenge I have is that I have a very dry sense of humor. But I have a secret for you. If you ever met Tom Mochal, you would realize that I am extremely funny.

Just kidding, Tom.

You see, Tom and I both have a dry sense of humor. I can listen to Tom and pick up his very subtle humor, , , and when you “get it”, he is terribly funny, , , I mean very, very funny.

A few weeks ago I said something to my wife and son that literally “cracked me up”. I started laughing at my own comment and couldn’t stop. It was so funny, I was crying. No one else was laughing, but I was totally caught up with how funny this comment was.

Wish I could remember what it was, , , ,

Oh well, the point is that I learned about humor from my Dad and from my son, Eddie.  Daddy Gene (as we called him) and Eddie were born on the same day – November 23rd. Both of them had (my Dad) and have (my son) a great sense of humor. They truly understood how to enjoy life.

Most people who know me would say that I’m a pretty serious guy. Yeah, that fits, , , but there’s a Johnny Carson in me dying to get out and make everyone laugh.

My Dad taught me how to enjoy life to the fullest. He never had a lot of money but what he had was a love of life and the people around him. I’ve often thought he was one of the richest men alive because he enjoyed his life so much. As I get older, I’m hoping I become more and more like him.

I’m pretty certain I’m getting just a little funnier every year.

The lesson: Learn to love your life or make changes so you can. Life is too short to be miserable and not be able to enjoy each and every day. What you will find is that the people around you become more positive forces as well, , , and that’s a good thing for you and your IT organization.

Use PowerPoint to store your images

I use lots of images in my ITLever Blog, the Practical IT Manager newsletter, the books and articles I write, web sites, training programs, , , almost everything I do.

You might say I’m a visual person, , , and you would be correct.

I’m visual for two reasons:

  1. Helps me convey my point
  2. Breaks up the text and makes it more interesting

Over the years I’ve bought thousands of royalty free images and have them on CD’s in a shelf beside my desk. The problem is that I won’t use all of these images, looking at them in the image books that come with the CD’s is hard to see, plus loading and unloading CD’s is quite frankly a hassle.

Let me say, , , a real hassle !!

I’m visual all right, , , but I’m also impatient. I needed a way to get to the images I use for work projects quickly. Loading thousands of images into a file folder on my PC didn’t seem plausible because I won’t use 90% of them. Also, when I’m on the road and want to do some work, I need my images, , , so I needed something that was not only practical, but also portable.

My solution was to use PowerPoint.

About two years ago I created an “Images.ppt” file. Initially I went through the file folders on my PC I knew there would be images I use often, , , and copied them to the PowerPoint slides. Then, I went through most of the image CD’s I had purchased and copied many of the images I liked to the PowerPoint slides.

One of the things I did initially and now quite happy about is that I put text in the top left part of each slide to categorize the images. For example, I have categories that include Arrows, Targets, Money, People, Technology, Worlds, etc. When I need to find something, I can search the file on a keyword and usually find the image quickly.

When I buy new images, I go through the file and copy the ones I think we might use later on to the PowerPoint slides, , , and always try to put them on the proper category slide.

My Arrows slide has grown to 4 slides and the entire file is over 400 slides of images.

I also included photos of myself, logos, images of my books, etc. that I might need when I create a product promotion or when I announce something new.

I rarely have to look outside of this images.ppt file to find an image I can use for a project I’m working on.

The whole point to this is that now when I need a good image for something I’m working on, , , I know right where to go. It’s quick and easy, , , helps my productivity quite a bit, , , and the images are always with me as long as I have my flash drive.

I did this for convenience, not because I like to do lots of extra work. This file saves me a tremendous amount of time and aggravation. You will find that all my tools are geared to help me do something a little more efficient.

Another nice thing about using PowerPoint is that it makes it easy for me to combine images to create a different look. Many of my images are png files and eliminate the background color surrounding the object. PowerPoint works well with png’s to create a new image, , , and it’s easy to add a new slide anywhere you want to have a blank space to do the work.

The example on the left used 3 images.

Here are a few samples of the image slides in my “Images.ppt” file:

My images.ppt file is open virtually all the time, , , makes it quick and easy for me to grab something or to save an image when appropriate.

If you work on things where you constantly need to use images, you will find this approach is a great way to collect and store your images. It sure makes a big difference in the work I do.

Are you a perfectionist?

Over 90% of us in IT are high detail people. That’s a good thing.

However, being a high detail person comes with some drawbacks that you need to be aware of.

One challenge is that high detail people tend to be perfectionists.

Now, when you are a Systems Administrator, a DBA, a Programmer, or some other type of technical resource, , , this high detail aspect is not only desired, , , it is necessary to a great extent. What happens if your Systems Administrator updates one of the servers and selects an inappropriate parameter setting? You got it, , , he or she can crash the server, , , so being precise is important in our technical roles.

As a manager, being precise can be a tremendous disadvantage.

Being precise means it may take too long to make a decision.

Being precise may mean no decision will be made until we have enough information, , , which may or may not ever be obtained.

Being precise may mean we do things right but fail to do the right thing, , , a big problem for an IT manager.

Be aware that if you are a high detail person, it may be appropriate and necessary for you to “pull it back” to a level when you become the manager. Now is the time to depend on others to wade into the detail and understand all the technical issues of a situation. Now is the time to manage and delegate, not to try to do everything yourself.

It’s difficult to back off your innate desire to get to the bottom of an issue and to be the problem solver like you have been for so many years, , , but if you don’t, your team and you will suffer.

Take a hard look at yourself and ask yourself the question, “Am I a perfectionist?” If so, make a conscious effort to let go of some of the detail and rely on the expertise of others you work with to be the experts. Your role as manager is to focus at an issue level, not necessarily the detail level.

Happy Birthday, Eddie

Do you believe in the concept that “things have a way of working out in the long run”?

Even when an event seems like the most terrible thing that might happen to you?

We are big believers in it because we have seen it in our personal and professional lives, , , many, many examples.

I also believe that a lot has to do with your mindset and how you look at things. For example in past posts and articles, I’ve mentioned the idea of looking at a glass as “half full” or “half empty”.

Our son Eddie turns 34 today. Forty days after turning 16, he had a terrible auto accident. He was driving the car by himself (thankfully) and driving too fast in our neighborhood. His inexperience caused him to lose control of the car when he entered a sharp curve too fast.

The car flipped and he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Eddie’s life and ours changed dramatically in those few seconds and continues to impact our lives on a daily basis.

Some would say, “Oh my, what a tragedy!” or “What a loss!”. Certainly, Eddie can’t do some of the things he did so easily before the accident. And if you know of his story, you know he has had to relearn everything all over again.

Things like learning how to drink and eat, , , how to talk, , , how to walk, , , even how to sit up in a chair on his own. Dorine and I remember the day in the hospital when he was able to put a baseball cap onto his head by himself. It was a major breakthrough.

Bigger yet was the day he was being observed by his Neuropsychologist, and I asked him to throw a wadded up piece of paper into the waste can. Eddie picks it up slowly from his tray and flips it toward the waste can. She was ecstatic and explained how complex it was for the brain to hear a command, recognize it, and then actually respond and do what was asked, , , especially with a brain injury as severe as Eddie’s.

Today, Eddie’s communication skills are very good. He can do many things on his own but he will always be with Mom and Dad for the support he needs. His hand/eye coordination is excellent, , , he wins Solitaire and Wii games much more than Dorine or I can. Being able to watch a baseball game with him and discuss it intelligently with him is such a big thing, , , it was many years before we were able to do this.

The big issue is that he’s happy, , , and so are we because he is still with us. Doctors told us he wasn’t going to make it and if he did, he would be a vegetable, , , not able to do much of anything.

Boy, did they miss that one !

I tell you this story for the positives that have come out of it, , , not to make you feel sorry for Eddie, Dorine, or me. The point is that a terrible thing can happen to you in life, , , but how you deal with it and what happens after is still up to you and what you make of the situation.

In our case, we kept looking forward and thinking how great it was that Eddie was able to put that baseball cap on his head by himself. Little things became big positives to build upon in our lives in those early recovery days.

My Dad was there that day and it broke his heart I was told later. You see, he was focused on the negatives of the situation and feeling sorry for Eddie while Dorine and I could only see the positive progress that had happened, , , all about how you look at a situation.

There is another reason I wanted to share Eddie’s story. If you have teenagers who are learning to drive, you might want to share his story. More details are at When we are young, we think nothing bad can happen to us, , , but that’s obviously not the case. Eddie was a very mature teenager, always did well in school, liked by everyone, , , but he made a mistake while driving that car on January 2nd, 1993 that almost took his life and certainly changed his life forever.

We would give anything if the accident had not happened, but we are so thankful we have Eddie around to make life interesting and fun. He is very funny and takes no prisoners, , , if you have a weakness, he finds it and exploits it by jabbing you, , , all in fun and with a positive sense of humor. He definitely likes picking on Dad, , , and we are all so thankful he can.

The biggest gift of all is that Eddie makes everyone around him feel good because he is such a positive person, , , a real inspiration we think.

Tonight, we will all go to dinner with friends to celebrate Eddie’s big birthday, and I promise it will be a fun and memorable experience.

Look for the positives in life and try not to dwell on the negatives, , , hard to do at times, but the results of staying positive and looking for the possibilities of what can happen can be pretty amazing.

So, , ,

Being promoted can be a tough proposition

CONGRATULATIONS, , , you finally received that promotion you have been looking for , , , smooth sailing ahead – right !!

Hopefully when you get promoted it will be smooth sailing and lots of opportunity ahead. But, it could also be a big challenge for you, , , especially if your promotion means you will be managing some of your peers.

Managing peers can be a huge challenge. When I was with IBM many years ago, they had a policy of moving you to another city when you got promoted because they understood how difficult it is to manage your peers.

That’s right, at the end of the week you are big buddies with everyone you work with but come next week when you start your newly assigned management role, things are going to be different.

Very Different !!!

The dynamics change drastically and they change immediately when you become the manager after being one of the employees. Whether you think so or not, your former buddies you worked alongside view you differently now. You are management, , , not “one of the guys”.

Most will be more cautious around you now, some may wonder why you got the job and what makes you qualified, and one or two might even be jealous that you got the promotion instead of them. Regardless of how they see the situation, they will react differently to you from now on, , , because you are the manager.

Now that you have the job, you have to be careful and avoid micro managing your employees. Most of us in IT are high detail and we like doing things “our way”. You may have gotten the Programming Manager position because you were the best programmer.

As the senior programmer, you probably had your way of doing things and was very effective. As manager, your tendency will be to require all programmers to do things the way you did them. I’m not saying this will be wrong but you need to have good reasoning when you make changes in the way things are being done, , , especially if the team is already effective.

You had credibility as a programmer, but you don’t have it as the manager, , , you must earn your management credibility. You do this by delivering results and in treating your employees and clients with respect.


How long should your IT strategy be?

I usually develop two strategies after completing an IT assessment.

First, a tactical strategy that entails the next 60-90 days, but could be up to 180 days (6 months). Once I get my staff focused on the “immediate” targets of our tactical plan, I begin working on developing the strategic IT plan.

The strategic plan is usually focused on the next 18-24 months unless my company wants something longer like a 3-year strategy or a 5-year plan. If that’s the case, my primary focus still tends to be on the first two years, , , and the strategy elements beyond two years get much more general in nature.

The reason I try to keep my IT strategies focused to two years is because you can see two years out, but technology is changing so fast that it can get pretty blurry beyond two years.

Think about this for a second. Look back to 2005, just five years ago. Lots of change and many innovations have occurred in the last five years, , , and technology continues to change at a faster and faster rate.

I have been in the IT world since 1969 and I can tell you that we take many things for granted. For example, most of you reading this article were not in IT before the spreadsheet. Prior to Excel and Lotus 1-2-3, it was Visicalc that revolutionized the accounting world by eliminating paper and pencil, , , and lots of erasers.

You might also be surprised to learn that we didn’t always have project management methodologies, let alone project management certifications like PMP thirty years ago.

Have you paid attention to the advances in PC and laptop technology? The power and capacity keeps going up while the price falls. The 300GB disk drive capacity alone in the Lenovo ThinkPad I carry around would have required some 6,000 square feet of floor space 30 years ago, , , and think of the heat all these disk drives created. In fact, one of the Division Headquarters of IBM actually heated its building from the heat created from the CPU’s, disk and tape drives that had less disk capacity than my laptop.

That’s right, many of the things we have today and take for granted had to be developed as new technologies, methodologies, and tools. What will be great about this is that in ten or twenty years from now, we will look back at what we have today and think we sure were struggling compared to what we will be able to do then.

Enjoy the fact that technology is doing so much to improve our lives, , , but be careful when you try to forecast or build your IT strategies beyond two years out.

IT Manager Institute #42 – Dubai, UAE

This week’s class in Dubai was a lot of fun, , , a great group that I’m sure I will stay in contact with.

It was my 4th visit to Dubai, , , what a special place, , , I love coming here. Staying an extra day to see a few more of the sights. It’s fun but I also look forward to getting back home on Sunday morning.

Here are a few photos from the class.

Nice looking group, don’t you think ??

Dinner in the world’s tallest building

Burj Hotel, , , world's tallest building

The Burj is a majestic site

My 42nd IT Manager Institute in Dubai is going great, , , I really like this class. Tonight we held our class dinner in a special place, , , at the Burj Hotel, the world’s tallest building. It is more than twice the height of the Empire State Building in New York City and is an impressive site.

The meal was excellent and we watched the water show outside the restaurant, , , I think everyone had a great time as did I.

View of the water show from our restaurant inside the Burj

Looking up at the tallest building

A great dinner

The Burj stands tallest by far

Expect the unexpected

If you are in the IT world for very long, you soon learn that things can go awry at times. You need to “expect the unexpected” and plan on what you would do if and when it occurs.

What I mean is that you should anticipate things will happen, , , because they will. Think about the scenarios of what can go wrong and plan your move in case it does so you are ready when it happens.

I’m not saying that you should spend all hours of the day worrying and thinking about what might happen, , , but you do want to give it at least a little thought. You will be much more prepared to react and take care of the problem when it occurs.

Let me give you a couple examples:

  1. When I travel to teach an IT Manager Institute, I do two things to anticipate potential flight problems. First, I reserve a flight that gets me there on Saturday so I have an extra day (just in case) and it also allows me to rest and get adjusted to the local time. Many of my trips are 14 hour flights and more. Second, I take an earlier flight to Atlanta or wherever I must make my international connection. If the flight gets postponed or cancelled, I can always get the next flight and still get to the main airport to make my connection.
  2. I built time buffer into my IT Manager Institute class, , , just in case we have a power outage or other mishap. In my 10th Institute in Curacao, that’s exactly what happened, , , a tropical storm knocked out the Marriott Hotel’s power and their backup generator. We had no power for half the day, , , but because I anticipated the possibility of such a thing, it was no issue in getting through all the material. 

When you manage projects, build budgets, install a system upgrade, etc., , , be sure to anticipate the things that might go wrong and put some buffer into your plan. When the unfortunate event does occur (and it will at some point), you will be glad you did.

Make it a habit to “expect the unexpected” and teach your employees to do the same. It will help you become a more responsive IT organization.

Expect the unexpected !!

Early start in Dubai

Up and at ’em at 3:00am today, , , highly unusual for me to be up so early when teaching the IT Manager Institute, , , but you do what you need to do.

One of my students is flying in from Nigeria and his flight gets here at 2:30am. There is a possibility there may be confusion with his hotel reservation so I’m going to be available if needed to insure we start off well.

Dubai is an amazing city and one of my favorite class locations. It’s my 4th time here and I’m always impressed with how well they take care of their visitors. It’s very safe and for the most part pretty economical. I pay just as much or more for basic things like hotel, snacks, taxi, etc. in other countries (including the US) as I do in Dubai. I actually find the prices to be pretty reasonable here, , , but, you can also find very expensive items as well.

To put it mildly, Dubai has it all, , , or at least a lot to do and see:

  • tallest building (seen it)
  • largest indoor acquarium (been there)
  • largest shopping mall (actually two largest)
  • three island complexes made to look like palm trees
  • island group made to look like the countries of the world
  • indoor snow skiing with 3 runs (pretty amazing when it’s 85 degrees outside)

Another special thing about Dubai is that they accept all currencies. Give them European Euros, American Dollars, or Nigerian Naira, , , all currencies are accepted by everyone in Dubai just as easily as is the United Arab Emirates Dirham, , , and that includes shop keepers, taxi drivers, , , anyone who does business in UAE. Makes it very easy.

Today begins my 42nd IT Manager Institute since our first class was delivered in 2003. It has been an amazing ride and one full of rich experiences and being able to meet some of the best people in the world.

The hotel here, Flora Grand Hotel, does a super job. I particularly like the breakfast. Plus, they have a full time Concierge who takes care of most anything you want to do, , , will have to reserve my class dinner this afternoon.

The class dinner is always special. Let’s see, the first Dubai dinner was held in a nice Italian restaurant, , , the 2nd was on top of the Hotel by the pool. What a great scene we had of the streets of Dubai from this one. Last year, we took one of the Dubai Creek dinner cruises (they must have 50 or more of these boats that hold about 150 guests each). Good meal, entertainment, and a lot of fun.

This year, , , not sure what we will do yet, , , the Dubai Creek dinner cruise was lots of fun and easy to do so we may stay with it.

Look for more posts this week while I visit Dubai. Next stop is Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (east Africa) in December. This will be my first visit to Dar and looking forward to a totally new experience.