Friday, November 6, 2015

My Session at Social Connections 9

My Spotlight talk hopefully was well received.
The slides really tell you nothing about the session, you would need my speech written out.

The gist of it all was around what it is like to set aside everything, your phone or email your office, your work for 1 day a week.

In the end, this was not the text I used, but what I built to start from. Edited after I posted as format was not copied over.
Hello Everyone,
My name is Keith Brooks, some of you may know me from my blog, others may know me from Twitter, Facebook or previous Social Connections or IBM events and the rest of you here have no idea who I am.
I am a dual IBM Champion for Websphere and Lotus/ICS/ESS and have been working in IT since 1990 with Fortune 50 companies down to a 1-2 person businesses across over a dozen industries, multiple governments and military organizations and even did a few years managing across EMEA for Lotus.
We are involved in a religious battle which has changed over time. We previously fought Microsoft or Novell or Google and that was technology evangelism. With the advent of ESN’s (Enterprise Social Networks) like Connections, we now have many, many more religious battles.
For Example:
To Folder or not to Folder
 To Search or not to search
Notifications vs. Email vs. Updates vs. IM vs. pick up the phone!
Email vs. Socmed in general
Accountability vs. CYA (see my previous social connections slide decks on this topic)
But today I am taking a step back from all of this fun, you can talk to me afterwards about any of the topics I just mentioned, or other topics. But we are here to discuss in our few minutes the possibility that shutting off everything is possible for you.I come at this from a religious perspective, not a technical one.
You see as a practicing Sabbath observant Jewish person in the 21st century, we shut everything electronic down for 25 hours every week. No matter what state work is in, who I need to respond to or if I forgot to return a call, off it all goes. Laptop, server, phone, iPad, ISP Router, TV, Radio and I get 25 hours of peace and quiet, every week. As far as I know, aside from the Amish and some indigenous tribes, we are the only modern people to do such a thing, which sometimes makes it hard to explain to the rest of the world just why I can’t call you back.
Why is this important and how did this topic get accepted to present this talk? Easy, there are fears we all have of being left behind, not being in the know, missing out on something be it a pub crawl or a cute dog/cat picture. Ok, maybe you really are afraid by not answering your boss’s email you will get fired, or worse, have to work late even more than usual. Maybe you work for IBM and just feel the need to always be on and answering IM, email, updates, requests, sows, whatever.
When we talk about life balance, I don’t see it enough from everyone, even myself, but technology makes it easier to be accessible, right????…except when we aren’t.
Have you ever been on vacation and done any of these:Check and thus reply to emails? Drag a laptop, just in case, or an iPad or tablet, because an emergency might come up? Ruin your vacation by working on something which you thought needed to get done, instead of waiting for you to return.
I’v e been there and done that as I am positive have some of you in this room.I don’t have this problem! I have it in spades worse. Why? Because the first thing I do after Shabbat, EVERY SINGLE WEEK, is boot my machine and turn on my phone to check if any of my clients are in an emergency mode. Ok, sometimes I have plans and unless it is urgent I get back to people on Sunday. Sunday is a work day in Israel, which is where I live these days after moving from Florida last year. Friday is not. Which is a problem I deal with when I manage US teams and customer sites.
Speaking of which….Out of curiosity, how many here are technical/support people?
How many business or non- technical?
Did you know there are 2 types of support people in the world? No, really there are, developers and admins… just kidding. The ones that say yes to everything or no to everything, again, just kidding.Seriously speaking, there are Friday or Monday emergency people.
As a test, how many of you are Friday emergency people? Monday Emergency People? Probably because I would leave early on Fridays, I became a Monday emergency person because some things from Friday or the weekend just did not get done, correctly. Also the last thing I ever want is to work on my weekends, no matter where I live.
In either case, you can see and plan your world when you understand where the pitfalls are found. If you are going to shut down your equipment, at least know what you are in for and select a good time to do it, not like 9am on a Monday.
Some of you may wonder how I managed to survive in IT and management when I am shutting down weekly and in the case of September like this year, lose about 6 more days in the month due to other holidays, not to mention losing my Fridays as I will explain shortly. Here is the key.
In about 25 years of doing this I have experienced office fires, terrorist attacks on the WTC, earthquakes, power outages due to hurricanes, snow storms, flooding, over 100 degrees(40c) temperatures and in one case snow in a data center as well as the run of the mill emergencies of IT like server crashes, ISP failures, hardware issues.
Aside from 2 incidents which took place over a Shabbat or holiday, there has never been anything that threatening to the business, the systems or the people that I failed to be available for my coworkers and customers. I think that is a pretty good ratio, don’t you?
Usually I have coverage from friends or other coworkers when I am unavailable, but not always. In one of those 2 cases because I was the only support person to reply to a customer and follow up with them, they became a permanent client and fired their other support companies. Why? Because they sat for over a day with zero working in their offices. ZERO! Timing is everything. Thank God. If you learn nothing else from this talk, always remember to be responsive to customers however big or small they are because you may be the only one who replies and wins the day.
It is because of this statistic, 2 emergencies in 20+ years, I can safely shut down for 25 hours a week and spend my time reading, real newspapers and magazines, hang out with friends and family, sleep, watch sunsets or sunrises and not feel guilty about work or hurrying to get here or there. If I can’t walk to it, I can’t get to it on Shabbat and so my world is local and often enjoyable.
Tonight, and tomorrow, I am in Stuttgart because I could not fly home in time for Shabbat so anyone that wants to hang out or buy me drinks, I am at the Marriott. From 4:38pm tonight to 5:44pm tomorrow I am offline so best to tell me before 4:30 if you will come by and when.
How does one balance their religious needs and their professional needs? Not easily. As an IBM Champion I am honored and humbled to have been selected, and nominated, more than once as I feel I do so much less than others given my limitations of time, kids, Shabbat and holidays. After all I am unavailable for at least 75 days a year, which when you realize that is 20% of the time when you would be working, you start to realize the extent of this difference that I overcome.
I am not backed by an employer, I am my own employer.I also home schooled my kids the last 2 years and even now help them to some extent with their Hebrew homework. The downside to religion, in my case, is I have been unable to attend or speak at at least 4 events this year because of scheduling holidays or Shabbat and already know some are out next year. Great events like Engage, ICON UK, AdminCamp, and other European events that present scheduling conflicts may never get to see me. I do not have extra time to write all my blog posts I’d like to accomplish but somehow do get some done as well. I also guest blog at a few sites, so my time is thin.
What about you? What are you doing? Can you even go a lunch hour without looking at your phone? Can you even go this 15 minutes without it? Some of you think this is crazy, but I have spent years training my employees and managers around my limitations.
Did I lose jobs because of it? Yes, awesome ones too! Like working for Capitol Records, you know, The Beatles record company?…twice! It sucks, but then I have worked with so many major companies across so many verticals that I am lucky to have done what I have over the years. Not to worry some jobs were fun too, I worked on Broadway for a theatre for 2 years as well.
Do you remember what it was like before your phone was your world? I do, it was around 1995 when I got my first cell phone. I was an oddity, few had them and they were not much better than walkie talkies, but they got the job done. I lived through the Palm phase, Crackberry craze (I supported them but only carried one for a few months), then smart phones and it was only once apps and data became ubiquitous that we started having problems. Well I should say until Facebook for Blackberry came out and you all got on it! By the way, I wonder if adults would ever get to Facebook if that had not happened. But I digress.
I imagine when Television started it was the same arguments. And yet here we are and while the screen shrunk it is still a TV. An infinitely smarter, funnier, helpful TV, but still a TV.Social connections means we should be social, not just digitally, but in person as well. We don’t need to be a slave to our devices and we don’t need to feel like we are missing something. We need to spend more time with our family, our kids, our parents, our friends and our coworkers, rather than our phones, email and IMs.
If I can do it, you can do it. And I don’t do it as well I used to either, but then more of you are pinging me now than ever before.
Technology is fun and we can learn a lot from it but there are other things more important than your phone or your company email and status updates.
When phones can turn water into Scotch, beer or wine then we will have a reason to keep them on all the time. Until then, just shut it down and take a break. Like Kit Kat ads say in the UK, Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat.

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