Personal Journey



imagesCA34F538Dear Reader,

At the start of my career in 2010 I wrote a blog post, The Insouciant Life in The Bit Bucket, wherein I wondered if  “… I have to abandon everything I care about for the practical reality of earning a paycheck?”   At the time, I was yet to land my first full-time job in the field of technology.   I was fortunate to have embarked on my career in the company of individuals possessed of high integrity and character.

Now, working that full-time job as a successful technical professional, I can answer my own question.   No, I do not have to abandon my principles, ideals, and cherished values to earn a paycheck.  “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Matthew 16:26.   This principle which dates back to approximately 70 – 100 A.D.

As I have been in our very competitive workforce, this principal has become very clear to me.  My relationships with my colleagues and my personal integrity are more important to me than money.   There, I’ve said it.   I’ve committed modern heresy.  I knowingly run counter to our modern culture where the pursuit of money is the all-encompassing god of our time.  We worship it, sacrifice for it, and do whatever it takes ethics-and-complianceto have more.  You need to do whatever it takes to get money.  After all, greed is good and generosity is for suckers.  Or is it?

When I began my career I was openly jeered at for my work ethic.   I was called a “sucker”.  I was told that hard work was for suckers and the key to getting ahead lay in taking advantage of others.   However, I believe in the timelessness of ethics more than public opinion.  Three years later, I find myself ahead of most of the United States in terms of employment and lifestyle.  I do not have anything I did not earn by hard work and integrity.

So am I writing this merely to brag or be self-aggrandizing?   Not at all.   I’m writing this to assert that contrary to popular opinion, ethics and success are not mutually exclusive and it can be done.   The other advantage is that it brings long-lasting satisfaction and true happiness.   I have my self-respect because I never compromised my personal ethics or integrity to get where I am.  Regardless of the road you take in life there are sacrifices to be made.   I chose not to make the sacrifices of our current culture – that of using others to get ahead at the cost of personal relationships.

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Dear Reader,

I have always been a very average person. So how is it that I am innovating a new application for the educational field?  Magic?

Its actually nothing anyone else can’t do.  Its born of the fruits of hard work,  networking, marketing — all the work that anyone puts into building a career.  Plus, its seeking solutions to problems along the way.    20130810-131904.jpg

When I was running my own business and began running into difficulties, one of the representatives at SCORE explained that I had the ability to analyze where the gaps in my small business were and solve the problem. I’m no longer running my own business, but gap analysis enabled me to process this current dream into vision.  “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” is not just for Gen. George S. Patton in times of war, but for those of us entrepreneurs in difficult business environments.  Innovators are perceived as perfectionists. I decided that perfection is overrated – mostly because people are not perfect and never will be.   I never let flaws stop me from progressing or reassessing my strategy.

My cousin teaches at a full immersion school. The American children learn all their subjects in fluent French. She needs an application to take her vocabulary words and create a weekly puzzle for the children to play with. She currently creates this by hand and it takes hours.  She asked me to develop an application to create the puzzle for her.  When she gave me the specs for this, I immediately Googled to find previous work to use as a guide. Surprisingly, this has not already been developed. As I dug into the algorithms necessary for this project, I realized it was just a little beyond my current experience.

Do I give up? Not at all.  The gap was in some of my experience — software engineering design in OOP paradigm. So, who has those abilities? Software engineers. I began emailing. I found such an individual with the abilities and willingness to work with me on this.

To those who believe they are incapable of innovation – you are correct. To those who believe they are capable of innovation – you are correct. Limits are challenges to overcome unless you see those limits and absolute.


imagesDear Reader,

The 10 Best-Kept Secrets of being a woman in the technical field:

  1. You have the freedom to be as independent as you want to be.
  2. We struggle with the same challenges as men.  It’s NOT always because we are women.
  3. We CAN all get along.   We DO understand teamwork.
  4. We get to create our identities — it hasn’t been done before.  We are the pioneers and we are the creator of dreams.
  5. Playing with computers is fun.
  6. We are as smart as men — and they don’t mind us being so.
  7. We are treated equally as men when we work hard.
  8. We are paid equally when we ask for what we are worth.
  9. No one cares how pretty or plain we are.
  10. And the best kept secret of all… No line at the ladies’ room!   The men have to wait!

Dear Reader,

logo @NEGiveCamp is always a surreal experience.   For one weekend, I’m in an environment of total teamwork absent of self-interest, political agenda, financial goals  – everyone pulling together to help the organizations depending on us.  I planned my week of vacation around this event.

This year, the experience was healing for me.   New England Give Camp is annually hosted by Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center at 1 Memorial Drive in Cambridge, MA.   For those of you blog followers who aren’t familiar with Boston’s geography, that is literally about a block or so from the bombings and where the officer was killed.  In addition to being so geographically close to the horrific events it was chronologically close to the events as well – about 3 weeks after.   I was terrified to get on the train to go into town.  The first night I was awakened at 3 am by a loud bang!   It turns out one of the other campers had stumbled during the night, but I was panicked for a bit.

However, being a New Englander, rather than head to the Bahamas for vacation, I pick up my weapons of choice (my trusty laptop and my courage) and I head into terrorist country.   logo

There is healing in community sharing.   I met old friends and we talked.   We processed the events together.   We worked to fix the problems in the world together.  I saw the young children that were not traumatized by the events, but were rather energized to make a difference.    Joy Olaes Surprenant always comes.   She began a wonderful organization, Catching Joy, that teaches the children the joy of givi559643_312590812203058_1173642950_ang back.   After the events of the terrorism, her organization was flooded by children wanting to know how to make a difference.

My team was helping out the fledgling organization, GVNGTogether – a non-profit that is innovating philanthropy.   Rather than philanthropy being one individual helping others, GVNGTogether is creating a community of philanthropists benefitting others.

I realized that those two terrorists made headlines and an impact.   New England Give Camp may not make the same headlines, but our impact is greater.   We outnumber them.  There are 120 of us volunteers, 24 non-profits and uncounted numbers of people positively impacted by that.   It doesn’t always feel like it, but the good is winning.   Its just not quite as flashy as Superman.


DSCF7321Dear Reader,

Here it is, the last day of Give Camp.   We have approximately 4 hours to finish up our work…  much like Celebrity Apprentice or Face Off! some of us are frantically coding DSCF7320and putting on the finishing touches of our work in the final 4 hours.  It’s been another crazy, while awesome adventure as always.  What is different than other years is engaging in this event in the shadow of the events of the Boston Marathon only a week past.  The impact on our non-profits and this event has been profound.   Profoundly good.   In addition to our technical work, we have raised funds for the victims of the bombing and for Sean Collier.   Catching Joy spearheaded creating cards for all the wonderful protection and support people of greater Boston.   Catching Joy’s growth as a non-profit has been skyrocketed this year with an overflowing of interest from children wanting to better the world and not knowing where to start or how.   TDSCF7336hey will be holding 26 special events during the coming year in anticipation of the next Marathon and in memorial of this last one.  Catching Joy’s entire impact will be on the very young children of the area and growing them into adults who know how to redirect the negative back to the positive.

There were two terrorists for those events.   Give Camp had 23 nonprofits + approximately 150 volunteers + many corporate sponsors.   Although the impact of the terrorists was profound, our impact will be greater.   I always tell my friends that this weekend is good for my soul.   It refreshes my humanity and reminds me of the beauty of the world around me.   No year has this ever been more true than now.


Dear Reader, logo It is that time of year again!   Like a young kid eagerly preparing for Christmas I begin blogging non-stop about New England Give Camp and my  annual pilgrimage  to Cambridge.   untitled (4)Technical professionals began engaging in a weekend code-a-thon for non-profits and charities four years ago to utilize technology to positively impact the human condition.  I’m usually packed about a week in advance.   Last year, I had my train tickets purchased three months in advance.

A little over a month ago, I was at Microsoft’s NERD  on Memorial Drive renewing old acquaintances and anticipating this year’s Give Camp.  We could not have known the events that would unfold during this year’s Boston Marathon and in the week  to come.  While I was still in shock, I did not alter my plans at all.  I remind myself of several truths.  There are more of us at that collect these weekends than there were terrorists.   The collective positive impact of our weekends have had and will have a far greater reach than the destruction they did.  New England Give CampThere are far more of us than there were of them.   And the criminals are not the only ones to learn new and creative ways to use technology.   The Boston Police have become a presence on Twitter.

More than just an annual event, New England Give Camp has become a much more personal statement.  New England Give Camp, for me, is a way to reclaim technology for the betterment of mankind.


Dear Reader,

This year 30 non-profits benefitted from the hard work and dedicated volunteers who gave up a weekend to devote themselves to improving the world.

I saw some old friends from the previous two years — RESPOND, Catching Joy,… and made new friends this year …  besideds my own group, If I Were President ….

In these final hours of New Englad Give Camp 2012 my team, “Team Invincible”, wraps up all the hard work from this weekend.  We created a new application for The Covenant Shelter in New London, CT.   It’s called CARE and for a brief overview, the 5-slide Powerpoint is on YouTube below.

Left to right, back row:

Shawn (developer),  Olivia (organization), Lee (organization), Dan (developer)

Middle row:

Phil (technical team lead), Evelyn (me – design), Chris (developer)

Front row:

Kara (Phil’s Daughter, Data entry, SCRUM assistant, cheeerleader, gopher, and future dev)

Although I have lots of experience with PowerPoint this was my first attempt at publishing on YouTube….  Its a little rough, but very viewable…

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