Launching Virtual EyeSee, a Social Media Company

For the past few months I have been focusing a fair bit of my time in setting up a new business.  It’s to do with New Media marketing or Social Media marketing.  Given the developments in open source software and free social networking sites it’s a great way for corporations to take advantage of these communication vehicles.  They can be used internally within a company or externally to communicate with customers.

With this in mind I have founded Virtual EyeSee a Social Media strategy and training company.  The goals are very simple to educate people about the trends in this space and inspire them to use these communication tools to increase their bottom line.

vesweb1

The website was design and integration is by R-Cubed, who worked their magic to maintain a common look and feel for both the corporate website and the blog.

eyeseeweb

EyeSee is where I blog about my adventures in Social Media.  You can become a fan of Virtual EyeSee on facebook and ask all your burning questions on Social Media.

vesfbpg

For the more advanced tweet me on Twitter.

vestwit

So do join me on my advetnures on line and learn how to participate in these spaces.  If you are looking for a guest speaker for your organization, team building, conferences or networking groups, I would be happy to talk about social media, web 2.0 or whatever you want to call it.

Training ourselves out of our technology jobs

I recently met an old friend who works at one of the local hi-tech companies and was very excited about his up coming trip to Asia. He was going there for a couple of months and was hoping to get some sight seeing in.

On the flip side he did say that he was going to train a team of 10 and said that in 5 years he would have trained himself out of his job.

5 years ago, around the time of the tech bubble burst, manufacturing jobs were lost to Asia. It became apparent that we could not compete at that price level. At that time everyone said that it was ok as long as Canada was still involved heavily in R&D.

However, this conversation about training teams overseas are all too common today. What happens 5 years from now? Is Canada going to give up their R&D to the overseas market as we can’t afford to innovate here?

Let’s take a step back and try to connect the dots.

  • In Canada our universities are heavily subsidized, we pay at least 10 times less for tuition here than south of the border. So as a country a significant amount of our investment goes into university education. In Ottawa it’s not uncommon for someone to have multiple degrees
  • Since the technology downturn a few years ago, there are still thousands of underemployed tech workers in Ottawa. They are very well educated and have a lot of industry experience however there is no place for them to use these talents. Instead they have to settle for pizza delivery, warehouse work etc…. Silicon Valley North has not bounced back to its glory days
  • With the current trend of training R&D teams overseas the underemployed will increase significantly over the next 5 years, hence a wasted investment in the university education

The city of Montreal did something very interesting a few years ago. They promoted their animation industry to the global market. Today there are a lot of very successful companies that specialize in animation and gaming. Montreal is known worldwide for this particular skill which have lead to a lot overseas customers.

With this in mind, I do have a very easy solution to this problem, promote the technical talent in this city globally.

I have had this conversation with various decision makers in this city and they all tell me that a hi-tech company, Dell had moved here for this reason. I need to clarify this whole Dell situation… when Dell moved to Ottawa to create thousands of jobs, it was for their “call center”!!!!! These types of jobs are low paying and for students, not for someone who has a degree and several years of industry experience.

Let’s promote Silicon Valley North and attract overseas companies to set up shop here for R&D and let Canada utilize their investment in the education of their tech workers.

Sparky powered by the wind

The Electric Vehicle Expo was at the Museum of Science and technology this past weekend. The pouring rain did not deter the participants from showing off their vehicles.

ecar1.jpg

Sparky the Electric Vehicle was the first e-vehicle that I saw. It’s owned by Allan Poulsen and is a 1996 Ford Ranger that was converted into an electric vehicle. The gas engine was replaced by an electric motor.

ecar2.jpg

There are 22 golf cart batteries in its bed that allow a range of 50 kilometers between charges, given a speed of 60 kilometers an hour. The batteries take about 6 hours to re-charge.

This is ideal for someone who does not have a long distance to travel each day. On average it costs about $20k to convert a vehicle to an e-vehicle.

Powered by the wind is an interesting statement….

“I buy Green Tags to put electricity from Wind power generation into the Ontario electricity grid, to offset the electricity I take from the same grid to use for charging Sparky. Thus, Sparky is Powered by the Wind. Buying Green Tags is a lot easier on the wallet than putting up my own Solar Panels or small windmill”

In a vehicle that has a gas engine the loss of heat from the engine is used to heat the car in the winter.

ecar3.jpg

In Sparky’s case there is no gas engine so a ceramic heater is used instead. To see more pictures check out Allan’s power point slides.

Extreme colloboration

I had a really good time at the Ottawa Web Weekend (OWW). When I first signed up I was very intrigued by the concept, having a prototype in 28 hours. I really liked the vibe of some of the Camps that I had attended in the past. DemoCamp, CaseCamp, BarCamp. My expectations was that the OWW would have a similar vibe.I was looking forward to meeting new people and facing the challenge ahead.

4 hours to pitch, debate, vote and end up with one idea. Was that really possible? The answer is yes. All the ideas were really great, they were all unique, filled a need and did have a niche market associated with it. The success of this task due to the 30 or so people in the room all reaching consensus!!! The interesting part was that not one person dominated the conversation or had a hidden agenda. Everyone gave their input based on their expertise, why an idea was good/bad technically and from a customer point of view. It was very democratic and there was a basic framework to the weekend however there was enough flexibility so that the guidelines could be changed to streamline the process.

12 hours to pick a name, branding, requirements, use cases. This process usually takes many months is a real world scenario but we were able to achieve all of this in 12 hours!!!

There was no hierarchy and flexibility for people to change teams if they wished. There was no one to take care of the media so I moved over from business to take care of that. A java developer decided that he did not want to learn yet another programming language and opted to join the business team.

At the end of the weekend we had a working product so to speak. There were missing bits and the product needed to be integrated together, i.e. the UI with the actual use of the system. The business case was missing some financial information.

Everyone else was committed to continuing to work on this project. It was suggested that we meet before the long weekend in order to not loose momentum. Well that’s when all the schedule conflicts came to play. is it possible to get everyone in the same room again? Probably not but thanks to technology that is not necessarily the only way for a team to work together.

We do have a wiki that we used for the weekend to share information. So we can continue to use this to share our ideas and have a combination of Skype conference calls and in person meetings to get this web application or product off the ground.

Did we succeed? Does extreme collaboration work? Yes, I certainly think so. I will provide you with periodic updates on this Social Experiment.

Ottawa Web Weekend – Day 3

Ottawa Web Weekend.jpg

Day 3 was off to a bit of an early start, 9am, 12 hours to have a prototype ready. Were we going to be able to get something out. Keep reading.

Rob did a human exercise, attitude vs skills. This was followed by the business team doing some role playing to really nail down how the users would use the web application. This was communicated to the developers.

The team revealed.

the-team2.jpg

The mood was more subdued as all the teams we working on their different tasks.

The UI started work on the visual elements of the site using the name that was picked the day before. Kim worked on the relevant documents needed for the future company. Business, business plan and Marketing on the messaging.

Here is a podcast by Mark Blevis about working on teams. More visuals by Mark and Natasha.
I switched roles today and worked on the media plan and media pitch. I still continued to take photos.

We were now heading towards the final stretch and the energy levels were going up as the teams were working to finish their tasks. Finally at 9:30pm it was time for the big show and tell from all the teams.

We started with the software developers. The user login and use of the system. The UI team then demonstrated the visual aspects of the web application. Legal went through what was ready and what needed to be completed. The same for the business plan, some vendors needed to be contacted during the week to finalize some pricing. Marketing had the copy writing for the website ready to go. All in all all the pieces of the puzzle were mostly completed and needed a few days to finish the bits.

The question at the end of the night was, who wants to continue working on this project. Everyone was in excluding the person that took this photo.

Social experiments and the Ottawa Web Weekend

Social experiments are very popular these days and the Ottawa Web weekend is a twist on this theme.

People register for this weekend and pick what they want to be involved in.

  • Programmer/Architect/Systems
  • Designer/Intergration
  • Marketing/Media/Communication
  • Business
  • Legal
  • Weekend Organizer

The goal is to “launch a web product and start a company by Sunday night”. Participants get shares in the company according to how much time they spend building it.

It is a BYOL event, what’s that? Bring your own laptop.

I am very intrigued so want to sign up. I still have to decide what I want to participate in. Business or Marketing? Any suggestions?? Here are some discussions regarding this event.
Cost; $20
Where: the Code Factory.
Begins: Friday, May 9, 2008 at 6:00 pm ET
Ends: Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 9:00 am ET
So sign up soon before they are sold out.

Who is Elsie Gregory MacGill?

Crystal Sissons will be presenting a historical perspective of Elsie Gregory MacGill. This event is hosted by the Ottawa chapter of WISE.

Elsie was the first women Electrical Engineer in Canada as well as the first woman aircraft designer.
When: April 30, 2008 at 6:00 PM
Where: Carleton University, Minto CASE Building, Minto Centre Board Room (Room 2014)

Come on out and hear the story of this pioneer.

Meet a Chemical Engineer

Amber Robson is a Chemical Engineer who works for Environment Canada.

Back in high school she did not know what to do for a career,.

“I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan where there was not a lot of focus to get a professional career. After high school I worked as a waitress, for three years, in various bars in restaurants in Saskatoon. While working, I met up with someone who talked about how he liked engineering. He was a civil engineer student at university and was very enthusiastic his courses and this seemed to fill him with energy. I was very inspired by his education.”

This discussion got Amber thinking about engineering and to gain further insight into this field she talked to an uncle who studied engineering as well as other friends who were in engineering. Through these discussions she realized that she did well in high school math and sciences. Amber went ahead and applied for university right away as it made sense with the skills she had. I asked her how she decided which stream of engineering to pick.

“I had an interest in the environment and areas that were suffering like oil, gas, chemicals and manufacturing, these are the core of the environmental issues. Chemical engineering provides the most opportunity to work in these areas. If there is a plant spewing chemicals then chemical engineering puts me in a position to help out.”

So why chemical engineering, and not environmental engineering, I asked? It turns out that there was no environmental engineering program at the university Saskatchewan. Also, environmental sciences, is more about the effects of destruction and that is not the area that interested her.

“It was scary at first as I had forgotten all my math skills. I tried a little, slowly at first, and gave myself time to work extra hard on those courses. The first few courses went super well and I dug in deeper for the next term. I built up my confidence and with a little bit of effort it came back quickly. The first year was challenging as I was working part time as I was on my own supporting myself. I realized that I could do this and took 5 years to finish.”

She had one summer position in Belgium to work at an academic institution to do research on bio filtration. Bio Filtration is an air pollution remediation technology – it uses microorganisms to degrade pollutions in air.

“It was amazing as I got to work with a research team and in Europe as well. I was doing research for the European scientific community that gave me exposure to another wing of engineering, microbiology.”

Amber graduated and took French language training and moved to Halifax where worked for a Civil engineering firm. She was a Lab Technologist and Site Technician and gained some experience with environmental testing which did not interest me very much.

“The kind of environmental testing I did was at a micro level, testing soils, waters and it didn’t offer an opportunity to look at the grander issues. This was on a site by site basis and I worked there for six. I also started a masters in Chemical Engineering on bio fuels and it seemed like a closer opportunity to what I wanted. Around the same time I got a job offer at Environment Canada, so moved to Ottawa for this.”

At Environment Canada Amber worked in the Chemicals Controls Branch, where she worked on risk management of toxic substances, VOC (volatile organic compounds in paints, coatings, consumer cleaning products, printing industry, automotive industry. The other aspect of her job is to look at regulating content of products.

The other interesting project that she worked on was looking at road salts and working with industry on best practices to reduce the amount spread on roads in winter.

“I research how VOCs are used in industrial products, how they are manufactured, consumed. I consult web sites, talk to industry associations, industry. I also look at existing regulations from other jurisdictions. Discussions with industry have to be kept confidential as I review established processes. My department develops codes of practice and guidelines on the amount that is safe to use. New chemicals and techniques were researched and methods that were applied.”

“I started to work on green house gas reductions and then went on to work on climate change policy elements. I have now become a green gas expert!.”

In Amber’s opinion, an education in engineering opens a lot of doors and being a chemical engineer is not restrictive as there are a lot of opportunities.

Amber is a fire performer and this evolved from her interest in dance and the arts.

“In university I started fire spinning taking different tools and lighting them and dancing with them. I do it part time professionally as well and this has given me opportunities to travel and do fire spinning. It’s a second job.”

Meet a Civil Engineer

Anna Cullinan is Director General of Professional and Technical Service Management at Public Works and Government Services Canada. She holds a Bachelor in Civil Engineering degree and an MBA. Anna went to high school in Montreal and quite enjoyed math and science courses. In her last year of high school, she looked into university programs. Through this exploration she began to have an understanding of who builds buildings, sewers, bridges etc. and found this very interesting and that engineers were responsible for this.

“I applied to McGill University for Engineering and was accepted. Back then the first two years were general engineering courses.”

After graduation she traveled in Europe and then came back to Montreal to look for a job. Most of her counterparts had started working and most jobs seemed to be taken. She interviewed at SNC and found out that they were looking for a Junior Engineer for Project Management functions with minimum two years work experience.

“I went ahead and applied for it and I was offered the job even though I had just graduated. Don’t be afraid of rejection. You don’t know what is going on in a company and managers are usually very busy. They need good staff to help them meet their objectives”

“As a Junior Project Engineer I was responsible for the project reporting, setting up systems and being the liaison between the Senior Project Manager and the engineers. I made sure that projects they were on budget, on time and working off the right sets of plans. I ensured that information was shared between the different groups – civil, electrical, mechanical – and was basically the right hand person of the project manager and ensured things ran smoothly.”

Anna stayed in this group for a year after which she moved into the Civil Engineering group, then the Cost Engineering group and finally back to Project Management. Working in various departments made her realize what she liked to do which was to make plans and schedules bring people together. After four years she moved out west to work for Bechtel Canada to work on an Alberta Tar Sands project. This was in the early eighties at which time that National Energy Program made it difficult for companies to commit to long-term energy projects. Many projects were cancelled, including the one that Anna was hired to work on.

“I stayed with Bechtel in Alberta for a year and spent some time at the Fort McMurry Sucor plant. Then I was transferred to California to the nuclear power plant project, in Diablo Canyon. I worked in Cost Engineering where I made sure costs were properly accounted for and forecasted. I stayed here for a year but I had a goal to earn an MBA by the age of thirty.”

Anna went on to do her MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, (the same university that Donald Trump attended, but not at the same time!). Many engineers attend this business school because of it’s analytical focus. She also did an exchange with a school in France for a term.

“After graduation I moved to Ottawa and worked for Bell Canada in the Economic Analysis group. My engineering background came in very handy as I needed to understand what the telephone company does.”

After Bell Canada she went to work for Canada Post and was there for nine years.

“I started off in the Financial Analysis group then moved to the Engineering group, Operations and back to Engineering. “

I asked Anna why Canada Post hired engineers.

“Engineers are needed for time and motion studies in the plant and to design carrier routes. Mail boxes are designed by industrial engineers, as are the layout of the plants, scheduling of the trucks that do pickups, forecasting when you are going to have extra requirements, etc. The physical aspects of the machinery require mechanical, computer and electrical engineers. For example, OCR (Optical Character Reader) is sophisticated machinery that uses algorithms to decipher both typewritten and handwritten information to sort the mail to the letter carrier route using the postal code. Addresses are checked against the postal codes to detect errors, errors are corrected and then mail is sorted to letter carrier routes.”

Anna went to work in Toronto for Consumers gas/Enbridge, in the financial and economic group. Following this she came back to Ottawa to work for Public Works and Government Services Canada in the Real Property Services branch where she did policy work.
Next was Natural Resources of Canada, in the Office of Energy Efficiency. Her program provided funding to large companies, to make buildings more energy efficient by adding insulation or by retrofitting HVAC, electrical and control systems. The next move was to Industry Canada in the Industrial Technologies Office.
We discussed how being an engineer had impacted her career path.

“Engineering was crucial in my career path and the best advice I can give is to figure out what your like and what your interests are. You have to be passionate about what your doing.”

Anna is an avid gardener, likes reading and solving cross word puzzles. She is currently studying at Algonquin College to be a Sommelier. In her spare time she travels the world on wine tasting tours.

Meet an Industrial Engineer

ezNadia_Bhuiyan_2004.jpg Dr. Nadia Bhuiyan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Concordia University. We spoke about her journey into engineering. She had numerous engineers in her family therefore knew quite a bit about while growing up. She was part of the talented and gifted (TAG) program in high school and excelled in math, physics and chemistry.

“After CEGEP I wanted to go to university and do some teaching in some capacity at a university level. I did not pick arts because I did not want to be a starving artist.”

She picked Industrial engineering as the descriptions of this program seemed to indicate that it was more people oriented and cross functional. She did her undergraduate at Concordia University and went on to McGill to do a Masters and Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering. Her thesis work was building analytical and simulation models of concurrent engineering processes.

We talked about what a graduate student does asides from take courses.

“As a graduate student I collaborated with companies to get data which I used to build analytical models to represent the processes. These findings were then published in journals and research reports. I read a lot of books and attended conferences as well.”

With a year still to go in her Ph.D program, Nadia moved to Queens University to teach in the Business School there. She finished the Ph.D along the way.

“I moved back to Montreal to work as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Concordia University.

“I have been here for five years and currently going through the process of tenure. Tenure is the process whereby you have to prove yourself to your peers. You have to be good at teaching, serve the university community and do lots of research. On average I teach three to four courses a year, spend about ten percent of my time on committees and spend the most time on research.”

For the first three years, as assistant professor, she worked very hard and surpassed any goals that she set for herself. We discussed what doing research means.

“Doing research means that you have to pick a topic that you want to work on. This could be an extension of graduate studies. From there I branch off into different areas. Typically maintain the main stream of research. You have to be self driven and motivated as you don’t have a boss to tell you what to do. You have to read extensively in your area, find gaps and fill in those gaps. Others have looked at this area and made many assumptions so one possibility is investigate this further and make it a little more realistic. Collaboration with other professors is another way to do research. This research is presented at various conferences and published as well”

Nadia is currently going through the process of tenure. After working as an assistant professor for five years you are eligible to start the process of tenure. This involves submitting a dossier of about four hundred to eight hundred pages that describes the research you have done, committees you have been part or teaching etc. This is then presented to a committee. If accepted you then become an associate professor. To become a full professor you have to so a lot more publishing.

I asked Nadia what aspects of being a professor she likes.

“I really like the teaching part and interacting with the students. The research is very interesting and like that part too. I am very passionate about the teaching. The best advice that I can give anyone considering a career is to follow your bliss and try to find what you really like to do. You are at work for at least eight hours a day, five days a week. So make sure it’s something you love to do.”

When Nadia is not doing research or teaching she spends time with her son.