The Digital Academic….Could that be me?

Today, I attended The Digital Academic Tools & Tips workshop hosted by Piirus and jobs.ac.uk at the University of Warwick. It was greeeat!

Throughout the conference, I tweeted about it and really enjoyed doing it. I got a real buzz. I even increased my twitter following by about 20% in a span for a few hours as a result of tweeting the event. Mind you, 20% of nothing is nothing haha but you get the idea.

The speakers were Dr Nadine Muller (Lecturer in English Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University), Andy Tattersall (Information Specialist at University of Sheffield) and Dr Inger Mewburn (blog owner at The Thesis Whisperer, Director of Research Training at The Australian National university). I learned about what academics are like and how they think social media and its obvious challenges.

Some of them are stylish, some are quiet, some are extroverted, and many have strong opinions about how to make working in academia better. And all of them are brilliant, experts in their fields!! It was a real thrill being there.

Part of my motive was to get an inkling as to whether academics would mind being around me and if I’d mind being around them. I also wanted to know how I might merge my love of social media and blogging with my academic aspirations.

Dr Nadine Muller

Dr Nadine Muller and I at the workshop

My high of the day was taking a selfie with the amazing Dr Nadine Muller (check out her beautiful blog http://nadinemuller.org.uk). She has the coolest tattoo on her chest – and that’s coming from me who is not keen on tattoos as such.

My thoughts from the conference are:

– A personal social media strategy is a must. A LinkedIn profile (for all professionals) and Google Scholar (for researchers) are a must

– Not all channels work for everyone – “try before you buy”. Find your niche

Build a network of supporters and potential collaborators through digital tools- it makes research much more fun!

– There is no academic stereotype in my head anymore. Being at the conference blew that away. Most people I met were real, gutsy and open – no illusions

I made a mental note to look into Mendeley (for research publications) and Haiku deck (for blow-their-minds PowerPoint slides).

Dr Lily Canter has written about the workshop here. It’s much more articulate than I could muster at this point in the evening.
Good times.

Let the journey end here

When I started this blog, my purpose was to discover who I really was. I knew I was somehow stuck in second gear, occasionally revving my engine and inadvertently annoying other road users. I had hopes and dreams but I couldn’t see a way to frame them so that they made sense in relation to where I found myself at that time.

Don’t get me wrong. My life was good. I had a promising career, kids, a solid marriage and my health. But I was looking to fulfil higher needs, as Maslow would have put it.

This blog started with my MBA journey in 2010, going from engineering to business and picking up other interests along the way … like photography.

I’m pleased to say I think I’m figuring it out. I’ve decided to step out of a corporate career for now. I got an offer to do a part time doctorate and I have taken it. I’m relieved and nervous at the same time. I know teaching and learning have been passions of mine since…well, as long as I can remember. I’m excited about the possibility of an academic career and about having more time to influence my kids. Like I said, I relieved. It’s been a long and confusing journey but I finally feel like I’m on a platform that feels right. Indeed, it’s the first time that I’m not thinking with my head.

I’m not sure what more I’ll have to say on this blog. It appears to have served its purpose although I know I’m at the beginning of a different journey. I’m thinking, “different journey, different blog?” It would be comforting to write about my nervousness with the change I’ll no doubt undergo. It won’t be easy, and it won’t always feel epic. Without taking this leap, I’ll never know.

This is not goodbye blogging. It’s goodbye to the journey that brought me here. It’s hello to a new world, a new journey where I’ll feel more like me…

Yellow as a viable favourite colour

A yellow dress normally catches my eye in a shop. Then I notice there’s load of yellow dresses on the rack and only a UK 6 (US 2) and perhaps a UK 20 (US 16) left of the blue or black version of the same dress. My reaction to this worries me. And it might worry you…. My reaction is to stand confused for a few seconds, maybe even minutes – my mind in deep deliberation. I ask myself if yellow is really the “right” colour. Obviously other shoppers have turned down yellow in favour of black or blue.

I spend some minutes looking at the blue one. I don’t really do black but blue? I could probably stand it. After all up till my mid 20s, I pretended that blue was my favourite colour when folks asked me. I could never say yellow. I vaguely remember “confessing” when I was roughly 19 and the hearer had the strangest facial expression. I think they proceeded to say something in between chuckles like, “that’s unusual” or “go figure”. The truth is I don’t really recall. It was probably traumatising letting it slip because I vaguely remember needing to sit down with a glass of water. I never spoke of it again.

At a certain age, I think your soul just goes rogue and begins to expose you. For me at least, I have bought a significant amount of yellow things over the last 10 or so years and it’s pretty much public knowledge that I would so drive a yellow car if I found a dealer non-conformist enough to sell one.

My friend, Paula, even said to me at church the other day that she didn’t recognise me because I wasn’t wearing yellow. I’ve finally managed to brand myself yellow. Yippee!! Not excessively yellow though. I don’t want you to worry. You’d be delighted to know I’ve found a balance. Sometimes, I wear grey, blue and most recently black. It’s mostly experimental – testing myself on prejudice to other non-me colours. I’m doing well.

There’s masses of pressure that society puts on us to be like everyone else. I still feel it but I guess there’s a courage to draw from. Just the other day I was on my way to Newcastle and wanted to buy a non fiction book at the airport. Unwittingly, I looked at the non fiction book chart but couldn’t really engage with nos. 1 to 5. I ended up buying one that wasn’t even on the charts. What mattered was I engaged with the book and looked forward to the read.

Who votes on this non fiction charts anyway? Certainly not me.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Achievement

IMG_2745.JPG
“The Young Shall Achieve Greater Things” (Taken with Nikon D5200, 18-105mm lens)

Photo taken by The Task Mistress

From drawing blanks to making conversation

October has been a really good month for me. I learned quite a bit this month, I made some solid decisions and I went on a relaxing holiday! Part of the result of my learning is that I’m more confident about starting conversation with important people.

Drawing blanks

It’s rather embarrassing but when I have an opportunity to chat informally with important people e.g. a CEO or celebrity etc, I cannot for the life of me think of anything to say! I’m normally really chatty with people I know and even those I don’t know but if I was ever in an elevator with Bill Gates, I’d totally freeze up! What’s up with that? I’ve often heard people talk about the “elevator pitch” and how everyone has something like 10 seconds to describe themselves in a way that sells. I swallow when I hear that. There! My secret is out. I’ve heard one of my managers who noticed this describe me as “shy” – laughable, I know. Anyway, I think I’m on my way to overcoming this weakness of mine. I just need to breathe (in a non-obvious way, of course) and then think of something intelligent to say, right? Oh dear.

Making conversation

I once wrote an article on LinkedIn titled, “How to Befriend Almost Anyone At Work”. It’s more for building relationships with colleagues. For me, building rapport with people that I feel are on my level is pretty easy. Some executives can be easy to start a conversation with. They make it seamless and relaxed but more and more, executives- and indeed anyone in an important position in the corporate world – are getting inundated as pressure grows to improve business performance. They just don’t have the time or patience to make it easy. This is why I think I need to try harder (since I unfortunately care about this kind of thing!) even if the executive gives me little or nothing to go on. Gulp.The fortunate thing is that a guy called Bernard Marr recently wrote an article, “How to Start a Conversation with Absolutely Anyone”. It is a great guide and I felt a glimmer of hope after I read it. Unlike my article, it is more about what to SAY or bring up rather than how to befriend someone. Afterall, I’m unlikely to become Bill Gates’ best friend just because I impressed him with a interesting conversation in an elevator. Well, maybe.

Some of what Bernard mentions are (in my own wacky words):

  • Looking for something in the environment to talk about e.g. the food, the guests, the venue
  • Skipping small talk – don’t mention the weather for goodness sake, unless of course there’s a hurricane outside and you are under the table together. I’d imagine it would seem insensitive not to mention it!
  • Ask open ended questions. If you ask yes or no questions then you’ll get a “yes” or a “no”. At this stage, the only way to get more is to ask “why?” There’s only so many times you can ask why before you sound like a 3-year old on speed.

And so on. The article is worth reading if this stuff is of interest to you.

Do you have any other tips for starting conversations? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Happy Weekend!

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