Tag Archives: career

Personal reflections on 2013

As the New Year gets rolling, I took a few minutes to reflect on the last 12 months.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and despite it already being 2014, it’s better late than never.  Blogging for reflective practice is how I began blogging so here goes…

Langtang Valley, Nepal

A lot of changes took place in 2013, which have been transformational for me personally and professionally. I’m writing from Nepal where I am far from many friends and family yet close to lots of new friends and colleagues.

Looking back, these are my top five highlights:

  1. Becoming a Mom. The biggest and best change has been becoming a mom to “Ira”.  I learned a lot in the past year about living in the moment, enjoying the small gifts a baby offers and the love of family.  I think I also understand my own mother more.
  2. Embracing Community. Discovering the kindness of people and community (mostly due to Ira) both at home and around the world has opened my heart and mind.  Thank you.
  3. Rediscovering Yoga. I brought yoga back into my life.  The benefits of practicing yoga physically, mentally and emotionally have been a great addition to the daily routine. More than simply postures its an approach to life.
  4. Teamwork. I enjoy working in a team.  Being a mom pushed me to find people to collaborate with to accomplish my work commitments.  More than usual, this year I collaborated with several smart, generous and talented women and I look forward to sharing more projects with them and others in the years to come.
  5. Growing professionally. With an urge to increase my international sustainable development work and follow my passions, I became an associate with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), moved to Nepal for a few months and have picked up very interesting international contracts.  I also gave two graphic facilitation workshops in September, which fed me with energy and enthusiasm for using visuals in our work and doing more workshops in the future. I have learned a lot in the last seven years of consulting and its gratifying to continue to grow in my career. I feel fortunate to be able to work with my passions with so many inspiring people.

Thank you to all the friends, family, and colleagues who have been a part of my journey through 2013.  While I may not communicate often (and apologies for not sending holiday cards), I am thinking of you and grateful for our connections.  I am looking forward to the year ahead and hope our paths cross soon virtually or in person.  A blog post about living in Nepal will be coming shortly!

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Blogging as Reflective Practice on this Sunny Monday Morning

I started this blog in 2007 as a way to keep in touch with a remote team while working in the field in West Africa. Over the years, I have found it very useful to reflect on my work, reflect on my learning and share interesting things that I’ve come across with the blogosphere.

Enjoying the Tien Shen Mountains July 2013.

Enjoying the Tien Shen Mountains July 2013

The last couple months have been quite the whirlwind after a relaxing summer focused on family and travel.  I gave two energizing facilitation workshops using visuals (a topic I love) and have been looking at the social impacts of a global mining company on one of their communities (really fascinating).  It’s been busy but nice to be working on subjects I care about that also contribute to making the world a better place (in my humble opinion).

I am now about to embark on a major shift in the way I work for the next 6 months.  I plan to test the boundaries of a knowledge worker by moving my office (computer + phone + brain) to Kathmandu, Nepal.  Much of the work I do requires 80% planning and 20% face-to-face.  Hence, I don’t really need to be chained to my desk in an office in Canada.  Some of the work I do is feasible from a desk in Kathmandu, for other projects I’ve recommended colleagues to take my place and I hope to make new contacts in Asia and work with them on national and regional projects.

While considering this idea of working from anywhere, I came across an advertisement for a very cool contract that could be based anywhere in the world.  This seemed to be a great opportunity to work on a topic I’m passionate about AND still be able to live in a developing country for a much-desired cross-cultural experience.  Even better, this would allow me to connect to networks in two different parts of the world (which I feel would enrich the work even more than I could from one location).   I put in a proposal and was very excited to be selected for an interview.  Wow – could this dream contract come to fruition?

Well, I spent the last few days preparing for the interview and got up at 5AM this morning, made my way to a local ‘HUB’ (shared office space you can rent for meetings) and had a phone interview with people from three different continents.  Despite my belief that I am definitely a fabulous candidate for the contract, I came away feeling that I had not quite rocked the interview.   While it’s all a bit up in the air, I am now reflecting on the process so I can learn from the experience and make sure that I rock future interviews! So I asked myself 3 questions: What did I do well? What could I improve on?  How to move forward with a positive frame of mind?

  1. What did I do well?  This is an important question as overall I am happy with the fact that I was selected for an interview amongst a global pool of candidates.  My written proposal was strong and I had a lot of experience to share.  I learned a lot about the subject matter through research online and I reconnected with several colleagues and networks around the world.  I had great conversations with a lot of great people while preparing my ideas for the interview. Preparation was very inspiring and got me excited about a potential future.
  2. What could I improve on?  Despite feeling a little blah after the interview, it’s helpful to understand why I felt this way and I have a few ideas.  The easiest thing to change in the future would be to do interviews at a reasonable hour, when all engines are fired up.  Waking up at 5AM and speaking to a group of strangers around the world via telephone was more challenging than I thought. I would have likely been more coherent and energetic with daylight and a few cups of coffee in the system.  In addition, while preparation is important, it’s equally important to listen carefully to the questions being asked.  Answers should be short and sweet (to the point).  At times, I found myself distracted by ideas I had prepared rather than speaking from the heart in the moment.  This took me on a few unnecessary tangents and I did not always deliver with confidence.  Lastly, unable to see body language and receive feedback was challenging for me as I am a conversationalist and enjoy the back and forth / group conversation rather than providing a monologue.  I could ask for SKYPE or FaceTime interviews in the future.
  3. How to move forward with a positive frame of mind? Now what?  It’s not over yet and I remain hopeful. Still, the process has taught me a few things about myself that I would like to work on in the future. The biggest one is the skill of improvisation.  Improv is a must-have for leadership, facilitation and interviews.  One of the first principles is to be prepared (which includes ‘warming up’, i.e. coffee,  sunshine and chit-chat for me).  While preparation is important, one also needs to ‘let go’ in the moment in order to be truly authentic and present. Another principle is willingness to fail and/or make mistakes as this means we are trying, taking risk and engaging with something new.  On this note, I definitely can I say I put in a good effort and am not afraid to try. There are several other principles but one for me to work on is to stay in the moment (as noted above, don’t be distracted by your prep in the interview).

It’s been helpful to reflect on my Monday morning, my experience and the future.  I am not sure what the year ahead holds however I’m certain it will be filled with fun, interesting, and meaningful experiences wherever I go.  These are exciting times and I’m happy to step out of my comfort zone, even if it is ‘uncomfortable’ (obviously!).

I’ll be sure to share a few updates from Kathmandu.

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Should I Work For Free?

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Shouting out to all the consultants in the world, have you been asked to work for free?  Do you sometimes ask others to work for free?  Personally, I spent many years volunteering in my community and internationally as well as taking an internship for a year to help gain skills, confidence and an entry point into a great career. I don’t regret any of it! As I continue to build my knowledge and grow as a person I still do occasional work pro bono for the shared learning experience.  Moreover, there are worthy organizations that simply don’t have budgets and thus deserve a reduced rate.

However there are also limits!  Jessica Hische lays it out beautifully in this info graphic on if you should work for free.  I love the way it is presented and it made me laugh a lot.  Yes, we have all been in these situations.  Lessons learned?  Never charge your mother, explore your creativity and beyond that you are selling yourself short if you work for free.

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Reflections of a home-based consultant living on the edge of the woods

“Be patient.  Good things come to those who wait.”

This is the Chinese fortune cookie wisdom I received Sunday night after eating out in a town nearby.  The town of 10,000 people is the hub of the region I live in which most likely has more trees, wildlife and clean running water than it does people.  Yes, I am feeling a little isolated.

My small town on the edge of the woods

I wonder if it’s the remote geography, working alone in my attic during the dark November days, or lack of strong professional networks to share the daily grind with.  Being patient is interesting advice as I have been thinking about my professional life lately and how I can enhance it from good to great as well as being less isolating.

For anyone that works on issues related to improving people, places and making positive change, you could imagine that doing this alone in your attic, mostly by typing into a computer box, could be a lonely place (despite my online friends – thank you friends 🙂 ).  Given that it’s a not so bad trade-off for living next to bears and powder skiing, I have been seeking advice lately to find that magical work-life balance.  Here are some of the nuggets that I plan to work on in the New Year:

–       Have a filter for work you take on.  Here are four criteria my inspiring colleagues at Bright Green Learning use: Impact, Creativity, Interesting, Learning.  I may add people/team to that list.

–       Network.  Go to conferences to meet people you want to work with and keep in touch with them.  This may mean dedicating two phone calls a day as follow up which is very possible (That is my brothers advice and he owns a successful HR magazine so I’ll take it).

–       Develop a local network of professionals who may also be looking for people to connect with.  I will use my community building experience to start this in 2012 with the domain being ‘professional development’ and the side benefits of deeper relationships and networking (this is an idea that has been on my mind since I moved here – time for action).

This is only the start to my 2012 ‘good to great’ list as my mind is burgeoning with ideas for connection, social media is at my finger tips and I should not forget my widespread community of friends, colleagues, alumni…who I should make more time to get in touch with.

Blogging is important to me as it is a place to reflect and share thoughts with others.  The professional world (even for someone living at the edge of the woods) has lots to offer.  So do I wait patiently for taking my professional life to the next level or work to make it happen?  Drop a line if you have a thought.  My top of mind response is that it will be a bit of both.

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Is herding cats a career?

Sometimes when asked what I do I have been known to say, “I herd cats”.  Given that I spend a lot of time coordinating initiatives that involve many people of diverse and wandering natures…this may be a very appropriate title for the present state of my career.

A colleague sent me this on ‘herding cats’ a few days ago and it made me laugh out loud.  Not a bad career choice!

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