The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 16: Getting a kick in the butt when I need it #COVID19

It’s been a while since I wrote a COVID-19 update, so I think this is Part 16.

This morning, I had a text conversation with a friend who gave me a badly-needed kick in the butt.

A little background information is in order here.

I’m not going to lie. I have been very discouraged by the job hunt (going on nearly three months, now). It seems like every place that I’ve applied has rejected me — to the point that my job hunt morale has taken a big hit. I can count on one hand the number of interviews I’ve had, out of the many dozens (and counting) of applications I’ve submitted. My job situation has been a major source of stress, along with a few other things (that I won’t get into here) that have added to it. The only thing that has kept me going is my LLC. I have a couple of clients that have been keeping me busy, but it’s still not yet enough for me to pay my mortgage. I address acknowledging your own emotions at the beginning of my job hunt presentation, and I, myself, fell into the same trap.

And, of course, I have not been helped by the COVID-19 situation.

My friend — a former co-worker at my previous job — told me, in a nutshell, to get off my duff and get busy again. He reminded me of a few things that, as it turned out, I badly needed to hear: I need to learn new things, I need to keep learning and stay on top of things, I need to keep plugging away, I need to keep working, and possibly the most important reminder: I have the smarts, the talent, and the wherewithal to do great things. Don’t throw that away.

Our conversation reminded me of the many good things I do have going on, and either want to continue doing, or want to restart. My LLC has been a source of professional and educational experience during a time when I badly need it. I’d started a few endeavors during this COVID-19 crisis, including starting my new business, starting a Couch-to-5K program (which has been on-hold lately because of health issues — not COVID-19 related) and teaching myself French. There are some other things that I either started a while ago or in which I’ve been active, but have also fallen by the wayside: teaching myself BI, teaching myself GitHub, and getting back into my music, including my songwriting endeavors. I also want to make sure that I brush up on my development skills that have become rusty over time.

Some people are able to stay strong throughout this crisis (which seems to have no end in sight), while others need an occasional boost. No matter who you are, it’s easy to lose sight of things, and it’s important to have support to keep that going — which includes friends who’ll give you the occasional kick in the butt when you need it. One of the casualties of the COVID-19 crisis is that we’ve been so isolated that we don’t see our friends (other than immediate family within your household) as much as we’d like or need. Your friends are your support system, and good friends will get you back on track when you need it.

So, to my friend with whom I spoke this morning, if you’re reading this, thank you again for that kick in the butt. You likely helped me more than you know.

Check in on your black friends #BlackLivesMatter

Just this once, I’m addressing a controversial topic. I usually don’t write about these things, but I am deeply troubled by the state of my country and the world, and if, by my words, I have the power to change it, then I’m going to do it. I’m not sure what kind of effect, if any, one ‘blog article will have, but I would regret it even more if I could’ve said or done something to make things better, and I sat by the sideline and did nothing.

In light of everything that has been going on (I won’t get into that here — but by reading this article, you should get a sense of where I stand), I wanted to check in on some of my friends. So this morning, I posted this — a simple question — to my Facebook and Twitter.

To my black friends:

I wanted to check in. How’re you doing?

I was asking this question seriously. I have a number of black and African-American friends. I was concerned about their welfare, and wanted to make sure they were okay. I wanted to know how they were holding up. And especially given the current political climate, I wanted to let them know that, if they needed anything — even if all it was was an ear to bend — I was here for them.

My post was a simple and small gesture, but I wanted to send a clear message to my friends: I’m here for you, and I’m listening. I have your back.

Granted, I’m not a white person (for those of you who haven’t paid attention, I’m Asian-American). Nevertheless, I grew up in a rural and mostly white neighborhood with mostly white friends; subsequently, I’ve adopted white attitudes and mindsets. Even when I was a kid growing up, my parents had to explain this to me; I remember, as a child, being puzzled about why my own skin tone wasn’t as pale as my friends.

I did have a couple of black friends when I was young, and they are still among my best friends to this day. I never thought of them as my black friends (and I still don’t). I thought of them as my friends. Period. End of story. There was never any “black” preceding the word “friends,” and there never will be. Okay, so they looked different. So did I. Big whoop. I never had any problem interacting with them, playing sports or music with them, going to school with them, and so on.

That said, our present society is forcing me to see them as black. And I’m worried about them. The last thing I want is to read their names in the newspapers, hearing that they died for the sole reason of the color of their skin.

I want my black friends to know I’m worried about them. So I asked a simple question: “how’re you doing?”

I think, ultimately, that is how we achieve racial peace. If you’re white, and you have black friends, drop them a line. Ask them: “how’s everything going? Are you okay?” And if something’s on their minds, lend them your ear, just as you would with any other friend. Listen to them. That is what the demonstrations, protests, and riots are about: they have something to say, but nobody is listening.

Let them know you’re listening. If you hear their concerns and are able to do something about it, great. But above all, listen. Let them know that you hear them. And let them know that you have their back.

My #JobHunt presentation is online #PASSProfDev @PASS_ProfDev @CASSUG_Albany #SQLFamily #ProfessionalDevelopment

If you missed my job hunt presentation, it is now available on YouTube. Click here to view my presentation!

Additionally, my presentation slides can be downloaded from here!

Join me for my #JobHunt #ProfessionalDevelopment presentation — next Thursday, 5/28/2020 #PASSProfDev @PASS_ProfDev @CASSUG_Albany #SQLFamily

Reminder: my presentation is tomorrow at noon (EDT). Come join me and Paresh Motiwala for my presentation and our discussion!

Welcome to Ray Kim's 'blog

This is a reminder that next week, Thursday, May 28 at noon EDT (click this link for your local time), I will do my presentation for the PASS Professional Development Virtual Group about unemployment and the job hunt, titled “I lost my job! Now what?!?”

To register for the event use this link.

I’ll touch on these topics during the presentation:

  • Dealing with your emotions
  • Taking stock in yourself
  • Resumes and interviewing
  • Resources you can tap
  • Networking
  • Weathering the storm

In addition to my presentation, we will also have an open discussion with Paresh Motiwala (PASS ProfDev moderator and host) and myself. You are welcome and encouraged to take part!

I’ve done this presentation for SQL Saturday; now, you get to see it online. See you next week!

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Building my company — what I’ve learned (so far)

My new LLC is now just a little over a month old, but in this short time, things have started moving! I had already been working with one client; this particular client was what prompted me to start my LLC in the first place. This morning, I reached a verbal agreement with a second client! While I’ll stop short of saying that my job hunt is over — I haven’t yet declared it as such — this particular client has enough work for me to keep me busy for a while. It might be enough to sustain me so that I can keep food on my table and a roof over my head (and maybe even more). There might be something to this self-employment thing after all!

That said, this is all still new territory for me. When it comes to owning and running my own business, I’m still getting my feet wet. I’m still tinkering with my website. I spent some time on the phone today with my bank where I’m still trying to establish my business account. There were some issues with my application, but they appear to be resolved, and my new account should be active within a few days. I also created a new Facebook page for my business; you can check it out here! (This article, by the way, will be the first ‘blog post to appear on my new page!) I also finalized newspaper publications for my LLC; it turns out that New York — my home state — is one of three states that requires an LLC to post a legal notice in its home newspapers. The law says that I need to place the notice in two papers — one daily and one weekly — that service my home county. They need to appear for six weeks — after which I need to file another piece of paperwork called a Certificate of Publication.

Let me go back to the bank account and mention one of my issues for a moment. I had been told that, if I’m a single-person LLC with no other employees, I can use my own social security number for tax purposes, which is true. However, the bank still requires an Employer Identification Number (EIN). The bank was kind enough to supply me with a link where I could easily apply for and obtain an EIN in a few minutes.

Several weeks ago, if you’d told me that I was going to start my own business, I would have laughed at you. At the time, I said that I didn’t know the first thing about starting my own business. Yet here I am, doing it! I’ve said before that getting ahead means stepping out out of your comfort zone. I still have a lot to learn, but in the past month, I’ve learned quite a bit. While I’m not yet ready to declare my job hunt over, I’m seeing enough happen with my new business to think that I might be able to make this work!

Stay tuned!

How to (and how NOT to) connect on #LinkedIn

Lately, it seems like I’ve been getting more and more request to connect on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the go-to social networking tool for connecting with people professionally. Ever since I (1) announced that I was looking for a new job, and (2) announced that I’d started a new LLC, the number of connect requests I’ve been getting has increased.

I had comments on my LinkedIn summary saying that I won’t connect with cold-call LinkedIn requests (and I still won’t, but we’ll get to that in a moment), but I toned the language down after my job hunt kicked into gear.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about LinkedIn connect requests, but people whom I don’t know or have never heard of still persist in connecting with me. I’ve said it before: networking is about relationships. If you’re trying to establish a network (which is what LinkedIn connect requests are about), you need to establish a relationship.

Yet here I am, once again, writing about this topic, because people still don’t get it. So, here are a few tips about how to (and how NOT to) establish a LinkedIn connection with me.

Things that will establish a connection between me and you

  • You’re a friend or colleague whom I know and trust, and I recognize your name immediately, regardless of whether or not you include an accompanying note.
  • You’re someone whom I invited to connect.
  • You’re an acquaintance whom I don’t know well, but you include a note saying “we worked together at such-and-such place,” or “we were classmates in such-and-such school,” or “I was one of your students at place-where-I taught.”
  • I don’t know you at all, but you include a note saying “we met at SQL Saturday,” or “I enjoyed your presentation,” or “we met at such-and-such place,” or “(a mutual connection) said we should hook up,” and so on, and so on, and so on.

    One of the best examples of this was the following note I received after I spoke at a SQL Saturday. Although I didn’t know her at all, I was happy to connect with her.

    “I really enjoyed your presentation on technical writing at SQL Saturday today! The tie challenge was a really interesting way to get the point across. I’d like to stay in touch and maybe pick your brain about tech writing again at some point in the future.”

    One note that I should add: try to be specific about how we’re connected. Mention where we met, which of my presentations you saw, what you liked (or didn’t like) about my presentation, why our mutual friend said we should connect, and so on. For all I know, you might be stalking my profile, just happen to see a connection on it, and say “so-and-so told me to connect.” If you don’t explain why we’re connecting, that’s not going to cut it. I don’t have any tolerance for BS’ers.
  • You’re a legitimate (key word!) recruiter who actually knows and respects what I’m looking for, and doesn’t blindly send me requests for jobs in which I have absolutely no interest. (See below for the opposite of this.)

I want to point out that, except for the first two bullet points, all of these have something in common: that you include a note telling me who you are and how we’re connected. This is key in establishing a connection.

Things that will make me delete your connect request immediately

These types of requests irritate me to no end, and will nearly guarantee that I will delete your connect request.

  • I have no idea who you are, and you do NOT include any note of any kind telling me who you are.
  • Same as above, even if we’re connected in some way (e.g. same user group, same workplace, same activity, etc.). If we’re connected, and I don’t know you well (or at all), don’t just assume I know who you are and how we’re connected! Tell me who you are!!! Don’t make me work to figure it out!!!
  • Including a note, but making no mention about how we’re related. I recently received a connect request from someone asking me if I was looking to hire developers. My business is a single-person LLC (for now), and I am not looking to hire anyone, at least not yet. Maybe several years from now, when I’m pulling in over a half-million dollars worth of assets and have more work than I can handle, then sure, I might look to hire people. But until that happens, please tell me how we’re connected. I felt bad for the poor guy, but he didn’t give me any reason for me to connect with him, other than “I’m looking for a job.”
  • Kissing my ass. This is something that pisses me off to no end. My number one pet peeve is insulting my intelligence. Doing so guarantees that you will end up on my shit list.

    The most egregious example was a connect request I received that said this:

    “I’m always looking to build my network with great people and would be delighted to have you in my network. I hope you’ll consider connecting!”

    Not only did she try to kiss up to me, she insulted my intelligence. I could not delete her connect request fast enough.
  • Try to talk about a relationship that doesn’t exist. I recently received a request that said this:

    “Thanks in advance for connecting. Tons of value in connecting with other sales professionals.”

    Um, did you actually read my LinkedIn profile?!? Name ONE thing in it that says I am, in any way, interested in sales!!! (Here’s a hint: I’M NOT!!!)
  • I make no secret of the fact that I have a deep contempt for spam recruiters. It is well-known by legitimate recruiters and scores of IT professionals that spam recruiters are radioactive and should be treated as such. If you’re a so-called “recruiter” who doesn’t give a damn about your client, doesn’t try to get to know what I want or am looking for, sends me a job in which I have zero interest, tries to send me a cold-call connect request when I don’t know you, have never heard of you, have no idea who you are, and only cares about how much you get paid and not about your client’s well-being, then don’t even bother trying to contact or connect with me.
  • Trying to sell me something, or push something on me that I either don’t want or don’t care about. Again, this is about establishing relationships. It’s a two-way street. If it’s something that’s only for your benefit, then I don’t want anything to do with you.

In a nutshell, if you’re looking to connect with someone over LinkedIn, always include a note that explains your relationship with that person. I guarantee that you will increase your chances that he or she will connect with you, and your networking experience will go much better.

Join me for my #JobHunt #ProfessionalDevelopment presentation — next Thursday, 5/28/2020 #PASSProfDev @PASS_ProfDev @CASSUG_Albany #SQLFamily

This is a reminder that next week, Thursday, May 28 at noon EDT (click this link for your local time), I will do my presentation for the PASS Professional Development Virtual Group about unemployment and the job hunt, titled “I lost my job! Now what?!?”

To register for the event use this link.

I’ll touch on these topics during the presentation:

  • Dealing with your emotions
  • Taking stock in yourself
  • Resumes and interviewing
  • Resources you can tap
  • Networking
  • Weathering the storm

In addition to my presentation, we will also have an open discussion with Paresh Motiwala (PASS ProfDev moderator and host) and myself. You are welcome and encouraged to take part!

I’ve done this presentation for SQL Saturday; now, you get to see it online. See you next week!

Communication lessons from air disasters

I’ve always had a morbid fascination for air disasters.  (Don’t ask me why; I have no idea.)  I’m fascinated by shows such as Air Disasters, Why Planes Crash,  and Mayday: Air Disasters.  Whenever I hear about a plane going down, I’ll start thinking about what happened, clues, what might have caused it, and so on.  There are times when I think I should have gotten a job with the NTSB.

Greg Moore has some publications in which he talks about lessons learned from aircraft accidents; his book partially discusses these lessons.  He also has an excellent SQL Saturday presentation titled “Who’s Flying The Plane?” which talks about lessons learned from air disasters and how they can apply to IT.  Go check it out if you have a chance; Greg gives a great presentation!

For the purposes of this article, however, I want to concentrate on a particular topic: how communication — or, the lack of — either contributed to or was the root cause of a disaster.

Last night, I watched an episode of Air Disasters that talked about the plane crash that took the life of professional golfer Payne Stewart. The plane went down after the cabin depressurized (the cause of which was never determined), the crew became incapacitated, and the plane ran out of fuel. What made it interesting to me was that bad documentation might have been one of the contributing factors to the accident. After the cabin lost pressure, the crew likely consulted a checklist, as is standard procedure for nearly any cockpit activity or incident. The checklist was poorly written and unclear. What should have been the very first instruction was, “put on your oxygen mask.” It was not. By the time the crew got to that instruction, it was too late; they were overcome by hypoxia.

It reminded me of a tenet that I preach in my documentation presentation: if, in a step-by-step instruction, an instruction cannot be understood within a few seconds, it has failed.

I also remember another Air Disasters episode that focused on Avianca Flight 52.  In January of 1990, the plane, a Boeing 707 carrying 158 people, crashed on approach to Kennedy Airport in New York after running out of fuel, killing 73 people.  There were numerous communication issues during the flight.  Had any one of them been addressed, chances are the disaster never would have occurred.

How often have you been involved in some kind of activity where things were miscommunicated?  How well did those activities go?  I’m guessing that they didn’t go well.  How often have they happened when deadlines were approaching?  What was the mood of your organization?  I’ll guess that it was likely one of high stress and low morale.  And during that time, how smoothly did things go?  Probably not very.  I’ll bet that plenty of mistakes were made.

I’m painting this picture within a business environment.  Imagine what these conditions are like when people’s lives are at stake.

The number of disasters that have occurred from poor communication are countless; entire studies have been dedicated to the subject.  Indeed, numerous solutions and subcategories related to miscommunication have been devised.  The airline industry developed the process of crew resource management.  Extensive research has been done on the phenomenon known as groupthinkEven simple measures such as checklists have been studied and implemented.

The moral of the story: good communication, including documentation, is critical. The consequences of it can have adverse effects. At best, bad communication can disrupt your business. At worst, it can cost lives.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 15: The need to let off steam #COVID19

Think about a boiler or a steam engine. As steam builds up within, pressure increases. Eventually, pressure builds beyond the boiler’s capacity to contain it, and the boiler explodes, often with devastating results.

While we as humans don’t physically share the same traits as a boiler, psychologically and metaphorically, the principle is the same. Often, things in life causes stress and builds pressure. Eventually, the stress builds to the point where we just explode. The outlet can happen in numerous ways; at best, we cry on someone’s shoulder, and at worst, we hurt someone else in the aftermath.

I reached that point yesterday during my job hunt. My wife could see that I was visibly upset, and it got to the point that I vented on my Facebook account. I usually watch my language whenever I post to social media, but you know I’m upset when I start dropping F-bombs without any filters, and I did exactly that on my Facebook account yesterday. It’s not the first time I’ve done that, and it won’t be the last. There’s a reason why I keep my Facebook account separate from my ‘blog and from my other public accounts. My Facebook is strictly friends-only, and it’s the equivalent of keeping my private life separate from my public persona.

The point is that we all occasionally need to let off steam before the pressure causes any damage. If something is bothering you, don’t keep it bottled up. Find some kind of outlet to release the pressure. Talk to your significant other or a friend. Go out and do something to get your mind off of whatever is bothering you. Write in a journal (or a ‘blog). Find an activity to safely release your anger and your extra energy. Do something creative. Exercise. Go for a walk. Go out to your backyard and yell at the top of your lungs. Do something — anything — to release that pressure, and make sure that you don’t hurt anyone in the process.

One of my favorite — and funniest — examples of letting off steam is a scene in the movie Analyze This, where a psychiatrist (played by Billy Crystal) tells his mob boss patient (Robert DeNiro) to hit a pillow. What he does is amusing! (If you have sensitive ears, be forewarned that F-bombs are dropped in the YouTube clip link that I provided.)

In a couple of weeks (May 28), I will be giving my online presentation about the job hunt and being unemployed. (If you’re interested in attending, use this link to register for the webinar.) One of the first — and biggest — things I address is dealing with your emotions after you lose your job. You’re going to feel something after your employment ends, and before you can do anything else, you need to deal with those emotions before you can proceed with your job hunt. Once you do, you’ll be able to proceed with a clear head.

These days, especially during our confinement through the COVID-19 crisis, our stress levels are heightened. Make sure you find a way to relieve that stress before it reaches a boiling point. Don’t become an exploding boiler. People can get hurt.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 14: Learning a new language #COVID19

When the COVID-19 crisis is over, if someone asks you, “what did you do to improve yourself during the crisis,” how will you answer? For me, personally, I’ll be able to say that I started my own business, I started running more, and I did an online presentation. (Hopefully, I’ll also be able to include that I got a new job, I upgraded my laptop, and I got back into music recording again!)

One thing that has been on my bucket list for some time is to learn a new language. I took three years of German in high school (and a semester in college), but I haven’t practiced it in quite some time, and I’ve very rarely had chances to use it. I haven’t had many practical uses for it. On the other hand, when my wife and I went on vacation up to Québec a few years ago, I found myself wishing that I could speak French. (Besides, France is on my bucket list of places I’d like to visit.) Likewise, I like to frequent Koreatown whenever I’m in New York City, and as a Korean-American, I figured that it would make sense for me to learn my own ancestral language. My grandmother tried to teach me while I was growing up, but she spoke almost no English, and it was hard for me to pick up. As I often tell people, my knowledge of Korean comes from what little my grandmother tried to teach me, and from M*A*S*H reruns.

I’ve heard good things about Babbel, so I decided to look there. Unfortunately, Korean is not one of the language options that they offer. However, they do offer a number of others. I figure maybe French and Spanish might be a couple of good ones, and I can brush up on my German. I had also heard about language programs costing hundreds of dollars — another reason why I’d never pursued this earlier — but when I looked at Babbel, I saw that they had monthly subscriptions for reasonable prices.

So, I’m looking into it. Maybe by the time the COVID-19 crisis is over, when someone asks me what I did, I’ll be able to say that “J’ai appris une nouvelle langue.