“Your opinion matters…” Helping people by sharing your experiences

My wife and I have an anniversary coming up, so I started planning a getaway trip to celebrate. (Because of the pandemic, we decided to keep the trip short — only one night, and we’re not venturing very far — only about an hour’s drive from our home.) While I was making my travel plans, I started poking around my own TripAdvisor profile. I had posted a few reviews, and I thought I’d post a few more. I figured my experiences and opinions could help other people looking for travel information, and it’s entirely possible that, by the time you’re finished reading this article, I’ll have written a few more reviews.

One of the biggest reasons why I started my ‘blog was so that I could write about my own experiences for the purpose of helping people. Helping other people is one of my great passions, and while I can’t always help physically or financially, I can help by providing information. It’s what I do professionally, and it’s what drives me as a professional technical communicator.

However, you don’t have to be a professional technical communicator to help provide information. There are countless forums out there, covering nearly an endless number of topics, in which you are able to provide your feedback. You’re probably tired of hearing automated support lines that say “your feedback is important to us.” But feedback is important. Feedback is data. Whatever feedback you provide helps to make products and services better.

How often had you looked something up (e.g. an answer to a technical problem, a hotel review, suggested driving directions, etc.) and became frustrated because you weren’t able to find any information? If you’re an application (or any type of IT) developer, have you ever been frustrated because you asked for feedback about your product, and no one would give it to you? That feedback would’ve been valuable in debugging and improving your product. This is why QA testing is a big deal, and is usually a critical step in development life cycles.

This isn’t limited to just IT professionals. It applies to just about anything in which information is involved. If, for example, you were making travel plans and wanted information about a destination, have you ever been interested in, say, a bed and breakfast, but you couldn’t find much information about it, and no one had written any reviews about it? Those reviews would have gone a long way in providing information about that place.

A lot of us brush off the messages that say “your opinion matters.” The thing is, it really does. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion or to provide feedback. What you say can help someone make a better decision, help improve a product, or possibly change the course of someone’s business for the better.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and write a few more TripAdvisor reviews…

Social media: should I stay or should I go?

I don’t think I have to mention just how prevalent social media is these days. If you’re reading this ‘blog, most likely you’re engaged in some form of social media. Terms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are a regular part of daily life these days. It’s gotten to the point that these terms have become verbs (e.g. “Facebook it”). Even I’ll tell people that “the best way to get a hold of me is on Facebook,” and I’m the first to admit that I generally can’t go a day without checking my Facebook app on my phone.

In these times of divisiveness, security concerns, and ‘bots, I’ve also seen a number of friends say, “I’m closing my Facebook account” or “I’m shutting down my LinkedIn.” I’m often saddened by these, because one of my main reasons for maintaining Facebook (which I’ll expand upon in a moment) is to easily keep in touch with friends and family. Any time a friend says that (s)he is shutting down his or her account is a contact that I lose. It doesn’t mean that (s)he is no longer a friend; it just means that it’s a little more difficult to keep in touch with that person.

However, a lot of people are (understandably) turned off by the negativity and political discourse that are pervasive on social media. People have written articles about how much better their lives have become after shutting down social media. I completely understand how people are disillusioned by what they see on social media.

So I get it when people ask this question about social media: should I stay or should I go?

I’ll give the standard DBA answer*: “it depends.”

(*For those who don’t understand the reference, the widespread joke among data professionals and IT people is “it depends” is the standard response when they are asked just about any question.)

Not satisfied with that answer? Let me expand on it.

I don’t think I need to get into why people want to leave social media; there are too many obvious examples of that out in the wild (and maybe a few not-so-obvious examples, such as data security and privacy, and the “need” — a very stupid reason, in my opinion — to maintain social status). People are getting stressed out over these issues. I certainly understand why people want to leave social media, and I won’t decry them for it. So instead, I’ll talk about some reasons why you might want to stay.

Like just about anything else, social media is a tool, a piece of software developed for a purpose. Mostly, that purpose is communication. People have been talking about the shrinking world for years. Social media contributes to the world shrinking even further.

I mentioned earlier that I maintain my Facebook account so that I can easily stay in touch with friends and family. It is the primary reason why I first joined Facebook, and it is why, even despite all the issues that come with it, I maintain my account today. Humans are social animals, and more often than not, humans need to maintain social contact with one another, especially so these days with the COVID-19 pandemic. I enjoy talking to people and keeping in touch with friends, so for me, personally, these reasons outweigh all the problems and tribulations that come with Facebook, and maintaining my account is worthwhile.

Some people seem to think they have to maintain some level of status on social media, like trying to compete in some type of popularity contest. Personally, I think this is one of the biggest bullshit reasons to be on social media. I could not care less about how popular I am. I’ll post about personal news that’s happening in my life, something on my mind that I want to get off my chest, ask a question about an issue I can’t seem to solve on my own, or occasionally express an opinion (although I do try to avoid anything having to do with politics; personally, I despise politics passionately). If you’re on social media to maintain social standing, I think you’re on it for the wrong reason. (Trying to sell yourself is a different matter; I’ll get into that shortly.) If I don’t care about my social standing (and I don’t), then I don’t have to concern myself with maintaining it on social media.

That is why I want to be on social media. However, I also think there are reasons why you should be on social media.

Love it or hate it, social media is prevalent in our society today, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. Because so many people use social media, it’s probably the single largest and most effective communication device in the world.

I think you have to be on social media if you’re at all serious about any of the following: marketing, networking, sales, job hunting, problem solving, news and information (not the fake kind, but I digress), running a business, customer service, recruiting, and maybe a lot of other things I haven’t thought about — essentially, anything that involves communication on a large scale. Most business sites that sell products or services include links to “like us on (insert your favorite social medium here).” Many job applications include a form field for your LinkedIn profile, a sign that they take it seriously. Organizations such as PASS make extensive use of media such as Twitter to communicate with their members. I’ve also written before about online networking; I won’t rehash that here.

One of the big complaints I often hear is that people are sick of being bombarded with ads and politics. Facebook (and other media, I’m sure) does include tools to suppress things you don’t want to see; for example, there are tools to “hide” or “block all from (name of account).” There are a number of such tools available. I won’t get into them right now, but I will say that using them has made my online experience much more palatable.

So should you maintain a social media presence or not? These are the reasons why, despite their issues, I continue to do so. Social media are communication tools. How — and whether you decide — to use them is completely up to you.

My #SQLSaturday presentation on networking is viewable online #SQLSatAlbany #SQLSat961

I recorded my SQL Saturday session from this past weekend. If anyone is interested in checking out my presentation titled: “Networking 101: Building Professional Relationships,” it is now viewable online!

If you have an hour to kill, click here to see my presentation!

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.

Networking your business

As I come up on two months of my LLC being in business, I’m learning a lot of things as I go along. A lot of it is the boring administrative stuff that comes with running your own business. But another thing I’m finding out is how critical it is to network when running your own business.

As of today, I currently have two clients, and I’m hoping to pick up some more. What’s important is how I got those clients. I got them both by networking. One was a friend with whom I worked at a previous job, while the other was introduced to me through a mutual friend. To me, this drives home the point of just how critical networking can be if you’re running your own business.

I started looking into business networking resources, and came across this article. Of course, the article lists groups such as BNI (which, I understand, is a very good group; however, I’m not sure if I’m ready to pay the steep membership fee just yet. Maybe at some point down the road, when I’m better established). It also lists groups that didn’t occur to me, such as the local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and Kiwanis. I also found a link for local Meetup groups (this link lists groups local to me here in the Albany, NY area; you might want to check similar groups for where you’re located). I am going to make it a point to look into these resources and see if I can tap into them.

I also spoke to a friend who also has his own consulting business about possibly establishing some kind of relationship that would be mutually beneficial to both of our businesses. While neither of us had work for the other, we agreed that some kind of business relationship could be beneficial for both of us. We might look into something later down the line.

Of course, there are the other resources that I’ve been preaching all along, such as user groups and conferences.

I’ve written before about how important networking is for an individual’s career. I’m also discovering that networking is important for business as well. It might very well be key for keeping your business afloat.

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.

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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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!

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.

Mental health and effects in the professional world

On Wednesday, I attended an online webinar, presented by Tracy Boggiano for the Professional Development virtual group. I actually wanted to attend her session at SQL Saturday Rochester, but it conflicted with one of my own sessions.

Tracy does a great job (as she always does) talking about a subject that is often the elephant in the room. Mental health is a subject that is rarely discussed openly, and it often has a adverse effect within the workplace (although Tracy frames her presentation as “mental health and IT,” I expand it to say “workplace,” because it likely encompasses more than just IT).

Everyone deals with mental, emotional, and psychological issues in some form, whether we acknowledge them or not. Addressing those issues can often improve upon your day-to-day issues, and perhaps even turn your life around.

I highly recommend Tracy’s presentation. Check out her presentation on YouTube (it’s about an hour long). It might just turn your life for the better.