I Know How But You Could Learn

I’m beating a dead horse. But, and I say again, stop asking millennial employees to be your office’s tech gurus. Outside of those of us who are in I.T., we do have things on our plates that do not involve helping everyone figure out how to set up an out of office e-mail response.

Google is a beautiful thing. Before going to your younger counterpart’s office/cubicle/desk, take advantage of your search bar. If you’ve done that, then feel free to ask I.T. or even one of your more tech savvy coworkers. But please don’t waste time asking for help if you haven’t made an effort.

–MGMT

(This post was inspired by yet another of many conversations with my peers.)

Make continuing education a priority.

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The Problem With Automation

Automation is amazing. I was just telling my pastor about the perks of the Twitter timer I use. I love being able to schedule my engagement. It decreases my screen time and still makes sure that I’m properly branded.

Ok, now that I’ve sang it’s praises, let’s look at the problem with it: human error. I suppose that’s not a problem with the technology but, because we fail to factor humanity into our great technological enhancements, we’re always going to fall short of perfection. One example is the time I set my coffee timer, put the coffee in the maker, added the water, and woke up the next morning to grainy brown water. Why? Oh yeah, I didn’t put the filter in before the coffee.

Or, an example from this morning is the e-mail I got from a non-profit that I’ve supported letting me know that today is the day to make my Giving Tuesday donation. Ummm… sir, as someone who spent half a decade in the field of development, I can guarantee you that Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. And I’m sure the solicitor knows that too. What the automation system he used doesn’t know is that his hand slipped when he was setting the auto-timer and there was no failsafe to catch the mistake. That probably cost the nonprofit some money, caused some embarrassment and, if nothing else, in the hour and a half since I got the e-mail, I’m willing to bet he’s gotten at least 5 e-mails letting him know he’s wrong (I’m not one of them but I thought about it).

Automation is great but, as long as humans have their hands on it, things will still mess up. Sometimes it’s better to do things the old fashioned way. Or, another great option is to couple the two when you can. Write the e-mail, sit it in your draft folder and have Siri remind you when to hit sent. Just an idea.

 

Make managing human error a priority.

Don’t Be Mad at the Comp…etition

I just got an e-mail from one of my numerous photography newsletters. The headline said “Social Media is Ruining Photography.”

Let’s face it: We have a love-hate relationship with technology. We enjoy the ease with which we can maneuver through the day but we abhor the fact that simple jobs can now be done without us, meaning we have to work harder to make ourselves valuable. I even catch myself hating on Siri and her smart-sounding self (I set mine to have a posh British accent). She has never touched an encyclopedia, yet she knows almost everything. And she’ll tell you a joke if you ask her to. It’s almost like we don’t need humans anymore for 87% of life’s functions.

But we do need humans. We need humans to be better. This morning, I pulled up on a deadly train accident and wanted to photograph all of the yellow tape and flashing lights that surrounded the intersection. Issue is, because it was raining heavily today, I had resolved to leave my camera at home. Big mistake. I refuse to take a photo I have an intentional vision for with my iPhone. Sure, it’s fast and the image will be decent but it will always leave me wondering what my own human ingenuity could’ve created without the automatic lighting adjustments iOS makes.

No one really feels like lighting candles every night. And I’m not trying to light a fire to cook my dinner. Technology makes life easier. But the touch we place on life makes it engaging. So, don’t blame social media or technology for ruining art or taking your jobs. Art is a derivative of emotion. Creativity and problem solving comes with human empathy. Without an emotional experience, those things are as good as a forgery.

 

Make being better than technology a priority.

Manipulate the System

I’ll kick it off by saying that being a young professional in today’s society is a double-edged sword that most Baby Boomers do not understand. I talk with my mom and grandma often and, when I am looking for a new job, they think it should be easy for someone with my skills and experience to find employment. And it would be very easy were it 1980 or before. Shoot, before 2000, you could walk into a company, shake someone’s hand, and make an excellent first impression when you handed a crafted résumé and cover letter to a receptionist or, if you were lucky, hiring manager.
That was then. Now we have to navigate through automated systems that often fail horribly at selecting the right person for the job. There are so many qualified candidates that human beings don’t put their eyes on applications until they’re sifted through by A.I. That’s the system, that’s the way it is, maybe we will be able to go back one day but, today, that’s reality.
Boom. I’ve covered myself. So what do we do now? We manipulate the unfair system to our advantage. We use the tools that do help us develop as young professionals to make ourselves stand out. We take the time to throw industry jargon into our LinkedIn profiles. We add key words from the job description to our résumé and cover letters to make sure our applications are selected by the A.I. systems. We go to the networking events so we can get in the rooms that the decision makers are in and, when in those rooms, we have something to say.
Technology makes things easier but it makes truly connecting more difficult. No one understands that more than those of us who learned with both a pencil at the first half of our childhood and a keyboard during our adolescence. We went to college, got out weighed down by debt, and the jobs weren’t there. Many of us are within 3 years of 30 on either side and we wonder why we haven’t made it to where The Wonder Years and The Cosby Show said we should be by now. Well, it’s because of tech. No one was ready for it. But, unless The Walking Dead is a premonition, it’s here to stay. So let’s hedge our bets and learn this new system. Take full advantage of apps like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Monster. Invest in your professional development and personal branding. It’s the only way we’ll advance.
Oh… and don’t let Boomers or anyone else shame you for not “having it together” yet. You’ll get where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there.
Make trusting the process a priority.

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

When things don’t go as planned, as is often the case, you’ve got to keep moving. Getting caught like a deer in the headlights only gets you hit by whatever 18-wheeler is coming your way.
DeerInHeadlights
Yesterday was one of the most exhausting travel days in our two and a half years of marriage. First of all, my body has not had time to adjust to any time zone during this first ten days since we left home so my sleep patterns are all out of whack. I got about 2 hours of sleep the night before the flight (if you consider 04:48 to 07:00 “night”). On June 14, I spent 16 hours either in the air or the airport (find out how I did it here). At the end of our Turkish layover, we stepped up to the gate to discover that we were missing a critical piece of documentation. In short, we weren’t going to be landing in India as we’d planned.
Come to find out, after leaving the gate, we wouldn’t be going to India at all on this trip. The documentation we needed would take four days to be approved and, by then, we would be hours from leaving for our next destination. So we did the smartest thing we could do: we purchased the Turkish visa that we had refused to purchase during our nine-hour layover. After going through two hours of customer service (now our nine-hour layover has turned into eleven), purchasing a Turkish visa, going through customs where we were redirected one time too many, finding out that the Indian Rupees we had exchanged dollars for were now worth half what we paid for them (that was a tough one), and then all but panhandling in order to access WiFi (as explained in my last post), we were finally able to get a hotel reservation *praise break*.
ButWait
We’re in an Islamic nation during Ramadan (by the way, I’d like to say that it’s messed up that Apple automatically capitalized a lowercase c when I typed Christmas but wouldn’t do the same when I typed in Ramadan) so things are moving differently and, instead of being able to catch the hotel shuttle, we had to catch a taxi that we didn’t want to take but that was the only option. Thankfully, we arrived at the hotel and it was the most beautiful ending to a challenging day. The hotel was nice, safe, and inexpensive (we would’ve paid twice this at a hotel in Charlotte and three to four times more in D.C.).
Here’s why I’m happy this happened and why I believe everything happens for a reason: Northern India can be an unkind place for black people. *NEWSFLASH* That’s the whole world, right? Right. But recently, acts of mob-like violence have been on the rise there and I had an Indian friend tell me that it’s not just unsafe for women there but also that men (specifically black men) have been targeted. She didn’t say not to go but she did say to be in before dark and never leave my tour guide’s side because whoever was our guide would help us navigate the culture. While I believe that God would have our backs wherever we went, maybe this was His/Her way of saying “Chill, bruh. No need to unnecessarily stress yourself.”
So, here I am, in Turkey and excited because, though we had a rough 24 hours, last night, I slept GREAT and today, I feel amazing. Time to go knock out a few miles.
Make seeing the beauty in the struggle a priority.

What Do You Do When The Connection’s Gone?

I will preface this post by saying that this problem is first-world in nature and an indication of the privilege many Americans have.

DesirĂ©e and I have a 9-hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey. Yes, you read that right. Nine hours. #NoTypo. We can’t We’re not leaving the airport because, to purchase a Turkish visa, you must pay 30 USD per person and we weren’t down for that. What really sucks about this layover is that there’s no way for us to connect to the internet for free. As a matter of fact, I’ve spent about 8 USD trying to connect over the first four hours ($7 on some subpar ice cream from a shop that provides “free” wifi and $1 on an “unlimited 24 hour web connection” that didn’t let me get any further than Google.com). The major problem is that, in order to connect to (what I assume is) the best internet in the airport, you need to be able to receive an SMS text message. Because we don’t have phone service here (Verizon’s international plans were just too expensive for all that), we couldn’t get the code necessary to purchase service.

But, per usual, I came prepared. Though I’ve never been to any international airport in the world that doesn’t have complimentary internet (and I’m sure I’ve been to at least 35 international airports over the past decade and a half since wifi use began norming), I knew that, on this trip, I wouldn’t always have internet connection. Therefore, while I was packing, I made sure to toss in a couple paperback books that I wanted to finish over these two months (ended up downloading the books that I packed to save on weight but you get the gist). Additionally, before leaving the United States, I snagged a few films that I had purchased on Amazon Prime and the iTunes Store. And, because I have a Spotify Premium account, I made sure to save all my favorite playlists and albums to the phone. When I got tired of being inspired by literature, cinema, and music, I’ve proceeded to write, both here on The Reader and continue working on my book. And, lastly, once all that has been done, I spend time looking through and editing photographs because, on a trip like this, there are always photos I can be touching up.

The moral of the story is you don’t need to have an link to the World Wide Web to get the most out of a layover at the airport. All these things (books, film, music, and writing) require no sustained internet connection as long as you plan ahead. But that’s enough for today; time to get back to this awesome book.

 

Make preparing for the worst a priority.

Putting Away Childish Things

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” — I Corinthians 13: 11

When I grew up, I didn’t always have the newest gadgets and toys under the Christmas tree or waiting beside my birthday cake. I specifically recall getting a Super Nintendo Entertainment System at the time the first PlayStation was released and, once the PlayStation 2 came out, I got the PlayStation. My little brother and I were always cool with it because the person I was most concerned with beating in games was him anyway and, if I needed to learn the other systems, I could always go play at Sean’s or Dame’s houses (my first cousins). Not to gripe, just to give you all some perspective. Ok, stage set. Moving out of the 1990s and into 2018.

Two weeks ago, I purchased a MacBook Pro. A couple weeks before that, I copped an iPhone X. For me, these are major purchases. The phone, not so much outside of the price tag. I didn’t get a cellphone until I was a senior in high school but I’ve always had a pretty capable mobile device because I rarely had a computer of my own that was reliable. But the laptop thing? I just didn’t see the value associated with spending an obscene amount on a computer when a $300 Microsoft Surface from Best Buy could do the same thing. I grew up thinking that it wasn’t the weapon but the wielder that won the war. And, while that is true in the long run, imagine being a master wielder with subpar weaponry and then securing tools that can enhance your skillset?

I could write on anything. Shoot, I jot down pages for my book on my phone when I’m on the move. But when it comes to designing things for projects and editing webpages and, most importantly for me as relates to this, working on photography, my MacBook adds a level of clarity that I just was not getting on a Lenovo laptop. While my Lenovos have been workhorses and I am grateful for that, at this stage, if nothing but the resolution on the screen, the extra dollars I put into making this decision will pay off tenfold in the long run.

This post isn’t about Mac vs. IBM or PlayStation vs. Nintendo or elevating the perception of where you are financially. If that’s what you got out of it, you may have missed the purpose so I’ll break it down for you. Just because you were raised with a certain mindset or in a particular circumstance doesn’t mean you have to maintain that. And it’s not that there was necessarily a problem with that mindset then. But, when you know better, you do better. I didn’t need a new gaming system every other year so it would’ve been inconsequential at the time had it not been for the impact it had toward my attitude on technology. But, as I see the benefits associated with investing in my streams of income, I’m making those investments for more deeply rooted reasons. And, yes, there is a cost associated as well as a learning curve, but I’m a lifelong learner who, Lord willing, has time to recoup the investment cost. And, if not, I think the money spent on a MacBook will be the least of my thoughts.

 

Make investing in your goals a priority.