What else has been keeping me busy. Part 2.

Flashback time… cue the wibbly-wobbly screen effects…

I’ve been in Toastmasters for just over a year now and greatly enjoying it. When it came time to elect a new executive for my club, several of the more experienced members suggested quite strongly that I take the post of VP Education. Now something like that takes a lot of time to do right and really my extra time right now should be dedicated to getting a job. Added to which, when I do get a job who knows if I’m even going to be able to make it to the meetings at 7pm, let alone have the time to dedicate to a VP role. So I decided not to get myself involved in the executive and stood firm.

In a way it was lucky I did because I’m now taking an evening course on my Toastmasters night so I won’t be attending any club meetings at all for three months!

We have a new Toastmasters club forming in my neighbourhood with a specific focus on business and technology people. “Perfect,” I thought, “let’s go network there”. So I attended a couple of meetings as a guest during the summer. One of the experienced Toastmasters mentoring that club took me aside and asked me if I was interested in being the new Area Governor. Whoa! That’s a heck of a vote of confidence (or desperation *LOL*) – but also something that sounds quite exciting. The Area Governor is responsible for serving the needs of the clubs in their Area (in our case, 6 clubs), visiting them and motivating them.  Despite my reluctance to be on my own club’s executive, I did consider this for a bit. But again, it’s a commitment of time and energy that should be going somewhere else so I said no.

Fast forward a month… and one of the experienced members of my club announces that she’s decided to accept the offer of becoming the new Area Governor. Good for her!

Fast forward another month… and I get a frantic 3am email from our new Area Governor begging me to help her out as she’s too busy to do it all herself. Of course put like that, that’s a request that I can’t turn down… and so I’m now Assistant Area Governor.

What does this mean for me? Well, I’ve attended a couple of Toastmasters training sessions, networked with a lot of experienced Toastmasters. I’ve also become a regular at our new still-getting-off-the-ground club, taking on whatever roles are vacant to help make sure they’ve got enough experienced people to conduct each meeting. And last week I visited two other established clubs in our area, with my official hat on.

A club visit is a major thing. It takes preparation (contact the club president, find out about the club, find out what the president’s direction is for the club, prepare a presentation that fits along with that), then the visit itself, then a meeting with the president afterwards to discuss things face to face, then a write-up, a thank-you email and some form-filling.

Historically speaking, all the clubs in our area have kept themselves to themselves – not a lot of contact between them. Which is a shame because I find you get a lot more out of Toastmasters if you’re listening to different speakers, and it’s more of a challenge for you when you’re presenting to strangers. So one of the things that I personally want to do this year (and fortunately our Area Governor wants the same thing too!) is encourage the clubs to communicate with each other. Get some of the members to drop in on other meetings, maybe organise a debating contest or two between clubs… that sort of thing.

My club visits went very well. Both clubs are stable and well run. Both clubs would like to have more contact with the other clubs in the area. I’m greatly looking forward to facilitating that!

24th September 2008 at 6:06 pm Leave a comment

There’s a reason I haven’t posted

No… nothing broken, no hospital visits.

It’s the beginning of the fall term at BCIT and time to choose courses. This term I really wanted to concentrate on Java. I’ve got a lot of previous Java experience but it’s getting a bit rusty and the tools and APIs have moved on since I last used it in anger.

BCIT offer a very interesting looking course called Java Web Applications (COMP 3631) that covers some great technology – primarily servlets and JavaServer Pages. Stuff I’m really keen to learn about and great marketable skills. However it requires Advanced Java as a prerequisite. Now I’ve done all that stuff… I’ve even taken an Advanced Java course in the past. But I’m kinda rusty on it.

BCIT do offer an Advanced Java course (COMP 3621). Maybe I should take that one instead. It would be a good course to get me back up to speed… but it’s basically revision – I wouldn’t really be learning anything new.

That was a tough decision. In the end I decided to take the Java Web Services class on Tuesday evenings – what Java I’m missing I can pick up as I go along. Class was great, lecturer is great, course content looks fantastic. Then on Wednesday I’m musing… you know, if I’m SERIOUS about this then I should give my Java all the help I can and be sure to fill in any gaps – and I should take the Advanced Java course as well. And so I signed up for that one as well and I’ve been going along to that on Thursdays.

Same tutor for both classes which is good. As well as a couple of assignments for each course, he also sets lab work each week for each class so I’m spending time outside the classroom working with the course material – which is great, but eats into my free time.

That’s actually only ONE of THREE major time sinks over the last week or two… more to come later.

21st September 2008 at 11:27 am Leave a comment

Free Geek

So it took rather longer than anticipated but I finally got to pay a visit to Free Geek Vancouver at the weekend for my introductory volunteer training session (and also to donate a trunk full of unwanted hardware of my own).

First impressions? Besides the rather unsavory neighbourhood (two blocks North of Hastings, just East of the docks). Bigger than I expected… a 60’x30′ receiving area stacked to the 12 foot high ceilings with cases and PCs, one person disassembling incoming PCs and cleaning them, another person testing the components and a third person disassembling the junk to be sent off for recycling. Then upstairs a 30’x10′ office that looks kinda like my study on a tidy day – components and part-built PCs everywhere! Four people in there building customer PCs and loading them up with Ubuntu (and presumably OpenOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird).

They also have a little thrift store where they sell surplus components – if you want a 3GHz Athlon Thunderbird or 256MB of PC133 memory this is the place to go!

Amongst all the cookie-cutter PCs that people donate to them, there’s also a lot of historical gems… in the hour I was there I spotted a Commodore Pet 2001 (Qwerty keyboard, not the original chiclet keyboard), TRS-80 portable, Apple IIe, an original Macintosh and, something I didn’t even know existed, an extremely late model 8000series Commodore Pet looking remarkably like this.

One thing I hadn’t realized about their business model: the majority of their output goes to non-profit organizations who fill in a hardware grant request and get whatever they want built for free. The rest goes for free or ultra-cheap to individuals who want to get online but can’t afford a new computer. As far as actual revenue to pay the rent, I think the majority of it comes from scrap sold for recycling and money from the thrift store.

I think I can be quite useful there – 15 years experience dismantling and rebuilding PCs for fun and 5 years experience in Linux. Now I’m ‘trained’ I can’t wait to get back there for a proper day’s “work”!

4th September 2008 at 1:49 am Leave a comment

Job application typos

What is it about replying to a job posting that means it’s impossible to spot a typo in your cover letter, even if you read it through a dozen times?

However approximately two seconds after you hit send (you know – at the moment when the “sending” progress bar hits 95% and disables the cancel button) the error jumps out and hits you in the face.

“Please accept this resume in application for the Java developer position advertised on Craiglist.”

Damn!

7th August 2008 at 4:55 pm Leave a comment

Toastmasters tonight

I was supposed to be evaluating one of the prepared speeches but a couple of our speakers can’t make it so things have been changed around.

Instead I’m Table Topics Master. It’s an interesting role… you get to stand up and, to a certain extent, be the focus of attention… but on the other hand you can’t let your creativity run riot. You have to set table topics questions which are fun and interesting but not too difficult – especially as we usually try to get our guests to come up and speak during Table Topics.

The first time I was TT Master the theme I set was “Spinning Bad News Into Good” and had people pretend to be politicians taking subjects like “an earthquake has just flattened downtown Vancouver” and tell us why this was good news. We can safely say it was one of the harder Table Topics sessions!

Tonight’s meeting theme is “New Beginning”… and what’s the ultimate “beginning”? Why, a birth of course! So I’m going to be presenting the names of several people born on the 7th August and asking people to talk about them. I’m not expecting anybody (apart from me!) to know who Alexei Sayle is – it’s more for people to just talk randomly for two minutes about what they imagine when they see the name they’ve picked. And then I’ve got 15 seconds of info to give after their speech about who the person actually was. I think it could go down quite well – wish me luck!

7th August 2008 at 3:20 pm 2 comments

I think congratulations are in order!

I just got the marks for last term’s evening class at BCIT.

I did COMP2691 (Advanced Windows Application Development) and, unlike the courses I’d taken previously, found myself quite stretched by it – the lecturer had a reputation for cramming in a lot of material and it was seriously fast paced.

Anyway, it was a very interesting course… and I got full marks! Yep – 100% !

Not strictly true to say that I didn’t drop a mark – the lecturer gave everybody a 10% mark boost in the mid-term (which took my 93% up to 100%) and I suspect he must have done something similar in the final. But still – I’m very proud of that.

24th July 2008 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

Toastmasters – how to evaluate

So last week I gave my Toastmasters speech on the subject of speech evaluation (there’s a good way to put your evaluator on the spot!).

As usual I ran over time – I’m yet to completely compensate for the way the speech expands in length from my practising at home to when I give it for real and 7 minutes just turns out to be far too short a time to convey much useful information. When the warning lights started to come on I made a decision to cut two paragraphs that I’d earlier marked as optional… and I still ran over.

But apart from the timing and a moment when I lost my thread and had to stare at my notes, it went very well. We were in a different room to our usual one and the noise levels were much higher – we had a busy swimming pool the other side of plate glass windows all the way down one side of the room. They helped force me to push myself and really project my voice – which was a good thing because it was a speech project about using your voice effectively!

I talked briefly about what goes into a good speech and how these are things that you should look for when evaluating. I also mentioned the things that are looked for in the Toastmasters speech evaluation contest – logically it makes sense to also think about those when doing an evaluation. But the focus of my speech was that speech evaluation is a personal thing. Everybody is affected differently by a speech and, given that three minutes isn’t enough time to talk about everything that the speaker did, I think it’s important to concentrate on the things that move YOU. For me personally, that’s the introduction. If you can’t grab the audience’s attention in the first thirty seconds of your speech then you’re sure as hell not going to have it by the middle of your speech. I also recommended that, after you’ve given your first couple of evaluations and found your “evaluation style”, type-up a crib sheet… something that provides a skeleton for you to hang your evaluation on… headings about things to look for, spaces marked out for things you know you’ll want to comment on, that sort of thing.

And then… my secret technique… when you’ve written all this stuff down during the speech, you have a mass of scribblings all out of order. Remember that an evaluation is like a mini speech in itself: it needs an introduction, a body with transitions between your points and a conclusion. So I write sequence numbers next to the things I want to talk about on my crib sheet. That way, when I’m standing up and speaking, my thoughts will flow in a coherent order.

The audience went wild *LOL*. I felt like a rock star – never had quite that many congratulations after a speech before!

This week I’m chairman… I have a good theme but I’m not feeling desperately enthused.

24th July 2008 at 12:45 pm Leave a comment

Building computers for other people

I was at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival at the weekend and ran across a stall for Free Geek.

They’re a volunteer organization that takes people’s unwanted old computers, strips them down, ethically recycles the unusable parts, takes the reusable parts and builds them into fresh computers. Then loads Ubuntu onto them and sells them dirt cheap or gives them away to people who need access to a computer but can’t afford one.

Sounds like a damn fine organization to me. And, given that this is the sort of thing I do for myself all the time, it sounds like somewhere I should be able to do some useful volunteer work.

If the planets align, I’ll go down there next Wednesday and see what it’s all about.

22nd July 2008 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

Toastmasters

At last night’s Toastmasters meeting I was doing speech evaluation again. They really enjoy my evaluations so seem to slot me in to do one almost every week! It gets a touch embarrassing at times… they award ribbons for the best evaluator every week and probably 3/4 of the time it’s me! In fact the chairman joked last night that I have an entire room decorated with Best Evaluator ribbons!

I’m seldom totally happy with my evaluations but last night I thought I really nailed it. And won Best Evaluator again! Not that I’m not very pleased to be recognized, but I do feel a bit sorry for the other evaluators sometimes. I’ve always found speech evaluation to be the most challenging thing we do at Toastmasters, when I first started I HATED it… basically you’re doing a 3 minute speech and you’ve only got about 20 minutes to prepare it. Everybody who steps up to do a speech evaluation has worked hard… and yet they seldom get the ribbon for it.

Well, it’s time for me to give something back. Next week I’m giving a speech and, given that everybody seems to think I’m good at speech evaluation, I’m going to give a speech on speech evaluation! See if I can pass on some of these tricks I apparently have 🙂

11th July 2008 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

Job application – fail

Just got a job application rejection from Elastic Path

Not my first rejection, I guess I shouldn’t be too upset by it… but I am!

Via a convoluted path (a workmate of my wife is a friend of a project manager there) I got a “we’re looking for developers” email. Phoned up the project manager who was very friendly and seemed impressed by my experience. They’re a Java shop and I’ve got Java experience but have been concentrating on C# & .NET skills. I pointed this out but he seemed pleased that I at least had a couple of years Java experience.

They’re apparently looking for developers at all levels, although their website only makes specific reference to Senior Developer. The company looks fantastic – their primary product is an ecommerce framework built in Java over a collection of strong open source components. Lots of high profile customers, small & dynamic organization, great technology.

So I sent my resume in. A week later he asks me for my BCIT transcripts… and is impressed by my grades (97% and 98% *buffs fingernails on lapel*)… and then rejects me.

But he was good enough to talk to me about WHY they were rejecting me. Seemed to centre around me not being able to hit the ground running… lack of current experience… maybe I should target intermediate positions etc etc.

All true and valid – but kinda frustrating because I understood that. I was a senior developer for many years but, having been out of the industry for nearly 5 years now, I’m not expecting to jump into a senior role and my cover letter explicitly says that I’m looking for an intermediate position.

Still, what’s done is done. A company I’d really love to work for so I’ll be keeping an eye on them in case they add any intermediate positions in the future as I continue working at updating that skillset.

10th July 2008 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts Newer Posts


September 2020
M T W T F S S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

RSS Jon Jennings on Twitter

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.