The Trials and Tribulations of an Independent Freelancer – Your Online Bio Profile and Digital Footprint
It’s been a month since I last posted a blog entry over here and I am sure plenty of you folks out there may be wondering what I have been up to and everything, right? After all, leaving IBM after 17 years of dedicated work on topics I am very passionate about can definitely have a certain emotional toll that perhaps would need for some time to go by before moving into greener pastures. Well, that’s exactly what I have been doing in the last few weeks: learn, unlearn, relearn, and continue to help change the world of work. One human at a time.
Right after I announced I was joining Change Agents Worldwide, a lot of things have happened, as I am sure you would be able to guess, including my first business trip as an independent freelancer to the Enterprise 2.0 Summit event in Paris, meeting up some pretty amazing people (Old good friends and plenty of new ones!), celebrating my birthday shortly afterwards (@elsua v4.2 upload fully complete now!), and then upon my return back home I decided to go for a break, a detox break. One where I would have the opportunity to spend quality time offline, unlearning from over the last 17 years of big corporate work / life and start pondering what I would be doing next, including executing the system of me.
That break away from everything (highly recommend, by the way, if you are just about to embark on a similar journey) was just wonderful and so much needed I didn’t even realise about it till I eventually came back last week and got things started with my new business. Yes, as you can see, even on my writing I’m still coming to terms with embracing that new language and narrative of being an independent freelancer embarking on a new and exciting adventure. I know that time will eventually help out its fairer bit with the readjusment and everything, so I guess I will just let it play along. And wait. Patiently.
Interestingly enough, and over the course of that quiet period from the Social Web, I eventually spent plenty of time talking to people in my close networks about the massive change and what it could well mean for yours truly as I move forward into an uncertain, yet, exciting brave new world. And it was remarkable to notice how plenty of those good friends suggested how I may need between 4 months, up to two years!, for that transition to complete and to shake it all off. Whoah! I am not too sure I am ready for that. So I decided to kick things off, instead, and last week Monday was my first official day in the new job. And if there is anything that I have learned, and that I had a hunch for from way before about it becoming my new reality over the course of the years, was the fact that, whether you like it or not, you are the product of your networks and your networks are the product of you. So you may need to buckle up and start acting accordingly.
As simple as that. And right after that realisation I had that strong, big ah-ha moment, while talking to plenty of folks in my network (And many more to come, I am sure!, since I can only fit so many voice / video conversations on a given day!) that I may be successful (or not) as a freelancer on the topics that I am truly passionate about, but the odds increase tremendously when as part of that journey it all becomes a shared success, where one now embarks oneself on that determination to make your networks successful just as much (if not more!) along the way. Why? Well, because if you ever manage to make your network(s) successful, there is a great chance that you would be as well.
And to that extent last week was just incredible! The first couple of potential customer prospects came along around Social Business Adoption & Enablement. I am currently working this week on putting together the proposals for each of them hoping they will get accepted and we are off to some great work coming together. The usual catch up with my close networks brought up some pretty inspiring and thought provoking insights I am hoping to be able to blog about over here in its due time. One of them in particular has changed completely how I view my new work life and that one of others as I keep challenging them to think about that newly acquired insight that I will be blogging about shortly, since it does have a direct effect on my day to day work routines.
I resurfaced as well back from the dead quiet into the social streams and it’s been quite a surprising and reenergising experience altogether diving into the social networks while not thinking anymore there is a firewall out there! As a trivia of sorts, last week, as an example, I spent about a day and a half on Twitter alone, where I know that in my previous work life it would have been a whole lot less! And it was wonderful being capable of catching up with people’s lives and work from a far distance, but yet feel so loosely bounded. The engagement has been stunning and, of course, serendipity brought its magic into new heights resulting in having plenty of those same conversations not only about exercises of both clarity and work out loud, but also on finding ways of helping each other continue to grow further along. And that, of course, includes Change Agents Worldwide as well in the mix. Just brilliant!
— Luis Suarez (@elsua) March 3, 2014
With a new logo, which eventually became my Twitter avatar while I am already working my way towards putting together a Web site with a brilliant designer I know and whom I would be introducing you all to him once we are ready for launch! (Yes, I am going to keep the suspense for a little while longer… He is that good! hehe)
But there have been some initial challenges as well, for sure. And some pretty good ones, too! Like, for instance the following one that I tweeted about and that I am still trying to figure out how to best work around it. To name:
Ok, so, why is it so difficult to rewrite your online bio/profile on social spaces out there? Struggling more than I thought I would Grrr
— Luis Suarez (@elsua) March 4, 2014
Ha! Who would have thought that after having worked at the largest IT firm in the world for all of those years, doing what I am really passionate about all along around KM, Social Computing, CommunityBuilding, Learning, Enterprise 2.0, Social Business, Open Business, etc., I would struggle this much now to put it all in writing to share it out there with folks. Writing your own biography or profile is not easy, perhaps it wasn’t meant to be in the first place, despite the couple of rather helpful links available out there to guide you on how you could get it done easily.
I mean, it’s been 7 years since I last updated my LinkedIn bio profile (Yes, I know, I know, so much overdue altogether!). It’s been well over a year that I last updated my bio in Google Plus, Slideshare, Flickr, Tumblr, amongst several other different social spaces. The About page, for instance, on my blog (Supposedly, the most frequently visited page from *any* blog, according to some studies) hasn’t been touched for a good couple of years (Even my profile picture will no longer show up!). Goodness! What a mess! Who would have thought having a good relevant bio that talks about your skills, experiences and know-how would be this difficult to put together and then share across, right?
Well, here’s when your network(s) will come to the rescue for you and help you out where you may need it the most! Right when I was conversing about this existentialist challenge on Twitter about updating your own biography in terms of one’s own digital bio footprint my good friend Esteban Kolsky shared this tidbit:
@elsua dude, dont overthink it – i have not revised mine since day one; your work is more important than your profile – write, not a profile
— Esteban Kolsky (@ekolsky) March 5, 2014
WOW! Right there it just hit me. And big time! Right there, indeed, I realised how most folks from my network do not necessarily know me because of my brilliant profile and extended biography, but more because of what I have done over the course of the years around the main themes I mentioned above already, and, perhaps, specially, around Social / Open Business. That’s probably where I should continue to focus on from here onwards, i.e. write about my / our joint work, instead of procrastinating away, day in day out, trying to figure out what to put together for one’s biography. The bio should be a collection of the work you have done over time and that you may well have documented, more or less, through your own Internet blog or whatever other social networking tool of your choice. Anything else is just a bit silly, don’t you think? I mean, it’s been 5 years since the last time that I updated my CV! Yes, 5 years! And no-one ever asked me to keep it up to date. There was work to be done, instead.
But what happens when you need to put something together for those people who may not know you just yet? What would you tell them? How would you describe yourself to them to give them a quick glimpse of what you are about without sounding too much like an elevator pitch (Topic that, by the way, I will be talking about plenty more shortly!)? Well, I gave that one a bit of thought and I eventually put together the following short bio:
“Luis Suarez is a Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide. A well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business, and has been living, for the last 6 years, a corporate world without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and, overall, smart work. He currently blogs over at elsua.net and can be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua, Google Plus or LinkedIn”
And, somehow, it’s sticking along. For how long? I am not too sure, I guess it will be one of those projects on perpetual beta, but I do know for the time being it’s helping me focus not so much on putting together multiple bios for multiple different sites and get the job done effectively while I keep working along on other, perhaps more important, items. Like writing, or creating the new wave of all things #elsua.
Either way, over the course of the next few days, I will be updating all of the various different online bio profiles to include that text or something very similar, while I ramp up efforts for the Web site launch, which will mark the official kick-off of my new work life as an independent freelancer. Oh, and one more thing, since a long time ago I embraced both the working out loud mantra and the various different Open Business principles, I am also hoping to continue blogging over here from now onwards on a more regular basis detailing what it is like this whole new adventure. More than anything else, because I suspect that your learning is going to be my learning. And that’s a good thing, I suppose, don’t you think?
Let’s do it!
And, finally, the last blog post of the series of entries where I’ve been detailing what I would be doing from here onwards, as I begin my next adventure as an independent chief emergineer. Earlier on in the week I blogged about the why, then the what and now I guess it’s a good time to talk about the with whom, as part of that mantra of “use systems too boost your odds, passion to get energy and luck to change the game“. In short, the system of we! That’s why it’s a great pleasure and true honour for me to announce I’m now part, as a charter member, of the Change Agents Worldwide network with a simple and rather clear mission: change the way we work!
That’s right! In a now more than ever hyperconnected, networked and complex systems driven working environment I pretty soon came to the conclusion, as I went solo and independent, that my odds to make a bigger difference out there would have been more notorious by being part of a network of rather talented, passionate, engaged, inspiring and rather thought-provoking knowledge (Web) workers, with whom, if anything, you sense you aren’t anymore the smartest person in the room, the network is.
And being able to tap into that unprecedented brain power to share ideas openly, to learn from one another, to collaborate by sharing your knowledge in a rather open and transparent manner, to innovate, to co-create, to continue walking the talk on redefining the workplace of the future and, for that matter, the future of work, I felt it was just too much of an enticing opportunity to ignore that I haven’t just been capable of getting rid of from my mind over the course of the last few weeks. Of course, without a single doubt, I had to join Change Agents Worldwide (@chagww).
I know, I know. At this point in time I am pretty certain most of you folks out there would be wondering what Change Agents Worldwide are all about, after all, right? Well, here’s one of the elevator pitches we are using I quite enjoy as it describes, pretty nicely, what we are all about:
— Susan Scrupski (@SusanScrupski) January 14, 2014
Remember when I just mentioned above being part of a network of folks who walk the talk, leading by example, on redefining the workplace of the future? Well, that’d be it, in all of its splendour. Perhaps this other definition may help some more as well. A bit more wordy though, but worth while sharing across:
“We built our network based on the principles driving the evolving Web. We believe in transparency, sharing, collaboration, authenticity, and trust. Operationally, we function as a cooperative. Value is realised by every node in the network. As the network grows, the benefits to our client grow exponentially”.
You can probably notice how excited I am for being part of such an amazing network of incredibly knowledgeable and generous people all around. To me, though, the beauty and mind-boggling privilege of joining #CAWW is something bigger, more massive than whatever I could have anticipated for. From here onwards I’m going to be working together AND networking with … friends, in the true sense of the word “friends”. That’s right, plenty of the folks from the #CAWW network are people who I already know for over 10 years, way before Social Networking for Business or Social Business were the new buzzwords. The breath and extensive knowledge they all have got around areas like Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Learning, SNA, ONA, Org. Change, Org. Design, Management / Leadership Consultancy, Corporate Communications, Digital Workplace Transformation, Social Computing, Social Business, Social Learning, and a rather long etc. of skills, experiences and knowhow make me feel like my learning curve all of a sudden has gone sky through the roof!
Life(-long learning) in perpetual beta FTW!!
And the excitement gets bigger and bigger, by the minute, when, early next week, I’ll be meeting up about a dozen of them, face to face, in Paris, at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit. Check out the overall agenda for Day One and Day Two (Along with the Masterclass Workshops) to get a quick glimpse of the massive brain share that will be taking place over the course of the next few days with everyone involved in Social Business flocking to what’s, by far, one of the best events in Europe around this very same topic… It’s going to be a fun event, I can tell you!
I bet at this point in time you may be wondering what are the various different names of that lovely global network of Change Agents, right? I tell you, if you have been in the space of Social Business and Social Networking for a good while you probably know already vast majority of them. But, as an additional teaser, allow me to share over here first a couple of testimonials from themselves about their own experiences of being a member of the CAWW network. Let’s start with my good friend Harold Jarche:
“Change Agents Worldwide is a new type of consultancy, which functions as a transparent cooperative. It includes solo change agents (like me) and enterprise change agents who are trying to bring about change in their respective workplaces. This is a network of progressive and passionate professionals, who really want to bring about substantive change in how work gets done.“
How about the always inspiring Kevin Jones:
“Imagine a company without managers or employees but a ton of leadership. One that has a physical address only because, by law, it needs one while it uses the world as its playground. Where the status quo does not exist. Nor does a hierarchy or a vacation policy. Where teams who work together may have never met, but their collective ideas and expertise melt together to create the most innovative solutions to business’ most vexing problems. We have recruited the best minds in a mere matter of a few months. Their experience is vast. The collective knowledge and wisdom frightening.“
Or, perhaps, these few words from the only and only Marcia Conner:
“Without a doubt the smartest, most insightful, on-the-ball group of people I have ever worked with–and by ‘working with’ I mean ‘learning from, and at a distance no less’ because most everything any one of them says or writes or does is nourishing to my soul. Together and individually we’re all committed to creating a better world, where organizations can have dramatically better outcomes because they value the capabilities of people. We’re just getting started, but it’s a long time in the making, so many of us working on our own on this for years, dreaming of finding people who we can work on this with together … because it’s time!“
I could go on sharing some more additional testimonials (You could read them all over here in this link, if you would want to), but I guess you are all dying to know who the entire CAWW network of members are, right? So, here we go, then. Without much further ado, and in no particular order, this is the network of people who have made it possible, for me, the system of we!:
There is a Twitter List out there already currently being curated by Celine herself, if you would want to start following what we are all up to. After all, one of our key main areas of joint work is, eventually, working out loud and I am sure I will have plenty of opportunities to share with you folks over here what we have been up to lately, including the publishing of an upcoming eBook under this rather suggestive heading: “Changing the World of Work. One Human at a Time“.
And you know what is really cool about Change Agents Worldwide? Well, that it is not a closed network, so you, too, could join us! And start walking the talk today, actively participating on what it is like being at the forefront of the future of work: The Socially Integrated “Enterprise”.
Let The Next Adventure Begin … Welcome to Change Agents WorldWide! (#CAWW)
After yesterday’s blog post, I guess today’s the one everyone has been waiting for. Myself included. For a good number of weeks, I have been having lots of conversations on the side with plenty of people, where I have been hinting what I will be doing next and while, all along, I have been trying to disguise my excitement about the next adventure(s), and what the future may hold from here onwards, it’s now the time for me to unleash what I will be working on from here onwards. A system of me, Luis Suarez, a.k.a. elsua.
Before I go on and explain what I mean with that system of me, please do allow me to share a story over here that would help explain why I am choosing those words carefully in terms of what I will be doing next. You will see how, once again, serendipity has done its magic into setting up the pace of how things will happen from here onwards. It all started with IBM Connect, IBM’s premier conference event around Social Business, that takes place, in January, every year in Orlando, Florida.
This year I was scheduled to speak at three different sessions, including the rather splendid and big hit Pardon the Interruption Social Business Hot Topics (Part Deux) my good friend Louis Richardson kindly hosted again doing a superb piece of work, along with both partners in crime Luis Benitez and Matt Ridings. Alas, as you can imagine, things didn’t work out and, eventually, I couldn’t make it. Matt graciously covered for me though pretty much nailing it! Thanks for that, Matt! Nice work! So, since I couldn’t be there in the end, I turned myself into the Livestream option (along with catching up with it over the various different streams). And BOOM! There it happened.
On Day 2 of the event, on perhaps one of the most inspiring keynote sessions I can remember in years, that I am pretty certain I would be able to cover in upcoming blog posts, there was one keynote speaker that totally blew me away and, judging from the lifestream itself, the live audience, too! Scott Adams (the father of Dilbert) was on stage talking about failure and the critical role it plays in helping you succeed in the long run.
You can watch a replay of the livestream of Scott’s speech over here or hit the Play button on the embedded code below. It would be totally worth it the 30 minutes of your time, I can guarantee you that, to say the least:
Without spoiling it too much, Scott gets to talk about three main key points that I thought I would share across over here, as teasers, to entice you to watch through it in its entirety:
- “Goals are for losers
- Passion, totally overrated
- Luck can be manipulated”
He gets to talk about how goals no longer cut it in today’s constant world of change. Just the sheer complexity of it all makes it almost impossible to cope with them and still make sense. Instead, he talks about trying a system. “Something you do regularly that improves your odds and makes you more valuable (ideally)”. A system where you get to build further along a lovely set of complementary skills that would accumulate over the years by putting them into practice on a regular basis so that it will keep improving those odds of becoming successful, regardless of what criteria you may want to use to define success.
He also has got a very interesting and noble approach towards replacing will-power with knowledge, towards replacing that same will-power with habit. And the examples he mentions are true golden gems most folks out there would be able to relate to.
He then gets to talk about how passion is totally overrated. How while it may get you there, that very same passion may as well be the main cause for your many failures over the course of time, and, while not neglecting it, after all, he still thinks it’s important and relevant to be passionate about what you do, he mentioned how it’s probably much more effective to not just focus on your passion, but focus on helping boost your personal energy. Essentially, become physically and mentally more alert instead. WOW! Just brilliant!
Finally, he gets to talk about luck and how it can be manipulated. How people who consider themselves “lucky” have, most probably, a wider field of perception, meaning that they would notice opportunities others wouldn’t notice. And embrace them. Essentially, you get to define and provoke your own luck, based on what you perceive and build further on over the course of time.
His major conclusion? An inspiring, rather thought-provoking and mind-blowing one liner that certainly has stuck with me ever since I heard it a few days back and that, I am sure, will define my life from here onwards and whatever the career path(s) I may get to choose:
“Use systems to boost your odds, passion to get energy, and luck to change the game”
That’s why I am very pleased and rather excited altogether to announce that after 17 years at IBM, working as a Knowledge Manager, Community Builder, Social Business Evangelist and Enabler, it’s now time for me to go independent and embrace that system of me, Luis Suarez, a.k.a. elsua.
Yes, that’s right! After 17 long years working in the largest corporate IT environment there is out there at the moment, and having had a blast all along, it’s now time for me to embrace both the unknown and the uncertain: to become an independent, a free spirit, a solopreneur, a provocateur of sorts, a change agent, a free radical, an outrageous and true optimist hippie 2.0 aiming at wanting to change the world, for the better.
Oh, and I won’t be alone, in case you are wondering…
That was the much needed change that I guess my inner self was looking forward to over the course of the last couple of years, where hint after hint, you start seeing it coming and, in the end, there is nothing else that you can do other than embrace the change and try to make the most out of it; and while I certainly looked into other potential opportunities of working in other large corporate environments, I thought this time around was probably going to be the best timing to go ahead and rediscover myself to find out who I really am, what I really want to do, how I can help others become better at what they do already and, eventually, change the world.
See? The true spirit of that free hippie 2.0 kicking in again.
But “how are you going to do that?” I am pretty sure that’s what’s going on in your head at the moment while you keep reading this article, right? Well, that’s where the system of me idea kicks in. Instead of focusing on a single goal and work really hard towards achieving it, as part of that new adventure of going solo, I am going to try to keep as many options open as I possibly can, and let that focus, purpose and meaning I mentioned earlier on, in another post, decide which one(s) would be a failure I can learn from, move on and stick around with the one(s) that will help me progress further in my life-long learning experience(s) with that new round of complimentary skills.
In a way, you could think about this next stage on my (work) life as an opportunity to rediscover myself, reflect on what I have learned and applied over the course of the last 17 years and see if there would be an opportunity to apply them in a completely different environment from that one of the big corporate world: that is, the freelance economy. A recent article under the suggestive heading of “How Freelancers Are Redefining Success To Be About Value, Not Wealth“, pretty much nails it for me on what I feel, rather strongly, is the workplace of the future, if there ever was a brilliant one, that would be it. And, somehow, in whatever form or shape, I quite enjoy both the challenge and the opportunity of being part of it.
Now, I do know, and fully realise, that it’s not going to be an easy ride. I don’t expect it to be. Quite the contrary. It’s going to be full of uncertainty, facing the unknown in most cases, and experiencing plenty of new scenarios that I never thought, in the recent past, I would had the bravery and courage to face, like the prospect of no longer having a secure job or a fixed monthly income at a time when, where I live, in the Canary Islands, Spain, the unemployment rate is over 33% of the total active working population. Yet, somehow, I feel it’s also a good time for me to see if I can put to the test all of those acquired skills over the course of the years and put them to good use as an independent freelancer. I bet it will be quite an interesting self-discovery experience altogether as well, don’t you think?
So, at this point in time, and perhaps to close off this longish article for now, you may be wondering what are going to be the main focus areas I will be working on from here onwards as an independent freelancer, solopreneur or autónomo (Spanish), right? Well, like I mentioned above, and in order to unleash the system of elsua to help increase the odds of opportunity and success, here are some of the areas I will be working on:
- Social / Computing Business and Open Business evangelism
- Social Business Strategy and Digital Transformation Consultancy
- Social Business Enablement and Adoption / Adaptation (Including IBM Connections)
- Knowledge Management, Learning and Org. Change Management (Org. Design)
- Online Community Building and Facilitation
- Digital / Executive Coaching
- International public speaking
- Freelance writing
- English teaching (See? I am still an English teacher with a passion for teaching and learning and that’s not going away any time soon!)
And, finally, Life Without eMail. Of course, I couldn’t let this one slip out, just like that, right? After all, it’s what most people still know me for out there and have been thinking that if I have managed to successfully survive in the largest email driven IT firm in the world over the course of the last 6 years, it’s now time to enter a new phase, a new challenge altogether: live a life without email as an independent freelancer / solopreneur. And see whether I am capable of pulling it off or not, moving all of my interactions into social networking tools. At least, as many as I possibly can, just like I have been doing for the last few years in the corporate world.
I know most of you folks may be thinking that there are perhaps too many different options out there that I will be working on from here onwards and everything and that, maybe, I will be spreading too thin, but all along I have been thinking that this whole new experience is pretty much going to be shaped not only by what I do and learn along the way, but also by how I would be interacting, conversing and learning with my networks across the board. Because, if there is anything that I have learned over the course of the last 15 years that I have been involved with social networking is that you are never going solo. There is an entire network of people who care, who surely know and understand what you are good at, and what not, and, as such, they would become your helping hand and invaluable source of feedback to keep you on track of how you are helping that very same network become successful at what they already do.
After all, we are living in a Network Era and there is no turning point back. And do you know what’s the one single ah-ha moment that I will be enjoying the most from this brave new world of (hyper)connectedness and conversations that I am about to enter from here onwards? Well, that, all along, and over the course of the last 17 years, I have been preparing myself to become a freelancer for life, always nurturing my networks, no matter what.
And I won’t be alone…
Let the next adventure begin! Unleashing the system of we!