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!
If you have been reading this blog for a while now you would remember how every year that goes by I always try to incorporate a new theme or topic that I would want to explore further along during the course of the year and see where it would take me, specially, if it aligns with the core subjects I get to cover over here from all along like Social Business, Social Computing, Enterprise 2.0, Online Communities, Collaboration, Knowledge Sharing (a.k.a. KM), Learning and, since last year, Open Business as well (Which, by the way, still remains as one of the Top Reads from this blog for 2013 overall and surely am very pleased about that one. Thanks much everyone for co-sharing that same interest!). So what is it going to be this year then, you may be wondering, right? Well, this time around, and to make up for the couple of extended breaks I took from this blog in the last few months, I am planning on making it up and, eventually, incorporate three different new themes, two of which I will be announcing in the next couple of weeks as we move into 2014, and a third one that I will be kicking off today with this particular article. The topic? Humanise. The what? Everything!
Indeed, over the course of the last few years, as I have been getting more and more involved with internal social networking in a business context, one of the many reasons that, specially, social computing evangelists have been sharing all along in terms of the clear benefits for Social / Open Business is the ability for all of those social technologies to socialise the workplace, to democratise it, to flatten it, to make it more personal and up close, to demonstrate how organisations are no longer that faceless corporate brand you just can’t engage with in a meaningful two-way-street open and direct conversation. And that’s all good. But I think we need to start aiming a bit higher than that, and perhaps become a bit more ambitious as to what we would want to achieve, beyond that social savviness. I want to aim higher myself and state how all of these social networking tools help humanise not just ourselves, as knowledge Web workers, but also the organisations we all may be working for, whether large or small.
Why? Well, essentially, because they are helping re-surface what we, human beings, have been all along and that the business world has managed to demolish over the course of the last 50 to 70 years in a very effective manner: our very own humanity. Our very own need to connect, to bond, to find that common spark amongst humans that helps us generate a connection, a link, a chemistry, a conversation, a smile.
But what if humanise would be something bigger? What if humanise wouldn’t have much to do with social technologies after all, but a wake-up call to realise who we really are (and what we have been all along!) in terms of our behaviours and rituals. What if humanise is all about demonstrating, time and time again, how we cannot neglect anymore, nor ignore, our very own human nature of wanting to connect, to collaborate, to share our knowledge, to tell stories, so that we have got a perfect opportunity to relate to others based on just those connections?
Well, that’s exactly what I am hoping to achieve with this new theme that I will be incorporating into this blog over the course of the next few days, months, year(s). An opportunity for us to challenge our current way of thinking; to also challenge the status quo of how things work in today’s (working) reality, including perhaps in our own personal lives; to understand, finally, how, in most cases, we probably just have to let things go and focus on embracing the unexpected, the uncertain, what we just can’t control anymore, or don’t know the answer for; that is, embracing fully the magic behind serendipitous knowledge discoveries (of whatever kind!) that, just by not being out there, we would have missed out on them either way.
Want an example? Take a look into this one video clip then. Courtesy of the wonderful, rather smart and witty folks behind SoulPancake. It’s a 5 minute long clip under the title “Take a Seat – Make a Friend?” where the main premise is all about opening up. In this case, opening up to total strangers (in pairs) inside a ball pit to talk about “life’s big questions” and, eventually, figure out if there would be a connection in the making.
Now, I am not going to spoil the fun for all of you folks out there wanting to see the outcome of that humanising experiment . Instead I would encourage all to take a look into the embedded code of the video, hit Play, sit back, relax and think “WOW! What would happen if we run this at my workplace?“
See? Sometimes you don’t even need to make use of any social technologies to help demonstrate that human, basic characteristic of always wanting to connect with others by just opening up to the unexpected and let the conversation do the rest. Flow naturally.
You know that summer is almost gone when September comes along in full force, work peaks up again a notch or two, and conference month kicks in. Pretty much like March, after the rather long winter months. I am not sure why, but it’s really interesting to see how both March and September themselves seem to be the busiest times of the year, at least, this year, in terms of public speaking and attending various different conference events over the course of a short couple of weeks. So as I get to prepare myself for the upcoming European World Tour I will be embarking on shortly I just couldn’t help get reminded of the power of changing the world through a rather simple, yet, incredibly inspiring action: the sharing of ideas.
Indeed, late last week I bumped into this short article by Michael Hyatt under the suggestive heading “How Your Next Speech Can Change the World“. It’s a couple of years old already (Got to love the Social Web, for that matter, in helping resurface, once again, the true golden gems hidden out there!), but it is totally worth it. It points out to a TEDx East event speech that the one and only, Nancy Duarte, the presentation goddess, put together to help demonstrate how powerful delivering a good presentation can be to excite and inspire your newly found hero: your audience.
In the past, I have been sharing a good number of different articles over here, in this blog, where I have referenced plenty of practical hints & tips on the topic of public speaking. It’s a subject that fascinates me, because there is always room for improvement. There is always something new that you can learn about inspiring others, no matter how seasoned your presentation skills may well be. There is always an opportunity to do better. That’s why, as a public speaker myself, I keep collecting, digesting, reading, learning as much as I can on the whole theme of public speaking, which is why, as of late, I have been enjoying tremendously the good bunch of rather interesting and relevant links on the topic have been shared by folks like my good friend Peter Billingham. Lots of really good stuff in there to keep you busy for a while helping you fine tune your public speaking skills.
I do realise how there are plenty of dos and don’ts for any public speaker, plenty of interesting role models and a whole lot other articles, dissertations, blog posts, various presentations, practical hints & tips, along with lots of know-how, real life, down to earth, experiences in delivering good, pragmatic, stunning speeches, but if I were to highlight and recommend highly a single resource, my new favourite is the one Michael highlighted on that short blog entry from a couple of years ago from Nancy Duarte herself. Why? Well, for multiple various reasons, but perhaps because of this superb quote that I think pretty much resonates with my own experiences with not only the public speaking I have done in the past, but also what I have learned from having attended, witnessed, gotten excited / amazed by the several hundreds of presentations I have had the privilege of experiencing fully over the course of the years. To quote:
“If you communicate an idea in a way that resonates, change will happen“
How empowering and truly inspiring is that quote to highlight how important the sharing of ideas openly out there, through the Social Web as well, perhaps, has been all along? How inspirational can it be that the main obstacle you need to get rid of when promoting your idea(s), your passion(s) is no other than yourself. We all are our very own first obstacle in sharing what drives us, just because we think no-one is going to be interested, nor find it relevant, or because no-one is going to pay much attention, or perhaps because we assume no-one is going to like our very own ideas.
Ether way, if you would want to learn a lot more about the drive behind those ideas, your own ideas, about the empowering inspiration of story, who the real hero is, after all, when delivering a presentation, how critical “meeting with the mentor” may well be, and what’s the shape of a great presentation, eventually, this is a video clip you just can’t miss. Nancy Duarte at her best. Be prepared to be wowed, because you will.
I know for sure it will be totally worth it the 18 minutes that it lasts and I can guarantee you that you will never look at a presentation at a public speaking event the same way.
And that’s a good thing.