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Alicia Blain

Entries tagged with “CIO Magazine”.


Did you know that there’s a museum dedicated just to the history of computers?  Well there is. It’s called, aptly enough, the Computer History Museum  . I bet you can even guess where its located.  If you said Silicon Valley, you’d be right, duh!

Well they just opened a huge exhibit (25,000 square feet!!) which they named Computer History: The First 2,000 years.  That was also the title CIO Magazine used to give us a sneak peek at some of the exhibit highlights. Click here to see the article by Lucas Mearian & the slideshow featuring some of the technologies on display.

Talk about back in the day!!   Two thousand years is really going back.  I loved looking through the exhibit highlights.  It just shows you how far we’ve come with respect to technology.

Even if you’re not a geek, you’ll enjoy looking through the slideshow to see how far innovation, creativity & experimentation have taken us.  And of course, as always, I encourage you to share the slideshow with your Gen Yers to really freak them out!

Happy Friday, everybody

Sometimes you take a look at something and you can’t help but say “You’ve come a long way, baby!” That’s what I said recently when I saw the slideshow that Benj Edwards put together on CIO Magazine titled “A brief history of computer displays“.  They go way back in time to the 1940′s to show the various computer interfaces that have been used over the years.  Seeing some of the displays has brought back many memories of working back in the day.

Three of the displays, in particular, caught my eye.  The first one were the early mainframe computers.  In the 3rd or 4th slide , they show a mainframe computer & a keypunch next to it.  Believe it or not, we used to have a keypunch machine in our apartment in Astoria, NY in the early 1960′s.  Why you might ask?  Well, my dad was a computer programmar.  He was one of those people who saw early on how computers could change the world & he wanted to be a part of it.  He was working as a computer programmer at the time for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital.  Back in the day, it was just called Memorial Hospital. He was given a fairly high profile project which was to move all the billing for Memorial Hospital onto the new IBM mainframes at the time.  Millions of dollars on the line – no pressure! 

My dad worked day & night on this project and luckily for him, he had a perfect assistant to help him get the project out.  The assistant was my mom.  As it turns out, my  mom was a keypunch operator & was able to key in all the code my dad was creating for the project.  My dad had a keypunch machine brought in from work to our apartment.  I remember stacks of keypunch cards that my mom fed into the key punch machine that would make these markings as she typed on a keyboard.  I remember a drum where she would wrap a special card with special instructions for a particular run.  I remember  the loud sound that keypunch machine made when my mom entered the information and the cards started to get punched.  I also remember how fast my mom was entering the information that looked like gibberish.  Well, after a lot of hard work & testing, my dad’s project was a huge success.  So huge, that the head of Memorial Hospital personally congratulated him on the great work.  As a matter of personal pride, my dad’s billing system was so effective & so good that Memorial Hospital kept the system for many, many years. Such a smarty, my dad was!

The second display that caught my eye was the dumb terminal.  Believe it or not, that is what I worked on when I first started working at Citicorp after college.  The mainframe guys would have us enter & test stuff on those clunky terminals.  All this information would get entered & then we would have to go to the computer room, ask a computer operator that worked on the other side of a glass window to get us a computer printout of what we had just entered.  I remember the printouts were in that lined computer paper & even back then I remember thinking how  much paper we were wasting. Those dumb terminals were the only semblance of technology allowed for us, the mere “users”.  Otherwise, we had pen & paper.  No PCs until the mid 1980′s f0r us.

The 3rd display that caught my eye was the teletype.  Another unbelievable tid bit.  Again going back to my early corporate days in Citicorp,  every month the monthly financials were sent to the corporate office by our accounting people via a telex machine.  Yes, you read that right – a telex machine.  Someone would sit there for hours, typing away on this telex that would spew little holes on a long, narrow piece of paper.  When that narrow piece of paper was passed through a special machine, you would see words begin to get typed on triple part paper.  You would actually see your month end financials printed on the paper.  One of the copies would be sent to corporate as a backup to what they already send via telex.  Because you see, those holes being created by the machine – the telex itself –  was updating the mainframe somewhere in one of Citicorp’s data centers.  The accounting folks would keep the second part of the triple part paper & I forget who got the third.  This was in the early 80′s. 

When you look through this slideshow, try to think back & picture where you worked & what was going on in your life when those displays were in their heyday.  As I did that, I have to say it brought back some great memories, especially the one about my dad.   Who knows what great memories it will bring back for  you.

Why don’t you share the slides with your Millennial kids & tell them stories of you back in the day.  They will probably be shocked to see what technology looked like but I’m sure they will appreciate what they have today.  I know I do.

Happy Friday, everybody!

As we bid adieu to another year, there are tons of sites that are looking back and reminiscing about 2010 from all sorts of perspectives from top celebrity scandals in 2010 to the most watched YouTube video.  Since this is BIMD Friday, it is very appropriate to go back & take a look at 2010.   CIO Magazine always manages to capture these glimpses of past events in a funny light and they didn’t disappoint me with their Weirdest, Wackiest, and Stupidest Sci/Tech Stories of 2010 Slideshow prepared by Michael Cooney. 

The stories are pretty wacky and I don’t remember seeing or reading about most of them. That’s why these lists are always fun and informative.  I have 2 favorites.  The first one was when Newsday had to pull down a funny Apple IPAD video ad where the father in the video is reading a  newspaper on his IPAD but forgets it’s a gadget & tries to swat a fly with it.  You see the IPAD’s screen shattered & a dead fly next to it.  The video went viral but soon after it was released it was pulled down never to be seen again. Cute idea, though & very original.

The second is how IBM is going to put their famous Watson Supercomputer on Jeopardy in the first ever million dollar man vs. machine Jeopardy competition.  Put it on your calendars.  It will air on February 14 -16 of 2011.  Should be an interesting show. What were your favorite whacky stories from the list?

As the year draws to end, I hope we have had many whacky stories to make us laugh throughout the year and to make us appreciative of all we have in our lives.  I can’t wait to see what interesting things 2011 has in store for us but I know we won’t be disappointed!  As we get ready to bring in a new year,  I wish everyone lots of health, wealth & happiness.

Happy Friday, everybody & all the best for the coming year!

Ok, I’m going to be up front and let you know that today’s BIMD is only going to appeal to IT folks so the rest of the folks are forewarned.   I came across another slideshare in CIO Magazine created by Tim Greene.  It was originally published in Network World. The title:  “Are you an IT Geezer?”   I loved the title and it totally fits the BIMD theme since the author goes back in time – way back  - and asks questions to test how savvy you are about vintage computer stuff such as Magnetic Core Memory.  There were a few that I didn’t know and it was good to get a refresher.

My favorite question:  In the 1960′s, IBM was referred to as Snow White by other computer companies.  Who were the 7 dwarfs?

So go back in time, take the test & see if you’re an IT Geezer.  You’re guaranteed to learn something I’m sure.  I plan on sharing it with my Millennial IT friends to give them a good perspective on how good they have it today.

Happy Friday, everybody!

I came across this article in CIO Magazine written by Sarah Jacobbson Purewal titled “The World’s Worst PowerPoint Presentations” and it made me think of all the boring corporate presentations I’ve had to sit through over the years.  I don’t think I can even name a handful of good PowerPoint presentations.  In fact, none come to mind. 

Look through the SlideShare presentation and see if you recognize any of the formats they show.  I remember a few.  If you’re in technology like I was you should see many that are familiar to you.  Then we wonder why we can’t get buy-in for our ideas and our projects.  The slides are so convoluted and full of either too many graphs or bullets that we’re lucky not to confuse ourselves not to mention our audience. 

Years ago I heard this great phrase that says that the confused mind says NO.   That’s why I think so many people shutdown and don’t pay attention in corporate meetings.  They’re confused with all the busyness in the slides.

Let’s do ourselves a favor and follow the KISS formula when we’re presenting.  Less is better.  By now I’m sure we’ve all heard about Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 PowerPoint rule. In case you haven’t, he has a great suggestion about making presentations.  You should only have 10 slides, present your stuff in 20 minutes & use 30 pt font.  I’ve used, it works & it forces you to be succinct & to the point.  Try it and see if you cure Death by Powerpoint in your next presentation.

Happy Friday, everyone!

I am always surprised how assumptions creep into our decision making process and often prevent us from seeing and leveraging great opportunities.  Asssumptions are stealth beliefs that we carry with us and we don’t realize are there.  Because we are not aware of them, it becomes very difficult to question and challenge them.  But I believe the successful leaders of the 21st Century will be the ones who become adept at finding ways to identify the assumptions behind their decision making process.  Once you understand what those assumptions are, you have taken a big step forward and can now begin the more difficult task of questioning whether those assumptions are valuable or detrimental in your ability to lead a 21st Century organization.

Let me give you a personal example of how assumptions crept into my decision making process.  As you know by now, I have spent a lot of time observing Millennials in the workplace.  One of their greatest strengths is their comfort with technology.  I have said many times that they don’t see technology as technology but rather as a way of life.   Because Millennials have always been around PCs and Macs,  those are their preferred platforms.  They have become experts on these platforms and leverage them in ways previous generations have not.

Their proficiency in those platforms automatically created an assumption in my way of thinking:  Millennials will never learn or embrace the old mainframe systems.  Mainframes are not something Millennials have been exposed to, learned in school or have worked on.  For them, the technology is outdated and not terribly exciting when compared to all the Web 2.0 stuff they love.  

That assumption highlighted a big problem in the future.  Mainframes are the backbone of many US industries and  large corporations.  Think about banking, healthcare, insurance, federal & state government agencies, utility, manufacturing.  They all utilize mainframes.  My assumptions around Millennials and mainframes made me wonder what would happen in the future as Baby Boomers began to retire? Who would support these mainframes?  Would we have to outsource all of our mainframe support and if so, for how long?  To me there was a huge gap brewing.  How were we going to pass the mainframe baton to the newer generations?

And then I came across this article written by Patrick Thibodeau in CIO Magazine called “ Daughter Follows Her Father Into a Mainframe Career”After reading it, I realized that another sneaky assumption had crept into my decision making process and was preventing me from tapping into a great opportunity.  The article talks about how at 12 years old, Kristine Harper’s dad took her into his offices as part of the now famous ”Take your Daughter to Work Day”.  Kristine’s father, Tom Harper, was a mainframe programmer and after showing his daughter what he did all day she said to him: “Dad, I love you, but if this was the last job on the planet, I wouldn’t want it”.  Now that would be a typical Millennial response when faced with the non-sexy but critical elements of running mainframes.

Fast forward to today.  Kristine is a 27 year old Millennial working in the research and development unit of company called Neon Enterprise Software, Inc. in Texas. Same place her dad works.  What does she do?  She works in the mainframe department!  Can you believe it?  A Millennial who actually CHOSE to work in mainframes.  But it gets better.  According to the article, Kristine actually has quite a prominent role in the mainframe community. She is part of a group that she organized herself called the IBM Share user group’s zNextGen project.  There are over 700 engineers, all of them Millennials, that are “looking to improve mainframe technology skills and find places to use them.”  This group will certainly lead the way in trying to close the gap that currently exists in the mainframe world between the retiring Baby Boomers and the much needed younger generation to replace them.  Through their example and vast social networks, they will undoubtedly get other Millennials excited about mainframes and others will join the cause.

Can you imagine the exciting opportunities that the companies that employ these 700 engineers have ahead of them?  These Millennials will surely bring their own unique approach to looking at mainframes.  They will see things and try things that the Baby Boomers may never have seen because they were so immersed in the old ways of looking at mainframes.  I’m sure they will give mainframes a much needed makeover and boost into the 21st Century.

Many leaders believe that Millennials don’t appreciate how and why things were done. They feel Millennials need to be led by the hand to see the forest from the trees.  Kristine and her Millennial Mainframe Posse clearly disprove these assumptions as well.  They saw an opportunity that probably their own bosses did not see. They collaborated as they do so well, and will find ways to blend the old with the new and develop and deliver a better product.   

Even as someone who has worked closely with Millennials, I would have let my assumptions get in the way in this particular situation. Instead of providing opportunities for Millennials to immerse themselves, talk to and learn from the mainframe experts, I would have “assumed” that the fit was not good. A great opportunity lost.  That’s why identifying and challenging our assumptions are critical techniques to lead effectively in this dynamic and ever changing workplace.

What about you?  How many times  are your assumptions getting in the way of innovation, of finding wonderful opportunities to do things differently and do them better? How many times is it getting in the way of seeing the value that Millennials bring to your team? In how many ways are those assumptions costing you and your organization? Watch out for those pesky stealth assumptions in your leadership approach.  They creep in there in ways you can’t even imagine.

I was reading the recent edition of CIO Insider when I came across Meridith Levinson’s article titled “10 Communication Mistakes CIOs Still Make“.  As I read it,  I realized that sadly, I still see CIOs committing those mistakes.  I have to admit that  fortunately, the number has decreased over the years which is really good.  This made me think of the list as it relates to Millennials.  Although the entire list is applicable, I think that when it comes to Millennials, the following 4 mistakes from the list are the most common I’ve seen and the hardest to overcome.  Here they are.  Drum roll, please…

Mistake #1:  They don’t seek buy-in.  Any good CIO knows that it’s always better to get their staff  (or customer) to buy-in to a particular solution or approach before moving forward.  The problem is that oftentimes CIOs will focus on getting buy-in from their direct reports and leave them with the task to obtain buy-in from the rest of the staff. That’s a lost opportunity for the CIO to make a connection with Millennials.  Millennials have a lot to offer but many times need to understand the gameplan.  Remember this is the group whose parents have been involved in every aspect of their lives and have taken the time to explain the “why” behind the decisions the family has made. They are ready to climb onboard but  it’s easier for them to do that understanding the “why”.  The extra level of effort the CIO takes to give them the “why”, to get their buy-in will go a long way.  Without it, there’s a disconnect.

Mistake #2:  Using scare tactics.  I am still amazed at the high number of executives (not just CIOs) that continue to employ fear as a management or communication tactic.  It’s never worked for any generation and all it does is create animosity.  Millennials are no different.  They are a highly collaborative group and are wired to seek action through concensus not fear.  Fear is a huge turnoff for them and they are more likely than other groups to display or vocalize their annoyance with that behavior.  It could just be that they are young and the younger you are, the more honest you are with people about your feelings. At any rate,  the bottom line is: lose the scare tactics and show you care instead.

Mistake #3:  Uncomfortable Asking Questions.    This is the most serious mistake of all in my opinion.  As the reporter points out in the article, many CIOs have trouble with this one. CIOs are constantly bombarded with questions from their bosses, their peers, the user community, the vendors, and every one else in between.  Because of this scrutiny, they feel like they have to be in control, have all the answers.  Well, in fact, I’ve learned over the years that the opposite approach works best. As an IT leader, when I didn’t know the answer, I said so. In fact, I learned that it was always better to ask questions than to appear to have all the answers.  What I found is that people appreciated my honesty and knew that I wasn’t trying to a fast one.  In asking questions I also gained a lot of insights I would otherwise not have. 

 The  same thing happens with Millennials.  I am always listening to CIOs complaining about Millennials.  They can’t seem to put their fingers on what makes Millennials so different so they just keep complaining.  I’ve written about my own experience early on with this same problem.  But instead of complaining further, I decided one day to simply start asking questions of the Millennials.  One question led to another and with time, I got to understand them and I had my “aha” insight which is that  Millennials are not as different as we think they are, they just apply things in new ways that are unfamiliar to us.   Ask the question.  They will love you for taking the time to ask.

Mistake #4: Heavy Reliance on Facts.    Ok so you have to attribute some of this mistake to the backgrounds of many CIOs.  Many of them have engineering, mathematics or computer science backgrounds.  The left brain is alive and thriving.  It makes sense that CIOs gravitate towards facts and figures.  It’s how many of them are wired.  The problem is that as we all know, leading people, especially Millennials, is not predicated on just facts.  The glue that binds people together is the connection.  It’s how you make them feel – as an employee, as their boss, as a member of your team. 

Millennials are BIG on the connection.  Again, this group has been raised by very attentive parents (remember you are probably also a parent,  raising your own Millennial at home) who have acted more as coaches and  mentors than parents. They seek that coaching relationship at work.  Frankly, who wouldn’t, regardless of what generation you come from.  As the article mentions, if you “capture their imagination”, if you connect with them on a personal level,  you have scored major points. They will not only be loyal but will sing your praises (virally) to whomever will listen.  Now that’s cool.

So now you know what NOT to do.  The question is: what will you DO to connect with your Millennial staff?

BTW: You might want to pass on the list to the other folks in the C-Suite.  Chances are they are making the same mistakes as well.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my frightening experience when I realized I had left the house without my cell phone.  As I was looking through the CIO Magazine archives recently I came across a slideshow created by Ross Catanzariti called The Mobile Phone: A History in PicturesBoy, did that bring back memories.  The slides show pictures of mobile phones dating as far back as 1983. 

Sometimes you  really need to look back to appreciate how much we’ve accomplished and how far we’ve advanced.  The pictures provide a 25 year retrospective on how mobile technology has revolutionized our communications experience. In looking at the pictures I couldn’t help but think if we accomplished all this in the past 25 years, where will mobile technology be in the next 25, in the year 2035?  Where will technology as a whole be then? It was too mind boggling to even fathom. But exciting to contemplate all the great possibilities.

What about you?  Where do you think mobile technology will be in 2035?  But what I really want to know is how many of the old mobile phones pictured in the slideshow did you use?  My favorite was the car phone.  As the writer points out, it did look more like a radio than a cell phone – and weighed as much, too.

Enjoy the slides and Happy Friday, everybody!

That’s what Nicholas Carr tells Bill Snyder of CIO Magazine in a recent article named  ”The Internet is Hurting Our Brains“. IT folks will probably remember Nicholas Carr as the author who wrote the controversial book called  ”Does IT Matter” in 2004.  I remember that book being the subject of many interesting conversations I had with CIOs for quite some after it was published.  Well now, Mr. Carr has written another book called ” The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains” where he shows evidence that the Internet is not only changing what we do but how we think.  In the article, he gives Bill Snyder some insight into the book and why and how he came to that premise.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard that about the Internet or even thought that myself.   Because of my focus on Millennials over these past years,  I have come to wonder whether their early adoption of technology has had any affect on how they think and process information.  Much of the research I have done in this area points to studies that show that the brain can’t assimilate all the information and distractions that the Internet  makes available to us.  Researchers and experts in the field believe that something gets sacrificed with the constant onslaught of information.  Sometimes what is sacrificed is comprehension, sometimes it’s critical thinking and sometimes as Nicholas Carr believes, it just makes us plain shallow.

In observing Millennials I can see how at times those results can be applied to them.  Sometimes I have seen them struggle with critical thinking or an inability or desire to delve into something a bit deeper than they have.  But at the same time, they have an incredible ability to process information at much faster speeds than the rest of us,  they have really strong visual-spatial abilities and they have sustained attention spans when they are interested or focused on completing something.

So maybe, like most things in life, there’s a tradeoff.  Although the Internet and the digital revolution can make Millennials (and the rest of us)  a bit more distracted and scattered, it may also be strengthening  brain or cognitive functions that had previously not been tapped.  Or perhaps we are trying to make sense of a new phenomenon using outdated lenses. 

I like a quote that Bill Snyder puts in the article that says: 

Consider this complaint made more than 400 years ago: ‘One of the great diseases of this age is the multitude of books that doth so overcharge the world that it is not able to digest the abundance of idle matter that is every day hatched and brought into the world,’ the English writer Barnaby Rich moaned in 1600.”

Perhaps new technologies signal the loss of abilities that are believed to be important today but that will be replaced by more essential skills necessary in the future.  They may not make sense to us now but in hindsight we will wonder why we questioned it at all.   In the meantime, we’ll have to wait and see and keep asking the tough questions that challenge our conventional thinking.

 I was reading through my online copy of CIO Magazine when I spotted an article called “The 10 Most Uncool Moments in Tech”.  Well, naturally that piqued my interest but what really captivated my attention was a slideshow inside the article showing the 25 funniest vintage tech ads.  

The tech ads go way back in time.  They are great and some are hysterical.  I thought it would be a perfect entry to share on Friday’s BIMD post.  Look through them and reminisce.  It’s truly a walk down memory lane.  Sometimes a scary walk.

Happy Friday everyone…