Code4lib Day 3: Keynote #2 Lazy Consensus

by Bethany Nowviskie, University of Virginia

She began by expressing that it is great to have a speaker from the inside the community and lots of thanks to the invitation to talk. Then continued to talk a bit about her background and where she is coming from, including Blacklight and Hydra. She is now in the library world, where she was introduced to many issues such as open access, class issues.

Lazy Consensus

Frequently, lazy consensus gets formalized, such as in committees. When a decision needs to be made, a proposal is put forward. Some might agree, but the default answer is yes. If there are objections, then you go back, but usually just some adjustments. In order to object, people need to take the time to think and take the effort.

Some might think that there are fortunes for the bold. However, with this social contract where  we already agree that if you don’t say yes or no, “we’re not waiting on you,” inertia can work with you or against you.

Chaotic Good

Your team should work in lazy consensus. Use it to do what you know is right. How do you know what’s right? Make sure you’re one of the good guys. Act and speak up when you need to.

Ideal Conditions

  • skunkworks / R&D operations – trust them to have a plan
  • developer-driven 20% time
  • rabble-rouse… in disguise – organize smartly to fit in
  • knowing your enemies (trends, not people) – extract personalities, because usually fighting bad trends, not people
  • finding your friends (people, not just trends) – check data preservation, open access, digital humanities people

Your (Ethical) Obligations

  • always share information freely – it will fail otherwise
  • never shut out the public services and user experience
  • practice what you’d teach – think mentoring a promising novice
  • if you screw up, confess
  • try not to screw up in the first place

In Applying

If you have a bad technical plan, the library administration might not notice whether you implement it to the letter. They probably care more about the spirit than the letter of it. However, do genuinely try to explain to all levels of the organization.

Never do it alone. The word consensus is in there for a reason. You need enough people who agree on the direction to take that can be implemented reasonably and sustainably.

Keep talking to people.

Produce

If you produce, administration will have your back, but then you need to deliver a product that will make everyone look good, even the dead weights.

Involvement

The library is not involved enough in larger issues at the university, national, or government level. One common example is the research that is produced, peer-reviewed, and then sold back to the university at exorbitant prices.

It’s up to you to make contact with the leadership level of the organization. If you have a problem, put it on the agenda. Make the first move.

Shift Needed

There should a bias toward action. Stagnation is a far, far greater danger than taking measured risks.

Drive it like you stole it.

Q & A Comments

Does this reflect reality? Sometimes it is the person. – Act like it is the trend, even if it is the person. This will work better in some areas than others, but it is flexible.

Some believe that they are righteous and do not care about consensus. – Power to the people. Get enough of the staff to implement a directive.

How to deal with it going wrong? – Hard to do sometimes in formalized way, and need to do collectively.

EDIT: Bethany has now posted her version of the keynote talk on her blog.

The Whirlwind of Getting and Starting a New Job

I got a job! Mind you, it’s a contract and not a permanent job, but I think any new graduate will agree that even that is a feat when looking only within Canada, and being at least somewhat particular about what job to accept. In light of the whole process, I thought I would reflect a little on various aspects of getting and starting a job.

Prioritizing

I think it’s important for every person to decide on what they want in a job before applying to everything. Totally common sense I’m sure, but strangely for me, it took some time to really figure out what I wanted in terms of:

  • type of position – willing to take anything? including non-professional positions?
  • location – willing to move? what regions? urban or rural?
  • type of organization – libraries only or other information organizations?
  • salary – is there a minimum amount?

I’ll not spend time on the application and interview parts of the process as I’ve covered them before in other posts. I will only say that while it’s important to be flexible, you might think about whether you’re willing to spend money on flying somewhere if the organization will not pay for you.

My Interview

My interview was a particularly interesting situation as due to the available times, I ended up doing my interview after a 10-hour flight which I was sick on, 1-hour train ride, 20-minutes car ride, and a few hours to prepare and feel better. We also had a couple of technical difficulties, but I took them in stride (always have a back up plan!) as well as I could.

I also got asked a lot of questions about things that I honestly just did not know about. JAZZ? REST? Huh? Others I knew, but had absolutely no experience in, like AJAX, ColdFusion. I admitted to being unfamiliar with them and tried to emphasize that I am willing to learn (though I felt like a little bit of a broken record by the time I was done). Still, I think the important lesson is not to be daunted by the questions, since the questions are asked of all the interviewees.

Negotiating a Contract

As a new graduate, I was very nervous about negotiating my first professional contract. Thankfully, I had just finished my management class, so I took the advice of my instructor and inquired about:

  • benefits
  • relocation
  • vacation/sick leave
  • professional development
  • higher than minimum salary by considering my student work

Some things were a simple ‘no’ as mine is a contract and not a permanent position, but then I would never have known without asking. I think the last is especially important since many graduates may think that their work as a student will not count towards their salary, and while at some organizations it may not get the same level of consideration, that does not mean it will not be considered at all.

Starting a New Job

It’s important to know where you’re going and what time you’re expected the first day (oh and knowing what to bring for HR form filling), but beyond that,  I think it’s okay to just take your time getting into it. Certainly, I’ve been a little worried especially since there are various technical things to take care of, but thankfully, people seem very understanding of needing some time to settle in.

Getting a Job Also Means Not Always Taking a Job

So recently, many people I know (including myself) have been applying for jobs. Although it may be tempting as a new graduate to take any job that comes along (especially a permanent one), over the course of a couple of co-ops and student jobs, I began to realize that one of the most important aspects of a job is the work environment. This may seem obvious, but again, as a new graduate, most of us would be happy to even get an interview, let alone a hopes at a job.

Red Flags

Even as new graduates, I think we should have certain expectations and if something throws up a red flag, we should be careful. If something throws up two or three, remember to reconsider whether you would take the job.

Say you get an interview. Great, right? Well, yes… but then what if some worrisome things started popping up? If say it was a permanent position, I would expect a lot of libraries to fly someone in for a second stage in-person interview. If they’re not willing, you might look into why. Budget might be a reason in the current economic environment, but then you might also consider whether the job is worth paying hundreds of dollars for the interview.

How was the first interview? Did you get a good sense of how people were like? Did you like the way that they did it? Did you feel like you were wasting your time? If you get negative ‘vibe’, research more about the library, ask colleagues and friends if they know anything. Think about whether you would want to work there for a year, for five, for ten.

Prepare Your Own Questions

I think the easiest way to get a better feel is to ask your own questions at the end of the interview. Again, this sounds obvious, but some people do not seem to be willing to ask questions such as:

  • How would you describe your management style?
  • How would you describe the team dynamics?
  • What do you like most about working for your organization?
  • Is there anything that stands out as a benefit to working for your organization?
  • etc.

I’ve asked these questions before myself and have gotten some pretty good answers from some and some vague ones from others. Vague isn’t always bad since it depends who your interviewers are, but on a panel, there should be at least one person who can properly answer each question.

Current Job Opportunities for System Librarians

For one of my management assignments, I decided to do a job analysis of the current job opportunities.

Purpose

Looking at the various aspects of the job postings to look at where and what opportunities are available as well as what is being looked for.

Methodology

Collected all systems related librarian positions which were primarily either systems or web services from September 1 to October 15. I collected 19 job postings and tallied the various aspects including skills and areas of knowledge required and preferred.

Results

The Basics

Jobs were primarily in academic libraries (17 of 19) and a majority were permanent full time (13). The job subareas and titles differ, but were generally broken down in this way:

Systems & Technical Services 2
Systems 8
Web Services 11
User Experience 1

Jobs were also generally in the East.

Canada United States
West 1 West 4
Central 1 Central 2
East 4 East 7

Finally of the salaries that were listed the average minimum of $49,000.

Education & Work Experience

No surprise that every single posting required: MLIS degree from ALA accredited school or equivalent.

Most required or preferred at least 2 years of experience, and preferred but did not usually required experience within the area of hiring.

Graph Years of ExperienceGraph of type of experienceNote that the “type” is an indication of whether the experience needs to be in the same type of library (e.g. academic library by posting from academic library).

Duties

Many positions included non-technical related duties. The top two:

  • Reference – 37% (7)
  • General/Student Instruction – 26% (5)

Technology Related Skills & Areas of Knowledge

As the majority of the positions were web services related, there was a bit of a bias towards skills that are web related, but generally for systems, I simply found that there were less specific technology requirements and it was also more diverse. The top technology related required skills & areas of knowledge:

  • HTML/XHTML – 58% (11)
  • Web Development/Design – 47% (9)
  • CSS – 42% (8)
  • Standards & Best Practices – 37% (7)
  • Emerging Technologies, Trends, & Issues – 37% (7)
  • Usability/User Experience – 32% (6)
  • JavaScript – 26% (5)

As I said, the range was wide and included everything from server administration to proxy to analytics.

General Skills & Areas of Knowledge

What might (or might not) surprise people is that the top required skills and areas of knowledge were general in nature and not technology related.

  • Communications & Interpersonal – 95% (18)
  • Collaboration & Teamwork – 84% (16)
  • Project Management, Planning & Organization – 68% (13)
  • Problem Solving & Analysis – 58% (11)
  • Work Independently – 47% (9)
  • Leadership – 26% (5)
  • Flexible & Creative – 26% (5)

If anything, I think this trend is encouraging for new graduates as it seems that “soft” skills are more important than the technology/technical skills which frankly, many of us just do not have the opportunity to learn in library school, but with some tech savvy would be more than willing and able to learn on the job.

Limitations

There are some obvious limitations to my analysis. For one, some job postings were no longer accessible as they were closed, which meant that they were not included. For my purposes, I also left out all management positions, such as AUL and director positions.

Another issue is that how qualifications were grouped was very subjective on my part, so may not have been consistent. For example, planning and organization was grouped with project management, but results would have been different if the three had been kept separate.

Possible Future Work

It would be interesting to see what the trends are in general rather than only looking at systems positions, but that would be a much larger effort.

Hopefully this information is useful for anyone else in North America interested in systems related jobs.

Library Job Postings Sites

Was going to post this sooner, but been sick. As I begin to look for jobs, I have amalgamated a fair list of RSS feeds that I thought would be useful for. This will be copied over to the Resources page.

Lower Mainland

Canada

United States

If there are any more, I would love to hear about them!

On a side note: I updated my links list as well to blogs that update more often and that might be more relevant to LibTech topics.

BCLA ALPS – Getting Hired in Higher Education

Today was the Getting Hired in Higher Education event at SLAIS, organized by Tara Stephens and Danielle Winn, executives of ALPS (Academic Librarians in Public Service) section and myself, the ALPS representative (from the SLAIS BCLA/CLA student chapter), and sponsored by BCLA (British Columbia Library Association).

Getting Hired in Higher Education is an annual event organized for SLAIS students to hear, get advice, and ask questions about looking for, finding, and securing a job as an academic librarian. This year’s event was well attended (we had a full room!) and it seemed very appreciated.

This year, we had a larger panel with five academic librarians:

  • Aleha McCauley (University of British Columbia)
  • Annie Jensen (Langara College)
  • Emma Lawson (Langara College)
  • Danielle Winn (University of British Columbia)
  • Baharak Yousefi (Capilano College)

Panelists introduced themselves talking about their educational background, a little about the positions they currently hold, and primarily about their path towards their current job. I will not summarize everything, but will instead, concentrate on the advice they gave and the Q&A session.

While in School

Classes

More specifically, while at SLAIS, students were advised learn more about:

  • project management,
  • communications, and
  • assessment & program evaluation, especially the impact of a program/service.

and take classes that are skill or project based. Some specific classes that were mentioned:

  • Subject-Based Information Services (LIBR 530)
  • Collections Management (LIBR 580)
  • Instructional Role of the Librarian (LIBR 535) – particularly needed in academic
  • Library Automation and Systems (LIBR 551)
  • Open Access (LIBR 559K – 1-credit)
  • Management of Libraries and Archives: Community-Led Libraries (LIBR 579B – 1-credit)

Experience and Involvement

Panelists emphasized getting as much experience as possible paid or unpaid:

  • Co-op position
  • GAA (Graduate Academic Assistant)/Student Librarian job
  • Professional experience
  • Practicum – particularly to see what you like or don’t like
  • Volunteer

As to general areas, instructional and reference experience are key for academic libraries.

Getting involved while at school and afterwards is also very important, especially to network with others.

  • Participate in one or more professional association
  • Attend events – just like this one!
  • Attend workshops – e.g. CTLT’s Graduate Student Instructional Skills Workshop
  • Attend and/or volunteer at conferences
  • Get published e.g. student journals, blogs, reviews
  • Get involved in publishing e.g. as editor, reviewer
  • Building a professional online presence – employers will search for you

The Job Process

Searching & Applying for Jobs

Other than experience and involvement, employers look for:

  • good communication skills,
  • problem solving – i.e. how you work through problems, how you express yourself around change, and
  • interest in technology, especially web technology and social media.

To search for jobs, it is recommended to get RSS feeds to save time on searching.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Students have probably heard all the usual advice on format, keeping to the job description and such, but some other interesting points came up during today’s discussion:

  • Personality: to include or not? – Mixed advice was given to the librarians on how much to include. One mentioned that she began to get more interviews and job offers after including more of her personality, while another was told to tone down the personality as that will be seen in their web presence
  • Get it proofread by other people
  • Read more job descriptions to get a feel for the vocabulary used and what is expected
  • See what others are doing with cover letters that work, see Open Cover Letters
  • Get a mentor  – someone who you can learn from, ask advice, and who will give you feedback on your resume and cover letter.

Interviews

  • Get as much experience as possible with real interviews
  • Expect 1-2 days for the last stage of interviews
  • You will be expected to a presentation or a mock workshop
  • The panel will generally consist of 5-6 people
  • “Don’t try to guess what they want to hear, tell them what you think.” i.e. be honest
  • Evaluate the panel to see whether you want to work there and with that supervisor

Expectations

The librarians also provided words of advice on being realistic about the job market:

  • Be flexible about geographic location
  • If you can’t be, know that it’s a very competitive market – you will have to start in auxiliary, part-time, and contract positions
  • Start early during your last term of school – many noted that they were spending as much time on job searching and applications as they were on school work
  • Consider non-academic areas e.g. public libraries, vendors – i.e. it’s not true you can’t go from public to academic (or vice versa)

Once Offered a Job

It’s not often talked about since students generally concentrate on getting a job, but once offered a full-time, permanent position job, some things to consider:

  • Salary is negotiable – call the faculty association to ask if salary is representative if necessary
  • Get moving costs covered, if applicable
  • You might get an accommodation trip – trip to look for living space, if applicable
  • Look into start-up grants
  • Ask about professional development funds, though this is pretty standard
  • Know the major points of the collective agreement

In relation, the handbook for new faculty, Negotiating Starting Salaries published by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, was recommended.

Question & Answers

Here’s what came up during the Q&A session:

  • Q: How would you answer “Why are you interested in this division/organization?” A: draw on the posting, research the institution, but be yourself and answer honestly. Aside: You might consider using university colours in the presentation.
  • Q: What was the most difficulty question you have ever been asked? A: Specific research questions, but mostly, they want to know how you would deal with it.
  • Q: What are the best continuing education options, especially when lack time or money? A: Instructional opportunities, webinars (a library webinars blog was mentioned), grants (to go to conferences, etc.). Most positions come with professional development funds. Something you might ask about at the interview or when negotiating salary.
  • Q: Can you do a co-op and GAA at the same time? A: Yes. You can schedule it so that you do both at the same time, or consider leaving your GAA position.
  • Q: Is it possible to leave a contract for a permanent position? A: Yes. Talk to your supervisor, and they will generally be very understanding that you must leave mid-contract if you are accepting a full-time, permanent position.

Summary – The Top 5

In case you found that a lot to digest or just too much to read at once, here are the top 5 pieces of (general) advice:

  1. Get as much work experience as possible.
  2. Get experience or take a course in teaching and instruction.
  3. Get involved as much as possible, and network.
  4. Take project or skill based courses while in school.
  5. Be flexible.

EDIT: Summary version was posted in the Nov 2011 v.3 no.4 issue of the BCLA Browser in the ALPS Yodeler section.

Taking Advantage of Your Co-op Work Term

Whether it’s an internship or co-op, students should take advantage of the opportunities available to them during their work term. Recently, @otowncoho wrote a blog post on strategies for those who hire students in government. Being near the end of my own co-op term, I thought I would reflect on advice I would give to students coming into a similar situation.

Before the Term

Be Prepared

Might sound like common sense, but students should remember to ask about procedures for the first day and if they need to bring in anything (typically finance/pay or security related information).

Consider Not Taking Classes

I know students want to finish as soon as they can, but I have heard from a lot of students (and hearsay of supervisor comments) that taking one or more classes while on a full-time co-op term can be very stressful. If tired and/or stressed, you might be likely to underperform, be less enthusiastic, or seem less “present”. Although you might do your work well, it might be hard to leave a really good impression on the employer.

At the Beginning

Orientation

If one isn’t provided, ask your supervisor or a coworker about an orientation guide, which might include student employment policy (including stat pay and hours/overtime), how to set up phone and/or e-mail, use policies, contacting support services (such as IT), facilities, and useful links (like where to eat). I would expect an employer to (have someone) show you around the office and introduce you to coworkers, but if some are absent, remember to introduce yourself when they return.

Paper work

You may not like paper work, but it is a necessity. Make sure that HR/pay forms, tax forms, etc. are all completed on your first day or as soon as possible. Ask to see if direct deposit is available. Most of the time it’s not a problem, but I have heard too many stories about paycheques being lost or missing, which can be a big problem for students trying to meet rent and what not.

Work Plan / Objectives

Many schools and programs require the work or learning objectives are written and discussed with a supervisor. If not, it’s still a great platform to discuss with your supervisor what you want to get out of your co-op term. Topics you might want to cover:

  • Technical skills to acquire/work on
  • Interpersonal skills to learn more about/improve on
  • Weak Skills/Traits to work on
  • Knowledge Areas to learn about
  • Career Areas to learn about
  • Strategy on how to meet your objectives (applies to you and your supervisor)
  • Strengths/Areas where you can contribute
  • Communication frequency and style: set a method of to regularly update your supervisor and discuss your progress

Typically, steps to achieve these objectives might be written for each objective or an overall strategy might be determined, depending on how interrelated they are. Objectives should also be specific and measurable in order to measure your progress and completion of your objectives. For example, “Learn more about information management” is a great goal, but very vague. Many advise using the SMART method, and though not all the questions always apply, it helps to turn a vague goal, into something more specific, such as:

Learn more about information management by reading about one methodology and the policies it puts into practice within the first month of the term.

Regardless, I believe the most important part is discussing objectives with a supervisor so that they might accommodate or at least share information and resources that are of interest.

Work Term Project

Many co-op positions (common in government) allow for an individual project to be completed during the term. You might discuss with your supervisor about the possibilities and set a work plan including how much time you can set aside, working this into your objectives. If you know beforehand that you will have this option available, consider thinking of possible projects ahead of time as not all employers will prepare one for you. If you don’t have any ideas, ask your supervisor if there is anything they have been wanting to do, but just haven’t had time to do. Ideally, the project would be something that you are interested in or an area that you want to explore, and contribute to the team or organization.

Want to convince your supervisor of the benefits? Start with these reasons from the student strategies blog post I mentioned earlier.

By having such a project exists, it serves a number of functions:

  • Something to Show – It gives the student a finished product to add to their portfolio. It’s an actual accomplishment, rather than simply conducting routine functions on a daily basis.
  • Time Management – Depending on your office, sometimes things can get very busy, very fast. It can often be easy to forget about students that you may have working in your office. This project ensures that they always have something to work on.
  • Contribution to the Group – In a busy office, sometimes you lose sight of the bigger picture. The capstone project ideally will fulfil some sort of need in your unit that is a “nice-to-have”, and will contribute to your unit in a positive way.

During and Throughout

Building a Portfolio

If you haven’t started already, begin building a portfolio. You might consider school work that you have done as well as work that you do during your co-op term. Depending on what you want to showcase, this might be digital or in a paper format. The work term project if you have one is a great addition. Remember that it’s not just about the products, but the process or methodology in creating the products that you may want to capture. You will also want to discuss with your supervisor how much can be made public and if not, if it can be used for interviews at the least.

Keep Current and Learn

If for whatever reason you have some “free” time, use the time to learn more about the organization or read more on topics related to your work. You might:

  • Attend workshops or information sessions at your organization. For example, library students in the National Capital Region (NCR) should make sure to take part in library tours and socials organized by the CLA Government Section.
  • Ask coworkers about their sources of information.
  • Subscribe to relevant news, blogs, twitter, etc. feeds or mailing lists.

Essentially, keep up to date on the field and organization you’re working in.

Take Part and Get Involved

I wrote about my experiences in this last week, Reflecting on Communities through Collaborative Tools in the Government of Canada. I didn’t join in on communities with networking in mind, but of course it helped. More than anything, I met a lot of great people and had fun doing it.

Find out whether there are any initiatives going on either inside or outside your organization. In large organizations, such as government or universities, there may be interesting interdepartmental initiatives, groups, community of practices, etc. that are not only interesting, but relevant to your work (if perhaps indirectly). If you don’t get work time to participate, find ones that allow you to participate outside of work time. Just one or two can help you meet others, find out what else is happening, and network! Take part in socials too.

Network and Get Bridged

I am sure every student has heard a million times by now that networking is very important. Particularly in more ‘closed’ systems, jobs are rarely externally or publicly posted. People are hired through recommendations, or just good timing. Consider getting business cards to give people (even just your name and contact info with a line or two about yourself), or asking people for theirs. Alternatively, ask if they are on a social media platform like LinkedIn and for their e-mail address to find them.

In particular, the federal government has a student bridging program which expedites hiring of recent graduates who have done a co-op or FSWEP term during the time of their studies. If you do a co-op term in the federal government, find out more about bridging and add yourself to the National Inventory of Bridgeable Students [internal link].

At the End and Afterwards

Thank People

Again, this may seem like common sense, but I’m surprised to hear how many people don’t think of it. Find a way to thank the people who helped you during your co-op term. This might be as simple as a thank you card addressed to everyone on the team you worked with.

Keep in Touch

When networking, you need to continue to network and keep in touch, especially with your supervisor who will be providing your references and possibly recommendations for positions (again, this applies particularly in more ‘closed’ hiring systems). I will admit myself that I haven’t necessarily been the best at this, but I plan to work on it!

Hopefully this post isn’t too much of a rehash of what others have said, but if it’s been heard before, I think it just reemphasizes how important some of these things are.

Reflections on Communities through Collaborative Tools in the Government of Canada

With only two weeks left and after last night’s meetup, I thought I’d reflect a little on some of the Government of Canada (GC) initiatives I’ve been part of over the term that are outside of my assigned projects, most of which are fairly recent or new.

Young Professionals Network Committees

Admittedly, this is a departmental (not GC) group, but it’s worth a mention.

Many departments (if not most) have a Young Professional Network (even if not by that name). YPN has committees to organize events as well as other work to support staff at the department. I sat on and contributed to:

  • Retention and Renewal Report, another survey is going out to validate the results
  • Student Committee, where we’re currently trying to develop a new orientation guide for students in the department
  • Spend a Day with Senior Management, a job shadow event which has been approved by the YPN sponsor ADM

Contributing to the committees has been a good experience. It allowed me to meet other people working in different sectors and has given me a sense of accomplishment and contribution towards the department even if I’m not here to see the results.

Wiki Community of Practice – WikiCoP

My understanding is that my coworker started wikicop about a year ago in order to have people in the GC community meet every 1-3 months and share ideas, knowledge, and experience on their internal wikis as many departments are developing or have them now. Although I only got the chance to attend a couple, it was great to see what other departments were doing with their wikis and to participate in the discussions. I also got a chance to see a couple of the ways Confluence was being used, which was neat.

GCPEDIA

The GC wiki, GCPEDIA, is a great place for GC staff to share information GC-wide without making it public. There is a lot of great stuff including draft strategies, guidelines, and start up initiatives surrounding all aspects including social media and web usability. I didn’t actually take part in sharing much information, but I have been helping with maintenance. Most of it is day-to-day stuff like fixing broken/double redirects, categorizing pages/files, and page clean ups, but I have also:

  • participated in a wikibee (essentially you do a big clean up as a group in person) for UXWG (User Experience Working Group)
  • been helping with the migration to a new and much improved National Inventory of Bridgeable Students [internal link]

Doing wiki maintenance has helped me learn more about the different departments and what goes on in GC. I also got to know a few people through doing wiki maintenance and participating in the 2011 Best User Page Contest. It was lots of fun!

I think that’s one of the things that makes GCPEDIA interesting to work on. The very active (more permanent) people have been very encouraging (i.e. @jesgood and C. Au) and people will do little things to increase the sense of community and enjoyment, namely by making fun user boxes. I got a green belt/experienced contributor award (basically it’s a level up system based on how much you contribute to GCPEDIA), the 5th level, which I think is pretty decent for a single summer.

Web 2.0 Practioners – W2P

It’s kind of funny, because I avoided Twitter for the longest time. I didn’t think I’d have much use for it, and it just seemed like another social media platform, especially since I don’t have a phone with internet and lacked a laptop for the longest time, I didn’t see how I’d get involve with any conversation.

I was pushed onto twitter because of work. It helped that I got tweetdeck installed. Regardless, I was somewhat surprised by how much of day-to-day sharing between GC employees involved twitter. I shouldn’t have been, but then I used to work at an agency where you had no internet access.

It’s been a great source of keeping up with GC Web/technology news, finding interesting reads, and resources. But most of all, #w2p really taught me what a great community can be built through twitter. It’s been a rare experience for me to simply show up and be so welcomed into a group of veritable strangers. Being a little nervous about going by myself to my first #w2p meet, I was encouraged by many #w2p members most memorably by @spydergrrl (for various reasons includind the fact that she was a co-host). At the meet, I ended up chatting mostly with @mhellstern who introduced me to lots of other people. It was great.

The proof that #w2p can just suck you in (in a good way) is how involved I got. After only two meetups, I ended up co-hosting last night’s meet up. Thanks to @macjudith and her discussions with a friend, the meetup’s theme was to meet the (bridgeable) students of #w2p and I cohosted with @mhellstern (I didn’t even know she was a bridgeable student!). Each student/recent graduate got a couple of minutes to introduce themselves and “sell” themselves just a little bit. We had a great turn out, plus as always, great conversations and stories. I got to finally put a few more faces to twitter nicknames, especially the ones from my department! Not least of all, it meant I got to add another userbox to my GCPEDIA user page (see the fun?).

I will definitely miss #w2p, because unless I get a position in the area in the future… well, it’s not unknown that getting a group together like this outside the NCR can be difficult since this is where most GC staff work and where a lot of this type of work is done since this is where all the “headquarters” are located.

Sense of Contribution, Engagement, Belonging, and Community

I’ve frequently heard people on contract talk about how they don’t in any way feel connected to their department, or the government, especially as a student when you may conceivably never return in, but I didn’t get that feeling thanks to joining #w2p and other groups. There are of course so many different ways to get involved and to find out what’s going on in the GC world, and these are but a few examples, so I encourage GC staff, especially students to get involved; it doesn’t matter that it’s only for a short time, and newbies are welcomed!

National Public Service Week

I had a fairly eventful National Public Service Week last week.

Kick-Off
To begin with, there was a ‘kick-off’ event here with a video in honour of public servants. It was interesting to watch, because although I realized that the government does a lot for the country, it helped me realize that literally all sectors of our country likely have a related government department or agency (beyond finance/taxes).

Appreciation Wiki
To celebrate NPSW, our communications branch (I believe) set up wiki pages (via yours truly and coworkers) for people to add comments thanking other people’s hard work. I am proud to say that I added a comment as well thanking everyone, particularly the team, in helping me get settled in. I also greatly appreciate my coworkers putting up with my newbie questions.

W2P Event
For some context:

w2p stands for Web 2.0 Practitioners of the Government of Canada, a “community [which] focuses on sharing, identifying, helping and providing best practices within the Government of Canada, and share those leading examples across the public service.” You can follow the discussion on twitter: #w2p

Wednesdays of last week was a #w2p event and it was great. My first meetup with the group (since I missed the last one at the War Museum). I didn’t know anyone there, but the hosts were really friendly and so were all the other people I met. It was nice putting faces to names. I found it funny that half the people there either work or worked at NRCan at some point. A lot of good discussions and finding out what other people are doing. In particular, the accessibility web work that’s happening is quite interesting. I was also introduced to the @UXWG which is a government working group coming up with web guidelines. See Laura Wesley’s blog post summarizes UXWG.

Young Professionals Network Mixer
YPN organized an interdepartment mixer to encourage people to meet with young professionals in other departments. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a little more structured. They basically provided a place and time, but that was it. No introductory remarks, no ice breaker games, nothing to encourage people to actually mix. I was happy that I met new people from another department, but they were essentially coworkers of acquaintances. Still, it was great fun meeting other co-op students I hadn’t met before.

So, that was my NPSW. I’m glad I took the opportunity to go out to as many events as I could manage. It makes me all the more thankful that I had the opportunity in the first place. Thanks GC!