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Amy Vernon: business leader showcase

What tools do business leaders use to stay ahead of the pack? How do they balance work and family? How did they come to be so well known? Today we talk to Amy Vernon for her take on how she got to where she is now.

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Amy Vernon, Social Marketing

Amy Vernon, Social  Marketing

Business leader showcase

In an effort to improve our own professional lives, we often look to business leaders for inspiration, as knowing how they tick can help us to understand what makes a great leader. Amy Vernon is the GM of Social Marketing at Internet Media Labs, and is a well known industry leader in the social media field. A former journalist, Vernon is known for her keen insight, her wit, and for unveiling problems most people never even see.

She has over 67,000 subscribers on Facebook and over 20,000 followers on her personal Twitter profile, but in the interview below, it is heartwarming to see how a real social media expert keeps her focus on her family.

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I’m general manager of social marketing for NYC tech startup Internet Media Labs. That means I deal with overall social marketing strategy for our company and our clients, as well as day-to-day operations on some accounts. I coordinate our blog and relationships with other companies that provide services and resources we don’t. I do hardcore QA on our own products, as well. I tend to work the tools I use very hard.

Walk us through a typical day in your life.

I wake up about 6 a.m., usually when one or more children is bouncing on me for “Operation Wake Up Mommy.” After herding two boys around to get ’em ready for school and they’re dropped off, my husband drops me off at the train and I head into Manhattan. In between, I’ve already begun checking my social accounts and the resources I use to find content I share – Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Triberr and Plugg.io. I start scheduling shares of some of that content, otherwise I’d barrage my followers with a dozen links all at once. I prefer to spread them out throughout the day.

Once I get into work in Chelsea, I’m basically going back and forth between my social accounts and client accounts all day, as well as writing or editing blog posts, meeting with current or potential clients, and putting our products through their paces. SeeS.aw, which is in public beta, visualizes your social feed and enables you to find the best content from it. oneQube, which is in closed beta, helps you find relevant people and conversations.

I’m a pretty hardcore product tester, so I tend to surface unexpected problems, as friends of mine can attest to. I once got an error message on a friend’s product that said merely, “Oh, crap.” The engineer knew exactly what it was, but said I wasn’t supposed to be able to get that particular message.

On days when I don’t have an evening event, I try to get out of Manhattan by 6 p.m. or so, so I can spend some time with my boys before bed. After bedtime, I have my laptop on and continue working while I watch TV with my husband. If I have a nighttime event — which can range from New York Tech Meetup’s monthly showcase to a social event with Girls in Tech or New York Tech Women —  I may be in the city until 10 or 11 p.m., take a train home, stay up a bit longer working and then go to bed.

Where were you raised? Where all have you lived?

Born and raised on Long Island, went to school at Northwestern University in the Chicago suburbs, then lived in South Florida, outside of Phoenix, Az., and in Westchester County, NY. Now I live in Elizabeth, N.J.

How did you get into your current career?

I was laid off after 20 years in newspaper journalism. I’d gotten into Digg, StumbleUpon and other social media sites to help drive traffic to our newspaper’s blogs, and that set me up well for a post-journalism career. Basically, the day after I was laid off, I had my first contract for consulting.

What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?

That’s tough. I feel as if I don’t do a particularly good job at that. But if I had to point to something, it would probably be that every night that I’m home before the boys’ bedtime (I have two young sons), that time until bedtime is “family time.”

What keeps you up at night?

Oddly, I sleep pretty well. When I do have problems, it’s usually work-related. Something I forgot to do, or something I just thought of doing that I’m really excited about.

If you could spend one day in the life of another industry leader, who would it be?

Gini Dietrich or Shelly Kramer. Can’t choose between them. (Fight it out, ladies!) They’re both totally the tops – and good people, hard-nosed, hard-working, funny as heck, smart, and NICE.

At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A newspaper reporter.

What about you would most people not believe unless they knew you?

I was SUPER-shy as a child. Had major problems talking to people I didn’t know. Sometimes even people I did know.

What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest?

I tend to dislike “inspirational” quotes. Most of the quotes on my FB profile, for example, are from Midnight Run or 24.

So, in lieu of that, here’s a quote I really liked when when my first child was a toddler: “Our job is to civilize them, to teach them to say please and thank you, don’t spit and scratch and don’t pee anywhere you want. These are the jobs you have with a toddler.” — Dr. Harvey Karp

The reason I like that quote is because it oversimplifies, but in a way that isn’t oversimplified. At its core, that IS the job one has with a child. Sure, it’s not as simple as that, but it is, also. And I think we tend to overcomplicate most things in life and should step back sometimes and figure out what we really need to get done and do that. And that applies to a lot of things in life.

What tools can you not live without?

Actual tools/gadgets – my smartphones. I have an iPhone and an Android. I like each for different things, though my actual Android is a horrible phone (Droid X2). Between the two, I’m able to do most things I need to while I’m mobile. In terms of platforms/software/apps – Twitter app, Google apps that enable me to email from 6 different addresses via one mailbox, Card Munch, which enables me to scan a business card and then connect with that person on LinkedIn, and GeniusScan, which eliminates the need for a scanner.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. ginidietrich

    November 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Oh ha! I see the duking it out now! LOL! Couldn’t you just spend time with both of us? I mean, Shelly has the Chili Peppers and she’s more funny than me so she naturally wins, but I have Jack Bauer and I can cook like a celebrity chef (at least in my head).

    • AmyVernon

      November 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      @ginidietrich See? that’s why it’s so hard. Honestly, there were a bunch more ladies I easily could have named, too – Tonia Ries & Tinu Abayomi-Paul chief among them. Not Danny Brown , though, because I look funny in a kilt.

      • ginidietrich

        November 13, 2012 at 7:36 am

        @AmyVernon  And you’d have to stop shaving your legs.

        • AmyVernon

          November 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

          @ginidietrich Why do you think I wear pants?

        • ginidietrich

          November 13, 2012 at 10:16 am

          @AmyVernon LOL!!

  2. Tinu

    November 13, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Hi wife friend!
    There are some many fascinating things I know about you but one I didn’t know is that you were super-shy. Me too. I was that kid who cried when I met Santa. Did you ever cry meeting strangers?

    • AmyVernon

      November 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      @Tinu I didn’t cry that much, I just kind of melted into the background. I find it so hard to see you as shy, except that I know a lot of people feel that way about me, too. We were just late bloomers, eh? 🙂

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Business News

How to conduct a proper informational interview

(CAREER) Informational interviews comprise a technique in which you ask an employer or current employee to explain the details of their job to you. Try doing this before you transition into your next occupation!

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At some point in your career, you may ask for someone’s time to do an informational interview — a process in which a job-seeker asks questions about a field, company, or position in hopes of receiving information which will inform both their decision to go into the field and their responses to the specific job’s actual interview. Since the power dynamic in an informational interview can be confusing, here are a few tips on how to conduct one. Not how to obtain one, but how to conduct one once both parties agree to connect.

The process of an informational interview typically starts with finding a person who works in your desired field (and/or location if you have a specific company in mind) and setting up a time during which you can ask them a few questions about things like their job responsibilities, salary, prerequisites, and so on. Once you’ve set up a time to meet in person (or via Skype or phone), you can proceed with putting together a list of questions.

Naturally, you should understand the circumstances under which asking for an informational interview is appropriate before requesting one. Your goal in an informational review should be to ask questions and listen to the answers, NOT pitch yourself as a potential hire. Ever. Nobody appreciates having their time wasted, and playing on your contact’s generosity as a way into their company is a sure way for your name to end up on their blacklist.

Once you’ve set up an informational interview, you should start the conversation by asking your contact what their typical day is like. This is doubly effective: your contact will most likely welcome the opportunity to discuss their daily goings-on, and you’ll be privy to an inside glance at their perspective on things like job responsibilities, daily activities, and other positive aspects of their position.

They’ll also probably detail some drawbacks to the position — things which usually aren’t explained in job postings — so you’ll have the opportunity to make a well-informed decision vis-à-vis the rigors of the job before diving head-first into the hiring process.

After your contact finishes walking you through their day, you can begin asking specific questions. However, unless they’ve been unusually brief in their description of their duties, your best course of action is probably to ask them follow-up questions about things they’ve already mentioned rather than asking targeted questions you wrote without context. This will both indicate that you were listening and allow them to expand upon information they’ve already explained, ensuring you’ll receive well-rounded responses.

You should save the most specific questions (e.g., the most easily answered ones) for the end of the interview. For example, if you want to know what a typical salary for someone in your contact’s position is or you’re wondering about vacation time, ask after you’ve wrapped up the bulk of the interview. This will prevent you from wasting the initial moments of the interview with technical content, and it may also keep the contact from assuming a strictly material motive on your part. And be willing to ask “what does someone with your job title typically earn in [city]?” instead of their specific take-home salary which might not be reflective of the norm (plus, it’s rude, and akin to asking someone their weight).

This is also a good time to ask for general advice regarding breaking into the field, though you may want to avoid this step if you feel like your contact isn’t comfortable discussing such a topic or if you’re intending to apply as someone with experience.

Of course, you won’t always be able to meet with your preferred contact directly, especially if they work in a dynamic field (e.g., emergency services) or have a security clearance which negates their ability to answer the bulk of your questions. If this happens, you have a couple of back-up options:

1. Send an email with a list of questions to the contact, or send them your phone number with a wide-open calling schedule. This is useful if your contact has a random or on-call schedule.

2. Ask your contact if there is someone else you could connect with (it could even be their assistant).

3. Speak to the company’s HR branch to see if you can request a company-specific job requirement print-out or link. These will usually be more particular than the industry requirements. But don’t ask for something you can find yourself on the company’s Careers page online.

Nothing beats an in-person interview over a cup of coffee, but — again — wasting someone’s time isn’t a good way to receive useful information about the position in which you’re interested.

Before transitioning to your next position or career field, consider conducting an informational interview. You’ll be amazed at the amount of insider information you can glean from simply listening to someone discuss their day in detail.

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Even Myers-Briggs creators say not to use the test in the workplace

(BUSINESS) The Myers-Briggs test is fascinating, no question, but it should never be used to screen candidates.

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Personality tests are some of the most popular posts on social media. At least once every day, I see “What Sauce Are You?” or “What Disney Princess Are You?” on my Facebook feed. Millions of people take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test each year, a more professional personality test. When you take the MBTI, you’re presented with a personality type, based on four characteristics, extrovert-introvert (E/I); sensing -intuition (S/N); thinking-feeling (T-F); and judging – perceiving (J/P).

Many organizations use the MBTI in the workplace to group people into teams or to select candidates for employment. After all, wouldn’t you want an extrovert over an introvert for a sales position? But using the MBTI to make serious business decisions may not be a good idea. Here’s why.

It’s unethical to use the MBTI in certain cases.

According to the creators of the MBTI, “It is unethical and in many cases illegal to require job applicants to take the Indicator if the results will be used to screen out applicants. The administrator should not counsel a person to, or away from, a particular career, personal relationship or activity based solely upon type information.”

Personality type does not imply competence or preference.

The creators of MBTI also state this in their ethical position on the personality test. I am an introvert. I will always be an introvert. But I just found out that some of my colleagues believe I am an extrovert. I can adapt to a social or business situation to get the job done. If a job used the MBTI to place me on a team, they may see that I don’t always behave like an introvert. Similarly, a job may overlook me for a position based on my MBTI type. Either way, it’s kind of unfair.

How can you use the MBTI?

The MBTI can be beneficial to help people understand their own tendencies. I remember one thing from the test, a question about whether you base your decisions on how they impact others. Years ago, I would have answered that totally in the positive. I always considered others in making my decisions, whether I should or shouldn’t have. Today, I would answer that question much differently. My understanding of boundaries is much better.

Your MBTI type can be a great communication starter, especially in teams. But it shouldn’t typecast you into a particular position on the team. Employers should not be using the MBTI to pigeonhole their employees.

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Business News

How to talk your boss into letting you work from home

(BUSINESS NEWS) Remote working is increasingly more common here are some tips on how to ask your boss for flexibility.

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You ain’t gotta go to work, work, work

To some people, “working remotely” sounds like a code word for sitting around in your PJs watching Netflix all day.

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But many professionals, managers and otherwise, recognize the value of the flexibility and independence that comes with working from home occasionally.

Pros of remote work

Depending on your role, your commute, and your personal life, benefits of working from home could include:
Reallocating commute time into productivity. 45 minutes each way means an hour and a half of wasted time – and you’re probably already tired by the time you get to work.
Uninterrupted periods of focused work. Coworkers are a wonderful resource for collaboration, and even friendship, but even the most awesome people can be annoying when you really, really, really need to focus.
Energizing quiet time. Introverts often underestimate how much they mentally need this, and everyone can use a reset once in a while.
More time to spend with kids/spouse/friends. Again, you can save time on your commute, and often you can rearrange your schedule to work a few hours after the kids have gone to bed/the movie is over/etc.

If you’ve already made that list of benefits in your head a thousand times while knocking your head against your office desk, a work arrangement that includes remote work days is definitely something you should try, if your organization and your manager will agree to it.

What’s between you and your home office?

But for many potential remote workers, getting the boss onboard seems like an unsurmountable barrier, and they may have even made the request in the past but been denied. This article is designed to help all those interested in remote work successfully navigate that daunting process.

Before we get into the details of potential concerns your boss may have, you should establish a clear reason (or reasons) why you’d like to transition to a schedule that includes working from home.

If you can’t articulate this fundamental point, your boss will be much more likely to suspect that your motives are less than pure. Both personal and professional reasons are totally valid, but being totally open is the only way to set yourself up for success.

The game plan

With these motivations in mind, develop a proposal for your boss that focuses on how working from home will benefit your organization, not you. Your boss knows that you’re asking for this flexibility for yourself, but a happier and more productive you is way better for the company than a miserable, exhausted you.

Your proposal should include a schedule or plan, and you should probably start slow with the work from home days.

If your goal is to work from home two days a week, suggest spending one day at home every two weeks for a set period, like two or three months, so that your boss will have a built in trial period to agree to.

A couple of pro tips: aside from ensuring that you’re in the office on important regular meeting days, you should avoid Friday as your work from home day to be sure it doesn’t look like you’re after three day weekends. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are ideal, because they’re in the middle of the week, and you may often have a lot of tasks and projects coming to a head on these days that you’ll need to focus on for completion.

You also need to go out of your way to make sure your boss understands that your flexible schedule would work both ways; that is, even if you’re scheduled to work from home this Wednesday, you’ll come into the office for an important meeting or check in.

Go the extra mile without being asked and your boss will have no reason to worry about flexibility.

Finally, the best way to prove the value of remote work is to actually work better remotely. That means you’re in regular contact with your team and your boss, whether you’re asking questions or just sending status updates on your projects a couple of times a day.

Over-communicating is important here.

It also means accomplishing a little more than you might at the office, or digging a little deeper. If you finish something early, ask coworkers over chat or phone if they could use your help for an hour. Make yourself available, just as you would in the office, and no one will be left wondering what you do all day.

A dedicated workspace in your home can do wonders for your productivity – it’s hard for anyone to do hard, concentrated work on their sofa with a lap desk.

Let your boss know it worked

As the end of the established trial period approaches, it would be prudent to present your boss with a summary of your remote accomplishments over the past few months.

If you’re sending regular updates, this should be easy to determine.

And no matter how sure you are that you’ll love working remotely, you should be mindful of any loneliness or feelings of isolation, and address them by staying in contact with coworker friends over chat, or scheduling lunches with them once in awhile, especially if you work from home the majority of the time.

Try again

If, after careful preparation and thoughtful presentation, your boss still isn’t having it, don’t be afraid to ask again in a few months. And in the meantime, you could bolster your case by taking a day or two of unscheduled time off and just working from home unasked.

If you can show your boss what the company gets out of it, they’ll be hard pressed to say no.

#Remote

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