May 3, 2012

The Power of a Powerful Message

What message are you conveying as you interact with others in your daily life? Does it support your vision and purpose?  Or does it work against it?

Like it or not, you are a walking billboard for yourself and people make judgements based on what you transmit.  The good news:  you get to design and manage your message.

I've written a guest blog on this topic.  Click here for link.

Working Late Dallas is a new networking group for accomplished professional women founded by the dynamic duo of Helen Molloy of J.P. Morgan Securities and Jane Fergason, partner, Gardere Wynne Sewell.  Their sessions are lively and interactive -- featuring women from a cross-section of business  and stages-of-life.  Invigorating!

Helen and I met at a meeting of Texas Wall Street Women where I beta-tested content for the Changeometer TM -- my framework for strategic decisionmaking.

Don't miss the TWSW the 2012 Leaders in Finance Investment Outlook Panel and reception May 9, 4-9 pm at the Belo Mansion in Dallas.   See info/registration here.

The next Working Late session is May 16, 5-7:30 pm, where I will be sharing some Changeometer highlights.  Click here to request an invitation.

January 25, 2012

Wisdom from Wallis -- Duchess of Windsor

She upended an empire when King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to marry her.  Madonna has just premiered a movie -- W./E. -- about her life with the subsequently titled Duke of Windsor.  She wasn't movie star gorgeous...but was a style icon anointed in the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame. 

So....what kind of va-va-voom did Wallis Warfield Simpson have going for her?  It's still a controversial and gossipy subject for debate.

What's certain is that she had some very effective managerial and leadership skills.  She was famous for her sense of style and hospitality.  Her housekeeping skills were par excellence

She was a style mentor to Winston Churchill's daughter who later became U.S. Ambassador to France, Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman.

Here's a key tenet -- the underpinning of the Duchess of Windsor's managerial success -- something we can all follow in personal/professional/community endeavors.

In running a spectacular operation, you don't have to do the cooking yourself, she told Harriman,  but you must understand the process.  In other per Christopher Ogden's Life of the Party
"You can't say to a cook no matter how much you are paying him, that you don't like something.  You must be able to say, 'I want it done this way.'"
Be informed about what you are overseeing.  Give specific input.  Then let the experts deliver what you want.

Granted, the shrill and scandalous divorcee from Baltimore is not an obvious "best practices" leadership icon.  But keep this in mind.  She got a King to follow her. 

January 24, 2012

The Reality of Job Postings

If you are a jobhunter focused on internet job postings, you might be feeling frustrated by the lack of "deal flow" -- i.e., responses, interviews, offers.  Here's why.  Scope this infographic from The Wall Street Journal in a story today on Your Resume vs. Oblivion

Thus, when outplacement firms and campus career office expound the gospel of personal relationships and networking as a means to finding a new opportunity, it is a message to heed!  Get in there and sell yourself to a company before a position is formalized and posted to the world!

In a down market, the glut of resumes submitted for jobs posted accelerates. It doesn't mean that all applicants are 100% qualified for the job. But it means the selection process becomes cumbersome. And, with automation as a solution on the hiring side, the process also becomes less personal.

Large companies with significant talent needs at the non-executive level have built hiring machines that rival military invasions.  They have invested millions in systems that rely on sorting and key word searches.  They have leverage in negotiating for better pricing to post jobs in various on-line venues and spider consolidaters, not to mention their own websites.

Entrepreneurs and middle market companies have a greater challenge when going to market for talent.  They typically have no dedicated HR resource with up-to-date hiring savvy and budgetary prowess.  It is not cost-effective to do so when you are hiring in fewer numbers. 

Yet a wrong hire in a smaller company has a bigger impact.  The downturn has a double-edge impact.  Just because there is an abundance of talent doesn't mean that it's easy to find The Perfect Fit.
Front-end targeting, planning and messaging will dramatically and favorably influence the result -- whether
the hiring decisionmaker uses a search firm or takes the do-it-yourself path. 

Who can help smaller enterprises navigate?  Watch for a new breed of expert:  The Talent Concierge

Kind of a middleware service offering.  Less investment/commitment than a full premium-priced retained search.  Empowering improved results from lower-cost contingency firms who operate on speed and volume -- by providing specific input/criteria/messaging that is customized for you.  Or enabling low-cost/no-cost do-it-yourself, with a spin of strategy and savvy.

December 12, 2011

Tribute to Truby: Don't Get Discouraged!

Here is a note of encouragement for the students and career changers in your family -- or anyone undertaking a challenge. 

When you start something new, whether imposed or by choice, you might not be very good at it.  In fact, you might be quite awful.  But with dedication, initiative -- and a good teacher -- you can forge a path to something fabulous and rewarding.   

Flashback:  An exciting course offering for English majors at Indiana University of Pa.  Journalistic Writing, taught by the cocky, sardonic and totally entertaining J. David Truby (left, in photo).  Featuring creativity, real-world scenarios and assignments in the field.  Everything I loved.

But early reviews of classwork were not encouraging.   
"No conclusions.  No quotes.  No critique.  No good." 
"As interpretation, it's fine, I guess.  As a news story, it is not too good.  I hope you have a nice weekend." 
Ouch.  But keep at it.
"You have a great deal of material here. Some of it is quite good, while some of it is filler. In any case, I like the first two examples very much."
A good teacher can help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses.  Maybe even career DNA. 
"OK, N.A., You chose to satirize the assignment.  It is cute, well-written and very clever.  It does not meet the assignment.  Do you want a job as an ad writer in NYC? If so, see me.  I think you'd do well. J.D."
Now going for a big get.  For an interview assignment, I discovered that a powerful federal enforcer had retired nearby.  Harry Anslinger was the first U.S. drug czar, serving five presidents.  He proffered lively comments about J. Edgar Hoover, Frank Sinatra and mafia dons.
"The more I think about your work and ambition in talking to Mr. Anslinger, and compare it with what so many others did....I'm giving you an 'A'  for extra credit work."
Closing with a satisfying win.   A prospectus for a new women's magazine, dubbed Winning!    
"Great. I wish I had $20 million to invest!!"
Our memories re-play wins and successes. But there are always false starts and missteps we like to forget.  If you are a keeper of files and artifacts,you might even have the actual documentation. Very humbling.

Lack of initial success doesn't mean you're not good at something.  You're not necessarily bad or untalented.  It might just mean you're not good yet

Just take a cue from J. David Truby, inspirer and critic, now professor emeritus. 

Get better.  Listen and learn.  Practice.  Make mistakes.  Keep going.  Have fun.  Enjoy the journey!

September 7, 2011

Change-o-Meter ™

When the heat of summer lifts and the crispness of fall arrives, it's invigorating.  We feel refreshed and renewed.  (Particularly here in Texas!) A perfect time to re-evaluate the slate of obligations and perhaps mix it up a bit to capture new opportunities. 

Our world is intense and fast-changing.  The perfect mix of work/life balance may be elusive.  Thus, it may be more pragmatic to focus on synergy -- getting multiple benefits from a single effort.  And very important to get rid of things that are harmful to your HQ -- Happiness Quotient.

Here's a process to consider.    Make three columns on a piece of paper and start making lists.

The Prize:  Is there something missing in your life that you want?  Make this a header at the top of the page.  This could be a major business goal or an important personal desire. could be a sliver of time that you want to devote to something you enjoy.  Go for it.  You deserve it!

Column 1:   How are you spending your time currently?  Make a list of all work/home activities.  Include habits, hobbies and even time-wasters.    Evaluate recurring commitments.  Put a checkmark beside the activities you enjoy.  Put an "X" beside the items you loathe.  Circle the items that might be impediments to attaining The Prize.

Column 2:  What do you talk about in the various circles that you inhabit?  Make a list of your typical topics.  Do they help or hinder your path to the goal?  Remember, we get to control what we broadcast to others.  Thus, it might be important to edit and segment your messages.  Keep in mind that social media amplifies the perceptions being collected.  The dashing Mad Men ad man Don Draper says it best.  If you want a different outcome, "....change the conversation."

Column 3:   What new activities might you pursue to achieve your target?  Where is the audience that might lead you to the goal?  Is it a class, an organization, a change of scenery?  Or is it simply an allocation of time to deliver an important dose of happiness?   

Take a hard look at your list from Column 1.  You will be subtracting at least one activity from this group.  Are you focused or fragmented?  Everyone needs a tribe, so it's important to be part of a group that delivers conviviality, solace, learning, advancement of purpose.  Are you still involved in organizations that no longer fit your new goals?  Are you still chairing a committee that you're just plain sick of?   Are there things you can outsource -- at home or the office?

It could also be that something has already been taken away from you.  A job....a relationship....a family member or loved one.  If you've sustained a loss, be nurturing and good to yourself in the process of restoring and re-building.   

Evaluate what your are saying in your various venues.  Be mindful of the perceptions you are creating.  Capitalize on your relationships and time spent with others.  Craft a message that engages friends and colleagues in your pursuit of The Prize.  Delete some "tapes" in your conversations.  Edit and revise.

Be purposeful and strategic in adding new activities in place of the old ones you've purged.  Do you want a gractful migration or a full-tilt plunge?  Or do you just want a few months of breathing space.  Devote the time to what is important to you and savor the enjoyment!  You'll never look back, I promise.

Here is a dating diagnostic version of a Change-o-Meter(Click on it to enlarge).  It is a simple but powerful game-changer.

Example:  Column 1 -- Stop smoking and you will double the number of potential partner prospects.  Column 2 -- A date is not a therapy session, parent/teacher conference or business meeting.  It should be a respite from the pressures of daily life!   Column 3 -- Taking up golf is a matter of location...location...location.  It's where the men are. 

June 17, 2011

The Toastmaster

What we learn in early childhood shows up in adulthood.  Sometimes it's a glimmer of a memory.  But it's there.     

In a career of active industry involvement, I've never served as president of an organization.

Instead, I LOVE doing the meetings and programs.  Picking a timely topic.  Recruiting speakers and panelists.  Moderating.  Generating buzz and participation.  Being a presenter.   

I've overseen 250 programs for CEOs of start-up technology companies.  Annual investor meetings for Texas Women Ventures.  Special panels for SMU's Human Resources Roundtable.  Monthly roundtables for COO Forum.  Practice Group retreats for PricewaterhouseCoopers.   A sampling from a long, long list.

Where did this come from?

My late father, Frank Vetakis.

Recently, I spent an evening on a research project scoping on-line archives of our hometown newspaper.   There it was in black and white!

"...Dale Carnegie Class No. 301 deviated from the normal trend of study" and hosted a special event. It was ..."a demonstration of the accomplishments of the class."  My father was:  Committee chairman.   

A major undertaking was the expansion of his golf club to 18 holes and construction of a new clubhouse.  He was a director and committee member.  There was a whole series of announcements and events, culminating in the dedication. 

He solicited letters from Arnold Palmer and other greats who played at the club in various exibition matches.  Commendations from political figures.  There was a moment-to-moment account of the entire opening convocation in the newspaper.  The leadership team was photographed.  My father was:  Toastmaster.

There were other golf events he oversaw.  The Hacker's Handicap.  The Carlie's Open, which possibly pioneered the trend of title sponsorships, as Carlie was a tavern proprietor.  There were videos and elaborate programs.  Even a tournament queen.  (It might have been Carlie himself dressed as Miss Pennsylvania.)   

When the Vatican allowed laypeople to participate in the liturgy, Frank became a lector at what was known as the Golfer's Mass.  7 a.m.  No sermon.  He and the monsignor kept the service moving.  You could make an early tee time.

That love of content, packaging and showmanship trickled down.  Frank had a flair, for sure!

In memory and gratitude on Father's Day.

June 16, 2011

Don't Wait Till Graduation -- Your Life Starts Now!

Here is a pre-commencement address for the students in your family.

It's no secret that we're in a tough economy and that trend is likely to continue.  Thus, getting work-ready is an important priority.  Get an edge on the competition and start now to build experience to showcase on a resume.  If you wait until you're actually looking for that first big job, it might be too late.

The good news is that companies will be needing smart, savvy new entrants.  We've been through two no-hiring phases in the last ten years, so there are big gaps in the talent pipeline.  The aging BabyBoomers will ultimately retire or be replaced. 
But it's C-O-M-P-E-T-I-T-I-V-E out there.

Q.  What do hiring decisionmakers like to see? 
A.  Passion, perseverence, leadership, pursuit of excellence.

Q.  I don't know what I want to do after graduation.
A.  That's OK.  Why not use the time now to see what's out there?  Snoop around.  Try on a summer job and see what it's like in a particular company or industry.  Use the process of elimination to find out what you definitely DON'T want to do.  That's a step forward.

Q.  No one is hiring.
A.  Volunteer at a non-profit.  Every position inside the organization -- from marketing to accounting, IT and fundraising -- could use an extra dose of help and brainpower.  This will look great on a resume and you can make some excellent contacts.

Q.  I can get hourly work in retail or a restaurant, but I'm not interested in pursuing that field.
A.  If you need $$ and this is what's available, go for it.  See if you can get continuing work in one specific company over a period of time.  Summer job, holiday work.   Demonstrate work ethic and longevity.    Build relationships with customers, who may be able to help you in the future. 

Q.  I've been a camp counselor every summer.  How will that help my future career?
A.  Winning the slot year after year is a good thing. Shows you are well-regarded, reliable.   Also indicates you can deal with the unexpected and all kinds of people issues.  Homesick kids.  Demanding parents, etc.

Q.  What about an international program or mission initiative?
A.  Definitely a good addition to your portfolio!

Q.  I love music and I'm in a band. 
A.  Practice makes perfect.  Keep it up! Maybe even keep track of hours/gigs/revenue.  Add a quantitative
twist to a future resume. Track customer/venue names. You're building a network for the future!

Q. I'm into
A.  Then turn your avocation into a potential vocation.  Write a blog.  Share your knowledge, passion with others.  Become a young, up-and-coming thought leader.

Q.  Will I need an internship?
A.  YES.  YES.  YES.  This is the primary hiring pool for future positions.  Begin laying the groundwork now.

Q.  I don't want to work in someone else's company.  I want to have my own business.
A.  Excellent!  Then start now.  Or preview the entrepreneurial life by working for another business owner/founder.   

Make the most of this valuable time in your life.  Have a great summer.  Be a sponge.  Listen and learn.  Find out about people's lives.  Collect cards and contact information.  Oh...and don't do anything stupid/crazy/unretractable on-line. Honor your personal brand!!!  :)

May 18, 2011

Tina's Trifecta

Talk about timing.  Right on the tail of Osama bin Laden and The Royal Wedding, Tina Brown, the doyenne of dish, serves up a red hot cover story on Newsweek, which she is resuscitating and presenting in a print/internet combo package with The Daily Beast

It kicked off a week that exploded with supporting evidence of the premise -- the complicated dynamics of political wifedom in modern, media-driven society: 
  • Jailed, married global politico, IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on suicide watch at Rikers Island following sexual assault charges by a New York hotel maid.  KAPOW!   
  • Revelation of rationale -- Maria Shriver terminates cohabitation with Terminator Schwarzenegger when he confesses a ten-year old love child with a former household worker.  POW! 
  • Wronged political wife and evolving power attorney Alicia Florrick, in a hotel elevator with her college amour/legal colleague for a passionate tryst -- maybe??? -- in the season finale of the popular television series upon which The Good Wife cover story was likely timed.  VaVaVOOM!
She's baaaack. 

La Tina swept into town last week for an unscripted Q&A with journalism students at SMU.

Oh, she is a force!  She engages with her posh parlance and passion for topics and taste-makers across the spectrum.  She is a human buzz machine, so you can see how it works -- from her brain to final copy. 
  • ''May-December pairing"-- the mentoring of young journalists by seasoned staff writers.  
  • "Eclectic calibration"--  rollouts of fast-breaking news and serving it up on evolving basis
  • On WikiLeaks -- "He is the biggest sleazeball of the western world.  But it's a valuable tool."
  • Regarding political leanings of news entities -- "The Daily Beast is ''polypolitical."
She acknowledges the short spurt attention of news audiences in the age of Twitter and the Internet.  "Our brains are being re-wired.  You can't lead with six paragraphs of throat clearing at the beginning of the piece.  It has to be provocative....the best written....the most juice."

But she's also knowledgeable and facile on any facet of politics, business, economics and the convergence of issues and truths that will change everything.  She loves the wild swings in story cycles. "The news craziness suits me," she enthuses.

Flashback to Tina's childhood to trace her M.O.  She grew up in a show business family.  Her father was a prominent figure in the British film industry -- producer of the Agatha Christie films, among others.  Her mother was press secretary to mega-actor Laurence Olivier during his marriage to Vivian Leigh, the portrayer of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind

She experienced a glamorous girlhood in a salon filled with the prominente.  She was privy to see and hear what went on behind closed doors, a heady view not known by the general public.  When she took the reins of Tatler, a stuffy chronicle of upper-class/aristo life, she infused it with tidbits of insider knowledge that shocked and tantalized.  Magazine sales soared and Tina was off and running.  She imprinted that same spin on Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.

It's an underlying truth of human nature.  People love a dose of dish in the daily news and information regimen.  Think of those old I Love Lucy shows about who gossips more -- men or women.  It's both.

Living in the U.K., I saw first-hand the tabloid frenzy that ensued with the Fergie toe-sucking scandal and  Diana/Charles/Camilla love triangle.  There were traffic jams every morning at the corner news agent with everyone battling to pick up the latest tidbit on the demise of the Royal marriages -- the froth atop the more serious issues of economics and the future of the monarchy.   

It's the core of the media/entertainment business.  You have to attract an audience.  Tina understands that.  She is a box office girl.  And now she commands a global staff -- with Newsweek bureaus worldwide.

It will be fun to watch.  Stay tuned!

May 13, 2011

Friday Links -- 5 Must Read Career Management Articles

Thank you to Sarah Wright for including The Perfect Fit in her weekly Top 5 blog recommendations on, the candidate-facing website of the Association of Executive Search Consultants.

She cites the Valentine's Day post  -- Behavioral Blur -- Is a Date a Job Interview?
" excellent analogy of job interviews to dates. Do not be fooled by the title, this article is actually full of great advice and is extremely fun to read. Enjoy!"
If you are single and hoping this will be the summer of love, it's a good checklist. If you are in search of career advancement, do scope BlueSteps.  

All of the AESC retained search firm members -- globals and top boutiques -- use Blue Steps as a secondary research database when conducting assignments, so this is a very efficient way to get exposure and candidacy consideration with utmost confidentiality.

There is a nominal, one-time fee to submit your profile, which you can update at any time.  The focus is top level:  C-suite candidates, potential public company Board members, high pedigree High Potentials, etc.

Here's to The Perfect Fit -- on all counts!

April 11, 2011

Paper Dolls

Are you pondering a new direction?  Sometimes you have to look back before you can move forward!

Revisit your formative years.  What were your favorite activities as a child?  Were you building, exploring, reading, role-playing or competing in sports? 

In an era of computer-generated graphics and all things digital, my friend and former ad agency colleague, Celesta Segerstrom, is forging an incredible career focus through gorgeous and painstaking hands-on design .  She is making exquisite fashion ensembles out of various kinds of paper -- white doilies, colorful fashion publications, brown bags and tissue paper -- for the display windows of Clotheshorse Anonymous, a leading Dallas re-sale shop. 
She calls this new medium --what else -- Paper Dolls! 

"I've been an artist all of my life," she says, "even drawing portraits for friends as a small child." She loved playing with paper dolls, but went one step further -- designing and drawing her own creations for the cardboard models of her girlhood. 

Celesta grew up in Menlo Park, Calif., now heavily populated by high tech innovators and venture capital investors.  Her father was a brilliant dentist and oral surgeon -- deft with his hands and detail-oriented.  He encouraged Celesta and her two sisters with artisan projects, tools and handiwork.  
She went on to study at the prestigious Art Center College of Design, then headed to Madison Avenue to work on major brands for Proctor & Gambol, Colgate-Palmolive, Clairol and AT&T.  She has been an art director, new product development entrepreneur and creative director. After leaving the ad agency world, she continued to take on art commissions, as well as pursuits in real estate development.

Celesta is a creative the message and the medium of re-cycle, re-purpose and re-sale are congruent with the Clotheshorse Anonymous brand.  It's The Perfect Fit! 

But it doesn't stop there.  She is part of the team doing interactive display windows for children in the downtown Dallas Neiman Marcus store.  She creates custom props and sets for Magic Moments Parties & Events. 

Update 4/19/11:  And she just completed a prestigious commission.  She designed hockey great Brett Hull's denim jacket for the 2011 DIFFA Dallas Auction.  The package of the jacket, access to Hull VIP Suite and a kid's day camp slot with Hull was the top auctioned item at $14,000! 

So, bravo to you, Celesta.  What an era of renaissance and creative resurgence -- all wrapped in a clever package of strategic purpose.  It's a re-mix that is literally fabulous!  To see more of her designs, visit her Facebook page.

February 13, 2011

Behavioral Blur: Is a Date a Job Interview?

Those in pursuit of career advancement know the importance of putting the best foot forward in every step of networking, interviewing and “onboarding” once they obtain the new role.

Yet, when searching for romance, it is easy to slip into sloppy personal habits -- feeling you are relaxed, off-duty from work and displaying characteristics that merit self-examination.

With technology, access to other candidates is easier than in earlier times.  Selectors are pickier because they can be.  Thus, the same behavior that derails one's candidacy for a job can also wreck prospects for a courtship.    
Being Late. Would you ever consider being late for a job interview? Of course not! Likewise, keeping a  date waiting is dangerous grounds for elimination.  It sends a signal of narcissism and a lack of respect for others. 

Diva!  The date starts as soon as you leave your home or near the destination. Any snappish behavior to cab drivers, valet parkers or wait staff will be noticed. Points will be deducted.  Be nice to everyone!

Rants about the Dating Process. The phenomenon of on-line dating has bred a very bad habit -- rounds of anecdotes about the frustrations and comedies of, eHarmony, etc.  This is a very unflattering opener and poor use of time.  Would you ever devote precious minutes of a job interview complaining about the process? Would an interviewer ever make fun of the previous candidate? Never!

Dissing the Ex. Ditto discussions about the former spouse or significant other.  The rule of thumb in “interview-speak” is to describe previous positions as “a wonderful opportunity, but I was ready for a new challenge.” Again, why would you spend valuable minutes describing something negative -- a life experience that was not successful?

Talking Too Much. Be a well and not a fountain. As in an interview, come prepared with lots of questions to put the focus on the other person. Babbling on about oneself gives the impression of being self-centered. And, of course, you’re not. Right?

Inappropriate Attire. Dress for the occasion and never “over-dress.” Your goal is to look like a potential spouse.
Too Much Fragrance. Lots of people have allergies. Your date might be one of them. Create a neutral packaging and don’t give someone a reason to de-select you.

Re-Engineering the Menu. Be decisive when ordering, whether a date or interview meal.  Do not parse the entree and request that the chef do a recipe re-do – with everything “on the side.” If you are impossible to please, who would want to sign up for a full-time hitch? 

Foul Language. Keep it clean. Imagine that your date’s boss or mother is in tow.

Getting into a Debate. No arguing!  Do not let the conversation gravitate to a heated discussion of differing opinions. Focus on finding areas of commonality.

Negativity. Avoid criticism of others.  When women complain and go negative in a conversation, my husband categorizes it as being judgmental.  Stifle your inner pickiness and focus on the joy of the possibilities!

Now you're well on your way to finding The Perfect Fit.  Happy Valentine's Day to all!

January 29, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: A Networking Guide for Newcomers

Welcome Super Bowl visitors! ! !  Maybe you'll like Dallas/Fort Worth so much, you'll want to stay. 

You won't be alone.  Texas is teeming with new transplants these days.  No surprise.  Folks are attracted to our open and welcoming culture, attractive cost of living, favorable economy and promising future.  In fact, Dallas leads the nation in job creation, according to this impressive graphic from SMU's Michael Cox, former economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. 

The Texas Superstate cover story of Newsweek, above, was the eye-opener and impetus for me.  Here is the complete story, as recounted in D Magazine's 119 Reasons Why We Love Dallas issue.  Soon, my two sisters followed and later, even my mother. 

It was fertile ground for pursuit of successful business careers, for which we are very grateful.  Not to mention the side benefit of meeting tall, handsome Texas husbands.  Dallas has been very good to these girls from Altoona, PA! 

If you're new in town, here are some orientation tips:

1.  Cultural context.  Rent the movie Giant to catch the pioneering spirit of Texas.  Scope some episodes of the TV show Dallas.  J.R. Ewing is a bigger-than-life oilman.  Note the shoulder pad fashions of the 80s and the changing skyline of the city.  ESPN's Pony Excess covers the SMU football scandal, against the backdrop of local business, media and politics. 

2.  Media coverage.  Peruse the websites, blogs and archives of Dallas Morning News, Texas Monthly, D Magazine and D CEO.  Note the new neighborhood video channel You+Dallas

3.  Daytime beverages.  At a weekday business lunch, you will likely order iced tea or Dr Pepper (regular or diet).  As a corporate even planner once noted, "Dallas doesn't drink at lunch, but these men expect their glass of wine at 6 pm."

4.  Gotta have Art.  Take in an arts event at the venues of our internationally renown Arts District -- DMA, Nasher, Wyly, Meyerson or Winspear.  And, yes, we have sports, too.  Two pro team owners have Pittsburgh ties -- Mark Cuban and Chuck Greenberg.
5.  Find a tribe.  Join something.  Whether it's a neighborhood group, professional organization or non-profit initiative.  Take on a leadership role.   Women In Communications  was my port of entry.  I became the Job Placement chairman, an excellent way to meet others and match them with new opportunities!  (Program chairman is another productive and visible role in an organization.)

6.  Team up.  Don't go it alone.  Find another newcomer and network together.  One of my first friends in town was NYC transplant Erika Sanchez, then a reporter at the Dallas Morning News.  We would do a regular lunch during those early days and both invite a new person that we thought the other would like.  We're still friends and members of an excellent book club!

7.  Fashionability.  You will notice how attractive the women and men are here.  The weather is warm much of the time, so people are outdoors and less bundled-up than in the North.  Not to mention the Neiman Marcus influence of beauty and style. Fitness outlets also abound. 

8.  Be nice.  People are friendly and happy here.  Smile!  Relax!  Be polite!   Say please, thank you and excuse me.  No elbow-jabbing or pushing. 

9.  Go blonde.   You will note being surrounded by beautiful blondes.  At some point, many brunettes give into the temptation and, at minimum, experiment with highlights.  Go ahead, give it a try.  You can always go back to your natural color.  Live the life of a Dallas blonde.  Even the senior citizens do.  (My mother included!)  You can count the number of gray-haired women here on a single hand. 

10.  (Bonus tip for single women.)  Take up golf.  We have a nice long playing season here and, as the realtors say:  Location, location, location.  It's where the men are.  Even if you only go to the driving range, it provides an excellent venue.  It works.  I can tell you of a particularly noteworthy tournament that yielded two weddings out of two foursomes.  Do you need a more compelling testimonial?  I didn't think so.

So, to all....Welcome.  Enjoy.  Go Steelers! ! ! !    

January 7, 2011


Christine Breck, founder of Texas Wall Street Women, called this week with an invitation to present at the Dallas chapter's October meeting. 

We brainstormed critical topics to address:  leadership, career management and networking -- all wrapped up under the umbrella of busy career time constraints. How does one cope with work, home, family, fitness, a touch of social life and still find time to sleep??? 

It's risky to have all of one's eggs in one basket.  A byword of career planning is to network before you need to.  And advancement often requires relationships and outreach in industry circles beyond one's immediate department, according to author and career expert Dr. Helen Harkness.  Yet, in a post-downsized world, bandwidth is limited.  It's not uncommon for an individual to be doing the work of more than one. 

What's the solution?  Women in particular need a career and relationship strategy that delivers efficiencies.  It's all about synergy -- mixing business and personal realms.

Men have been doing it for years.  Drinks at the 19th hole after a game of golf.  Football and baseball outings.  Poker groups.  We now have executive women golf initiatives.  But you don't have to undertake sports if you're not athletically inclined.  There are many other paths.

Here are some points that I will address:

1.  People do business with those they like.  Become friends with your clients.
2.  Saying no is an important as saying yes.  Don't get saddled with commitments if they are not going to give you an effective ROI.  Or if they're not enjoyable.
3.  Delegate and outsource -- don't try to be the homemade cupcake goddess if you are a time-crunched  road warrior. 
4.  Seek alliances that can deliver multiple outcomes. 
5.  Find fitness outlets with friends.
6.  Target organizations where your customers are -- and your competitors are not.

When I was single in my 30s, I always built relationships with the wives of male clients.   My pro bono community work was always in support of their special charities.  When I married, my husband and I became friends as couples with many longtime clients and co-workers.  We are trusted advisors to one another.  We network.  We refer business.  We help each other.     

On Saturdays, I always look forward to Lisa Ann McCall's Body Balance class.  It's a wonderful regime and as a bonus, it's a catch-up session with friends and colleagues from Texas Women Ventures (4 of us), Second Wednesday Book Club (3 of us) and Women's Leadership Exchange (4 of us), as well as a women's financial breakfast series where I first met Lisa Ann!

Texas Women Ventures Fund has been highly rewarding.  We are a mezzanine fund that invests in women-led businesses.  It's an impressive network of professional women -- and some men, as well -- who provide funding as well as expertise and connections, as needed, by the portfolio companies.  It's a for-profit organization for the investors, but one which also does good, as the companies are creating hundreds of jobs in their local economies.  Many friendships and business relationships have been forged, as the group prepares to raise a third fund this year. 

The key is to find The Perfect Fit of outreach initiatives that work for you and your career goals.

January 5, 2011


If you have a creative bent,you likely have a storehouse of content -- ditties you've written or drawn.  If you are in the professional services sector, it might be a backlog of thought leadership.

It's the New Year.   A perfect time to try something new!  Dig into the archives.  Take a fresh look at your output.  Maybe you can package, leverage -- or simply share -- something that might be of interest and value to others. 

Here's a wonderful holiday song inspired by our little dog Chanel. 

Children love it.  It's easy to sing -- with a nice story about untapped skills that lie within.  There are product extension possibilities.  I'm storyboarding a picture book.  And, of course, it would be an adorable plush toy -- or even screenplay. 

Don't hesitate to shoot me an email regarding commercial possibilities.  It's my creative side project of the year. 

I just changed the name of the little dog to avoid conflict with the Chanel design house.  Sending it off for copyright approval via  Enjoy!

Noelle’s Merry Christmas

There once was a dog....
And her name was Noelle.
She went with her family
Where some trees they would sell.

They all got so excited
About the Christmas tree.
They got into the car.

Poor little dog!
Left all alone!
So far away from home.....’
Just to wander and to roam.

She walked along the highway.....
She went from street to street.
When daylight turned to darkness,

Then what to her teary
Little eyes should appear
But Santa and his little team
Of merry reindeer.

They said, “Come on and join us!!
“We’ll travel through the sky.
“You’ll see your Mom and Dad again...”

She practiced and practiced....
Tried to flap her little paws.
With Santa and his reindeer
Looking on with applause.

She said, “I’ll never do it!”
Her ears turned ‘round and ‘round.
The next that she knew it....
(Touch your fingertips together and raise them above your head!)

With Dancer and Prancer
And the rest of them she flew....
Up in the air
In the winter sky so blue.

They landed on the driveway.
She scampered to the door.
Noelle’s back with her family....

© Nancy Keene 2011

October 4, 2010

The Root of Creativity within Us

It's countdown to the second TEDxSMU event -- sure to be an even more impressive and inspiring session than the highly-noted inaugural last fall.  The multiple, related events are already underway. 

The organizers, Dean Geoff Orsak and the amazingly capable Sharon Lyle have partnered with an exciting new media entity You+Dallas to create in perpetuity a multi-media community to keep the programs and possibilities alive -- with a goal of growing the impact and participation.  Here is the TEDxSMU-specific link.

Note the multiple channels.  I was honored to be asked to contribute on the topic of Creativity.  See link to the post here

September 16, 2010

Dress for Success

copyright Nancy Keene, 1983

Have you ever heard of John Malloy's Dress for Success bible? 
When women were gaining higher stature in the workforce, he espoused in 1975 a set of rules for professional attire -- spawning minions of man-suited females and likely inspiring the entire Liz Claiborne category of fashion for working women at the time, launched in 1976 with great success. 

Malloy's message, at heart, was pretty sensible.  Be conservative. Be classy. Don't make fads and fashion your focal point. To some extent, the principles still apply.

Why do controversies constantly erupt on aspects of female attire?  It's been widely discussed this week, due to the hoo-hah of the New York Jets coaching staff and television reporter Ines Sainz. See link to NFL story here
I did an interview today on the topic with MSNBC "career diva'' Eve Tahmincioglu.   See link here

There are many reasons for confusion.  More flexibility exists in what you can wear today, as there are companies that favor old-school, traditional corporate attire.  Others go the business casual route.  Then you add the complication of home offices -- occupied by entrepreneurs as well as Fortune 500 company sales forces seeking real estate savings on the bottom line. 

There are no real rules.  And no singular expert upon whom women today rely.   
copyright Nancy Keene, 1983

I wrote a blogpost last year on the dilemma.  Here is the link

Generally, you are in charge of your own brand.  You get to choose your own packaging to showcase your  fashion sense, career image and life purpose. 

Here are some principles for perpetuity: 
  • Dress for the job you want, not just the job you have now
  • Watch for visual cues from those you admire
  • Consider your personal brand and how your attire transmits signals
  • Be appropriate for your role
  • If you are going to multiple venues during the day, dress for the dressiest. 
  • You can always remove a jacket or alter accessories to suit the more casual setting
  • Who you want to be and how you look must be congruent
Some comments on Ines:

There was an early role model in sports broadcasting who was also a former beauty queen.  The elegant, classy Phyllis George.  But she was pioneering in a U.S. media market, which favored attractive, but conservative females, albeit with a touch of sass.   The female on-air TV talent in Latin America has a distinctive aspect of va-va-voom. is important to view Ines in the context of her home market. 

Photo commentary:  A video shoot at D/FW Airport to promote voice mail technology for VMX, my first high-tech ad/PR client.  I was cast as a busy, traveling businesswoman who wanted an easy way to stay in touch with her office and clients.  Even in the 1980s, they wanted the Dress for Success look and there was one little John Malloy silk neck bow in my wardrobe -- added to a demure silk tweed suit with a wrap skirt. Vintage, anyone? 

August 20, 2010

Mad Men: Don Draper's 10 Secrets of Career Success

Don Draper, the dashing lead character in the television series Mad Men, is a master in the art of re-invention. His story is taken to the extreme, as he architected his ascent from humble beginnings to the top of Madison Avenue in the 1960s.

Flash forward to today -- a difficult economic environment with many vying for fewer upwardly mobile career slots. 

What can be learned from Don's skills and strategies?

Here's an analysis -- from my perch as talent advisor and former ad agency VP:

  • #1  Lack of Privilege. Don entered the world in the ultimate state of indignity. His mother was a prostitute who died giving birth to him. He was dumped on the wife of his cheating, abusive father -- an unwelcome addition to the family and on-going reminder of the infidelity.  It didn't discourage him, it propelled him.
  • #2  Visionary. Don was a have-not in a world of haves. Every life experience magnified the disadvantage of his childhood status and the allure of a better place.  He would escape to the dark of the cinema and fantasize living the life he observed on the bright silver screen. He had clarity, ambition and determination.
  • #3 Opportunistic. When his commanding officer was killed in the bunker, Don seized a lifeline by trading G.I. tags and undertaking a new identity. Wounded and in a state of delirium, he still had the grit and wherewithal to break out of the box of his reality and into the potential of his future. He lives his mantra, "Move forward."
  • #4 HANDSOME! ! ! ! Women swoon over Don's good looks. And guys consider him a man's man. What a delightful and beneficial distraction as he's striving to jump onto a new path to prosperity. Recipients of fibs and fakery along the way probably didn't even notice, as they were no doubt dazzled by his considerable dazzle. Clearly it was an asset he was able to package and deploy.
  • #5 Core Talent.  Don is a gifted story-teller, as wife Betty notes when confronting him about his double life. His talent was born out of ignominy, desire for escape and the complexity of living a lie. He knows first-hand the desperation of want -- an insight that would evolve as a secret competitive weapon.  He has the power to persuade.
  • #6 Savvy Targeting. Don is not adept with money or the mechanics of business. He knows how to sell and compel. Thus he chose a brilliant career track: the go-go world of advertising. It was the glamorous, highly-compensated Master of the Universe profession of its time and a growth field, to boot.
  • #7 Act and Dress the Part. To elevate into a new echelon, industry or company, you must embody the culture and nuances.  You have to fit in.  Don may have the private behavior of an alley cat, but in public he displays the patina of the elite.  He has impressive board room presence.   He is indignant at impolite behavior. ''Take off your hat," he orders uncouth gents in the elevator. 
  • #8 Massive Capacity to Hold Liquor. Who isn't amazed at the proliferation of alcohol and womanizing depicted on the show? No wonder they called it the Swinging Sixties!  That said, Don is generally cool, credible and in control when on duty for Sterling Cooper business. No blithering or dialing drunk. An excellent lesson, always.  
  • #9 Work Ethic. Despite the drinking and extracurricular activities, Don puts out the work -- in spades. He is constantly jotting, thinking, researching. He gets out of bed in the middle of the night when his client Conrad Hilton beckons. The original 24/7 man, he also demands high performance of others.  When turning down copywriter Peggy Olsen for a raise, he tells her, "You're good. Get better!"
  • #10 Supportive Sponsor. You can't get from here to there all by yourself. Neither did Don. You need a network of support -- at the top.  Ad agency owners Bert Cooper and Roger Sterling were good star-pickers. They took Don under their wings, nurtured, challenged and rewarded him. But they called in their chits when they needed him to sign an employment contract in order to win and retain key clients.
  • Bonus Boost:  The Better Half. Don was strategic and savvy in wooing a wife who would fit his future standing. Betty had breeding and Grace Kelly beauty.  She came from the Philadelphia Main Line, a Bryn Mawr alumna.  She knew how to ''keep help'' and run a proper, tastefully-appointed home. She bore him a daughter -- and two sons to carry on his made-up name.  With Betty, he had the complete package.
But it wasn't enough for Don. Or was it too much? Maybe more than he deserved?

July 6, 2010

NextGen CEOs -- A New Breed of Leadership

Here is an update of a guest column written at the end of the first downturn of the 2000s.  As we seek to recover from the most recent morass, the content is still relevant.  It's based on my experience recruiting top early career stage talent.  Enjoy!  

As the economy recovers, companies will be hiring for the CEOs of tomorrow. It will be a talent grab for future leadership – with an eye on the vacancies that will ultimately be created by the coming retirement of aging baby boomers.

With a dearth of hiring during two recent economic downturns, companies are finding serious gaps in the talent pipeline for expansion roles and succession planning.

Thus, there will be a focus on what I call “precision” hiring for early-to-mid career stage, high-potentials who have achieved very specific levels of industry and functional experience.

What are the characteristics of those candidates most likely to rise to the top?
  • Track Record of Personal Excellence. With fewer years of work experience to evaluate, clients place a high value on personal characteristics, academics and even youth activities. What impresses? Good study habits. 4.0 GPAs. Teenage entrepreneurship. College leadership roles.
  • Athletic Achievements. Coincidentally, the top stratosphere of the “MBA Draft” is heavily populated by sports standouts. Many of those boardroom bound are All-Americans, national high school titlists, college team captains or triathlon competitors.
  • Navigational Skills. Many NextGens graduated in the depths of the downturn, but did not let that deter their success. One MBA candidate foresaw the absence of on-campus recruiting and jump-started his job search by foregoing an internship in favor of summer school, thereby accelerating his graduation date. He strategized and won a lucrative slot well before his classmates hit the streets.
  • Passion. The MBA stars have a strong sense of their core competencies and how that contributes to enterprise success: Accounting, as the language of business; Valuations, as the core of decisionmaking. Dealmaking. Project management. Relationship-building. Love of a specific industry.
  • High Work Ethic. Self-made achievers always win the attention of clients. We see many high-output candidates who multi-tasked full-time jobs with a full-time class schedule and campus activities. And many from difficult childhood backgrounds who sought mentorship and methods to bootstrap themselves into promising college and career programs.
  • Generosity, not Greed. This is a generation that shares, rather than hoards, information. They will tell their friends about a desirable career opportunity, even when they themselves seek a slot in the candidate pool. We see an admirable focus on success of the team, rather than individual wins at any cost.
  • Willing to Sacrifice. NextGens are willing to backtrack and make trade-offs. To accommodate a spouse in medical school. To be close to family in times of illness. To gain experience where they perceive a weakness in their game. They are flexible and seek such options in career planning.
  • The “Internationalists.” With the increase in off-shoring and growth through M&A, many companies now have a dominant global profile – but an employee base with domestic-only expertise. Fortunately, there is an up-and-coming population with global experience and a strong desire for international assignments. It’s a diverse group that includes those who grew up in the diplomatic core, former high school foreign exchange students, children of immigrants and expatriates, those who study abroad and others.
Some questions to consider: What is your MBA port of entry? How are you attracting top engineers and designers?  What is the career growth path? How do you integrate top, fresh talent without causing a mutiny among the current team? Do you have the level of role that will attract a NextGen CEO? Or will a lower velocity player be a better fit?

April 13, 2010

WSJ: Should you Relocate Before you have a Job?

I am featured in The Wall Street Journal in an article entitled The Next Best Career Move:  Actually Moving.  Writer Liz Garone did an outstanding job illustrating the premise with success stories of people who have put the cart before the horse, i.e., moving before they have a job.

It takes targeting, strategy, research -- and guts.  But if you are in a geography that is lackluster in career opportunities -- with a glut of talent competing for few slots -- it makes all the sense in the world to reposition and catapult yourself into a more robust, career-enhancing economy. 

Look at the cumulative boost in earnings that could accrue throughout your career.  More is better than less in terms of what you will need to fund retirement.  And opportunity breeds opportunity.

Some excerpts from the WSJ piece:
So far the trend is visible at either end of the job spectrum: from senior-level job seekers who have a financial cushion to weather the costs of the move and the following transition period to more junior-level job seekers, who have fewer fixed expenses and can move easily.
Nancy Keene, a director in the Dallas office of executive search firm Stanton Chase, calls it the "act local/be local" phenomenon, in which job hunters are doing whatever they can to appear to be—or become—part of a community. It's a career move that—if executed right—can be a good investment. "People are looking to reposition for the next phase of their career," she says. "If you're going somewhere with a robust and diversified economy, it's a pretty safe bet." 
Some who can't afford to make the move are giving the illusion of being local by renting a mailbox, getting a local cellphone number, and staying with friends and family nearby to attend networking and industry events, Ms. Keene says.
I speak from personal experience.  Moving to Texas at a time when the Rust Belt was struggling was a smart and strategic move that dramatically changed life for the better.  Both of my sisters followed me to Dallas where they also launched successful careers.  Here is a link that describes my own relocation in D Magazine's Why We Love Dallas cover story.

Here are some tips to forge your own path-to-prosperity:

  1. Thoroughly research companies in your sector.
  2. Monitor corporate news in the local media and business publications of your target location.
  3. Get your resume into the databases of executive search firms as a form of ''passive marketing.''
  4. Reach out to your networks of college alumni and former work colleagues for insider perspectives, referrals and introductions.     
  5. Make the most of in-market visits.  Stay with family or friends.  Have a full schedule of meetings, interviews and networking activities.
  6. Be sure that your social media listings (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) are consistent with how you are presenting yourself, location-wise.
  7. Select a realtor who is well-rooted in the market for information on transitional, rental and even housesitting possibilities.
Other excellent resources:

I am a big fan of the brilliant author and thought leader Marshall Goldsmith.  In his new book Mojo, he dedicates an entire chapter to the topic That Job is Gone! Many people are hoping to wait out the return of the market, but many of the jobs and industries are gone for good.

If you are weighing the possibilities of undertaking a relocation on your own, Marshall offers inspirational tools and metrics, balanced with the splash of cold water reality that can help in your decisionmaking process.  

March 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

''I am one of the lucky people in the world. I found something that I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it.''

 -- Johnny Carson, during his last taping of The Tonight Show

December 24, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life

I love this Christmas movie. 

It evokes the most basic of human values -- the contribution and difference we make in the lives of those around us. 

Sometimes we know the impact of our actions on others.  Sometimes we don't.  Sometimes we thank people for how they have helped or inspired us.  Sometimes we don't. 

Often the impact is felt after the fact.  We're off and running in the busy-ness of our 24/7 lives -- many times overlooking the opportunity to bestow gratitude on those who have had a favorable impact on our progress, comfort, relief or success. 

The gesture might be large or small.  It could be a gift of time, expertise or sharing.  Or simply an offer to help -- providing a lifeline or back-up plan.  Add them all up and where would we be without the interaction, inspiration and involvement of others?  It's the ultimate form of humanity -- a living bucket brigade of support and encouragement that passes from one to another.  And isn't it interesting that we feel a similar sense of satisfaction -- whether we are giving or receiving?   

In tough times especially, we cherish such moments that crystalize a sense of joy.  It's the perfect fit -- a special moment in the day.  Whether we're surviving or thriving, it's due to the connectivity and contribution of others -- beloved family, close friends, respected colleagues or maybe even the kindness of strangers. We humbly receive input and assistance.  We are duty-bound to pay it forward.  It's not an entitlement. 

Like Jimmy Stewart in the movie, you don't need a big financial balance sheet to be the richest person in town.  And isn't that what this time of year is all about?

What a wonderful time during this holiday season to thank those near and far who've made a difference at some point in the existence we're privileged to enjoy.

It's a wonderful life, indeed!  

December 1, 2009


October 20, 2009

Going/Growing Global

Call it the law of unintended consequences.  You're a rapid-growth local food company.  You build out your market in concentric circles.  Local...regional...national.  But one day...boom.  You're selling into the military.  Where are their end-users?  Iraq.  Afghanistan.  You've got to drop-ship into Dubai.  Congratulations!  You're now a global company. 

How do you execute on the opportunity?  Hire someone in Dubai to oversee?  Pay a premium to an international broker?  Is there a stateside supply-chain/logistics who does it all from here?  You quickly have to know what questions to ask.  Having an Advisory Board with broad reach and expertise makes a material difference to help you navigate the decision tree -- profitably. 

We're living in an interdependent, connected 24/7 world.  And despite the worldwide economic downturn, globalism is not dead, according to Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.  This was discussed at the daylong inaurural conference of the new O'Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at SMU Cox, where I spoke on the panel, Accessing Global Talent.

The statistics are not cheery.  We're experiencing historical drops in global trade.  Sales and shipments of both durable and intermediate goods are down.  A particularly visual datapoint relates to overcapacity and slack in cargo.  Currently, there are 178,000 freight cars sitting unused.  Picture an empty train 2,900 miles long, stretching almost end-to-end across the U.S.

Fisher's soundbite of the day warned against the danger of protectionism.  ''It is, quite frankly, the crack cocaine of economics.  It may provide politicians with a temporary high, yet it is instantly addictive and inevitably proves debilitive and fatal."

But Fisher encourages us to take heart. He notes that Americans are inherently capitalistic and thrive on competition.

Thomas Falk, chairman and CEO of Kimberly-Clark, validated the continuing importance of global markets with his lieutenants overseeing China and Russia in tow.  Targeting global customers is critical to growth.  But the key to extend , target and capture worldwide market share is to learn the quirks and minutiae of local customers, which means understanding local culture, which in itself is evolving and changing with globalization.

The competitive roadmap is different for each geography.  China has 150 brands of disposable diapers.  Russia has six.  Distribution channels are even more complex.  There is no one rule/approach for global expansion.  It's not a mass-market approach, but a custom fit.  It's all local, local, local.

That means cutting through bureaucratic red tape and finding the most welcoming and efficient locales for new plants.  It means gearing up for rapid growth in China, where the best and brightest employees seek companies that can deliver 40% annual growth and a robust future career path.  10% is measly.  You have to enter the market with a big plan and commitment.

In the early gold rush to put down stakes in China, American and European companies have been competing with each other for local talent there.  Today, the big competition is with Chinese national companies which are raising the ante in compensation packages, promises for growth and patriotic prestige. 

Later in the day, Rich Templeton, chairman, president and CEO of Texas Instruments delivered an ''ah hah'' moment regarding the global aspect of their corporate DNA.  The company was founded by entrepreneurs in the oil services business -- early global road warriors with customers, relationships and a business view that was far more far-reaching than less-traveled domestic counterparts.   When I met my husband, a deepwater subsea engineering expert, he had the most exotic range of passport stamps of anyone I had ever known! 

TI was early to expand into postwar Europe in the 1950s,  Japan in the 1960s, Asia in the 1960-70s and India in the 1980s.  Today, 88% of revenue ships outside of U.S.

The company embraces the global marketplace as an opportunity not a threat.  "We do not know borders,"
he explains. 

Talent also has no boundaries, so TI casts a wide global net to target the top engineers/designers in each locale.  Their historical global presence also put them close to global customers, solving unique problems and tapping in to emerging innovations at a very early stage.  Products are developed by multi-country design teams.  Templeton touts that TI stock provides a way to invest in global markets. 

So how does Dallas fit into the picture?  As a global business nexus, opines Fisher -- with confirming statistics on the Ascension of DFW presented by O'Neil Center director Michael Cox, former chief economist at the Dallas Fed. 

With brain power, transportation, favorable cost-of-living, entrepreneurial spirit, DFW is a location to which global talent is easily willing to relocate.  The local area has grown from a scant 3,000 in the 1870 census to a burgeoning population of 6 million -- now the fourth largest metropolitan area in the U.S.  Despite an unavoidable impact from the global recession, the North Texas area still has the lowest rate of unemployment anywhere in the country, except the home of the federal government -- Washington, D.C. 

"But that's not a real city," quipped Cox.

Scott Smith, VP of staffing at AT&T, laid out an incredible, multi-media machine being built for recruitment of the 30,000 people the company targets hiring annually as it expands into new markets and replaces waves of BabyBoomers preparing for retirement.  It is a massive and impressive initiative!

For other companies fighting for the same talent pool, executive search firms like mine will continue to offer a similar, aggressive, multi-tentacled, high-tech, high-touch reach into the global talent market that the Davids of the hiring world will need to compete with the Goliaths of the Fortune 100.

Like the Marines, we're ready...we're prepared.  Bring it on!

October 14, 2009

What Will Change Everything?

What ignites a civilization?

A magic combination of ideas and implementation.  People with the belief that boundaries can be removed and extended. Hope and fervor for something better. Ways to look beyond the borders and limitations of our day-to-day existence. Innovations and practicalities that determine whether people will be surviving, thriving -- or dying.   

It's the basic premise of TED, the global showcase for ideas that make a difference -- with a focus on  Technology, Entertainment, Design and other disciplines. 

This intellectual extravaganza came to town last weekend in the form of TEDxSMU, sponsored by the
Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering at SMU with underwriting and support from an array of other believers in progress and improvement for the human condition.  Right here in Dallas!

It was a one-day intense and power-packed schedule of inspiring presentations and performances by the people making things happen -- meted out in 18 minute multi-media talks and 3 minute riffs. Definitely a  boatload of content -- staggering in breadth, hop-scotching from topic to topic and quite headspinning to take it all in.

We sat transfixed at the fast-moving panorama that included: 
  • Getting out of the box to explore aerial views of the world (investor Bobby Haas), the ocean below (David Gallo) and outer space  (Anousheh Ansari).
  • An impressive bootstrap initiative to survive, based on dire need, scrap materials and a library book (William Kamkwamba)
  • Enterprising teachers seeking ways to make the classroom more meaningful with first-hand research and field work that could be replicated locally (Aaron Reedy)
  • Engineering as a peacemaking tool to rebuild wartorn damage (Jeff Talley )
  • New paradigms in architecture (Joshua Prince-Ramus
  • A 12-year old home-schooled piano prodigy (Lewis Warren)
And this is just a teaspoon of what we devoured!

The theme was brilliant -- how smart and savvy engineering can change the world.  The timing was perfect -- against the backdrop of the AT&T Performing Arts Center grand opening activities.  The speakers, topics and visuals were captivating. 

But click back into the real world and there a piece of our regional technology infrastructure that needs attention. 
Monday headlines in The Wall Street Journal gave a jolt -- reporting the wind-down of venture capital firms co-located in the 16th Floor at Two Galleria Tower, long the corridor of start-up investment starpower.  The regional VCs -- with roots funding spinouts from TI, Rockwell, et. al. in the 1980s -- are being hard hit by the downturn and lack of IPO market.  "Dallas is an entrepreneurial city, but it won't be driven by venture capital going forward," said Dan Owen of HO2 fund.   He acceded that the pure venture capital model is really thriving in just Silicon Valley and Boston.

Tuesday brought another stun:  "Next to nothing ventured" in the print version of Dallas Morning News on the amount of money raised by Texas-based venture capital funds in the third quarter.  The amount was truly zero, compared to $1.6 billion raised by a total of 17 U.S. funds in the same period.  The first quarter was also a no-show for Texas, compared to $4.81 billion raised by funds elsewhere in the U.S.

A concern, as venture capital is the rocket fuel for new job creation and future propulsion.  It's an important ingredient for economic develoment and general robustness, something we all want.   

Flash back to TEDxSMU.  There was a U.S. Presidential podium onstage as the program opened.  Would we be greeted by Obama or George W?  Wrong.  It was a TED moment of wow.  The conference leaders had tracked down and commandeered the actual podium where John F.Kennedy declared that we would enter the space race and land a man on the moon!

That far-reaching vision of JFK triggered the imagination of thousands of inventors and masses of ambitious aspirants to move beyond their current reality and reach into a new beyond.  People moved away from hometowns and nuclear families, migrating to new opportunity pockets.  Second-generation Americans achieved the dreams of their immigrant grandparents by pursuing college educations.  The creative output resulted in products that have changed the way we live, work, travel and communicate.  Politics aside, Kennedy tapped the enterprising spirit of an entire generation.

Thus, the timing of TEDxSMU is prescient.

We need to keep encouraging innovation jump starts.  Maybe a new way to support start-up companies to replace the diminishing pool of local venture capital money.   Combine that with a string of new corporate relocations to follow AT&T's excellent decision to locate here.  Not to mention the Super Bowl and other strategic initiatives. 

Bravo to Dean Geoffrey Orsak and Sharon Lyle, TEDxSMU program director,for the vision and execution.  What a great building block and element of momentum to ensure we are on the path for growth in both the near and distant future.  Encore!