mm011: Tools of the trade

MUDGE’s Musings

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Sometimes I take my show on the road. With the blessing of my management, I have for several years expanded my role as chief instructor and champion of the technology I support by facilitating key meetings and conferences. So, when not teaching, or preparing curriculum, or supporting the technical team and providing informal level 3 support, I go to a lot of meetings. This facilitation often occurs from my desk (after all, this is an on-line tool, creating a virtual meeting space) but frequently my clients need my three dimensional presence.

My tool kit varies by type of meeting. Today, for one of my three engagements, I just needed my experience. Yes, I simply showed up in the right place at the right time, empty handed, and provided advice, and a bit of hands on assistance in aid of my client’s meeting.

For the other two meetings, at 8am and its 4pm duplicate for the benefit of later time zones, my most common rig was required. Laptop (call it Laptop 2), mouse, power brick. Turned out I needed my flash memory stick also. The conference rooms we met in were recently renovated and provided built in projectors, multiple network access jacks (with actual cables present!) and multiple AC taps built into the conference table, and thus made unnecessary much of the paraphernalia I schlep together with said laptop.

These include but are not limited to power strip extension cord; several lengths of CAT 5 network cable, including a bulky but sometimes lifesaving 50-footer and several 3-ft. retractables whose concept was better than execution (clutches failed early on); a 5 port mini network hub with its AC power brick (long illegal in our organization, but I had special dispensation from the CIO!); a cute desk stand that allows me to literally show the flag, the team’s somewhat obsolete logo; etc. Weighs a ton. Takes time to deploy up front, and pack away when done.

And that’s not even considering the least frequent, but most demanding meeting type, one that did not occur today (several times per month if I’m busy). For ambitious large scale conferences, or mission critical smaller ones, said CIO long ago mandated that I carry a backup laptop to those meetings (actually Laptop 1 as I use it), thus explaining the need for some of the extra cables and the mini hub.

Of course Laptop 1 comes in its own case, actually my daily case, making this laptop my work from home instrument, and thus its designation. Thus the case is heavy already with the detritus of office living: spare eyeglasses, bluetooth headset and charger, folding pliers and multi-bit mini screw driver (thus ratifying the slogan I learned and exemplify back when punch cards were still the input/output medium of choice: “beware programmers with screwdrivers”), files, daily journal and other paperwork, obsolete Sony Clio PDA (still provides a backup contact list and plays a mean game of Solitaire, God help me). To all this add the meeting specific hardware, another array of extra cables and power strip extension cord sufficient to independent use in a meeting if necessary, and the like.

Weighs another ton, but has wheels and a telescoping handle like carry-on luggage (of course, this adds to the weight), and the other case fits handily on the handle (!), so allowing me to kid myself that I’m likely to get a few more years of dragging my tools of the trade where needed, lugging the entire collection (up onto and down off of counters and tables, up into and down out of hatchbacks and trunks, not to speak of the seven front steps of my front door) out of my increasingly sensitive and tricky back. Occupational hazard.

And so, today’s three meetings. They went well, thanks very much, and I can’t take this for granted, for many technical reasons whose explanations will have to await a more courageous explainer. The small mid-day meeting that only required me sans electronics went so smoothly I was able to get away after 30 minutes. The bookend meetings that required Laptop II were broadcast to the field sales force responsible for our tent pole product. For me, as a loyal employee and (hundredaire) stockholder, training those folks to keep that pole holding up that tent is as important as meetings get. These meetings, incorporating for the second time a short streaming video element (subject of a future post, probably) went smoothly and altogether well. The marketing and training team I work with for this series of meetings is a driven, competent, workaholic, did I say intense? group, all of whom are mostly young enough to be my kids. Sigh. But they do good work (tent pole) and I’m happy to play my tiny part.

Some days it’s damned hard to be a curmudgeon.


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