Thursday, May 21, 2009

Towanda-bound!

Yep, I'm hitting the road with Suki!

Its summer and time for a little road trip!


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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Toddler-Friendly Parks, Playgrounds & Activities (South Dayton Area) - Google Maps

As a parent with a toddler that loves to play, I've realized that there are few online resources in the Dayton area that collectively identify parks, playgrounds, play areas and activities for young children in the Dayton area. Given my love for technology-based solutions, I decided to try to develop a remedy for the lack of information by tracking all of the activities I've found and hope that other (yes, I'm talking to you - sitting there at your computer reading this...) similar-minded parents and interested persons will contribute to the collaborative effort to connect our children with fun activities that keep them entertained!

I hope to focus primarily on those activities and resources that are free or low-cost, but any suggestions or contributions are welcome! I've created a map in Google Maps that will allow you to pin-point the location of any suggestions you might have as well as find activities that are near to where you may be in the Greater Dayton region. Please use the link below to view and contribute to the map! If nothing else, I hope my suggestions and finds help you when you need the help the most!


View Toddler-Friendly Parks, Playgrounds & Activities (South Dayton Area) in a larger map

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dayton Tweetup - April 2009

Yep, I finally did it! I went to a Tweetup! What can I say, eventually evan an introvert like myself can succumb to the pull of technology to bring me out into the world. Okay, so that's a little overly dramatic, but I felt entitled to a little artistic license! (Forgive me!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Job Searching 101

Wow. Its been a while since I've been job searching. Mailing resumes is (thankfully) so passe!

Over the last two weeks, I've been submitting resumes in my quest to find a position that is a perfect mesh of technology planning, project management and innovation. I am somewhat surprised by the number of positions that have intereted me. I'll be even more surprised when one of them shows some interest in me!

The one critique I have of many of the HR departments is that they're using out of the box web applications to manage the application process. I understand that they offer a valuable tool to track applicatants, resumes and all of the information that goes along with them, they're incredibly cumbersome to navigate from an applicant's point of view. This is a sad fact given that most companies should want to put their best face forward when it comes to recruiting new talent. After all, the application stage is the first interaction may future employees may have with their organziation. What does it say about an organization when their application process is annoying or even downright frustrating? Its certainly caused me to rethink whether or not to even apply to some of these organizations.

Its very clear that there are niche vendors who supply the vast majority of these job websites. What's interesting is that given the relative lack of competition, there's very little innovation in these application. For the most part, HR departments haven't even branded their site with their own corporate identity. In this day and age...that's surprising.

Even those organizations that have taken the initiative to use some of the customization offered by these application fail when it comes to wording questions in a way that is both clear and concise. I can't believe how many times I've had to re-read questions to ensure that I wasn't responding with an incorrect answer - and I have a law degree! Maybe it's all part of ploy to see if I'm really paying attention, but after creating thirty or so profiles on these sites, it's become more of a hassle than anything else.

Taleo (http://www.taleo.com) seems to have a clear majority of companies on board with their talent management application. What strikes me as interesting is that they don't offer any way for applicants to export or share their profile information from one company with any of the other companies also using their software. It makes a very clear statement about who the user is that these application were designed for - the companies, not the applicants.

While I understand the economics of that decision, the companies, after all, are the ones footing the bill. I am disappointed that they haven't also realized that there's so much room for improvement in the service their providing. And possibly a secondary revenue stream as well. As an applicant, if I could pay $25 for a years subscription and have my information automatically shared with other companies that are using Taleo's application, I'd do it.

I'm also amazed at the number of organizations that do not have customizable RSS feeds for positions. Or even any RSS feed for the job openings. C'mon...do you really think that making me visit your site on a daily basis and driving up your unique page views is going to generate revenue for your organization? Last I knew, HR departments weren't generating revenue on ad sales. Make you postings available in multiple formats so users can decide which format works best for them. Its going to benefit the company by helping ensure that they're disseminating their openings better and should help them connect with qualified applicants better as well.

Its very clear that technology adoption proceeds at varied paces, even across companies that are technology-centric. It makes a SaaS solution such as Salesforce all the more attractive to companies. One instance of Salesforce can replace all of these out-of-the-box applications and significantly reduce operating costs associated with have 10-12 applications that each perform one job well by replacing them with one application that does all of their jobs well. Its clear that companies that aren't looking at Salesforce's functionality and business model with envy simply have their heads in the sand.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Now?

Well, the whole financial market crisis finally struck close to home....very close. I found out yesterday that I've officially been laid off.

Apparently the financial meltdown how affected the market for student loans to such a degree that schools are leaving FFELP (the Federal Family of Education Loan Programs) and joining the Direct Loan program. I'm sure there are many reasons for the fear, most probably due to the complications created when lenders stop offering student loans - the schools are the ones who face the most challenges and complaints when student's loan funds arrive late or don't arrive at all. While the money (and lenders) are there, most financial aid administrators don't like the implications - added work, more questions and significantly more confusion (which, let's face it, isn't something that's ever been needed in financial aid).

I understand the allure of schools shifting to Direct Lending. In the DL (Direct Lending) program, schools are actually able to drawn down funds directly from the federal government. The streamlined approach offers schools consistency of process and the assurance that funds are, and always will be, available.

It is sad to see that the non-profit guaranty agencies that were such an integral part of FFELP are being abandoned out of fear. The educational purpose of guaranty agencies is one that simply doesn't exist (or at least hasn't in the past) in the Department of Education. Strange, eh? Guarantors have typically been able not only to provide a valuable resource for student borrowers facing issues repaying their loans, but also training for financial aid administrators to help them better their processes, their compliance and themselves.

Sadly, the only counterpart offered by the Department of Education is their annual EAC conference. Schools are now going to be reliant on their state, regional and national professional associations to do more to keep them abreast of the changes that inevitably rain down when they can least afford it.

I view the announcement that my former employer was cutting positions only as the starting point for a trend that is going to continue for the indefinite future. With the economy in shambles, lenders unwilling to participate in the federal student loan program and guaranty agencies facing struggles to meet their operating expenses, the future of the FFEL Program is definitely looking bleak. The pall cast by slow demise of FFEL is absolutely going to impact the entire financial aid community, administrators and students alike.

Administrators will gradually see less options for professional development, process improvement and education on compliance and regulatory issues that arise. Increasingly their state associations (which are suffering already as a result of less support from lenders and guarantors) are going to have reinvent themselves and find some way to meet this increased demand while also doing so with fewer volunteers from their lender and guarantor memebers. Historically, the majority of content provided during conferences was created and presented by members of the lender and guarantor community. Our presentations weren't sales pitches (ok, some were, but not many), they were honest attempts to help financial aid administrators be better professionals and, in turn, help their students be better borrowers.

All students benefited from the lenders and guarantors expertise. They saw improved school processes that impacted every from the student's application for financial assistance to the timeliness of their receipt of funds. Students, whether they knew it or not, were benefitting from years of experience shared among professionals that helped them adapt and anticipate the virtually unlimited number of problems that could arise.

I'm going to miss being part of the industry that gave rise to my professional career. My personal committment to helping students has never wavered and I can honestly say that my last position is one I will sorely miss. I can only hope that someone realizes that implications of following this track without an eye for what is being sacrificed.

Good luck my friends! My thoughts will be with you always!