Tag Archives: community

Jamie Leben: The Joy of Connecting with People



Joanie has a conversation with Jamie Leben, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of the Loveland Makerspace.  A self-proclaimed nerd, Jamie has developed from a socially awkward kid to a community builder.  He has a strong sales background as well.  As a community leader, he exhibits humility, gratitude, teamwork, and giving.

Highlights:

Q: What is a Makerspace?
“It’s simply a community workshop.  Makerspaces have been around for roughly twenty years, worldwide, starting back in Berlin and MIT, for example.  You’ll also hear the term ‘hackerspace’.  It’s a place where we do our best to make access to prohibitive tools, a workspace, and a community of people working on projects and hopefully motiving each other.  We make that accessible physically and economically as well.  The Makerspace is a volunteer project of mine.  It’s my volunteer passion project.”

Q: Why is the Makerspace such a growing phenomenon globally?

“There’s been such a development in technology and tools.  Computer controlled machines have come down in price such that most people can pool together to afford them, but they are often too large to fit in a person’s house.  We pool resources to share tools.  The resources are also available to the community.”

Q: What people challenges come up at your Makerspace?

“We have people of all ages, some very smart people, people who are very good with mechanical tools, some people on the spectrum.  There’s interaction between people with different perspectives.  In return of all that ferment and the different personalities, you get some wonderful things that come out of it.”

“For instance, our Makerspace has birthed several companies.  It’s like a ‘try before you buy.’  You might think, ‘I’ve worked with this person on volunteer projects and I know I can spend hours a day grinding away on something that makes us success and I might like working with this person.’”

Q: How do you create an environment where people want to interact with each other across traditional boundaries, like age and culture?

“They look for hierarchy.  I say, ‘no this is our place.’  We have a do-ocracy.  We do things.  This is our community, if you see something you want to engage in, please do it.”

Q: What kinds of conflicts have come up and how did you move through them?

“This is an interesting challenge.  Sometimes it’s a case-by-case basis.  If I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with it, my colleague being able to take it on and deal with it is important.  It is a team effort.”

“The first rule of the Makerspace is The Golden Rule, or ‘don’t be a jerk.’ Having the diverse experience and backgrounds of people who can say ‘I’ve got this, I’ve seen this before, let me give this a try’ helps in dealing with conflicts that arise.”

To hear more about Makerspaces, the benefits from being a member of one, and the joys and challenges of leading one, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

“You have things to share with me, I have things to share with you.”

“Surround yourself with smarter people and listen to them.”

“Be a mentor, not a hero.”

“Being able to laugh at yourself really helps.”

Contact Jamie Leben:

https://jamieleben.home.blog/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamie-leben-5253a061/
https://www.facebook.com/jamie.leben
https://twitter.com/jamieleben


Nick Armstrong: Super Skills for Super Leaders



Joanie interviews Nick Armstrong, a Super Nerd who founded Fort Collins Comic Con.  It’s a completely volunteer-run Comic Con that donates all of its proceeds to the local library reading programs.  It has burgeoned into a thriving, welcoming community of generous geeks who bring joy to themselves and the broader community.  It’s also a very affordable Comic Con.  Listen to Nick’s story of how he started this venture and what led to its success.  By the way, he also started FoCo TEDx and there’s a story about that too.

Highlights:

Q: How did you come to found Fort Collins Comic Con?

“I almost died.  I was a really horrible programmer for about two years.  They paid me to stop.  I had nine jobs during that time and was only fired from two of them.  It’s what most Millennials do.  It was after my last job and I didn’t feel well.  My stomach ache never went away…  My appendix almost burst.  The doctor came over to me after the surgery and said ‘What are you doing with your life?  You just got a second chance.  What are you going to do with it?’  I didn’t know.  And then I decided to start my own company.”

Soon after, “the Fort Collins Library District said, ‘We’d like to do something big for our summer reading campaign.  What have you got?’  I said, ‘Let’s make a Comic Con!’  Like any successful business venture, we recruited a bunch of people who could do it better than us.  It’s 100% volunteer run.”

“The idea of the value of a dollar: if you donate it to the Food Bank, they make five meals out of that.  At Comic Con I wanted to make sure we stuck to that core value of you have something to come to as a geek and you don’t have to pay a lot for that platform.”

“We focused on the fun and kept it family friendly.  It’s super affordable.  For less than a hundred bucks, you get a family of four in.  We donate every dollar we make from our Con to the library.”

Q: What kind of people skills come up in Cos Play?

“It takes a lot!  A lot of people think you can just go to the Halloween store to get a costume, but you can’t.  People usually make their own from scratch.  It takes a lot of creativity.  You have to be able to imagine that other half of the costume that you’ve never seen on the screen.”

“The Cos Play community, in particular, teach other cos players the tricks of the trade.  They work well together.  We’ve got some amazing talent and they are so generous with their time and their talents.  Extending that to the larger community to bring joy to people’s lives.”

Q: What people skills have you developed to lead people?

“I always look at the Star Trek characters to emulate their skills.  They all have their different style.  Each character has their own temperament, and each is adaptable is some way.  Star Trek really lends itself to leadership abilities and competency.”

“Growing up I had a lot of really strong female role models.  Business leaders and mentors, who when I was creating my business, were key in creating the sense of community and allowing the people who really shine at something to step forward and do their thing without machismo getting in the way.  I owe a lot of credit to, not only fictional people, but real people.”

Q: How do you make money?

“The thing that allows me to be generous with my time and money is that I have clients that I work with on a number of things, on marketing and marketing strategy, and I create events for them that have the same impact that Comic Con has for us.”

Listen to the episode to hear more about the impact that a volunteer-run Comic Con has.

Words of Wisdom:

“I don’t have ton of control and I think that’s a great thing.”

“The things that have turned out really great are the things that I’ve invited other people into.”

Contact Nick Armstrong:

Website: https://wtfmarketing.com/

Email: nick@wtfmarketing.com


Agnieszka Vestal: People Solutions for Telecommuters



Joanie interviews Agnieszka Vestal, a software engineer at Grasstree Engineering who focuses on embedded software.  An MIT graduate with an MBA in her pocket, Agnieszka adds global experience and a business perspective to her programming expertise.  She’s also a long-time telecommuter and shares advice on how to make telecommuting more satisfying and productive.

Highlights:

Q: When working from home, how do you get the people interactions you need?

“I have to work at it, for sure.  That’s one of the harder things about moving, for example.  It’s one thing to integrate into a new job and with new people.  It’s another thing to integrate into a local professional community without having a local job.”

Q: Where is your community?

“I keep in touch with people I work with a lot, all day, through instant messaging.  But I also make an effort locally to meet people by going to events, to talks and such, and I volunteer.”

Q: What have been the challenges with telecommuting?

“Getting to know the people I work with.  You have to know the people.  With telecommuting, if you can meet the people you work with, it makes an enormous difference.  Dealing with time differences is another one.”

Q: How did your company set up a face-to-face meeting for your team to get to know each other?

“It wasn’t on-boarding.  It was after, and that was better because we weren’t trying to assimilate the work and the people at the same time.  We could make progress on the work, then get to know the people.”

Q: How does meeting the team members face-to-face help your work?

“Every time you start a technical conversation with someone, even if you exchange a few pleasantries, you don’t know how to read them.  Once you’ve met them, you hear their voice.  It makes it much more personal.  You feel like you’re talking to the actual person.  It’s just a lot more pleasant.  At the end of the day, you need to enjoy work.  What most of us enjoy is the interaction with people.

For more insights on the people side of telecommuting, listen to the episode…

Words of Wisdom:

“Getting to know your team members makes work a lot more pleasant.”

“If you’re working completely opposite hours as your team, you’re not communicating enough.”

“Ask yourself: do you want to have a collaborative relationship or a transactional one?”

Contact Agneszkia:

Email: arv@grasstreeeng.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnieszkavestal/