Tag Archives: people skills

Lisa Kaczmarczyk: People Issues in Project Evaluations



Dr. Lisa Kaczmarczyk is an award-winning computer science researcher, educator and book author. She provides independent evaluation services for academia and the hi-tech industry.  These evaluations are used as evidence of project viability to secure funding from grant agencies and investors.

Her clients have included Google, Stanford University, the University of Illinois, Purdue University, California State University and the Broward County Florida Public Schools. Dr. Kaczmarczyk is also an Adjunct Faculty in the Computer Science Department at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont California. Dr. Kaczmarczyk holds advanced degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Oregon, Northeastern University and Tufts University. Dr. Kaczmarczyk was lead author on the 2014 ACM Education Policy Committee report “Rebooting the Pathway to Success: Preparing Students for Computing Workforce Needs in the United States” and is author of the book “Computers and Society, Computing for Good.”  She is passionate about working with clients who share her desire to use computer science to make the world a better place.

Highlights:

Q: Lisa, you recently received an award for the Top Computer Science Education Research Paper of the Last 50 Years.  What was this paper on and why is it so important?

“The paper is sharing the results of a research study about misconceptions that novice computer science students have.  Computer science is also a very abstract topic and the mistakes that students make are often baffling.  The paper reports on the misconceptions that students have and why they have them. It’s important because this paper was the first to apply rigorous research methods to investigating misconceptions.”

Q: How does this research fit into your current work?

“It does in that the ‘misconceptions study’ presented faculty with evidence-based information to help them make strategic choices about how to improve their instruction so it would be more effective.  The work that I do now in project evaluation is also about providing people in organizations research-based information to help them make strategic decisions about their projects.”

Q: What is project evaluation?

“Project evaluation can exist in any field.  I work primarily with computer scientists and engineers.  They may be in universities or K-12 school systems, or they may be outside of academia.  It’s when you have a project and you want to know that the project is having the impact that you hope it is having. In the case of the work I’m doing, there’s a formal research component that is being conducted by the people in charge of the project, but there are a lot of other factors that impact whether the project will be successful or not.  So, the evaluation comes in and takes a look at what are their needs, what do they need to know.  I develop a customized plan for whoever I’m working with to figure out the best way to gather information to help them with their project.

Q: Why would you need to do a project evaluation for an academic project?

“Nowadays it’s very difficult to get funding from the National Science Foundation if you don’t have a project evaluation.”

Q: What kinds of people issues come up during project evaluations?

“Very often I’m asked to take a look at complex projects where there are a lot of people involved.  Recently, I concluded a project with the Broward County Schools in Florida.  The project they had funding for was to integrate computer science into the elementary day classroom.  There was a research program to look into the effect on student achievement of the elementary school students.  It spanned across the entire district and there were about ten schools involved and there were a lot of different moving parts.  There were a lot of different people who needed to be on board for it to succeed.”

To hear more about the complex people issues that arise in Lisa’s project evaluations with schools, high-tech incubators, and non-profit organizations, as well as about Lisa’s surprising background, listen to the episode.

Words of Wisdom:

“Trust-building is what it’s all about.”

“The ideal scenario is that nothing is a surprise.”

“If I see something bothersome, I won’t wait.  I say, ‘Let’s talk.’”

Contact Lisa Kaczmarczyk:

Twitter: @lisakaczmarczyk
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisakaczmarczyk/
Website: http://www.lisakaczmarczyk.com/


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


Calie Hendrickson: Systems for People



Joanie interviews Calie Hendrickson, who is a systems engineer at Engility Corporation.  Calie acquired her people skills along a roundabout path to the aerospace industry.  She capitalizes on these skills to communicate with her multidisciplinary teams of engineers.  Calie also talks about how she mentors across disciplines and the surprising benefits of cross-disciplinary mentoring.

Highlights:

Q: How did you get to where you are now?

“My path to get there was puddle jumping.  I started out with an arts and science degree and moved into biotechnology…  Then I moved across the country and did interior design.  That’s where I got my people skills.”

“I came to be known as a specialist in data management engineering, which is managing the accessibility to data.  Rather than having something in a giant database, you can categorize it and have it at your fingertips.”

Q: How do you organize data logically?

“We rely heavily on use case.  It’s very user feedback driven.  When I personally build a database, I’m likely not the person who will be using it day to day.  Even though I think it’s perfect, the user may look at me like a deer in the headlights.”

Q: How do you learn what users do?

“I will go and sit with the person and observe them.”

Q: How do you engage in multidisciplinary communication?

“Especially in dealing with aerospace engineers—that can mean very different specialties ranging from thermal to avionics and software to structural to propulsion.  We’re all engineers.  We all have similar thought processes, but we have different things we focus on. It’s important to find a similar language so you can communicate with someone in a meaningful manner.”

Q: What does it mean to use a similar language?

“Anyone in any background has their own vocabulary.  You need to be cognizant when you do that yourself, so you can clarify.”

Words of Wisdom:

“When someone uses an acronym you don’t know, ask what it is.”

“Seek feedback from trusted coworkers.”

“Study faces.”

Contact Calie:

Email: keepincontactwithcalie@gmail.com

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/calie-hendrickson-93468010a


Elisa Yu: Start-Up People Skills



Joanie interviews Elisa Yu, a business coach who started out as a biochemical engineer.  Elisa talks about the people challenges she’s faced in running a startup company and being a business coach and what skills she has developed to succeed in these different roles.  She also gives tips for leaders from her business coaching practice.

Highlights:

Q: How did you come to move out of biochemistry?

“I did some soul searching and realized I was not interacting with people as much as I would like to.  I saw that ‘Field Application Scientist’ seemed like a good sidestep to make that happen.”

Q: What people challenges did you run into moving to a startup?

“There are two main people challenges.  One is dealing with the founders.  The second is dealing with employees.”

“The main challenge was we all have different personalities and we look at things differently.  Throughout the process, we built a level of trust.  We could have arguments.  We could have disagreements.  But we knew we were working to the same goal and we were not going to screw each other.”

“Retention of people is a huge challenge for us.  What we realized over the years was to deal with our mindset before dealing with employees.”

Q: When you hire people with good people skills, what do you look for?

“When we hire people, we hire for good fit.  Just by hiring the smartest person might not be the best for the team.  Sometimes you have a team of very smart people but it’s a very dysfunctional team.  Because everyone’s personality clashes, they don’t have a unified vision.  It may not be the best for the team to have everyone fit into one mold.”

Words of Wisdom:

“When someone in Silicon Valley calls you to join a startup, it’s not something you say ‘no’ to.”

“You learn on the way when to insist and when to give in.”

“When you say you cannot, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Contact Elisa:

Email: Elisa@actioncoachsc.com

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elisa-yu-mba-9032001/


Brian Dersch: Engineering Good Customer Relationships



Joanie interviews Brian Dersch, the president and CEO of Dersch Design & Engineering.  Their mission is to design power and lighting systems for construction projects with an emphasis on renewable energy, customer service, and employing engineers that you can hold a conversation with. Brian is no exception!

We start out a little bit differently in this episode because Brian is able to articulate how his keen awareness of what was going on around him led to his career and business and success—a great lesson for all nerds!  He also shares insights into how he developed his people skills, manages virtual teams,

Highlights:

Q: How did you get into your field of business?

“I noticed there weren’t a lot of people going into large-scale power engineering.  I thought, ‘There’s a gap here and ten years from now, someone could end up inheriting it.’”

Q: How did you come to start up your own company?

“I got married and my wife had a dream of becoming a travelling nurse.  She said, ‘You can either stay in San Diego and work or come with me.’  So, I quit my job…”

Q: How did you come to create a company where engineers can have conversations with customers?

“I am an engineer first, and a business person second.  Positioning the business for success, that was learned from trial and error.”

Q: How did you develop your people skills?

“I thought I was shy in high school.  I joined the speech team and theater and I broke out of my shell.”

“One of the skills I developed was public speaking skills.  I needed more architects.  I put together an educational presentation for architects to connect with them.”

Q: How do you connect with people?

“In networking events, I’m often the youngest person there.  It can be very intimidating to show up in a room where everyone is in suits and have grey hair…  All it takes is finding out what someone’s interests are.”

Words of Wisdom:

“In the small business atmosphere, there are no limits.”

“The more I practice, the luckier I get.” –Arnold Palmer

“Tell them the time, not how the clock was made.”

“You can’t beat face-to-face interaction.”

Contact Brian:

Email: brian@derschdesign.com

Website: derschdesign.com

Phone: 858-768-0867