Sunday, June 13, 2010

Social Media - BizzBuzz

On May 27th I had the pleasure of participating in the Syracuse Bizz Buzz conference. A venue to cover all things Social Media - LinkedIn, facebook, twitter, youtube, web.... Lately I have had the desire to get myself out there and push the envelope. So, I volunteered to present on the topic "Email Marketing". I am not a pro for that topic, but I do have some experience (maintain a list of ~1000 SAP contacts; maintain a list of ~2000 Syracuse area geeks - in which I send marketing/networking updates periodically). Alas, this opportunity never came to fruition as it was cut from the schedule. So I was downgraded to 'YouTube' expert where I would assist conference attendees with their Youtube issues during the practice cafe. Again I am not exactly a guru (have one video uploaded), but I prepared and I can improvise.

One person asked for assistance who was having trouble uploading videos for his camping website. Depending on the size of the file it could take some time to upload, so don't try it with dial up. Another girl asked for help, but she was more interested in using my computer to check on her tweets (mobile devices were not working very well in the Oncenter lower level). Lastly a colleague of mine was asking me for help with a technical problem she was having with her computer. After a few minutes of problem solving and google searching (isn't google the answer to everything?) I fixed her issue. Overall a satisfying pratice cafe session (did I mention the tweeting girl was cute?).

I was also able to attend the rest of the conference where I picked up lots of interesting tidbits. For example:
YouTube -

Glenn Allen
Syracuse, NY

Friday, May 14, 2010

Beware of Craigslist

Ahhh the recession or should I say depression. Well needless to say the last 18 months have been quite challenging for many folks, present company included. As a self employed free lancer you need to be prepared for the down turns. In other words do not blow all of your 'big bucks' consulting fees on flashy cars and a lucrative lifestyle. And I have saved for this rainy day and in no danger of starving. However, it gets boring applying for rediculous jobs on that require every skill in the book to qualify for an H1B rate (translation insultingly low; translation barely a salary). This takes a couple of hours a day; then what. Enter craigslist.

There are lots of easy, short term, gigs on craigslist. Perfect for a consultant in between projects. Yes, I know; don't you feel embarrassed lowering your self to these type of gigs? No, it's honest work and quite frankly can be fun. I have done beer and scotch promotions, some modeling, and street level marketing. One of these gigs however bit me in the ass by not paying me. This really, really pisses me off; even though it's not for a lot of money.

In July of 2009 I hooked up with Shaun Luckett of E & A Mobile Media, a little marketing company from Missouri. They had a contract to distribute pamphlets promoting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walk in the Syracuse area. Of course they were not direct to the L&L Society, but several levels down. The goal was to distribute a stack of a dozen pamphlets to area businesses where the public frequents (restaurants, grocery stores, department stores, gyms, etc.). Shaun himself came to Syracuse with 8 large boxes filled with the pamphlets. He was nervous about the quality of the help he found on CL. It seems that I should have been nervouse about him. The responsibilites of the job were as follows: text Shaun when starting to work; distribute the pamphlets to businesses (a small minority actually said no); document the names and addresses of businesses; text Shaun when fininishing work; email the list for the day to Shaun. It took almost a week to make a little over 400 drops. I walked into businesses that I never thought I would visit. Places on the south side of Syracuse; Liverpool, Baldwinsville, Fayetteville, etc. At the end I documented all of the drops in a nice little Excel spreadsheet.

Now, show me the money. After the work was done I sent an invoice to Shaun and waited for the check to come. But it never came. I emailed and called. "Oh payment will arrive shortly". "I'm waiting to be paid then I will pay you". "I sent the check yesterday". After October I never heard from Shaun again. I threatened to sue and no response. I asked him if he wanted to go on Judge response (he knew he would lose). I asked the advise of colleagues on how to get paid and this is what I did. 1 - Sue in small claims court. The clerk said that since the company does not have an office in New York, the court has no jurisdiction. 2 - Call the New York State Attorney General's office. They said to contact the DOL. 3 - Better Business Bureau. I issued a complaint with the St. Louis BBB and they closed the case saying that they were not a collections agency. 4 - IRS 1099-C -- cancellation of bad debt. The IRS says that this is for financial institutions. 5 - Federal DOL. They can only help employees not independent contractors. They refer me to the state DOL. 6 - New York State DOL. I filled out a failure to pay wages form and waited. After 2 months I followed up with an email to the NY DOL. Two days later a Chris Anderson at 518-485-1220 called me to reply to my email. She was very direct and a bit rude (actually a good person to deal with scoflaws, but not clients). She actually got through to Shaun and he made statements like the following: "He didn't do the job"; "I didn't get paid and lost the client because of the lousy job he did". I defended myself and told Chris that I had proof (emails) that I did do a good job and that Shaun promised to pay me repeatedly. She cut me off and asked that I print the emails and mail them to her. When it came out that I was an independent contractor for the job, Chris abruptly ended the conversation and said that the case was closed. Apparently no jurisdiction again.

What's left? I could try to send this to a collection agency (my last step). I could try to sue in St. Louis; of course the amount of the lawsuit is less than the cost of the travel (gotcha). Perhaps if I land a west coast gig (a real one), then I could connect in St. Louis and take care of business during a layover? I could let it go? Naaahhhh!! The moral of this long story is if you deal with an out of state company, make sure that they are reputable and perhaps require some upfront payment.

Glenn Allen
Syracuse, NY

Monday, September 28, 2009

Networking! Networking! Networking! Part 1

Yes, it's the mantra of the career coach pros out there, but does it really help? Well, it depends. If you are in the market for a full time job in your local area, then yes. If you are searching for SAP contracts then I think no. Let me explain.

If you are looking for a full time job in a specific geographical area, then absolutely join all of the appropriate organizations in that area. For example for a computing career join the local chapter of ACM (Association of Computing Machinists). At those meetings you will interact with potential contacts who may be able to hire you; refer you to another hiring company; or put you in touch with their contacts working at a desirable company. You may also interact with head hunters who are networking to find suitable candidates. These activities taking place in say Liverpool NY will be great for finding a job in Liverpool NY. However, it is unlikely to help you find a job in New York City. Pretty obvious eh?

If you are freelancing and looking to land a contract in a specific technology, say SAP, then I am not so sure networking helps. In the SAP world there is a rigid structure of client, recruiting company, consultant. It is extremely rare for a consultant to work directly with the end client. With that in mind, networking with end clients is a waste of time. They are not going to hire you directly. There is an organization called ASUG (America's SAP Users Group) in which I have been a member for 8 years. I have attended almost all of my regional chapter meetings and many chapter meetings throughout the US. What is the number of contracts landed as a result? You guessed it; 0.

More on this later.

Glenn Allen
Syracuse NY

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Don't Give Up!!!

Wow, it's almost been a year since my last post. I am going to change strategy here and perhaps add smaller posts more frequently. Anyway something happened to me this week that was inspiring. Some months back I obtained a $25 gift card from American Express. This was part of a promotion from General Motors that I participated. Last week while shopping at BJ's I attempted to use my gift card and it didn't work! What? I tried using it again and the credit card read out said "INVALID CARD". I looked at the card and it expired on 01/10. Damn!

I know that $25 is not a lot of money, but too much to flush down the toilet. Never fear, I will call customer service and get the card extended. Hello, it seems that my gift card, which I only had for a few months, has expired. Please extend it or issue a new card. I promise to use this one right a way. Sorry Mr. Allen, the agreement with the client does not permit it. How else may I help you? Are you sure there is not ANY way that this could be fixed? No sir, how else may I help you? Damn!

Now, I do have an American Express card for small business. All of my past interactions with American Express, thus far, have been stellar. I called customer service and explained my plight. Well Mr. Allen you say the gift card value was $25? Yes. Please hold, let me see what I can do. 1234567890.... Mr. Allen because you have been an excellent customer and always pay your bill in full on time every month we are going to credit your account $25. Wow, that's great! Thank you so much. Mr. Allen thank you for using American Express. How else may I help you? I am all set. Thank you again.

Don' t give up! The market is still tough out there. Don't give up! Were you the number 2 candidate? Don't give up!

Glenn Allen
Syracuse NY

Monday, March 9, 2009

Down Time

How to stay busy in a down economy? That Shakespeare is the real question.

2009 so far really sucks! There is hardly any work out there. When there is a job, rates are slashed 20 to 30%. The possible projects I had lined up for January went on hold. Other subsequent promising projects have fallen to the same fate. I tried like hell to get on a crappy project in Appleton, Wisconsin. Tons of consultants applied for it. There were several recruiters vying for candidates for the same jobs. I hooked up with a recruiter local to Appleton hoping that there would be a local edge. They submitted ~7 candidates to the client who was looking to fill 5 spots. After a couple of weeks of following up, I find out that the local recruiter did not place one. Oh well.

Why do clients use so many recruiters? It's very frustrating when I review the dice job listings and they show 100 jobs but there are really only 5 because each job is advertised 20 times. Earlier in the year there was an egregious example for a project in Sacramento. Literally all of the projects on dice were the same job in Sacramento. How can this be efficient?

Down time really sucks? You spend all day applying to 4 jobs (on a good day) and then try to follow up with past submittals. You try contacting colleagues and ERP managers to see if they have any work. You troll linkedin looking for SAP contacts. You attend presentations at the university hoping to make some contacts (tonight there is a guy from AIG - not holding my breath, but hey they did receive some bailout money). You have conversations with fellow consultants, bitching about how shitty the market is. You do a little work around the house, but not to much because that's boring. You try to figure out how to create the perfect downtime job - something with low committment and decent pay - that is something you can leave in an instant if a real project comes up without alienating them for when you need them for the next downtime cycle. You fantasize about going on a 3 month vacation to anywhere (Alaska/Canada, Europe, Asia, etc.) and then come back to work when it's all sorted out.

Oh and you spend time updating your stupid blog.

Glenn Allen
Syracuse NY

Monday, December 22, 2008

Rolling Off

I recently experienced the joy of rolling off of a project. An experience filled with many emotions. Sorrow for bidding good bye to new friends. Excitement for what lay ahead in the next project. Stress for trying to land the next project. Additional stress for also tieing up all loose ends with the short time left (finishing the object just right; catching up on the documentation; the dreaded knowledge transer to the consultants who remain). Those last 2 weeks just fly by.

There are several housekeeping tasks that I always try to do.

1) Try to get contact information from fellow consultants and the employees. I always like to be able to contact people that I have worked with in the past. They could refresh your memory of an object that you are trying to recall. They may provide leads for new projects (and visa versa). Sometimes it's nice just to say hi.

2) Make a copy of the code, documentation, emails, etc. of the objects you worked on. There are many, many occasions when you are trying to think of the way that you solved a problem in the past. It's nice to be able to look it up.

3) Remember to take all of your personal effects home. There is no going back for your favorite "#1 Programmer" mug. The remaining team will promise to mail it to you, but for some reason it never happens.

4) Remember to return all company property. It may be tempting grab that power strip that you could use, but its not worth it. Your reputation could be damaged over such a small thing (even if by accident).

Once you turn in your badge and your gun, there is no going back. Leave with head held high, smiles, and a firm handshake. With any luck, you just might be invited back down the line for another project.

Glenn Allen
Syracuse NY

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Where to begin? Why add to the pollution of the blogosphere? Well, for selfish reasons of course. One of the ways to be successful in your chosen career is to be published. This blog is the lowest cost of entry for that purpose.

In this blog I am going to focus on the softer side of being an Independent American Technical Consultant specializing in SAP. There are many, many articles speaking to the technical aspects of SAP consulting. Not much out there on the 'touch' side, so hopefully these articles will fill the vacuum. That's not to say I will never write about a discovery found during the day. These will be included from time to time.

First and foremost these articles will be written for the express purpose of documenting my experiences for me. If someone else reads it - Great! If no one ever does - Great! I will need to edit myself so as not to get too personal. For several years I have been following the musings of the 'Brazen Careerist". Her take is quite insightful. Recently though she has started to get very personal discussing her divorce; her sex life with a farmer; etc. It's like a soap opera (though I am hooked).

Even as I compose my thoughts writing this first entry I can tell that this is an exercise that could aid in anyone's personal growth. The public diary....

Glenn Allen
Syracuse NY