Happy farewells

When I was 8 years old, my parents packed up their belongings and their two children and we travelled what seemed for days, from Scotland to South Africa. Tears were shed and gifts were shared and and you knew that the only form of communication that you would have with your family, would be airmail letters which, would arrive 14 – 21 days after they were written.

20 years ago, the process hadn’t improved much at all. I kissed my parents and friends goodbye, I received many lovely gifts and I travelled from South Africa to Holland, knowing that cards and letters would arrive perhaps a little quicker…..but only just a little and I’d have to pay astronomical costs for long distance telephone calls.

Receiving a farewell gift is always an amazing treat; friends who you’ve known for a lifetime coming from afar to celebrate, a delicious box of Belgian chocolates, a bottle of French champagne, a book, sweet perfume or that beautiful personal gift, specifically chosen with you in mind or which has been in the family for many many years and has now been given to you. The pain of saying farewell is softened by the receipt of something to remember someone by.

But these days, farewells aren’t really farewells at all. Yes, you may miss seeing someone face-to-face however, Linked-in, Facebook and Twitter have become our very large virtual kitchen table, where we continue to ‘meet’ friends for coffee and a chat. Skype means that we can look people in the eye when we talk to them and excessive long distance telephone costs are something of the past.

I hope I don’t sound ungrateful, when I say that farewell gifts should no longer be necessary. Having said that however, I’m glad that farewell gifts still exist, as the best farewell gifts of all are those you ask your friends to give, knowing that a charity will be the benefactor. I was given a full page advertisement, in the business magazine Management Scope, for the charity of my choice. I hope that Orange Babies will be happy with this gift. And, my Brand, Communications and CSR team members at Deloitte contacted Hope Village in Namibia to find out what support they require and surprised me with the result; they are collecting for a school bus.

The pain of saying farewell has been softened by knowing that Deloitte, my colleagues and my friends have donated to very worthy causes. Now that’s what I call a happy farewell. Thank you so very very much everyone. Hong Kong, here I come!

Social Media for Dummies

As soon as you start living your dream, your dreams evolve.
I love technology and I would even go so far as to call myself a ‘techy’ where hardware is concerned. I don’t necessarily buy into all new hardware at first, but I’m certainly not a laggard either. The top drawer of my desk is a technology graveyard of just about every mobile phone known to man, PDAs, first gen mp3 players, ipods through the ages and digital cameras. I just don’t have the heart to throw them away. I mean really, they all still work!

On the software side however, it’s less techy and more of a tetchy subject. I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m a dummy. I used to be able to glide around Word, Excel and Powerpoint with ease. But, every time Microsoft proudly brings out a new improved version of their pallet of software, I have the feeling that my knowledge goes backwards an era. Does anyone else share this sinking feeling?

The social media that I ‘got’ immediately was Linked-in. I notice that I’ve been a member since 2004. I use it for business. It’s basically taken over the rolodex that I never had. I owned a beautiful burgundy leather business card holder, filled with cards. Which, come to think of it, has joined the mobile phones in my technology graveyard.

When Facebook was launched, all those years ago, I just couldn’t imagine why anybody would use it. Why would I want to store all my private family photographs on a website for everyone to see? A little confusion on my part between Facebook and Picasa. I’m now a major Facebook fan of course, given my family is strewn all over the world. I have family members and friends on just about every continent so Facebook has become my kitchen table; a warm and friendly meeting place that always brings a smile and very often raucous laughter with it.

Then Twitter hit the streets. In February 2010, I opened up a Twitter account and never used it. I thought, “Why would total strangers be interested  in what I’m doing? Crazy people. I’m certainly never adopting that one.” This year, Roos van Vugt, our social media guru at Deloitte, gave my colleagues and I Twitter training. Thanks Roos. I now actually feel like I know what I’m doing and, thanks to you, I learn so much from other users on Twitter every day. Someone told me recently that I tweet too much. Is up to 10 tweets a day a lot?  Let’s face it, we’re not talking glasses of wine here!

The internal version of Twitter is Yammer. Or at least, that’s the way that I see it. We use this platform for knowledge sharing at Deloitte. It cuts down on email and questions are answered so much faster than in the past.

WordPress took me about an hour to really understand and the rest of the day to create a blog site. In the end, I was just being fussy about aesthetics. Or, does it always take this ‘long’ to develop a site? Fortunately, I had someone at home who had done it all before and he guided me through the toolbars. I’m not really into ‘reading funky manuals’. I learn by doing. I suppose this is why I’m often so challenged by Social Media.

Having a lack of Social Media wisdom is fortunately not age related. I know this for a fact. Recently Fair Chance Foundation (Dutch) asked third parties to offer us educational projects, which we will support on our annual ‘Impact Day’. Impact Day offers every Deloitte employee the opportunity to take a day off from work to do charity work.

Roos retweeted my call for projects and Linda Vonhof and Thijs van de Reep from Social Media Wijs (Social Media Smart) approached me. They’ve developed a social media bootcamp to teach kids all the fun things that they can do and learn from it. In schools they focus too much on the evils of social media, putting the fear of death into many a school child. Very seldom are kids taught what they can actually do with social media. But then go figure, they’re being taught by school teachers who are probably as clueless as I am. And to be fair, technology just moves so fast and the teachers don’t have a Social Media team to come to their rescue. Social Media Wijs is running a bootcamp for Deloitte’s Fair Chance Foundation on Impact Day on 28 September 2011. This date may differ in other countries. For more information about what they are doing, they can be reached through Twitter.

My most recent Social Media faux pas was whilst I was attending a seminar in Brussels. I tweeted that a lady speaker from the BBC was giving a fascinating presentation about SM. A BBC colleague retweeted my message, setting the record straight and changed my abbreviation from SM to Soc.Med. Well, it is the British Broadcasting Corporation with an image to uphold. And yes, realising my mistake, I laughed out loud. I continually live and learn. You may however want to read the advice which Harvard Business Review offers on The Simple Way to Avoid Social Media Failures.

PS. Google+ is still giving me nightmares. Circles. Yes, I am pretty much going around in circles and sparks are definitely flying. But, the sparks are probably coming from that part of my brain where the cogs go round and round. Help…….Roos!!