Thursday, June 26, 2008

The New Goal: 225 by 12/25

In keeping with the "goal" by rhyming "date" model, I have looked at the data and see that I have averaged about 1.6 pounds per week from the beginning of this diet, and 1.2 pounds per week over the last month. I don't see that pace continuing, but I want to set a motivating goal. So I am looking for about 15 more pounds, bringing me to 225 by 12/25. That gives me enough buffer to cut that 1.2 average in half and still make 225 over the next 180 days til Christmas.

Click on graph for larger view.

I Did It... Minus 40.6!!

I guess my metabolism kicked in yesterday, since I didn't eat particularly well, and had not run since Sunday. I woke up this morning at 240.0 and knew that was within 0.8 pounds of my goal... So I went for a 2.5 mile run, had a shower, and then tipped the scales at 238.6, which is 40.6 pounds less than when I started on January 4 at 279.2. That's about 7 bricks (6 shown in picture)!

I made my July 4 deadline by a week and a day! After a trip to Taco Bell to savor my reward for this past 6 months of Lean Cuisine and unsweet tea, I will establish a new goal, so that I don't fall off the wagon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why I Want an MBA

That title sounds so definitive. It should say, "Why I think I want an MBA." Today I found out that in order for my company to pay for this, it would have to be funded by my business unit. That will be tricky as my business unit is rather adverse to spending money. On a brighter note, I talked to someone in a different business unit, who is in the program at Duke, and he commented that several other people in his organization have also been through the program.

OK so here goes. I began my career with a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science from NC State and Georgia Tech, respectively. I was very technical then, and I did well in my career early on. I enjoyed solving hardcore technical problems, and developing strategic and tactical solutions. It wasn't long before I was a team leader, a role that I performed with enthusiasm and vigor. I began studying creative ways to motivate and lead teams. After a significant international deployment of a solution I architected and helped develop, I changed jobs to a position where I was an engagement manager for a program product. In this capacity, I got to work directly with clients worldwide, building relationships with both clients and the product developers. It was clear that my skills were evolving to be more relationship- and management-based and less technical-based.

After that stint, I became an official project manager, and went through the Project Management Institute certification process. I subsequently was certified in my company's rigorous Project Management Professional program. Soon afterwards, I left my company on a leave of absence for 3 years to run my wife's stay-at-home-mom business Celebration Cottage which ultimately became a 14-employee company operating in 2700 square feet of prime office space. In this capacity I served as president, CEO, CFO, CIO, IT department, marketing manager, graphics department manager, printer repair technician, and building maintenance services technician, all in one. Oh, the joys of entrepreneurship.

So here is where I first realized I needed an MBA. I knew how to run that business - just based on common sense and my PM training. What I didn't know was how to MANAGE that business, or GROW that business, or OPTIMIZE that business, or TRANSFORM that business. After 9/11, our sales slumped, as our product line was exclusively a high-end discretionary expense. The technical barriers to entry into this type of work were also becoming fewer and fewer. We weathered the 9/11 downturn, but in 2003 I decided to return to work after my 3rd year of leave. I wanted the security of a constant paycheck over the flexibility and thrill of running my own business. There were other factors, but indeed, our business had grown to the point where it would require a more advanced set of business skills to maintain or grow, and I simply did not have those skills or confidence. So, I went back to my corporate job in 2003, and then we sold the business in 2004, at what I would say was its peak in value. All in all, it was a good thing.

I've been in first line management ever since, but most recently have a position as an operations manager for a large portion of our internal IT work. In this capacity, I am involved in strategic initiative rollout, overall financial management, and organizational strategic planning. I am being exposed to and have influence with larger and larger aspects of our business, including many global programs. I have continued to build relationships with people and hone my communications skills.

With the business we had, I experienced a taste of true end-to-end business management, though on a small scale. In my current role, I am working with senior managers and executives in influencing global business decisions and activities. I believe that I have the interpersonal and communications skills to succeed at many organizational levels in my company. What I lack is the technical business foundation that would allow me to think and lead strategically, to optimize and grow a business, and to manage an organization. I believe that an MBA will give me the formal knowledge and confidence to tackle greater career challenges.

I liken myself to the amateur golfer who never had any golf lessons, but excelled in baseball from T-Ball through college. He knows the physics of golfing, how to swing a stick at a ball, and has studied "How to improve your short game" articles in various golf magazines. He has played many fine courses over his lifetime. He scores OK, but that is really more on natural talent than anything else. It's time to go to golf school. How much better can he be if given proper instruction with the right experiences? Quite a bit, I believe.

FORE! I'm playing through!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Moving Forward

The progress towards the MBA consideration continues. I haven't had much time to study for the GMAT in the last few days, but I do have transcript requests for NC State and Ga Tech ready to go in the mail tomorrow. I also have found my company's website where I can apply for the "Degree Work Study Program."

I initiated an online application at Duke. It's quite involved. There are 3 essays along with lots of other material. I've been listening to some MBA podcasts and they say to spend 60-100 hours on your essays, and 2 months studying for the GMAT. The application initiation prompted a note from the admissions coordinator, who said "We see you have started an application, though we have not met... won't you please give us a call sometime." So I wrote back and said, "Sure!" and gave them a little info about me. The the response was, "Send us your resume and transcripts and GMAT scores and then let's talk." So, hence, I have initiated my transcripts, and will work on my resume update this weekend. GMAT will be later - but I will take it soon.

Between my company's application, and Duke's application and/or interview, I know that I am going to have to address WHY I am wanting to do this. So I think I will write about that here, though it is a bit late to write about it tonight.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Random Updates This Weekend

Right now I am running in import in Hyperion and figured I would blog something while it ran.

Caleb's front tooth is hanging on a thread.

This AM I weighed and was 2/10 (3 ounces) from my "40 by the 4th" goal of 239.2 pounds. What's 3 ounces? A piece of toast? So close.

I have been studying for the GMAT. I can handle the math. The Critical Reasoning is blowing my mind. Haven't gotten to the other stuff.

How can I change career directions, study and pass the GMAT, and complete my application to MBA school (including 3 essays by me, and 3 lengthy written recommendations by others) by mid-August? Only God knows!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back to School?

Last weekend I had this crazy thought. Without sharing too much personal information here, I have recently, and very quickly, been transformed from someone who was not so concerned about his salary, to someone who is. So I am now contemplating what I can do in my career to make sure I am competitive and paid well. And while I sort of like what I am doing right now, the simple fact is that I am going to need to become more aggressive in planning my work future. Formerly, I don't think that I was very driven. I got my job done and did it well. I didn't, however, aspire for greater position. I think I need to change that mindset, or I will be henceforth stalled. I am almost 44 years old, and I have at least another 15-17 years I need to work to get the kids through college.

Over the past many years, I've struggled with my career choice. A Computer Science B.S. and M.S. served me well for the first 5 years of my career when I was in technical roles. Since then, it's been leadership, project management, management, and most recently, operations & program management.

I've been content in my recent positions, though sometimes bored. That has changed in the last year as I've had more orgnizational scope and executive visibility. I was recently working closely with my director, who was an outstanding leader who has taught me a lot. He has now changed jobs, and I'll be helping the new guy get used to his new turf.

My "next moves" are potentially to get promoted and stay in my same role. Or promote to a 2nd line management position in my same division. Or I could craft a position for myself as a part of a global program I am involved with. Or move laterally to a management position in another division. Or I could leave, which is always the biggest unknown. I think there are plenty of opportunities at my company, and going elsewhere would entail riding on my current credentials more so than my "potential" that may be valued higher where I am.

So the crazy idea was this... What if I went back to school? Specifically, what if I went back to school in Duke University's Executive MBA program? Afterall, they have the #4 ranked Executive MBA program in the nation, and they're local.

On a whim, I mentioned this to my manager. She was encouraging and thought I would do great in such a program. But did I want to be an executive, she asked. Huh? Why would I want to do that? Oh... It is the Executive MBA program. Her words encouraged me a lot. She said "I've always told you - you can do anything you want to do." It comes down to "What do YOU want to do?" she told me. That conversation has haunted me all weekend long.

So I have been pondering and contemplating this for the last 4-5 days, and for the first time in many years, I am starting to feel excited about my career. For years, when I had to define my "individual development plan" I had a hard time conveying anything of interest 3-5-10 years in the future. I have been ambivilant and indifferent about my future career options.

So with such a career comes some challenges I fear. One, the time commitment. Well, I'm already working 10-11 hour days doing my current job. It's not that bad, and I don't know that I could do more than that, if needed. Also there's the travel fear. I don't mind occasional travel, but I don't want to get into any role where travel is expected 50-100% of the time. I want to put my family first. I don't want to wake up at age 50 in some significant job on the road and not know who my kids are. I discussed all this with Lori today, and she was very supportive, and even seemed a little excited. She would be a key element to anything I do.

The way the Duke Weekend Executive MBA program works is this: For 20 intense months, you will strengthen core business skills, be exposed to different perspectives on current business issues and build a strong network of peers. Beginning in March, you attend classes all day Friday until 5:30 pm and Saturday until 3pm on Duke’s campus on alternating weekends. Friday night stays are included in the tuition and are considered part of the weekend residency.

So that sounds like a lot, but also sounds like it would be a great experience. Registration for 2009 ends mid-August, so I have about 2 months to decide if this is something I want to pursue this round... and to find out if I can get IBM to help pay for it.

So that's what's on my mind. I will certainly be in prayer about this decision, and I will be consulting several people for their counsel, all of whom are leaders and trusted friends or colleagues.

I guess it wouldn't hurt to go to school at Duke. If the MBA doesn't work out, I still have 4 years of eligibility to play college basketball.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Moon as Seen from Our Front Yard

Seth had some school homework assignment this week that involved drawing the moon each night. I decided to use the tripod, and after 3-4 nights of experimentation, I got this photo tonight. I am pretty shocked that our little amatuer Kodak Z12IS digital camera can zoom this much and get such a nice image. I think I see the flag! Now i'm interested in when the next eclipse is!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

3.5 More Pounds to go!

This last week has been very good, as I recovered from the Memorial Day run-up in weight to achieve a couple of new lows in the past few days. Now down to 242.6, leaving 3.4 pounds to go to reach the MINUS 40 goal. Looking pretty good on the graph. Running is really making the difference, as I typically will knock off 2-4 pounds of water weight with each run. Also the temperature is increasing, which drives even more sweating.
The nice part of this diet is all the new (old) clothes I get to wear. I now have 7 pairs of shorts that are too big for me. I have replaced them with about 13 pairs of shorts that previously did not fit at all! Many of those were brand new, received over the past few Christmases. I have none that are too small. I have about 4 belts that are too big, and 2 that fit, and none that are smaller. I have many pairs of blue jeans that are too big, about 4-5 that fit great now, and about 7-8 pairs that are smaller that I can shrink into. About half my dress pants are too big, half fit just fine, or are almost too big, and one pair is too small. I have many nice XXL shirts that are too big now, some of which are Tommy Bahama (argh!). So if I buy any new clothes it will be from Goodwill or yard sales and will be shirts and dress pants. All my shoes still fit, except my running shoes are about ready to be replaced. Doing good on socks. iPod earbuds still fitting OK.

Once I get to 239.2, I may post some of those silly pictures like you see in the diet ads of someone wearing their huge pants.