Monday, September 29, 2014

Twenty-some-odd years ago I spent two years in Ohio as an LDS missionary. They were a great two years. I met so many wonderful people.

In December, my son will be doing the same thing, in a different place: the Philippines.

Over the past two decades, I've thought a lot about my experience and what I could have done better. Here's what I told my son a couple of weeks ago... (knowing that he was going on his mission, but not knowing where the assignment would be)

The next two years will be an opportunity for you to _learn_ how to serve and help other people. Probably, at no other time in your life, will you have such an opportunity to focus on something quite this completely. Use the time well. Your job is NOT to convert people to the LDS Church. Your job is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to love people, serve them, and help them. Don't ever get caught up in how many people join the Church or how many discussions you give, or anything like that. Those things are easy to measure, but they don't mean anything.

If you want to measure something, keep track of the number of times you get a sincere "Thank you" from someone.

I've spent time in the Philippines. There will be no end to the good he can do. What a great learning experience this will be.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Marriott Executive Lounge - Manila

Associate: "Hello Mr. Teasdale, good to have you back."
Me: "Wow, you know who I am?"
Associate: "I'll never forget you."

This interaction happened a couple of nights ago - about 11:00 PM. I just arrived in Manila after about 17 hours on 3 different airplanes.

I'm not a memorable person. Not handsome, tall, short, skinny, fat. Really just particularly average. I don't stay too often at this particular hotel, maybe 18 nights in the past 30 months. I didn't recognize the associate speaking to me. However, I'm pretty sure I know why she responded as she did.

You see, last time I was there, there was a bit of a tension in the room. Some self-important customer was behaving like an ass and giving this particular associate a pretty abusive treatment because he wasn't getting his way. From what I remember, he either wanted a room upgrade or a lower rate on the room he had. Given how important he thought he was, and said he was (there was no problem overhearing him), you'd think that 500 pesos wouldn't really be that big a deal ($13). However, you'd have thought the Marriott associate was telling him he was about to be dipped in boiling oil.

Anyway I apparently checked in during a lull in the fight and then his argument picked up after I arrived. I listened to this man berate this associate for a long time (> 10 minutes). I contemplated stepping in and suggesting he cool off. However, here's what I did. I took out a business card and wrote the following on the back: "I am so sorry you have to go through this. If he complains to ANYONE, please feel free to contact me and I will confirm that you behaved in a professional manner. Andrew Teasdale"

I didn't actually do anything. They never called. However, that simple offer made a difference to this person.

I'm not relating this for anyone to think I did anything great. Again, I didn't actually do anything. I write this to illustrate that little acts of kindness mean a lot. Her comment back to me, "I'll never forget you" meant a lot to me. She just said a kind thing to me, and it helped me at the end of a long day.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Virtual Office Hours

Talking with our intern today, we decided to try something new.

I don't remember if I mentioned this, but our intern is working remotely. She visited our Cebu location this past Friday and Saturday, but aside from that, she's been working from her home. I've been trying to do different things to compensate for working at a distance and the lack of interaction with other people in the company. Today I had what I think is a brilliant idea.

I had our intern send me some hours when she knows she will be working. I will have a tech support guy in our office setup a computer for "Intern Office Hours." We'll set it up so it doesn't fall asleep (i.e., the monitor doesn't go dark when the computer isn't being used. We'll connect a headset to the computer. On that computer, we'll initiate a Google Hangout with the intern. For that hour, she'll have her camera pointed at her and anyone walking by that computer will see her sitting there. Anyone who wants to can then stop by, put on the headphones, and sit down and chat for a moment.

I'll let you know how this works. She agreed to try it for three hours: two hours this week and one hour next week.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Designing an Internship

Savvysherpa has an office in Cebu. A board member in the Philippines asked that we do an internship program with his alma mater: Ateneo de Manila University in Manila. I was tasked with taking care of that.

I worked with HR to get a pool of candidates. We interviewed and selected three candidates. We made three offers. Three originally accepted, with two bailing out on us. We have one intern. That's OK.

The design challenge is to develop an internship. Here's what we have working for us:

  • we selected a great intern,
  • we have a board member invested in this being successful
  • we have some good problems for the intern

My goals for the internship program:

  • for the board member to be pleased that a student from his alma mater had a good experience
  • get positive word of mouth from the intern about our company
  • get helpful effort applied to the problems we're giving to the intern


  • the intern is working remotely - we don't have an office in Manila and she will not be traveling to Cebu
  • the intern is 11 hours away from Minneapolis (0800 here is 2100 there)
  • the intern will not have access to the company intranet

Here's what I've designed.

Weekly "Meet the Sherpa" (clever, eh? Savvysherpa is the company name, "Meet the Sherpa"). Using Google Hangouts or Skype, every week the intern will meet 2-3 people from the Cebu or Minneapolis location. After those meetings, I follow up with a message to the Sherpas asking them to occasionally "reach out" to the intern. Trying to find a way to duplicate "stopping by the cube" that's possible when the intern is located in the office.

I've apprenticed the intern to one of our Cebu researchers. He's teaching her how to use a fairly sophisticated data visualization tool - I think something that will set the intern apart when she returns to class in the fall and a plus to add to her resume.

I've found two people with problems the intern can research. I've connected her with them and then gotten out of the way so that she can work with them. Both are senior people in the organization, so she is getting good face time.

She'll be meeting with the well-connected board member I mentioned earlier. That's a great opportunity.

I've identified some additional learning resources for the intern. One is a Coursera course on Data Science. The other is a codeacademy course. Learning from these resources isn't her primary task, but I want to be sure that should she have ANY downtime, she has something to do that's worthwhile.

I'll meet with her twice weekly to review her experience and determine what additional things we can do to make the experience positive for her.

I've asked her to compose a weekly summary of her activities. This is NOT a check to be sure she's working. It is to keep me updated so I can inform stakeholders here what's happening. It gives her an opportunity to reflect on her experience.

Today is the last day of week 1. So far, so good. The intern commented to me today that she went to Coursera and registered for the course I suggested. She didn't know about Coursera. She reported that she actually found several other courses she wants to take. That's good! All the other events have kicked off as I've expected.

Oh... Just a note on technology. I met with the intern when I was in Manila a couple of weeks ago. I told her she'd need a good internet connection. She worked with her family and made that happen. We've done several Google Hangouts. The thing I want to mention is how much of a trouble the technology is NOT. It took us a minute or two to get the Google Hangouts thing working the first time, now it's a complete non-issue.

I'll continue to post updates on the experience an what I learn from it.

Have any suggestions?

instructional design designing internship remote Philippines Cebu