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US: Prepare to hand over your passwords

Recently the US government begun asking travellers entering into the country to disclose active social media accounts. The reason is said to be an effort to spot potential terrorist threats. Visitors filling out the online visa waiver application (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) are required to input account names on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.

Chances are that if you’ll be questioned, your passwords may be “confiscated”, as well. Check out Engadget’s article “The Border Patrol can take your password. Now what?” to learn more.

I don’t mind fighting terrorism but believe few of them, if any, will be caught after having disclosed accounts and passwords. The odds of that… Instead, I’m concerned where we’re heading regarding foundational democratic rights. What happens when a government goes from being good to being bad, and we’ve surrendered everything?

La Grulla, Texas, USA - September 21, 2015: A  Border Patrol agent searches a 14 year old Honduran boy he apprehended on the banks of the Rio Grande River attempting to enter the United States illegally.  There was a sharp increase in the number of unaccompanied Central American juveniles, most fleeing gang violence, trying to enter the U.S. illegally over the summer.

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Things that matter

I got a text message from my brother, still in his forties, less than a week ago. The text said: “They say I need heart bypass surgery.”

I was in the middle of a meeting where we discussed pitch strategy for one of our customers. So I left the meeting, to call my brother. He’s been training to run the Stockholm Marathon and had experienced chest pain. At the hospital, doctor’s discovered the cause and that it needs immediate heart bypass surgery. We had a brief talk on the phone, mostly about what the doctors had said and what the plans were.

When we hung up, I couldn’t stop the tears. Just the thought of the risk of losing my brother had me terrified, fear radiated straight into my soul. I couldn’t just go back into the meeting, had to take a few minutes to collect myself.

The days and nights since then, my thoughts and prayers, have been with my brother and his family. I’ve visited, we’ve talked on the phone, and communicated electronically. Not just us, but the entire family. Tears, hope, trust, fear, anxiety, hope, reassurance, tears. Staying close to both my brother and all my loved ones.

Meanwhile at work, I’ve met prospective clients and presented. We completed and delivered the pitch. All the time, with my heart and mind with my brother. He’s now had to be transported to another hospital and surgery is finally scheduled for tomorrow.

I can take this post into a few directions from here. I can take it into the value of having an understanding manager and supporting colleagues. I could reflect on things I would like to have done better, generally, in my work-life balance. Or the post can go into just pausing for a second to contemplate on what’s really really important in life. Did you say and show to your loved ones that you love them?

… however, there’s only place I can take this post to: It’s to my brother and his closest family. I’m thinking of you, all the time, and I’ll be there when you wake up. And I look forward to taking walks with you in warm spring sun. I love you.

Respect and praying on nature background

Respect and praying on nature background

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My mistake and gender equality

I feel ashamed. I made an embarrassing mistake. I will do my best to have it never happen again.

A few weeks ago I got thinking about events at which I speak. I thought about the unbalance of male vs female speakers. In our industry, it’s common that some events don’t even include one female speaker. It’s so seriously awkward for many reasons:

  • While the IT-industry is unbalanced to begin with, at least 30% are women. In some companies, such as in our Norwegian subsidiary, it’s even 50%. So, there is no reason related to number of women in the industry to have events with zero women speaking.
  • Regardless of what personal characteristic is important to be successful in IT (mathematics, creativity, social skills, etc), there are no gender differences, only personal differences. So, there is no reason related to characteristics to have events with zero women speaking.
  • Because of the unbalance in the industry, especially when it comes to leadership positions, there are actually real reasons to have MORE women than men speaking, to even out these unfair odds.
  • Given the current unbalance, we can know for a fact that poorly performing male speakers are blocking really smart female speakers from sharing insights and experiences.

I concluded that I need to do something, regardless of my limited reach and power. I decided to make it a rule that I won’t speak anywhere unless there is at least a clear ambition to reach a 50/50 ratio. I decided that I would write a post on this decision. A literal minute later, the event organizer IDG (Webbdagarna), tweeted that they will ensure a gender equal lineup moving forward. That tweet made me pause the idea of my own blog post. It would look like an opportunistic timing and nobody would really believe that I had actually made up my mind about this before IDG’s announcement.

Just a few of days later, that same event organizer tweeted a question, asking for suggestions of good speakers for an upcoming event. Can you guess my response? Here it is…

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 10.32.42
Five suggestions. All male. And I am officially stupid. It dawned on me a few days ago what I had done and I felt I had to think it through and publicly apologize. So here it goes: I am sincerely sorry. I feel ashamed for real. Moving forward I will:

  • make sure to only speak on events that have an ambition to have a balanced number of women speakers always suggest women speakers first (this means that I will turn down speaking if there are only male speakers)
  • in my daily job as a leader in my company, always clearly point out unbalance and work towards addressing it (one of the internal meetings I participated in recently had only male participants and it made me cringe, next time I’ll be seriously and openly questioning the planning at such a meeting)
  • … in terms of mentoring young professionals, I will prioritize my energy on female IT-specialists (and while I can see how this part of my post can be misinterpreted, I think you agree that we can’t let fears like that be in the way of making sure we encourage and build the best talent regardless of gender)

And finally, six suggestions for great and inspiring female speakers at future events include Therese Reuterswärd, Kajsa Dahlberg, Susanna Laurin, Annelie Gullström, Jennifer Belissent, and Laura Koetzle.

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Video: Building your personal brand

National IT-magazine Computersweden (IDG) has a career/recruiting site. I was recently video-interviewed on the topic of building your personal brand.

You can view the video below. It’s in Swedish… but here’s a translation:

“My name is Andreas Sjöström. I’m a developer and I manage Sogeti’s practice for online, mobile and Internet of Things. Building your own personal brand today is extremely important but it can be tricky, because the actual building of your brand must never be the primary motivation and drive for what you do.

For me, I’ve had two fundamental aspects in building my own personal brand:
The first aspect is the joy, passion, and love for what I do. Curiosity and the will to do something which is good not just for me but for others: the value. There’s tremendous amount of joy and passion in creating value.
The second aspect is the appetite and hunger to always learning more. There are always new things you can learn, in new forums and from new acquaintances. Learning is critical, especially in domains where you are not an expert to begin with, and then penetrate that.

When you build with passion and love, and skills and learning… when you use these things and make yourself available to others who seek it, need it… then your profile will be established as an expert. You’ll be recognized as being an expert.

So, for successful building of personal brand, you will need this:
that you then dare to claim your space, that you dare to be seen, that you are boldly confident, and sincerely humble with what you know.”

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Summertime career reflections

Most of us are soon taking some time off. Let me suggest some summertime career reflections.

Purpose and belonging.

We all love doing good stuff. Stuff which is valuable and mean something.
Don’t lose sight of good. Spend a few moments thinking about what is good in the context you are in.
Spend time and effort there.
Whatever you are and whatever you do, you are always a part of something bigger.
Understand it. Look into it and look beyond it.
It creates a sense of belonging and drive. It drives new ideas and higher degree of dynamics.
You will discover new things to learn, for your enjoyment but also for your professional value.
What is beyond your project? What is beyond the company you work for? Who is your real customer? What is beyond the market?
The feeling of doing something good and purposeful in a context we understand, and perhaps even control, brings great satisfaction.

Being free and in control.

Never give up being free and in control of your development as a human being and professional worker.
Connect with your inner drive, nurture it with curiosity, openness and happiness.
Don’t let anyone else dictate your next move but be humble towards those who know more than you. And everyone else.
Your job or even your life will never just be filled with joy, passion and fun. Hard core skill is also the ability to learn from what is grey.
Don’t always flee it. Embrace grey for a while and you will find the most sparkling moments right there.
What you never thought you would enjoy, you may perhaps not love but you will learn from it.
If you are stuck in your career with nowhere to go: redefine or go. Find a new place and more importantly, find likeminded.
The desire and importance of being free and in control is deeply rooted in all of us.
Use it.

Never stop learning.

Go deeper. Go broader.
Be the best in something. In anything. But don’t be that snob who never accepts doing anything else.
Challenge yourself with completely new things. All the time.
Learn alongside with friends and colleagues.
Don’t be afraid to fail or do that which is not perfect. Perfecting comes only with learning and learning means by definition unperfected origin.
Look into new domains of knowledge both within and outside of your profession.
Learn from that which is beautiful in abundance. Art, music, poetry, or just nature.
Learn from that which is technical by definition. Mathematics, physics, or just logic.
Since the dawn of humanity we have always strived to improve and learn more.
Tap into that force.

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