2013 has been a year of change for me in my professional life and at my company, Summersault. The changes were set in motion by a combination of intentional planning and dealing with the unexpected, and navigating them has been challenging and stressful, but I think ultimately worthwhile.
The company has been around since 1997, and so we have a number of supporters and interested observers who we've connected with over the years, locally here in Richmond, among our clients and vendors, and of course among our friends and families. As I get questions from them about "what's happening with Summersault?" and "what's happening with you?" I know I haven't always been clear in my responses, in part because the answers (or how to talk about them) haven't always been clear to me.
As I've built Summersault with care and attention to the complex interactions between business needs and human needs, so I've also wanted to give that same care and attention to times of transition and restructuring. It was - and still is - a challenge to share publicly about professional changes that have many layers of complexity. It's a challenge to answer questions about what these changes might mean for individual employees while honoring their privacy. It's a challenge to talk about new directions while acknowledging the interests and concerns of our clients and the services we might still provide to them. It's a challenge to speak about areas where we have encountered difficulty with our local economy, talent pool and business climate without seeming to disparage the good work of people trying to improve the same. It's a challenge to share about the specific difficulties, frustrations, opportunities and realizations that have led to these changes while maintaining harmonious relationships with coworkers, clients and supporters who might have their own and different narratives about Summersault's history and evolution. It's a challenge to distill the feelings, hopes, disappointments, anxiety and messiness that go with owning and running a business with a history and identity in a community I care about, let alone making big changes in that identity. So, when people ask me "what's going on at Summersault?" and I find myself speaking in vague or jargony terms about it, it's clear that I've not done a good enough job of meeting all of the above challenges!
Here, then, is an attempt at answering those questions more clearly, based on what I know and can say now.
In October I concluded my time as a member of the Palladium-Item's community editorial advisory board, which I joined about two years ago. I enjoyed the experience and while (as expected) I didn't always agree with the views published by the paper, I felt like I was able to bring a perspective and approach that helped shape the overall conversation. There have been few other places in my day-to-day life since college where people regularly gather in a room to vehemently but respectfully talk (okay, and sometimes shout) in depth and in person about current events and important issues facing the city.
I was already a fairly close reader of the viewpoints page in the Pal-Item and other publications, but being on the editorial board inspired and required even closer attention to what topics local writers were submitting letters and columns about, and how they went about presenting their views. As a result, I've put together a list of elements that I found to be present in the most effective and engaging editorials I've read:
There's already been much armchair quarterbacking of the botched rollout of healthcare.gov, so I doubt I have much new to add to the mix. But as someone who's led or programmed the creation of web tools for much of my professional life, I can't help but share a few observations:
First, I must give thanks that whatever times in my work I thought I've had a client who was difficult to work with or a painful "design by committee" situation that was getting out of hand, at least I've never been hauled before a Congressional Oversight Committee to answer questions from bureaucrats about the intricate details of website development. NIGHTMARE. However badly they may have messed up, I still feel a little bit sorry for the people who now have to go through that grilling.
I really don't enjoy exercising for the sake of exercise. In my ideal world, my daily activities in the course of making a living and living my life would be sufficiently physically active that I didn't need to add on artificial periods of activity. Friends, I am far from living in my ideal world: much of making a living currently involves sitting in front of a computer, and fetching dinner is a trip to the grocery or a restaurant, not traipsing across the countryside on the hunt. And so for now, I mostly have to choose between artificial exercising or not being physically healthy enough.
For the last three months, I've been able to hold together a three-times weekly workout routine without interruption, except for one week off. It includes running, biking and weight-lifting for around 45 minutes each time. This kind of consistency is rare for me; as seasons change or scheduling gets tricky, I've usually found excuses (sometimes as simple as "I don't wanna!") that lead to deferring a session which then leads to ending my routine altogether.
When I first read about Bitcoin, the open source peer-to-peer digital currency, I thought it was just another in a long line of attempts to create an online alternative to the dollar that would probably not see wide adoption.