Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Peddling Papers

Remembrance Day has come and gone again.

My Dad’s birthday was November 11th or Remembrance Day here in Canada. Everyone here dons a red poppy pinned to their lapel to remember our fallen soldiers.

When I was a little boy, I always felt bad for Dad having a birthday on Remembrance Day – because everyone would be remembering other people and nobody would remember his birthday.

Birthdays are important when you’re a little boy.

But since Dad passed away some 22 years ago, I spend a good portion of that day simply remembering my Dad.

My Dad had some really great sayings.

When he would greet us in the morning he would ask “How’s your belly for spots?” instead of “How are you?

When someone would offer Dad something he would smile wide and say “We take all free gifts”.

When he would find my brother and I to be a bit to rambunctious, he would tell us to “go peddle your papers” or “go play in traffic”.

But my favorite expression was used anytime that my brother and I and Dad would know that we were in trouble with our Mom.

Before Paul and I could even conger up any feasible resemblance of an excuse or alibi, Dad would simply smile at and almost with a wink he would say to us

You lie and I’ll swear to it”.

This year I was thinking about all the technology that has evolved over the last 22 years. I was thinking about how it was too bad that Dad didn’t get to experience how personal computers would have revolutionized how he did his job as the Manager of Southern Region for Business Products Sales for the 3M Company.

He likely would have fought it.

Dad would spend hours working on the visuals – the transparencies that he laid on top of the lighted screen of the overhead projectors he sold to schools and businesses as he prepared to give presentations to very large audiences.

Of course, programs like Microsoft’s PowerPoint would have made this task a breeze – although Dad was very much a person to pay attention to detail.

Spreadsheets and word processors would have greatly helped both my Dad and my Mom – who appointed herself as Dad’s private secretary.

They were a great team.

But Dad got very sick in 1983. He was forced into an early retirement just a year or so before the very first IBM PCs came onto the market. Dad passed away in 1990 a couple years before the Internet came along in such a way that the public could access it.

Dad never saw e-mail, or instant messaging. He never saw a web page like this one. He never would have dreamed of things like Skype or Facebook or Twitter or YouTube.

Or the iPhone.

In retrospect – much of what the personal computer came to be replaced what the very business products my Dad’s teams sold.

Except Post-It notes.

Sad, Dad never saw the 3M Post-It notes. And the computer never really found a way to replace them.

And Dad never saw any of the professional social networking sites like LinkedIn.

My Dad often told the story of being hired by Blue Cross Blue Shield in Michigan – about how when asked what University he went to, he replied “Why the University of Western Ontario”. When challenged by whoever he told the story to, he would rebut, “I most certainly did go to Western, every Thursday … to sell Encyclopedia Britannica”.

And Dad would laugh.

I like to tell that story on behalf of my Dad now. But that was then – before the Internet - before Google – before being able to validate such facts nearly instantaneously online.

I don’t think my Dad would have tried to pull that kind of stunt today.

It’s funny though, because most people I know have their professional credentials on LinkedIn. Their whole resume is on their profile; their education, their certifications, their acquired skills, and their employment history.

It’s all there.

IT people are funny when it comes to listing their skills on a resume. It’s as though they list every technology they ever heard of as a skill they have acquired. There seems to be no regard as to what they will do should they get hired to work with that technology they know by name only.

And now, others can attest to your mastering the skill. They simply click on the skill link in your list of skills and select Endorse.

That person does not have to prove that they know that you know that skill. But with a mere click of a mouse such a claim becomes a verified fact.

Or as my Dad would have said, “You lie and I’ll swear to it!

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