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Autism awareness month: Arts, Education and the Supreme Court ruling

Posted on April 9, 2017 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (4)

Autism rates among African-Americans are the same as rates among whites, but African-American children are often diagnosed with autism at an older age, missing potential years of treatment per a report on PBS published 7 February 2017, “Children of color with autism face disparities of care and isolation”. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1 in 68 children (or 14.7 per 1,000 eight-year-olds) in multiple communities in the United States has been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This new estimate is roughly 30 percent higher than previous estimates reported in 2012 of 1 in 88 children (11.3 per 1,000 eight-year-olds) being identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The number of children identified with ASD ranged from 1 in 175 children in Alabama to 1 in 45 children in New Jersey (highest in the nation). It is estimated that the annual cost of autism equals $126 billion in the US, a number that has more than tripled since 2006, as reported in a press release on 28 March 2012 by Autism Speaks, a leading autism science and advocacy organization, “New Research Finds Annual Cost of Autism Has More Than Tripled to $126 Billion in the U.S. and Reached £34 Billion in the U.K.” The research also found that non-medical costs account for the greatest proportion of expenses and that mothers of children with ASD are less likely to work, work fewer hours per week and earn substantially less. Typically, the primary caregiver, mothers are called upon to serve as their child’s case manager and advocate, and on average, earn 56 percent less than mothers of children with no health limitations. Furthermore, there is no cure for autism and 15% of those with autism have full-time jobs, per research by the National Autistic Society in the UK, while 9% work part-time. There hence is a high global unmet need in autism employment and emphasis on finding suitable careers for students on the spectrum.

People with autism may demonstrate exceptional talents, despite the varying challenges they face. Some companies have found that these talents can be very desirable for their work environment. One third of people with autism may have heightened abilities in pattern recognition, focus, and attention to detail. While these skills make some individuals well suited to becoming software testers, 80% of people with ASD remain unemployed. In recognizing the talents and abilities of all people with ASD, it is hopeful that other companies may be able to provide other opportunities for people with ASD to thrive, hence the idea of social media marketing which is a high growing industry fueled by digital advertising spend. It’s no secret advertisers are flocking to digital at the expense of traditional formats, however the latest data shows the shift accelerating faster than expected in the US. Per eMarketer, 2016 US digital ad spending will reach $72.09 billion, while TV spending will grow to $71.29 billion. That means digital will represent 36.8% of US total media ad spending, while TV will represent 36.4% (September 13, 2016; US Digital Ad Spending to Surpass TV this Year; eMarketer.com)

Advocates for children with disabilities are cheering a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court as a clear win that establishes more-ambitious academic standards for special education students.

Representatives for some educational groups and districts, on the other hand, have a more measured response. They say that the March 22 decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District sets forth a standard for the level of benefit required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that most school districts were exceeding already.

Both sides can find support for their views in the text of the unanimous decision, which was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. for the eight-member court as reported in the article “Will High Court Ruling Raise Expectations for Special Ed.?” By Christina A. Samuels and Mark Walsh on March 24, 2017 in edweek.org.

Radio host Darrell Gunter from Gunter Media Group, Inc has a segment „Leadership with Darrell Gunter” on the award-winning WSOU 89.5 FM and he interviewed Newark, NJ-based American History High School Principal Mr. Bryan Olkowski, Special Needs Educator, Ms. Susan Carbora and Miss Helena van der Merwe, owner of A-Plus-Consulting LLC about the new approach of tailored vocational curricula for select minority autistic students that aired live on the award-winning WSOU 89.5 FM in the tristate area and wsou.net on 8 April at 8 AM EST. It will also be available on iTunes following the live broadcast.

We want to empower parents, special needs advocates, educators and others interested in autism spectrum disorder for an even higher standard of special needs education to provide students with 21st century skills and potential community based employment opportunities. We have an art auction on 26 April where proceeds will be applied towards our feasibility program. Thank you in advance for your support.


A true story: Why I support Repeal and Replace of Dodd-Frank

Posted on February 5, 2017 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

This morning I watched “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper on CNN, and there was mention of repealing and replacing Dodd-Frank to make it easier for small businesses to get funding by the new administration. I must admit, I did vote early last November, but not often nor illegally. Hillary Clinton got my vote which is now among those millions of popular votes, I guess! However, as with each new President and administration come change and this topic is dear to my heart and lifeline as an entrepreneur and small business owner.

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy in the USA and according to the Small Business Administration (SBA) “one thing is for sure, as a small business owner you are not alone! There are millions of small businesses across the United States traveling the same road as you each and every day. Although your business operates in its own unique fashion, the cumulative impact of the small business sector is enormous.

Small business is BIG!

• The 28 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales.

• Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.

• The 600,000 plus franchised small businesses in the U.S. account for 40% of all retail sales and provide jobs for some 8 million people.

• The small business sector in America occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet.

Furthermore, the small business sector is growing rapidly. While corporate America has been "downsizing", the rate of small business "start-ups" has grown, and the rate for small business failures has declined.

• The number of small businesses in the United States has increased 49% since 1982.

• Since 1990, as big business eliminated 4 million jobs, small businesses added 8 million new jobs.”

Small businesses also lead innovation and the government provides seed funding in the form of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants in line with agency mission and objectives. During September 2014 I participated in a NASA social event where NASA unveiled the Vertical Assembly Center (VAC), or also referred to as the world’s largest welding tool to build the core stage of Space Launch System’s (SLS) rocket for deep space missions to viz a viz Mars. I was so inspired and in awe with the work of NASA, prime contractors and small businesses, embarking on achieving the goals of landing on Mars in due course. My company submitted a Phase 1 SBIR research proposal to NASA and was complimented by a reviewer for the effort with technical merit, but it was not selected for award! I had high hopes that NASA “would bail me out in similar fashion Elon Musk attributes his success today with NASA came calling at one of his lowest points of many failed rocket launches.

During the recession I was laid off and found it impossible to get back to work, and at the time I owned a luxury apartment and fell behind on mortgage payments. Yes, I had a jumbo mortgage and soon started to receive letters of foreclosure on my beautiful apartment. The stimulus package made it possible for homeowners to apply for loan modifications which I embarked on as my property was under water and real estate market recovery uncertain for an unspecified time. This process took five years where I successfully turned a serious delinquency into a profit, settling a mortgage of close to $1 million, paying late interest on the mortgages which was added back to the original loan amount. I can certainly claim tenacity as a character trait with challenging the status quo. This did not come easy! I am grateful for the support I received from people during this time that made it possible.

Antoine Gara from Forbes published an article on 3 February 2017 “With A Stroke Of The Pen, Donald Trump Aims To Wave Goodbye To The Dodd Frank Act” and says “when taking the White House, President Donald Trump vowed to do a “big number on Dodd Frank,” the sweeping banking legislation put in place by the administration of President Barack Obama in response to the 2008 financial crisis. President Trump called Dodd Frank “a disaster” that has impeded growth by making it harder for banks to lend to consumers and small businesses.”

I cannot agree more with this statement as I have applied for a SBA loan during 2015 to fuel growth, but this is what I received from the loan officer “The SBA does give the bank a 75% guarantee but the bank assumes all the risk on the non-guaranteed portion. If the SBA covered 100% of the risk that would be a pretty sweet deal for the bank but that is not the case. Usually we have some form of collateral that can offset the risk of the portion of the loan that is not guaranteed but in your case there is no collateral which does leave us with a $40,000 risk. $40,000 might be a small risk for some bigger banks but for a small bank like ours it is a substantial risk. ……. unfortunately the banks look at personal credit and the FICO scores in making their loan decisions.” I was subsequently declined for a loan from another institution as well.

This was very disappointing as my company was an InnovateHER finalist in New Jersey, a SBA competition aimed at helping women and families and our focus is autism where we are now ready to implement a multidisciplinary feasibility vocational curriculum in a leading high school in Newark, NJ and seeking funding to commence it.

Yes, it is critical to assist business owners with the resources they need to drive innovation and lead social change!

What are your thoughts? Have you applied for a loan for your small business? Join the conversation and share your stories.


Does the year of the Fire Rooster predict that You Are Hired or that You Are Fired this year?

Posted on January 30, 2017 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Happy New Lunar Year to my Chinese friends and colleagues celebrating the Year of the Fire Rooster. I must admit, it is always interesting to peek at what the Chinese Zodiac holds for 2017!

It is good to know that I share the Gold Ox type with notable high profile people such as Former President Barack Obama and Walt Disney and that 2017 will be a golden year at many fronts!

A NBC News report, published today, by Janis Mackey Frayer asks the question “What does the year of the fire rooster hold for Donald Trump?” Here is an excerpt of the story for you to decide if it is fake news or not!

“The next 12 months, the Year of the Fire Rooster, will not be an easy one for President Donald Trump, at least according to a noted Chinese astrologer.

"Trump was born in year of the dog," said Chen Shuaifu, a feng shui master and chairman of the Chinese Feng Shui Association, which has 50,000 members.

"The Year of the Rooster will be difficult for him," Chen said. "He might be forced to resign if the worst case scenarios happen."

Chen also said that, as a politician with no experience in public office, Trump should listen to his team and pay attention to "other professional opinions" on policy-making.

NBC News has consulted Chen in the past to learn his predictions for the new lunar year, which is being celebrated around the world. It will be, he said, a time of fresh starts and new beginnings.”

President Trump as argued by his supporters, is delivering on his campaign promises to make America safe and protect our great nation from external threats of terrorism and violence. Turnaround leaders very often face criticism as they have to make tough decisions that will not always be received favorably, however there are many ways to feed two birds with one bread, and he could achieve the same results with an inclusive and consultative approach.

As an immigrant to the USA and a naturalized citizen, I often refer to “The Citizen’s Almanac” published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services which holds fundamental documents, symbols and Anthems of the United States. The last chapter features Prominent Foreign-born Americans and highlights the fact that The United States welcomes individuals from nations near and far, and that immigrants have played an important role is establishing this country as the “land of opportunity”.

An American scientist and Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, born October 19, 1910 in Lahore, India (now Pakistan) was the first to theorize that not all stars end up as white dwarf stars, but those retaining mass above a certain limit, known today as “Chandrasekhar’s limit”, undergo further collapse. In 1983, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his theoretical studies of the physical process important to the structure and evolution of stars. In 1999, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) named one of its four “Great Observatories” orbiting the Earth in space for Chandrasekhar as reported by The Citizen’s Almanac.

Today, South African born Elon Musk, is a notable immigrant to the USA who is making significant contributions to our space programs, transportation and renewable energy, and may he continue to be successful in leading change and disrupting industries in the USA. (The year of the fire rooster has a positive work outlook for him).

It is also important to review The Mayflower Compact of 1620 that reminds us that Pilgrims were denied the right to establish their own church in England and they decided to move their families to Holland. While Holland allowed them to worship freely, the Pilgrims soon began to miss the language and customs of life in England. After much discussion, the Pilgrims decided to move the entire community to America, where they could practice their religious beliefs and maintain an English lifestyle. On September 6, 1620, their ship, called the “Mayflower”, set sail for America and the Mayflower Compact was the first act of European self-government in America. The concept that government is a form of covenant between two parties, the government and the people, was a major source of inspiration to the framers of the US Constitution.

The year of the fire rooster has liberal Americans on edge with a conservative Republican White House signing Executive Orders at a record pace, one of which, is leaving immigrants of seven Muslim countries stranded and detained at airports.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation!

Photo: Front cover of The Citizen's Almanac



I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice-cream - what lessons can the Trump administration learn from Ben & Jerry ?

Posted on January 22, 2017 at 8:05 AM Comments comments (0)

This is a historic moment in American history and politics with the inauguration of President Donald Trump who took over the reins from the first African American, Former President Barack Obama, to lead the free world. His first days in office were met with demonstrations around the world led by women to protect their rights and democracy – the large numbers these demonstrations attracted cannot and should not be ignored by the new administration.

Today, The New York Times published an interesting article by Julie Turkewitz on the role past marches played in shaping American history and rights such as the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that drew more than 200,000 where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

The #WomensMarch on Washington drew more than 500,000 demonstrators to the capitol, and ended with no arrests, however women, men and children united to show support for democracy and human rights.

The US Government can also be considered an organization as it hires millions of Americans as employees and this leads me to an ice-cream company and the skills gap across many industries such as STEM, Healthcare and Retail to name a few. What does this mean?

One of the biggest shifts in the workforce today is the gradual retirement of the Baby Boom generation and the emergence of the Millennial demographic as the new majority. It is estimated that by 2025, Millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce. Each of these generations has its own set of core values and the Baby Boomers worked to live, whereas Millennials say “work my way”. It is ironic that President Trump chose the famous Frank Sinatra song “I did it my way” to lead the first dance at the inauguration ball.

It is hence critical in the hiring and selection process today to understand the values of the workforce and that is what we have observed yesterday in the #WomensMarch on Washington.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield founded the ice-cream company, Ben & Jerry’s and their motto is to lead with your values. A values-led business is based on the idea that business has a responsibility to the people and the society that makes its existence possible. Values-led business seeks to maximize its impact by integrating socially beneficial actions into as many of its day-to-day activities as stated in the mission, vision, strategy and operations.

The Trump administration can incorporate concern for the community at a local, national and global level into its strategic and operations plan in the same way Ben & Jerry’s did to make everyday business decisions that actualize social and financial goals.

What we observed yesterday was a clash of social values and the Trump administration can embrace these progressive social values for the common good by including leaders of the #WomenMarch. These demonstrators did not buy into the current stance of government and this is the opportunity for President Trump to demonstrate his leadership by saying let’s “work your way”.

Maybe we all need a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to cool down the political tension in our country! What are your thoughts? Join the conversation.

Photo: CNN reporting of #WomensMarch 21 January 2017


5 qualities of leaders and how it relates to being President of the United States of America

Posted on November 6, 2016 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

A subsidiary of A-Plus-Consulting LLC is a talent management company that provides solutions to bridge the skills gap in technology by placing diverse, motivated graduate students in STEM, Business and Communications (#B_STEAM) in NJ, NY, CA, AL and MD. The highly debated and watched presidential election in the USA made me wonder what it takes to be the President of the United States of America, considered the most powerful leadership role in the free world.

The Constitution assigns the president two roles: chief executive of the federal government and Commander in Chief of the armed forces. As Commander in Chief, the president has the authority to send troops into combat, and is the only one who can decide whether to use nuclear weapons.

An article published by The AmericanThinker and written by Jim Yardley on April 21, 2012, A Very Simple Job Description, says “The job description of the president of the United States, as described in the Constitution, consists of only 322 words (Article II, Sections 2 and 3). That's it. Three hundred and twenty-two words.

Not 322 pages, not 322 paragraphs, not 322 sentences. Three hundred and twenty-two words. Period.

More than twice that many words (664, to be exact) are used in Article II, Section 1 just to define the process of choosing the president, and they include even the exact language of his oath of office.

This short job description covers only five areas:

• The president is the commander-in-chief of the military.

• The president is responsible for insuring that the laws passed by Congress are executed and enforced as written.

• The president is allowed to grant pardons for crimes other than impeachment.

• The president can also make treaties, but only if two-thirds of the Senate agrees to the terms of those treaties.

• The president can nominate ambassadors, Supreme Court justices, and other officers (most commonly cabinet secretaries and federal judges). But he can only nominate them. Again, the Senate has final approval on any nominations.”


As Election Day is only two days away I wonder who would be voted number 45 and whether Americans will make history to vote the first woman into office. Many Americans, young and old, are sad to see our 44th president leave the Oval office, however it is without any doubts that he became president with a relatively short political career and it is testimony to the power of “we, the people” and effective use of social media.

What necessary qualities do leaders have and how does it compare with those of a chief executive and commander-in-chief? A short form article written by Chester I Barnard, The Active Qualities of Leaders, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998 in The Book of Leadership Wisdom lists and discusses five fundamental qualities or characteristics of those who are leaders. Excerpts are as follows:

1. Vitality and endurance – this should not be confused with good health, but “they both promote and permit the unremitting acquirement of exceptional experience and knowledge which in general underlies extra-ordinary personal capacity for leadership. The second is that vitality is usually an element in personal attractiveness or force which is a great aid to persuasiveness and lastly leadership often involves long periods of work and extreme tension without relief.

2. Decisiveness – decision is necessary to get the right things done at the right time and to prevent erroneous action whereas failure to decide undoubtedly creates an exceedingly destructive condition in organized effort.

3. Persuasiveness – it involves the other qualities, but it is not equivalent. It involves a sense or understanding of the point of view, the interests, and the conditions of those to be persuaded.

4. Responsibility – it relates to the stability of behavior and irresponsible leadership is rarely successful.

5. Intellectual capacity – the above listed qualities are more important or effective qualities compared to intellectual capacity.

The role of president of the free world requires persuasiveness more than decision making as most decisions are made by the House of Representatives and the Senate and this has an impact on vitality and endurance.

This is a highly anticipated election and you can bid on collectible items for our 44th president and presidential candidates here.

Who will you vote for on Tuesday? Which leader has the qualities fit to be our next president? Join the conversation with your opinions.



New breast imaging tools provide hope for patients fighting cancer

Posted on October 30, 2016 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

October is breast cancer awareness month and as the month draws to a close, sharing information about new diagnostic tools and resources can help women and families affected by breast and other cancers.

My sister lost her life to the dreaded disease and fought bravely against it for nearly four years of her short life. A story that aired earlier this year on a local news channel prompted me to review the current status of breast imaging tools and select resources available for patients and families in New Jersey, such as non-surgical hair loss solutions and a foundation aimed at helping families to offset costs.

While mammography remains the standard to screen breasts for anomalies, some newer tests are being studied for breast imaging. According to the American Cancer Society, “these tests are in the earliest stages of research. It will take time to see if any are as good as or better than those used today.

Optical imaging tests pass light into the breast and then measure the light that returns or passes through the tissue. The technique does not use radiation and does not require breast compression. Studies going on now are looking at combining optical imaging with other tests like MRI or 3D mammography to help diagnose breast cancer.

Molecular breast imaging (MBI) is a newer nuclear medicine imaging test for the breast. It’s being studied as a way to follow up breast problems (such as a lump or an abnormal mammogram). It’s also being studied as a test that can be used along with mammograms for women with dense breasts.

Positron Emission Mammography (PEM) is a newly developed imaging exam of the breast. It uses sugar attached to a radioactive particle to detect cancer cells. The PEM scanner is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Working much like a PET scan, a PEM scan may be better able to detect small clusters of cancer cells within the breast. Right now it’s being studied in women with breast cancer or other breast problems to see if it can show which lumps are cancer.

Electrical impedance imaging (EIT) scans the breast for electrical conductivity. It’s based on the idea that breast cancer cells conduct electricity differently from normal cells. The test passes a very small electrical current through the breast and then detects it on the skin of the breast. This is done using small electrodes that are taped to the skin. EIT does not use radiation or compress the breasts. This test is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help classify tumors found on mammograms. But at this time there hasn’t had enough clinical testing to use it in breast cancer screening.”


Molecular breast imaging (MBI) is an ideal secondary or second look screening tool to mammography, ultrasound and MRI.

Standard X-Ray mammogram uses anatomical imaging as a way to detect cancer and dense breast tissue makes it more difficult to detect cancer as lesions may be masked. MBI is a functional imaging modality that highlights metabolic activity in breast tumors not visible on mammography due to tissue density, thereby leading to earlier diagnosis, improved outcomes and lowered costs. Gamma Medica Inc. makers of LumaGEM, a registered trademark, reports that recently published studies have shown that the addition of MBI for women with dense breast tissue, results in an estimated 4 times increase in breast cancer detection rates, 50 percent reduction in biopsies and a subsequent 15% lower cost per cancer detected than screening with mammography alone. Moreover, the MBI procedure is very well tolerated by patients due to the reduced tissue compression on the breast during the examination.

It is important for women to discuss with their doctors if MBI is an appropriate screening modality for them. MBI is also being studied in clinical trials in North America, Asia Pacific and Europe and patients should discuss clinical trial participation as an option with their doctors to ascertain clinical trial eligibility. You can find more information about MBI clinical trials here.


Hair loss is a common side effect of standard breast cancer chemotherapy treatments and it is also the biggest fear for women facing cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment. Ozzy is a fellow Rutgers’s Entrepreneur Initiative Program participant, specializes in non-surgical hair solutions for women undergoing chemotherapy, alopecia and other hair loss problems. He is located in Montclair, New Jersey and you can find more information here.

The Beauty Foundation invites you to do something beautiful for the Beauty Ball planned for Saturday April, 29 2017 at The Asbury Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The Beauty Foundation for Cancer Care is hosting this highly anticipated charity gala to raise funds that will be used to provide direct monetary grants and services to help families to offset costs during cancer treatment. A variety of sponsoring opportunities are available and you can check their Web site for contact details.

What new tools are you aware of in the fight against cancer? What is your story fighting cancer? Join the conversation.

Willemien Steyn, breast cancer patient and my sister in healthier days - photographer unknown 


Taking a lemonade stand to a startup: insights from two angel investors

Posted on October 23, 2016 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

This past week was filled with great events in the tristate such as internet marketing week, LKE-SBR/PTAC sponsored industry day, Ramon Ray’s Smart Hustle Small Business Conference and the Enterprise Development Center Summit (EDC) at New Jersey’s Science and Technology University (NJIT) and New Jersey’s Innovation Institute (NJII) where my portfolio startup is located.

The EDC Summit was created to bring together those who participate in the EDC’s mission of job creation, retention and economic growth, consistent with the goals of NJIT/NJII and EDC companies. Jerry Creighton, Sr., MBA leads the EDC and opened the event along with Dr. Donald Sebastian, President of NJII.

The highlight of the EDC summit included two keynote addresses by David S Rose – “Behind the Scenes of Angel Investing” and Dr. Gregory Olsen – “From Entrepreneurship to Spaceship”. It is an amazing experience to listen to these successful serial entrepreneurs and the insights they bring to startups for success. The two take home messages are that people and money are the most important factors for startups to succeed and investors invest in people, management teams and not necessarily companies.

David S Rose compared a startup to a lemonade stand and discussed how a startup differs. The main differences as a startup founder are that:

“You will likely have:

A co-founder,

Employees who have equity in the startup and


You are thinking big,

Global and


You are continually growing.

You focus on the company and not the job.

You aim for an exit from Day One.”


Dr. Greg Olsen shared what he learned from creating successful companies as follows:

“Lean and mean is better,

Hire people who are better than you,

Good managers work for their people and not vice versa,

Bring on good people and let them take over,

If you work really hard and don’t give up, success will eventually follow,

Don’t avoid mistakes, deal with them.”

Dr Greg Olsen is also the third private citizen to fly to the International Space Station with Space Adventures and he shared his experience with a captive audience. The Soyuz TMA-6 Spacecraft that Greg returned to earth with, is on display and loan from him, at the Intrepid Museum. I took a picture of it two years ago when I toured the museum and little did I know, that one day, I would meet and get to know him as advisor and friend!

You can learn in more detail from these entrepreneurs in the books they authored and published. The Startup Checklist and Angel Investing (David S Rose) and By any means necessary – an entrepreneur’s journey into space (Gregory H Olsen with Thomas V Lento).

What are your thoughts about startup successes? How do you choose your teams? Join the conversation!

Photo: Soyuz TMA-6 Spacecraft at Intrepid Museum in Manhattan, NY


7 tips from AOWIE Grinder for entrepreneurs with Lisa Ascolese

Posted on August 28, 2016 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Saturday was filled with surprises, nuances and new business connections down south in the Garden State. I first met Lisa Ascolese at an event organized by Greater Newark Enterprises Corporation led by Steven Gomez and hosted at the Enterprise Development Center at New Jersey’s Science and Technology University in Newark, NJ. Lisa is a serial entrepreneur and boasts clients such as QVC and Bed Bath and Beyond. She is also the founder of a non-profit organization called AOWIE (Association of Women Inventors and Entrepreneurs) which organizes events aimed at bridging the gap between ambition and success.

Saturday’s AOWIE Grinder agenda was jam-packed with great speakers that discussed:

• “Inventing A-to-Z” – Lisa Ascolese

• Social Media – Tara Ackaway

• Expert Communication – Sonia Alleyne

• Angel Investments – Lora Gaston

The program ended with a hands on product development mixer where teams worked on solving problems inventing new solutions for problem products.

Sponsors are also welcome at events and they get a chance to talk about, and show case their products.

Below are 7 tips from the event that can help entrepreneurs:

1. If you think about selling on QVC you should definitely talk to Lisa Ascolese who has great success on this channel. She shared her experience on price points, lead times from start to finish, shipping options and much more. She provides consulting services and check her out at the AOWIE Web site.

2. If you missed the AOWIE Grinder event, enjoy listening to Phil Bertolo and Lisa Ascolese as they have an open and clear discussion on how to get started in the business of inventing. Gain insight and experience as this CD explains all of the basic points and requirements to get you started in the business. As vendors for National Television networks as well as retail, Phil and Lisa will give you clear and comprehensive information that is priceless! They will take you from your original idea, all the way to manufacturing and beyond on this easy to understand CD. Get your business started with Inventing A to Z.

3. There is no doubt that social media transform the way we communicate and share information. Tips from Tara Ackaway who talked mostly about Twitter for newcomers to the platform, included following at least three influencers for a period and make notes to gain insight on how they do it and what they tweet about. Decide what your purpose is and incorporate trending hashtags and topics.

4. Expert communications for business owners were led by Sonia Alleyne who says “It is the voice you use to deliver your message”. She referenced Tom Shoes as an example of a company with a great purpose and it helps them to build loyal customers that will refer them to their friends and family through word of mouth advertising.

5. “A brand is the promise to your customer” says Sonia Alleyne and it shares with a customer what she/he can expect from you. She also mentioned LinkedIn as a powerful platform to generate business to business leads and that LinkedIn is in the process of rebranding company/business pages for an October launch.

6. Lora Gaston’s presentation revealed the mind of an angel investor when approached for funding. She advised entrepreneurs to think how technology can impact your business and to make sure that your financial statements match what you plan to do in the business. For example, if you were to hire a business development employee in month six, make sure your financial statements for month six include a salary for the new hire.

7. Mark your calendar for the next AOWIE Conference taking place 18 March 2017 at The Grand in Lakewood, NJ – it is said to be an epic event filled with celebrities, a fashion show, speakers, entertainment and fun education!

What tips do you have for entrepreneurs? What would you add to the above list? Join the conversation!


7 Tips from Six Plus Figure Bloggers on how to make money online

Posted on August 14, 2016 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Affiliate Summit East 2016 (#ASE16) founded by Shawn Collins and Missy Ward, took place July 31-August 2 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City.

The conference and tradeshow offers attendees:

• three tradeshow areas packed with affiliates, merchants, vendors, networks, technology providers, digital agencies, traffic sources;

• multiple tracks of relevant educational sessions delivered by industry experts;

• a variety of networking events;

• and online tools to help you connect with other attendees before, during and after the event.

I received a press pass for the event and attended many of the educational sessions and the job fair that is a new addition to the conference. A blogger myself, I had to attend the session “Inside the Minds of Six Figure Bloggers: Ask the Experts” with John Crow, Titles are for Wimps, JohnChow.com; John Rampton, Founder, Due.com; Syed Balkhi, Founder, WPBeginner and Zac Johnson, CEO, MoneyReign, Inc who led the panel discussion. Zac started off by sharing his story about the Naked Cowboy on Times Square and what he is worth to the surprise of attendees and then proceeded to ask the experts how they make money online.

Here are 7 tips from the experts:

1. They have been in the business for 20 years and success does not come overnight. Syed Balkhi started out teaching others how to use WordPress; John Rampton has a payments company and Public Relations agency focused on real estate; John Chow shows you how to Start Living the Dot Com Lifestyle through instant access to the world’s only “Done for You” sales system that deposits $1,250 … $3,300 … and $5,500 into your bank account and he also earns 30% on aWeber’s referral program. Zac Johnson teaches you how to launch a blog and make money online. Do you feel inspired to launch a blog? Check out this site.

2. Personal vs. Corporate Brand. For a personal brand you are the face of your business and you have to build the brand and be an expert. You are considered an expert when you authored a book on a relevant topic. Self-publishing tools are available through Amazon’s CreateSpace.

3. Personal vs. Corporate Brand. A corporate brand such as OptinMonster, lead generation software that drives huge results, converts Web site visitors into subscribers and customers.

OptinMonster's lead generation software works out of the box with all major email marketing platforms and integrate with more email marketing services than any of their competitors. Blogging is a tool used to promote the software.

4. Build relationships and network with people ahead of and behind you, and not influencers. Share each other’s content using a hashtag for example on Twitter #sfors.

5. Find a niche in an area you are passionate about and get into the mindset of people in the niche. Create an affiliate offer for the niche and offer it to other relevant sites with the target audience. Create an infographic as a tool to share, using for example Piktochart, which is an easy infographic design app that requires very little effort to produce beautiful, and high quality graphics. Create an embed code for the infographic to make it easy for others to share and list it on an infographic directory. You can also share it on social media platforms and turn the infographic into a video or a slideshow.

6. Podcasting vs. blogging for building a list. The panel of experts conferred that blogging trumps podcasting for building an e-mail list. Are you ready to blog? Start here to launch a site.

7. Ari Rosenstein, Sr. Marketing Director, SimilarWeb, presented Affiliate to Brand – The Market Evolution. What makes a strong brand? Authority, recognition, stickiness (recall) and added value. NerdWallet, a $520 million company that’s solving all your financial needs published in Inc. by senior editor, Maria Aspan, highlights a brand in the making. They increased their site visits from 3 million/month to 5 million/month in less than a year and NerdWallet is in the top 20 sites winning at SEO traffic within the finance category. They specialize in high quality content, answers questions, and offer products. 81% of search results is organic and 51% of their traffic goes to their blog which is the most valuable and popular asset as they build integrity with their customers. Are you inspired to start a blog? Launch your Web site from here.

What are your thoughts about making money online? What tips do you have? Join the conversation!

Left to Right: Zac Johnson, Syed Balkhi, John Rampton and John Chow at #ASE16 


Invigorating manufacturing in Trenton, NJ with Maker's Day

Posted on August 7, 2016 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Summer means sizzling hot days and vacation for kids, however on 29 July more than 200 youth visited the ex-premises of Roebling Wire Works in Trenton to celebrate Trenton makers with demos. Exhibits and hands-on activities for kids from 6th to 12th grade. Trenton has 69 manufacturing companies as well as artists, programmers, fashion designers and a rich industrial history. The day was sponsored by the City of Trenton Department of Housing and Economic Development, Division of Economic Development and the City of Trenton Division of Recreation and organizers were Eric Maywar and Alex Rivera from the City of Trenton and Adam Porroni.

Trenton manufacturers have cutting edge technology and seek employees that can embrace the technological advances in manufacturing that require engineering and computer skills and what a great effort to engage kids and show them what it is about. 

During my time spent at the facility, kids were able to explore the following activities (text provided by Eric Maywar):


  • Assemble a flashlight with Tektite, a Trenton manufacturer that has the largest LED flashlight offering worldwide and is the recognized leader in the industry.
  • Learn about military-grade tires that can keep moving after an explosion from Hutchinson, a Trenton manufacturer who is the world leader in vehicle survival technologies featuring superior wheel design that can take abuse of battle
  • Watch a drone exhibition and learn how a drone works with Code for Trenton, Trenton-based makers, coders, and civic hackers
  • Learn to use a 3D-printing pen, tinker with electronics and make awesome gadgets with Code for Trenton.
  • Tour the Roebling Wire Works building with historian Clifford Zink and learn about Trenton’s industrial past.
  • Make recycled bike chain keychains and check out some crazy bikes with Wills “Wheels” Kinsley, Trenton’s own bike welder.
  • Work with fabric and make dresses for girls in Africa with Mercer County Community College. Their exhibit took me back to my childhood as mom always proudly made our dresses. The college offers Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Apparel Design curriculums that are open for enrollment.
  • Learn about designing your own Web site with Shiloh Community Development Corporation.
  • Create small flower pots out of recycled materials with Capital City Farm.
  • Test your manufacturing knowledge and explore manufacturing careers with New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program.
  • Visit the NJ Dream It Do It (DIDI) exhibit sponsored by New Jersey Advanced Manufacturing Talent Network and view the winners of “What’s So Cool about Manufacturing” Nationally, in 2015, DIDI successfully engaged 426,000 students; 76,000 influencers; 8,600 manufacturers
  • Rare Trenton pottery was exhibited by the Trenton Free Public Library where kids could learn why Trenton is for makers. Visit the library on 20 August between 12 PM - 3 PM for Kid Beats - children of all ages to learn how hip hop sounds are created with DJ Ready Red and  2 PM - 4 PM to learn about The Garden State: Where Ideas Grow 


It was an awesome day and kids were eager to learn and visit the various exhibits and on my way back I met two Tesla’s charging at a food court – what a perfect end to a day for makers in the Garden State!

What are you tinkering with this summer? Have you attended Maker’s Day? Share your manufacturing stories.

Below: Alex Rivera from the City of Trenton demonstrating to a student how to use a 3D-printing pen 


The tech behind Pokémon Go and applications beyond gaming

Posted on July 17, 2016 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile app game developed by Niantic and published by The Pokémon Company. It was released in July 2016 for iOS and Android devices and taking millennials by storm. “Pokémon Go, which uses a mobile device’s G.P.S. and camera to allow players to capture, collect, and battle digital creatures while traveling around the physical world, has remained the top-downloaded app in Apple’s App Store since its July 6 release in the U.S., according to analytics firm App Annie. By Sunday morning, Nintendo’s market value had increased by $7 billion since its stock started to surge on Friday, Bloomberg reports, following its release in the U.S. on Wednesday evening” (Abigail Tracy, 11 July in Vanity Fair – Pokémon Go is already worth billions)

Chris Nolter wrote on 14 July in the article “Here’s How Wireless and Video Game Stocks Have Responded to the Pokémon Go Craze” published in TheStreet “Pokémon Go developer Niantic raised $20 million from The Pokémon Co. Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google and Nintendo last year, and the backers agreed to provide another $10 million if the company met some milestones.”


What is augmented reality vs. virtual, mixed or immersive reality? Tim Merel explained it in TechCrunch in an article published 8 July 2015 - The 7 Drivers Of The $150 Billion AR/VR Industry

His Reality Matrix segments the market, positions early market leaders, and provides context for understanding the drivers. It’s worth noting that this is a snapshot at Q2 2015

The definitions of the different realities are as follows:

• Virtual: real world is blocked out (i.e. user can only see the virtual world and virtual objects)

• Augmented: real world is not blocked out (i.e. user can see the real world and virtual objects)

• Immersive: the drivers (see below) combine to trick the user’s brain into reacting as though it was a real experience

• Ambient: one or more of the drivers doesn’t provide the same level of experience as Immersive (Note: this may be desirable, particularly for some Augmented Reality applications)

The Reality Matrix is made up of four sectors, with some players operating across them to meet different user needs.

Immersive VR makes users jump out of the way when a virtual whale swims towards them under the sea (e.g. HTC Vive, Oculus). Meanwhile Virtual reality provides a very good VR experience, but isn’t as immersive because of key drivers like positional tracking (e.g. Samsung). Augmented Reality companies give users the equivalent of Iron Man’s holographic display with transparent virtual objects in the real world in daylight (e.g. Meta). And finally, Mixed Reality gives users virtual objects that appear solid in the real world in daylight (e.g. Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap), or switches easily between AR and VR (e.g. ODG)

Augmented reality is also used in education, industrial applications, storytelling in books, headsets worn by astronauts on the International Space Station and Hyundai announced late last year that it will become the first among the mainstream automakers to launch a mobile app that provides augmented reality features to its owner’s manual.

What do you think about the different reality applications? Are you using it? Share your views



4 top issues causing imbalance in tech hire supply and demand

Posted on June 12, 2016 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Technology comprises 40% of the GDP in the United States of America according to the Department of Commerce, however there is a big imbalance in the supply and demand of technology talent in the work place. The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Department of Labor states that employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. These occupations are expected to add about 488,500 new jobs, from about 3.9 million jobs to about 4.4 million jobs from 2014 to 2024, in part due to a greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, more everyday items becoming connected to the Internet in what is commonly referred to as the “Internet of things,” and the continued demand for mobile computing.

GE launched a digital TV campaign written about by Kevin O’Neill earlier this year in Data Center Spotlight, highlighting the tech talent supply and demand imbalance. “A multi-million dollar marketing campaign shows that GE has to pull out all the stops to attract top-notch talent to their GE Digital division. With a growing need for infrastructure, cloud, and data center employees, most employers are very likely to take on and “coach up” a smart person with a capacity for the work and a willingness to learn. Developers, web engineers, and other technologists don’t exactly grow on trees, and they are in demand given the limited supply of capable, skilled workers.”

A-Plus-Consulting LLC has been immersed in the technology sector for a few years with various stakeholders and identified 4 top issues in the tech hire space:

1. Complexities with the process to obtain work authorization for international students studying in Business, Communication and STEM-related fields. The students I have personally worked with bring exceptional skills having worked for big names such as Accenture and Microsoft in countries of origin and they work extremely hard. The F1 visa status requires them to have a job offer to apply for curriculum practical training while studying, however the hiring process and technology prevent them from applying for jobs because it is a chicken and egg situation – which one comes first?

2. The technology field is a fast paced environment and it takes time for higher education institutions to adapt to new requirements for skills in demand, hence some employers hire experts to train their employees on-site to meet their talent development goals.

3. Lack of diversity in the technology sectors as reported by Elizabeth Weise and Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY, October 13, 2014 – “As technology becomes a major engine of economic growth in the U.S. economy, tech companies are under growing pressure to diversify their workforces, which are predominantly white, Asian and male. Leaving African Americans and Hispanics out of that growth, increases the divide between haves and have-nots. And the technology industry risks losing touch with the diverse nation — and world — that forms its customer base.”

4. Higher education institutions and tutors are not held accountable for students graduating to get placed in a career matching their education and students are often underemployed.

For employers, one solution is to hire visa holders for flexible internships who are going to higher education institutions to get their Master's or Ph.D. degrees by contracting with a temporary staffing agency like ours which assures that they have the credentials you need.


What do you think of this suggestion? Join the conversation!


7 steps to land your dream job

Posted on May 15, 2016 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Many students are graduating this month and Rutgers University students are thrilled that President Obama will give the commencement speech at their graduation – the first conducted by a president in 250 years as reported by CBS News today. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the President’s speech would focus on how the Class of 2016 can navigate the rapidly changing planet.

How do you land that dream job now that you are well-prepared for the future? There are 7 steps that you can take to land an interview and a new role.

1. Find job leads through networking, search firms, the internet, advertising, career fairs.

2. Target companies by screening a few and then research the final companies you chose.

3. Request an interview through contacts you know and make phone calls to companies. You can also send a letter to a contact at a company you know.

4. Third party screeners are useful in the job search such as search firms and employment agencies.

5. Inside screeners are Human Resources personnel and peers.

6. The decision maker is the future manager and hidden job creator whom you will interview with and negotiate your job offer.

7. You are hired! Make sure to leave that mobile phone unattended while at work!

The interview process comprises different types of interviews such as phone/screening interviews, structured interviews, unstructured interviews, panel interviews, sequential interviews and selection interviews. They culminate all the work you have done and the goal is to provide and obtain information for further decision making. Your ability to develop rapport and trust will be as important as your qualification. The majority of unsuccessful interviews can be traced to lack of preparation. If you have been selected for an interview, your potential employer already qualified you for the role. Follow these 3 tips to stand out:

1. Research the potential employer and the business issues they face and demonstrate how you can positively impact those issues.

2. Can you work as a team member with future colleagues?

3. How do you differ from other qualified candidates interviewing for the same role?

Good luck to all the students graduating and remember the only constant is change and be ready to adapt!

How did you land your dream job? How did you prepare for the interview? Share your story!

Photo: Wilmari Myburgh graduated Cum Laude in Music from NYU Steinhardt 


Social entrepreneurs and autism

Posted on May 1, 2016 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

May 1-7 is national small business week in the USA and let’s focus on some entrepreneurs that consider themselves social entrepreneurs in autism.

April is autism awareness month and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

The state of New Jersey has the highest prevalence in the USA and I was contacted by a local school in Newark, NJ for assistance. As Newark is the city where I became a naturalized citizen several years ago and made the promise to help my neighbor, so eloquently highlighted as a responsibility in a letter I received from the White House shortly after the ceremony, I put my thinking hat on and asked myself how I can make a difference in Newark where I live, have a startup and #DreamSmallBiz. Unemployment is very high among adults with autism spectrum disorder and my company is a temporary staffing firm making progress to help a subset of adults with Autism as federal contractors are required to hire people with disabilities. Autism is not the sole focus of the company, but we connect paid internships with employers in the fields of STEM, Business, and Communications in the private and government sectors and help companies stand out online with social media. We were an InnovateHER NJ Finalist last year in a SBA competition aimed at helping women with families. We just started a 9 month journey with Rutgers Business School's Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development to grow the business. Thank you goes to our program sponsors PNC Bank, Prudential and Wells Fargo. This is the 8th year of the EPI program which has helped many small businesses to grow.

Steve Boughton addresses social entrepreneurship in a blog post and says: “For a while now, those inside the social entrepreneurship or social enterprise space (#socent) know that the branding sucks. People always ask me: Social Enterprise? You mean like social media? Facebook and stuff?

No: Not. Even. Close. (face palm…recognition of why the world is going to crash and burn…deep breaths…find some shred of hope to hold onto…start again)

Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing: When we say social entrepreneurship or impact investing (#impinv) we are talking about generating positive impact to society and the environment using the system of capitalism. It’s an entire ecosystem. Social Entrepreneurs build the business model that makes a profit and does well. Social Enterprises are the business models themselves. And Impact Investors are the wealthy people who are willing to take a risk on something that does good but may or may not return their money (at a market rate or at all).”

Arshya Vahabzadeh, M.D writes in a Huffington Post blog Autism, It’s a Hot Focus for Tech (03/04/2015) that people with autism may demonstrate exceptional talents, despite the varying challenges they face. Some companies have found that these talents can be very desirable for their work environment. ULTRA, a technology company in New York focuses on hiring people with autism to conduct high quality software testing services. According to the company, one third of people with autism may have heightened abilities in pattern recognition, focus, and attention to detail. The company has developed unique ways of recruiting and training these highly talented individuals with autism. While these skills make some individuals well suited to becoming software testers, 80 percent of people with autism remain unemployed. In recognizing the talents and abilities of all people with autism, it is hopeful that other companies may be able to provide other opportunities for people with autism to thrive.

JoyDew is a New Jersey based social enterprise, founded by Moish Tov, with the mission to provide high value employment in a supportive environment for all levels of autism. As each individual’s skills and capabilities are unique, their mission is dedicated to help each individual to achieve their career and to grow. JoyDew’s focus is providing meaningful life to people with autism ages 21+ and their families. They do this by providing these young adults the training programs needed to acquire high-valued careers based on their unique talents; long term employment; enriched quality of life with a sense of purpose; and friends and community.

This takes a village of educators, volunteers, sponsors and corporations to make this mission a reality. JoyDew partners with special schools to uncover and build up these Unique Abilities, followed by on-the-job training programs and employment, while being in a protective environment with professional oversight.

Specialisterne (which translates from Danish as “The Specialists” is an innovative social business concept originally founded in Denmark in 2004. Specialisterne is internationally recognized as the first and foremost example of how high functioning people with autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder) can become effectively included in society, and provide valuable, high quality services to their employers.

Specialisterne works to enable jobs for high functioning people with autism, and similar challenges, through social entrepreneurship, innovative employment models, and a national change in mindset.

The assessment and training process is typically run in smaller groups of up to 10 people.

The assessment & training process results in:

• Clarification of the candidate’s possibilities for entering the job market or maintaining a job;

• Description of strengths, special aptitudes, capabilities, interests, needs as well as learning profile; and

• A basis for the candidate to make decisions on his/her own career direction.

At the conclusion of the assessment and training period, a personal profile is created with and for each of the candidates who have completed the training.

A-Plus-Consulting LLC invites special educators, families with autistic children, sponsors (employers), small businesses in the Newark, NJ to join our Newark Social Media Training Meetup on 23 May as we embark on a pilot study to make a difference in the local community to add jobs in an unmet area of autism.

Which social enterprises do you know? What are your thoughts about social entrepreneurs? What can you add about autism and employment?


5 of the Scariest Technological Advances

Posted on March 27, 2016 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Technology is advancing at a faster rate than ever before. Last century saw the most rapid development in technology in history, and things have been no different ever since the turn of this century. These developments have saved a lot of lives. They have also improved just about every other area of human life as well from entertainment to education. While, most technological advances have been welcomed by humankind as a sign of progress, there are some advances that seem to make people uneasy. The following are 5 of the scariest advances in technology that we have seen in recent years.


1. Advancements in DNA Technology

The human genome wasn’t even fully mapped until the beginning of last decade. Ever since then, technology and information related to DNA has taken off and seems to be growing exponentially. This information will hopefully be used to help get rid of genetic diseases. The scariest part about this is that scientists are now starting to be able to create new strands of DNA. This is what is called DNA hacking. They can use this power to fight disease. If this power got into the wrong hands they could use it to create a bug that will affect people at a genetic level. This would be extremely hard to combat.

2. Cyber technology

The way we communicate and exchange files and information is one of the most developed technologies in recent years. With the great convenience that this offers there also comes risk. Hackers and cyber terrorists are working all the time to develop ways to shut down systems and get information that they shouldn’t have access to. This is just another front to fight when it comes to foreign relations. With every new technology that is developed in communications there is a new way for a hacker to steal information.


3. Drones

Drones seem to have come out of nowhere in recent years. They were previously just used as government technology as a means to spy without needing a manned aircraft. There are now drones available at a consumer level. The average person can now own a drone as a hobby and take pictures that they never could have before. This can also be dangerous as nosey people can use drones to get into areas where they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed and get pictures that they shouldn’t have access too. Weapons can also be attached to these drones and used to attack as well.


4. 3D Printers

3D printers are one of the most unbelievable developments of the last 10 years. These printers have the ability to print just about anything out based on a model that they have. People have even printed entire homes using 3D printers. They have also been used to print out replacement organs for people that need them. They have a lot of good uses. There are some scary prospects when it comes to 3D printers, though. There is a fear than some extremist and criminals might use 3D printers to print out guns, bombs, or other weapons using the technology.


5. Advertising

Companies are always looking for new ways to advertise. They will use any technology available to them to target the correct demographic. The latest development is small speakers in grocery stores that can talk to individuals while they are shopping and suggest items to them. The company is called Holosonics and its technology is called Audio Spotlight system. The future of advertising looks pretty creepy and invasive.


Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes about technology and other gadgets and gizmos aplenty. She currently writes for Total Voice Tech, her go to for dictation equipment Follow her on Twitter @jessicawrites


Interviewing this spring? Follow these 7 tips to make a good impression and you won't look green!

Posted on March 13, 2016 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Where does the word “interview” come from? What does it mean? The dictionary explains it as a formal meeting in which one or more persons question, consult, or evaluate another person such as a job interview. It means to get a glimpse of someone and to see in between. The word origin and history explained by The Dictionary:

1510s, "face-to-face meeting, formal conference," from Middle French entrevue, verbal noun from s'entrevoir "to see each other, visit each other briefly, have a glimpse of," from entre- "between" (see inter- ) + Old French voir "to see" (from Latin videre ; see vision ). Modern French interview is from English. Journalistic sense is first attested 1869 in American English.

We would all agree that it is stressful to interview for a job as it creates anxiety particularly if you are inexperienced and fresh out of college. How do you make a good impression? Which words get you hired?

The purpose of a resume is to get your foot in the door to interview with an employer and the interview is to sell yourself into the job. Prospective employers want to find out if you have the personal traits that people can depend on in the work environment also referred to as company fit.

Here are seven tips to help you stand out and make a good impression:

1. Know your own goals

What are you seeking in a job? Are you very ambitious or only moderately so – and why? It is prudent not to mention “money” for any of these questions, but go beyond that. Clarify and explain your goals to yourself first which will help you to discuss it clearly when asked to do so. If you have prior accomplishments related to the job, make sure to mention it.

2. Dress for success

People form impressions about us in seconds and it is important that the first impression of you is favorable. The starting points for attractive physical appearance are cleanliness and neatness. Find out early in life what type of clothing is right for you. For a job interview, you need business clothes, not those you would wear to a sports event. The interviewer will draw conclusions from your apparel before you have said a word. Let your physical appearance play a positive role in getting the job.

3. Conduct

Know the essentials of good manners and practice them with everyone until they become automatic. Good manners consist of behavior that is appropriate, considerate, and natural. Study people with social charm and poise and notice their behavior with both men and women. Good manners will help you at all stages of your career.

4. Expressions to avoid

In an interview, keep your words businesslike and avoid using “between you and me”, “I wouldn’t tell this to anyone”, “My God”. Be friendly and avoid gestures that may distract the interviewer.

5. Be a good listener

In the work environment, we constantly listen to peers, supervisors, clients, and customers to name a few. What the other person is saying is just as important to him/her as what you say is to you. Cultivate this skill and don’t interrupt the interview while he/she is talking. Think about what he/she is saying before you respond.

6. What does your voice sound like?

Do you speak clearly? What is the pitch of your voice? Do you sound enthusiastic? You can also record your own voice and listen to yourself to make any corrections by reading it out loud and in daily speech.

7. Words that matter

What you say, is more important than how you sound. Make a habit of expressing your ideas succinctly. Avoid slang and profanity. Be polite and considerate and never downgrade others in an attempt to upgrade yourself. Are there cultural differences on how you address the person you are interviewing with? Should you speak ill of a colleague or former boss to a prospective employer, they will expect the same treatment from you. Learn to express yourself well early in your career.

Don’t miss the next post where we will discuss how to prepare for the interview. What tips do you have to make a good impression? Do you agree with these tips?

Text adapted from Reader’s Digest: Write Better, Speak Better published in 1972 by The Reader’s Digest Association Inc.



How do you know if a candidate can learn on the fly?

Posted on March 5, 2016 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Technology comprises 40% of our GDP in the United States of America according to Secretary Pritzker at the Department of Commerce as noted in a previous blog post. Furthermore, there is a big imbalance in supply and demand of technology talent. Employers are hence seeking candidates that can learn on the job and at a fast pace. How do you know who is the right candidate for the role you are hiring for? What questions are you asking candidates? Geoff Smart and Randy Street describes A players in their book Who, published during 2008 which I received as a gift from MoblHR, a payment, benefits and human resources startup offering 100% mobile services. An A player is defined as a candidate who has at least a 90% chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10% of possible candidates could achieve. They developed a scorecard which is the method for designing the criteria of a specific role based on the job’s mission, outcomes and competencies. A players according to Smart and Street can be spotted through four types of interviews: Screening, Who, Focused and Reference.

There are many tools for interviewing candidates and the Interview Architect® Professional Handbook from Korn Ferry is a human resources tool designed to assist employers with the interviewing process. The professional handbook is the full exhaustive resource for the Human Resources professional experienced in interviewing protocol. Interviewers can fully assess candidates on the 67 competencies and the 10 performance dimensions. If we seek a candidate who can learn on the fly (one of the 67 competencies in the handbook), the Interview Architect® suggests to explore areas with the candidate such as unfamiliar exposure, hobbies, short time to explain a complex thing.

The Interview Architect® has sample questions at the 4 dimensions of interviewing

• Dimension 1: Been there, done that – have had real experiences

Sample question: Tell me about the last three successful, relevant projects

• Dimension 2: Seen others do that both well and badly

Sample question: Describe a workshop which taught methods for learning quickly

• Dimension 3: Know how that works

Sample question: Describe how you would help someone to be more of a quick study

• Dimension 4: Could learn that

Sample question: How many failures will stop you from trying anymore?

Interview Architect® offers follow-up probes and themes to look for such as: how typical is this for you?

Resumes of learners on the fly will have roles i.e. Chair of Major Projects, Fix-its, turnarounds, off-shore assignments, influencing without authority and many more to look for during the selection process.

How do you select fast learners and A players for your organization? Which questions do you use when interviewing candidates? Do you have a structured interviewing process based on competencies?


How do we learn and what is the role of technology - A Kennedy Space Center perspective?

Posted on February 28, 2016 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Learning is at the core of how we perceive life and interests. How do we learn? There are a few techniques as described in the expanded edition of How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School published in 2000 by the National Academy Press. The knowledge of how people learn can be divided into five techniques:

1. Inquiry based – cases, problems, projects and learning by design

2. Skills based – isolated drill and practice, contextualized practice and modeling

3. Lecture based – oral, written and narrative videos

4. Individual vs. Group – self-study, cooperative learning and jigsaw learning

5. Technology-enhanced – simulations, electronic tools, assessment opportunities and communication environments

Is one technique superior to the other? Evidence suggests that this is the wrong question to ask and it is similar to asking the mascot, Super Mario from Nintendo fame, whether a wrench is superior to a screwdriver in his job as plumber for the past 30 years. We would all agree that leaking pipes can be fixed using a tool that is best suited for a specific circumstance.

A core set of learning principles will guide the selection of teaching strategies and students’ abilities to acquire organized sets of facts and skills are enhanced when they are connected to meaningful problem-solving activities such as real-world problems solved by teams with complimenting skill sets.

Today we stretch human imagination and invention in space exploration beyond putting humans on the moon, but on Mars as portrayed in The Martian. What does it take? A History of Kennedy Space Center authored by Kenneth Lipartito and Orville R. Butler published in 2007 by the University Press of Florida, poignantly describes organization, management and engineering and how it applies to operations (wrench turning) and learning at Kennedy Space Center. Operations have been crucial to NASA’s success and the space program since the earliest days when Kurt Debus was the first Kennedy Space Center Director. Operations can be even better when maintenance departments reveal problems often overlooked by designers and builders and hence an ear to the ground by space company CEO’s can be fruitful for even more efficient, safer future technologies.

Organizations must have talented people on the job and in operations as learning comes from doing and not textbook studying. How do you select a candidate that can learn on the job? This will be addressed in a future blog post.

Innovation is at the core of space exploration and students of technology depicts two types of innovation: incremental and radical. Incremental innovation involves improvements in existing technology systems, processes and methods and radical innovation involves a break from the past with new machines, methods and procedures. Existing organizations are often good at incremental innovation, but newcomers are often the only ones with a clean enough slate to achieve radical innovation.

The space program requires barrier-free operational and design cultures with no tension between them to prevent disasters such as the Challenger.

How do you manage knowledge within your organization? What is your candidate selection process? What interview questions do you ask candidates?


What does Space Camp® and the famous quote "Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing" have in common?

Posted on February 21, 2016 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

This past week I attended a small business alliance meeting organized by NASA’s George C. Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, AL. It was a great event where small businesses get to meet George C. Marshall Space Flight Center’s personnel, government officials, large prime contractors such as The Boeing Company, Orbital ATK, Jacobs, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Dynetics, Teledyne Brown Engineering and other exhibitors, as well as fellow small business attendees. I also had the time to visit the US Space and Rocket Center® which is the official visitor center for NASA’s George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. The US Space and Rocket Center is operated by a commission appointed by the Governor of the State of Alabama, the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission and it is a non-profit organization.

NASA’s mission is to drive advances in science, technology and exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality and stewardship of the Earth. The ultimate aim of exploration is to have men and women walking on the red sands of Mars as depicted in the movie “The Martian” based on a novel by Andy Weir. The Martian is nominated for six Oscar’s including Best Picture, Matt Damon for Best Actor in his role as an astronaut, Mark Watney, Sound Editing, Production Design, Visual Effects and Adapted Screenplay. We eagerly await the outcome on 28 February, 2016.

International cooperation has been at the forefront at NASA for decades and today the collective efforts are seen on the International Space Station. As I walked the grounds of the US Space and Rocket Center, I noticed the significance of the vital contributions of the German rocket team, led by Wernher von Braun, who spearheaded the development of the Army’s Redstone rocket that launched America’s first satellite and first manned space flight. The continuing contributions of many of the German rocket team, coupled with contributions of thousands of Marshall employees and contractors, culminated in the development of the incomparable Saturn V which launched mankind and viz a viz, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins from Apollo 11 fame, to the moon on July 16, 1969.

NASA was established by law on July 29, 1958. Two years later, NASA opened the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) development team led by von Braun was transferred to NASA. Presiding from July 1960 to February 1970, von Braun became George C. Marshall Space Flight Center’s first director. Today, Todd May, who led the Space Launch System (SLS) Program, was recently appointed as the new center director. The Marshall team is leading the development of NASA’s SLS, the new heavy-lift launch vehicle that will send human explorers, their equipment, cargo and science payloads on new missions of discovery beyond low-Earth orbit and provide backup transportation to the International Space Station.

During the late 1960s, von Braun was instrumental in the development of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville and he also developed the idea of a Space Camp that would train children in fields of science and space technologies, as well as help their mental development much the same way sports camps aim at improving physical development.

Today the US Space and Rocket Center is home to the world-renowned Space Camp, Space Academy, Aviation Challenge Camp and Space Camp Robotics with Dr. Deborah Barnhart at the helm. Space Camp is the ultimate aerospace experience for kids aged between 9 and 11. Throughout the week, crew trainers guide trainees through simulated astronaut training using equipment adapted from NASA’s astronaut program. Briefings on the past, present and future of space exploration are conducted amid space artifacts to show students real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Activities include training on astronaut simulators, build and launch rockets, experience movies in SpaceDome IMAX® or in the National Geographic Theater.

Technology comprises 40% of our USA GDP according to Secretary Pritzker at the US Department Commerce, and we need to get our kids involved and interested in STEM education. 66% of Space Camp graduates said their camp experience inspired their decision to enter a STEM field. For information on group programs and corporate camps go to www.spacecamp.com

“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing” – Wernher von Braun (March 23, 1912 - June 16, 1977). Picture below from Wikipedia


Super Bowl 50: You are asked to lead the Broncos and given a hand of playing cards - which card do you give to Peyton Manning?

Posted on February 7, 2016 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

The most popular sport in America is football and it is estimated that 189 million fans will watch the Super Bowl 50 game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers today.

Much can be learned from successful sports teams that can be applied in organizations to create winning and successful teams. A common vision for the team is as important as setting goals and knowing the defense unit.

A football game is played between two teams of 11 players each. One team is the offensive unit and the other team is the defense unit. The offensive unit has the goal of advancing the football down the field with the ultimate objective of scoring a touchdown. The quarterback is the leader of the offense. Either he or a coach calls the plays. Quarterbacks typically inform the rest of the offense of the play in the huddle before the team lines up. The quarterback lines up behind the center to take the snap and then hands the ball off, throws it or runs with it.

Common traits of quarterbacks include accuracy, competitiveness, intelligence, toughness and confidence. Similarly, in the work environment, a team comprises different individuals with different skills and characteristics. If you have to lead a team of 11 employees, how would you go about the ideal combination of staff talents?

John Walsh, MA, a journalist specializing in management, describes an interesting approach in his book first published in 1987, The Manager’s Problem Solver – practical solutions to managers’ questions.

His advice is to approach the task as though your staff were a hand of playing cards:

1. Take a card for each member of the team.

2. Write on it a brief resume of his/her personality traits, skills and rank. Focus on the strengths and note the weaknesses that need to be covered.

3. The project at hand requires certain skills such as creative problem solving

4. Choose a ‘middle manager’ court card for each specific part of the project. This forms the basis of forming sub-teams.

5. Assign lower-ranking managers and subordinates to each sub-team to provide support, cover weak points, and to get the work done.

Keep an open mind about the combination of skills and talents in the team as a whole and within the sub-teams. Reshuffling the hand to test new combinations should be a priority, rather than an option, says John Walsh.

Peyton Manning as quarterback of the Broncos will lead the offense unit today and we give him the Ace to be self-confident and in control of the offense unit – go Peyton, bring you’re A-game today!