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Introduction

I had a discussion with a fellow colleague of mine the other day that got me thinking about the non-technical aspect of Web 2.0. While it may be surprising for some of you to hear – I find the social aspect of the Web 2.0 movement much more interesting than the technical aspects of it (AJAX and remote scripting have become mainstream since years and won’t pop anybody’s eyes these days). So, here’s what happened…

I sent one of my co-workers a connection request from our internal community network and he rejected it! As we are working in the same team I was puzzled at first (to say the least) and asked him for the reasons – lack of sympathy? (No, I did not ask him that directly!) He answered something along the lines of:

I’m not interested in social networks. … You won’t find me on LinkedIn either… and I did not build up my network by just pressing buttons …

Obviously that was just screaming for a more detailled reply from my end… I spare you the details, but at the end we agreed to disagree and are now working together without being official connections. 🙂

Networking (net-working)

Now, I truly believe that one needs to differentiate between a public site such as LinkedIn or Facebook (F8) and a company-internal community space in the first place (more on that later-on). Second, I totally agree with my colleague that networks are NOT build by just clicking buttons. That may be the start of networking with someone or just a way to get in touch again… but it does not provide any indication on the quality/value of this connection. While the term for this relationship differs from one social platform to the next ranging from followers (Twitter), connections (LinkedIn) to even friends (Facebook) they all share one common idea: encourage networking. 

If you would ask me what is the most important (non-technical) thing I learned during my professional career I’d say: networking is important!

@SAP it is the only way to get you going… the more people you know, the more sources of information you have access to. The more information you have, the better the foundation to make educated decisions and take reasonable actions. The more people know you (and your individual skill set and interests) the higher the chances you’ll be informed about upcoming opportunities. In short: you are whom you know!

While I lack experience, I make a (safe?) bet that this is how it works in other companies or organizations as well (not to mention politics). So, networking is a vital aspect of my job in order to work efficiently and remain on top of this fast-paced business, its ever-changing buzzwords and hypes and political movements etc…

Social Networks

Based on the above, I think everybody should give social networks a try in order to efficiently manage (or even extend) his/her network. Now, I don’t want to deny that there are some considerations to be applied before going all out and creating a profile on every relevant social network. Especially us, who work in or around IT, seem to have a natural (and healthy) reluctance against seeing our privacy endangered by sensitive or private data being exposed in public. We are aware that we need to be a little bit careful on which information we want to expose to whom and where. Big brother is watching…and big G. already knows more than enough about us.

For me, it just feels natural to apply the same considerations as with someone I meet in Person: would I dash out my vCard to a complete stranger or even share with him more sensitive or private data? No chance. After a chat or talk I may be interested in sharing enough info to stay or get in touch… the more we would interact, the stronger our connection would become and the more info I’d share. For a colleague with whom I successfully worked with for years I’d pull a leg or return a favor w/o hesitation…

So, NO… the quality of such a network connection is shaped in real life, through real interaction etc. and NOT “… by just clicking a button!” Yet, the effect is the same, we interact, we collaborate – we network!

Who knows when/where a connection can turn into “Vitamin C” and provide an opportunity one would not never have otherwise. The more we network over time the higher the likeliness that some of my connections will come in handy.

There’s nothing wrong in that from my point of view… even though I admit it sounds quite negative talking about it if we just network to get something! Ultimately we should all help our connections for the great feeling of helping someone…  just “investing” in order to be able to get something back a later time is something I personally do frown upon. (For the same reason I dislike the concept of fraternities etc.)

So, let’s talk about how social media can help us to foster our personal network:

 

Facebook Logo

To be honest… I’m not spending much time on Facebook for mainly two reasons: privacy and lack of time (not sure about the order). First, I really want to retain some sort of privacy for the comfort of having the chance to be off-guard and just take a break without having to be afraid that it’s on the net (and googlable by everyone incl. people I would not want to find such information for various reason.) I also don’t think that my private life is really soo interesting to the rest of the world that they would hunger for every little detail (as it’s mostly revolving around my little girls!)

Second, I’m spending most of the time during the day being trapped in front of a computer screen or on the phone and hence that’s the last thing I would want to do in my free time (~ whatever is left of it anyway!)

Yet, being fortunate enough to have a dad who’s a pilot for a big German Airline I had the privilege to tour the world at a very early stage and to make real friends all over.  Now, while the younger readers among you (the digital natives) may not be able to relate to it, there was a time without internet and email and we stayed in touch in the old fashioned ways (Hard to believe I know! 😉 To make it short: one grows older, one starts a career, one starts a family… and then one starts missing time for his/her personal interests. As a consequence, one gets sluggish in staying in touch. People move… connections break…

And that’s where Facebook jumps in for me. I maintain just as much information so that people can find me and get in touch again. The rest – I keep offline (from Facebook’s point of view.) 

 LinkedIn logo

I admit I also do not really use LinkedIn during my daily business, yet I have maintained my data and I see the number of connections steadily growing. For what reason?

Right now, I may not need it, but you never really know when the time comes and then it would be too late! If I would be looking for a new job, it may would help me to get in touch with some of my connections asking if they can endorse me or if they know of any good job opportunities or …

… tomorrow a connection of one of my connections has a brilliant idea and needs someone with my skill set… we start in a garage and in ten years… $$$

…. Where were I?

 

Twitter logo

Save the best for last!

Now, Twitter is just brilliant for social networking. Let me tell you why.

First, it’s not about being friends… it’s about sharing interest in common topics! If I find the tweets of someone interesting I can just follow him/her to see what (s)he’s talking about. If it’s interesting for me I have extra info that helps me, if not I can just stop following again. However, if we are really interested in the same topics we have a win – win situation and we both benefit from tailor-fitted information exchange. (Just like RSS, only with hand-picked syndication!) That could be the start of a working relationship or the like…

Second, tweets are short by nature with a max of 140 characters. That’s not a restriction, but strength… one only has that much to draw attention or to express oneself. Due to the length limitation tweets need to be spot on and very precise… and that saves time for all. In fact, it’s all about time… which we all have to little off, right?

A lot of people I follow on Twitter get to see/know a lot of very interesting topics all day long and they do not have the time (or interest) to express all of these in a full-fledged blog/email/article etc. … as it comes with a much higher effort. But they do have the time to post a tweet about it.

I truly believe that some of the most interesting news are “leaking” via twitter… it’s also great for teasers… and for playful chit-chat twitter 😉

See you there,

https://twitter.com/steinermatt

 

PS: Oh… and with the raise of smart (sometimes even “sexy”) phones it will even be easier to network… anywhere, anytime… when you feel like it and have the time! For me this mobile networking is a whole new experience … which got me hooked 🙂

Notes:

a) I’m not actively pursuing the thought of leaving SAP right now, and
b) even if I would – do you think I would state it here after reading all this?!? ;)) 

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7 Comments

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  1. Thorsten Franz
    I know he’s serious about helping others: Two days ago I posted a question that a dozen colleagues at my company and SAP were unable to answer for months on Twitter and Matthias gave me the answer right away.
    It’s great that he has joined the “SAP peeps” on Twitter – and I hope I can return the favour one day.
    Cheers,
    Thorsten
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    1. Matthias Steiner Post author
      Far to kind… but the perfect example if you will. It took me 2 minutes to get your answer due to a direct connection to an expert. All thank is due to Florian B. from the WD team.
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  2. Sascha Kiefer
    Even though I want to discuss that with you directly 😉 here already my general thoughts.

    Networking:
    I fully agree, that networking is very important (especially @SAP and if one is not directly located in WDF).
    What I experienced with all the social networks we have internally: it becomes much easier to “get in touch” with people. As you said, you don’t make a relationship “by klicking”, but beeing connected is a very good anchor point to physically meet sbd. (“I’m just around in your building, what about a coffee?” – Try that without any touchpoint before). And since it’s much easier finding people with same interests (I’m still astouded how man iP* developers we have 😉 ) it’s much easier building up your network.

    But here comes the flipside: If you seriously want to maintain your network, you can only have a fistfull “important” contacts you constantly can stay in touch with, because it costs a lot of time (and besides drinking coffee, we have some work to do as well, don’t we). I think it’s hard to find the right balance here (currently I’m thinking about an app supporting me with organizing that…)

    One last thought: Even though it’s known, that the network is important for you to “know what’s going on”, I always ask myself should a company support that or should they try to avoid it. I think it can be risky, if the knowledge of a company depends on the network.
    1) If people levae a big part of the knowledge leaves
    2) It’s hard for new people to get up to speed, cause they have to build up their network first

    But what could one do against it…

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    1. Matthias Steiner Post author
      Hi Sascha,

      thx for your comment. As always, I’d be happy to talk about the topic with you as I find your opinion very valuable.

      Finding the right tools to support your networking is very essential and the tools may vary. As I stated, I think right now Twitter works great for the SCN/SDN community, while internally I’m having high hoes that SAP Community and SAPTalk would fill that gap.

      Your last paragraph – sure this is the flipside and in the ideal world all the content/information you need would be at your fingertips. Not sure if this is a realistic appraoch though especially in companies as big as SAP. As of now, its just another aspect why its people are the biggest asset of every company: “developers, devlopers, develiopers!” 😉

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      1. Sascha Kiefer
        With tool, I’m thinking more about a tool, that helps me organize my tight, physical contacts (when was the last meeting, when should we meet again, what were the topics we talked about, when should we meet again, remind me about meetings…). Similar to a CRM tool, that help me to keep that alive and not forget somebody in the daily chaos. I agree for the “loose contacts” (meant without judgement), the tools you mentioned are the right ones (even though having one size fits all would be preferable…)

        Regarding the knowlede: As always, it’s a question about the right balance. BTW in big companies it tends to become “politicians, politicians, politicians” 🙁

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