Interview Insights

I had an interview today for the position of Web Communications Manager for a company called United Technologies Company, Fire and Security. I had two meetings, one with the VP of Communications, the other with two of the Communications Department employees I would be working closely with.

All complaints gone. Seriously.

I was critical of the organization of ICM in my last post. After the interview today, I have to say that any perceived complaint of mine is really petty quibbling. Really.

It’s very easy to get lost in the vision of the blossoming future which we’re studying right now. It’s equally easy to miss the point that Quinnipiac has philosophically sided with the future and decided to try and help it take root by preparing us as business leaders who are not only aware of the changes and social revisions which are taking place but who are also able to navigate them and harness them.

The interview went very well, all things considered. I was there as a New Communications Professional (see Halavais’s class for more on that), ready and eager to see how this translated into a corporate structure, and they were playing the role of a Traditional Corporation, looking for a new Human Resource to populate an empty cubicle and organizational pigeonhole with. I’m sure I made just as odd an impression on them as the notion of a candidate for a Web Communications Manager who didn’t bring or refer to the URL of a portfolio of dazzling websites and web work.

In short, the Corporation is still stuck in Web 1.0 mentality and were slightly… surprised… by some of the things that I brought to the table. They certainly weren’t the traditional portfolio of websites… after all, I read the job description to be a ‘web COMMUNICATIONS manager’ and the VP at least seemed to be looking for a ‘WEB communications MANAGER’. I felt bad that I didn’t bring a sideshow portfolio of tricks and cool looking graphics, weird sites and tricked out webpages. I think she was actually looking forward to seeing it.

Yes, yes. Soon there will be.

I know, I know. I should have a website of some kind showcasing who I am and what I do. I just haven’t had the complete skillset to put it all together yet, nor the copious free time with which to populate said site with bells and whistles.

Still, the second portion of the interview went much better. I got a chance to talk with two great Communications professionals currently working within the department. That interview quickly broke down to talking shop, which was refreshing because I wasn’t certain whether my notion of talking shop would be borne out by fellow ‘bona fide’ Communications Professionals. I mean, I can dish with the best when it comes to advertising agencies and graphic design, even a bit when it comes to recruiting, but I didn’t know whether or not the cloud of subject matter and topics of conversation I’ve quickly been accumulating during the QU courses would actually translate into anything recognizable to other Communications professionals from outside the department.

Some of the ideas put forward

We discussed ways to help the United Technologies Companies drive user interaction and reliance upon their (proprietary solution!) Intranet. They wanted to know how to reach the thousands of “services” personnel who didn’t do work behind a computer but instead were the technicians and installers/servicers out in the field. I asked if their proprietary Intranet had an XML data API. Yes. Well, had they considered developing a widget which would channel email alerts and news items through Mobile Media devices? Mobile Media? Whatever did I mean by that? “Cell phones.” Oh. No, they hadn’t.

What about getting employees to check the intranet regularly? Can they develop widgets for the intranet site? Yes. Well, what about turning the company intranet site into something based more loosely around the models like Facebook or MySpace? Give the users options for customization of look and feel and more importantly, widgets needed for their job, and allow the option of linking in with Mobile Media devices for notification of updates or changes. If the intranet was actually useful, and it allowed the users to customize their own experience of the website, they would be more likely to spend time there and thus, more likely to pay attention to company updates.

I decided not to ask whether or not they would consider setting up a wiki for employees to use to generate the documentation for process and procedure. I didn’t even bother getting into discussions on how to enter the Peering community. I figured by this time that I had tanked with the VP and slam dunked with the employees. If I get called back in I’ll bring a portfolio of various communications materials so that I’ll have my dog and pony show.

Big wakeup call

This for me was the rude reminder that as commonplace and as matter-of-fact that Quinnipiac is making Interactive Web 2.0 philosophy for us as students, there are a *lot* of businesses out there which haven’t gotten the message. Maybe they feel they don’t need to change their ways, and maybe they don’t need to. I do know that I got their attention by quoting the IBM case study from Tapscott & Williams’ Wikinomics. If IBM felt the pressing need to adapt in order to connect with the new communications paradigm brought about through the technological revolution coming through the internet, well then … maybe ‘security’ is more like ‘complacency’. Not to be alarmist… if UTC is any indication of the corporate cultural hurdles which must be overcome to begin affecting real business change, then my fellow QU grads and I are not just near the cutting edge, we’re helping the edge along.

And that’s a sweet place to be.

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