Before and Afters – my obsession with transformation.

I have to confess. I have an obsession with before and after pictures. It could be of someone’s weight loss or a thrift store table makeover. Seeing the transformation for me is addicting. I like to remember what was, and what could be, if we had a vision. And pinterest of course.

When we bought our house almost 6 months ago, we had a slight vision problem. We had so much vision it nearly brought us to a halt. So. Much. To. Change. Where do we start? How do we begin a project that has no end? We literally became paralyzed in our ability to change anything.

But then one day, we took a hammer and a crowbar and went at it. We knew that there were built ins not original to the house that had to come down. So we started where we knew what to do, and ahem oh boy. It was hard work. I was not prepared at all for hard work for this house. And for the bumps along the way. And the living in two places at once. Then living in the mess.


Tearing out the “entertainment center”


Finding a roof leak


Walls are drywalled


Opening up walls

Its like a giant metaphor for life, right?

You start out with dreams and a vision. And then reality takes ahold of you. And the list grows and the daily grind continues. But you have to keep going.

My advice for home renovations…

1. Create the MVP (Most Viable Product) for each room.

In the midst of the renovation, we had to make lists. So we created MVPs for each room. We walked in and said what can we do, what must we do, by when and for how much. What could be done for the greatest impact. And what was OK to leave undone. As someone who wanted it all done, yesterday, this was hard to do. I had to let go of the fact that our light switches were not going to be updated before my mom came to visit. Or that I would have a rug in the office before our New Years party. I just had to LET IT GO. No one was going to care, or say anything, or defriend me on facebook.  Pinterest is the WORST/BEST for this. There are so many ideas I want to do (and will do!) but it was time to let some of those projects go.

If we didn’t prioritize these lists of TO DOs within these rooms, it would have never been done. And there are some things so low on the lists, who knows when they’ll be done.


Laying the last board of wood.


Actually laying the last board…

2.The before pictures, KEPT US GOING.

Where you start, matters. 

When you see something everyday you don’t realize how much has changed. I remember a point where I just broke down. We were living in dust. I couldn’t walk in my own house without boots on. And we had been stalled by rain and a roof leak.

I sat down and I flipped open my phone and saw some  “before” pictures. I shared with my husband and we laughed at far we had come. And how close to being “done” (or as done as you can be) we really were. We could see the finish line, but only after remembering where we had started. Below is a taste of some of our somewhat afters for our master and office. And yes, that yellow is an “after” picture…


After floor/paint Master Bedroom


After Floor/Paint Office

3. Don’t try and do it all at once. And celebrate!

We did what we really wanted to do(and cut the list in half about 6 times) and what we needed to do. We wanted a house that was for hosting and for our community. We needed space to host. We needed space to have people gather. And we needed it badly.  Once our floors were done, we weren’t even close to being actually “done”, however, we sure did celebrate by having our friends over to enjoy what we had done so far.


Chaos for finishing this room. Notice fireplace not done. But the floors look beautiful. And the lighting. #wins

4. If you are going to DIY, make sure you know what you are doing!

And if not, consult YouTube, friends or a professional. Weigh the costs/time/setbacks about hiring out work. And learn up what others did before you, so you don’t make the same mistakes. When laying the first room’s floor, we learned a lot. Then we watched many more videos on YouTube and learned even more about what we could do to speed it up.

Now, that we’ve completed what we set out to do, its hard to remember what it was like before we did all the change. I’ve had friends come in and thought the house has always been this way, because it just makes sense now. Friends have commented “I would have never had the vision (or the ___Fill in the blank__) to do what you guys did.”

The reality is that with a vision, room by room plan, remembering the change, budget and resources, and friends and family, we were able to make our house feel like a home.

When I think about changing or “renovating” our own organizations, I think there are so many similar points that we can learn from and probably have our own “before/after” pictures of a team, project, process, department, customer, skill, manager etc.

Also, if you’ve not done any DIY lately, you should. Just to remember what it feels like to create.

Some of my “after” pictures.


Master – Repainted handles.


Master – Junk Door as headboard


Master – Junk Door as headboard


Super Yellow office. And Cat.


Grey/Green Hallway with outdoor lighting


Living room. Sign by WhiteHouse Designs


Living Room


Living Room


Living Room


Bar & Buffet – Courtesy of Antique shops and goodwill.


Close up of fireplace


Coffee and Reading nook.

TRUE LIFE: Tips for Conducting better Webinars

Recently I was asked to give a few tips about how to conduct a training webinar. I’ve conducted more webinars than I care to count – these could be applied for internal or external training scenarios.

1. Physically and mentally be present.

  • Stand up,  literally try standing up. It makes a difference from your voice and how you come across. And personally, I feel more confident when I stand (even when they can’t see me!)
  • Smile – the people on the other end can tell when you are.
  • Listen to a recording of yourself or watch yourself give a webinar. I know its painful but its so insightful. I learned I used the word “LIKE” a million times during a webinar – it was so distracting I don’t know how anyone learned anything. I quickly changed that.
  • Get somewhere quiet! Please. If that’s not your office space… then reserve a conference room. Stay home. Hide in a closet (I’ve done this before, it was the only quiet space)!
  • Arrive early and double-check and triple-check technology. Give yourself at least 5 minutes to prep and get everything closed down, turned off and ready to go while you are conducting the webinar. Also, make sure you know how to use the webinar system, if you are recording, need to figure out mute etc. Just be ready.

2. Know your content.

  • Practice. Practice. Practice. But please don’t read from the script/screen. Or memorize every word. WE CAN TELL. Practice your transitions. Practices your stories. Know exactly which question you’ll ask at each point. Know which point you want to make for each concept. And stick to the point. And for the love of Microsoft Office, DO NOT READ every bullet point word for word.
  • Use Stories. For example, I bring up conversations with a customer I recently had and make it relevant to the current conversation. Have a few of these in your backpocket, as if you went an had coffee with your customer. (And if you haven’t had coffee with them, go do that first so you can get to know them better.) Storytelling and asking questions are probably worth their own post. They are so important for engaging webinars. And I am not talking about reading a case study approved by marketing, a personal story that you know would resonate with your audience.
  • Show. Tell. Do. Show them what you are going to do. Tell them what you are going to do. And then do or have them do what you showed/told them to do.
  • Less is more. Less slides. Less topics. Less of everything. We have the attention span of a peanut so having 90 minutes of just you talking at someone is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Please, break it up, make it interesting and engaging. Make it worth their time, and yours. If you have people come back to you 2 weeks later asking you a question you’ve already covered on the webinar, did you really have the impact you intended?

3. Webinar / Online Meeting Etiquette

  • I like to start a conversation with the first 1-2 person on the phone. I can’t remember where I learned this from, but this helps establish rapport. Learn something about them, then you can reference it later or pull it into the conversation. I also do this often in in-person meetings as well.
  • Start and end on time. If I switch the perspective, and you’ve showed up on time, would you want to wait for someone? I’ve made it a priority to be there on-time, its important to let the other learners who showed up on-time know that you appropriate it.  Also, if your learners get used to you always starting 5-6 minutes late, they remember and will come back on late the next webinar you do.
  • Ask “What questions do you have?” instead of  “Do you have any questions?” And then pause and wait for questions. Literally count to 10 (in your head) before you move on. People have a hard  time getting back to unmute themselves so give them a second to collect their thoughts before you blow through the to the next concept.
  • Also watch this.  You’re welcome.

I am also nutty and I love listening to recording of webinars or presentations from all sorts of people, levels and industries. Not always for the content, but for the delivery of the webinar. You can hear what people do/say that’s good (and so so terribly bad).

Ask someone to listen in on your first (or 100th) webinar. There’s always things we can improve on. I remember listening in on one team members webinar and he had himself on mute for the first 15 minutes. If I can help listen in and give you some tips, just let me know!

What else would you add? Tell me below!

This Year – Removing the Noise

Even though we are in the thick of January, I still feel its important to actually write down these goals and share them. Maybe then you can ask me how its going in a few weeks.

When I think about my time and energy and what I want this year to be about, I really want to listen and be interested. That’s probably harder than it sounds knowing the chaos called life. Simply put, I’d love to remove the noise.

Here’s some things I am going to START, STOP and KEEP doing for the next few months.


  • Wake up with an alarm clock. Like a real clock, not my phone. My phone is by my side 100% of the time and I was spending too much screen time before bed and the first second I woke up “catching up” on everything. Needless to say, I want to remove that, physically from my bedside. Seems like a simple, silly thing to do, but if my phone’s not the alarm clock, then I don’t need to be attached to it. I bought one similar to this. The alarm is so loud I jumped out of my skin this morning.
  • Send a simple encouraging note to someone each morning. This one will be hard, but I think after a few days it will become habit. It could come in any form really but just to let someone know I am thinking about them and really care for how they are doing.


  • Listening to music in the car. Now, this might also seem trite but sometimes the endless pop and the advertisements just fill my head with useless noise. My husband really only listens to sports radio, so I’ve learned this from him.  He doesn’t like much of anything on in the car. We were recently on a mini road trip without any music or noise, we actually had to talk to each other. I remember when we first married and I hated riding in the car with him, because he liked it so quiet. Now, I don’t mind. I don’t drive that often right now, but I like to use that time to think and process (AND pay attention!).  


  • Meal Planning – This has saved us time and money. I am not strict by any means. I use Brim Papery’s Meal and Grocery list. This helps cut down on the back and forth of what to eat, having and spending what we actually need to on food, and more opportunity to be intentional about what we eat. If you have any good vegan or vegetarian recipes, let me know!
  • No music while I run. I am not a runner by any means. I ran my first 10K over last Thanksgiving and loved it and will be signing up for another one this year too. But fitness, or running isn’t going to be a goal of mine this year.  I started running without music about a year and half ago. At first, it was so loud. Do you know what I mean? I couldn’t run because my mind was racing and I couldn’t hear myself breathe or concentrate on what I was actually doing. After while, I got used to it, and heard the birds. Or the cars and conversations. When I training for my 10K, I decided to try running with music on one of my longer runs. It was a disaster and I was so distracted by the song playing, my headphones and having my phone (which I am prone to drop) that I had a horrible run. So for me, running without music is another way for me to quiet my mind and think and listen.

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I’ll keep you posted on how this goes, and if there’s anything else I can learn from it. I might add to this in the next few months as well

What about you? Anything you are going to start, stop and keep doing for this year, month or week? I would love to know!

A blog post landed her a new job: How speaking her truth led Allison to Microsoft

Can writing a blog post change your life? Allison Michels, a training manager for Yammer, is a testament to the power of social media. Having a point of view and expressing it got her a job.

In a previous role with another company, Allison fell in love with Yammer. She saw its potential to connect people throughout the workplace, and collaborate in new and ever-easier ways. A higher-up disagreed, and the use of Yammer was terminated.

Allison loved her job, but she was saddened by the managerial decision. She took her disappointment to the blogosphere. On her blog, “Doing More,” Allison ranted about the shortsightedness of the manager’s decision. Allison’s bold stance caught the attention of David Sacks, Yammer’s founder and CEO. In a tweet to Allison, he wrote: “You seem like an enthusiastic employee whose work is being underappreciated. Do you want to come work for us?

From a professional point of view, the decision was simple. But the moment in her personal life was not: Allison and her husband had just bought a house on the East Coast; Yammer is based in San Francisco.

In her own words, Allison shares how an openness to life’s surprises, along with some social media savvy, can make work-life integration an excellent adventure.    

Relocation: Crazy or brave?

After I wrote that post, our life turned upside down. I had a few Twitter exchanges with David Sacks, and was on the phone with the Director of Recruiting the next day.  We talked about what a startup could offer me: What would I learn? How would I grow? After meeting the team in San Francisco, it was clear: For me and my husband Ed, the next step in our journey as a couple was to move. With no family or friends on the West Coast, and a recently purchased house on the East Coast, some called us crazy, while others called us brave.

On the road: Adventures in customer service

The opportunity at Yammer was incredible. I started traveling all over the world, helping users see why they should adopt a technology that was so commonplace in their personal lives. Our customers were finding value and success with enterprise social. My career was taking off.

Sacrifice: A secret to our success

Meanwhile, my husband was excelling in his career. He was offered a promotion…in Phoenix, AZ. I didn’t want to leave the Bay Area, but sometimes you need to make sacrifices to be happy. I was on the road almost every week, traveling to customers. In between, I worked from home. Yammer let me remain in my role when I moved to Arizona.  Four months after I moved to Arizona, I was visiting Yammer headquarters in San Francisco. Someone asked, “How was your trip?” That conversation reflects how tools like Yammer can help employees feel connected and engaged – regardless of where they sit.

Yammer: A global water cooler

My team members sit in London, Sydney, Atlanta, New York and San Francisco. As a leader and a manager, I have to be intentional with team members who don’t see each other physically every day. Yammer helps me build relationships, collaborate on projects, and connect with senior leaders I never would have access to otherwise.

The journey is not over yet

After the Microsoft acquisition, I was on the team that helped Microsoft begin its Yammer adoption journey. I say “journey,” because it’s not over yet. Microsoft itself is on a journey as it becomes a more connected and communicative organization. Yammer helps us feel connected to the team in Redmond, and it helps us learn from each other in a way Microsoft has never experienced before.

“Be content in the hallway”

It’s good to have a plan for your life. But opportunities don’t always come at predictable times – or when it is convenient. Meanwhile, we might compare ourselves to others, or question the pace of our career advancement. My friend once said, “Instead of anxiously waiting for the next door to open, be content in the hallway.” You’ll see when the next opportunity lands at your doorstep, and you can choose to take it.

The opportunities are endless

At Yammer, we are creating the next generation of workplace communication tools. We’re changing the mindset of how people work.

Interested? We’d love for you to be part of the team. View Jobs on Yammer Careers. Learn more about Microsoft Silicon Valley. See the range of professions and technologies on our global Microsoft Careers site. Tweet @MicrosoftJobs and follow Microsoft Careers on Facebook and LinkedIn for more information about working at Microsoft.


Originally Published in Microsoft Jobs Blog

Interesting vs Interested? And thoughts from #TechPhx

My favorite part of speaking and meeting people is learning their stories and seeing how our lives are interconnected. Social media is a very personal thing. For me, especially so (if you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know why).  So I want anything that I present, educate or facilitate to be deeply that, personal. Otherwise, whats the point?

Stop trying to be interesting. Just be interested.

I don’t know where that quote came from, or if its the saying is exact. Regardless, its a lot harder than it seems. I don’t have children yet, but I do have friends and family, and this seems to be a key pillar when in how we establish our relationships offline and online. I see so many people who are dying for a bit of authentic attention, for someone to just care, truly interested, about what someone else is doing, saying, learning, experiencing, feeling. Have you ever been on the phone with someone clearly doing something else, and you know they’re not really “there“? Yeah. Thats what I am talking about.

This past November I spoke as the opening keynote at #techPHX a local technology conference. Last year I presented a session about using Enterprise Social Technologies within the walls of your own organization, aka Yammer. This year my focus was about the external uses of social technologies as well as providing a few of predictions for 2015. It was fun to get the audience involved and engaged so early in the morning. And try to really be interested.  Plus, who doesn’t love memes & mullets?


Click here to see the recordings (mine will be up shortly).

Check out the Storify here.  

Now, I get thats being interested, truly, is the complete OPPOSITE of social media and how everything is portrayed, but wouldn’t our conversations within our community look a bit different if we were genuinely interested. Early on in my career, I had a boss that did just this. And it stuck because when I had other leaders who weren’t as “interested” you can tell.  So what does this really look like?

Here’s 2 things you can do to be more “interested” 

  1. Ask questions and care about what is being answered by listening.
  2. And when someone asks you a question, really answer them.


I mostly need this reminder for my own reflection and learning most of all, especially during the crazy busy holiday season. Maybe someone else needs to hear it too.



And, if anyone knows where the saying came from let me know. I’d gladly source it!

Is the CrockPot similar to Social Media?

The other day I was talking to my mom and I was explaining to her about some of the details and functionality of Hootsuite and my new job. 

My mom get’s social media. She gets on Twitter Chats, she pins, she likes, she gets it. As I was explaining in a bit more depth about Hootsuite and how I am currently using it for an upcoming event I lead.  It dawned on me.

Social Media is kind of like cooking with a crock pot.

I hate cooking. Love to eat. Cooking just feels rushed. Or hurried. Or I don’t know what, but I don’t enjoy it. I am always SO stressed. However, I love meal planning. And I grocery shop, but more or less, I like the pantry stocked for basics of a quick throw together meal (like tonight’s was black bean, corn, and mango salad, so easy and so good). I also love to sit around the table.  Anyways, my favorite cooking tricks is the crock pot. And since its almost fall, its almost time to bring it back out again…

Why? Because you fix it. And forget it. And its really hard to burn something. Like it’ll probably something else will happen with your meal first before your crockpot dinner is ruined.

What do you need for crockpot meal to be a success?

  1. Recipe (or not) –  I like a starting point. And then I just add whatever I have. Always more veggies. Always more greens.
  2. Ingredients – (Canned, fresh, spices!) I like a lot of variety and not afraid to mix and match. Again, more veggies and more greens.
  3. Right temperature – too hot, you’ll dry everything out. not hot enough, it’ll take FOREVER to cook.
  4. Side dishes – so, unless its an entire meal in the crockpot (and it totally could be) what else are you serving?
  5. A good crock pot – I’ve had some that get TOO hot, or some that are way cheap and break too easily. Ours is literally from the 1990s and its worn. And good.
  6. TIME! You have to have patience and time to get the crockpot meal done right. Trust me. I’ve rushed too many of them.

These 6 things could be similar in social media as well.

  1. Recipe – its your plan. Doesn’t have to be elaborate, just evaluate and get your  thoughts down before you start down the meal and realize you forgot the main ingredients.
  2. Ingredients – Its what you are pulling together to make it taste good! Take stock first, and literally go shopping if you need something! And then don’t be afraid to add a pinch of this or that, or turn up the heat!
  3. Temperature – Turning up the HEAT – This one in social media is tricky because you’ll need to run some tests, to see what resonates with your community and your communication mediums, what is HOT for your community, and what isn’t worth investing in.
  4. Side Dishes – I think this is the opportunity to partner with other people, brands, products to build a really good “meal”.
  5. Equipment – You have to think about the right tools. And you know, you get what you pay for. You might be lucky snagging a deal at a garage sale but, do your research. Know what you want, for what you need. And be prepared. (I could go on for days about this…)
  6. Time – Learning new tools,  brand awareness , community building, networking, all good things, but really they do not happen overnight. Microwaving your food has a completely different taste.

I know those viral videos trick us into thinking WE could be the next big viral THING and customers lining up at our door, but reality is, probably won’t last and you want something that lasts, thats meaningful. I don’t think people microwave their food thinking they will get the same results after a crockpot or another type of meal.

What do you think? Have you ever had a good or bad crockpot meal? What was it about it that you enjoyed?

OK, so who is hungry. I wish we could all eat dinner together. At a table. It would be great.

What I’ve learned from the #ALSicebucketchallenge

That the world is small. Like super small.

I couldn’t believe how fast it spread throughout all of my family, friends, and co-workers. People who don’t even know eachother. I kept thinking, this world is a giant network. And see what happens when we “Work like a network”


That sometimes its not about self and it about helping others.


This challenge really showed how important the “network” is offline as well as online was. Ten years ago we wouldn’t have had this platform. But you know what we did have, those chain letters. Still based off the networks and most importantly people.

Technology doesn’t trump people. It amplifies the good, and the bad. Technology is just the mouthpiece for what’s really going on. In our hearts. Minds. And kitchens.

I’ll admit, I was bitter at first. I thought, “Why are people WASTING water, can’t we just donate instead of making it about self promotion” . Kids in Africa don’t have water for weeks. And we donate and build wells for them all the time. And then selfishly I thought, why hasn’t anyone picked me, challenged me? Urgh. I hated that, why I am making it about myself. ITS NOT ABOUT ME. So instead I just donated and kept quiet. Because I didn’t want attention on me. I know there are people in all of my network’s life that have been affected and its so not about US.

And clearly its has worked. They have raised over 20 million dollars just with this campaign, almost over a 1/3 of what they normally raised all last year.

If you haven’t been challenged yet, consider this your challenge. Or just watch this video


Marketers, Trainers, Communications teams — what sort of “challenge” could you incorporate into your programs for change? Now that we’ve learned that

  1. People love competition.
  2. We are very connected, more than we give ourselves credit for, think beyond your four walls of your organization.
  3. Normal people can make videos and not like fancy video, just like raw video from a camera phone.
  4. Create a movement that is personal, tugs on people’s heart.
  5. Social. Everything about this challenge was social. The tweets have broken records.
  6. Keep it simple. This took off because most people could find ice, water, bucket and a camera.
  7. Lurkers matter. People on the sidelines count. I don’t know if all the people who DID the ice bucket challenge ALSO donated, but enough people were watching that the $$ skyrocketed.


So regardless of a persons income level or fame, they still screamed like babies when the ice was dumped on them.


The chapters don’t end in our story. There’s more to be written…

People thought I was crazy. Leaving the comforts of familiarity and moving too many miles to count to an unknown start-up. Leaving behind the white picket fence. The great job and incredible manager. And friends and family. Then moving again! We were crazy. But that’s because big risk equals big reward.

So I started to write the chapter in my life with the title, “Yammer – taking me places I never imagined“. Quickly, we wrote this chapter together, and all over the world, you all included! We thought and wrote our pages as we were living them. Our story has characters of all walks of life, industry, and passions. We wrote it not knowing what would come on the next page.

And now, it’s time to finish this chapter and begin the next chapter. I’ve joined Hootsuite. Read more details here

My advice to you, don’t be afraid to write a new chapter. Even if there is risk. Even if you aren’t sure what story will be told in the chapters that follow. Fear, is the one way to miss out on authoring the pages of your life.

Dream big. Author your own pages. Title your own chapters.

And don’t forget that at the end of the day, its about people.


(Selfie of my last training session with Yammer! They are PUMPED!)
It’s about people who you can share and re-live the stories you have written — that matter most.

Image Today, 13_49_32




Keep calm and Yammer on




I wanted to capture my contributions to Yammer and Enterprise social in one post, more for my own knowledge but feel free to check out these links for more information!


View recording of my presentations of Yammer at Microsoft Conferences: Channel 9 Speaker (Includes Topics such as Power User Training, Enterprise Social Scared Straight, and Best Practices for overcoming Organizational Barriers to success)


Read more about my story here: Microsoft Careers Blogs

Yammer 101 Video

Yammer Blog Contributions:

Using Yammer to roll out O365

This is not your Parents Training Software

Using Yammer in your Training Programs

Social Onboarding


Other Yammer Related Articles & Blogs:

L&D Calendar Spotlight

Afterglow from ASTD 2014

Yammer for Internal Knowledge Sharing

ASTD Blog Publications:

Making you Yammer community work – Tips & Best Practices

Social Learning Fear Factor