What is your 20% project?

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We are all busy. But you should never be too busy to experiment, explore, and build something new, especially something new that could be a new income stream or professional achievement.

I call this the 20% project.

Yes, that implies you should be spending 20% of your time on new projects, be they for work or outside of it. My earliest 20% project, Belly Button Window opened up a world of friends that helped me cross the earth in style. My most successful 20% project was OLPC News, that beget a whole new career focus for me: 6 years as a thought leader in ICT for education.

Now I am juggling two 20% projects: Technology Salon, which I am working on rolling out as a private company in 2013, and an MBA, which is a long-term 20% project.

But don’t think I am the only one.

In thinking about 20% projects, I asked around to see what others are up to. Here are a few of the responses:
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  • Ian Thorpe says: two things 1. internal UN “transformation” network 2. #post2015agenda public conversation platform
  • Linda Raftree says: kids, running, capoeira, TSNYC, curric on Visual Literacy, blog, mYWD research, FLSMS brd
  • Mike McKay says: PouchDB is an html5 offline capable DB with full sync. Phones, tablets & dev countries. me =>80%
  • And Christine Prefontaine says: Maybe too meta, or maybe because I’m a freelance, but I don’t think 80/20.

Christine brings up a good point. If you do it right, your 20% is your 80% – you are able to build innovative projects as your job, and that’s when you know you’re doing it right.

So… what’s your 20% project?

Check Out Inveneo’s New Website!

new inveneo website cake
As one of my last acts at Inveneo, I helped design and launch their new website. Well, I did a bit more than that. I spent the last two years bemoaning our old website and lobbying for a new one.

For a small company that sold best though in-person meetings, it was hard convincing others that we needed to invest in a new website. In addition, there was a perception that websites were expensive – at least $100K. So there was a long road to get the green light to change Inveneo.org

I am proud to say that we came in pretty much on time and on budget – and our budget was a tiny fraction of what they thought it would be. I will have to thank Lee Heidel of Heidel Design for both helping me demonstrate that websites can be built for very reasonable investments and actually building the new site within the expected costs. (Yes, I highly recommend him for your web needs)

But enough about the backstory – that’s not as much fun as the visual feasts this cake represents. Now dig in to http://inveneo.org!

My First Week of Accelerated MBA Graduate School at George Washington University

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In addition to switching jobs, I am now starting my Masters of Business Administration at George Washington University. Why? Because I don’t have enough going on in my life, what with a new job, a wife, two kids, a dog, house, and all my ICT4D friends.
So to just make it that much more intense, I am in the accelerated MBA program at GW, where we cover a semester’s worth of classes in half the time. Called the “AMBA”, it will still take me two years of Tuesday nights and Saturdays to graduate, but I can work full time at Development Gateway and bring home the bacon that my young family needs.
At this point, there are two dubious records I hold in the class.

  1. At 38 for the second time, I am the oldest member of the AMBA Class of 2014 by at least two years. My goal was to start grad school before I would have such an honor, but now that I have it, I am rolling with the mental fragility prestige this title conveys.
  2. I also happen to be the most traveled member of the class, with experiences from 82 countries, beating out the next competitor by 10 countries. Funny enough, he is Indonesian with an Italian name, and I am the American with an Indonesian name.

Overall, I am excited about the AMBA courses and the freedom to challenge myself. It seems that most course grades are based on essays and case studies versus quantitative tests, and most people maintain the B average required to graduate, so I feel that I’ll do well.
Of course, this is the first week, so check back in a year and I may have a different opinion. In the mean time, check out my team’s first two work products:

Well, what do you think – worth an A?

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Goodbye Inveneo, the best job I’ve ever had

peace out, inveneo

Four and a quarter years ago, I joined Inveneo with the dream to accomplish three goals with the company. I aimed to grow the local ICT partner program to a market differentiator for Inveneo, raise the company’s profile in the Washington DC market, and get Inveneo on large USAID programs.

I am proud to say that I’ve achieved each of my goals.

  1. The ICIP program grew to be what sets Inveneo apart from all other ICT companies and has become a major reason we are sought out as a partner and implementer. Now under the leadership of FJ Cava, the program has achieved success in Haiti and around the world beyond my expectations and has inspired similar efforts at other organizations.
  2. Unquestionably, Inveneo is now known in Washington DC. Today, it’s rare that I have to explain what Inveneo does or even hand out a business card. All the major players know of Inveneo, many of their staff have met Inveneo staff personally, and the conversations start with “How can we partner?” – with real business opportunity in mind.
  3. Inveneo is now sought out as the preferred technology partner for major USAID RFPs and IQC’s, to the point where Inveneo is on multiple primes’ proposals as the exclusive ICT solution designer and implementer.

In addition, Inveneo now has a deep pool of staff that can support its Washington, DC business. Sybille Fleischmann has ICT in education deployment experience from Microsoft and in Haiti that eclipses my own. Lisa Lin brings deep experience with USAID contracts beyond any level of detail I would ever want to have. Kristin Peterson and the sales team know their way around the different contracting vehicles and how to read the proposal and partnering tealeaves.

Moving On

So it’s with the satisfaction of knowing I’ve propelled Inveneo into the highest levels of international development that I now take my leave from the organization. I am moving on from Inveneo on September 7th with a full heart of goodwill and happiness for the organization and my departure from it.

I feel truly blessed to have worked at Inveneo for the last four years. I loved, LOVED, every minute of it, often to the point of tears when I saw our impact on the communities we serve. It was truly the best job I’ve ever had.
I will cherish the working relationship I’ve had with the Inveneo team. I will especially miss Kristin and Mark, who were more than my bosses – they became great friends to me and I appreciated their continued support and endless patience.

The Next Challenge

Yet its time for me to take on a new marketing challenge with another organization. Starting September 10th, I will be joining Development Gateway in Washington DC. They develop results monitoring and big data ICT solutions for bilateral and multilateral donors and national governments and are instrumental in supporting the growing momentum around the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

Not to worry, I will still be in the ICT4D space and I will not forget Inveneo. I will continue to be a tireless advocate for both. I will start by suggesting that you subscribe to ICTworks, one of the many initiatives I started at Inveneo that I know will live on well past my exit.