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Archive for the ‘passion’ Category

Coffee, cupcakes, easter eggs, and innovation

Posted by Louise Barnfield on April 12, 2011

I have very mixed feelings as I retire from Oracle at the end of this week after 21+ years!

Moon over Oracle

On the one hand, since it’s my choice, I’m excited for what my very different future holds; on the other, I know I shall miss seeing so many people, who have become more friends than work colleagues, on a day-to-day basis.

Over the past few weeks, as I drive to the office each day and our HQ campus comes into view, I’ve found myself nostalgically focusing on the impressively architected buildings whose exteriors still look fresh and contemporary, and a darn sight more fresh and contemporary than I feel, after 22 years. The same goes for the interior decor and facilities. I know there are plenty of unsung heroes who keep our entire campus ticking along, unnoticed and often unappreciated by most of us, but, since I can’t hope to recognize everyone in one blog post, here’s a shout out to someone who’s responsible for one of the areas I’ll miss more than many: our 3OP Café, which houses the campus café and bakery, and which (a happy coincidence for me) is in the same building as my own office, 300 Oracle Parkway.

The Café, though once a fairly insignificant portion of a large and varied restaurant, has taken on a character all its own over the past few years, under the leadership of Ian Farrell.

Ian is a shining example of passion, innovation, and creativity – all characteristics that our TalentedApps bloggers frequently praise, encourage, and admire – and, as a thoroughly decent, caring member of the human race, he has even found a way to donate his skills for a worthy cause, such as baking a vast quantity of cakes, cookies, and tarts to benefit the recent Bakesale for Japan!

The photos speak for themselves, yet don’t come close to representing all that Ian has achieved. He came to Oracle five years ago as Executive Pastry Chef for Bon Appétit, our corporate caterers, with a remit to develop new programs and to change the quality of the desserts and bakery. He is now responsible for all the dessert catering for our Customer Visitor Center, and for our three main campuses in the area: Redwood Shores HQ, Pleasanton, and Santa Clara. However, for many employees, the 3OP Café remains our primary window into his world of creativity.

From time to time, I’ve exchanged a few words of appreciation with Ian, but it was only recently, as I reflected on the many changes that I’ve witnessed in the Café, that I truly appreciated the scale of his achievements. Here are a few of his innovations over the past few years:

  • Truffles – Ian’s an experienced chocolatier and takes great pride in the quality of his ingredients (sorry but, as a Brit, I have a very critical palate for chocolate that does not include the more common US offerings!), and the fact that he uses Fair Trade certified Cordillera baking chocolate from Colombia. He started packaging his truffles for special occasions and holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, but they are now available and in high demand at any time of year.
  • Chocolate specialty creations – The high-heeled shoes (a Valentine favorite apparently) were inspired by The Devil Wears Prada, and working at Oracle evidently provided his inspiration for the chocolate laptops and cell phones. His chocolate sleds filled with a variety of cookies and treats were extremely popular last winter, and his Easter eggs are now selling like hot cakes (‘scuse the pun!).
  • Cake designs to order – Ian is a master at designing and executing fondant cakes, all the more impressive for being a self-taught skill. Many of his first-time cake designs were ideas requested by customers, and he has now built quite an amazing portfolio of photographs. Customers can order an existing design, use the photographs as inspiration for their own ideas, or simply peruse the photographs to give them a smile while waiting for their latte or cappuccino.
  • Breads – There is now a range of artisan breads to order, and an entire cabinet dedicated to their display.
  • Sugar creations – One of his most skillful accomplishments, and possibly one of the least appreciated in terms of the time and skill required, are his 3D sugar creations. At various times of year, one or more of his designs makes an appearance…a Halloween haunted castle with intricate turrets surrounded by bats and cobwebs, or a holiday train dusted with snow and bulging with cheerful passengers. His artistry and attention to detail always fascinate me.
  • Classes – Ian’s baking classes for employees are becoming increasingly popular. What a great way to collaborate with friends and colleagues while learning a new skill, such as creating and decorating Easter eggs.
  • Social media – Ian enthusiastically embraced the world of online communication a couple of years ago, and frequently highlights the Café activities and offerings through his Twitter account and Facebook page, 300 Sweet Treats. Those of us who follow him are the first to learn of the day’s specials, and are reminded to buy our fresh-baked bread on Fridays.

In terms of smart marketing and business acumen, increasing the variety of product, the display cabinets, and the online communication has no doubt been a huge success but, personally, what I appreciate most of all is the appearance of our Café, and the sheer entertainment value of the displays. Thank you for your passion, Ian, and for always making me smile!

I’m relieved that I will still be able to enjoy the 3OP Café when I leave, as it’s in an open area of the building. So I, and you if you’re local, can visit for a coffee, admire the ever-changing displays, and maybe buy my old man some truffles (I can always hope he’ll share)!

P.S. Since this appears to be my parting post for TalentedApps, I will add that it has truly been a privilege to be a member of such a passionate team of bloggers. I shall continue to read, learn, and be inspired and entertained by their posts, as well as those of our close counterparts in the HR blogging community. Onwards and Upwards, and best wishes to you all!

Photo: “Moon over Oracle”
Source: Flickr.com
Credit: Not Quite a Photographr

Posted in Innovation, passion, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Black History Month: Reflections on Our Shared History

Posted by Ken Klaus on February 16, 2011

February is Black History Month.  A time to reflect on the contributions African-Americans have made in shaping our nation, culture and especially our civil rights policies.  A time to remember the women and men who spent their personal and professional lives working to make things better, not only for themselves, but also for their families, their communities and our nation; and not just for their generation, but also for the millions who came after them.  People like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Ida B. Wells, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King.  I’m glad we set aside time to reflect on our shared history; something I think we generally undervalue, even take for granted.  Though we pride ourselves on being a nation of individuals, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and captains of industry, our accomplishments stand on a foundation others have laid.  Our liberty, rights and way of life, here in the twenty-first century, exist because of the sacrifices others made in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, going as far back as the Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Yet even as this new republic was born millions of slaves living within its borders were denied liberty.  Freedom for all would not come for another century and basic equality for yet another beyond the first.  And so each generation had to take up the cause of freedom and equality, building upon the work done by those who came before them, each moving forward the cause of liberty one step at a time.  And so the struggle continues to this day.  Which is why valuing our history, reflecting on how we came to be the nation and people we are today and honoring those who sacrificed personally and professionally is so important.

These individuals – too numerous to name here, many already long forgotten – who fought first for liberty and then struggled for full equality through the long decades following the Civil War, they made possible the freedom and rights we share today.  We are the recipients of a great gift that would not exist without the contributions of those who came before us.  Our President, Barak Obama, stands on the shoulders of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Ida B. Wells, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King; as do we all.  The fabric of our shared history was woven by the people who came before us.  We would not be the nation we are and we would not have the freedom and rights we enjoy, but for the women and men who made freedom and civil rights their life long passion.  Without the contributions made by the people we remember during Black History Month the liberty we enjoy today would not exist.

But our history is only part of the story, the chapters that have already been written.  We too have a part to play.  We too must take up this struggle if liberty is to endure, if the generations who come after us are to have a better world in which to live and work.  Thomas Paine, in his treaties, Rights of Man, makes our responsibility in this matter clear.

Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generations which preceded it.  The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave, is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies.  Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.  The parliament or the people of 1688, or of any other period, had no more right to dispose of the people of the present day, or to bind or to control them in any shape whatever, than the parliament or the people of the present day have to dispose of, bind or control those who are to live a hundred or a thousand years hence.  Every generation is and must be competent to all the purposes which its occasions require.

Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, nor to have less rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured.  His natural rights are the foundation of all his civil rights.

To the same degree that we have been the beneficiaries – nationally, professionally and personally – of the many who came before us, who struggled and sacrificed to make the world a better place, we too must endeavor in this good and noble cause.  We must give of ourselves, so that those who follow after us will find that we have made the world, our country, our companies and our communities more civil, just, and attainable.  Liberty and equality for all was the rallying cry of the revolution and though today we regard these as our rights, as an end in themselves, perhaps they are better understood as a means to an end.  Our Pledge of Allegiance includes the phrase, “one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” – but how much richer and meaningful these statements become when they are reversed: With liberty and justice for all, we are one nation indivisible.

Posted in community, leadership, passion | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

From BASIC to BSc: the nameless enthusiast who rewrote my future

Posted by Louise Barnfield on November 18, 2010

The Beatles on iTunes! Now, that takes me back a bit!

I grew up with the fab four oh-so-many years ago…collecting their black vinyl 45s, EPs, and LPs! Now, it’s all about the digital age with iPods, iPads, iEverything…and thankfully I’m still taking it in my stride.

I’m so grateful I didn’t get left behind by the great technological explosion, which could so easily have been the case had I not met an odd little chap by sheer chance…

1983: I and my husband (first, not current) had returned to England after living in West Africa for two years. I had almost finished renovating our first home in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, and was working as a realtor in that small market town, when I happened to take an adult education class in basic computing, and by basic I mean BASIC! 🙂 To further date me, I’ll admit to practising my new found programming skills on my very own Sinclair ZX Spectrum, yes really!

The instructor was…um, how can I say this nicely?…really really weird, and quite frankly didn’t know much about the subject himself. The evenings were somewhat frustrating but, to give him his due, he was madly passionate and enthusiastic. After only four weekly night classes and despite his noticeable lack of knowledge (or maybe because of it), he lit a fire in me. I saw a need to learn more just for my own personal understanding, because it was evident that computers would increasingly impact my daily life.

Intending to enroll in just one or two classes, I interviewed at a local college (Oxford Polytechnic, as it was then) and ended up signing up, not for a couple of modules but for a three-year degree course…which led to a B.Sc. first class hons…which led to a job in IT as an Analyst/Programmer for Surrey University…which led to a technical Training Consultant role at Oracle Corporation.

2010: I recently clocked up 21 years with Oracle, in a variety of interesting, challenging roles – too many to mention, but including traveling and working in countless countries, relocating to the San Francisco bay area, managing a global team of curriculum developers, and, for the past few years, the privilege of contributing to the development of our latest Fusion applications. I owe all those experiences to a weird, passionate, enthusiastic night-class instructor whose name I can’t remember.

Wouldn’t we all like to be remembered (even if not by name!) for inspiring and enthusing a fellow human-being so much that it completely and positively changed the course of their life?

Posted in passion, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

The Power of Developing Teams

Posted by Mark Bennett on August 21, 2010

Ravi and I had just been discussing the question of values and culture, when I saw Kris Dunn’s post on Which Managers Are Responsible for the Reality of Your Culture? All it Takes is One Question…

What I liked most was that Kris captured not only how managers and their behaviors are the real indicators of values and culture, but that perhaps the single most desirable value sought by employees is “they’re looking for managers who seem to care about development of their teams.”

This is a really powerful statement. Developing teams is key in two ways. First, developing people helps them find the meaning in their work. Done right, it links their passion to achieving the purpose the organization has laid out. Second, you are developing all the members of the team, which helps them see how, as each member brings their increasing knowledge and experience to the team as they develop, they in turn increase the knowledge of every other member of the team as well as that of the whole organization. But there’s a lot to making this happen.

But I Do Develop People!

First, the notion of developing individuals is seen as a risky proposition. If you invest in the development of someone and they leave, you’ve lost your investment. If they go to a competitor, it stings twice as much. Of course, your best people will leave if you don’t invest in their development, so what do you do? One thing that can help make the development investment create a tighter bond between the individual and the organization is to focus on things the individual is passionate about. In other words, rather than simply roll out a plain vanilla development plan, or throw a generic catalog at them, or stick them in programs or assignments that are tilted solely to what the organization needs, spend time to find what really makes them tick and help them create a plan (and a backup plan) that meets both party’s needs.

I know + You Know = We Know More

Second, the actual team aspect of development is often overlooked and that’s really a shame. This isn’t about everybody on the team getting the same development; it’s about how unique individual development and team development are intertwined and can amplify each other as well as create more cohesive teams. Instead of everybody getting the exact same development and thus very likely seeing others’ development as potential competition, each person brings their unique development experience into a truly collaborative team environment. That is, each person shares and exchanges their knowledge and what they’ve learned. This has multiple benefits – each person feels and is seen as a source of valuable knowledge and teaching to the other team members and everybody in total learns more than if they had all gone through the exact same development. It give them a greater sense of identity. What’s more, in the very act of sharing knowledge with their teammates, each person learns more about their subject because of the questions they get as well as their desire to teach it well.

We really believe in the positive impact these values have on organizational performance and it’s great to see the survey data back it up. Thanks for sharing with us, Kris!

Photo by papalars

Posted in development, leadership, learning, management, passion, teams | 1 Comment »

Celebrating Mothers Day and giving back

Posted by Angela Doyle on May 24, 2010

I have just got home from celebrating Mothers Day in a special way.  I’ve been undertaking conservation volunteering at a local urban bushcare site in Sydney.  As I was walking to the site this morning  I suddenly realized what a great gift and privilege it was not just to send love to my own Mother, Grandmothers and Mothers of the world (both alive and deceased) but to be able to give back to Mother Earth who continually provides for us all.  I’ve been volunteering at this particular site for nearly one and half years and work with an extremely wise and knowledgeable supervisor who gives of his own time, unpaid, to create a wonderful place for the local community and a vital oasis in the local urban area for plants and wildlife.

I’ve had the wonderful fortune of being able to undertake volunteering both as a personal interest but also within the corporate setting as I’ve travelled for work over the past twelve months.  I’ve had many memorable experiences ranging from conservation and organic farming projects in Australia, UK, Iceland and California, packaging food for the poor in Oakland, Northern California;   to attending schools for under privileged and HIV positive children in India.

A common thread that I observe coming through in all these experiences is that as volunteers we are able to fulfil an innate need that we all have to give back to others and to feel that we have a purpose and are able to make a positive contribution.  In volunteering we give back with no expectation of material gain and this is in itself is very uplifting.  Through participating we do something for others and we look outside of ourselves.

In the corporate context volunteering provides an opportunity for team members to step out of their normal job function and to pursue new skills and roles.  It is also a chance for us to learn about our teams and peers in a different way outside of the usual hierarchy at work.  Personally I’ve discovered many wonderful things about work colleagues when I’ve seen them operating in a volunteer context.  Knowing these things has changed the way that we now interact in a work setting.

I also find that participating in volunteering gives many valuable lessons on leadership and interacting in a group context.  For example observing:  how the leader interacts with volunteers and motivates them to engage in the project;  the approach the leader might take to responding to obstacles or signficiant challenges;  ways that are taken to impart knowledge and wisdom to the broader community;  the communication  style of the leader and other volunteers;  the leader and team’s commitment to making a difference;  and humility as there is so much that we don’t know and once you start volunteering you start to have a little appreciation of this.

I find that all the learnings that I gain through the volunteering can in turn be taken back to enrich other parts of my personal and professional life.

Posted in leadership, passion, social network, talentedapps, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Why Does Passion Drive Pull?

Posted by Mark Bennett on May 7, 2010

We’re all, individuals as well as businesses, feeling increasing levels of stress. Competition is intensifying, the pressure to perform continues to rise, yet current approaches we use provide further diminishing returns so even maintaining our current performance is difficult these days. With increased stress, relationships deteriorate and fear begins to take over. With that fear, people turn inward and the cycle just gets worse. How can we turn things around? How could something like “passion” be part of the solution?

Passion is not just nice to have in your workforce; it will make the difference between businesses succeeding vs. falling further behind as competition continues to intensify. Meg, Amy, Vivian, Paul and I attended an excellent Churchill Club event Tuesday evening with Tim O’Reilly interviewing “The Power of Pull” authors John Hagel III and John Seely Brown. They talked about how vital passion is in making “Pull” work and what companies can do to keep passion alive in their employees. They described a few things about passionate workers, but I’ll focus on one that has a lot to do with how “The Power of Pull” can help companies and individuals not just cope, but thrive in a world of accelerating change.

Passionate workers are often the most connected and collaborative. Something about that passion makes them want to find others to share that passion with. In turn, those connections and collaborations help attract resources to where they are best suited and put to use in achieving performance. This works for the individuals, their teams, and their organizations. Passionate workers are curious as well and have found connections and collaboration excellent ways to find out more about their company and its business model.

Passion is shared, but people experience it in their own individual way. This is where the power of shared purpose combined with diverse contribution makes itself felt. The shared purpose is a shared belief, a shared passion, a compelling emotion that motivates each person to do their very best in the best way they now how and the results are proof of that belief. The shared passion attracts more talent that also shares the same passion and this in turn creates even more knowledge.

That’s the takeaway – passion flourishes in networks and drives their creation as well. Passionate workers collaborate and leverage each other’s knowledge in these networks. They pull resources and creative energy to the places that allow them to achieve their purpose, the “why” at the center of the golden circle. This purposeful collaboration drives their individual and team performance as well as the performance of their organization to levels higher than ever before.

Posted in passion, pull, social network, Uncategorized | 6 Comments »