Saturday, February 28, 2015

You have been, and always shall be, my friend.

Leonard Nimoy passed away yesterday.  And, while I am a firm believer that none of us should be defined by just one aspect of our lives, Mr. Nimoy will always be Mr. Spock to me.

I was just 8 years old when I saw the first episode of Star Trek and from that time the series, its spin offs, and all its characters have never been far from me.  Camp to be sure, at times; some moralizing, certainly; many a great episode and themes; and some great lessons, if you were so inclined to see them.  Friendship, even with aliens and later androids (maybe we call them synthetics). Optimism that no matter what, the galaxy would be saved.  Good did, in the end, triumph over evil; and, in fact, if you tried, you could always find a way to balance the needs of the many, or the few, or the one.

As Mr. Spock warps out on his eternal journey, I hope he bumps into and makes first contact with some Vulcans or another group of benevolent aliens and sends them our way.  We could sure use a hand with our future.  Maybe that's the wish of a “fanboy”, but Mr. Spock did say that he'd like to think there were always possibilities.

Our friends from NASA ended their kind Tweet to Mr. Nimoy and Mr. Spock with “Boldy go…”. May he be there already and watching as we travel along all of our frontiers.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seven score and ten years ago...

As we remember and honor his words, and the great deeds that occasioned them, may we also be reminded of the great and “unfinished” work before us.  Work still so necessary, in all elements of our society, if we are to truly embrace the “better angels of our nature”.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Thanks to MY9 and NJ NOW for continuing the discussion on the Rutgers Alumni Association's efforts to support student veterans at Rutgers University.

Jerry Masin who heads the Rutgers Alumni Associations' Special Interest Group for Veterans talks about the program "Bridging The Gap" which is helping returning military veterans train at Rutgers in order to re-join the work force.

New Jersey Now: July 14, 2013 Segment 4

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Constancy of Purpose

With thanks for the inspiration of David Brooks coming from his recent article in The New York Times called Why They Fought.

150 years ago today America, not yet again the United States of America, woke up from a  punch-drunk stupor caused  by the concussive and convulsive blows of a battle on and around the rolling hills of a small town in Pennsylvania.  The battle saw the high tide of the Confederacy crest and begin to recede, though a weary country would still face nearly 2 more years of  bloody conflict. The battle was Gettysburg; to this day, the deadliest 3 days in American warfare.

Shelby Foote, a distinguished historian, would say that you cannot understand us as a nation without understanding the Civil War. And you cannot understand the Civil War without understanding Gettysburg. I have tried for years to do so having regularly visited and toured the battlefield since being a young boy.  In 2002, I joined a number of corporate executives at Gettysburg for a training event modeled after a military protocol called an “after action” staff ride.  The staff ride was used, in the past, to visit a battlefield to gain the insight of lessons learned from the conflict.  The training event, sponsored by the Conference Board, was intended to create learning's from “battlefield to board-room” around important leadership principles.  I reflect to this day on that learning experience in November of 2002 and was honored to have been able to read to our group President Lincoln’s address, in commemoration of the battle, on Veteran’s Day while visiting the Gettysburg cemetery.

Two of the points we discussed are as important then as today – command intent and constancy of purpose.  Our news is filled today with our doubts about leadership, in both the public and private sector, and we learn from a recent Gallup Poll survey that 7 out of 10 workers have “checked out” at work or are actively disengaged.

We are reminded at the sesquicentennial of Gettysburg that 163,760 of our fellow citizens hurled themselves at each other for 3 days in pursuit of a vision, cause and purpose that would determine whether this nation would “long endure”. 45,687 fell or were wounded in response. In his 1997 book “For Cause and Comrades,” James M. McPherson notes that a consciousness of duty was pervasive in Victorian America. David Brooks states it in terms that there was probably also a greater covenantal consciousness, a belief, of the time, that our forebears were born in a state of indebtedness to an ongoing project, and they would inevitably be called upon to pay these debts, to come square with the country, even at the cost of their lives.

As we consider all of this today, in readying our cook-out and fireworks viewing plans, two points to close on regarding squaring our own covenantal consciousness.  Leaders need to be transformational and must create conditions that others can believe in and follow and when we do follow, we must do so with both a commitment to a shared vision and a constancy of purpose to cause.

And so, in keeping with your faith, as you understand it, God bless America. And God bless those who stand the watch in defense of our national interests, civilian and military, and those who support them. May we be reminded in the midst of the pageant and pomp and parade that there is a price of admission to the land of the free and the home of the brave. That price is active citizenship, duty, diligence, honor and service.

Happy Independence Day.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Get IT – Education as the pathway to technology-focused employment
Education TodayHow to Get IT
By Jerry Masin

Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” In today’s economic environment – where businesses have learned to do more with fewer people, yet struggle to find qualified candidates for those positions that are open – seeking employment without proper education and training is vision without execution. Unemployment rates remain stagnant in part due to more job seekers reentering the job market as the economy continues to recover, yet less jobs available because many positions cut during the recession are gone forever as technology has spurred improvements in business processes. As columnist David Brooks recently said, “American skills have not kept up with technological change.”

Those Americans who have kept up are succeeding. While unemployment rates still remain above 8 percent, unemployment in the information technology sector consistently runs well below national levels, as low as 3.3 percent in June year when the national rate was 9.2 percent. And the news for the IT community, and those seeking employment in this sector, keeps getting better. After sitting on their cash for most of the recession businesses once again are investing in IT, on both the software and hardware sides. U.S. businesses are forecast to spend $551 billion on IT products and services in 2012, according to the “United States Information Technology Report Q1 2012” issued by Drivers of that investment include cloud computing, mobile applications, data center consolidation, product innovation such as tablets and netbooks and technology innovation such as GPS, the report said. Monster added government mandates such as those of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Because computers do not program themselves this increase in investment translates into demand for skilled IT workers. According to “Tech Hiring Trends 2012” issued by Acquity Group, there will be an increased demand for mobile application developers and data warehouse analysts this year. U.S. News and World Report lists software developer and database administrator as the second and fifth best jobs of 2012.

Yet not everyone gets IT. The Princeton Review showed that the 10 most popular college majors continue to include business administration and management/commerce (#1), psychology (#2), English language and literature (#6) and political science and government (#9).
At the same time 52 percent of U.S. businesses report having difficulty filling open positions, according to ManpowerGroup’s “2011 Talent Shortage Survey.” Only 14 percent of hiring managers reported that over the last three years “most” or “nearly all” job candidates had the skills their company looks for in a potential employee, according to a recent survey by the Career Advisory Board. Even in IT there is a shortage of necessary skills, with 93 percent of businesses reporting an overall skill gap among their IT staff, according to the “State of IT Skills” report by CompTIA.
Learning, Growth and Sustainable Employment In the new economy of the 21st century, economic vitality is the outcome of a three-part formula: learning, growth and sustainable employment. Through job-specific education and training workers become properly skilled, help businesses grow and remain employable.

So how does an unemployed or underemployed non-IT worker take advantage of this increasing demand for skilled IT employees? As Edison said, they need to execute a plan.
First, job-seekers must perform a skills assessment. A job search is a journey and just as a traveler begins a journey by assessing what he or she will need for the trip job-seekers must determine which skills they possess and lack. (Skill self-assessment tools are readily available online.)
For example, to succeed as an application developer or database developer workers require a basic understanding of computing, object-oriented concepts, relational databases and how to write code. Because much of this can be trained, job-seekers in this field also must possess discipline, organizational skills, a burning desire to learn and a burning desire to succeed. Job-seekers can also confer with a career coach to determine their best path. Any discussion about where a worker wants to go must include a discussion of where the jobs are. Next, the execution of a career change and new job search entails job-specific education and training that is holistic. Because past job training and business knowledge carry value, an effective IT training program must link past job experience with the new skills being learned. And finally the IT job search must include marketing – promoting the job-seeker with his or her new skills to prospective employers.

SetFocus, an information technology training school that trains applications developers, database developers and other Microsoft professionals, puts this three-pronged approach to the test. Before any training begins, students partake in skill assessments, which help them and their instructors identify their current skills, their strengths and their areas needing improvement. Past job experience and knowledge is heavily weighed. Armed with this blueprint of knowledge, a training plan is outlined and executed through a curriculum that is designed and periodically reviewed in partnership with IT hiring companies. This ensures that students complete the 13-week full-time or 30+-week part-time program possessing the necessary skills and education to make them marketable.
SetFocus’ marketing includes career development efforts through the school’s placement partners that connects graduates with businesses in a wide variety of sectors requiring highly skilled IT professionals. This thee-step formula of linking to past work experiences, building required skill sets and marketing to prospective employers allows graduates to maintain significant placement success. Most importantly, the holistic foundation of their training enables graduates to enjoy sustainable employment.

Education that Leads to Employment

Education and training is only relevant if it leads to sustainable employment. Education and training is the means; employment is the end. And for employment to be sustainable, it must bring value to the employer. The idea of hitting the ground running has never been more relevant than in today’s economy. Companies are no longer willing to invest in training for two or three years; they demand their employees be productive now. According to CompTIA, employers are more likely to outsource or hire new workers than invest in training for existing employees. In an era of high unemployment, many employers expect new employees to come prepared with the skills and training to be productive immediately, according to Brenda Gilchrist, principal and co-founder of the HR Matrix. For employment to be sustainable it must be valuable today and tomorrow. The best way to ensure that is through job-specific education and training. Information technology that drives nearly all business growth is taking a more prominent position in companies every day. Investment in IT will accelerate as technological innovation such as cloud computing and mobile applications advance exponentially. With this will come a greater need for IT professionals ready to step in and become productive immediately rather than lag behind a learning curve that is soaring skyward.

Now is the moment for those outside the information technology sector who are considering entering to take that step and redefine their careers with a properly executed plan for their future. Education is the pathway to technology-focused employment.

Learning, growth and sustainable employment – this is how to get IT.

Jerry Masin is president of SetFocus, an information technology training school headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey. He can be reached at 973.889.0211 or

Article appearing in the May 2012 issue of the New Jersey Technology Council's issue of TechWire.