Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: General Life/Work

Higher Education Insight: Pain Points and Pivots for Students in 2020

College, Distance Learning, General Life/Work, Higher Education, Learning, Virtual Learning, Virtual Work

By Shyanne Long

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the higher education system to rethink their operations in order to accommodate for the health and safety of their students. 

As a community college student, I have seen the shift in higher education operations firsthand. Students were moved to an online environment very quickly and for many, it was their first time not sitting in classrooms and lecture halls packed with students.

My community college made a full switch to distance learning in March and plans to remain online through the end of the Fall semester in December.

There has been push back from students and families who do not agree with paying full tuition for online classes—colleges are trying to avoid a decrease in enrollment while trying to keep everyone safe.

While I know some people do not prefer online classes, I enjoy them! 

I have had a lot of experience with distance learning. I have taken most of my college classes online because I work full time and I like being able to have more control and flexibility in my learning. Community college distance learning classes have allowed me to create my own schedule, learn on my own time, and work full time to support myself.

All my classes were already online while everyone else was making the transition to a virtual environmentbut it was still a tough transition, even for me. I also began working from home during this time, so I had to get used to that while also continuing my studies. I’m a creature of habit and I do well when I have a routine that I can rely on. Everyone experienced a lot of change all at once and it has been difficult for everyone involved.

A struggle I experienced during the transition to my new normal was not having an event in between work and school to separate the two activities. Usually, I have a commute home after work, and I take that time to decompress and listen to a podcast or music. This breaks up my day and I can shift my mindset from work mode to school mode. With no transitional event, I would go straight from working on the computer all day to doing schoolwork on the computer. I quickly began to feel technology overload and needed a break.

To help myself get through it, I knew I would have to create some sort of event in between work and school time. I began going on walks, cooking dinner, or reading a book. These simple activities helped me adjust and pivot to my new schedule and kept me off the computer for a while.  

Here are some other ways I saw myself, my professors, and others pivot to the new way of learning:

Some of my professors voiced that they were struggling with not getting social interaction and facetoface time with students. A professor of mine implemented a couple of group projects to give us the social aspect of an in-person class. Some of my peers struggled with using Zoom at first. Luckily, I had a lot of experience using Zoom at work and I was able to help my classmates learn how to use the tool. 

Another professor had a few live lectures on Zoom during the semester, and she included students from the other college at which she works. It was nice to see some new faces and gain different perspectives.  

After several months of getting used to distance learning and working from home, I have found a good routine and I am ready to start the Fall semester on the right foot! I am thankful to all my professors and fellow students who worked together to make the transition easier. Colleges are making a conscious effort to support their staff and students while making it possible to continue our education.

What is your experience with education during this time? How did you pivot? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author: Shyanne is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator for KAI Partners. She attends Sierra College and is studying Marketing. Ms. Long plans on transferring to a university after completing her units at Sierra College. Shyanne is passionate about expanding her knowledge, working collaboratively, and making powerful connections. For fun, Shyanne enjoys spending time with her family, reading, listening to podcasts, volunteering, and (attempting) to recreate recipes she finds on Pinterest.

Technically Speaking: How to Create a Functional Home Office

General Life/Work, Information Technology, KAI Partners, Managed IT Services, Sacramento, Small Business, Startup Company, Systems Engineer, Technology

By Chris Koroluk

For many of us, working from home has become the new normal. However, some people may find it difficult to recreate an office environment at home without a little technical guidance. Luckily, our IT team is here to help!

While laptops are portable and convenient, the screens are usually small. The small screen will often condense websites and make the text much harder to read. Reading small text for long periods of time can strain the eyes and cause headaches, thus slowing down your work.

Our IT tip: Use a spare TV in place of a computer monitor.

Since most laptops come with an HDMI port and using an HDMI cable, you can connect your laptop to a spare TV! You can use the TV in addition to your laptop screen or make the TV the primary display. Here’s how:

  • Once you have your laptop and TV connected using the HDMI cable, press the Windows Key and the P on your keyboard. Then select ‘extend,’ or ‘second monitor only.’
  • Adjust size scaling and resolution in the Display settings.

Next, you can change the power settings to keep your laptop on after the screen is closed, which allows you to use your laptop as a desktop PC. Here’s how:

  • Go to Settings > System > Power & Sleep—the additional power settings are on the right.
  • Click ‘Choose what closing the lid does.’
  • Choose ‘Do Nothing’ on either or both ‘Battery’ and ‘Plugged in.’

This is just one way to make your office more functional so you can remain productive throughout the workday! Is there something our IT team can help you with? Let us know in the comments and we’ll talk about it in a future blog post!

Why Servant Leadership works in the Digital Services world

Digital Transformation, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Information Technology, IT Modernization, KAI Partners, Managing/Leadership, Sacramento, Servant Leadership, Team Building, Technology

By Catherine Kendall, PMP

Throughout my career, I have worked for some incredible individuals at esteemed consulting and technology companies. I am fortunate to have witnessed brilliance in action, incredible creativity, and professional excellence.

I have also witnessed behaviors that I promised myself I would never adopt or condone. Such behaviors include bullying, intimidation, fear mongering, public humiliation, sabotage, and my personal favorite, elitism (for example: “I have a manager title, so therefore I am better, smarter, faster”).

At the assortment of companies where I worked during my career, this is the feedback I consistently received: “You may be more suited for change management since you are so sensitive,” followed by, “You’re too touchy feely,” and, “You will never be an executive because you are too sensitive. Maybe an HR job is better for you,” and finally, “You care too much about people and how they feel. You need to stop that.”

Guess what? I became an executive and I am still a sensitive person.

I figured it out fairly early in my career that I am a servant leader and although this was not a leadership category I was aware of during the tender ages of 25 – 35, I always knew that I believed in building people up and putting their needs before mine. I knew if I took care of my team members and had their backs, they would deliver on their commitments. I believe in service to others, compassion, and kindness. Yet to many of my peers and managers, this kindness made me weak.

Fast forward 10 years later, I keep reading blogs about servant leadership as if it is some new kind of leadership style. It is often paired with digital services—why is that?

Technology has pivoted towards caring about customer behavior, thoughts, and actions. Technology is about the customer experience, not just the customer transaction.

The experience has everything to do with feeling and yet, for over 20 years, I was told feelings have no place in the corporate world of technology.

I am happy to say that I stuck to my own principles and continue to behave in a kind manner towards others. I would like to argue that I did it because I am incredibly principled, but if I am being perfectly honest, the few times I tried to be really tough, I felt sick to my stomach for a long period of time and then the guilt caused by the cognitive dissonance was overwhelming and incapacitating.

Being kind to others and behaving as a servant leader does not make a person weak. Abusing employees, taunting them, condescending on them, bullying them—do people really believe leadership is equivalent to being mean?

I am pleased to see the changing of the tides. While I do not believe the days of bullying and intimidating leaders are a thing of the past, what I do see is a growing belief not to mistake kindness for weakness.

About the Author: Catherine has 20 years of experience in managing large scale information technology systems integration projects. Before joining KAI Partners as the Service Delivery Director, Catherine was the Chief Information Officer for the California Department of Conservation. Prior to that, Catherine worked for IBM as a delivery Project Executive where she served predominantly public sector clients in both California and New York. Catherine started her career as a programmer at Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) in San Francisco and a process engineer designer and test lead at Deloitte Consulting in Los Angeles. She has her doctorate in education from Drexel University and she has an MBA and a B.S. from the University of California at Davis. Catherine is an animal rescue volunteer and does community service with the elderly. Her hobbies include playing piano, reading non-fiction and macro-economic research, and writing.

5 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Human Resources, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

Work-life balance. I am sure you have heard this phrase before or even tried to fulfill its simple message: To balance your work and personal life.

Some of you might be thinking, “Yep, I’ve got this down to a science,” while others might be thinking, “It seems so easy, why can’t I just do it?”

Well, I am about to let you all in on a little secret…I know from personal experience that there is no magic answer or solution—work-life balance is something you have to actively think about and try doing.

As a Human Resources professional, one of my responsibilities making sure my employees can find ways to have this balance, which is important. Not only should it important to the individual, but it is important from an employer standpoint as well. Ever hear the expression, “Happy wife, happy life?” Well, we can apply that same principle here: “Happy employee, happy organization!”

Employees who feel rundown, overworked, or stressed are more likely to be less productive. It is easy to get caught up in our work, especially when we love what we do and who we work with and for. However, it is equally important to unplug (sometimes literally) once the work day has ended and take time for yourself and your loved ones. Sometimes this is easier said than done, as I have found myself putting in 10 hour days without even realizing it.

So, how do you make sure to balance work and life appropriately? Here are some tips that you might find helpful.

  1. Be Organized: Stay as organized as you can throughout the day; set goals or make lists. Use whatever methods are effective, depending on what organization looks like for you personally. Find a way to prioritize and delegate tasks accordingly.
  2. Breathe: Remember to take breaks and refocus throughout the day. Sometimes I find that taking a quick walk or doing some simple stretches (especially important for those of us who work at a desk or in a seated position all day) can help you reset and allows you to be more productive and less stressed.
  3. Be Flexible: Be open to flexibility in your work and ask for flexibility when needed. We all need a little wiggle room at times and being flexible and having flexibility can lead to higher productivity—a win-win situation!
  4. Be Efficient: When you are at work, be efficient by staying present, avoiding distractions, and staying focused on your tasks. This can be as simple as keeping a clean work space, organizing your tasks or projects for the day, creating a timeline and sticking to it as much as possible, and delegating tasks as appropriate. Working efficiently allows us to get more done at a quicker pace and worry less when we go home (or get us home faster). Work smarter!
  5. Communicate: Communication is the cornerstone to just about everything. If you need something, ask for it. Whether it’s a day off or assistance with a project, be sure to communicate what you need—those around you cannot read your mind.

These tips might seem simple, but give them a try. By doing a few simple things, you may find yourself more energized, productive, and less stressed throughout the day and at night when you go home. Remember, it’s okay to leave work at work; I promise it will be there when you get back!

About the Author: Dr. Melissa McManus is a Human Resources Professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

How to Use tools from Work to make the Holiday Season Easier and Happier

Best Practices, Communications, General Life/Work, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management

By Judi Phelps

‘Tis the season to get overwhelmed by holiday parties, Secret Santas, decorating the house, numerous family functions, and all the other festive activities that can take over your life this time of year. On top of that, the end of year is always a busy time at work, as you try to get everything off your desk and out of your email inbox before leaving the office for a week.

I was thinking recently about all we have to do in both our personal and professional lives during the holidays it got me thinking—how can we take the skills we use in the office every day and apply them to our personal lives? If we project managed our personal lives a little bit, perhaps we would be able to increase the quality and quantity of the time we get to spend with our friends and loved ones—not to mention entering 2018 feeling like we have things under control.

Here are some of my suggestions for project managing your holiday season:

  1. This can be overwhelming, but gather the family and begin the conversation to determine what your plans are this holiday season.
    • Prioritize Tasks: Decide what you want or what needs to get done this season, plus which events are most critical or which you are most excited to attend. Make sure you ask your family their vision for what the holiday celebration should be. Then determine the level of commitment from yourself and others—do you have the commitment needed to accomplish all your tasks?
    • Make a Timeline: Look at what is on the schedule. Whether it’s extra choir rehearsals, cleaning, decorating, or addressing envelopes, schedule everything out so you have a clear picture of what needs to get done by when.
    • Identify resources (both physical and financial): Assign roles to complete the tasks. Seek volunteers for tasks no one wants to do (e.g., clean the bathroom before guests arrive; make room in the coat closet). Maybe an older grandson and friend could put the lights on the house. It may not be how you would have done them, but it gets the job done! My 3- year-old grandson actually helped me decorate their Christmas tree this year—this is a great memory and the tree got decorated! Just don’t forget to empower your team—you should be willing to accept imperfect results!
    • Plan for Contingencies: Have a backup plan for when things go haywire. Perhaps you and your best friend had dinner plans but you’ve run out of time for shopping—will your friend combine shopping with visiting?
  2. Change Management: A year goes by in a flash, but 365 days is actually a long time! Some change is bound to happen!
    • Take inventory of your contact list. Marriages, divorces, new babies, moves? Whether it’s updating the Christmas card list with a new address or adding a new nephew to your gift list, make sure you are working with the most up-to-date information.
  3. Communication Management: You can do all the planning and scheduling in the world, but if no one is informed or consulted on what’s happening, then the plan doesn’t mean much!
    • Think about the most effective way to make sure everyone knows what is happening and when. Ask your family/friends which communication method works best—maybe it’s a Facebook chat or a group text. Perhaps a Google doc where everyone can make edits as needed. Just make sure everyone knows what’s going on so they are not left in the dark—remember everyone else has their own plans too!
  4. Work toward the Goal: As you move through each item in this process, remember the goal…
    • …to have fun and celebrate! Perfect is not the goal, and you may find that a little breathing and perspective will make a misadventure a memory!

Getting all of this together may not be possible, but approaching the season with the same skills you use to conquer the business or project issues you deal with everyday could get you further along to a less stressful holiday season. I know I’m working on it!

About the Author: Judi Phelps has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and worked for the State of California for more than 38 years, starting as a part-time clerk-typist and ending as a Staff Manager II. Judi worked almost all of that time in various areas of the Medi-Cal program, implementing program policies as well as working to develop policies. As a consultant, Judi currently works with clients to look for better ways to achieve the mission. Judi loves singing and scrapbooking—sometimes together!—for both the paper-craft and the time with friends aspects. Judi enjoys traveling, entertaining, and making memories (to put into scrapbooks) with her two grandsons.

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