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Bug In Your Ear? October 2, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings, Technology.
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11 comments

Let’s set the groundwork for this post: I love gadgets.  Any and all of them.  Any device with a battery and blinking light gets my undivided attention; if it has settings and preferences, I’ll spend hours learning every last mode and option.  I have yet to meet an electronic object I don’t want to know more about.

Groundwork, part two: Although I have strong opinions on shoes and ties, I will never be thought of as a sartorial trend-setter. I enjoy fine clothing and constantly seek advice on how to mix, match, and wear the right shirt and slacks at the same time.  I’ll never learn, mind you, but hope springs eternal.

However, when gadgets and fashion collide, I am compelled to provide some general guidance.  And that brings me to today’s bit of fashion advice for the gadget-lovers in the audience:

Never, never, never wear a Bluetooth headset in public. Ever. Never.

As much as I love gadgets, and as cool as the concept of a wireless headset may be, there is no excuse to have a chunk of plastic stuck in your ear, twenty-four hours a day. Who in their right mind thinks this is a good look?

We have abandoned, with great reluctance, the pocket protector.  The vast majority of people would not consider strapping a calculator to their belt.  Yet an inordinate number of people seem to feel that a Bluetooth headset is a crucial part of their everyday attire.  Apparently, nothing completes an ensemble of sweatpants, tank top, and flip-flops better than a glowing thing stuck to your head.

Consider the person behind me in line at the deli counter, waiting to get sliced luncheon meat.  What crucial call do they expect to arrive while they are otherwise occupied with the details of turkey and cheese?  What call could be so urgent that the time it takes to get the phone from pocket to ear could make a difference?  A massive stock trade? Providing a nuclear launch code? Advice to a befuddled brain surgeon?  I can’t imagine, but that blinking blue light on the side of their head certainly tells me that they are much more important than the rest of us.

There is one exception to this rule.  I do use a Bluetooth headset while driving, but only when driving alone, and only in my right ear so it is not visible from the road.  My driving skills are such that the headset significantly improves my chances of arriving at my destination in one piece.  But when I do arrive, the headset comes off before I exit the car.

I suspect a lot of people think that these headsets look cutting edge, and tell the world that you are technologically savvy.  Well, they do prove that you can master pairing a headset with your phone, but other than that, you look like a dork.  I can say this with confidence, because I mastered that look long ago.

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Can You Fix This? January 30, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
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3 comments

I’m a gadget guy.  I’ve been fascinated by things with blinking lights for a long time.  Before I had access to computers, I built Heathkit radios.  Before that, Erector sets and Legos.  I love to tinker and figure out how things work.  It led me to computing, which has led to great happiness in my career.

I think technical expertise makes me an effective CIO when I deal with other IT people, especially on my own team.  I know enough to hold my own in technical discussion, and bring a lot of experience to the table as we try to design new systems and solve problems.  I think a non-technical CIO can be easily overrun by their people and make bad decisions.

But does all that technical expertise make me an effective CIO among other executives?  My management peers turn to me to solve quick problems with their phones, PDAs, and laptops.  I get asked for advice on televisions and home networking.  I never turn down such requests, if for no other reason than that it would be rude to refuse to help anyone.  But I worry that such help pigeonholes me (and other technical CIOs) as the nerdy A/V guy, forever destined to set up the projector and advance the filmstrip during class.

CIOs have fought hard to get real management visibility and recognition.  But we cannot ignore our technical roots. We have to strike a balance between our business skills and our technical skills.  Done right, we retain our management focus while bringing technical perspective to the discussion at hand.  Done poorly, we forever lose credibility among our peers.

Every CIO should seek to be seen as a good business leader with technology skills, not as a technology provider who happens to know a bit about business.  Sometimes, the only way to reinforce that perception is to let someone else set up the projector.