Visualize Me on Vizify …

It seems there are dozens of resume/portfolio/whatever sites that claim to pull together all aspects of your online life and present them in a nice, neat package. I’ve toyed with a few of them, but I’ve never really been struck by the end result. That is, until I ran across Vizify recently. Consider me struck:

The result is crisp, uncluttered and easily navigable. Best yet, it’s quick–I spent perhaps 15 minutes, tops, getting my profile up and running. I’ve since spent a bit more time tweaking with headlines and such, but the entire process has been painless.

 

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HAPPO Friday … Let’s Light this Candle

For nearly 20 years, words and images have been my stock-in-trade. In fact, four words in particular have guided my entire career: “Tell me a story … ”

As communicators, that about sums up what we’re called to do, doesn’t it? So, that’s what I’ve done. (Want the whole story? Check out my resume in the right-hand column.)

I’m a communications pro with broad industry experience, ranging from print and digital journalism to photography, design, social media, corporate and crisis communications and marketing. Whether working for a Fortune 500 company or a small non-profit, I have a solid track record of directing internal and external communications programs as well as counseling senior management on communications issues. I am an idea-laden, research-crazed team player who thrives in a collaborative, cross-functional environment. International experience? I have that too.

For the past dozen years, I’ve managed internal communications at two of the world’s most respected companies: Southwest Airlines, which was named by FORTUNE magazine as “America’s Best Company to Work For” the year I rolled into town (coincidence? you decide) and Alcon Laboratories, the world’s largest and most respected eye care company with offices in 75 countries around the globe. I’ve crafted speeches for CEOs, developed PowerPoint presentations, and toiled on Web sites; I’ve spoken about branding and the importance of integrated communications at national conferences; I’ve managed people and projects; and I’ve had photographs and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the world.

I’m passionate about this industry, and I’m ready to jump in with both feet. Bonus: I’m good at lifting heavy boxes, and have been known to bring in bagels and donuts from time to time.

To wrap this up, here are a few highlights from my CV (again, at right), and a few things you won’t find in that document:

  • While at Southwest, I was hugged and/or kissed by company founder Herb Kelleher a few more times than I was comfortable with.
  • As a newspaper reporter right out of college, I once spilled a bowl of chili on a U.S. Representative’s boots. A few months later, I managed to land an interview with him while we were sitting in adjacent barber chairs. Thankfully, he never mentioned the chili.
  • Speaking of food, I’ve tasted putrified shark in Iceland, but I passed on the horse entree while on a business trip in Switzerland.
  • Writing, photography and graphic design are my strengths. They’re also my hobbies. (Click the “Writing” tab at top for samples, or check out my Flickr photostream at right.)

Southwest Star of the Month: Mark Schmidt

After a busy week as the station manager at Indianapolis International Airport, Mark Schmidt can’t wait to get behind the wheel. Unlike your run-of-the-mill family sedan or sports utility vehicle, however, Mark’s ride produces more than 900 horsepower, hits speeds approaching 180 miles per hour, and can cover a quarter mile in less time than it takes most people to get buckled in and adjust their mirrors.

Fear not, Indiana State Police — the car in question is “Nadine,” a National Hot Rod Association “Super Comp” dragster and, outside of his affection for his wife of 25 years and his job of nearly 20, it is his true love. It is his dedication to those three passions, in fact — family, work, and auto racing — that has defined his life for more than three decades.

“The things that make you successful in racing — hard work, a sense of urgency, and commitment — make you successful at Southwest Airlines,” Mark says.  “The parallels between the two are amazing. As a result, I’ve used a lot of what I’ve learned at work in my racing, and vice versa.” The two worlds are so intertwined, he says, that oftentimes he finds himself shifting between his roles as a leader of 54 Employees, as a driver of an award-winning dragster and, earlier this year, as a member of Indy car driver Buddy Lazier’s Indianapolis 500 pit crew.

Take Southwest’s famed 20-minute aircraft turns, for example. To empty an arriving plane of passengers and cargo, and then load it again with people, luggage, supplies, and fuel in less than 20 minutes takes tremendous teamwork and skill. “I tell my coworkers all the time: a 20-minute turn is just like a pit stop,” Mark says. “An Indy car can’t roll out of the pits with only three wheels, and one of our planes can’t roll away from the gate until it’s fully serviced and ready to provide a safe and comfortable environment for our Customers. Everyone has to do their jobs to make it work.”

Mark’s career at Southwest began when he was hired as a ramp agent at El Paso International Airport in 1977. After leaving to attend college and briefly considering a career in real estate, he realized the combination of family, culture, and opportunity at Southwest was too powerful to resist. “Once I left, I knew that I really wanted to come back,” he says. “I knew that I had left something special.”

Since returning, he has worked his way through the ranks as an operations agent, supervisor, and manager before getting the call in 1991 to lead the station in his hometown of Indianapolis. He hasn’t looked back since. “It has been a dream come true to come back home and contribute to the success of our awesome employees and our station here,” Mark says. “And, hopefully, to lay the groundwork for even better things to come.”

Southwest Star of the Month: Steve Heaser

Southwest Employee Steve Heaser is a career counselor’s nightmare.

He has been a disc jockey, helped compile one of the “Top 100” lists for Billboard magazine, and muses that, given his choice, his ideal job likely would involve designing roller coasters. His interests run from music and art to gourmet cooking, holistic therapies, and travelling with his wife, Jennifer, and their five-year-old daughter, Hannah.

Throughout his nine-year tenure at Southwest Airlines, in fact, he has managed to give new meaning to the airline’s unique philosophy of “hire for attitude, train for skills.”

It is a career that began, normally enough, with a classified ad.

After spending most of college and the ensuing years in what he calls “a young man’s game” — the music industry — the crazy hours began to take their toll. He considered graduate school. And then one day, he picked up the newspaper.

Southwest was looking for people to work at its Dallas Reservations Center. Although Steve had no experience in the aviation field, he did have an interest in computers, and he saw the opening as a chance to get his foot in the door at a company known for rewarding individuality.

“I remember thinking, ‘Southwest is a big Company. Surely they have lots of computers,’” Steve says, jokingly. What he didn’t realize was, Southwest also had lots of applicants. “There were hundreds of people in the room with me. I knew I had to do something a little different to stand out.” Recalling an ad that featured Southwest CEO Herb Kelleher dressed as Elvis, Steve went home, gathered some photos he had taken on a trip to Graceland, scanned them into his computer, and designed an “application” spoofing the connection between Herb and The King.

The job was his. After working as a Reservations Agent for a few years, he moved to the Employee Communications Department at the airline’s headquarters in Dallas as its first graphic designer, where he has helped nurture the quality and visual impact of Southwest’s internal publications for more than six years. He now serves as the department’s team leader for a group of graphic design and Intranet specialists.

As the webmaster for FreedomNet—the internal computer network used by Southwest’s 30,000-plus Employees to access a wealth of Company news, benefits, departmental information, job opportunities, and more—Steve has managed to harness his curiosity and talent yet again to develop a compelling, cutting-edge tool.

All this from a guy who once had a guidance counselor tell him he would never be happy working at a large Company. “Well, I’ve never been happier,” Steve says. Hanging above his desk is a personalized reminder of the value of following your intuition. Written by hand on a framed poster, it says, “Steve, thank you for being an authentic and aesthetic genius!” Signed, “Herb.”

Southwest’s LUV Theme

Southwest's SPIRIT inflight magazine

Southwest Airlines, you might say, isn’t just a Company founded “at” Love (Dallas’ Love Field Airport, where the airline first took off in 1971), it also is a Company founded “with” love. Nearly everywhere you look at Southwest, this becomes evident. From its “LUV” ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange to the heart in the center of the official corporate logo, in fact, the love theme has been present in Southwest’s advertising and marketing programs, its hiring efforts, its charitable choices, and even its aircraft paint schemes for more than 30 years.

To understand how this all started, perhaps a little history is in order. After announcing their plans to begin an intrastate Texas airline in the late 1960s, Southwest’s founders immediately were drawn into a series of legal battles. Undaunted, the upstart airline charged ahead. But the going wasn’t easy. Court proceedings take time and money – two scarce commodities for any fledgling company, let alone an airline that didn’t yet own a plane, and hadn’t carried a single customer.

As a result of these legal struggles, however – most of which Southwest eventually won – something interesting occurred. A unique culture was formed. A business idea became a shared quest, bonding together a band of less than 200 Employees. To establish an identity and set their airline apart from the crowd, these early Southwest Employees sought to develop a unique personality for their Company. In other words, if this airline were a person, what type would she be? The answers came easily: Independent. Free spirited. Irreverent. Sexy. Fun. A heart was incorporated into the airline’s first logo, and Flight Attendants took to the skies in hot pants and go-go boots. The “Love Airline” was born.

The advertising budget in Southwest’s first year of operations was $700,000 – half of which was spent in the first month. Two-page color ads sprang up in daily newspapers, often using the word “love” as many as 15 or 20 times. Early press releases referred to Southwest’s small fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft as “Love Jets.” Customers could walk into the airport and purchase their Southwest tickets from “Love Machines,” while inflight snacks were called “Love Bites.” “Love Stamps,” which could be redeemed for “Love Potions” (or drinks, for the uninitiated), were distributed to all Customers. LUV definitely was in the air.

Although times have changed over the past three decades, and the word “love” largely has disappeared from Southwest ads and marketing efforts, the emotion’s concept has become intertwined in the very fabric of the Company. Each year, Southwest holds the “LUV Classic” golf tournament to benefit the airline’s primary charity, The Ronald McDonald House – known as “The House that Love Built.” During the Gulf War, Southwest sponsored a program (on Valentine’s Day, fittingly) that gave thousands of Customers and Employees the opportunity to send messages of love and support to our troops overseas. The program’s name? LUVGRAMS.

In the corporate world, this outward expression of a rather private emotion is not a common thing. But then, Southwest has never been a common company. “We are not afraid to talk to our people with emotion,” Southwest Chairman Herb Kelleher told a gathering of Employees last year. “We are not afraid to tell them ‘I love you.’ Because we do.”

Fort Worth/Tarrant County A&M Club News

In 2008, I served as the Vice President – Public Relations for the Fort Worth/Tarrant County Texas A&M Club, which is one of the oldest and largest A&M alumni groups in the world. A big part of my duties consisted of writing and designing the club’s newsletter, which was distributed to members six times a year. It was a great opportunity to keep my design skills sharp and try a few new things in the process.

Delta County museum holds heritage of area

COOPER, Texas – Sitting by itself a few blocks from the downtown square, the old Texas Midland Railroad depot has been a Delta County landmark since its construction in 1913.

Passenger and freight trains once roared past the stately building several times daily, but the last iron horse thundered by more than 50 years ago. Today, the street is quiet. People drive by the station in their automobiles, barely pausing to take notice. Even the long, shiny railroad tracks that once trembled with excitement as a distant train neared town are long gone.

Likewise forgotten is the 4P Brand cannery that filled the building’s alcoves soon after the depot closed in the years before World War II. Workers turned out canned chicken that gave soldiers overseas a taste of home. But that enterprise, like many others dependent on the war effort, wound down with peace.

“After the war was over, the owner, Mr. (Harry) Patterson, didn’t know what to do with the building,” said O.T. Preas, a lifelong Cooper resident and a director of the museum. Mr. Preas, an octogenarian, still recalls roller skating near the depot some 70-odd years ago on the only navigable stretch of cement in town. He said it was after the cannery closed that the idea of using the building for a library or a museum arose. For a time, he said, the old depot was used for both. Eventually the library moved into new quarters, leaving the fledgling museum room to grow and expand.

This year, the Delta County Patterson Memorial Museum turned 25. To hear Mr. Preas tell it, its collection is still something of a library – a library of the lives of the men, women and children connected with the small county nestled between two forks of the Sulphur River.

“Our goal is to eventually get something from every family in this county,” Mr. Preas said. Because of Cooper’s small size, he says, the museum must rely on donations of time and artifacts from local people. As a result, its doors open only on Saturdays from April to October from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for specially-arranged weekday tours.

“We get quite a few people that come through here, though,” Mr. Preas said. “Mostly, they’re people from around here who come in to look for their family’s name, or maybe some of their old things. It brings back a lot of memories. We get little kids who look for pictures of their grandpa, and want to see how things used to be.”

Each room of the deceptively large collection, in fact, takes visitors back to a different time. “A lot of stuff is even before my time,” Mr. Preas said, “and I’ve been here 80 years.” In the main room of the museum, near the front entrance, are the personal effects of hundreds of Delta County citizens. Old, fading black-and-white pictures take up the entire front wall, while display cases filled with ancient quilts, dolls, knitting needles, cuff links and antique razors stretch across another.

The floor is covered with a patchwork maze of donated rugs and carpets from local houses, and furniture from the 1800s and early 1900s fills the room’s center. In a nearby room, the remains from an old doctor’s office remind passersby of the luxuries of modern-day medicine. Filling the hallways are musty trunks decorated with stickers from Wesley College and East Texas State Teacher’s College – the forerunner to East Texas State University.

Old telephones hang on the wall overhead, with labels and descriptive tags protruding from even the smallest historical items. “East Texas State actually got its start here in Cooper,” Mr. Preas said, pointing to a small black-and-white picture hung high on one wall of the main room. “That was the first building of the school. It stood down on First Street, about three or four blocks from here. Well, it burned down, and Commerce said that they would help build it, Cooper didn’t have the money for it.”

In another room stands the remains of a switchboard from a rural phone office. As Mr. Preas moves slowly through the building, he pauses every now and then to point out a wooden ice chest – the predecessor to the modern refrigerator, a potbellied stove, or maybe a large, wooden whiskey keg that served time at the last legal distillery in the county untold years ago.

“We haven’t ever bought a thing here,” he said. “We’re kind of proud of this place, though.” Near the rear of the museum, Mr. Preas flipped the lights to the exhibit’s largest room – the garage. Housed in the dusty room are three different vehicles that once plied the roads of Cooper. Taking up the most space is a 1928 American LaFrance fire engine, bought brand-new by the Cooper Volunteer Fire Department and used faithfully until its retirement in 1946.

A 1948 Plymouth fills one corner, with a horse-drawn buggy sitting just a few feet away. “We used to have an old hearse in here, too, but someone took it for a while,” Mr. Preas said. In another room, the front desk from a post office is filled with old postcards and letters, some with postmarks that date as far back as 1890. In other corners, there are tools and leather horse tack, rusting lanterns, license plates and Confederate money shrouded in protective plastic.

The printing press from the Cooper Review takes up the majority of another room, while chipped and rounded bricks from the now-paved Cooper square sit idly on a shelf. “We’re always looking for more stuff to put in here,” Mr. Preas said. jingling the keys to the front door. “We’ll take just about anything.

“Just give us a ring anytime – we’ll come on down and open the doors for you.”

Distributed by The Associated Press
Copyright 1993 The Dallas Morning News Company