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Inevitably I’m asked at a party, “so what do you do?” And my answer of “community manager” never fails to confuse people. Sometimes they respond, “you mean, you run a senior citizen community?” or “you're like a property manager or something, right?”

 

People never seem to get what I do.


Calling all unicorns

 

Part project manager, sometimes party planner, temporary hand-holder and erstwhile cheerleader, community managers have a wide mix of skills and areas of knowledge where they must have expertise. See How to write a Community Manager job description for the dizzying array of talents required. It’s nearly impossible to find this list of skills in one person, so hiring for a community can be very difficult. On top of that, experienced CMs are few and far between. I would argue that community managers are the unicorn of the 21st century. So to all of the other unicorns out there I say: "UNITE!"

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    Join me on the community management rainbow!

 

I can say without a doubt that each of us is a rarity in our own company. Very few companies have more than one or two community managers on the entire staff. There's typically no job classification for us and we are often entered as Marketing Specialists or Communications Experts or even IT Managers. But we know the truth because we live and breathe community. Call us what you will... we are COMMUNITY MANAGERS.

 

It might be slightly dramatic to say that it can be a lonely life (I do love a little drama). At the very least, we must look to each other here in the Jive Community to get our tough questions answered and celebrate our wins because there is most likely no one else at your company that knows the trials and tribulations of 'community' better than you do.

 

Celebrating you and your communities

 

In the spirit of Community Manager Appreciation Day, we are celebrating you and your communities! Adam Mertz asked you to share your communities with us and you've responded with rich examples!

 

An amazing example of community came earlier this week from DIRECTV. Their human resources organization created a video you can see here which is authentic and entertaining while perfectly illustrating the power of community.

  CORE, DIRECTVs Jive instance, brought together their community in ways never before possible!

 

Other fantastic examples of communities were submitted via screen capture.

I'll highlight a few here but won't share them all because I don't want to steal Adam's thunder when he recognizes all of you with your Starbucks rewards!

 

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   The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas | The Clive community

 

 

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   LANDesk | External Community


 

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    RingTo | RingTo support community

 

 

And thank you to everyone who submitted screen captures... we love and appreciate you all!

 

Have you hugged your community manager today?

 

At the end of the day, managing a community is an exciting yet exhausting undertaking: meeting new people, constantly putting out fires, running around from group to group, fixing problems on the fly, handing out virtual hugs when needed. Community managers are required to be everywhere at once yet are often behind the scenes moving mountains that look like molehills. I know that when I look into the tired eyes of another community manager, I just KNOW what the other person is thinking.

 

We do this because we love it.

 

So to all my brothers and sisters in community, Happy "Unicorn" Day!

    I would've bought you this fabulous greeting card for CMAD day but they were all out of stock.

You might remember Mike Muscato from JiveWorld14. He's a Sr. Developer for Knowledge Management Systems & Social Media Support at T-Mobile and had his photo featured on Vote on the best attendee photo of JiveWorld14!  Since the How I Work interviews were a little scarce on developers, I figured we'd give Mike the spotlight! There's some developer specific questions in the mix below (look for the *).

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   Mike at his desk... where the magic happens!

 

Libby: Where do you work?

Mike Muscato:  I work for the Uncarrier, T-Mobile USA, a national provider of wireless voice, messaging, and data services and CNN’s top tech company of 2014 (US).  I live in the high-desert near Albuquerque, NM but work for our headquarters in Bellevue, WA.  We have an office in Albuquerque where I spend about 60-70% of my time, the rest of the time I work from my home in the mountains about 30 miles outside of ABQ.

 

LT: How would you describe your current job?

Mike:  By title I’m a Senior Web Developer, but in reality I’m a jack-of-all-trades of sorts.  I started working for T-Mobile when the company was still young as a first-tier customer service agent.  As I grew with the company, I got to participate in many facets of the enterprise including customer service, training, IT, business strategy, and analysis.  Our team manages our Jive communities including large customization efforts, and we also run an independent development shop where we create custom applications, APIs, and middleware to make magic happen.  Right now, in addition to all the standard project management, code geekery, and system administration, I’m working on a project to implement some more formal software development practices and standards within our team.

 

LT: Are you familiar with the Jive WorkTypes? If so, what was your WorkType?

Mike:  I am an Energizer.  The description fits me well; when projects get tough or people get discouraged I tend to take on a project manager-like role and help break things down and establish realistic timelines to make sure the work gets done.  The statement, "You are the go-to-person for getting things  D-O-N-E,” is 100% on point!  I’m a very analytical person, and can almost always come up with solutions even when others have said it’s “impossible."

 

LT: How do you think your WorkType plays into how you get work done in Jive?

Mike:   Over and over again, I’ve used Jive as my project management headquarters!  Depending on the nature of the project, I’ll use Jive groups to brainstorm and capture requirements, publish wireframes or spec documents, gain approvals, and even map timelines and milestones.  Having all the content in one intuitive location has always been beneficial for me and my project stakeholders.

 

LT: Did your team have a chance to take the WorkType Finder quiz? Have you all talked about your results?

Mike:   We did, right before JiveWorld14.  We all agreed that the WorkTypes matched our styles closely and were similar to other “personality” type assessments such as DiSC profiles.

 

LT: What was your favorite part of attending JiveWorld this year?

Mike:  The developer’s keynote was the best for me, it seems like every year’s keynote has one or two little things that turn out to be profound ah-ha moments.  The Git presentation along with some of the other developer sessions really reinforced the desire and need for me and my team to clean up our web development processes.

 

LT: So how do you use Jive at work (internal community, external community, etc.)?

Mike:  We have several Jive communities that we use for pretty much the full spectrum of functions.  We have an internal community primarily used as a knowledge base and discussion forum for our customer service teams, but business groups also use the internal community for collaboration, projects, and other ad-hoc communication needs.  We also have a customer facing support community (support.t-mobile.com) where customers can find information and documentation, or have peer-to-peer discussions.  In addition to these two communities, we also have several other read-only communities that support our sales, retail, and partner brands (e.g. support.gosmartmobile.com).  Whether we’re using Jive as full blown collaborative communication platforms, or as read-only knowledge bases, we’ve always found tons of value in Jive’s ability to customize, tweak, and hack them to fit our mold.  I like Jive because it doesn’t make me rage within 10 seconds like some other systems I use.

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   Welcome to T-Mobile Support, one of the sites Mike mentions above.

 

LT: What's your computer situation... Do you use a Mac or PC (or something else)?

Mike:  I’m an iHole, through and through.  I use a Mac Book Pro with an external monitor, and with the new features in OSX Yosemite my iPad Air 2 and iPhone have become third and fourth monitors in a way.  I also have a PC that I typically use via remote desktop, but only for legacy company tools that require IE, or for testing IE compatibility of my code.

 

LT: Tell us what you use for your mobile device?

Mike:  Which one?  Hahah!  For an all-around, do anything anywhere, rock solid dependable device I’ll have to say my iPhone 6.  Once upon a time, I was a total Android geek – custom ROMs, hackery, etc…  But the stability of the iPhone and its integration ability with the mac won me over.  It may not do everything that 'those other phones' do; but what it does, it does really REALLY well.  I think consistency is the key here.

 

LT: What’s your favorite programming language?*

Mike:  That’s a hard one to answer.  I have to give credit to good ole’ BASIC on the Commodore-64; without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  In the early 2K years, I was hardcore with ASP/VBscript and it’s still probably my most fluent language.  Hopping forward to the modern languages, I’m partial to C-based languages, though, as they all follow similar conventions.  For customizing Jive, Javascript/jQuery rocks!  JS has become such a powerful language in the last few years, and now with JSON APIs, we can do almost anything with the right client/server relationship.  For the server side stuff, I’m loving PHP right now because it handles things like JSON so cleanly and you don’t have to think hard about the syntax when switching between JS and PHP.

 

LT: Do you have a favorite editing tool?*

Mike:  Komodo Edit.  It handles syntax highlighting and predictive text pretty well, and I like the easily customizable color themes.

 

LT: Who’s your developer hero?*

Mike:  A good old friend of mine from high school and college, Jared.  When I was struggling in my C++ class, he took the time to break down the more complicated topics into layman’s terms for me, and even gave me code samples that I was able to adapt to finish my projects successfully.

 

LT: Pick one word that best describes how you work.

Mike:  “Details"

 

LT: Besides Jive, what apps/software/tools can't you live without?

Mike:  Coffee, that’s a tool, right? It seems to ‘light up’ the parts of my brain that solve puzzles.  After that, a good SQL database manager; without it we couldn’t make the custom magic happen.  Lastly, Photoshop for everything from mockups, to custom artwork, to t-shirt designs.

 

LT: Do you have a favorite non-computer gadget?

Mike:  My rock climbing cams.  Small machines that keep me safe hundreds (or thousands) of feet off the deck.

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  Developing a community can feel like climbing a mountain with your bare hands. Except the real thing is clearly much more dangerous!

 

LT: How do you stay organized? What's your favorite to-do list manager?

Mike:  For a long time, it was good old paper and pencil – I used a personal adaptation of the Franklin-Covey method to track notes and deliverables.  This year, though, I’ve been experimenting with Apple’s Reminders app.  Having all my to-do lists and their respective notes synced and available on all my devices has proven to be really handy.

 

LT: What you surround yourself with is important, what's your work space like?

Mike:  I spend about 60-70% of my time in the office where I have a large cubicle against a wall of windows (see the picture at the top of the interview), the walls of my desk are decorated with photos of family, drawings from my son, awards and recognition, and nostalgia from the ‘old days’ of cellular phones.  I’m a wee bit cluttered, but overall my desk top is in good order, with a stack of graph paper always at hand for any sketching needs.  At home, I have a dedicated room that my wife and I use for our office.  She works from home full time, so I guess you can say I have a great view any time I’m working from home. When I get tired of looking at her, though, here’s the view from our office window…Yes, it snows in New Mexico!

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   Nice view, right?!

 

LT: What do you listen to while you work?

Mike:  I’m not much of a music-while-working person.  I’m a bit ADD’ish so music tends to derail my thoughts.  I actually appreciate silence quite a bit and will sometimes put in my headphones just to use as ear plugs to block out the droning chatter of the call center reps.  When I do listen to music, though, I like something fast and energetic – heavy metal and hip-hop are my go-to genres, but I like and can appreciate almost any kind of well composed tunes.

 

LT: What's your best time-saving trick?

Mike:  This one’s a bit of a paradox…but I really like to comment the heck out of my code.  Even though it takes longer initially, when I have to go back months or years later to maintain something it saves me tons of time from having to reverse engineer what I had written previously.  “Future proofing!"

 

LT: How do you balance work and life?

Mike:  Life and family comes first, period!  My wife, son, and I all have a bunch of extra-curricular activities so I have to put “hard stops” on my work days.  I like to live in the moment and I work in order to have amazing adventures in life – I don’t live-to-work.  T-Mobile has a good culture of work/life balance and respects the boundaries we establish.  Most of the time, the work isn’t *that* critical.

 

LT: What's your sleep routine like?

Mike:  Not the best.  I get up around 5 am to get ready for work and get my son ready for school.  After work, we usually have some sort of athletic thing or school projects to work on, then dinner, etc… and by the time I’m winding down for the night, it’s 11 pm or later.  Weekends are no exception, but substitute climbing, hiking, or other outdoor things for “work."  Six hours or less of sleep is typical, 7 days a week.

 

LT: Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

Mike:  I like to call myself a closet introvert.  At work I’ve trained myself to do what needs to be done and with all the connections I’ve made over the years my work life is really just a huge extension of my introvert ‘bubble.’  I would guess that most of my coworkers would not immediately judge me to be an introvert.  On the other hand, put me in a social situation with strangers and I shut right down, becoming the ‘quiet observer.’

 

LT: What's the best advice you've ever received (and from whom)?

Mike:  “Live in the NOW!”  My dad always taught me that what’s happening right now is what’s most important.  Try not to dwell on the past, as those are just memories and there’s nothing we can do to change them.  Don’t stress about the future, because you can only plan so much before it becomes anxiety.

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   Here's a picture of Mike living-in-the-now with his family. Looks like an adventure!


My great thanks to Mike for coming up with such great answers to these questions. I hope you enjoyed the interview!

Why use Jive for project management?

Jive combines web-based documentation accessible from anywhere with powerful collaborative discussions. It provides a fantastic search tool that makes finding content and conversations incredibly simple.  User profiles contain rich information about skills, experiences, and involvement.  All of these powerful tools make Jive a project manager's best friend.  Your team can create, share, collaborate, and take action on the project in a single, unified project hub.Blog Pic 1.png

 

At my last company, project collateral was posted in network folders, SharePoint sites, bounced back and forth in OneNote, or kept on people's hard drives, and things were emailed so wildly and blindly that you never really knew how current or accurate any of your documentation was.

 

On Jive, there is no question about what is the true version because there is only one place to look for the source of truth, and you can easily lookup the version history for any document.  Being able to keep all project collateral in a single place where it can quickly and easily be created, modified and referenced, is a huge advantage.  Having all of your project discussions and collateral open and accessible to the team, e-mail lists and 'reply alls' vanish because your team is connected to what's important.

 

Jive content is lightweight, easy to author and modify with advanced styling as needed, and is easier to digest than 8.5" x 11" formatted Word documents or verbose e-mail 'reply-all' threads.  The content itself becomes collaborative, with the power to comment, reply, like, and mark with a structured outcome, and share.  With the introduction of Responsive Mobile Web in the Jive Fall 2014 Cloud Release, the same rich documentation and discussion content you view on desktop can be seen on our most personal computers: our smartphones.

 

With all of these factors in play, Jive doesn't just connect people to content from anywhere; it connects them to each other.  The alignment and clarity teams get by using Jive enables them to work better together.

 

Setting up your project

Checkout this description of Jive Projects from Jive Places Overview:

Projects can have unique page layouts just as Groups and Spaces can, but the similarities stop there. Projects are required to be nested within a Space or a Group, cannot have unique permissions associated with them, and have no management console. They inherit all permissions and visibility from whatever Space or Group they are attached to. These are best used for short, time-based projects, or helping increase focus of certain discussions; e.g. Marketing Ops has a specific Campaign with multiple types of documents and discussions and calendars. This allows a neater level of drill-down than keeping content and discussions at the space level.

Where should I create my project?

The simplest thing to do is to create a Jive Group as the parent Place for your Project.  The Group should have a descriptive name that clearly identifies what the Project(s) within that Group are all about.  The Group has it's own landing page and content separate from the content that will live in the child Project.  I typically layout these Groups as a simple landing page for the various Projects that fall into that program, and I encourage people not to post Project-related content in the parent Group.  The parent Group could serve an over-arching purpose, such as the master container for an entire program of projects, or for a particular team that work together executing projects; It's up to you to determine an information hierarchy that makes the most sense.  Just remember that your project doesn't have it's owner permissions -- it inherits the permissioning of the parent Place.

 

The more accessible a Project is, the easier it is for me to solicit help cross-functionally, as well as keep my colleagues informed about the day-to-day happenings of the project and share the deliverables and lessons learned with others.  That's why I generally advise to start with an open project, on only make the Project private or secret when it's necessary to do so.

 

If you're using a Space as the parent container for your Project, choose one that is accessible to all of the users that will need access to the project discussions and content (you may need to work with your Community Manager to determine where the best place to put your Project will be if you are in need of tight, system admin-controlled permissioning).  If the Space you're using has already been provisioned and the layouts for that Space are already serving another specific purpose, consult with your Community Manager or the owner of that Space to determine how best your project could be displayed on that Space landing page.

 

Activity vs. Overview page

Beginning with the advent of Purposeful Places, Jive offers Place owners the choice of using lighter-weight Activity-driven landing pages for their Place pages, or using more elaborate widgetized Overview pages.

 

Two factors weigh in on whether I use and Activity page or an Overview page: 1) Team size, and 2) Content complexity.

 

I prefer to err on the side of Activity pages, since they're lighter and available on Responsive Mobile Web, and I only use an Overview page when I know that my project needs a more curated presentation.  If I'm working with a team of a dozen or less, and I only need to provide some links to a few important docs, events, featured content, or trackers, then I use and Activity page.  If I'm working with a larger team, or if I need to present lots of information on the landing page, Overview is more suited to the task.

 

Content Types

Along with permissions, Projects also inherit the content types that are configured on the parent Place.  Determining what kind of content types to have available in your Project is all about deciding what 'Work am I going to do within Jive?'  Here's how I use the following content types within my projects:

 

Documents

Jive Docs are the repositories for some of my most important project collateral.  These could be anything you would use a Doc for, from meeting notes to configuration guides or technical walkthroughs to project charters or resource trackers and everything else in between.  They're collaborative, meaning by default anybody within the Project can author and update Docs, comment on Docs, and take Action or apply Structured Outcomes to Docs.

 

Discussions

Discussions become the replacement for e-mail lists in team communication.  They're used to discuss open issues, provide updates to the team, and solicit help from others.

 

By marking a Discussion as a Question, then the conversation transforms and it's purpose becomes finding a resolution.  People who participate in the discussion can indicate when other people's replies are helpful towards achieving and answer, and once that answer has been posted to the discussion, either the Project owner or the person who started the discussion can mark their answer as Correct.  Once marked, the Correct Answer is displayed immediately following the original Question.  This means that somebody else navigating to this thread to learn about the issue doesn't have to dig through a miles-long reply-all jumble of e-mail land alphabet soup to try to piece together the context of what happened and what the answer is-- They can just look at the answer, right there in front of them.

 

Blogs

Whether or not your Project has a Blog depends on two things: 1) Are Blogs enabled on the parent Place, and 2) Are Blogs enabled in the Project settings?  Once both of those are true, you get a Blog container that displays all of your Project Blog posts at company.community.com/myprojecturl/blog.

 

I use Blog posts for regular status reports.  Why use a Blog Post for a status report?  Couldn't I just use a Doc?  Well, yes, I could.  But there is something much more organic about a 'Blog.'  Docs store information, but Blogs tell stories.  While a status report requires important information be passed along to the customer, it's also a chance to remind everybody that there are human beings on the other end of the phone, telling the story of their work.

 

There are functional advantages to using a Blog, too.  In Jive, it's possible to follow just a Place's Blog without following the entire Place.  This is extremely useful for stakeholders and executives who want to receive regular updates about projects, but don't necessarily need updates on every piece of project collateral.  They can follow just the status report Blog in order to focus only on what matters to them: the story of the project unfolding.

 

Events

Lots of teams use personal calendars for finding the time to collaborate.  Adding Events in Jive shouldn't be thought of as a replacement for personal calendars, but a way to augment the personal calendar with key events that take on a visible identity within the context of a project.  For example, when running software projects, I don't create an Event for every single meeting the team has, but I do create Events for key activities like a major due date or a production deployment.  Creating the Event in Jive allows people to add it to their personal calendars, as well as participate in the collaborative discussion within the Project, where it is visible to everybody and on the forefront of everybody's minds, which can maintain alignment amongst team members.

 

Categories

Categories are useful in projects that may contain a lot of content.  If you have discussions, open issues, technical documentation, meeting notes, slide decks, contracts, and many other sorts of content in the same Project, then it can be especially helpful for those trying to look up that content later to have an extra tool to look for that content.  Categories, however, require a great deal of discipline.  You cannot just create categories willy-nilly and expect everybody to always use them, or always categorize things correctly.  Categories require ongoing curation by the Project Manager to ensure all of the content in a Project is organized properly.

 

Thanks for checking out this post!  I'll be following up with a post that dives into using Activity and Overview pages to lay out your project.


Read the next post in this series: Jive for Project Managers II: Setting up the Project landing page

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