The latest installment of the How I Work Blog Series is here! Our special guest for the month of March is none other than the witty, clever and always helpful Dennis Pearce from Lexmark! Dennis is not only an integral part of our community in JiveWorks but an advocate for community managers everywhere. One of the many things I look forward to in JiveWorks is reading Dennis's posts because they are either helpful and insightful or completely off topic but funny. Ever want to know what makes Dennis tick? Everything you ever wanted to know and more is in this blog, including a panoramic shot of his library desk and the fact that he is from Mars. Really.
Where do you work?
I work for Lexmark International, Inc. (a printer company) at our headquarters in Lexington, KY, home of bourbon, basketball, and beautiful horse farms!
I actually have more years with Lexmark than the company has been in existence, because it was originally IBM’s printer division when I joined in 1983 and my service time carried over when it was spun off as an independent company in 1991.
How would you describe your current job?
Since 2012, I have been the community manager for our internal Jive instance, supporting about 12,000 employees worldwide. Since 2008, my job has also included developing strategies for collaboration and content management within the company. Jive is my primary focus right now, but I sometimes get involved with other tools, especially if they intersect with Jive in some way.
How do you use Jive at work and what use cases does it serve for your company?
We use Jive for our internal community, open to all employees and any contractors who have a Lexmark email address. Use cases include:
- As a social intranet for functional areas (HR, IT, Facilities, etc.)
- As a collaboration tool for teams and communities of practice
- Support sites for internal tools and processes
- Strategic communications platform for executives
- A place for social activities (employee sports and hobbies, diversity groups, etc.)
What about your community/communities are you most proud of?
I can think of some great examples of how our executives used it strategically to manage change, and also specific groups such as the very active one for Field Service Engineers scattered across the globe who share problems and tips with each other. But overall, I think about the fact that we named it “Innovate,” which sounds a little strange at first when you hear that word being used as a noun. But after 5 years, it’s very common to hear anyone from the lowest levels up to the CEO saying “that’s on Innovate,” and leaving it at that as if everyone should automatically know what that means. This is an indication to me that our Jive instance has burrowed so deep into our culture that it is taken for granted.
What's your computer situation... Do you use a Mac or PC (or something else)?
I had an Apple many years ago (see my comments in Community Manager Appreciation Day: plus JiveWorld17 Special Offer ) but then I went to work for IBM. I’ve had PCs ever since just to maintain compatibility between work and home.
Tell us what you use for your mobile device?
Pick one word that best describes how you work.
Well, I'll pick two words: “thoughtful procrastination.” I tend to let things go to the last minute, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about them (consciously or unconsciously) up until then. The ideas I have under time pressure are often some of my best.
Besides Jive, what apps/software/tools can't you live without?
I can’t really think of any. When I was a kid, I had microscopes, telescopes, model rockets, chemistry sets, electronics kits. I’ve been surrounded by technology my whole life. Yet I think back to how nice it was in those days to just have a single phone in the house attached to the wall with no answering machine. If someone called and you didn’t answer they didn’t freak out, they just tried again later. And if someone called and you couldn’t get to the phone in time, you didn’t freak out either – you just assumed that if it was important they’d call back. I guess books were considered high-tech once upon a time. Give me one of those and a comfy chair and I’ll be happy.
Do you have a favorite non-computer gadget?
We have a Slingbox and a Chromecast, as well as a smart TV. It’s interesting how technology is headed toward allowing us to watch whatever we want, wherever we want, on whatever device we want. I also have a Livescribe pen, which really has changed the way I take notes. It’s especially great at conferences like JiveWorld.
What you surround yourself with is important, what's your work space like?
Full of books. I have about 150 at work (mostly on KM, collaboration, social business, etc.) and another 500 or so at home on a variety of other topics. Lexmark is full of big cube farms. Here's a panoramic shot of my desk:
I work most days in my cube but occasionally work from home, where I get to sit in my sun room or back patio and look out onto a couple of lakes:
I keep a few things around my desk to remind me of ideas to keep in mind while I work:
The Pets.com puppet reminds me that no matter how successful you think you might be, it can all come crashing down quickly. The phrenology map sculpture reminds me that just because something has a scientific veneer doesn't mean it's real science. And the replica Rosetta Stone reminds me that seemingly intractable problems can be solved with a little luck by coming at them from different angles.
What do you listen to while you work?
I’m a prog rock fan from way back, going to see groups like Yes, ELP, Genesis, and King Crimson when I was in high school and college, probably because I played a lot of classical music in band and orchestra (I played trombone in high school and college, then learned steel drums and played in a steel drum band for a few years after school). I still gravitate toward long, undanceable songs with complex arrangements and weird time signatures. Some of my current favorites are bands like Riverside, Unitopia, and Porcupine Tree.
What's your best time-saving trick?
Don't look at the clock.
How do you balance work and life?
By not treating them separately. Work IS life, just like every other part of it. I do a lot of volunteer work with groups trying to improve education in Kentucky. So whether it’s working for Lexmark, volunteering, reading at home, raising kids (now no longer an activity), training my dog, whatever – I try not to have too many artificial boundaries that might keep me from applying something I learned in one part of my life to another part of it.
I have some quirky interests, I think because I grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania called Mars. Having to deal with the laughter and embarrassment every time someone asks where you're from shapes your personality in strange ways. For example, here's a bumper sticker you can buy from the town souvenir shop (and yeah, we have a flying saucer in the middle of town):
The fact that the designer felt the need to add the words "THAT IS!" in all caps, exclamation point and quotation marks just shows how deranged living there can make you.
For fun I collect things, not one big collection but several small ones. I mentioned somewhere else on JiveWorks that I collect books from the 19th and early 20th centuries that have either out-of-date science or theories that were crackpot from the beginning. I also have little collections of weird book topics like books on numbers:
Because I spent the first 10 years of my adult life as a plastics engineer, I also like to collect plastic toys that make you think "why did someone think making this was a good idea"? I try to imagine having a job designing and manufacturing things like those below. And of course I also have my collection of fine beverage containers.
And for pure mindless entertainment, when I finished my PhD dissertation at the end of 2014 which exhausted my brain, I decided that since I had never seen Doctor Who I would watch it all in order from the very beginning (1963). Over two years and a hundred Netflix DVDs later, I'm almost caught up -- now on the last season!
What's your sleep routine like?
Earlier and earlier as I get older. Go to bed around 11:00, get up between 6:00 and 7:00, walk the dog and maybe exercise.
Are you more of an introvert, ambivert or extrovert?
An introvert in the sense that Susan Cain describes. I’m not shy – I don’t have a problem speaking in front of people and I don’t mind socializing. But given the choice, I would rather find a nice quiet place and read.
What's the best advice you've ever received (and from whom)?
Three pieces of advice that tie together. One is a famous quote from Samuel Johnson: “Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.” There is so much information today and so much of it is constantly being updated. I think it has become at least as important if not more so to have the kind of knowledge that can tell you where good sources of information are vs. trying to remember that information yourself.
Another is a quote from physicist John Archibald Wheeler: “We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” The more we learn, the more we realize how much we don’t know. But that’s actually a good and useful thing, because the more topics we know we are ignorant of, the more places we have to go explore when we’re trying to solve a problem.
Finally, the solution to Wheeler’s dilemma for me was some advice I got from the professor of my first chemical engineering class when I was a college sophomore: “Take an introductory class in everything so that you learn the jargon. Then you can get the rest from the library.” Really great innovations happen in the intersection between disciplines. If you know just enough about everything such that you can learn more about any given topic if you need to, you become aware of the size of your ignorance and keep building that mental library of the knowledge of where to find things.
Thank you Dennis for taking the time to share your life with us in the JiveWorks community! You are always full of surprises and I truly admire your passion and commitment to everything you care about. Not to mention you have a hunger for knowledge and willingness to share that knowledge which is AWESOME. Rock on!