Career Update: Working with Walker & Company – Bevel

On 17 December 2015 I announced a big career change. After 15 years at the University of Iowa, I planned to return to consulting as of 1 January 2016 and begin working with a mystery company that I planned to reveal in January. Due to some delays in HR processing, I wasn’t ready to make the announcement until now.

So, this is the story I’d hoped to write two months ago.

In May 2015, I learned about Walker & Company through their online magazine BevelCode.com which has articles on culture, style, and personal grooming with a focus on people of color. The magazine offers exceptional photo journalism with great pictures and articles. So, I began reposting and sharing their content.

In recent years I’ve been enhancing the content on my own websites and social media channels to depict positive portrayals of Black people. I’ve been doing this because with the recent rise in racism, it seems like mainstream media and news networks generally propagate an inaccurate and derogatory portrayal of Black people through images that are disproportionately negative. Positive stories help offset the negativity – inspiring people of color, and re-programming those with bigotry.

After several months of promoting the BevelCode content, I decided to try out the Bevel Shaving System which is one of the Walker & Company products. I wanted to learn more about the company, and figured becoming a customer and using their products would be a great way to do so.

On 30 September 2015, after receiving the Bevel products and using them, I wrote “Bevel – A New Tradition in Shaving” as a review of the company and products. That article got the attention of Tristan Walker, the CEO and founder of Walker & Company. Tristan wrote a nice response to the article via Twitter.

I wrote a few more articles and had a lot of positive social media interactions with prospective and current Bevel users.

In early December, Tristan and his staff reached out to me asking if I’d like to work formally with the company. I didn’t need too much time to think over the offer. Having seen Tristan in various YouTube videos and having already studied the company fairly thoroughly over the previous months, I knew it was a move I wanted to make.

The initial offer was for 1-2 hours of work per day. Which doesn’t seem like much, but my job at the University had expanded to 60+ hours per week. Fitting in an additional 10-hour-per week commitment just wouldn’t be possible without dropping the University job.

I’d already begun feeling the financial impact of cutting back on my outside consulting work to take on additional responsibilities at the University. The Walker and Company work would be a perfect fit for me. I could expand my consulting work, and enjoy working for a company that I believed was doing some good work.

By mid-December, I put in my two weeks notice at the University. This would provide about 30 days over winter break (while classes would not be in session) for some reorganizing needed to find people who could cover for the work I’d been doing. My job was eventually delegated among four or five people. I had a chance to offer some transitional support and training after my last day, which I enjoyed doing.

I’d imagined that my consulting work would slowly ramp up, but on January 1 which might have otherwise been a holiday, the consulting work started pouring in. I’ve had steady work since then, which is great.

After getting the offer from Walker and Company, I decided to ramp up my work for them — the work that I’d already been doing voluntarily at that point. I was told I’d be officially on-board by mid-January, so I figured I’d give them a few weeks of free work as a good faith expression of appreciating for getting hired on.

Over the next two months, I was given some fun assignments to do, and had a chance to connect with top leadership in the company. From the consumer perspective, I’d been very impressed with the Bevel brand as well as Walker and Company. So, it was nice to get a more complete understanding of the company.

Heading into April, given the abundance of client work that keeps coming my way, I’m going to focus my attention entirely on my consulting business as well as the public interest work I do.

Many thanks to all those who continue supporting my work.

Request for LinkedIn Recommendations

Greetings!

I’m updating my LinkedIn profile and am looking for recommendations from colleagues and clients. If we’ve worked together, it would be great to have a recommendation from you.

Many of you have voluntarily endorsed me in various categories of expertise and experience. For that I’m very appreciative.

What I’m looking for now are written recommendations. I’ve provided some simple three-step instructions below.

Feel free to contact me if I can do the same favor for you. If you’d prefer, you can just email me a recommendation to be posted on my website (under Testimonials). Thanks for your help!

Cheers,

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Great News: Business is Expanding

In December 2015, I received an unexpected offer to work for a business I really admire. The new job would allow me to return to doing more consulting and public interest work. It seemed like an appealing option. I decided to take the offer, and make a change.

I wasn’t sure how long it would take to build-up the consulting business. Surprisingly, in less than 24 hours, I was busy with all the work I could handle, and it’s been busy ever since. Many thanks to everyone who has been calling and requesting services.

Recently my wife Makur, also a technology support person at the University of Iowa, decided that she also would like to do more consulting work, so she decided to leave her job at the University and in March will join me in providing technology support through Iowa City Technology Services.

Makur has a broad range of experience in expertise in small business and enterprise-class computing, as well as an array of other skills. So, we’ve launched MJIowa.com as a website for her to bring in additional business. Over the years she has developed a following of people who specifically ask for her, so the new site is a great way to connect with those clients.

I look forward to the coming months, and appreciate everyone’s support.

Thanks!

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Reflections on a Year Using Gmail

As an Apple computer enthusiast, I’ve been using the Apple Mail client for years. About a year ago, I decided to switch over to using Gmail exclusively as an online email client. For my primary email accounts (included with my website hosting package), I set them to forward all emails to Gmail. I have a personal account and also a collection of other email addresses that I forwarded to a secondary Gmail address.

Here are the reasons I switched:

  1. Over time, the Apple Mail client became slower, and it caused my entire computer to slow down whenever it was running. I assumed this was due to the indexing of so many individual emails. I stopped seeking a solution when I learned that many people were having similar problems. Gmail was much faster than using the Apple Mail client.
  2. At the same time the slowness became an issue, about two years ago, there were known issues with Gmail compatibility and the Apple Mail client. Flagged and read emails weren’t synchronizing properly. For many months, people complained on the Apple discussion forums, but no solution was provided.
  3. In addition to these issues, I began hearing from people trying to reach me by email who were getting returned emails with an undeliverable message notification.
  4. I also heard from people that my emails were ending up in their spam/junk folder.
  5. At the time, my email inbox was limited to 1GB and constantly filling up, but Gmail offered virtually limitless email storage.
  6. Junk email wasn’t being identified accurately so I was having to manually sort them out.
  7. The Apple Mail client in iOS lacked mail rules and the intelligent Junk Mail filtering found in the native OS X desktop Mail client version. So, unless I had a desktop computer on all the time, with the Mail client running, those rules wouldn’t get applied.
  8. Gmail was identifying the Apple Mail client and others as non-secure email clients. So, using them required a special exception setting in my Gmail account.

So, for all these reasons, I decided to switch to Gmail.

As of January 2016, here’s why I’m switching back to using the Apple Mail client and the email accounts included with my hosting package.

  1. The Gmail conversation threads were problematic, and the nested messages made it sometimes hard to find where the conversation left off, especially if multiple replies were in a a thread. Messages people would send using feedback forms with the same subject line would be grouped as a conversation. Turning conversations off was an option, but not desirable either.
  2. Gmail would repeatedly put important emails into the Junk folder even for senders who were in my address book and even after repeatedly marking them as not junk.
  3. Gmail would automatically file emails into the Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums categories, which was very helpful some of the time, but much of the time it caused important emails to be misfiled.
  4. Gmail lacks the ability to sort on sender, subject, date, and other aspects of messages.
  5. Once I setup my computer with 16GB of RAM and a solid state hard drive (SSD), the slowness issue went away. This may have also had something to do with upgrading to the latest edition of OS X (El Capitan).
  6. The Google Gmail client for iOS made it possible to send messages as another email. However, the Apple Mail client for iOS would not permit this with Gmail accounts. This was very frustrating. So, it was necessary to continually used the Gmail client for iOS if replying to a message and desiring the recipient to see the correct sending address.
  7. Clicking on an email address typically brings up the default email client on a computer. This doesn’t work with the Gmail web based system unless you’re using Google Chrome.
  8. The Gmail ecosystem doesn’t have the same instantaneous push feature that Apple offers with their other iCloud services.

During the transition back to my original email addresses, I’ve set an autoresponder letting people know my best contact methods — in case anyone had inadvertently received an email from those Gmail accounts.

I still maintain email accounts in Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and other services in the event there are communications issues with people using any of those third-party services. It’s sometimes more reliable to communicate with someone on the same system they are using, and other features exist that make it helpful to have an account on various services.

Please visit my contact page for further details about how to best reach me.

Thanks!