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Work History


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Major Accomplishments

Technical Writer and Policy Manual Writer — In this, my first real “professional” job,  I spearheaded a transition to electronic documentation (.hlp files) away from paper docs for all of the policy and procedure manuals at Shaw’s Supermarkets, a division of Sainsbury, one of the world’s largest retailers.  I’m sure it saved a whole butload of money and had tremendous ROI, but I was still a kid back then so I never bothered to calculate the impact of this transition.  It just made sense — this was in the early 1990’s.

Stand-up Trainer in a Retail Environment — Once I got tired of tech writing 24×7, I was lucky enough to be asked to be the Regional Systems Trainer (again at Shaw’s) where I where I drove store-to-store throughout the state of Connecticut to teach retail managers systems skills.   What was sort of semi-cool job at first, eventually became tedious to the point of “kill me.”  I did the same training over and over and over, which eventually sparked my interest in CBT (no WBT or elearning back then…).

CBT Developer and Project Manager — When I couldn’t stand hearing myself say the same stuff for the 100th time, I took a job at PDG (Professional Development Group).  In the mid-90’s, PDG was *the* instructor-led training shop for Word, Excel etc… in the New England area and even nationally.  But I wasn’t interested in that.  They were starting to get into CBT to train large scale system roll-outs like Siebel, PeopleSoft, and JD Edwards.  I was lucky enough to run some of our very first projects including some of the first software simulations ever done on large-scale enterprise roll-outs.  I ran projects for Sears, Osram Sylvania, and Lucent to name just a few.  Sears is still a client today, 10 plus years and multiple projects later.

Help Developer and EPSS Pioneer — While I enjoyed the whole CBT thing, eventually it got kind of old.  There is only so much new you can learn when you are on your seventh PeopleSoft CBT project.  But I had an idea – what if we could launch simulations from Help systems?  That way, we could deliver help on specific skills right when the user needed it and “in context.”  The company liked this idea so I transferred into engineering to make it happen.  A month or so later, we had some simple .dlls and an ability to link to any simulation from a help topic.  We then did a bunch of these integrations for clients like Charles Schwab, Travelers Insurance, and The Gap, among many others.  To my knowledge, this was the first commercial product or service that combined simulations and Help technology.  This was all done in Winhelp and Toolbook – at least in the first iterations.  This was mid-90’s.

Software Simulation Thought Leader — After demonstrating some thought leadership on the EPSS front, I was promoted to Director of Tools and Technologies.  By then the company name had changed to Knowledge Impact and we had a strong reputation as a vendor of choice for enterprise software training.  We had real depth of experience in CBT, WBT, Help Systems, and Instructor-led Training, and real experience in combining these solutions in ways our competitors couldn’t.

Unfortunately, the simulations were a pain-in-the-ass to create so we decided to productize our whole simulation development and instructional design model.  I was to lead the team and the overall effort.  The result was Firefly, which was the industry’s first full-blown software simulation tool.  We invented terms like Show me, Let me try, and Test me which are still used today, and even now, many years later, our instructional model is still way ahead of the competition.  (We based it on the work of John Carroll, specifically his seminal book Beyond the Nurnberg Funnel).  This was one of my finer accomplishments, one I shared with Paul Coste, Annette DiLello, and Angie Stuart.

Social Learning Pioneer — It gets old saying I pioneered so much stuff, but I’m not sure what else to say — we were pretty far ahead of the curve on a lot of stuff.  So right around the time we were working on productizing Firefly, we also decided to productize our EPSS technology which meant moving away from WinHelp.

First we went to a very customized version of HTML Help and then eventually, we built our own engine.  The cool part was in the templated authoring and the integration of a “way ahead of it’s time” social learning piece.  Basically, we created a proto-blogging tool, discussion boards, an FAQ engine, an “ask an expert” feature, a “find an expert” feature, document management capabilities, and links to webinars and training.  It even had an AICC and SCORM model for tracking.

But even cooler?  You could call any capability from outside the portal — so for example, you could call just the FAQ’s from the EPSS technology so that if your EPSS search didn’t return any results, we could automatically use the same query string to look in the FAQ’s and then pop-up relevant FAQ’s.  We could do the same for discussions or any other elements.  We were way, way, way ahead of the curve.  And as a result, we couldn’t sell it for shit.  But still, it was a kick-ass solution that’s still way ahead of what most of our competitors are doing.

We OEM’ed parts of this technology (as KnowledgeMate Exchange) to Clarify before they went out of business when the tech bubble burst, and to PeopleSoft (as KnowledgeMate).  PeoplesSoft used the technology as the backbone of their Web-based Learning Assistant (WLA) in the 8.x versions of their software.

Social Learning Pioneer, part II — So fast forward to today.  The market is now ready for what we built back in the late 90’s, early 2000’s.  In that time, Knowledge Impact was acquired by Knowledge Planet, Knowledge Planet then acquired Prospero and Shared Insights, and we renamed ourselves Mzinga.  We decided that the time was right to go back at the Social Learning angle and the company asked me to spearhead an effort to integrate our technologies the social media technologies from Prospero with our world-class hosted LMS.  Can you say “dream job”?  So that’s why I’ve been doing for the past year.  And on of Feb 18th, 2009, we released it to the world.  Cool stuff.  You can read more about it at www.mzinga.com.  Suffice to say, we are the clear industry leader in Social Learning solutions.  Matt Shandera and Jody Petruziello were also significantly involved in this effort as were Mel Norbeck and Joel Worrall.

Evangelist — As of a few weeks ago, having done a lot of the heavy lifting on the LMS / Social Media integration, I’ve been asked to take on a new role as a evangelist around social learning, helping our clients, our prospects, and the learning industry at large see the possibilites in this approach and the strategic value it can bring to workforce development, partners and supplier relations, and customer education.  Now I spend a good chunk of my time blogging, writing articles and speaking about social learning theory and best practices.  Can you say “dream job” again?  : )

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