My new job

Posted on by Laura Hamlyn

Three months ago, I was hired by Red Hat to head up their new content team within a newly formed Marketing Services group. If you don't know Red Hat, they sell open source software, and are evangelists for the open source way. (See this page on for the company's latest definition of open source.)


Here's where the story gets interesting. I came to Red Hat because I experienced their culture and brand outside their offices--in the wild. Actually, from a distance, I had always admired their focus on design and clear, no-nonsense voice. More recently, I experienced the open source way first-hand as a member of the board of AIGA Raleigh. The group's president at the time was an ex-Red Hatter and passionate open source advocate. Transparency and inclusion were at the center of everything we did. I fell in love with this type of workflow, and joined Red Hat after I found I was a pretty good fit in this kind of culture.

How many times have you experienced a company's culture outside the company walls? Do you even consider culture when you interview for a job?

I'll let you know how it goes. This should be an incredible journey.

Citizen engagement in my town

Posted on by Laura Hamlyn

I'm not sure if I can be more engaged with my town than I am right now. A few months ago, I was asked to join a technology task force created by the town of Cary. For the last few months, we've met bi-weekly to help the town map out a plan to use technology to better serve citizens.

We have about six months to hash out a plan, and time seems to fly by. Luckily, we decided to spread out responsibilities, so we split up the task into these categories:

  • Social media
  • Website
  • Video
  • Citizen engagement
  • Open data/APIs
  • Mobile apps

I am in charge of exploring citizen engagement for our task force. Actually, if you think about it, citizen engagement could be an umbrella topic covering most of the items in the list, above. Because that's true, i stayed very high-level in my research, focusing on creating a brand, focusing on specific goals, and ensuring the town follows through with feedback to the citizens they engage.

If you're familiar with sunshine laws, you'll know that some of what we're doing with out task force might be considerd groundbreaking. I know it is for the town of Cary. I mentioned before that our time is short with this project and we need to make progress quickly. Also, most of us are used to deliberating or sharing information over social media, etc. We are ued to sharing ideas with our social circles and the public at large. Sunshine laws in our state prohibit us from deliberating outside of our sanctioned meetings. And those meetings have to be publicized in advance so the public has time to make plans to attend.

So, if someone found a great article about an effective engagement tool or an incredible research resource, they'd have to save it until our next meeting. We immediately started using BaseCamp to post some of this information. At least we could share it with others even if we couldn't discuss it. That wasn't really enough, though. We also wanted to get the public's opinion, but BaseCamp is definitely not a tool for that kind of engagement. And using our own Facebook or Twitter accounts to conduct research also didn't work.

So, we created something that I'd been researching as a citizen engagement tool. I have been looking into sites like and as examples of focused ways to use a website to push and pull information publicly. I know it seems obvious, but the sunshine laws hadn't really been challenged locally before we started asking questions.Now we have a Wordpress blog where TTF members can post ideas and ask for citizen feedback (we can't deliberate in the comments section, however. So TTF members have to refrain from posting anything in the commnets that sounds like we're making decisions on something outside of our regular meetings).

I've written a few posts for the blog, and people are reading them and responding.

We also decided to open our meetings to the public. From now on, all TTF meetings will be broadcast via WebEx. And we've already gotten several folks who call in to watch the meetings in progress.

We've made so much progress, but there's still a lot to do. I definitely feel the pressure to get it right since I'm representing the citizens of Cary. Stay tuned!

Roundtable discussion: (re)Work

Posted on by Laura Hamlyn

A few weeks ago, I attended my second roundtable discussion in Durham hosted by Orangutan Swing. (My first is covered here.) The beauty of their talks is that they gather people together without imposing a strong agenda and allow conversations to surface naturally. They just asked us to bring a personal totem and to be prepared to talk about work [or, to be more specific, they asked us to talk about "(re)Work".]. We don’t normally find a solution, but that’s not really the goal.

The process is what’s fascinating. Meeting the person sitting next to you. Seeing a table full of totems. Talking about work with total strangers. Finding sometihng in common that surprises you.

Here are a few observations from our second meeting:

The "see no evil" monkey in the middle of the photo, above, was one of the most popular totems. It represented different things for different people: anxiety over a new job, the pressure of starting a new business or the fear of leaving behind something familiar for something more undefined. During the course of the conversation, we realized that change has set up permanent shop in our lives and our workplaces.

Your work environment directly affects what you do.

We were sitting in a circular assortment of office chairs in Bull City Coworking, a new space that has high ceilings, lofts, closed meeting rooms and lots of light. We wondered what would happen to workers in a bank or investment firm if they moved to a more open, space. Would they panic over loss of privacy? Would they collaborate more? Would their pecking order and hierarchies become less important?

My favorite quote from the session:

We’re not adapting to change, we’re aligning with it.

I loved this quote. Change can be really overwhelming. And it can make you feel powerless to stop it. The truth is, you are. Aligning yourself to change can be as simple as having a focus and sticking with it. When change happens, you only need to pay attention to how it affects your focus. When you are aligned with change, you aren't resisting it. And you aren't getting left behind, either.

The more diverse the group, the more you find you have in common.

This is a really good message for writers. We are typically given lots of research and target audience data and we sift through it for insights. I think we were pleasantly surprised to find common concerns or beliefs in our group. Our differences bring out nuances in writing. But our similarities are the real foundation for creating.

Thinking about it another way - the process of writing is the process of giving. And when we give, it helps to know what people actually want. Most people want to be respected, liked, challenged, informed, entertained and inspired. That's what we have in common. The nuances of the way we do that come from our differences.

Looking forward to the next roundtable.


Where does your career really live?

Posted on by Laura Hamlyn

We know work isn't everything. It's not even the best place to grow your career. And work is just temporary, these days. What falls in between is sometimes where you really live--what lasts beyond your last job. I know this is true for me. I wrote a blog post exploring the idea of your "professional home" for AIGA Raleigh. You can read it here. I'd love to know what you think.

The day I started writing that article, I read a post on Facebook by my old Brandcenter professor, Jelly Helm, about Quaker writer/educator Parker Palmer. I looked Palmer up, and found the following quote, which I decided to use at the outset of my post. Serendipity!

“Our deepest calling is to  grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to  some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the  joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of  authentic service in the world.”
- Parker Palmer, Quaker writer and educator (via Jelly Helm)