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It's our graphic design intern Kaitlin's last day here at SoJo and we're certainly going to miss having her around. We like having another face around the office regularly and we never ran out of work for her to do.

Graphic designers add a special unique dimension to SoJo:
  • An eye for what really looks good. Let's be honest; we see things whole and then look at the details. No one is going to read great content without liking the way the website they're browsing around looks terrible, unless they're already looking for the content. However, as Amir from Mockups to Launch put it in class on Wednesday*, great content will get someone to look at it even if they weren't looking for it. And a pretty website never hurts.
  • The talent to translate your requests into pictures. They're able to take what you're looking for when you make a verbal or written request and then turn it into pretty visual mock-ups.
  • The ability to make it happen. And they're also able to use the tools at their disposal to then implement it once you're done giving them feedback... again and again and again. Speaking of which...
  • The professionalism to take feedback and direction. We've given Kaitlin tons of feedback and often changed our minds on different things we wanted her to do. I'll admit, we must've said this one many times: "Maybe we should do it this way, even though we told you not to do that before". We've done this many many many times on the newsletter now.
  • When in-house, understanding your products/services and owning their place in making it happen.  Kaitlin understood how her work impacted SoJo and so she knew that she would be involved in a variety of projects since frankly, she had the most expertise in this area. And it didn't hurt that she also knew how to code a little bit, which often helped too.
  • Knowing the possibilities out there. Even when we knew what we wanted, she often could help us want more - like the descriptions that pop up on the right when you hover over the categories on the Knowledge Hub page.

Of course, these are only some of the benefits to having a web and graphic designer around. Now Kaitlin will be going back to school so we'll need another volunteer we'd like to bring on board as a designer. We've become a little spoiled with having her around :)

If you're interested in joining us, check out the posting on our site for the web and graphic designer position. Know a friend instead who'd want to talk to us. Pass it along to them too!

*I'll be blogging about this experience soon too so stay tuned!
 
 
Written by Zainab

One of the many things I love about my role at SoJo is the relationship I have with other team members - particularly with volunteers. As we've mentioned before in other posts, much of our team is made up of part-time, unpaid staff, so we don't use the term "volunteer" much to describe them. Though they are "volunteering" for us, we still have certain expectations of our staff though we enjoy giving them as much authority and autonomy as possible, knowing that they can do the job.

However, the reality is that volunteers cannot be with you for too long, particularly when they're in academic or career transitions. Within two months, we'll be losing at least four of our team members. Two of these volunteers will be going back to school to complete their Masters' degrees at well-renowned schools, and the other two will be moving continents to different jobs. We also have two volunteers using their time at SoJo as internships with a set number of hours and though we would love to keep them on board even after their hours are completed, the reality may be that they may not be able to continue given their other school and work commitments.

Though this isn't the case with these six individuals, we've also had other volunteers who have had to leave SoJo due to the demands and pressures of their full-time jobs and family responsibilities.

In any case, what can we do to make the transition out of SoJo easier? Here's one way I go about helping a volunteer wrap up their time at SoJo:
a) lay out what's left on their workload;
b) set deadlines to get it all done by and to talk; and 
c) have a final meeting or phone call to see where things stand.

When these steps have been taken care of, you know you've made it as easy as possible for your volunteer or employee to ease out of the organization.

We're so thrilled to watch our team move onto these great experiences in their lives, even if we're a little sad to let them go. I'm thrilled to have worked with them in different capacities and know they'll do great moving forward. I can't wait to see what they're up to next.
 
 
Written by Zainab

Managers often have done the work that the people they manage now do. That previous experience allows them to relate to and guide their employees, while being able to keep their eye on the overarching vision behind the work as the team together work towards that larger end goal. In my case, that works well with the editors since I'm able to guide them as they begin with us. Since I continue to edit our content from time to time, particularly when the material is lengthier or more abstract, I am always finding new ways of doing things faster or easier. Therefore, I never really am out of touch on that aspect.

However, it's a different process when you're managing someone where you don't understand or know much about the subject or expertise they bring to the table. AJ, Jesse, and I all have someone like this on each of our teams: our financial and policy analyst (Sabrina), web and graphic designer (Kaitlin), and SEO (search engine optimization) analyst (Jeff) respectively all bring each of us some expertise that we each need to make sure that .

Generally, I'm trying to adopt a different approach to management by looking at it as mentoring and vision rather than making it mostly about direction and tasks. So whereas I take a mentoring approach with many of the editors, I look to Jeff to act as my consultant on SEO - because I know that he has a deeper understanding about this area than I do. He helps me learn about what SEO is about – basically marketing the content online – and I get to ask him any questions I have about what SEO rules work for our content at SoJo. True, sometimes some best practices in SEO might not clash with best practices in other areas like content or social media. However, Jeff helps provide all the possible options and then we can see what works best for us by looking at which options along the spectrum align with our goals and values.

Without doubt, one should treat all employees with the same amount of respect and empowerment. However, it is absolutely necessary in these cases to provide that kind of autonomy and independence to do the work at hand – if you don’t know anything about that topic, you can’t provide too much input without a bit of learning first. This then provides both me personally and SoJo as an organization to really learn from each of its employees – especially the smart ones like Jeff.
 
 
Written by Zainab

As we were preparing for AJ’s temporary departure from SoJo, I gave a lot of thought to the support. Because we are in the office the most, I speak mostly from my observations of Jesse, AJ, and myself – especially over the past few months. This is the first post from a two-part series. Stay tuned for my post on finding support outside of SoJo.

At most organizations I’ve been involved with, I have found at least one person who is the pillar of support I automatically turn to. It’s almost always been a mutual relationship and often it’s the person or people you share an office or desk space with, simply because of the vicinity. Though everyone at SoJo is so wonderfully supportive, I certainly have some go-to people – at least one because of the fact that we’ve both been with SoJo for a year, and then Jesse and AJ, because we work on SoJo full-time.

It’s interesting to note that in some ways, you end up sharing a lot with them because you see each other on a very regular basis. You’ll certainly share the life events and the big aha-moments, as well as the day-to-day events that are tiny and just need to be shared, whether they are related to work or not.

I should emphasize that support isn’t always about work complaints or office gossip, though we have the occasional issues and bad days too.

Here’s just some of the wonderful ways we support each other at Team SoJo to help grow our work, our impact, and each other:
  • Sharing resources to improve our skills. I once mentioned how working with our development student made me curious about learning coding and Jesse told me about http://www.codecademy.com, a free website to help people interactively learn coding.
  • Sharing ideas. AJ and I will often share ideas in the morning when we come in together, because we know that it often helps to just ask someone else what they think about an idea or change from the usual.
  • Keeping each other accountable. Marc and I have been at SoJo for around the same amount of time and so we often kept each other accountable for our weekly goals. This month, I know Jesse and I will both be keeping each other responsible for our individual projects.
  • Understanding different perspectives. Often, if I’ve struggled with managing the editors, Kanika has asked me to consider other perspectives and encouraged me with ways that I can address the issue at the source.
  • Providing validation. Before AJ left, she and I had a few conversations where she imparted her words of wisdom on running SoJo, and how she knew she had faith in me to manage it all with Jesse. I didn’t realize it but those words definitely going to stick with me as we undergo some new activities this month, while ensuring our site is always working in the best interests of our users.


How else do you support your colleagues? Tweet to us @The_SoJo with the hashtag #support.
 
 
Written by AJ Tibando

Team SoJo is made up of a few full time paid members, but is mostly run by part time volunteers. We call them volunteers, but 'part time unpaid employees' is really more accurate: they are the backbone of our operations and provide input to decision making and shape the face and the future of SoJo, like any other employee would be. Unfortunately over the past few months, we've had a number of team members leave the family or go on a leave of absence because of scheduling challenges. It's always sad to see people go, but its all part of the job...

The flip side of losing people is the excitement of adding new members to the team. In the past two months, we've added four new members to Team SoJo to fill roles that we've badly needed to fill for some time.

We've been on the hunt for Community Builders - people who are experts at using social media and storytelling to really engage with our users and build a sense of community around SoJo - and found them in our two newest team members, Shauna Trainor and Keerthana Kamavasalam. They've already impressed all of us by diving right into the work and building a strategy, and it's refreshing to have some new voices at the table taking another look at some of our old social media practices.

We've also added a new Research Assistant named Myra Khan to the team who will be helping me with Operations and Business Development. She's going to be researching partners, applying for grants and tracking all of our web analytics to help us better understand what we're doing well, what isn't working and what we should be doing next.  Our final new team member is Sabrina Triapani, an accountant by trade who will be joining us as a Finance and Policy Assistant. Sabrina will be bringing new knowledge to the team to help organize our books, develop corporate policies and procedures, and enhance our organizational capacity - something we need to start doing now, so we're well prepared to grow in the future.

A big welcome to all of our new members of Team SoJo!
 
 
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Written by Zainab Habib

It’s been some time since Kanika has been away from the office. It was right around then that AJ joined us full-time and was thrown into the position of juggling between Kanika’s commitments for the next few weeks and beginning work on organizational development and outreach for SoJo on a full-time basis.

One would naturally wonder how things are going at the office and how we have handled it as a team. This comes at a point where we are continuing to expand our team and focusing on particular aspects of SoJo, as we continue to work towards being the leading online resource that social innovators reference to turn their ideas for social change into action.

Yes, it definitely feels like something is missing. It is certainly not the same without Kanika here. She may be The Boss but she is certainly not bossy. Unlike the stereotypical Queen Bee, she has been supportive and she treats each of her staff without hierarchical bounds, allowing most of us to work directly with her on different projects for SoJo and to develop ourselves professionally and personally with her assistance. She is also the face behind the SoJo brand and has been at the forefront of it all. Her time away then has certainly created a shift in how we view SoJo from the inside and out then, knowing that she isn't here.

However, Team SoJo has really banded together to make sure we continue business as usual. Our partners have been very understanding and many have offered their help with whatever we may need. Our core team has continued to work on our individual projects and support the teams within our respective areas. We have also started a routine of working together as a team more formally; for example, we now have scheduled in weekly meetings between the full-time team every Monday. We are also now in the midst of assembling a team to focus on building SoJo’s community.

All in all, SoJo is definitely buzzing with activity. Even if we are missing the Queen Bee.

 
 
Written by Zainab Habib

SoJo has a great team of staff members. We have brought people on board because we identified their potential and fit with the organization and the roles at hand. Our passion for SoJo’s vision and our commitment to use our skills towards that vision are the fuel necessary to keep SoJo moving as we continue to grow.

However, we were able to recognize instances where some team members were "underperforming". Goals were not being met, and deliverables and deadlines were falling through the cracks.

By taking the time to understand their strengths and limitations, we were able to adjust responsibilities and roles where they could take ownership and that were better aligned with their capabilities and interests. These minor changes included focussing one team member exclusively on one project and entrusting another with organizational work that had to get done in a different area. We then noticed visible differences as we watched the transformation from “underperformance” to full potential and flourishing in these tasks and roles.

I later came across this article on hearing too many questions on the site. One of the main reasons leaders hear too many questions from their team about their work is because they might have “delegated tasks rather than results, vision, and resources”. We let team members take charge of the tasks by letting them know what we were expecting at the end (vision and results), while ensuring they had the know-how and resources to get the work done.

Here is what I learned from that experience:

#1. We constantly have to re-evaluate and identify when changes need to happen, and to recognize that we cannot be shy to act on the changes necessary to keep SoJo moving forward.

#2. We want to move away from delegating tasks to owning the vision of what those tasks should lead to. In our case, we couldn’t have done this without Step #1.

Rather than working harder, I work smarter with the limited time I do get with each of our part-time staff. Working with staff on things they take ownership of is what helps develop them and SoJo to their fullest potential.

 
 
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Today is my first day back at the office since our team meeting at the beginning of the month. I've been travelling overseas, for the past 2 weeks, but consciously decided to disconnected entirely from the Internet for most of my travels. While my hectic travel schedule did not feel like a vacation, being disconnecting from the daily inflow of work communications was desperately needed. My last Internet detox occurred 7 months ago.

The difference between this detox and last detox -- was last year I created detailed workplans for every team member before leaving. Aware that the team required guidance and direction, I took it upon myself to pre-orchestrate operations and team outputs.

I left the office a few weeks ago with a different type of confidence. While I had high-level discussions of expectations of deliverables with some of the team members, I really left it up to everyone to see what they were able to accomplish without my guidance. This laid-back approach happened for two reasons: (1) I didn't have the mental capacity or time to micro-manage everyone's schedules, as I could hardly keep up with my responsibilities (2) I wanted to see how the team managed without my direct involvement in the day-to-day operations of SoJo.  

My phone number was given to our key team members to get in touch if emergencies arose. Never once while I was away did I doubt our team's abilities to handle whatever came their way -- giving me piece of mind that I haven't yet experienced. It was great.

I'm now slowly catching up with the team to check-in on their status and progress. I was pleased (but not surprised) to discover that most things continued to move forward. Albeit I identified inefficiencies and know that some outputs would have increased had I been there to catch the bottlenecks, but all in all, the team did very well. Rather than get caught up on the things that didn't go well, I focused most of my feedback on what was learned and how things can be done differently next time.

My hands-off approach over the past few weeks is proof that the team is equipped to handle daily operations, providing me with the space needed to scale and grow SoJo.


 
 
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Rebecca working on SoJo's website
In September SoJo welcomed two high school co-op students. A risky decision that paid off with great rewards. Today is one of our high school students' last day with SoJo. Rebecca was responsible for publishing 100s of articles online, writing unique content, research activities and following our daily news feeds. We got accustomed to seeing her in the office everyday, with a bright smiling face and great work ethic. We're happy to know that SoJo was a formative experience for Rebecca, as she begins her career as a writer. Read her thoughts and reflections on her experience working as a junior editor with SoJo:

Before coming to SoJo, I had no idea how booming the startup world was, or what social innovation really meant. I was just your average high school student, harbouring unrealistic hopes of doing my co-op internship at a fabulous magazine.

But when the idea of SoJo was brought to me, I was definitely intrigued. And now, after four months of writing, editing and learning, I’m really glad I took this opportunity.

Working as a junior editor at SoJo, I learned a lot. My supervisor was Zainab, SoJo Editorial Coordinator. She was smart and supportive, someone I’m really glad I got to work with. I was inspired by Kanika’s work ethic; seeing how much travelling and work she does. Her commitment to SoJo is outstanding. Jesse, the Product Lead who manages the website, was also helpful, fixing bugs and helping me navigate through technical issues as I learned how to publish content online. Everyone else on the team in general was really friendly, and welcomed me with open arms.

I’ve had so many highlights during my time here. The team meeting in November was fun, eating chocolate, discussing SoJo’s next steps, and meeting new people. Writing my book review was also a highlight for me, it being the first real, professional piece of writing I’ve published. Working with Robleh Jama of Busy Building Things was interesting, being able to collaborate with him and get my feet wet doing real journalism. It was definitely a learning experience.

I also really loved working from SoJo's office in the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) ! The DMZ is a multidisciplinary workspace for research and learning, home to many startups in downtown Toronto. It’s such a bright, open workspace with fun, smart people. It was not what I expected from an office, which I thought would be cubicles and deadlines.  Everyone is working on something cutting edge and new, and everyone is supportive of each other. Working in a space with forty other companies seemed daunting at first, but it’s been fun meeting new entrepreneurs and learning about what they’re working on.  I’m also definitely going to miss the food! Around the DMZ, there’s always cake, snacks, pizza and other assorted foods. We’re always celebrating and encouraging!

As for the future, I’ve recently applied for a teen editor position at an online magazine. The gig entails writing content/blog posts, making playlists, writing book reviews, etc. With my new experience at SoJo, I think it will really give me an edge over the other applicants. Digital publishing is obviously a big part of online magazines, so I’m glad I got some real life experience with it through SoJo. Wish me luck!

I feel really lucky to have been able to do my co-op placement somewhere as unique and new as SoJo. Even though it wasn’t a trendy magazine, SoJo was even better, providing me with new skills and new experience in the world of startups. It’s been a long ride, but I’ve definitely made enough memories, friendships, and experiences to last a lifetime.

Written by Rebecca Mangra

 
 
The following post is written by Sheva Zohouri - the individual responsible for setting up SoJo's Profiles section

Interning at SoJo – a Sublime Glimpse into the Human Condition and Potential
It was Farch, a friend’s word I adopted to help me through the dragging tail end of a Toronto Winter.  I was unemployed, a situation I didn’t like but accepted as a Writer – searching.  For some, time can be an enemy where others see it as an opportunity. 

Before this, I worked six years straight out of University and before that school and competitive figure skating took it all.  I was free at last, to dream – a terrifying prospect.  My fear looked at me and I looked at it and said ‘screw you’. I wanted to write but I also wanted to give back, a post on Charity Village was my first introduction to SoJo.

SoJo catapulted me in to the disruptive and revolutionary world of ‘social innovation’. Perusing the website I thought ‘I have to be part of this’.

Fast forward to my first interview with Kanika, Chief Catalyst and Visionary of SoJo. I remember sitting across from her as she told her story, moved and already infected by her fearless ambition.  I felt a spark of something extraordinary – my creative food. This was my ticket to explore the depths of human potential and the human condition.  We shook hands and with a look, I knew this was the beginning of something bigger than us.

My role as Associate Editor was to develop and manage the Profiles of rare individuals who took the road less traveled. I would meet radical thinkers with true grit, hear their tales and try to do them justice with my words. I had to capture both the personal and entrepreneurial sides of the journey. Kanika empowered me to follow my gut and act, a rare trait in a leader. 

I had total creative freedom to find the voice of SoJo – how to embody the disruptive and fun loving spirit of social innovation with words.  It is to this day I believe, an ever-evolving adventure and language. The voice of struggle, courage, boldness, fear, determination, creativity…the list goes on and on. 

There was the journalism, listening, thinking and writing; and then there was development. Development was daunting and there was so much I wanted to do but I had interviews and posts to keep on top of.  Like many of my subjects I had to keep all the balls in the air while learning how to juggle.

This is probably a good time to mention that I had a new demanding full time job. Farch came and went, I was building relationships, writing and learning the platform.  With the launch of the site in August I was determined to stay on, I knew somewhere inside I was spreading myself too thin but my passion and the passion of the community drove me on.

I was learning and growing with my subjects, building up the courage to go after my dreams, facing my fears and as Theresa Laurico would say, dancing with them. It was easy for me to ignore my fears and dreams as I tried to live vicariously through my subjects – isn’t that what most of us writers do?

The time had come. I started asking myself those difficult questions, looking for my untraveled road.  As this Farch approaches I’m overcome by nostalgia and a hint of melancholy reflecting on sublime times at SoJo.  I got to work with brainy visionaries, attend conferences, strategies and geek out over word press at the DMZ, an entrepreneurial incubator in the heart of Toronto. But more than that, it showed me that anything is possible if you dare to dream. 

 
 
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Kanika talking about SoJo on the main stage
This past weekend, SoJo participated in the SociaLIGHT conference. This is the same conference that SoJo launched its public beta exactly one year ago. SociaLIGHT and SoJo are often seen as sister companies, as we both launched at the same time, have the same vision of the future and work in a very complimentary fashion to deliver on our respective organizational mandates.

The conference came in great anticipation. The team hustled for the past month to re-launch newer and improved SoJo in time for the event. 5 SoJo team members signed up to participate at the conference, to stand at our booth, demo the site and engage first-hand with our users.

I was excited for the opportunity to deliver a keynote on the main stage, to share SoJo's story; how we came to SociaLIGHT, what it took to launch at such a big event, and the successes achieved as a result of the public launch and learnings acquired over the past year. It is my hope that I inspired the 1000-person audience to have the courage to act on their ideas. SoJo's first major milestone was its public launch at SociaLIGHT, and since that launch, we've come a long way.

The following day, I delivered a more intimate, interactive and hands-on workshop to a smaller group of participants on the "how-to" of turning ideas into action. Although everyone was tired from such a high-energy event the previous day, even at 5pm on Sunday evening I was in a room filled with engaged and excited individuals eager to learn.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of the weekend was the love and energy shared by everyone present. A number of delegates who saw SoJo launch last year approached myself and members of the team with great pride, to see us again, but to also say: "I was there when it all started." I'm thrilled that our users and community share in the success and pride of SoJo, as this is a tool for them, built by them. Overall, SociaLIGHT was an incredible weekend and SoJo couldn't have been happier to share our journey with this wonderful organization!  

 
 
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In many ways, SoJo flat organizational structure has contributed to the strong team culture that we've built over the past year. The team is SoJo's greatest strength, and when some of our team members are asked what they appreciate most about SoJo, many have mentioned their appreciation of not having a pronounced hierarchy -- where they felt like an equal to everyone else on the team. We're all collectively working towards the same goals and up until now there hasn't been a need to formalize the internal team structure.

A result of having a flat organization was having almost everyone report up to me. Being the only full-time team member, I was naturally the most accessible and fully present to everyone, and culturally people became comfortable and accustomed to reporting to me. I was directly involved in more activities than what I should have been, and as a result stretched myself thin to the point that led to a burnout. I also grew frustrated as I wasn't able to provide certain team members the individual support that they needed to excel in their roles.

The solution: Share responsibilities and accountability among different members, and introduce a hierarchy to remove the dependency everyone had on me to advance their own responsibilities. As SoJo enters its first phase of high-growth, it is important that the team and organization change accordingly.

A hierarchy was challenging to integrate before, as the other part-time team members did not have the capacity to assume the responsibility of coordinating and managing another team member. Now that we have some full-time team members, there is a greater ability to accommodate a change in structure.

In theory, I thought it'd be easy to divide the team up in key focus areas, assign a team lead and place members in their appropriate section. However upon further development, the structure became more complex. Reporting relationships do not always match functional relationships.  Even with defined responsibilities, SoJo operates in a very fluid manner and team members collaborate and interchange roles among different functions regularly.

Knowing this would be a difficult exercise, I began by writing out everyone's name on post-it notes and moved them around (many times) until I finally settled on a structure that made sense. This is not static, and will evolve as our team evolves. That being said, I foresee our greatest challenge keeping to this structure, as many team members will need to re-condition themselves to working with different team members.

As difficult as it is to transition a flat organization into
one with a hierarchy, I'm hopeful that this change is a necessary step in building out the infrastructure to support SoJo through this exciting growth phase.


 
 
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Trevor working on SoJo from Latin America
This post was written by founding team member, Trevor Gair.

Although not my idea, SoJo became my baby. I am so grateful to have played a role in its early stage creation. From the outset, my primary role evolved into building SoJo’s community. This was appropriate. I love to connect people, learn about new media and own a licence to experiment.

From Guatemala, on March 8, 2011 I sent SoJo’s first tweet. From there I tackled Facebook and LinkedIn with a goal of spreading word of SoJo’s mission to make new friends and inspire action. Later my duties would include the monthly SoJo e-Journal newsletter and several rounds of feedback solicitation from early adopters.

Building an online community is the underestimated pillar of successful internet business today. Inspiring individuals to believe in and actively support an avant-garde concept is challenging. Engaging them deeply enough so that they become advocate users even more so. I am so pleased to acknowledge that already thousands of changemakers are making good on their passions through SoJo and that the budding community is one of the contributing elements.

I have never lived in Toronto and so always worked with the growing SoJo team remotely. In fact, it was eight months working with Kanika virtually before we actually met in person. This had a profound effect on my relationship with and outlook on the venture. I believe it helped me to think like a typical SoJo user – somewhat isolated, dreaming big and working hard. In essence, I have lived one of the core pillars of what SoJo seeks to foster – that there are no barriers to building what you are passionate about seeing exist.

This October I made the decision to pass forward my responsibilities within the SoJo team and embark on an international voyage that I have been dreaming about for years. My decision to depart bears no reflection on my belief in SoJo’s mission or direction. Since our public beta launch in November 2011, the venture’s momentum has continued consistently in a positive direction - oscillating only intensity during different periods. I believe the future brings with it accelerated growth and success for SoJo. The world is ready for what we envision and the SoJo team will deliver.  

As I left home for new adventures on November 1st, I was able to route my flight itinerary to the Middle East through Toronto. A brief 22 hour window enabled me to share laughs and engage in constructive team building without the need for a virtual Google Hangouts. It was special and truly brought to life the quality of individuals that Kanika has assembled to help make SoJo a reality.

I wish the SoJo team all the best going forward. I will be following closely. I can’t wait to see my baby all grown up!

Follow Trevor's international adventures through Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India at www.trevortravels.weebly.com

 
 
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Yesterday SoJo hosted its second-ever team-wide meeting. The first meeting took place 5 months ago and it was imperative at getting the team better connected to SoJo, aligned with our core values and fuelled the momentum that led to our public launch shortly thereafter. For most of our team members that joined in the Spring, the honeymoon stage was now over. The Fall is always a busy time, however it was apparent that some of our team members were over-worked and found it increasingly difficult to manage their SoJo commitments in addition to other commitments.

A team meeting was long over-due. It was important to bring everyone together to welcome the new team members, get everyone on the same page in terms of expectations, re-energize the group and reconnect everyone to the greater vision that we're all working towards.

The meeting kicked-off with a surprise in-person appearance from Trevor. Being based in Calgary, this was his first opportunity to meet the team for the first time, which was motivating to the group. He used this same opportunity to formally say goodbye to the team as he heads off to his Asian adventure. While we're sad to see Trevor leave, November 1st was the first day of Zainab's full-time position with SoJo.  Jesse started working full-time with SoJo last month and it is great to have a full-time team work with me to bring SoJo to the next level. Both Jesse and Zainab opted to join SoJo full-time at virtually no pay over the stability and security that comes with full-time jobs. Although SoJo doesn't have the cash in its bank account to pay their salaries Jesse and Zainab are taking a risk and hedging their bets in SoJo's favour. Fingers crossed that our fundraising mission comes through...

It is an empowering, validating and humbling feeling to have very smart individuals who I respect greatly share a similar burden and commitment with me. The responsibilities and expectations of the full-time team members will increase which will allow us to accelerate our outputs. But it is also my hope that they their increased commitment will lead to an increased connection, excitement and belonging to SoJo!

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Zainab and Jesse, SoJo's newest full-time team members holding SoJo's Manifesto
 
 
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Almost all of my greatest insights have come to me during the weekends. Not being connected to my inbox and daily operations of work definitely helps to take step back and reflect. I suffered from a burnout in September and October has felt like an off month all around. Over lunch with my brother on Saturday, I told him that I was concerned with how much SoJo feels like its taking over my life; and my inability to control my schedule (as evidenced by working on 12 hour days when I set a goal for myself to NOT work around the clock). Only when I said this fear out loud was I compelled to actually make some changes.

Solution: find the root cause of these persistent feelings of being stretched.  I was instructed to list out all of the activities (whole projects, not tasks) that myself and the team worked on over the past week. Despite having only 4 days in the week, I effortlessly listed over 30 ongoing activities; myself being directly involved in about 25 of them and solely responsible for 10. Its not that I have trouble delegating ( the team at SoJo will be quick to acknowledge my comfort with letting go and giving responsibilities to the team). Being the only person that understands all moving parts of the organization and the vision, I'm often called up for input to keep everyone on track. SoJo is a flat organization, and building in reporting structures has been difficult because most of our senior team members barely have the capacity to deal with what's on their plate, let alone manage and provide necessary support to other colleagues. Strategic planning has dragged out over 2 months and no clear changes have emerged.

SoJo grew incredibly fast and as such the scope and depth of the work at hand has grown exponentially. The problem is, our team hasn't grown at the same pace -- in fact, it has shrunk. Most of our team members came together only in the Spring, they had a lot of time to devote to SoJo and were fresh on energy. Fall is always the busiest time of the year, irrespective of where you work. 15 hours of commitment per week over the past 6-8 months has since shrunk to 5 hours. I'm extremely grateful to have product lead Jesse full-time with SoJo, but its not enough. Some of our team members are burnt-out from having to manage SoJo and other personal activities and have been forced to take a step back. A lot of the momentum from the summer quickly fizzled away in the Fall, as everyone's other schedules ramped up.

Making myself personally available to 10+ team member's part-time, fluctuating schedules has taken a toll on my personal health and wellbeing. I no longer have evenings, as I make myself available to people's consistently changing schedules our team members who can only come into the office after their day job finishes. To top it off, there is little consistency as SoJo is understandably not the top priority (so it is common for people to fall off the grid for weeks and I am left with no choice but to understand). These inconsistencies get me frustrated and the bottlenecks that occur as a result affect the momentum of the entire team.

All this to say that these are the trade-off with working with an a part-time unpaid team. I will say with full confidence that SoJo has an exceptional team which led us to all of SoJo's successes thus far, but in its current form will be unable to sustain the inevitable growth that has already hit us. I'm actively finding solutions to our staffing challenges (finding money needed to bring on some of our team members full-time), however in the interim need to make some changes and trade-offs.

Some of these changes include:
- Reducing the scope of activities the team is actively involved in and fine-tuning our focus even more
- Prioritizing need areas and tackling them one-by-one (rather than all at once)
- Un-flattening the organization to get me less involved in activities that I do not need to be involved with, so I can focus my energies on driving the vision forward

The changes noted above are going to be difficult as everything feels equally important. The Forbes article from this month nailed it:

"Kanika and her start-up have a compelling story and have received plenty of media attention. It is to be seen how SoJo can up the momentum, increase users, net-in some big-name partners and take its awesomeness places. What SoJo needs now is this: Focusing on the product, leveraging relationships and creating new ones, building tangible results including right media coverage, and forming a right-spirited and a serious advisory board. Kanika’s leadership and the ability to learn and adapt is the make or break factor here."

With growth comes change. Change is never easy, but I'm thankful that I've started to recognize the need to learn and adapt now, and not when its too late.


 
 
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Last night I had a great call with Trevor, SoJo's community builder. Trevor joined SoJo when it was just an idea and has been instrumental in bringing this vision to reality. Trevor's been primarily responsible for setting up our social media presence, coordinating feedback and engaging with SoJo's growing community. Having been through the trials and tribulations of defining SoJo, dealing with the setbacks and deeply involved in all of our previous product launches, Trevor has been pivotal to our successes thus far. I was just informed last night that Trevor will be going on an extended escapade throughout Asia for the next couple of months, leaving in 2 weeks. I was forewarned that this trip was on the horizon, however details only started to firm up this week. I honestly did not expect it to come so soon, and the end of the month feels like it's just around the corner.

I am going to assume that Trevor will be off the grid as he will be travelling in remote rural areas, but also focused on this new chapter of his life. I'm thrilled that he is seizing this phenomenal opportunity, but also mindful of the void that will exist within SoJo's team.

What does this mean for SoJo?


We have 2 weeks to transition all of Trevor's responsibilities to an already stretched team. Social Media engagement, Newsletter Editor, Front-line contact with users, and feedback management. Beyond the actual manpower (and losing a very smart and competent team member), I'm a little nervous about losing all the institutional memory and insights that are in his head. Trevor holds a very unique perspective and it is through brainstorming activities and ideation sessions do those insights emerge to help to shape our strategy and future directions.  

This will be the first time SoJo goes through a major transition/turnover of a key team member. It doesn't help that I'll be virtually inaccessible over the last week of October on the road, speaking at various conferences and venues across 4 cities. Or that Steph, our Communications coordinator who will oversee the transition will be in Australia for a 2-week work trip at the beginning of November. Regardless, SoJo has a solid team and I'm optimistic that this process will be as smooth as it can be.

Transitions are inevitable and I'm looking forward to all the learning that will take place during this critical period.
I gladly welcome any advice you have on navigating through this process.


 
 
Last week SoJo welcomed two high school co-op students to join the team for one semester. The Toronto District School Board has a co-operative education program, where high school students are given coursework credits for a placement in a job that is aligned with their future career aspirations. A handful of the SoJo team members did high school co-op over a decade ago and remember this being a great opportunity.

On the advice of one of our crowd-sourced CTOs, we reached out to the School Board to help fill some of our staffing needs. Timing was opportune, as within a week of receiving the suggestion to hire a co-op student we already had a handful of interviews lined up, with placements expected to start soon after the interview.

On face value, this seems like the ideal opportunity: an un-paid, highly motivated worker whose grade you control. Only once we went through the interviews did the risks of this recruitment strategy become apparent. It is difficult to gauge fit,  competence and aptitude within a 30 minute interview. Everyone on SoJo joined for a probationary period; where more than half left SoJo after a few weeks because it was not a right fit. In this scenario we had only 30 minutes to decide fit, and must then commit to providing a meaningful work opportunity for the student for the entire semester. Being a lean startup, there is no capacity to babysit or micro-manage a new recruit. We need to bring people who were capable and can work at the same pace as the entire organization.

SoJo put out two job descriptions, one for a Junior Developer and one for a Junior Editor. Editorial candidates were asked to bring a writing sample. Developer candidates were put through a technical exercise to test their programming skills. For Jesse, this is first time he has been in a direct supervisory role; let alone conduct an interview. As such, Jesse's interview skills were tested with a mock-interview with friends from our workspace.

Last week, we gladly welcomed Rebecca and Vithuson to the team. They both come with a lot of energy and a willingness to learn. I'm hopeful that this will be positive experience for everyone involved and may be a good recruitment strategy for the future when financial resources are tight. Both students will be invited to blog about their experiences. Stay tuned for updates.

 
 
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Exactly two years ago today, September 20, 2010, I wrote SocialJournal.net's first blog post. At the time, SoJo did not even exist. I was still dabbling with the idea of converting my Master's thesis into an e-book and had no idea what form SocialJournal.net would manifest itself into. Two years later, SocialJournal.net remains a blog; however it has taken on a voice of its own and inspired the creation of many exciting products geared towards helping people take their ideas for social change into action. I would compare the first 365 days of SocialJournal.net as dipping your toes in the shallow-end of the swimming pool. Only eight months after the inaugural blog post did I decide to pursue SoJo full time. The building blocks came in place in the first year: SoJo got its name, defined its brand identify, got more clarity on its purpose, released a private beta and most importantly I realized that SoJo has a long journey ahead. What initially started as a part-time venture spiralled into a vision larger than I can grasp.

In hindsight, the past 366 days of SoJo is comparable to jumping into the deep end of the pool. Where focus was a great challenge in SoJo's first year, this past year was marked by execution. I learned how to set a direction, quickly realign our focus, set goals and accomplish the tasks at hand. Despite this new focus, I was still very open to seizing new opportunities; but also struggled with prioritization.

Without a technical team in place, I had the tenacity to endeavour to launch SoJo's first public site at the SociaLIGHT conference, in front of 1000 people. Given the resources we had at the time, it was a huge risk. Leading up to the launch, it was 3 weeks of hustle, staying calm in very stressful situations and a great deal of nerves. Alas the hard work paid off, and not only did SoJo have a successful launch -- we effectively send out a message to our community: To opt for courage over fear. The first step to action is putting yourself out there, and SoJo led by example. Later on in the year, SoJo published its Manifesto, a set of guiding principles and core values which would ultimately influence every decision made.

SoJo finally got a home! Although it took a couple of months to feel fully welcome in Ryerson's Digital Media Zone, I am now proud to tell everyone about our home and extremely grateful for being incubated in this incredible environment. The support received from this community over the last few months has been phenomenal.

Through various speaking engagements, I started becoming excited about the possibilities of SoJo emerging as a thought leader in social innovation, effectively using technology as a vehicle for social change, and more generally on taking ideas into action.

With the press coverage and increased credibility came more attention. As the founder of SoJo, I was now being approached by many folks for advice and help. Although humbling to know that people respect your opinions, I learned and continue to learn how to push back and place and increased value on my time.

I recognized the need to work smarter, not harder. In efforts to get myself better organized and not get bogged down by my inbox, I challenged myself to email-free Saturdays -- and have since disabled all notifications on my phone. More than ever do I acknowledge the importance of not being connected to my work 24/7.

I felt like a small fish in a big pond when taking SoJo's first international trip to the UK. That trip inspired a strategic move a few months later to launch SoJo out of Beta. Moving forward, SoJo needs to move out of the sandbox and into the real world. Yes people are more critical and have endless expectations, but taking SoJo out of Beta has given myself and the team confidence to share SoJo and highlight all of its strengths; namely our endorsement from the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, reaching over 15,000 individuals during its beta test phase and creating the most comprehensive collection of informational resources and tools geared to helping early-stage social innovators take their ideas into action.

Yes, we have a site to be proud of, but this latest product launch's greatest accomplishment was without a doubt the success of bringing together SoJo's team. We held our first team meeting only 3 weeks before the launch. 366 days ago I clearly stated that SoJo's greatest challenge ahead is its people; on boarding and managing the right people to the team. Human resources will remain an ongoing challenge, however it is no longer our greatest challenge.

SoJo has been incredibly lucky with its people this year. Our co-designer experiment was extremely successful. Technical talent joined at the right time. Linus came in time to see our public Beta to a successful launch, Jesse joined in time to see SoJo's post-beta launch, and Rebecca joined as our first female developer. Despite being lucky with technical talent, my 8-month long search for a CTO came up dry. After countless hours into the process and utter exhaustion, I have shifted my energy away from this full-time search. We have since opted to crowd-source SoJo's CTO. An idea that is experimental; as brilliant as it is risky. Necessity forces you to be creative, and I'm hopeful this will be a great interim solution. We recruited more senior talent to help in communications, outreach and partnerships.

SoJo broadened out its mandate. We moved from serving youth to serving first-timers, and from projects to social innovations. SoJo also created its own legal structure: the hybrid social venture. Two moves which will serve as an integral foundation moving forward. Disappointments were inevitable, and with time became better at dealing with disappointments.   

A breakthrough moment emerged when I came up with a viable idea for a business model. After nearly 2 years of people asking me: "how will SoJo make money" what a relief to finally have some answers. May I remind you that our focus up until now has been proving the value of SoJo, and not monetizing it. As such, SoJo is a living breathing example of what can be accomplished with very little money.

A theme that emerged throughout the year is the importance of listening to your body and taking care of yourself, and the value of taking a break.  The past 12 months have been a record for the amount of times I got sick. In the new year, I vowed to be living proof that it is possible to achieve success without driving yourself into the ground. Although I no longer romanticize struggle, considering I suffered from a near burnout only a couple of weeks ago, it is clear that I still have a long way to go...

Moving forward our greatest challenge will be managing growth. Graduating from an entirely bootstrapped early-stage startup to a growing startup that needs to accelerate its pace of development and acquire newer resources to get started. Although I'm intimidated by what lies ahead -- when looking back at the past year, past behaviour has shown that miracles are possible and that SoJo has consistently been able to overcome adversity. Bring it on!


 
 
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Disclaimer: What I'm about to share is highly experimental and is not grounded in any theory or practice.

SoJo has many exciting product development decisions to make. Based on early insights from the strategic planning process, SoJo needs to improve the navigation, usability and interface of the public site. In parallel to making these improvements, SoJo is building its first-ever enterprise-level software product. The stakes are much higher now, and decisions have greater implications. I was able to guide the team to building a content site using a Wordpress framework in its most basic functionality. This next phase of growth is much more complex, and beyond our current capacity.

SoJo has great development team. When given proper direction and structure, they are able to execute above and beyond. That being said, both developers are fairly junior and SoJo is the largest technical project either of them has worked on. Trial by fire has been our methodology thus far,  however it can be a hindrance in moving SoJo forward. The entire organization needs to work at a more accelerated pace to achieve these next set of milestones.

When seeking advice, my challenges around the gap that exists between translating business requirements into functional requirements, the need for a CTO (Chief Technical Officer) came up quite often. Most successful technology companies are co-founded by a technical person, who becomes the CTO. Bringing on an external CTO at this stage of our development will be challenging. We have no intentions of selling SoJo for millions of dollars in the coming years, and the financial payout seems be to be a large motivator to attract good senior technical talent.

Technical recruitment has always been a challenge. Linus and Jesse joined SoJo right before major product launches. For the past 8 months, I've been keeping my eyes peeled for a technical partner. After 3 intense and focused months of searching for a technical team member, I've learned that effort will not always equal result. With the inability to offer a 6-digit salary and a highly competitive market, finding the right person will remain an ongoing challenge for us.

SoJo is in a conundrum where it needs a CTO to grow, however is unable to find one -- therefore the only logical solution is to create one. To fill its technical deficiencies, SoJo will be crowd-sourcing its CTO. This is highly experimental in nature. I have not found any successful case studies and I am still figuring out what it will look like.

Traditionally, crowd sourcing implies reaching out to the public for assistance. In this case, I will be reaching out to a closed network, seeking referrals to source individuals looking to commit their skills and experience to SoJo. Since SoJo is not building any unique technology, all development related activities can likely be covered by our existing development team. What we need instead is support in project management, information architecture, decision making and industry insights. Most of these skills come from experience, and so it makes sense to leverage the experience of many professionals, most of whom can complement one another. In addition to benefiting from the skills and expertise of experts in their respective fields, not having someone in the daily grind of the business can also provide fresh perspectives.

Product vision and business requirements will continue to come from me, so the crowd-sourced CTO will be used for technical guidance.

This approach is highly risky for many reasons:

Lack of ownership and accountability
SoJo will not the first priority of any of the individuals. Being a secondary activity, they may not dedicate the mental energy or time required for this role. A dedicated CTO invests in the company, both with their time and expected payoff. It will be difficult to hold a crowd-sourced CTO accountable to the advice that they provide, as the consequences of their advice may not directly impact them. Beyond goodwill and the opportunity to shape an organization with huge potential for impact, there is not much more that I can offer to our crowd-sourced CTOs in terms of compensation.

Effectively communicating the problem
A crowd-sourced CTO will not be able to get into the trenches or depth of problems. Only someone that works on a project day-in and day-out will understand all of the intricacies of certain technical issues and implementation problems. When only providing incomplete information, we risk getting incomplete or misleading advice.

Fragmentation
With multiple brains giving out different pieces of advice, it is likely that we will receive conflicting and incomplete advice. Distinguishing between everyone's bias can result in a lot of inefficiencies or lead us down a wrong path. Similarly, the different features and technical elements to our products are all intrinsically linked. Each crowd-sourced CTO will likely look at their own issues in isolation. Without taking into account the technical inter-dependencies of each of the solutions, it is possible that solutions to one problem create bigger problems elsewhere. 

Time

Having a dedicated CTO will free me completely of all technical related activities. With less focus on the product, I'll be able to dedicate my time to equally important CEO-type activities, such as getting funding, building the brand and supporting other functions of the organization. In addition to coordinating the schedules of the CTOs I will still be primarily responsible for relaying that guidance to the technical team.  

Risks considered, I'm quite excited about going ahead with crowd-sourcing SoJo's CTO. This could be an experiment gone wrong, in which case we know that we exhausted every option. On the other hand, this can potentially be a new model for what is possible, given limited resources.


 
 
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Last night SoJo had its first-ever non-work related social. Previous socials have been attached to meetings, or work-related activities. The only agenda for last night was to have fun, and I think that was accomplished. The launch party was the only other time the team came together in a more casual setting. Only at that point did I realize the value of our team getting to know each other outside of work, and build more personal relationships with one another. Everyone is giving their time to build SoJo's vision, most of whom are extremely busy with full-time jobs and other commitments. The social aspect of SoJo is extremely important for team building and strengthening the connection everyone feels the organization they work for.

Based on a survey and suggestions from the team, we went bowling at Toronto's oldest functional bowling alley. It felt like we were back in the 70's, with nostalgic music, manual score keeping, and having to physically change the pins. A little skeptical first, entering into such a run-down place, the energy quickly turned around into a super non-competitive, friendly and encouraging environment.

In many ways, this social felt like a school trip.
We took the subway outside of the city together; a list of attendees was written to ensure no one was left behind; teams were 'strategically' picked so individuals who do not normally work together got to interact and make new friends. A little bit of orchestration went a long way to ensuring everyone was included in the group and had a good time.

Having the pleasure of introducing everyone to my favourite burger-joint topped off the evening. Although incredibly diverse, we all had great conversation around the table sharing stories, laughing at jokes, and connecting over things unrelated to SoJo.

In hindsight, I invested a lot of time in organizing this social: coordinating everyone's schedules to find an accommodating date, seeking consensus on an activity, researching venues and managing logistics. That time was well spent as I see the value that will add to overall team dynamics. I now hope the rest of the team can step up to organize future socials. Salsa dancing is next on the list, stay tuned for stories...

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Enjoying amazing burgers after a few rounds of bowling on the Danforth, in Toronto.
 
 
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Rebecca (far left) working with the team at the office
It is with great pleasure that I announce and welcome Rebecca Panja, SoJo's newest developer. She is working with SoJo part-time as an Associate Developer, working on both front-end and back-end development of SoJo's web-based products. A fresh Computer Engineering grad, Rebecca is excited to get her feet wet in the start-up world and have her mark on building technology that will positively impact society. Rebecca found her way to SoJo through a chain of referrals (quite serendipitous may I add). Although we had no posting at the time she approached SoJo, I was immediately impressed by her enthusiasm and knew we would make an opportunity for her with the team.

Rebecca joined SoJo eager to learn and further develop her skills, and her first couple of days with SoJo already proved that possible. Within the first week of joining our team, she has taught herself how to use our back-end framework, created front-end updates to the Public site, entrusted with the responsibilities for handing technical user feedback queries, and researched and built the public site's first forum. Given how much she was able to accomplish in her first week, I can only be thrilled for what lies ahead.

This newest edition to team SoJo is exciting for two reasons:

Our development team is growing. SoJo has an ambitious roadmap of what needs to be achieved through its products. Technology has historically been one of our greatest challenges. Rebecca's skills and energy will accelerate SoJo's development plans, getting us closer to achieving our organizational objectives.

Rebecca is SoJo's first female developer. She was invited to join the team because of her skills and attitude, however it is an added bonus that she happens to be a female. Women are seriously under-represented in technology; a fact that I find unfortunate. Having female technical talent on our team will bring added diversity and fresh perspectives. There is no doubt that the quality of our work will increase as a result.

Welcome aboard Rebecca!

 
 
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Over the month of July, everyone on the team was asked to reflect and make note of their key accomplishments, strengths, challenges and missed goals. Although SoJo continues to have a very young team, most have been onboard long enough to assess their performance and contributions. Often when you're in the daily grind, it is easy to forget about all that was achieved. Taking a step back to reflect allowed everyone on the team to do so, and take pride in their growth. Likewise, it is often easy to forget about challenges after they've past and continuously  repeat behaviours without awareness of the need to make corrections.

Zainab (the editorial coordinator who has direct contact with all of the editors) and I have started to turn these notes shared by our colleagues into individual development plans. In addition to sharing my thoughts on each team member's strengths and challenges, a section on Core Competencies was added. Through the use of specific examples, this section highlights a series of competencies, making specific reference to what was done well, and where improvements can be made. Each competency was backed by several examples, ensuring feedback was grounded in reality, and also aided the individual receiving the feedback to relate and better understand where actions could have been done differently.

The third and final section is a personal development plan. I am personally committed to developing and growing every member of SoJo's team, and ensuring that SoJo is positive learning experience, beyond the direct contributions everyone makes to our mandate. Everyone's development plan consists on average of 2 mutually agreed upon tangible goals. By writing out the developmental plan, it holds SoJo (myself or Zainab) and the individual team member to ensuring it happens.

Often we are not aware of the changes that we need to make. A manager or a peer is best positioned to provide an alternative perspective, as they can make the unconscious conscience or validate an assumption that previously existed. This inaugural round of development plans is adding some much needed structure and order to SoJo, and we're learning tons. Up until now, SoJo has had a very flat, friendly and collegial culture. To get over the fear of giving [critical] feedback to a colleague who is more like a friend, it is important to be reminded of the goal. In our case, we all share a goal of making SoJo the best it can be. As such feedback needs to be constructive, where the intention of personal growth is clear.

Making these plans are an investment, as it takes a lot of mental energy and time (2-3 hours for each individual). People are SoJo's greatest asset, and I see this investment necessary to show our team that we care, which in-turn will make SoJo the best it can be.

Likewise, once everyone's development plans have been completed, I will be inviting the team to share their feedback on my performance and leadership. This 360 review will provide a complete and thorough evaluation of everyone in the organization, ensuring we can all develop and grow together.

 
 
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Upon publishing this blog post, I'll be on my way to an overseas trip. Over the next two weeks, no computer or emails. After the intense launch, this will be my opportunity to recharge the batteries and give my body the much needed rest it deserves. I'm equally looking forward to calming the mind and regaining focus for moving forward.

Someone once told me the best thing you can do for your business is to travel. Submersing yourself in a different culture and spending time getting to know different ways of life is a great way of diversifying perspectives and building great insights. Although I will not be monitoring emails, I do look forward to distraction-free time of strategizing and planning.

I was asked by multiple people this week who will be in-charge while I'm away. The answer: everyone. SoJo prides itself in not having a pronounced hierarchy, as such it is my hope that each team members holds themselves accountable to completing their tasks and keeping the ship moving. Traffic online has increased five-fold since the launch. It is crucial that we keep the momentum up, and not let the ball drop. A challenge indeed, as movement slowed down after the Beta launch.

Bottlenecks are never good, and we cannot afford to have any during the month of July. To avoid a potential slowdown, I created detailed goals for the month for each team member. I definitely underestimated the effort required to put these workplans together as it involved thinking two steps ahead for everyone. Just completed my last call, and feel confident that the team is ready to push the ship for.

The past 6 months have been dominated by execution and operations. I'm eagerly awaiting the luxury of thinking, and dreaming...


 
 
"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." - Henry Ford

SoJo's entire team came together for the first time less than 4 weeks ago. It is safe to assume we kept together, as yesterday SoJo had an incredibly successful official launch. With primarily remote and virtual interactions, everyone worked together as one cohesive unit to create magic.

While still in bed at 5:45am, with great anticipation I checked out newly released http://theSoJo.net. The first thought that came to mind as I was browsing the completed product: SoJo has the most incredible team. I couldn't be prouder of the product we released and of the incredible people who were instrumental in bringing it together.

The chemistry found in our team is something quite special. Although incredibly diverse, what unites everyone is their passion for SoJo. Even under a high-pressured environment with super aggressive timelines and a multitude of mini-setbacks, I did not hear a single complaint. Everyone owned SoJo and took it upon themselves to achieve their individual goals to meet a shared milestone. It has been a pleasure to see everyone grow over the past few weeks. New skills were acquired. A deeper understanding of the product was gained. And an even greater sense of belonging to SoJo was felt.

We have a team that looks out for each other. In order to do well (and to make the world a better place), we need to be well ourselves. Just shy of midnight, the night before the launch, editor Marc and designer Bill physically escorted me out of the office. After 15 continuous hours of plugging away, they had the foresight to remind me that I, too, am human.  

To celebrate the launch and UNESCO's endorsement, SoJo hosted its first ever party. Invitees were primarily partners, supporters and users of SoJo. Overwhelmed by a room packed with great energy and pride, I was humbled and in awe by the outpouring of compliments geared directly towards the team.

Last night, after seeing the team interact with each other at the bar and reflecting on what was accomplished over the past few months, did I acknowledge for the first time the intangible, yet beautiful team culture SoJo is fortunate to have. It feels as though this culture organically built itself over the past few weeks.
Rare and a further testament to how amazing Team SoJo is!
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Toronto-based SoJo Team - Photo taken by Calvert Quatch
 
 
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In 24 hours, SoJo will officially go live.  
The site works, and has been working for the past 6 months -- so in many ways this launch has much more certainty than our beta launch last Fall. That being said, there is definitely more pressure and expectations are much higher this time around. We've received feedback from our users, built credible partnerships and are eagerly awaiting this next phase of SoJo.

The mandatory features were decided at the beginning of the month, however the "things to fix" list only seem to keep on growing.

Over the past week, I've spent between 10-16 hours/day (including weekends) at the office. Its amazing how fast time goes, as I've gotten completely lost in the world of SoJo. As I write this post, looking into the window, I see hundreds of people watching a movie outside, and hear the blasting music of the bar below -- and shocked at my abilities to focus with an office situated right in the middle of one of the busiest urban squares in Canada. SoJo's team gets stronger and better by the day. Everyone's dedication and commitment to achieving this common goal is humbling. No 2am email exchanges (we're improving), regardless, I'm pretty sure that everyone on this team has pushed themselves in ways they couldn't even fathom only a few weeks ago. Whether it be acquiring new skills, getting submersed into a new culture, or working in marathon-like stints, or simply a renewed sense of connectedness to SoJo.

No stress. Just work. Work completed this morning felt like it was done ages ago. Too busy to think about stress, which in many ways is really good. The key to motoring through in these conditions is to eliminate all distractions that are within my control. When every minute is precious, all non-launch related activities and communications have been placed on hold. At the office, I've been referred to as a machine, as I am always seen plugged into my computer, not phased by the hustle and bustle often seen in this vibrant workspace.

In less than 48 hours, we're going to celebrate this victory in style. So temporary spurts of intensity are ok.
The nervousness that existed less than 10 days ago has since channelled itself into an extra dose of energy and excitement.