Advice for the mature or befuddled...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Taste of the Apple

It was my last day. My letter of resignation had been accepted by the store manager. I had already removed my name tag from the cord I wore around my neck. The blue t-shirts with white logo were on a pile in the recycling box. I emptied my locker of business cards no longer valid. Now, it was time to say goodbye to a job I had coveted for more than 6 years, a dream job I felt incredibly fortunate to have won.

I opened the door that led from “back of the house” to retail and found myself staring at staffers lined up on either side of the product displays. An Apple tradition for all departing members, my coworkers were clapping and smiling as I slowly inched down the gauntlet. Customers, who had never before witnessed this leave-taking, looked to each other to figure out what this older woman had done to deserve such treatment. Those that had previously seen an Apple goodbye, joined in the applause.

As for me, I cried. From the rear to the front, I cried. I paused to hug team members who had welcomed this woman -- old enough to be their mother or grandmother -- to the Apple store in Old Orchard. These “kids” who had listened patiently whenever I raced to their side, pulled on an elbow, and asked, "How do we...? What do you suggest..." or other questions.

Now, rewind the scene to three months earlier when I first learned my application, audition at a recruitment event, and responses during three interviews, won me a spot. When I received that phone call, I believed I was the luckiest woman alive. Imagine, to work in a wonderland of iMacs, iPods, iPhones, iPads; to learn the credo and policies, to understand the lingo; to wear the blue t-shirt.

Mind you, I have had impressive jobs in the past. I was a press aide to a Chicago mayor (Jane Byrne), a communications director for a Chicago school superintendent (Ruth Love), an account exec at a prestigious public affairs firm (Jasculca/Terman), and owner of my own public relations business until I retired to write a memoir. But none of those posts filled me with the awe I felt at becoming an Apple Specialist.

And as I suspected, I loved the job. Selling was easy because I truly believed (still do) that Apple products are superior to its peers. I relished taking customers on "test drives" and showing them how to operate the computers and mobile devices. Older customers were my specialty because I was able to say, "if I can do it, you can, too." They would stare at my grey hair and be willing to listen to my enthusiastic spiel.

So, why did I leave Apple? Because when talking to business customers, I found myself asking, “so, how are you promoting your company?” I couldn’t stop my PR background from leaking out. I realized I missed being my own boss, and decided I wanted to take another stab.

So, after exiting Apple, I re-entered entrepreneurship. I printed business cards, announced the launching of Elaine Soloway Public Relations, built my own simple web site, wrote blogs, and became active on Facebook. I hired myself to promote my business, and used the hook, “Is It Risky to Reveal My Age.” Amazingly, that pitch garnered an almost immediate story in the Chicago Tribune.

While the column brought me attention and business (PR works!), more importantly, it proved I did know a good story when I saw it, I could write an effective pitch letter, and that relationships cultivated through social media could help get my e-mails opened.

ESPR is over a year old now and I’m proud to say I manage a handful of clients -- just enough for this small shop to handle, and enough to supplement income drained away when the economy did a nose dive.

But, coupled with the satisfaction I had made the right decision in leaving Apple, is the feeling of nostalgia whenever I enter its stores. When I visit North Michigan Avenue or North Avenue, it takes me a minute to reveal, “you know, I once worked at Apple.” And, if I’m in the Old Orchard mall, my visit isn’t complete until I head to my old home, pull on the elbows of former coworkers, and win hugs.

Happily, the kids haven’t forgotten me. As for this former Apple Specialist, I’ll never forget them, my blue logo t-shirt, and the best job I ever had.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Time To Get Your Stuff Out of MobileMe

Imagine your folks are selling the old homestead and downsizing. You’ve been ordered to clear out all the stuff you’ve stored with them over the years. There are cartons in the attic, basement, garage -- all must find another home.

Something sort of  similar is occurring now if you've been a user of Apple’s MobileMe. Our “folks” have warned that come June 30, 2012, they’re tossing out our stuff. So, many of us are scrambling to find suitable storage for all the documents we thought safely tucked away over the years on MobileMe’s iDisk.

Fortunately, by now -- as opposed to when the iDisk was first born --there exist many other storage options. Some offer mega space for those who require acres, and others offer a more modest amount for people like me who don’t have the same giant needs

The Unofficial Apple Website (TUAW) is the place to start if your stuff has a hearty appetite. Remote FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, or Amazon S3 servers, none of which I understand, are there for the big boys.

But, if your demand is petite, like mine, David Pogue of the New York Times  speaks our language. He explains, “MobileMe’s most original feature was synchronization: wireless, automatic, seamless auto-updating of data among your gadgets. Your address book, calendars, e-mail, notes, Web bookmarks and other information were always up to date on all your machines ... and always backed up. That’s all part of iCloud now. But when MobileMe dies, three other useful features will die with it: iDisk, iWeb Publishing ... and Gallery.... Apparently, Apple wants to get out of the storage business.”

Pogue offers replacements for “those three orphaned services, that are not quite as slick, clean and well integrated into your Apple gadgets, but ...offer a lot of choice and a lot of power.”

For the former Gallery online photo storage, he picks SmugMug out of competitors like Flickr, Shutterfly, PhotoBucket, Snapfish, 5oopx, dphoto, Fotki, Picasa, PhotoShelter. As for me, I’ve been a Picasa user all along and will just stick with that service.

For the iDisk, which served as an online “hard drive” and sat on the desktop of my iMac, it was a great way to transfer and save files between computers. Pogue suggests Dropbox or SkyDrive.  I’ve been a Dropbox user, along with iDisk, because I’m obsessed with saving documents in the cloud, rather than on thumb drives or CD’s. Thus, I’ll stick with Dropbox.

iWeb Publishing was a simple way to create Web pages. After June 30, you can still use iWeb to design Web pages; you’ll just have to find a new company to host them. Another route is replacement web publishers. Pogue suggests Jimdo and Weebly. But,  I’m already a Google Blogger and website user, and here I shall remain.