Friday, July 26, 2013

Travel routines

It doesn't matter whether I'm going on a trip for a month or for four days.  My gear is the same.  And my inclination is always to simplify what I carry. 

The suitcase holds clothing and any cords or cables.  My trusty Coach briefcase has front pockets for my wallet and my cosmetics bag.  I carry a plastic file folder with printouts of boarding pass, hotel confirmation, any business-related materials, and a photocopy of my passport, drivers license, and credit cards.  Because I post up to "Annie's Take" every day and the program to do that is Windows-based, I carry both a lightweight netbook as well as my iPad and iPhone.

I never check my bag.  It saves time on both ends of the flight, but it also reminds me to keep it as light as possible for the lifts into the overhead bin.  My briefcase goes under the seat, for easy access.  I do not carry a purse, though I have a small flat one packed in my bag for occasions where I don't want to carry the briefcase, like dinners or sightseeing.

Given recent fiascoes with plane landings where passengers have had to use chutes to exit the plane, I've just double checked both type the types of planes (Boeing on the outbound, Airbus on the return) as well as my seat assignments (always aisle for me, and near an emergency exit as well).

On each trip I take, I plan in personal time.  Since I'll be in DC for four days, that includes meals with friends and colleagues as well as my usual walks to the Mall to visit the Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials, as well as to the new Martin Luther King Memorial.  I'm going to write more about that side of the trip on my personal blog.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Audit yourself, not just your business

I had a great time answering terrific questions yesterday on Patricia and David Wangsness' radio program.  (The show will be rebroadcast on Sunday at 1pm on AM1590, and I will eventually be able to post the broadcast link on our website.)

We covered everything from earthquake preparedness, to RFID chips in credit cards and drivers' licenses,  to what happens to your digital identity (all those blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ posts) when you die.  The most interesting question came from David, who had read Emily Oxenford's excellent research note about conducting "information audits" on businesses in Reflections on Risk.  How would you conduct an information audit on your family, he asked?

When we do such audits (assessments) for clients, we pull a variety of data upon which to base our due diligence:  policies, standards, codes of ethics or codes of conduct, brand statements made in print or online.  We ask for copies of any audit findings or regulatory critiques.  Then we interview a sample population, ranging from the person who has to decide how to perform a certain type of work with or without guidance, to the manager that employee reports to, to the executive in charge of the division as well.  When we're on site, we're also tracking another relatively undefinable cultural quality:  do employees respect the executives in charge of the company?  Do they believe that the executives practice what they preach?  Our final report reflects the cultural conclusion we have come to as well as the data points, complete with recommendations for improvements

So how to translate this over to the personal side?  The first chapter of my book does deal with what pieces of information you should be able to put your hands on, no matter what type of loss or disaster you may have suffered.  Here's the basic list, for those who haven't yet read the book.  There are other recommendations on what I might add to that list, but it's entirely possible to audit your own family to see if you can find these vital documents and determine whether or not they need to be updated.

 Home & auto policies
 Driver’s license
 Credit cards
Health insurance
 Immunization records
Other medical information if relevant
Wills and medical directivesBank-account numbers
Inventory list of stocks & bonds
 Household contents inventory
 Family records (birth and marriage licenses)

       Thanks again to David and Patricia for their good questions yesterday!  Every time I go out and speak, I get questions that show me just how much more there is to know about good personal risk management.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Not yet my iCloud

Even "experts" like me have technology challenges.

I'm historically a Windows user, complemented with the Outlook suite from Microsoft Office.  Because I knew this platform well, I dragged it along with me when I left the corporate world in 2009.  Both my laptops are configured with Windows 7 and Office 2011.  Even prior to my time at the bank, I had sold Microsoft operating systems with our custom computers since 1985.

But in 2009 when I left the bank, I  invested in an iPhone.   That I had one Apple device and two Windows laptops  was still fine because there was a product called "MobileME" that allowed my Outlook calendar to sync across to all the devices.  It worked like a charm!

That product went away earlier this year, and I've struggled since then to properly set up the Apple "iCloud" product for Outlook so that I don't have to enter my calendar data more than once.  I've reviewed all the technical suggestions and bulletins, but have not been able to solve the problem.

Why is it so hard to walk away from a well-understood application? 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Your Digital Footprint

New York TImes image for this article, July 18, 2013

Somini Sengupta is one of the New York Times best technology reporters.  Today she's written an article called "Digital Tools to Curb Snooping," that covers a great deal of ground in describing applications that can help you obliterate your Internet tracks.  I find most of the article to offer too many choices,  many of which are expensive.  But I offer the article for those who do want to consider how to defeat data-miners and cyber-thieves.

Only at the end of the article does she come to what seems to me to be the salient point:  first actions to take don't cost anything.  Do keep your software updated, from operating system patches where you can set up automatic updates for your devices, to security protection patches from whatever vendor you use for virus/malware/SPAM protection.  And, though it is inconvenient until it becomes a habit, use two-factor authentication.  Finally, beware what types of transactions you are engaging in when working in an unsecure wireless environment.

And, as Sengupta points out early in the article, despite all efforts on your part, know that the federal government can subpoena your emails or records if it can show even a barely plausible reason.

Which leads to the point I try to make more clearly in the second edition of Advice From A Risk Detective: consider carefully what you post on social media sites.  It's a difficult challenge when so many have begun to confuse their own voice and identity with the digital profile they aspire to create on such sites.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

By hand

When I was growing Delphi Computers in the late '80s, I loved creating easel-sized monthly calendars, where projects, events and jobs were entered in different primary colors.  The calendar sat in the hallway between the shop and the operations manager's workspace.  It allowed everyone in the company to understand all the work that Delphi was doing at a high level and for the team to support one another.

Since those days, I have been a hybrid person, working both by hand and with technology.  It doesn't matter that I keep my work calendar in the cloud on Outlook: though I gave up the Filofax that I used for years, I still maintain a New Yorker desk calendar, . And while I blog on the internet, I still write by hand in a personal journal, often using pens of different primary colors.  My photographs end up here or on Facebook, but the work in the garden and on the house is done by hand. I don't write letters anymore by hand, but I do still use postcards and write thank you notes.

I got to thinking about this because I was asked in a business meeting yesterday why I take notes on paper rather than on the computer.  It took me awhile to think through the answer.  The main reason is that I have always paid better attention when I am note taking. Taking notes is a long-standing practice, derived from doing a great deal of reading while working on two degrees in literature.  Then, too, I seem to feel that use of a computer or reading email on one's smartphone in the middle of a meeting indicates that one is not really paying attention.

The computer's convenience and ease of Internet access have led to fractured attention spans for most of us.  It's certainly caused me to rethink how I present to large audiences.  To un-fracture my own attention, I go back to working by hand.

If you took a look, you would find that I had drawn out the architecture of the ASA website on easel sized paper before we started writing copy or looking at competitors' sites.  It was the same with the first edition of Advice From A Risk Detective:  each chapter was blocked out in color and modified as I went, by hand.

When I visit museums, I'm always looking for the drawings that preceded the paintings to see and trace how things became even clearer over time.  My favorite artists for this type of look are Van Gogh, Cezanne and, of course, Michelangelo.

As I start on my third book, there's more drawing going on -- by hand, and with note-taking, to shape the two voices of the book, at least as I envision it right now.  One voice is that of the beleaguered executive who is asked to make critical decisions every day.  The other voice, for lack of a better term right now, is that of the interlocutor or master of ceremonies, a role that requires storytelling, gathered data, and at least two choices offered for each situation that presents itself to the executive.

My time online has already decreased as I go back to working by hand.

Monday, July 8, 2013

"The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living." -- Cicero

There are so many issues we prefer not to think about or plan for.  At the top of the list are potential disasters and certain death.  Though I wrote about practical planning for death in Advice From A Risk Detective -- a will, a statement of your wishes, a power of attorney and a health care directive -- the relatively sudden death of a dear friend caused me to take that planning a bit further.  My husband and I have now paid a small membership fee to join an association that takes away all the pressure and funereal sales pitches for those who are left behind.  In addition to straightforward pricing, there's a form to use to express your wishes around everything from disposition, memorial gifts, organ and tissue donation to whether or not you wish a funeral ceremony or memorial service.

I've also done the research for a memorial bench with my name on it at Green Lake; and a memorial bench with nameplate for Leroy on the University of Washington campus.  Cicero would have thought that took care of most everything.

But after I received Jess Mauer's final paper for my UW advanced risk course last month, I realized I had only done some of the work on this topic.  Her paper broke new ground for me.  This morning, we published her work in a research note titled Risks in Digital Identity After Death. There's no doubt whatsoever that an entire cottage industry is growing up around this set of risks. It's worth a read to see how much of yourself you may be leaving behind online, and to determine if there's something you want to do with it. For me, some of it is covered in my will, but as the research note points out, there's more than you might think online.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

FIrst aid and disaster apps for your phone

 Until now, I've relied primarily upon Twitter feeds like @EarthquakeNews or @FEMA to give me information and instructions during disasters.

Here is a terrific review of mobile phone applications that range from first aid and CPR, to survival guides during earthquakes.  Here I should also note that my pal Chuck Valen pointed out the earthquake application from the American Red Cross to me a few months ago -- it's awesome!

The Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) has also been developing a phone app, called First To See , which is still in test mode; and for which there will be additional enhancements.  Though first responders will be trained on the app, there's no reason that regular folk might not also find it useful.  Take a look and see what you think.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Strike up the band -- here's our news!

Risk consultant Annie Searle has published an updated second edition of her compact volume of practical advice designed for the general public. With stories based on her own personal experience – from a house fire that destroyed thousands of books, to an episode in St. Petersburg where she lost her bearings – she walks the reader through the value of having plans so that risks can be taken with confidence.

Life is divided now into five chapters – home, school, work, online, and on the road. It's written in practical, plain English with plenty of stories about how things can go wrong.  “The new chapter on school includes risk tips for parents from the time they put their child into a caregiver’s hands, through the point in college when I am speaking directly to the student.  The school chapter, together with an expanded focus throughout the book for advances in technology use, social media and privacy concerns, makes the book useful to a broader audience,“  Searle notes. 

  “The book is written for the individual and the family rather than directly for the business or corporations,” she notes. “We would never grow as people if we did not take risks.  But rather than being blindsided by too much personal risk – as for example in our recent economic meltdown where thousands lost their homes  or in situations where security was ignored, at home or online – to identify the risks and to make a plan means having more control over the outcome of events. I don’t identify all the risks or all the plans that one can make. I do discuss what is reasonable rather than what is possible.”

Searle is founder and principal at Annie Searle & Associates LLC, a Seattle-based firm founded in 2009. Her background includes a ten year stint as a senior executive for enterprise risk services at Washington Mutual, and 15 years as president & CEO of Delphi Computers & Peripherals. She is an inaugural member of the International Hall of Fame for Women in Homeland Security & Emergency Management, a lifetime member of the Institute of American Entrepreneurs, and an affiliate faculty member in the University of Washington’s School of Information.   She writes four times a year for the London-based magazine, The Risk Universe, and is the editor of Reflections on Risk Volume I, published in 2012.

Advice From A Risk Detective Second Edition (Tautegory Press, 2013) is available directly from Searle’s website,, or from Amazon at $14.95. ISBN #978-0-9839347-5-2.   

“Life is a marvelous thing, except when events conspire to take you out, hurt you, steal your stuff, to trap you someplace you don’t want to be! In Advice from A Risk Detective, Annie Searle outlines many practical, simple steps for protecting you and the people important to you from a litany of threats. I suggest you buy it, read it, and highlight all the tips – but most of all – do what is outlined, and then show your friends….Highly recommended, easy to read.”
Pete O’Dell
Founder, Swan Island Networks
Author of Silver Bullets

"Great reading and a 'must read' for everyone that wants to be prepared and stay safe at home, at school, at work, on line and on the road."
Alfonso Martinez-Fonts
Executive Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Former DHS Assistant Secretary for Private Sector

“Annie Searle’s new book, Advice from a Risk Detective, is a “must read” for everyone. Her insights as an operational risk executive translated to everyday life help the reader know how to manage their own risks at home, at school,  at work, on the internet and on the road. The checklists are invaluable. Buy one for yourself as well as for your loved ones!”
Catherine A. Allen
Chairman and CEO
The Santa Fe Group

“Annie Searle takes a down-to-earth approach to addressing the range of risks that confront us at home, work, on the road and online. She shares a personal perspective and history that enlivens and enriches what is too often a ‘check list’ mantra. There is no hype or unrealistic complexity here, just actionable insights that offer tremendous value to all.”
Bill Raisch, Director
Global Risk Network
International Center for Enterprise Preparedness
New York University

“Don’t be daunted by the innumerable risks of modern life. In this practical, handy reference book, Annie Searle serves as a personal risk consultant, providing concrete methods of reducing the dangers of such things as natural disasters, cyber-crime, and the hazards of social media. She provides concrete checklists and sources for additional information. The general public and risk management professionals alike will find this a useful and accessible tool for protecting themselves, their employees, and their respective families.”
Brian Tishuk
Executive Director, ChicagoFIRST