Bryan Lindenberger

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Best Work Day Ever

Best day at work ever isn’t what you think, and it didn’t take a day. It took several months. Or as we called it, a season.

And I didn’t have a job yet either. I was 12 years old and working on the family farm.
We had a retail nursery and 90% of the plants we sold were purchased wholesale. But my parents had a few acres and grew stock on those. So not quite a proper “farm” either, but my dad would sometimes take some hours away from the shop while my mom minded the store and till the fields. That meant jumping onto the old cub tractor and lowering the plough to pull up the weeds, but mostly to loosen the soil so that rain wouldn’t spill off. I followed up with a hoe, by hand.

So 12-year-old-Bryan went out to the field with his hoe after the tilling and noticed that some of our stock, young arbor vitae just under 3-feet tall, had been pulled up. It wasn’t due to distraction and turning the tractor poorly on my dad’s part – they’d been pulled because the roots were near the surface and spread outward rather than down.

Just a few trees out of hundreds – they’d been left to die, days had passed and they were seemingly beyond salvation – so I went to my dad with an offer.

“Let me ball and bag them” – that’s the term for how they are dug with roots and earth contained in burlap for inventory, “Let me ball and bag them to save them, I’ll water and care for them, but please let me sell them at half the cost of the others on the sales lot, but I get to keep 80% of the money.”
Not sure he knew what I was up to, but he always liked when I took interest. Maybe he was distracted. Maybe my 12-year-old mind picked the just right time that he’d say yes. Point is, I knew he kept his promises and he went for it.

So I rescued those four or five trees. I dug them, packed the earth with sod in burlap, and put them out back behind our house. I watered them daily, and what seemed dead came back to life. I watered them daily. Over the course of the summer, what seemed dead came back to life. They grew, and I trimmed them back harder than I would the normal inventory.

After the summer, by September, they looked better than what remained of the normal inventory. Deeper green. More full. Not quite as big as the others, but I want to say even more healthy. I sold them with a little sign I made for them with a marker, twine, and cardboard.

They sold immediately.

I don’t know how I spent the money I made at age 12. Maybe a video game, and I loved the Commodore 64 at the time. I could program on it, but it was an early console too. I might have bought a gift, or shown up at school with flowers for a girl I liked. Not sure. But I did bring those trees back to life, and strong. I did profit from it. I did save something.

This is how I approach work. Whether I am working with a client, as staff at university, or more recently as a true “worker” in a company, I’m always trying to find ways to profit from things people either people have missed, forgotten, or simply left for dead.

It’s not always the best approach I admit. There is a definite vibe of “show up, do as, cash check, get by” out there. I’m terrible at that. I’m the 12-year-old who hates waste and sees opportunity.

Bryan Lindenberger is a lifelong writer who has worked in higher education, outreach for veterans, nonprofits, and programs benefiting persons with disabilities entering STEM fields. He currently works in digital communications for a small, industrial manufacturer in Florida.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Working with Persons with Disabilities – And Reasons to Hire Them!

Originally appearing at LinkedIn Pulse,
By Bryan Lindenberger

Why do I want persons with disabilities as associates? It’s not because I have a big, fuzzy, warm heart. I’m rarely accused of emotionalism. I’d hire persons with disabilities because, learning from experience, they can be an organization’s greatest, forward-thinking assets.

I took the job as Project Director and Program Coordinator for students with disabilities with the NSF because I needed a job. That’s it. I had no particular interest in students. Add a disability to the mix – it just sounded like another complication. It may be the job for which I was least qualified to take.

And it was the most life-changing professional experience of my life.

I worked with high school and college students with blindness, Down ’s syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, and, most commonly, those on some part of the spectrum of Autism. We learned science and engineering. We built robots together that I could not build on my own. I would hire any one of them in a heartbeat and here is why: all the platitudes of advice you find in these types of articles, you will find in persons with exceptional physical and cognitive challenges.


  • Step Outside Your Comfort Zone – that’s one you hear a lot. It usually applies to an associate trying something vaguely different in the workplace, hoping for reward but often running into roadblocks of status quo before giving up. But persons with disabilities step outside their comfort zone from the moment the morning alarm goes off. If deaf, that alarm may be vibrating. Either way, they step outside and they stick with it on the bus ride, at work, eating lunch, and throughout the day. They come to work with a bit different perspective than the guy complaining that it’s allergy season.
  • Think Outside the Box– now there’s one that’s been beat to death. If you really want someone who thinks outside the box with a unique perspective, ask your employee with Asperger’s what he or she thinks of your approach to a particular project. And be prepared for some honesty and some real outside the box thinking. What some of my students and volunteers had to say … it wasn’t always politically correct. They didn’t always take everyone’s feelings into account - that inability to read social cues and social awkwardness we sometimes hear about. Be ready for that!
  • Willingness to Meet New Challenges– everyone wants this in an associate or an employee, right? Well … hopefully. Now meet someone used to real challenges – from feeding themselves to tying their shoes; from enduring taunts for speaking their minds to the brain-injured who could barely speak at all. You think you’re gifted at team-building? At finding individual strengths that complement each other? Then boy … have I got a challenge for you, but the payoff is great!
  • EOE– equal opportunity employment isn’t about doing someone a favor, or shouldn’t be. It’s about how equally my teams treated each other and everyone else. Not one of them cared my age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Or each other’s for that matter. I was a “normal” and a guide. They were not “normal” and team members. No one noticed who was black, white, or had a life partner versus a wife or husband. Getting around while blind without tripping down the stairs or stepping in front of a bus tends to put such details such as gender or sexual orientation into perspective. Can you tell I thought these people were total badasses yet? Let’s move on…
  • Team Work– what everyone wants is a well-oiled machine of participatory teamwork. Now persons with disabilities are people who have had to learn to depend on others for certain things. But in doing so, they’ve focused on their own individual strengths. We all know the cliché of the blind developing extraordinary perceptions of smell and hearing. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Putting together a team of persons with disabilities truly creates a Gestalt environment, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We designed, programmed and assembled high tech machines in groups of four that – and I guarantee this – four of your “smart friends” would struggle with. Taking longer. And with less dedication and fun. (Did I mention … we all had fun? Talk about a happy work environment!)
That’s it. I’m not promoting the hiring of persons with disabilities because I’m nice. I’m suggesting it as a pragmatist and a utilitarian.

If you like to have team members who show up on time, refuse not to work late, and who you can barely keep from working during their lunch, you might consider re-evaluating your prejudices and hiring practices. I’m pretty sure someone bizarre enough to put a stick into a circle and create the first wheel and axle is someone we’d call “autistic” today. Guaranteed Asperger’s. You just might have to accept a few socially unacceptable comments along the way.

The genius is worth it.
Step outside your own comfort zone.
In popular parlance: Think Different.
These men and women will help you with that.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Morning Shift

If you write something from a place of warmth and sincerity, knowing it will never be taken as such, does that constitute irony? Is it an attempt at humor?

Or is it merely a simulacrum of emotion, an ersatz crack at inspiration and sentiment? Or am I just dropping 50-cent words from a graduate course in post-post-modern pop culture?

However you slice it, this little piece is inspired by Steve Martin in two ways which I'll explain briefly to anyone who asks ... but is more fun to guess at.

Morning Shift

Some say it was the brush she used – strangely beautiful with its nickel plated handle and horse hair bristles. Others credit the strength of her cleanser, oddly sweet-smelling from the unmarked bottle she carried strapped at her side like a pistol. Whatever the reason, man could that woman clean toilets.
I think it was her enthusiasm. I remember waking at 6am to the sound of her cart clunking noisily down the dormitory hall like some chromium beast in ill-fitting shoes. I ate a lot of fiber in those days – being a student – and so of course nature called. I’d scramble from bed and throw on my suit, not even concerned that my tie was askew in the mirror at the door. The pressure was that incredible. I’d arrive to find the cleaning lady’s cart in the open lavatory, every stall door ajar as she prepared for a good cleaning. I was too late. Chugging for breath, I’d resign to wait against one of the perpetually dripping sinks until her duty was complete. Her thoroughness was a pleasure to behold despite the measured force building in my bowels.
First came the yellow rubber gloves. She’d remove them from her cart and stretch them meticulously over the mood rings on her fingers – the clunky bracelets on her wrists – and nearly up to the loose and scabbed flesh at her speckled elbows. She wielded the cleanser, shooting blue gel into each and every commode in perfect, delicate rings. Our eyes did not meet after she’d finished. Her purpose was clear, and she went straight for that nickel plated, horsehair cleansing brush. Brandishing it in both hands, she attacked the toilet bowls one by one, sweat glistening from the back of her neck as her orthopedic stockings drooped to form ever-deepening, silky beige folds about her ankles. Lost in time and the scent of her cleanser, I forgot all about the gurgling in my gut. I saw only her hair, dancing like moon silver as she worked the brush up and down, around and around the submissive porcelain bowl.
Task completed, she’d loosen the gloves from her fingers one by one before unsheathing her delicate hands with the snap of rubber. I half expected to feel the cruel slap of her glove across my delicate cheek. But no – I felt her naked finger instead, soft and gentle beneath my chin. A smile fluttered delicately like a butterfly’s wings over her lips, and she raised her eyes to mine.
“They’re ready for you, Princess,” she’d coo. “May your dump be a pleasurable one.”
“It will!” I promised, slipping across the tile floor for the nearest stall. Before I closed and locked the door behind me, I’d catch one last glimpse of the cleaning lady as she finished loading her cart to wheel away, clunking back down the hall.
And man, could that woman clean toilets.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Work, Pleasure, and Change

I look forward to the weekend holiday weekend. Some outdoor exploration, some pondering, and some writing too.

Three years ago, I was in quite a different field. Working to bring students with disabilities into STEM fields for New Mexico State University and the National Science Foundation, I ran large events, collected data, mentored students, and had a sizable staff to work with. I conducted research, and I wrote award-winning grants. I did not see myself in marketing, but at the end of the day, it is all communications, outreach, and funding stream development.

I've been very fortunate the past couple of years to work with incredible staff and management who took what I first saw as a career fall, and helped me see the amazing opportunity to learn new skills and be creative in new ways. I've learned more the past couple of years thanks to great management at WNCC and E-ONE than all the classes (and student debt) in the world could see through.

I am very happy to end the week on such a great note. Increasing digital reach for a great line of life-saving products, meeting amazing people in interviews, and yes - getting back to the desk and learning video and image editing in a real world, "live" situation.

Here is a teaser video I finished today, and a link to the full interview at YouTube. I am glad to see how well it has played for a very strong company.

Bryan Lindenberger 
works in digital content development, including over eight years in higher education and nonprofit.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

SEO, Sales, and Snake Oil

There's lotsa acronyms and jargon among gurus in any field. At it's best, it's a means for specialists to abbreviate while talking shop. More often, it's a way for people who have no idea what they are talking about to sound really top shelf and charge accordingly.
These are the snake oil sales people. In website development, "SEO" coming up within 10 minutes of discussion is the surest sign of a snake oil salesman. It's been the go-to jargon to sound knowledgeable for a decade and running. But what is it?
Guy I know who knows his stuff kept telling me, "Make your website responsive, jackass!"
When I did (to the best of my hobbyish abilities) he said, "Optimize your visual assets!" Actually, he said, "Make your damn pictures smaller."
And there's the first two steps to your "SEO."
Proper use of header tags ... yep.
Enable browser caching, compress data, minimize script ... getting into stuff I don't know much about, but YEP. Good SEO there! Wish I could do more of that on my Yahoo/Aabaco server.
Original and useful content, keyword optimized ... sure, that's what I do. But we're already on the springboard the snake oil people use to launch into all sorts of jargony, gury nonsense.
By the time they start getting into selling you 2nd and 3rd domains, microsites, and a bunch of anything else that takes your audience FURTHER from where you want to go, farther and more expensively from the heart of what you intended to accomplish or your call to action ... you know you're being taken for a ride, right?
And guess who you're going to pay to manage that noise? That same salesperson whose card you have filed away somewhere will show up with a concerned smile and a solution. Probably some commission-worthy jargon too.

Bryan Lindenberger 
works in digital content development, including over eight years in higher education and nonprofit.