New Beginnings

Talk about a 7 year itch.

After exactly 7 years with ObjectSharp Toronto (and an additional year with ObjectSharp Vancouver), it’s time for yours truly to make her last call.  It’s not easy to leave my post after so many years at ObjectSharp.  I’ll miss my co-workers, my customers, and most of all hearing the joy in a developer’s voice when he tells me his training request was approved (the feeling was mutual J).

The great thing about selling training is that people love to learn.  It’s a pleasure to put together a training plan to help an organization skill up and achieve more.  Yes, training is costly, but I believe a greater cost savings is inherent. The return on investment is a smarter, more engaged team member who appreciates his organization’s long term investment and faith in his or her professional development.  As a result, not only does the employee’s skill set improve, but even more impactful, that team member’s willingness and dedication to make a positive contribution increases.  It’s a true win win.

Before I sign off, here’s what’s up and coming for ObjectSharp Training (and for me.)

First off, ObjectSharp Training is now New Horizons Computer Learning Center of Toronto - An ObjectSharp Company.  We’ve joined the worldwide New Horizons Training network.  New Horizons is the world’s largest independent IT training company with over 300 centres in 60 countries worldwide.  New Horizons is not well known in Canada (yet), but they are highly regarded in the U.S., Asia and Europe.  New Horizons is Microsoft’s #1 Training Partner world over and last year they also received Cisco’s award for Learning Partner of the Year.  New Horizons’ course evaluation scores are consistently higher than any of our competitors (based on an independent third party: Knowledge Advisors’ Metrics that Matter Reports.)  That’s a stellar track record and one of the reasons that we decided to expand and rebrand ObjectSharp Training by aligning with New Horizons. 

What does this mean for our customers?  Well, in addition to open enrollment and onsite training, you will now have access to three new training modalities: Mentored Learning, Online Live, and Online Anytime.  We’re also rolling out training content in many new areas, bringing in the subject matter experts you’ve come to trust.  Finally, we’ve moved to a more convenient location for our customers on the PATH at 11 King Street West (King Subway Station).  The NHTO website is up and running on this link or you can chart your skills development path by checking out the mother ship for more info at

As for me, I’ll be helping my Dad get situated in Ontario (he’s moved back after 35 years in BC!)  I’ll enjoy some travelling with Ivan, work on a few personal projects, and enjoy the great TO scene.  Soon, I’ll be looking for my next professional adventure.  You can keep in touch via my Linked In page or my Windows Live site.

I’d like to THANK all of the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from over the years.  That includes those at ObjectSharp, Microsoft, New Horizons, and my many good natured and loyal customers.  Working with the talent at ObjectSharp made my job easy.  I can only hope that my lucky streak continues!  Feel free to contact me at and remember to keep on learning! J

Thank you!


Julie James, October 2010

Notes: August 2002 – Started with ObjectSharp Vancouver; August 2003 – Started with ObjectSharp Toronto

Merry High Tech Christmas!

December 23, 2009

Well, it's Christmas time again. Time for all to revive and treasure the traditions of yesteryear, but also to embrace new customs like…a Christmas blog. Yes, this year I multitasked to such a great extent that my bandwidth was greatly compromised. I did not send out Christmas cards. I did not host a Christmas party. I did not even attend ObjectSharp's Christmas party. I was out of the country on training!

Fortunately, I work with an amazing team at ObjectSharp. We're a group of extraordinary individuals, excelling in our chosen technical and business roles. But far more significant than our market worth, in my opinion, is our humanity. So although I missed the ObjectSharp Christmas party, I shortly after received an email toting a large attachment from one of my esteemed colleagues. It was a video Christmas card. From Toronto to California, via Cisco routers and fiber optic cable, came a bit- stream of joy, transmitting the party and the Christmas greetings of my colleagues at home.

So what does this say about Christmas in our new world? What would Charles Dickens say if he found himself in the middle of Yonge-Dundas square this Christmas eve amid the holiday shopping pandemonium? I wonder if our technological achievements have so changed our landscape and our behavior that our current society would not be recognizable to Dickens or Jane Austen? Have we evolved or are we so changed that we'd appear alien and robotic? What are we preserving of our past traditions, humanity and vocabulary? As we dash from iPod to Xbox to YouTube, I don't know if we've given this much thought. We don't have the time anymore!

Fortunately for many of us, Christmas is a compulsory vacation from the modern technological onslaught. We'll manually fill our stockings, make a fire in homes that still have a hearth, eat a home cooked meal with family, go sledding and read a good book like the luddites of by-gone times. I can't wait.

In closing, let me regale you with a few words from my favourite fictional Christmas character:

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."

Ebenezer Scrooge post spiritual counseling in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Ok, now it's time to log off. Maybe this year my favourite Scrooge (Alastair Sim) will be available in HD? And don't forget to IM me if you're interested in Online Live training.

Happy Holidays!

The Donation that Keeps On Giving

Fortunately for Canadians, signs abound that we've made it through the recession. I am truly thankful that I didn't lose my job and that ObjectSharp has weathered the storm. Still, as the cold Canadian winter creeps in, I can't help but think about others who are less fortunate.

I'm writing this blog to highlight FINCA: an international charity that is just kicking off its presence in Canada.  FINCA is very different from other charities.  It's is a not-for-profit microfinance organization that makes small business loans to the poorest of the poor: women in third world countries.   FINCA beneficiaries use their loans to start their own micro-businesses.  Do you realize that a donation as small as $50 can fund a successful business in countries like Mexico, Haiti or Afghanistan?   That business will in turn support a family and even employ others in the community.  Then, as loans are repaid, the money goes back into the system to create more loans and more independent women!   FINCA's worldwide loan repayment rate is an impressive 97% so it's a cycle of success.  Truly, your donation to FINCA will keep on giving.

If you're curious, I ask you to do three easy things:

1. Watch the award-winning video of my CEO Mike Green's trip to Uganda to see how FINCA works.
FINCA in Action in Uganda

 2. Come to the FINCA Gala Launch event in Toronto on Tuesday November 10th at 6 PM.   The cost is only $75 per ticket and this fun celebration includes live entertainment by the Jamaican/Canadian band Thompson Egbo-Egbo, food, wine, a live art auction (including a work donated by Leonard Cohen), and more!   You can find details and register for the event on this link:

3. Finally, you can Twitter the FINCA Launch Event page or email this blog link to someone you know who may want to support FINCA.

If you're already supporting a charity of your choice, then I commend you.  If you're not, please consider FINCA.   It's not a hand-out, it's a hand up.

Thanks for reading!

WPC Attendees at Closing Party

Playing For Change at WPC 2009

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2009

I just returned from the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in New Orleans, Louisiana (July 13-16, 2009).  It was my first Microsoft Partner conference.  Now I understand why so many of my ObjectSharp colleagues regularly attend developer conferences.   WPC is a great professional development opportunity.  It is an intensive training program led by dozens of insightful, motivating coaches, not to mention some of the world’s most successful business people.  How can you pass up an opportunity like that?

In the next few paragraphs, I’ll share just a few of WPC’s highlights – from my perspective.

I felt great anticipation sitting in the front row of the first Vision Keynote in a room of almost 8000 people from over 100 countries. Kicking off every morning’s keynote were live performances by Playing for Change (gems like “What’s Going On”, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, “Billy Jean” and many more).   You have probably seen Playing for Change doing “Stand By Me” in their viral YouTube video.  I’ve never seen a more talented group of singers and musicians.  They injected sincere passion into each and every performance.  I felt a bit embarrassed because we were such a geeky, undemonstrative crowd.  Fortunately, we all made up for it later (read on).

WPC is not; however, about music.  It is Microsoft’s yearly opportunity to thank their 640,000-strong worldwide Partner Network since it is Microsoft’s Partners after all who sell Microsoft software and services.  Since their Partners sell the software and services, Microsoft can focus on marketing and R&D.  Did you know that Microsoft spends more on research and development than any other company in the world?  They spent 9.5 billion in their last fiscal year!  Compare that to IBM who spent 6.3 billion, Google 2.8 and Apple 1.1.  Here’s an example of what that kind of spending can get you.  Microsoft’s The Future of Productivity video will give you a taste of Microsoft’s vision of our collective technological future.  It’s going to expand your conception of applied technology.  No, that’s an understatement.  I was telling my partner Ivan about this video and his reactions were “no way”, “no way” and “Get outta here!”   Well, according to Microsoft – yes way.  What looks like science fiction to the 2009 eye is currently being explored by real Microsoft teams and Partners in the industry.  Enter Bill Buxton, a Canadian (yes!) pioneer in the human–computer interaction field who’s a Principal at Microsoft Research.  Bill explained that Microsoft Surface  (a large clunky kiosk that digitally reads natural hand gestures and real-world objects like business cards) will become ‘thin film’ very soon.  It will be readily available and inexpensive.  Thin film will be cheaper than a white board was the analogy Bill used.  As a result, researchers at Microsoft are working on putting Surface in context so it fits seamlessly into our office and home lifestyles.  Say goodbye to that expensive elephant in the room.

Next up was the charismatic Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO.  My colleague Gisele nailed it when she likened him to a football coach.  He is well-spoken (absolutely no pauses, umms or ahhs) and he even took notes while he was being interviewed live on stage when some of the questions piqued his interest.  He described what happened during the last year as an economic ‘reset’, not a recession.  He believes that when the economy turns around (and in his opinion Windows 7 may be the catalyst) there will be a technology ‘refresh’ that will stimulate purchasing and business.  Ironically, he said that the complaint he hears most from CEOs around the world is this: “I’ve spent a lot of money on my organization’s IT infrastructure.  Yet, why is it still so difficult to get the financial info I need to make decisions about my business?”  This was great reinforcement for ObjectSharp’s BI Practice and proof that technology still has a long way to go to better serve our needs.

Since I’m on the sales, marketing and customer service side of business, I won’t comment on the new versions of Visual Studio or SharePoint.  I’ll let my colleagues do that.  What I can say is that I was very intrigued by the Windows 7 and Office 2010 sneak previews.  We saw some exciting demos of many of the new features and I can honestly say (as someone who uses Office daily) that I was impressed and can’t wait to try them.  How about MSN and voicemail access via Outlook?  Transcribed voicemail messages so you don’t need to check your voicemail on your cell or even call into the office phone – just read them via email. There was also a great sorting feature by email conversation thread and an email retention function.  In Excel 2010, you’ll get 100 million rows of data and the ability to create a BI application in minutes!  It’s transformative and it “brings BI to the masses.”  Excel 2010 redefines data analysis, making it easy and illustrative with data visualization capabilities and slicer tools.  In PowerPoint and Word, we saw a demo on live simultaneous co-authoring.  And since Microsoft is ultimately a sales organization, they compared features of their newest products to their competitors’ counter offerings.  Office trounced Lotus Notes.

Some of the great sessions I attended include:

  • Steven M. R. Covey’s “The Speed of Trust: Leading in Crisis” which really hit home for me.  I’m now reading the book.  Just to give you a teaser, his big ideas are that “Trust is the new currency of the new economy” and that “Building trust is a learnable skill and asset we can move a deal on.”
  • “The IAMCP Partnering Maturity Model: Roadmap to Higher Profits and Increased Customer Satisfaction”
  • “Become a Trusted Advisor and Win Big Business”

For me, WPC was a chance to make connections with people who work in similar roles, or whose different roles help inform my business knowledge.  I met people from Russia, Armenia, France, Mexico, the US and England.  We were a diverse bunch, but had much in common.  Attending sessions that placed a huge emphasis on Trust and Partnership (with customers, colleagues and business partners) definitely rubbed off on us.  I was encouraged and buoyed by an amazing vibe of camaraderie and progress.  The conference culminated in an amazing party featuring Playing for Change.  The audience was engaged!   After our WPC experience, I think we all changed for the better.