Monthly Archives: July 2013

From the Daily Prompt: Back to School

If I could go back to school? I’d do carpentry. Fine carpentry. I have always enjoyed working with wood and building things. Sadly, there just doesn’t seem to be as much time to do it as I’d like to and the skills tend to erode.

If I couldn’t do that, I’d do automotive stuff, particularly body work and refinishing.

How I Work

Following in some distinguished footsteps, I now share some insights and a sneak-peek into How I Work.

Without further ado….

Mark's headshot.

Hi, I’m Mark Sheppard. This is How I Work.
Don’t I look Professional?


Just outside The Big Smoke (a.k.a. Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Current Gig:

Instructional Development Officer at the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering. (On long-term contract)

Current mobile device:

A remarkably resilient but slowly failing iPhone 4

Current computer:
(Work 1) A standard Defence Wide Area Network configuration PC, somewhat slow but very secure.

(Work 2) A more recent laptop on a separate, secondary wireless network enabling me freer but not insecure access to the broader Internet and, of course, the PLN.

(Home) I usually just share the iPad or my wife’s Mac, or just use my PlayBook. There is a crummy Acer Netbook that sometimes deigns to allow me to use iTunes, as long as I’m not in a huge hurry to sync my phone. Or do anything else, for that matter.

One word that describes how you work:

Chaos (controlled)

Why didn’t you just use one word there, Mark?

Because I hate artificial/arbitrary boundaries. Don’t judge me.

What apps/tools/gadgets can you simply not live without?

  1. My phone. It is my link to the outside world

    A process sketch from work

    Process/Workflow Sketch

  2. Twitter
  3. Evernote
  4. Pencils (sometimes you just can’t beat the venerable graphite when you need to sketch out ideas. This is a tribute to my graphic design training)
  5. I should also include the growing love for my Livescribe SmartPen
  6. Red pens (invariably used to mark-up hard copy documents when I’m in editing mode and need to think outside the comment function)
  7. Audiobooks/audio dramas/educational podcasts
  8. Flipchart-sized Post-Its.

What’s your workspace like?

Well, you could charitably call the state of my desk “random”, but it is controlled chaos. I believe a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind. For all my love of tech, sometimes I need to lay my hands on paper…particularly because most bureaucracies love their hard copies of stuff and the military is no different.

Mark's Workspace

My desk is in the back corner by the bike
(click to enlarge)

I share an office with 4 other people and on the chaos scale, I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle.

What’s your best time saving trick?

Use the right tool for the job. e.g. don’t follow a linear process (“ADDIE, you’re on!”) for interactive online learning.

Oh, and template everything.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

It’s a toss-up.  1) Packing suitcases. In my Army days I learned very quickly that if you were going to carry your house on your back, you had better have it packed well, and suitably organized. 2) Navigating. I spent years doing Reconnaissance in the Army, and it’s a skill that got honed quite well. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally take wrong turns, but it does mean I can find my way back out, and that’s the harder trick.

What do you listen to while you work?

I tend not to listen to much while I’m working, other than the white noise from the ductwork and the amusing commentary from my teammates (our pun-fests are not to be missed). However, because I have a insane long commute to/from work, I have lots of time to listen to a variety of aural amusements.  So, my driving soundtrack usually doesn’t bother with a lot of radio (although I did find a good Jazz station as a nice diversion) and I listen to a broad range of audiobooks, full-cast audio dramas (usually British, sci-fi, etc.), audio comedies, sci-fi fan fiction, and some educational or through-provoking podcasts related to L&D.  In the event that I need to tune out at work, I will switch to classical, jazz, or prog rock.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?

If you ask me, I’m an introvert. If you ask people I have met professionally, they consider me an extrovert.  I can’t rationalize the dichotomy so I don’t even try.  This is me.  Enjoy the ride.

Desk Shot

A few inspirations and silliness

What’s your sleep routine like?

I try to get to bed early because I’m up very early to try and beat the traffic (when the one-way trek is 140km, this is essential).  I occasionally grapple with the snooze bar. I’m ahead on points over the career match-up, but only just.  I usually fall asleep to audio of some kind. My wife doesn’t get how I do that, particularly if it’s an interesting story, but there are some audiobook narrators that are soothing enough that I can fall asleep. Many’s the tale I’ve had to forcibly listen to in the daytime because I’ve never gotten past the prologue. I have a strange, occasional habit of waking up around 3AM. Nobody is sure why. Oh, and if I do wake up, I can’t look at the time, otherwise I’m too ‘anchored’. It’s better if I just go back to sleep, rather than ponder just how little time I have left until I really have to get up.

Best Piece of Advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t be afraid to screw up.” Wise words from a Captain I once worked for when I was a young, keen Corporal in the Reserves. I admit I sometimes lose sight of this guidance when I get run over by my own enthusiasm, but I try to keep it as a reminder to take risks once in a while, and not to worry about the consequences.

Fill in the blank. I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.

Getting the whole PLN to play along would be nice, but as unlikely as it is, I’d love to see Harold Jarche answer these questions, with Jane Bozarth being a close second.

Quick Update

Pardon me while I blow the dust off the blog.

My day job has been full and rich of late, leaving precious time to carefully craft suitable offerings here. However, here are a few highlights:

  • I completed a major ID undertaking that occupied the entire month of June. This entailed the design of the Training Plan for a new course encompassing the common foundational training for all RCAF aircraft technicians. The next phase of the project is to lead the development of the entire 3 month course and all the learning assets.
  • I am currently engaged in a new Stanford MOOC on Design Thinking. So far it’s fascinating and very inspiring. I even managed to entice my PLN colleague Bianca Woods to join in the fun.
  • I am also training for my first ever half-marathon. I’m training 5 days out of 7. While that time is great for clearing my head, I haven’t found a way to blog while running. I am now accepting suggestions for this challenge.

Coming up next, my own take on Lifehacker’s “How I Work”.