Following passions (with a dose of reality) can lead to fulfilling opportunities.
@LucretiaPruitt, has over 15,000 followers on Twitter. She is a COBOL expert, a former computer science professor, and she heads up her own social media strategy consulting firm Social Media Matters. She is one of Walmart’s “Eleven Moms,” and corporate giants ranging from Ford to Colgate-Palmolive fly her out to blast reviews of their new products to her vast cyber-network. Of course we met through Twitter!
Lucretia is also a “relauncher” – she took a career break and then
returned to work. When Lucretia was pregnant, she and her husband
originally thought her husband was going to stay home and she was going
to continue teaching Computer Information Services at DeVry University.
But when her daughter was born she changed her mind. She decided to be
the stay at home parent. Here are the lessons from her instructive and
inspiring “relaunch story.”
Lesson 1: Teach just one course. After a couple of years at home, Lucretia started teaching one course as an adjunct professor. She was able to get this job through a friend of hers who taught at the same institution. It was perfect because the time commitment was limited and the lesson prep piece could be done from home. She only needed childcare coverage when she went in to teach the class.
Lesson 2: Become an expert in a specialty with few experts. Then Lucretia started getting calls from a recruiter because of her expertise in COBOL. You might wonder why, because COBOL is widely considered to be an obsolete computer language. However, unbeknownst to most, there are still millions of lines of COBOL embedded in company computer code built over long periods of time. Few know how to fix that old code except for people like Lucretia. Lucretia’s expertise in this “dead” language was so desirable she was able to build a lucrative consulting business around helping companies repair their old COBOL code.
Lesson 3: Know when it is time for a change. In July 2007 Lucretia decided to stop the COBOL consulting and do some soul searching to discover her true interests. Her daughter was now in preschool. She told her husband she wished someone would pay her to do what she really loved to do – teach, speak, network and share info. “I decided I wanted to work in social media and blog professionally. I wanted to consult and to do this independently so I could call the shots and fix things when there were problems without having to wait to get approval from anyone else.”
Lesson 4: Do your homework. Lucretia spent a year studying social networking. In the process she connected with social media experts on Twitter, including Jeremiah Owyang from Forrester (@jowyang on Twitter) and Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer on Twitter, Scobleizer.com),and had debates with them about topics such as “whether Google docs would change the world – Robert Scoble said yes and I said no, because no company would let their data reside on someone else’s server, which would be out of the company’s control." Dennis Howlett (@ZDNet on Twitter) joined the conversation and over time she got to meet all the key players in social media. Finally, Jeremiah asked her why she wasn’t in social media professionally.
Lesson 5: Maintain high ethical standards and levels of transparency. Lucretia was on her way to BlogHer 2008 when Walmart contacted her. They wanted her to be one of their “Eleven Moms” -- influential mom bloggers. Walmart flew her to Bentonville along with the other designated mom bloggers and she has been working with the company ever since. She brought Walmart to the BlogWorld Expo 2008 in Las Vegas and has been working with Walmart’s social media team leader John Andrews to help mold their social media image.
Lest anyone think that as one of Walmart’s “Eleven Moms,” Lucretia had to kowtow to the corporate powers that be, her frank review of her iPhone buying experience at Walmart proved otherwise. This kind of candor is exactly why she is so highly sought after by
companies looking for feedback: she gives credit where credit is due, is
totally transparent about her relationship with the companies she
covers, and isn’t afraid to reveal less than stellar performance.
Speaking of transparency, Lucretia does not get paid for being one of
the Walmart "Eleven Moms." Lucretia will not allow her objectivity to
be compromised, so she is careful about her financial arrangements with
companies and about disclosing them. When reviewing products on her
blog, Lucretia is always explicit about whether a company is paying her
expenses or any other financial arrangements.
@LucretiaPruitt, blows away stereotypes of the 40+ year old mom who is clueless about technology. She’s a bona fide tech expert who flaunts her mom status. Follow her on Twitter @LucretiaPruitt.