From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

October 2015
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Watch-Outs. 89. Social Security Changes, ACS Unemployed Member benefits, Productive Habits, and Tax-free municipal bond investments
Filed under: Interviewing, Job Offer (Situations), Mentoring, Legal matters, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 1:32 pm

Since the financial items out number the psychological
ones, we will start out with them.

Have you been paying attention to the budget agreement
Congress has passed on to President Obama?  It takes
away a Social Security provision that allowed retirees
certain benefits and could impact those nearing retirement.

A second financial item relates to a mislabeling of
of municipal bond yields.  Evidently bonds are offered
issued at a premium over par.  They are often called
before maturity.  Meaning– lower yields than labelled.

A third financial item relates to benefits to ACS
member who are unemployed.

The non-financial item is about a book describing
“productive habits” we all might benefit from.

SOURCE:  A. Tergesen,  WSJ 10-31-15, “New
social security rules to end key filing strategies

I sent my brother who recently turned 66 this article
that spells out the end of social security spousal
benefit upgrade for some retirees.  There is a
six month period before the regulations go into
effect.  This could be several thousand dollars a
year difference for those who are affected.

SOURCE:  J. Zweig, WSJ  10-31-15, ” How
Muni Bonds Yield 4% in a 2% World

Those investing in low risk, no tax municipal
bonds might be in for a shock to find the real
return is nearly half of what is advertized.  Zweig
suggests asking your broker or adviser to
reveal the “yield to worst’ on your municipal
bonds, adjusted for return of principal.

SOURCE:  T. Connelly, letter for the executive
director to members, 10-1-15
In this letter seeking our membership renewal,
each one of us 158,000 (~5000 less that last
number in memory), might benefit from the
“members-only benefit” of up to 3 years free
membership (not sure if it is sequential or
additive) if you are unemployed.  There are also
some benefits that you should ask for if you are
faced with such a personal challenge.  In our
new world of temporary or episodic employment
this might be meaningful.

SOURCE:  Peter Bregman, “Four Seconds“,
Harper One, 2015
Bregman goes into how we instinctively form
habits to live through our daily lives.  He breaks
them down into mental, relationship, work,
self-defeating, and what I call productive habits.
He spends effort on boredom, how we become
our worst critic of ourselves, perfection and

What I liked were his descriptions of “productive”
habits– taking a “4 second pause”  to develop options
when you face a problem, a 4-second pause when
attacked to ask questions [reducing tension in a
situation], a 4-second pause to establish focus each day,
to follow through and to prepare each day what are
short term and longer term priorities.

Revealing Emotional Intelligence Class.
Filed under: First Year on Job, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 5:39 pm

Two dozen grad students attended a class on learning about their
emotional make-up.  They had been given assignments to complete
their MBTI profile and also asked to assess their values 3   and
behavior tendencies   3  .

Each one of these grad students is very smart and are
put into situations where they might wish to look smart
[leading a problem solving class, tutoring, giving seminars,

It reminded me of an article by Sue Shellenbarger of WSJ who
conveyed “the appearance of intelligence is [done] largely
with nonverbal cues… People get high marks when they talk in
simple, straightforward language with a lot of energy and
engagement.  Make eye contact.  Speak in a pleasant voice. 
Articulate words clearly, pause between sentences.  Listen
closely to others and be transparent about what you do and
do not know.”

Attempts to talk over people’s heads by using jargon, big words,
or complicated sentences will be quickly seen as a pose.  

Observing how the class was widely divided in terms of
MBTI preferences [10 of 16 MBTI subcategories were
revealed and confirmed by descriptions found in two books*]. 
Their different preferences view the world and decisions they
made with different lenses and criteria.   It was revealing and
several remarked that this puts a whole new view on working
with people.

* S. J. Scott and Rebecca Livermore, Confident you…2015, Kindle
   Isabel Briggs Myers, Introduction to Type, 6th edition, CPP
Inc., 1998

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Grant Writing for SBIRs/STTRs
Filed under: Networking, Mature professionals, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 2:25 pm

A collaborator on several projects recently shared some proposal
writing links when we were networking recently.  We had a
conversation a couple of years ago about proposal content.

N. Wagner, this time, shared letter writing for SBIT/STTRs which
is the federal governments seed funding arm for technology
development by small business who collaborate with research
institutions in Phase I and Phase II, bridging the gap between basic
science and innovation commercialization.

although called Letters of Support, these letters are really “Letters
of Commitment”! They are IOUs from your team members to the company.
It’s important to note that they are always addressed to the Principal
Investigator (PI) on the project or the Business Official at the company
– not to NIH. Let’s take a look at some of these letters and what goes
into them. - See more at:
Letters of Support are commitment letters addressed to the
Project leader, not to the funding organization, from
  key senior or technical people to join the company
  subcontractors -  on subcontractor letter headed paper.
  special consultants supporting the project
  commercial partners
  • A Letter from a Senior/Key person
    (including the PI) needs to be included if the person your company is
    planning to hire is currently employed elsewhere, but plans to join the
    company at the time of award. The letter will state that they will be
    employed at the applicant company at the time of award, and include
    their anticipated time commitment and role on the project.
  • Letters from Subcontractors need to mention clearly
    who at the sub-contracting organization is working on the project,
    clarify their role and time commitment on the project and the budget for
    the sub-contract. These letters must be on the sub-contracting
    organization’s letterhead. 
  • Letters from Consultants must specify their time
    commitment, the specific guidance they are providing on the project, and
    the compensation they are being offered by the applicant company. 
  • Letters from Commercialization Partners are
    typically part of a Phase II proposal. They are provided by potential
    investors, distributors, strategic partners, prospective customers,
    potential licensees, etc. Such letters must be “tangible,” i.e., they
    must demonstrate a market need and clear commercial path for the product
    being developed and the company’s ability to attract the right
    resources to carry though to successful commercialization. 
  • - See
    more at:

    They focus on the commercial potential, market, adoption
    by users or willingness to collaborate or offer funding
    support when the grant is awarded.  The most powerful letters
    are from opinion leaders, industry partners and venture capitalists.

    4 kinds of letters of support

    although called Letters of Support, these letters are really “Letters
    of Commitment”! They are IOUs from your team members to the company.
    It’s important to note that they are always addressed to the Principal
    Investigator (PI) on the project or the Business Official at the company
    – not to NIH. Let’s take a look at some of these letters and what goes
    into them. - See more at:
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    Communication without saying a word. Silent Influencing.
    Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, Leadership
    Posted by: site admin @ 9:19 am

    Let me share some insights gleaned from recent eBook by
    Michael Nir, Silent Influencing, that offers meaningful
    guides enhancing our communications and interpreting
    others combination of verbal and nonverbal messages.

    -  Use a “cluster” of signals, gestures and “emblems” to
    provide clearer messages.  In other words avoid choosing
    to interpret one nonverbal element in interpreting another’s
    views, thinking or opinion.
    [”steepling one’s fingers” is a ‘gesture,’ while “stroking one’s
    chin,” as if thinking about something, is an ‘emblem’.]

    -  When there is an apparent contradiction between nonverbal
    signals and words of speech
    , many choose to find stronger
    meaning in the nonverbal signals.  Think of a person shaking
    his head “no” and saying “yes” with arms folded and eyes looking
    down to the ground.

    -  First impressions stick with us and our human tendency is
    to confirm our initial impressions, rather than keeping an open

    - It is possible to influence thinking, judgment and decisions
    by changing simple things like seating arrangements.  The
    surrounding environment can sometimes make a difference.

    - To overcome resistance or reluctance revealed by a silent
    and closed and distant person, engagement by enlisting
    support and handing them something to induce opening
    up, coming closer and agreeing to participate

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    Self Assessment Dilemma. Thinking overtaken by Technopoly
    Filed under: Mentoring, Mature professionals, Observ. Trends
    Posted by: site admin @ 2:43 pm

    In preparing for a future class on assessing our personal
    emotions that effect our behaviors and decisions
    books came to my attention, that I wish to tell you about.

    - Peter Whybrow,  The Well-tuned Brain:  Neuroscience
    and the Life Well-Lived, Norton and Company, NY, 2015

    - Neil Postman, Amusing ourselves to Death:  Public
    Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Elisabeth Afton
    Books, Viking, NY, 1985

    - Neil Postman, The End of Education:  Redfining the
    Value of School, Vintage Books, Div. of RandHouse, NY

    I was curious to learn Whybrow’s take on how our brain
    works as we go through our daily activities and thinking. 
    We describe most routines as habits that seem to be a
    repetition from before and we go into auto-pilot to
    perform.  Intuition is based on implicit learning a pattern
    of facts, cues and events that we synthesize while going
    about our daily activities.  We unconsciously use both.
    The class intends to help discover them using MBTI,
    values and behaviors assessments.

    Research reveals that although human brains attain 90%
    of their size by age 6, it will take 2 or more decades to achieve
    functional maturity with different regions varying in pace
    and timing.
    To achieve self-command we must learn what drives us
    and accept that we are often ruled by the short term and
    habit, although intellectually driven, curious and self

    Humans sense the need for order in the changing world,
    an understanding of our place and purpose which imagination
    and traditions/culture offer “touchstones” and signify our
    values.  Postman, Whybrow asserts, reflected on a technopoly
    which represents an invasion into our imagination organized
    realm due to our now gadget-driven, time-limited, distracted
    world.  Education is no longer providing the basics to allow
    thoughtful questioning, open and adaptable curiosity to
    pursue learning.

    We have allowed our memory, values, curiosity and imagination
    to be outsourced drawn by hyperlinks, video clips, side-bars
    distracted thinking and superficial learning.

    Schools reinforce the culture of learning for economic utility.
    consumership and technology.  This reality, Postman asserts
    is a Faustian bargain… we gain a little and we lose a lot.
      - the advantages are unevenly distributed
      - while seeming simple, there is complexity embedded in
    each technology
      - new technologies replace older ones in a competition
    which speeds up and loses some of its benefits because
    of intellectual and emotional biases and financial incentives
      - it is believed that there is a common core with a global
    view, but there is too much and much has to be displaced.
    –arbitrary inclusion and exclusion results.

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    Watch-Outs. 88. Recharacterize Roth IRAs and Open Access Publication Alerts
    Filed under: Mentoring, Leadership, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors, Alternate Career Paths
    Posted by: site admin @ 8:11 am

    It is the beginning of the 2015 Fourth Quarter and the
    stock market has not been universally good this year.
    Not going into any of those details, but will point you
    to an article about some opportunities that certain
    technical professional investors might calculate for
    themselves using Turbotax of similar software.

    SOURCE:  L. Saunders, WSJ 10-3-15, “Why it’s prime
    time for Roth IRA

    Roth IRAs are the “gold standard” of tax sheltered
    retirement plans from which withdrawals are presently
    tax-free on untaxed gains and after tax contributions.
    The issue is in the short term past many investments
    lost value.  This article suggests Roth investors might
    undo Roth conversions last year or this year and
    avoid paying the taxon value that has “vanished”.
    Deadline is Oct. 15.  Comments might be helpful
    to peruse.

    SOURCE:  ECS Open Access
                       Alternative Article Impact
    Got my first email from ECS Weekly Digests from two technical
    areas that I signed up for.  They inform me of recent publications
    that this society reviewed and accepted.  Beyond my expectations
    was outstanding other services that will allow me to communicate
    better, learn new areas and deepen my understanding of the
    practical outcomes of scientific investigations.
    Sometimes cartoons in “digital libraries” can be outstanding
    in effectively communicating results, impacts and directions.


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