The Hot Iron

A journal on business, technology and occasional diversions by Mike Maddaloni

Friday, January 23, 2015

My Guest Post On The CorporateStays.com Blog

CorporateStays.com logo

I was recently invited to write a guest post on the blog for CorporateStays.com, a service which matches luxury accommodations for travelers in select cities in the world like Montreal, Miami and Panama City. Digging into my experience with travel, I decided to write about tips for traveling in the winter months. My post, Travel Tips for Travelling to a Wintery Destination, is now live.

Where my typical writing is about business and technology, I file this under the “occasional diversion” I refer to in the description of The Hot Iron. The more I write, the more these come to mind, and the more these may be available to read by you and others.

Thanks to my good friend CT Moore and the staff at CorporateStays.com for the opportunity to write this.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/23/15 at 06:51 AM
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Viivant Powerbank Unboxing and Initial Thoughts Video

photo of Viivant Powerbank batteries

It’s a power grab out there, and it’s every woman, man and child for themselves!

No, I am not talking about politics, rather something even more daunting of a challenge – the battery life of mobile phones and other portable devices.

The more we use these devices, the more we need them powered. In addition to this take into consideration that these devices can drain power from batteries unbeknownst to us, due to everything from leaving features turned on when unneeded to poorly written software running on them. Add to it that batteries are not made to last forever as well as many devices are not made to let you change the battery, it is no surprise a market has been unleashed over the past years for portable, external battery chargers.

When I heard about the Viivant Powerbank product line, I was interested to see what they were bringing to the marketplace for batteries – from design to features. I just received a Viivant Powerbank set to evaluate, and below is the video of the unboxing of the batteries (yes, 2) and my initial thoughts and impressions. You can view the embedded video or click here to view the Viivant Powerbank unboxing video on YouTube.

My initial thoughts can only be related to the appearance of the batteries, prior to me putting them to the ultimate test of charging my various devices around the household. As I mentioned there are 2 batteries – a larger one which can charge a device up to 7 times and has the ability to charge 2 devices at once. It also has a stylish case and power remaining display. Also included is a smaller, short cylindrical battery which can hold a single charge for a single device. It also has a color indicator for charging, but the light is within the case and is only illuminated when something is plugged into it.

Compared to other batteries I own and have seen, these are very comparable in size and weight. The larger battery has a unique design to it, and the fact it can charge 2 devices at once is an extremely functional and needed feature. I am also impressed that both of these are bundled together – most other batteries I have seen are only sold individually, and I bought my own current high-capacity battery and smaller-capacity ones separately. Couple this with competitive pricing on Amazon, the Viivant Powerbank batteries are also a very affordable option as well.

Next Stop, Wonderland

As I write this I am charging the batteries and will put them to the true test. I plan to report on how they do – either here and/or on my Twitter account @thehotiron.

I must also note that I did receive these batteries from Viivant for evaluation, and there was no expressed or implied contract as to how I use them or what I say about them. Why am I saying this? Read this post here on The Hot Iron about the FTC and I’ll leave it at that and wait for these batteries to charge.

Do you own a Viivant Powerbank? Are you considering getting one? Do you have any questions for me as I evaluate them? Please leave your message in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/20/15 at 09:26 PM
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Friday, January 02, 2015

Mixing It Up In 2015 And The Hot Iron Turns 8

photo of 1983 Boston Red Sox program

Happy 2015! As today, the second day of January, officially marks the first business day of the year, and by now most have recovered from the merriment of New Year’s Eve, I would like to wish you all a great new year.

Where rolling to a new calendar also comes with resolutions, mine is simply to mix it up in 2015. I started the new year off much differently than I did in past years: sans kids, just me and my lovely wife at a Spanish restaurant, where just about every year that I can remember has involved Chinese food (a Boston tradition) and the past several years have been with our kids, even if they were sleeping in the next room. This was a fun change, and a great way to ring in 2015.

So in mixing it up in 2015, I am not looking to make major strategy changes, but smaller, incremental changes that I see as adding up to something bigger and better. Maybe I take a different route to go someplace, or a different approach to reaching out to someone, or simply wear a different color socks on occasion – I am hoping to stop and think when I get into doing something routine or that comes too natural to me, and think how to change it in some way.

The Hot Iron at 8

December 30 marks the official anniversary of the launch of this little blog which is now 8 years old. It’s almost wild to think I have been at this, at varying degrees, this long. Writing is something I have enjoyed more and more over time, and it has been both a creative outlet as well as a way to vent some of my frustrations over business and technology – the overarching theme of this repository. Whether this is your first time reading or you are a long time subscriber – thank you!

I have written an anniversary post of mixed sorts over the years, and if you’re so inclined you can read them for the following anniversaries of The Hot Iron: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 01/02/15 at 07:52 AM
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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Celebrating Christmas 2014 In A Traditional and Non-Traditional Way

photo of my nativity scene

To all of my family, friends and readers who celebrate the holiday, Merry Christmas! To everyone else, have a great Thursday!

As the origin of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, I share the above picture of my nativity scene. This was a gift from my Mom many years ago, as she gave myself and my sister identical nativities. I am proud to share it with my little ones.

So that is the traditional celebration of Christmas. Now for the non-traditional way.

I ran across this video the other day and I was speechless. It is a Star Wars Christmas special that aired on TV back in 1978. You can read the full story about it here if you’d like, or you can just view the show embedded below or by following this link to Vimeo.

Though I was a young lad back in 1978, I don’t remember this show that aired only once. After watching it – ok, even reading the premise of it – that is probably a good thing. If you are a die-hard Star Wars fan or just a casual one, you will find this amusing to say the least.

If you like it, then consider it my gift to you. If you don’t, then we can just forget about it.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/25/14 at 12:00 AM
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Monday, December 22, 2014

My Worst Managers Never Took Me To Lunch

photo of menu at Starbucks in Gold Coast, Chicago

When I look back across my career at the variety of managers I have had, there is a broad spectrum of them from amazing to horrible and everything in between. As I was recently thinking of those I considered the “worst” – those whom I had a poor experience working with – a common denominator came to light that I feel is central to why things did not work out well.

They never took me to lunch.

More Than A Meal

Don’t get me wrong, I am not just looking for a free meal, nor do I think these people are cheap in any way. Frugality with a corporate spending account has come up in dealings with past managers, and for me it is near the bottom of the list.

The fact these managers did not take me to lunch goes well beyond the meal itself and its cost. It has to do with the overall action itself – getting out of the office, a 1-on-1 meeting in a different setting and the discovery and insight about each other that comes with the conversation over the meal. Or in short – the manager getting to know me better, and me getting to know the manager better. This deeper knowledge about a person is important for a working relationship, going beyond the surface and skillsets to truly get the most of that person, and ensure they are happy and satisfied in the work environment.

Meals Alone Don’t Make A Manager

Where I feel that the invitation and act of taking someone to lunch is important in a working relationship, it is not the defining moment for a manager if they do so. In all honesty, most all of the managers I have had in all my years have broken bread with me, some at least once and others on a regular basis. And those managers would be represented across the above-mentioned spectrum. Even those whom I would rank along the lower end of that spectrum, I feel by having had a meal with them, and getting to know them as more than what was written on their business card, outranks those few who did not take this time or see it as important.

My Own Experience With Meal Invites

Where I have been talking about being on the receiving end of a meal invite from a manager, in my own role as a manager over the years I have taken many people to breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, snack or food in some capacity outside of the office and away from the grind to have a conversation. Call it the Italian-American in me, or just call it effective, but this opportunity to further connect with a team member or colleague is a very important part of how I have been successful throughout my career.

Here’s a couple of ways I have integrated lunch and my teams.

Re-energizing After Being Dazed And Confused

It was one of those meeting where you sit there and wonder, with all of this brain power, could we possibly cure cancer? But alas in the end really nothing was accomplished other than puzzled looks on everyone's faces and bad tastes in everyone's mouths.

I was asked to come to an "emergency" meeting and to bring my developers and even my graphic designer. As the manager of the front-end design and development team part of my job was to be the conduit between my team and senior leadership, who called the meeting and the people who did the great things to make our application a reality. In short, I would shield them from the insanity of such meetings. However the requesters pulled rank - literally - and demanded all of us in the meeting.

To make a long story - and long meeting - short, we all didn't need all of the king’s horses and all of the kings subjects to be in the meeting, and after an hour or so we all staggered out of the meeting room with the above mentioned looks and tastes.

Once we all collected in the lobby I decided the team needed to be rewarded for enduring this, so I told them that I would be taking them to lunch. The meal would be on the company, but only if we did not talk about work; if anyone brought up work they would have to pay for their own meal. Needless to say everyone agreed. As we walked back from the restaurant, I realize that we had bonded even deeper as a team than we had before and learned a lot about each other's backgrounds and beliefs, and I feel it had a great impact on our teamwork going forward.

Not When But When I Want To

After joining a start-up company and signing my life away (and possibly my future first born) I was then given our business plan our operating guides, policies and procedures. Reading through all of it I noticed there was no mention about specific business expenses, namely meals. I raised this with our HR director who told me to talk with our CFO, and my conversation with him went something like this:

Me: “Hi Homer (not his real name), what is the policy on expensing meals?”
CFO: “Um, who are you taking to lunch?”
Me: “Members of my team, and others in the company?”
CFO: “Um, when?”
Me: “Whenever I want to!”
CFO: “Um…”

At that point I talked with the company president, whom I had interviewed and talked with extensively during the onboarding process to the company, and he knew my leadership philosophy and told me to take whomever, whenever, and to expense it. These meals, sometimes, at the local mall food court, sometimes at a sit-down restaurant, were integral to me getting to know the team I inherited at the start-up, who they were, what motivated them, and importantly issues they had within the company. Although I was only with the start-up for 6 months and 5 days (a story for another time!), it was a productive time and I got some great things out of our team.

More Than A Skillset

If you read other posts here at The Hot Iron you will see I talk quite a bit about managing and leading people, and it involves a deeper knowledge of who they are, in addition to what they do. Frankly, it just works for me – always has, and I believe it will in the future. Some have labeled my approach as “touchy-feely” and so be it – we all have our styles, and in the end it’s up to the person as to whom they want to work for. Needless to say, I am not looking to work again with those past managers who didn’t take me to lunch.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on my approach in the comments to this post. Has meetings over meals worked for you or not? Do you see it as a way to deepen a working relationship, or just fill your belly?


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/22/14 at 12:02 AM
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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Join Me And Support Barrel Of Monkeys For Giving Tuesday 2014 #givingtuesday

Barrel of Monkeys logo

After Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, if you have anything left, I welcome you to join me and support a great organization, Barrel of Monkeys, for Giving Tuesday.

Though I don’t know the story about how Giving Tuesday came to be, I know well the story of Barrel of Monkeys – what they do, how they do it, and the impact they have made on school kids in Chicago.

In short, Barrel of Monkeys teaches elementary school kids creative writing in several Chicago Public Schools and an after-school program. They learn how to create a story from beginning to end, journaling them in their notebooks. These stories are then adapted into sketch comedy by the Barrel of Monkeys company members and performed for the students in their schools. So not only do they learn how to write creatively, they also see their work come to life!

But that’s not where it ends – every week there is a performance by the Barrel of Monkeys company members, where several of these sketches are performed to audiences live. Each sketch is introduced and the student author is acknowledged, and the program given to each audience member has what the students actually wrote – sometimes it’s just a sentence, other times it’s several paragraphs and everywhere in between. The company members donate their time to perform, and all money raised goes back into the overall program.

The preceding gives only a synopsis of the great work Barrel of Monkeys does – you can read more on their Web site @ barrelofmonkeys.org or see for yourself their programs and some of their sketch comedy performances on their YouTube channel.

Below is a funny video promoting Giving Tuesday and Barrel of Monkeys, performed by Barrel of Monkeys company members and staff Elizabeth and Joseph – watch the embedded video below or you can view it directly on their YouTube channel.

Thank you for your support! And why would I be thanking you and promoting Barrel of Monkeys? I am proud a member of their Board of Directors.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 12/02/14 at 09:57 AM
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Monday, November 17, 2014

What I Learned From Writing What I Learned This Past Year

photo of the last page of The Giving Tree

Earlier this year I decided to write weekly posts here at The Hot Iron about what I learned over the past 7 days. Over 8 months I wrote 32 posts sharing numerous things that I learned. I wrote the last one on August 29, 2014, which will be my last in this series.

Fun for me while it lasted

The catalyst for this topic thread was simple - I had too many things I learned and/or wanted to write about but not enough time to write the posts. As much as I would like to simply “bang out” my thoughts on the keyboard, for me the writing process is more elaborate than that, from the thought on the topic to writing, to editing, to an accompanying photo… it takes me time. That being said, writing is something I enjoy and is a great creative outlet for me.

Writing posts that were more of a collection of nuggets of information was a good idea at first and something that interested me. I was also hoping to write single-topic pieces as well. Over time though the thrill waned and then it got to where I was not writing one every week, then the most recent gap of a couple of months. As for those single-topic pieces, they were few and far between.

Back to where it began

I've decided to retire this thread and return to writing as I gave before - posts on single topics on business and technology and other occasional diversions. For those of you who are my loyal readers I thank you and I hope that you'll enjoy this change as well. As always, I will never fully promise any number of posts, but am hoping to at least write one a week.

Still learning

As I still get disappointed when a day goes by when I don't learn something, I am still logging those thoughts and will be sharing them on my Twitter account – you can follow me there at @thehotiron. Of course there may be more diversions than in the blog itself, as well as more conversations and other thoughts but I still share all the business and tech news with my unbiased opinion as much as possible.

I hope you won’t miss my “learned” posts – or will you? Please let me know either way in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 11/17/14 at 12:15 AM
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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Quick Poll – What Is The Work You Do Really To You?

Is the work you do a vocation, career or simply a job?

This is the question I am asking in this quick poll. As I am reading the book 48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal by Dan Miller, this question is the activity of day 6 of the 48, where one is supposed to discuss this with 2 people about what they do for work and if it is a vocation or their calling, part of the progression of their career path or if it is merely a job where they are collecting a paycheck.

I have decided to go wide with this query and am asking all readers of this post to answer this poll. In addition, I am interested in the discussion of why you made your selection and welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post. As the comments are moderated, you may respond anonymously, and providing you are not spamming the comments with ads for knock-off merchandise, I will post them.

Thank you in advance, and I am eager to see your votes as well as your comments as to if what you do for work is a vocation, career or job.

Please make your selection below - if you cannot see the poll question please answer the poll here.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 11/02/14 at 11:15 PM
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Takeaways From The Book Who Moved My Cheese?

photo of What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

I was aware of the book Who Moved My Cheese? for some time, yet I had no idea what the story was about. When I found the book after moving, I decided to take it and give it a read. It was a short book yet it was packed with a powerful message to me.

Written by Dr. Spencer Johnson, the co-author of The One Minute Manager (yet another book I have not read, but I digress) Who Moved My Cheese? is a story of people telling the story and discussing “who moved my cheese?” and what they took away from it. When you read the story it's hard not to put yourself into the characters of the story, whether it’s those who are hearing the story or those who are in the story “who moved my cheese?” Interestingly, the discussion of the story takes place in Chicago.

After putting down the book, my takeaways were very obvious to me.

  • Everything is in constant change – whether we realize it or not, things are always changing. This may be obvious for some things but for many things in our lives it probably isn't as obvious as others, yet we need to be aware of all change.
  • Laugh at yourself – This is something I have always felt that I was really good at, but it's something that when you go down a certain path you may forget to do. By stepping back and taking yourself out of the situation, it will help you see things much clearer and allow you the opportunity to laugh at it a little bit.
  • Be the “haw” – The character “Haw” in the story Who Moved My Cheese? is the hero, the one who decided to move on when things were bad. His line in the story about what you would do if you weren't afraid is something to take to heart.
  • It's never too late to change – Even if things are very bad and you don't think there's an opportunity to change, there is a choice to make to remain where you are or get out and move on.

Granted this isn't the only book that has ever been written about picking up and moving on, but I think it tells it in a way that it realizes the struggles people have with just doing that and spells it out in a way that makes it easier for you to relate to it.

At 96 pages, Who Moved My Cheese? is an extremely quick read and I read it in about an hour. Though the book was originally published in 1998, it is a timeless story and very relevant today for what I'm doing and what other people I know are doing. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the book. As I am done reading it, if you would like my copy please let me know and I'll share it with you.

I welcome your thoughts on the book Who Moved My Cheese? in the comments of this post. Was it a good story for you, or a silly read, or something else?


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 10/22/14 at 11:36 AM
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Friday, October 10, 2014

The Work Project I Never Politically Worked On

Ah, company politics. They can be anything from mildly amusing to wrenchingly painful. In any case, they are at a minimum something you shake your head at. Unfortunately there are politics of some form in every work place and it really depends on the people involved as to how bad the politics can be.

The following story is one of company politics that to this day I still shake my head and laugh at. However at the time I admit I was pretty pissed off about it. It is a true story – one that I went through myself about a dozen years ago. The names of people in the company of all been changed to protect the innocent or feeble.

I was working in internal IT for a software company supporting the software and hardware for its public Web site and Intranet. Along came a major project where the company was going to implement PeopleSoft, an enterprise resource management or ERM system. As a result, everyone in IT was supposed to be working on the PeopleSoft project and not on anything else, including the work I was doing on our Web site and Intranet. Of course reality is always something different, as there was nobody else to technically support either of those projects, and I continued to support both.

One day I got a call about a major project the company was undertaking. It was going to go through a significant rebranding effort, keeping the same logo but rebranding all products and services including a new Web site. Although we had plenty of technical people in the company, I was the person to work on the new Web site as I knew it best, from the marketing team to the infrastructure to code behind it. The call had come from the marketing manager whom I had worked with since I've been there supporting the Web site. I then told her what the new “situation” was in IT, where I was not supposed to be supporting the current Web site, let alone build a new one. Needless to say this didn't make any sense to her, but she understood well how the company politics was, especially in IT.

Next up for her was to raise the “situation” up through her management, which then brought it up to the IT management and then came back down to me. I got a call from my manager who told me that after all I was supposed to work on the new Web site. But there was only one stipulation: I wasn't politically supposed to be working on this project therefore I wasn't supposed to tell anyone about it. So technically I was wasn’t working on the project, even though it was going to take most all of my time for the next several months.

Makes perfect sense right? I didn't think so.

Despite the insanity of the “situation” I had a job to do. A lot of work went into building the Web site, but it was something enjoyed doing very much and it didn't seem like a job at all. I was working very closely with our marketing manager, where I was located in Boston and she was in Vermont. Throughout the entire project we never actually saw each other, but despite that we were extremely successful at what we built.

In addition to building the Web site, I was also responsible for registering and acquiring new domain names for our rebranded products and services. As this was a publicly traded company, the rebranding was very secretive and very few people knew what the new product names were to be. But I was one of them. So that's a lot of faith and confidence in the guy that's not officially working on the project.

Overall the project was a success and we launched the new Web site on the day the company launched the rebranding. A lot of hard work and long hours went into it, and where we were very relieved when it was over, there was a lot of pride in the work we did. About a week after the rebranding, an email came out from the president of the company thanking individually all the people who worked on the rebranding. That is, all except for me. Of course this made complete sense because the president wasn't told I worked on the project because for political reasons I wasn't working on the project as nobody from IT was supposed to be working on anything else but the PeopleSoft project.

No sooner did the email come out from the president, I got a call from the marketing manager who was completely shocked that I was left off the list. I have to admit I was slightly irate I didn't get official recognition, but I knew the “situation” and took it for what it was. At least my immediate colleagues knew I worked on the project and I got kudos from them. Where I did not get credit from the president, I knew what I did and was just as proud as I was before the email came out.

Several weeks later we had an all-hands meeting for the IT organization. As I wasn't really in the mood for going to listen to this meeting in person, I decided just to dial into it from my desk. At the conclusion of the meeting the chief information officer, or CIO, brought up the rebranding project and even singled me out for the work that I did on it. What? Public recognition from the guy who had decided I technically didn't work on the project and made sure that I didn't get credit for it from the president of the company? Needless to say I was mildly irate and may have even made a gesture at the phone as I was listening to this. Interestingly, the CIO himself never personally thanked me for the work that I did on the Web site, and knowing how he operated even his public acknowledgment was very halfhearted.

It's one thing going into a consulting project or a contract knowing that for proprietary reasons you can't reference you worked on a project. When it comes to political reasons for not working on a project, they typically make absolutely no sense and are more to cover for someone than anything else. This was the case here, in a company with plenty of resources and a “leader” who would not acknowledge a significant company effort in order to keep to his marching orders that all-hands would be working on the ERM initiative. Of course by that statement alone there is no leadership shown.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How would you have reacted if it was you? I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.


This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.


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Posted by Mike Maddaloni on 10/10/14 at 08:52 PM
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The Hot Iron strives to present unique content and perspective on business, technology and other topics by Mike Maddaloni, a Web and business strategist based in Chicago.

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