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10 Top Team Building Activity Sites – Summer USA

Pittsburgh lands the top spot for team building activities outdoors this summer, says Venture Up, America’s first team building company, entering its third decade hosting team events across the U.S. and abroad. A rich cultural heritage, a strong corporate-community connection, and easy access throughout the city and beyond put Pittsburgh above the rest. Pittsburgh's pedestrians get a good workout with the 45,000 steps built in the hillsides, allowing access to the historic city. Green space is plenty in town and beyond with many public parks suitable for team events. An hour’s drive to the pines brings breaks way to the eclectic Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Pittsburgh is also home to eight Fortune 500 List firms, including America’s most generous company, Alcoa, which donates more than 12 percent of its profits to local and overseas causes.

Minneapolis ranks second, for its expansive historic sites and event space bordering the mighty Mississippi River. Steps beyond the city, Minnesota offers limitless lakes and wilderness with amenities suiting groups of all sizes. Home to 18 Fortune 500 firms, the corporate-community connection in Minneapolis is strong, as evidenced by numerous ongoing projects funded by home-based corporations that serve the public interests for arts, culture, recreation and special events.

Buffalo – Niagara takes third place, with Niagara Falls an ominous power bridging two great nations. Buffalo offers a taste of Europe at Delaware Park, Buffalo’s answer to springtime in Paris. A region of charming towns lies beyond Buffalo, with quaint family-owned restaurants, historical sites, farmers markets, and antique shops. All of the sites in the Top Ten list are busy spots for Venture Up's Amazing Race — a year round event, even it colder climes. Strategic Games are always a good option for indoor or outdoor events.

The List:

1. PITTSBURGH
Team Building Activities: (412) 200-5180

Pittsburgh is a city of American substance; a scenic hilly town where three rivers meet, a land of luscious parks and endless pathways bringing families and company teams together. Pittsburgh, or “Steel City,” forged the industrial might that made America a great nation. Pittsburgh is a model American city today, where generosity and a sense of community are strong, among a people of diverse ethnicity, talent and skill.

Google Maps Pittsburgh

2. MINNEAPOLIS
Team Building Activities: (612) 605-8095

When the weather brightens, Minnesota companies are ready to take on team building activities in Minneapolis . National Geographic has voted the city into the World’s Top 10 Summer Destinations, so it’s no wonder why so many Minneapolis companies stay home for summer meetings, and many Midwest firms out-of-state take the short trip to their sister land to convene. Summer and early fall in Minneapolis are jam-packed with festivities celebrating arts, culture and fun and foliage.
Google Maps Minneapolis

3. BUFFALO – NIAGARA FALLS
Team Building Line: (716) 566-9084

When your neighbor is a big mouth — and in this case, Niagara Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world — it may be easy to fall in the shadow, imbued with envy. Such is not the case for Buffalo. Rich in cultural history, Buffalo has a Olmstead-designed park system that comes fully alive at the breadth of spring. If you can’t make it to Paris, Delaware Park, the crown jewel of Buffalo, is the next best thing. Really, google images don’t lie.
Google Maps Buffalo

4. HOUSTON
Team Building Line: (832) 295-0851

Think of Houston and visions of space shuttles and oil wells come to mind. Houston is also a sophisticated city, rich in arts and culture, with sprawling parks and world class hotels. The Woodlands Waterway is a major draw for locals, visitors and corporate executives who land here for training and team building activities . Festive cultural performances and concerts run year round at the Pavilion.
Google Maps Houston

5. PORTLAND
Team Building Activities: (503) 488-5772

Portland has character, rich in human quality and eco-consciousness. The city is green in more ways than one. The Springwater Corridor is a 21-mile paved path connecting many of Portland’s lush parks. An enchanting collection of old-growth trees, rivers, waterfalls and bridges connect a string of parks within city boundaries. The trail connects to more than 40 trails beyond.
Google Maps Portland

6. NASHVILLE
Team Building Activities: (615) 301-8590

The music of Nashville keeps the city in motion year round. Nashville is a non-stop venue of music events, festivals and fairs. Celebrities are at home here at luxury hotels, as are corporate teams who convene for meetings and training events. Nashville parks rock, especially Centennial Capitol Mall State Park in downtown, a 19-acre spread with a 2,000-seat amphitheater, and 31 fountains, representing every river in Tennessee. And like the beat, the list goes on.
Google Maps Nashville

7. PHOENIX
Team Building Activities: (602) 955-9100

Arizona’s gateway city and a resort destination, Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun is world class on so many levels. Nearly perfect weather draws corporate meetings to famous five-star resorts year round, including the legendary Arizona Biltmore Resort and the Phoenician, both famous for golf, luxurious amenities and celebrity sightings. When summer temps rise above 100 degrees, meeting planners find resort bargains on a grand scale. Conference groups in Phoenix often add a new dimension to their stay by taking a day trip north, to the red rocks and spires of Sedona (1.5 hour drive) or the Flagstaff pines (2 hour drive). Venture Up’s lodge in the pines offers corporate retreats and ways to be cool in more ways than one.
Google Maps Phoenix

8. BALTIMORE
Team Building Activities: (202) 558-2200

Sea-faring vessels-turned-museums floating in the Inner Harbor are a testament to Baltimore’s rich and storied past. Federal Hill looms high above, once a lookout point for the Civil War and the War of 1812. Today it gives a bird’s eye view of the ships and cityscape, and overlooks an event area where street entertainers, open-air concerts, fireworks and parades celebrate American tradition. Venture Up’s Amazing Race programs run through this historic region, and through neighboring green space where historic landmarks are rife. Strategic Games and other events take place on park grounds or quieter indoor venues.
Google Maps Baltimore

9. Reno – Tahoe

Team Building Activities: (702)-951-9511

Reno’s flashy casino sites and Lake Tahoe’s mountain wilderness and waterways offer extreme options for team building activities and conference venues. Fine hotels line the streets of Reno, and world class resorts mark the Sierra Mountains and shoreline. Incline Village and Crystal Bay rim the hilly north shore, offering an intimate setting for meetings, where pine fresh air and lake breezes inspire teams to dive into the team building experience.
Google Maps Reno
Google Maps Tahoe

10. San Diego
Team Building Activities: (619) 955-6050

The mere mention of San Diego as the next conference destination gets teams engaging long before the event begins. Sunny weather and ocean breezes put teams in a receptive mood in this casual city where ocean bays and waves dominate the coastal regions. Venture Up’s team building activities in San Diego often take place outdoors. The Amazing Race is always popular in the eclectic Gaslamp Quarter and San Diego Harbor area. Other teams take to grassy Mission Bay grounds, with affordable conference hotels nearby, while others indulge in luxury golf resorts in North County.

Google Maps San Diego

Diversity Benefits Team Building in Atlanta

As the metro Atlanta population becomes increasingly diverse and integrated, so does its workforce. The need for diversity in team building has never been greater. As Atlanta's dominant population of black and white decreases, its Hispanic and Asian American populations are on the rise.

The century's first decade saw a 7 percent decrease in the black and white population, together comprising 85 percent of Atlanta's people. The Hispanic population grew 10.2 percent, and Asian Americans increased to 5.1 percent of the city.

The growing mix not only enriches Atlanta's cultural landscape, but also provides the much-needed diversity for corporations in Atlanta seeking to create a positive corporate culture and to maintain a competitive edge in a global economy.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion in Atlanta, Venture Up Team Building is well prepared to rise to the challenge. Venture Up staff are chosen not only for their professional experience and educational backgrounds, but also for their life or work experience abroad, or work with diverse communities. Atlanta also has no shortage of historic and trendy hotels, with team building sites and amenities suiting the needs of people who create successful organizations.

The Top 10 Team Building Event Sites below show venues offering ample meeting space and room for team building activities indoors our outside.

The St. Regis Atlanta

Meetings
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Nestled in the heart of Atlanta’s popular shopping center, St. Regis Atlanta
guests may not even want to leave this luxury at this hotel. A 40,000 foot Pool Piazza is a central element, and the in-house Remède Spa offers sumptuous spa treatments. Rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows, handmade chandeliers, plush robes and marble bathrooms, as well as high-tech fittings for business and entertainment.

The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead
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Buckhead is the heart of Atlanta’s glitz and glamor, and the Ritz Carlton has no bounds when it comes to luxury and comfort. The tranquil Ritz-Carlton Spa indulges guests with everything from caviar and pearl facials to espresso wraps.
Interiors are bright, with salmon and cream hues, mahogany floors and rooms with marble bathrooms with soaking tubs, and every high tech amenity.

Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta
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The Four Seasons spacious rooms have marble bathrooms with L’Occitane amenities, and private terraces keeping guests in homey comfort. The hotel is family friendly, with kid-sized bathrobes and bedtime cookies. Free access to the indoor pool and fitness center are a welcome surprose. A full service spa is an added treat. The location is ideal, near Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Botanical Garden, so the Four Seasons is also a great home base for daytrips on the town.

Mandarin Oriental Atlanta
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The Mandarin Oriental Atlanta has taken over an historic 42-story mansion, keeping its old tradition in elegant style. Guests absorb the opulence upon entering the grand foyer, in view of the English garden. Five miles from the Botanical Garden and High Museum of Art, the Mandarin offers quiet respite from the bustling city. The décor is warm with subtle hues of cream, beige and grey. Goose down duvets and luxury Rivolta linens indulge guests in luxurious comfort. The spa experience is a major draw, especially the Couples Retreat – a three-plus hour treatment that involves a relaxing bath and ends with champagne and canapés.

InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta
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The InterContinental is in the ritzy Buckhead neighborhood and full of luxury as well as modern convenience. Corporate meeting planners like that it has 422 rooms and 21 suites, and ample meeting space. The classy fitness center and luxury spa keep guests in top form. Old world décor brings tradition and style to a hotel, blending the past with high tech amenities to suit every business need and entertainment indulgence.

Loews Atlanta Hotel
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The Loews Atlanta hotel rocks in the trendy Midtown district of Atlanta, nestled between the Georgia Institute of Technology and Piedmont. A popular choice for business and leisure travelers, the hotel is also family friendly. Guests enjoy the latest in technology for entertainment and business needs, and the trendy décor adds to an atmosphere of fun and action.

The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta
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The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta offers luxurious comfort for guests, from its marble foyer, to the rooms bath experience. Baths have soaking tubs, bath menu service and a bath butler if the need arises. Frette linens in the rooms and all the high tech amenities suit business guests in town for work, or leisure travelers enjoying Atlanta for fun and entertainment. Steps away from the World of Coca-Cola and the CNN Center, the Ritz’s downtown location is also in easy access for sight-seeing in the most vibrant part of the city.

Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel
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The chic ad funky Renaissance hotel is a fun spot to experience everything fun in Midtown Atlanta. The hotel’s 304 guestrooms each features its own unique décor. Animal-print furniture and quirky modern art delight guests, and spectacular city vistas are part of almost every room. Guests are also equipped with the latest technology for business and entertainment needs. A rooftop lounge affords expansive views of Atlanta's skyline. The hotel is also close to the Georgia Institute of Technology and Piedmont Park and limitless options for great food and nightlife.

The Ellis Hotel
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The Ellis hotel is the famous landmark towering over Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta, a perfect location for shopping, sightseeing and getting down to business. An entire floor is devoted to women, complete with a secured entrance and special amenities such as hot tools for hair stying, and a special webcam that allows moms to goodnight to your loved ones. All guest rooms come equipped with every tech amenities to keep guests entertained and accommodating business and personal need.

Sheraton Atlanta Hotel
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The Sheraton Atlanta’s central location is in easy access to Atlanta’s attractions and just 12 miles from the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. A $70 million renovation provides eco-friendly lighting, water conservation features and luxury bathrooms. Plush bedding and modern furnishings lend to its new character. Cost conscious conference planners find the Sheraton an affordable alternative to the pricey five star hotels in Buckhead.

Google Maps – Atlanta

It Takes A Team to Re Build Nepal: 10 Ways You or Your Company Can Help

Thousands of people were killed in Nepal’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu. Untold thousands are missing in villages where landslides are blocking access, and communication is cut off. India, Tibet and Bangladesh felt the quake and subsequent tremors, with limited casualties in those nations so far. Check PBS for updates.

The World Bank relieves poverty-stricken areas hit by natural disasters.

Damage is estimated in the billions. Buildings collapsed throughout the Kathmandu Valley, where 2.5 million people live. Temples and shrines, including the historic Dharahara tower, are in ruins.

Large-scale donations are coming in, with the World Bank first to pledge of $1 Million for disaster relief. Will your corporation donate or match funds with staff donations to help our Nepal neighbors?

Here’s a list of vetted organizations helping victims in Nepal and other affected areas:

1.) C.A.R.E (www.care.org) stands for “Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere.” C.A.R.E. is a worldwide humanitarian organization, with an ongoing presence in Nepal. Staff who have been accounted for in Kathmandu are helping with disaster relief. Other staff are still missing. C.A.R.E. uses 90 percent of its donations for program activities.

2.) GLOBAL GIVING (www.GlobalGiving.org) is seeking funds to “help first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter. Once initial relief work is complete, this fund will transition to support longer-term recovery efforts run by local, vetted local organizations.
USA Text Donations: GIVE NEPAL to 80088 to donate $10 to Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund.

3.) HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL (www.HandicapInternational.NationBuilder.com) has 47 staff in Nepal on an ongoing basis. They provide wheelchairs and assistance to Kathmandu Valley hospitals, which are now overwhelmed. Your donation helps them reach the most vulnerable earthquake survivors, including people with serious injuries and disabilities in remote areas.

4.) INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS (www.InternationalMedicalCorps.org) works on-the-ground coordinating staff and resources to support relief efforts worldwide. It now has staff in Kathmandu joining in the relief effort.
USA Text Donations: MED to 80888 to give $10.

5.) MERCY CORPS (www.MercyCorps.org) has launched the Nepal Earthquake Response fund to help provide food, water and temporary shelter in the aftermath of this disaster. Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer, speaking on the Nepal disasters, says, “As we better understand the needs on the ground, we will deploy our teams to where they’ll have the greatest impact.”

6.) OXFAM (www.Oxfam.org) team is in Nepal assessing humanitarian needs. Technical experts are being sent with supplies to provide clean water, sanitation and emergency food supplies.

7.) RED CROSS (www.ifrc.org) needs funds to get to remote areas near the epicenter where landslides have blocked roads and communications have been cut off. Red Cross hubs in New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur and Bankok are prepping resources to aid Nepal.

8.) SAMARITAN’S PURSE (www.SamaritansPurse.org) is a Christian charitable organization also serving victims of disasters, famines and epidemics, providing food, water, shelter and medicine. “On a moment’s notice” it says it is ready to provide disaster relief in regions worldwide.

9.) SAVE THE CHILDREN (www.SavetheChildren.org) is dedicated to helping children in 120 nations vulnerable to natural disaster, famine, disease outbreak, or war. On-the-ground staff in Nepal are now assisting in the relief effort. Save the Children also protects children from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence in all regions of the world.

10.) WORLD VISION (www.WorldVision.org) has immediate needs for food, water and shelter for victims of the Nepal earthquake. World Vision has an ongoing presence in Nepal and is assessing the damage and preparing response teams to serve the urgent needs of survivors.
USA Text Donations: NEPAL to 777444 to donate $10

Swimming? It’s a Business

As a swimming student-athlete in college, I never had time to work a job; surviving studies and athletics was my job. Swimming, or any serious sport, in college is a huge time commitment; NCAA rules allow no more than 20 hours a week of Coach-required practice time; every second is used. If you wanted to count up the hours I had locked down on paper every week, it would add up to 35 hours, 20 spent swimming, or lifting, or running, and 15 spent on class credits.

That’s not even a full time job, but I haven’t even considered yet the constant exhaustion and actual swim competitions. Being a student athlete is very close to running your own business, you may have scheduled work hours, but you’re never really off the clock. Every decision you make must account for the health of your body, you can’t eat crap, you cannot skip a meal, and there is no such thing as a fun weekend without consequence.

The body requires constant and regimented maintenance, exactly like a business. You can’t take a day off and return exactly as you left: you’ve lost custumers in that day; you’ve wasted money on rent. As the primary investor and operator, you directly feel your success or failure, and no one else can transform into some kind of bloated cash maker. This requires time, this requires discipline, this requires early mornings and late nights every day for months, and years. It’s worth working for; it’s something you can call your own.

Alex Lutterbein, staff writer for Venture Up, is an All American Swimmer and recent graduate of Virginia Tech.

Business Etiquette & Diversity

by David Lengyel

The need for more interactive training mixing diverse cultures in problem solving activities has never been greater. When conflict arises, personalities and cultures may clash. If employees on diverse teams learn to resolve conflict and work together with mutual appreciation and respect, teams function better, employee engagement improves, and the company profits.

Diversity spans a very wide range, not only by variations in culture, but in each individual’s background, values, learning style, race, religion, health, sex, sexual orientation, age and education. Research shows that diversity drives innovation and optimizes teamwork. Effective teamwork is linked to clear goals, continuous improvement, process management and accountability.

Any way you look at it, successful business practices requrie functional relationships, and diversity constantly impacts business teams. Business etiquette is an integral part of the team building process as relationships are built on trust and respect. When you add the global reach of social media, the reality is that bad manners, poor behavior and forgotten etiquette become amplified. What has become popular in pop culture is not acceptable to everyone, especially in professional relationships. Good manners are here to stay.

The Etiquette School in New York offers courses in corporate etiquette, including such classes as, “How to Succeed in the Global Arena,” and a one-day finishing school for young professionals. Understanding the importance of culture in global businesses cannot be underestimated.

Companies need to establish standards for business etiquette and protocol guidelines, taking into considerations the diversity of the organization. The plan would be most successful if the team developing ther standards were representative of the organization’s population. Organizations can no longer rely on past traditions or simply trust the way things use to be done.

Once guidelines are established and learned, organizational communication is improved internally, as well as externally with customers. Training in business etiquette enhances the corporate environment and reinforces the value of diversity by eliminating negativity and conflicts which are normal with diverse teams.

The Protocol School of Washington focuses on specific areas to promote etiquette practices suitable in today’s diverse organizations.

Etiquette building takes into consideration the following:

. Effective teams and how diversity impacts them
. General guidelines for positive interactions
. Dos & Don’ts for emails, phone calls, voice mail
. Company meetings: behavior and expectations in group settings

Everyday etiquette practices:

. Show gratitude. Always say please and thank you.
. Listen: Avoid interrupting.
. Dress appropriately.
. Avoid demands and commands, such as in directions: “Read this.”

“Oh, that’s just common sense,” you may think. One thing to remember when working with diverse population is to never take anything for granted. When diverse cultures merge, nothing is universally common sense.

Facing Fear & Harnessing Opportunity

 

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice . . . have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

– Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement speech

How many times do you wish you had done something, only to regret it later when the opportunity is forever gone? Later doesn’t come to everyone.
Fear blocks many a “mind adventurer” from taking the next step to action. Time to stop talking and start doing. Fear failure? Failures are just stepping stones to success, so stay on the path. Did you walk right out of the womb? Not unless you’re a cow. Here are a few steps for you to take those ideas out of your head and play them out in the field of life:
1. IDENTIFY what you want to do. Not later, NOW. If you still insist on later, write a note on your palm, and don’t dare wash it off until you’ve crystallized your idea on paper.
2. POST IT on a wall in your office, bedroom, bathroom, on your fridge, computer (!) or all five, even better.
3. CLEAR OBSTACLES: Do you let neg heads influence you? They are tough to avoid if they’re in your family or at work. (Did you choose a neg-head for a partner? Time to clean house!). Kids: If you live with a neg-head parent, you’ve probably figured out by now that no matter what you do, you get the same result: complaints and criticism. There’s freedom in that.do whatever you like (if it’s legal and doesn’t harm anyone, including you!). If you’re an authoritarian parent or know one, see what Harvard researchers have to say regarding fear and anxiety in children.
4. PLAN: Put your idea into action, with a deadline. It’s ok to use your computer now. Consider what you think it will take to reach your goal, and write it down. Revisit what you wrote and revise as it suits you as you build toward your deadline.

5. ACT: This could be a trial and error period, depending on how complex your goal is. If you want to start your own business, you would focus on how to wrap up your current situation and develop from there. In such case, you would be on a longer, multi-fold path, vs. a clear cut goal of, say, wanting to visit Machu Picchu.

6. MONEY: Money is misunderstood. If you say you lack money, you may simply lack money sense. For example, do you buy furniture on time? Do you have car payments? Are you in housing you can’t afford? If you already dove into debt, getting out involves some sacrifice. You need a car to get you from Point A to Point B. You don’t need a new car. You don’t need a car at all if you live near work or public transit. Rethink your priorities. Use cash. There’s no bookkeeping. If it’s not green, don’t spend it. Sell your new car and replace it with transport you can afford. Consider living near your workplace or the public transit line.

Shifting priorities is pretty easy if you open your mind to your ultimate goal. If a new car and a leather sofa are more important than enriching your life experience, you’ll probably stick with the status quo and dream of what could be.

If you’re serious about taking advantage of life’s rich opportunities, you’re already
on the move. Never let people or poor money choices stand in your way. It’s time to unleash the beast and go for it!

Being Weird is Being Human

So what do I do here? I’ve been asked this a few times by many people when I first got here. The simple answer would be, “Oh the BioScience program,” which is true. If the Bioscience program didn’t exist I probably wouldn’t be here, much like the hockey or figure skating, or soccer programs is for most of you in the audience. So then people tend to ask, “What I do for fun” and frankly that’s a bit harder to answer.

Aside from gaming, I like taking long strolls, or rolls rather, on my unicycle no matter how late at night it may be. I question literally anything I’m curious about, no matter how strange a shift the conversation may take, because I don’t like unanswered questions. I like to have “unnecessary” equipment on me at all times, like flint and steel, goggles and my leg pack, because I like to be prepared. I listen to only instrumental music, because, I think, lyrics don’t leave much to the imagination. I love thinking about philosophy and the symbolism behind fairytales and allegories, because I believe ethical and moral values are priceless when compared to what you learn in school. Not that I condone skipping school to become little Red Riding Hood or anything like that. The whole point of this really, is it’s more than ok to be weird. The truth is I’m a pretty weird guy, and it pains me to think weird has turned into a derogatory term nowadays.

The reason is, “weird” supports your sense of self. The problem I find being affiliated with a group is that people lose their truly unique identity. In a group you are no longer a single great thing, so much as you become a small part of a larger, more primitive entity. And that’s okay, there is nothing wrong with being on a team. Whether the team be a sports group, ethnic group, social group, family group, that’s fine. But for me there’s a point where I take a break from playing whatever game for a while and step back to really get to know myself.

There’s a very short story I want to share, about a road called “Bloody Basin Road” that you pass by on the highway from Flagstaff to Phoenix (strangely close to Dead Man’s Wash which I can’t remember how it got it’s name anyway). As the story goes, a herd of sheep were grazing by a nearby cliff (the desert isn’t as flat as most people think), when all of a sudden, accident or not, one sheep went over the edge and the rest followed.

I like the story better than the common moral question “If all your friends were to jump of a cliff, would you?” Because people are obviously smart enough to know not to throw themselves into a ravine just because the person in front of them did. The real issue is the individual sometimes forgets to think when they shadow other people’s actions. Often, they can’t see what lies beyond the person they’re following. So that’s why I believe it is so important to have a strong sense of self, despite being called “weird” by everyone else. In fact, you should take it as a compliment, ’cause when you really think about it, how could you not be weird?

Lets think about this on a cosmic scale. Earth is the only known planet that can sustain life, a planet that sustains things capable of manipulating energy at will and in such a way that it battles the forces of entropy to maintain it’s own existence. And of all the life we know about, human beings, highly advanced multicellular organisms, us, have sentience.

We are so conscious of the world around us that we create things, put stuff together, no longer for survival, but out of enjoyment. And it’s beautiful. Given a telescope, I don’t care what you could show me light years away. No Blazar, Quasar, Supernova, Black Hole, Nebula; it doesn’t matter because they don’t compare to us. We, here, are literally the weirdest things out there, like it or not. So really, being more weird means being more human, and it means you’re being more you.

Thanks.

This was the senior speech for Mason Lengyel, 2014 graduate of Shattuck St. Mary’s BioScience Program, Faribault, MN.

Outsourcing to India

by Teresa Shaw Lengyel

Malaysia

It was August 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My son Mason and I were on a business trip to Southeast Asia, also celebrating his 18th birthday. Our business web site, created in 1998, was in dire need of upgrading and it dawned on me as I sat in our suite at the Doubletree Hotel that I could meet with some hot-shot IT experts while in Malaysia. Not savvy in the in IT world, I emailed six companies and one replied immediately.

I met the head honcho in the lobby the next day. I struggled to come up with the right questions to ask and the meeting was over in less than an hour.

Mason and I stayed in the lobby figuring out the best way to get to Batu Caves, a nearby Hindu shrine and natural wonder. A young woman who looked just like the Guess model came and sat down in our section. Our company, Venture Up, had just run a team building event in Los Angeles for Guess where a massive image of a video on the conference wall showed their models in action. As she left, I realized that was her! We were sitting with Gigi Hadid.  She had just finished a shoot in Malaysia for Harper’s Bazaar.

A proposal landed in my inbox the following morning. The cost for revamping our website was higher than I’d expected, but the real hesitation was that I wasn’t certain what I was getting into, so I declined the offer. We spent the rest of the day at Batu Caves and flew the next day to Indonesia!

Indonesia

A student at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, Mason had not been in Indonesia since he was age 4. Upon arrival in Manado, Sulawesi, he was ready for a seaside internship and scuba diving certification course at Murex Dive Resort, a business associate.

Sitting by the Celebes Sea on the north of the island, work issues were still chipping away. I noticed one IT company from India continued to email me. I had mistakenly messaged them in Kuala Lumpur thinking they were in Malaysia. (The India firm shows up well on the Google searches, even when I searched for IT in Kuala Lumpur). I didn’t respond at first. My husband David, still back in the states, was impressed at the firm’s persistence.

When I first contacted the India group, I had another business idea in mind. I’d try them out before trusting them with our main website. We knew it was a risk doing business overseas, but Amit Bajpai, the Business Developer Manager, had us convinced he could make things work.

We dove in. True to form, we took a big risk. We had them work directly with our main website, ventureup.com. Google’s new algorithms knocked us off page one for many searches. We had rested easily on page one since 1998, ignoring our website – which totals more than 100 pages and sadly, over-stuffed with keywords. So, we were on our way to make our site Googlicious. Luckily, so much of our revenue relies on a loyal list of repeat clients, so we could easily afford to procrastinate in measuring up to the new Google.

The India company told us it would take two months to get the website done. What? We approved the pretty markup they sent us. Why would it take so long? I had thought most of the work was already done, but a big learning process lay ahead. When custom designing a website from scratch, one soon understands how pretty mark-ups require a complicated process to get them looking that way and functioning correctly in the digital realm.

When we discovered the options available, we caved into a habit of adding and changing details and features, such as an on-site blog and a quote page for sharing, the latter of which didn’t work out. We realized how some little changes may take a few seconds, while others take five hours. Who knew? (The smarty-pants techies, that’s who!)

Kicking off the New Year 2015, the website finally found its way to the masses. We survived the outsourcing process with plans to continue using India for IT services.

If you are toying with the idea of outsourcing, check out Fortune Magazine’s Global Outsourcing 100, the annual listing of the world’s best outsourcing service providers. Or you can be brave and go in blind like we did, which is easy to do when you can’t get fired.

In all, there were a few communication problems, but the India staff quickly made corrections and provided good service with fast turnaround. If you are revamping your website, here is some humble advice: take screenshots. Be explicit. Number all directions or corrections. Chances are you are not dealing with native English speakers, but rather a team of quality IT staff, not just one or two techies.  The good news is the different time zones. When you team up with people half a world away, you can work during the day on corrections, and wake up and find all corrections are made.