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If I only had a brain…or at least a PMP.

“They have one thing you haven’t got. A diploma!”

– The Wizard of Oz

Scarecrow gets diploma

Recently I received my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). As I posted on Facebook, friends and family have claimed for years that I was certifiable – now I am actually certified.

The experience of receiving my PMP made me feel a bit like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. For years he wondered if he had a brain; the Wizard informed him that it was not a brain he needed, it was a diploma.

In a similar fashion, it had been difficult for me to explain what I have done throughout my professional career. I have done Film and Video Production, Political Campaigns, Book Writing, Digital Media and a great deal of consulting for both for profit and non-profit companies – in the US and overseas. I have even been in government positions and in corporate structures. The thing was, I was usually the person on the organizational chart where a line ran from either THE top person or A top person and did not intersect or fall under any other category in the organization.

The reason was that I was usually either a Program Manager or Project Manger doing special projects to meet the strategic goals of top management. These were often projects outside of the functional or operational scope of work in the organization, yet required me interacting with numerous parts of the organization – IT, Legal, Marketing, Public Relations, Accounting and Finance, Human Resources, Operations and Product Development. I was the box outside the other boxes.

This why I was so pleased when I found out about the PMP certification. Finally there was an acknowledgement of my profession. Film and Video Productions, Political Campaigns, and other consulting I have done have all been projects. At last I was able to tell people what it is I do – as diverse a background as I have in many different fields and industries, the one thing I have been consistently is a Project Manager.

While studying for the exam I did find that there were some Project Management Institute approved terms for things I had already been doing for years – so there was some re-learning of vocabulary (for example, what I had always called “vendors” PMI called “sellers.”) Yet on the whole it did feel like the exam was testing my entire career – which worked out well since I passed with high marks.

So like the Scarecrow in Oz, I finally have the diploma that defines me – and like the Scarecrow, I too always had a brain – now I can express what I was doing with it for all these years.

Thanks PMI for giving our profession recognition and a name!

Oh and a diploma. Scarecrow has a brain

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Explaining Government Shutdown to Your Children

Government shutdown

“Dad, is it true the government is shutting down?”

“Yes son, it’s true.”

“Does that mean there’s no school?”

“No, schools are open.”

“But It’s all over Facebook that the government is shut down and so are schools…”

“So everything on Facebook is true?”

“Well…”

“Like the time your sister took your smartphone and posted on your Facebook that you have different names for your farts depending on how they smell?”

“OK, not everything on Facebook is true.”

“Besides, it is the Federal Government that is shut down, school are run by local governments.”

“What about 9-1-1 calls? And the cops? Is it going to be like that movie ‘The Purge’?”

“No, 9-1-1 and the vast majority of law enforcement on our country is done by local law enforcement. I know when you watch TV and Movies it looks like the FBI and Homeland Security are solving most of the crimes, but that is not nearly true. Local police and state police deal with the vast majority of crimes.”

“What if we are attacked? And all the soldiers are not at work?”

“The Military is Federal but even during a government shutdown they stay on duty. Just non-essential employees stay home.”

“So what shuts down?”

“Things like the National Parks and other things to annoy us. Flight controllers stay on duty so the airlines can still fly.”

“What about the courts?”

“There are Federal Courts, but most courts are local so they will stay open.”

“You sure the courts are open today?”

“Why the interest in the courts today?”

“Remember when I borrowed the car in July? Well…I went a little fast…”

“A speeding ticket? When were you going to tell us about this?”

“Well, it was a long time until my court date and I hoped it might just go away. Then when I heard the government might shut down today I thought the court might be closed and it would all go away…”

“So let me get this straight…you had a fiscal responsibility coming up because of something you did….and you chose to ignore it for a long time, and then at the last minute you hoped something would come up that would make it all go away?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Son, with thinking like that you could grow up to run for Senator.”

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Who Are the Players in Commercial Spaceflight Part 1: Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Paul Allen, Eren and Fatih Ozmen, Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis

In a previous post we posed the question if Commercial Spaceflight is the next big boom. Then we compared it to the growth of Steam ship and railroad travel in the 19th century.

But who are the players in today’s Commercial Spaceflight boomlet? What motivates them? There are more than most people imagine so this will be Part 1 of a several part series on these Space Flight Players.

So in no particular order:

Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard BransonSir Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic. The flamboyant mobile phone, music and airline entrepreneur is taking to commercial space with Virgin Galactic. He already has more than 200 tickets sold for sub-orbital tourist flights aboard his SpaceShipTwo space craft. Flight testing for the White Knight Two (the aircraft that carries Spaceship Two initially) and SpaceShipTwo are under way. He has also built, together with the state of New Mexico, Spaceport America in Sierra County New Mexico. Branson intends to offer orbital flight as well in the future. Branson’s motivation seems to be his spirit of adventure that has always led him to ventures where he could claim to be “first.”
Elon Musk and Space Explorations (Or Space X as it is called). Space X is the first commercial company to successfully launch a capsule that docked with the International Space Station (ISS). Space X Falcon 1 Rocket and the larger heavy lift Falcon 9 rocket in development launch capsules that later splash down in the ocean upon reentry to the atmosphere – reminiscent of the Gemini and Apollo missions.  By having a private company replicate what it took NASA and the Cold War efforts of the Us Government was doing  several decades ago, there is a Back to the Future feel about this enterprise. The South African born but now American Musk was a co-founder of the online payment company Pay Pal. With degrees in both Economics and Engineering his personality was the inspiration for the Tony Stark character in the Iron Man and Avenger movies. Musk seems to want to solve problems that others have yet to tackle – one being mankind’s eggs all being in the Earth basket. Musk has the goal of eventual Mars exploration and settlement. Musk also is working to bring innovative electric cars to market with his Tesla Motors.

Paul Allen and Stratolaunch Systems. The Microsoft Co-Founder and Venture Capitalist (Vulcan Inc.) announced the start up Stratolaunch Systems, together with Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites. The Allen/Rutan team had collaborated previously on Spaceship One, which won the Anzari X prize for being the first commercial space craft to successfully launch and re-launch civilians into space. Stratolaunch Systems will be a mobile  air launched system with the carrier craft built by Rutan’s Scaled Composites, then with Space X (see above) providing a multi stage launch vehicle and finally a docking and integration system made by Dynetics. Allen, considered in the top five wealthiest men in the world, is also the owner of NFL, NBA and Major League Soccer Franchises. He has real estate and philanthropic interest primarily in the Seattle, Washington and Pacific Norwest region. Allen is a Science Fiction and Rick and Roll fan as well as a fan aviation history – he has opened museums for all three. The Stratolauncher, which will be the largest aircraft in the air when ready, has a similar name to the Stratocruiser which was the largest commercial aircraft of its time when another Seattle based Allen announced the aircraft that featured a spiral staircase and cocktail lounge in the post war 1940’s. (William Allen head of Boeing at the time, but no relation to Paul as far as I know.) Paul Allen being such an aviation history buff, this name selection is not likely accidental. Paul Allen appears to being living out his science fiction and aviation dreams together in his commercial space ventures.

The Ozmens and Sierra Nevada Corporation. No, not Donnie and Marie (those are Osmonds) rather Eren and Fatih. This dynamic wife and husband duo took a small engineering firm in a suburb of Reno, Nevada and turned it into the largest government Defense, Intelligence and National Security Contractor that you probably never heard of. Both have engineering degrees and Sierra Nevada Corporations Space Systems division already delivered the hybrid (green) rockets used by Rutan’s Scaled Composites Space ShipOne. They have also already drop tested (dropping the spacecraft from a carrier aircraft) the Dream Catcher space craft a shuttle-like craft they are developing as a people and freight transport to the ISS. They are also involved in developing other space technologies, such as the actuators that power the Mars Rover. Publicity shy and very focused this couple benefitted from the past decades defense build up – as defense dollars are looking to go down, it will be interesting to watch them venture into the world of commercial space.

Eric Anderson and Peter Diamandis of Space Adventures and Planetary Resources. Anderson and Diamandis co-founded Space Adventures which successfully sold space tourism flights aboard Russian space craft and have now launched Planetary Resources – a company developing low cost orbital telescopes with the goal of identifying and eventually mining asteroids. Many heavy hitters are investing in their company including Google Co-Founder and CEO Larry Page, H. Ross Perot Jr., Avatar Filmmaker James Cameron and Former Goldman Sachs Chairman John Whitehead. Anderson is the current chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry association, and has helped found several space start ups. Diamandis is co-founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation which awarded the first prize to Burt Rutan and Paul Allen’s SpaceShipOne (see above) for successful commercial space flights.  Diamandis, with Biology and engineering degrees from MIT and an MD from Harvard Medical has many futuristic interests including the Singularity University with Ray Kurzweil. Anderson and Diamandis seem to have had a life-long passion for promoting space flight. Diamandis’s love of rockets goes all the way back to his days as a youngster in the Bronx, NY when he won the Estes model rocket design prize.

These five are just a start. There will be several more parts to this series, as there are more players than folks are aware of. I know I was surprised when I started researching the number of players in this new and up and coming industy.

Note: None of this should be viewed as investment advice. Dan Godzich is not an investment advisor and does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned above.

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Egypt, Revolution, Democracy, The Arab Street and America’s Friends

The situation in Egypt is very fluid. No one knows what the outcome will be. Yet there are things that we do know now…

 1)      Wikileaks mattered: despite the efforts of some pundits to downplay the impact of the leaked diplomatic cables, it helped lead to the fall of Tunisia’s government. Perhaps soon Egypt, and then next….who knows? Julian Assange changed the world –for better or for worse we may not know for years.

 2)      The Arab Street cares more about the price of cooking fuel than American interventions. While the invasion of Iraq was supposed to blow up the Arab Street it did not. Rising prices, unemployment and unresponsive governments are the root causes sited by the protestors on the street. Sounds like the Arab Street has more in common with Greek protestors than with Al Qaeda or radical clerics.

3)      Arab nations do yearn for Democracy. In the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, some very clever pundits opined that the Arab and/or Muslim world did really want democracy, as an argument against President George W. Bush’s policies. Score one for Bush, Pundits zero.

4)      This CAN be like Iran in 1979. The lesson from previous revolutions is that it is often an authoritarian counter-revolution that takes control. Examples: French revolution (the world does not need an Arab/Egyptian Napoleon), Russian Revolution, Iranian Revolution. Mubarak may not be good news, but the alternative could be worse.

Then there are the things we don’t know:

What about the price of oil if the protests spread to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states? What would that do to the fragile world economic recovery?

Will Hamas take advantage of the now unguarded Egypt/Gaza border to bring in weapons and terrorists to renew hostilities with Israel?

President Obama has taken the Sun Tzu approach of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer. Poland and the Czech Republic got this treatment for missile defense versus US accommodation with Russia. Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan is getting similar treatment. Obama even did this domestically when he placed Hillary Clinton in his Cabinet and praised John Boehner during the State of the Union speech.  

If Mubarak does not survive in Egypt will the world note that it is better to be America’s enemy than America’s friend at this time? A dangerous lesson when there is a cash rich China willing to make new friendships in the Middle East – especially oil rich countries.

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