Today, I am hosting Dr. Nels Lindahl in the “How I Work” series. Nels, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is the author of Graduation with Civic Honors and founder of www.civichonors.com, which advocates development of ways to strengthen the community through volunteering networks. Nels, a Thomas and Barbara Kester Page Scholar, graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in political science and a minor in public service and civic leadership. As an undergraduate, Nels was an Ethan Allen Scholar in public administration, on the National Deans List all four years, and participated in a study on workplace literacy with Kansas City Consensus and the Public Administration Department. Nels received a master of public administration degree from the University of Kansas department of public administration. Nels holds a doctoral degree in public policy and administration from Walden University with specializations in knowledge management and e-government. In addition to academic work, Nels is spending time working on completing a new book dealing with the intersection of technology and modernity.
Current Job: Director IT, CVS Health
Current Location: Denver, Colorado
Current mobile device: Nexus 6 (Pixel XL on the way)
Current computer: Custom built i7 processor Windows 10 system
Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
I’m both a practitioner and an academic. After earning my Ph.D. from Walden University, I jumped into the workforce and have been working for the last 10 years. Working outside of education has helped support my ability to attend conferences and engage in research efforts. Those efforts involve a few different interests including e-government, e-feedback, multichannel campaign management, and data mining. Over the last few years my research efforts have primarily involved creating automated data collection systems to build out datasets for research projects.
What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
The data collection systems I have built were written using Perl. I have used SPSS to work with the datasets and create visualizations.
My writing efforts tend to involve Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and EndNote. Recently I have started working with Google’s TensorFlow. I view it as a promising research tool.
What is your best advice for productive academic work?
The hardest part of working in the academic space is abandoning your fear of failure and embracing the publication process. That is easier to say than to achieve. If you are passionate about writing an article, then put that passion to work and allow the creative process to take over. You must be willing to take that first step and appreciate the peer review process. Being willing to work with feedback is a part of academic life.
How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
I keep both to do lists and stop doing lists. The to do list typically is broken down into pieces.
Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
I cannot think of any tools that I utilize outside of a phone and computer.
Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
My interest in exploring what is possible helps me stay close to the edge of the possibility frontier of technology.
What do you listen to when you work?
I listen to a Warren Zevon, Joe Satrioni, and Steve Via mixed with a ton of podcasts like Tech News Today or This Week in Google.
What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?
Taking a few breaks throughout the day to change directions helps me stay productive. I grab a book, journal article, or read something online for about 15 minutes. Even a 15-minute change of direction usually helps me refocus on the problem at hand. I just started reading The Phoenix Project by Kim, Behr, and Spafford (2013).
Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?
Without question I fall into the extrovert camp. My Myers-Briggs type is ENTJ. I generally try to push things forward and have to remember to pace myself when working with others.
What’s your sleep routine like?
Based on data from my Fitbit I average 7.6 hours of sleep per night. My goal is to start the day at 5:30 AM. That requires making a point of going to bed on time instead of staying up.
What’s your work routine like?
I work on coding or writing academic articles from 5:30 AM to 7:00 AM every day. During the work week, the rest of my business hours are generally spent tackling problems and engaging in coaching and development.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever received came in the form of a leadership philosophy. That philosophy was introduced to me by one of the most charismatic thought leaders I have known. The philosophy can be reduced to the following tenants:
1) build a strong culture,
2) let people see your commitment,
3) get to know people,
4) spend time with people,
5) empathize with others,
6) take the time to build future leaders,
7) set standards,
8) be prepared,
9) give back, and
10) foster stability while preparing for change.