After four years as an IBM engineer, Orlando O’Neill, Kellogg Class of 2011, still hadn’t gotten a promotion. He worked hard, kept his head down, skipped networking events to put in extra time and helped colleagues any chance he could. His friends – the same ones he graduated college with – gained more desirable positions, but not O’Neill. Meanwhile, he was taking on increasing responsibilities and working higher-level projects. “I thought if I became an expert at something and worked my butt off, the contributions would be acknowledged,” says O’Neill.
The money and the new job titles didn’t come, but still, in meetings with managers O’Neill kept cool and ignored the issue. Even when there were promotions, he seemed to hear about them only after they filled up. “I wasn’t connected enough so I didn’t receive enough information.” Turns out the meritocratic dynamic was being mediated by a factor much larger than O’Neill or IBM: The recession. Like many other companies, IBM had instituted a hiring freeze. Managers, scared to lose any of their employees and cut off from the pool of external talent, placated unhappy workers with promotions. “Had I networked, I would have understood the underlying rules of the game at IBM and been able to manage it better,” says O’Neill.
Once he finally found out the rules, O’Neill brought up the promotion issue and “one came down the line within a few weeks.” At the same time O’Neill was stuck in an information-flow eddy, he looked to channel his division’s institutional knowledge into a reservoir. IBM was changing so rapidly in the middle of the last decade, documentation in his server and technology division was verbal and informal. The release time for products was shorter and shorter, O’Neill says. “As soon as you wrote something down, it had to be updated.” He convinced his manager to allow for formalized documentation through a Wiki. It became a valuable resource for the division and outside consultants who constantly needed to come up to speed.
In his first few weeks at Kellogg in August of 2009, O’Neill had a similar idea. Why not build a Kellogg B-School blog to collect the perspectives of his class? He secured KelloggMBAClassof2011.com, but when school started, self-doubt got the best of him. “When it came time to start asking random classmates I haven’t met before, I felt uncomfortable and abandoned the idea.” His Web domain is a gem of Search Engine Marketing pulls in “ridiculous” traffic that O’Neill credits to Kellogg not himself. And although the blog isn’t communal, it’s prolific. The rising second-year student has already posted 65 times in 2010. He earned the Clear Admit Best of Blogging prize for Top Student Blogger, Most Entertaining Student Blog, Best Job/Internship Advice, Best Representation of Academics and Best Single Post by a Student. The post, a POV video of O’Neill walking to class (with a soundtrack), “was hysterical,” says Windsor. “If I was an applicant and I wanted to learn about the town, I would have loved that.”
O’Neill sees his blog as a way to relieve stress, meet people online and keep friends and family updated on life – not as a professional motive. He earned his summer internship in Boston Consulting Group’s Dallas office before starting at Kellogg, so doesn’t have to worry about impressing potential recruiters. But, O’Neill recognizes the power that self-publishing can yield. “You never know who’s going to stumble upon what you’re writing. Before you know it, you might have built yourself a reputation. Something I don’t think everyone realizes is that companies watch this stuff.”