The person or the persona? A revealing portrait of Aurorasa Sima - the person.
Don Kerr: First, on my part, a confession. As a writer, a sometimes interviewer, and someone always interested in exploring the space that lies between the mask we present in public and the real person, I am attracted to the individual who, on occasion, will let the filters diminish. This is what first attracted me to a relatively new Bee, Aurorasa Sima. So, following upon my illuminating (for me, at least) interviews with Paul Walters (https://www.bebee.com/producer/@don-kerr/i-should-have-killed-him-at-sea-with-paul-walters-a-bebee-interview) and Pascal Derrien (https://www.bebee.com/producer/@don-kerr/what-s-the-craic-my-conversation-with-pascal-derrien), I approached Aurorasa with the request for a profile piece. She graciously agreed and the following is the outcome of our on-line conversations.
Don: Thanks for agreeing to do this and let's see if we can have some fun and gain some relevant insight on our journey.
If you've read the interviews on beBee you will know that they primarily revolve around trying to get fuller picture of the person behind the professional. (In my case I think Michael was trying to find some bit of professional behind my person!). I chose my first two subjects, Pascal Derrien and Paul Walters, primarily because I really enjoyed their postings and commentary. Both were erudite, challenging, disruptive at times, always respectful and featured a bit of an edge.
You caught my interest for many of the same reasons and you seem to share a bit of the smart-ass quality I embrace. Life's too short to stand on ceremony if you will.
So, my first question: am I correct? Recognizing the human requirement for civil exchange do you find it refreshing at times to encounter people on social media who are willing to push the edges a bit?
Aurorasa: I love authenticity. And I like to learn what makes people tick. Before social media, we had, let´s call it, a business persona, and when we were off work, we could be uncensored and genuine. I would not call a business persona "fake." It´s more a part of the game. Social media has changed that. We now slip in and out from our business persona to our ideal private persona.
That created the need to self-censor 24/7. The wrong tweet can end a career.
Before social media, we had an annual performance review. Now our friends, family, and acquaintances - or depending on the platform even a whole world of strangers - reviews us. Likes, shares, comments - we are not as focused on experience anymore as we used to be.
We post content of a persona that portrays how we want to be perceived as opposed to who we are. The overload of sharing personal information that then gets reviewed created the need for safety. We started to share safe information. Content that will make people consider us positively. The way we communicate is constantly changing. Quotes and memes are safe content. Especially those who already have received lots of positive "reviews."
It´s a paradox: The technical ability to share our thoughts with more people than ever faster than ever, actually led to sharing less. The safest way to share our beliefs is to use a meme.
I am not criticizing that people are playing it safe. Certain roles require that. But ideal personas are neither unique nor original. And even less interesting.
So, yes, with all respect for the other person and always empathetic I like to encounter individuals who are willing to push the edges and who show their edges.
Don: Tell me about how you first encountered beBee and what prompted you to join and then become an active participant in the various forums (fora to be correct I guess)? Are you a refugee from other sites, namely LI, like many of us or is it simply a function of your role as a 'story seeker' to search out storytelling environments?
Aurorasa: John White told me about beBee. I felt so much enthusiasm from him that I decided to have a look. I am not a social media person (at all) and started to use social media sites only about a year ago. Because I had to, not because I wanted. I never happened on Facebook; I happened a little bit on LinkedIn. You could say, I am a first-timer.
I understand that the definition of LI is "business network" and not a social network. Often, I hear people talking about the "good times" on LinkedIn. I have not seen them. I find it a challenging environment to create meaningful connections, but I also did not give it the time and effort I should.
Right away I noticed that beBee is different. It is full of authentic content and people. As a very young site, it´s passionate, hungry and it is relatively easy to be seen if you produce entertaining or useful content. Most of the people on beBee are looking to create a genuine connection. For the first time, I started to spend a lot of time on a social media site.
You could say that for me beBee brought "social" to forced media.
Don: My third question: The majority of your career, so far, has been in account management with SAP and Beem in Germany. What brought you from Germany to America? What took you from account management to coaching?
Aurorasa: I never worked for SAP directly. You could say they used to work for me. I entered Sales when the IT startup bubble burst and a lot of M&A happened. I signed up with a fantastic British company, Holistic Systems. They have been one of the first to offer online analytical processing. We were selling projects based on a 4GL that allowed to program applications that simulate neural networks. Business Intelligence, Data Mining.
An example of an application would be an insurance policy that knows on the day you get diagnosed with Diabetes what your next diseases are going to be and when you will die. Shockingly accurate. Well, and what the insurance cares about: What will you cost until the day you die.
I guess if people knew how much information can be mined from the few seemingly irrelevant pieces of information they share, most would burn their reward cards right away.
The company has since been sold four times. Before SAP our former competitor, Business Objects owned it. Back then, SAP still had some major flaws and lacked reporting and analytical capabilities. It was good for sales.
I never made the decision to become a salesperson. I left school at 15 and did not continue my formal education. The job market did not necessarily scream: We want you and we want to pay you lots of money.
Remember the post with the toilet seat picture? (https://www.bebee.com/producer/@aurorasa-sima/sales-crazy-anecdote) That tells the story of how I got into sales.
And after that: At least in the ‘80s and ‘90s, this kind of position was staffed by headhunters only. Not young HR ladies that cannot risk hiring someone who does not possess the credentials on paper. The people who decided if you get hired were Directors, Board Members, CEOs - people who do not need to back up their decisions. They often choose intuitively.
My private interest was always coaching. Since the age of 13, I was interested in everything coaching, green, personal development, spiritual. In 1995, my company sent me to London for a Solution Selling training course with Mike Bosworth, to whom I owe my sales career. At Heathrow Airport I purchased my first book about Emotional Intelligence. That was before Goleman (http://www.danielgoleman.info/topics/emotional-intelligence/) came out with his definition. Since then I was fascinated with the brain.
By the way ... funny is that I reconnected with Mike in 2015. He was my first connection on LinkedIn. It turned out that Mike has a new training program that is based on teaching (sales)people social competence. How likely is it that the same (sales trainer) guy twice enters your life, and there is a link to EI both times?
I wanted to get out of Sales when I realized that I was changing. You see, one would think that it’s your fault if you become arrogant or ignorant. But it´s not that simple. I always kept my old friends, but it gets harder when you are traveling a lot. It´s painful that somehow you change from the person that was involved in every step of the life of a friend to the one who gets told what has happened when you´re in town.
Back then, people selling consulting-intensive solutions were treated very well. We flew business class, stayed in awesome hotels and took our clients to top restaurants. You spent a lot of your free time with customers and colleagues too. At first, you noticed that people treated you submissively. But the longer you are surrounded by nearly only people who treat you a certain way, the more you get used to it and accept it as normal. Especially when you are working a stressful job and don´t have time always to analyze the way someone greets you.
I was in a simple restaurant with one of my old friends when I apparently ordered a waiter around in a way that was not ok. My friend brought this to my attention.
The next time I realized a change was when I was waiting in the Lufthansa lounge of an airport. I chatted with some people, and as soon as someone close by mentioned a project at the Deutsche Telekom I got this ... not sure how to describe it.
Sales is not an easy job, and you depend on collecting knowledge, the right connections and such. Your senses become sharper and more focused when you smell opportunity. I ditched the likable person I was chatting to and joined the group where someone talked about a project.
The third and last time happened on a vacation. We rented a villa in Tuscany. A few Consultants from Cap Gemini and a sales friend and me. We had fun, talked business, went to wine tastings - we did all the stuff arrogant snobs do on vacation. It did not include mixing with locals.
After a few days, something clicked, and I knew I wanted out of this.
They brought me to the airport and the freaking one-way flight back cost me 3k. Worth every penny. Don´t get me wrong; those people were utterly lovable people, and I enjoy spending some time around great minds. I just do not want it to be my life 24/7 to seek knowledge and connections that help me with business. At the time, I was traveling so much that I often did not know in which country I woke up.
I had learned enough to be able to coach people. I will be forever grateful for the chance to be in sales, but I am happier as a coach and trainer. I don´t think you can do the type of sales I did without paying the price, which includes your personal life. As a trainer and coach, I can do what I love: Helping people to grow.
My first attempt was half-hearted. I joined Beem, a company with extremely likable and enjoyable people. I thought that I could do "lower level" sales. At first, everything was great, and I could afford to put my focus on my personal life again, without having to choose to spend my free time with "useful" people. After a while, they named me export manager and I had to start traveling again. Only these time even further away. This time, the world was my playfield.
I had developed the skill-set, and as I had to start at zero in a new country anyway, I felt it was time to create the life of my dreams and offer my services to do the little an individual can do to make this world a better place.
Don: This is going great Aurorasa. Lots of insights.
Let's turn for a moment from the professional to the personal.
While we all come to tipping points in our careers, many don't act upon them. They continue to push the rock up hill and wonder why they experience increasing levels of stress and the fulfillment they anticipate from professional achievement doesn't come about. At the same time the gap in work/life balance widens to the point where many will fall into the crevasse never to reemerge. (BTW: I am no believer in work/life balance. I do believe in work/life integration which is where I think beBee may find its niche...but I digress. Maybe you can comment on that regardless of the digression!) Anyway, in your personal life what are the things which make you happy? Special hobbies? Specific activities? Tell us a little about what Aurorasa does when she's not story-seeking.
Aurorosa: It is fascinating to learn about your points of view and what you are saying makes complete sense to me. I was lucky that all of my jobs contained components that I loved so that I never felt burnt out. In my opinion and experience, some people just hate their job. When you feel unable to change your working situation, it can be harder to energize even if you have enough time to yourself.
Regarding my personal interests: Get ready for a boring answer. My hobbies are extremely common.
They range from super shallow to mindful. I love reading a good book, especially philosophers, but I also read novels for children. Currently, I am reading a book about neuroscience, but the last one I finished was about a young, pale anti-hero named Artemis Fowl. (http://www.artemisfowl.com/)
Artemis is a young boy, born to a family of criminals and his purpose is to steal the gold of the elves. And also to find out the elves secrets, so that he can use them for his criminal activities. Together with his super strong bodyguard he kidnaps an alcoholic elf and keeps her hostage.
Cold Turkey is a convincing argument.
Like everyone, I also love music, basically from all genres besides operas. Oh, and most mainstream artists do not speak to me. The first thing I purchased after I relocated was another Bose Wave. How can something the size of a large book sound so great?
Intensity, and I am not saying "extremes," is what makes you feel the most alive. Music can do that.
I also love to dance and have studied oriental dance for over 15 years.
Most people think that I am an extrovert, the truth is that I enjoy quiet times and don't always have to have people around me. Throughout my life, I had few friends, but very close ones. And (here comes the shallow part) a group of need-based acquaintances as the people I chose as my friends are typically not the kind of people that can satisfy my shallow needs.
I like to interrupt my quiet living from time to time with senseless partying. And when I party I mean it. I am also in the Diamond League of Angry Birds "Friends". In case you don´t know: That´s the highest league and only a few nerdy kids make it to Diamond.
Traveling and learning about other cultures (especially the food (: ) is something I also enjoy. I do a lot of things around the house, I was always very "green". It´s not that I enjoy cooking, collecting herbs or the process of making Kombucha - I came to the conclusion that a lot of things companies are telling us are detrimental to our health. I am a smoker, but I feel you don´t have to do everything else wrong too.
My love for discovering food and shopping in foreign stores has got me into trouble more than once. One time I was shopping in an Arabic restaurant and worked my way through the aisles. I bought a 1-liter bottle of liquid that stood next to other drinks. The label contained nice looking herbs. I was sick for three days. Later, I asked the store clerk and he told me that I was drinking a liter of herbal stomach medicine.
I´d say it´s 1:8:2. 1 harms you, 8 you don´t care for and 2 will become additions to your favorite foods/drinks.
I told you: Boring. No scuba diver here, no pilot license or anything that would make people
Don: At the outset of this interview, you made the following statement which I found intriguing and it resonated with me. "But ideal personas are neither unique nor original. And even less interesting."
Are you able to expand upon your thoughts in this regard? If I interpret you correctly (which ain't necessarily so), attempting to carefully craft an on-line persona that is not reflective of one's reality is counter-productive if one is genuinely interested in authentic exchange. Am I understanding you properly? If so, what benefit do you see in being transparent (without completely opening the kimono) to sharing truthfully on social media?
Aurorasa: The first argument for authenticity is the stress factor. It takes a lot of energy to constantly wear a mask. Also, if you do not have enough time to yourself you will likely engage in a potentially detrimental compensatory behavior.
We sometimes overlook the fact that business people are people. People do business with people that they trust. To be able to trust someone you have to have an emotional connection to them and therefore have to know who they are.
Authenticity does not mean that someone should lose their sense of shame and post pictures of their private parts or tons of irrelevant information. There are sites that push updates to your networks, but there are also sites where people can choose if they want to look at your updates.
Yes, authenticity comes with the risk that a few people might dislike you or even refuse to do business with you. But wearing an ideal persona is no guarantee that everyone will like you - some are allergic against "fakeness".
Everyone has to evaluate the risk and chances of being authentic and make his decision. As you mentioned, beBee is a site that encourages people to be just who they are.