Thursday, January 02, 2014

West Africa Missions Trip


Thank you for your prayers and support while our team was in Africa.  There is so much to tell that I am not sure its possible in one note.  So, I thought I would start unpacking what happened by telling a few quick little stories of what happened there.

When we got there, the rice harvest was in full swing.  It is so serious some people sleep in the fields after working all day.  Because of all this harvesting, there were not many people in the town.  So, we went to the fields to work them and meet the people.  Ever seen white people working a field in the middle of Africa?  Neither had anyone there and it wasn’t long until there was a buzz about us in the fields.  We got to speak with over 30 people in 3 hours of working the fields.  The analogy Jesus uses in Luke 10:2 is better understood when you see how countries harvest which is so different than how we harvest with machinery.  If the rice is not harvested fast enough, the rice dries out or it is weighed down enough for the field mice to get it.  When they harvest, they cut each individual stem by hand with a small but very sharp paring knife.  So, harvesting takes close attention to each stem and has to be done at the right time.  Working in the fields with the people helped us better understand their culture and helped emphasize to the people in the fields that we aren’t tourists, we are there for them.


The workers being out in the harvest also let us spend more time with the church pastor there then we have ever been able to spend before.  We learned his story, his passions, his plans for church planting in the region, the struggles that his people face, and how we can help.  When we arrived he was a bit discouraged and by the end he was very encouraged, loved, and ready to continue a push for the Gospel to be declared while being persecuted.  With every trip we take to West Africa, the pastor and church members become stronger and bolder.  We were able to have the church memorize four stories, Jesus’s birth, Jesus’s baptism, assurance of salvation, and the miraculous healing of a blind man.  Several people in the church will share them with friends and we saw that even within the week we were there.

God is sovereign.  I knew this before, but God really strengthened my understanding on this trip.  God was sovereign to help us successfully and easily get to the town we are going to.  None of us had ever been to Africa, but we found the way to be easy and uneventful.  God helped us understand what we were doing there and happily led us to the places we needed to be.  God protected us and kept us healthy when we went outside the box on what we were “supposed” to do and did what was needed to be able to talk with and be with people.  And finally, when all of our plans fell through to get home, God gave me this verse: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:9, 10 ESV).  We were surrounded by Christians who wanted the best for us and helped us change travel plans, figure out how to get home, and one great man who took 5 hours of the toughest part of the trip with us to help us.  God is indeed sovereign and we learned to live by that more than ever.

God is great! Thanks for your support and prayers throughout this journey. 

In Christ,

Erik


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year! 2013 in review

It is New Year's day when I am writing this (perhaps not when you are reading it).  I find New Year's day as a great day for reflection on the past year and looking forward to what is happening in the next year.

I will start my review with work since it will be quick since earlier in the year I had described my first year at PointSource.  We continue to grow at PointSource and will be over 40 employees in Raleigh by the end of January.  We have been so blessed, we have over doubled employees and revenues year-to-year.  Since my letter above, we have hired an incredible sales leader in Luke Langford which has further accelerated our business.  We also have shifted towards certain strategic investments which we believe will fuel our company in the out years.  More to come in various launches throughout the first half of 2014.

Personally, I have grown a good bit.  The largest change has come through the constant internal battle I have between workaholism and family I have learned to balance even better and be humble enough to be told when I am screwing up and being a workaholic by my wife, family, and friends.  Although IBM required hours to get the job done and that was an easy place to retreat, my work life at PointSource has become a part of my life.  Small business ownership shifts from a career as part of your life to a career as part of your identity pretty easily.  I have learned to maintain first my identity in Christ, second my identity as a husband, father and friends, and third the CTO/Partner in PointSource.  That sounds simple when said, but the better part of 2014 was God teaching me that.  Meanwhile, Heather has been steady and faithful throughout by my side and loving me every moment.  I can't ask more of her and she gives so much of herself that she daily shows me Christ's love for me.

2013 was not only my first full year at PointSource, but it was Heather and I's first year of zone defense as parents of 3.  We survived.  Ava is a beautiful and active 1 year old who listens well and brings us great joy.  Meanwhile, Anna started first grade and Maddie started kindergarten, both at North Raleigh Christian Academy.  Anna started piano and this year played soccer.  Anna and Maddie both did ballet.  Anna and I also started Indian Princesses this year.  Overall, a very active and exciting year for our girls.  They constantly amaze us with their faith, understanding, and smarts.

We decided since we have such sweet girls and life seems to easy, we'd mix it up in 2013 for 2014. We have a boy to be born in 2014 due February 14th.  A boy!  Many people believe we were trying for a boy but that truly isn't true this time.  Anna and Maddie are 18 months apart and we hoped for Ava to have a little friend like Anna and Maddie do.  God choose to bless us with a baby boy and we have no idea what that will be like.  We wouldn't have planned on it ourselves because a baby girl would have been more comfortable.  But we are thrilled and excited about a little boy coming into our lives!

God has blessed us greatly in 2013.  Some other things God has done:  Heather became the Children's Director at our church, Harvest Bible Chapel North Raleigh.  We had a great Babymoon in Chicago a day before we attended our first Harvest University.  God took me to West Africa (another blog post will be coming about that soon) for a missions trip that changed lives- at very least mine.  And so much more.  We are thankful for our friends and family in our lives and if it is God's will, we pray for a 2014 together of continued growth and learning for God's glory.





Friday, December 20, 2013

Your ego is getting in the way of your happiness

We have been doing something amazing for the past year and a half at PointSource.  We have pivoted a company, created a culture, hired many people, and been blessed with a successful business that is growing at a rate and pace I could not have imagined.  Our company was recently up for North Carolina's fastest growing small company by NCTA.  Our success elicits a few different kinds of responses from peers in the past including a sense of entitlement, envy, or happiness.  


"I deserve to be the same level as him/her/them."  Seeing a peer (or someone viewed as a peer) leave and do something successful is exciting to many people.  But then instead of being happy for them, they feel they are entitled to the same opportunity or to be the same level if they decide to also jump.  For example, Let's say a peer left, joined a company and quickly rose to CIO of a publicly traded company in two years.  These people with false entitlement feel two years later even though that haven't done much new that if they left they deserve to be CIO as well.  Instead of being happy for their peer or looking for an opportunity to accelerate and grow their career, they view themselves as being entitled because they were once upon a time at the same level.  Their sense of entitlement is getting in the way of their happiness.

"Erik isn't that smart he was just in the right place at the right time."  When jealousy and envy spill over from an individual, it comes out as all forms of ugliness.  I am blessed to have gotten the opportunities I have had and blessed that it has been successful.  This jealous blind rage that people spew that ultimately gets back to me just makes me sad for those people.  As far as I know, I haven't hurt too many of these people in the past and if I had I hope I have the chance to find out and say that I am truly sorry.  Indeed when you say mean and spiteful things about someone who is successful some of it is rooted in truth.  I am just a sinner and I would be nothing without God's blessing in my life.  These are truths.  But what I pray for these people is that they don't allow their jealousy or envy get in the way of their own happiness. 

What I notice about these last two cases is they both are anger driven by their egos.  These statements don't come from people who are happy and content with what has happened in their lives.  They are people who desire the same blessings or believe they are entitled to something different.  Said another way, their egos are getting in the way of their happiness.  You see, if they checked their pride at the door they could pursue that which could make them happy.  Often it isn't "I need to run my own company" or "make this much money" but instead could be thankfully "I need to have a job where I can feel accomplished and take care of my family."  What a simple but sweet notion - finding what makes you happy.

"I am happy for them."  Yes, some people do respond genuinely with a happiness for the success we have been blessed with.  Its not a lie.  They are happy.  They are happy because they are also at the root content with where they are.  I am thankful for these people.  I want to surround myself with these people.  I try to surround myself with these people.

Part of the challenge with happiness is that it is so difficult to find what makes you happy.  For me, it is the hope in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I have sought happiness in many other ways such as love, career and alcohol.  None of those made me happy.  They drove me further and further towards envy, greed, lust, anger, and ultimately disappointment.  I will be happy regardless of what happens in my career now because Jesus has given me the hope and satisfaction I need in life.  If you are looking for that hope and satisfaction in your life, connect with me today.  I'd love to share the good news which gives me great joy.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Four Favorite lesser known convenience apps

As the Chief Technology Officer for a PointSource, a business which concentrates in building mobile applications, I often get asked what some of my favorite apps are.  I find people are usually looking for the little known apps which can solve "problems" they don't worry about - in other words convenience apps.  Here are 4 of my favorite recent finds:

MobileDay



Some people are getting better about formatting phone numbers in your calendar to easily dial in from mobile phone, but no app that I have found makes it easier to dial into conference calls than
MobileDay.  Give MobileDay access to your calendar, and it reads it and creates a big touchable button to dial into the call.  It doesn't matter whether people formatted the call for one click, if they identified the call-in number and passcode it makes life simple.  I wish I would have found MobileDay when I worked at IBM and had 12-15 calls on some days.


Leafsnap


When outside doing some landscaping, I have several times wondered questions like
"What is this tree?"
"How big will this get?"
"How and when do I prune this?"

Leafsnap has made it easier to figure out what some trees, bushes and shrubs are by taking a leaf, placing it on a white sheet of paper, and taking a photo of the leaf.  Leafsnap then searches its database and gives you lots of info on your new find.



Vivino


I know less about wines than I'd like and I have a horrible memory for wine names - particularly correlating names with whether or not I liked those wines.  Vivino is the way I have started to try to remember and organize wines.  It allows you to snap a label of the bottle and enter a rating.  Often I have had fix the year, but it hasn't missed a label for me yet.



Untappd


Similar to Vivino, this helps you remember beers you drank but with more of a social aspect around sharing your favorites.  I haven't found this as useful yet but it is a cool concept for sure.




Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Time for a Career Checkup

"Do a health and sanity check on your career at least every two years." That is the advice I give many of the people I career mentor and advice that was given to me at an early stage of my career in IBM. It has been almost two years since I did some career introspection and I have no one to blame but myself. But, it was time to start this past May and I thought I would give you some insights as to how I do this health and sanity check.

Step 1:  Review past notes (if you don't have past notes, take good ones this time for next time)
 First, I have gone back and read some of the analysis I did in the past some of which was in public and some of which was in private. About three years ago I decided to make a career shift within IBM and started working towards something new. That something new led to the job I have today. After about a year of pursuing that, I did some analysis in early 2010. First I read through my private notes which started in the January of 2010. Some of these made it into blogs which I thought I would link through here in chronological order:

  • Decisions at the Crossroads  -- Introspection and decisions have to be made and the process I was going through to make them.
  • Life in the fast lane  -- Sometimes when you have to get out of the fast lane to realize how fast you were going.  I changed jobs and realized how fast I had been going.
  • A lot to like about working at IBM -- This was an explanation of my introspection about what I like about my employer. 
  • Choosing family over career  -- Discussing the tough choices that fathers like me face every time we check our own fast paced intensive careers and the effects on our families.
Step 2:  Check your resume
People often don't understand this one until they think about it.  Ultimately, you are responsible for your own employment.  Often if you work in the for profit industries, you are only valuable so long as what you contribute to is making the profit that the owners expect.  Corporate loyalty is something that has waned in the past 20 years as we have seen things such as long term pension plans disappear.  That is why you are doing a health check. So, I'll say it again, YOU are responsible for your own employment.    Looking at your resume, answer some of these questions:
  • What has recent work added to your resume?
  • What have you done outside the workplace to improve your resume?
  • What holes do you have in your resume?
  • Of the things on your resume, which are you strongest in and which are you weakest in?
  • Have you spent enough time in your job to be considered senior and loyal but not institutionalized?
"I’m not staying become a lifer.  [...]  6 years is fine.  12 is getting long unless your company is totally rocking!"  - Mark Suster

Step 3:  Write down everything you like and dislike about your job
But spend more time on the things your like.  Don't get me wrong because I know it is important to get all your thoughts on the table.  However, one can get into the weeds of cynicism and frustration if you do not focus on the positive elements.  The goal of this is not to emotionally get yourself in a bad state.  The goal is to evaluate what you like and dislike without emotion so you can do the proper analysis.  If you have not yet, read my A lot to like about working at IBM article.  This is the focus on the positive.  There is also a negative list of things, which I did not post as to not focus on it.  If you need some help getting your heart set straight about work, I would recommend you listen to this great sermon from Tim Horton. (Also found here:  At 3/4/12, "Work Fit in the Lord" Colossians 3:22-4:1 )

Step 4:  Dream big and work backwards.  Where do you want to be in 10 years, 5 years, 2 years.
Now that you have looked into your resume and your current job, its time to dream big.  It can be a big reset, but what do you want to do in 10 years?  Do not settle in your 10 year plans.  Where should you be in 5 years to get to your 10 year plan?  Then where strategically should you be in 2 years?

When you are doing this, keep in mind that the more detailed your plans and dreams the more unachievable they could be.  Think slogan, not short story.  If your 10 year goal is to "make executive" or "own my own business," it will simplify your focus and help your goals become more achievable.  If you make your goals too extensive, you can lose focus.

You do not have to be 100% certain as to your goals.  You could be 51% certain.  You could be 99% certain.  The idea is to conclude this is where you want to go.  Time, experience, and execution will determine the your real path.  And, you review this every year or two in order adjust your goals and execution path.

Step 5:  Create an actionable plan to make your 2 year goal and Commit to execute it
"Vision without Execution is Hallucination."  This is a quote heard in IBM  attributed to Steve Mills and I have seen it play out time and time again.  Build an execution plan to drive towards the vision of where you want to be.
  • What is your resume missing to make your 2 year plan?
  • What are ways you can improve yourself outside of the workplace?
  • What can you change in your workplace to improve the climate?
  • How can you become a better employee?
Commit to your plan and execute it.  Do not assume all open doors are the right doors to walk through and all closed doors will not open.  I personally commit to these plans through prayer.  I continually ask God to help show me the right way and close the wrong ways.  If I hit a closed door, I begin to review my plans  and expectations again.  Some closed doors are meant to be opened - even if you have to put your shoulder into it to get it open.  Do not get discouraged too quickly.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop PIPA

My letter to our NC state Senators based on the PROTECT IP Act:


Senator Burr and Hagan,

As a technology professional who works at IBM in North Carolina I appreciate the importance of intellectual property. In fact, in 2011 I filed the most patent applications in IBM in the state of North Carolina and as you may know, IBM leads the US and world in patents issued every year for the past 19 years. I do not write this representing IBM however but instead representing myself as your constituent. So let me share my thoughts with you which do not represent my company.

Protecting intellectual property is a large concern of mine. I want to be able to innovate freely and protect those innovations which are difficult discover. I was very interested to read the PROTECT IP Act but once I did, I was appalled. The full text of what I read was from Senator Leahy's website here: http://leahy.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/BillText-PROTECTIPAct.pdf

While it is important to protect intellectual property, it is not worth opening the door to censorship this great. It is my understanding that the text in this bill will allow those with the most lawyers and deepest pockets to potentially demand that free speech be censored from the American people. This Act alone is not worth the worldwide damage it could cause to the cause of freedom of speech. In fact, there is no intellectual property that is worth the loss of freedom of speech.

Furthermore, in a worldwide economy, censorship in the United States of the Internet alone will do little to stop the bleeding of our intellectual property into products and services abroad. Foreigners may still freely access and share another's intellectual property regardless of whether the US people can see it. It has more potential to hinder US innovation due to less information being available and more legal troubles being possible within the US. For example, individuals and institutions overseas may choose to stop publishing materials such as research papers to sites available within the US because of legal fears.

As your constituent, I urge you to oppose the PROTECT IP Act. These bills will risk censoring the American Internet, ultimately stifle innovation, and provide a way for limiting freedom of speech worldwide.

Thanks,
Erik Burckart


Read more about this issue at these places:
Google's site about the issue
Stop American Censorship
Fight for the Future

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflecting on 2011

I write this on December 31, 2011 with about 8 hours left to go in 2011. Its been an amazing year and I was thinking about trying to recap this great year.

The year started with a flurry as our family bought a new house in the beginning of February and moved at the end of February. This is the third house Heather and I have lived in and second the kids have lived in. Our new home was a foreclosure, 2 miles and 1 stop sign away from our old house within Bedford at Falls River. We got a contract on our old house in April and it sold at the beginning of June.

We also became members at our new church, Harvest Bible Chapel North Raleigh, in February. Heather and I spent over 8 years at our previous church before being called to Harvest, a small church plant in our area. We have been active members and have enjoyed serving and having fellowship in the church ever since. If you are in Raleigh, come check us out at Fox Road Elementary School at 10 AM.

In April we went outside Jacksonville Florida with Heather's extended family. The girls had a blast and it was warm enough to spend most of the time on the beach. We also celebrated Maddie's 3rd birthday that month. Maddie's 3rd birthday was a ladybug party at our house.

In May, my mother (aka Oma) visited over mother's day weekend and that was very exciting. Then towards the end of May we watched our friends 4 yr old twin girls and Heather and I got to experience being outnumbered 2:1. They were great and luckily we were smart enough to expect if we had another two for it to be that easy. :-) Their stay lasted two weeks and afterward we celebrated a belated 8 year anniversary date.

We had a couple fun trips this summer including going to Figure Eight Island near Wilmington NC and going to Maine. Here are some great pictures of our trip to Figure Eight. We enjoyed that trip with Heather's family at the end of June. In early August, we flew up to Maine to visit with my family. This trip was Maddie's first flight and the girls did great. We enjoyed picking blueberries, riding on the lake, and having a sea adventure with Diver Ed.

In September, Anna started preschool for the first time going three days a week. She really loved it and has is looking forward to winter break being over. We also started finishing our attic in September. As part of that work, we cut the cord and got rid of cable. We are enjoying a cable-less household now. We capped off October by having a very small Alice in Wonderland girls only 5th birthday party for Anna.

2011 sadly didn't pass without some significant losses as well. We mourned the passing of Heather's best friend's father, Jeff, and a last grandparent, Maw-maw. These two family members will be missed and we have been praying for our whole extended family who have felt the effects throughout the holidays.

This fall/winter we also had great visits from my dad (Opa) as well as Oma, my sister, brother in law, and niece. This combined with seeing lots of Heather's family for Thanksgiving at our house and Christmas at their houses made for a great end of the year.

We are preparing for a fun new year in Raleigh, have enrolled Anna in school for the fall and Maddie in preschool for the fall, and are embarking on new adventures all over the place. For our extended friends and family, we hope that our 2012 adventures will include you.