I seem to have some skills in finding information. Those skills generally involve using different information sources together. There are two primary cases of finding information I will share and one that is recent.
The first case occurred while I was an intern at Microsoft during the summer of 2005. One of the things I did throughout the summer was to contact various people and meet them for lunch. I started with some of the people who blog on MSDN. These included people like Larry Osterman and Gretchen Ledgard. Once I ran out of bloggers that I found noticeable out of all the blogs on MSDN, I started meeting people to whom those bloggers referred me. Eventually, those thinned out and I still had about half a summer left. I tried going for the big fish and asked both Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer if they’d like to meet for lunch sometime. Expectedly, they declined but wished me luck in my internship. At one point, I started asking people I met on Microsoft’s shuttle system. Microsoft has the largest private transit system, or so their intranet site claimed. There are several events and seminars going on around Microsoft, so I found myself using the shuttle system frequently. One of those times, I met somebody who worked in my building. I met him for lunch one day. Another time, I met somebody on the shuttle. (This is where this story starts). I found out that the person was new to Microsoft. I also found out that this person worked in human resources. I also knew by virtue of where the person got on the shuttle what building she was in. I got off the shuttle at my building, and I decided that this person might make an interesting person with whom to have lunch. There was a problem though. Despite the information I had gathered from talking to her, I did not have her name. I remembered that that Microsoft has internal mailing lists for just about everything. There is a list for specific new employee orientations. There is a list for each building. There is a list for each department. On top of that, the members of each list could be downloaded as an Excel file. As I recall, I downloaded the list for each piece of information I had. I loaded the Excel files into Access. I wrote a SQL query joining all three tables based on person’s name. There were two hits and only one was female. I e-mailed that person and explained how I came up with her name. I was successful in finding the person. She ended up not having time to meet for lunch, but that is irrelevant to the story of finding the information.
In my second case of finding information, I and several other friends had returned from a school break. One of the people in the group of friends was not back at school yet, and nobody knew her phone number. This person had a profile on Facebook, but the profile did not have her phone number either. However, it did have the person’s home address. Knowing that most people have entries in the phone book under one family member, I knew it was likely she would have a phone number in the phone book. However, name would not go the whole way because the entry was likely under a relative and there were several entries with the last name. There was only one entry, however, that matched the address found in Facebook. We had found the person’s phone number.
In the most recent case, there was a person I had corresponded with regarding his product during high school. Eventually, his company closed up shop and I fell out of contact with him. When I interned at Microsoft, I found out about Windows Live OneCare and began participating in the internal beta program. I started submitting feedback as any beta tester should. Then, one day, I received a phone call. I looked at the phone and it said "Schacher, John." That name was familiar. I hesitantly answered the phone, for I was not expecting a call and never enjoyed trying to handle a call intended for somebody else.
Is this Brant Gurganus?
Did you ever use a program called Bugtoaster?
Well, I was one of that company’s founders.
The conversation went along those lines. I found out that John was working on the firewall portion of the OneCare product. He came across some feedback from me and recognized the name. This was really cool for me. When I was corresponding with John on occasion about Bugtoaster, he had mentioned that if I were ever in the area where Bugtoaster was located, I could probably get a job with them. This was important for me, because it confirmed that I had skills and traits that were valuable to existing professionals. It meant I should be able to find a summer job in the technology industry. One summer, I had worked at Kroger and found it extremely disappointing. I wanted to work with software. I started e-mailing Web development companies around Indianapolis, and Omega Design Studio responded. I had found a technology position without having any college yet. Anyhow, John Schacher became one of the other people with whom I had lunch during the summer. After my internship, I tried e-mailing him, but the e-mail bounced. It seemed he had left the company, and I had no contact information. Recently, I looked his name up in the phone book, and there seemed to be a John Schacher in the area still. I then looked his name up on LinkedIn. I found a John Schacher there that worked in the Seattle area. This John Schacher worked for Experticity. I tried contacting John on LinkedIn, but that costs money and I’m not going to upgrade my account just to send one message. I looked up the Experticity site. I found an e-mail address on the site. I wrote:
I am trying to contact a John Schacher that I believe may now work at Experticity. He previously worked at Microsoft, and he also ran a company called Bugtoaster. If this John Schacher works at Experticity, could you please forward this message to him so he may respond. Thank you.
I received a response today. I had found John Schacher again. I have now added him to my LinkedIn network, so hopefully, I will not end up with outdated contact information again.
Those are my three stories of finding information. Hopefully, they inspire you to come up with creative ways to find information you want.