Working the Virtual

Are you getting the most out of Virtual Work that you can?

When I first started thinking about this I wanted to talk about virtual tradeshows and conferences. As I played with the words, I started thinking of the benefits and also the challenges we are having with virtual meetings, virtual workshops, and virtual meetups. Let’s face it, on the other side of COVID-19, life will be different and what was normal business will no longer exist. We will have innovated new processes; we will have limitations on what we used to do or how we used to do it; we will have discovered new vendors, partners, competitors, etc. 

Let’s start with the challenges so we can end on a high note.


Virtual takes preparation

Preparation is required for meetings, virtual or not. Pretending or ignoring that it does not, means the meeting starts late, it is not as effective, and is frustrating for attendees.

In an in-person meeting, there is/was preparation too: grab a drink, paper, maybe run to the restroom, bring data… if you traveled there was the booking of the flight, packing for the flight, taking the flight, maybe finding a hotel. There was a LOT of preparation for travel-in-person meetings.

For virtual, we have bandwidth challenges, the router is in a noisy room but the quiet room has almost no signal, someone refuses to use a headset and sounds like a Wookie. Where we used to scribble on a piece of paper, now we have to find the electronic equivalent of that.

As the Navy says: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.

Plan, prepare, and anticipate. I could go on. Spend the time now to make meetings better and your post-COVID in-person meetings will be better too.

Plan your online meetings with as much care as your in-person meetings

Virtual takes longer

It seems that virtual takes longer. I read that learning virtually seems to take longer for all those students and teachers trying to figure out online.

Or maybe, we are still trying to figure out the online analogs of what we used to do when we were 12 inches apart. We struggle with the bandwidth, the headset, and the online tools.

Regardless, it is prudent to plan for more time to accomplish your meeting goals.

There is a saying in Toastmasters: Squeeze the content in; Squeeze the listener out. I am working on a virtual workshop with a friend. In our first online session, we tried to squeeze too much in and had to cut content out on the fly. In our second online session, we did a much better job of pacing and hit our goals of topics covered.

Life interrupts

The tenuous separation between home life and work life, which we pretend are separated when we go in to the office, gets strained. Our colleagues are now trying to balance being parents, teachers, and workers in the same small space and sometimes at the same time. Perhaps our colleagues’ partners are now unemployed and the wolf is now knocking loudly at the door.

We are all being asked to go with the flow. Lead by using the flow.

Participation is sketch in the virtual

In-person you can see people on their phones instead of participating in the meeting; you can look them in the eye.

Those same people now are the ones who are doing something else, not watching the presentation; they leave their cameras off, or worse they act as voyeurs in your meeting, maybe not even announcing themselves.

If you are the one “dialing-it-in”, let’s be real. You are not fooling anyone. Figure out how you can contribute and be in the meeting. This is the time that bosses are going to pay attention to who is part of the solution and who is part of the precipitate. Don’t be the sludge at the bottom…

If you are leading the meeting, it is time to lead. Figure out why you have dis-engaged team members. You need everyone you have in times like these. Figuring out how to lead remotely will be noticed. In a good way.

Rocking the Virtual

This is a great opportunity for many of us, if we can find and capitalize on the silver linings:

  • No travel — more time. 2 days of travel for a handful of meetings, can now be spent planning and holding better meetings.
    • Set meeting goals
    • Plan how to meet goals
    • What is the best way to achieve the goals
    • Are there materials which could be assembled in advance to allow all attendees to prepare?
  • Everyone is virtual. Maybe you can actually include MORE people in your meeting.
    • More international attendance
    • Asynchronous attendance (video/record it for later)
  • No commute — more time. You can invest the new found time
    • Attend an online class
    • Complete organizational tasks
    • Upgrade or update your website
    • Discover new tools
    • Read a book
    • Chill. Gain perspective. Restore yourself.
  • Virtual = technology.
    • Discover online collaboration tools. I’m using google docs more with teams as it allows them to be in the same document at the same time.
    • Discover online engagement tools. I’ll be trying out a polling app in powerpoint this week which could be a lot of fun. (edited after the call: it could be fun if your audience is super tech-savvy. We had some technical issues with the less tech-savvy.)
    • Leverage communication tools to tell your story. Governors across the country learned to use Powerpoint to tell their story:
      • The star of the pressers: PowerPoint
      • Visualization of the message
      • Keep humanity & humor
Rock the Virtual

V is for Virtual

Are you virtually working or working the virtual?

vir·tu·al /ˈvərCH(o͞o)əl/ adjective
almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition

Virtually working

Working from home, when you are used to going in to work, working with other people, and separating your home life from your work life, is like having the rug pulled out from underneath you. If you feel stressed, weird, out of sorts — it is completely normal and understandable. Furthermore, the reason we are all working from home is stressful, distracting, and filled with all kinds of emotions of loss, sadness, and bitterness. It just is. And it sucks. I’m there with you. We all are.

But we still have to work, stay busy, and stay sane.

I have now spent more than half of my adult working life, working from a home office. Some days it is great. Some days it is easier than going in to an office. Some days it totally sucks and I do laundry, clean, or surf the internet. The days where I am not working, and I feel like I should be, are the worst.

I have been working with a number of teams where progress is not being made at a rate that we think it should be, and I have been thinking it might be because the team is still getting used to working in isolation, without peers to keep them going, that connectedness you get when you go in to work. In my past jobs where I worked from home, I could do it for 2 or 3 years and then I would quit — I had to go in to work. This last stint, 8 years, I have done a better job of managing myself, maintaining connectedness, and having more fun at my work.

Here’s how I do it. I lean into my strengths.

Lean into your strengths

First, I had to discover my strengths.

I was working with a friend (shameless plug for Sara Douglas, she’s awesome!) who uses this Gallup Tool, StrengthsFinder in her executive coaching. Gallup told me my top 5 strengths are:

  1. Strategic. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
  2. Achiever. They take immense satisfaction in being busy and productive.
  3. Learner. They have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. 
  4. Activator. They want to do things now, rather than simply talk about them.
  5. Analytical. They search for reasons and causes. 

Yes, my strengths are also my weaknesses. I assume you can all see the patterns in the data that I see. I assume you all want to work as hard as I do. I assume that you all want to continuously improve. We all know what happens when one assumes…but I digress.

I was complaining one afternoon about procrastinating on a project and Sara said to me, “you get your energy by leaning into your strengths. Lean into your analytical side, see what happens.”

I went home and by midnight I had built this pretty awesome workbook that automated data collection on ticket sales for a client. I was so energized, I could hardly sleep. In actuality, I used all 5 of those top strengths to build that workbook.

What are your strengths?

There are lots of ways to figure out your strengths:

    • What do you enjoy doing at work? Things that give you joy and are fun to do are likely in your strengths column.
    • You can follow the link to StrengthsFinder and see what they tell you.
    • You can set up time with Sara or a coach of your own.

You will get farther faster if you play to your strengths.

For example, if you have Discipline as a strength, then you are happier during this time of upheaval if you can keep routine and schedule going.

As an Achiever, I stay on target by setting goals for the day.

If you enjoy working with people and in a team as a skill (Relator), you need to stay connected to people to feel that team mo-jo. Maybe daily video chats, Slack, or old fashioned telephone calls will fill the void and keep you going.

If you like to collect facts and know more (Input) you might be fighting this huge desire to know everything you can about COVID-19. Input is my 7th highest strength. I spent the first week surfing the internet to know more, more, more. Now I use that desire to know more as a reward when I get done what has to get done that day (lean into the Achiever).

Try it, you might like it.

The next time you feel frustrated by the current situation, pull out your list of strengths, and see if you can lean into one of them.

Let me know how it goes!

Working virtual. This post went pretty long, so follow this link to another post on Working the Virtual.

Turn a Minus into a Positive

It took a pandemic to slow me down enough to unpack from a 6 month sabbatical in Australia. The COVID-19 pandemic probably changed your life a lot, too.

This is a great time to stop, look around, take inventory, and do some maintenance or upgrades on your sales, marketing, and business development activities.

It reminds me of an event that happened four years ago….

My mother-in-law’s sister, “Jane”, came to visit. She came over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays, while my family was off visiting other people. Jane used our house as a free AirBnB while she spent her days at the assisted living facility. When Jane left, she accidentally left the refrigerator door ajar. For two weeks, the refrigerator was trying to cool down the inside, while the open-door-light was pumping in new heat. Eventually, the refrigerator stopped working. I came home to a lot of rotten and about to explode food.

First, I was, frustrated with Jane. I brought the 65-gallon trash can from the garage to the fridge and emptied it all out. I washed down the entire fridge: all that stuff that seems to collect around the milk jugs, the weird thing that leaked from 2008 on a back shelf, the red wine stain from 2005…

As I threw out food, jams that had crystallized, spreads I didn’t like the taste of, sauces dating back decades, I could see that what was in the fridge was NOT what I needed IN the fridge.

Your marketing and sales activities may be as dated or inappropriate as my refrigerator contents. Now is a great time to take inventory and pitch the stuff that does not work, is too 2003, or is not suitable for your current customer-base or product offering.

Where to start?

  1. Take Inventory
    • What are you doing?
    • Are your new products included?
    • Do you have old products you should stop promoting?
  2. Evaluate effectiveness
    • Do your marketing assets still work the way they should?
    • Are you spending the majority of your time on the pieces that do work and little time on the ancillary items?
    • Or is the equation flipped and you are spending 80% of your time on 20% of your sales?
    • Can you imagine an improved workflow?
    • Does it work if in-person meetings, conferences, or tradeshows are virtual?
  3. Delete the non-essential
    • Simplify, simplify, simplify
  4. Plan the new and improved path forward
    • Improve the workflow now that the non-essential is gone
    • Add new content or new outlets as appropriate
    • Schedule a re-review
    • Put someone in charge of the maintenance

Fast Track 4

Whether you’re selling a product, yourself, or your company, you have to do four things:

  1. Make what the customer wants
    • There’s what you do.
    • Then there’s what the customer wants. 70% of companies fail 2 years into the game because they didn’t make what the customer wanted or needed. Be in the 30% who succeed.
  2. Price it accordingly
    • Be good fast or cheap. Pick 2.
    • Price is what the market will bear.
    • It really comes down to the two most important specifications and how you position the product in the market place for customer need.
  3. Get your village to support you
    • OK, really you need to create the village you and your company need to succeed.
    • What are your strengths?
    • What do you need someone else to do (you can’t do everything)?
    • Who can be a partner, a mentor, a trusted advisor?
    • It is about who you know.
  4. Make a plan
    • A business plan is really a hypothesis which combines all of your assumptions about the market, the pricing, your ability to make and ship the product, and costs.
    • Then you test the plan in the real world.
    • Finally, you validate or invalidate your hypotheses.
    • Without a plan you won’t really know where you were correct and incorrect.
    • As they say in the Navy: “Fail to plan; plan to fail.”

Pick a Time

As the Navy likes to say, “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.”

Plan Your Marketing Communications

If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing dollars and time, then you have to plan. Period. Maybe I’m type A and like things to be orderly — but I do not think so.

Plan the course

Without a plan, you cannot easily tell what is and what is not working. I like to think of Marketing Plans and Business Strategy Plans as a an intended course the ship needs to sail. The only way to know if we are on course or not is to refer to where we are against where we said we were going to be.

How do your customers seek and find information?

I like to take a spreadsheet and create a matrix: what information and in what channel and for whom?

[table id=1 /]

What is it that you hope to achieve in each channel and how will you know you have succeeded?

  • Target number of opens or click-thrus
  • Targeted leads and/or companies (number, quality, and specific names)
  • Target number of quotes, orders, and sales

The matrix can be however you like to think of your “To-Do’s”. Another way to do the matrix is by calendar year.

[table id=2 /]


International Moment of Laughter Day

April 14

Find that inner giggle and let it loose. Laugh like a 10 year old. Now figure out how your brand can do that!

Humor in advertising

You have heard this before, but I will repeat it:

People buy from people. 

It is your job for your brand to be human and real for your customers. One great way is to use humor.

This Psychology for Marketers post has a few examples of videos which have worked well for their brands. Of course, the most in-your-face humorous clips are British. While it works on that side of the pond, on this side of the pond it is likely to get you in hot water. Be mindful of your demographics!

This HubSpot post has more “American” brands with more “American” humor examples. Notice that many of the brands featured in the post are boring insurance companies. We have certainly noticed in our house that the insurance company ads have been spectacular, witty, and funny enough to watch several times (to see what you missed the first 10 times).

Humor builds brands

Data show that humor will not necessarily sell more product from the outset. The data show that humor makes your brand more memorable. If your brand is more memorable (for good things) then eventually you should sell more products — if you have done your product marketing correctly!

What wacky, crazy things happen if people don’t use your product?

If you can find the humor, be it witty, dry, or (gasp) cute, then you may be on to something more memorable than what you have been doing.

How to do humor

Humor can go awry, so be careful. Start small and get bigger as you get better.

  1. Rule of three. People remember three things:
    “I came. I saw. I conquered.” — Julius Ceasar
    “I can promise you Blood, Sweat, (Toil) and Tears” — Winston Churchill
    “Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” — William Shakespeare
  2. Big, big, little or Little, little, big.
    Use the rule of three, with a twist. The first item establishes the pattern. The second item reinforces the pattern. The third item provides the twist or humor.
  3. “Let me tell you where you are wrong.” Famous words from Winfred Denk.
    Practice. Practice. Practice.  Show your ad, your copy, and your images to your team, your family, and people who do not know what you are trying to do or accomplish. I always like to use people who are my “naysayers” or “most critical commentators” to tell me where I am wrong. If you can get a smirk from your favorite nitpicker, you probably have something.

Now do it

There is a time and a place to use humor. Figure out when and where. To have the most effectiveness, it should be planned. Both the channel and the timing.

Here are some thoughts about both. 

Warning labels on humor

  1. Humor must be within brand
  2. It must not be offensive
  3. It must be refreshed


Alexander Graham Bell Day

It is March 7, Alexander Graham Bell Day. Pick up that telephone and call someone.

It is that simple and yet it is still hard.

Three ideas to get you going and lower your energy barriers:

Check in on how the last order, service call, or project was received by their customer. I had a consultant in a previous life who was really good at this. About every six months, if I had not called her, she would call me and ask “how is it going?” Not only did she get feedback, I usually had another project to give her and get off of my desk.

Miller’s Law, 7 ± 2, derives from the data presented in a 1953 psychology paper that our short-term working memory is limited. People forget to reach out, even when they need to. Save them the time, energy, and embarrassment. Call them first!

The “Did you know we also do?” call. Just this weekend I was speaking with a general practitioner friend, and he was telling me a story about a patient who needed a doctor to see her kids. She had never thought her GP could be their GP until it was mentioned during a routine visit. He had never asked her if she was happy with her kids’ doctor. We often forget that the people with whom we do business add services, do more than one thing, or already have the solution to a problem we have.

Miller’s Law, 7 ± 2, re-iterates that when you do not need the information, you let it go out of your easily accessed memory. This is especially true for customers who associate you and your company with a particular solution or product. If they had no need of other products or services when you mentioned it, they immediately lost the ability to recall that.

“Did you know” will place a new memory in their brains — especially if they need it now!

Calls trump email. Follow up with a quote, a trade show call, or a inquiry.  You never know if the email got lost in the ether or they forgot it was in their inbox.

In the rule of remembering, 7 ± 2, your customer has probably already forgotten your email. That email got forgotten about the time she suddenly remembered to pick up milk on the way home the other day.

“It’s been xxx days/weeks since we last spoke and I was wondering if this project was still under way.” Who knows what you will learn.

It’s called “dialing for dollars” and it works. What are you waiting for? You can always start with “Happy Alexander Graham Bell Day”!

Light Bulbs

Are you the electricity or the light bulb?

Do you provide the energy? the activator in your group? or are you the creative one? The one with more ideas than light bulbs?

This article is on “forcing” the bulb time. Yes, I’m mixing metaphors.

The Data

Creativity is a necessary skill in the 21st century. As we do less manual labor and more knowledge work, our brain and being able to tap into its creativity and problem-solving centers becomes uber important.

The latest research into creativity is focused on creating “flow states” — that optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best. This is when you get going and cannot stop, do not want to stop, and wish you could type faster and work longer.

To achieve flow three conditions must be met (according to the research):

  1. Be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress.
  2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback.
  3. Good balance between perceived challenges of the task of their own perceived skills at solving the challenges.

Since the scientists have proven three conditions must be met for you and your team to be in the “flow zone” while being creative, your strategies must require planning to create environments where the three conditions are met: goals, immediate feedback, achievable challenges.

Sales plan example
  1. X numbers of leads
  2. X/Y leads turn into opportunities
  3. X/Y/Z opportunities turn into orders
  4. Orders shipped turn into sales (don’t forget this part, sometimes the factory can’t do this!)

Want to increase sales? Increase X, decrease Y or Z, or increase $ per sale. It is really this simple and yet it is so hard to execute. Our difficulty with executing a sales plan will often derive from an inability to get into ‘flow’ with the process.

Analyze your process where does it work, where does it bog down? Do you get the leads but the have a difficult time following up? Do you follow up but do not get the order?

Use the strategy of optimizing flow to lower energy barriers for execution. We do what we like. If we get orders, then we’ll likely do more of the difficult stuff to get the orders. Lowered energy barrier. Be creative & strategic about how you can permanently lower energy barriers to execute your sales plan.

Flow focuses on goals, immediate feedback, and perceived matching of challenges to capabilities. Setting a sales goal of $/month or $/year fails on at least two of these fronts. Instead, focus on setting up the systems or processes — these can meet the criteria of flow:

  • # of calls per day
  • ## of quotes per month
  • ### of leads of a certain type
Marketing content example

The theory is that content is king.

Content will drive the customers to the sales people. Content will filter out the non-sales leads. Content will enable customers with needs today to find us. 

The person given the task of writing said content says “what content, what can we say, what can we not say, do you have any photos?” Content is now dead in the water.

Fail to plan, plan to fail.

Develop the plan. Use your theory of flow: goals, feedback, achievable.

  1. Start with ### of leads of a certain type (from the sales plan).
  2. What do they need to know?
  3. How will you measure if it worked (or didn’t)?

Often writing content stalls out because there was a failure to find one of the conditions of flow. Don’t know the segment; don’t know what they need to know; inability to fill page due to lack of knowledge. Brainstorm how you can work around the roadblocks and barriers. Can you and your team find a way to flow around the issues like water?


The daily challenge of finding flow is just that, a daily challenge. We get distracted by the environment (too hot, too cold, too bright, too messy). We have that nagging shopping list, taxes to fill out, etc. Some authors about flow suggest that dealing with the distractions is absolutely required in order to find peace and enter the flow state.

5 ideas on how to get into flow:

  • Just write. My professor in technical writing told us when we can’t get going, to find a timer and write for 45 minutes about anything. After 45 minutes, throw that out; start on real project.
  • Lean in. Start the piece. Outline. Find resources and pictures. Get going (but don’t throw it out) and soon you will find yourself in the flow of the work.
  • Minimize distractions. Turn off the phone; turn off email and facebook alerts; give yourself permission to focus. Sometimes it is as simple as saying I have permission to work on work.
  • Windshield time. 20 minutes of windshield time is what I need to have epiphany after epiphany. It’s amazing how many ideas I have on the off ramp at Louisiana. Now I just need to record them without crashing the car!
  • Brainstorm. Write down ideas. Any ideas. There are no bad ideas. Build on what was said or written down before. Fishbone diagrams, whatever. Soon you will be amazed at the great ideas you are having.

Battery Day

February 18 is Battery Day!

Are you the electricity or the bulb?

This post was hard to write. Lots of ideas (too many bulbs?), not a lot of thinning or organization (mixing metaphors, I know), and a difficulty in staying on track with the organization of the piece. Partly because it’s a stretch to say that batteries are closely related to light bulbs and electricity.

Lightening is electricity and while it is “all over the place” it too can have a huge impact. So today, you get something “all over the place”. I hope it has some impact.

Electricity and energy

This post is about harnessing your energy, your natural energy, and finding your reserves when you feel you have lost them.

Light bulbs

This post is about strategically finding or creating flow to generate a creative environment/atmosphere. Two suggestions for marketing and sales when these processes lose their flow. After I wrote the marketing piece I thought I should take my own advice (hmmm…).


1800 Volta invents the first battery, known as the voltaic pile.

1836 Daniell invents an improved battery capable of operating at 1.1 volts and used in early telegraph networks.

1859 Gaston Plante invented the lead-acid battery, the first rechargeable battery and the same technology used today in cars, boats, and RVs.

1912 Lewis started Lithium battery research, but it took 60 more years before they became mainstream in small devices like cameras and cell phones.

1955 Urry at Union Carbide improved upon alkaline battery design to lower their product costs — now making it possible to power a laser pointer to distract our cats.

1983 Borst invents the potato clock as a mass-produced science fair product. It works the same way batteries work: mild phosphoric acid, naturally occurring in potatoes and other starches, results in a chemical reaction where electrons are freed from the zinc probe (negatively charged) and accepted onto the copper probe (positively charged). Boil the potato and the electrical capacity of the potato increases 10 fold!



Electricity of Ideas

Ever feel energized by coming up with a cool new idea?

Or do you feel energized by completing a project?

The Data

For fans of Myers-Briggs, the introspective self-report questionnaire for sorting out differing psychological preferences, the most quantifiable of its characteristics is extroversion versus introversion — or “where you get your energy from.” Though I must say I was a bit shocked when I did research on the research behind Myers-Briggs; I learned that the data was not terribly credible.

The Gallup Strengths Finder assessment ranks you on 34 “strengths”. The theory being if you play to your strengths you will move forward faster and be more personally successful. As with Myers-Briggs, the data can be sketchy. However, it is fascinating to contemplate the top 5 strengths the survey will reveal to you and how you can focus on them to achieve greatness or at least (your) world domination.


According to the MBTI-school, extroverts get their energy from being with people; introverts get energized by being alone. Some of us can be energized by being in a group of people coming up with cool ideas. Others find energy reading a book or analyzing data.

Regardless of what MBTI tells you, you probably have a sense that you fall into one of those buckets more often than the other. Make note of it as that is your energy source.

If you work with a team, think about your team mates. Have you noticed where and when each member of the team “finds” his or her energy? Have you asked?

Gallup’s Strengths Finder

Based on a book written by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, StrengthsFinder is the theory that there are a certain number of “fixed universal personal-character attributes” sometimes called ‘talent themes’. By focusing on your strengths, you move forward faster.

For $10 you can take the quiz online and your top 5 strengths will “pop out”. Spend a bit more and you can get all 34 ranked. Every strength has a dark side. Activators get stuff done; however, they rankle people who do not have highly ranked activator attributes as “rushing”.

Spooky? Horoscope like? Maybe. The placebo effect is real. Use what you can, right?

Strategies to Harness Your Energy

Now that you have figured out what you think your strengths are (ha-ha or ask a trusted friend to tell you the truth!) — how do you use that to further your efforts?

Strategy is the overall campaign plan; tactics are the means to achieve the plan. 

  1. Develop a plan to use your creativity at your highest energy point
  2. Plan your teams’ efforts to use their highest energy points
  3. Balance your team (if you can between introverts and extroverts) to make best use of each skill set/personality trait.


  • Plan to use a large event like a trade show to get the team’s energy behind a new initiative, like creating a catalog of products, new literature pieces, or new displays and videos.
  • Use an organizational change to re-vamp the website, launching the new website with the roll-out of the change (if possible).
  • Plan your content marketing in trade journals for the whole year
    • Work out a schedule with the journals & product managers
    • Schedule around key events (trade shows or new product launches)
    • Commit to the plan

Tactics to Find Your Energy (when slightly lost!)

Tactics are the day to day things you do to keep going, keep innovating, keeping to that schedule & strategy you worked so hard to develop at the beginning of the year.

  • Use a strength from strengths finder. For example, I get completely energized when I analyze data. In that 3 o’clock slump, if I can find some data to review, slice, and dice, before I know it I’m re-energized. Weird but true.
  • Start a 30 minute task. If you get energy from starting projects, pull out your planning tools and start planning. Pretty soon you’ll go from planning to executing (or getting the team to execute.
  • Learn something new. Learners can “find” energy by learning something new. Now is the time to try that new program, app, or to find the new program or app that will make this year easier & better.
  • Do a no-brainer. Expense reports? Cleaning off your desk? Filing your paperwork? When your mojo has left the building, sometimes doing mindless tasks will open up the creative flood gates.  This is why Einstein worked in a patent office.