Career Advice, Global Insights, Leadership

Back to (Virtual) School Advice

23 Sep , 2020  

2020 will be the year we relate to our children and grandchildren, when we discuss overcoming challenges and difficulty. When students looks back, they will remember the online classes and to move to virtual everything. In passing, we will remember more of the good than the bad, as is the case with almost all reflection. Today, we are all making the best of a challenge situation. It might not be ideal, but like unfavorable conditions in life and work, it is still our prerogative to make the best of it. Here are some of my points of advice on how to make best of going back to virtual college.

  1. Show-up. This is true in life, too. Presence is the first step. Sometimes that can be hard or other distractions can be tempting. Now, you are in control of showing-up more than ever. It is easy to tun off your video and even walk away. Be present in mind and body.
  2. Take Notes. There is something about being online that overwhelms the senses. Video and sound, without the human connection, makes focusing harder. So, force yourself to focus on something productive. Nostalgia is back. Everyone wants to relive the 1970s or 1980s or something. Hey, we took notes with a pen and paper. Try it. Pens and paper can be purchased at Amazon. There are lots of options for customization. Doodling is also not gonna be caught, so have at it! Seriously, the act of writing things down engages the brain in a powerful way and brings focus to what is otherwise an overwhelming flow of content. Take physical notes during your zoom class. It will really help with focus.
  3. Check-in. Check-in with your classmates, friends, professors, and parents. Everyone loves to know you are doing well. They especially love being asked how they are doing. Take a pause and just ask about the people around you.
  4. Be Optimistic. Online life, school, and all that it demands is not the same as being there in person. Of course, there are valid questions about what is the right tuition and expectations in a class. Still, if you are taking classes and not suffering from the virus, I think that is fortunate. Take that perspective. Optimism cures much worry. When you think about those who have it worse, the challenges we have with virtual school are less.
  5. Be an Investor. Investors think about the future and reaping rewards later not now. Yes, there are challenges now. Like in life and investments, early challenges can lead to future rewards. Today is a time to plant not harvest. Your education is an investment. Think about the future and how you are investing for it. It can also bring focus and motivation to your efforts and outlook.
  6. Reach Out! As a Professor for many students, I can say it is great to hear from a student, either via email or class participation. We are all in this together. I bet your professors are looking forward to hearing from you!
  7. Be the (Next) Greatest Generation. When I was a kid, it seemed like everyone that was old had a WWII experience. I loved hearing them. I was in awe of their sacrifice, ingenuity, and persistence. They fought, worked state-side, lost family, and yet they persevered, found happiness and even fortune.  We could learn a great deal from the Greatest Generation that brought the world peace after WWII.  They lost a lot and gave a great deal for their families. Ask your parents about their parents and grandparents, who dealt with WWII. Read about the sacrifices. What we must deal with today seems much less than what they overcame. So, try to be the next greatest generation in your actions, considerations for others, and willingness to help others. Americans did it once before. I think we are all up for it again.

It is Fall here in Seattle. The maples are orange, the cherry trees are red and rain has returned. Coffee is as needed as ever as we wake up to crisp mornings. If you’d like to reach-out, send me an email, I’d love to hear how you are doing.


About Russell Walker, Ph.D.

Professor Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and Big Data. He is teaches at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. His most recent book, From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics, by Oxford University Press (2015), explores how firms can best monetize Big Data. He is the author of the text Winning with Risk Management (World Scientific Publishing, 2013), which examines the principles and practice of risk management through business case studies.

You can find him at @RussWalker1776 and and


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Russell Walker helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and big data. He has done novel research in data monetization and digital disruption and advises leading firms on these topics. As Director of Experiential Learning in Analytics and Associate Teaching Professor of Marketing and International Business at the Foster School of Business, at the University of Washington, Dr. Walker is an academic thought-leader on analytics. Russell Walker has developed and taught leading executive programs on Big Data and Analytics, Strategic Data-Driven Marketing, Enterprise Risk, Operational Risk, and Global Leadership. Previous to moving to Seattle and the Foster School, Dr. Walker was Clinical Professor at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University, where he founded and taught many popular courses in analytics and risk management. His is the author of the book From Big Data to Big Profits: Success with Data and Analytics (Oxford University Press, 2015) which examines data monetization strategies and the development of data-centric business models in the new digital economy. He is also the author of the award-winning text Winning with Risk Management (World Scientific Publishing, 2013), which examines the principles and practice of risk management as a competitive advantage. Dr. Walker consults with firms on the topics of Big Data and Analytics, Data Monetization, Risk Management, and Business Strategy. Russell Walker can be reached at: @RussWalker1776

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