My name is Shirley Cooper and I have various roles - probably best described as a ‘portfolio career’ working as an Executive and Non Executive Director for a number of businesses.
My work involves developing commercial best practices at board level for a variety of businesses. It's really exciting and everyday is different because it involves both commercial and not for profit organisations and I get involved with everything from global businesses to sole practitioners. All the work I do is generated by referral.
When was your LinkedIn date of birth?
April 2006. I've worked in technology for the past 13 years so we were relatively early adopters. It's a great tool to stay connected, re-establish old contacts and friends and indeed find those that have gone missing!
Finish this sentence “to me LinkedIn is……….”
...My professional address book! I only link to people I have met and know. So it's a truly great business tool to keep me in touch with what everyone is up to business-wise. Note from Editor; I have known Shirley for many years and she is one of the most active offline networkers I have met so when she says she only connects to people she knows...it is worth noting that she genuinely knows a lot of people!
When do you login to LinkedIn and how often?
Most days and now i have an iPad it's even easier. This is normally instigated by a message or invitation from someone and then when I am there I always have a look at what is happening on my home page stream, this can be very distracting because I am always fascinated to see what others are up to!
How many connections do you have and why do you connect with someone?
1413 connections which is lot but I do get to meet many people, LinkedIn has proved to be a great memory aid because people will contact me and I don't always remember them immediately but one quick look at their LinkedIn profile really helps me to remember them and remind me of the context in which we met. A photograph on a profile is incredibly helpful in this respect.
Whilst I normally only connect to people I have met and know (just a brief meeting is not enough to feel its appropriate to connect), on rare occasions I may accept an invitation from someone in "our network" (2nd tier) who asks to connect.
I was very privileged to be on the Board of CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing & supply) and more recently I was the CIPS President, which introduced me to so many fantastic procurement professionals who I've had the opportunity to work with and connect. Plus being in technology has introduced me to many technology suppliers and all the various other interests I have (see profile) so it has not been difficult to get to nearly 1500
What features of LinkedIn do you use most?
I look at the updates most days to see what my connections are up to and sometimes I might add a comment i.e. congratulating someone on a new role or commenting on a blog post, I tend to notice updates when they have links attached because they usually have some kind of picture which makes them stand out more.
What is your favorite feature?
I do like the updates. Also when I meet someone for the first time, I will research on LinkedIn in to see what we have in common, and indeed what they look like, especially if the meeting is not in their office. I find the mobile apps are especially handy for this. I have always researched people who I am going to meet for instance the other people at my table at a function and in the days before LinkedIn this used to take a very long time!
I also enjoy checking who has been looking at my profile.
What success (if any) have you had from using LinkedIn?
I run a women's procurement network group called the Blueprint Club through LinkedIn and we have over 150 members, this was originally started offline but we converted it to a LinkedIn group where it is much easier to run and we now attract members from all over the world. We hold events from time to time and its an easy way to communicate to our ever-growing members.
What new features would you like to see?
There are probably features that already exist that I am not using fully, never mind new ones!
I am conscious I should be filtering my home page feed to see more relevant information.
Will LinkedIn still be important in business in 2020?
A lot has changed in the past ten years so who knows what the next 10 will hold. Staying connected has always been relevant in business. 13 years ago when I moved south and joined Computacenter I loaded my address book onto Lotus notes address book but I have never used it since. Now I have my addresses in iCloud (personal) and LinkedIn (professional). I could not have imaged that back then so what next? I wonder if personal and professional contacts will merge or at least be kept in one place, this consolidation will help to make things better organised. That said I prefer to keep my personal and professional identities quite separate so I wouldn't want this to be any more than just a more efficient way of organising contacts. I am not a big user of Facebook but I do keep my ‘friends’ as personal friends and family and my professional contacts as ‘connections’ on LinkedIn. I’m not sure the younger generation see it like this though so maybe that will change in the future and if it does then LinkedIn will need to adjust to that.
I wanted to interview Shirley because I know that she has been a very effective offline networker for many years. It's interesting to see how she uses LinkedIn as an aid to make her offline activities more effective such as;
- As a way to remind her who someone is that she has met sometime ago
- Researching the backgrounds of people she is going to meet
- Running a networking group online
- Keeping up with what is going on with her network
A big thanks to Shirley for taking the time to answer these questions. If you feel you have an interesting LinkedIn story to tell please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org