Friday, March 16, 2007

Live Coaching/Resume

After posting the information regarding Life Coaching a number of you emailed me wanting to know more about my background, experience, and education. While this is rather long, it seemed like the right time to give you my resume. Again, any questions you have will be cheerfully answered. Email me at


Resume: March 2007

Ronald R. DeVrou, MSW
Cell: 202/350-7117

Extensive experience in critical thinking and problem solving from years of work as a Virtual Personal Assistant, Life Coach, and 10 years as a practicing Clinical Social Worker. Strong customer service skills based in patience and client education. Extremely skilled in discovering client needs and defining client expectations using strong communication skills that bring forth insight, clarity, and movement.


1994 - Present
Life Coach

Responsibilities include weekly telephone and/or face to face contact with clients around the country and in Washington, DC. Goals creation, support, assistance, and follow through are some of the tasks performed.

2005 - Present
Virtual Personal Assistant

Email and telephone follow-up, writing and editing, blog creation and maintenance, marketing campaigns, and other off-site business related functions are some of the tasks performed. Extensive Internet research, project implementation, and Craigslist posting are also available.

1991 - 2001
Dupont Therapy & Counseling Center

Managing partner and private practice psychotherapist. Responsible for business management including record keeping, payroll, tax compliance, and business marketing. As a psychotherapist tasks included initial consultation and assessment, treatment plan creation, implementation, and follow through. Clients included individuals, couples, and groups.

1988 - 1993
Planned Parenthood of SW Michigan and Metro Washington, DC

Various tasks including termination counseling, HIV counseling and testing, and vasectomy counseling and procedure assistance. Creation and implementation of a comprehensive HIV counseling and testing protocol was a major accomplishment.


1989 - 1991
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Masters of Social Work (MSW-1991) specializing in clinical skills set development, and policy, planning and administration. Bachelors of Social Work (BSW-1989).

References and Writing Sample upon request.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Life Coaching Details

Coaching is a mutual process where we define goals, develop strategies, implement and achieve steps along the way, and finally reach a measurable outcome. This is accomplished through one on one telephone contact on a weekly basis.

My request would be for you to think of two goals, yet you need not necessarily define them, we will do that. These goals might be in the area of career, relationship development or enhancement, family relations, or any type of goal that will improve your 'quality of life."

The first would be a goal we can work with to accomplish in three months or less. The other would be a long term goal which would have short term components within it. An example of a long term goal might be a new career which would require additional education.

The components would include, applying to grad school, taking classes, and graduation. Then researching job possibilities and making applications. Resume creation would also be a component here. As you can see within the long term goal there are many short term projects. We would work on them as we proceed.

Our coaching sessions would be by telephone for 30 to 45 minutes each week at a predefined time. The fee would range from $140 to $200 per month paid in advance into my Pay-Pal account. And on a limited/as needed basis, Email and real-time instant message support is also included, as well as information I will provide relating to Internet resources.

I'm sure you will benefit from my 10+ years of both Coaching and Private Practice Psychotherapy. Remember tho that Coaching is not a replacement for therapy for those who would benefit from working with a local therapist.

Let me know of your interest please. We can set up a 'no fee' initial session to explore your needs and how I might be a partner in attaining your goals.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Younger Than Thou: Instant Messaging

This is a rather long piece yet it gives a good bit of information about 'Instant Messaging'. It came for a Macintosh site called I trust you will find it useful.


Younger Than Thou: Instant Messaging

by Dan Pourhadi <>

[Adam here. I recently turned 39, and as much as I don't feel old physically, there are times when reading about how teenagers use technology - the stuff I've been writing about for 17 years! - make me feel simply ancient. Oh, I understand how the technology works; I just don't always get why these people - all of whom are much younger than I am - find it so compelling, to the point where a recent study found that teens use electronic media for more than 72 hours per week. I don't think I spend 72 hours per week doing anything short of breathing.

Rather than curmudgeonly harumph around about the good old days of scouring BITNET for joke files and extracting 400K floppies from Mac Pluses, I've instead recruited an actual teenager, college freshman Dan Pourhadi, to write about how and why teenagers use the technology they do. Dan last wrote about choosing a Mac to take to college on a $2,000 budget, an assignment he carried off with aplomb, so I figured he was the perfect person to explain his generation to those of us who actually remember the Soviet Union and East Germany (see Beloit College's Class of 2010 Mindset List for other facts about today's college freshmen). To kick things off, I've asked Dan to explain instant messaging to his grandmother, but I'd like to open this sporadic column up to suggestions from you. If there's something about how young people (we're talking 15 to 25 here) use technology, send me or Dan a note and we'll see what we can do.]

"Hi, Danny dear..."

Hey, Grandma!

"What are you doing there?"

Oh, nothing, Grandma. Just talking to my friends online.

"Hi, Danny's friend! I'm his grandmother!"

No, no, Grandma. I'm instant messaging them. We're not on the phone.

"Oh, you're typing to him? Like the emails. Who are you talking to? That girl you introduced me to yesterday? She was nice."

Yeah, Grandma. Her, and my friend Mike, and Kim, and Jennifer.

"You're talking to all of them? Right now?"

Yep, we're all having separate conversations. See, this is my buddy list on the left. That shows all of my friends who are at their computers right now. I can send messages to anyone I want, and they can respond and we can have a conversation right here in this window - it's free and there's no telephone or anything special needed. And I can talk to as many people as I want.

"That is amazing. But it seems kind of complicated."

It's a pretty great tool, really, once you get the hang of it. Imagine being able to talk to multiple people at once, while going about your other business. The more you IM, the better your typing becomes, and eventually typing messages becomes second nature - holding a conversation online feels nearly as natural as speaking on the phone.

"That's crazy."

Crazy, Grandma?

"Crazy. What if you want to show yourself as sad or happy? How can you know what the other person is thinking if you can't see or hear them?"

Well, I'm sure that was first said about the telephone - how can you gauge emotion if you can't see his or her face? Simple: contextual clues and talk patterns. If you upset someone on the phone, they're likely to pause a few seconds before answering. Once you're a phone-speaking veteran, understanding the tone of the conversation is simple.

The same applies to text-based instant messaging. When I'm talking to my friends, we use various techniques to relay feeling and tone through the conversation. Ellipsis can mean confusion or uncertainty; a fast typist who's responding unusually slowly is probably unhappy; italics emphasize words or phrases; capital letters typically denote yelling or excitement. There are also the smiley faces that help broadcast a particular feeling.

"But how do you know they're not lying? Someone could be lying about how they feel."

Very true, Grandma, very true. And that happens a lot. But the more you talk to certain people, the better you're able to understand their real tone. It's hard to hide emotion, in any medium.

For example, I have a friend who unknowingly adds a period at the end of every message when she's upset. Most folks I know don't really use periods in instant messages (sentences are typically separated and sent in separate messages) - so when periods are used, they tend to have a special meaning.

Everything is manipulatable online. Take laughter: if you're trying to show that you're amused by something, you'll typically type "lol" (short for "laugh out loud"). If something is funnier, you might type "hahaha." The funnier it is, the more "ha"s you add. If something is freakin' hilarious, you might go all out with a bold "HAHAHAHA." Capital letters add emphasis, see?

Strategic use of speed, pauses, capital letters and italics, emoticons, punctuation, abbreviations, even word choice - an IM veteran reads and understands all of that to mean something, and that makes IM conversations as natural to them as anything else.

"Um, Danny..."

Yes, Grandma?

"Your friend sent something to you. Why aren't you answering?"

See, that's another great aspect of this whole thing: If you're talking face-to-face or on the phone, you're forced to answer right away. An IM conversation is completely controllable. You can pause a few seconds to think of an answer, type "brb" (be right back) and take a few minute break, or just a simple "g2g" (got to go) to high-tail it outta there. You tailor the conversation to your liking.

"That's terrible!"

Why's that, Grandma?

"It's rude! Leaving someone like that, in the middle of a conversation. Imagine!"

Grandma, what's rude on the phone or in person isn't necessarily rude online.

IM vets tend to follow certain etiquette rules that make conversations manageable for both sides. You shouldn't leave a conversation, for instance, without first saying "brb" or "g2g"; if you're not at your computer or if you don't want to respond to IMs, you put up an "Away" message - something that's sent automatically when you receive a message, like "I'm away from my computer." so your buddies know not to expect an answer.

When everyone follows those rules - which honestly are pretty common-sense - then rudeness is all but eliminated.

"That's not so bad I guess. So what do you talk about?"



I'm kidding, Grandma. We talk about anything and everything. School work, work work, regular friend stuff. As odd as it sounds, I tend to be more open talking online than I am in person. Sure, doctors may say "that's not healthy," to which I'd respond "YOU'RE not healthy!", but really, instant messaging is a lot easier for people like me. You have those extra seconds to analyze what's being said and to plan your response; you can still convey and judge emotion; you can scroll up to re-read what's been said; there are no awkward silences or odd looks or funny noises accidentally coming from your mouth.

Looking at it from a conventional, face-to-face-talking-is-the-best perspective, it may seem insincere and fake - a tailored, analyzed conversation - and it probably is, a little. But it reduces the risk of misspeaking and miscommunication, and it promotes honesty by making a conversation a lot more comfortable.

"You've thought about this a lot, haven't you?"

I have, Grandma.

"So you're talking to four people right now?"

I am.

"Doesn't that get confusing? Saying all those different things to different people?"

You'd think so, wouldn't you? It's a habitual thing, like driving. When a newbie driver gets behind the wheel, he's blown away by all the different tasks he's supposed to accomplish at once - keeping his eye on the road, measuring his speed, watching for signs and anticipating other cars' behaviors. It seems impossible to the poor sap.

But the more you drive, the more each task becomes habit, the easier it all becomes. The very same concept applies to instant messaging: At first, managing even one discussion is a hassle. But the more you do it, the more you're able to compartmentalize the conversations; you learn to take clues from context and previous messages to know where you left off. Before you know it, you're having conversations with ten or more people at once without batting an eye.

There is always the case of the mis-sent Message, though. Happens all the time: someone clicks the wrong conversation and sends a message that was supposed to go to someone else. It's not necessarily a result of confusion: just acting before thinking.

"I'd never be able to do so many things at once. How in the world do you get anything done?"

Well, that's when the Away message comes in handy. If I have work to do or TV to watch (both of which share a spot on the priority List), I'll put up an Away message, hinting that I'm busy, unable, or even just unwilling to talk. I might talk with one or two people, but the Away message keeps other people from IMing me and helps to prevent distraction. It all has to do with willpower: if IM gets distracting, you shut it off. It's not really a new concept - you probably thought that Mom talking on the phone got in the way of her homework. The solution - shutting down the distraction - is the same.

"Yes, she spent way too much time on the phone when she should have been doing her homework. But this all seems pretty neat to me."

It really is. And there are all sorts of other cool features of IMing that make it an addictive form of communication: you can send pictures and files to your buddies; you can have IM chat-room conversations with two or more people; you can stay connected with people all over the world for free; it takes very little effort to initiate or participate in a conversation, which is great for lazies like me; there's always the comfort of privacy; and it has what I call the "iPod Appeal": you can enjoy it without making it the center of your focus. It's entirely possible to have a serious meaningful conversation in the background while doing other things.

Case in point: I'm talking to you right now, Grandma, while writing a paper and talking to four of my friends. I'm obviously focusing on our conversation the most, then the paper, and then I'm answering my friends whenever they send me something. It works amazingly well. Try doing that on the phone, or even in person. I bet you couldn't.

"Nope. You kids and your 'younger than thou' attitudes."

Wow, Grandma. That'd make a great name for a column.

"I'm sure. So what about that paper you claimed you were working on?"

Sorry Grandma, g2g.


Auto-Response: I'm away from my computer right now.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Top 7 Reasons To Hire A Virtual Assistant

  1. They are all business. Your Virtual Assistant will support your needs, not the other way around. Since they bill their hours for the work they accomplish – some in increments as small as five minutes – you are not paying for personal phone calls, late arrivals, childcare crises, or sick time. If you detest the forced socialization of a corporate workplace, or listening to the humdrum minutiae of your co-worker’s life story, a virtual staff solves that problem.

  2. You’re in control. Your working relationship is based upon a contractual agreement whereby you state in no uncertain terms what you expect. They either do it or they don’t. If you want a web designer who uses Dreamweaver instead of hand-coding HTML, then you specify that. Or, you can entirely defer to your Virtual Assistant’s expertise and focus your energy elsewhere.

  3. Professional rapport. Your Virtual Assistant is in the entrepreneurial boat, too. They work at home, market their services, prospect for clients, and provide a service just like you do. It’s a great way to add to your network base, as they may have found ways to solve problems you never even thought of. Often they have their own network of resources that they utilize for printing, document processing and promotion. Tapping into their resources doubles your own.

  4. Cost savings. You can hire a VA from anywhere on Earth. It’s as competitive an industry as any other, and you can expect a wide range of fees for various services offered. If you like the fees for web design, but think a particular service is too expensive for document editing or proofreading, you can hire multiple VA’s to do different tasks to keep your own costs low. You are not under any obligation whatsoever, except, of course, to pay your bill.

  5. Pride in their work. If you are hiring a VA for tasks such as web design, you can easily preview their work. Often the VA service will place testimonials on their site or examples of web pages they have designed. Examine their portfolio pages to determine the depth of their skills and experience.

  6. Virtual freedom. No on-site employees means no liability, no worker’s comp insurance, and no payroll taxes to calculate. Everyone is an independent contractor. You can utilize a virtual assistant for either ongoing work or on a per-project basis.

  7. No strangers in the house. If you have a home office, hiring employees to work on-site could be intrusive. If you have children at home, or a spouse who works odd hours, or you just don’t care to open up your private space to others, a virtual assistant is ideal. Most likely, your VA will never darken your doorstep.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Creating Strong Passwords

I've often been asked 'what is this password selection thing all about? How do I create one I can remember that is also safe?"

There a number of different ways to create a strong password. You might use the first letter of each word of a lyric of a favorite song ('praise the Lord I saw the light' would be 'ptlistl'.)

A name with number embeded in it. (thecubs1956) Or any combination you choose. The important thing is to create a password you can remember, yet cannot be easily guessed.

One method that works for many of us, including me, it to use a first letter of the site, a name, followed by at least three numbers. For example for your Yahoo login password you might use: ythecubs1956. For your Amazon access it might be: athecubs1956. For your Google Mail (Gmail) account it might be: gthecubs1956.

As you can see the base password body stays the same yet the first initial(s) change with each site you log into. Remember passwords are case sensitive. The lowercase “s” is different from the upper­case “S." Make sure that the CAPS LOCK is not on, unless you intend to enter all uppercase letters.

Another safe password technique is to create a new, stronger password for every Web site or login that requests one. You might consider creating a few stronger passwords and use those at sites you want to keep most secure, such as your bank, brokerage, or bill-paying company. Then create another small set of passwords that are easier to remember that you can use everywhere else.

Remember it is your responsibility as a computer user to try to create strong passwords. Intruders may attempt to gain access to shared computer systems through the accounts of others. At particular risk are your privacy, reputation, and files and computing resources. Take extra precautions to make your password as difficult as possible to crack.

Strategies for creating a good password are:

  • Create a password that is easy to remember.
  • Create a password that you don’t have to write down.
  • Make the password at least 8 characters long.
  • Create a password that you can type quickly.
  • Create a password that is a random mix of letters, digits, and punctuation.

Creating Good Passwords

Your password is the key to your data and should be nearly impossible for someone to try to figure out. Choosing a secure password is important for keeping your data secure.

Use of Pass-phrases

Pass-phrases are longer than passwords, are easier to remember, can contain spaces and special characters, and can be more difficult for crackers to break. An easy way to form a secure pass-phrase is to think of a phrase that you can remember; include special characters and even a misspelled word. For example, the phrase: “I have lived in Bloomington, IN the passed 15 years!” could be a pass-phrase. You may also consider choosing a line from a song or poem. Of course the number of characters allowed on the site will determine the phrase you use.

Things to Avoid when Choosing a Password

There are specific things you should avoid when choosing a password, including the following:

  • Names of any kind. These include your login name, your first or last name in any form, or your spouse's or child's name.
  • Any kind of easily obtained information. This includes your phone number (may be listed in a directory), your address (again, easily obtained from a did­rectory), birthdays, license plate numbers, telephone numbers, etc.
  • Sensitive information. This includes your ATM PIN, your student ID if you are a student, your Social Security number, or your credit card number.
  • Words contained in English or foreign language dictionaries. These include obvious words such as “secret” or “password” or “abc123," etc.

Remember that it is part of your responsibility as a computer user to create a strong password. For maximum security, always take extra precautions when creating a password so that sophisticated crackers can’t acquire your personal information.

Managing Passwords

Do NOT let software remember a password because the password will be stored on the computer, and many machines are used by other users. When you go to a site on the Internet and enter your user ID and password, you may see a checkbox or another dialog box asking you if you want the browser to remember the password and if you want to be asked this again. Depending upon your browser and its settings, the browser may not remember your password information again.

About Sharing Passwords

Do NOT share your password with others. Don’t give your password to anyone, including your friends, your boss, a computer repairperson, etc., and don’t write them down and keep them at your desk or in an unprotected file on your computer.

A social engineer will try to manipulate a computer user by using trust rather than exploiting computer security holes. Be aware of anyone who wants to log on to your machine to send a quick email or anyone who claims to be an administrator and requests a password for various purposes.

Never send your password through email. A new trick that hackers use is to try to get people to give away their passwords and other personal information through email. Reputable companies will never ask you to send a password through email. If you receive such a request, notify the company immediately by phone or through their Web site.

Changing Passwords Frequently

A strong password is one that you change on a regular basis. A good practice is to change your password at least every three to six months. Always log out of Microsoft Outlook and other applications or other computers before changing your password.

Special thanks to The Indiana University for the basis of some of this information I used in writing this piece.

Ronald DeVrou
Your Virtual Personal Assistant