Dealix Learns How to Be Fit While They Sit

Fitness is a subject on the minds of most people in the workplace these days. Busy schedules and increasingly sedentary lifestyles leave many of us with a conundrum: How do you stay fit when you’re sitting in front of a glowing screen all day? At Dealix, a division of Cobalt, the employees found a unique solution; and last month, they tried it out at their first Wellness workshop.

“The whole concept is to learn how to move at work even just a little bit more, instead of feeling tight and tired at the end of the day,” said Eunice Mendoza, office manager at Dealix’s Redwood City location. “Stella, the Pilates instructor, definitely made the workshop interesting for us, teaching a few Pilates exercises to do at our desks.”

There were several different moves she showed the group, such as learning how to breathe properly. Practicing different breathing techniques correctly has benefits to your core. One example was the “navel to spine” method, also known as the “zipping up your jeans” method. Basically, when you exhale, you should pretend that you are zipping up a tight pair of jeans. Mendoza and other participants found that this one really works.

Other techniques included the “I Dream of Jeannie” seated abdominals, and the “Twist and Reach” movement (like you are grabbing a file, using the same navel to spine breathing) both of which strengthen abdominal muscles and shrink love handles.

“Many of us came out of the workshop thinking how such little movement made such a big impact!” said Mendoza, once she had completed the first workshop.

Dealix is planning another “Fit While You Sit” event in the coming months, just a part of how Dealix and Cobalt helps employees to achieve better wellness and fitness.

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A Morning of Inspiration: Lifelong AIDS Alliance Charity Breakfast

I got this email one day indicating that Cobalt was sponsoring a $125 per plate breakfast along with a chance to visit with our busy CEO, John Holt. The event featured Seattle KOMO 4 newscaster, Molly Shen, and other local bigwigs. Sounds great, right?

The only catch was that it was the Lifelong AIDS Breakfast. Yes, that AIDS. The one that killed Freddie Mercury, Easy E and Ryan White. The one that generations of young adults live in fear of. The one that I’ve grown confessedly ignorant of.Lifelong Aids Alliance Breakfast

Could I tolerate an hour and a half of stories about starving children in Africa whose lives are that much more terrible because they were orphaned by HIV/AIDS? Or my own Northwest neighbors, who suffer from the disease every day? The truth is, yes; this is a cause I believe in. But in 2010, I really don’t know what to do to support those affected by the disease. So I went to the event because I wanted to fill a seat, make a donation and do something.

At the event, there were stories of Seattleites who have been battling AIDS for a decade or more. But that was the also the miracle of it. It’s been more than ten years for some people! One thing that I learned is that Cobalt’s own Matt Browning, manager of technical support, sits on the Board of Directors for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance and organizes Cobalt’s AIDS Walk team. I had no idea! He’s such an unassuming guy around the office, but he’s a board member for a major cause in Seattle.

Aids Alliance AwardsWashington State Attorney General Rob McKenna also spoke, offering up some statistics and figures. He quoted Gandhi, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” He added that those of us who attend Charity Breakfast Events like this one should adopt the phrase, “Lead the change that you want to see.”

During the event, the foundation awarded the annual Ned Behnke Award for the researcher who provided the most benefit to finding a cure. The recipient, Dr. King Holmes, spoke about advances in AIDS research that are not getting the kind of attention they should.

Current Lifelong AIDS Alliance Chair Maurice Jones also took the podium, making sure to let us know that 86 cents of every dollar donated to the Lifelong AIDS Alliance goes directly to their clients. Truly, this is a rare chance to maximize direct help.

The event included a video presentation that covered some of the current work and goals of the Lifelong AIDS Alliance. One patient featured in the video, Krystal, has had this disease since 1991. I remembered that AIDS was a death sentence back then, but here is Krystal, a 19-year survivor, who lives an active and contributing lifestyle.aids_alliance3

That’s what this is ultimately about. It’s not just about statistics versus cures and success stories. This is about “quality of life” and being able to contribute to someone’s life in a meaningful way, whether it’s a full day of work, delivering donated food or just the simple act of giving someone an hour of your time.

Lifelong AIDS Alliance is giving a better quality of life to individuals in a variety of ways every single day. I was humbled by the opportunity to help this organization advance that cause and that Cobalt would give me the chance to have that opportunity.

Donate to the Lifelong AIDS Alliance.

Photos taken by Ben Zheng, courtesy Lifelong AIDS Alliance Facebook Photos page.

Deb Thogersen
Account Advocate
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Cobalt’s Very Own Olympic Athlete

Mark BathumThe Vancouver Winter Olympic Games may be over, but Cobalt is still cheering on one of its own. Mark Bathum, who we first introduced to Digital Mileage readers back in December, is a ski racer. He is currently competing in the 2010 Paralympic Games, which began officially in Whistler, B.C. on March 12th and end on Sunday, March 21st.

Bathum is a Cobalt Diehard and has been training for over a year for his Paralympics bid. On Thursday, Bathum and his guide, Slater Storey, missed winning the men’s gold medal by less than half a second but still secured the silver medal for the USA team.

“This course is great, it’s a true downhill. It’s got a great test of speed, a great test of skill,” Bathum said. “It flows with the hill so easily. It’s a really fun place to race downhill. I’m thrilled to get a silver here in Canada.”

You can learn more on Bathum’s website, which includes information about what ski racing is, as well as photos and video from the events.

Every Olympic athlete faces challenges, and Bathum is no different.

“The toughest challenge leading to the Paralympics was time management,” Bathum said. “It was essentially impossible to complete everything that needed to be done each day, including work, race training, ski tuning, stretching, dry land training, rest/recovery, blogging, travel, packing, trip prep, etc. The last two months have been jam-packed from training essentially 5am to 11pm, but having a goal for which I am passionate made the full days fun and rewarding.”

As the actual Games approached, Bathum considered whether or not to attend the opening ceremonies.

“I am planning to forego the opening ceremonies to be well rested for Saturday… On the other hand, everyone says the high received from attending definitely gets you ready to race.”

He also described the run up to actual competition.

“We had five tune up World Cup races at Aspen leading into the Paralympics,” he recalled. “Slater and I placed second in the two downhills, second in one Super-G, middle of the pack in one Super-G following a few blown turns and were disqualified from our slalom run because Slater and I became separated by more than two gates.”

The challenges are balanced by the unique experiences, as Bathum describes best: “With our arrival in Denver for Paralympic processing, our tiny sport felt like it had hit the big leagues. We spent 2.5 hours obtaining 60 pieces of apparel, belts, hats and shoes. We were showered with boldly patterned jackets, fleece, sweatshirts, button shirts, polo shirts, t-shirts and exercise gear. Clearly, the U.S. Olympic Committee wants the U.S. delegation to be recognized via our striking apparel.”

Bathum is competing in additional events Friday, Saturday and, possibly, Sunday. As John Holt said in a message to the company on Friday, “This is a huge accomplishment and it shows the alignment of hard work and fastidious preparation with great results. Mark, we are VERY proud of you; and we look forward to seeing your medal when you return.”

The Cobalt Group

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Show and Tell: Cobalt’s First White Paper

White Label DiagramAcademia calls it “publish or perish,” meaning one’s worth is proven by sharing knowledge with the world. Saying you know how to solve a problem is easy enough, but can you prove it? Can you show it?

In publishing their first white paper, Cobalt has done exactly that. A white paper is a document that addresses a specific issue and discusses how it can be solved. Jason Taylor, advisory engineer for product development at Cobalt, summarizes why he wrote, “Solving the White Label Problem:”

The White Label Problem is the ad hoc customization syndrome that software service operators suffer. It allows other vendors to resell the “white label” services as their own branded products. This problem usually happens when you’ve been successful enough at your offering to attract some large, important customers. These customers often have high expectations of quality and delivery efficiency, a pressure that is, in turn, applied to the White Label operator’s system; and it can have ruinous effects, if done without some kind of unifying design or pattern.

When I sat down to write, “Solving the White Label Problem,” I really thought it would be pretty simple and short. I still think the concept is simple: complex customization requests from large, important customers who resell a system’s services apply pressure to the system. This pressure is an under-appreciated, perhaps unidentified, aspect of software engineering.

What I found in writing the white paper is that even simple ideas are hard to fully describe and build to the level of a thesis. I developed a running system, which generates the visuals used in the paper. I had to tune the code and be very careful about unnecessary logic. Describing the concept of multi-dimensional code paths was difficult, even though it seems like a simple idea. In short, I didn’t really know what I was getting into.

Systemic, fully isolated customization of behavior will become a “hot” area of software engineering research; because I’ve seen how important it is at Cobalt and in other systems. The solution we have at Cobalt has sustained us during a period of explosive growth in the frequency and complexity of customizations to our system.

We and other firms would benefit if framework creators considered this aspect of software engineering when designing their systems. Another benefit would be if creators answered the question, “how will this framework generally support radical, dynamically-applied variations of behavior?” I’m hoping that some of the people who read this white paper will acquire the vocabulary and tools necessary for answering that question.

Cobalt’s needs, along with several levels and types of programmatic control, may be somewhat extreme; but there will be more and more software service vendors as industry trends continue toward infrastructure commoditization and software consumer usage sophistication.

Cobalt spends time and effort finding creative solutions to the problems that both the automotive industry and technology professionals face today. Cobalt’s unique place in the industry encourages innovation. Cobalt’s first white paper is proof of that innovative spirit.

“Solving the White Label Problem” will be presented this week at TheServerSide Java Symposium in Las Vegas and can be download at http://code.google.com/p/thewhitelabelproblem/.

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Cobalt Past & Present: What It Means to Be a DieHard Part Two

On St. Patrick’s Day, Cobalt will be having a 15th anniversary party in celebration of its expansive growth as well as the hard work and dedication given by the company’s employees, both new and longstanding. Within Cobalt, there are 50 people who are given a badge of honor for their venerable commitment to the success of Cobalt. They are dubbed Cobalt DieHards and have been with the company for nine or more years.

Community Counts
Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of getting to know a few of these well-respected and enthusiastic DieHards. They have shared with me their stories of Cobalt’s past and present and are certainly on board for the future. Cobalt’s exponential growth within the past decade and a half is undeniable and couldn’t have been accomplished without them.

“Seeing us grow from dot com to big company is amazing. Throughout the ten years I’ve been with Cobalt, no matter what department, there’s a feeling of close-knit, small community. I love working at Cobalt because of the people I work with as well as our strong leadership,” said Ben Patawaran, account advocate.

DieHard Dedication
In Part One of this article, I wrote about the amazing transformation Cobalt underwent from using dial up connections and hard-copies of websites to being first in line for dealer and OEM digital marketing. One thing that remains consistent with Cobalt, despite new technologies and the ever-changing automotive industry, Cobalt has held true to its motto of “work hard, play hard.”

“During the 2001 earthquake, I was the safety coordinator for my floor and had to make sure everyone evacuated. I ran through the floor to double check; and there was still one person typing away at her desk. She just had to send off one email before leaving. That’s dedication!” said Patawaran.

Room for Even More Growth
Many of the DieHards began when Cobalt had fewer than 100 employees. Now, the company has grown to over 1,000 strong, expanded their offices across the nation and gained large accounts with Lexus, GM and Volkswagen.

“Winning GM was definitely one of the greatest accomplishments we’ve had at Cobalt. We were in the right place at the right time. After that moment, we doubled revenue, hired 350 employees and did 5,000 websites. The aftermath of that sale was incredible,” said Matt Muilenburg, vice president of enterprise marketing solutions.

With its efforts to double innovation, the company’s growth trajectory will not taper for quite sometime. Cobalt remains on the pioneering end of digital marketing for the automotive industry with its unique and successful digital ad packages that coordinate marketing messages from the brand to the dealer.

Work Hard, Play Hard
Another point that rings true for Cobalt’s corporate culture is its strong sense of community. Aside from company parties, events and celebrations, trust and camaraderie is the foundation of Cobalt and one of the reasons why the company has so many DieHard employees. In everything they do, DieHards and newer employees, alike, work hard and play hard.