Meet Avaya’s Marine Corps Marathon Runners: Andrew, Bob and Jim

Avaya Government Solutions, a proud sponsor of the Marine Corps Marathon, has graciously sponsored 18 Avayans to run in the marathon and 10k to take place on Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C. We’ll continue to bring you features of Team Avaya’s runners over the next month.

This week’s Team Avaya runners come to us from opposite corners of the U.S. and all the way from Beijing, China. What motivates an athlete to travel thousands of miles to run 26.2? Find out in our interviews with Andrew Wang, Bob Cotier and Jim Ward. Meet Team Avaya.

Meet Team Avaya: Andrew Wang

Andrew Wang, Avaya

When Andrew Wang, cloud business development manager, Global SP/SI, begins his 26.2-mile journey around Washington, D.C., he will have already traveled 6,921 miles in the air just to make it to the starting line. And let’s not even think about the serious jetlag he may need to overcome after his flight from Beijing to D.C. This Team Avaya participant is up for the physical and mental challenge. Meet Andrew:

Q: Why did you choose to run the Marine Corps Marathon?
I know that there are many runners in the States and I thought it would be a unique experience to travel from Beijing to compete with them. I am looking forward to running with local runners in D.C., the capital city; plus, the race is sponsored by Avaya. I am extremely proud to represent the company.

Q: What does the event mean to you?
This will be my first running event in the U.S. I plan to run 100 marathons and have already completed the Beijing Marathon in 2013 and several other races in China. Setting my foot in the United States will be a great addition to my running plan.

Q: How are you training for it?
I run five kilometers a day and do long, slow and distance (LSD) runs over the weekend (20 kilometers). I’ve been training this way for almost a year.

Q: How far are you traveling, and what makes this event worth it?
My flight to D.C. from Beijing will be 13 hours in length. I think the race and the experience will be worth the travel time.

Q: Why are you proud to run as part of Team Avaya?
In my previous running experiences, I was only running for myself. This time, I am part of a broader Avaya team. The experience will be special to me as I take great pride in our company and our credo: our relentless pursuit to win.

Q: What does running mean to you?
I have used running as a way to become stronger in every way: physically, mentally and even spiritually. When I am running a long distance, I need to constantly overcome my own desire to stop and to overcome my physical weaknesses. When I finish my target distance, I feel a great sense of relief and accomplishment.

Q: What has been your most memorable moment preparing for the marathon?
When I started running, I influenced my friends around me to start to run. This little change has made their lives healthier and brought our families closer together.

Q: What are you most looking forward to on race day?
I’m hopeful that we’ll have good weather and I look forward to completing the race and taking a photo at the finish line.

Q: Do you do anything special/unique to prepare yourself physically or mentally on race day?
Nothing too special. I wake up early, eat two hours before the race, walk to the starting point and complete some good stretches.

Meet Team Avaya: Bob Cotier

Bob Cotier, Avaya

Bob Cotier, customer systems engineer, Avaya Client Services, begins his race day with dark chocolate. Now that’s a runner we can get behind! As a former member of the military, Cotier will be able to add a check to his bucket list by completing the Marine Corps Marathon. Find out what motivates Cotier to run… meet Bob:

Q: Why did you choose to run the Marine Corps Marathon/10k?
I ran my first marathon at age 51 in 2012. I served four years in the Coast Guard and I am a big supporter of our military, so I had the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) on my bucket list. When I saw that Avaya Government Solutions was looking for volunteers for the marathon, I immediately replied and was very happy and surprised that I was accepted as part of the Avaya team.

Q: What does the event mean to you?
It is a great opportunity to meet other Avayans and to be part of a team (most of my time is spent alone as the only technician in the state of Maine) while at the same time supporting our military.

Q: How are you training for it?
I am nursing a long-time knee injury, but still running 25- to 35 miles per week. I am not a fast runner and don’t expect any miracles on race day, but I will be happy to finish.

Q: How far are you traveling, and what makes this event worth it?
I am traveling from Maine. I am looking forward to a flat race and cool temperatures. This is a great opportunity to run around our capital with 29,999 other runners to honor our Marine Corps. At age 53 and with 29 years of service with Avaya, I imagine that this opportunity would not present itself again.

Q: Why are you proud to run as part of Team Avaya?
Avaya has the best products, services and especially employees. I work with excellent technicians and managers in New England and excellent service coordinators in Oklahoma City. I will be proud to wear an Avaya shirt and be a representative for Team Avaya.

Q: What does running mean to you?
I started running in 2003, about a year after having hernia surgery. I needed to do something to get back in shape. I wasn’t running much at the time, but I found that it was great for stress management along with many other health benefits.

When my dad was sick a few years ago, before he passed away, I started running longer-distance runs to clear my head. Thinking of his pain and the struggles my mother and brother encountered caregiving for him made the pain of the long runs pale in comparison. My father was my motivation for my first marathon.

Q: What has been your most memorable moment preparing for the marathon?
What I remember most about preparing for the marathon is my wonderful wife putting up with my long hours of being away from the house, late dinners and stinky clothes! My two beautiful daughters have been very supportive also.

Q: What are you most looking forward to on race day?
I am looking forward to seeing all of the monuments and history of our capital while running with members of our fine military and also representing Team Avaya.

Q: Do you do anything special/unique to prepare yourself physically or mentally on race day?
I plan on getting up very early on race day and eating a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, drinking a sports drink and lots of water. I also like to eat some dark chocolate for the caffeine without having to drink more liquids (and because it tastes good!).

Meet Team Avaya: Jim Ward

Jim Ward, Avaya

The Marine Corps Marathon holds a special place in the heart of Jim Ward, service delivery manager, Avaya Private Cloud Services. As a former Marine and MCM staff member, Ward returns to D.C. from Texas to tackle 26.2 miles with his son, Stephen. Meet Jim:

Q: Why did you choose to run the Marine Corps Marathon/10k?
As a former Marine and an avid distance runner, the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is my favorite running event. I served on the MCM staff in 1989 and 1990 and then ran the MCM in 1999 and 2000. This year’s marathon holds special significance for me because my son will run it as a member of the Navy Marathon Team.

My history with the MCM dates back to the early 1980s, when I first heard of the event and set a long-term goal to run it. In 1986, I had registered and trained for the MCM, but unfortunately I broke my big toe about two weeks before the race. I later served on the MCM staff as an Officer in Charge of Water Points 1989 and as a Communications Officer in 1990.

That temporary assignment gave me a great appreciation for the operational challenges of organizing and conducting an athletic event of that scale. I loved the excitement and excellent organization of the MCM, but I wanted to run. After several relocations, I finally had the opportunity to run the MCM in 1999 and 2000.

Q. What does the event mean to you?
The MCM represents a major personal challenge and a powerful memorial to our nation’s heritage. The months of training represent physical and mental challenges that lay the foundation for the final event. The course takes the runner through the monuments and key historical sites of our nation’s capital, reminding me of the great sacrifices that others have made throughout the history of the United States.

I love the enthusiastic crowds, the Marine Corps theme, and the atmosphere of the Washington area. Finishing at the Iwo Jima Memorial serves as the final reminder that many others have faced much greater challenges than a marathon; providing the freedom and lifestyle that we enjoy today.

Q: How are you training for it?
I have not run a full marathon since 2000. However, for the last few years I have been staying in condition to run two to four half-marathons per year. Although my pace has slowed over the past 14 years, I now have a much more solid base to begin the training for this marathon than I did in 2000.

Although I had been keeping in condition for half-marathons, I began training for a full marathon on Aug. 11. I know some people who can run long distances without much training. I require a lot of training with steady, gradual increases in mileage.

Ideally, I would have had at least 14 weeks to train, but I modified my plan to get ready in 10 weeks. I keep my weekly mileage around 30-35 miles, but I gradually increase my Saturday long runs each week. For many years, I have followed a rule of limiting my long runs and weekly mileage to increase around 10 percent per week. I also insert some rest weeks with reduced long runs and taper off about two to three weeks prior to the event.

I usually run six to eight miles in the early morning on three weekdays and lift weights on the other two weekdays. I do a long run on Saturday mornings and rest on Sundays. Sometimes, customer situations, business travel, or other conflicts require me to modify that schedule.

I like to run alone, but I do try to participate in races every few months. I ran the Hottest Half Marathon on August. I had my worst half-marathon performance of all time at that event, which discouraged me. However, I performed much better on 15-mile and 17-mile runs on the following two weekends. I plan to work my way up to 21 miles this month, then begin the taper with the Tyler Rose Half Marathon in early October.

Q: How far are you traveling, and what makes this event worth it?
I will travel from Dallas, Texas, which is about 1,200 miles by air. My wife, Donita, and I will fly to Washington, D.C. on Oct. 24. We will pick up the race packets for me and my son. On Saturday, we will attend the Navy vs. San Jose State football game in Annapolis. After the game, we will return to Washington, D.C. with our son to prepare for the marathon. Although we will only see our son for a few hours before and after the marathon, that brief visit makes the trip worthwhile.

Q: Why are you proud to run as part of Team Avaya?
The MCM will be my first time to participate in any type of Avaya-related event outside of my normal job duties. I was pleased to see Avaya Government Solutions sponsor the MCM, as it provides brand recognition for the Avaya solutions deployed in several United States military organizations. I look forward to representing Avaya at the Marine Corps Marathon.

Q: What does running mean to you?
Running has been an extremely significant part of my life, but I did not initially enjoy it. I had been extremely overweight as a child and young teen. At age 16, I set a goal to run a mile, but I had to spend several weeks walking most of that distance.

I kept at the program, gradually increasing my distance. Within a few months I ran a 10K race. I worked my way to running 5K competitively in high school and college. I ran my first half marathon in the summer of 1984 during an internship in Los Alamos, NM.

That distance has proven to be the sweet spot for me throughout my adult life. Although I initially began running to lose weight, I have run mostly for the stress relief, “alone” time, and the energy boost. I also enjoy spending time outdoors. I always run on vacations and business trips, which provides me a way to enjoy new places.

Q: What has been your most memorable moment preparing for the marathon/10k?
Two moments come to mind. When I ran the Hottest Half Marathon on Aug. 24, I felt terrible and seriously doubted if I should try running more than a half marathon. That has been the lowest point in my training, which I hope remains the low point.

The other event was my 17-mile long run in early September. I felt very good on that run, which encouraged me. However, the very end of the run provided a memorable moment.

As I ran through a wooded area to return to my neighborhood, I came within a few yards of a wild animal that I think was a coyote. The animal was definitely not a pet! It had no collar, looked aggressive, and had very piercing eyes. The animal stared at me as I ran past, trying to keep a steady pace and not show fear. As I rounded the corner, I saw the animal staring at me, but I have not seen it since that time. Hopefully I will not encounter any coyotes at the Marine Corps Marathon.

Q: What are you most looking forward to on race day?
The finish line at the Iwo Jima Memorial! I will enjoy most of the race, but I know that the section around 20-26 miles will be especially difficult. By that point, I will be more interesting in finishing than in enjoying the race. I look forward to crossing the finish line and celebrating with my son and other runners.

Q: Do you do anything special/unique to prepare yourself physically or mentally on race day?
Contrary to the advice of most experts, I have found that a cup of coffee helps wake me up and calm my nerves. In my experience, the worst part of any race is the time waiting at the start line for the event to begin. I find that planning and preparation pay great dividends on race morning. I was very fortunate to obtain a reservation at a hotel within walking distance of the start line, so that reduces a lot of the stress of race morning.

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Next-Generation Retail Insights from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2015

Every year in January for the past century, tens of thousands of retailers and industry representatives converge in chilly (okay, really freezing cold) New York City for the National Retail Federation Big Show. For 4 days, NRF brings together retailers and partners in the retail ecosystem to discuss standards, best practices and latest technologies and research.

It is also a showcase for several key NRF initiatives:

  • The Retail Across America program: A program that highlights the retail industry’s positive impact on the U.S. economy, in terms of employment and business.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show
  • Keynotes from dignitaries like ex-Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke on handling of the financial crisis, and a round table discussion from executives from NFL, NBA, NHL, WTA and the German National Team discussing how sports fan marketing can be applicable to retailers.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show
    National Retail Federation Big Show 2015

  • Expo halls and sessions featuring speakers and retailers discussing technology and best practices for retailers.
National Retail Federation Big Show 2015

I spent 3 days at the event and came away with the following observations:

  • Omnichannel customer engagement is a reality
    The shoppers have spoken: We want to browse, shop and get our questions answered anytime, anywhere, in-person or online, on any device, and at our convenience. Retailers need to invest in the process, the people and technology to sell across all channels. It isn’t about “showrooming” or “webrooming,” it’s about shopping.
  • Integrating Web-like experiences in stores
    Customers are interested in replicating the types of experiences they get online in-store. We saw a number of innovative examples, like the Rebecca Minkoff showcase on eBay, and Scala’s digital signage powered by physical sensors in a sneaker display. As shoppers are more comfortable with technology, retailers continue to experiment with technology-driven store experiences.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show 2015
  • Mobility and wireless are king
    The wireless experience now acts as the shopper’s “fifth sense.” While retailers are experienced with manipulating sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, the WiFi experience acts like the consumer’s fifth sense. WiFi is now a crucial piece of the shopping experience, whether it’s through engaging consumers on their mobile devices, giving tablets to employees, or powering mobile checkout and self-service kiosks.
  • Reporting and metrics capabilities continue to grow
    I think the term “big data” is overused. For the past 100 years, retailers have been using detailed reporting to run their businesses. The only difference is that now, the amount of actionable data is hundreds of times more detailed and powerful. From social media data to location data, Web browsing histories, to location heat maps, there is no shortage of new data available to retailers. The key going forward will be to turn these individual data points into actionable intelligence, to increase revenue or operational efficiencies.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show 2015
  • How to fill an auditorium for an 8:30 a.m. keynote
    Donuts. Lots and lots of donuts and coffee. There must have been 20+ staff passing out Krispy Crème in 3 lines as people entered the auditorium for the morning keynote. Great logistics lesson from NRF for any other events in the future. Congrats!

For more information on the National Retail Federation Big Show, please visit bigshow15.nrf.com.

The New Era of Engagement – A Day in Life of an Online Shopper

At the recent Avaya Engages Silicon Valley event, Avaya announced a number of initiatives, including our new engagement strategy, and technologies such as Avaya Engagement Development Platform and Avaya Agent for Chrome.

Avaya Engages Silicon Valley

I would like to share with you the story line for one of the demonstrations featured during the event, the Day in the Life of the Online Shopper. Following the demo, we received a lot of positive feedback on social media, since it featured many of the technologies announced at the event.

Imagine you are a shopper looking for a pair of bootcut jeans. If you had questions about the pants, you could go to the store and have an associate answer your questions, measure and fit you, and complete the transaction.

Now imagine taking that same scenario online. Retailers interested in replicating the high-touch customer experience equip their associates with video so they can help customers through the computer, answering your questions, sharing their screen and helping you complete your purchase.

That exact scenario can now be accomplished with Avaya Engagement Development Platform Snap-Ins like WebRTC, Work Assignment, Context Store, Real-Time Speech Analytics, and the new Avaya Agent for Chrome.

To see this solution in action, please contact your local Avaya representative to arrange a personal demo.

For a deeper dive into the Avaya Engagement Development Platform, read Mark Fletcher’s interview with Gary Barnett, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Engagement Solutions at Avaya.

Marine Corps Marathon Races to the Finish Line

An estimated 30,000 marathoners from 50 countries took to the streets of our nation’s capitol Saturday for the 39th annual Marine Corps Marathon. So did 120,000 spectators who were there to cheer them on and enjoy a gorgeous fall day.

They lined a route that wound past a host of scenic monuments and historic sites – from the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and National Mall to the Arlington National Cemetery.

Avaya Government Solutions was out in full force and proud to be a sponsor. We staffed water stations along the 26.2-mile course and even fielded our own team of runners.

Retired Marine and Medal of Honor winner Kyle Carpenter kicked things off by parachuting to the starting line carrying a 7,800-square-foot flag you could see from miles away. He shed his flight suit and then ran the race. That’s quite the feat, considering the severe injuries he suffered just four years ago diving onto a grenade to save a fellow Marine.

There were dozens of other inspiring stories around every turn – from the disabled vet who lost his legs and ‘ran’ the marathon on a hand-propelled skateboard, to the mother of a severely wounded Marine who competed to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund benefiting wounded warriors.

Those kinds of heroic stories have helped to make the event one of the largest marathons in the world. It has come to be known as the “People’s Marathon” since no prize money is awarded. Instead, runners compete for bragging rights and the love of the race.

And speaking of bragging rights… two Army runners took top honors this year, an outcome I’m certain will ratchet up rivalry among the services for years to come. Army Spec. Samuel Kosgei placed first in the men’s division, while Army Captain Meghan Curran led the women’s division. Congratulations to all!

For a closer look at the action: