Meet The LinkedIn Rockstars!
Mike O’Neil and Lori Ruff are true Subject Matter Experts and authorities in LinkedIn and Social Media. Create a presence; Grow your network; Protect your reputation.
Meet Mike O’Neil – LinkedIn Rockstar
Meet Mike O’Neil
Mike O’Neil, now 50, grew up in the Midwest in lovely Minneapolis Minnesota; the land of 10,000 lakes full of Sunfish, Crappies and Walleye and swarming with mosquitoes the size of birds!
Mike played all the major sports growing up (except hockey) with Tennis being the only one that he really excelled at. Girls really liked tennis players back then, so that helped! Mike was a bit small for his age and indoor sports were particularly attractive – roller skating, pinball, FOOSBALL and even pool.
Mike was fortunate to have really cool parents that took him and his sister Barb to the big concerts of the day – The Carpenters, Captain & Tennille, The Doobie Brothers, Chicago, even Elvis Presley! Mom and Dad had a great vinyl collection and a really cool and LOUD console stereo the size of a credenza.
Mike O’Neil is the company founder and the world’s first LinkedIn trainer; he speaks and trains on LinkedIn and Social Media around the world. Mike is ranked #23 in the world on LinkedIn.
Only weeks before Mike turned the ripe age of 16, Led Zeppelin strolled through Minneapolis with this new album that had an interesting song called “Stairway to heaven” on it. Nobody had heard it yet and it was much later until Mike fully appreciated this show. Mike still has a 1975 tie-dye souvenir T shirt from the show.
Music appreciation class in High School opened Mike’s eyes to the entire spectrum of music. The class had outings to see the likes of Bob Marley, Andre Crouch, Tom Scott and Weather Report. Mike learned about the technology behind music. Mike TRIED to learn to play guitar, but concerts, cars and girls were calling loudly.
Since 16, Mike has always had a “Bad Ride” to take to school and to shows. It is amazing just how many people can fit in a Camaro.
In fact, nowadays, many LinkedIn users would lust over the cars that Mike has owned – 69 Grand Prix SJ, ‘69 Z-28, ‘72 Camaro SS396-RS, ‘70 Cutlass Supreme, ‘67 Mustang conv., ‘66 LeMans conv., ’78 Firebird Formula, ’68 Shelby GT500, ‘70 Corvette Roadster, ‘90 Corvette Coupe. His Dad sported a ’57 T-bird.
Mike spent 2 quick years at Iowa State University in a fraternity studying engineering. He got to see The Who, Paul McCartney and Fleetwood Mac during that short span in the Hawkeye State.
A little too cold in MN and Iowa for his concert T Shirt tastes, Mike headed south to Arizona State University following a very pleasant Sophomore Spring Break experience on the ASU campus. ASU won awards for being a party school as well as for its amazing engineering program. It was #2 for Mike unfortunately, so he got a dose of learned discipline as well. Mike always wonders what it might have been like if he has switched to the Business School?
It was 1982, while still in college, that Mike first got wind of IBM PC’s and he had to have one. Mom & Dad helped and he had his first IBM “5150” PC with 64k of memory, a 5.25” floppy, 12” green screen, PC-DOS 1.1, Wordstar, VisiCalc, dBase II, Epson MX-80 Printer and a Hayes 300 external modem.
This was the time of The Who’s first farewell tour, held at Sun Devil Stadium. The Rolling Stones were by during finals week that year as well, singing Some Girls and promoting the Tattoo You LP. The US Festival with 25 bands (including The Police, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and The Grateful Dead) was also on Mike’s list of accomplishments for the year. Mike still has a shirt from the show!
SIDENOTE – Today, Mike’s ride is a Dark Blue 2000 Cadillac DeVille DTS – license plate WLCNCTD. Oh yea, it’s Bad!
Graduation came in 1983 and it wasn’t the Industrial Engineering degree that got Mike his first job as a PC Guru at Ramada Corporate HQ. Nope. It was the things he could do with a PC that put him above the 200 other qualified applicants.
Mike was actually involved with some of the very first corporate PC networking ever – Ethernet, ArcNet, Token Ring, Mainframes, Mini’s. All of it. This “in the trenches” corporate networking experience is ripe with analogies for today’s modern Social Media world and Mike takes full advantage of this when he speaks. Mike spent the 80’s in Arizona as Mr PC.
The 90’s came along and the vendor world came calling, this time to Colorado. Mike made the journey and spent over 10 years designing and managing powerful network systems for systems Novell, Microsoft and Cisco systems integrators, all while carrying a real sales quota.
Each week, Mike led training sessions for others in the office, for channel partners or for customers on how the technology worked and what they could do with it.
Mike was even an amateur ticket broker in the ‘90’s. He had “ins” to get tickets off the top, before they went on sale to the public. These are the close-up seats that bands and radio stations receive. SWEET! In 1994 alone, Mike bought over 500 concert tickets for himself and for others. He has many unused tickets from ’94 still!
Mike moved “up the stack” into software applications in ’97, working for a super-innovative software development company that was putting fancy web-based front ends in front of old stodgy back end mainframe databases – “it’s like putting lipstick on a pig” one user quipped.
As if networking devices wasn’t enough, Mike decided it might be interesting to start networking entire companies together, all across the world. The telecom companies came a callin’ and Mike was working on early DSL and VOIP, then VPN and ATM-based networks (Internet, Hosting and Collocation) on a GLOBAL SCALE. Mike made the technology easy for regular people to understand, continually training team members, customers and partners.
Mike got married in 97 to a Novell Engineer and soon had a son named Brendan William O’Neil. He is truly a mini-Mike in so many ways. Brendan now lives in TX with his mom.
The 2000’s brought on the telecom meltdown and Mike was caught up in it al. Gone were WorldCom, MCI, ICG, etc. Already Mike’s business interests were turning elsewhere. Mike took the second RIF in 2 years as a signal that there was a different kind of networking he should be getting in the middle of – business networking events.
Integrated Alliances LLC was born in Denver Colorado in 2003 as a B2B business networking event business rooted in deep and longstanding business relationships. This led to more than just event admission fees and table sponsors – it led to real collaboration projects.
Christmas 1003, several months after getting that 2nd RIF, Mike received an invitation to join LinkedIn. It was about the same time as a MySpace Friend request came in. Two “OK’s” later found Mike on two Social Networks. Frankly, Mike bet on both horses at the time and it was easy.
The idea of hosting LinkedIn training came up in early 2006 and that spring, IA hosted the first-ever LinkedIn Hands-on Workshops anywhere in the world at the prestigious University of Denver. LinkedIn Corp. even sponsored the first Integrated Alliances LinkedIn trainings.
The programs became got really popular in Colorado and Mike’s high energy style was much of the reason. The expansion to 10 different types of LinkedIn trainings and the opening of 5 remote offices around the US made the company even more appealing.
Fast forward to today and its Mike O’Neil & Lori Ruff sitting atop the LinkedIn and Social Media space as icons of its business networking power. They lead and inspire people individually and together as The LinkedIn Rockstars. They are a team both professionally and socially.
Mike met Lori Ruff on LinkedIn and it is hard to say if the personal attraction or the business partnership was most potent, but together it has been an amazing thing since these two came together.
Mike lives a totally immersed LinkedIn and Social Media lifestyle and he does so fully in sync with The LinkedIn Diva, Lori.
Mike has always been a rock and roll fan but the last few years have really awakened his musical soul. The 1,000 concerts that he attended over the years continue to pepper his conversations with classic rock fans everywhere.
Mike inspires warm fuzzies when he blends rock music with his brand of high energy LinkedIn and Social Media presentations. He truly is “The LinkedIn Rockstar”.
Connect With Mike O’Neil
Meet Mike O’Neil – LinkedIn Rockstar
Mike joined LinkedIn in 2004, and is the Original LinkedIn Trainer. Mike remains #25 most connected overall on LinkedIn with 29,000 connections.
Mike has facilitated nearly 400 Group Sessions, helping 10,000 Business Professionals.
Meet Lori Ruff – LinkedIn Rockstar
Meet Lori Ruff
Lori Ruff is the company co-executive and one of the world’s top LinkedIn and Social Media authorities. Lori is ranked as the #9 woman in the world on LinkedIn.
Lori Ruff hails from the Great State of New York. Shortly after graduation from a private academy in Poughkeepsie, her family found their way south to the Piedmont region of North Carolina. With a mom from New York and dad from West Virginia, their hearts were always split.
Growing up, she loved playing sports, especially soccer, volleyball, track, and softball (she was too tall for gymnastics so weight-trained and practiced on the men’s equipment in college). Although she was never a star player she has had enough great experiences and memories to be an avid fan of most sports to this day. And, even though it’s hard to find a one that will hold her, her favorite summer pastime will always be scrambling barefoot up a great climbing tree.
Lori doesn’t remember her first introduction to music, but she remembers well dancing in the living room with her dad to classic 50’s rock and roll and doing the polka with her mom and sister. Both siblings had vocal talent and put it to good use in school, at church and taking opportunities to tour with friends and with touring cantatas as teens. They were immersed in contemporary gospel and Christian music and even won awards at high school competitions. But the variety of Lori’s musical tastes spans the spectrum from classical to classic rock and everything in between.
Forever impatient with practicing notes, Lori dabbled with the guitar, the standup bass, the French horn and the piano. But she always loved the sounds and harmonies she could easily accomplish with her voice. Up until the mid 2000’s she sang whenever she could, including appearances at church and special events. Somehow, following a near-fatal motorcycle wreck in 2005, Lori’s voice mellowed and she now performs vocally only as a speaker and trainer. But the music has never left her soul and resides there to this day, constantly touched at live performances, especially when listening to the melodies of the electric guitar.
She was passionate about horses as well. Growing up in upstate (no concrete for miles) her neighborhood was surrounded by an apple orchard, a cow farm and a horse farm. Babysitting jobs then entry-level office work with her mom and dad paid for guitar lessons and hours of horseback riding. Volunteering to muck stalls meant she could spend more time with the beasts and their companions (mostly dogs, cats, and barn swallows).
Perhaps not the most adventurous, Lori does love fast cars (and the boys that drive them!), her favorite being the classic ‘67 Mustang. She also adores her Ford Sport Trac, its curvy lines, and super utility in a compact vehicle. Other fav autos that she’s owned and operated—perhaps a little too fast—include: Cadillac El Dorado, Audi Fox, VW Beatle, ‘57 GMC Jimmy Truck, a Subaru GL that saved her life, a Taurus wagon, and a Thunderbird. She’s never had her dream Shelby but someday…
Her first year of college was also her junior year of high school. Monday – Thursday morning was spent on English and Chemistry while her afternoons were at the local community college entering as a Chemical Engineering Major. Fridays morning brought gym class followed by a shower and a quick trip to downtown to have lunch with her dad. Rueben’s with Daddy at the local fresh deli were a luxury of time invested in her that she remembers fondly to this day. Lori quickly admits to being a Daddy’s girl. And Mr. B., as her friends referred to him, will forever be her number one man.
Although Lori loved science, she quickly realized that a life spent waiting for chemicals to work and managing minutiae details that, if handled when tired, could go “boom”. She changed her major to music and transfer to a college atop lovely Lookout Mtn, TN. It was there she learned to climb rocks and to love hang gliding. She also learned not to start your run through a field full of ticks: ugh! Always ambitious, she took a heavy class load and ended her second semester early with the onset of mono. Once recuperated, she looked for work with Manpower.
Imagine her surprise when Manpower asked if she knew how to use a computer. In 1982 her only experience was with a data punch machine she had seen at the college. So they sent her off to Frito-Lay to pull burnt potato chips off the line before they could end up in the bags heading to grocery stores everywhere. Motivated by scorched fingers and a desire to do more with her life, she walked 3½ miles to the local manpower office after work each day to sit down and learn all she could about “desktop computers.” This included Lotus 1-2-3, WordStar, MultiMate, dBase and eventually WordPerfect and Harvard Graphics.
She learned every program they had to teach until they finally placed her in an office with no fry pits in sight. Soon though, she was in demand as an all around gal that knew how to operate every software package proficiently. If a client had new or proprietary software that no one had experience with, they would send Lori because she had seen so many different interfaces, she could usually quickly figure new ones out. She quickly built a reputation around town and was often requested by name. She was also sent on assignment to tutor new employees on the latest programs.
She loved the variety of assignments, the notoriety and reputation she had built and, as temps became more popular, the freedom and new regular challenges she came up against. During this time, she also became a mom. Christine Marie was born in 1984. Lori was wholly unprepared for motherhood but somehow Christy survived her childhood and turned out to be a beautiful and smart young woman! It was being a single mom that caused Lori to take on being an Avon lady to help make ends meet while still being able to spend time with her daughter.
In a couple of years, Lori had built 9 territories, had 35 assistants and was making $50,000 annually. Regular office work was not as attractive, but she kept her skills up by “working” one week a month. When she married Steve, he brought an IBM PC to the union and the two could tech talk to their hearts content. Although she still took interesting temporary assignments including help desks and trouble-shooting calls, Lori started to take on work at home to help local small business owners she knew. Soon, she was running Document Solutions full time.
A phone call in early 1999 turned Lori’s “hobby” into a real business when the caller was surprised that a “work-at-home-mom” answer professionally. She decided it was time to gain credibility so she joined the Chamber and a national professional association. The Chamber honed her networking skills while the national association asked her to write for the trade publication and to speak at their annual conventions. Her first, in May 1999 was held at the Thunderbird Hotel near the Mall of America in Minneapolis. (As fate would have it, that was the very hotel – renamed – that her and her partner Mike spoke at as a team in 2009.)
The reason was her extensive systems knowledge and her ability to explain complex technical terms in common language. She had been tutoring people for several years and had started providing classes when the demand for computer education got to be a major portion of her business. Soon a client asked her to move her operations to a building he had purchased to serve as a community business incubator. He wanted her to provide administration and facilities management as well as training. One especially prized caveat for her was control of the conference room. She purchased 6 HP PCs and related equipment and turned the conference room into a training room on a weekly basis.
Soon she was in demand as an end-user program trainer for local governments and medium and large businesses with their own training rooms. She was travelling regionally and leaving the office empty. Her mom, Dorothy had recently retired and agreed to come and play in her sandbox, watching the storefront while Lori was out training. It wasn’t long before companies like AT&T and the State of NC sought her out not only for technical training, but because of her ability to work with people at all levels of the organization, she was asked to facilitate soft-skills workshops as well. Her favorite to this day was “Creating a Vision”. (500 people went through her 6-week program, 12 people at a time. Lori is confident of her own vision to this day.)
Lori was very involved in professional and local community organizations. Much of her early speaking career was at the conferences and conventions they held. She was sought after across the Southeast and as far away as Kansas and known as a woman who told it like it is with a sassy saucy attitude about the business world.
In 2003, Lori’s business success was crowned with a Business Person of the Year Award. She was winning other awards as well when the economy tanked and her training business, once 55% of the company’s revenue, was slashed down to 12%. She had to shift and adjust quickly to survive. Her mom retired again—this time from the family business—and Lori turned to large project work that required advanced software knowledge. Less travel meant more time.
As her daughter completed high school, Lori also decided to complete her college degree. She graduated with her 2-year Liberal Arts degree in May 2005 and entered Pfeiffer University as a full time non-traditional student studying Political Science. While in school, she joined facebook to keep up with her friends from class.
It was one of Ruff’s mentors that asked her to read “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. Because of that book, she joined Plaxo and, in July 2005, she received an invitation to join LinkedIn. She had been training women in transition how to find jobs on the internet since 1999. This was the best online resume service she had ever seen. So she joined and started to make connections.
A near-fatal motorcycle wreck on December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day) in the middle of finals stopped her world for six months. On June 6, 2006 (D-Day), she was released from the doctor with an again interrupted schooling, no association responsibilities, and no business.
She decided to focus on completing her degree on time and with the help of her professors and classmates, on May 12, 2007, she graduated Summa Cum Laude. That same month, her sister completed her Masters’ degree in Nursing and in December, her daughter graduated with honors in Biology. As a family, they had a lot to celebrate.
Lori decided to recreate the best of what she enjoyed about her work: speaking and training. And she turned to LinkedIn to find opportunities to do just that. She started consulting HR teams to help them find the right person for the bus and used LinkedIn to reach out to other consultants who used the same assessment tools she choose: Profiles International.
Although she didn’t know many of them she asked to connect to help each other improve and build their businesses. She also connected with people from her community, chamber, and the associations and organizations for which she used to volunteer. She realized as her online network grew to almost 200 that she could use this tool to find speaking and training opportunities across the country. She made a bucket list of places she always wanted to visit and started sticking pins in maps.
In early 2008, her search led her to Denver, where Mike O’Neil came up at the top of the list. She contacted him. A friend she had met in Texas had told her about Integrated Alliances so the name was familiar. She decided to check them out. They were expanding their training operations nationally and it seemed a perfect fit for her new life.
Both avid networkers and not shy around a crowd, Mike and Lori seemed to be a perfect fit. Today, because of the network building lessons Mike taught her, Lori has joined Mike in the top 100 most connected people on LinkedIn. He is in the top 25; she is among the top 10 women.
They now speak & train on LinkedIn and social media and write books and create package content to enable them to touch more lives with the power of online social networking. A power-packed team professionally and socially, they inspire audiences internationally with their message.
Together they live the social media lifestyle, tuned in and turned on 24/7. Lori credits The LinkedIn Rockstar with her immersion as The LinkedIn Diva. People of like minds eventually find each other. The Sassy Saucy Businesswoman found her counterpart to be full of Energy, Vision and Style. Fully in sync, they continue to build a Rockstar team.
Lori, inspired and inspiring, is passionate about making entry into the new world of the interactive Web 3.0 easy and profitable for everyone. Her savvy intensity blended with the special high energy vision of The LinkedIn Rockstar, make their LinkedIn and Social Media presentations magic.
Connect With Lori Ruff
Meet Lori Ruff – LinkedIn Rockstar
Lori joined LinkedIn in 2005, and is the #9 Most Connected Woman. Lori remains as one of the most connected women on LinkedIn with 18,000 connections.
Lori joined Twitter in 2007, and has over nearly 100,000 combined Twitter Followers with her various Twitter accounts.
Lori has facilitated nearly 400 Group Sessions, helping 10,000 Business Professionals.
Meet the rest of the Rockstar Team
Mike & Lori are the ‘band leaders’ so-to-speak, but here are others members of the Rockstar Team:
Meet Jeff Kemp – Rockstar Webmaster
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