I’d arrived early at the Aldrich Chemistry SIM for a scheduled appointment with Georgianna Blackburn and took the opportunity to look around while waiting for the start of our meeting. Having rezzed in at the entry point I scanned across the wide plaza admiring the design and layout of the build. Aldrich Chemistry is one of five SIM’s that Sigma-Aldrich, the life science and high technology company, owns as part of its SL complex and was the first complete in its build. I noted the presence of two buildings along the perimeter of spacious plazas, immediately to the left is the “new products pavilion” and across the way is the “art of science exhibit”. The latter facility is across form a second square which holds a pleasant fountain, a circular one which sits centered in the wide space. Both plazas are landscaped artfully with spaced areas for flowers and trees. The entire area is framed by rolling green hills to the south from which a pair of waterfalls on each side of the slopes cascade down into the lush green park like setting below.
Just shortly after I finished my tour of the two facilities, Ms Blackburn arrived. We exchanged greetings in text chat before moving into voice for the interview.
NL: What was it that bought you into SL and has kept you here?
GB: Curiosity, like most. I’d heard about it at a marketing conference. When I first came in … there was so much to learn that I gave up. It was about a week later, with a friend, that I came back in. The social networking is what kept me here. I like networking and hearing the thoughts and ideas of others. When I saw through doing a search, the “American Chemical Society”, I knew this was where I needed to be. I’ve been amazed at the creativity of people in here.
NL: I’m reading from your profile text, "And one man in his time plays many parts" What part do you play for Sigma-Aldrich and what part does Georgianna play?
GB: Well for Sigma-Aldrich I’m a pioneer, showing them the technology. Trying to show what can be done with the technology. I work mostly with PhD’s, in Chemistry, but my back ground is in marketing and advertising. I do eMarketing for the chemical division Aldrich brand. About 90% of what I do in SL is on my personal time. I do get some support from IT. We’re testing immersive workspace as a supplement to WebEx, I’m working with an associate in the UK. As for Georgianna, if I had known then what I know now, I might have actually used my real name. Georgianna has become well known.
NL: What does Sigma-Aldrich do in SL?
GB: We’re trying to take an educational approach, however we can attribute some potential sales that occurred because of our presence here in SL. But primarily we’re working with the universities, we have some ideas to try out and we would like to get them moving. As an example, right now we are collaborating with a university on a student project.
NL: How many people at Sigma-Aldrich have avatars and how often do they use them?
GB: There are five. One of the Product Manager’s comes in primarily and helps me out with the product information.
NL: How does Sigma-Aldrich plan to use SL?
GB: We would like to have seminars here and I’d love to do a mixed reality event. We’re also looking to do more collaboration with universities in SL. We’re planning on an open grid SIM, the Science SIM. I’ve been out there and the first person I met there was a customer of Sigma-Aldrich, she's also in SL. We’ve been getting more visitors now here, about 35 a day. But we need to do more events. Also, I’m getting my budget together for SL, it was at the chemistry division last year, this year it’s a corporate budget item. I keep the CIO in the loop on what we do here and on virtual worlds. Also, and this was just recently I sat on the Nokia panel for women in virtual worlds
NL: What are Georgeianna's plans for SL?
GB: I’ve gone to some building classes and I am looking at designing my own cloths. Also, I’m looking for a good French class. I took French in school and would like to expand the knowledge. Sometimes, I hang out in the French SIM’s just to listen in.
NL: Do you have any closing thoughts to share?
GB: I can’t wait to see what 2009 brings me. It’s been very exciting, I feel lucky to have been a part of this.