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Entrepreneurs: a Word of Warning…

April 24th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

Ease of replication will destroy your business.

https://www.facebook.com/Jeroom.Inc

Hat tip to KG Charles-Harris for sending this.

Image credit: Jeroom.Inc

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Authentic What?

April 23rd, 2014 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/54933689@N00/6896999591According to a blue ribbon group at Wharton, the secret of customer loyalty is in connecting on a deep level.

 “If you have been authentic, consumers will love you and share your brand” — Vanessa Rosado, global director of digital capabilities, AB InBev

Or you can be totally inauthentic, if you prefer, because many people won’t even notice.

Retweets. Likes. Favorites. Comments. Upvotes. Page views. You name it; they’re for sale on websites like Swenzy, Fiverr and countless others. 

Of course, if everybody demanded authenticity, instead of accepting cyber-stats as real, we would live in a much better world.

But they don’t.

Then there are the dozens of companies that hype their “community,” but have changed their legal terms so that any interaction with the brand, from buying it to ‘liking’ it eliminates the customer’s right to sue, whether for a perceived labeling error or life-threatening problem.

And then there is Google, who very publicly changed its TOS in response to a lawsuit over its email scanning.

Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

While the wording is similar to other sites, Google’s services and their ubiquity aren’t.

It is these words, “upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services” that raise a giant red flag in my mind.

Google Docs is a service used by thousands of companies of all sizes for collaboration, both internally and with their vendors and customers.

They’re people upload and store designs, marketing plans, contracts, etc. to share and send.

According to its TOS, if Google so chooses it can share the details of those docs with anyone they please or publish them for general consumption.

Of course, everyone knows that Google does no evil and would never consider violating anyone’s privacy, but that old bottom line seems to require continual reinterpreting of both ‘evil’ and ‘privacy’.

The only thing I’m sure of is that the experience being provided by these companies are authentic.

The real question is, “authentic what?”

Flickr image credit: Dee Bamford

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Ducks in a Row: EMANIO is Hiring the Right Stuff

April 22nd, 2014 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/atoach/2313158742/The results of a new survey of 500 business leaders drives the home the importance of personality, which makes perfect sense, since it is “personality traits” that underlay “cultural fit.”

78% cited “personality” as the most desirable quality in employees, followed in importance by “cultural alignment,” and then finally “skill-set.”

“Skill-set” as a distant number three makes perfect sense considering the speed of change, especially when technology is involved.

Skills can be learned.

For a prime example, consider Declara CEO Ramona Pierson.

In 1984, at age 22, Pierson was hit by a drunk driver. The car tore her body apart, slicing open her throat, gouging her chest, leaving her heart and lungs fully exposed.

Pierson was in a coma for 18 months. She was totally blind for 11 years, though she has regained partial sight in her left eye thanks to a corneal transplant. It was the process of having to learn just about everything from scratch (including how to breath and walk) that made her realize how important it was to be a lifelong learner.

Which shaped her approach to hiring.

“We don’t hire people for a job. We look for very smart people and look for roles that let them continue along their path.”

KG Charles-Harris has a similar attitude and since I’m helping him with staffing I thought I’d share his Hiring Manifesto with you today.

It’s one I hope more managers/companies adopt.

EMANIO HIRING MANIFESTO

EMANIO has used AI technologies (natural language processing & machine learning) to create the technology that enables natural language querying and analytics of structured and semi-structured data sources.  We believe this will change the analytics and enterprise software markets.   

We are seeking programmers to join our team who are willing to work for options until we are funded.  We expect funding to be in the coming 3-4 months.

Our compensation plan is completely transparent and we are happy to share it once we establish mutual interest.

WHAT WE WANT

Most companies, especially startups, look for “stars” with extensive experience in specific skills sets.

EMANIO has a different approach.

We seek people willing to work hard, constantly learn new stuff and who are diligent and dependable. People who perform at their peak because they care and constantly strive to improve. Our current team is truly world class and we plan on maintaining that standard as we grow.

We are a company of experience; our current team members are all over 40 with extensive and varied backgrounds. While their knowledge is deep they love learning; they know multiple languages and operating systems, are familiar with many others and have learned new ones as needed for our product.

WHAT WE NEED IMMEDIATELY

Programmers with

  • Ruby or related knowledge
  • Ruby on Rails
  • HTML 5 & CSS3 & JavaScript

OR

  • willingness to learn them coupled with a viable technical base on which to build.

WE DO CARE ABOUT

WE DO NOT CARE

  • If your experience comes from a formal background, working/OJT experience, self-taught at home or different tech background, but strong desire to learn and branch out;
  • where you live (current team includes Seattle); or
  • what you are.

One or another of our current team has faced and overcome every prejudice that is/was active in the workplace.

First and foremost, we care about getting the work done, so by hiring your mind and attitude as opposed to your body and proximity we have the luxury of finding talent that many companies miss. For example,

  • wounded warriors and others with disabilities;
  • minorities, including extraterrestrials;
  • mothers re-entering the work force;
  • “old” people;
  • women;
  • people with no interest in relocating to Berkeley.

In spite of the current prefunded status I honestly believe that EMANIO offers a unique and real opportunity or I wouldn’t post it here.

Yes, along with the right attitude you need to be willing to take the risk—but everything is a risk these days. And you owe it to yourself to take the time to evaluate this one.

I also hope you will share this post with your friends and network wherever they may be.

Please write miki@rampupsolutions.com or call me at 360.335.8054 for more information to discuss the opportunities.

Flickr image credit: Tim Green

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News, but No Surprise

April 21st, 2014 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aryaziai/8740433362/I get it. I get what’s going on in terms of women in the workplace is news.

I get it that it is important to remind people that for all the progress that’s been made some things haven’t changed.

It’s still assumed that it’s OK to ask professional women, such as lawyers and marketing execs, to do stuff that would never be asked of the men in the organization.

“…plan parties, order food, take notes in meetings and join thankless committees…bring cupcakes for a colleague’s birthday, order sandwiches for office lunches and answer phones”

By the same token, it’s news that board diversity is moving at glacial speed, primarily because boards only want people with experience and to have experience they need to serve on a board.

“Recruiting women and minorities to boards is being slowed because of boards’ unwillingness to look at candidates who have not yet served on boards,” said Ron Lumbra, co-leader of the CEO and board services practice for Russell Reynolds. “There’s a premium on experience.’’

So while I have no problem with these subjects being presented over and over in the news, there is one thing I don’t understand.

Why are so many people surprised by the information?

Is the general population so naïve that they actually believe women are no longer asked to do tasks that are closer to house work than business work?

Do they really believe that the lack of board diversity is a function of the lack of experience as opposed a desire to spend time with people like themselves who are well within their comfort zones?

The sad part is that while it’s still news, it’s certainly not a surprise.

Flickr image credit: Arya Ziai

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If the Shoe Fits: Surviving Your Startup

April 18th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_m Whether you admire Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, or not, you can’t argue with her success.

But it came at a cost, “…seven years ago I collapsed from exhaustion, burnout and sleep deprivation. I broke my cheekbone on the way down and got four stitches on my right eye.”

That incident lead Huffington to add a third metric to success’ standard two metrics of money and power.

…the third metric, which includes our well-being, our wisdom, our capacity to wonder and bring joy into our lives, and our capacity to give. Without these four pillars, life is really reduced to our to-do list.

Too many in the startup community do treat their lives as a to-do list, from starting a company through marriage and kids, with sub to-do lists for each.

They lose sight of the simple; seeing life as a series of competitive challenges.

Which I find hilarious, since that attitude harks back to the much maligned Boomers, whose mantra was “life is a challenge to be overcome.”

Granted, there are many challenges that indeed need to be added to our to-do list until overcome, but there are many others that, although noticed, may be passed by, with nary a ripple in our well-being.

Destroying yourself for the sake of a vision benefits no one—not your team, nor your investors, nor your family/friends and least of all yourself.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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Entrepreneurs: Pinterest, Women and Culture

April 17th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

http://mkhmarketing.wordpress.com/

Can male founders create great, woman-friendly cultures?

And if they do will the company become mind-blowingly successful?

Ask Pinterest co-founders Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp and Paul Sciarra.

Better yet, listen to their female engineers.

People would say things like, “Pretty girls don’t code,” or “I assumed you weren’t very good at coding because normally physical attractiveness and technical ability are inversely correlated.” It was a revelation to join the team at Pinterest and feel like I was treated like an engineer first, not as a female engineer. In most other places, I felt like people always treated me as a “female engineer,” like I was a novelty. People even called me a unicorn to my face. It was really nice to come here and not have that gender modifier in front of who I am.Tracy Chou

But once she started working, she quickly got tired of having to explain her role at the tech companies she worked for to strangers who assumed she was in HR or community management. “Now, I tend to always preface with, ‘I work at Pinterest and I’m an engineer at Pinterest,’” (…) We have a lot of support from the company to put on events for women in engineering in particular, whether through logistics or funding.Nadine Harik

The most exciting part for me is that I get to work on a product that I love and feel like I can actually make a big impact on what we do. It’s cool to be able to focus, and learn and grow as an engineer. – Jennifer Tsai

These comments reflect a culture friendly to women, but in a company that is certainly not dominated by them.

Looking at the Pinterest team picture you see a lot of chronologically young males, but based on the women’s comments the frat boy mentality isn’t what’s shaping the culture.

Nobody can quibble with the level of talent Pinterest has hired or the October 2013 valuation of $3.8 billion.

The point is that talented people of both genders will migrate to a place they feel both valued and comfortable.

Creating a culture that equally values women and men doubles the likelihood of finding, hiring and retaining top talent.

And it’s that talent that paves the road to success.

Image credit: mkhmarketing

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Women @ Kimberly-Clark

April 16th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

kimberly-clark

Personally, I think the only thing dumber than expecting a twenty-something to design a product that resonates with Boomers (the people with money) is to have predominantly men leading, guiding and driving innovation for a corporation whose customer base is 83% female.

Yet, that is what was going on at Kimberly-Clark.

In fact, the situation was dire enough in 2009 that it even caught the eye of the board.

If they wanted to create better products targeted to female shoppers, executives realized, they had to transform into the kind of company that propelled women into higher positions instead of letting their careers stall.

With consultants’ assistance, the company did a wide-ranging survey of what was holding women back.

These ranged from concerns that promotions would lead to putting their families second to eradicating the “mommy track” stigma to the time to commute in China.

Kimberly has moved aggressively to address the roadblocks and has accomplished a great deal over the intervening five years.

By 2013, women at Kimberly-Clark made up 26% of the director-level or higher slots, up from 19% in 2009. Female representation on the board of directors also increased.

That was enough to win Catalyst Inc.’s top award for advancing women in the workplace.

Of course, the prime question is did it pay off in terms that Wall Street could understand?

At the end of 2009, the company’s stock price stood at $63.71. By the end of 2013, it had risen to $104.46.

‘Nuff said; money talks.

Flickr image credit: Kimberly-Clark

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Ducks in a Row: Ageism/Sexism—Cause and Effect

April 15th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/speedywithchicken/5842604404

As I wrote yesterday’s post, I had a personal epiphany regarding the cause and effect that has driven/is driving the escalation of ageism and sexism in the tech world.

I’m not saying I’m the first person to think of it, but I also haven’t seen or heard it put this simply.

It probably applies more to the tech world, because this is the first time in history that success—in the form of money, profile and influence—has come to a large number of people sans the experience that leads to maturity.

Moreover, many of them come from economically secure/elite backgrounds and are the children of the majority in control—mostly white and male.

What you have are thousands of boys in men’s bodies who suddenly have the financial ability to do what they want.

And what they want is to continue their frat boy life substituting work for school, but with the same partying, pranks, attitudes and immaturity of the collegiate fraternity boys they were.

It is a proven biological fact that males mature at a later age than females.

Generally speaking, 18-24-year-old males aren’t known for their sensitivity or respect, let alone any kind of deep thinking.

They are known for their insecurity, irresponsibility, partying, randy mindset, dismissal of everyone outside their small circle and generally oafish behavior.

So when they trade school for work, yet have the opportunity to do so without losing their previous mindset, why would you expect them to create an environment that was different from their college days?

Or want to invite people in and spend time around those who don’t share that mentality?

Flickr image credit: speedywithchicken

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From Ageism to Sexism

April 14th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kazvorpal/10020809313

It’s pretty obvious that ageism is alive and well in tech.

As is sexism, which you can see from the email a female CEO received from an engineer she tried to hire.

But far worse are these examples of what women in tech face, exemplified by the latest bit of app stupidity.

“Titstare is an app where you take photos of yourself staring at tits.” –David Boulton and Jethro Batts at the TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon

Not to mention those who defended it.

“It is not misogyny to tell a sexist joke, or to fail to take a woman seriously, or to enjoy boobies” –Pax Dickinson, co-founder and CTO, Glimpse Labs

Or the incredible level of ignorance and pure stupidity exemplified by White_N_Nerdy on Reddit.

“I’m honestly trying to understand why anyone says that females are ‘needed’ in the tech industry.” He continued: “The tech community works fine without females, just like any other mostly male industry. Feminists probably just want women making more money.”

Being old enough to remember, medicine, research and law were “mostly male” industries not that long ago—as were college and advanced degrees.

In the comments section of the article, many women say that prior to the Nineties women developers and engineers weren’t subject to nearly as much abusive harassment, which matches my memories from when I was a tech recruiter in the late Seventies through the Eighties.

What happened?

Please join me tomorrow for a look at what may be an epiphany of cause and effect for both ageism and sexism.

Flickr image credit: KAZ Vorpal

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If the Shoe Fits: You Can Change the Dialog

April 11th, 2014 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_m

The uncivil war between Bay Area techies and the rest of the citizenry is common knowledge.

London is facing similar problems, as exemplified by what’s happening in Shoreditch, a rundown neighborhood in East London (think the Mission before tech discovered it) now a home to co-working spaces from the likes of Google.

While it is gentrifying rapidly, with housing prices rising 17% last year, and hipsters and 20somethings moving in all boats aren’t being lifted by the tide.

Over the same period, however, the level of child poverty in the area remained one of the highest anywhere in London, according to the Child Poverty Action Group, a local charity, while unemployment now stands  around 11 percent, well above the national average.

But a different approach is being taken by some of the tech crowd, in order to craft sustainable, long-term solutions, rather than throwing a few million dollars (which is a rounding error to companies such as Google and Facebook) here and there.

To build bridges between the two communities, a group of local tech founders has started to run monthly programs to connect successful entrepreneurs with those who either have nontech businesses or who want to start their own company.

Over three hours, Niklas Zennstrom, a co-founder of Skype and Richard Reed, a co-founder of the British smoothie maker Innocent Drinks, shared business advice and marketing tips with the small business owners, including the founder of a local fitness company and a maker of custom bike clothes.

Think about it.

How much time/effort would it really take to stop by the small businesses near you, invite them to discuss and brainstorm ways and means to grow their businesses over coffee and even set up a similar mentoring program?

Besides helping them you may be surprised at how much you learn through the interactions.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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