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Social Skills: Valued Over Technical Ability?

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As technology and automation replace workers, new jobs are created in order to support the machines and adapt to the shift in the economy. But as robots begin to perform surgeries, do your accounting, and manufacture your goods, there will be a shift in skills demanded of workers. Here are a few key changes that can be expected in the coming years:

  • Education: While social skills are not emphasized in today’s curriculum, emphasizing team work can help improve the social skills necessary to survive in today’s job economy.
  • The Current State of Jobs: “Despite the emphasis on teaching computer science, learning math and science is not enough. Jobs that involve those skills but not social skills, like those held by bookkeepers, bank tellers and certain types of engineers, have performed worst in employment growth in recent years for all but the highest-paying jobs.”
  • Women Thriving in the Workplace: “Women seem to have taken particular advantage of the demand for social skills. The decline in routine jobs has hit women harder than men. Yet women have more successfully transitioned into collaborative jobs like managers, doctors and professors.”

At your own workplace, ensure that cooperation and teamwork is emphasized and nurtured. Though your job isn’t likely to be immediately threatened by incoming technology in the immediate future, it may be important to have a backup plan in case it is. This excerpt from the article best summarizes what jobs are under pressure, and which will come to thrive in the coming years: “Jobs that require both socializing and thinking, especially mathematically, have fared best in employment and pay, Mr. Deming found. They include those held by doctors and engineers. The jobs that require social skills but not math skills have also grown; lawyers and child-care workers are an example. The jobs that have been rapidly disappearing are those that require neither social nor math skills, like manual labor.”

Click here to read the full article in The New York Times.

How Amazon Stays Ahead of the Game

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Amazon is no stranger to staying ahead in the tech industry, and its web services sector is no different. Amazon Web Services, or AWS, leads the online computing industry offering services at prices that no competitor will be willing to match. How did AWS manage to gain such a competitive advantage whilst keeping long-term sustainability a goal? Here are a few key points in their strategy that have helped them be successful:

  • Be an Opinion Leader: “The idea seems to be to dominate not so much by the traditional “vendor lock-in” of hooking customers on proprietary technology, but by making itself the center of the styles and habits of cloud computing.”
  • Look to the Long Term: Mr. Jassy, head of AWS, said “We’re extremely long-term oriented,” he added. “We’re trying to build a relationship with our customers that will outlast all of us in this room.”
  • Know Your Strengths: Amazon has developed some of its competitive edge by buying technology from smaller firms and applying it to their giant infrastructure.

Knowing which fields your business can improve in will help it develop core competencies that will give your company a competitive edge. AWS has understood this, and with it has built a service with which no competitor can compete. Its intelligent business tactics lend AWS access to the latest technology before it becomes available to their competitors, and securing their position at the top. Applying these tactics to your own company will help you stay ahead of your competition, and stay there.

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

What You Need to Know About Generation Z

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As Millennials are making their impact on today’s work force, employers are turning to see what they can expect from Generation Z as they prepare themselves for today’s economy. Described as people born from the mid 90’s to mid 2000’s, Generation Z is just now starting to make its impact. Make no mistake: marketers are scrambling to be the first ones to figure out this generation. Fickle, smart, and diverse, Generation Z is quite different from the entitled Millennials, and are predicted to be more like their great grandparents rather than their older siblings. Here are a few key things you need to know about Generation Z’ers:

  • They Are Diverse: With birth rates for Hispanic and Mixed children soaring between the years of 2000 and 2010, this diverse generation sees their African-American president as normal, not a breakthrough.
  • They Move On Quick: With Vine, the social media platform built exclusively on 6-second videos, as the prevalent form of Social Media among Generation Z’ers, you can count on a generation that will forget about your product just as quickly as they saw it.
  • They Are Risk Averse, Safe: Having grown up during tumultuous times, Gen Z’ers are subjected to their parents, the Gen X’ers, will to provide safety where there was none before. Products featuring extra safety features, promoting sustainability, or that promise to be free of toxins are a selling point to these kids and their parents.

Most of all, it is a generation that values the long term. After seeing how Millennials are bearing the weight of the baby boomers, Generation Z’ers are pragmatic and are not looking for a quick fix. Once you can understand the above characteristics, you can begin to understand Generation Z. Marketers will have to be able to understand minds that have short attention spans, but are still looking for the long term. Though it may be confusing and contradictory at first, the first to master their market will have large rewards to reap.

Read the full article here in The New York Times.

Don Charlton Breeds a ‘Culture of Candor’

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Don Charlton is the CEO of Jazz, a recruiting software firm. Recently interviewed for Adam Bryant’s Corner Office segment, Charlton discusses the challenges of succeeding in business as a black man and how that has shaped the culture of his business. Ranging from asking very direct questions to acknowledging the dog-eat-dog nature of business, his management style is blunt and hands-on. Here are some other key points Charlton had during his interview:

  • Be Self-Aware: “So you want the candidate to recognize the aspects of themselves where they can be confident and the parts they’re going to need for them to be successful in a new company.”
  • Be Prepared for Self-Improvement: “If you failed at this job in your first 90 days, what things wouldn’t you be doing well? And what don’t you know, but know you need to know, in order to be successful at this job?”
  • Ask Others How They Got to Where They Are: “The more you know about those journeys, the more people you talk to — just asking a simple question like “How did you end up getting into this career?” — the more you’ll start to recognize when the ground under your feet is moving you in a particular direction.”
  • Be Direct: “One thing is the culture of candor. After we have a big meeting with all of our employees, I might say, ‘Hey, you know that conversation that you’re going to have over lunch or at the bar where you might say, ‘Why don’t we do such and such?’ Well, that’s the question you should ask right now.'”

This “culture of candor” conditions employees to be ready for the challenges that are brought on by the nature of business. Hammering out weaknesses before they become relevant is key to success, and we believe Charlton’s culture does just that.

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

The Technicalities of a ‘Tech’ Startup

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With “tech startups” being everyone’s favorite buzzword – are we simply diluting the term? “Tech” startups like Uber and Airbnb (yes, they are still labeled as startups) are taking over the world,  but what about them makes them a “Tech” company? Of course, technology is a key part of how they do business, but that is true of any company. The truth lies at the core of the word “tech” and what people associate with it: research, innovation, and long term thinking, not necessarily just producing hardware or software. The chief economist at Moody Analytics, Mark Zandi, suggests that the label of “tech” sends the message “you want to work for me. You want to buy things from me at a higher price. You want to give me capital at a lower cost.”

Ultimately, is the classification of “tech” just marketing? Likely so. Alex Payne, an early Twitter engineer and tech investor, wrote in 2012: “Calling practically all growing contemporary businesses ‘technology companies’ is about as useful as calling the enterprises of the industrial era ‘factory companies.’ ” Would calling Uber a transportation startup or Airbnb a hospitality startup be as exciting? Likely not. What is sure is that “tech startups” are looking to revolutionize your way of life no matter what industry they’re doing it through.

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

 

Google’s Race to Stay on Top

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A key component of any business is a company’s website, and Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is key to getting that website seen by customers. Google is the world’s premier search engine, and Amit Singhal is the man responsible for the 200+ factors that determine your website’s ranking in the search engine. Amit also keeps track of incoming trends, and how to adapt Google’s software to reflect changes in the way people look up their information. What someone may have asked a search engine 5 years ago is vastly different from what will be asked today, and it’s Amit’s job to ensure Google is optimally responding to a user’s search query.

How can you ensure that your own business remains up to date? Having your website optimized for mobile is key to being relevant and ranking high in the search engine’s results. With a surge in mobile users on both phone and tablet, a website that doesn’t read well on a phone will not fare well with Google’s algorithms. Quick load times and relevant information are always important, as people want responsive sites with the information they need so they can put their phone down and get on with whatever they were doing.

As a search engine, it is Google’s purpose to deliver exactly what the user needs as soon as possible, and Amit’s job to make sure Google keeps doing that as well as it possibly can. With so many startups being acquired by both Google and now Apple, Google cannot take its position as the #1 search engine for granted. Startups with algorithms for apps and music are appearing, and Google’s ability to adapt to that change will determine its relevance in the decades to come.

 

Read the full article in The New York Times here.

Unicorn – Magical, Mythical, and a Billion Dollars? Is There a Better Word?

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“Unicorn” is a term in Silicon Valley to describe a company whose net worth has exceeded one billion dollars. Meant to encompass the mystery and excitement of such an explosive venture, Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures developed the term to describe firms like Uber and Airbnb which at one time looked like long shots but are now valued in excess of a billion dollars. But with 117 so-called “Unicorns” in the past decade, those firms may actually not be as rare as perceived.

In a social sphere already filled with so much nonsensical jargon, is Silicon Valley simply making buzz words for fun? Probably. But for those who work with startups, interacting with a unicorn is rare enough to merit the title, as fewer than 1% of venture-backed firms end up with the label. So what do you think – is a company valued at billion dollars worth calling a unicorn or is Silicon Valley just clinging onto yet another buzzword?

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

The Price on Your Privacy

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What lengths would you go to in order to avoid having your information sold to a company? You consent to having your information used by Facebook, Hulu, and other web sites in order for them to optimize your experience. But what if a web site gets sold? Well your information now belongs to that new company and guess what: they can use it however they’d like! Many sites state that they will not sell your information to anyone. For example, Nest, an internet-connected thermostat company purchased by Google for $3.2 Billion currently states that your information is not for sale and does not sell its customer list to third person parties. However, how much can you trust the service once it gets bought?

The information being sold can be extremely valuable in targeting you as it is extremely personal. For example, a Texas-based dating company by the name of Truth.com had information on 42 million of its customers’ names, birth dates, sexual orientation, race, religion, criminal convictions, photos, videos, contact information and more. When the company was sold, the state of Texas had to intervene and stop it from using the data gathered from all of its customers as it had promised to protect customer privacy in the user agreement. Because of cases like this, companies are rushing to weaken the language protecting your privacy, and making it easier to be sold. Does a company selling your information bother you? If so, you should consider reading the Terms and agreements before you decide to give your information away.

Read the full story in The New York Times here.

The Key to Entrepreneurship: Patience and Discipline

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The New York Times’ Adam Bryant sat down with Jim Dolce, CEO of mobile security firm Lookout, to ask him about his experience in leadership, and what has led him to his success. As a seasoned entrepreneur, Dolce attributes his patience and company’s structure to his success. Here are a few key points from the interview:

  • On being patient in a fast paced environment: “It takes discipline … When you’re impatient, you attempt to get something done so that you can then, in serial fashion, go to the next thing. Instead, you have to go wide and work multiple issues at the same time and be patient on each of them.”
  • Accountability in Corporate Culture: “If we’re pushing down responsibility into the organization and empowering people to make decisions, then there has to be accountability. Otherwise, you’re just delivering the empowerment into a black hole.”
  • What He’s Learned From Being a Serial Entrepreneur: “When you’re working in a venture-funded start-up, time is of the essence. Investors get impatient. So the lesson there is that real breakthrough innovation is best achieved a step at a time. Technology is something that can be consumed in small bites. You don’t have to take a big bite all at once. “
  • What Advice Would You Give to Would-Be Entrepreneurs? “Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and know that this is going to be hard and there’s going to be a lot of heavy lifting and there’s going to be a lot of disappointment.”

Becoming an entrepreneur involves a lot of hard work, stress, and uncertainty. However, there are fewer things more rewarding in life than having your own business succeed. Through patience and realistic expectations, discipline and accountability, you too can find success with your firm.

For the full article on The New York Times click here.

C.E.O. Lori Dickerson Fouché on Recognizing Leadership

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Lori Dickerson Fouché is the C.E.O. of Prudential Group Insurance and held the position after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. Having taken leadership roles as a young black woman in America, Fouché has been successful in management positions since the age of 24 and continues as C.E.O. of a major insurance company at 47. Here are her highlights from the interview with Adam Bryant:

  • On lessons she learned early in her career: “One was learning how to prioritize. You simply can’t do everything.”
  • Assess your leaders by their results: “I expect my leaders to listen. I expect them to ask questions. I expect them to understand what’s going on.”
  • On Hiring:
    • Know that prospective hires have done their due diligence on the company
    • Ask what kind of cultures they like to work in, where do they excel, and how do they conduct themselves in the face of challenges
    • Look for resilience and perseverance
    • Ask how they would lead people

As graduation season comes to an end and young graduates enter the workforce, it is important that they find jobs that they really want to do and learn what they can from that experience. Lori Dickerson Fouché suggests that graduates find a company that is a good fit for what important to them and their personal values.

Read the full article here on The Newt York Times.