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    Entries in career (163)

    Wednesday
    Apr182018

    Job Titles of the Future: Technology Ambassador

    Traditionally the institutions that have wielded power and influence and have amassed significant wealth and made an impact on people's lives were governments, (and to some extent religions). When a country's government enacts a policy or issues some new set of rules and regulations, this tends to have an outsize impact and effect on the people of that country, and if the country is big and influential enough, can even impact people all over the world. Just one recent example - the US/China trade and tariff disputes have sent global equity markets on a kind of wild, roller coaster ride lately - effecting markets and wealth of people all over the world.

    To a less direct, but by no means insignificant degree, changes in direction or policy from important religious organizations can effect people all over the world. The major world religions are not confined within one country or even two or three - they have followers all across the globe. If tomorrow the Pope issued a decree that, say, women are not allowed to become priests, that news would stir congregations in two hundred countries.

    But increasingly there is another set of globe spanning institutions that have perhaps even more worldwide influence and importance in people's lives and in commerce than say do most individual countries or single religions - the world's largest technology companies. Think Facebook with its 2 billion users. Google with its incredible reach and dominance in web search and mobile phone operating systems. Amazon with its seemingly inexorable march to dominate e-commerce and cloud computing. Apple, with more cash on hand than many small countries. And we haven't even mentioned the Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent. In China, Tencent's WeChat impacts everything - news, communication, shopping, banking, and more.

    The world's largest tech companies are in some ways like countries or religions themselves. Their users are like citizens, their terms of service, methods of interaction, rules of engagement, codes of conduct, and unique cultures and sub-cultures offer similarities to the framework of large, religous organizations. Their influence on global economics and societies cannot be underestimated. Just like global trade disputes have roiled financial markets in recent days, so has the Facebook data security drama and fallout. At this stage, who would argue that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg isn't one of the world's most important people?

    So all that leads back to the title of the piece, the latest installment of the often imitated, but never surpassed 'Job Titles of the Future' series. The job title is Technology Ambassador and the details of this job come to us from the country of Denmark, who, as far as I can tell, are the first and only nation to create and name an official 'Technology Ambassador' for the country. 

    What does a Technology Ambassador do? Some details from a piece on Wired UK:

    Ambassadors are traditionally staid public officials, holed up in grand embassies in the farthest-flung corners of the world. Their job? Schmoozing the powerful, smoothing over tricky arguments and promoting their country. "Diplomacy has always been about putting people in outposts where there have been new activities and events - be it in conflict areas, or where innovation, creativity and new technology is influencing our ways of life," explains Casper Klynge, who has just taken up the role as the first ever ambassador to Silicon Valley.

    The job came about when Denmark's Foreign Office decided to create the post of what was then called a "Google ambassador", who would interact with the tech giants. The role was officially created in February; Klynge was appointed a few months later. In late August, he moved to California and into his Palo Alto embassy, where he plans to build a team of more than a dozen staff, supported by a back-office secretary and a number of tech attachés around the world - the first of which will be based in Klynge's old stomping ground, Asia.

    The most important role he has as ambassador shows just how much the world has changed in recent years: he's there to meet Silicon Valley's biggest companies in exactly the same way he has previously met with prime ministers and presidents. "We need to build those relationships because of the key influence these companies have over our daily lives," he says, "and, at the end of the day, over foreign policy and international affairs."

    This appointment of a Technology Ambassador show Denmark's really progressive, prescient, and probably soon to be copied approach to their nation's relationships with 'Big Tech' by other countries in the near future.

    These companies seem to only be growing in influence - signing on more and more of the world's population, developing ever more and more convenient capabilities and features to keep users engaged, and expanding into more areas of daily life. Think about it this way - what institution or entity is more influential on a macro basis, Facebook or a country like Denmark?

    These are certainly interesting times, tech companies have more users than most countries have citizens or religions have adherents. And unlike most counties and religions, their size and influence seems to still be trending higher. Denmark's decision to think about and treat Big Tech like nations have traditionally considered other nations is also incredibly interesting too. And a one of the most interesting 'Job Titles of the Future' we have came across yet.

    Have a great day!

     

     

     

    Friday
    Apr132018

    No more philosophy majors?

    For a 'I can't believe it's mid-April and my flight is probably going to get canceled because it is STILL snowing Friday', an interesting piece of news from a couple of weeks ago on how one university is seeking to re-align many of its programs of study with its assessment of labor market changes and trends.

    The TL;DR version?

    No one wants to hire History, English, or Philosophy majors. (I am not sure that this is actually true by the way, but that seems to be the conclusion). Here's some details from a recent piece in Fortune on what the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point is proposing:

    One university doesn’t think its students need to pursue English as a major anymore. Or philosophy, history, or Spanish.

    The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point has proposed dropping more than a dozen majors currently offered through its humanities and social sciences departments. The university would instead offer programs with “clear career pathways.".

    Included in the list of majors to be dropped are the above mentioned history, English, and philosophy as well as programs in geography, (who needs that when we have GPS?), political science, (that seems like it would be in demand these days), and American studies, (that actually sounds really interesting to me).

    Other programs to be expanded or created in this effort to better align the University's programs with what is or at least seems to be happening in the job market include chemical engineering, finance, marketing, (Is there really a shortage of marketers?), and geographic information science, (sounds like geography).

    While this is not really a remarkable or surprising bit of news, I do find it interesting when thinking about what many smart folks seem to say about how work is changing, how automation and AI are replacing (or augmenting), many kinds of labor and roles, and what are the true skills all workers will need to be successful and employable in the robot future.

    And by that I am talking about the kinds of human skills and traits that can't easily or perhaps shouldn't be replaced by machines or algorithms - creativity, empathy, emotional understanding, appreciation of (yes I am saying it), history and philosophy. Sure, the kinds of 'hard skills' and technical programs that this university wants to emphasize are currently in demand, but like many (or all) kinds of technology and science roles, the likelihood of automation and more advanced AI tools replacing them (or at least reducing the need for some human labor) in them is pretty high.

    I am not totally sure what 'Geographic information science' is, but I would be willing to bet that technology will be able to perform lots of what that role requires much sooner than any kind of technology would be able to think, reason, assess, and communicate like a talented philosophy graduate.

    And by the way, if I was looking for new marketing talent, I might prefer a philosophy major or a sociology major anyway.

    Figuring out what kinds of skills are going to be needed and in demand in a changing and dynamic labor market is certainly not easy, and I understand that universities also have practical challenges and have to produce and offer programs that will attract students, (and parents).

    But while there is a lot of data and science that shows where the (current) jobs are there is also some art to producing the kinds of talent that will best be able to help the economy thrive.

    And we probably can't do art, at least not well,  if we stop teaching art.

    Have a great weekend!

    Thursday
    Mar292018

    Career and Life Advice: You're probably not right for that job

    An example of some short and sweet 'Career and Life Advice' courtesy of the New York State (Full disclosure: the state in which I reside. For now), contest for the Democratic Party nomination for the November Governor's race.

    One one side we have the current two-term Governor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who is running for re-election in November.

    On the other side, contesting Governor Cuomo for the Democratic Party nomination is Cynthia Nixon, best known as the actress who portrayed Miranda on the long-running HBO series 'Sex and the City.'

    As a New Yorker, I would rate Governor Cuomo as a perfectly fine Governor. For what that is worth.

    But that is not the point of this post.

    The point is how many folks, the kind of folks like me who don't follow politics all that closely, or take it all too seriously, would evaluate the qualifications of these two candidates.

    On the one side we have the incumbent Governor, who has been in office since 2011, and who had previously served as the Attorney General of New York, as well as the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

    On the other side, we have an actress/activist whose prime claim to fame is playing 'Miranda' for several years.

    But as I said, I don't follow this very closely and am not offering my opinion, but I do want to highlight the comments made by 'Miranda's' best friend - none other than Sex and the City's 'Carrie' - AKA the actress Sarah Jessica Parker. Sarah was asked to comment on her former cast mate and friend's run for Governor and according to the New York Post she responded with the best 'Non-endorsement that doesn't actually read like a non-endorsement but really, really is a non-endorsement'.

    Here's the quote:

    Cynthia has been my friend and colleague since we were little girls. I look forward to talking to her about her New York State gubernatorial run.

    Man, that is sick. 'I look forward to talking to her'. Not, 'She would be a great Governor' or 'She is the sharpest pencil in the box' or even a 'She is a wonderful person who cares deeply about New Yorkers.'

    But here is the thing, it is probably a good response/bit of advice from a friend/colleague that knows Ms. Nixon pretty well. It says, 'Hey friend, you are probably not right for that job' without coming out directly and saying 'Hey, you are probably not right for that job.'

    Most job advice is crap. Especially job advice from your silly friends.

    But this time, a well-crafted 'non-endorsement' from a friend just might be the best career advice you will hear all year.

    Good luck Miranda.

    Have a great day!

    Thursday
    Feb012018

    Steve's 12 Rules For Life

    Apologies if this '12 Rules for Life' meme is a bit worn out (I confess to have only just seen it in the last week or so here and here and since I am pretty much absent on most forms of social media these days I have a feeling these kinds of things come and go and I usually don't catch them), but since it reminded me a bit of blogging say, 10 years ago when these kinds of themes were passed around in blog 'tags' and comments, I thought I would give it a shot.

    So here goes - in no order of importance, relevance, research, or general applicability. 

    And, there are lots of more important rules - like the ones concerning family, relationships, etc. that I have no desire to even try to offer advice, let alone rules. Consider these the most unimportant, but somehow vital 12 rules for life you will ever read. If you read them that is.

    And now here goes...

    1. Pick up the tab - You don't have to do this all the time, just sometimes. There is nothing more awkward than handing a server or bartender seven different credit cards to try and settle a $132 check. Pick up the tab and you just made six friends. And made a deposit in the bank of good karma. You may need that one day.

    2. No talking in a public restroom - with the exception of someone in authority if they need to shout 'The building is on fire, everyone evacuate!'

    3. Do whatever you can to control your schedule. Most of us will end up with some kind of job or career where bosses, colleagues, customers, clients, etc. all have some kind of claim on our time. The more you can limit the number of people who can lock up your time and the amount of time you have to be available to others, the more you will be able to focus on what you truly want to do, and I bet you will be happier overall. Call it your own 'Executive Time' if you have to, and block your own calendar.

    4. Don't stress over the dessert or the third slice of pizza or the french fries or whatever you consider your dietary weakness. No one ever looks back on their life and says 'Gee, I wish I drank more water and ate more salad.' 

    5. Jog/walk/move a little bit more. Sometimes when I travel I have to take two pretty long connecting flights in a row. And sometimes I see the some of the same people get off the first plane, where we had all been sitting for three hours or so, and immediately park themselves down in another seat to wait an hour just to get on another three hour flight where once again, we will all be sitting. It baffles me. And while you are at it, you don't need to find the closest parking space to the grocery store or post office or theater. Park a little farther out and walk for two minutes. It's fun. 

    6. Never place a bet on any animal that can't talk. Betting on ones that can talk is also advised against, but it is fun. Except for tennis. Don't bet on tennis, it is pretty likely the match is fixed.

    7. Don't spend too much time on social networks. I know, that 'rule' is everywhere. But even Zuckerberg has admitted that Facebook (heavy use of Facebook anyway), is not that great for you. Check it like you check your snail mail - a quick scan for a minute as you bring it in from the mailbox and then maybe for 15-20 minutes later as you sort out what is important, what can be trashed and what you need to read. Reading long lists on blogs is, however, very admirable and good for you. So keep doing that. Well done.

    8. Sign up for TSA Pre-check. Even if you only travel a few times a year it is worth every cent. 

    9. Figure out the three things or types of work that you like to do the most, (or which you want to become more proficient), and make sure you reserve time every week to work on these three things. Keep (loose) track of the time you spend on these things and do a kind a self-audit every few months to determine two things. One, are you actually making time to do the things you really want to do? And two, are you getting better at these things? I think the thing that holds us back the most at work and maybe even in life, is that we are not good or comfortable with self-examination and making an honest assessment of things. If that sounds like a bit of a confession/admission you are right.

    10. Set expectations (where you can). In a project or a negotiation or even just 'normal' business, people are generally going to be happy or at least satisfied as long as they are not disappointed or surprised. If you have to, set an email auto-responder during your busy times, (maybe all the time), that lays out when people can expect to hear back from you or the time it will take for you to take some action. If you email me today, (it's a Thursday as I write this), and I auto-respond I will get back to you by Monday COB, then at least you understand not to expect a reply on Friday. This is also a confession/admission of sorts.

    11. It's ok to be a snob about something, (wine, beer, cheese, movies, books, etc.) but not everything. Popular culture is called that because it's you know, popular. Lots and lots of people drink Coors Light, eat at Taco Bell, and go on Dunkin' runs. Jumanji grossed about $340M in 2017. And the people that drink Coors Light and hit the Taco Bell on the way to catch Jumanji? You have to work with them, serve them as customers, and socialize with them. You are not any better than them because you like some triple-hopped craft IPA that was brewed in someone's backyard. 

    12. Don't listen to anyone's rules about how to live. Except for number 8 above. You will never regret not waiting in the 'regular' line at security.

    If you decide to post your '12 Rules' somewhere let me know in the comments, or add a rule or two of your own there. 

    Have a great day!

    Tuesday
    Jan302018

    Critics

    From the Wikipedia page on Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957)

    Perhaps one reason Sibelius has attracted both the praise and the ire of critics is that in each of hisJean Sibelius is not hearing any of your crap. seven symphonies he approached the basic problems of form, tonality, and architecture in unique, individual ways. On the one hand, his symphonic (and tonal) creativity was novel, but others thought that music should be taking a different route. Sibelius's response to criticism was dismissive: "Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic."

     

    You are either a creator or a critic.

     

    Choose your side wisely my friends.

     

    Have a great day!