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    Entries in career (155)


    Signs of the corporate death spiral #2 - no more free lunches for you

    Quick shot for a super-busy day where I am simultaneously juggle attending an event, sorting out numerous technical issues, (I know, no one cares), and trying to keep the content engines humming around here.

    Thought it would be time to resurrect my 'Signs of the corporate death spiral' series that has long been dormant. Although I could just write about Yahoo every day and that would cover things.

    No, this post is not about Yahoo, but rather another Silicon Valley tech company Dropbox, who you may know from their pretty large data and file storage business. What signal is there that Dropbox may be lurching towards the dreaded death spiral? Check an excerpt from a recent piece on Slashdot:

    Not everything is working out at Dropbox, popular cloud storage and sharing service, last valued at $10 billion. Business Insider is reporting a major cost cutting at the San Francisco-based company. As part of it, the publication reports, Dropbox has cancelled its free shuttle in San Francisco, its gym washing service, pushed back dinner time by an hour and curtailed the number of guests to five per month (previously it was unlimited). These cuttings will directly impact Dropbox's profitability. According to a leaked memo, obtained by BI, employee perks alone cost the company at least $25,000 a year for each employee. (Dropbox has nearly 1,500 employees.)

    Look, no doubt Dropbox's pretty lavish perks package would be considered incredibly excessive by the average organization. I mean, have you ever worked anywhere that let you bring in five friends each month to the open bar on Fridays? Have you ever even had an open bar at work? And I am not talking about that bottle you think is 'hidden' in your bottom drawer. Everyone knows about that by the way.

    But why this benefits/perks cut at Dropbox could potentially be more serious longer term to them than the average organization's occasional need to cut benefits (which can usually be survivable), is that Dropbox exists almost entirely in a world where 'excessive' benefits are not considered excessive at all, rather they are more or less expected components of their Employer Value Proposition.

    That's right, I went all EVP on you all. But it is the best, most concise way to describe what I think is going on here and the potential warning signal this kind of a benefit pull back might end up having at Dropbox.

    No workplace or employee needs free dry cleaning service at work in order to be considered fairly compensated, and (hopefully), happy with their organization. No one needs this for sure.

    But at Dropbox, and maybe 100 other companies in the Valley that are chasing similar pools of workers?

    The end of free dry cleaning and posh gym memberships and open bars?

    They might move towards the need category a lot faster than you think. For you and your organization? It would be good for you to know what is your version of free dry cleaning before the CFO decides to come down with the cost-cutting axe.


    Things you should never say at work #1 - "I'm not technical"

    New series on the blog launching today called 'Things you should never say at work' - hopefully that will focus on the non-obvious but still highly damaging things you should never say on the job.

    Here goes...

    (Slightly) edited for purposes of clarity and anonymity story from a former colleague of mine who has been talking to a potential client about a new (largely) technical project - the implementation of some new, pretty large enterprise systems for a mid-size manufacturing company.

    My former colleague walks into a 'discovery' kind of meeting with the two ostensible subject matter experts in charge of the two most critical process areas of the project - let's call them Inventory Management and Supply Chain Optimization.  The two client folks that run these functional areas are pretty experienced, my colleague guessed they had at least 10 or 15 years each inside the company.

    When my colleague asked them how the early pilots of the new enterprise tech had been going, what the main challenges were, how the systems were being set up in order to support the organization's workflows, etc., both client subject matter experts responded similarly. Something along the lines of: "I really don't know - I'm not technical." 

    A huge red flag for my colleague for sure, as the two primary customers of the upcoming tech implementation were not only pretty disengaged from the process, they were seemingly proud of their lack of expertise and interest in what was going on with the new technology.

    Maybe these two experts are able to get away with this open apathy towards the technology, due to years of accrued expertise and perhaps some organizational stagnation, but you can be sure their (and their kind) days are numbered.

    I would bet that almost no one reading this post today would be able to proudly declare out loud in your shop something along the lines of "That new headcount trends dashboard? No, i have not looked at it. I'm not technical'. Or, "What do I think the 10% bonus pool reduction will do to voluntary turnover? I don't know. I'm not technical.'

    It doesn't matter if you don't know about a specific technology. Tech moves so fast anyway that what specific skills that are in demand now probably won't be the same ones in demand in 2 or 3 years.

    But the approach, the attitude, the willingness to 'be' technical?

    It doesn't matter what kind of job you have now, the 'I'm not technical' card is one no one can afford to play today.

    So you should never say it. I mean it. 'Cause if I find out you did...


    "I welcome their contempt"

    The USA's 2016 presidential nomination contests have been nothing short of incredible.

    It doesn't matter your particular political affiliation, or philosophy, or world view - there has been something for everyone to love or hate or be embarrassed by, seemingly every week. And if you are someone that doesn't care at all about politics, you still would have to admit that the campaigns have at least been amusing theater.

    I don't normally, (ever, I think), write about politics, and this post is not really about politics in the classic sense, but rather is inspired by a recent quote from one of the major candidates still left standing - Uncle Bernie Sanders.

    I just want to share the quote, and a tiny bit of context and then I am out for the weekend.

    Here's Bernie, (citation to Business Insider)

    Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Wednesday that he welcomed a spat with several high-profile American CEOs who criticized his rhetoric.

    Sanders slammed Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt over their recent criticism of his populist economic agenda.

    "I don't want the support of McAdam, Immelt and their friends in the billionaire class. I welcome their contempt," Sanders tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.

    None of the details of Sanders' plans or the agendas of McAdam or Immelt matter to the point I care about and why I wanted to post about this which is this: You are defined as a person and as a professional and leader by your enemies as much as by your allies and friends.

    Sanders is thrilled that titans of industfy like Immelt are speaking out against him and his plans. These are exactly the kinds of enemies Sanders wants to make as he pushes his populist, stand-up-for-the-working-man rhetoric.

    Sometimes you seek out enemies, sometimes you just make some - either way they speak volumes about who you are.

    I think you do want some enemies. That means you stand for something. Just make sure you have the right enemies.

    And make sure you know who they are too.

    Have a great weekend!


    We are pretty sure robots will take all the jobs - just not OUR job

    File this item under the 'We all hate Congress, but we keep re-electing our representative every two years' or 'the roads are full of idiot drivers but no one ever admits to being not such a great driver'. 

    Take a look at a couple of charts from a recent Pew Research Center survey of 2,001 American adults that attempted to gauge American's perceptions and opinions about the automation of work and jobs.

    From Pew Research:

    Let's crack open that nut a little, shall we?

    According to the survey, a large majority of Americans, 65%,  of expect that within 50 years robots and computers will “definitely” or “probably” do much of the work and take over the jobs that are currently occupied by us humans. Kind of makes sense, right? Even if you don't follow the 'robot' beat that closely you have probably at least heard some of the doom and gloom predictions about the upcoming robot takeover.

    But just like no one thinks they are a bad driver, when asked about their own jobs and the likelihood they would be replaced by robots and automation, the results were a little different. An even greater share (80%) expect that their own jobs will remain largely unchanged and exist in their current forms 50 years from now.

    So while 11% of the survey respondents are at least somewhat concerned that they might lose their jobs as a result of workforce automation, a larger number are occupied by more immediate and practical concerns – like being replaced by lower-paid human employees, broader economic and industry trends or bad management by their employers.

    What to take from this, especially as we think about our own careers? 

    Probably the big takeaway is to not be naive about the chances that technology and automation may have on our jobs, companies, and industries in the near to medium term. You can't let yourself fall into the trap of thinking 'Well, I can't be automated. What I do is too special, unique, complex....'. It's only the call center agents and factory workers that have to be concerned.' That's a gamble you might regret later on. 

    Someone, actually many someones are going to be automated out of work in the upcoming years. 

    Don't let it surprise you when the robot comes looking for you.


    In my tribe

    I am in process of working on an epic 'Ranked' post, (1980s Albums, Ranked), that is taking ages to compile. In the extensive research (two or three Google searches), for that post I was reminded of one album that is certain to make the final rankings, In My Tribe by 10,000 Maniacs. 

    The album was 10,000 Maniacs most popular album, and for many music aficionados it was the defining work for the band. I had the album back in the day, and I recall seeing a fantastic 10,000 Maniacs concert once as well. 

    But what made me think about this album more directly today, was an extremely interesting comment someone made about me yesterday. This person thanked me for (I am paraphrasing a little), for being 'An advocate and supporter of our tribe'.

    It was an interesting comment to me because I suppose I have not ever explicitly thought about being a supporter of a 'tribe'. But I suppose over the last few years especially, I have looked to work with and collaborate with people that I have known for a while, and who's talents and abilities I respect, (and often envy). And that is just a normal, natural thing I think. We want to work with the people we enjoy working with and who can imagine, create, and deliver amazingly cool things. And sometimes, maybe most of the time, these are people that we like, we maybe know socially, and perhaps we even consider them friends outside of 'work.' So I suppose given that context we (perhaps while not even thinking about it in those terms), we create, nurture, and support our own versions of a 'tribe'.

    I don't really have a point to this, I am fortunate that the editor of this blog (who is me), has extremely low standards for quality, clarity and relevance.

    But I suppose I should make some kind of point, (especially for the kind, kind people who are still reading).

    So the point is this: We should support, champion, care for, nurture, and protect our 'tribe', even if we don't actually know who they are, how they precisely 'fit' in the tribe, and even when we may not be realizing that we are actually doing these things, even while we are doing them.

    I am thankful to have the opportunity to know the incredible people that I get to work with, and who have supported me so much. I hope you know who you are and how grateful I am.

    Thanks for reading. I will try and do better tomorrow.