Let’s Play Stop

January 19, 2012

As a proud member of the Board of Directors of the Goodwill Community Foundation, here is the text of an article from Goodwill Today:

Goodwill Community Foundation App Snags Prize at Consumer Electronics Show

The Goodwill Community Foundation (GCF®), the foundation for Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina (Durham), walked away from the prestigious Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week as a second prize winner in the Samsung Free the TV Challenge. The contest challenged developers to create “Converged Apps” that allow people to use more than one device to interact with content on a Samsung Smart TV.

GCF’s app, a game called Let’s Play Stop! , allows players to challenge themselves by quickly brainstorming words they know in English. It is a useful app for people trying to improve their literacy skills or those studying English as a Second Language (ESL).

The game chooses a random letter and players must use Android devices to type as fast as possible one word that begins with that letter for each game category: country or city, body parts, fruits, colors and animals. The player who successfully submits one word per category and presses the ‘stop’ button first will end the round, freezing the game and prohibiting any additional entries from other participants. The game then analyzes the accumulated score of each player. The player with the highest score at the end of the game wins.

The app was developed by the app development team for GCFLatino.org, the Spanish counterpart of GCFLearnFree.org. Both are free computer and life skills training sites available to anyone with access to the Internet. Many of the learning programs on these sites are also available as apps for the Android, iPhone and iPad.

As the second prize winner, the foundation won $75,000, a 55” LED Samsung Smart TV and a Galaxy Tab 10.1. The prize will be used by the app development teams of GCFLearnFree.org and GCFLatino.org to continue developing curriculum for the sites.

Let’s Play Stop! can be downloaded free at http://gcflatino.org/stop/. Currently, it is only available for Android devices, but an Apple version will be published soon.


Job Creation’s 800 pound Gorilla

September 8, 2011

Tonight President Obama is going to propose a new jobs plan, and various politicians and media are already weighing in with many opinions about this.

But no one that I have seen is addressing the 800 pound gorilla sitting in the room, to wit:

For both small business owners and big business executves, the reward for eliminating jobs far, far exceeds any reward for creating jobs.

Here is one current example:  Just two days ago, Bank of America announced an executive shakeup that signals broad and deep layoffs, which industry analysts say could reach30,000 headcount reductions.  According to CNNMoney, “Investors cheered the changes.  Bank of America’s stock rallied 5.6% … Wednesday.”

This is not a recent phenomenon either.  A really galling example occured in January 2009, when pharmaceutical giants Pfizer ad Wyet announced a $68 billion merger.  The main financial justification was cited as the opportunity to reduce costs by eliminating 17,000 jobs.  About $20 billion in financing was provided by banks who had received the government’s TARP bailout money, helping mute criticism that they had not been lending enough after getting bailed out.

Huh?

I wish someone would come up with a real solution to our jobs dilemma.  As long as the rewards are greater for eliminating jobs, there is very little (very, very little) that any politician of any party can do that will work.


Graduation Musings

May 24, 2011

My daughter graduates from college this week, with a major in International Studies.  She has gotten a terrific education, developing a global perspective on many levels.  She studied abroad on 3 continents, and visited more countries that I have.  Speaks multiple languages and has a cultural sensitivity and awareness far beyond her years.

Now what?

I don’t ask that question about the near term.  She has a plan – to spend the next year teaching English overseas, then hopefully another year of work / travel / language / culture immersion, followed by graduate school.  But then what?

The skills she is developing will be useful – perhaps in law, or diplomacy, or academia, or commerce, or some sort of long-term Eat, Pray, Love experience.

It will be interesting and facinating to watch her future unfold, to see how the changing world opens new doors while also closing familiar ones.


Answer the Question

May 12, 2011

The following Guest Editorial appeared in yesterday’s newsletter for the Financial Executives Networking Group, regarding executive level job searches:

From David Bass, Chairman of our Raleigh Chapter, David writes:

 I asked someone involved in a recent search to provide some feedback on the candidates that came through FENG. Initially, there was some reluctance to circulate the lead, as he didn’t want to get bombarded with unqualified candidates. Couldn’t I just give him the contact information for the top 3-4 candidates from the chapter? Eventually he agreed to permit circulation to the entire chapter and provide the feedback that I am about to share.

 The position was with a private equity / venture capital investment fund, as their internal CFO. This required a good bit of partnership accounting and taxes, valuation of privately held portfolio companies, and reporting to investors. In their view, these are different skill sets from those needed in a typical operating company role, and were explained in the job description.

 The feedback included some good news. There were a few highly qualified candidates, who tailored their emails (serving as the cover letter) to highlight how their backgrounds related to the particulars of this position, and who’s resumes backed up these cover letter assertions.

 The feedback included some bad news too, and more of it. There were multiple candidates who emailed resumes and the email text highlighted their strengths and qualifications for a generic position but did not make any connection to the specific job description at hand. In other words, obvious boilerplate verbiage, which the reviewer interpreted as an indication that the candidates were not paying very close attention, if any at all. The email verbiage should give the reader a reason to look forward to opening the resume. These folks did the opposite… they clearly gave a reason to skip reading the resume and move on to someone else.

 There were many specific examples of bad form. Three attached a resume to an email that included a standard outbound signature but no verbiage at all, not even a basic “please find my resume attached.” Another had misspelling and incomplete sentences. Some had only one sentence in the email followed by a signature. Another had a short diatribe about how difficult it has been to find a job. Several replies were to a different job – yes the FENG members sent a reply for a different position to the email address for the CFO position. This occurred on multiple replies.

 For each candidate, there is a basic question: How do YOUR QUALIFICATIONS connect or match up with the particulars of THIS JOB? In the reviewer’s opinion, answering this question is the objective of a cover letter or email verbiage. If a firm is looking for a specific skill set, give the reviewer (right away) some reasons to feel confident that you have those skill sets. Everything else could be toxic information – if it poisons your chances of having your resume opened and reviewed. Put differently and more bluntly, the question might be: Why should I open your resume?

 All of the “bad news” feedback revolved around FENG members who failed to answer the question, and only hurt themselves in the process. Which leads back to the title of this editorial, “Answer the Question.” Every job posting asks a question. If the question is about certain skills or experience, then you need to acknowledge those requirements, you need to meet those requirements, and you need to say so right up front. If you can’t or won’t answer the question, you are wasting your own time and the recruiter’s time.

 Before hitting ‘send’ it is a good practice to review your email text or cover letter as if you were a hiring manager receiving the same email/letter from someone else. Does the candidate appear to understand the requirements? Is the response worthy of someone who has the title of the job posted? Would you want to look at the resume? If not, you’ve still got some work to do.

Your comments?


Undercover Boss

May 3, 2011
CBS’ hit show, Undercover Boss, was the Emmy-nominated #1 new TV series for 2009-10.  Each week, Undercover Boss follows a different executive on an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of the companies they lead.  Typically taking on the role of a new hire in an entry level position, the boss gets a close-up look at how their decisions affect the people in their organizations, problems that are not being addressed, and a chance to meet some previously unsung heroes who truly make their companies run.
  
Could you benefit from this kind of reality check?  Would your company benefit by having you spend some time on the front lines (without the other employees knowing it was you)?
  
The CEOs who participated as undercover bosses report that the time spent in the trenches taught them some hard and humbling lessons about their own companies, and inspired many changes.
  
The CEO of Waste Management recognized the need to seek advice from the garbage collectors before launching company-wide initiatives.
  
The CEO of White Castle became more aware of employees’ personal health concerns and set up online access to medical advice from nurses and dieticians, and company reimbursement of co-pays for preventive care visits.
  
The CEO of 7-Eleven realized that many employees viewed their jobs as dead-ends, and started a talent identification program and beefed up internal training.
  
The CEO of Hooters decided to counter some of the criticism of the chain as an exploiter of women by changing their approach to public relations, pointing out that Hooters has the highest percentage of female employees in the restaurant industry.  He now also requires all executives to spend a few days each year working in one of their restaurants.
  
The CEO of GSI Commerce also started rotating executives to work temporarily in the company’s call centers, so they can better relate to the impact of headquarter’s decisions on their front line staff.
  
What might you learn or change as an undercover boss at your company?
 
Comments?

To VC or Not to VC, That is the Question

April 29, 2011

Here is an excerpt from a post by Georges van Hoegaerden, managing director with the Venture Company (http://venturecompany.com/opinions/):

“Venture capital has failed to produce viable investor returns since 1998, produced negative 4.6 percent 10-year returns, performed below the consumer adoption rate of technology in the same period, is being outperformed by corporate innovation and capital, lost public trust because of bad past conversion from valuation to value and does not make a dent in the 80% greenfield of technology adoption.”

Ouch!

Way too much detail to go into here, but anyone considering investing in VC funds would be well served to read van Hoegaerden’s blog.

Your comments?


Be Interesting, Or Else!

April 27, 2011

Such was the title of an article that came across my desk today.  Pretty good advice.