Posts Tagged ‘Tech Careers’
This is the fifth in a series of articles that describe the unique traits of a corporate intrapreneur.
The next three habits, when practiced properly at a corporation, can often lead to the successful delivery of ideas. Idea delivery is characterized by the creation of a product or service that provides value to a customer.
These first stages of delivery occur as part of a technique known as 3-box time management, which is depicted below.
Vijay Govindarajan (VG) is a Professor of International Business at Dartmouth College. He is the author and evangelist of the 3-box strategic approach to corporate innovation. Three-box innovation strategy dictates that the majority of corporate resources should be invested in the Box 1 diagram listed below: Manage the Present. This box represents the continued development of existing products to yield most of a corporation’s revenue. Employees supporting this box focus on existing customers and processes, and they continue to leverage their existing competencies. In essence, this box “funds” the development of innovation within a corporation. Some companies fall into the trap of spending close to 100 percent of their resources in this box.
Vijay advises corporations to allocate portions of their resources to Box 2 and Box 3 as well as tried-and-true Box 1. Box 2 selectively abandons the past by “forgetting” most of what is known about the products built in Box 1, including why they were built and whom they were built to satisfy. This break from tradition enables an innovator to take existing products into completely different markets.
Box 3 is a more radical approach to innovation. It completely ignores current processes and products and prominently targets the future.
The figure below applies this 3-box corporate framework to an intrapreneur’s use of his or her own time (note that the box titles change when applied to an individual).
Intrapreneurs can be most effective when they are delivering products as part of a business unit (as opposed to being a member of a research team in an ivory tower). Why? They often prefer to be in the trenches, where they can be highly productive, visiting customers, and collaborating with others. They are respected within their organizations for doing those very things.
Perhaps their most significant contribution to their business unit’s product line is funding their employment and that of their collaborators. They are squarely positioned in Box 1.
Spending all of their time in one area of expertise does not enable intrapreneurs to achieve success. Their natural curiosity and passion will not allow them to stay in only one place. They practice the discipline of limiting the amount of time they spend in Box 1.
By limiting the amount of time they spend in Box 1, intrapreneurs make time for Box 2 and/or Box 3 activities. They set aside the time to learn about customer issues. They set aside the time to explore adjacent technologies. They regularly meet with experts in adjacent fields and collaborate to dream up ideas of what might be possible. Most importantly, they begin to build out their ideas.
It is worth pointing out the difference between Box 2 and Box 3 intrapreneurial behavior. Box 2 behavior is characterized by Venn diagram innovation. The intrapreneur collaborates in the context of a well-defined customer problem.
Box 3 behavior is characterized by blue sky innovation: taking the initiative to learn new technologies and collaborate without necessarily starting with the context of a defined customer problem. Blue sky innovators may ask themselves and others, “What might this capability be used to do?” Answers to this question can result in breakthrough innovation. It is often the case that breakthrough innovation can be applied to customer problems they don’t yet know they have!
It is a difficult balancing act to regularly spend time outside of Box 1. It takes passion and persistence. But it is the very first step that a new intrapreneur must take to prove his or her worth!
Subsequent steps build on the important ability to manage one’s time well. Please consider subscribing to this blog for a discussion of the next phase of idea delivery: managing one’s visibility.
Google. Apple. Intel. Adobe. Intuit. Pixar. Each of these names is known to elicit superlatives for innovation and leadership. Each is also counted among the most desirable employers of Silicon Valley. And yet, as a U.S. Justice Department investigation has revealed, working for one of them could mean your career prospects could be severely limited for the rest.
On Friday, the aforementioned gang of six collectively consented to a Justice Department order to cease a series of clandestine no-poaching pacts. The department alleges that, through much of the past decade, the implicated parties kept do-not-call lists to mark each other’s staff as off-limits for job offer solicitation. In turn, those recruitment restrictions hampered opportunities for rising talent at top companies.
As the government’s resulting settlement describes, “The agreements eliminated a significant form of competition to attract highly skilled employees, and overall diminished competition to the detriment of affected employees.”
For tech professionals, the existence of such policies can only be disheartening. It’s difficult enough to soldier on in the IT field’s current state, as the rise of mergers and acquisitions threatens to consolidate the industry—and squeeze out workers in the ensuing layoffs. To know that employers actively avoid certain candidates can quash not just advancement or competitive salaries, but the perceived value of one’s own accrued skills and experience.
Moreover, Silicon Valley is a climate that thrives on migration. For decades, the industry has been characterized by the ability of its workforce to roam amongst market leaders and scrappy startups alike. It is this viral spreading of knowledge and talent that bolsters progress. The actions of Google et al risked stifling that dynamic, at a time when new ideas were so vital to the market amid a dire recession.
But even after striking a blow against the major players, this may only scratch the surface. In announcing its settlement with the six conspirators, the D.O.J. said it “continues to investigate other similar no solicitation agreements,” raising questions as to the scope of this practice. It may be minimal: while leaders such as Microsoft and IBM were implicated at the investigation’s inception, they were ultimately omitted from the settlement. But given the industry’s interwoven dependencies among firms, it’s not hard to suspect that many alliances have included deals to prevent poaching.
A statement by Google (thus far the only party to publicly respond) bodes particular ill: Assistant counsel Amy Lambert assures on its Public Policy Blog that Google “abandoned our ‘no cold calling’ policy in late 2009.” But by acknowledging “a number of other tech companies had similar ‘no cold call’ policies,” she seems to imply that the company followed an established trend, rather than marching to its own drummer. That’s not what you come to expect of an innovator.
— Alex Tuttle, Vault.com
If there was one thing that stood out from Vault’s recent Job Hunting in CSR series, it was the disconnect between candidates and employers. A recent survey by Towers Watson further indicates that this disconnect might be much more widespread because of a difference in priorities for employers and employees.
A survey released by TalentDrive, the team behind online resume aggregation search engine TalentFilter, now adds yet another layer to the troubling scenario. The report suggests a widening gap between current employers’ expectations and job seekers’ actual skill sets.
In a month-long survey, 79,000 job seekers (86 percent actively seeking employment) were asked to assess their personal skill set and attitude toward the current job market. Additionally, 20,000 hiring managers from Fortune 1000 companies were asked if they had noticed a change in the quality of candidates since the recession’s start.
The results of the survey are unnerving:
Almost three-quarters of the job seekers surveyed were pessimistic about their career search: that’s the number of respondents who indicated that they possessed the required skill set for positions, but were not getting hired. Little wonder, then, that 37 percent of respondents expressed no hope that things would improve.
However, 42 percent of the employers surveyed indicated that the recession had not only increased the quantity of candidates, but that they were finding more qualified candidates than in years past.
So where is the disconnect? When candidates believe they possess the required skill sets, why are they not getting hired? Take into account that 67 percent of those surveyed reported having between one and five interviews per month since the beginning of their job search, and that 75 percent of those had not received a single job offer.
Specialization or general business skills?
Could the disconnect come down to a question of specialized vs. general business skills? According to the report, 71% percent of HR representatives reported that more than half of their open positions were specialized.
Comparatively, 61% of the job seekers’ group considered themselves to be “professionals with broad skill sets.”
Interestingly, my interviews with MBA graduates Ashley Jablow and Geet Singh reveal a flipside to the specialization picture. Having focused on CSR and sustainability at business school, both Jablow and Singh confessed that their job hunts weren’t exactly working out to be walks in the park. However, in their case, partial blame goes to a lack of demand for CSR work. For the respondents of the TalentDrive survey, specialized skills leaned toward more traditional fields like IT and technology.
Job Search Destinations
If there is one area where the TalentDrive survey shows job seekers and employers in agreement, it is where they are finding each other. The winner: Social Media.
An overwhelming 74% of job seekers said the most beneficial job search method was posting a resume on job boards followed by 27% picking social media, for the first time surpassing traditional methods like classified ads, professional recruiters and networking events.
Agreement was mutual with 27% of employers saying the highest response for most effective search method was social networks, followed by resume sourcing technologies.
For the types of positions your company fills, what skills/activities make an applicant stand out?
Differs for each position: 55%
Longevity with past employers: 21%
Advanced degrees/MBA: 5%
Extracurricular work/Volunteer work: 3%
What category would the majority of your open positions fall under?
Mid level/management positions: 67%
Entry level: 16%
Director/Executive positions: 14%
Since beginning your active job search, how many interviews have resulted in an offer?
No offers: 75%
Less than half: 21%
More than half: 3%
All interviews resulted in an offer: 1%
Given the current job market, how willing are you to transfer fields or change your skill set to adapt to a new work environment or industry?
Not willing or interested: 11%
Somewhat willing, depending on the opportunity: 44%
Very willing: 45%
On June 8th and 9th some of the world’s leading experts on innovation gathered at the Nokia Theater in New York City for the 2010 World Innovation Forum (Twitter hashtag #WIF10).
The list of speakers was impressive, and WIF10 blogger Stu Miniman wrote an excellent post summarizing the speakers and their backgrounds.
I also attended the conference (as a blogger) and wrote about my motivations for attending in an introductory blog post. My hope was to hear some of the latest trends and techniques for innovation at large corporations.
For those of you interested in pursuing a career in innovation, I’ve created the following list of advice, with links to the speakers included. Keep in mind that my definition of innovation is “innovation = idea + implementation”, with a strong emphasis on the implementation piece (how to build and deliver new ideas).
Here is a summary of the career advice presented at the conference:
- Innovation is not limited to engineers. Bringing great ideas to market can best happen when every person in the process becomes a designer. Whether your job is engineering, customer support, testing, or marketing, every stage of the process requires people using strong design skills. This advice was given by one of the top technology designers in the world: Robert Brunner.
- When it comes to finding innovative jobs, the place to go looking is for corporations that are producing green (or sustainable) products and services. Corporations are looking for individuals that can generate (and deliver) energy-saving and environmentally-friendly ideas. Joel Makower highlighted several such corporations in his talk, including Coke, Waste Management, and UPS.
- Ursula Burns of Xerox related that employees who know how to “dream with customers” are highly valued. The best source of ideas is often birthed through conversations with customers about their needs.
- The most valued employees of the current decade will be artisans, and the most successful companies of the current decade will be the businesses that allow their employees the freedom to innovate. Seth Godin encouraged employees to take risks in their job by morphing their work habits to be more artistic: give gifts, do work that matters, and make a difference.
- One of the more critical innovation skills for an employee is the ability to be a change agent. Chip Heath described the psychology of change and presented some steps for introducing change into an organization.
- One of the final pieces of advice for an employee was given by Andreas Weigend. Andreas claimed that the most successful businesses will be those companies that know how to leverage communities of people (and the data that they create). It is critical for employees to involve themselves in social media and social media data mining.
Health care and education were also discussed as critical areas needing continued innovation focus (excellent career opportunities). For more information on these areas, refer to Michael Howe’s discussion of the rise of MinuteClinic, and Wendy Kopp’s presentation on Teach for America.
Read more tech career advice from Steve his Vault blog: Innovate with Influence
Extra Insight: Check out Vault’s coverage from the World Innovation Forum
Every year since 2007, the IDC has sponsored a study of information growth. The IDC is a forecasting firm with a focus on high-tech. Their study attempts to size the “Digital Universe” by measuring the amount of digital information created or captured in the previous year, and predicting information growth going forward.
One of the more startling statistics from the study is that in 2009, in the midst of an economic decline, the amount of digital information grew a staggering 62%!
In the 80s, anyone involved in the tech industry knew the words kilobyte and megabyte. As the industry experienced advances in disk drive technologies in the 90s, the word gigabyte became more prevalent. Last decade the words terabyte and petabyte became commonly used.
It’s time to start talking about what’s beyond petabytes: zettabytes. The IDC is forecasting that by 2020 the world will have generated 35 ZB of information, with one ZB equivalent to one trillion gigabytes.
Let’s explore how this data translates into high-tech jobs:
- There will be a need for engineers to build and test the next generation of high-tech products that can effectively ingest, organize, move, retain, destroy, and manage this amount of information.
- There will be a need for consultants, sales, and field support technicians to advise customers on how to manage this amount of information.
- There will be a need for IT specialists who physically manage this information.
- There will be a need for Chief Information Officers who manage and govern the information owned by their organizations.
I’ve already written several blog posts that describe important areas to explore when it comes to understanding how technology deals with explosive information growth. Here is a brief review of (and link to) of some of these technologies:
- Massive amounts of information are currently being stored on highly-scalable disk arrays.
- The enormous amounts of digital objects that are being created are often best housed using object-based techniques.
- Information can be “shrunk” down significantly by using a technology known as deduplication.
- Local laws regarding the retention and long-term management of information are commonly referred to as GRC: governance, risk, and compliance.
- The way that information is stored affects how quickly (or slowly) the information can be retrieved. Data layout is critical.
Perhaps the most important ramification of “the decade of the zettabyte” is that more and more corporations will give up even trying to manage this much information. They will outsource the management of their information to a “cloud service provider”. Cloud service providers will specialize in the administration of digital information, including managing the hardware and software used to store it, deduplicating it, governing it, and laying it out for optimal retrieval.
Companies like Amazon and Google have started to build “public clouds”, where anyone can “rent space” to store their information.
Many businesses are not yet comfortable storing their information on a public cloud, so they are beginning to build “private clouds” within their own data centers. One of the more important attributes of private clouds is that they should enable eventual migration of information to publicly hosted clouds over time.
The growth of information can translate to a growth in jobs for those who capitalize on the early stages of this wave. For more information on private clouds, visit the Private Cloud website. For a wider perspective of the IDC study, feel free to review the following blogs and announcements:
–Posted by Steve Todd, Innovate With Influence