Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know that last week Marissa Mayer accepted a position as CEO of Yahoo! The troubled once-darling of Silicon Valley.
All is not lost; according to web rankings site Alexa.com, Yahoo is still the 4th heaviest trafficked website in the United States, hanging right along with giants YouTube (#3) and Amazon.com (#5) in the United States. The worldwide numbers are similar, with YouTube 3, Yahoo! at 4, and Badiu.com, a Chinese Search Engine, at the number five slot.
The question of the day seems to be: Can Mayer turn the company around?
I have a different question: How did a thirty-seven year old get the job?
Allow me to elaborate.
The answer is: Maybe.
I think it’s time for you to meet Christa Foley.
Christa is a senior manager of HR at Zappos, with significant responsibilities in hiring and staffing; she’s been with the company since 2004. Christa’s General Title on Linkedin reads “Manage dysfunctional yet awesome team of HR crew who help folks find jobs at Zappos.com and then make sure they love it!”
Zappos is one of those quirky, non-traditional companies that tries to engage the worker with the work, instead of standardizing the humanity out if it in order to “reduce variation.” They view customers as humans, not transactions.
And they are hiring.
Long-time readers know that when I make these trips, I ask a lot of questions. Some aren’t relevant for the C-level audience; others need to be interpreted by an audience with a bit of … finesse, or, perhaps, would be great, but the answers I get just don’t fit into the piece.
That’s what we have unchartered waters for.
Zappos is a subsidiary of Amazon.com; the company was purchased in 2010, when it had just broke the $1 Billion in annual revenue threshold.
For a website primary known for selling shoes, that is, well, a lot of sales.
Not only did the folks at Zappos invite me for an onsite; they also extended the offer to include attending the all-hands meeting the day before.
Why yes, now that you mention it, I did take my video camera.
Yes, that is a man in a pepper costume.
No, I don’t really know quite what is it about, except that is the mascot for Spiceworks, the hard-working, but fun IT Forum/Community/tool that I introduced last time on Unchartered Waters, where met Darren Schoen, a trainer for Spiceworks.
Well, actually, by day, Darren is a mild-mannered IT guy, with a regular old IT job, who uses Spiceworks call-tracking management software to track calls. By night, Darren is involved in the SpiceWorks community; think of that as a mixture of support forums and Facebook.
Then, on the weekends, and sometimes vacation time, Darren becomes Spiceworks Man, offering contracted training services to help others use the platform.
I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t actually dress up in the pepper suit to become Spiceworks Man. (Mostly I just made up SpiceWorks Man, but it seemed to fit.)
Today we’ll finish up the interview, where Darren sets me straight about my expectations for training and subcontracting, and just how much time off one has to take in order do this work.
They have orange T-shirts, men in pepper costumes, and, yes, a big yellow dinosaur.
No, it’s not a children’s TV special – I am talking about Spiceworks, the quirky Helpdesk/Call Tracking system for small businesses. The one that runs for free, on your machines, on a small web-server, were all you have to put up with is a small amount of advertisement.
In other words, you gave a free database and routing system for support requests that you access through a browser. In the browser, in a pane to the right or top, the company may put advertisements, just like you would see in gmail or facebook.
We’re all for free tools here at Unchartered waters, but today I’m here to talk to you about a reverse cash flow system, one where you take something you traditionally pay to do, and instead get paid to do it.
The classic reverse cash flow scheme is taking a winter vacation in a cabin for the US Forestry Service, but a close second is offering training on products that you use everyday, preferably in exotic locations, and getting paid to travel to train.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you probably know that someone broke into the Linkedin Database and exported a list of accounts and encrypted passwords.
What you may not know is what, besides a sudden desire to change your linkedin password, all this actually means for you.
On it’s surface, the leak is relatively innocuous. Most users don’t store anything beyond their name, email address, and password. If the cracker managed to break the encryption and login, the best they could do is deface your account. Even if the bad guys crack into a ‘pro’ account, all they can snag is the last four digits of the credit card; you typically need the other twelve numbers, expiration date and security code to actually charge anything.
So what can we learn from this mess?
You might be surprised.
Last time I made the claim that the IT generalist was ‘going away‘, like the computer operators of old.
Things went downhill from there.
My friend Ben Rousch, wrote in a reply on Google+:
The IT generalist has his or her fingers in every technology out there. He or she understands how things are configured and how they need to interact with other things. At this time, I don’t see most young or old office workers having an interest in anything beyond getting their job done with the tools they’re given.
The white collar baby boomers have a decade or more left in them, and most of them are still hopelessly lost with any new technology. Many of them need their hand held for essentially plug and play operations like installing a new wireless router or printer. Considering the current rate of change in technology, I don’t see that getting any better.
Fifteen years ago, I had a little less weight around the middle, my hair was a slightly darker shade of brown, I had my first real suit … and I was going to my first real job interviews.
After four different interviews, two made serious offers: A computer operator for American Blind and Wallpaper Co, in Plymouth, Michigan, and a more specialized role at Professional Computing Resources (PCR), in Grand Rapids, about a two hour drive away from where I was living.
When I interviewed Jerry Barber, the President and founder of PCR, he asked me the dollar amount I wanted. I listed an entry-level figure that I thought was low enough that I wouldn’t get laughed at. Ok, ok, it wass $26K. Yes, I asked for 26 thousand dollars a year, a princely sum!
Jerry took out his calculator, said he couldn’t divide that by twelve, so cutting checks would be a problem. He offered me $28K to start on the spot – even had the letter typed up with everything but the dollar amount before I walked in the door.
Hey, it was the 1990’s, and I wasn’t asking for much. “Those were the days.”
I asked for a week to think on it.
Last time I wrote about the CityTime boondoggle, that spent over $700 million from an initial budget of $68 million, and seemed primarily designed to separate the people of New York City from their money.
It seems most of the folks involved in the decision making process had *cough* incentives to ignore problems.
You can’t automate yourself out of this folks, nor, if your auditors are on the dole, can you audit or checklist your way out.
This is a problem that pure IT can’t solve.
It’s the settlement that blows me away, though. Management of the city was willfully avoiding the truth for years at a time. You don’t get to turn your back on a project, allow it to fall apart, then turn around and ask for your money back.
Or, well, I guess you do.
(The word you are thinking of, by the way, is probably “governance.” That is the process by which the directors of an organization control it. Governance is not a meeting, nor a series of reports, nor extra work inflicted on the organization; it is, instead, the process by which the leaders govern. And it didn’t happen in New York City, and yet, somehow, the leadership is getting ~75% of their investment back.)
First, I get back from Las Vegas, a town teeming with the spirit of the age, that seems to promise that you can do anything and not get caught. Some folks at the show even dressed like it.
Except, of course, this is the age of Facebook, digital cameras the size of your pinkie, and “tagging.”
Let’s face it — What happens in Vegas shows up on Facebook.
And believe me, it does. Two things hit me hard when I came home, one in the mail, the other on the internet.