How to Hire a Millennial: Tips for GenX’ers and Other Bewildered Souls

MILLENNIALS (1)

(Spoiler alert for the overly sensitive: This was published on April 1st.)

In reality, probably far, far too much has been written lately about the generation that we here in the US of A not-so-fondly refer to as “Millennials.”

In particular, the theme of  Oh Those Darned Millennials in the Workplace has been one that’s clearly trended in those stodgy publications that only the “old” people read, such as The New York Times.

But to be fair, Millennials truly are more than just a generation of 20-somethings who believe that drum circles, ride sharing, and kale chips can save the planet from its own self-destruction — they’re actually the first generation ever to have completely grown up with the Information Superhighway AND the self-esteem movement started by those wacky ex-hippie Baby Boomers, aka the Me Generation.

And that is truly a heady combination.

For the children of those immediate-gratification-seeking-Woodstock-going-peace-loving hippie Me-generation parents require very special care and handling in workplace situations, but especially during the critical hiring process.

For we Gen X’ers who have been faced with hiring Millennials for our respective workplaces, this combination can be quite daunting.

We nostalgic GenX simpletons still recall a time when one used something called a library to do term paper research with paper books (rather than just buying the paper off the internet), which I believe is the modern equivalent of having had to take covered wagons to school in a blizzard while barefoot or something my dad rattled on about whenever I asked him for money to buy designer jeans in high school.

But again, but my old-person brain digresses. How to hire a Millennial, that’s the theme here.

Below you will find a simple but handy list of Millennial Hiring Tips that will make your hiring process go as smoothly as any not-real-butter product they made us eat in the ‘80s as part of school lunch. Good luck, bae!

I realize that this one may be a difficult one to get your independent adult brain around, given that your parents probably cruelly forced you to attend your first high school job “interview” at McDonald’s ALL BY YOURSELF.

But this generation was raised differently, people.

For example: Robert Downey Jr. is now Iron Man, not a strung out teen from a Bret Easton Ellis novel.

And by “differently”, I mean that they’ve allowed (tolerated? been held captive by?) their parents to be overly involved in every aspect of their young lives, through college and now on the job market, and quite possibly into their 30s and 40s.  (Why pull the warm, comfy, controlling helicopter parent plug out ever?) 

So just do your best to be polite when Parker’s mom answers any job interview question you pose to him.

And of course, you can assume all job references for the candidate will be provided by family members. (No one knows Parker and Petal better than their Nana!!)

Tip #2: Emphasize a flexible working environment.

In the past, and even to this day, many entry-level jobs had such brutally inflexible requirements as “start times” and “8-hour days.”

These jobs may even have applied severe penalties to those employees who failed to show up by the start time and / or to remain in the job to complete the 8-hour days.

GenX’ers —Be smart here.

Know that this practice of requiring your Millennial employee to actually be in the office by a specific time and to remain there for a specific period is considered both barbaric and old-school and also may curtail their freedom to save the world one Etsy project at a time.

And if you can’t do away with such job requirements altogether, for example, if you’re running a business that has posted public business hours and takes people in for such antiquated things as scheduled appointments, just refrain from mentioning such harsh workplace conditions during the interview.  

You don’t want to scare any great candidates away too soon, so tread carefully with any actual “job requirements.”

And be flexible. If they want to bring their pet llama to work, let them. It’s probably certified as a service animal anyway.

Tip #3:  Play up your office snacks, toys, and other “perks.”

While your crusty old Greatest Generation parents may have told you that it was YOUR task in a job interview to convince an employer of YOUR VALUE to THEM, know that that is simply not the case with Millennials.

In fact, not only is the onus on YOU as the employer to convince the Millennial job candidate that YOU and worthy of THEM as an employee, it’s equally important to rosey-up that picture by mentioning all the great perks that you offer them as part of the employment package.

And I’m not talking about the old stalwarts like health insurance and paid vacation (know that Mom will ask about those on Petal and Parker’s behalves).

You really need to play up the other awesome-sauce benefits you offer – an onsite macrobiotic vegan chef, a certified Kundalini yogi complete with sitar band, an office bowling alley made of recycled materials — you just offer whatever you can to be competitive.  

Oh, and bean bag chairs and a ping-pong table are SOOO early ‘Oughts, btw. Just sayin’.

Tip #4: Know the hip-ster lingo. 

If you really want to convince your Millennial candidate that your company is the one that’s worthy of their energy and yet-as-proven talents, you have to demonstrate that you are up on the current trends.

So use the right lingo. I realize you think “bae” is the Danish word for “poop” (because it is and the Urban Dictionary confirms it), but it also is a very handy term of endearment used by the youthful ones whose grammar education hailed from from Hooked on Phonics.

And also “woke.” You need to be WAY woke, bae.

It’s amazeballs to just do you in this world.

Which is just another extremely-grammatically-incorrect way to say you need to be more awake and aware of what’s happening in the world. (But not awake and aware of what’s happening in the musty grammar textbooks, apparently.)

Tip #5:  Recognize that their presence IS their contribution. 

If there was a single most important tip on this already-super-helpful list, it’s this last one.

Millennials add value to an organization just by being there.

No, really. Stop laughing. It’s totes true!

By choosing you and your company, they have instantly increased your product appeal, your business efficiency, your profit margins, and your viability in the market.

Because if there’s one thing that their generation learned from their Self-Esteem-Movement-driven parents, it was that EVERYONE wins by just showing up.

Skills and talents are completely overrated; it only takes presence to get a trophy or a gold star.

And everyone’s opinion should count. No matter how half-baked and ill-informed it is, you should spend your business days listening to every mumbled lingo-laden gem that your Millennial will offer. (Because that’s what Mom and Dad have always done for Parker and Petal. And you are now part of the parenting ecosystem.)

I truly hope this little checklist will ease any stress and strife you’ve had in hiring Millennials. And I also hope you realize that the above has probably been said about every generation’s 20-somethings since the dawn of….well, 20-somethings.

Archaeologists have even found early cave drawings that indicate the older generations’ frustration and bewilderment about what the kids were doing.

Really.

Oh, and happy April Fool’s Day! 

Interview with Marketplace Co-Host Molly Wood Part II

TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio

Molly Wood is a recognized technology expert who appears on national media regularly. She has has built a strong brand with humor and sarcasm mixed with genuine and often outraged consumer advocacy. With more than 100,000 Twitter followers and more than 500,000 followers on Google Plus, Molly has a loyal and engaged fan base, and communicates with them regularly.

Molly is a host and senior tech correspondent at Marketplace, the public radio show produced and distributed by American Public Media.

Previously, she was a personal technology columnist for the New York Times, where she wrote in print and online about the trends and technologies that are changing the daily lives of real people, and produced a video series to drive the point home.

Prior to the Times, Molly was an executive editor at CNET, where she created, hosted and served as executive producer of Always On with Molly Wood, a broadcast-quality technology reviews and news show. She also authored the always controversial Molly Rants column at CNET News, for which she was a 2012 National Magazine Award finalist for commentary.

Molly is an online media pioneer: she co-created and hosted CNET’s flagship podcast, Buzz Out Loud, which was one of the first well-known tech podcasts on the web. She also created and hosted the Buzz Report, a tech news show that debuted in 2005 and was, for a time, the web’s longest-running weekly video series. Molly has done almost all forms of media, from print to books to magazines to wire services to video, TV and radio.

In the second installment of my interview with Molly, we follow her through her move to the New York Times and land with her in her current position at Marketplace.

Molly Wood Correspondent

Molly Wood: Tech Correspondent and Co-Host of Marketplace

EZ: During my stalking I mean research, I remember looking at your blog and noting that the second to last post is “I’M GOING TO THE NEW YORK TIMES!”  and then the very next post is “I’M GOING TO MARKETPLACE!”

MW: (Laughing) I don’t blog very often.

EZ: I was so curious about what you had done in the time that you were there that I took a look at your NYT webpage and saw that you had done a considerable number of videos.  Was your presence with The Times mainly on line or were you contributing to other forms of media within that company?

MW: My main work was to write a weekly tech column for The Times and it had a video series that went along with it.   It was a weekly series for most of my time there and then it moved to every other week just because…I don’t think The Times had any idea how hard that was.  It was technically a 1200 word column that had to be reported to New York Times standards every week….(she breathes out audibly) That was a really hard job.

EZ: How did you end up getting to Marketplace?

MW: That was a wonderful series of happy events.  I had been doing a weekly appearance on Marketplace Tech Report for…ever, like 6 years or something and the host of that show sent me a job listing that was for a Back Up Host and Correspondent. And I thought, “Well that sounds lovely but it’s in LA and there’s no way they’re going to pay me as much as I want”…and the host went back and acted as a bit of an advocate for me.   I also wanted to leave the New York Times but I wasn’t going to jump to just any old thing.  I mean….It’s the Times!  Every second that you’re there is better for your career even though it was not the right job for me or the right culture.   The move took a really long time and when I met the VP of Marketplace we just had such a great rapport and….it’s such a great show and it matches the personality that I think I have!  It’s just irreverent and clever and they prize being smart above everything else.  It was just such a great fit.  It was also just an AMAZING opportunity for me because after doing tech for 15 years…after doing any specific niche thing for a long time, it’s really hard to pivot out of that at your same level. This was a unique opportunity for me to stay in tech but on TOP of that, and for an equal amount of time, to be the back up host.   So, when I’m hosting the show, whether it’s the Morning Report or the Weekend Show, I’m doing economics and finance and global politics and that is such a rare, phenomenal opportunity that will just make me so much more well-rounded….Plus I love radio.

EZ: I love radio too.  I have to admit, NPR is the only station I listen to.

MW: Really?  What do you do doing pledge week?!

EZ: (Sheepishly)…..I pledge?

MW: (Laughing)  Good answer!

EZ: In fact, I think I have to re-up my membership….Going back to the blog that you maintain, I was digging around and came across a post that I found fascinating.  It was entitled “Mad Molly and Adam Curry.”

MW: Oh right….maintain is a strong word.  That post was intended to be the announcement of what I was going to do after abruptly quitting CNET to do…nothing at all.  It was basically “I’m going to do this show with Adam! NOPE I’m going to the New York Times!  OOHHH I’m going to Marketplace!”

EZ: What struck me about the Mad Molly post was that it was so vulnerable and raw in that you and Adam got into a fairly heated argument about a comment that he made that you found to be sexist.  You chose to call him out on it in a public forum.  However, you did it in a way that wasn’t mean or aggressive, you presented it as “these are our differences and I don’t agree with your position and we’re going to bring it up.”  You said something really great along the lines of “It’s honoring our differences which helps us become better at doing better work.”  I’m paraphrasing of course, but I found it amazing that you decided to post about it and I wondered how often you had to deal with those moments in span of your career. I imagine that in the field of journalism, as with any other field of work, one may run up against things like gender stereotyping and discrimination.  How often did you run into situations like that and how did that particular interaction change the way you handled those conflicts afterwards?

MW: That incident was terrifying to me because that was the first time I’d ever thrown down as a feminist in public.  That was always a conversation that I just kind of avoided because…..it just seemed like a loser.  The internet is not really a place for discourse, it is not a place for nuance, or subtlety or understanding.  It is a place for black and white, for abuse and for absolutism when it comes to the “rightness” of the people in question.  Also, tech tends to lend itself to a certain personality that has to be right all the time.  I’m trying not to generalize too much, but there are a bunch of guys in tech who tend to think they are right about everything.   It really is, sort of an engineer’s perspective.   Engineers are fact driven people who come up with roads and plumbing systems and the standards for science that keep us all from crashing into each other.  It’s important stuff that engineers have done throughout history.  It doesn’t mean they are right about everything, but a lot of them tend to believe that they are.   I also believe that tech can be the great equalizer.  I mean, I know that there are fans of mine out there with whom I would agree about nothing else but tech….

…..NOTHING! (We both chuckle)

EZ: ZERO THINGS!

MW: ZERO THINGS!  But there they are, and we can have an open and respectful conversation about technology as long as we don’t talk about anything else.  And that’s great! That’s actually great because we are all humans who are entitled to our own opinions and we are all using the same technology.

So, that was a big moment for me because I engaged in this social issue in that forum and it was on the cusp of me doing a show with Adam where it felt like I HAD to have that conversation with him.   It ended up being a big part of the reason I didn’t do the show with him.   I had known the guy a while and it was a pattern I had seen before.  I just was not comfortable with that.

In terms of my career, I think when you are young, unless you are out and out harassed which….arguably happened..for sure…there is a point where your young enough that you don’t even realize that it’s happened until somebody calls you and asks “Uhm…this person has been fired and I wanted to know if they ever did anything inappropriate…”and you think…”Oh, he did give me that weird back rub that one time and I told him to “back off,” which turns out was not ok!” There’s that stuff, right?  But when you’re young and new, you’re all low level and you don’t realize until you start hitting a wall when you start to go “Oh, Huh!  I’m hitting a wall!  Oh!  This is what institutionalize discrimination looks like!  I see it now!” I think every woman gets to a point where she sees that happen.  It’s empirically true.  The evidence is all around us and journalism is CERTAINLY not immune and the tech world obviously has the worst track record ever.  I would certainly be lying if I said I hadn’t encountered it.

EZ:  I’ve found it to be true as well, when one is young, you don’t necessarily see it.  It may be happening all around you but you are so dead set on your goals that you don’t notice it until, by no reasonable means, can you move forward.

MW: It’s just perspective. Age is just a series of experiences, right?  I can’t tell you how many times that I would go to a conference and I’m with a man whose role is..who knows what his role is..but another man comes up and ignores me and starts a conversation with him, and then realizes that I’m a tech columnist for the New York Times or I have my own show on CNET, but they have treated me as though I’m the PR person or the handler for the guy.  THAT happens over and over and over and over.  At first, I characterized my struggle as “being taken seriously”  because I did a funny show and that despite having been cited in amicus briefs by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in lawsuits about net neutrality against the federal government, people just saw me as a girl who breaks stuff.  Even though I created, executive produced and wrote the whole show.  That was ultimately why I wanted to go back to writing and why I left the New York Times because I didn’t just want to do video.  I don’t want to be talent.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be talent, but it became more about perception.  If you’re blond and you put on makeup and you make jokes about stuff, you must not be that smart.  Don’t get me wrong!  I’m in an awesome place!  But everybody runs into it in one way or another.

EZ: It just underscores the weird, insidious, systematic nature of discrimination in the whole thing.   That we don’t really even notice it at first…

MW:  I’ve done it!  I have done it! I have done the thing and I can give you an example.  I did a presentation in Madrid for the global marketing agency for Samsung.  They told me that it was really exciting because the head of marketing for Samsung Americas is going to be there.  So I’m giving this presentation and I’m looking at these people, and see this row of four Korean people in front of me and I start looking at these two guys while I’m presenting and I’m thinking “Ok, this is the person I need to impress.”  It turned out the head of marketing is the woman sitting next to them.  I did it.  I had assumed. I had made that ingrained social assumption that it wasn’t the woman.

EZ: That must have been such a weird feeling when you understood what had just happened.

MW: Yep!  It was…yeah… no.  Wow.  I also know that I’m not a victim!  It’s a systematic societal entity.  It’s an unconscious bias and we all have it, even against each other.

EZ: I’ve found myself in similar situations where I’ve subconsciously made an assumption or behaved in a way that was incongruent to my beliefs.  It’s a horrific feeling when you realize what’s happening.  It’s ultimately that empathy that strikes out and makes you think “Who are you!?  Why are you doing this?  You would never want to be treated in this manner, so why are you doing this?”

MW: In that moment, I probably made her feel exactly the same way that some guy had made me feel at a conference when he addressed the man that I was with instead of me.  I felt like a total A-hole.

EZ: That’s rough.

MW: But I feel like it’s really important to acknowledge.

EZ: It’s self awareness! We have to understand how we are behaving and how we are perceiving and what assumptions we are making before we can actually see what needs to be changed.

MW: Yeah, in that way I’m glad that it happened and I’m glad I was aware of it so that I could use it as a teaching moment.

EZ: I’m curious to know, I know you really enjoy working at Marketplace, if there was a job that would make you say “I could do this job for the rest of my life until I die,” what would that be?

MW: In a way that’s how I feel about radio, so I hope that I don’t suck at it.   I hope to have other careers.  I’m excited to branch out of tech and try economics and finance.  When I was taking a journalism class in high school I wanted to be a foreign correspondent.  I thought that that would be the shit!  I also took french because, for a time, I wanted to be a translator for the UN.  In high school we had to write an obituary for ourselves in our journalism class, which is a REALLY intense exercise and I wrote this obituary that says that I was killed during a demonstration as a foreign correspondent in some faraway land.

EZ: That’s so intense!

MW: I know!  I look at that now and I’m like, “What the…?” and at the time it just came out.  I was like “There I was at the Arab Spring and I was tragically shot on the steps of the capitol building.”

But really, how cool would that be, if when my son goes away to college, I become a foreign correspondent at the age of 60?  I couldn’t do it for the rest of my life, but I think there is so much more.  I just love news  in all its forms and I love the change that comes along with it.  I think, and this is very much informed by being a single mom, but also believing that one has to own one’s own life. Your company doesn’t love you back. They will fire you eventually if they feel the need to.  It has to be a partnership and not a sacrifice.   So, my goal ultimately is to own my own time.

EZ: That’s an amazing goal.

MW:  It’s a pretty simple one.

EZ:  It’s simple but not easy.

MW: Especially because I’m not that entrepreneurial. Aside from enjoying setting up my own little empire within a structure. I do like to hack my companies, that’s for sure.

Be sure to catch Molly in the morning or afternoon on Marketplace at American Public Media and NPR.  She’s one of my personal heroines and hope she makes your list too.

Hard Problems

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Several months ago I was serendipitously seated next to Tara Lemmey on a flight home from London to San Francisco. Somewhere over the Atlantic we got to talking about technology, career paths, management, and life. When I asked for her advice on my own next steps, she offered me a guiding principle which has stuck with me ever since.

“Go solve the hard problems,” she said, “everything else will sort itself out.”

Certainly there is no shortage of “hard problems” in our world, but it has been trickier than I imaged to find one to help “solve”. I started to have a series of discussions with everyone and anyone from whom I could steal advice. I was looking for hard problems that resonated with me and a specific opportunity that aligned my passions, skill sets, and career aspirations. I came up with a list: Healthcare, energy, government, education.

San Francisco has a hot job market and is hiring product managers like gangbusters. I’m both lucky and privileged enough to have obtained a skill set and network that afforded me many choices when it came to a next career move. Unfortunately, few of the obvious job opportunities fell into the “hard problem” bucket. Many of my mentors or advisers, who so generously lent me career advice, were encouraging me to pay my dues, gain more experience, or in some way seek prestigious titles or financially sound roles on traditional career paths.

Against all of this well meaning and sound advice, I found myself creating reasons to turn down director titles, lucrative stock options, or opportunities at red-hot-sexy startups. Who am I? I feel crazy! Who am I to turn this down? Has my ego gotten out of control? My boyfriend can attest to many a stressful evening debating details with myself, fighting impostor syndrome, and becoming pre-occupied with trying to understand why I was uncomfortable accepting these opportunities. Certainly I have plenty to learn about people and general management–and these were great ways for me to accelerate that growth. Despite my best efforts to understand the “why”, I was left with the simple gut feeling that something wasn’t clicking. The opportunities were getting easier and easier to turn down. I kept thinking that I didn’t want to spend my life just optimizing bottom lines for large fortune 500 companies.

I wanted to be on a team solving a “hard problem.” Tara’s advice kept banging around in my head. These weren’t hard problems.

With some persistence and luck, I was offered an opportunity in the Watson division at IBM. Consistently, the advice I was getting was some version of “Watson is occasionally a really great career accelerator, but also an uncertain vortex where it’s very hard to be successful and many get chewed up and spit out – I don’t want that to happen to you”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement to accept the position. A lateral move to a team where I had no connections. No one to say “Oh yeah – I know them – they are great.”

Something in my voice had changed when I talked about the Watson job with friends and family. My eyes glimmered with the potential of the technology, and the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and help shape the market. Maybe this was a hard problem.

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on!” Sheryl Sandberg

Last week, on my first day getting up to speed, I joined a roadmap meeting for what was about to become my product–Watson Vision. “Holy crap I’m out of my league!” is all I was thinking. The team members’ resumes humbled me with their long list of accomplishments and contributions to the cognitive computing, image recognition, and artificial intelligence communities. I continued thinking to myself “I’m supposed to be figuring out the strategy, technical priorities, and business model? I barely understand how it works.”

I have a lot to learn.

“Watson” technology is named for IBM’s founder, Thomas J Watson. Watson encouraged his team to “go ahead and make mistakes, make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success–on the far side of failure.” I, am going to make mistakes as I take on this new challenge–but what day one taught me, was that in no uncertain terms – I found a hard problem.

While I have no idea how to solve this hard problem, I’m delighted and excited to be privileged enough to be tasked with figuring it out. Which of the world’s problems can we solve with this technology? How do we build, package, and sell cognitive image recognition technology to sectors like healthcare, retail, aerospace, finance, and security? Facial recognition has many applications: it creepily impinges on privacy; it powerfully detects cancer diagnoses automatically; and importantly drives insights from weather patterns.

There seems to be no limit to how cognitive vision technology could impact different industries and everyday lives. Balancing privacy interests, helping shape near term product offerings, and navigating executional realities is going to keep me busy. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could automatically diagnose abnormalities in x-rays, instantly find lost ships and aircraft, and unite families when disaster strikes?

Hard problems? You bet! Thanks, Tara–I think I found one.

I’ve decided to jump on the rocket ship and see if I can lend a hand.

Halloween Costumes Inspired by the Digital Age

Growing up, I would plan my Halloween costume out for over a month. Building it would take several afternoons, and I always found joy to parade it around at night with my friends. Back then, my ideas were inspired by the classic movies or TV shows that shaped my world. My friends and I would go trick-or-treating throughout our neighborhood, carrying plastic pumpkins full of candy, dressed up as ghosts, witches, mummies, pirates, clowns, and the such. My coolest costume that I designed was in 8th grade, when I made a one-piece Gumby outfit, inspired by Eddie Murphy’s Saturday Night Live skit. “Yo, I’m Gumby!”

Today, being a mom, and having exactly 10 days before Halloween, I am feverishly working with my kids to pull their outfits together. But, their dream outfits inspiration source is nothing like mine… my kids want costumes about characters that are found on YouTube, from a video game, or are completely CG. Glimpsing through Pinterest, this internet inspiration becomes more obvious, that even lazy, grown up costumes consist of a t-shirt with the inscription: “404: Costume Not Found.”

According to my very accurate sources (my 9 and 6 year old kids) there is a new Halloween costume hierarchy for 2015. Old people (over 30 years old), you may need to ask Siri what these actually look like.  And by all means, if you are the one serving candy this year, and a bright-eyed, squatty purple monster comes to the door, do not ask what it is.  Just say “That’s better looking than what’s on the internet!”

Hottest Costume Trends for 2015

  • Leading YouTube stars (think PewDiePie who made $12M in pretax money in 2015 – so don’t laugh too hard at kids idolizing him.) My 9 year old is going to be Nyan Cat, who’s annoying song has had over 125 million views.
  • Any BYOC Roblox Player (that’s Build Your Own Character, which my 6 year old can show you how to do this). Move over Minecraft, Roblox is the 2015 hit for 8 – 14 year olds. Think it’s not sticking, check out the Roblox pizza parlor game that has over 50 million plays.
  • Everything Star Wars. With heavy anticipation of the next sequel and the now adults who were dressed up as Luke Skywalker in the 80’s, will ensure that every child considers participating in the legendary story. Thanks to the Disney franchising mastery, you can turn any baby into Yoda, and any adult into a storm trooper.
  • Any adorable CG characters from Home, Inside Out, or The Minions Movie. All it takes is face paint, some silly outfits easily found at the local clothes recycling stores, and a few good lines from the movies.
  • Retro video game characters, thanks to the movie Pixels. Likely you will see an entire family dressed up as Pacman, Pinky, Blinky, Inky and Clyde.
  • Zombies are undeniably the scariest costumes you’ll see, thanks to the countless video games, Netflix series and movies like Warm Bodies that make zombies likable. But get ready to spend lots of time preparing every gash and wound.
  • Day of the Dead skeletons. Walking around showing a skull mask and a femur is not enough. Get ready for a 2 hour face painting session and a corset that restricts breathing as this is likely the hottest and scariest combination look.
  • Pixelated Outfits. Perhaps my favorite tech influenced costume. Instead of appearing naked, wearing a pixelated outfit making you PG friendly really shows how our society self-moderates on the web. Besides, these are so much more imaginative than the full green suits popular a few years back.

If you have other digital age inspired costume ideas, please add them to the comments!

Are You Listening? The Key To Building Your Best Relationships.

I think today more than ever it is really hard to get people’s attention given all of the distractions around us.  This is true in my personal life (getting my husband and 13 year old son to hear a thing I say is a near miracle) as well as professionally.

Years ago I worked with an amazing marketing consultant and sales trainer, Linda Pogue. Anyone who was in publishing back then will remember her. She started her career in marketing before becoming a consultant, trainer and coach. She was way ahead of her time in terms of her philosophy around sales and marketing. She is also an amazing lady in many other ways. She no longer coaches and is happily enjoying a leisurely life by the sea. I do miss her though and I’d love to know what she thinks about social selling.

Her philosophy was truly applicable no matter what company, product, brand you were selling. I worked with her when I was a sales person as well as when I moved into sales and marketing management. She helped me and my teams many times to improve how we approached both our marketing messages and our sales process. Her philosophy was simple. It all came down to two key elements: “Listening” and “Why”.

I find that incredibly ironic because back then there was no such thing as social media, no google, no tools at your fingertips. The “listening” included “doing your homework” by researching and reading about that company in trade publications or whatever else you could get your hands and eyes on. And we’d set-up face to face meetings (yes people met face to face all the time not all that long ago!) with people associated with that brand or company (as well as at that company) to really listen and ask informed and open-ended questions that would help you understand that company better. The best in class “selling” was not about “telling” it was about listening and understanding the needs and challenges facing that company/brand.

“Social selling” is now at the forefront of sales best practices. And when you come right down to it social selling is all about listening and understanding your potential clients and their needs and challenges. Social selling is about them, not us. It is exactly what Linda taught us back in an analog world. She was right then and she is right now. Now more than ever. Companies today have so many resources at their disposal to understand the landscape, the competition and compare your brand/product to others long before the speak/connect with you. They are in control from start to finish. And they do not want us to “sell them”. The premise is the same today as it was then, though the “tools” are a lot more advanced. Now we have many ways to “listen” and can capture a wealth of information and understanding if we do it correctly.

On the marketing side of the equation she was also “spot on”. Whenever we would put together sales materials she would ask as if she were the buyer: “Why should I care? What’s in it for me?”. If I gave her a stat about our brand/product she would say “So what? How does that help me? What does that mean to me? Everybody says they are the best. Why should I care about your brand more than the others? Why you?” She pushed us hard to always keep the customer at the forefront. To answer “The Why”. To stay away from being trite, cliched in the way we communicated our brand. It was brilliant and again it is no different today. People still want us to answer “The Why” and provide relevant, helpful, information so that they can learn more about the industry, category, and us. They want us to offer insights that help them with their needs and challenges.

This need to answer “The Why” is behind the growth of social selling. It is what our customers want, if not demand from us. We need to do a great job providing relevant, informative, useful information that addresses “the why” and that does not trigger a “so what”.

Customers are no more demanding today than they were in the past. They just have a lot more power and insight. We as marketers and sellers need to heed Linda’s excellent advice – “Listen” so you understand your buyers and use the incredible tools at our disposal to answer the “Why” and meet the needs of your customers.

Any by the way, truly listening works really really well when it comes family and friends too.  The best relationships are always built on trust and its damn hard to trust someone who doesn’t listen so — listen-up!

 

My OC Behavior (Obsessive Connected)

My OC Behavior (Obsessive Connected)

On the first day the iPhone 6 came out – I bought two. One for my husband and one for myself. I’m that person in our family who is the tech junky, finding, installing and fixing everything. I’ve got my kids and husband trained to just give me the device, and I’ll get it going again.

My Obsessive Connected (OC) behavior has been cultivated by all of the new devices that are:

  1. very inexpensive
  2. very specific with their purpose, and provides immediate benefits
  3. very easy to install, manage and interconnect.

If there’s something new to the market that hits those 3 criteria, likely it’s in my home.

Today, I look around and have to say that these devices are truly making my life easier to manage.

  • My family is healthier
  • My family is better monitored (I hate using the word “safe” because I don’t think that’s what devices really do)
  • My family can focus on what’s important to us vs. worry about remedial things

These are my favorite devices that are currently feeding my Obsessive Connected behavior:

Pebble Time SmartWatch

pebble time - whiteFirst thing that’s been amazing to use for alerts and monitoring is our new His & Hers Pebble Time smartwatches. Disguised as a birthday gift for my husband, we became one of the 73,000 backers on the Kickstarter campaign, and having the watch has been extremely helpful tracking our activities & staying in the know on the important things.

Sonos for home & Jambox for bike

sonos-theaterTo keep us mentally engaged, we always have music going on in each room or outside, thanks to Sonos & Jambox. Both controlled by our phones or our Pebble Time smartwatches – which is really convenient to use. Sonos allows us to control wired patio speakers through the phone via “connect:amp”, and also allows us to control their wireless speakers which are equally amazing – like the Sonos 3 – in our kitchen.

Jambox (by Jawbone) is nothing new, but easily amazing. For being a family that loves music, we carry this little guy everywhere we go and are always playing our favorite tunes.

Piper Security Camera + GE Z Wave Light Switches

Piper-1We have an elaborate home quasi-security/ monitoring system installed, where we use Piper Security camera including Night Vision, which is our Z wave hub for our device controlled dimmer switches. If Piper detects something wrong (like movement or sound) during times when the house should be silent, it turns on lights and alerts those within the “trusted circle”. Piper also notifies us for severe weather alerts, reminding us when to cover outdoor furniture and the like.

There are many Z Wave light switches out there, in the end, we chose GE. I am impressed with the 600 W capacity and are compatibleGE Smart-Dimmer with most Z wave hubs, including the one built into our Piper camera. Synching them was a synch, and then adding the lights onto an alert workflow was also extremely easy.  The Piper app is also the mobile interface we use to control the light switches.  Hopefully soon, Piper will make a Pebble app, so all of this can be controlled through my wrist.

Skybell Doorbell

skybellWe also installed Skybell, which is a wifi-enabled smart doorbell, that has a tiny color camera with good night vision and a 2 way mic, mounted above the button. When someone rings the bell, it alerts us through our smart phone that there’s someone at the door, shows the video display, and allows us to have an actual, audible conversation with the visitor without even answering the door. I also get alerts that there’s a visitor at my front door on my Pebble Time.

Sidenote: Skybell is great because it also allows me to see packages when delivered, and left on my stoop.

Sense by Hello

Sense Sleeping Monitoring SystemJust 2 nights ago, we began using Sense from Hello – which monitors our sleeping habits to understand what are the ideal conditions for us to get the best sleep! The Sleep Pill that clips onto your pillowcase is one of the smallest and most intelligent devices I’ve seen, whereas it knows when I’m laying down and wide awake, or actually asleep, and the level of sleep I’m in.  The pill connects to the Sense (ball), which monitors the bedroom for sound, light, temperature and humidity, and correlates conditions to my actual sleeping pattern, giving me a “sleep score” in the morning. The Sense also knows how & when to wake you up, so you can stop wearing-out your snooze button.

It’s been really eye-opening on our whole shut-eye (sorry – had to).

Evernote on my wrist

evernote

To manage those pesky HoneyDo lists, Home renovation punch-lists, and to manage all of the kids’ activities, we use Evernote. Thinking the “Premium” subscription plan that we’re on should be renamed to “Life” because that’s really how we use it. Sharing these tasks with family to contractors has been helpful to understand what’s going on. It too is integrated on our Pebble Time smartwatch, so when tasks are complete, or I forgot what I was supposed to get, I have it on my wrist.

If you’d like to know about other devices I’m obsessing about, or have recommendations of your own, please tag onto this post through comments! I take pleasure in meeting other OC people like myself.

Interview with Marketplace Host and Tech Correspondent Molly Wood

molly-wood-headshot-thumbLarge

Molly Wood is a host and senior tech correspondent at Marketplace, the public radio show produced and distributed by American Public Media.

Previously, she was a personal technology columnist for the New York Times, where she wrote in print and online about the trends and technologies that are changing the daily lives of real people, and produced a video series to drive the point home.

Prior to the Times, Molly was an executive editor at CNET, where she created, hosted and served as executive producer of Always On with Molly Wood, a broadcast-quality technology reviews and news show. She also authored the always controversial Molly Rants column at CNET News, for which she was a 2012 National Magazine Award finalist for commentary.

Molly is an online media pioneer: she co-created and hosted CNET’s flagship podcast, Buzz Out Loud, which was one of the first well-known tech podcasts on the web. She also created and hosted the Buzz Report, a tech news show that debuted in 2005 and was, for a time, the web’s longest-running weekly video series. Molly has done almost all forms of media, from print to books to magazines to wire services to video, TV and radio.

I was thrilled to bits when Molly agreed to chat with me.  I’ve known her for a couple of years and have been seeking an excuse to pick her brain about her experience in journalism, especially in the tech sector for just about as long.  This post is the first in a two-part interview project.   There was so much good stuff, I convinced my internal, adolescent editor to grab a beer and chill on the back patio for this one.   Molly would be proud.  Or horrified.

EZ: You’ve covered a myriad of subjects during your career from general news to sports.  How did you end up in tech?

MW: I moved to the Bay Area in 1999. There was, sort of no way NOT to end up in tech, even if you were a journalist.  I quit my job at the AP and moved here, did some temp work and a friend of mine got me a position at a magazine that covered Apple.  It was a MAC Magazine called MAC Home Journal. It was the baby competitor to MAC World.  It’s no longer.  It was a random, “Here’s a journalism job for you!” because I didn’t want to keep working for AP.

EZ: Had you felt like you found your niche at that point? Did you love it?  Or was it more an understanding that this was where all of the stories are?

MW: I’d like to think that there was any sort of conscious decision making going on but it was more like I was living in Omaha working for AP and a friend called and said “I live in Oakland and I need a roommate!  What are YOU doing?”  And I said “I’ll be there in a month!”  The whole thing was just a series of serendipitous events.  I was considering the temp job for the time being and then the magazine job came along.  I took the job because it was writing and I was just lucky enough to like what I was doing.  I don’t remember being super conscious of ever thinking “I like this tech stuff!” Although it did happen when I wrote a review of the iMac DV…..(I blink in stupor at her).. cause this was SO long ago, right?  I don’t even remember what the difference was.  I think it had a DVD drive or something like that.  I remember looking up all these specs and thinking….because it isn’t that dissimilar from sports because it’s specs and  numbers and…it’s all dudes…

EZ:  I never thought of it that way!
MW: It was kind of similar and when I wrote that particular piece I thought “Oh, I LIKE this. That was really fun.”

EZ: How did you take that experience and make more of that work for you?

MW: Again, I don’t think it was as conscious of a decision as it may seem in hindsight.  I didn’t want to stay at the magazine forever.  I mean it was great training.  It got to the point where I was almost writing the entire magazine.  There was a small staff and I…..like to work (she laughs). I played dumb little video games and wrote stories about them.  But I did want to move on eventually and was lucky enough to fall into the world of the internet.  I applied for a copy editing job at Salon.com back in the day which I did not get.  But before I was hired at CNET I remember looking at them and thinking “Okay, well I’ve been doing this tech thing so I can probably get a job there.”  I will say that it didn’t ever occur to me to go back to hard news.  I knew I didn’t like that.  It’s a lot of bad hours, it’s really depressing (she laughs sardonically into her drink) you have to work on Christmas and sometimes your covering a murder on Christmas!  That just was not the kind of life that I thought I wanted.  Also, CNET had good grammar.  It wasn’t totally janky like so many of the things that I encountered on the internet.

EZ: LOLS!  Srsly.

MW: We didn’t have that then.  We had the turkish guy that was in love with you.. . The “I kiss you!” (again, I betray myself with my blank stare)…  It was SUPER early days on the internet. I can’t say that I said to myself “I’m going to embrace this tech thing as a career.”  It was more like, “okay, now I’ve been doing this for a year, so I know what I’m talking about and it seems like that’s what everyone’s doing here.

EZ:  You ended up at CNET for quite a while after that.

MW: I got to CNET as an associate editor covering ISPs and 13 years later I had done just about every other editorial job that they had.  Two great things happened to me while I was at CNET.  One is that I left CNET.  I wasn’t happy with my job at the time and I ended up leaving to do tech book editing at O’Reilly for nine or ten months for the shortest period of time ever.  The second great thing was that I went back to CNET for a better job where I started doing podcasting and video editing and I was a columnist.  So I had a platform!  By the time that I left, I was definitely among their primary talent.

EZ:  After you came back to CNET and established your platform, you developed some super creative ways of challenging the latest and greatest tech innovations that were either JUST about to hit the market or even just in the conceptual stages.  How did you come up with your ideas and continue to create compelling material for your audience?

MW: I think that my approach to journalism was always a little bit 7-On-Your-Side.  I was always the consumer advocate.  It started because I was really into policy and I was forever ranting about net neutrality and digital rights management and even the refusal of studios to digitally distribute music and movies.  It was always from the perspective of the consumer.  From that, my specialty became that experiential approach where I wasn’t trying to me more of an expert, I wasn’t trying to be a tastemaker, I was being a real user.  My approach to technology was always about how it would integrate with my actual life.   I think people just responded to that because it’s practical.  People would tell me that it was just honest.  It wasn’t overly focused on what a particular company was trying to achieve.  It was more like “Well, how does this work for me?”  It made a ton of sense especially coming from CNET.

EZ:  I also feel a large part of your audience and the market, let’s face it, are like me.  I’m a single woman watching your approach to tech as a single mom with a BUSY life.

MW:(gently interjecting)…Also, this part of the market, while big, is not such a huge part of the reviewer base.

EZ: Right!

MW: Which I always felt was guys with nothing but time to figure this stuff out.

EZ: And your approach is so refreshingly unpretentious.   Above all, it looked like so much fun.  In fact, I feel like I almost want to answer this question for you because I think I know what it is, but I’ll ask anyway:  What was the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of testing technology?

MW: (Laughs, knowing exactly to what I am alluding)….I mean, the helicopter jump…. is obviously.. the one.  What was happening at CNET at this time was that I was kind of at the end of the line.  At this point, I had not traditionally done gadget stuff.  I was really more about trends and policy and then CNET was moving in a direction of wanting everything to be much more core to it’s central mission which was reviewing products.  So I decided to create this show.  I was thinking “THIS is it.  This is my moonshot to try to do something that I feel great about that’s going to move my career and my ambition and my interest forward.”  ….cause I like a lot of variety.  So I launched this show that was like a baby startup within CNET. I made a budget for it and basically pitched it and asked for money.  I said “I’m going to need this much money and these are the staff I want to hire, I want to hire totally external people and were going to shoot out in the world!” …and this had not been done before.  I guess I had been there for so long and had done pretty much every job and had built up enough capital that they ended up approving my “moonshot’ budget.  Remember, this was me going for broke.  It was amazing!  So I hired seven people and we just started coming up with crazy cool ways to present tech interactions.   So one of the first ideas we had was to re-create this commercial we’d seen for this HTC phone where some guy jumped out of a helicopter and did a photo shoot, trying to capture this model in mid-air.   And of course we were like “That’s not….that can’t happen.”  At this point I was just trading ideas with a friend who happened to know someone really high-up at Go-Pro.  So we ended up with the Go-Pro stunt team to work with us.

EZ: (agog) ….no way…

MW: The Go-Pro Bomb Squad.  It was amazing…..I mean…IT WAS AMAZING!!!  I mean, here we are with the Go-Pro Bomb Squad and we’ve set up this jump which is out of a helicopter and not a plane which is SUPER unusual for consumer skydiving.  And these guys come in and they are all super tanned and ripped and they’re like (doing her best Keanu Reeves impression) “You’re gonna love jumpin’ out of a helicopter because the sensation of free fall is just SO much more intense!”  Which basically means you’re jumping from a standstill and it’s just (mimes vomiting into her mouth)…it was all I could do not to vomit in mid-air much less take these pictures.  One of the guys dressed up in a unitard and a feather boa and a helmet that my producer made that had feathers all over it, and it’s me and him in a silver unitard and a boa…. and I got the shot!!  And all the Go-Pro guys were like “Dude, that was sweet.”  They were like “We didn’t think you were going to get that shot at all!”  And I was like “Dude, I thought I was gonna barf.”  But that was the first in a series of amazing shows.  For example, I rode on the back of an America’s Cup catamaran, which was one of the COOLEST experiences of my life, followed up shortly by taking a ride on the world’s fastest sailboat, I did a mud-run in Vail at eight thousand feet, where I thought I would die.  I broke an iPad on the streets of Paris (she romanticizes this as if it were a wine and food pairing in a french bistro).

fly

EZ: Tell me about the mind controlled skateboard. Of all the mind-blowing things you’ve done, that kind of took it to another level. By the way, you REALLY need to keep a catalogue.

MW: I really do!  Just all of this amazing stuff that has happened in my life!

EZ: You have done a LOT of stuff in such a relatively short period of time.

MW: I have!  Do you know that Kanye quote? I want to make this my Tinder profile: “My life is dope and I do dope shit.” That’s how I feel about my life.

EZ: Seconded.

MW: So, they had this mind-controlled skateboard, and it’s not a stunt.  It’s actually a mind-controlled skateboard and they had this helmet with a bunch of electrodes which attach all over your skull and it’s this slimy, yucky thing.  But you put on this weird electrode thing and you stand on the skateboard and the electrodes are hooked up to a Window’s tablet that powered the motor and you had to THINK the commands to drive the skateboard.  It was the weirdest thing cause they would say “You can’t think ‘GO.’” If you just think “Go” you aren’t going to go.  You actually have to think about going.  You have to imagine yourself going.  Which is even harder when you want to stop. Because you can’t just think “stop.”  You have to actually imagine yourself stopping and so the focus that it takes for you to imagine yourself stopping for you to stop when you’re headed right into a wall is a whole other level.

EZ: That…..(Not..nope …not any words coming to me).

MW: (Mercifully interjecting) WE LIVE IN THE FUTURE!  THAT THING ACTUALLY EXISTS!!!

EZ: Are they manufacturing this now for the general public?

MW: I don’t think so.  They may be licensing the technology but they aren’t making the skateboard. It’s a company called Chaotic Labs and they are a lab.  But THEY have a cool job.  I mean I have a cool job…but they have a COOL job.

Molly is a recognized technology expert who appears on national media regularly. She has has built a strong brand with humor and sarcasm mixed with genuine and often outraged consumer advocacy. With more than 95,000 Twitter followers and more than 500,000 followers on Google Plus, Molly has a loyal and engaged fan base, and communicates with them regularly.

Tune in next time when we dive further in to Molly’s adventures in public media!

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