Article 43


Sunday, September 05, 2010

Big Men, Little Shoes


“In this article Vivek Wadhwa laments that short shrift is paid to management training these days at many high-tech firms. You can’t be born with the skills needed to plan projects, adhere to EEOC guidelines, prepare budgets and manage finances, or to know the intricacies of business and IP law, says Wadhwa. All this has to be learned. Stepping up to address the problems of ‘engineering without leadership,’ which may include morale problems, missed deadlines, customer-support disasters, and high turnover, are programs like UC Berkeley’s ENGINEERING LEADERSHIP PROGRAM and Duke’s MASTERS OF ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT PROGRAM, which aim to teach product management, entrepreneurial thinking, leadership, finance, team building, business management, and motivation to techies.”
- SoukSkill at ShashDot

Tech Industry Managers: Little Men in Big Shoes?

By Vivek Wadhwa
Tech Crunch
September 4, 2010

When I was ready to transition from computer programmer to project manager, my employer, Xerox Corporation, sent me to its huge training center in Leesburg, Virginia. Over two weeks, the people there taught me some of the skills I needed in order to succeed in my new role: managing projects, motivating people, complying with employment regulations, and preparing status reports and presentations. The company also encouraged me to complete an MBA, on a part-time basis, at New York University. It gave me lots of time off and paid for the tuition.

Tech companies in the internet era offer their employees some great perks. But do you think that Facebook, Groupon, or Zynga provide budding professionals with any serious management training? Not at all. Given the way tech companies grow and the HR challenges they face, management training and career development are more important than ever. But few have the timethey are too busy surviving.

Professors Robert Fulmer and Byron Hanson of Duke University’s Corporate Education group researched the management practices of 23 leading high-tech firms. Corporate executives in an overwhelming majority, 89 percent, believed that leadership development was becoming increasingly important for their companies; 58 percent ranked this as a high corporate priority. Yet less than one-fourth of the managers interviewed had a clear roadmap for how they could develop themselves, and more than half didnt even know who in their organization was responsible for the development of leaders. The conclusion of the researchers wasn’t surprising: many high-tech companies are young, so their systems and procedures for grooming leaders arent well developed or firmly established.

Maybe this is why so many tech companies suffer from morale problems, missed deadlines, customer-support disasters, and high turnover. And this may be one of the reasons why so many tech startups who succeed in selling their vision and raising millions in financing are just a flash in the pan.

One of the interesting findings in the Fulmer and Hanson research was that more than 70 percent of the tech executives interviewed said that leadership development in technology-driven firms is different than in other industries. The researchers believed, just as I do, that these tech executives were dead wrong. The lessons that leading companies like Proctor and Gamble and General Electric have learned about management development and training apply as much, if not more, to tech companies.

This means that if you’re a fresh grad joining a hot new tech startup, you shouldn’t expect your managers to train and groom you, or the company to provide you with time off to complete an MBA. You’re on your own. If you are working at some of the more established companies, such as IBM and H Pwhich do have excellent management-development practices - take full advantage of them. You need to learn all you can.

Many people are born with an innate sense of vision; they readily learn new technologies and master them. Some are very good at communicating and inspiring others. But you cant be born with the skills needed to plan projects, adhere to EEOC guidelines, and prepare budgets and manage finances, or to know the intricacies of business and intellectual property law. All this has to be learned. Some skills can be developed on the job, but this is usually through trial and error.

I usually recommend that engineering students who want to become managers and CEOs complete a fifth year of education. There are one-year long engineering management programs which cover such subjects as marketing, finance, intellectual property, business law, and management - similar to the key courses in an MBA program; plus tech-oriented subjects like innovation management, operations management, and entrepreneurship.  One such program (and there are many) is the Duke Masters of Engineering Management program, at which I teach.

For experienced tech workers in Silicon Valley, Berkeley and Stanford both have excellent executive MBA programs. Berkeley Haas School dean, Rich Lyons told me over dinner, last month, of his plans to make his school the premier training ground for Silicon Valley executives. Bostons Babson College is also launching a program in San Francisco.

But not everyone needs to spend two years doing an MBA. Berkele’s college of engineering is creating a much shorter program targeted at Silicon Valley techies with leadership potential. Under the aegis of Fung Institute Chief Scientist and Director of UC Berkeleys Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology, Ikhlaq Sidhu, the school is developing a professional program in Engineering Leadership. This will meet one evening a week for six months and teach subjects like product management, entrepreneurial thinking, leadership and finance. It will also teach team building, business management, and motivation.

The new Berkeley program is highly selective however.  It will only accept 25 candidates in 2011, based on recommendations from senior executives in the valley. Sidhu says that he hopes to address the symptoms of engineering without leadership - which include organizational indecision about new products and services; unresolved conflict between product management and engineering; and superficial technology strategies.  Berkeley will likely expand this program significantly over time and add many others. After all there is a great need.

Editors note: Guest writer Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. You can follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwaand find his research at


Posted by Elvis on 09/05/10 •
Section General Reading
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Saturday, September 04, 2010

No Gods Required


· God created us to test us, to give us a chance to choose him or reject him.
· God made me to know, love and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him in the next.
· God’s purpose is to make the soul great.
- Stafford Betty - National Catholic Reporter

Religion is attractive for at least a three reasons:

· None of us likes to think that death is really the end.  Christianity gained real popularity among meso-Americans because their religion did not include eternal life.
· We all like to think we are special, something the Abrahamic religions are really good at.  Its all about middle eastern tribalism - our tribe is the chosen tribe.
· An attempt to explain that which can’t be explained.
- Ron Beasley - Newshoggers

The real art of spiritual being is not to transcend being human, it is to achieve understanding and harmony between all aspects of who we are.
- Annett Tate


In what no-doubt will be a controversial article (I’m not stating the obvious am I?)—which appears in the Life and Style section of The Wall Street Journal on September 4, 2010—Stephen W. Hawking, from the University of Cambridge, and American physicist Leonard Mlodinow, from the California Institute of Technology, co-write the article “Why God Did Not Create the Universe.”

By William Atkins
IT Wire
September 4. 2010

The EDITORIAL REVIEW by Dr. Hawking of The Grand Design on Amazon dot com states, “In The Grand Design we explain why, according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence, or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously.”

The article is actually an excerpt from the book HAWKING and Mlodinow co-wrote called “The Grand Design,” which is set to be published by Bantam Books on September 7, 2010.

And, We question the conventional concept of reality, posing instead a “model-dependent” theory of reality. We discuss how the laws of our particular universe are extraordinarily finely tuned so as to allow for our existence, and show why quantum theory predicts the MULTIVERSE - the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature.

So far, 390 COMMENTS appear after The Wall Street Journal article—and no doubt many more will arrive in the future.

You have your reasons to believe what you believe as to the question: How did we come to be?

Page two concludes without a conclusion.

Whatever that stance, science and religion are looking for the truths and the explanations to that question and many more. Sometimes they agree, many times they don’t.

If we had a definite answer to this question, the debate would still not be raging on between members of the scientific and religious communities. In fact, the debate occurs “within” each community as individual members disagree on such questions.

However, that answer has eluded us so far. Faith may be the cornerstone of religion, and the laws of nature the foundation of science, but, in actuality, nobody knows for sure the answer to the question: Why are we here?

We can only ponder them, question each other, and continue to investigate.

We can learn more about our world (our universe) around us, and we can continue to marvel at the new discoveries that seem to constantly arrive at our doorsteps each day.

We all could keep an open mind and search all avenues open to us in this world before us.

A wide range of comments follows the Hawking-Mlodinow article. They seem to be just as interesting as the statements made by the two scientists.

Our questions are just about as limitless as the universe (or is that universes?) ....


Posted by Elvis on 09/04/10 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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Friday, September 03, 2010

Sonic Net

An ISP that knows nothing of “data hogs”

By Nate Anderson
ARS Technica
September 3, 2010

Pop quizwhich US Internet service provider made the following statement about a network upgrade?

During the construction of this network we have given a lot of thought… to the business model in the US, and how we could do things in a different and more interesting way. The natural model when you have a simple duopoly capturing the majority of the market is segmentation: maximize ARPU [average revenue per user] by artificially limiting service in order to drive additional monthly spending. But fundamentally this is the wrong model for a service provider like us, and we have looked to Europe for inspiration. The model pioneered by Iliad under the Free brand is a better fit, both for us and for our customers.

As the marginal cost of providing more bandwidth or less, and providing POTS voice or not are both minimal, we have adopted a simple flat rate model instead of the more typical US model of “$5 more goes faster"… I believe that removing the artificial limits on speed, and including home phone with the product are both very exciting.

Yeah… it wasn’t one of the major ISPs. Instead, it was, California’s largest indie ISP. The company has been in business since 1994, but the FCC’s eventual decision to deregulate wholesale broadband services put the company in a tough spot, where it couldn’t access the highest-speed components of the network at a competitive price. So has been building out its own “facilities-based” network around San Francisco, though it still requires access to the telco-controlled copper local loop to a customer’s home.

The new network, called Fusion, allows to offer ADSL2+ service along with its own telephone service (this isn’t VoIP, but actual POTS). The company currently sells one offering to residential users through Fusion: for $50 a month, they get uncapped ADSL that runs as fast as their line can handle (up to 20Mbps) along with free nationwide phone service. Users who want more bandwidth can order up a second telephone line and “bond” the two for speeds of up to 40Mbps by simply paying another $50. CEO Dane Jasper explained his unorthodox approach to selling broadband in a discussion this week with Benoit Felten, a Yankee Group broadband analyst, on Felten’s private blog. Felten, who’s based in Europe, notes that the US market “is often considered to be a static duopoly,” but he points to initiatives from ISPs like as refreshing alternatives.

“In an era where the buzzwords about broadband and the internet seem to be caps and hogs,” he notes, “it’s reassuring and exciting to see someone trying to buck the trend and offer what customers want as opposed to what he thinks customers should get.”


Posted by Elvis on 09/03/10 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Work Threats

Have You Even Been Threatened at Work?

It seems as though our society becomes less courteous and polite with each passing year.  Rebecca Donatelle, an associate professor of public health at OSU, was quoted as saying,

“Violence is woven into the very fabric of our society and there seems to be an increasing disrespect for life and property.”

When people returned from service in World War II and entered the workforce, there were some things you simply did not do.  It was acceptable, to a point, to complain about some things such as working conditions, long hours, and other stressors.  One thing that was not tolerated then, and was very rare, was threatening co-workers or supervisors.  It was disrespectful in the extreme (respect and courtesy being the norm, and not the exception, back then).  And it was a quick way to lose your job.

Today, threats in the workplace are alarmingly common. According to a study by Northwestern National Life Insurance Company, six million workers in the United States were threatened with violence in the year 1992.  We’ve gotten accustomed to them.  In some companies, it’s actually considered “cool” to threaten co-workers or supervisors. Instead of earning respect through hard work and dedication, people try to get “instant respect” by intimidating others. In the opening scene of the movie “Grand Canyon” Danny Glover is negotiating with a young gun-toting gang member.  Danny Glover’s character asks the hoodlum to let him go on his way.  The youth replies, “I’m gonna grant you that request, but first I want you to answer a question. If I didn’t have this gun, would you be asking my permission?” Danny Glover answers, “If you didn’t have that gun, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” As he turns to go, the young man says, “That’s what I thought - no gun, no respect.  That’s why I always got the gun.” Instead of earning respect, this young man mistakenly thought his only way to get it was through intimidation.

Threats can come in two forms - verbal and non-verbal. Both can range from extremely subtle to highly overt.  Non-verbal threats may come in the form of gestures, notes (including emails), or damage to personal property.  Verbal threats can come in the form of innuendo ("if Fred doesn’t knock it off, he might not be coming in tomorrow"), general threats ("I’m gonna make sure Fred regrets he said that"), or specific threats ("tonight after work, I’m gonna go to Fred’s house and set it on fire.").

While few threats are as clear as this last example, ALL threats should be taken seriously - verbal or non-verbal.

It’s illegal to make a joke about a bomb at an airport.  For the safety of air travelers, every single comment about bombs or explosives - even those seemingly made in jest - are investigated.  Would you rather have all comments investigated or lose a loved one because a security guard was pretty sure someone’s comment was a joke, and turned out to be wrong.  The point is it’s never worth the risk to ignore a potential threat. 


Posted by Elvis on 09/02/10 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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