Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

A data discussion

What is data?

Put to the universe, compliments of Google:  

Data - Wikipedia
Data is a set of values of qualitative or quantitative variables. An example of qualitative data would be an anthropologist's handwritten notes about her interviews ...

Data | Definition of Data by Merriam-Webster
noun plural but singular or plural in construction, often attributive da·ta \ˈdā-tə, ˈda- also ˈdä-\. Simple Definition of data. : facts or information used usually to ...

Data (/ˈdtə/ day-tə/ˈdætə/ da-tə, or /ˈdɑːtə/ dah-tə)[1] is a set of values of qualitative or quantitative variables. An example of qualitative data would be an anthropologist's handwritten notes about her interviews with people of an Indigenous tribe. Pieces of data are individual pieces of information. While the concept of data is commonly associated with scientific research, data is collected by a huge range of organizations and institutions, ranging from businesses (e.g., sales data, revenue, profits, stock price), governments (e.g., crime ratesunemployment ratesliteracy rates) and non-governmental organizations (e.g., censuses of the number of homeless people by non-profit organizations).
Data is measuredcollected and reported, and analyzed, whereupon it can be visualized using graphs, images or other analysis tools. Data as a general concept refers to the fact that some existing information or knowledge is represented or coded in some form suitable for better usage or processingRaw data ("unprocessed data") is a collection of numbers or characters before it has been "cleaned" and corrected by researchers. Raw data needs to be corrected to remove outliers or obvious instrument or data entry errors (e.g., a thermometer reading from an outdoor Arctic location recording a tropical temperature). Data processing commonly occurs by stages, and the "processed data" from one stage may be considered the "raw data" of the next stage. Field data is raw data that is collected in an uncontrolled "in situ" environment. Experimental data is data that is generated within the context of a scientific investigation by observation and recording.


Huh? Trust the technical marketers and sales types to over complicate a very simple concept.  The image sourced from "wikipedia" informs us that the following are data:

  • Location (geographical)
  • Cultural
  • Scientific
  • Financial
  • Statistical
  • Metrological
  • Natural
  • Transport

Sure sounds like information.  But it must mean that there is information within the pods of information.  It leads one to think that if there is lots and lots and lots of information, it gets all jumbled up and becomes data.

The metaphor that appears in my brain is my clothes hanging in my closet, all ready to be worn.  When I'm at my most organized, color coded.   Then you wear said outfit, and when you get home you change into chill-wear, where you feel most relaxed.  Those discarded clothing are tossed into your hamper and as the week progresses, it piles up.  It becomes laundry.  

Laundry is like data

When you get around to doing laundry, or lucky you show off if you have someone else to do it for you.  Or, grow up if your mom still does your laundry.  

Laundry is essentially clothes all lumped together

The best way to tackle the laundry is to separate into piles based on color (whites are orphans) and sometimes material (set aside because it is "dry clean" only);  BUT, not only within that mass of clothing that becomes a chore called laundry, they are underwear, t-shirts, jeans, socks, etc.  

Everyone does laundry in their own way, possibly influenced by the laundry doer in their life.  It is like a classification system:

  • what gets drycleaned
  • what is delicate
  • whites stay with whites
  • jeans
  • special instructions:  cold water, etc.

Do you iron right after it comes out of the dryer?  Or, do you fold right away so the creases where the iron could have been appear?  

Do your clothes just end up in a heap?  

Are you catching on?  Well, data is information.  When it is heaped together, whether by a company, government organization, or an information company like Google.  The data is completely useless unless it serves a purpose.  You would hardly wash your clothes if you were going to discard them.  So laundry, or the act of doing laundry, serves a purpose too.

Very few organizations have been disciplined and thoughtful about their data.   Now there are companies out there trying to convince us that we have a lot of data, maybe need to store it, how, and now with the CLOUD somewhere else.

If you have a small technical concept that your desktop computer sitting on your desk is your "personal computer" that only means it is designed for one user.  Huh?  Tricky hardware sellers eh?  Well, the trickier ones are the ones that sell where to store the data.  The companies, from very surprisingly small, to big mega corporations with global locations, can store a lot of information.

Similar to your laundry.  At what point do you become exasperated and decide it is time to sort through and donate some to charity.  In the world of data, companies have to decide what is no longer relevant and can be erased, deleted, gone.  The reason being, is as people work, they produce data.  They may share it, send it to multiple people within the same company, or outside, that singular piece of communication contains data.  Then, think about how much space this takes up?  It goes to the servers.

Then when the decision comes after systems start crashing and people start to get stressed out, many hide they went bezerk when systems crash, computers won't work.  Employees could be standing around waiting for systems to come back on.  Middle managers start mentally calculating productive time being lost, there goes those stats and perhaps twiddle away a meager bonus.  Like watching Niagara Falls pounding through your work area.

Data is building and building.  As more people have access to computers, whether at their workplace or home, they are generating data.    How do you manage your data as it multiplies at a fast pace?  

Someone says business is slow, so lets get the sales force engaged and pounding the pavement.  Where do they store all that information?  Oh, a rolodex with business cards stapled to them?  How 70s.  You think?

Bigger companies seem to want to police their people in greater scrutiny than small companies?  Probably no different in ratio, just technology driven with bigger companies.  

Policing people who work for you generates data.  Performance reviews, commission statements, bonus structure, all unique groups of information that turn the wheels of operation and the company going.

Who owns the data?  The idea generator or the company if the idea is generated while working for them?  How about if the idea is thought up when they are trying to fall asleep and are not even under the company roof?

Sounds like data isn't always rosy doesn't it?  

What about when it is decided that their front-facing screen to their employees, shareholders, investors, board of directors, media, and web presence look to the outside of the world?  

Someone may reach out to marketing, if there is such a department, or hire an agency who specializes in dissecting information.

Like if a friend were to drop over and you have a heap of dirty clothing in piles, sitting there.  You may be a little embarrassed (or your mother would want you to).

It is the same with a lot of companies data.  When they have someone to help them with sales or marketing, the company can be just as embarrassed because it is just heaped onto a server, not all that organized  ~ it is cheaper to buy a few more gigabytes capacity in equipment or software to host the information than it is to have someone keep it organized.  

That is the challenge with data.  That's my humble opinion.  What do you have?  Heaps of it unorganized?  Or bursting Rolodex (instead of a CRM ~Customer Relationship Management~system)?  Files crammed with photocopies of contracts and communications.    Well, before you turf anything, you should probably have it scanned and stored somewhere because the cost per square foot on storage is getting out of hand, so are people to keep track of something.  Almost extinct dinosaurs who can get you anything you want, anytime you need it.

Think about what amount of data you have?
Where do you store it?  (file cabinets or on your PC, oh, fancy you, you have a secondary hard drive).

So, that's about what Google, Apple or MicroSoft are all fighting over.  Or, big groups like IBM, Oracle, HP.  Your data!  Huh? Why would my data matter?  Well, if you are using a computer, software, buy anything online, download something, look at something, that information is being tracked that eventually becomes heap of data about you.  Where do you like to shop?  What do you like to wear?  You like that music? Nice!

Now, that information has to be important somewhere right?  Of course, the data is information about consumers.  Where are consumers buying?  Where do they live?  What do they do? Career, hobbies, sports, travel?  

That information then gets carved, crafted and wrapped in a manner that appeals to you.  Yes, after you willingly and openly gave that information.

That sounds BIG BROTHER or something for Ron Howard to make a movie out of.  

The evil vixen in all that?  Marketers or advertisers or media?  I guess we're all back to square one.  They can't be evil because they are just trying to do what their clients, the big corporations and brands ask them to do:  make sense out of the data mess.

It is a great binge watch.  What are all the data marketers saying you should do?  What are they proposing, what are they saying consumers or companies should do?  Or confirm that what they did was a good decision?  Or forewarn them against making a bad decision?  No, that is probably left to the bloggers and some journalists.

It's an important conversation is the impression I get.  Do you?

When honesty hurts

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m thankful I ran across the story afire on Twitter to draw me  to MEDIUM to read what the fuss was all about for myself.  It made me want to comment, respond, and say a few words.....
If I were her mentor, I would have advised Talia to stay away from broadcasting her frustration with her company and employer so publicly. It has ramifications that one may not have anticipated, such as losing a job, as it did happen. Many organizations have Code of Ethics with social media rules that protect themselves from this very thing, which would state “loss of employment” if you violate the rules.
Having said that, let me applaud and share my respect for the courage that it must have taken to publish this not-so-secret plight. It is a sad state of circumstances that many 20 somethings are dealing with: not being able to afford a living while working: often called the “working poor” or forced to live at home.
If she had asked me, which she certainly didn’t. I would have recommended that she reach out to HR to ask for advice so that they may have guided her on what extras could be done to move up the ladder. (However, these same advisors are usually people who are hired fresh out of university themselves, without life wisdom, because they will accept a lower wage with the same optimism that they can work their way up the ladder to a better paying job). 
Or, she could have asked her direct manager, what skills she should focus on to become a higher valued contributor in order to be promoted within the company. (Which those same managers may not be equipped for career mentoring while to juggling high turnover from the constant revolving door of employees who get fed up or luckily are snapped up by a competitor or another company willing to pay a little more for all that training and experience that the former company cast aside).  Thanks for training your competitors?  Huh?

Steve Jobs was certainly known for NOT keeping his opinions to himself.
There are a lot of remarkable examples the world over who were often  considered rebels: think Steve Jobs … getting hired and fired, committed to his beliefs and passionate about perfection, who ended up paving a way to a career on his own terms. Difficult to imagine when you don’t know where the money for groceries or having to turn off the heater to save on costs.
Talia was very brave in her expression. However, being as smart as she is, she may have anticipated that she could lose her job over self-expression: telling it like it is. She is a lesson and champion for her generation, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. She had the tenacity and realization that it isn’t a plight of hers alone, but of many similar in age who are saddled with student debt, not finding a good job because you need a good job in order to get the experience to get a better one, or still living at home which destroys any self-confidence or optimism you may have once had. Forced to accept minimum wage for an important role: speaking to customers.
I suggest she continue to be passionate about her beliefs even when the world seems to be knocking her down. We don’t always know where we’ll end up, but having integrity and passionate about injustice, is a character trait that should serve her well in your future. Someone WILL recognize someone who is prepared to go the extra mile for their customers, their career, their company. Sometimes true honesty is a thermometer of what is really going on. It is not rocket science that happy employees create positive experiences with customers. Society and the corporate world don’t always recognize that although the truth can hurt, it may foreshadow a downward turn in their good fortune. It often appears in the end, with executives scratching their heads, revolving disruptive CEO or executive turnover who make change for the sake of making impact, without asking the frontline people if it makes sense. We know them as media darlings who are constantly being broadcasted about their demise, their layoffs, their diminishing shareholder value.

Yes, it took guts. But the ramifications are indicative of the world we live in: it is safer to take your grief to your employer-sponsored benefits to a counselor, who may be better equipped to help you handle it.
I hope others will recognize, as I did, that if you ignore a problem or keep quiet about it, doesn’t necessarily mean it will go away.  Typically, it masks a much bigger problem. The company is simply doing what is acceptable practice: protecting their reputation so that they don’t lose customers or shareholders. The same companies that hire juniors, train them for responsibility, and then hope that it will turn out in their favor …. all at a much lower wage than they could hire someone with greater experience who can’t afford to start all over again.

Many employees keep quiet about how they feel to protect themselves
Many quality organizations promote honesty and create platforms to voice complaints about a manager, express how they really feel.  Yet, many employees are frozen with fear that the same manager or situation will get flagged and travel back to them, causing more undesired issues, ramifications and sometimes retaliation.   
At least, they try:  often,  they are the bigger corporations that have accountabilities to shareholders, if not always employees.  Then, there are the smaller or mid-size family run businesses where staff can be fired on a whim or a bad day.... with little to no fear of ramification.  At least, some companies hold their entire organization accountable and are known for firing executives for  violating behaviors.   
Above surface: what the world sees; below surface: what is really going on
That is a slippery slope of discussion best not expressed by an employee who could be misunderstood or misperceived that they're talking about their own organization when they are not.    Safer to keep away from slamming former employers or a nasty former boss unless one doesn't care that they could be held accountable.

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." 
~Albert Einstein
How many organizations, I wonder, evaluate employee turnover and examine if there are trends?  Are managers with higher results or performance forgiven more frequently for high turnover because they may be perceived as driving results when the real reasons may be disguised?  
 I like my job, I love my company.  I consciously stay far away from writing about or participating in corporate politics.  I have a focused decision to do my best to write positively and help others be more optimistic while improving their skills .... a more constructive way of moving ahead ... in my opinion.

Thank you for your honesty, Talia, it is precious. As a mother of four 20-somethings it isn’t anything I haven’t heard before …. although albeit a lot less publicly.
 +Jeannette Marshall (mother of four 20-somethings aka Millennials)

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

~Albert Einstein

You wanna to work in technology? GAME ON!

"Anyone who stops learning is old.  Whether twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young."

~Henry Ford 

I got a great kick out of watching the movie "The Internship".  The premise of the movie is based on characters by Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, who are has-been sales schlumps, who have talked their way (via video conference, of course) into Google by having them accepted into their internship program at its headquarters.   The winners at the end are rewarded with a job (radio of 10/95).  To most in the audience, it provides a  cool canvass of what Palo Alto and the Google corporate offices may be like.  (Free food, corporate branding everywhere).  Never having ever been there, I was along for the ride just like everyone else.  I could appreciate a couple of Gen-X characters attempt to relate and communicate with the brilliant millennia majority population.

What I did look at with my own experienced eye from working at HP and then in corporate sales, is there are some similarities.  At other times, it is just that:  a movie.  For instance, I do agree that there is the likelihood of a "sink or swim" (in a pool with sharks) environment -- where the strongest survive.  Underscoring the fact that all the tricks and brains that may have gotten past your parents, high school teachers or college professors won't cut it here. 

The "rah rah" speeches at the beginning of the Google first day is what people tend to believe is what happens.   In reality, there truly are some corporate culture where it does.  Many more others that do not whatsoever.  My own personal experience with HP was remote, working from home.  We had one of the most enthusiastic persons (Donna) who did make us excited we had arrived, who was tasked to show us many of the tools that we needed access to.  There really wasn't any onboarding schedule or even a welcome aboard rah rah event.  You got the job, now you had to just do it.  So in that, the expectations in a fast moving, successful, technical environment is basically it.  There is no sugar coating or welcome parade. 

To survive, you figure out what tools you have available.  For example, to communicate, it is not often by telephone and email can take too long.  So what you have is "Office Communicator".  I know I sound old when I thought it was it was to trick me into a calm sense of security that I was allowed to "chat" never mind have the time to do so.  On the up and up, I considered it would be a waste of company time just touching the keys.   However, when you get in the trenches of these big mean smart machines that are called companies, the office communicator is your life rope to getting things done: asking questions, following up in "real" time.  That is compared to the time it would take to look up a phone number and then dial, losing valuable minutes.  An email is really convenient if you want to "track" something but is ancient technology when seconds count and escalations are mounting and productivity matters.

Back to the movie ... again, hilarious right?  I'm going to be different and suggest you watch the underlying lesson hidden deep.  It is a warning call to anyone who thinks they're hot stuff techno savvy.  You may think you will  blend in at the supercool center of the universe.   You may have excelled in Computer Sciences, and worked at other companies where the boss doesn't understand half of what you say but trusts you with the company's network, firewall, security, etc. etc.  AND you were told you were a genius by your parents since you can remember .... right? 

Imagine again, you're parachuted into Google headquarters, had to make a group with others to form a team.  That in itself, would usually place a super computer genius in an uncomfortable position, because they've typically been labeled as introverts more comfortable with a keyboard than a telephone ... and yikes avoid eye contact whenever possible.  Stereotype right?

What about the young gal in the movie?  She has been thrown in with a bunch of misfits who happen to be guys .... while she hasn't even had her first date, never mind a boyfriend ... so her she starts off kilter just by having to be thrown in with a team of guys, who are more alien to her. 

"Technology is nothing.  What's important is that you have faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools they'll do wonderful things with them."
~Steve Jobs  

What does this have to do with a Blog on sales and leadership?  We'll be getting to that another time, I promise.  What I wanted to do first was give you a reality wakeup to the world of technical companies.  Over my career, I've had onboarding like many people.  Being shuffled into a meeting room with a text book, an instructor, lots of Power Points, while the biggest challenge is staying attentive never mind awake.  By the time you get to the HR forms, you have placed mental toothpicks in your eyes and are just praying for the time when its all over and you can get down to work!

Well, the world of onboarding in a technology company is not usually as game on as the Google one in the movie.  The biggest excitement will be if you do get your laptop on your first day.  If you are lucky enough for that, you're even more excited than when you got your offer letter after you were able to get the log on credentials to work the first time.  The irony is that you're working for a technical company, but the only guarantee is that getting logged on, may only be after 15 attempts, and that is if you pass the security of Fort Knox, firewalls and so on.  Now you start to wonder if there was something in your past they did uncover during your background check during screening (which is akin to applying for the Secret Service) is what is making matters so difficult.

In the real world, you will HAVE to reach out to a colleague, or similar lost soul, and have no choice but to start helping each other because there is no manual or text book provided.  You're there, you've got a secure password, you are finally logged on, thus you are onboard in this company's rule book.

Training?  Huh?  Similar to the movie, you are given a project and told to get going.   Nobody wants to appear puzzled because there was no training.  You've been immediately told to get started.  You don't dare say "How?" .... that would be very uncool and set you up to appear as an imposter, which is next to impossible since you know your criminal, credit and background were under the microscope before an offer letter came, so you wouldn't think they had made a mistake. 

How do you get a project without being trained you ask?  You get an email of course!  Yes, your name is on it, but it is a template where they insert your name.   (Lucky for you if you're copied in with other souls that you may eventually grasp on to.  Mostly every other mystery is what you unravel yourself.  If you're proactive and a keener, you have figured out to take the chance to message one of the names you heard on the first call or copied list and ping him/her to ask what they perceived we were suppose to do.  Thankfully, no alarm bells went off and your computer didn't freeze, so this Internal Communicator message service is an acceptable practice.

The reality in the movie on teaming up stretches to remind you more of sports team groupings from elementary when there are a bunch of lost souls thrown together as a team because everyone else didn't want the misfits on their team that quickly fell into place.  Thus, while everyone else has measured up and grouped up, the leftover misfits have to make do.  Truth be told, in the real world, it is not much different, except you are not misfits, of course.   You are thrown together, because you share the same division,  first day, job description and received the same email instructing you what time and what teleconference number to dial into ... automatically you accept and its filled in for you for a week.    Don't even get started on "just being a number" ... that is all you are when you have to call HR to inquire about benefits and haven't memorized your number.   The only time you likely hear proactively from HR is when you are asked to fill out a feedback form on how well they are doing.  Who wants to take the chance of being honest? 

What the movie accurately portrays is that no matter the differences in background, degrees of intelligence, or preconceived strength, you are joined by a common goal: "to succeed."  Team work will evolve as your life line to success.  Everyone there will be given the same degree of challenging projects.  The moral of the story:  the team that comes together the best, becomes a real team, faces challenging circumstances TOGETHER and recognizes each unique strength, will be successful.  There is no time to lose, they are ready to jump in.  Yes, they have fun, they do some team building and overcome challenges that bring them closer together.   At they end, they adore each other, rely on each other and are not a bunch of misfit individuals but one solid unit.

Have you ever worked in a place where there were people who would throw you under the bus in order to make themselves look good?  Well that happened in the movie and in my technical world background, it did happen.  When you're in a dog-eat-dog world culture that some companies thrive on (I'm not suggesting Google is this at all), they encourage this so that the cream rises to the surface.  The thinking behind this is that customers, projects, requests, escalations, don't have time to hand hold, be empathetic, and even less time to hear excuses.  Toughen up baby!

Perhaps there is method to the madness after all.  Who has time to tell a group of people who don't know each other, are often labeled as introverts, are in an environment that challenge often comes last minute with huge obstacles ... how to deal with it?  By throwing them together, seeing who gets it together and gets what needs to be done done.  Trial by fire you say?  Nope, more like the real world.  On top of it all, there is nobody there to pat you on the back and say you're a genius, smarter,  or anything better than everyone else in your group. You're there.  'Nuff said, now get to work.  You'll figure it out.  If you don't, you will  know the door you came in is likely the one you'll be shown out (or computer you logged on to will freeze up and block you out quicker than you can sneeze).

The guarantee I promise though:   you will discover and know what it meant to be part of a real team -- the ones you shared the big-? on your foreheads together on the first day, the ones you scrambled to ask questions from in a panic, the ones you stopped everything to help because you know they would do the same, meanwhile you wouldn't even be worrying about if you have to work a little later to catch up.

The nice moral of "The Internships" is those that play together, work hard together, and work well together will come out as champions.  Unfortunately, in the real world that churns at an alarming pace, it doesn't always work out that way.  Personalized real connections are rare.  Often, there are others out there that will not hesitate to throw you under the bus so that they can be the one who end up ahead.  Managers couldn't even imagine it, never mind have time to access these types of behaviours.  Why?  Simply said:  it is all about productivity.  A apt visual metaphor is the marathon race where the not-so-nice person puts an obstacle in the path of his/her greatest threat so that they take a tumble and fall.  The mean person pulls ahead and wins the race.  In the movies, unrelated to the one I'm talking about ... the mean guy eventually gets caught and the hero finally gets credit for playing the game by the rules.

In the real world, productivity is productivity.  You all start at the start line and cross the finish line in the same place.  Just how long and if you have detours is between you, yourself, and maybe someone you like to complain or whine to.  Then again, it is true you could be doing everything right, you could even be very detailed and conscientious.  Yet the mean guy who throws curves at everyone else, talks about how great he is, or politics up to the boss, can end up being at the front of the race and considered the winner.  Yeah, I know, that sucks.  That's life.   If you want my advice?  Get down to it, work harder than the rest!  Yes, that could mean working overtime regardless of whether you get paid for it or not.  Because in the real world, and I didn't even start talking about this:  there are folks in far off lands, where economics mean that they can do what you do, at a fraction of what you are paid, are VERY prepared, willing, and able to take your job if you can't handle it.  That's when the boss or manager takes a bow for saving the company money.

I suggest you scrutinize sites like "Glass Door" or "Linked In" to research company's corporate culture carefully, paying particular attention to how they treat their employees.  That is the most sure way you can guarantee your own happy ending.

Intrigued?  Here is a clip of the movie:


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"Learning is a gift, even if pain is your teacher."

This article was written with team wonders in mind:  Donna, Rehan, Lonna, Ken, Siri and Amy, colleagues and fellow trainees from HP. ~JM

 All images were accessed freely from content posted on the web and no copyright infringement was intended by the usage of same or Google logo.  All the opinions here are my own and in no way reflect upon HP as an organization or company.