Monday, February 25, 2013

The origin of the job interview

Behavioral interviewing is a hot topic of discussion at FirstRain today. Putting our candidates for sales and pre-sales positions through simulations and getting them to tell stories to describe their experience.... but so we don't take ourselves too seriously it's worth remembering the hilarious Armstrong and Miller sketch The Origin of Job Interviews:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Three Disruptive Ideas

I love being asked to talk to groups of women or girls. Especially high school girls who are a future untapped resource for technology and so if I can move just a few of them to consider tech I'm happy.

Last week I had the opportunity to do just this at Wycombe Abbey in England. Wycombe is my alma mater and one of the top girls schools in England. Really smart kids (and definitely privileged, but that is not their fault). It was surreal for me to go back for the first time in 34 years as I had left swearing never to go back (yes, I was a terrible rebel in high school) but walking around the school and talking with staff, old friends and kids I was transported back and it was not all bad.

I took the opportunity to challenge the girls with three ideas that dramatically influence them today and will shape what future they craft for themselves. A few gasps, some embaressed laughs (yes, I said porn and pornification a few times) but overall I think they were intrigued by...

1. Software is everywhere - being able to write and understand software is as important now as being able to read and write. High school students spend on average 10 hours a day working with software, they just don't know it.

2. You are being watched - every action you take is being stored and analyzed and this creates a fascinating area called Big Data. Understand it, tap into it and have fun with the technology. Build you own app.

3. Don't believe what you see - women are objectified, hyper-sexualized and diminished by our media (advertising, TV and movies). Don't buy into the stereotypes. Educate yourselves so you see it, and see through it, and then get involved in changing it - become a part of #NotBuyingIt. Yes this is where I showed some shocking images and said some shocking words, but my 16 year old niece told me afterwards it was "cool".

A tame one from the Harrods children's bookstore shelves February 7 2013 - hard to believe!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Being CEO is your last job

I often end up in the same conversation with ambitious entrepreneurs. They want to run their own business... they have an idea, or are frustrated with their current position, they are building a plan to get to being CEO of their own company and they want advice.

Thursday evening I was in just such a conversation with a talented pending entrepreneur - and it's a coaching moment. Before you get too wedded to the idea it's important to think through how long you plan to be CEO for. 2 years, 5 years, 10 years... or as long as it takes.

The reality is that unless you are fired by your board, or your company's life ends (by being acquired or failing), this is the last job you'll ever have. You don't get to just quit when you don't like it any more - too many employees and investors and customers depend on you. It's not hard to think about staying with your company "forever" when it's an exciting new startup that you believe in. But it's important to think through how you'll feel if it's not i.e. if it's not meeting your expectations.

It seems a romantic idea to run a company but I have seen a few CEOs really struggle in the long haul with their spouse's lack of support, worry about their long term income prospects, their need to pay for kids college fees and the long term effects on their health when the company they dreamed of doesn't happen.

It's very important before you sign up to lead a company, whether it's yours, an existing founder's or a spin out to be sure you have the ability to stick with it as long as you are needed. Don't do it unless you can see yourself sticking it out no matter the outcome. But if you can visualize yourself in the saddle for more than 10 years then go for it!

p.s. Clearly this isn't the case if you are the CEO of a public company. In that case the turnover rate is high in the first 2 years, and on average it's now 8.4 years, but in the public company case there are established processes for succession planning so it's easier to move on if you want to.


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