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Archive for August, 2011

It’s back to Starbucks, thanks to the CEO

August 29, 2011 2 comments

My first taste of caffeinated goodness from Starbucks came in New Haven, Conn.  while tagging along with other high schoolers.  We were are all part of a few week long summer program taking place at a well known institution there, and were following the suggestion of others that we may find more than coffee across the street from the quad.  We were hoping to catch a glimpse of a fast, furious, and way out of our league movie star enrolled in that same institution; however, we never saw her, but I was quickly hooked to Starbucks.  My allegiance changed in the years to come, to lesser know but cheaper sources during my poor undergrad years.  Then to the more fair-trade local variety call Alterra during my grad-school days, and now to whatever I can find here in India – I haven’t seen a Starbucks yet despite their partnership with my current employer.  When I get home however it will be time for at least one cup of Starbucks brewed goodness thanks to Howard Schultz, the Starbucks CEO.

About two weeks ago I stumbled upon an article on CNNMoney called, “Starbucks CEO to DC: You’ve been cut off.”  Schultz, prompted by the debt crisis and political fighting surround it, decided to stop his contributions to political campaigns, a total of $183,650.  It was a decision that made sense to me, and while I am able to contribute no where near what Schultz has I could definitely follow suit.  Schultz decided that until politicians can act together, especially on issues that have a large impact like the debt crisis, he would stop supporting them.  After posting the article on my Facebook and Tweeting it I didn’t give that much more thought, but then I found myself engaged in a conversation with coworkers here in India about what is going on in the US.  They were equally as concerned/upset with things as I was because it has a direct effect on their lives.  So I did some more reading and noticed Schultz’s movement has gained some traction.  Not only have other CEOs from companies like NASDAQ and AOL joined in, but others have also written with further suggestions.  Then at the Seattle Times I found that a group on Facebook had started in reaction to Schultz’s letter and new website.

Blair Taylor, CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, recommends asking for “5 million Americans of every hue, economic background, political persuasion or geographical location, to sign a ‘no giving’ pledge as well.”

With quotes like Taylor’s above it is apparent that more business leaders are joining Schultz’s movement, now called Upward Spiral 2011, and offering their suggestions.  If any of this sounds interesting to you, or if you would like to read some of Schultz’s letters or so what people are saying visit the Facebook group or the Upward Spiral 2011 homepage.  I can’t predict what impact this will have, but on principle I can agree with trying to get people to work together and not against each other.

“This is a time for citizenship not partisanship.  It Is a time for action.”

-Howard Schultz

Lessons on the Little Things

August 28, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Logging onto LinkedIn a few days ago I was greeted with a trending story on Microsoft’s work to change the copy, move, and rename functions in Windows 8, linking to the MSDN blog.  Reading through it reminded me of a few things, particularly how oblivious I can be sometimes to the small repetitious actions I do during the day – like copy/paste of files.  Now I don’t feel that these functions in Windows were hindering my work or personal life, but instead I thought the idea could apply to other parts of my life.  While reading through the post and Microsoft’s process I thought what if I look into the small things, examining the process and improving it could have drastic impacts on the quality of my work.  We won’t all access to millions of computers to draw test data from, but I imagine that I can find a few things which could use improvement if I just think about it.  I just need to remember that the small things can have a big impact.

Also looking forwards to seeing how much of an improvement these changes will make when I finally upgrade to Windows 8.  Considering I just put 7 on all my computers, and my work still is using XP, this could be a while – not to mention it isn’t released yet.  You can follow the blog here, and clicking on the picture above will take you to the video on their process.

 

IBM is Up in the Clouds

August 27, 2011 Leave a comment

 

A post over at Engadget yesterday focused on some new tech in the pipeline from IBM, particularly a large storage array with 120 petabytes of capacity, a petabyte being 1 million gigabytes, or 1 thousand terabytes.  Which gives this array enough space to store “24 billion average sized MP3s,” enough music to occupy you auditory senses for 1.2 billion hours (assuming that each song was only 3 minutes long and not something more like the 8 minutes of Stairway to Heaven).  As that is more music then you and your 1,000 closest friends could hope to listen to in a lifetime this tech must have a much different purpose.  As cloud computing is become more and more common demand will go higher and higher for storage centers with the ability to not only hold vast amounts of data but also be able to process it at ever-increasing speeds.  I am interested to see the type of developments, everything from software to peripherals, that will be coming out in the next few years to take advantage of the growing cloud.  My hope being that one day any computer I log onto will be exactly the same as mine at home, or will it be that my computer at home is the same as the one at the cafe?  Either way I think it isn’t that far off, so it is time for you and me to come up with some way to provide some unique services in this space.

Patents, Patents Here, Get Your Patents

August 25, 2011 1 comment

While I have no aspirations to be a patent lawyer, patents and patent strategy has interested me since I started business school. Lucky for me, there has been a lot of news in this area providing me with ample reading material lately. Scrolling through the your favorite tech website, currently Engadget in my case, or any news portal and you will inevitably find headlines dealing with patents. Even the blogs I read at The Economist or New York Times will frequently speak about them from different perspectives (here, here, and here). My habitual visit to the Economist’s homepage today revealed a home page story on patents, called Inventive Warfare, which summed up some of the issues making news:

A scramble for patents had already begun. In December four companies, including Microsoft and Apple, paid $450m for around 880 patents and applications owned by Novell, an ailing software firm. In July those two and four others, including Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, spent $4.5 billion on 6,000 patents owned by Nortel, a bankrupt Canadian telecoms-equipment maker. Before its latest deal, Google bought 1,000 patents from IBM. Firms are also suing each other. Apple claims its technology has been copied by Samsung and Motorola in their Android phones. Oracle is suing Google for up to $6 billion, claiming that Android infringes its patents. Microsoft is suing Motorola over Android too. Nokia recently settled a similar quarrel with Apple.

If The Economist were to have expanded its scope to the tele-communications industry as whole their list of lawsuits and patent deals would have made that paragraph above much larger. Further into the article the case is made that firms are beginning to be valued based on their patent holdings to a much greater extent, making the example of various companies’ stock prices rising after the Google deal. I am not certain if that is only in the mobile phone space, were companies are using patents to defend market share, or the industry as a whole; regardless, patents are not just becoming a bigger part of the game in the just mobile phone space.

China, notorious for failed IP protection in the past, is changing its position on patents. An article by Rachel Armstrong at Reuters.com starts off:

China’s telecom giants are building up a war-chest of patents to help give them an edge in the legal battles raging between the world’s smartphone makers, aided by Beijing’s push to transform the country from workshop to innovator.

It’s part of the country’s plan to increase innovation and make it a high-tech powerhouse, where the government subsidizes patent applications and has been increasing IP protection. The article provides a useful statistical summary of what is going on, as in China’s patent applications rising 83% since 2006; which places it in third place behind the US and Japan with 313,854 patents. Big filers from China being ZTE and Huawei. Subsequently, also on the rise is the demand for IP lawyers with cases in this area increasing 37% last year to 41,718 and salaries increasing.

The belief that patents are going to spur innovation aren’t only held by China’s central government. Another Economist article  contends that budget reductions at the US Patent Office are going to further hurt economic growth by limiting the number of patents granted in the US, and that patents have at least a marginal relationship with job creation and economic growth.

While I don’t doubt that, I feel there are a great deal of other issues with patents that have economic impact. Just as an example if Google truly is buying Motorola for its patents, that deal along with the others listed above equals $17.45 billion spent on IP alone. I, along with others, ask the question how many other ways could jobs or the economy been improved with that level of spending? Now I understand it’s the business environment they are responding too, but with substantial reforms to patents and IP could that money have been spent on actual new innovation?

I’ll save some thoughts on patent reform and innovation for another post.

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

August 24, 2011 2 comments

         I was reading Jessica Stillman’s blog yesterday, where she posted an entry about emotional intelligence (EI).  She wrote that EI is a more important quality than IQ to managers when evaluating new hires or whom to promote.  Being of particular interest to me, as I am someone on the job hunt, I did some more reading.  She wrote in reaction to a study done by careerbuilder.com where the company polled 2,662 hiring managers, finding that:

When asked why emotional intelligence is more important than high IQ, employers said (in order of importance):

· Employees [with high EI] are more likely to stay calm under pressure
· Employees know how to resolve conflict effectively
· Employees are empathetic to their team members and react accordingly
· Employees lead by example
· Employees tend to make more thoughtful business decisions

         I think it would be easy to assume that these perceived benefits of higher EI would be desirable to any manager.  Moving on to Wikipedia to get a better understanding of what EI is gave light to various definitions or models.  What I understood as the general feeling of EI is being able to not only understand and control one’s own emotions but also to grasp those of others.  This goes as far as being able to grasp what motivates others and their intentions.  These skills are not only useful while working in teams but also when involved with clients or other stakeholders.  Also, perhaps, they allow greater understanding of implicit communication, then someone with higher EI may be able to meet demands that were unclear.

         So now the question is how to make sure that I communicate EI in my cover letters and resume.  However, how sure can I be that I have high EI?  Would someone with it need to be concerned about demonstrating it?  Maybe those thoughts have something to do with her latest post.

For Starters

August 23, 2011 Leave a comment

It has been some time since I have actively written in my own blog, and since then a constant thought in the back of my head was that I should definitely start contributing to something again routinely. I finally decided that there is no better time then the here and now and I need to start posting again to document my own thoughts and reactions, so I may reflect on in the future and share my own opinions, experiences and thoughts with others.

When I started the process of creating this new space I was stuck at the point where you chose a blog name, because I thought isn’t it all in the name. Businesses use focus groups to pick names for products or services because they are important, names can then lay the ground work for strategies or marketing campaigns, perhaps they could be the difference between striking it rich or going broke. Now I am aware of the fact my blog will not be the key to my life’s success, or some larger enterprise’s, but the name is still important. So after some consideration, made over a cup of coffee, I decided just to use my own name. If nothing else this blog will serve as a reflection of myself and all the different, and sometimes completely unrelated, interests of mine. I would not want to limit myself to posting only on one topic or idea because of a name, as I don’t limit myself here in the physical world to pursuing only one thing. Perhaps I am not creative enough to create a name that signifies some greater meaning, but I think my name will do okay.

So as a preview of things to come here are some ideas for blog posts coming in the near future: details of my experience so far here in India (with some pictures), thoughts on an article I recently read about the importance of emotional intelligence in the work place, reactions to current events, recipes I need to try, and links to various things I have found interesting around the web. Hopefully someone else will find this worth their time, but I will be happy if it is only for my own gratification as well.

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