Monday, May 27, 2013

Google: Women in Technology


Google is arguably one of the most innovative companies.  Now, for their next challenge, they are taking on the issue of unequal percentages of men and women in the technology space.  The company holds an annual developers conference, and in past years, the percentage of female attendees has been in the single digits.  This year, they made it to the teens in percentages.  While it is a measurable increase, there is still a long way to go to bridge the gender gap.

The company is tackling the issue in a number of ways, including scholarships for women and recruiting efforts.

The article that is linked below indicates that Google has been trying to reach girls at a  younger age, but I believe this is where the hope lies in capturing girls' interest in the technology space.  Trying to attract girls to the field once they are already in college may work in some instances, but solely ramping up recruiting efforts towards females is futile and too late in the game.

If Google truly wants to bridge the gender gap, they need to sponsor science and technology camps for young girls starting in elementary and middle school.  They also need to invest in the US education system and reach students while they are still in their early years of school.

Additionally, software engineering careers need to offer the flexibility that many women are seeking in terms of work life balance.  If a woman knows that options exist to have a flexible schedule while they have young children, more women may be interested in entering the field.  This is seen in many other career fields, such as nursing or teaching, where girls and women know that they can have time off to be home with children, but still have a great career.

Here is a link to a CNN article that provides more detail about Google's efforts in this space.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Facebook: Content Overload

When Facebook first launched, it was merely profile pages where users could update their personal information and link with friends.  Then it added the ability to post status updates and pictures, which led to users logging in more frequently to see what their friends were doing.  Now it is a flurry of statuses, pictures, ads, and chaos.  Somehow I used to be able to feel fully caught up on the Facebook world in about 5 or 10 minutes.  Nowadays, I catch myself spending 30 minutes or longer, browsing largely unimportant content, and content from people I might no longer even recognize if I passed on the street because I haven't seen them in real life in so long.

While Facebook has its pros, and I love the ability to see pictures and updates from family members and close friends who live far away, I have been giving some thought to my personal Facebook strategy.  Frankly, I am wasting far too much time on the website.  Time that is spent on virtual friendships is time that is lost from real life, genuine friendships.

So - how can I get this situation back under control?  I have thought about (and tried) going cold turkey.  But honestly, that usually ends after about a day.  I've also tried limiting myself to logging in only once a day so that it does not drain my productivity.  But then I get stuck at a long traffic light, am bored, and that idea goes out the window.

The best strategy that I have found is to use the "hide" feature in the News Feed.  By allowing only "important updates" from a large number of friends, I am able to receive the most important updates, and updates from people I am closest with, rather than a ton of content that is not valuable and sucks up my time.

It is crazy to think that a social media platform that did not even exist ten years ago has infiltrated our lives in such a profound way.  I never thought I would need a "strategy" around how to manage my use of the site.  It also makes me realize how important the site is to advertisers, because we are all logged in so frequently and for such a large amount of time.  Compared to than buying billboards on roads where we may never read them, or buying ad space in a newspaper where readership is down, Facebook is prime real estate.

I'm curious how other people manage their Facebook lives.  Are others concerned about being as efficient as possible in gathering important updates, but screening out the rest?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Bloggerverse: What Does It All Really Mean?

Now that I am a few posts deep in this blog, I have been reflecting on the reasons why people blog and how blogs impact those who read them.  I have had a huge love for blogs for several years now and have frequently daydreamed about having my own.  But let's be honest - it could be compared to that feeling of looking out the window at your neighbor's wonderful dog every day and thinking, "man, I want a dog myself" and then one day, you go, adopt one, bring it home, and wake up the next morning only to think, "uh oh, what now?!"  You watched someone else do a great job with their own, you admired them, it brought joy to your life, but now it's time to do it yourself.  This puppy is now yours.

The amount of advice about how to handle it is endless, and you know there are definitely things to avoid.  But where do you start with this brand new space?

I believe the reasons why people can be blogged can be categorized into two distinct buckets:
1. As an outlet for compiling their ideas/thoughts/life in written format.
2. To be heard.

For the first one, I think of the example of moms who blog about their daily life with a baby, so that once they reach a point where they are no longer sleep deprived (ha!) they can remember those precious moments.  Also, so that grandparents who live far away can sneak a daily peak at the grandkids.   This category also includes brainstormers, creatives, and innovators who want to gather all of their thoughts on a specific topic in one location, which becomes their blog.

The second category includes those who want to have a platform where others can read their thoughts.  The purpose may be to viewed as an expert in a particular field, or to have a platform where the blogger can share his wisdom and thoughts, then gather feedback in the form of comments.  Blogs also provide credibility for the writer, as it adds to their digital footprint in their realm of expertise.

Blogs impact people by providing a community that is centered around a specific topic of interest, where the blogger provides content, but the readers add life to the posts by commenting and interacting.  They provide ideas, evoke thoughts, and can create both personally and professionally.

Here are links to a couple of blogs that I follow regularly & highly recommend:
Joy: Defined - by Joy Phenix
This blog is written by my pastor's wife, who works at a professional full-time job here in Atlanta.  She is truly a role model to me, and writes on a wide variety of topics, from family to faith to reviews of local restaurants.  Definitely a great read, particularly for women!

Musings - by Jon Acuff
Jon Acuff is a motivational writer and speaker who encourages readers to chase their dreams.  His posts  combine humor with the hard truth that we need to hear in our lives about being complacent.  This is a great blog for anyone looking to further their career by developing their passions.

I am still defining the goal of my blog.  Since this is an interest I have had for years, I want to maintain this blog long after the class is over, so I need to have direction and a focus.  This will likely involve moving to a new format where I can categorize posts into a small handful of different categories, similar to Joy's that I linked above.  My reason for blogging fits into the first category above, as I would like to have a place where I can record life and ideas as it happens, then be able to look back later to reflect.  Stay tuned.  I want to move from the "new puppy owner" to the "owner whose dog has clearly been to obedience school"!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

America: Losing Its Innovative-Factor?


America was originally a nation built on manufacturing, but that has since largely moved overseas, particularly to Asia.  Now, the latest question is whether our nation is also losing the ability to innovate.

With the movement of manufacturing jobs to foreign countries, the workers in those countries are now learning how to make the products that are invented in the United States, and are becoming increasingly advanced at also inventing their own.  Consequently, it is more important than ever that our country be able to innovate better than others so that we remain tops.  Innovation drives future success of a country, so the potential of falling behind is  a serious concern.

For America to remain tops amongst the most innovative countries, it is key to have workers with the necessary skill sets.  These include, but are not limited to, engineering.   Science and math are not receiving the attention they should in our school systems, and there is a gap particularly in the number of girls who go on to study engineering and other technical fields after high school.

Another concern is that foreign students frequently come to the United States for school, are trained in our universities, earn engineering degrees, then go back to their home country to apply the skills.  While it is great that we have acclaimed schools that students from across the world desire to attend, it makes it even more challenging for our country to compete when the students we train end up leaving.

So, what's the solution?  We need to build an interest in the science and math fields from a young age.  The curriculum in these areas needs to be further developed to generate interest, and extra activities such as science camps should be supported and made more widely available to children.  This educational push should be continued through high school, and more scholarships should be offered to students who are entering majors that are in high demand to keep our country on the forefront of innovation.

Furthermore, once we have the students trained in these fields, companies need to focus on innovation.  There are already a large number that do so, but also a large number that are just trying to survive, rather than create and dream big.  Companies need to make it acceptable for employees to take big swings, even if they fail.  It takes failures to eventually produce successes.  Failure needs to be accepted, because when failure is unacceptable, the risks of innovating become too high for employees.

The US has great talent, but innovation needs to remain a focus, and having the correct skill set is crucial.

Here's an article that provides further insights on this topic: