The week@work – heat dome, plagiarism, ‘Pokemon Go’, Yahoo, life/work coaches, and classical music

This week@work was hot, with a meteorological ‘heat dome’ encasing most of the continental United States. When I saw the photo above in The New York Times on Wednesday, I just wanted to be transported to a barge in Venice where the cast of Amazon’s ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ were filming. (Enjoy the view from Gianni Cipriano for The New York Times)

In other stories this week, the Republican Party chose their candidate for president and initiated a valuable conversation about plagiarism. The ‘Pokemon Go’ app provided a much needed diversion as thousands engaged in this new high tech sport of creature collection. Vindu Goel took a stroll down memory lane to a time when Yahoo reigned over Silicon Valley. Life/work coaches are the new workplace perk, and classical musicians are returning to the small screen.

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No that is not a photo of Zeus expressing displeasure with politicians in Cleveland. It’s Port Washington, Wisconsin photographed by AP photographer Jeffrey Phelps.

Rebecca Herscher reported on the weather for NPR.

“A heat dome occurs when high pressure in the upper atmosphere acts as a lid, preventing hot air from escaping. The air is forced to sink back to the surface, warming even further on the way. This phenomenon will result in dangerously hot temperatures that will envelop the nation throughout the week.”

NASA reported on Tuesday that ‘2016 Climate Trends Continue to Break Records’.

“Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. The six-month period from January to June was also the planet’s warmest half-year on record, with an average temperature 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the late nineteenth century.”

We are hot. We are busy. We live in a time of ‘short-cuts’. Workplace deadlines force creativity into ‘cut and paste’ document creation. Original thought becomes a casualty of increased workload. Sometimes we forget to give credit to other’s ideas and find ourselves on the slippery slope of plagiarism.

Last week the Republican National Convention became the unexpected catalyst for a discussion of this topic, an essential component of every college new student orientation program.

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Writing on huffingtonpost.com, Karen Topham offered ‘An English Teacher’s View Of The Trump Plagiarism Issue’.

“Plagiarism is any unattributed content. It’s kind of like pregnancy: you can’t plagiarize just a little because even a little is plagiarism.

I had my last case of plagiarism late last winter. A girl was under the gun and copied an essay from the internet. I explained to her (as I’d done so often before) that she was probably lucky in the long run that I had caught her. Anyone who gets away with this stuff is likely to try it again. In high school, it’s a zero and maybe a chance to do it over. But in most colleges, it’s a violation of academic honesty that can get you expelled. And this is my point: we hold college students to this very high standard.”

You have been warned.

On the lighter side, David Streitfeld gave a first person account of ‘Chasing Pokemon In Search of Reality In a Game’: downloading the app, setting out to capture a few creatures, and meeting fellow gamers along the way.

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“In this season of random assassinations and political uproar, who could resist the temptation to supplement a high-strung and frightening reality with some gentle make-believe?

Fifty years ago, the F.B.I., worried that the youth of America might foment revolution, would infiltrate San Francisco demonstrations. Now the tech companies are doing the monitoring, wondering if games like Pokémon represent a threat that must be neutralized or an opportunity to be exploited. That’s progress for you.”

In other Silicon Valley News, Wall Street Journal reporters Ryan Knutson and Deepa Seetharaman confirmed the Verizon acquisition of Yahoo.

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“Verizon Communications Inc. has agreed to pay $4.8 billion to acquire Yahoo Inc., according to a person familiar with the matter, ending a drawn-out auction process for the beleaguered internet company.

The price tag, which includes Yahoo’s core internet business and some real estate, is a remarkable fall for the Silicon Valley web pioneer that once had a market capitalization of more than $125 billion at the height of the dot-com boom.

For New York-based Verizon, the deal simply adds another piece to the digital media and advertising business it is trying to build.

The deal is expected to be announced early Monday. The news was earlier reported by Recode and Bloomberg.”

In an article earlier in the week, Vindu Goel revisited a time ‘When Yahoo Ruled the Valley’.

“Back in the mid-1990s, before Google even existed, the world’s best guides to the internet sat in Silicon Valley cubicles, visiting websites and carefully categorizing them by hand.

They were called surfers, and they were a collection of mostly 20-somethings — including a yoga lover, an ex-banker, a divinity student, a recent college grad from Ohio hungry for adventure — all hired by a start-up called Yahoo to build a directory of the world’s most interesting websites.

Today, with more than one billion websites across the globe, the very notion seems mad. Even then, there was a hint of insanity about the enterprise.”

Two additional articles of interest from the week@work cover a new benefit for employees transitioning back to work after a leave and a TV series providing classical music performers with visibility not seen since the days of Ed Sullivan.

‘A New Perk For Parents: Life-Work Coaches’ by Tara Siegel Bernard

“At a time when new parents may find themselves overwhelmed — even sobbing late at night as they deal with their new at-home responsibilities while trying to hold down a full-time job — a growing number of companies are making efforts to soften the blow. They are providing employees with coaching sessions, either in person, over the phone or through small group sessions that may be broadcast over the web. The services are often available to new fathers, too.”

‘Classical Stars Seek TV’s Elusive Spotlight’ by Michael Cooper

“It was after midnight on the Grand Canal here, and Plácido Domingo was standing on a floating stage slowly motoring toward the Accademia Bridge, singing the opening lines of a duet from “Don Giovanni.”

With this operatically over-the-top spectacle last week — which drew squeals and flurries of smartphone photos as people passed on a vaporetto, or water bus — Mr. Domingo became the latest classical star to shoot a cameo for “Mozart in the Jungle,” the Amazon comedy about a fictional New York orchestra.

Paul Weitz, who was directing the episode with Mr. Domingo and is an executive producer of the show with Roman Coppola and Mr. Schwartzman, said that the possibility of reaching those viewers was especially enticing to the musicians who have appeared.

“Obviously, it’s a huge issue, and it’s something that is dealt with in the show a lot, about whether classical music is going to be passed on to a new generation,” Mr. Weitz said between shots in his director’s chair. “And all these artists, the reasons that they’re doing this show is because they feel like it’s good for that aspect of the art — that it can bring the music to different people. And anecdotally, I think that’s actually the case.”

Stay cool this week@work with a favorite piece of classical music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The year @work – equal pay, organization culture, Mark Zuckerberg’s books, the widening class divide, space exploration & Hamilton

Topics of work and the workplace often captured the headlines in 2015. And some of those headlines seemed to echo the 1970’s. As the economy improved, the wage gap between rich and poor increased. And we are still talking about equal pay for equal work.

One flashback was posted on the NPR website on January 2 in tribute to former New York governor, Mario Cuomo, who died on New Year’s Day. The post included the text and video of his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1984, two years after the Equal Rights Amendment  failed to gain support from the 38 states required to pass.

“We speak for women who are indignant that this nation refuses to etch into its governmental commandments the simple rule “thou shalt not sin against equality,” a rule so simple —

I was going to say, and I perhaps dare not but I will. It’s a commandment so simple it can be spelled in three letters: E.R.A.”

Even though this year’s slate of Presidential candidates includes two women, the legacy of Cuomo’s passion is largely ignored.

Two stories in the past year served to visibly illustrate the continuing inequity.

In Hollywood, major studio, Sony was hacked, revealing, among other things, the disparity between the compensation of lead actress Jennifer Lawrence and her male co-stars. Madeline Berg covered the story for Forbes

“More frequent are anecdotes of discrimination like those recently related by Selma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and even Streep.

All of these women have echoed the sentiment of Patricia Arquette, who brought the issue to the world’s attention at last year’s Oscars when she said in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress, “It’s our time to have wage equality for once and for all.”

But it is not only the number on the paycheck that is the problem: Women are also greatly underrepresented on the big screen, leading to fewer opportunities to make money, an issue that Reese Witherspoon brought up at the American Cinematheque Awards in October: “Women make up 50% of the population, and we should be playing 50% of the roles on the screen.”

That is a dream that is far from a reality. According to a report by the Annenberg School at USC’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative released in August, only 28.1% of characters in 2014’s top 100 films were female and of that percent, only 21 had a female lead or co-lead.”

The misrepresentation is even worse behind the camera: Of the same films, women made up only 1.9% of directors, 11.2% of writers and 18.9% of producers. This only aggravates the problem. The report found that in productions where women held key positions off-screen—as directors, writers and producers—the films featured women more often, and in less sexualized roles.”

We may find it hard to garner sympathy for those who earn millions @work for acting or competing in sport. But those are the visible workers who set the bar for the rest of us on the lower rungs of the career ladder.

The year in sport was dominated by the FIFA scandal, but women who work in sport created the memorable moments of the year. Christopher Clarey, summarizing the year in sport for women noted ‘Women Surge On Playing Field but Fall Behind in Boardroom’.

“As visible as female athletes were in 2015, women lost prominence and power in another key domain in the sports world: the boardroom.

Stacey Allaster, chief executive of the WTA Tour, stepped down citing burnout and the desire to spend more time with her young children. Debbie Jevans, a Briton who was perhaps Europe’s leading women’s sports executive, also cited personal reasons for resigning as chief executive of England Rugby 2015 less than six months before the start of the Rugby World Cup that she had been instrumental in organizing.

Another industry leader, Mary Wittenberg, who oversaw the New York City marathon as chief executive of New York Road Runners, resigned to lead a start-up lifestyle company, Virgin Sport.

Allaster, Jevans and Wittenberg were all replaced by men, and by year’s end there was no woman leading a major professional sport, not even one for women. Steve Simon is in charge of the WTA, Michael Whan is in charge of the L.P.G.A., Jeff Plush runs the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States and Mark Tatum oversees the W.N.B.A., the most prominent women’s professional basketball league, on an interim basis after Laurel J. Richie stepped down after five seasons in 2015.

Considering the scandals and governance crises that enveloped leading male-dominated federations like FIFA and the I.A.A.F. in 2015, more women in power looked very much like part of the solution. The men could clearly benefit from new perspectives.

“For me, the most important thing about diversity in a workplace is definitely making everyone feel included,” Wittenberg said. “But the diversity that comes from diversity of thinking is also invaluable, and if you don’t have diversity around your executive table or any table, I think you really run a risk today. Organizations, and especially political organizations that lack diversity in any number of ways, including gender — you’re not coming close to representing a world view. Leadership today should be challenged at every turn.”

The topic of work/life balance continues to dominate the water cooler conversations from Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And the conversation is at the heart of defining organizational culture.

In mid-August The New York Times published a story, ‘Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace’ with the following sub-heading: “The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push
white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.” 

Definitely not a ‘puff piece’, but an important piece of journalism that ignited a dialog not only between the Amazon PR machine and the editors of The NY Times, but among workers in a variety of work settings about organizational values and personal tradeoffs. How an individual’s values mesh with those of their employer will determine ultimate success or failure. Who will you become? is a far more important question to ask than   What is the salary offer?

This was also the year that Mark Zuckerberg encouraged others to follow his example, and read a recommended book every two weeks. The final recommendation in  ‘A Year of Books’ was announced today, number 23, ‘The Beginning of Infinity’ by David Deutsch.

Richard Feloni compiled a list of the first 20 recommendations.

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made a tradition of dramatic New Year’s resolutions, and this year he decided that he’d read a book every two weeks.

He wanted his selections to focus on “different cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies.”

“Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today,” Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook page. “I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”

Hopefully, we have all met our resolutions from January and shifted our media diet to include some ‘long reads’ outside our comfort zone.

As the economy continued to improve, the gap between rich and poor widened. Claire Cain Miller examined the impact of differences in child rearing on growing class divisions.

“Children were not always raised so differently. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is 30 percent to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than those born 25 years earlier, according to Mr. Reardon’s research.

People used to live near people of different income levels; neighborhoods are now more segregated by income. More than a quarter of children live in single-parent households — a historic high, according to Pew – and these children are three times as likely to live in poverty as those who live with married parents. Meanwhile, growing income inequality has coincided with the increasing importance of a college degree for earning a middle-class wage.”

And for awhile, a movie about space, not that one, the other one – ‘The Martian’, seemed to re-energize NASA’s plan to restart manned space exploration beyond the International Space Station.

Doug Bolton of The Independent reported on last week’s suspension of a proposed mission to the red planet.

“NASA has decided to suspend a mission to Mars scheduled for March 2016, due to the lander springing a leak.

The InSight Mission, which would have seen a rover analysing seismic activity and the interior structure of the red planet, was called off by Nasa bosses after technical staff failed to repair a leak in one of the rover’s prime instruments.

John Grunsfeld, the associate administrator for Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said: “We push the boundaries of space technology with our missions to enable science, but space exploration is unforgiving, and the bottom line is that we’re not ready to launch in the 2016 window.”

Which leaves our space efforts to two remarkable American entrepreneurs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. In May, Jessica Orwig expressed optimism in the future of private space exploration.

“This year is shaping up to be an extremely exciting time for the future of commercial spaceflight, which will be built upon the backbone of revolutionary 21st-century rockets. The private American space companies Blue Origin and SpaceX are paving the way.

Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2000, successfully launched its “New Shepard” space vehicle for the first time on April 29. The vehicle was named after Alan Shepard, who became the second human and first American to enter space 44 years ago. It is designed to eventually boost six people to space, where they can experience weightlessness for 10 minutes before returning to Earth. The ride is for entertainment and therefore not exclusively for astronauts, but these kinds of temporary spaceflights could become a new way for astronauts to train for coming space missions.

Two weeks earlier, on April 14, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, founded in 2002, attempted to land one of its Falcon 9 rockets on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are designed to boost spacecraft to greater heights than Blue Origin’s and are therefore involved in other missions outside of commercial spaceflight, including supplying the International Space Station, launching satellites into orbit, and aspirations to reach Mars.”

On December 22, NBC News reported “SpaceX completed an historic vertical landing of its Falcon 9 rocket on Monday night — the first time such a feat had been achieved.

The launch and landing in Cape Canaveral, Florida, were the first from the private U.S. spaceflight company since its rocket exploded on liftoff in June.

SpaceX has come close to landing a rocket but until now, never actually pulled the feat off. Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, stuck a landing last month — but Musk pointed out that was a suborbital trip, the requirements for which are considerably different.”

And then there was ‘Hamilton’ the musical. Just as the founding father was about to be replaced on the U.S. ten dollar bill, his story took center stage this summer on Broadway. In a 2015 recap article, ‘Surprises from 2015 and Reasons for Hope’, Gina Bellafante examined the ‘Hamilton effect’ on five year olds.

“As if it weren’t surprise enough that a hip-hop musical about the life of the country’s first Treasury secretary would become a Broadway sensation, finding impassioned fans in both President Obama and Dick Cheney, “Hamilton” has found an unlikely cohort of obsessives among 5-year-olds in New York, thanks to the cast album and scenes available on YouTube. At least one kindergartner in Brooklyn is regularly going to school with white socks pulled up over his pants. Some children are demanding quill pens, and many are singing the songs at home over and over and over.

“This is the new ‘Frozen,’” one already fatigued mother observed. Expect heated arguments about the limitations of Federalism among first graders next year.”

 

Marissa Mayer – Tag Team Parent?

On Tuesday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced via Tumblr that she is expecting twin girls. On the same day New York Magazine writer, Oz Spies described her life, as a mother of three, as a ‘tag-team parent’. These two distinct narratives provide a vivid illustration of how folks cope with balancing work and life in a world of income inequality.

Ms. Mayer became one of the highest profile working mothers three years ago, not long after her appointment as head of the global internet service. A 2013 profile in Vogue described her strategy to balance work and child care.

“She set up a nursery next to her office, and for several months after Macallister was born, he and his nanny came to work with her.”

In her announcement this week, she implied she would utilize a similar approach with the birth of the twins.

“Since my pregnancy has been healthy and uncomplicated and since this is a unique time in Yahoo’s transformation, I plan to approach the pregnancy and delivery as I did with my son three years ago, taking limited time away and working throughout. I’ve shared the news and my plans with Yahoo’s Board of Directors and my executive team, and they are incredibly supportive and happy for me. I want to thank them for all of their encouragement as well as their offers of help and continued support.”

What is the message to the employees at Yahoo who might be planning family leave when the CEO opts out?

Writers Claire Cain Miller and David Streitfeld explored the issue in their NYT article, ‘Big Leaps for Parental Leave, if Workers Actually Take It’.

“Such contradictory signaling from Yahoo, which lengthened its parental leave in 2013, is typical and ambiguous, said Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings. “The underlying work culture sends the message that if you’re really committed, you’re here all the time,” she said.”

On the other side of the spectrum, meet a Colorado couple, parents of three. One is a firefighter and the other a writer and consultant in the non-profit sector.

“We’re tag-team parents. It’s a term coined by the Center for Economic and Policy Research for parents who work alternating schedules, taking turns at both paid employment and child care, and it’s a work-parenting setup that’s on the rise. More than one-fourth of two-income couples include an adult working a nonstandard schedule (other than nine to five with evening or weekend hours).

Shift work is nothing new, but traditionally, many men who worked overnight, including firefighters, had wives who were stay-at-home moms. Now, more of these couples trade off work and kid duties. On my husband’s crew (all married fathers), the wives are all in the workforce, most of us fitting that work in around our husbands’ 48-hour shift blocks and our children’s school schedules. As a nonprofit consultant and writer, my job often gets done from a computer in our basement late at night, and I fit in the rest on the days when my husband is home with the kids. It’s yet another way that families today don’t look like the breadwinner father and stay-at-home mother ones of the past.”

While the media focuses on the birth announcements of business rockstars, it ignores the larger issue facing middle class families today. The average parent cannot bring their child and nanny to work. The cost of child care for two or more children exceeds the additional revenue of most second incomes. In the majority of families there is only one solution, alternating schedules with frequent handoffs of toddlers in parking lots when the best plans fail and shifts overlap.

This is our new American dream.

“Single parents, deployed parents, grandparents who are raising the children of their children — there are all kinds of complexities with which to wrestle. We figure it out as we go and we keep going.”

For the majority, including Oz Spies and her family this is the new normal.

“For us, tag-team parenting is the best way to see the kids we adore, do work we love, and still pay the bills. We’ll never have a standing Friday date night or every weekend together, but all this tag-team parenting has made us appreciate that we’re a team.”

Maybe Marissa Mayer’s strategy for blending family and work is a version of ‘tag team parenting’. It’s just hard to visualize a pre-dawn Silicon Valley McDonalds parking lot where a CEO and venture capitalist husband exchange toddlers, diaper bags and car seats.

The week@work – The pressure to succeed @school, @work and @amazon

This week@work includes articles that echo a growing concern that we are not adequately preparing our children for the future @work, millennials expectations @work, and Amazon’s culture that just may be more in line with those expectations.

Are we teaching our children to fear failure? Contributing Atlantic writer Jessica Lahey answers the question by narrating a parent – teacher conversation. The parent is expressing a concern about a child who is achieving academically but losing the desire to learn.

“The truth—for this parent and so many others—is this: Her child has sacrificed her natural curiosity and love of learning at the altar of achievement, and it’s our fault. Marianna’s parents, her teachers, society at large—we are all implicated in this crime against learning. From her first day of school, we pointed her toward that altar and trained her to measure her progress by means of points, scores, and awards. We taught Marianna that her potential is tied to her intellect, and that her intellect is more important than her character. We taught her to come home proudly bearing As, championship trophies, and college acceptances, and we inadvertently taught her that we don’t really care how she obtains them. We taught her to protect her academic and extracurricular perfection at all costs and that it’s better to quit when things get challenging rather than risk marring that perfect record. Above all else, we taught her to fear failure. That fear is what has destroyed her love of learning.”

Innovation is the product of failure. At a time when global competition is intense, there is a shortage of the curious, the questioning.

It’s time to reevaluate our priorities and help “kids rediscover their intellectual bravery, their enthusiasm for learning, and the resilience they need in order to grow into independent, competent adults.”

What happens when these adults move into the workplace? What are their expectations?

In 2007 the Gallup Management Journal published the results of a poll of job seekers asking what was important to them in their job search.

“Nearly half of job seekers say the opportunity to learn and grow, the opportunity for advancement, and earning promotions based on merit are extremely important when looking for a job”

It follows that the quality of management and the relationship with ‘the boss’ are critical factors in recruitment and retention.

“Companies know they must offer competitive compensation packages when fighting for talented employees, and they must offer the right types of work for those seeking jobs. If they don’t revise their recruiting pitch to include concrete examples of great management, and if they don’t have great managers in the first place, then job seekers will listen to companies that do.”

Hopefully great managers will allow employees to fail. But apparently not, according to the next story about the generation we continue to label as millennials.

In a post for Inc. Chis Matyszczyk gives us four reasons these folks are leaving their jobs.

“They’ve seen what corporate life did to their parents, so they’ll take it just in small doses, thanks. They see through their bosses (and their bosses hate them for it). Millennials look at the corporate world and understand how uncertain the future is. Most of their role models got rich quick.”

If the expectation is to take corporate life in small doses, perhaps a resume should include some time at the world’s biggest retailer.

Welcome to orientation at Amazon. The ‘above the fold’ story in The New York Times today describes the corporate culture at Amazon. As all things Amazon the culture reflects the values. leadership principles and vision of Jeff Bezos.

“Amazon may be singular but perhaps not quite as peculiar as it claims. It has just been quicker in responding to changes that the rest of the work world is now experiencing: data that allows individual performance to be measured continuously, come-and-go relationships between employers and employees, and global competition in which empires rise and fall overnight. Amazon is in the vanguard of where technology wants to take the modern office: more nimble and more productive, but harsher and less forgiving.”

Key to Amazon’s success is Jeff Bezos’ realistic view of the new employer-employee contract – one based on mutual utility.

“…he was able to envision a new kind of workplace: fluid but tough, with employees staying only a short time and employers demanding the maximum.”

A few additional articles from the week@work:

‘Design As Strategy’ Adi Ignatius for The Harvard Business Review, September 2015 issue: “…illustrates some of the ways design thinking is starting to power corporate strategy.”

The Perils of Ever-Changing Work Schedules Extend to Children’s Well-Being‘ Noam Scheiber for The New York Times, 8/12: “A growing body of research suggests that children’s language and problem-solving skills may suffer as a result of their parents’ problematic schedules, and that they may be more likely than other children to smoke and drink when they are older.”

‘The Makeup Tax’ Olga Khazan  The Atlantic 8/5  “Years of research has shown that attractive people earn more. Thus, the makeup tax: Good-looking men and good-looking women both get ahead, but men aren’t expected to wear makeup in order to look good.”