The week@work – Super Bowl@50, Facebook@12 and unemployment@4.9%

This week@work the center of the media universe shifted from Iowa to New Hampshire, and Silicon Valley where, separated by about 12 miles on Highway 101, Levi Stadium in Santa Clara will host the 50th Super Bowl game, and Facebook celebrated it’s twelfth birthday at corporate HQ in Menlo Park. And, in the U.S. the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9%, the lowest since 2008.

In the lead up to the big game there were hundreds of stories about those who choose football as a career, from the high school senior announcing a college choice to the veteran player rewarded with membership in the Football Hall of Fame.

The typical NFL player takes their first step in their career at the annual February ritual, ‘National Signing Day’. It’s the day high school football players sign a ‘Letter of Intent’ to accept an offer of admission and commit to play football at the collegiate level. This year, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter were on hand in Ann Arbor, Michigan to participate in ‘The Signing of the Stars’ “a flamboyant national signing day pep rally streamed live on Wednesday by The Players’ Tribune — the website founded by Jeter, a Michigan native — and intended to build the hype around this year’s class of prospective Wolverines football players.”

Time will tell if the top college recruit, Rashan Gary, from Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey will advance beyond his playing days at Michigan.

On the other end of the football career spectrum is recognition as an inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame. The class of 2016 includes former Oakland Raiders quarterback, Ken Stabler who let his team to their first Super Bowl victory after the 1976 season.

“While generally a cause for celebration, Saturday’s announcement of the class of 2016 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame carried a somber tone as Ken Stabler, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, was elected days after it was publicly revealed that he had had Stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative brain disease, before his death in July.

Stabler, known as the Snake, who won a Most Valuable Player Award for the 1974 season and led the Raiders to the team’s first Super Bowl victory after the 1976 season, was previously a finalist for election three times, but this year, as a senior candidate, he was elected alongside Dick Stanfel, a star offensive lineman in the 1950s. The modern-era electees were Brett Favre, Marvin Harrison, Kevin Greene, Orlando Pace and Tony Dungy, as well as Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., who owned the San Francisco 49ers for all five of their Super Bowl wins and was elected as a contributor.”

On Wednesday, journalist, John Branch’s profile of Stabler, and his life after football with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.) was published in The New York Times.

“After retiring from football, Stabler worked as a broadcast analyst for the N.F.L. and for the University of Alabama, where he had played quarterback under Coach Bear Bryant. His damaged knees became such a problem in the past 10 years that he rarely ventured out.

“His vision of what a leader is, what a strong person is, is someone who did not show signs of weakness,” said Alexa Stabler, 29, the second of Stabler’s three grown daughters. “Because it would affect the people he relied on and the people he cared about, whether that was his family or his teammates.”

When Stabler was 31, a 1977 Sports Illustrated feature story detailed his penchant for honky-tonks and marinas, usually with a drink in one hand and a pretty woman in the other…He pondered what he might do after football.

“My lifestyle is too rough — too much booze and babes and cigarettes — to be a high school coach,” Stabler said. “I’d hardly be a shining example to the young athletes of the future.”

His family hopes that the most powerful lesson he provides is the one delivered after he was gone.

In between signing day and induction into the Football Hall of Fame, if you’re impossibly lucky, is a chance to compete in the national championship of professional football, the Super Bowl.

The annual spectacle, held this year in the vortex of Silicon Valley has exposed the growing economic divide, “gentrification, sky-high housing prices and the technology industry’s influence on local government, even the nation’s biggest party has become a battleground.”

“The cost of hosting the Super Bowl — estimated at about $5 million for the city — has unleashed a storm of anger among residents already resentful of the influx of expensive restaurants, high-end stores and rich, young tech workers who have snapped up apartments in historically low-income neighborhoods. To tidy up for the tourists, the city’s large homeless population has been swept out of view, which some people here see as evidence that this city, long a seat of leftist activism, has sold itself to corporate interests.

“In San Francisco, we’re supposed to be the bastion of crazy liberals,” Ms. Leitner said. “Instead of raising wages for teachers so they can afford to live here, why are we spending money on a party for people who work for the N.F.L.?”

Fast Company writer, Michael Grothaus marked the birthday celebration on Thursday at Facebook.

“It’s a bit crazy when you think about it, but Facebook is 12 years old today. On February 4, 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched his fledgling social media site at Harvard. And the rest, as they say, is history. Twelve years on, Facebook has become the largest social media company ever. It influences myriad aspects of our lives and recently passed a billion active users each day.

It’s also kind of doing what candy makers and online retailers have tried to do in the past by deeming February 4th as an unofficial holiday that it hopes catches on: Friend’s Day.”

A look back to the 2004 Harvard Crimson article about ‘thefacebook.com’ may be the best  argument for why venture capitalists should be reading their alma mater’s student newspaper.

“Thousands of students across the country use it. Major corporations are falling over themselves to buy it.

But nearly a semester after creating thefacebook.com, a social networking website launched on Feb. 4, Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06 doesn’t seem to have let things go to his head.

Wearing a yellow t-shirt, blue jeans, and open-toe Adidas sandals, Zuckerberg sits on a ragged couch in the middle of a messy Kirkland House common room, surrounded by strewn clothes and half-closed boxes.

Amidst this squalor, he smiles.

“I’m just like a little kid. I get bored easily and computers excite me. Those are the two driving factors here.”

Thefacebook.com allows university students to create personal profiles listing their interests, contact info, relationship status, classes and more.

It started locally at Harvard. It now has almost 160,000 members from across the country.”

Twelve years later, Thomas Friedman considers the question, ‘Social Media: Destroyer or Creator?’

“Over the last few years we’ve been treated to a number of “Facebook revolutions,” from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street to the squares of Istanbul, Kiev and Hong Kong, all fueled by social media. But once the smoke cleared, most of these revolutions failed to build any sustainable new political order, in part because as so many voices got amplified, consensus-building became impossible.

Question: Does it turn out that social media is better at breaking things than at making things?

Recently, an important voice answered this question with a big “ yes.” That voice was Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google employee whose anonymous Facebook page helped to launch the Tahrir Square revolution in early 2011 that toppled President Hosni Mubarak — but then failed to give birth to a true democratic alternative.

“Five years ago,” concluded Ghonim, “I said, ‘If you want to liberate society, all you need is the Internet.’ Today I believe if we want to liberate society, we first need to liberate the Internet.”

Beyond the Super Bowl and Facebook, the economy continues to improve. The jobless rate is under 5% and wages are rising.

“It’s not that the new data blew the lid off expectations or pointed to some radical acceleration in job growth in the opening weeks of 2016. Quite the contrary. The nation added 151,000 jobs in January, which was below analysts’ expectations and well below the revised 262,000 jobs added in December. That looks an awful lot like “reversion to the mean,” and it wouldn’t be surprising if final revisions show a slower pace of job growth across the two months.

But while economists and financial markets have traditionally placed the greatest weight on that payroll number as the key indicator of whether economic growth is speeding up or slowing down, we’re entering a phase where some other components of the jobs report are more important.”

Two additional articles of interest this week profile the executive who created the culture at Netflix and a BBC photo essay on the career dreams of the children who have fled Syria.

‘The Woman Who Created Netflix’s Enviable Company Culture’  Vivian Giang for Fast Company – “The woman behind “Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility” was the company’s chief talent officer at the time, Patty McCord…Instead of listing the company’s core values like every other company was doing, McCord decide to write down the things the company valued, what mattered to them, what they expected in their people.”

‘When I grow up I want to be…’ (BBC) “Despite their current predicament, children who have fled the conflict in Syria and are now living in neighbouring countries dream of what the future holds for them, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) sent photographer Meredith Hutchison to find out.”

To end this week@work, let me introduce you to Rama, age 13, and her dream of becoming a doctor, as a reminder to honor your dreams.

_88034777_a80f7902-6be1-4991-913e-aed456838390.jpg“Walking down the street as a young girl in Syria or Jordan, I encountered many people suffering – sick or injured – and I always wanted to have the power and skills to help them.
“Now, as a great physician in my community, I have that ability. Easing someone’s pain in the most rewarding aspect of my job. To be able to give them relief is the most rewarding aspect of my job. To be able to give them relief and make them smile – this is what I love most.”

 

The week@work – Unemployment, economic mobility, parental leave, a tribute to #55 and anticipating Rio

The week@work included the first debate of the 2016 election season, the release of economic indicators and two American corporations announcing generous parental leave policies. This week also marks one year until those who work in sports will demonstrate their skills at the Summer Olympics in Brazil. And the NFL, in its wisdom, denied a Hall of Fame inductee’s daughter the opportunity to fulfill a father’s wish.

Once again, the week@work was about values: those we hold as a society and those organizations demonstrate not just in policies, but in action.

The June jobs numbers were released by the Labor Department on Thursday. Ben Casselman reported on the numbers behind the numbers in his article for ‘FiveThirtyEight’, ‘Don’t Forget The Workers The Recovery Is Leaving Behind’.

“U.S. employers added 215,000 jobs in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its monthly jobs report on Friday. It was the third straight month of job growth above 200,000, and the 10th in the past year. Revisions to prior months’ data added another 14,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate held steady at 5.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since before the recession.

Although the progress has been impressive, it has not been absolute. The headline unemployment rate is nearing a level most economists consider healthy — policymakers at the Federal Reserve consider a rate of between 5 percent and 5.2 percent “normal” over the long term — but the government’s official definition of unemployment leaves out people who have stopped looking for work or are stuck in part-time jobs. A broader underemployment rate, which includes both groups, stood at 10.4 percent in July, still well above its prerecession level.

It’s worth paying particular attention to a handful of groups that were hard-hit by the recession and continue to struggle in the recovery: African-Americans, young people, the less-educated and the long-term unemployed. The good news: All four groups are seeing some improvement, in some cases rapid improvement. But all of them have a long way to go before their employment could be considered healthy.”

In a related opinion piece, Nicholas Kristof posed the question, ‘U.S.A., Land of Limitations?

“Researchers have repeatedly found that in the United States, there is now less economic mobility than in Canada or much of Europe. A child born in the bottom quintile of incomes in the United States has only a 4 percent chance of rising to the top quintile, according to a Pew study.

…more children in America live in poverty now (22 percent at last count) than at the start of the financial crisis in 2008 (18 percent). They grow up not in a “land of opportunity,” but in the kind of socially rigid hierarchies that our ancestors fled, the kind of society in which your outcome is largely determined by your beginning.”

The week@work story with the most press was the decision by Netflix, soon followed by an announcement from Microsoft, to offer extended parental leave.

Vauhini Vara writing in The New Yorker reports on ‘Why Parental Leave Remains a Privilege’.

“There are other reasons for policies like Netflix’s, besides the fight over talented workers. Gerry Ledford, a senior research scientist at the University of Southern California’s Center for Effective Organizations, pointed out that the companies that offer costly benefits, like long paid parental leaves, tend to be financially successful, with money available to spend on H.R. perks. Google and Facebook are highly profitable, and while Netflix is only barely profitable, investors don’t seem to mind; the company’s share price set a new record on the day that Netflix announced its updated parental-leave policy. A third factor—and perhaps the least known—has to do with Silicon Valley’s location in California, where all workers have access to some amount of paid leave for the first six weeks after the birth or adoption of a child; it’s easier for a company to justify generous parental leave when many of their employees were already taking time off anyway.”

This time next year we will all be cheering our respective nations as athletes compete at the Summer Olympics in Brazil. As NBC rolled out their initial commercials in anticipation of hours of broadcast time, two stories offered a preview of the competition.

The first was part of a series of videos produced by GoPro. Beach volleyball competitor and Olympic silver medalist April Ross narrates a four minute video describing her ‘life @work’ on the beach. For young women who aspire to elite competition, April’s perspective is a window on the dedication required to succeed. She shares her pride at winning silver but is motivated to take that “one step up on the podium” in Rio. Her best advice, “Don’t get caught up in other people’s expectations”.

And then there is the young woman who goes to work every day in the water. Katie Ledecky startled all in London in 2012, when she earned gold in the 800 meter freestyle. This week she won five gold medals at the World Championships. The New York Times reported on her achievement, becoming “the first to win the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500-meter freestyles in a major competition.”

“Ledecky capped off a history-making week on Saturday at Kazan Arena with another milestone. In the 800-meter freestyle, the event that launched Ledecky into the international spotlight at the 2012 London Olympics, she set her 10th world record of the past 24 months with a clocking of 8 minutes 7.39 seconds. The time was 3.61 seconds better than her 13-month-old mark.

Ledecky, 18, slapped the water three times — once for each individual world record she set at these world championships.”

Junior Seau was a football player. On Saturday he was inducted along with seven others into the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The New York Times covered the ceremony and the story behind the story.

“In his 20-year N.F.L. career, Junior Seau established himself as one of the game’s greatest linebackers. He committed suicide in 2012 at age 43 and was subsequently found to have had a degenerative brain condition linked to repeated hits to the head. Before his death, Seau told his daughter Sydney that she should speak on his behalf if he made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the Hall, citing a five-year-old policy of not letting others give full speeches for deceased inductees, did not allow Sydney to deliver her speech.”

Today, The New York Times printed Sydney’s complete remarks as the full page lead story of the sports section. Her words reflect the sincere love and respect of a daughter for a father and a desire to fulfill his wish. One wonders, one more time, about the disconnect at the NFL between stated and demonstrated values.

“The two words that exemplify my dad the most are “passion” and “love.” Everything he achieved, accomplished or set his mind to was done with both qualities. In every situation — whether it be practice, a game, a family barbecue, an impromptu ukulele song or just a run on the Oceanside Strand — he always gave you all of himself because to him, there was never any other option.”

“Being the first Polynesian and Samoan to make it into the Hall of Fame is such an accomplishment. He is proof that even a young boy from Oceanside can make his dreams a reality. All his success is a direct reflection of the Oceanside community and family that raised him and molded him into the man he became. Although he is the first Polynesian to make it into the Hall, I know he will not be the last.”