Preparing students for a fluid workplace

What tweaks could we make to the college curriculum that would help students prepare for the changing workforce? This quote from the article, The Global University Employability Ranking 2017, at the Times Higher Education, offers a clever solution:

“The way organisations have to work these days needs to be very fluid. In that kind of world it is important to have people who are really flexible, able to create networks within their organisations and very comfortable working in virtual teams and particularly [what we call] leading beyond authority: not necessarily having to get things done because they are in a team that has a boss,” he says.

But he is “not sure” that the implications of this are “well understood by the academic world and, therefore, when we throw a new graduate into [work] it can be quite overwhelming [for the graduate]”. One solution, he suggests, is for university courses to have more group projects, with assessment focused on the process that the participants go through, rather than the outcome.

Flourishing in such an environment requires “reflection and understanding”, and especially learning from mistakes, Saha says. He is sceptical that this aspect of professional competence is well explored in universities currently, but “in the working world, that is the bit that can be make or break”.

He’s spot on in his assessment and solution. Focusing on group work and assessing participants on their process, instead of outcomes, could go a long way to help students identify their strengths, weaknesses, and improve their leadership and collaboration skills. What really struck me in that sentence is that focusing on process, rather than outcomes, is the opposite of American business culture. American learning and working culture is focused specifically on outcomes – we’re obsessed with assessing programs. Managers evaluate employees based on their results, not collaboration.

I’ve never in my work life been on a team that was evaluated on how well they worked on a project together. It’s almost a revolutionary suggestion.

Your university is watching/nudging you

Universities are now collecting loads of data on students from physical whereabouts, to courses progress, to when they get online, to even what they do when they’re online.

The president of Purdue penned an op-ed to challenge higher education (and hopefully edtech) to think critically about how we use students’ data especially when it comes to behavioral nudging, lest we end up with a Chinese-like social rating system:

Somewhere between connecting a struggling student with a tutor and penalizing for life a person insufficiently enthusiastic of a reigning regime, judgment calls will be required and lines of self-restraint drawn. People serene in their assurance that they know what is best for others will have to stop and ask themselves, or be asked by the rest of us, on what authority they became the Nudgers and the Great Approvers. Many of us will have to stop and ask whether our good intentions are carrying us past boundaries where privacy and individual autonomy should still prevail.

Hype slayer

Which reminds me:

Do executives need to upskill?

Sixty-two percent of executives believe they will need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2023 due to advancing automation and digitization.

As for solutions, 82 percent of executives at companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues believe retraining and reskilling must be at least half of the answer to addressing their skills gap. Within that consensus, though, were clear regional differences. Fully 94 percent of those surveyed in Europe insisted the answer would either be an equal mix of hiring and retraining or mainly retraining versus a strong but less resounding 62 percent in this camp in the United States. By contrast, 35 percent of Americans thought the challenge would have to be met mainly or exclusively by hiring new talent, compared to just 7 percent in this camp in Europe (Exhibit 3). – Retraining and reskilling workers in the age of automation, McKinsey

Two thoughts from this report:

  1. Do executives think they need to upskill? Maybe their inability to see the training needs, new jobs, and workforce of the future is shaped by their inability to reskill.
  2. Americans who think their companies are going to invest in them and their future career are mistaken.

I need to put this glorious gif somewhere

My love (obsession?) for career education is deep. I could talk about how we train people for the job search and the future of work for hours (and sometimes I do). I love listening to peoples’ work lives. But I know career education isn’t the most entertaining subject. As much as I try there’s only so much I can do to transform traditional career advice like “research all the companies”and “LinkedIn is your power tool” into engaging content. Enter, gifs. I love gifs. My newsletters have them. My courses have them. Gifs help me liven up some of the driest parts of my career content (and really, when I say dry I mean desert-dry…)

Today I hit a major milestone in my gif appreciation: I made my own.

I teach people how to build soft skills, specifically negotiation, networking, and public speaking. Unfortunately developing these three skills make people feel incredibly uncomfortable. To deal with discomfort I drive home this motto: embrace awkward. Awkwardness is to be expected when we try new new things. Awkwardness happens with difficult conversations. Stepping outside our comfort zone is bound to be awkward. Avoiding awkwardness is futile. Instead, we should embrace it and power the the fuck through it.

Power-the-fuck-through-it doesn’t make for snappy, corporate friendly workshop copy, so Embrace Awkward is my go to motto.

Anyhow, I’ve enshrined my favorite career advice in a lovely gif for my upcoming course, How to Ask for a Raise.

My day’s work is complete.

I keep failing at upskilling so here’s profesh New Years Resolution #2

I struggle with upskilling. I’ve failed out of more Coursera courses than I can count. I struggle with procrastination and attention (it’s the online course vs. the entire internet vs. Twitter vs. Instagram). Five ago I completed a Financial Accounting MOOC from Wharton just to see if I could do it (I did). Since then I haven’t managed to make it through a coding class or a data analytics specialization, despite desperately wanting those skills and being quite curious about them).

Last week I found this wonderfully in-depth article on learning to code in 2018. It’s written by Andrei Neagoie, a senior software developer, who is currently “building the ultimate course to teach dev skills.” The article is written in a way that made me feel like I could most definitely absolutely learn javascript in 2018.  If you’re thinking about upgrading your technical skills (even if some say it might be too late for your industry), read the article.

I’ve signed up for his ultimate course. As a course designer I want to see his instructional design approach. As a career coach, I want to understand the process people go through as they try to upskill, so I can build better courses to help them do it. As a person who needs to get her shit together and upskill, I want to upgrade my technical abilities and build interactive websites.

So here’s to 2018, the year of the upskill! 

 

Do AI company founders watch Black Mirror?

“Cameras are no longer just for memories but are fundamental to improving our daily lives – both in our personal and professional lives.” – It’s Coming, The Internet of Eyes will allow objects to see, The Next Web

Read the glowing article above where founders gush over a soon-to-be world in which all inanimate objects have tiny cameras that monitor our everyday movements. How does it make you feel? Is this the first time you’ve ever heard of the Internet of Eyes?

“Similar to the Internet of Things, the IoEyes is a network of cameras and visual sensors connected via the internet enabling the collection and exchange of visual data on a scale unimaginable before.”

This was the first time I’ve heard of the Internet of Eyes (IoEyes) and it’s absolutely terrifying. Equally terrifying are the founders who believe “IoEyes will only have a positive effect on society as a whole.” These guys seem to be clueless about the negative impact these technologies will have on society. You’d think there’d be a second thought on the “trillions of frames of potentially actionable data” they’re sucking up when data breaches are happening at record paces. Or maybe the founders just don’t care because profit&brand. And they’re doing it all to give us a better quality of life, to give us things like better data from our toothbrushing experience:

Imagine performing a simple daily task and knowing what’s going on inside your body.A real-time visual feed of you brushing your teeth will generate not just one visual signal but millions of layers of signals, including analyzing heart rates, blood conditions, DNA structure, temperature, and emotional state.”

Regardless, these founders (and maybe tech journalists) need to take a break from building (and reporting on) the future of surveillance for a bit of Netflix and chill with Black Mirror. Black Mirror is notorious for it’s dark take on how technologies affect society. Their episodes stay in your head way beyond episode. The series makes you rethink the impact of technologies in a visceral way. Every time I read an article like the one above it makes me wonder if any of these founders watch the show.

So my Netflix and chill recommendation for the founders is as follows. Start with the episode, The Entire History of You. Then move on to Nosedive followed swiftly by Shut up and Dance. Throw in the Christmas episode for fun.

Then get back to me about how positive these technological advances are for society.

PS: IoEyes also helping to reinforce those pesky gender stereotypes and support controlling personalities:

“The benefits of biometrics and sensors offer invaluable support. From deterring people from driving when they are too intoxicated, to making sure your teenage daughter isn’t bringing home that boy you don’t like when you aren’t around.” 

 

Ellen Pao is such a bad ass it makes my head explode

When I first got the three pages of specs for a chief-of-staff position at Kleiner Perkins in 2005, it was almost as if someone had copied my résumé. The list of requirements was comically long: an engineering degree (only in computer science or electrical engineering), a law degree and a business degree (only from top schools), management-consulting experience (only at Booz Allen or Bain), start-up experience (only at a top start-up), enterprise-software-­company experience (only at a big established player known for training employees) … oh, and fluency in Mandarin.”

That’s Ellen Pao’s career in the elite of the elite from a must-read excerpt of her upcoming book, Resent, which details the intense harassment she experienced at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The excerpt is worth the read in part because it challenges the assumptions we make about women who speak out on sexual harassment. It’s not just a woman who speaks up, gets fired, goes to court, loses, life goes on. Imagine having this happen to you when you spoke up about wrong-doing in your organization:

In response to my suit, Kleiner hired a powerful crisis-­management PR firm, Brunswick. On their website, they bragged about having troll farms — “integrated networks of influence,” used in part for “reputation management” — and I believe they enlisted one to defame me online. Dozens, then thousands, of messages a day derided me as bad at my job, crazy, an embarrassment. 

Corporate. Troll. Farms. Backed by people who have piles money like this:

That’s terrifying.

Ellen Pao is a fighter. A leader. A storyteller. And she’s a damn strong role model for women, especially those navigating those same elite circles.