Designing the Future of Work

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category


The Mother Ship

Recently two colleagues shared their tales of woe when they were forced to relocate to the Mothership of their companies. One had recently moved to a new company and the other had received a promotion to a global role.


Rarely is the location of the Mothership a desirable option, either because the location quite frankly sucks, or the existence of the Mothership has made property prices astronomical. In both cases, these were technology companies that should have known better. Why would you force people to uproot their lives when technology allows people, and the global world we live in requires people, to work from anywhere.

“Teleconferencing and other advances in communications technology make it easier to split up a workforce among several locations”

GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt in GE is huge, but its future headquarters will be anything but..

I have had my own tumultuous experiences with location dependent management.

While working at a technology law firm’s Palo Alto office (literally on Stanford’s campus) I was forced to commute on three of the busiest freeways in the area. Exhausted by the stress of it, I asked my partner (who by the way, although right down the hall, only came into my office once a week) if I could start working from our San Francisco office. He responded, “I don’t believe in telecommuting.” This was doubly ironic because our clients rarely came into our offices. All of our work, including deal closings, was done online or on the phone.

Later I worked for a biotechnology company that was obsessed with facetime. People spent at least an hour a day on shuttles going from building to building for meetings. When a senior leader, who had been performing brilliantly, failed to uproot his family and move to San Francisco within the deadline he’d been given the company let him go. “Seriously?” I asked, incredulous. I didn’t last there long  either.

Basecamp founder David Heinemeier Hansson, a hero of remote workers, made fun of Reddit’s 2014 decision to force remote workers to relocate to the pricey San Francisco Bay area or face termination.

Basecamp Tweet

Employees Don’t Want to Move

According to a survey done by the Worldwide ERC there are many reasons employees are reluctant to relocate:

  • 91% say it is because of slowed real estate appreciation and depressed housing market in old location
  • 86% say their old location is in negative equity
  • 28% say they and their family are resistant to the move
  • 28% blame high housing cost in the new location
  • 20% say their spouse is reluctant to leave their job
  • 17% cite the high cost of living in the new location
  • 13% say the new location is undesirable

There are far more Cons than Pros to forced relocation to the Mothership. Let’s take a look.


  • Build Trust – facetime allows you to build trust more quickly.

    Apple 2 Campus

    Future Apple Mothership

  • Spontaneous Innovation – co-location increases the likelihood that you will have impromptu meetings with partners and stakeholders

(think Steve Jobs’ circular building design – he was obsessed with this concept and moved the bathrooms as far away as possible to make employees walk about).


  • Productivity Loss – most corporate headquarters have multiple buildings and massive campuses which means that increasing facetime requires significant shuttle time. You’ll get to know the van drivers by name. A massive loss of productivity.
  • Lower Engagement – the reality of two career couples and the impact of employees having to uproot children makes this requirement especially painful. Engagement has to take a hit here.
  • Expensive and Complicated – relocation is complicated and expensive, especially if companies are in a place where the location of several Motherships has priced common folk out of the market. Examples, Seattle/Redman, San Francisco Bay area, Boston, New York.
  • Lost Opportunity to Build Critical Skill – your senior leaders are managing people all over the globe. Why do they need to do that from home office? Everyone needs to learn how to use technology to lead, manage and collaborate.
  • Limits Your Talent Pool – the company limits its options because the high performing talent may not want to relocate. See statistics cited above.

Teach the Global Mobile Way

There are lots of resources to improve the way you work remotely. I’ve shared several in this blog and here is one more from my buddies at Hubstaff. So, don’t move your leaders – upskill them and the rest of your team to be prepared for the Global Mobile Workforce.

How to Run a Remote Meeting






Illustration for Techonomy by Clara Kirkpatrick

How many times have you clicked on an app, went in search of that photo you took back then, or went to Spotify and thought “I hope it remembers me?” Hours later you may curse the invasion of your privacy at the hands of technology. But in that moment you want technology do what it does best, recall who you are and what you like.

I first realized how dependent I had become on my customized user experience when I had to do a system restore and YouTube forgot who I was. See  YouTube Doesn’t Know Me Anymore. It had become time consuming and just plain annoying to reintroduce myself to my technology.


Target Ads

It was always a love hate relationship. When I did internet research for client blog articles and I was pestered for weeks with ads related to my search I was annoyed, and frankly creeped out. However, when these ads actually reflected my true desires it was a different story. Like my recent good fortune when Facebook recommended the group “Prague Hamburger Lovers.” I discovered an entire group devoted to the search for the best hamburgers in Prague. It was an active group, with very current information, and detailed descriptions of sumptuous beef burgers with “real” cheddar cheese (the Czech version tastes a bit rubbery to some Expats). I hadn’t searched for this gift – it was handed to me on a Facebook silver platter.

A new study conducted by Accenture found that the majority of consumers in both the U.S. and UK are willing to have trusted retailers use some of their personal data in order to present personalized and targeted products, services, recommendations and offers. While 86 percent of those surveyed said they were concerned that their data was being tracked, 85 percent said they realized that data tracking make it possible for retailers to present them with relevant and targeted content. Almost half (49 percent) acknowledged they were willing to allow trusted brands to track their data in return for relevant recommendations, targeted offers, and information on future product availability.

FACEBOOK Wants to Shape Me

It was by accident that my partner and I discovered that even when we had the same friends, we did not have the same Facebook feed from them. Facebook collects user reactions to fine tune its News Feed. There is enormous power in that Like button.

The News Feed has hooked users on Facebook. According to a Time article nearly a billion people around the world now look at Facebook daily. The company runs the second-most-popular website in the world and the most-used mobile app in the United States. American users spend nearly as much time on the site per day (39 minutes) as they do socializing with people face-to-face (43 minutes). That has turned Facebook into an online advertising behemoth ….

I even surrendered to Facebook just to avoid constant logins and passwords, and answered yes to any offer to logon with Facebook. Which is even more troubling given the fact that I listened to podcasts about Facebook’s social experiments and I still gave them a key to the door of my life.

Radio Lab on Facebook

See NPR’s “Lab Rats One And All That Unsettling Facebook Experiment” and All Tech Considered. At the time the Internet was overwhelmingly outraged. “Even the Editor of Facebook’s Mood Study Thought It Was Creepy,” Adrienne LaFrance wrote, at The Atlantic.

The Price of Connection

Many of our favorite apps ask for a series of permissions upon download that should scare us; Contacts, media files, location, photos and ability to share with Third Parties. They do have some legitimate reasons for asking. Why we say yes is another matter.

I confess that I like it when my phone remembers my last google search, especially if it is the restaurant I now search for in the windy, twisty Prague streets. I’m happy that Podcast Addict recommends things for me based on my obsession with Serial, Tim Ferris and Girlboss. I even appreciate Google Maps saving that place I got completely lost trying to find last time.

But, now we also have to contend with facial recognition software. The current U.S. TV hit, Person Unknown, is in no way science fiction – its science fact. Facebook has built it into its system and the future uses on a platform that is the third largest country on Earth are mind boggling. Not even the infamous National Security Administration (NSA) has that many faces on record.

Apple has come out as somewhat of a privacy champion. Apple kicked out over 200 apps that collected personal data in violation of the company’s privacy policies for its online store. The iPhone maker made the announcement a day after researchers discovered hundreds of apps using Chinese advertising software that extracts ‘personally identifiable user information.’ Not everyone considers that a smart move on Apple’s part.

Apple is going to realize very soon that it has made a grave mistake by positioning itself as a bastion of privacy against Google, the evil invader of everyone’s secrets. The truth is that collecting information about people allows you to make significantly better products, and the more information you collect, the better products you can build. Apple can barely sync iMessage across devices because it uses an encryption system that prevents it from being able to read the actual messages. Google knows where I am right now, where I need to be for my meeting in an hour, what the traffic is like, and whether I usually take public transportation, a taxi, or drive myself. Using that information, it can tell me exactly when to leave. This isn’t science fiction; it’s actually happening. And Apple’s hardline stance on privacy is going to leave it in Google’s dust.

Developer Dustin Curtis

Who-Let-the-Cat-Out-of-the-BagThe Cat is Out of the Bag

Although it may be too late to get the cat back in the bag, last month the European Union passed new comprehensive data protection laws –some of the most progressive and stringent in the world. In the United States, the FTC is taking on an increasingly active role of policing the data-driven activities of companies under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act prohibiting ‘‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.’’ In China, a draft Network Security Law released over the summer notably included requirements for Chinese network operators to safeguard personal information and obtain consumer consent to use personal data. Read more at

According to a study from the University of Texas, we can attribute our preference for personalized experiences to two key factors: desire for control and information overload. However, consumers are increasingly aware that their data has significant value to companies who keep the vast share of the derived economic benefit to themselves. A Eurobarometer Study published in June 2015, revealed that 67 % of respondents are concerned about not having complete control over the information they provide online. Will there be an “Internet Spring,” or are we destined to remain under the spell of technology.

Honestly, the people who are concerned that all of this personalization is too great an invasion of privacy still believe that they have privacy. I say go for it international privacy organizations. But, the Genie is out of the bottle. The days of personal privacy – unless you are living off the grid – are gone. Ask Angela Merkle, who will never look at her smart phone the same way again thanks to Edward Snowden. How ironic that the most UnAmerican activity has been aided and abetted by U.S. Tech companies. Even Phil Donahue was worked up (remember him?).

I’m not confused that connecting all the information in my life could be used against me in hauntingly powerful ways.  Am I simply lazy or do I just accept the reality that privacy doesn’t exist. The internet of things makes it even less likely that privacy will prevail. The internet is driving my car, sending me a cab, and suggesting where I eat. It will now know how warm I like to keep my home and what I’m watching on TV.

The UX experience, which has begun to track where my mouse hovers to dish up content that is most likely to seduce me. Next my laptop camera will track my eyeball movements and reveal to a stranger that I secretly crave the chocolate bar in the ad on the sidebar, instead of the green drinks recipes I went to the page for. Just don’t share that information with My Fitness Tracker and the five friends who keep wondering why I haven’t lost that last 10 pounds.



You Can Win on Both Sides of the Chalkboard

Not even ten years ago, all that came to mind when I thought about online courses was dodgy internet degrees from exotic places and online licenses from churches you’d never heard of so you could officiate at a friend’s wedding in the mountains. Now Edtech is booming. A huge $2.51 billion was invested into edtech companies in the first half of 2015. The long list of education startups at Web Summit 2015 was testament to a thriving industry.

Shock was my response when my sister announced she would be teaching all of her classes online this semester. My sister did not own a computer until two years ago when I moved out of the country and she had no other way to keep in touch. The delivery and installation of this computer was a carefully coordinated mission between my techie brother and I. Something close to a Martian landing. Now her college had offered this solution so she could work from home and recover from health conditions, since she only had one year to go until retirement. Online education had arrived and officially impacted every demographic.

How Digital Learning Technology Will Change In The Next Decades

According to a 2015 Babson Research report one out of three U.S. college students is taking at least one course entirely online.

Digital classrooms are reshaping more than colleges and universities. Just as technology has blown open the music and publishing industries, learning is now an open source experience.

Digital Learning BoxDigital Learning Goes Open Source

Companies like Khan Academy launched a movement for free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Khan Academy, founded by Salman Khan is funded by donations, now with significant contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google.

Online programs like Khan Academy are known as MOOCs, massive open online courses. These are generally free and available to anyone with an internet connection. Itunes University is a good example of a MOOC. You will find thousands of courses on a broad range of topics. Of course, because its free, you may study by yourself, usually without any feedback or accreditation.


Some Freelancers find it helpful to demonstrate their skills. Sites like Upworth and offer free online tests with scores.

Two high-profile companies have pursued a badge-based future: Coursera and Udacity. Both began their lives as providers of MOOCs. Coursera has bet on content and brands from top universities. The launched “Specializations” in 2014 and now offer 75 different programs, the vast majority from a single U.S. university.

Coursera CEO Rick Levin – former President of Yale came onboard last year, in part due to his unparalleled connections in China and throughout Asia – and has said that the Specializations/certificate model is “financially sturdy enough that it should pave the way for Coursera to become cash-flow positive in the foreseeable future.”

See PC Magazine Review of Coursera

Udacity pivoted in 2013, when it announced “Nanodegrees” developed in partnership with top technology companies like Google’s involvement in the Android Developer Nanodegree. Udacity has done the same with iOS (Apple) and Tech Entrepreneur (Google). Back in September, Udacity revealed it had 10,000 students enrolled in Nanodegrees – a number growing by 30% every month.

teach onlineThere’s Money in that Knowledge in Your Head

There are other online education marketplaces like CreativeLive, General Assembly, Treehouse, and Skillshare that offer freelancers the opportunity to get paid for what they know. Bloggers and “thoughtleaders” make money with online courses on these platforms. See “Why Top Entrepreneurs Will be Teaching Online in 2016.”

In the heavy weight division are emergent online providers like Udemy and PluralSight. Like the Uber of education, certain platforms, like Udemy, allow global teachers to create and benefit from their course content.

Udemy is a website that enables anyone to teach and learn online. Launched in 2010, Udemy tries to democratize online education by making it fast, easy and free to create online courses. Like Amazon with eBook publishers you keep 70% of the revenue from your courses (or 85% if you directly refer the customer to the course). How 10 Instructors Earned $1.6 Million on Udemy in One Year.  If you are a visual learner go to Slideshare – 16 Tips to Make Passive Income on Udemy.

Former high school math teacher Rob Percival, the company’s top instructor, has made more than $2 million since 2014. And Percival’s friend and tennis partner, Ben Tristem, says he earns in the high six figures teaching game development.Not everyone gets to Malta, though: Average Udemy teacher take-home pay is $8,000.

Read More in Fortune.

Another online teacher success story is Kunal Desai, founder and CEO of Bulls on Wall Street, a company that teaches people to trade stocks online. Desai came to his idea to launch Bulls on Wall Street while working as a successful stock trader. Read more at Why Online Education is a Popular Path for Entrepreneurs in 2016

Pluralsight began as a provider of online technology training, and recently acquired the Orlando, Fla.-based Code School, which offered dozens of instructional courses and videos for developers. The $36 million deal was Pluralsight’s sixth acquisition in the past 18 months, as it continues its strategy to buy up smaller companies to expand its footprint in the online learning industry, and strengthened its position against companies like Skillsoft, and new competitor, LinkedIn.

online learning providersWith LinkedIn’s acquisition of, Pluralsight is geared up for an online education fight. In early April, professional social network LinkedIn shelled out $1.5 billion to acquire, one of the largest and oldest online learning marketplaces; their goal to become the professional enrichment destination of choice.

Pluralsight surpassed $85 million in revenue last year and roughly doubled its revenue every year. The company is prepared to IPO early this year. While LinkedIn’s shares recently fell 42% on news of larger than expected losses. If you are curious about how LinkedIn tries to make money see more at LinkedIn Financial.

So freelancers can both feast and be feasted upon in the online learning market. If you are in the market to upgrade your skills take a look at The 10 most popular free online courses for professionals.

If you think you have something to offer here are a list of additional resources.


  • Another way to earn money teaching online is YouTube. And, of course there is a YouTube Video to tell you how. “How to Make Money Teaching Online Courses on Udemy, Skillshare, Skillfeed”


I Speak Technology


I speak technology

Pressure to Learn the Language

When you actually settle in a place there is a subtle pressure that builds month by month to speak the native language of the country. Speaking Czech is practically a political issue in a country whose language has as interesting a history as the country itself. The comment I often hear from Czechs, “why would you want to learn a language that only 10.5 million people speak,” could be said by someone from pretty much every country in Europe and Asia. To be fair, knowing only one language is unheard of here. Czech and English are just the beginning, and at least the minimum. Or it’s Czech and German, Russian, French or Polish. A little Dutch and Hungarian.

Speak a Universal Language

So while I sit in three hours of Czech classes each week, my head spinning at the challenge, I hope to bridge the gap with my shared language, technology. I have loved technology since I was young, although never encouraged as a girl, in college I cheerfully carried my punch cards to the data center, yes it was Cobalt and we had to code on punch cards. Although I headed in another career direction, law, I took my love of technology with me and knew every software program any of my law firms used, was a Palm Pilot early adopter, joined a startup on a wild ride (unfortunately months before the first dot com bust), and blog about technology here.  I speak technology, and that may be the most important language on the planet.

The New Digital Divide

Defin Technology GapWhile most see the digital divide as a generational issue, it’s not. It’s a mindset, a value statement. I had lunch with a smart guy who told me how he makes a living at online education. Spends hours of his day at a computer, yet draws the line at a smart phone. He proudly tapped his indestructible long past warranty Nokia on the table. It’s true, they used to make damn good phones that we were seduced away from with pretty icons and the promise of continual connectivity.

I encounter people of all ages on one side or the other of technology. Everyone has their boundaries. As more and more of the world becomes the Internet of Things I have to wonder what will happen to these people. His resistance futile or am I the fool.

Read this hysterical interpretation of the digital age gap – I am guilty of none of these things and my daughter better shut up.

A World Without Technology

RevolutionEven in the apocalyptic worlds without digital technology depicted in films and television, like the U.S. TV series Revolution, humanity seems to find a way to gather together enough technology to blow each other up. Hell, fire is technology, especially in the wilderness.

Yet, technology has been a game changer for poor countries and disempowered people. The Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko, the first woman ordained in the Southern Congo Conference, understands the power of technology.

“My cousin, a villager in Congo, cannot even write, cannot even read, but she has a cell phone,” she said. “That is powerful.”

At Game Changers Summit, a conference on using information and communications technology for development, Revi Stering,  whose work with NetHope centers on gender inequity in technology, reminded us that technology is considered so empowering there are examples of villages barring women from using phones or punishing them for using them too much.

“Women have been killed for using technology.”

I worry for the citizens distanced from technology, which has opened up so many opportunities for developing countries and individual enterprise. Only an apocalyptic event will stop the bullet train of progress, and what happens to those who don’t get on?

One of two startling projections in the World Bank’s “World Development Report,” released last week:

The probability of certain jobs’ nullification-via-technology is extremely high. Most likely to be affected, according to the report: agricultural jobs, clerical jobs, and service industry jobs.

US Tech Job Growth

The Technology Gap will Become a Canyon

Is Technology the Answer to the Technology Gap?

The U.S. is, by design or sheer bad management, not prepared to supply the talent of the future.

US High School Computer Science

Not only is the U.S. not skilling up the next generation of workers, there is a wave of former middle class Boomers, who lost industrial jobs and don’t have the technology skills to get back into today’s market. If the issue is ignored, it will create a permanent underclass at two ends of the population.

Here in the Czech Republic there is a generation of women whose transition from a communist economy did not include an upgrade of their technology skills. These women, in their fifties or older, find it difficult to sustain employment in this highly transitional economy. There are limited resources to address their technology skills. Organizations like Czechitas work to find ways to support women in this demographic.

The World Economic Forum thinks that technology is the solution and highlighted the companies that are filling in the grid.

World Forum Online Ed

At the ‘Summer Davos’ World Economic Forum last year in China, the “employment and skills: discussion confirmed language as the largest barrier to online learning for the majority of the world’s population.  The group discussed the opportunity to leverage technology to create a universal language that could break down the linguistic communication gap. Top Seven Gaps in Education and Learning that Need to be Addressed over the Next Decade

YouTube ButtonLearning online doesn’t have to be fancy. I am a huge fan of the University of YouTube. Whenever I need to learn a new tip or trick, optimize my phone, or learn how to draw a box (for my book cover), you can find it on YouTube. I even set up a training program on Word and Excel on YouTube for my technically challenged partner.


So, to the technically challenged, or to those who struggle to  learn another language, hop online and learn how to speak technology.

WebSummit 2015 had an entire track on education online. My lunch companion  is staking his economic future on the industry. It’s worth a look from both sides of the equation, teacher and student. Next week – ONLINE EDUCATION – WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME.




Can I Get Some Collaboration Up in Here?

Collaboration in the Cloud is What It’s All About

The second most important word in corporate culture – Collaboration – gets its power from it’s role in the most important word – Innovation. Hard enough to accomplish with everyone in the same place, it can overwhelm companies who need to make it happen across the globe. Collaboration geniuses like Steve Jobs couldn’t even grasp the possibility. He built his concept of collaboration on people bumping into each other on the way to the bathroom, then designed an entire building around it.

The reality lost on Jobs and hundreds of other tech leaders is that even if you hire people from all over the world, once you put them together in one place you lose the perspective they could bring to a business challenge if they lived in another country. Companies large and small search for the Holy Grail, the collaboration tool that will make their teams productive, efficient and happy.

As workers try to balance work and family, who can now text you their urgent needs while you are in a meeting, even teams in the same town need help. The need to work from anywhere has intensified.

Things Have Changed Since I Started This Journey

When I first started my global mobile journey my technology challenged team had finally begun to feel comfortable with ÜberConference.   We used the call record feature to start meetings on time and hold late joiners accountable to listen to what they missed later. Poor call quality on cellphones ended the relationship, and the lack of interactive screensharing (which they have since address). Back then (only 2013) I was an early Cloud adopter. Now the whole world has joined me in the clouds. See How Can I Call You In The Virtual World?

Too Many to Choose From

What hasn’t changed is the overwhelming number of companies in the space. No two best of reviews list the same ten companies, or five.

It’s a tough job and one I tackled recently with Prague based art and finance startup ARTSTAQ. Team members, including the CVO and CEO, were either heavy on tech skills or heavy on art or finance industry knowledge. All sides needed to understand the other ‘s work, and quickly. Only the tech guys had run virtual teams, and the level of comfort with technology varied widely.

What My Experience Taught Me

I added three new apps to my experience databank with the Czech-based startup team, Trello, Podio, InVision, and took my Dropbox and Google Drive skills to the next level. I learned a great deal about how teams adopt technology – the biggest risk with a collaboration tool.

Trello Tragedy

TrelloWe started with Trello, which I had used successfully with another team. It was a disaster. The CEO struggled to translate his GANTT chart into an action focused structure.  Even our small team of ten people didn’t find it useful to keep track progress or communicate quickly. The problem, of course, wasn’t Trello. The problem was not being able to translate the project architecture of the startup to Trello.

So, I was sent in search of something better.

Podio Disaster

PodioI did an exhaustive search for a product management tool. We also needed a CRM, and would eventually need a knowledge management tool. Oh, and because we were pre-funded it had to be free.

I made a presentation to the team where everyone agreed that technically Podio was the best product to address both our product design and CRM needs, and I got a Startup deal from Podio that allowed us to add the entire team as users. The launch fell flat.

At the same time the tech team introduced SLACK, a crowd favorite. Nobody wanted to put the time into Podio setup, shared Podio how-to-videos, pleaded with the team. It just wasn’t intuitive. I spent hours learning the product.  Out of frustration I had to create the project architecture for the data, web and business development teams to hand over a turnkey Podio platform. That increased the group adoption rate by one, me. When I left, CRM was still done on excel spreadsheets.

The SLACK Success Story

SlackOn the other hand, Slack was a huge success. Practically idiot proof, people enjoyed real-time communication and moved projects forward faster. We used the random channel to share silly jokes. SLACK was really a bonding experience, with the less technically savvy excited and confident to use the app. But, without a real organizational tool our weekly team meetings suggested we could move faster with more coordination. The team felt a little lost and overwhelmed in face to face meetings. The experience highlighted for me the challenge of collaboration, even when people work in the same town.

SLACK is not really a project management tool – it is about communication and sharing; ideas, documents, video. You can’t track progress or assign to-do’s. Stay tuned. SLACK had a big presence at Web Summit 2015, and the team seemed buoyant. They can quickly build on functionality based on feedback from their community. Slack does support all of your communication in one place, instantly searchable, available on mobile. And it integrates with Dropbox, Asana, Hangouts, and ZenDesk.

Shout Out for Basecamp

BasecampBasecamp (formerly 37Signals), a company I’ve talked about before, but because they are an example of a company built with and for remote workers, is a product I’ve used and enjoyed. The challenge is always to get the team to channel all activity through the portal. It worked really well for the team located in six cities. Basecamp felt well organized and fairly easy to use, and offered collaboration advantages for both internal teams and our external client teams.

So How to Choose?

I did spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations to help my team understand the option. I looked at how the team worked and if the collaboration tool integrated with other apps we valued. But, given the dynamic nature of the industry these are really feeble evaluation tools for the long-term. Companies pivot or explode every day.

Since there is overwhelming data that companies with greater gender balance are more successful it may be strong predictor of the best long-term bet. We invested a lot of time when we set up and use these products. I applied this approach once before to pick a cloud storage tool.

Now the consumer cloud storage market has been disrupted by Amazon, OneDrive and GoogleDrive. My fan favorite in Dropbox vs. Box, with decent gender balance at 15%, survived the tidal wave (Box went corporate and JustCloud is just hanging in there). Here are Dropbox numbers from 2014: 34 percent female, 4 percent Hispanic and 1 percent black.

When I first did an analysis like this you could find at least the leadership team on the company’s website. Companies seemed to be less likely to post their employees photos and titles online – possibly because of the increased backlash against companies in tech for the lack of diversity. I was able to get some data.

Company Men % Woman % Total
Basecamp 35 76% 11 24% 46*
Podio (owned by Citrix) 8 89% 1 11% 9**
SLACK 14 74% 5 26% 19***
Trello 6 50% 6 50% 12+
Citrix Executive Team

Citrix Leadership Team

*This is all of the employees of Basecamp

** Executive Leadership Team Only

*** This is all the employees listed on CrunchBase – the Leadership Team is six guys

+This was the leadership team on CrunchBase

Both Dropbox and Slack were recently listed in Textio Top Ten: Tech Companies with the Most Gender-Neutral Job Listings. This is a sign that the desire for gender partnership is strong, given the numbers and the fact they even pay attention to gender bias in job descriptions.

The Trello numbers are unlikely current, so I can’t give them a fair assessment. Basecamp numbers look good, and they are leaders in remote work, an important factor for a company that builds collaboration tools.  That said my vote of confidence goes to SLACK. I trust that they will be able to build on their success and offer us the COLLABORATION product we crave in the Global Mobile World.



The Global Mobile Worker – A Solution to the Talent Gap

War for TalentA consistent theme at #WebSummit 2015 was the war for talent. Every co-founder cited getting good talent in the door as one of their greatest challenges, and one most didn’t expect.

What Founders learned was talent is not just about developers. It takes a range of skills to build a company.

These Founders thought there would be talent knocking down the doors of the hottest, hippest new thing. Sorry. There are a lot of shiny objects being flashed in the faces of Digital Natives.

Global Mobile Workers are the Solution

Everyone wants MillenialsPerhaps a new perspective on talent is required. Because startups still operate on the same paradigm as larger, older companies. Everyone wants Millennials and they want them geographically located at headquarters or a satellite office.

I mentioned in my last post that I was disappointed by this outdated way of thinking about talent, the internet makes geographic distance simply a state of mind. After all, this was the largest “technology summit in Europe.”

Remote workers more complex work testimonialStrategy, user experience, marketing, sales, back office operations, customer experience; remote talent can be a solution for all of these needs. Talent that is living in a city they love, and in more affordable conditions than the traditional headquarter cities of San Francisco, New York, London or Berlin.

Besides, these cities are swept up in a highly inefficient game of talent swap.talent-changing-jobs

Despite a decade of talk about flexible work arrangements and telecommuting, the idea of leading a remote workforce still seems as exotic as SpaceX.

There has been some progress. Almost 50% of managers in the US, UK and Germany are allowed to work remotely. And, the trend is global, the percentage of managers who work remotely in many developing countries has risen to between 10 and 20 percent.

It’s not just millennials driving the movement. Every generation has expressed a desire for remote work options. In their book Making Telework Work, Offstein and Morwick, found that workers nearing retirement also prefer to work remotely in order to spend more time with their families and to have a more flexible schedule.

Yet, companies are still struggling with the concept. When I worked as a corporate lawyer in the Palo Alto office of a global technology focused law firm, I asked my partner if I could work from our San Francisco office because the commute was crushing me. He said he “didn’t believe in telecommuting.” I later learned one of my colleagues had moved with his family to North Carolina without telling anyone. It had been two years, no one seemed to notice, and he was enjoying a more family friendly lifestyle in Raleigh/Durham.

So what’s the problem?

Many of the greatest companies in the 21st century, including Virgin, 37signals, and IBM have built successful businesses providing people the freedom to work where they want, when they want, and how they want.

People criticize working remotely because they find it difficult to measure the number of hours their employees are working. What they forget is that going into the office does not equal productive work.

“Office workers are interrupted—or self-interrupted—roughly every three minutes.” The Wall Street Journal

I once worked at a Silicon Valley life sciences icon that had built a sprawling campus on the Bay. It took 10 to 15 minutes to get around campus and meetings were a constant. Everything had to be face-to-face. I spent hours every day shuttling around campus to share my face. The company struggled to get people to even read the flexible work policy because nobody believed you could succeed without riding the campus shuttle several times a day. Most people ended up doing their real work at home at night, and large segments of the population were living in burnout.

Then, what does it take to promote remote work? What is required is a culture of trust and respect, empowering your employees; which, guess what, has also been shown to increase engagement, productivity, and company loyalty.

Managers have to get better at understanding and focusing on results

Focusing on output forces everyone to prioritize tasks that will have the biggest impact. It forces managers to better define the tasks, even repetitive tasks or what is required to oversee a process. Employees will have a clear understanding of expectations, another driver of engagement and productivity. This chart keeps it simple.

Results oriented approach

Systems such as ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) are being introduced to promote output work cultures, where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. It has been implemented in companies such as Best Buy and Gap, where they’ve seen: 20% improvement in productivity, 90% decrease in turnover rates, and increased customer satisfaction.

Who has done it successfully?

Education startup Citelighter has workers scattered around the world, from developers in Romania to account executives in Northern California, and another group in Baltimore. The company recently shared with Fast Company how it successfully manages it dispersed workforce.

Citelighter goes beyond online communication tools, they designate certain people as communication leaders, who are expected to know the answer no matter what. If, for some reason, those people aren’t available, there is a backup person. Distributed knowledge in action.

“I’m not just left in the dark because our developers are in Romania,” said Co-founder Jokl. “That expectation eliminates a lot of the risk.”

Founders of companies like Zapier, built with a distributed workforce, evangelize the movement. Zapier published The Ultimate Guide to Remote Work. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson from 37Signals, whose Basecamp product is designed to support teams (I’ve used it – it’s intuitive and fairly robust), wrote Amazon Bestseller Remote – Office Not Required.Remote Amazon Bestseller

You can speed your rate of growth by having a diverse team from the start, not the same 20-something demographic that is shaping every other startup in your town. Having a geographically and demographically diverse team from the start can be your “blue ocean” competitive advantage.

Managers and talent leaders may fear the thought of managing a virtualized workforce – terrified of losing the ability to track employee progress. Yet, there are success stories and the future global workforce is inevitable.

Top 10 companies winning at remote work culture and their secrets

100 Top Companies with Remote Jobs in 2015

76 Virtual Companies and Distributed Teams

50 Best Companies Hiring Remotely

By establishing core values, like clear and frequent communication, with a strong onboarding program and embedded collaboration tools, you will be streaming workflow seamlessly between on-site and remote employees. The bonus, you create a company that organically seeks to bridge differences and be inclusive.

Now Hiring Remote Workers

Next – Finding employees that “fit” and global mobile workers being found are the two ends of a market as inefficient and equally hated by both sides as any that’s ripe for disruption. Not Ready for the Global Mobile Worker – Talent Sourcing is Broken.



Web SummitI have taken some time to absorb the thousands of messages that I received at #WebSummit2015. How can I describe the experience? The picture in my mind is of a vibrant, moving wall of people, pinging about a pinball-esque landscape of hungry startup companies and people who’ve made it (or are at least fakin it till they make it) floating amongst each other in an orgy of cool. The effort at “coolness” factor could only be rivaled by my years at Sundance, but with a smaller clothing budget. It was a significantly less anxious crowd, although the quantity of coffee consumed would suggest otherwise.

Web Summit 2015 = 21 Summits + 1,000 Speakers + 42,000 Attendees

So with that amount of knowledge transfer what did the Global Mobile Worker Learn?

Talent Acquisition has not fundamentally changed. It’s just been automated.


The number one challenge expressed repeatedly by Founders was they underestimated the difficulty of finding good talent.

Why? Because they are stuck in the same old model.


must be in same physical locationI noted in an earlier post that even the CEOs of web/mobile based collaboration tool companies could not visualize teams that weren’t cluster in some city, some really expensive city like San Francisco, New York or London.

I was disappointed by the presentations from Slack and Trello, who acknowledged they were building a collaboration tool that would let teams communicate from anywhere, then talked about the fact that their teams are heavily focused on their San Francisco base.


I have worked with both Slack and Trello. The major premise of both is to help teams work effectively between meetings, and since the products are mobile and web based that should also mean across borders. Yet, the Founding team is stuck because they can’t find talent in a seat near them.


Back in 2009 experts were touting the importance of collaborative tools, yet no one has risen to dominate the market.

Collaboration and collective intelligence. In an information economy, only organizations that are flexible enough, so that people and capacity can be rearranged and recombined quickly without major structural change, will be able to thrive. … Project Management 2.0 emphasizes the importance of leveraging the collective intelligence of the whole team, no matter where the team members are located, at the same office or on different continents.

Why Project Management 2.0 Is a Different Ball Game

The tools to put location independent professionals – freelancers – to work are primitive, as acknowledged by Upworthy.

On Center Stage, the place to be at #WebSummit2015, Upworthy’s CEO, Stephane Kasriel, told The Journal that we had reached the Age of the Freelancer.

“If you look at the average duration people stay in a job, 10 years ago people stayed 10 or 15 years in a job, 5 years ago people stayed 5 years in a job; right now the average is 2.5,”

In presentations on Center Stage and later on the Enterprise Stage, Upworthy acknowledged that while the total value of jobs booked through the site is more than $1 billion (€933 million) annually, netting the company at least $100 million from its 10% commission, only about 2% of the people who signed up as new workers each day would ever get a job through the marketplace. Kasriel said an even smaller subset were destined to become “top-rated freelancers,” who earn most of the revenue.

That’s a highly inefficient system that is a great deal for employers and a swamp for freelancers.

See More at The workplace of the future – where no one has a 9-to-5 job

Kasriel did a workshop in San Francisco last weekend called “Matching workers with opportunities at high velocity.” It seems like the system is designed for the lightning to happen for companies not workers.


Over 50 Need WorkThe Elephant in the rooms of #WebSummit2015, besides my Fan Fave evernotesEvernotes, was that talent has a very short shelf life. The talent that the Founders were struggling to find was all under 40, still with highly focused careers.

We will explore these three things in A NEW SERIES




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