Monthly Archives: February 2016

Why Employers Like Hiring College Athletes

In There Is Life After College, Jeff Selingo explores why students struggle to launch into a career after college and how they can better navigate the route from high school through college and into the work world. It will be released by HarperCollins April 12, but pre-order your copy now for a free signed bookplate and access to exclusive bonus content. 

In a few weeks, as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament gets underway on CBS, you’re likely to see a spate of commercials for Enterprise Rent-A-Car that feature former college athletes behind the rental counter. Enterprise—which hires more college graduates annually for entry-level management positions than any other company in the United States—likes to recruit college athletes as employees because they believe athletes know how to commit to a task.

“We see a lot of transferable skills in athletes,” Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition at Enterprise, told me for my forthcoming book, There Is Life After College.


So do other employers. A recent report from Gallup found that college athletes are more likely to be highly engaged in the workplace compared to those students who didn’t play college sports. Forty-two percent of former athletes who are fully employed after college said they like what they do every day and are motivated to achieve their goals, compared to 38 percent of nonathletes. Female athletes were the most likely to be engaged at work, with 48 percent saying they had high levels of engagement, compared to 41 percent of nonathlete female students.

Athletes are a textbook example of the 10,000 hours theory described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers—that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Athletes practice at all hours of the day and night, show up even when they don’t feel like playing, and must have the drive to win. All are attributes important on the job.

This doesn’t mean that employers are only interested in hiring jocks, of course. The qualities prized in athletes obviously apply to other college activities. Employers told me they value musicians, game designers, and writers in much the same way. The particulars of the activity don’t matter as much as the time invested in the pursuit and mastery of the task.

This advice I heard from employers that ranged from Macy’s and Facebook to Vanguard and Teach For America to go deep and not just broad runs counter to what high school counselors preach when they encourage students to be “well-rounded.”

The problem is that well-rounded students usually don’t focus on any one thing for a prolonged period of time.

The problem is that well-rounded students usually don’t focus on any one thing for a prolonged period of time. Too often they seem to participate in activities just to check off a series of boxes instead of showing the deep and sustained involvement, passion, and dedication that employers seek. Their résumés are filled with what some recruiters refer to as “sign-up clubs.”

Well-rounded students typically turn into generalists on the job. While jack-of-all-trades were useful in previous generations, these days they are missing the critical expertise that gives them the edge in today’s job market: the knowledge of a specific discipline and field.

The best talent for today’s workplace has both deep understanding of a subject matter and the ability to work across a variety of complex subject areas with ease and confidence. The need for this ability to have both breadth and depth is far greater today than it was two decades ago as the world becomes more complicated technologically.

Too many of today’s college graduates lack both depth and breadth to thrive in the workplace. They pick a narrowly focused, career-minded major, for example, and never sample classes from a wide variety of disciplines from course catalog. And then when they graduate they lack the critical competencies employers are looking for.

Indeed, 40 percent of college seniors fail to graduate with the complex reasoning skills needed in today’s workplace, according to the results of a test administered to 32,000 students at 169 colleges and universities. The test, the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus, is given to freshmen and seniors and measures the gains made during college in critical thinking, writing and communication, and analytical reasoning.

The big difference between the skills of graduates depended on their college major: Students who studied math and science scored significantly higher than those who studied in the so-called helping and service fields, such as social work, and in business, which is the most popular college major.

In its surveys, Gallup has also found that college graduates who had had an internship or other hands-on experiences that allowed them to apply what they were learning were twice as likely to be engaged in their life and work after school. The problem was that only one in three graduates told Gallup they had internships or similar experiential learning opportunities in college.

What you study in college or which sports teams and clubs you join matters less to your long-term success than how hard you work in whatever you’re doing. The breadth of your activities matters, but don’t forget about the depth. Sometimes less is more.

Jeffrey Selingo is author of three books on higher educationYou can follow his writing here, on Twitter @jselingo, on Facebook, and sign up for free newsletters about the future of higher education at

He is a regular contributor to the Washington Post’s Grade Point blog, a professor of practice at Arizona State University, and a visiting scholar atGeorgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities.

Originally posted on Linked IN by: 

Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! or 860-387-0503


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Applied to Employee Engagement


Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! or 860-387-0503

For What Kind of Future Work Are We Educating Our Kids?

In There Is Life After College, Jeff Selingo explores why students struggle to launch into a career after college and how they can better navigate the route from high school through college and into the work world. It will be released by HarperCollins April 12, but pre-order your copy now for a free signed bookplate. 

If you want one example of how the modern workplace is being rapidly reshaped by advancing technology and global economic forces, just take look at a recent graduating class at Michigan State University.

In 2014, Procter & Gamble hired graduates from 86 different majors at Michigan State, reflecting P&G’s eagerness to hedge its bets to find the right match. The same year, General Motors and Dow Chemical together hired just 32 graduates from the Big 10 university. Three decades ago, those two companies hired 340 graduates.

The seismic shift in how campus recruiting is done these days makes it extremely difficult for college graduates to figure out what they need to do to best prepare for the workforce.

“We’re asking 23-year-old new graduates to act like 35-year-old experienced workers,” Phil Gardner told me for my forthcoming book, There Is Life After College. Gardner is director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State.

The share of prime-working-age people who are in the labor force is at its lowest level since the mid-1980s.

We know there are odd things happening in the job market right now that we can’t seem to explain. The share of prime-working-age people who are in the labor force is at its lowest level since the mid-1980s. The share of men between 25 and 54-years-old who aren’t employed has risen sharply in the past three decades. As a result, a middle-income American family makes substantially less money in inflation-adjusted terms than it did 15 years ago.

Entire industries are disappearing almost overnight. Legacy companies are quickly changing course, all disrupted by technology and globalization in recent years, even stalwarts like law, accounting, and medicine. One recent study predicts that nearly half of American jobs are at risk from automation and artificial intelligence.

Top 5 Jobs Least Likely To Be Automated 

(Source: Economist) 

Yet colleges are under more pressure than ever to help their students find precise routes into careers when those routes don’t exist anymore.

What kinds of jobs is our education system supposed to be preparing students for? How does anyone know what the job market might look like in two or four years? Giving solid career advice to teenagers or young adults these days seems about as safe a bet as picking stocks or trying to win at roulette.

Giving solid career advice to teenagers or young adults these days seems about as safe a bet as picking stocks or trying to win at roulette.

So how are students, along with their parents, teachers, and professors supposed to navigate this new world? What are employers looking for and what does the modern economy need in its workforce? After spending the last two years talking to employers of all sizes and kinds from Facebook and Pinterest to Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Macy’s, I discovered several approaches to help students find gainful employment and life after college. Among them:

A flexible mindset.

Success in the future will belong to those able to tolerate ambiguity in their work. Too many recent graduates approach their job descriptions the way they did a syllabus in college—as a recipe for winning in a career. They want concrete, well-defined tasks, as if they were preparing for an exam in college. But jobs are a mash-up of duties. Students who use their undergraduate years by pursing a mix of activities, intensive classroom time as well as outside the classroom opportunities, such as research projects or internships, have the most success in launching into a career.

Focus on the soft skills.

Nearly every employer I talked with complained about the lack of “soft skills” in today’s college graduates—customer service, problem solving, planning, and being detailed oriented. They came up so often in conversations that we should begin calling them the “hard skills” because they seem so difficult to teach.

Instead, our education system from primary school through college seems so focused on teaching skills that will be automated in the future. The jobs that are growing the most are those that require high social skills as well as analytical skills, according to David Deming, an associate professor of education and economics at Harvard University.

Sure, major in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), but you also need a solid grounding in the liberal arts and find outside the classroom experiences for the soft skills.

Fastest Growing Jobs Require Social, Math Skills

(Source: New York Times) 

Cultivate informal networks.

One reason why physical campuses won’t be replaced anytime soon by entirely online education is because college still provides the best network for someone starting out. Most of the students I interviewed said they found their best internships and jobs by networking with classmates or by participating in on-campus clubs and activities. That’s why students, and especially their parents, drive themselves crazy to get into Stanford or Penn or Harvard. It’s not because the education is so much better at those places; it’s because of the network students connect to, through the parents of their classmates, alumni, and eventually through the students themselves when they become alumni.

These are just some of the skills that students today need to cultivate to navigate school. In today’s work world, it’s critical that new graduates stay one step ahead of technology and focus more on what computers can’t yet do well: show creativity, have judgment, and play well with others.

Jeffrey Selingo is author of three books on higher educationYou can follow his writing here, on Twitter @jselingo, on Facebook, and sign up for free newsletters about the future of higher education at

He is a regular contributor to the Washington Post’s Grade Point blog, a professor of practice at Arizona State University, and a visiting scholar atGeorgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities.


Originally posted on Linked In by: 

Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! or 860-387-0503


Recruiters! The First Thing You Need To Read Today

I see so much advice here from seasoned veterans about the interviewing and hiring process, I thought it was time to give something back. I’ve worked a lot with you in the recent weeks and have some information that you may know already, but from what I’ve seen, bears repeating:

1) Meet me for coffee at Starbucks…yes, do not bring me back to your office. Just like you will be checking me for shined shoes and clipped fingernails, I’m looking around your office…and if I see unhappy people pretty much doing nothing but looking at the clock, I’ve learned way more than you want me to know even before the interview starts.

2) You cannot imagine how many of my friends look at their phone buzzing and say ‘yeah, it’s another recruiter’…and they are not bragging, they are being annoyed..why? Because the common knowledge among IT folk is that recruiters don’t have the good jobs. They see evidence of it when they see placements coming in and getting stuck on the help desk for a year. Call with jobs, not, I have a few ideas I’m kicking around…we already know what that means….the boss said..start making some calls.

3) We meet and what you are really after is info about the management and hiring contact info about my last job. What you’re probably going to get is “yes, my old boss really only respects persistence. If you only call a few times, he thinks you aren’t really serious. And if you really want an inside track, call him right before it’s time to go home, that’s the time of day he sets aside to talk with recruiters”.

I’m sure there are some awesome recruiters out there. I’m sure I’ve met some of them. What I’m way less convinced of, is that they have anything for me. From what I’m reading in the newspaper about the unemployment rate, my thinking is that we are entering that phase, where in the real estate world, nobody was using realtors, they were just sticking “For Sale By Owner” in the front yard for a minute. I think it is possible that out of work people may be starting to be less desperate and less willing to work temp and no benefit jobs. That alone would explain the office atmosphere I witnessed the other day.

Talk to me, but bring your A game…

Originally Posted on Linked In By: Ed Perkins

John Assunto

Knowing When to Walk Away

“How and when do I know when it is time to quit, transition or retire?”

In my 22-year career at Microsoft, I contemplated leaving the company three times.  My first aborted attempt occurred in 1997 after I led the marketing team through my third version of Microsoft Office.  I was pretty burned out in the role and the challenges of keeping a big marketing team happy and productive.

I went to a meeting with the head of the Office business fully intending to tell him I was leaving – he came to the meeting fully intending to promote me to Vice President (which was a big deal back then at Microsoft).  He won.

In May of 2001, six months before the launch of the original Xbox, I submitted an official resignation letter from my role as Chief Xbox Officer.  As I describe in my new book Xbox Revisited: A Game Plan for Corporate and Civic Renewal, I was very frustrated with my own leadership, my inability to build a cohesive team, a project that was looking more and more like a train wreck, and the damaging effect all of this was having on my personal life.

In a set of actions that changed my career, my boss convinced me to stick out the launch and helped me find the assistance I needed to rebuild my personal and professional life.  I learned more and achieved more in the next 9 years than in all my previous work at Microsoft.

Promoting Xbox at the Consumer Electronics Show – 2008

Finally, in May of 2010, I informed Steve Ballmer that I was ready to leave Microsoft.  Earlier that year, Steve had asked me to commit to Microsoft for the next five years – a totally appropriate request given the number and scale of new projects coming down the path in my business.  After some discussion and debate, my wife and I decided it was time to leave Microsoft for a new mission and purpose.

To me, “walking away” is not about “leaving when you are on top” or “getting off the ship before it sinks.”  In my decisions about staying or leaving Microsoft, I found myself evaluating my status at both times of great success and times of significant difficulty.  Instead, I think making a career or job change is much more about life principles and how your current circumstances measure up.  With that in mind, here are some thoughts on what I’ve learned about managing the pathways of my personal and professional life:

1. The Power of Purpose

In Xbox Revisited, I write at great length about the importance of having organizational purpose, but purpose is also a personal and career characteristic.  We all need to take time periodically to evaluate our own life purpose and ensure that everything we are doing is aligned with that North Star.

My final decision to leave Microsoft was primarily about a shift to focus on social impact and the realization that I could only do so much of that while still fulfilling my Microsoft responsibilities.  Changing jobs or leaving a company is not a decision to be made lightly, but if your work is not aligned with your purpose, change is likely necessary.

2. Family First

I could probably write a book about “work-life balance” as I’ve experienced the good and the bad of managing that pendulum.  Keeping things in equilibrium can be a full time job in and of itself.  There is a tendency and temptation to blame the job or the company, but most of the time the employee is the real person responsible for any conflicts.

Early in my work on Xbox, I had to face up to the fact that the only reason my life was out of balance was because I let it get that way.  Like many issues, admitting you have a problem is the first step toward healing.  Your personal life and the priorities you hold dear are an important part of your career path decisions, and you need to evaluate those in light of the job AND your own actions.

3. Learn, Learn, Learn

While money, fame, and position are all motivators in their own way, I’ve always been most happy in my work when I’m learning new things.  Job content is incredibly important to our happiness and fulfillment, and for me, I need challenges that require me to explore new areas.

I miss the 90’s fashion

My desire to leave Microsoft in 1997 was all about the fact that I didn’t think I would learn anything new launching my fourth version of Office.  Instead of leaving, I moved to a completely new role where I had to exercise new muscles and face different challenges.  When you stop learning, it is time to do something new.

4. People Matter

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a particular project or the prestige of a certain role, but life is too short to spend most of your day working with people you don’t enjoy.  Ask yourself whether you respect those around you, do they challenge you in a positive way, and do you trust them?

I joined Microsoft in 1988 in part because I was so impressed with the people I met during a very challenging interview process – and I was fortunate to work with some amazing individuals during my time there.  Not everyone in the office needs to be your friend (in fact, that might not be healthy), but if you look around and say “I don’t like the people environment surrounding my job”, then you know it is time to move elsewhere.

5. The Deadly Sins

If we are all honest, ego is an important part of who we are and why we pursue excellence in our work.  And there is nothing wrong with a well-proportioned ego that pushes us to do better.  That said, it is very easy to get wrapped up in career progression and get misled into pursuing new achievements or roles for the wrong reasons – pride, greed, and envy are powerful motivators that don’t usually lead to great outcomes.

Instead, ask yourself if you have the character, the will power, and the sheer grit to take on difficult challenges, climb over or around obstacles, and to strive to be better.  And do you have the grace to know when it is time to hold your head up and say “I’ve achieved as much as I can and the time has come for change.”

Leaving the Big Stage is Never Easy

Athletes, executives, politicians, employees, and co-workers all face the question at some point in their life “Am I ready to move on to my Act II?” Some have made good choices and/or been able to walk away with their pride and integrity intact while others have struggled with re-defining their purpose and sense of self-worth.

People ask me if I miss Microsoft, and the answer is that I enjoyed every month there (OK…not every day) but that I’ve not missed it for a moment since I left.  At that stage of my life, the time was right to pursue my new calling as a self-described Civic Engineer.  When it comes to job and career re-alignments, timing is everything.  Each of us must ask, “Am I self-aware enough to know when my time has arrived?”

Originally Posted on Linked In by:

John Assunto

The Highest Paid MBAs of 2015

When it came to nosebleed numbers, Columbia Business School graduates put on an impressive show in 2015. The highest reported compensation of any MBA came from the New York school for a graduate who got a job in private equity. The MBA reported other guaranteed compensation–not including base or signing bonus–of $467,000. That’s over 50% more than the next biggest pay day another business school, reported by two Wharton MBAs, one of whom landed a $300,000 starting salary or another Wharton grad who got a job that paid a whopping $300,000 in signing bonus alone.

In a year in which many schools reported record pay for graduates, these are the biggest numbers of all–the most highly paid MBA graduates of 2015. Make no mistake, these are the exceptions to the rule. After all, at Columbia Business School, the median salary for a Class of 2015 graduate was $125,000 and the median other guaranteed comp was just $25,000, a mere fraction of the $467,000 reported by CBS’ highest paid graduate. And then there was the Columbia graduate who took a job in consumer products for a $320,000 starting salary and yet another two MBAs who landed $250,000-a-year salaries in hedge funds and investment management.

The highs and lows, for that matter, are all extremes. Typically, MBAs who nail down the biggest pay packages of their class have highly desired skills, proven work experience, and successful pre-MBA track records that make a company pay up big time. “On the high salaries, it’s usually a very unique and specific match between a company’s needs and a student’s relevant skills and experiences,” says Sheryle Dirks, associate dean for career management at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

At MIT Sloan, the high water mark of a $220,000 starting salary was for an MBA who landed an operations or project management job in computer/electronics manufacturing in the Bay Area. The graduate had an engineering background and more than five years of work experience to bring to the new job.

At Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, which boasts the highest starting pay packages in the world for MBAs, there were five categories of graduates that hit the $200,000 or above starting salary level: hedge funds ($267,000), private equity ($250,000), healthcare ($225,000), investment management ($225,000), and venture capital ($200,000). The highest reported signing bonus of $100,000 went to a Stanford MBA who got a job as an investment manager. The highest other guaranteed compensation of a quarter of a million dollars went to MBAs who accepted jobs at hedge funds and PE firms.

Many schools conceal the highest total compensation packages to protect the privacy of their graduates and to prevent applicants from having unrealistic expectations of what they can expect out of the MBA degree. So in virtually all cases, the numbers provided here are conservative. It is almost certain that the MBA at Columbia Business School who won the other year-end bonus of $467,000 has a starting salary and a sign-on bonus which would put the graduate with a first-year pay package of well over half a million dollars. For that matter, it also does not include reimbursement of tuition, relocation offsets, carry, or non-guaranteed performance bonuses or the value of stock options.

Generally, only a minority of students receive these other benefits. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, for example, has reported that 36% of its Class of 2015 received either stock or stock options with their job offers, up from 31% a year earlier. Wharton revealed that 47% of its MBAs received relocation money in 2015, worth a median $10,000, but only 4% accepted jobs with reimbursed tuition, with a median of $60,000. Sign-on bonuses obviously are more common than “other guaranteed compensation.” At Wharton, 63% pulled down signing bonuses, but only 19% got a back-end compensation deal. It generally depends on the industry in which an MBA accepts a job.

For all the highs and lows at the top business schools in the world, check

Highest & Lowest Paid MBAs of 2015

Originally Posted on Linked In By: 

John Assunto

Leave your job when one or all 10 things would happen

There’s nothing like the feeling of starting a job you love and going to work every day feeling excited and challenged. But what happens when a job that started out as a great step towards building a flourishing career takes a nose dive?

Suddenly, the song You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling becomes your new theme (not the cool Top Gun version covered by Maverick and Goose) and you feel unsure about your current career path.

When your job becomes just “a job,” a lot of things happen that you may not even realize. It can cause you to turn into a completely different person from the wide-eyed bushy tailed professional you were at the beginning of your career. You not only lose sight of your initial goals, but also jeopardize the future of your career without even knowing it.

Here are some warning signs that your job is ruining your career.

1. You are no longer excited about starting new projects.Taking on new projects is a great way to learn and display leadership in your job. If you find that another project just means more work for you that’s not worth the kudus or mediocre salary, it may be a sign that you’ve withdrawn from your job.

Once you start losing interest in what you do, it will show and negatively impact your career.

2. You are just going through the motions.If wake up, go to work, drink coffee, answer emails, and go home sounds like your typical day, then there’s something missing: your active participation. Are you just getting through the day and can do your job with your eyes closed?

If the answer is “yes” then it’s time to reevaluate your job. A job where you just go through the motions without much thought is great if you’re a robot, but you’re not.

It’s important to have a job that challenges you daily and keeps your brain sharp or else you risk losing your ability to generate career-enhancing ideas that will help you grow.

3. You are not making a competitive salary.Staying in a dead-end job is not only bad for your career, but hurts your pockets too. Forbes contributor reporter Cameron Keng published an article regarding employees staying at the same company making 50% less than those who leave.

This means that you lose money over the course of your career the longer you stay at a job and receive the average 1.3% raise, if any. Sometimes the fear of being a “job hopper” makes the decision difficult.

But staying at the same job that doesn’t offer financial and professional growth puts you at a disadvantage and makes you less competitive in your industry.

4. You are doing the same thing that you’ve always done.Your job should offer ongoing opportunities to be challenged. It’s hard to be considered a high-performer at work if you’re not challenged. Being comfortable will make you stagnant and not grow in your career.

Try to take on new tasks or see if there is a way to improve a current process. If you’re not learning new skills or taking on new roles, you risk being passed over for acknowledgement, raises, and promotions.

5. You are always complaining.Did you know that “grumpiness” is one of the side effects of being unhappy with your job? And that’s putting it in a nice way. You may not realize that you turned in to a different person, but your coworkers and friends do.

It’s normal to vent about work from time to time. But make sure your unhappiness with your job isn’t negatively affecting your business and personal relationships. Constantly complaining may deter others from wanting to work with you or refer you for a potential opportunity.

6. You are not on top of your industry.When you have a flourishing career, it is more likely that you are current with new technology, standards, and principles because it’s an important part of doing your job effectively.

Look for opportunities to practice new things even if you have to do it outside of work. If your job doesn’t incorporate modern or new techniques in your field, you risk falling behind based on current industry standards.

7. You are not using your best skills.Your job should give you the opportunity to perform tasks that utilize and enhance your best skill set. For example, if you are a people person but work in front of a computer all day with minimal contact, it can be very unfulfilling.

There will always be some aspects of a job that you don’t like, but make sure they bring out the best of your skills, so that you can build an impressive list of career highlights in your role.

If not, you jeopardize your ability to build a strong portfolio of achievements based on showcasing your best qualities that make you unique.

8. You are making small mistakes with everyday tasks.A tell-tale sign that you’re at your wits’ end with a job is making simple mistakes. Sure everybody makes mistakes, but if you’re frustrated you tend to make more. This could be because you hate tedious tasks and rather watch paint dry than to organize one more meeting or run one more report.

Although you may not put too much thought into it other than pure annoyance, these mistakes may negatively impact how your manager and colleagues view your ability to get the job done.

9. You are fighting with your manager.Your manager can make your job a breeze or a walk through hell. When your manager lacks good leadership skills, it can be a challenge to do your job right and be a great source of tension. Your manager is the one who gives directions and should guide you when help is needed.

If you find that their lack of leadership leads to constant fighting, it could be a warning sign that your job performance will be questioned—whether rightfully so or not. Tension with your manager can impact your career when it comes to performance evaluations and recommendations.

10. You are doubting yourself.The biggest impact of staying at the wrong job is that it eventually wears on your confidence. Over time you start questioning things about yourself that you would never question like saying the right thing or taking the right action.

It’s so easy to get caught up in a toxic situation whether it’s due to having a horrible manager, difficult coworkers, or just a dead-end job. This can affect your ability to effectively convey your personal brand in a way that will attract new opportunities.

When your job no longer lends to your growth and ability to feel good about yourself, it’s time to move on for the sake of your career.

Originally Posted on Linked In By: Ahmed Esmael

A Morehouse College Student Gets Real About Campus Recruitment

“So, who exactly is on your platform?”

It’s the most common question people ask me after learning about Jopwell, which introduces great underrepresented ethnic minority candidates to great job opportunities.

I hope I’m not disappointing anyone in reporting that there’s not a single “type” of Jopwell candidate. Thousands of students and professionals are on the platform – from computer scientists and consultants to Rhodes Scholars and Olympians – and each brings his or her own experiences.

Here I’d like to share the perspective of one user we’ve had the chance to chat with, Scooter Taylor.

A senior at Morehouse College in Atlanta, he is a passionate entrepreneur and digital marketer. He has interned at Yik Yak and Qualcomm and rubbed elbows with Silicon Valley titans like Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Here, he shares his personal experience breaking into tech and reacts to Vauhini Vara’s recentBloomberg Businessweek cover story, Why Doesn’t Silicon Valley Hire Black Coders?.

The Bloomberg Businessweek article touched a lot on students’ exposure and access to tech education and opportunities, particularly at HBCUs. How did you get interested in technology?

I first became interested in technology in middle school, when a friend and I started a YouTube channel. We called it “MacintoshTipz” and would review some of the latest tech gadgets. We became YouTube partners and grew to have 20,000 subscribers. It was my first foray into entrepreneurship. I grew up in Memphis and didn’t know many entrepreneurs, but building the channel taught me that I could really start something if I wanted to.

How did you manage to make connections in Silicon Valley while in college?

A professor sent me to the Net Impact Conference in California, which is for young leaders passionate about social responsibility. I came back with a stack of business cards, but the most important thing that happened during that trip was probably on the plane ride home: I randomly sat next to a Qualcomm recruiter, and we chatted the whole ride about my YouTube channel and the clean water initiative I’d been working on on campus. I walked off the plane with an internship, largely because I could speak to the side projects I’d been working on.

In November, I got to visit a handful of Silicon Valley companies with 63 other HBCU students on a trip through the United Negro College Fund, or UNCF. It was this sudden jolt of information and energy. You’re there. This isn’t some mystical land. Anyone can come and really kill it. That was incredibly motivating. It’s something I’m going to keep with me forever.

In what ways do you think being an HBCU student with an interest in working at a technology company differs from being a student at a non-HBCU with similar aspirations?

At HBCUs, you may have to grind a little harder to break in. You might be a great engineer, but you truly have to work to create opportunities because there isn’t the same precedent. It’s all the more important to leverage platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Github, Medium – and now Jopwell – to connect with people on the inside. And any time you’re the first student from your school to intern at a particular company, you should feel really motivated to do a great job. You want to leave a positive impression so that when the company is hiring for the next cycle, they see another candidate from Morehouse and remember what a good experience it was the last time around. In that sense, there’s a pressure to be twice as good.

What’s your advice to student coders for how they can position themselves to get “discovered?”

You should strive to be the best at what you do — and show it off! Basically, don’t wait for Google to tap you on the shoulder and ask you to apply, or for Apple or Slack to come to your career fair. Go build something now. Code something for a charity you care about. Write a Medium article about the future of tech and show your thought process. Post to Github. Find people more talented than you and go learn from them. And then, when they do have a booth on campus or you have the chance to sit next to someone on a plane or step into an interview, you can have something real to show for it. Be enriched in what you want to do. Pick yourself first.

What about for students who don’t have access to top technical education programs?

If your particular program isn’t as robust, get entrenched outside of the classroom. There are great ways to using the Internet as an equalizer. Sure, Stanford students might get close access to a semester’s worth of lectures from Y Combinator founder Sam Altman. But luckily that’s all online, too. Anyone who has access to the Internet can soak up that same knowledge.

How do you view the value of learning to code?

I always try to remember that tech skills can be applied to many areas of life. Learning how to code or build websites or create something in Photoshop really teaches you how to solve problems and make something from nothing. We don’t want more workers. We want more creators. If you can code, then you can create whatever you want. If we’re pushing people to learn tech skills just so they can work at a top tech company, then we’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

While interning at Yik Yak, Taylor brought 40 African-American middle and high schoolers on an office tour through Estella’s Brilliant Bus, an organization that introduces kids from underserved communities to technology education and opportunities. 


Are there any misconceptions you think people have about the experience of being an underrepresented ethnic minority from an HBCU working at a tech company? Or about the definition of “cultural fit”?

HBCU students want to work at great tech companies, yes. But from the people I’ve talked to, it’s not like we all want a red carpet and expect everyone to laugh at all our jokes. No! We want the opportunity to add value to companies and learn, just like the students at Stanford and MIT want to do. Yes, I probably do have some different experiences from you because of my racial background. But just ask me if you have a question about it. Let’s not overcomplicate it.

What’s the simplest way for recruiters to reach out to and recruit more students at Morehouse and other HBCUs?

Visit an HBCU campus. Walk around and connect with students. Host a lunch or set up a Google Hangout for an hour. We have a lot of talent.


Scooter Taylor is a senior at Morehouse College and the cofounder of Water Wars Atlanta, a nonprofit that helps provide clean water access to several regions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Porter Braswell is CEO and cofounder of the diversity recruitment startup Jopwell. He writes about recruiting, workforce diversity, and the startup grind. Follow him on LinkedIn and Instagram


Originally Posted on Linked IN by:

John Assunto

If you can’t trust your employees, how can they trust you?

The key to any long-term relationship is trust. And as any relationship expert will tell you, the key to trust is communication.

Most employers want to maintain a relationship with their best employees for a long time, even for as long as the company stands. And while most companies recognize the need for competitive benefits and perks, many still underestimate the value of good internal communication.

Small communication breakdowns happen all the time and can cause little frustrations around the office. Someone accidentally deletes instead of responding to an email or a supervisor forgets to let some of the employees know this Friday is a casual dress day. Those moments cause headaches, and sometimes hurt feelings, but that’s not the kind of internal communication I’m talking about.

The type of communication that truly defines a company is the information that flows from the CEO down to the lowest ranking member of the organization. What type of information is shared, how quickly is it communicated, how is it shared and who gets to be in the know?

Turns out, there are about as many answers to those questions as there are companies in the world. But when the formula isn’t in touch with employees’ expectations, those employees sometimes take away a completely different message than was intended, and companies lose out on their best talent.

My friend Chris Powers put it this way.

Anything that affects the individual–either now or later–I would expect that to be passed along as quickly as possible. The timeline for that communication is also crucial, as any significant delay in hearing that information feels like betrayal.

To gain some perspective on this, I recently talked with a few of my friends — they all fall into the Millennial category — who used to work for someone and now own their own businesses. I asked them a few questions about their communication philosophies and practices within the new companies they started.

Jim Danis, a serial entrepreneur and president at prefabricated construction company Revolution Interiors in Ohio, offered an admittedly idealistic and maybe naive opinion:

Danis: Most employee dissatisfaction and some lost productivity can be directly attributed to not sharing enough information. I am perhaps too utopian in my views, but I choose to be fully transparent and open with my employees, from my own compensation to the strategies I am putting in place, and of course, sharing news of successes and failures.

In a perfect world, Danis shares all relevant company information with his employees, and they trust and respect him more for it. Is it really that naive to place that kind of trust in your employees?

Danis: Absolutely I trust my employees, and I try to lead from a position of service leadership, so I hope they trust me. I think in today’s digital world there is very little confidential information that a 12-year-old Norwegian kid cannot hack into.  I constantly say that I hire adults and will treat them as such, so I share sales numbers, profitability, etc., with my employees.

When an employer opts for less-than-transparent communication, employees always get a message, and it’s often different from the words spoken or typed.Natalie Skilliter, owner of the Corner Kitchen restaurant in Dayton, made me laugh with this too-true perspective:

Skilliter: Regardless of the industry or business, I’ve consistently seen employees perceive the company for which they work as either: (1) rolling in dough, or (2) about to go under. Knowledge is power, and the more information you can give your staff and the more you display the trust that you have in them, the more of an authentic relationship you develop.

Matt Sliver, owner of ad agency Catapult Creative in Dayton, said he thinks 95 percent of everything that happens in a company needs to be shared.

Sliver: Personally, my biggest problem working at any job was that the manager would always tell me that “everything was going to be ‘okay,’” which was usually a lie.

Quick caveat: While all three of my friends favor open communication whenever possible, they both recognize the need for discretion when it comes to situations with ongoing negotiations that can cause information to change at any moment.

Sliver: I cannot stand telling people something is going to happen, getting them all excited, then suddenly I’m telling them that what they were so excited about is no longer. It makes for a fun line to walk of what I tell my employees, but it helps to have business partners to think through tough decisions of what to share.

I recently had lunch with Doug Watson, president of The Howard Company here in Milwaukee. His company, which primarily sells menu boards to quick-service and fast-casual restaurants, is entirely employee-owned. As part-owners of the company, every employee is entitled to full disclosure of the company’s financial situation, down to minute details.

As Watson put it:

If the janitor doesn’t like the way the company is spending money, he can voice that opinion. He can call into question why the CEO is staying in a Hilton instead of the Hampton on a business trip, and he deserves an answer.

With a few exceptions, I tend to believe that people are more trustworthy the more trust and confidence you place in them. The notable exceptions would primarily be sociopaths, and hopefully you don’t hire any of those.

I find it encouraging that my sampling of the next generation of entrepreneurs includes business leaders who choose to be vulnerable in building relationships built on mutual trust with their employees. I believe they will go far on that philosophy, and I’m curious to see if that attitude replaces the old-guard approach of sharing information only on a minimal need-to-know basis.


Originally posted on Linked IN by:

John Assunto

Universities are rich, right? So why don’t we take their money and give it to students?

Higher education is big business. Just look at the amount of money some universities have sitting in the bank.

Harvard’s endowment? $36.4 billion. Yale? $23.9 billion. Stanford? $21.5 billion. Princeton? $20.5 billion. MIT? $12.4 billion.

That gives the five US universities with the biggest endowments a total purse of $114.7 billion. I’m obliged as a journalist, at this point, to point out which countries have a similar GDP. Morocco ($110 billion) is in the right ballpark.

At the same time, the cost of student life is on the up.

All this cash slushing around in university pockets makes quite a noise, and – unsurprisingly – that noise has attracted the attention of Congress. In particular, Representative Tom Reed.

The New York Republican wants the richest colleges to devote 25 per cent of their annual endowment income to financial aid, or risk losing their tax-exempt status.

In short, those with endowments worth more than $1 billion would be required to give a quarter of income from that pot to lower college costs for middle and low-income students. If they fail for three consecutive years, they could lose their nonprofit status.

It’s an interesting proposition. Does this mean that if universities put 25 per cent into access programmes every three years they would avoid penalty?

That’s maybe nitpicking. In fact, I think that universities in the US are doing a lot more than people realise to look after poorer students. I’ve written about it before.

Sure, if you compare the elite US universities’ fees of $50,000 per year to somewhere like, say, Germany (where tuition is free), it doesn’t look good.

But there is a case for saying – as Felipe Fernández-Armesto, a professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, does in this excellent article – that the poor are better served by universities in  the US than in most of the UK (despite the fact that fees in England are a measly £9,000 ($13,000) a year).

The average fees at publicly maintained universities in the US (according to Department of Education data) is $7,716 (about £4,900). You can also do the first two years of your study at community college at a typical annual cost of a little over $3,000.

You don’t get the prestige of an Ivy League logo on your certificate, but you do get a college education.

Any US universities that aren’t doing enough to cater for disadvantaged students don’t have far to look for some inspiration.

The Social Mobility Index, for example, rejects the idea that “prestigious” university characteristics – high income, low applicant acceptance rate and popular reputation – are reliable marks of successful universities.

Instead, it gives weight to things like low tuition fees, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students in the student body, and graduation rate.

Significantly, it also penalises universities for hoarding endowments, reasoning (perhaps as Mr Reed does)  that a university that sits on a large pile of cash may be prestigious, but it is not using its resources as efficiently as it could to help poorer students.

Here’s what the top 10 looks like:

However, these institutions (and the community colleges I mentioned earlier) are not the target of Reed’s proposed legislation. He is targetting the elite group of billionaire institutions who, it seems, he feels cannot be doing all they can to widen access.

It’s an easy, if simplistic, argument to make. Not everyone can afford to go to university, and yet the universities themselves have oceans of cash. You do the maths.

But while imposing a financial penalty on universities that fail to devote enough money to improving access will almost certainly result in a higher spend, this does not necessarily mean that more effective processes will be the result.

What you want to avoid is forcing institutions to spend for the sake of spending. You cannot measure how effectively a university is widening access just by counting how many dollars it has spent on the problem.

That said, there is something perverse about institutions that charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for a degree taking that money and simply putting it in the bank.

Any business needs a war chest. Money for a rainy day. But do the five richest US universities really need to have the GDP of Morocco sitting in the bank – particularly when there are talented students who are being priced out of studying?

It is an uncomfortable situation.

Originally posted on Linked IN by:

John Assunto