Feb 03

Opposition to FCC Chairman Set-Top Box Plan Grows: 14 Latino Organizations Join the Future of TV Coalition.

fcc_021915gnFourteen leading Latino advocacy organizations, television networks, and content producers announced today that they have joined the Future of TV Coalition, voicing strong opposition to a proposal unveiled by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last week to radically rewrite the rules of the video marketplace.

 The organizations also sent a letter to the FCC explaining their opposition to Chairman Wheeler’s plan, observing that it mirrors the “AllVid” proposal previously rejected by the FCC in 2010. The proposal would allow Silicon Valley tech companies to repackage TV programming into their own products without having to pay for it or honor the terms of licensing contracts negotiated between the programmers and distributors.

 The organizations joining the Coalition include: ASPIRA, Dialogue on Diversity, FGTV, Freemind Beauty, Hispanic Leadership Fund, Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), MANA, National Puerto Rican Coalition, SER Jobs for Progress, TechLatino: The Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, and VMe TV.

 Jose Marquez, the President & CEO of TechLatino: The Latinos in Information Science and Technology Association, explained why his organization is joining the fight against AllVid:

 “Chairman Wheeler’s plan is a sweetheart deal for Silicon Valley that comes at the expense of entrepreneurs and content creators who are serving minority audiences and building businesses in our communities.  All Americans deserve media platforms that tell stories for and about their communities, but AllVid will undermine diverse platforms and make it harder to find the high-quality programming our community deserves.” 

 These concerns were echoed by Victor Cerda, the Senior Vice President of VMe TV, a Spanish-language network available in 70 million U.S. households:  

 “If Google wants to include our programming in their products and services, we’d be excited to sit down and negotiate a licensing deal with them.  But instead they’re asking the FCC to give them access to our programming for free, along with permission to ignore the terms in our licensing contracts that protect our channel placement and visibility.”

 Rosa Mendoza, Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP,) pushed back against the argument made by some AllVid proponents that minority audiences would be better served by streaming-only digital channels:

 “We applaud entrepreneurs working to launch new platforms through web-based streaming services — digital channels that are already widely accessible alongside pay-TV apps on a huge array of consumer devices.  But encouraging these voices must not come at the cost of tearing down the full-fledged networks that are serving our community today.  Latino networks are more than just a voice for our community.  They’re an engine of economic empowerment — an engine that will break down if the FCC lets Silicon Valley tech giants poach and monetize their content without having to pay for it.”

The letter the organizations sent to the FCC also highlighted significant doubts about claims from AllVid supporters that the new rule will save consumers money:

“Experts who studied these issues for the FCC warn that the rule would require a new adapter device to be designed, manufactured, and installed in every viewer’s home and paid for on their monthly bills, and that’s on top of buying a new AllVid device at retail… This proposal seems likely to drive up costs for consumers.”

About the Future of TV Coalition:

The Future of Television Coalition is comprised of 63 companies, associations, and non-profit organizations that support market-based innovation offering TV viewers an unprecedented volume of high-quality, diverse programming available on an expanding universe of devices and services. The coalition opposes unnecessary technology mandates, such as Chairman Wheeler’s proposed AllVid rule, that would threaten this innovation and diversity.   Learn more at FutureOfTV.com.

Feb 03

Cybersecurity dominated Davos. CEOs and Heads of State Focused on Three Trends!

Online Crime1. Cyber attacks against critical infrastructure are coming !
2. The public and private sectors need to link arms to address the new cyber reality ! 
3. Breaches are inevitable, so resilience is critical !

Attacks on critical infrastructure are the new front in the battle for Cybersecurity ! 
Breaches are inevitable ! Private & Public Sectors, Business Resilience is critical !
CEOs, is your Cie Cybersecurity-Ready ?

Resilience is critical.

While much of the conversation in Davos centered around Europe’s refugee crisis, cybersecurity dominated the agenda. At a dozen public and private sessions, CEOs and heads of state focused on three trends:

Cyber attacks against critical infrastructure are coming
In just two years, the threat posed by cyber attacks has increased exponentially.

In 2014, tens of millions of credit cards were stolen from large retailers. While embarrassing, the damage from these attacks was limited because banks immediately cut off the cards and consumers weren’t held liable for fraudulent charges.

In 2015, there was an even more damaging attack: the social security breach. Hackers wanted to access a piece of data that could not be readily changed—and you only get one social security number. Tens of millions of SSNs were misappropriated from health care companies and the Office of Personnel Management.

 

As frustrating as the incursions of 2014 and 2015 have been, 2016 may be characterized by something more concerning still: cyber attacks on critical infrastructure.

Just weeks before Davos, a successful cyber attack on Ukraine’s utilities disabled a substantial portion of the country’s electric grid. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the form of malware deployed in the Ukrainian attack, dubbed “Black Energy,” has also been seen in the U.S. Within days of the attack, General Michael Hayden, who served as director of both the NSA and the CIA, warned “of a darkening sky” over the U.S. power grid.

According to Lloyd’s of London, a sophisticated cyber attack on the power grid in the northeastern U.S. could cause $1 trillion in damages. As a measure of comparison, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused $300 billion in economic damages, while the price tag for Hurricane Sandy was $100 billion.

As if that were not sobering enough, a report issued last week by the Nuclear Threat Initiative in the run-up to Davos asserted that civilian nuclear plants in 20 different countries are potentially vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The public and private sectors need to link arms to address the new cyber reality
Recent headlines spotlighting a bitter feud between the government and tech industry around whether to allow a backdoor to encryption seemed a world away from the discussions in Davos. On multiple occasions, government leaders and business executives pledged greater collaboration and mutual support. This newly cooperative tone is based in pragmatism and reflects a simple conclusion from leaders on both sides of the public-private equation: No one is immune to cyber attacks, and we are all in this together.

A year ago, the World Economic Forum established a cyber crime task force to bring government and industry closer together. Chaired by the former head of the Swiss police, the Steering Committee included the secretary general of Interpol, the director of Europol, and numerous corporate executives. To the pleasant surprise of those involved, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch showed up in Davos this year and embraced the recommendations articulated by the task force for a public-private partnership to address cyber challenges.

Feb 03

Intel Discloses Diversity Data, Challenges Tech Industry To Follow Suit

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To listen to the report, click here
Intel has a new report out today. It’s not about semiconductors. It’s about diversity: how Intel is doing when it comes to women and under-represented minorities on its staff. The results are mixed – some strong and some, frankly, failures. Still the sheer amount of information is exceptional, and a direct challenge to other Silicon Valley giants who’ve chosen to hide their data.
Be Engineers About Diversity
Let’s start with some numbers.
Intel set a goal last year: Of all new hires, 40 percent have to be women or under-represented minorities (black, Latino, Native American). The company had never hit that level in the past. So for Intel, it was an ambitious goal. And the company reports today: It managed to exceed it, hitting 43.1 percent.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich shares some of his motivation: “I have two daughters. They’re both technically very bright. I want them to come into a workplace that’s a better place than the way the workplace is today.”
To do that, he says, Intel has to open up about how it’s doing inside. “There’s nothing here [that's] top secret or should not be shared with the rest of the world, in my mind.”
Other tech giants don’t agree. Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft – companies that value metrics so much – have not publicly stated any measurable goals when it comes to diversity hiring, or the retention of employees. They haven’t disclosed the numbers of new hires or of exits from their companies, by gender and race.
Facebook, Google and Microsoft say their goals are not publicly available. An Apple spokesperson says the company has purposely decided to not set goals.
Intel is now an exception. Today’s report gets in the weeds. The company aims to increase its external diverse hiring rate to 45 percent this year, and it’s establishing a new target within this goal of a 14 percent hiring rate for underrepresented minorities.
There’s a sense of urgency. By 2020, Krzanich says, Intel must reach “full representation.”
By that he does not mean the company will look like America or its global consumer base. He means it’ll reflect the available talent pool. Intel has a long way to go – currently at 75 percent male and a combined 86 percent white and Asian.

 

These are not flattering numbers. Still Krzanich is upping the transparency, and he challenges his industry: If you’re serious about diversity, be engineers about it.
“When you’re engineers you need that data to understand the problem,” he says. “The data is just that. It’s data.”
Thesis: Pipeline Not The Biggest Issue
Intel’s made headway – without any magic pills. The company has red carpet events where female or black Intel executives meet with potential hires of their gender or race, and offer jobs (not just cocktails or photo ops). An Intel employee recounts that when a woman declined a job offer in his division, managers chose to not pick a white man but to look for another diversity hire instead. Bonuses are now tied to diversity goals.
Based on results so far, Krzanich has a bold claim: Intel’s ability to hire diversely is proof that the so-called “pipeline” problem – the idea that there just aren’t enough good candidates out there – is overhyped.
“If the pipeline was such a big problem, I would have come back as a failure there,” he says.
African-American Retention
Intel is a failure in another respect: retention. The company is losing black employees at a faster rate than other workers. The CEO says he doesn’t know why. Neil Green, a vice president at Intel, is part of a black leadership group at the company. He offers a reason: The casual conversations that lead to promotions and coaching don’t happen because the relationships just aren’t there.
“From the folks that I’ve talked to, I think African-Americans get frustrated that they’re not progressing faster,” Green says. “They aren’t necessarily meeting with and being sponsored by the senior executives.”
Cultural Fit
Freada Kapor Klein is an investor who funds diversity-focused startups like Jopwell, which connects job candidates who are underrepresented minorities to tech companies. Klein says culture is key.
Tech companies don’t just make new engineers pass a coding test. They have to pass a “culture fit” test. That’s where a huge amount of bias creeps in, she says, as existing teams only want a unicorn. “They are looking for the one-in-a-million person who comes from a different racial, ethnic, cultural, gender background, but in every other respect is identical to the white and Asian men who work there,” Klein says. “That’s not diversity.”
Klein also points to a post last fall on Medium by black female programmer Erica Joy Baker. Baker, a former Google engineer, describes how “colorless diversity” campaigns can have the effect of advancing white women while pushing people of color further back.
In Silicon Valley, Intel is known for taking on one of the hardest technological challenges of our time: packing twice as many transistors into a tiny computer chip every two years or so. It’s called Moore’s Law. When asked which is harder – upholding that law or meeting diversity goals – Krzanich says with diversity, every human approaches the data with bias. “That’s different than physics. When I go solve a physics problem, I can get it down to ‘this thickness isn’t right.’ Or ‘these voltages are wrong.’ And those are more measurable and simple.”
Another difference, he says, is that Intel has met Moore’s law time and again. Diversity is more unfamiliar, which makes it a riskier challenge.

Jan 30

Op-Ed: Don’t give AllVid a free ride by Jason Llorenz

J-Llorenz

The apps revolution is less than a decade old, but it has already disrupted major industries and improved our lives in countless ways. From how we connect with friends, listen to music, and get around town, the vast new world of digital apps has reshaped our lives and revolutionized huge chunks of the American economy.

And few areas have been disrupted more completely and beneficially than consumer video and television. In just the last few years, new video apps and “over-the-top” streaming services have totally upended the old single screen, “check the TV guide” model.

Netflix now has more subscribers than any cable company, while services like Sony Vue and Sling TV offer a slew of popular networks over the Internet — including cable mainstays like ESPN and CNN — without any need to subscribe to a vast bundle of channels. CBS, HBO and dozens more offer “direct to consumer” apps of their own. Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League now stream virtually all their games live through apps. And a host of app-fueled devices like Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire are flooding into the market as well.

But unbeknownst to most viewers anxiously waiting for the next chapter of “Game of Thrones,” this healthy, growing ecosystem is being challenged in Washington by a handful of large special interests seeking to leverage friendly regulators into passing anew rule that would benefit them at the expense of everyone else who produces, watches or cares about TV.

This “AllVid” proposal would require cable, satellite and fiber video providers to “unbundle” their programming and hand it over — free of charge — to any third party tore package and redistribute to customers. Basically it would allow large technology companies free access to the vast libraries of movies and television shows that existing video providers have developed, without negotiating or paying for programming rights or building the networks needed to deliver it. It would be the worst kind of mandate —picking winners and losers in a market that is already competitive and flourishing instead allowing competition and consumer demand to win out.

This regulatory attack on innovation and competition in video would have disastrous effects on consumers, artists and creators, and on the market for TV programming itself.

 

First and most important, it would unravel the existing creative ecosystem that has generated such an overwhelming flood of quality new shows. AllVid resellers would not be bound by rights agreements and network carriage deals that drive the business models making today’s diverse universe of quality programming possible.

Today, content providers negotiate highly detailed arrangements that cover critical business terms like advertising, scheduling, channel placement and more. These agreements provide the revenue and certainty needed to fund quality shows. But FCC-mandated video unbundling would leave them in tatters, stripping away the value of today’s programming while undermining the business case for investment in tomorrow’s

Second, it would impose painful new costs on consumers, who would end up shouldering the billions it would take to re-architect networks to comply with the AllVid mandate. And it would subject them to new layers of micro targeted advertising piled on top of their existing service by the AllVid distributors.

Third, it would erode fundamental privacy protections. The strict viewer privacy rules that govern cable and satellite companies would not apply to AllVid services — a regulatory gap the companies pushing for these rules (who have built multi billion dollar businesses exploiting personal data and customer information) could use to profit from the sale of personal details about your individualized viewing habits.

And most fundamentally, these rules are simply not needed to promote competition for consumer video.

The top House Democrat with jurisdiction over video recently celebrated “the dizzying pace of change in the video marketplace,” noting that “every day seems to bring announcements of new services” and suggested the FCC take a breath before passing new rules. That is good guidance.

Apple’s Tim Cook recently claimed that apps are “the future of TV” as he unveiled his company’s latest streaming set-top box. And app-based innovation and competition does not require a new AllVid mandate — it is already under way and thriving, as Cook’s pronouncement makes clear.

The FCC should tread lightly here — and trust Cook (who has a pretty good track record on these things) and ignore those pushing for an AllVid free ride.

Jason Llorenz is a professor, research, and advocate specializing in telecommunications policy. He teaches courses in digital communication and policy at the Rutgers University, School of Communication and Information. LISTA Member in good standing.

Jan 28

FCC Could Stifle TV Innovation say Mark Hess Senior Vice President, Office of the CTO, Comcast Cable

hess

As a member of the technical advisory committee that the FCC formed, I, along with others on the committee, put in an extraordinary amount of time examining these issues.  The Report we produced comprehensively discussed the widely-adopted apps-based model.  The Chairman ignores the less regulatory apps-based approach that is already expanding the array of choices that consumers have to access content on retail devices.

In the twenty-first century, television has been on a tear of innovation.  In the 1980s, wanting your MTV became an anthem.  The 1990s saw an explosion of channels and diversity of voices on television, and the beginnings of HDTV.  Change has been accelerating ever since.

Netflix now has more customers in the U.S. than any traditional TV provider; tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, connected devices for accessing video are ubiquitous; and new online video services are announced all the time.  There are services from online powerhouses like Amazon; from new entrants like Sony’s Play Station Vue and Dish’s Sling TV that sell packages including linear channels; and from programmers like HBO, Showtime, and CBS.  Just this week, we’ve seen the influence of these new services in locking up content at Sundance.

These changes are bringing enormous consumer benefits — the quantity and variety of high-quality programming is better than ever, and consumers expect access to content anytime, anywhere, and on devices of their choice.

Comcast is responding with our innovative X1 platform, and enabling access on a growing array of devices.  Like other traditional TV distributors, online video distributors, networks, and sports leagues, Comcast is using apps to deliver its Xfinity service to popular customer-owned retail devices.

These apps are wildly popular with consumers.  Comcast customers alone have downloaded our apps more than 20 million times.  This apps revolution is rapidly proliferating, and we are working with others in the industry and standards-setting bodies to expand apps to reach even more devices.

Given these exciting, pro-consumer marketplace developments, it is perplexing that the FCC is now considering a proposal that would impose new government technology mandates on satellite and cable TV providers with the purported goal of promoting device options for consumers.

A little background here.  Congress enacted “navigation device” legislation twenty years ago that directed the FCC to foster retail alternatives to cable set-top boxes.  The FCC responded with a CableCARD mandate.  Despite the cable industry’s longstanding and ongoing support for CableCARDs, consumers showed little interest in the technology; it saddled cable operators and their customers with over $1 billion in unnecessary costs; and, it was overtaken by the explosive growth in connected devices and apps.

It is strange now that the FCC is ignoring the important lesson of history that intrusive federal governmental regulatory interference in the market just doesn’t work by proposing new mandates at a time when Congress’s goals are being realized in the marketplace and consumers have unprecedented device choices that go well beyond what anyone could possibly have imagined even a decade ago.

The proposal would require traditional TV distributors like satellite and cable providers – but not other video distributors – to re-architect their networks and develop an undefined new piece of customer equipment just so device companies can take apart the video service and selectively reassemble it.

Consumer costs would rise, content security would weaken, and consumer protections such as privacy would erode. It would undermine intellectual property rights and content licensing agreements.  The Chairman has said that his proposal addresses these concerns, but the simple fact is that the proposal strips away the tools that video distributors use to present service in a way that satisfies security, regulatory, and licensing requirements.

As noted, the FCC’s track record on these types of technology mandates has been less than stellar.  CableCARD is just one example.  Another is the 1394 output mandate.  The FCC required cable operators to include 1394 outputs on their set-top boxes, the mandate went on for years even after it was clear that other outputs had won out in the marketplace.

Already, a broad range of parties is weighing in to support the innovation that is occurring in the marketplace and raising concerns including Disney, 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal, and Viacom as well as small, independent, and diverse programmers like TV One, Fuse Media, Crossings TV , Revolt, and Baby First Americas; device manufacturers like Roku, Cisco, and ARRIS; diversity organizations such as the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), a coalition of Hispanic organizations; and legislators, including 30 members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

As the Commission considers taking this initial step to launch a rulemaking proceeding to determine whether to impose new mandates and if so, what those should ultimately be, we look forward to studying the proposal and providing constructive input.  We hope the FCC will decide to avoid this major step backward for consumers and video innovation.

 

 

Jan 20

FTC New Report: Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion? by Angela Downs

big-dataWe live in a time when we are all connected in more ways than are imaginable.  Our habits are under constant scrutiny: what we buy, how often we buy it, how we drive, where we go, the sites we visit on the Internet…and on and on and on.  Big data is here, and it isn’t going away.  The big question now is how the massive amounts of data compiled on every single living being in the United States is handled, and whether it is done ethically.  Certainly, with so much information up for grabs at any given time, there is a definite potential for the data to be used insidiously.  And that is where the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) comes in.

To ring in the New Year, the FTC has issued a new report titled Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?, focusing on the benefits and risks of the commercial use of big data on low-income and underserved consumers.

The report is the result of the FTC’s acknowledgement that “the proliferation of smartphones, social networks, cloud computing, and more powerful predictive analytic techniques have enabled the collection, analysis, use, and storage of data in a way that was not possible just a few years ago.” It does not seek to recommend additional legislation or regulation, but instead offers explanation and guidance about how currently existing laws and regulations apply to the challenges presented by big data.

The concern, understandably, is that the use of big data can perpetrate discrimination against those without sufficient credit, employment, or rental history, especially in situations where “inaccuracies and biases…might lead to detrimental effects for low-income and underserved populations.”  Particularly, it examined concerns that the data may be used to exclude certain demographics from credit and/or employment opportunities.  It was very specific where two existing laws that affect employment background screening are concerned: the EEOC and the FCRA.

  • Equal Opportunity Laws: Businesses have a number of equal opportunity laws to consider, but the FTC report focuses specifically on the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), which makes it against the law for a creditor to discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age.  Failure to comply with the law can result in punitive damages as high as $10,000 in individual cases and the lesser of $500,000 or 1% of the creditor’s net worth in class actions.  The FTC report is concerned primarily with the “disparate impact doctrine,” which essentially says that consumers have a right to challenge consumer credit decisions that have an “unintentional but disproportionate” adverse effect on minorities.  This originally applied to housing decisions, but is also applicable to credit and employment decisions affecting minorities.
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act: The FTC specifically stated in the report that the FCRA is not limited to traditional consumer reporting agencies, credit bureaus, and lenders under the statute.  It also applies to so-called “data brokers,” particularly if those companies “advertise their services for eligibility purposes.”  The report emphasized that the FTC applies the same methods and standards whether a company uses traditional or non-traditional methods of data application, and that companies should keep the law in mind when using big data to make FCRA-covered decisions.

We are The Cedalius Group, the employment background screening provider you can trust.  We understand the complexities of big data, and the concern consumers have that the data is used responsibly.  We are advocates for our clients and the data they provide to us, and “compliance” is our keyword.  If you have questions about big data and how you use it, give us a call today at 404.963.9862 or visit us online at www.thecedaliusgroup.com

The Cedalius Group offers insight into the background screening industry for educational purposes.  We always recommend you consult with your legal counsel to determine practices that best suit your business needs.

Jan 19

FCC to Allow U.S. Telecom Services to Cuba.

The Federal Communications Commission said Friday it has removed Cuba from its “exclusion list,” allowing U.S. companies to provide telecommunication services to the Caribbean country without separate approval from the agency.

Cuba was the last remaining country on the FCC’s exclusion list.

“Removing Cuba from the Exclusion List benefits the public interest as it will likely alleviate administrative and cost burdens on both” telecom companies and the FCC and fuel more competition among telecom carriers interested in the market, the agency said.

In September, the departments of Commerce and Treasury followed through by removing a series of restrictions on Americans traveling to and doing business with Cuba. The changes, ranging from investment to banking to joint ventures, enabled American businesses to establish a “physical presence” in Cuba and hire Cubans to work in their offices.

The U.S. economic embargo on Cuba remains in place since only an act of Congress can lift it.

Cuba is a largely untapped market that is hungry for expanded wireless phone and Internet services. In June, 2013, Cuba extended access to its new high-speed internet to citizens at designated, censored ‘cyber points’ “at prices few can afford,” according to advocacy group Freedom House. Only about 5% to 26% of Cubans have access to the Internet, it said.

“Cuba has long ranked as one of the world’s most repressive environments for information and communication technologies,” according to Freedom House’s analysis of the Cuban Internet market. “High prices, exceptionally slow connectivity, and extensive government regulation have resulted in a pronounced lack of access to applications and services other than email. Most users can access only a government-controlled intranet rather than the global internet, with hourly connection costs amounting to 20 percent of the minimum monthly wage.”

In September, Verizon Wireless said it became the first U.S. wireless company to offer roaming in Cuba through its “Pay-As-You-Go International Travel” option, which costs $2.99 per minute for calls and $2.05 per megabyte for data.

The State Department recommended in October that the FCC remove Cuba from the exclusion list, and the FCC began collecting public comments. Not surprisingly, the industry is supportive of the move. AT&T told the FCC “that removal of Cuba from the Exclusion List would help foster competition for bilateral communications between the United States and Cuba, and thus increase the flow of information to and from the Cuban people,” according to the FCC’s order for removing Cuba from the list.

Medical device maker Medtronic said scrapping the reporting requirement will “promote connectivity for medical devices and services, such as remote monitoring of medical devices and exchange of medical information between the two countries,” according to the FCC order.

Jan 19

Making Moves: LISTA Past New Jersey Board Member Wil Bolivar, LinkedIn’s Director of Global Technology Solutions speakes on his Quest for PHD’s

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How LinkedIn built one of the best IT cultures

When I first walked into LinkedIn’s office to interview Craig Williams and Wil Bolivar about how they built a highly successful IT team, I thought I had found my answer right away. There were cafeterias on every floor and the bean bag chairs seemed to outnumber the desks. The receptionists welcomed me with smiles and then pointed me to their fully staffed coffee shop. I thought this was just another Silicon Valley culture story—an amazing workplace with the amenities you’d expect from a company that has a market cap just north of $25 billion.

However, the story of how LinkedIn built one of the best IT teams isn’t about their beautiful office, or the fact that like many tech companies, they offer unlimited amounts of gourmet food. The story of LinkedIn’s Global Technology Solutions (GST) team’s success is rooted in the culture they have carefully crafted. It’s a story of success that any IT Director can respect.

It starts with the leadership, as it usually does. Walking through the office, Wil Bolivar, Director of Global Technology Solutions (GTS), was quick to hold the door and say “Hello,” to passersby. The employees that Bolivar introduced me to were also quick to smile and immediately dropped what they were doing to chat for a few minutes. And the tech behind the help desk counter was just as warm as the IT engineer in the midst of a project.

After speaking with a few team members I asked Bolivar where they found talented IT candidates with such great people skills. It turns out they look for people who are personable, not just IT experts.

 Look for the “PHDs”

The GTS’ hiring requirements say nothing about a previous background in IT. In fact, one of their most successful recruiting channels has been YearUp, a program that offers business training to disadvantaged youth. The program teaches these young people skills like customer service, technical skills and leadership. Then LinkedIn looks for the ones with “PHD”, a term the company coined, which stands for Passion, Heart and Drive.

When I asked Bolivar’s counterpart, Craig Williams, another IT Director at LinkedIn, the same question during a phone interview he had a similar answer. “It’s the type of person that we’re looking for. We hire people with huge hearts and drive. Anything else they don’t know, we can teach them,” he told me.

Williams’ team began offering customer service training through a program they started a few years ago called Global Technology Solutions University. “GTSU is really focused on some of the softer side aspects of emotional intelligence, customer support and attitude,” he said.

He attributes much of his team’s success to the soft skills that every IT employee develops, but he also points to the focus on hiring talented people.

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LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner begins the company all-hands meeting with the same discussion every week: talent. Williams said the same is true during his team’s all-hands. The ethos at LinkedIn is centered on — and borderline obsessive about — hiring the smartest people they can possible find. They believe if they hire PHDs and give them additional customer service training that they will offer best-in-class support.

Both Williams and Bolivar foster a culture of constant professional development and growth. Bolivar, explained that employees are encouraged to take courses to improve both soft and technical skills. “We have project managers that offer sessions once a month to give folks an opportunity to see how project management works.” All courses are recorded and hosted on the company’s intranet so that employees can access them at any time.

Williams told me that at LinkedIn they don’t just focus on the most senior people either. He tries to ensure young people to thrive in the company. “Some of the most impactful people we’ve hired are interns. We tell them ‘Don’t come in just to learn. Come in to make a difference.’ And when you hire someone like that, it’s amazing what can happen,” he said.

One example of this is Hack Week. A couple of times a year, everyone on the IT team is free to build what they want. Some employees build tools that speed up their own workflows while others contribute to open source projects.

Recently an employee built a conference room scheduling app. The app gives LinkedIn employees a list of all the rooms that are available and the option to reserve unoccupied rooms on the go. After completing the project, the employee was promoted to project manager and led the development of the app further.

Measure and run your IT team like a business

In order to ensure that their investment in employees pays off, LinkedIn’s IT team measures the growth of both their team and the core business. They give every employee Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) each quarter, which range from simple goals like learning a new skill, to advanced projects that reduce costs.

One such project that Williams’ team is currently working on is reducing the amount of tickets submitted by new employees. In order to do this, his team started hosting two-hour IT onboarding courses to help new hires set up their development environments faster.

The initiative required cross-department collaboration which Bolivar told me isn’t uncommon. “We do a great deal of cross team collaboration and we align our OKRs with those teams so that we are able to work on projects together and deliver them on time,” Bolivar told me.

While OKRs may not be all that unique, the way both Bolivar and Williams look at IT is. Both men told me that they measure their teams like individual businesses within the company.

“IT isn’t about IT. IT is about how to make the company more money. If we can reduce cost, we have to do that. If we’re making our products better, and focusing on how to make Linkedin software that much better, that’s our job,” Williams said. At LinkedIn the IT team isn’t building technology for technology’s sake. Everything is measured and contributes to the company’s success.

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They also teach employees how to be managers of their own business. “We say, ‘Run your business like a business.’ If you’re running the help desk, you should know your inventory, you should know who’s working, you should know how many outstanding tickets there are,” Williams said.

This philosophy has led the team to a unique view on building internal products, too. They measure themselves against what a vendor of the same solution would be able to deliver. “You have to look at it as competing for your work. If you look at it that way, and think ‘If I had to compete with another company would our solution be the best?’ you build good products,” Williams said.

Enjoy the ride and put on a good show

It may sound like the Global IT Solutions team is all work and no play. But in fact, that’s far from the truth. When I interviewed Williams and Bolivar on separate occasions, both were quick to point out how much fun their teams have.

Before I even got to my first interview question, Bolivar showed me a video of the Tron-themed party that the IT team recently hosted. Bolivar asked with pride, “See that guy on the drums. That’s a VP. Where else do you see a VP on the drums in a room with blacked out windows?”

Friday night parties aren’t the only time for fun though. The IT team is known for playing funny background music when Weiner tells jokes at the company’s all-hands meeting. And during the World Cup this summer they played the games on every TV throughout the entire company. “Anything from a tech perspective, we try to exceed expectations,” Williams told me.

At the end of the day, culture is what sustains any company. And this is core to the beliefs that have led Williams and Bolivar to build a successful IT organization. Both men told me that they have worked hard to create an atmosphere that enables employees to do good work and enjoy it.

At LinkedIn, the champions of culture just happen to be the same guys that reset passwords and fix broken computers.

By 

Read More: https://highfive.com/blog/how-linkedin-built-one-of-the-best-it-cultures?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=LinkedIn-Culture&utm_content=IT-Managers-Lists

Jan 19

AT&T names John Dwyer President of its Atlanta-based Cricket brand.

“John brings a wealth of experience and an unrelenting focus on customer satisfaction to everything he does, and we’re excited to have him join the Cricket brand,” said Glenn Lurie, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility, in a statement. “He will lead a nationwide team delivering simplicity, reliability and value to millions more customers seeking premium prepaid without compromise.”

Jan 12

NALEO Responds to President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address

photoThe National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) issued the following statement regarding President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address:

Organizations calls on Congress and President to work together to ensure promises turn into action for the nation’s second largest population group and all Americans

“With Latinos comprising nearly one of every five Americans today, the success of our country has become intrinsically tied to the future of the nation’s second largest population group. Given our nation’s changing demographics, it is increasingly critical that the President and congressional leadership deliver on the promises made in 2016 and beyond.

“The State of the Union needs to be more than just political theater. Latinos and all Americans continue to wait for words to be turned into action on the key issues affecting their day-to-day lives. We need progress on policies that will improve the schools our students attend, create more job opportunities, bring the immigrant community out of the shadows and ensure the right to vote is accessible for all. While we wait for action, many kids remain without access to rigorous preparation for post-secondary, life and work opportunities, families struggle to put food on the table, immigrants remain vulnerable and our democracy becomes increasingly responsive to only the privileged few.

“It is time for the President and our nation’s congressional leadership to work across party lines to deliver on the many promises made to Latinos year in and year out. Like many Americans, the Latino community has grown weary of the political infighting that has become common in our nation’s capital and on the campaign trail. The problems facing the Latino community are all too real and our leadership must move on policies that will allow our nation to reach the high bar that we have set for ourselves.

“Latinos have never shied away from a challenge, and we ask that the President and Congress do the same by avoiding political posturing and instead putting in the hard work of turning broken promises into action. “Issues like immigrant integration have demonstrated that there are areas of common ground where our nation’s leadership can reach across the aisle on policies that benefit Latinos and all Americans. More than 8.8 million legal permanent residents are eligible to become citizens, with our economy and democracy the biggest beneficiaries when these New Americans succeed. Delaying administrative increases in the naturalization fee and supporting funding for English language and civics classes will ensure that the significant progress that has been made on this front continues.

“As the President acknowledged in tonight’s address, ‘it’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality’. The time has come to make the changes needed to make the American Dream more accessible, not less accessible for the nation’s second largest population group.

“Our constituency of more than 6,100 Latino elected and appointed officials nationwide stands ready to work side-by-side with the President, the Administration and Congress to move forward policies that spur job creation, increase rigorous educational opportunities for all students, protect voting rights and fix the nation’s broken immigration system in pursuit of this goal.

“We cannot succeed as a nation without ensuring the success of the Latino community. Now is the time to act, put politics aside and turn promises into reality for Latinos and all Americans.”

We at LISTA strongly agree with NALEO and look to stand and work together in order to hold the promises made into real action for our community”, said Jose Marquez CEO and President of TechLatino: Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association.

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About NALEO The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials is the leadership organization of the nation’s more than 6,100 Latino elected and appointed officials.

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