Read These Entertaining Tech Company Reports with a Heavy Dose of Skepticism

Screenshot from Fast Company's article, "Where Google, Apples, and Amazon Employees Want to Work Next."

Screenshot from Fast Company's article, "Where Google, Apples, and Amazon Employees Want to Work Next."

I love articles like Fast Company's "Where Google, Apple, and Amazon Employees Want to Work Next." 

They're hard not to click on. I seriously can't resist Fast Company and INC.com's headlines. Someone poach those headline writers, they're the best!

But while the article referenced above is quite interesting, there are a few reasons to read it with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The reports and surveys cited are blended ... perhaps advantageously

Paragraph one references a Fast Company report, paragraph two references a PayScale survey, and paragraph three references a Dice survey of 1,600 technology professionals in the U.S.

I love the collective insight, but when you think about the sources, they're kind of apples and oranges, so you can't look at the findings as a single harmonious conclusion. 

The numbers might be deceiving

Statista.com says that "Apple reached more than 80,000 employees as of 2013."

So do those "1,600 technology professionals in the U.S." offer an authoritative enough sampling to represent all or even many technology professionals? Even within just one of the companies cited, the numbers polled represent a fraction of actual employees.

Each with his and her own very real employee experience and story.

The respondents' pain points might be magnified

Since those surveyed are apparently on job seeking / posting platforms (Dice, Anthology/formerly Poachable, which was a great name, but I can see why it was abandoned), the odds are probably high that those cited are somehow dissatisfied with their careers. You know, because they're poking around to see what's next in their career, not because they're entirely satisfied. 

This isn't a bad thing. Seriously. Poke around! It's just a lens through which we need to examine the article's broader assumptions.

There are insights to glean

My naysayer ideas aside—and remember, I'm a fan of these publications—there are kernels along the way that I recognize. In my work with stealth job seekers (inbound and outbound) at Google, Apple, and Amazon, I offer the following anecdotal and collective observations from my own practice. 

  1. Program management roles can indeed be akin to mini-CEO roles. Pushing a product (much less multiple products) from inception to ship is big work. But to move into a CEO role from a program manager role ... you probably need to (a) have a well-known name or (b) launch your own start-up and proclaim yourself the CEO. In other words, you need to either have an advocate in your corner (i.e., people saying you can do the job) or you will likely have to take the risk of assuming a new skill. What is that skill? P&L management. It has to be somewhere in the mix of a career to move into a CEO role. None of the program managers with whom I have worked at Google, Apple, and Amazon have P&L experience. Massive budgets? Yes. P&L? No. Much to their chagrin. (Even very senior clients from Oracle and IBM haven't had P&L ownership, much less exposure.) If you're looking to move into the C-suite, you need to reverse engineer how you're going to fill in the P&L blank within your current job, so start looking now for exposure. Otherwise, you need to found and build a start-up of your own, which inherently involves P&L. A move like that is all about the risk involved. Where you find the rare person who went from product manager to CEO, you'll probably find a person who took the risk and succeeded. 
  2. People at Google, Apple, and Amazon—and most other large companies—have preferences about the kinds of companies and cultures for which they will leave. Some want to spring from one public company to another, while others want to quietly leave one of the "not traditional, but no longer terrifically disruptive" tech giants like Google, Apple, and Amazon to blaze into a well-funded startup. Trouble is, they don't always get what they want because the right corporate culture doesn't suddenly open just because they are ready to move on. It's for this and many other reasons that stealth job seekers—or passive job finders like those Anthology serves—need to plan and wait. Get your ducks in a row and be ready to compete when the right opportunity and culture comes along.   

Oh, and following up on another of the article's tenets: Amazon's recent headlines seem to be uncomfortable for most, if not all of the corporate employees still on the inside.  

CTOs, CIOs, and CMOs - This One's for You

A European client who's frequently at the cutting edge of technology and marketing yesterday forwarded HBR's The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist article by Scott Brinker (CTO at Ion Interactive) and Laura McLellan (research vice president at Gartner). 

It's a must read for my senior technology and marketing clients (CTOs, CIOs, CMOs, etc.), as we've all seen the same blur between the disciplines in recent years. Just think about the tightly woven job descriptions for so many program or product managers. So why wouldn't be think about the top roles integrating just as tightly? 

Important read for my clients.  

More News for Humanities Graduates Exploring Tech

Hot on the heels of yesterday's news that Silicon Valley might be welcoming to humanities graduates comes this earlier published Forbes article: The 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket. 

As a musician, myself, this would have been awesome news fifteen years ago. For today's humanities graduates, especially those with advanced degrees, it's a watershed moment. 

If you're a recent or about to graduate humanities student, read the whole article, top to bottom. Then, if you're interested, start doing the research and the networking to make it happen. The way you think is valuable. 

Screenshot of Stewart Butterfield, Slack's CEO, in George Anders' recent Forbes.com article. Photo credit: Carlo Ricci.

Screenshot of Stewart Butterfield, Slack's CEO, in George Anders' recent Forbes.com article. Photo credit: Carlo Ricci.


Humanities Students & Graduates: You're Needed in Silicon Valley

Now here's a not-to-miss data report from LinkedIn for the PhD and MA students with whom I've been working at the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI). 

Turns out, the LinkedIn deep diving and keyword searching we discussed in San Diego might just pay off. And certainly Alice Ma's LinkedIn blog post, You Don't Need to Know How to Code to Make it in Silicon Valley, offers a glimpse into some of the job titles you'll want to consider. 

Important quote: "Liberal arts majors take on a wide range of roles." Of interest, fourth on the list is folks in project managers. When I reflect on the swath of project management professionals with whom I work up and down the west coast, a lot of them have degrees in the humanities. 

Article screenshot depicting Jared from the HBO series Silicon Valley from Alice Ma's recent LinkedIn blog post. 

Is Apple's Famously Flat Structure Really Flat? And What Can That Mean for Smart Startups?

An INC Magazine article I read last night about the virtues of flat organizational structures (good stuff: loyalty, engagement) reminded me about the mystery of Apple's famously flat hierarchy.

For no reason but curiosity, I googled "apple flat," which auto-completed into "apple flat hierarchy." Exactly what I was looking for.

Top of the search result heap was a 2011 Financial Times article by Philip Delves Broughton worth re-reading for tech company founders, VCs, product developers, and supply chain leaders: "How Jobs made Apple fit for the future."

Most of my clients in the four professions listed above tell very different hierarchical stories from their own experiences, but they might find inspiration, even from Broughton's opening line: 

"The group is really three lashed together," he says.

And the article's citation of Reed Hastings' "talent density" principle is a nice nugget for recruiters and stealth job seekers / passive job seekers to noodle on when it comes to their efforts.

If everyone in my network hasn't already read this short article, they should. In case you're not convinced, here's Broughton's closing paragraph: