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Archive: May - 2015 (3)

  • Getting the Most Out of the Technology Meetup Community

    Article by Sandra Zawacki, Practice Manager in Jobspring DC and Co-founder of DC Security Meetup 

    Did you know that there are over 100 technology focused meet up groups in the DC metro area and in most other major cities? I’ve been in the technology recruiting industry for almost eight years, an industry that most would argue heavily relies on networking, and I have been pleasantly surprised to see the huge increase in groups and events over the past few years. People from all different verticals of the technology community are stepping out from behind their laptops, standing desks and online forums to, wait for it, engage with others face to face! While the technology field heavily relies on email, web conferences, virtual server environments and code repositories to make important decisions and move products forward—in the recruiting field—we still see most important hiring decisions made when a face to face meeting has occurred. How good are your face to face networking capabilities? The opportunity to improve on this skill is only one of the many reasons you should be an active member of your local meet up community—let’s explore a few others!

    First, let’s lay a few common misconceptions to rest. One: community driven meeting groups are an “old-school” way of engaging with people in your field. Judging by the explosive growth of sites like Meetup.com, which boasts 21.6 million members world-wide and powers over 9000 groups meeting each week, meet-ups are clearly the “new-old” way of getting together. Two: techies are introverts who don’t like engaging outside of the comfort of their screens. There are thousands of registered meet up groups focused on different areas of the technology market. To use a more specific example, when my company founded Tech in Motion (a nation-wide technology focused meet-up) we grew our membership to over 40,000 members in under five years—clearly techies are getting out! Three: “If I want more information on something I can just find it online, I won’t get anything ‘extra’ out of attending an actual event, plus traffic is terrible at rush hour!” Well, I can’t argue on the traffic point…but there is plenty of “extra” to be gained at these events.

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    At most of the events I attend, and host, it’s as Forrest Gump would say “a box of chocolates—you never know what you are going to get”. But that, in my opinion, is what’s so great about it! There will always be the real experts at whatever the topic of the event is; the people truly passionate about that technology who are eager to share their knowledge and exchange ideas. There are others at the event who are just there to learn more and who serve as a grateful audience to the first group. Inevitably, there are also a few who just came for the free food and drinks—that’s ok too. The point is to not be afraid to put yourself in a position where, even if you are unfamiliar with the topic, you learn something new or share some of what you know. This is not only the best way to actually gain some new knowledge but also an important networking skill that may have gotten rusty as you tapped away at your keyboard for the past few years!


    That brings me to my next point—don’t underestimate the value of human interaction. As mentioned previously, despite much of business being conducted in online capacities these days, most companies still make important hiring decisions after face to face meetings. As much as you have to be “good at what you do” you have to also be able to explain what it is you do, and to some extent “sell yourself” to get the job you really want. Meet-ups are an excellent forum to practice these skills by talking to people you’ve never spoken to before (like you would in an interview), describing what you do and then connecting with them over what it is they do. These interactions can greatly help improve the thing most people struggle with during interviews; nerves! Additionally, you are meeting people at these events who are in your field; the bigger you can make your network the easier looking for a job will be, if or when you choose to do so.

    One last point from a hiring perspective; the number one quality hiring managers tell me that they are looking when they describe the “perfect” candidate (outside of technical skills) is passion and desire to learn. These intangible skills can be difficult to qualify and even more difficult to represent on a resume. Consider the approach high school students take; they fill their free hours with extracurricular activities that will look great on a college application, ideally a variety of them to suggest a broad and general interest in being an active member of their communities. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to take a page out of the book we wrote as 17 year olds and incorporate it into our professional lives. Being an active member of your professional community and attending events that further your skills and knowledge is an excellent way to show potential employers that your application should stand out!

    So join your peers; take a night or two a month and find an event that interests you; a topic that you could learn more about. Wear your nametag proudly on your chest and don’t be afraid to walk up to someone you don’t know to ask them what they do. You might meet someone whose knowledge helps your project, whose network impacts your career path or who you simply enjoy exchanging ideas with. Or just come for the food and drinks… 

     

     

     

  • Artificial Intelligence: Should All Wishes Come True?

    Article by Patrick Tafua, Practice Manager in Jobspring Orange County 

    My fascination and curiosities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) began at Disneyland. It was my first job and I worked on attractions in Tomorrowland, the futuristic themed area of the theme park. While working at the resort you really gain an appreciation for the innovative or ‘magical’ mind of Walt Disney. One particular favorite innovation of mine is Audio-Animatronic figures throughout the park. Audio Animatronics is a form of robotics animation. These robots move, make sound that is generally recorded and are often fixed upon whatever supports them. Although the movements and sounds of the robots are prerecorded it brings these figures to life for its audiences. I feel that this innovative technology sparked the wishes of engineers to make AI more of a reality and a part of our lives. Which asks the question; should all wishes come true?

    AI has the potential of making lives easier by understanding our desires or driving our automobiles and more. If uncontrolled though, the technology could be a serious threat to society. At least that is what many of the top scientist and technology leaders in world, such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, are proclaiming. A letter written by Musk, Hawking and other prominent scientists, stated that, "Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls.” Also stated was that these systems should be controlled to do what we want them to do and add benefits to society. Stephen Hawking had gone further stating that AI development could “spell the end of the human race”. So where do you stand on AI?

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    It seems that there isn't much you can do at this time to stop AI developments from happening if you were opposed. This battle to bring AI to the hands of consumers has been in motion for long time. Recently we are seeing developments of robots to be personal caregivers. For example Robear, a high-tech teddy developed in Japan with a mission to help make elderly care much easier. There are many other technological advances being made in AI. These robotic figures do not have prerecorded audio or movements like those at Disneyland. Some of these machines can process regular spoken language and not only recognize human faces, but also read our expressions. It only seems fitting to discuss what AI will become in the workplace.

    Zeynep Tufekci of the New York Times wrote that computers do not just replace humans in the workplace. She states, “They shift the balance of power even more in favor of employers. Our normal response to technological innovation that threatens jobs is to encourage workers to acquire more skills, or to trust that the nuances of the human mind or human attention will always be superior in crucial ways. But when machines of this capacity enter the equation, employers have even more leverage, and our standard response is not sufficient for the looming crisis.”

    AI could have machines doing our jobs well enough to make it cheaper for employers and easier to control than an employee that would have their own opinion on work matters. Certainly, engineers in technology may not have to worry about their job security right now because of the high demand recently in our county for engineering talent, but these engineers may create the reason they are out of a job in the future. In Orange County, there isn't much AI development being done, but we still have Disney’s Audio-Animatronics to inspire local engineers to come up with the next big AI. It’s just - do we really want to make these dreams become reality?

  • Are we in the midst of another tech bubble?

    Written by Jason Cooper, Practice Manager at Jobspring Silicon Valley

    The NASDAQ, traditionally a strong representation of how the market generally values tech companies, eclipsed the 5,000 mark for the first time since 2000 just last month. Thus, it’s logical to ask the question: are we in the midst of another tech bubble? As someone who does technical recruiting for a living, I sure hope not! Since I started with Jobspring in 2010, the demand for engineering talent has increased year over year. In fact, we set several company wide records in terms of performance just last month. The economy and unemployment rates have clearly bounced back from the most recent recession. We’ve seen angel investors and venture capital firms shelling out billions of dollars as well as a wave of tech IPOs over the last couple of years. On the surface, we should be optimistic for the future and hopefully there is more growth and prosperity to come. However, I think there is a general sense of cautious optimism as it was just 15 years ago that the tech bubble burst. So, the real question we should ask is: what happened in 2000 and how is it similar or dissimilar from what we are experiencing now?

    The climate in the late 90’s was one in which investors were willing to overlook traditional metrics, such as P/E ratio and instead focus on things like technological advancements with a hope that companies would turn future profits. Things began to unravel in 1999 when the Fed raised interest rates, which slowed the economy and halted growth for Internet startups. The big players such as Microsoft were slashing financial targets, which led to investors becoming weary of these new Internet companies. Shares fell in 2000 as earnings and sales expectations became too high for a lot of the dot-coms to meet. According to the University of Maryland and the University of California San Diego, “by the end of 2004, 52% of dot-com startups that sought venture capital were no longer in existence.” The 90’s were a time in which many investors neglected to really look at companies on an individual basis and got caught up in the whirlwind of the new Internet age. Simply having a dot-com in your name meant you could expect a big IPO because of the excitement around all tech companies at the time.

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    Fast forward 15 years and things have definitely changed in 2015. According to data compiled by Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida, “while median valuations have been rising since 2008, firms are coming to market at a fraction of the levels seen during the dot-com period. IPOs were priced at a median of 30 times sales in 2000, compared with 5.2 times last year.” Valuations during the last bubble were abstract, as companies didn’t have significant revenue and earnings. Companies going IPO today are more established and have a track record of revenue and earnings reports that allow banks to make more accurate fact-based valuations. According to Ritter’s research, “businesses backed by venture capital or private-equity firms were on average 12 years old in 2013 when they went public, compared with four years during the dot-com era. The median revenue for companies going public in 2000 was $17 million compared with $109 million in 2013, adjusted for inflation. The average number of IPOs of small companies – those with less than $50 million in annual revenue – declined 83% in the period between 2001 and 2012.” What we are seeing is that startups these days are able to delay IPO by receiving additional funding from investors. “You want to make sure you have a company of reasonable scale before you go public, which ensures much more certainty in the planned financial results,” said Doug Leone, who is a managing partner at venture capital firm Sequoia Capital.

    So what do those in Silicon Valley have to say? In an October 2014 article, several folks who made Fortune’s 40 Under 40 List weighed in on the matter Here are some of the responses I found interesting:

    ·         “It’s not a tech bubble. It’s the biggest wave of innovation in the history of the world. It’s a combining of unbelievable forces of cloud, social networks, mobility plus connected products.” - Marc Benioff - CEO, Salesforce.com

    ·         “It’s all cyclical, right? Just take a look at the stock market over the last 60 years. There’s a cycle involved. But we’re not in a tech bubble because companies are making revenues. And I think that was a major difference between what’s happening right now and what’s happening 14 years ago. Companies today are making real money.” - Joe Gebbia - Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder, Airbnb

    ·         “I do think we’re in a bubble. There are too many companies with no business model or no sustainable business model. I’m proud that we have one, but I think there’s going to be some kind of correction.” - Jess Lee - CEO & Co-Founder, Polyvore

    ·         “I believe there’s a lot of optimism in the market right now. Whether there’s a bubble or not a bubble, I believe people are just optimistic. Look at the fact that the PE [price-earnings] ratio is the highest it’s been since 1940 with the exception of 2000.” - Jay Simons - President, Atlassian

    So are we in the midst of another tech bubble? It’s hard to say. There are experts in tech, finance, economics, etc. on both sides of the fence. Personally, I think there is a ceiling that we may be encroaching on and I do agree with Joe Gebbia of Airbnb that the market is cyclical. About every 10 years you can count on an economic downturn. Surely, there are some companies right now that are grossly overvalued. Snapchat’s $15 billion dollar valuation comes to mind, but hopefully I’m wrong. I think there will be some sort of market correction in the near future, but probably for not at least a couple of more years. I also don’t think we will see the level of implosion we did back in 2000. It seems companies and investors have learned a lot from the dot-com bubble and are doing their best to avoid making the same mistakes as before.

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