I participated in a great article about women in technology business in ENTweak this past week. The article discusses and explores the roles that women are currently choosing in the technology industry, along with what might help increase and drive further growth among women in technology careers. It’s a good read with some outstanding insight from several others in the industry. I’ve talked further about how to take women in tech to the next level here as well. Thank you to ENTweak for including me in the article this week.
If there is one thing technology and the internet have shown us all is the value of adapting. Legacy retail business is a great example — there have been some traditional brick-and-mortar companies that have struggled or shut down, but overall the retail industry as a whole has significantly benefited from the advent of innovation and the web.
But while most businesses today must utilize technology to the advantage in some way, doing so is another story. A particular pain point for virtually any organization is in how to select, hire and manage engineers, and build engineering teams that have the power and knowledge to get the job done. However, it can be more efficient and successful than it seems. A few strategies that can help:
- Know what you want — With technology, it can be hard to know how to make the things you want or need, but that does not change that you can be clear on what you need or want. Take time to have a sense of your technology needs or vision long before you begin the hiring process. It’ll help you better communicate and drive your technology or innovation needs, and put you in a stronger position to lead and direct those you bring on board for the job.
- Do the homework — The internet can be a powerful tool for learning about technology. While you do not have to become an expert in the field, taking a little time to do some research into what you feel you need or want can be an asset as you seek engineering talent. It can be as easy as typing a few keywords on a search engine and taking notes. If nothing more, it’ll help you have a stronger sense of what you want or need, and in some cases, assist in finding the right type of engineering help.
- Seek the right talent — Explore your options for job boards and other talent resources before placing your ads. While certain resources for finding hires and talent might be great in one area, there are many that attract and focus specifically on niches including technology and engineering. Ask peers, look around a bit, or consider working with a speciality staffing firm or head hunter — it can be worth it by finding qualified individuals for your position or team. Once interviewing, be sure to ask candidates about their process, how they report or communicate work, if they’ve structured projects in the past, work style and other elements beyond their technology skills and background.
- Set the perimeters — You may not be the technology expert in your organization, but you are essentially the ‘boss.’ Think about and establish what your needs are in terms of how team members communicate specifics, report on progress, provide in meetings, etc. before you hire. In doing so you will be able to set expectations and structure essential to your technology project.
- Be involved and engaged — Once your engineering team is in place, stay active, involved and engaged with them and their work at all times. Ask questions, read the reports and other updates they provide, keep an eye on budget, schedules, timelines and progress. You may not be a technology expert, but basic management and business skills still apply with leading and overseeing your technology team and project.
Net neutrality has been an important issue since the advent of the commercial internet, and definitely a topic to watch. A recent New York Times article recaps comments left to the FCC this past month. It’s an interesting read into how the public feels about the topic — not surprising, 99% of those who commented support protecting the open internet. You can read the full article here.
There was an exciting article this past month that suggested Rackspace may be in acquisition talks. Rackspace played a significant role in bringing cloud server architecture to the web 2.0 market. It’s excellent to see it attract this type of interest. The article joins others this past year of cloud-based technologies and companies gaining market share, acquisitions and other successes. Great to see the continued value in the cloud market!
I’ve shared thoughts on managing the new era of entrepreneurial-minded, ambitious teams and staff on The Huffington Post this week. It’s an exciting time for all, and one that presents a new landscape for leadership teams and employees in multiple industries and organizations. You can read the full article here.
Without question, it’s an era where big wins and gains in technology and innovation are highly celebrated, and rightfully so. There is nothing more exciting than the pace and progress of the market. Funding deals, exits, IPOs, great and pioneering products. It makes for an exciting time and certainly one worth celebrating.
However, there is no truer side of innovation and product or idea development than the occasional/possibility of failure. It’s not like you expect it to happen — and certainly nobody wants it to happen — but can happen and it is possible. It goes hand-in-hand with innovation in any organization, forever looming at the door. In a promising and progressive market, it can be frowned upon and highly criticized. But failure is a very real and realistic part of the innovative and development process — and it can have great benefit to your company regardless of stage or size.
In fact, having the right mindset about failure can help a company better recover from it, and even leverage it for the greater good of its business, services or products. It can aid in keeping the costs associated with failed ideas and efforts lower, and even streamline the failure process. The key is to have a good approach toward handling and managing failure at the start, and plan in place for when or if a loss might come.
Recognize that failure is an opportunity to learn, and that even with the best, most well thought out plans and processes there is a risk for it. There are always variables, things that could not have ever been seen or anticipated. Even with the smartest, most experienced teams, the best resources, etc. failure can still come knocking at the door. That doesn’t mean you want to invite failure into the mix — but knowing it may arrive at any point can be a crucial step towards moving on if it does and minimizing the risk of the potential impact.
It’s also important to have a format in place for identifying and reporting problems early on. In this aspect, leadership and management teams need to constantly lead by example in creating an environment where employees feel safe bringing up issues the minute they’re spotted. What you don’t want to have happen is someone in the company fear failure to the point that they try to solve it themselves and hide the problem. Create a format and culture where failure isn’t wanted, but is understood, and that employees should immediately bring issues to the management or leadership team so that the collective group can set a plan towards fixing the problem.
Which brings up the last and likely the most important part of the failure process: It’s always most important to first recover from a loss more than anything else. Immediate action to do so can minimize cost and downtime. Once the problem is fixed or near fixed, that’s when you can take a step back and triage or determine what went wrong, how you can learn from it or benefit from it moving forward once the immediate danger of the problem is solved.
It can also be helpful to have a communications plan or protocol in place for dealing with failure in your industry or market. And most of all, don’t forget that failure doesn’t just happen in the technology department but can in every corner of the organization. It is part of taking risk. Be sure to implement the above with each silo at your company, and encourage leadership and management to constantly manage and lead failure by example.
While failure is never fun, and can hurt the business in the short-term, it’s important to remember that some of the most outstanding and successful ideas in our world were failed upon many, many times before seeing the ultimate value they would later become. It doesn’t mean failure should or needs to be encouraged, but like anything else in life, sometimes we fall and when we do, we need to get back up.