In Search of the Tech-Savvy Airport

Interesting editor’s letter – probably because I’ve been doing some traveling lately and it’s not always as easy as I think it’s going to be to get work done at airports – for a variety of reasons. Check the list out here: 20 Best US Airports for Tech Travelers

In Search of the Tech-Savvy Airport

All we wanted was to answer a simple question: Which U.S. airports are best at meeting travelers’ tech needs?

The question was simple, but finding the answer (see “The 20 Best Airports for Tech Travelers“) was anything but. In fact, it ended up being the most complex project in PCWorld’s 30-year history, requiring two editors, one in-house researcher, 31 field researchers, four months of labor, hundreds of phone calls, the support of dozens of airline and airport personnel, and even the cooperation of the TSA.

Tech Airports

PCWorld Staff Editor Megan Geuss and Senior Editor Mark Sullivan.

“Today’s air passengers routinely carry laptops, smartphones, and all manner of connected mobile devices,” explains Senior Editor Mark Sullivan, who oversaw the project and wrote the feature article. “To learn how well airports support these travelers, we had to outfit researchers with similar gadgetry and send them to the country’s largest airports to perform real-world testing.”

That meant recruiting “tech auditors” from across the United States, overnighting them equipment, giving them highly detailed test scripts to follow, and setting them loose in secure areas of the 40 airports that represent the vast majority of domestic air travel.

Their assignment: Count and record all electrical outlets, charging stations, work desks, USB ports, and other tech amenities. Then test cellular connection speeds for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, as well as airport Wi-Fi service. Each auditor was equipped with a 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet, plus four mobile hot spots for testing the carriers’ wireless connectivity.

Given the scope of this endeavor, the need for troubleshooting was a constant. Much of that work fell to Staff Editor Megan Geuss, who helped to coordinate logistics. “I became used to panicked auditors calling my cell at all hours whenever there was a glitch or something didn’t go right,” says Geuss. “I was part hand holder, part tech support.”

Because airports are highly sensitive about security, many of them initially responded uneasily to the idea that we’d set our field workers loose in their concourses. “We started by approaching their PR departments, trying to establish a dialog with the airlines,” Sullivan recounts. “In some cases, the airlines gave our auditors gate passes; in others, they personally escorted us.”

And sometimes, despite our best ef­­forts, they said no. Then we went to Plan B: buying plane tickets to get our people in. “I’ve become a master at finding bargain tickets,” says Sullivan. “I was es­­pecially proud of finding a one-way $15 ticket from LA to Las Vegas, which got one of our guys into a terminal at LAX.”

Even with tickets in hand, there were complications. In Cleveland, a gaggle of TSA employees stopped one of our testers and asked him what he was doing. (They had spotted him at one concourse, and then saw him again at another, and decided to investigate.) The agents took down his contact information and accepted his explanation. But they also kept tabs on him during the rest of the afternoon, and even met him at his gate to make sure that he flew out as scheduled.

Now that the survey is completed, it’s time to start planning our next iteration of the project. I think we should expand our scope and go global. I’ve already volunteered, quite selflessly, to do some testing on my own. I hear that Tahiti’s Faa’a International Airport has some knock-your-socks-off tech amenities. And reportedly the climate’s not too shabby either.

Good with Chemicals

No you didn’t…

Experience

2008 2010 XYZ Construction Construction labor, framing, cleaning, anything the boss told me to do.
Skills
framing, hard worker, catch on to things fast. Theres not much I can’t do

2011 2011 City of XYZ Lifeguard Watching kids in the pool and dealing with pool chemicals. Keeping the pool clean.
Skills
Good with chemicals and filling out paperwork.

2007 2009 Walgreens Stock, Cashier, Clean-up Did everything in that store. Cleaned, maitenance, cashier, stocked shelves, you name it.
Skills
Good with people and money.

Playing a Game of Chicken Over Salary Expectations

I play this game everyday with candidates and it is exhausting to say the least. Thankfully, I am not the type of recruiter that won’t tell you what the salary range is – let’s face it. It’s a waste of my time and yours if the salary isn’t at the very least a close match.

I also think that you have to gauge your situation and who you are interviewing with. There are no hard and fast rules to finding a job/interviewing. Each situation is different. But in general, and especially if you are working with a recruiter, having a range and being willing to tell them is ok. If the company/recruiter isn’t willing to give you what range they have in mind then I would proceed with caution.  The article below has some great points in it, even if it is a bit harsh towards recruiters!

Who Should Reveal Salary Expectations First?

By Suzanne Lucas | May 14, 2010

I submitted a resume for a position at X company a few weeks ago. The posting for the job requested a resume, cover letter and a salary range; however, I simply sent an email with the resume and the cover letter with an explanation that I was happy to negotiate as I did not have anything in mind.

I received a reply stating they were contacting me to request a salary range for the submission of the job they had advertised.  I again, very politely, replied that I was more than happy to negotiate and that if they could send me a range and I would let them know if that would be satisfactory. I received yet another reply from the same person in a manner which could only be seen as impolite. The reply is as follows:  “This is our third request that you provide us with a range for a salary. Unfortunately, if you are unable to furnish us with your salary expectations we ask that you please withdraw your application.”

Once I received this last email, I knew this company was not going to be a good fit for me, but I went to salary.com and found a salary range for that job title.  I e-mailed them that.  I received a reply later from such person stating that my salary range was outside what they could provide. I wanted to reply at this point as this bothered me…however I am not completely sure if I am correct about this matter.

As a professional of Human Resources, what is your take on this? Should I go ahead and not reply to this last email? Any advice would be appreciated.

I’m going to answer your last question first.  Go ahead and reply but only say, “Thank you for taking the time to consider my application.”  Anything else may make you feel better, but it sure as heck won’t help you find a new job.

At some point, everyone decided that when it comes to salaries, he who speaks first loses.  So, we end up with people not being willing to disclose their current salary, companies demanding that they do so, and everybody lined up against each other in this big game of chicken instead of being honest about what expectations are.

It doesn’t make sense for a company to waste a time interviewing candidates for a $50,000 a year job when the candidate will only accept the job if it pays $75,000.  And the candidate doesn’t want all that stress for a job they’d never accept.  So, the logical thing to do is talk about it.

And who do I think should talk first?  The company.  I think the people you were dealing with were incompetent paper pushers who also sit around and whine about their lack of visibility in the company.  I have no idea if you would have been willing to accept the salary they were willing to offer, but the reality is neither do they.

The recruiters are those that have a checklist of rules and heaven forbid you don’t follow it.  These are the same people that reject you if your resume goes two pages, you don’t “show initiative” by calling, or any number of other rules that they’ve decided are deal breakers.  These people will never staff a great company, because they don’t know how to actually find the best employee.  They know how to match things on a list.

You didn’t have solid salary expectations (hence your foray into the internet), so you pulled a number out and presented it.  They looked at their list and it didn’t match, so out you go.

You are probably better off not working for such a company.  For many people, there are a lot of things more important than salary.  (For me, for instance, it’s flexibility.)  For some, they’ll accept a lower salary for a better location, or better benefits, or a boss who isn’t a raging idiot.

Companies are afraid to disclose salary information because they think candidates are idiots.  If they say, “Our range is $45k-$65k” and then offer you $55k, they are sure you’ll run screaming and demand the full $65k.  Because, you know, no one outside of the secret Human Resources Compensation Department has ever heard of a salary range or of paying people based on their experience and what they’ll bring to the table.  Most grown ups can handle this information.

It’s a shame these recruiters couldn’t.

Warren Buffett’s 10 Rules

I don’t know how I’ve missed this before but yesterday I was at Jimmy John’s grabbing lunch (mmm love the unwich LuLu). While waiting the 2 seconds for my food I saw the sign on the wall with Warren Buffett’s 10 Rules. I know we’ve all seen these before but we all tend to forget them – or at least, I do! So here is my reminder and I’ll share it with you.  [My favorite is #5]

No. 1: Reinvest Your Profits

When you first make money, you may be tempted to spend it. Don’t. Instead, reinvest the profits. Buffett learned this early on. In high school, he and a pal bought a pinball machine to put in a barbershop. With the money they earned, they bought more machines until they had eight in different shops. When the friends sold the venture, Buffett used the proceeds to buy stocks and to start another business.

No. 2: Be Willing to Be Different

Don’t base your decisions upon what everyone is saying or doing. When Buffett began managing money in 1956 with $100,000 cobbled together from a handful of investors, he was dubbed an oddball. He worked in Omaha, not on Wall Street, and he refused to tell his partners where he was putting their money. People predicted that he’d fall, but when he closed his partnership 14 years later, it was worth more than $100 million.

No. 3: Never Suck Your Thumb

Gather in advance any information you need to make a decision, and ask a friend or relative to make sure that you stick to a deadline. Buffett prides himself on swiftly making up his mind and acting on it. He calls any unnecessary sitting and thinking “thumb-sucking.”

No. 4: Spell Out the Deal Before You Start

Your bargaining leverage is always greatest before you begin a job – that’s when you have something to offer that the other party wants. Buffett learned this lesson the hard way as a kid, when his grandfather Earnest hired him and a friend to dig out the family grocery store after a blizzard. The boys spent five hours shoveling until they could barely straighten their frozen hands. Afterward, his grandfather gave the pair less that 90 cents to split.

No. 5: Watch Small Expenses

Buffett invests in business run by managers who obsess over the tiniest costs. He once acquired a company whose owner counted the sheets in rolls of 500-sheet toilet paper to see if he was being cheated (he was). He also admired a friend who painted only the side of his office building that faced the road.

No. 6: Limit What You Borrow

Buffett has never borrowed a significant amount – not to invest, not for a mortgage. He has gotten many heartrending letters from people who thought their borrowing was manageable but became overwhelmed by debt. His advice: Negotiate with creditors to pay what you can. Then, when you’re debt-free, work on saving some money that you can invest.

No. 7: Be Persistent

With tenacity and ingenuity, you can win against a more established competitor. Buffett acquired the Nebraska Furniture Mart in 1983 because he liked the way its founder, Rose Blumkin, did business. A Russian immigrant, she built the mart from a pawn shop into the largest furniture store in North America. Her strategy was to undersell the big shots, and she was a merciless negotiator.

No. 8: Know When to Quit

Once, when Buffett was a teen, he went to the racetrack. He bet on a race and lost. To recoup his funds, he bet on another race. He lost again, leaving him with close to nothing. He felt sick – he had squandered nearly a week’s earnings. Buffett never repeated that mistake.

No. 9: Assess the Risks

In 1995, the employer of Buffett’s son, Howie, was accused by the FBI of price-fixing. Buffett advised Howie to imagine the worst and best case scenarios if he stayed with the company. His son quickly realized the risks of staying far outweighed any potential gains, and he quit the next day.

No. 10: Know What Success Really Means

Despite his wealth, Buffett does not measure success by dollars. In 2006, he pledged to give away almost his entire fortune to charities, primarily the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He’s adamant about not funding monuments to himself – no Warren Buffett buildings or halls. “When you get to my age, you’ll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you. That’s the ultimate test of how you lived your life.”

Why Should I?

Why should you write your own resume?

Plain and simple: because it’s not you talking on that resume if you pay someone else to write it (or if you’ve convinced your nice recruiter friend to write it for you). And it’s quite obvious that you didn’t write it when you’re in an interview. Things just don’t match up – the level of experience documented on the resume doesn’t match what you say about your background.

The best example I have of this is when I was interviewing a candidate and I asked him to tell me about the projects he worked on from a previous employer. He leaned forward in his chair, looking at the resume I had in front of me, and asked “which company was that?” He honestly had no idea what was on his resume and this trend continued through the rest of the short-lived interview. (Nope. Didn’t hire him.)

I had another candidate on the phone, had a great conversation with him, he was personable, knowledgeable in his field, and in general a good fit for the role. Then he sent me his resume…

  1. It was aiming for an executive level look for someone who has worked in lab/engineering settings most of his career
  2. It was so busy with boxes and tabs and certification logos all over the place I didn’t even know where to start
  3. It had quotes from past managers on it (not the place to include accolades – save that for reference letters and LinkedIn)
  4. His actual experience was buried 4 pages deep (you know, the actual “meat” of a resume and what I’m looking for)
  5. Everything was in a different font, different size, and even different colors
In short, it was the most distracting resume I had ever seen. It also didn’t match up with the great conversation we just had. No way could I present this resume to a hiring manager! Luckily for him I had talked to him before seeing this mess so we still continued in the interview process – after he did some rewriting on his resume.
I’m not saying there aren’t some great resources out there to help you write a resume – even ones you have to pay for. What  I am saying is make sure you are taking responsibility for your own resume. It will sound like you and it will be genuine. Make friends with some recruiters that are in your industry and ask them to take a look at your resume – they are the ones with hands on experience – they see, everyday, what hiring managers are looking for in candidates and they have hundreds of examples. And then – added bonus – they usually have jobs or know of who is hiring and who to talk to.

A Little Bit Different

And we’re back! March was a busy month and I took a hiatus from blogging – karma ladies and gentlemen can really slap you in the face sometimes –  I use to be that person who would get impatient because blogs that I followed didn’t post on a regular basis – I’ve now joined their ranks. Oops.

Moving on.

I realize this blog has been about recruiting and it will remain so. However, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share something I read today that, again, slapped me in the face. A couple of times. Actually it felt more like a punch to the face. And stomach. A blow out of the knee if you will. You get my point.

I’ve had quite a bit of self discovery this past month and if you’ve ever had a moment of self discovery you know it’s not always the easiest thing to swallow. Usually it’s like that medicine you hated swallowing as a kid, the syrupy, bitter flavored one with a hint of rotted grape. But, just like that medicine, once it’s swallowed it makes you better.

So for the icing on the cake today, my friend Jessica Clark, posted a link that just hammered it all home for me. I have the link below – you should read it, good stuff – and then I’ve listed a few that I’m going to be Giving Up. Whether you care about what I’ve learned or not the post has 50 excellent points that you can apply to anything you are going though in your life – job change, searching for a new opportunity, when you feel overwhelmed, when things are going really great, I think you get the gist here. Read it!

50 Things You Need to Give Up Today

Give up trying to be perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.  Read Getting Things Done. I don’t like to disappoint people. This makes me want to always do and say the perfect thing. Let’s face it though, there is no way I’m going to ever be able to be perfect for everyone.

Give up dwelling on the past or worrying too much about the future. – Right now is the only moment guaranteed to you.  Right now is life.  Don’t miss it. This is something that I am stopping. Right. This. Second. Done.

Give up trying to be everything to everyone. – Making one person smile can change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but their world.  Start small.  Start now. Goes hand in hand with being perfect – there is no way I can make everyone happy all the time. There are simply not enough hours in the day.

Give up trying to live up to the expectations of others. – Work on it for real and exceed your own expectations.  Everything else will fall into place. Do we see a pattern here yet? I let go of all of this for a while but apparently I got lax and have stepped back into those shoes. Constant vigilance. Always strive to be better each day.

Give up letting your thoughts and feelings bottle up inside. – People are not mind readers.  They will never know how you feel unless you tell them. I can’t even begin to explain how much I do this. I come off as a really laid back person that doesn’t let things bother her. Ha! Not quite, I just take all of those messy, pesky thoughts and feelings, put them in a little box, shut it, lock it, and stand on top of it so it can’t get out. So much effort for something that does nothing but hurt myself and those I love.

Give up foolish habits that you know are foolish. – Don’t text and drive.  Don’t drink and drive.  Don’t smoke.  Etc. Isn’t driving the perfect time to email and text? Not so much.

Give up worrying about what others think of you. – Unless you’re trying to make a great first impression (job interview, first date, etc.), don’t let the opinions of others stand in your way.  What they think and say about you isn’t important.  What is important is how you feel about yourself. What’s funny is that I really like who I am and how I feel about myself. No more getting tripped up on what others think or perceive of me based on things I can’t control.

Give up trying to control everything. – Life is an unpredictable phenomenon.  No matter how good or bad things seem right now, we can never be 100% certain what will happen next.  So do you best with what’s in front of you and leave the rest to the powers above you. See! I can’t control everything. Breath in, breath out, move on. Jimmy Buffett got that one right. My yoga instructor also hammered this point home last week for me. I’m just getting it from all angles right now. You’d think I’d catch on…

Give up following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile.  Don’t find the easy way out.  Do something extraordinary. Sometimes the smart, safe thing isn’t always the best thing or what will get you to your goals. My best friend, Megan Parsons, and my sister, Shelby Frakes, have both shown me that.

Give up filling every waking moment with commitments and activities. – It’s okay to be alone.  It’s okay to do nothing sometimes.  Think.  Relax. Breathe.  Be. So easy to get lost in everyone else’s schedule.

Give up focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen.  Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. Again, this is something I’ve done so well in the past and have taken a step back. I’ve seen how powerful positive thinking/goal oriented thinking can be. Why have I chosen to forget it? Back on it.

Give up trying to avoid risk. – There’s no such thing as ‘risk free.’  Everything you do or don’t do has an inherent risk. Hand in hand with taking the path of least resistance. Ready to take on some risks again. Get your game face on kids!

I do believe it’s time to talk about some goal setting.


Are Silicon Valley’s Engineers Underpaid?

BY: FARHAD MANJOOFebruary 16, 2011
Call off the lottery, argues FARHAD MANJOO, and raise the salary bar for all programming talent.

Google’s Eric Schmidt must have watched a few late-night infomercials before dashing off a memo to his employees last fall. The memo, which might as well have been advertising a new gizmo called StayPlease, gave workers at all levels of the company a 10% raise. But wait, there’s more!Google would be permanently transforming a portion of the employees’ annual bonuses into their base salary. Identify yourself as a Googler when you call the toll-free number (888-PLZ-STAY), and Schmidt would also give everyone an extra $1,000 bonus — tax free! He closed his pitch by thanking people for making Google “a place where magic happens,” but it wouldn’t have been a surprise if he’d thrown in his latest amazing discovery, the FacebookEraser (a $50 billion value).

Schmidt’s seeming desperation stems from a number of high-profile defections to Facebook: Matthew Papakipos, head of its Chrome OS team, and Lars Rasmussen, a cocreator of Google Wave, to name two. Although Silicon Valley’s official unemployment rate hovers around 11%, which is higher than the national average, those grim numbers don’t apply to top engineering talent. Four companies in particular — Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Zynga — have been waging a fierce battle for their services. Tech blogs abound with tales of six-figure — and even seven-figure — offers and counteroffers for the best software minds.

But these tales of high-rolling nerds mask a greater truth, one that actually threatens to hurt the tech industry over the long term: Software engineers in the Bay Area are underpaid when you consider the billions in wealth their work creates. In interviews with several engineers — and after scanning the boards on Glassdoor.com, which lets people post anonymous salary info for all to see — I found that a programmer with a few years of experience can expect to make somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000 a year at one of the Valley’s powerhouse companies. In most parts of the country, that is a great salary. But in Silicon Valley, 13% of households make more than $200,000 a year, and single-family homes frequently sell for more than $1 million. An engineer in San Francisco told me that he could never dream of buying a house in the city on his pay; another said that it would be impossible to pay off his student loans anytime soon. Compare their salaries to those of the lawyers, doctors, bankers, consultants, VCs, and other professionals who populate the neighborhood.

If the big tech companies were smart, they would begin to reverse this era of underpaying their most valuable employees. For one thing, it’s draining the talent pool because the comparatively middling salaries push smart people toward other careers. “The cream of my computer-science students don’t become engineers; they go to Wall Street or become management consultants,” says Vivek Wadhwa, a professor at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. A decade out of college, a consultant could be earning nearly a million dollars a year, while an investment banker could make many millions, he says.

The current salary level for programmers also promotes a gambler’s view of work, which hurts established companies’ long-term stability. People often leave steady jobs at companies with lots of resources in order to join startups that hold the promise of an acquisition jackpot. Several young engineers said that this was, in fact, their life plan. “I’m a little young for a retirement plan,” one 22-year-old engineer told me, “but to be honest, I have to say that I count on that happening in my lifetime.” Living in Silicon Valley without making a bundle in an IPO or acquisition just doesn’t seem possible.

Of course, this situation benefits pre-IPO companies like Facebook and Twitter. Still, that’s only in the short run. Before long, they too will see workers fleeing for the next great pre-IPO darling. Less-noble startups aren’t above taking advantage of programmers’ stock-option dreams, either. “They use the excuse of ‘We don’t have much money, and you’ll be getting stock’ to be really stingy with pay,” one engineer told me. Need-less to say, the vast majority of these startups fail, leaving their workers in the lurch.

The Valley’s tech giants aren’t hurting for money. Google alone has more than $33 billion in cash. That suggests an obvious way to stem the tide toward Facebook, Twitter, and tomorrow’s buzzed-about startup. Eric Schmidt should open up his checkbook even further. Operators are standing by.

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/153/engineers-to-the-valley-pay-up.html

What about the engineers right here in Austin, Texas? Are they underpaid as well? Would love to hear what the masses think on this.