In The Twitter-Tumblr World, Everybody Is A Journalist
If you see yourself as a tech leader, be willing to put your money where your pen is
MY FRIEND, who is a Vice-President with a technology start-up in Bengaluru, called me the other day with a problem. His company was growing fast and he needed to recruit aggressively. He was finding it hard to attract star programmers and architects he needed — his company was no Facebook or Google to get the best knocking at the door. He needed the same, if not a better, caliber of people as Google, and he needed it fast.
He decided that he would need to hire a full-time recruiter, whose job would be to attract, hire, and manage talent by creating a unique differentiated positioning for his company. He called me to seek my advice on how to best define such a role, as it went beyond that of a conventional recruiter. I told him that I knew exactly the kind of person he needed — someone like a Morgan Missen, the Talent Manager for FourSquare in San Francisco. So, who is this Morgan Missen, and why did she come to mind when my friend talked about his hiring issues?
Morgan Missen is a brand by herself. In a short span of eight years, she has spent in the tech world in SFO; she has built a strong network with the best of the best software engineers, product managers and UI professionals — people who are the building blocks for product companies anywhere in the world. She knows where to find them, and more importantly, what they are looking for. She brainstorms with the product folks in her company to figure out how to create the best environment for them to work in.
In today’s hyper-competitive market for tech talent, Morgan happens to be running one of the most critical functions in an innovation driven company— how to get the best into the door, and inspire them to produce the best they are capable of. No wonder that she is listed as one of the top women in tech on Tumblr! She figures in all forums with CEOs, Venture Capitalists and Founders. She has redefined the lowly tech-recruiter role, which is typically very transactional, into a highly strategic talent-management role, by seeing the bigger picture and delving deep into the nitty-gritty of execution. It is rumoured that Ashton Kutcher , one of the key investors in FourSquare, personally called and convinced her to accept the FourSquare job offer!
• If you are a doctor, consider your patient as a partner. Pool all the data and then come up with a diagnosis and treatment that you discuss with him/her before implementation
• In the new world, we are going to be valued for how best we use the ubiquitously available info; process it into knowledge and act on it to produce results
This is but one example of how roles, along with hiring qualifications, are changing in the 21st century. When Twitter and Tumblr came along a few years ago, not too many people realised that it would completely change the role of a journalist as we knew it before. Today, you get news, that too breaking news, on Twitter from people who have never thought of themselves as reporters. Well-written analysis on new products, services, financial transactions, political upheavals, natural disasters, policy issues, etc., are available on a variety of blogs written by amateurs — folks who are extremely well qualified in these subjects, and write very well too!
Recently, one such person decided to write a post on the acquisition of Instagram by Facebook, and put it up for sale on Gumroad.com for $1/download! A recent Pew Research Centre survey found that 37 percent of American internet users or 29 percent of the population, had ‘contributed to the creation of news, commented about it or disseminated it via postings on social-media sites like Facebook or Twitter’.
What it implies is that, in today’s world, if you want to be a journalist, you need to think and act very differently from yesteryear journalists. Take the case of Michael Arrington. As the editor of TechCrunch, an influential tech blog, Arrington initially stirred a hornet’s nest when he combined investing with reporting. But looking back, it’s apparent that Arrington was only an early precursor of the change that would sweep the publishing world. Are you willing to put your money where your pen is? Are you doing such a thorough job of evaluating the business and product you are writing about, that you don’t hesitate to invest in them if there is an opportunity? Let the readers decide if they find what you write credible or not, with full disclosures, is the new mantra.
Today’s journalist has to do a lot more research, and dive deeper into issues, to build credibility and hold an audience; just the fact that he is affiliated with a big name publication, or the impression that he is supposedly neutral will not get him page views any longer! Yet it is a great opportunity for many who once aspired to be journalist, but got stuck in other professions as it happens invariably in India! Go ahead and start writing —if that is what you always wanted to do — you never know where you will reach one day. Tomorrow’s best-known journalist might just be a lawyer or a marketing executive today.
Even medicine, the holy grail of all professions, is not immune to this transformation. Yesterday’s doctors were no less than God. Their words carried weight, and often were taken as the Gospel Truth. Ask any doctor today, and he or she will tell you how the tables have turned. Patients come armed with information gathered from a variety of sources, most of all, the internet. Eight in 10 internet users are hitting the web to get their health-related questions answered, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. They question the doctor’s diagnosis and they pick holes in his treatment strategy. This, of course, enrages many doctors who still hold the opinion that patients should quietly listen and do as they say.
However, if you are a doctor in today’s world, the wiser reaction would be to change the way you work. Is it possible to consider the patient as a partner, a very interested one at that, listen to him with respect, pool all the data together, and maybe then come up with a diagnosis and treatment, that you discuss with him and then implement. What if you communicated directly with patients, online, cutting out today’s red tape.
This, by the way, is exactly what Jay Parkinson, a doctor in Brooklyn, New York, did in 2007. He opened up his Google calendar to his patients, so that they could enter their appointment time online. He made housecalls. And he kept in touch with his patients using all the available communication media at his disposal, like Skype, phone and email.
His practice grew rapidly, and he then went on to build a product, HelloHealth, that all other doctors can use to work with their patients in a more transparent manner. In today’s world, it is better to be proactive, and seize the opportunity to move ahead rather than get thrown out by the winds of change. The first step towards this is the ability to step back and take a look at what you do, and what you need to change, in the context of the new environment.
Every role and every profession will, hereon, be changing in the next decade. Salman Khan, the erstwhile Wall Street executive, is the world’s numero-uno school teacher today, credited with causing an earthquake-like upheaval in education with his Khan Academy! He has no particular teaching credentials, and neither is he part of any big-name institution! But his lessons, hosted on www.khanacademy.org, were viewed by 3.9 million unique visitors as of 2011, with students coming from Bangladesh, India, Finland, and many other countries besides the US.
Prasad Bharat Ram, the erstwhile R&D head of Google India has set-up Gooru.com, an online education portal that one can use to easily access in one place, all the educational content available on the internet.
Now, with so many lessons, exercises, and many other forms of content becoming available for free on the internet, teachers are trying to figure out how they can add value by going beyond what is available on the net.
Can they co-opt the online lessons into their teaching process, and then build a layer of individual attention that they and only they, having the student close at hand, can provide? Yes, but it requires re-orientation; it will require teachers to spend more time understanding what’s out there, understanding each student, and a willingness to partner with them to help them learn better.
I can go on and on. This scenario is playing out in profession after profession across the world today. Technology, the ubiquitous availability of information, and the explosion of new communication media, are, together, fundamentally altering the nature of work and professions as we know them today.
Very few of us are going to be immune from the effects of this relentless change occurring around us. We are no longer going to be valued, and respected, for the ‘information’ we possess or hoard. That is becoming more and more freely available now.
We are going to be valued for how best we use the ubiquitously available information, how we process it into knowledge, and act on it to produce results. Time for each of us to take a hard look in the mirror…hopefully, there’s a Morgan Missen staring back!
The author is CEO Global Executive Talent LLC.