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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Category Archives: Miscellaneous
I was at Yahoo! HQ earlier this week and noticed that the sprinkler heads are purple
It turns out that a LOT of stuff is purple at Yahoo, including a cow at the reception desk.
While Yahoo uses a lot of purple on its campus and as one of its primary corporate colors, the reason the sprinkler heads are purple is not because Yahoo is that anal about color branding…….
It’s because purple in plumbing indicates that the water in that system is recycled. They’re irrigating their landscape with water recovered from the wrong end (or maybe the right end!) of the sewage treatment plant, which would otherwise flow out into San Francisco bay. While that water is “drinkably clean” if you ask any of the sewage treatment experts, for some odd reason most people have a problem with actually drinking it, so cities have been installing piping to take the outflow from the plants and schlepping it off to companies to use in landscapes and other situations where non-potable water can be used. It’s one of the ways cities are trying to stretch the supply of drinking water to avoid having to build more plants and find new sources.
Technically, the recycled water is non-potable, so all of the plumbing and fixtures that carry is are signed to show that and they use purple pipes and fixtures to warn folks that the water coming out here isn’t from the main (i.e. “safe”) water supply.
Sometimes, the color purple is simply the color purple. In this case, it just happens that Yahoo is near the water plant and shares the color with the water folks, for very different purposes….
Here’s one piece of advice for people going to a job interview: show up early. Not just the “15 minutes early so I’m not late if I hit traffic” early, but give yourself extra time beyond that.
then, depending on how attack trained the receptionist is, sit in the lobby (or just outside the lobby) and watch. You can figure out a lot about a company that way really fast. (I’ve found “I’m here for xxxx, but I’m way early and I don’t want to disturb him yet, so do you mind if I sit here and work for a bit?” works most of the time…)
Watch the people coming and going. You’ll quickly get a feel for dress code, for how diverse (or non-diverse) the place is. The lobby is most of the time a microcosm of the building — if people are wandering around and looking happy, and the lobby is clean and in good shape and well lit, chances are this is a happy building. If you’re in a cave, and people are scurrying back and forth in a hurry and not stopping to talk to anyone, or if people look unhappy or stressed; that’s a bit hint.
If the building has a receptionist (or guard), do people say hi? do they stop and talk? or is that person part of the furniture?
You can, giving yourself 15 minutes or so, get a good handle on what life is like inside the building; not how they want it framed, but how it really is. I find it a huge help in figuring out whether this is a place I want to be — or not.
Also, either before or after, don’t be afraid to tool around the parking lot looking for just the right spot (unless they have you stuck in a visitor only lot); this one is less obvious, but one of the things I look for are too many cars needing a good wash and wax — is it because the company keeps folks so busy they can’t? And scout the neighborhoood; is your car going to be safe during the day? Will you be safe leaving at 2AM? Are their support services nearby that you want, whether it’s the Starbucks or a cleaners or whatever? If the area doesn’t have a strip mall or three, why not? Is that saying something about the area?
Finally, know what your commute time is; not what Google Maps is; not what it takes to get there at 2PM on a thursday. try a real commute at 8AM on a tuesday, so you can rationally judge what it’ll REALLY take to get there. And don’t assume the time home is the same as the time there….
The more information you have on a potential job, the smarter decision you can make on whether to take it.
Been bitching about companies doing stupid things to customers.
Here’s one reason why companies start walling off from their customers.
Back when I was doing customer/tech support for a living, I did in fact tell one customer to please go buy someone else’s product. and my boss backed me up, and called that idiot’s boss to make it clear that the person was no longer welcome to call for support, someone else had to make the call for him.
As a company, you need to make your customers happy, because that encourages them to come back and spend more with you, and tell all their friends how much they like you.
But some customers abuse that, thinking that means they can do anything to you, because they paid some money somewhere, sometime. But the customer relationship has two parts to it. companies sometimes forget they, too, can break that relationship and make a customer an ex-customer. Support crews would be saner if they did once in a while.
it’s my belief, from my years in the trenches with a phone welded to my ear, that if you identified your 1-2% of your worst customers and simply cancelled them from future support and made it stick, you’d cut your support costs by a noticable amount. Note I’m not talking about the folks who call support most frequently, but the folks who are the biggest pains in the asses to your support crew. You will, guaranteed, find that those people tend to be low-volume buyers of your product, or small cogs in larger companies where you can work with their management to get someone who’s not abusive to be the phone contact. You just need to be willing to draw a line and say “beyond this point, my people don’t have to take this from you”.
In my current setup, my people with customer contact have that right, and I’ll back them up, and my boss will back me up when we do it. you can’t use that just because someone’s annoying, but when they turn abusive, you can simply end the discussion.
Either side can file for divorce. If companies drew better lines, they’d have to build fewer walls. Walls exclude everyone indiscriminately, including the customers you covet and want to keep happy.
Does this sound familiar to you?
I was talking to a friend of mine who works for some other company, and they’re in a bit of a dither. See, one of his co-workers came back from vacation and gave notice. She’s leaving in a month to go back to school.
It was a fairly open secret she wasn’t happy. As happens in times like these, one person left the company, wasn’t replaced. The workload got divvied out, and those that are left behind go from busy to overloaded to freaked to exhausted.
Now toss in a divorce a few months ago, a company deferring and limiting raises and doing mandated shutdowns that eat vacation time, and next thing you know, the house is for sale, and a valued co-worker is off to get that degree she always wanted.
The company is now scrambling: 8 years of corporate experience and history are about to walk out the door. Their job the next month is to suck her dry of everything she knows, and we all know that this never really works; the most important data she has is the stuff even she doesn’t know will be needed until it’s too late.
And everyone in the office is upset she’s leaving, worried about losing her knowledge and her contributions, worried about how they’re going to replace her. And the normal questions of “what can we do?” and even occasionally “what could we have done?”
And the latter question is really the key one, and the one companies never ask, because they don’t like hearing the answer. The reality is, before the decision is announced, it’s made. And once it’s made, it’s too late. sometimes you can buy someone’s loyalty back, but that really doesn’t work as well in practice as it does in theory, because it isn’t all about money.
What could we have done? — if you ask any staffing professional, they’ll tell you how much more expensive it is to replace an employee than it is to keep one. So why don’t companies do more than lip-service about employee retention?
Because deep down inside, companies don’t expect you to leave. and in a down market like we’ve been in, actually take advantage of the tough job market. And then when the economy picks up and people start leaving — they wonder why… You have to treat people right all of the time, not just when you think they might leave. It’s almost as if companies think their employees are stupid, won’t notice, and won’t remember. You hired them because they aren’t stupid, they do notice, and they will remember.
We all have budgets to keep, headcount requirements to manage, staffing issues to worry about. It’s easy to forget the other side of that — until staff turnover skyrockets and you see that drain of important people walking out the door. By then, it’s too late.
It’s important to remember that the time to do something is before you find out they’re leaving — which means now, and tomorrow, and every day, or week or month. It means manageable workloads, even in tough times, or at the very least, being honest and open about how long and why. It means money where you can, and when you can’t, recognition and notice and accolade and positive feedback.
It’s important to remember you can’t buy happiness — but failing to try can sure lead to unhappiness. Most of us aren’t purely motivated by money, and throwing money at an untenable employment situation doesn’t make it acceptable — but lack fo money becomes a de-motivator after a while, and if you throw in too much work and low morale and a lack of feedback, you’re basically telling people to leave.
So don’t be surprised when they do. And don’t ask “what can we do?”
that question should have been asked months ago, and repeated on regular occasions. By waiting until they leave, you’re telling them you only care about them when they cause problems for you.
Is that the message you want to send?