Friday, December 27, 2013

How to evaluate a publicly traded corporate employer

There are many articles on how to judge employees, and many on how to manage typical employee interviews. What I don't see are blog posts or articles on how to judge a corporate employer (The "fear economy" may explain that deficit.)

Since I have lived most of my professional life in a what I think of as a representative 21st century publicly traded behemoth, I have some ideas on what one should look for when considering corporate employment. Remember, I'm not talking about Apple, Google, or Facebook -- not the cutting edge PTC. I'm also not writing about a privately held corporation, much less a startup. This is pure PTC.

Recently I took a look at another position in a different behemoth PTC. That led me to quickly write down some of the things I could look for -- though many are difficult to uncover without inside information. (OTOH, large PTCs employ thousands, so odds are there's an insider friend you can interview).

In no particular order and with minimal editing, here's my list for an IT corporation, but most of it applies to any PTC.

Indirect measures
  • Bicycle parking/showers
  • WiFi and personal device support
  • Offices, privacy -> what is the workspace like for developers/analysts?
  • Are there places to meet, chat, interact? Is the kitchen/eating area popular and comfortable? 
  • Surveillance strategy
  • All employee access to email, calendar mobile vs. executive-only
  • Exec vs. non-exec privilege and support: do Execs enter expenses? Do they track time? Do they do the same idiotic training programs non-execs do?
  • Yammer or equivalent social business use
  • Quality of systems for entering time and expenses. Beware SAP.
  • Travel expense procedures 
  • Investment in corporate IT infrastructure
  • Anything but SharePoint
  • Is IT outsourced? What is policy for local machine/productivity support?
  • Do workers have admin rights on machines
  • What kinds of phones and machines? iPads? Macs?
  • Any open source contributions
  • Standards activity and participation
  • Community participation
  • Flex time, remote worker, how maximize productivity of distributed teams
  • Telepresence implementation (ex: google hangout vs. Cisco telepresence)
  • Balance of employee productivity vs. corporate security
  • Can employees fast forward through training videos? (tells you a lot)
  • Local division/BU autonomy
  • Energy, desire to change/improve vs. wish to keep current state
  • How people dress
  • Employee retention vs. new employee addition
  • Employee morale
  • How many shakers/disruptors can corporation tolerate?
Direct measures
  • profitability
  • growth
  • value chain health
  • customer-centric vs. vision centric
  • market: penetration, competition, business lines
  • divisional vs. functional -- where is the P&L
  • collaboration vs. competition between divisions and product lines
  • quality of the leadership -- esp CEO's reports and one level down (which tells you quality of CEO)
  • measurement of product metrics and product lifecycle management
  • cost management approaches
  • travel and travel restrictions, telepresence
  • how is responsibility tracked and managed
  • technology innovation: mobile strategy, AI strategy
  • training and development how innovative? MOOC? 
  • recruitment and diversity including age distribution
  • accounting methods: how are business units evaluated and measured, how are teams and employees measured
  • PTO and holiday
  • development methodology (Agile, other ...) approach to quality, defect management, timelines

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Silver bear snow scoop: The Net is still good

When we lived in Michigan's Upper Peninsula snow scoops were sold at the local hardware store. Snow scoops is how snow was moved before snow blowers; they're still great for moving snow where blowers don't work. Or aren't wanted.

Our scoop lasted 20 years, but it finally split along a seam. This distressed #3; snow scoops are essential for creating a solid back yard mound for dog and child play. Alas, we couldn't find any in the Twin Cities. Not enough snow I guess.

Once we'd have been stuck, but Google found a supplier - Silver Bear Manufacturing of scenic Atlantic Mine Michigan -- just a bit southwest of Houghton MIchigan -- where they had 105" of snow in 2004. Oops, that was in one month of 2004. Last winter they had 225" of snow. Yeah, about 20 feet.

Screen Shot 2013 12 11 at 7 51 23 PM

(That's Lake Superior on either side of this peninsula).

Silver Bear has a charmingly ancient web site. I paid my $78 and the 22" snow scoop showed up a few days later. It's so solid it makes our 20yo scoop look like a child's toy. Of course the bolt holes didn't quite line up -- that's how I knew it was authentic. Nothing a bit of screwdrive hole stretching and hammer banging couldn't fix. This thing is definitely from the UP.

Here it is ready for action. Let it snow.