Friday, December 14, 2012

A lightbulb moment for encouraging women to take science jobs

Thanks to Cisco, whose breakthrough this is. Cisco advertised for apprentices. Only men applied. Where many others have shrugged shoulders and recruited, Cisco did not. They readvertised. "The key point that worked for us was we removed any reference to Systems Engineers and Engineering, something that had previously been heavily embedded into our job specifications. Instead we reference technology, together with relationships and addressing peoples/businesses problems through that technology. This was also reinforced when I hosted the assessment day, when I focused on the people engagement and relationship elements, rather than engineering which still remain core to the role. This led to us hiring, on raw talent alone, 4 women and 2 men which is very different to the industry average." And this was not just tapping the tiny pool of qualified women either, but women who liked technology but had not considered a technical job, or even a technical education, before. One was a hairdresser. All four are flourishing, and have sailed through their first technical exams. I am immeasurably delighted by this. Let's see if we can turn the light on in schools too. The final ad, the one that had women applying in good numbers, was as below. ########################################### Technical Apprentice Programme Our Opportunity As an apprentice on this team you will get an opportunity to work with a variety of leading Cisco technologies, as well as interact with our valued customers and Cisco partners to develop the skills to become a trusted advisor adding a business and client relationship context to your role as the technical specialist on our Sales teams. Leveraging those relationships with Customers and Partners to develop technical solutions to their business needs. Primary Responsibilities • Develop and maintain technical understanding of Cisco’s solution sets, architecture and full product line • Develop an understanding of competitor solutions, products & services • Support our Account Teams with client meetings and presentations • Provide coordination, support and preparation for customer demonstrations and evaluations • Actively participate and consult with Virtual Teams to further technical projects and initiatives Professional Competencies • A methodical thinker with attention to detail, able to react creatively but rationally to customer requests • Persevering with a drive to constantly learn new things and always deliver the best solution to our customers, on time and as promised • Able to work under pressure and make decisions with a positive “can do” attitude • Open minded and passionate about new technologies, ideas and ways of working • Able to communicate technical detail and engage the customer and colleagues in a proposed solution • Motivated towards an engaging and fast paced career, with focus on personal development and learning • An active participator in a team environment, contributing to the success and achieving of the overall objective. Education and knowledge required • Fluent in English, written and verbal. • Must be able to live and work in the UK, without additional visa support or sponsorship.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Olympe de Gouges

Saw a fascinating play, "Olympe de Gouges, Porteuse d'espoir" at Theatre le Guichet in Paris Had never heard of her, but anyone who can say, to his face: Robespierre! You say you are the only author of the Revolution, you were not, you are not, and you will be, eternally, only its execration and opprobrium. I am going to list your characteristics: your breath poisons the pure air that we breathe; your vacillating eyelid expresses, despite yourself, all the ignominy of your soul; each hair on your head carries a crime. What do you want? What do you demand? What are you avenging? What do you want to fight, and whose blood are you still thirsting for? That of the people! You would soil this nation through a coalition of crime. You proclaim peace to all but you declare war on the human race. You ridicule the sensibility and humanity of our philosophers. The lives of thousands of men are worth nothing in your eyes. You want to slash your path through heaps of corpses and use murder and assassination as rungs to rise to the highest rank! I, I will admit, am a miser when it comes to the blood of my fellow citizens. Gross and vile conspirator! Mend your ways while there is still time. I throw down the gauntlet of civic duty: have you the courage to pick it up? (to quote the helpful translation) and face, calmly, the inevitable guillotine, get my admiration. Lots of good stuff on gender equality, too. A good evening.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review of iPad repair

I smashed my iPad glass, and went to the Apple store in Covent Garden for a repair: £200!!!!! Well, in their defence they do issue a new machine rather than repair the old one, but why? Imagine doing that with cars. So I rootled around on Google, found several offers at around £125, and then found in Wathamstow, E17. I went there this morning. Nice airy premises in a typical unimproved former factory, some courteous staff on telephones, and a long worktable manned by sunny locals trained up by the company. Altogether professional: a welcoming, happy feel to the place. Run by a Frenchman, a former Apple employee, drawn to London by food / climate / love (choose one only). £50 later, I have an iPad in perfect working order. They run to mail order too, but I have no experience of their service there. No evidence of long backlogs when I visited.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - a cautionary tale

I have managed to make an idiot of myself by booking a flight through

This, if you find it, is a brief review of my experiences which may, at least, help you avoid the pits that I fell into. add, without making it obvious enough for me to have noticed, a service fee to your bill. Mine was more than 20% of the cost of the flight also charge a fee for using a credit card - 7.5% for Mastercard - which seems unlikely to be the actual cost that they have to pay themselves

I was sure that I had deleted their travel insurance, but it resurfaced on my bill

Well, in my defence, this was after a good party and I was not being as careful as I might.

When, if, you get to the point of complaining or asking for help, they do not answer emails, and offer only a vastly expensive premium rate number.

All in all, however high are in the Google rankings, I'll never be using them again

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What’s wrong with Capitalism?

Nothing. It’s still the best way of running an economy. The trouble is, it’s not what we have in the UK.

What we have is Executivism.

In Capitalism, the rewards of business flow to the providers of capital, the owners. In Executivism, this flow is intercepted by the executives that have been hired to run the businesses.

This process is nothing new – in the long centuries when power was land, many agents flourished at the expense of dilatory landlords. What is new is that ownership has become dispersed and powerless, and that owners have failed to fight back as they once did. Each of us is an owner, by virtue of pension and insurance funds if nothing else, but we have little power – that has been intercepted by fund managers, along with a large slice of the rewards of ownership.

The rewards of ownership are siphoned off principally through excessive remuneration (previous generations of executives did the same jobs for much less). By opposing this we are not undermining business – just some overpaid businessmen – the banks, as businesses, would be much better off if pay rates were lower. Ditto their customers.

Fund managers come next in the leach parade: 1.5% per annum for (on average) underperforming the market, plus a chunk of undisclosed remuneration from such dubious practices as stock lending (whereby the managers profit from assisting speculators to parasitise the returns that should have flowed to the investors). High Frequency Trading is another parasite, surfing on the waves created when large investors trade, and thereby reducing their returns.

Executives and fund managers have chosen, by and large, to remunerate themselves on the basis of short term performance, which has undermined the long term performance of businesses and the economy.

Investors have reacted rationally. Left with all the risk and half the return, they have decided not to save, or to pursue speculations such as houses and art.

So what is to be done?

To restore Capitalism, we must restore power to the owners of capital – us, the average man and woman.

My first proposal is for information. We must publish enough information for the public to get a real grip on what is happening, and to deplore it to the faces of the people who are doing it. I propose that we should require the publication of details of all remuneration packages in excess of twenty times the national average.

My second is to make it easier for owners to enforce their will – to require minimum ownership periods for voting, to require the consent of underlying owners in some cases, to increase the majority required in some cases – none easy to agree, and perhaps not easily effective, but an important signal of intent and objectives

My third is for government and its instruments, such as the FSA, to find ways of encouraging disintermediation – doing without the banks and fund managers, reconnecting owners directly with their investments. This is happening, slowly, on the fringes of banking with the likes of Zopa; it will happen soon on the fringes of venture capital, but we ought to make it possible to, for instance, replace pension fund managers with collective investment clubs.

My fourth is for measures to reduce conflicts of interest in the current system: to require that bonuses above say £50,000 must be tied to the share price or (in private businesses the profits per share) and may not be cashed in for at least ten years, on pain of a hefty tax penalty. To outlaw stock lending and other covert forms of remuneration by collective investment funds unless investors vote in favour each year. To require companies listed in London to register sales and purchases of shares instantaneously, and to pay to the exchequer a small fee per share when they do so – making high frequency trading in their shares unprofitable.

These measures are not anti-business: just pro-capital. A company based in Britain would be more profitable, with better informed and more loyal shareholders. The leeches would depart and suck the blood of others, and we would quickly see that their claims of special talents and value were an illusion.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Paying for university places

The Guardian has an article today at saying that the government intends to float the idea that universities could be allowed to take fee-paying UK students.

For lots of practical reasons, I like the idea. We want the universities to offer better resourced courses to more students. We do not want to charge students more. The government does not want to increase subsidy. And we are in the process of hoofing out thousands of private school kids from the top universities -perhaps 5,000 per annum if I read the draft access agreements right - and thereby creating a cohort of well qualified and well heeled students who could fill the places if we created them.

If we do not create the places, we will see all their money - perhaps £150 million per annum - going abroad, or to new private UK universities to recreate the private/state divide in higher education. If we do allow private places, we might use the extra income to create a couple of liberal arts institutions, offering broad courses with lots of contact time with top scholars, or we could elevate one of our good universities to be a fifth great one. Either way we would be benefitting lots of students beyond those paying fees, and the UK in general.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why can local authorities keep the proceeds of their crimes?

If any other organisation, from the Inland Revenue to a high street bank, takes your money and then finds that it has done so by error, it repays the money. Not so local authorities - particularly when it comes to traffic offences.

Here - a typical example of a common problem -
Westminster have made a mistake as to their own traffic regulations, have put up misleading signs, have caught and fined motorists, have been told that they were wrong, have admitted that they were wrong, but will keep the money.

I think that this is disgraceful. Theft in fact. Why does a respectable council do this, and why do the government prevent (through their restrictions on the Local Government Ombudsman)prevent us from stopping them?