Networks, AI and Your Job

20170322_ethanmccarty_AI_career_matching_ideaMy pal, David Berger, gave me a call after he saw my post yesterday about jobs and networks. I always love to talk with David – he’s the kind of guy who is fun to think with. In the course of the conversation he reminded me of a (now defunct?) program I led in its early stages at IBM called the Expertise Locator which was a web service that matched IBM’s subject matter experts to various pages on the company’s website. After finding a match in topic, it would then publish to the page a “widget” that displayed the expert’s bio, their picture, their latest blog/tweet etc. on the relevant subject and, in some cases, a way to get in touch with them. The system was based on the “three Cs” – no, not a description of my high school report cards – Content, Contacts and Context. The static webpages about various products and services were the content, the universe of IBM experts was the set of contacts and our matching engine stitched together the context.

David and I got to talking about how such a system could work in the world of talent strategies for big companies and how to express that to employees and so on – we both have roles in which conveying a sense of career path and growth to large swaths of people (as well as within our own teams) is pretty fundamental. Now, when we built the Expertise Locator at IBM we didn’t have access to anything like the Watson API, but if I built such a thing today – thinking about careers and jobs – I would want to make that “context” matching engine a lot smarter than the keyword-matching we did back in the day.

The Career Locator would be trained on a particular person’s digital ephemera – her professional social media posts, her work product (documents, emails, presentations etc), her social media network connections – and thus build a dynamic profile of who this person is in a professional context. The system would likewise be trained on the hiring team’s work product (their Jira board, their shared drives, their Slack channels etc etc) as well as the team members’ individual professional digital artifacts. All this stuff changes over time – like, if you looked at the content that the dozen-or-so folks on my team create every day (especially if you include instant messages) you’d be able to get a very good sense of who we are and how we work and how our work flow varies too. Now you have two very dynamic portraits that a smart algorithm could match and, especially within an organization, suggest new opportunities to people based on fit with a team.

Just recently we posted a job in my group and got more than 400 applications. Now granted, probably only about 90 were credible (Why does everyone think they can do comms? I dunno. I really dunno.) But still, three out of the four finalists for the role ended up being people who came in through a shared connection (not through the website) and, ultimately, the person we hired was one of them too. I am sure you can think of a zillion examples like this. Your network is probably smarter than you when it comes to knowing what a good job and culture fit looks like for you. It’s a bit like an arranged marriage – sometimes the parents really do have a better sense of who’d be a fit for you than your romantic (but naïve) notions of what you want and what would really provide you with satisfaction. The same is true of hiring teams and managers — their work product and digital artifacts may provide much better clues to who will fit in the team than their personal estimation, which is often biased by the recency and urgency of whatever pain they are feeling today.

Anyway, if there isn’t a smart startup out there doing this, please get going already, will ya? I am ready with seed money. Ok, I have like $73.47, but still.

As ‘roles’ disappear, invest in skills and networks

I’ve thought this way about my career for a long time…that the “role” I have at any given time is much less important than the work I can do and my understanding of & connection to a strong network.

What’s really going on? In a simple phrase our organizations have become a “network of teams,” and they no longer function well in the functional hierarchy of the past. The concept of a formal “job” with a job description is starting to go away. We now hire people to do “work;” we source them for skills and capabilities (not necessarily credentials); and we manage people around projects, customers, and products, not “roles.”

The quote is from “Robotics, AI And Cognitive Computing Are Changing Organizations Even Faster Than We Thought.” Hat tip to Ted Bauer (The Context of Things) for sharing the link.

Beef stew with spinach

And because I care about digital trends, the emergent mechanisms of communication and also eating well, I offer you this recipe. 

Not sure exactly how I made, it but it goes something like this…I change it slightly every time, but it always turns out well. Don’t be afraid to get some salt in there but taste it — the beef broth can be salty depending on what kind you get so just be aware I. Order to avoid over salting. 


~2lbs stew beef

1 big bag of raw spinach (probably like half a pound?)

Large can of roasted crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen organic brand)

Small can of tomato paste

2 cans beef broth

4 celery stalks

4 scallions

Two big carrots

One large parsnip 

One box of brown mushrooms

About two lbs –maybe a little less– of small potatoes (mix of gold and red)

Five whole cloves of garlic

One yellow onion

1tsp smoked paprika

Cut most of those ingredients into hearty, fork-worthy chunks. Dice the onions, scallions and mushrooms a little smaller. I leave the garlic cloves whole, but you may prefer smaller pieces. Don’t chop the spinach. 

Ideally you’d brown the beef over a high heat in a pan with some salt and pepper. It’s stew beef and therefore not super fatty, so you can just spray a little Pam in there to avoid sticking. Deglaze the pan with some of the broth and dump that into the slow cooker. Or if you’re feeling lazy, as I was this morning, just toss it in there w out searing it. It’s gonna cook for a long time, so no worries. 

Pour your broth, canned tomatoes and tomato paste into your slow cooker and stir it up a bit. Dump all your other ingredients in there too except the spinach. Sprinkle in your smoked paprika. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Set for 12 hours on low. (I often set everything up the night before so I can start it at 6:30 when our boys wake up…then it is done for dinner.)

Give it a stir every hour or so for the first few hours and when you do, add some spinach. By hour three or four you should have the whole bag of spinach in there. At that point you can ignore it until you serve it. I suppose you could try to cram the spinach in there earlier if you want to leave for the day, but it is bulky until it reduces. Improvise!

I make it without hot sauce so it is more appealing to the rest of my family who, sadly, do not care for spicy food. But then I put chipotle hot sauce in mine in the bowl to liven it up a bit. 


Stratechery #worthreading

Do you read Ben Thompson’s “Stratechery” newsletter? He sends a freebie once/week (subscription is $100/year; #worthit.) He usually devotes one analysis weekly to media (“Media Mondays”…but not always Monday.)

He has published several pieces about aggregation theory and how that has led us to a media duopoly (Google and Facebook) as well as its effect on politics, the break down of many media conventions etc. Really thoughtful work that lucidly explains what is happening without over-philosophizing or romanticizing defunct business models and their values. He has also written predictively about television’s business model and, if past is prologue, he’ll be right. “The Great Unbundling” is one of my favorite of his analyses.

On other days he writes on the dynamics of business technology and the technology business.

One of my commitments post-election, by the way, is to pay for more content (rather than arrive at it for “free” through aggregators. I bought the subscription to Ben’s newsletter in part because of this resolution, but mostly because it’s a damn fine daily jolt of smart.

A few fave posts:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Posted onTuesday, September 20, 2016

Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Posted onWednesday, March 2, 2016


Almost 5 Tips for Running a Great Employee Town Hall

1-25-2017-12-24-18-pmThere’s a lot more to delivering a great Employee Town Hall than these tips – for example you have to get the invitations right, select the right speakers, schedule at an appropriate time of day and moment in the business cycle and so on – but above all, aligning the content to the business strategy and honestly evaluating the whole experience from the point of view of the participant/audience (rather than the speakers) are the two most important things to get right. That said, ignore the following handful of tips at your (and your executives’) peril.

These five, well, actually four, tips will help you deliver a successful Employee Town Hall. Really, they apply to any big meeting. Enjoy!

  1. Have a run-of-show document that makes it extremely explicit when each individual will hand off to the next and ensure that the AV team has this well in advance. Do not make last minute changes to this run of show document.
  2. Practice all transitions for real — both in a practice session and make sure that each individual has a walk-off line (and that the person who is supposed to take it knows what that line is a la, “Now I’m going to hand it over to Jimmy who will talk about his favorite tuna fish recipes.” etc)
  3. Consolidate all slides in one PPT file and have them run centrally — someone who is familiar with the content can advance the slides from your main stage. Same with video — do not have video initiated remotely — have the AV team do it. Also, make sure they test the video file in advance — ideally, during your transition practice session.
  4. The leader of the meeting must be vocal on sticking to schedule. Almost every Townhall I’ve attended has gone between 15 – 40 minutes over. The exception tends to be Sales where they have a culture of being able to pitch. So! Either schedule more time or drill the presenters in advance on their timing. Having an assistant hold up sign that says the time is up or relying on presenters to look at the clock doesn’t work. The convener of the meeting has to the boss on time.
  5. Practice the transitions. I know I already mentioned this! But it bears repeating. It is just so unlikely that it will go flawlessly unless you practice. Know what your last words will be before you say your first words.

#Essentialreading for the week: http://o

#Essentialreading for the week: DOOMSDAY PREP FOR THE SUPER-RICH Fascinating how the “smart money” think. The article repudiates their escapism but the critique is far too gentle; the gazillionaires who profited from polarizing the world, co-opting our desires and weaknesses and selling us stupid digital baubles should be accountable for its future.

“Dents in the universe are only observa

“Dents in the universe are only observable after they have occurred; this is why their continued creation is best induced by the establishment of conditions in which risk-taking and experimentation are rewarded.” Ben Thompson #stratechery