F5 acquires cloud security startup Threat Stack for $68 million

Applications networking company F5 has announced it’s acquiring Threat Stack, a Boston-based cloud security and compliance startup, for $68 million.

The deal, which comes months after F5 bought multi-cloud management startup Volterra for $500 million, sees the 25-year-old company looking to bolster its cloud security portfolio as applications become a growing focus for cybercriminals. Businesses lose more than $100 billion a year to attacks targeting digital experiences, F5 says and these experiences are increasingly powered by applications distributed across multiple environments and interconnected through APIs.

Threat Stack, which was founded in November 2012 and has since amassed more than $70 million across six funding rounds including a $45 million Series C round led by F-Prime Capital Partners and Eight Roads Ventures, specializes in cloud security for applications and provides customers with real-time threat detection for cloud infrastructure and workloads. Unlike many cloud security tools that kick in after an intrusion, Threat Stack takes a more proactive approach, alerting organizations to all known vulnerabilities and providing a report on the holes that need to be plugged.

The startup’s intrusion detection platform, the Threat Stack Cloud Security Platform, works across cloud, hybrid cloud, multi-cloud, and containerized environments, and is perhaps best known for its Slack integration that alerts DevOps teams to security concerns in real-time. Threat Stack has a number of big-name customers, according to its website, including Glassdoor, Ping Identity and Proofpoint.

F5 says that integrating its application and API protection solutions with Threat Stack’s cloud security capabilities and expertise will enhance visibility across application infrastructure and workloads, making it easier for customers to adopt consistent security in any cloud.

“Applications are the backbone of today’s modern businesses, and protecting them is mission-critical for our customers,” said Haiyan Song, EVP of Security at F5. “Threat Stack brings technology and talent that will strengthen F5’s security capabilities and further our adaptive applications vision with broader cloud observability and actionable security insights for customers.”

The acquisition, which is expected to close in F5’s first-quarter fiscal year 2022, is subject to closing conditions.

#api, #boston, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-management, #computing, #eight-roads-ventures, #f5, #glassdoor, #palo-alto-networks, #ping-identity, #security, #splunk, #system-administration, #threat-stack, #volterra

Beware the hidden bias behind TikTok resumes

Social media has served as a launchpad to success almost as long as it has been around. The stories of going viral from a self-produced YouTube video and then securing a record deal established the mythology of social media platforms. Ever since, social media has consistently gravitated away from text-based formats and toward visual mediums like video sharing.

For most people, a video on social media won’t be a ticket to stardom, but in recent months, there have been a growing number of stories of people getting hired based on videos posted to TikTok. Even LinkedIn has embraced video assets on user profiles with the recent addition of the “Cover Story” feature, which allows workers to supplement their profiles with a video about themselves.

As technology continues to evolve, is there room for a world where your primary resume is a video on TikTok? And if so, what kinds of unintended consequences and implications might this have on the workforce?

Why is TikTok trending for jobs?

In recent months, U.S. job openings have risen to an all-time high of 10.1 million. For the first time since the pandemic began, available jobs have exceeded available workers. Employers are struggling to attract qualified candidates to fill positions, and in that light, it makes sense that many recruiters are turning to social platforms like TikTok and video resumes to find talent.

But the scarcity of workers does not negate the importance of finding the right employee for a role. Especially important for recruiters is finding candidates with the skills that align with their business’ goals and strategy. For example, as more organizations embrace a data-driven approach to operating their business, they need more people with skills in analytics and machine learning to help them make sense of the data they collect.

Recruiters have proven to be open to innovation where it helps them find these new candidates. Recruiting is no longer the manual process it used to be, with HR teams sorting through stacks of paper resumes and formal cover letters to find the right candidate. They embraced the power of online connections as LinkedIn rose to prominence and even figured out how to use third-party job sites like GlassDoor to help them draw in promising candidates. On the back end, many recruiters use advanced cloud software to sort through incoming resumes to find the candidates that best match their job descriptions. But all of these methods still rely on the traditional text-based resume or profile as the core of any application.

Videos on social media provide the ability for candidates to demonstrate soft skills that may not be immediately apparent in written documents, such as verbal communication and presentation skills. They are also a way for recruiters to learn more about the personality of the candidate to determine how they’d fit into the culture of the company. While this may be appealing for many, are we ready for the consequences?

We’re not ready for the close-up

While innovation in recruiting is a big part of the future of work, the hype around TikTok and video resumes may actually take us backward. Despite offering a new way for candidates to market themselves for opportunities, it also carries potential pitfalls that candidates, recruiters and business leaders need to be aware of.

The very element that gives video resumes their potential also presents the biggest problems. Video inescapably highlights the person behind the skills and achievements. As recruiters form their first opinions about a candidate, they will be confronted with information they do not usually see until much later in the process, including whether they belong to protected classes because of their race, disability or gender.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) concerns have had a major surge in attention over the last couple of years amid heightened awareness and scrutiny around how employers are — or are not — prioritizing diversity in the workplace.

But evaluating candidates through video could erase any progress made by introducing more opportunities for unconscious, or even conscious, bias. This could create a dangerous situation for businesses if they do not act carefully because it could open them up to consequences such as damage to their reputation or even something as severe as discrimination lawsuits.

A company with a poor track record for diversity may have the fact that they reviewed videos from candidates used against them in court. Recruiters reviewing the videos may not even be aware of how the race or gender of candidates are impacting their decisions. For that reason, many of the businesses I have seen implement an option for video in their recruiting flow do not allow their recruiters to watch the video until late in the recruiting process.

But even if businesses address the most pressing issues of DE&I by managing bias against those protected classes, by accepting videos there are still issues of diversity in less protected classes such as neurodiversity and socioeconomic status. A candidate with exemplary skills and a strong track record may not present themselves well through a video, coming across as awkward to the recruiter watching the video. Even if that impression is irrelevant to the job, it could still influence the recruiter’s stance on hiring.

Furthermore, candidates from affluent backgrounds may have access to better equipment and software to record and edit a compelling video resume. Other candidates may not, resulting in videos that may not look as polished or professional in the eyes of the recruiter. This creates yet another barrier to the opportunities they can access.

As we sit at an important crossroads in how we handle DE&I in the workplace, it is important for employers and recruiters to find ways to reduce bias in the processes they use to find and hire employees. While innovation is key to moving our industry forward, we have to ensure top priorities are not being compromised.

Not left on the cutting room floor

Despite all of these concerns, social media platforms — especially those based on video — have created new opportunities for users to expand their personal brands and connect with potential job opportunities. There is potential to use these new systems to benefit both job seekers and employers.

The first step is to ensure that there is always a place for a traditional text-based resume or profile in the recruiting process. Even if recruiters can get all the information they need about a candidate’s capabilities from video, some people will just naturally feel more comfortable staying off camera. Hiring processes need to be about letting people put their best foot forward, whether that is in writing or on video. And that includes accepting that the best foot to put forward may not be your own.

Instead, candidates and businesses should consider using videos as a place for past co-workers or managers to endorse the candidate. An outside endorsement can do a lot more good for an application than simply stating your own strengths because it shows that someone else believes in your capabilities, too.

Video resumes are hot right now because they are easier to make and share than ever and because businesses are in desperate need of strong talent. But before we get caught up in the novelty of this new way of sharing our credentials, we need to make sure that we are setting ourselves up for success.

The goal of any new recruiting technology should be to make it easier for candidates to find opportunities where they can shine without creating new barriers. There are some serious kinks to work out before video resumes can achieve that, and it is important for employers to consider the repercussions before they damage the success of their DE&I efforts.

#column, #diversity, #glassdoor, #human-resource-management, #labor, #linkedin, #opinion, #recruitment, #resume, #social, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #startups, #tc, #tiktok

Glassdoor acquires Fishbowl, a semi-anonymous social network and job board, to square up to LinkedIn

While LinkedIn doubles down on creators to bring a more human, less manicured element to its networking platform for professionals, a company that has built a reputation for publishing primarily the more messy and human impressions of work life has made an acquisition that might help it compete better with LinkedIn.

Glassdoor, the platform that lets people post anonymous and candid feedback about the organizations they work for, has acquired Fishbowl — an app that gives users an anonymous option also to provide frank employee feedback, as well as join interest-based conversation groups to chat about work, and search for jobs. Glassdoor, which has 55 million users, is already integrating Fishbowl content into its main platform, although Fishbowl, with its 1 million users, will also continue for now to operate as a standalone app, too.

Christian Sutherland-Wong, the CEO of Glassdoor, said that he sees Fishbowl as the logical evolution of how Glassdoor is already being used. Similarly, since people are already seeking out feedback on prospective employers, it makes sense to bring recruitment and reviews closer together.

“We’ve always been about workplace transparency,” he said in an interview. “We expect in the future that jobseekers will use Glassdoor reviews, and also look to existing professionals in their fields to get answers from each other.” Fishbowl has seen a lot of traction during the Covid-19 pandemic, growing its user base threefold in the last year.

The acquisition is technically being made by Recruit Holdings, the Japanese employment listings and tech giant that acquired Glassdoor for $1.2 billion in 2018, and the companies are not disclosing any financial terms. San Francisco-based Fishbowl — founded in 2016 by Matt Sunbulli and Loren Appin — had raised less than $8 million, according to PitchBook data, from a pretty impressive set of investors, including Binary Capital, GGV, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and Scott Belsky.

Microsoft-owned LinkedIn towers over the likes of Glassdoor in terms of size. It now has more than 774 million users, making it by far the biggest social media platform targeting professionals and their work-related content. But for many, even some of those who use it, the platform leaves something to be desired.

LinkedIn is a reliable go-to for putting out a profile of yourself, for the public, for those in your professional life, or for recruiters, to find. But what LinkedIn largely lacks are normal people talking about work in an honest way. To read about other’s often self-congratulatory professional developments, or to see motivational words on professional development from already hugely successful personalities, or to browse developments relative to your industry that probably have already seen elsewhere is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s anodyne. Sometimes people just want tea to be spilled.

That’s where something like Glassdoor comes into the picture: the format of making comments anonymous on there turns it into something of the anti-LinkedIn. It is caustic, perhaps sometimes bitter, talk about the workplace, balanced out with positive words seem to get periodically suspected of being seeded by the companies themselves. Motivational, inspirational and aspirational are generally not part of the Glassdoor lexicon; honest, illuminating, and sobering perhaps are.

Fishbowl will be used to augment this and give Glassdoor another set of tools now to see how it might build out its platform beyond workplace reviews. The idea is to target people who come to Glassdoor to read about what people think of a company, or to put in their own comments: they can now also jump into conversations with others; and if they are coming to complain about their employer, now they can also look for a new one!

In the meantime, it feels like the swing to more authenticity is also a result of the shift we’ve seen in the world of work.

Covid-19 mandated office closures and social distancing have meant that many professionals have been working at home for the majority of the last year and a half (and many continue to do so). That has changed how we “come to work”, with many of our traditional divides between work and non-work personas and time management blurring. That has had an inevitable impact on how we see ourselves at work, and what we seek to get out of that engagement. And it also has led many people to feel isolated and in need of more ways to connect with colleagues.

Glassdoor’s acquisition, it said, was in part to meet this demand. A Harris Poll commissioned by Glassdoor found that 48% of employees felt isolated from coworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic; 42% of employees felt their career stall due to the lack of in-person connection; and 45% of employees expect to work hybrid or full-time remotely going forward — all areas that Glassdoor believes can be addressed with better tools (like Fishbowl) for people to communicate.

Of course, it will remain to be seen whether Glassdoor can convert its visitors to use the new Fishbowl-powered tools, but if there really is a population of users out there looking for a new kind of LinkedIn — there certainly are enough who love to complain about it — then maybe this cold be one version of that.

#binary-capital, #ceo, #enterprise, #fishbowl, #glassdoor, #hiring, #labor, #lerer-hippeau-ventures, #linkedin, #ma, #microsoft, #recruit, #recruit-holdings, #san-francisco, #scott-belsky, #social-networks

Pushing for an ‘apolitical’ workplace is immoral (and unrealistic)

“We are not a social impact company. No more societal and political discussions on our company account.”

That’s been the recent message from a number of tech CEOs who have declared that they want the companies they run to be “apolitical” and employees to focus solely on the goals of growing revenue and driving profit.

That’s left me wondering: What might that mean for me as an LGBTQIA+ person in the workplace?

I don’t consider myself a particularly political person. I just want to do a good job, be a supportive team member and leader, and play a valuable role in the organization that employs me. I’m lucky to work as chief information security officer at Elastic, a software company that prioritizes inclusivity and acceptance for all employees, telling us to come as we are.

When we consider who gets to define what’s political or not, we need to think hard about the level of privilege they enjoy — and whom they might be excluding from everyday workplace conversations.

But what if things were different?

If I worked for a different company, would being a gay woman who’s out at work make me “political?” Would talking with colleagues about my home life and my family be considered a political act?

It would all depend, I guess, on whom you asked. I’m well aware that, to certain people, being out in the workforce might be considered political — but I’m just being open and transparent about who I am.

Staying in the shadows

When we consider who gets to define what’s political or not, we need to think hard about the level of privilege they enjoy — and whom they might be excluding from everyday workplace conversations.

Managers and executives who insist on an apolitical workplace are inevitably asking some employees, particularly those belonging to historically underrepresented groups, to stay in the shadows, to keep quiet about who they are.

I’ve been there and I’ve felt the impact firsthand. Earlier in my career, I hid my sexual orientation. I wore a virtual mask at work, and it was exhausting and stressful to have to worry about who knew my “secret” and what might happen if the truth got out.

It was also a significant distraction from doing my job. Even if bosses aren’t concerned about the emotional impact of mandating an apolitical workplace on their employees, they might at the very least consider the productivity impact.

A recent survey from online careers site Glassdoor found that LGBTQ+ employees are less satisfied at work compared to their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts, and that while certain companies and industries are highly rated by LGBTQ+ employees, many others still have considerable progress to make.

Since it’s no secret that less satisfied employees are likely to be less engaged, that could potentially send corporate metrics that focus on productivity, performance and retention into a nosedive.

Conversely, a 2020 report published by strategy firm McKinsey suggests that diversity helps organizations increase innovation, reconsider entrenched ways of thinking and improve financial performance — but also stresses that they only enjoy these benefits if all employees feel a sense of inclusion. The study’s authors define this as “the degree to which an individual feels that their authentic selves are welcomed at work, enabling them to contribute in a meaningful and deliberate manner.”

The firm’s survey of almost 2,000 employees, across a wide range of companies and industries worldwide, shows clearly that women, respondents from ethnic and racial minorities, and people who identify as LGBTQ+ still encounter additional challenges to feeling included.

Working from home

On top of all this, it’s not realistic to ask people to leave their personal lives and beliefs at home after huge numbers of employees began working from home on a full-time basis amid the pandemic, many for the first time ever. If strict lines between their personal and professional lives were clearer for some employees pre-COVID, those days are almost certainly over.

While the pandemic forced many organizations to restructure the workplace, I’ve been working in a fully remote, distributed environment since joining Elastic in 2018. This has shaped how I manage my team because every individual has their own perceptions and experiences, all of which can be more challenging to identify in a distributed workforce. In particular, I’ve learned that building an inclusive, high-functioning team starts with empathetic leadership.

For me, it’s all about being present, asking questions and not making assumptions. When everyone is working in their own environment, it’s easy to postulate about how someone’s feeling about their work or a particular project, because that’s human nature — but the danger here is that we jump to the negative. Staying curious and seeking to understand is key at all times.

Above all, it’s about inclusion and acceptance. Giving everyone the freedom to express what’s on their mind. That’s how everyone should feel about their workplace, and it’s the environment I will continue to work to foster for my own team — because oftentimes, the personal is political, and companies are made up of people, not products.

#column, #diversity, #glassdoor, #human-resource-management, #mckinsey, #talent, #tc, #work, #workplace

5 companies doing growth marketing right

What do all companies, regardless of industry, say they want? Growth. Lighting-fast, continuous growth. The good news is you can quickly learn which growth marketing strategies work by studying other companies’ success and adapting it to your own business.

Most technophiles remember Dropbox’s referral program — the one that helped it grow 3,900% in 15 months. Its philosophy was simple: reward customers with free storage space for referring other customers. In 2008, it was an absolute revelation. A golden ticket.

Tell a story with your business’ proprietary data. You’re the only one with this information, and that makes it valuable.

In 2021, you’d be hard-pressed to find a company without a formal referral program. It’s a standard growth marketing trick. If you study other companies’ tactics, you’re going to be able to shortcut growth — it’s as simple as that.

The race to grow faster is more pressing than ever before. When you consider the speed with which venture capital funds need to return dollars to their investors and that consumer acquisition costs have increased by 55% over the last three years, forward-thinking entrepreneurs and growth marketers simply must make time to study their competition, learn best practices and apply them to their own business growth.

Of course, you should still run your own experiments, but it’s just more capital-efficient to emulate than to trial-and-error from scratch. Here are five companies with growth strategies worth emulating — including the most important lessons you can begin applying to your business today.


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Help us identify the best startup growth marketing experts!


1. Doing SEO right: Flo

SEO is going to spend this summer shaking in its boots. Google began rolling out a two-week core algorithm update on June 2, and it’s unleashing a page experience update through August. These updates usually come with significant volatility that makes organic Google rankings jump all over the place.

However, one clear winner of the 2021 SEO footrace is Flo, a women’s ovulation calendar, period tracker and pregnancy app. According to GrowthBar, a SEO tool I co-founded, Flo’s organic traffic has soared 192% over the past two months and it ranks on page one for some staggeringly competitive women’s health keywords.

If SEO is a strategy you’re pursuing, there are two key growth lessons to take away from Flo’s recent success.

1. Authority matters now more than ever. Healthcare websites fall into a category of sensitive sites that Google classifies as Your Money, Your Life (YMYL). Because of oodles of fake news and suspect web content, Google has rightfully raised its bar for expertise and factuality. Go to any one of Flo’s more than 1,000 blog posts (yes, content is still king) and you’ll see that nearly all of them are reviewed by gynecologists, primary care physicians or some other type of women’s health expert. Its site also has pages devoted to its writers and medical reviewers, content guidelines and peer-review specifications. Flo takes its information seriously. From the 2020 election to QAnon to vaccination side effects, Google is on high alert. Whatever your niche, you need to establish credibility to win Google searches.

#advertising-tech, #column, #digital-marketing, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-marketing-tech, #facebook, #flo, #glassdoor, #growth-marketing, #linkedin, #madison-reed, #marketing, #online-advertising, #search-engine, #search-engine-optimization, #social-media, #startups, #strava

Glassdoor now lets you filter company reviews by demographics

Despite efforts from companies to create equitable environments, it’s clear that employees of a certain demographics, like Black women, sometimes have very different experiences from their counterparts. Glassdoor aims to better surface those experiences through a new feature that allows folks to filter ratings by demographics.

Up until now, Glassdoor only presented an overall ranking for a specific company, so there was no way to easily determine if, for example, Black women feel the same as white men, or if Latino men feel similarly to Asian men. In addition to race, Glassdoor now allows people to filter by gender identity, parental or caregiver status, disability, sexual orientation and veteran status.

Overall, Black employees are less satisfied at work in comparison to all employees, according to new preliminary research from Glassdoor. The research is based on the more than 187,000 employees across more than 3,300 companies who have provided demographic data.

Image Credits: Glassdoor

That same research showed Apple had the highest overall company rating among Black employees, with an average rating of 4.2 out of five. Apple’s overall company rating from that sample size is 3.9.

“Because these data are so new — having been collected within just the last four months — it’s important to resist the urge to make sweeping claims based on early data,” Glassdoor Data Scientist Amanda Stansell and Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain said in the report. “The averages we’ve reported above are not derived from representative probability samples of company workforces — they represent data shared anonymously by Glassdoor users at this time. Readers should therefore take some caution in making conclusive, company-wide inferences about the state of race and employee satisfaction.”

#diversity, #glassdoor, #include, #labor, #tc

Glassdoor: Best tech companies to work for in 2021

Glassdoor just released its annual ranking of the best companies to work for in 2021. We broke out the top 10 tech companies from the list of large businesses (1,000+ employees) as well as from the small to medium-sized business list.

For the large business list, the rankings are based on employee feedback from companies with more than 1,000 employees. Through Glassdoor, employees rate companies based on things like their CEO, career opportunities, compensation and benefits, culture and values, and work-life balance. To be considered for the large list, each employer needed at least 75 ratings across each of the workplace attributes. For the SMB list, companies needed at least 75 ratings to be considered.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 tech companies to work for in the U.S., according to Glassdoor. In parentheses, you’ll find each company’s overall ranking on the list of the 100 best companies along with the average employee rating.

Best tech companies to work for in 2021

  1. NVIDIA (#2, 4.5)
  2. HubSpot (#4, 4.5)
  3. Google  (#6, 4.5)
  4. Microsoft (#9, 4.5)
  5. Facebook (#11, 4.4)
  6. LinkedIn (#13,4.4)
  7. DocuSign (#15, 4.4)
  8. KnowBe4 (#16, 4.4)
  9. Salesforce (#17, 4.4)
  10.  RingCentral (#18, 4.4)

Now, here are the top 10 tech startups to work for in 2021, according to Glassdoor’s list of small- to medium-sized businesses.

Best tech startups to work for in 2021

  1. Ike (#3, 4.9)
  2. Harness  (#6, 4.9)
  3. Lendio (#8, 4.9)
  4. Jobot (#9, 4.9)
  5. Lower (#10, 4.9)
  6. Orchard (#16, 4.8)
  7. SimplrFlex (#17, 4.8)
  8. Flockjay (#21, 4.8)
  9. Wonolo (#24, 4.8)
  10.  Thrasio (#27, 4.8)

*We excluded Asana from this list, which ranked at #14, since it’s a public company. We also excluded Ping Identity from this list due to the fact that it has nearly 1,000 employees and is arguably beyond the startup phase of operations.

#glassdoor, #labor, #tc

Kanarys raises $3 million for its data-driven platform to assess diversity and inclusion efforts

Mandy Price was already a highly successful lawyer in private practice before she took the jump into entrepreneurship alongside two co-founders to launch Kanarys a little over one year ago.

The Harvard Law School graduated didn’t have to start her company, which helps businesses measure the efficacy of their diversity and inclusion efforts using hard data, but she needed to start the company.

Now, a year after its launch, the company counts companies like Yum Brands, the Dallas Mavericks, and Neiman Marcus among the dozen or so companies using its service and has $3 million in seed funding to help it expand.

For Price, the drive to launch Kanarys came from her own experiences working in law. It wasn’t the microagressions, or the lower pay, or casually dismissive attitude of colleagues toward her well-earned success that led Price to start Kanarys, but the knowledge that her experience wasn’t unique and that thousands of other women and minorities faced the same experiences daily.

I have had many things happen to me in the workplace that is similar to what many other women and women of color have dealt with and didn’t want to have my children have to go through similar issues,” Price said. 

So alongside her husband, Bennie King (himself a serial entrepreneur in the Dallas area), and her University of Texas at Austin and Harvard classmate, Star Carter, Price launched Kanarys in late 2019.

The company uses Equal Employment Opportunity reports and assessments of various policies involving promotion, recruitment, and benefits to track how a company is performing in relation to its industry peers.

“A lot of the inequities we see are from a structural and systemic standpoint. That is where Kanarys can see how they’re perpetuating inequity,” Price said. 

Kanarys starts with an independent assessment of a company’s policies and practices and then conducts quarterly surveys with employees of its customers to see how well they are meeting their stated goals and objectives. They also integrate with existing human resources systems to track things like pay equity and promotions.

The service has attracted the attention of the Rise of the Rest fund, Morgan Stanley, Jigsaw Ventures, Segal Ventures and Zeal Capital Partners, which led the company’s $3 million seed round.

“Organizations have typically tried to address this with individual interventions,” said Price. “What we’re saying is we have to address it on both fronts. So much of the inequities that we see are based off of institutional and systemic policies and practices.”

Not only does Kanarys track information on diversity and inclusion efforts for customers, but for job seekers there’s a database of about 1,000 companies which operates like Glassdoor . The focus is not just on worker satisfaction, but on how employees view the diversity efforts their employers are undertaking.

Notably, Kanarys founders join the (far-too-few) ranks of Black entrepreneurs launching businesses and raising venture capital. In 2017, studies showed that 98 percent of venture capital raised in the U.S. went to men, according to data provided by the company. Black entrepreneurs in general receive less than one percent of venture capital, and Black women founders make up only 0.6 percent of venture capital funding raised. 

“We know that a focus on DEI in business is not just the right thing to do for employees, it also makes good business sense,” said Price, CEO and co-founder of Kanarys, in a statement. “Kanarys’ DEI data arms companies, for the first time, to make precise, immediate, and informed decisions using real, intersectional metrics around their diversity goals and inclusion programs that ultimately drive bottom-line business objectives.”

 

#articles, #business, #business-models, #dallas, #dallas-mavericks, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #glassdoor, #harvard, #lawyer, #morgan-stanley, #neiman-marcus, #serial-entrepreneur, #small-business, #tc, #texas, #united-states, #university-of-texas, #venture-capital, #yum-brands

What’s different about hiring data scientists in 2020?

It’s 2020 and the world has changed remarkably, including in how companies screen data science candidates. While many things have changed, there is one change that stands out above the rest. At The Data Incubator, we run a data science fellowship and are responsible for hundreds of data science hires each year. We have observed these hires go from a rare practice to being standard for over 80% of hiring companies. Many of the holdouts tend to be the largest (and traditionally most cautious) enterprises. At this point, they are at a serious competitive disadvantage in hiring.

Historically, data science hiring practices evolved from software engineering. A hallmark of software engineering interviewing is the dreaded brain teaser, puzzles like “How many golf balls would fit inside a Boeing 747?” or “Implement the quick-sort algorithm on the whiteboard.” Candidates will study for weeks or months for these and the hiring website Glassdoor has an entire section devoted to them. In data science, the traditional coding brain teaser has been supplemented with statistics ones as well — “What is the probability that the sum of two dice rolls is divisible by three?” Over the years, companies are starting to realize that these brain teasers are not terribly effective and have started cutting down their usage.

In their place, firms are focusing on project-based data assessments. These ask data science candidates to analyze real-world data provided by the company. Rather than having a single correct answer, project-based assessments are often more open-ended, encouraging exploration. Interviewees typically submit code and a write-up of their results. These have a number of advantages, both in terms of form and substance.

First, the environment for data assessments is far more realistic. Brain teasers unnecessarily put candidates on the spot or compel them to awkwardly code on a whiteboard. Because answers to brain teasers are readily Google-able, internet resources are off-limits. On the job, it is unlikely that you’ll be asked to code on a whiteboard or perform mental math with someone peering over your shoulder. It is incomprehensible that you’ll be denied internet access during work hours. Data assessments also allow the applicants to complete the assessment at a more realistic pace, using their favorite IDE or coding environment.

“Take-home challenges give you a chance to simulate how the candidate will perform on the job more realistically than with puzzle interview questions,” said Sean Gerrish, an engineering manager and author of “How Smart Machines Think.”

Second, the substance of data assessments is also more realistic. By design, brainteasers are tricky or test knowledge of well-known algorithms. In real life, one would never write these algorithms by hand (you would use one of the dozens of solutions freely available on the internet) and the problems encountered on the job are rarely tricky in the same way. By giving candidates real data they might work with and structuring the deliverable in line with how results are actually shared at the company, data projects are more closely aligned with actual job skills.

Jesse Anderson, an industry veteran and author of “Data Teams,” is a big fan of data assessments: “It’s a mutually beneficial setup. Interviewees are given a fighting chance that mimics the real-world. Managers get closer to an on-the-job look at a candidate’s work and abilities.” Project-based assessments have the added benefit of assessing written communication strength, an increasingly important skill in the work-from-home world of COVID-19.

Finally, written technical project work can help avoid bias by de-emphasizing traditional but prejudicially fraught aspects of the hiring process. Resumes with Hispanic and African American names receive fewer callbacks than the same resume with white names. In response, minority candidates deliberately “whiten” their resumes to compensate. In-person interviews often rely on similarly problematic gut feel. By emphasizing an assessment closely tied to job performance, interviewers can focus their energies on actual qualifications, rather than relying on potentially biased “instincts.” Companies looking to embrace #BLM and #MeToo beyond hashtagging may consider how tweaking their hiring processes can lead to greater equality.

The exact form of data assessments vary. At The Data Incubator, we found that over 60% of firms provide take-home data assessments. These best simulate the actual work environment, allowing the candidate to work from home (typically) over the course of a few days. Another roughly 20% require interview data projects, where candidates analyze data as a part of the interview process. While candidates face more time pressure from these, they also do not feel the pressure to ceaselessly work on the assessment. “Take-home challenges take a lot of time,” explains Field Cady, an experienced data scientist and author of “The Data Science Handbook.” “This is a big chore for candidates and can be unfair (for example) to people with family commitments who can’t afford to spend many evening hours on the challenge.”

To reduce the number of custom data projects, smart candidates are preemptively building their own portfolio projects to showcase their skills and companies are increasingly accepting these in lieu of custom work.

Companies relying on old-fashioned brainteasers are a vanishing breed. Of the recalcitrant 20% of employers still sticking with brainteasers, most are the larger, more established enterprises that are usually slower to adapt to change. They need to realize that the antiquated hiring process doesn’t just look quaint, it’s actively driving candidates away. At a recent virtual conference, one of my fellow panelists was a data science new hire who explained that he had turned down opportunities based on the firm’s poor screening process.

How strong can the team be if the hiring process is so outmoded? This sentiment is also widely shared by the Ph.D.s completing The Data Incubator’s data science fellowship. Companies that fail to embrace the new reality are losing the battle for top talent.

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Jesus, SaaS and digital tithing

There are more than 300,000 congregations in the U.S., and entrepreneurs are creating billion-dollar companies by building software to service them. Welcome to church tech.

The sector was growing prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic forced many congregations to go entirely online, which rapidly accelerated growth in this space. While many of these companies were bootstrapped, VC dollars are also increasingly flowing in. Unfortunately, it’s hard to come across a lot of resources covering this expanding, unique sector.

Market map

In broad terms, we can split church tech into six categories:

  • church management software (ChMS)
  • digital giving
  • member outreach/messaging
  • streaming/content
  • Bible study
  • website and app building

Horizontal integration is huge in this sector, and nearly all the companies operating in this space fall into several of these categories. Many have expanded through M&A.

The categories