Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Are You Paid Fairly?

This morning I read an encouraging and thought provoking article in the San Jose Mercury news about two local companies working to address the pay gap between male and female employees in Silicon Valley. Women only earn $.84 for every dollar a man earns, which equates to $214 a month. Reddit will no longer negotiate with new hires. Men tend to negotiate better than women, which is one source of inequality. Salesforce.com is doing a study of their pay scales, and will give women raises to wipe out the pay inequality. What I particularly like is the ACTION. It is easy to talk and wring hands, and the article nitpicks a bit about the weaknesses about the approaches. However, the key is that neither approach is particularly hard, and will go a long way to making it right.
It got me to thinking – what is fair pay? “Are you paid fairly?” is not an easy question to answer
  • A friend of mine wants to start a dance company, but won’t because she wants to pay her dancers. Right now there is a culture of people dancing for free. She doesn’t think this is right, and doesn’t want to perpetuate that culture.
  • I work pretty much full time these days on my book, and planning an event. I don’t get paid very much for doing so. I am adamant that I won’t work for free, yet I don’t hesitate to invest this time, or to volunteer many hours at my synagogue. Many stay at home moms I know work almost full time jobs as volunteers.
  • Don’t get me started on college athletes, who bring in billions of dollars to their schools and the NCAA and are not paid for it. Yes, they get a free education, but if they are hurt they lose the scholarship. Given the amount of $$ the schools are making, free tuition does not seem sufficient any more.
Don King, the shady boxing promoter, once said that you don’t get paid what you are worth, you get paid what you negotiate for. This bit of reality was his justification for taking advantage of many young boxers who didn’t know any better, or have any leverage to negotiate a better deal. Nothing about the corporate world is set up to be fair. In fact, few things in life are fair.
At the same time, it is hard for me to think it is good for business to systematically underpay a significant portion of the workforce. Doesn’t a company want to foster a shared sense of mission?
What do you think? Let me know. I answer all emails and comments promptly.
PS Special kudos to the HR person who went to the CEO asking if they could find a way to address the inequality issue at Salesforce, and kudos to Mark Benioff for pushing it forward. And kudos to Ellen Pao, acting CEO at Reddit for leading change on multiple fronts.

Beware the Visionary in “Silicon Valley”

In the new HBO show Silicon Valley, Mike Judge sets his sights on, you guessed it, Silicon Valley. Judge is a comedic genius at nailing and exaggerating the small details. Who can forget “Is this best for the company?” from Office Space. In fact, its cousin “You Need to do What is Best For the Company” helped me recognize my corporate idolatry, and changed my life my life for the better. So it was with great excitement that I watched Silicon Valley. The show is about some nerds in a startup that suddenly gets hot. It started slowly, with a lavish party to celebrate someone selling their company for $100 million. Kid Rock performs, and the new millionaire toasts changing the world through better software hierarchy. Sounds like the valley I know. My favorite characters where the two visionaries who get in a bidding war for Richard’s super hot algorithm. Gavin Belson runs a company called Hooli, and at one point is asking his spiritual advisor why programmers always travel in clumps of five? Peter Gregory, a venture capitalist, gives a teary-eyed TED talk explaining why people should skip college and just go to work. HBO has put the show on YouTube for free. Ever work for a visionary? I worked in two companies run by

visionaries. In my first company, the president talked every Friday afternoon, and I was inspired. I loved the Kool-Aid. I’ll say this – he was genuine, and has a track record of founding companies that really have changed the world of healthcare. It was quite a shock for me when he left. It wasn’t soon before I thought this was a good thing, to let us get past vision and on to execution. Well, let’s just say that good execution cannot save a flawed business plan. But that didn’t stop those of us in the trenches from working like crazy through the never ending reorgs and new strategies. In my second company, we also had a visionary. I just didn’t realize it because he rarely spoke to us. It wasn’t until I had been there for five years that I realized that his vision began and ended with the widget he invented. Software, usability, robustness were not perceived as valuable. The company has super highs, which led to super lows as new technology came about to displace what they stubbornly stuck to. We wouldn’t have successful entrepreneurs if they were not visionaries, people who can see the world as it could be. But too often, the vision comes at a high cost to the people asked to carry it out. After all, the destination does not come with a map on how to get there. What do you think? Would you choose to work for a visionary? You might also like this post about a visionary CEO who was a nightmare to work for

Meet The Earnest Newcomer. Was This You?

Chapter 4: Who To Trust At Work Post  2

While Silicon Valley is best known for their technology companies – Google, Yahoo, Apple, Hewlett Packard, Intel, and Facebook to name a few, the Bay Area is also home to some of the most cutting edge biotechnology and medical device companies.  These companies include Genentech, maker of blockbuster anti-cancer treatments; Giliad, leader in HIV treatments and Applied Biosystems (now Life Technologies) that invented the technology that sequenced the human genome. The best, brightest, and most ambitious come from all over the world to make their fortune, and to make a difference.

It is to this world that “Vijay” arrived in the late 1990s with his wife, small children, and a Masters in Biology from a leading Indian university.  Vijay is about five eight, a bit stout, and an interesting mix of focused intensity and social sensibilities.  The job at a small biotechnology company was a great match for his skills.  His attention to detail and meticulous record keeping were integral within the regulatory environment, and his “can do” attitude earned him a place on several key projects.  Vijay’s performance reviews were laudatory, and his boss didn’t hesitate to pull him into important meetings.  The science was interesting, the work rewarding and it all “felt like an adventure.” Life was good for the first eighteen months, with a promising career and plenty of time to spend at home with his wife and small children.

But that changed unexpectedly after he complied with a small, innocent sounding request.

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