All posts in “Personal Opinion”

Are you a manager? Pay inequality is your fault.

A new study shows that men and women will one day receive equal pay for equal work! Unfortunately, it’s estimated that day will arrive in 2059 – 42 years from now, which might as well be never.

Today is Equal Pay Day, the date that symbolizes how long women have to work to make what their male counterparts do in the previous 12 months. To put this another way, for every dollar a man makes in North America, a women makes about eighty-five cents.

This is not a new topic (in fact, we’ve been talking about it for an astonishing 75 years), and there are lots of government initiatives that seek to close the pay gap all over the world. But I refuse to wait another 42 years for this issue to be addressed. Clearly, whatever we have been doing, we are doing wrong.

Pay inequality is not something that can be fixed by legislation alone. Pay inequality must be addressed by managers, working within the budgets and control they already have. And there’s no way on earth it should take until 2059.

Doubt this? Let me tell you the story of how, when I ran the global digital marketing team at SAP, I eliminated pay inequality among my direct reports in less than two years. As is true for many large companies, during annual review season (usually winter/early spring) managers are given a budget for salary increases, typically 3-5%, depending on your industry and the health of your company. Within this budget, you must provide both merit and increases to match inflation (ranging between 1.7-2.5%, depending on locale). Of my leadership team, almost half were female, and I wanted to see how salaries compared to those of the men. Not surprisingly, there was inequality between people with similar responsibilities and experience, though not as grave as a full 15% shortfall (salaries are also adjusted based on geography – a loaf of bread in Silicon Valley does not cost the same as it does in Walldorf, Germany). Nevertheless, we had unexplained differences in the amount men were paid vs. women.

So I did something radical. As a manager, I took responsibility for correcting my teams’ pay gap. I showed my analysis to HR. I explained that over the next two years, I was going to address this problem by using my existing payroll budget. I gave everyone the minimum inflation increase, modest merit increases where warranted, and the rest of the budget I plowed into bringing womens’ salaries up to that of their male counterparts. I did this within the budget I had. I made it a priority. And no one had a problem with it.

Can we please stop waiting for some magical day when government or business will somehow come up with the tens of billions of dollars required to do this at scale? No one is ever going to write that cheque. Instead, if you are a people manager who actually cares about this, you should do the same simple analysis, figure out where you need to be, what you have to work with, and fix pay inequality on your own team. If leaders take personal responsibility and action over the next few years (even the next decade is an improvement) there’s no way we’re going to have to wait until 2059 for women to be paid fairly for the work they do.

If you’re a manager, pay inequality is your responsibility. Now, go fix it.

The Secret Power of Assuming the Best Intentions

A long time ago, a colleague of mine at the startup I founded said one sentence that changed my work life. When you’re considering peoples’ intentions and, “You have to choose between malice and ignorance – always choose ignorance. Most people don’t have time to be malicious.”

What he meant was that people are generally too busy to mess with your plans. If things are not going the way you’d hoped, if your project or initiative is not being supported as you might like, don’t assume that others are trying to derail you. They probably just don’t understand, mostly because they’re too busy doing their own jobs to worry about yours.

In the corporate universe, this position can be seen as radical at best, näive at worst. In 2013, shortly after I joined the company from the startup world, SAP’s Board of Directors asked my team and I to undertake a massive transformation of our digital customer experience. Initially, many project participants were very busy pointing out which parts of the business would fight us, where (even inside our own team) people were actively working to block progress, and which senior stakeholders were going to make unreasonable demands that we would be forced to accommodate. But guess what? most of these “bogeymen” never really materialized. Where people were “fighting” us, I found groups who were not familiar with our objectives and approach for delivering the best digital experience in the world and making it easy to do business with us online. Where others were “blocking progress”, I found teams that didn’t understand where they fit in or how to contribute effectively. Where senior executives were making “unreasonable demands”, I found individuals with specific needs who didn’t realize how putting our customer at the center of our experience design would necessarily require a change in how they presented their business online.

“When you have to choose between malice and ignorance…”

Three years later, the ONE Digital Experience (1DX) Project has been enormously successful. We have delivered a completely redesigned and simplified digital experience (mobile first!) that is making is easier to do business with SAP online. This has involved everything from reducing our websites by 82%, cutting social channels by half, completely re-designing our information architecture, simplifying the view of our portfolio, and creating new experiences for our customers, prospects, developers, and most recently, online community. Nevermind the backend, where we are developing pages 75% faster at 20% of the cost, have unified the tech platform, giving us greater than ever visibility into digital contribution to revenue, and are getting ever-closer to single sign-on for our entire ecosystem.

It was an enormous project, and I can honestly say a big part of the reason we have all succeeded is because we assumed the best intentions. We didn’t go out with fists raised, ready for a fight. We went out knowing that we mostly needed to educate people about the power and importance of the digital experience in today’s marketplace. Most importantly, we went out believing that we all had the same objective – success for the company and success for our teams.

My big takeaway after three years in the corporate world? You always come out ahead if you assume the best intentions. Most people want to live up to your expectations.

Where are all the women in tech?

Where are all the women in tech? There are, of course, very high profile female executives who are great examples to all of us (Ginni Rometty, Marissa Meyer, Susan Wojcicki are just a few). But what about the many thousands of strong female leaders in tech whose every move is not covered by mainstream media? People like Daniela Lange, who leads product development for systems that process payroll for over 80-million individuals worldwide, and Satya Sreenivasan, leader of a team of developers working on the next generation of medical analytics software, who speaks passionately about the creativity and artistry that goes into writing code. These women are exemplars, and we need to make an effort to find and share their stories; each one has the beauty of being both extraordinary and tangible.

Lunde, Barbara Kegerreis b. 1937, from the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Lunde, Barbara Kegerreis b. 1937, from the Smithsonian Institution Archives

The excuses around why we don’t hear more from these women are generally one of the following: “we can’t find any women” or “women don’t self-promote as much/as well as men”. Controversial? Perhaps. My experience has been mixed: some years ago, a dear (and sadly, recently departed) friend asked me to help program a new conference series. Today, the highly respected and successful Social Shake Up events have a near 1:1 ratio of men to women. My conclusion? Conference organizers or journalists who “can’t find any women” are simply not doing their homework. Conversely, while working on a writing project just before taking my current role at SAP, I began interviewing startup CEOs. The good news? 100% of the men accepted my interview requests. The bad news? A disappointingly low 30% of the women did. Successful women are important role models, and as such, I believe self-promotion is actually a responsibility.

The examples offered to young women and men shouldn’t be a choice between Sheryl Sandberg’s level of success or nothing. We need to hear the voices of successful women across the spectrum – to see ourselves in their journeys and to inspire young women everywhere to pursue technology at school and in their careers.

So, if you’re a woman in tech – step up and tell your story. And if you’re someone who tells stories about the technology industry, make sure you do your research, because, as Daniela Lange puts it so eloquently, “There is nothing inherently masculine about making software”. Many women are doing it, too.

Starting in May 2015, the SAP News Center began publishing “Spotlight on Women Leaders at SAP”, an effort to showcase the many exceptional female leaders at SAP.

Dabbling on the Darkside: An iOS’ers Android Confession

Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at Social Media Group. Follow @jbenedet.

I’ve been an iPhone owner since 2008 when the 3G first came to Canada, although my initial experience with iOS came slightly before this when I bought, and quickly sold, a first generation iPod touch. At this time most people had a simple flip or candy bar phone with highly advanced T9 text input and battery life of over a week. A smartphone was a BlackBerry, and having one meant you were a rich and powerful businessman who needed to be able to tap out important emails on a tiny keyboard 24 hours a day. Things have changed since then, mainly due to smartphones achieving the fastest adoption rate in tech history.

I’ve also been an iPhone / Apple evangelist, enlisting friends and family to jump into the iPhone world. My wife used to say she would never like or use a phone as much I do, but now I see her continually switching between her second iPhone and an iPad all evening while relaxing. It is not surprising to hear that 84% said they could not go a single day without their phone, and 60% of people would rather lose their wallet than their phone.

A Spark for Change

After years of living in the iOS ecosystem, I found myself a little bored. Normally when getting a new gadget I get excited to learn and tweak it, but when I got my shiny new 4S last year I felt like nothing had changed. The feeling was correct, because in my opinion nothing substantial had changed; it just had a better camera, in a faster and thinner phone. When iOS 6.0 came out the feeling continued; it had brought absolutely nothing new to the table that particularly interested me. Late in 2012, I started seeing many others writing about the same thoughts I was having, the most notable titled “An iPhone Lover’s Confession: I Switched To the Nexus 4. Completely” from Ralf Rottmann on Gizmodo. I felt the urge for change, and decided that I needed to dabble on the metaphorical dark side. After validating that my key IOS apps now had Android counterparts (something that was not the case last year), I was officially ready to take the plunge.

Jump Right Into It

It only took a day before I had explored Android, and customized the phone to my liking. It wasn’t long before the phone was rooted and I was installing a variety of custom ROMs. The big screen and larger phone took a bit longer to get used to. I still find it very awkward and cumbersome to reach the frequently used top left corner of the screen while holding it with only my right hand, but viewing anything on the large screen is quite amazing. I now realize that I would not want a phone any bigger in dimensions than the S3, and I would actually prefer if the width was shaved down a few mm as well in order to fit in my hand better.

I also liked how 3rd party apps can easily be made default for specific actions. The notification centre was a dream, allowing quick access to anything from music controls to system settings. It took me a while to get used to the “back” and “menu” buttons, but it wasn’t long before they became second nature. When I first picked up my old iPhone after a week with the Galaxy, I found myself trying to clumsily press a non-existent back button.

The Bad

Both operating systems are not perfect, and they both have pros and cons. I really like the Galaxy S3 because of the flexibility / customizability of Android, using the large screen real estate, and the hardware back button. The negative side of things for me really centres on the battery life. Using the phone drains the battery much quicker than my 4S did (with LTE off too), and it also drains much quicker in standby. Micro managing background apps and resources also can be a pain because you never know if a background app is just sucking your battery dry.

What I Miss

I do miss my iPhone for some very specific reasons.

  • The first is iMessage; most of my friends and family all have iPhones so group text chats are now much more difficult now. Replacement 3rd party apps just aren’t the same since Apple introduced the blue text bubbles!
  • The second is battery life. I don’t care if it is not user-replaceable, my iPhone simply had a longer lasting battery during every day usage.
  • Lastly, I do miss the passive multi tasking and push notifications that iOS uses. This definitely helps battery life, since I find Android apps that utilize notifications require a background service to be always running sucking up CPU cycles.

I haven’t decided if I will stay on Android permanently, but I’m definitely keeping both devices as it allow me to become an expert on both platforms. I’m going to wait patiently to see what IOS7 offers up – your move Apple.

Spreading Local & Digital Holiday Cheer

Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at Social Media Group. Follow @jbenedet.

For most, the holidays are a time to enjoy the company of family and friends while sipping on eggnog in front of a warm fire – okay, maybe that’s a pretty broad generalization, but you know what I’m getting at here. Besides the frantic last minute shopping at the crowded mall to find the perfect gift for someone special, it’s a very happy time of year. When you put the commercialization around the holidays aside, it is also important to focus and reflect on some of the heartaches and stress that this time of year can cause those that are less fortunate.

Spreading local holiday cheer has a somewhat different meaning to me this year, as I have recently begun volunteering at a local Toronto Food Bank, The North York Harvest. I was informed that demand for food this year is up 16% this year, but overall food donations have not quite kept pace with this increase. One of the main drivers for the increased demand is that food prices are up, and the projection for 2013 is another 3%-4% increase, making it even more important for communities to support their local food bank.

SMG has a long standing tradition of supporting the local Toronto organization Holiday Helpers. What started as two sisters spreading their own version of holiday cheer in 1999, has transformed into a organization that helps hundreds of Toronto families in need every season by providing a special Christmas package containing a tree, decorations, food, and personalized gifts for each and every family member. Imagining the look of excitement on a child’s face when they receive the exact item on their Christmas list is sure to make anyone smile.

Making a difference in your local community is very important, but I also feel that the Internet should be given some credit since it reduces barriers and facilitates spreading what I am referring to as digital cheer. In recent years, online giving, tracked by Austin-based Convio has grown at a double digit pace, very similar to the growth curve of online retail sales. This is truly an amazing trend to observe, because the power of the Internet, and social media has provided a mechanism for charities/non-profits to reach a larger audience than ever before, with the added bonus of systems that allow visitors to easily donate toward a cause. Generating Social Good can also be done via many crowd funding platforms as summarized by Mashable a year ago.

So what happens when local and digital cheer are combined? Well, it can be delicious, let me explain. A colleague here at SMG recently shared a link with me that I thought was absolutely amazing on so many levels. What is appropriately named The Pie Drive, is essentially one man’s mission to bake and sell 80 homemade, flaky, and delicious pies – with all the proceeds going to the local Covenant House charity. After loading up the beautiful pie page, I took my sweet time to make a flavour decision. I would soon find out that the Pie Drive link, and Facebook page was digitally shared so quickly among friends and family that the 80 pies sold out within 24 hours. My hesitation left me with nothing but a digital image to salivate over.

I want to commend Zachary Ginies on the amazing success of his Pie Drive campaign. His efforts of leveraging technology to spread local cheer will surely make many people smile this holiday season, and I look forward to supporting the cause, and eating pie next year!


Your Kids and their Digital Footprints: Take Control and Start Early!

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

How early should you start worrying about your kids’ digital footprint?

I think now is probably good.

As long time practitioners in the Internet space, both my husband and I started talking to our kids pretty early about how to handle themselves online. I have personally never been big on posting a lot of information about my kids, so there is theoretically not a lot out there now… but the kids are getting older, and are participating in the online environment in a very active way. It’s actually pretty sobering to think of how much of their young lives are supported by online activity.

From accessing calendars and assignments at school, playing games, homework research, movie watching and hours of YouTube fun, keeping in touch with friends and family… my kids are very much living a portion of their lives online. And they haven’t really started to engage in social media yet. That’s coming. My son came home the other day and said he wanted to set up a server for himself and some of his friends so that they could play an online game together in a closed network. He just turned 12.

This has suddenly become serious stuff, and I have started to look around at best practices, and guidelines for working with your children to not only ensure personal safety, but to also make sure that they learn how to be in control (as much as this is possible) over how their activities and profiles are portrayed online.

I also want my children to be able to maintain some semblance of personal privacy, and have some inkling as to how one might go about pursuing that objective, in an online world stacked against it.

Below you’ll find some of the articles and resources I’ve started collecting. Enjoy! And let me know if you have found anything particularly useful out there on this important topic.

Good Overview Resources on Topic

9 Tips for Managing Your Child’s Social Media Presence I really like this practical overview of sensible steps to take to help your kids establish a social media presence that they can have active management of from day one. This article aligns the closest to the approach we’re trying to take in our household.

“Kids and Tech: Parenting Tips for a Digital Age” Great interview with author Scott Steinberg, providing grounded, practical advice.

3 Ways to Keep Tabs of Your Kids Online Very hands on, for parents who want to take a more active approach to monitoring your teen’s activities on a variety of different devices.

Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives (this is a study). Look at the infographic,  or Download report from Common Sense Media. It’s a  good baseline look at teens behavior in a social media context in the US.

And finally, some solid advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics on the scary issue of “sexting”, and talking to your kids about it: Talking to Your Kids and Teens About Social Media and Sexting

The Joy Of Discovery: A Good Starting Point in Planning Social Media Strategy

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

I come across a lot of business owners and marketers who are wondering how to tackle social media. I spoke last week to a group of women business owners at the Go for The Greens Business Development Conference at Walt Disney World last week, and next week I’m talking to a group of SME’s at The Financial Executives International Conference, “Leading Economic Growth” next week in Toronto. What I hear, is that while most companies instinctively know that they need to address social media in some way, it is still hard to know where to start.

In the immediate term, social media may or may not have an important impact on your business. It’s when you start looking at long term trends, and at the deep impact that social media is having on our fundamental communications infrastructure, that you start realizing that love it or hate it, you cannot ignore potential depth of social media on the way your clients and customers are going to live in the future, and interact with your business.

This is the place to start. Take the time to figure out how social media could potentially impact your clients and customers, as they connect and interact with your brand, products and services. How can you leverage this social interaction to move your business objectives forward?

We call this process “Discovery”. During our Discovery sessions with clients, we go through a number of exercises to look at this problem from a variety of perspectives- but one of the exercises I love the most, is called an “environmental scan”, where we go look at how the future could impact the client’s business, from a variety of different perspectives (demographic, technological, regulatory etc.). Discovery has become a key part of our planning process.

A 2012 comScore report, “Canada Digital Future in Focus” states “Social is quickly moving from a supporting role to a key pillar in monetizing digital.” It sounds like a platitude, until you start looking at the numbers.

According to the research in the report, Canadians on the whole spend an average 45 hours of time online a month, and lead the world in online engagement. Time spent on social networking has now surpassed the time spent on any other category of activity online. If you look at younger demographics, the 18-24 age range, you can see the strongest surge of time spent on social media quarter over quarter. Viewers under 35 also account for 57% of all videos viewed online. Smart phone penetration has reached 45 percent of the Canadian market.  If you’re not familiar with the report, I urge you to download it, and take a quick browse through.

The pace of change is wild. As a business owner or marketer, where do you start?

At the moment, according to a recent US based survey on “Social Software and Big Data Analytics in Business” by Mzinga, Teradata Aster, and The Center for Complexity in Business on how companies are using social media, 64% of companies are using it for marketing/brand experience, 47% for customer experience/service/support, 39% for employee collaboration and 27% for sales.

Those areas are likely baseline areas to get right first, and to use as a starting point to develop meaningful measures of success, that map to your business, and to your strategic business objectives.

In the same survey, 77% of companies said that they currently DO NOT measure the ROI of their social media programs, and 49% say they are not using social media to its full potential.

We are all only at the very beginning of all this. Engage in the “Joy of Discovery”, to make a sensible and manageable start to tackling long term planning, and determe what measures of success are going to be right for the future of your business. It’s a challenge for all organizations to determine what level of investment in social media is appropriate, but the question is no longer a “should I”, but is moving to a “how should I”.

A Beautiful New Building for Rotman School of Management

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

Last week, I was very pleased to attend the opening event for Rotman School of Management’s new building. Wow. I have to say, I loved it. I encourage you to take a couple of minutes and check out the “tour” of the building on the KPMB web site.

The fabulous pink staircase at Rotman's new building.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have done quite a bit of work with Rotman’s Initiative for Women in Business over the last several years, so I do have an innate bias- but I knew relatively little about the project. Most of my discussions had been focused on how the construction and the move were impacting everyone in the Rotman community. I think it was worth it.

The space feels modern, relevant and, dare I say it, imaginative. A shocking pink stairway is the central feature of the building. Love it or hate it, it makes a statement, and although I haven’t quite figured out the direction of the statement- I like it.

Designed by Canadian firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, the building is a thrilling example of exceptional Canadian design that in my mind, reflects the best version of the Toronto business culture. It is cosmopolitan, global in vantage point, connected, but for the most part, still nestled within traditional structures. The design of the building is very respectful of the existing architecture within the campus of the University of Toronto. I feel this is actually very reflective of the role digital media plays within the traditional business world.

Fittingly, the day after the tour, I attended a spirited debate at the new facility between Canada’s Don Tapscott and US based digital media commentator Andrew Keen, who was in town to talk about his new book “Digital Vertigo: How To-day’s Social Revolution is Dividing, Diminishing and Disorienting Us”.

The setting was absolutely perfect for a discussion about how social media was going to end the world. Gazing out from the Zen-like event space on to the leafy trees of St. George Street, I just had to think that surely, that can’t be so…

Take an Unplugged Vacation

Jordan Benedet is a Manager on the Client Strategy and Innovation team at Social Media Group. Follow @jbenedet.

As a lot of my previous posts have illustrated, I really like technology and gadgets. I’ve had some kind of Smartphone since I graduated school and began my career many years ago, giving me the ability to stay in touch, and up to date on both personal and professional issues. I liked how it made my life easier in so many ways. Fast forward a few years, and Smartphone adoption has happened faster than any other major technology shift in history!

These days almost everyone has a smart device and thus the ability to leave the office without the fear of missing that important email. On the other hand, always being connected means that your work can follow you even after you leave the office. Always being connected means that information overload can occur, causing a person simply burn out.

This is where unplugging comes in. Over the last five years, I have not really taken a formal vacation where I completely unplugged from work. I recently got married, and thanks to Social Media Groups’ unlimited vacation policy I was able to disconnect for over two weeks and have a fantastic honeymoon in Europe. This hiatus meant I didn’t touch any email, and rarely ever logged into any social media site – I was as far off the grid as I have ever been, and it felt surprisingly great (I still did reach for my phantom Smartphone for the first few days though).

Disconnecting is becoming common among all level of workers, even Executives! Many employers are starting to recognize the benefits of allowing employees to unwind without having to feel like they are still tethered to the office.

The Huffington Post reported last month that FullContact, is now offering to pay employees $7,500 per year to go on a vacation, that’s on top of their normal salary. There are only three rules for this offer; you have to go on vacation, you must disconnect, and you can’t work in anyway while on vacation. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal!

Overall, I think some of the most important reasons to unplug on vacation are:

1. Gives a person the chance to spend more quality time with the people they are with
2. Provides a much more relaxed experience and improves mental health
3. Allows a person to avoid burning out, and a chance to recharge the batteries

As the line between work and personal time becomes increasingly blurred, I think it is very important for everyone to achieve a proper and sustainable work balance.


Save Money on Dinner by Turning Off Your Phone

Karly Gaffney is a Manager on the Content and Community team at Social Media Group.

Would you power down your phone during a meal if it resulted in a discount on your bill? Eva Restaurant in Los Angeles is hoping a 5% discount will keep patrons off their phones while they eat. In an interview with KPCC, owner/chef Mark Gold explained:

“For us, it’s really not about people disrupting other guests. Eva is home, and we want to create that environment of home, and we want people to connect again,” he said. “It’s about two people sitting together and just connecting, without the distraction of a phone, and we’re trying to create an ambiance where you come in and really enjoy the experience and the food and the company.”

I am guilty of checking my phone (multiple times) when in restaurants or even at dinner parties. We once attempted to instate the phone stack over dinner (everyone stacks their phones in the middle of the table and leaves them there for the duration of the meal.), which lasted an entire ten minutes before someone had to send a text.

Source: Mashable

Kudos to Eva Restaurant’s attempt to restore dinner conversation. This is likely more directed at patrons who are talking on their phones as opposed to texting or Facebooking, but I think I would give it my best shot if a local Toronto restaurant offered a similar promotion. No more #foodporn Instagram shots, no more lunch emails, no more hilarious OH tweets – just enjoying the company and the break in the day.

Would you be able to last an entire meal without using your phone? Even when your dining partner steps away from the table to use the washroom? Would this type of incentivized dining work for you?