I love industry awards. It's important to recognize innovative products, industry leaders, and future talent. Publishing SCN's The Nine each year is one of my favorite things to do. The honorees are excited, but what's even cooler is the industry is excited for them.
It's so fun to see all of the congratulatory tweets and LinkedIn posts when awards are announced. People love to brag and say "Hey, that's my friend and I'm so proud of her!" or "This is so cool that he's being recognized." And I completely love that.
But there's one thing I don't love about awards season...industry professionals taking credit for "discovering" people or even taking credit for their accomplishments. We don't discover talent—we take notice and let them shine. The accomplishments of honorees are their own. We all get by with a little help from our friends, but, ultimately, a person's success (or failure) is his or her own.
So, my friends, choose your words carefully. Celebrate the successes of your friends, but don't try to make their success your success. And to award winners who are politely biting their tongue while other try to claim a piece of their pie, never let them dull your sparkle!
I grew up within walking distance to Wrigley Field. Both my mom and my stepdad grew up on that same block (shout-out to my fellow Whipple Street residents!). Needless to say, we're a Cubs family. Our love for the Cubs runs deep—we bleed Cubbie blue.
I love this year's team motto: Everybody In. It's been a rough year for our family, with my stepdad being very ill. We've had to have "Everybody In" because it takes a village sometimes. I'm so grateful to have such an amazing network of friends who have helped my whole family get through the tough times—from bringing hot meals to my parents to lending me a should to cry on and even those simple "I'm here for you." text messages. Everybody was in.
It also applies to my professional life. But I can't give away all the secret sauce in this blog so pick up the July issue of Systems Contractor News (SCN) or read it online here: www.avnetwork.com/insights-and-blogs/everybody-in.
Here it is a month later and I'm STILL thinking about CES. I'm so disappointed and disillusioned with the show. Let's start with something that sparked the conversation: all six CES keynotes were male; five of those males were white. If that's not a slap in the face of diversity, I don't know what is.
I wanted to start this blog with facts and the number of women in tech. But it was SO hard to find any current information, which was scary to me. I'd love to think it's because there's a 50/50 split and it's not an issue...but we all know that's not the case. The closest thing I could find was from a 2016 Girls Who Code report: 26 percent of computing jobs are held by women. For the sake of this conversation, let's assume 26 is also the "magic" number for women in tech.
So if the tech population is 26 percent female, why couldn't CES find ONE female speaker? Just ONE—that would be proportional to the percentage of women in tech. When asked about it, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), who runs CES, had a lackluster and disappointing response: ""This is a global issue—not just within the technology sector—all industries and our society at large can and must do better."
If you ask me, this is a sorry excuse for a huge miss. The way we do better is by actively recruiting and inviting qualified minorities to speak. Believe me, it is not impossible to find a C-Level female executive willing to speak at the largest consumer technology show on the planet. In fact, it's not even hard. Kristin Lemkau, chief marketing officer of JPMorgan Chase, who has spoken at CES herself, drew up her own list of 21 women headliners "in less time than it took to drink coffee."
We can say to ourselves, it's all about recruiting females and minorities to STEM as much as we want. This is only a small part of the solution; most of the time, it's just the default CYA excuse when we're not actively working to recruit diverse populations. To serve the community, we need to work harder to seek out minority groups, whether they're females, people of color, transsexual, disabled, etc.
My friend Alexis LaBrois has a great quote that I steal often "If you can see me, you can be me." When we feature diversity in positions of note, it attracts minorities.
CES has been "apologizing" and making excuses for years with no real movement to becoming a more inclusive environment, especially when it comes to gender.
Want to actually do better? Ban the booth babes. Once again, the CTA has a weak answer to this. The association said each exhibitor "should choose how they want to represent themselves." I'd love to just skip the booths who choose to have scantily-clad females, but it can't be avoided. CES is a professional trade event, not a car show, so why are we putting up with this? It's clear that exhibitors will not stop using booth babes until a professional dress code policy is put in place. Should those exhibitors be held accountable? Yes. But should CES just take the step to stop it? Also yes.
InfoComm, for example, put a professional dress code policy in place, a measure that was actually voted in by its Exhibitor Committee. Why does this matter? Why do I care so much about this? Because when hired females are wearing minimal clothing on the show floor, it sets a precedent that women in booths are just hired talent there to look good. Don't believe me? Ask pretty much any female exhibitor and she'll likely share a story about how she was summarily dismissed because she was attractive and visitors believed her to be just eye-candy.
I feel like I need to sum this up with saying I don't want females and other underrepresented populations in speaking slots just to be .the token minority. I see this a lot on social media—a woman shouldn't be a keynote speaker just to have a female keynote speaker. No, they shouldn't. But we need to represent all minorities, even if that means we have to change our policies and spend an extra few minutes finding someone to fit the bill.
Would you be shocked to know I was called the Dream Killer for many years at work? I project a persona of positivity. And I am generally positive. But I also know that we can't better ourselves without a little hard work, persistence, and pain.
I can come up with some crazy ideas (just ask my former co-workers), but, if they're not executable, or within budget, they're tossed out with the trash.
In my personal life, I'm not the friend people go to when they just want to cry about something.* I'm not one to get caught up in the minutia of the break-up, not getting that dream job, and having a less-than-perfect life perfect. I'm more likely to assess the situation, give you my opinion on how to fix it, and move on. Heck, I'll even write you a five-step program to help you get there!
But dwell on it with you? Nope, not my bag, baby.
P.S Shout-out to my girl Katie Johnson who also keeps it real. True story: when we started working together, my employees called me the Dream Killer and her employees called her the Dream Crusher. We lived (and still do!) harmoniously in our non-fiction world.
*Feel like I have to add this note in—I'm not a monster. If there's a devastating situation happening, I will DEFINITELY be a shoulder for my friends to cry on.
Why are you so obsessed with me? Stop talking about the Millennial generation like it’s not a vital part of the AV world
#AVTweeps – ENOUGH WITH THE MILLENNIAL TALK! All day, every day, I hear Millennials this, Millennials that, and it almost always comes with a negative connotation. Some say I fall into the Millennial generation. I say I’m in the much forgotten and commercially irrelevant Gen Y—a hybrid of Gen X and Millennials. I’ve picked up some cool qualities from both groups. I can selfie like nobody’s business…and if you think the selfie is irrelevant in the workplace, you’re dead wrong; people have created million dollar brands with selfies. At the same time, I’m Gen X-ish when it comes to a work/life balance. I’m not a 9-5 clock-in kinda gal, but, at the same time, you’re not going to catch me working 16-hour days just because you have a stocked kitchen and a game room.
I recently had the pleasure of attending AVIXA’s AV Executive Conference. The networking was wonderful but the presentations? Extremely frustrating. Nearly every presenter/panel brought up some issue with the Millennial generation. NEWSFLASH: Millennials now make up the majority of the labor force and have since Q1 2015, according to the Pew Research Center.
Then why is everybody still complaining about them? Because change is hard. Millennials may have different way of doing things and, as I’ve discovered, lots of us are having trouble accepting that our way may not be the best way. Marci Rossell, PhD, and former Chief Economist at CNBC, could not stop talking about younger generations constantly using their phones, and her belief that it was hindering productivity.
Well, is it actually hindering productivity? I don’t think so. Sometimes smart devices are a big distraction, but they can also be a source of inspiration, creativity, and, most importantly, productivity. I spent a lot of the conference live-tweeting for SCN Magazine. The presenters still had my attention, perhaps even more so because I had to listen closely to get their quotes exactly right for social. Know what this did? It allowed those who couldn’t attend to feel like they were in the room and pick up some new knowledge. Sharing is caring, people!
Please stop telling me Millennials are special snowflakes who are afraid to leave their parents’ homes. First of all, if an entire generation needs a safe space, guess what? IT’S OUR FAULT! We’re the ones who raised them in a bubble and everyone-gets-a-trophy environment. Also, who crashed the economy? If you’re over age 40, raise your hand. It’s you. It wasn’t the Millennials. So, yeah, they have to stay at home a bit longer…because nobody is employing them.
It’s time to get off your high horse and figure out that Millennials are business professionals, just like you and me. We can all work together, because we already are. Just stop the bad mouthing and making every class, conference, anecdote, etc. about how terrible the next generation is. And remember, they’re going to be your boss soon.
P.S. For those of you who are interested, I’m happy to teach a class on how to work with Baby Boomers and Gen X. Time to exploit the weaknesses of other generations and tell Millennials how they can deal with co-workers over age 40 who are fiscally irresponsible (remember, they created the 2008 financial crisis and crashed the housing market), selfish (who’s draining social security without caring if there’s anything left for the rest of us?), and refuse to acknowledge their privilege (higher education was way more affordable and they entered a rapidly expanding job market). InfoComm 2018, anyone?
Literally all I've been hearing for the past two weeks is eclipse this and eclipse that. Well, guess what? I DON'T CARE. There, I said it. I literally don't care at all. I get that it's not something that happens every day. Still don't care.
I legitimately am in disbelief over the craziness, especially with those glasses. The 7-11 down the street has been sold out for days. My local library was handing out glasses to card holders and there was a line full of people WAITING IN LAWN CHAIRS! Seriously folks?
So while everyone else is staring up at the sky, I'll be over here working away. Maybe I'll give it a glance from my window (mom thinks I'll get a retinal burn if I do) but, other that that, business as usual.
Enjoy the eclipse today...if that's the sort of thing you're into.
To quote my great friend, Carol Campbell, "I can't believe we're still talking about this." Talking about what? Accepting women in the AV industry. Over the last 20 years, CEDIA could count on one hand the number of women it has had on its board.
Research has shown again and again that women have an equal (if not more than equal) say in home technology purchases. So why isn't the CEDIA board gender balanced? Despite so many industry big-timers, both male and female, expressing outrage, nothing has changed.
For the first time ever, CEDIA has gone on-record stating it is actively recruiting women. Tabitha O'Connor, the organization's COO, "We need female perspectives. We need diverse viewpoints. We need a Board that best represents the depth and scope of our association’s members as it stands today."
LISTEN UP: you can help. With all the buzz around this topic, I expect to see some stellar women on the ballot. Take the time to carefully review all of the candidates and VOTE.
I have a friend who works in a blame game culture. People at his office save every single e-mail just in case. They call it their CYA policy. This isn't a healthy environment but what can he do to change it (besides the obvious answer of leaving)?
1. Emphasize the Future
Moving forward, don't revisit the past, use mistakes as lessons and move on. When something goes wrong, don't get wrapped up in pointing fingers. Focus on what should be done to resolve the issue and avoid similar problems in the future.
2. Create the RIGHT Relationships
Make friends and work closely with those who don't throw others under the bus. Try to get on projects with those people and create a strategy of shared collaboration and accountability.
3. Just the Facts, Ma'am
It can be difficult when you feel you're chronically being blamed. Don't let your emotions get the best of you. Stand tall and use your facts. Give an accurate description of the events with no emotions involved. Be specific and include time lines. Follow that with "here's what I could have done better". It'll get your point across and also show everyone you understand what happened and the part you played in it.
4. Messed up? Admit it.
Everybody makes mistakes...even if I love to say "I'm practically perfect in every way like Mary Poppins", I'm not. Be the first to step up and say "This was my fault." Tell the team what you learned from the mistake and create a system so it doesn't happen again. You'll cultivate a no-nonsense reputation and people respect that.
5. Don't Be That Manager
As a manager, you are responsible for your team's successes AND failures. If you're at fault, tell people. If it's someone on your team, work with them to create a plan of action to fix the mistake and to ensure it's not repeated. To prevent the blame game, set clear goals with timelines. Each member of your team should know their responsibility and due dates.
It's okay to make mistakes as along as we accept them, learn from them and don't repeat them. Let's all agree to stop playing the blame game and starting using mistakes as a learning tool.
Do you have any blame game stories? I'd love to hear them in the comments below!
We live in a GO, GO, GO world. The rapid evolution of technology has turned us into an "I want it now" society (Hello, Veruca Salt!). When I say I work in a fast-paced environment, I mean lightning speed. Like nothing you've ever seen. Everything is needed yesterday. First person to invent a time machine will make a whole bunch of money from my company! I kid, I kid. Let's get back to the story...
The scene: sitting in a conference room discussing a brochure for a product set to launch in October.
"YES!" I am silently screaming to myself thinking we have time to be creative and plan for this project. The meeting goes smoothly with no surprises and I have a vague idea of direction in my head. Then, as we are heading out the door, I ask "What's the deliverable date for this?" I hear the time-old dreaded response...
"How quickly can I get it?"
Big sigh. I know from previous experience this means we need to have the entire brochure written, created, proof and ready for print by the end of the week.
Yes, we can do it. No, I'm not happy about it. Why? Simple: my team needs time to create.
Creativity moves us forward and creativity takes time. If you have a basic, productive marketing department, you're not doing it right. Productivity gets work done in a short amount of time - that's okay sometimes. But if your team is missing time for creativity, you're missing the key to innovation and success.
Creativity propels us forward and drives the metamorphosis of your brand. In this day and age, we need to be constantly challenged, moving our products and marketing efforts to the next level.
How do we do this? We give marketing teams time to brainstorm, work together and present the BEST concepts they can. Unfortunately creativity doesn't have an on/off switch. Teams can't just say "Creative Powers Activate!" and produce usable, transformative ideas. Let the team take the time and sit with the ideas, let them ruminate and I promise you, you'll get a stunning result.
So, instead of asking "How quickly can I get it?" ask
"How much time do you need?"
Stressed? Overworked? Odds are your team is, too.
I'm a big believer in downtime. Does that mean the team takes a week to slack off? Nope. But it means they get a break so their brains aren't in overdrive 24/7/365. Here are three quick tips on how to create effective "time off" for your team.
1. Don't Overschedule
Have a huge tradeshow? Don't schedule a project kick-off or critical meetings the next week. Giving the team time to breathe replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation. This downtime is essential to achieving high performance levels.
2. Lead by Example
If you're asking your team to have a light week, don't be "that guy". Don't send them e-mails at midnight or stay in the office until 8 pm each night. By doing so, you're showing them it's not okay to take a break. Even if you are sending those late night e-mails, schedule them to go out first thing in the morning (trust me, they'll never know the difference).
3. Plan Something Fun
Everyone loves an out-of-the-ordinary experience. Do something your team will enjoy and show them you appreciate their hard work. Take them for a hibachi lunch, do an escape room or even plan a mid-day Zumba session! Whatever it is, make sure it's something that will create a bonding opportunity and doesn't place any additional stress on them (aka don't make mandatory fun after-hours).
After a big event, tradeshow, project, etc. the team NEEDS some time to slow down. A continual high-stress workplace leads to a team that is less focused and less creative. As Tony Schwartz says "human beings perform best and are most productive when they alternate between periods of intense focus and intermittent renewal.”
Have any tips for creating effective downtime? Share them in the comments below.
Megan A. Dutta