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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan – Newsletter #19

By: Patrick Donegan

For some time, I’ve been looking for one “source” that curates modern takes on HR Tech, perspectives from the people who build it, and its impact on enterprise — something that’s tailor-made by professionals for decision-makers.

I never found it — so I decided to build it.

Every week, I’ll be sharing fresh insights on tech platforms, design, data, and the future of work — straight to your inbox.

My Thoughts

Will FOMO (fear of missing out) drive workers back to the office? I sincerely hope not. 👩‍💻💡☕ For many companies, the switch to remote work has uncovered widespread issues with productivity, collaboration, and burnout. But more often than not, these types of performance issues are caused by poor leadership styles and operating models. Rushing back to the office will not fix it. If you can’t provide your workers with clear communication, proper benefits and support, or the right tools for collaboration, you won’t see results. Your employees are not the problem — no matter where they choose to work from.  

In the last issue, I shared a clip from my interview with my friend Jess Podgajny, CEO of LlunaLluna is a platform that gives employers the ability to offer, manage, and analyze personalized employment arrangements for employees. If you’re interested in what personalized benefits are and how they can transform your business, here’s an excerpt where we discuss just that: 

Tech Innovation at Work

This is not a tech story, but here’s an interesting look at what’s been happening at the Wall Street Journal. 📰🖋️🤔 Under the leadership of editor Matt Murray, the Journal switched to a digital first format and a pay wall model long before its peers, and for a while, it’s been reaping the rewards. But it looks like Murray is getting some pushback from staff members who believe the Journal has consistently been behind on reporting on the social issues of the day. As chief news strategist, Louise Story has been leading the push for a change in content direction — more women, younger professionals, and stories about income inequality and climate change. 👩‍💻🌎🔥 But entrenched resistance, along with a reported power struggle between Murray and publisher Almar Latour means that Story’s proposal has yet to get a fair shake. This could be something to watch as it develops. 

Intel is betting on American manufacturing. The company plans to spend $20 billion on US factories that will make chips for semiconductor companies. These American fabs will compete with manufacturers in Asia. 🤔🏭🌐 “Intel is back,” Intel CTO Pat Gelsinger told journalists. “The old Intel is the new Intel. We’re going to be leaders in the market, and we’re going to satisfy the new foundry customers, because the world needs more semiconductors, and we’re going to step into that gap in a powerful and meaningful way.” This news is set to counterbalance the company’s recent, more public setbacks.  📉👨‍🔧 Its latest statement admitted that Intel’s newest chips  with 7nm product transistors have been delayed, meaning that the company will be stuck selling older chips for at least another year.

PHOTO: WSJ/DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Simulators are now a critical part of America’s Cup — but now, so too are virtual training partners. ⛵🤖💡 AI and Machine Learning not only help sailors during the competition, they also help them make adjustments to the equipment beforehand. In partnership with Emirates Team New Zealand, McKinsey and QuantumBlack, a McKinsey company, built a digital training partner that replicates the decisions and tendencies of elite sailors. The bot saves testing time and eliminates the cost of having sailors do the testing. Like top sailors, the bots are constantly learning — they need guidance, but they can also help teams discover unexpected advantages. 

The Changing Workplace

The New York power lunch is back.  🍸🍷🍴 In-person meetings over meals are making a welcome return — along with cocktails or a glass of wine with your meal. If anything, remote work has given business people in New York the opportunity to dine more widely than their traditional midtown options. 🚗🍾 But just because lunch meetings are back, it doesn’t mean companies are returning to the office. In a survey of major employers released in March, the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit organization that represents business leaders, found that just 10% of office workers in Manhattan have returned. 🏢👨‍💼😑 Even looking ahead, survey respondents said they expected occupancy would reach only 45% by September.

Working from home has changed how we dress — but not everyone is defaulting to comfort wear.💃👢💄 Here’s an interesting look at how women from different countries have responded to working from home. 

  • Astrid D’Eredità, a cultural consultant and new mother, said she had forgone pajamas “even when I was pregnant” and opted for a casual but put-together style. Pajamas and sweats also got a thumbs down from Simona Capocaccia, a graphic designer who has been working from home since last March. “Dressing for work cheers me up,” she said. 💅✨
  • Carla Lemos was rarely at home in February last year, before the pandemic hit Brazil. One year on, her wardrobe has changed as much as her lifestyle. “I used to be attached to things because they were beautiful, not comfortable,” she said. “I came to realize that clothes need to fit me and make me live better,” she said. That meant loose dresses, kimonos and flip-flops. 💪👘
  • In Japan, the trend for showy tops for Zoom calls has led to a boom in clothing subscription services.“Customers prefer brighter colors to basics such as navy or beige for online meetings, or they prefer asymmetric design tops,” said Mari Nakano, the AirCloset spokeswoman. 📹🛍️📊 About 40% of subscribers are working mothers for whom the subscription service saved time because they didn’t have to be bothered with washing. They just put the tops in a bag, return them and then wait for the next package to arrive with their new items.

PHOTO: NYTIMES.COM

All About Data

SEI D.C. is piloting a data & analytics internship program tailored to addressing the skills gap in data. Here’s what our intern Elise Joyce had to say about her recent experience learning about Design Thinking. 👏🎓“A key takeaway for me — when tackling a problem — is to always take creative risks and value the creative mindsets around you,” she says. “Always ask more questions than you can answer.” 📈👩‍💻🙌

Here are some highlights from Work-Bench’s “State of Data Infrastructure & Analytics Report.” 📊📓

  • While it’s still an emerging discipline, data engineering jobs are growing in number— and they’re rapidly becoming the bridge between business intelligence, analytics, data science, and engineering. 
  • Data scientists are still spending too long on workflows that don’t pertain to their core functions: 

The last mile problem in ETL still persists — how do we consume data to effectively generate actionable insights? The problem is that multiple stakeholders are holding different cuts of data and storing them on their own. Current practices around the streamlining and creation of metrics is lacking, and analysts across the same organization end up collecting metrics in different ways — leading to confusion and disagreement about how a metric is defined and how to handle outliers.

GRAPH: WORK-BENCH.COM

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Patrick Donegan

Managing Director

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