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Exit Interview by Patrick Donegan – Newsletter #9

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

Walgreens has named Rosalind Brewer as their new CEO. 🔥🏆She is the only Black woman currently leading a Fortune 500 Firm — and one of only a handful of Black female CEOs in the US. There’s been a lot of talk about promoting diversity in the boardroom, and it’s good to see it happening — not to mention Brewer’s impressive resume. I’ll be interested to see how she applies her experience expanding Starbucks‘s digital presence to Walgreens. 

Tech Innovation at Work

It’s the end of an era: Jeff Bezos is departing his post as the CEO of Amazon. As one of the last founder-CEOs left among big tech, Bezos’ step back to an executive chairman position isn’t surprising. What will he do now that he’s not running Amazon’s day-to-day? Reports indicate that he may spend the majority of his time growing Blue Origin, the space company he founded in 2000. 🚀💫😮If Blue Origin can expand to become a real competitor to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, we may come to see our next space renaissance much sooner than expected.

Startups have had a rough year in 2020, but it seems like software companies have for the most part weathered the storm. ☂️💪😎 NYC enterprise tech raised $5.8 billion in 2020, outstripping the $3.3 billion raised in 2019. 🔥🍎 In case you missed it — here’s a good summary of the enterprise Seed Startups to watch in NYC. The list includes Bigeye and Proximo Data in AI/machine learning, OriShipyard, and Coducto in cloud and dev tools, and Case and Sublime in cybersecurity. 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is betting that the pandemic has accelerated the long-term demand for digital tools. ⚒️📈He is expecting spending on technology to double in the next 10 years. 📆🔥  Microsoft has unveiled a new suite of employee management tools: Viva, and they’ll be hoping that the new tools will build on their bumper year. Beyond basics like payroll and performance reviews already covered by Workday and SAP SE, Microsoft and others are launching new tools for emerging needs like managing mental health and integration with social media. 👨‍💻👩‍⚕️💊

Source:
WSJ/ Manjunath Kiran / Agence France-Presse/ Getty Images 

Ghost kitchens — or “digital kitchens” — are becoming a popular revenue generator in hotels reeling from the pandemic. 👻🍴 The Four Points near Time Square is now renting spaces for digital kitchens, an arrangement that benefits food entrepreneurs in a city where restaurant startup costs are sky high. Other notable players include SBE Entertainment, which manages brands like the Mondrian and Hyde hotels, and restaurants from chefs like Wolfgang PuckJosé Andrés, and Katsuya Uechi. 💡👨‍🍳🏨 This type of collaboration isn’t exactly new, but it’s definitely received a boost in the past year, and it has potential as a long-term model.

Janet Yellen has received Senate confirmation as Secretary of the Treasury Department. 👏 At the Fed, she helped keep financing costs in check, and she’s likely to pursue a hard line with China. Interestingly, she had this to say on the subject of cryptocurrencies: “I think we need to look closely at how to encourage their use for legitimate activities while curtailing their use for malign and illegal activities. If confirmed, I intend to work closely with the Federal Reserve Board and the other federal banking and securities regulators on how to implement an effective regulatory framework for these and other fintech innovations.”🤔💵 This may be something to watch as she begins her term.

The Changing Workplace

More and more employers are shifting in-person training to virtual formats. PepsiCo took an unconventional approach by turning to Minecraft. 🎮🤓 Inspired by an employee’s 11 year-old son, PepsiCo developed a training program that uses simulations of a 3D warehouse. 🏄💪 As part of its LSS program, employees can play out shipping processes, finding ways to increase efficiency and reduce waste. More employers may have to take a leaf from their book and think creatively about remote learning. Employee reactions to remote training have been mixed, and a sleek design does not always guarantee quality.

Despite being one of the winners of the shift to remote work, Amazon has no plans to do away with offices. 🏢👨‍💻 They’ve unveiled plans for three 22-story office buildings and an outdoor amphitheater in their development in Arlington, Va. 🌳🎊 The design has more collaborative spaces, more emphasis on outdoor space and greenery, and solar energy. Much of the campus will be open to the public around the clock. This is a sign that big tech companies won’t abandon offices as much as get creative with what offices look like.

Source: NBBJ

All About Data

The trend for burnout among employees is clear. 😑👎 According to the US Travel Association, in 2019, U.S. workers earned 23.7 days of paid time off, but used only 17.2. Employees are now taking even less time off because of the pandemic. According to Robert Half survey data:

  • 37% of surveyed workers are postponing PTO until they can safely travel.
  • 14% say they have too much work to log off.
  • 22% say they would take a vacation but are trying to save money because of the pandemic’s uncertainty.
  • Last August, nearly 40% of workers said their bosses have urged them to take time off. That’s up from 25% in May.

Does venture capital have a blindspot about hardware? The realities of hardware can be daunting, and this piece breaks it down the numbers. Before a company makes a penny, they rack up costs in manufacturing, certification, design, firmware, marketing, salaries, warranty and more. 📉⏳ Often, companies need to spend millions just to get a product out the door. That said, there’s a heavy fixed-cost component, so with the right adjustment and demand, it can become profitable. 🤔🔮 The problem, of course, is when you need to do it all over again when the next version rolls around.

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Patrick Donegan

Managing Director

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