Friday, December 25, 2009

A Tool I Wish I’d Discovered Earlier

Every now and then you discover a new trick that is worth sharing, and I have one of those for you today. Given that's it's Christmas, this one is my present to you today.

While working in Corporate America, I needed to keep a pulse on news that was related to the products I was developing. To do this I subscribed to newsletters, used Google search extensively, and relied on information that was passed on to me. This led to a cluttered mailbox, and required a great deal of time to sort through.

Now that I have learned to use Google Alerts, I am able to streamline the information I am interested in. This simple to use tool allows you to receive periodic (you pick the frequency) updates based on keywords you choose. You can pick the target source (news, blogs, video) or select a comprehensive search, and it gets delivered to your mailbox or a feed source.

So, let's say you want to know all the latest about the Galleon insider trading scandal, you can set an alert for "Galleon, insider trading, Moffat, Rajaratnam, Chiesi" and voila! the latest news on the topic arrives in your inbox.

If you are a data junkie like me, need to do research on a topic, want to follow specific news topics, or just want to check periodically on what information is on the web about you, this is a tool you have to check out.

Have a fantastic holiday!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Galleon Watch - 12/23/09 Update

Just a quick update to let you know that Raj Rajaratnam and Danielle Chiesi have each entered "not guilty" pleas against the insider trading charges they were indicted on last week. The case against Moffat and the other executives arrested is still pending.

Click here to catch up on past Galleon insider trading news.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Seven Things I Didn’t Accomplish This Year

It’s that time of year again.

If you’re working in Corporate America chances are that you have recently received an e-mail from your boss, asking you to document your accomplishments for the year – to be used of course for your annual assessment, which will be input to your annual incentive pay (if you’re lucky enough to be working for a company that still has bonuses), and input to your 2010 raise (if you’re lucky enough to be working for a company that will be giving raises).

I can hear the sighs.

Caution: If you are working in Corporate America, continuing to read this column may throw you into the depths of depression. Okay – not really – but I am hoping that you will be at least a little bit jealous!

A few years back I ran into a colleague who had retired one year earlier. In response to my query on what she had been doing she said, “I am blissfully non-productive!”

In that vein, I am blissfully happy to report that for the first time in thirty years, I do not have to respond to that e-mail from my boss. Instead, I thought it would be fun to spend a little bit of time reveling in what I didn’t have to accomplish this year…

1. I didn’t deliver yet another ‘new’ product that was targeted at attracting new customers, while retaining all the old customers, and solving all of their biggest problems.

2. I didn’t carefully craft the corresponding messages for the market, positioning this new technology to be the greatest thing since sliced bread and capable of solving world hunger, even though it was based on technology that was decades old.

3. I didn’t spend months reviewing those messages and getting buy-in with senior executives across the company so that each of them had the opportunity to add their spin and water down the message so that in the end it said almost nothing – very eloquently.

4. I didn’t spend weeks getting managers and executives to agree to a name for this product – one that was sufficiently descriptive and yet innocuous enough so that the company wouldn’t be sued for copyright infringement.

5. I didn’t complete a special project that my boss told me would be a fantastic ‘growth opportunity’, that contributed to many extra hours of work – and many headaches.

6. I didn’t wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning worrying about a big presentation at an early meeting in a headquarters location that required an hour drive to get to. In fact, I rarely set my alarm at all!

And now for my proudest non-accomplishment of the year (drumroll please):

7. I didn’t ‘lay off’, ‘surplus’, ‘resource’, or otherwise fire anyone. Yippee! I think I deserve high marks on my performance assessment this year, don't you?

Sarcasm aside, I am not knocking the great and important work being done in Corporate America, and I am very pleased to see the stock price at my old company rise. It’s simply clear that it was indeed time for someone else to be doing that work.

Your turn. What were you fortunate enough to have not accomplished this year?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Galleon Watch – 12/16/09 Update

According to the New York Times, both Raj Rajaratnam and Danielle Chiesi were formally indicted by a grand jury yesterday. They will face trial in New York.

So what about Moffat and the other executives arrested two months ago? According to this Bloomberg article, Moffat’s attorney is expecting that his case will be postponed. Both sources suggest that there may be a deal in the works.

Updated 12/17 - And indeed the deadline for indictments against Moffat and the others arrested on October 16th has been delayed until January 15th.

Stay tuned…

If you missed past installments of the Galleon Watch, catch up here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Galleon Watch – Moffat Denies the Charges

As the December 16th deadline for indictments draws near, the defendants are making their moves.

And surprise, surprise…

The New York Times and other news sources reported late last week that Bob Moffat’s attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the charges against the former senior IBM exec. The gist of the argument is that Moffat was only one of several IBM execs doing due diligence on Sun, and that he alone did not know enough to have passed on information about Sun’s future earnings.

He has admitted to being part of the Sun due diligence team. He has also admitted to communicating with Danielle Chiesi from time to time in that timeframe.

Well sure, he had to admit he was doing due diligence – he was head of the group that was looking into the acquisition. And he had to admit talking to Chiesi – they have him on tape. So, what do you think? How long before we know the full story?

If you missed the earlier installments of the Galleon Watch, click here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Is There Really a Glass Ceiling?

In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion in the news on how well (or not so well) Corporate America is doing in shattering the glass ceiling. More importantly, some have suggested that there is no glass ceiling (Rachel Wood on the Glass Ceiling Myth), that we would be better off if we just didn’t talk about it (Ariane de Bonvoisin speaking at the Villanova Women in Business Conference), or that women just need to wake up and recognize that the world has changed (David Carter for the Badger Herald).

Others still believe that we must acknowledge the glass ceiling (Professor Sheila Wellington speaking at NYU Stern School of Business).

To be clear, let me define the term ‘glass ceiling’. I am referring to an artificial barrier that prevents qualified women from attaining top corporate jobs.

We start with a level playing field – I am going to go out on a limb and state up front that women are as intelligent as men (yup, I’m declaring that as a fact).

Let’s look at the scorecard:

• Women hold the top job in only 15 Fortune 500 companies (that’s 3%). There are some fantastic success stories of women CEO’s. Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo tops this year’s list of the 50 most powerful women in business. Oprah Winfrey (Harpo), Anne Mulcahy (Xerox), and Andrea Jung (Avon) have made consistent annual appearances on this list, to name just a few. There are also women who have disappeared from the list. Was Carly Fiorina held to a different standard than her male peers when she was ousted from Hewlett-Packard? Did Meg Whitman (eBay) leave Corporate America too soon?

• Men outnumber women 7 to 1 on Fortune’s list of 40 under 40 (years old). This does not bode well for the pipeline to replace the current women CEOs as they retire.

• A number of states have recently taken a look at their local scorecards. A UC Davis Study showed that women hold only 10% of the executive and board seats in the state’s top 400 publicly traded firms. The Chicago Tribune reported that fewer than 15% of the executive officers in that city’s businesses are female. And in Massachusetts, BU Today reported that women represent less than 9% of the executives in the state’s largest 100 firms.

Dare I mention that while some women are achieving positive success in Corporate America, there are also those who are becoming notorious via corporate crime? The women are under-represented here too, but let’s call that a good thing.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge that women can be brutal to their own kind. I have seen too many women near the top who want to be the only woman in the room, sometimes actively working against their female peers.

Now that we’ve looked at the facts…

Is the glass ceiling a figment of our imagination? There is no doubt in my mind that the ‘system’ of Corporate America has not yet adapted sufficiently to be fully inclusive of women.

Are women causing the problem? No, but women are contributing to it, both in attitude and in acceptance.

Should we stop talking about it? Absolutely not! We need to be aware to actively drive change.

Will be do better in the next decade? Let’s make it a point to do so.

Your turn – what do you think?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Five Reasons to Take All of Your Vacation This Year

You still have vacation days to take. For some of you this might be just a couple of days – for others it might be weeks. But there are only four weeks left in 2009 and time is running out.

According to the Huffington Post, too many people aren’t taking their vacations, and CNN reported that a recent survey found that 34% of Americans don’t take all their vacation each year. (My guess is that those estimates are low.) Are you one of them? If so, here are five great reasons why you should take all your vacation:

1. You earned it. It’s a benefit. It’s worth money. You might be surprised that Expedia estimates there will be 436 million unused vacation days in 2009 and values that at $63.33 billion. (I’ll do the math for you – that’s at an hourly rate of $18.)

2. It won’t change your annual appraisal. I have news for you – most management teams complete their performance discussions before the holidays (because they plan to be on vacation). Unless you are in sales and need to make quota for the quarter, or you discover a technology that solves world hunger, chances are your bottom line won’t change because you took some time off over the holidays.

3. Your boss won’t notice. The truth is, unless you’ve specifically been asked to provide coverage, no one will notice. And consider this – if you are the only one working, then you’re also the only one to blame when something goes wrong. You might be a martyr, but you won’t be a hero.

4. It costs the company money. If you happen to work in a company that still allows vacation days to be carried over from one year to the next, this costs the company money. Whatever days you defer have to be carried as a liability, and when you do “cash them in” they will cost more than they do today.

5. You need a break. If you can’t take a sabbatical, at least take your vacation!

Oh – and when you do take that break, resist the urge to spend all day on your laptop, your blackberry, your cell phone… you get the idea.

So what do you say? Are you planning to take all your vacation this year? If not, why not?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Galleon Watch - All About a Woman?

When the news of the Galleon insider trading scandal broke on October 16th, many of you shared my sentiments of shock and outrage, as we discussed what could have motivated senior executives (I’m no longer using the word ‘leader’ to describe them) like Bob Moffat and Mark Kurland to allegedly participate.

Was it power? Prestige? Greed?

A report by Bloomberg on November 23rd offers a possible motive. The story suggests that Danielle Chiesi, a former beauty queen, ‘attracted’ top business executives in bars and ballrooms, building a powerful network and charming these men into spilling company secrets (and possibly breaking the law). Bloomberg refers to Chiesi as “the woman who sank Galleon.”

What do you think? Is it really possible that a woman could be at the center of the ring?

In other Galleon news, on November 25th law.com reported that Raj Rajaratnam and his lawyers are arguing that the wiretaps used to secure key information that led to the arrests, were unconstitutional.

Watch this space as the December 16th indictment nears.