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Posted by Richy George on 21 August, 2018This post was originally published on this site
Semmle, a startup that originally spun out of research at Oxford, announced a $21 million Series B investment today led by Accel Partners. It marked the second time Accel has led an investment in the company.
Other investors include Work-Bench, Capital One, Credit Suisse, Google, Microsoft, NASA and Nasdaq Trust. Today’s investment brings the total to $31 million.
Semmle has warranted this kind of interest by taking a unique approach to finding vulnerabilities in code. “The key idea behind our technology is to treat code as data and treat analysis problems as simple queries against a database. What this allows you to do is very easily encode domain expertise, security expertise or any other kinds of specialist knowledge in such a way it can be easily and automatically applied to large amounts of code,” Pavel Avgustinov, Semmle co-founder and VP of platform engineering told TechCrunch.
Once you create the right query, you can continuously run it against your code to prevent the same mistakes from entering the code base on subsequent builds. The key here is building the queries and the company has a couple of ways to deal with that.
They can work with customers to help them create queries, although in the long run that is not a sustainable way of working. Instead, they share queries, and encourage customers to share them with the community.
“What we find is that the great tech companies we work with have the best security teams in the world, and they are giving back what they created on the Semmle platform with other users in an open source fashion. There is a GitHub repository where we publish queries, but Microsoft and Google are doing the same thing,” Oege de Moor, company CEO and co-founder explained.
In fact, the Semmle solution is freely available to open source programmers to use with their applications, and the company currently analyzes every commit of almost 80,000 open source projects. Open source developers can run shared queries against their code or create their own.
They also have a paid version with customers like Microsoft, Google, Credit Suisse, NASA and Nasdaq. They have relied mostly on these strategic partners up until now, all of which are also investors. With today’s investment they plan to build out their sales and marketing departments to expand their customer base into a wider enterprise market.
The company spun out of research at Oxford University in 2006. They are now based in San Francisco with 60 employees, a number that should go up with this investment. They received an $8 million Series A in 2014 and $2 million seed round in 2011.
Posted by Richy George on 18 August, 2018This post was originally published on this site
When we think about designing our dream home, we don’t think of having a thousand roommates in the same room with no doors or walls. Yet in today’s workplace where we spend most of our day, the purveyors of corporate office design insist that tearing down walls and bringing more people closer together in the same physical space will help foster better collaboration while dissolving the friction of traditional hierarchy and office politics.
But what happens when there is no office at all?
This is the reality for Jason Fried, Founder and CEO of Basecamp, and Matt Mullenweg, Founder and CEO of Automattic (makers of WordPress), who both run teams that are 100% distributed across six continents and many time zones. Fried and Mullenweg are the founding fathers of a movement that has inspired at least a dozen other companies to follow suit, including Zapier, Github, and Buffer. Both have either written a book, or have had a book written about them on the topic.
For all of the discussions about how to hire, fire, coordinate, motivate, and retain remote teams though, what is strangely missing is a discussion about how office politics changes when there is no office at all. To that end, I wanted to seek out the experience of these companies and ask: does remote work propagate, mitigate, or change the experience of office politics? What tactics are startups using to combat office politics, and are any of them effective?
Office politics is best described by a simple example. There is a project, with its goals, metrics, and timeline, and then there’s who gets to decide how it’s run, who gets to work on it, and who gets credit for it. The process for deciding this is a messy human one. While we all want to believe that these decisions are merit-based, data-driven, and objective, we all know the reality is very different. As a flood of research shows, they come with the baggage of human bias in perceptions, heuristics, and privilege.
Office politics is the internal maneuvering and positioning to shape these biases and perceptions to achieve a goal or influence a decision. When incentives are aligned, these goals point in same direction as the company. When they don’t, dysfunction ensues.
Perhaps this sounds too Darwinian, but it is a natural and inevitable outcome of being part of any organization where humans make the decisions. There is your work, and then there’s the management of your coworker’s and boss’s perception of your work.
There is no section in your employee handbook that will tell you how to navigate office politics. These are the tacit, unofficial rules that aren’t documented. This could include reworking your wardrobe to match your boss’s style (if you don’t believe me, ask how many people at Facebook own a pair of Nike Frees). Or making time to go to weekly happy hour not because you want to, but because it’s what you were told you needed to do to get ahead.
One of my favorite memes about workplace culture is Sarah Cooper’s “10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings,” which includes…
These cues and signals used in physical workplaces to shape and influence perceptions do not map onto the remote workplace, which gives us a unique opportunity to study how office politics can be different through the lens of the officeless.
For employees, the analogy that coworkers are like family is true in one sense — they are the roommates that we never got to choose. Learning to work together is difficult enough, but the physical office layers on the additional challenge of learning to live together. Contrast this with remote workplaces, which Mullenweg of Automattic believes helps alleviate the “cohabitation annoyances” that come with sharing the same space, allowing employees to focus on how to best work with each other, versus how their neighbor “talks too loud on the phone, listens to bad music, or eats smelly food.”
Additionally, remote workplaces free us of the tyranny of the tacit expectations and norms that might not have anything to do with work itself. At an investment bank, everyone knows that analysts come in before the managing director does, and leave after they do. This signals that you’re working hard.
Basecamp’s Fried calls this the “presence prison,” the need to be constantly aware of where your coworkers are and what they are doing at all times, both physically and virtually. And he’s waging a crusade against it, even to the point of removing the green dot on Basecamp’s product. “As a general rule, nobody at Basecamp really knows where anyone else is at any given moment. Are they working? Dunno. Are they taking a break? Dunno. Are they at lunch? Dunno. Are they picking up their kid from school? Dunno. Don’t care.”
There is credible basis for this practice. A study of factory workers by Harvard Business School showed that workers were 10% to 15% more productive when managers weren’t watching. This increase was attributed to giving workers the space and freedom to experiment with different approaches before explaining to managers, versus the control group which tended to follow prescribed instructions under the leery watch of their managers.
Remote workplaces experience a similar phenomenon, but by coincidence. “Working hard” can’t be observed physically so it has to be explained, documented, measured, and shared across the company. Cultural norms are not left to chance, or steered by fear or pressure, which should give individuals the autonomy to focus on the work itself, versus how their work is perceived.
Lastly, while physical workplaces can be the source of meaningful friendships and community, recent research by the Wharton School of Business is just beginning to unravel the complexities behind workplace friendships, which can be fraught with tensions from obligations, reciprocity and allegiances. When conflicts arise, you need to choose between what’s best for the company, and what’s best for your relationship with that person or group. You’re not going to help Bob because your best friend Sally used to date him and he was a dick. Or you’re willing to do anything for Jim because he coaches your kid’s soccer team, and vouched for you to get that promotion.
In remote workplaces, you don’t share the same neighborhood, your kids don’t go to the same school, and you don’t have to worry about which coworkers to invite to dinner parties. Your physical/personal and work communities don’t overlap, which means you (and your company) unintentionally avoid many of the hazards of toxic workplace relationships.
On the other hand, these same relationships can be important to overall employee engagement and well-being. This is evidenced by one of the findings in Buffer’s 2018 State of Remote Work Report, which surveyed over 1900 remote workers around the world. It found that next to collaborating and communicating, loneliness was the biggest struggle for remote workers.
So while you may be able to feel like your own boss and avoid playing office politics in your home office, ultimately being alone may be more challenging than putting on a pair of pants and going to work.
For organizations, the single biggest difference between remote and physical teams is the greater dependence on writing to establish the permanence and portability of organizational culture, norms and habits. Writing is different than speaking because it forces concision, deliberation, and structure, and this impacts how politics plays out in remote teams.
Writing changes the politics of meetings. Every Friday, Zapier employees send out a bulletin with: (1) things I said I’d do this week and their results, (2) other issues that came up, (3) things I’m doing next week. Everyone spends the first 10 minutes of the meeting in silence reading everyone’s updates.
Remote teams practice this context setting out of necessity, but it also provides positive auxiliary benefits of “hearing” from everyone around the table, and not letting meetings default to the loudest or most senior in the room. This practice can be adopted by companies with physical workplaces as well (in fact, Zapier CEO Wade Foster borrowed this from Amazon), but it takes discipline and leadership to change behavior, particularly when it is much easier for everyone to just show up like they’re used to.
Writing changes the politics of information sharing and transparency. At Basecamp, there are no all-hands or town hall meetings. All updates, decisions, and subsequent discussions are posted publicly to the entire company. For companies, this is pretty bold. It’s like having a Facebook wall with all your friends chiming in on your questionable decisions of the distant past that you can’t erase. But the beauty is that there is now a body of written decisions and discussions that serves as a rich and permanent artifact of institutional knowledge, accessible to anyone in the company. Documenting major decisions in writing depoliticizes access to information.
Remote workplaces are not without their challenges. Even though communication can be asynchronous through writing, leadership is not. Maintaining an apolitical culture (or any culture) requires a real-time feedback loop of not only what is said, but what is done, and how it’s done. Leaders lead by example in how they speak, act, and make decisions. This is much harder in a remote setting.
A designer from WordPress notes the interpersonal challenges of leading a remote team. “I can’t always see my teammates’ faces when I deliver instructions, feedback, or design criticism. I can’t always tell how they feel. It’s difficult to know if someone is having a bad day or a bad week.”
Zapier’s Foster is also well aware of these challenges in interpersonal dynamics. In fact, he has written a 200-page manifesto on how to run remote teams, where he has an entire section devoted to coaching teammates on how to meet each other for the first time. “Because we’re wired to look for threats in any new situation… try to limit phone or video calls to 15 minutes.” Or “listen without interrupting or sharing your own stories.” And to “ask short, open ended questions.” For anyone looking for a grade school refresher on how to make new friends, Wade Foster is the Dale Carnegie of the remote workforce.
What we learn from companies like Basecamp, Automattic, and Zapier is that closer proximity is not the antidote for office politics, and certainly not the quick fix for a healthy, productive culture.
Maintaining a healthy culture takes work, with deliberate processes and planning. Remote teams have to work harder to design and maintain these processes because they don’t have the luxury of assuming shared context through a physical workspace.
The result is a wealth of new ideas for a healthier, less political culture — being thoughtful about when to bring people together, and when to give people their time apart (ending the presence prison), or when to speak, and when to read and write (to democratize meetings). It seems that remote teams have largely succeeded in turning a bug into a feature. For any company still considering tearing down those office walls and doors, it’s time to pay attention to the lessons of the officeless.
Posted by Richard Sommers on 15 June, 2015
Each day we all have an opportunity make a difference in the lives of other people. Each of us has unique ways we can make that happen. Whether donating through a charity, through a small kindness offered to a stranger, helping out special people in our own lives, and the list can go on and on.
If you take a moment to look at charities, there are a variety of ways in which you can help, as there are so many charities available. Whether your choice is donating money to a charity, donating food to a food pantry, or donating clothes to a shelter, each of us can make a difference. The key to this is finding a charity that means something to you and a charity where you can make a difference.
At Innovative Computer Products we are so pleased to have found a charity where we can make a difference, and that organization is CFY (www.cfy.org). Through CFY and our One for One Program we are able to reach out to the neediest students who have no means of obtaining home technology.
Donating refurbished computers is the key to our One for One Program. For every refurbished desktop computer we sell at Innovative Computer Products, we donate one refurbished desktop computer to CFY. CFY is such a worthy organization and through their own means along with our One for One Program, the technology is truly getting out there to the families that need it. Last year we were able to donate over two thousand refurbished computers to CFY through our One on One Program.
CFY has many different ways you can make a difference in their organization, and we urge you to do so. While our method is donating computers, maybe your method will be with your money, time or talent, or possibly computer donation as well. Your contribution will make a difference in the lives of children.
Please consider helping CFY – you can make a difference.
Posted by Richy George on 26 January, 2015
IT hardware procurement process can be a challenging one for any organization. If you are an IT professional or a business owner, there are various options available that must be sorted through to meet key priorities and requirements. When it comes to buying IT hardware, refurbished equipment is a viable option to consider seriously. It provides an array of undeniable benefits including performance, quality and flexibility at great price points. Following are seven notable benefits your organization can rely on when opting for refurbished IT equipment.
Companies can procure refurbished IT equipment at a mere fraction of OEMs’ pricing. Opting for refurbished IT hardware can help stretch budget, afford larger projects, and even have extra hardware on hand in case of disaster recovery or if any backup is necessary.
The latest and highest end technology is not always an affordable option for small businesses, schools, and nonprofits. However, by choosing refurbished IT hardware, one can gain access to the latest technology regardless of their budget.
Refurbished hardware is an excellent way for organizations to increase buying power while benefiting substantial cost savings.
IT refurbishers go above and beyond when it comes to quality control. Experienced, trained and certified technicians rigorously test, diagnose and refurbish all IT hardware to ensure that its performance – both functionally and cosmetically – rivals that of any brand-new computer.
Microsoft registered refurbishers (MRR) are an elite group of refurbishers who take quality to whole new level by following Microsoft’s certified refurbishing processes. The MRR certification enables refurbishers to load and authenticate Windows OS legally on any Windows-based machine.
Refurbished IT hardware is very eco-friendly. If “going green” is a priority in your technology choices, buying refurbished IT hardware is an ideal decision. Refurbishing and reusing not only prevents electronics from ending up in landfills, but also eliminates the need to manufacture new electronics.
Buying and using refurbished equipment is a form of electronic recycling that offers numerous benefits to both the organization using it and the environment.
IT hardware refurbishers will work within and according to a customer’s needs and requirements as well as their limitations. Typically, this much flexibility is not available when buying directly from traditional retailers.
Refurbishers can customize specs to meet exact technology hardware requirements and offer a variety of prices to meet virtually any budget. They also offer flexible warranty, extended coverage options, payment options and terms, such as PayPal, net terms and more.
IT refurbishers can offer among the best warranties available today. In many cases, they provide hassle-free advance replacements, which mean replacement product will be shipped out before receiving the product being returned. This system offers a level of convenience and customer service that simply cannot be found when buying directly from OEMs. IT refurbishers offer flexible warranty options and extended warranty coverages as well.
Obtain Hard to Find or Obsolete Equipment
Sometimes, finding legacy equipment can be very challenging. Refurbishers are well-equipped sources of OEM discontinued hardware, which is helpful for companies running proprietary software and hardware that sometimes requires older hardware.
When compared to OEMs, you’ll find many IT hardware refurbishers offer a much larger inventory pool, including brands such as Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo and more.
Clearly, these advantages point to one undeniable conclusion: refurbished IT hardware can provide customers with substantial flexibility, service and savings. Whether you are a small business, educational institution, nonprofit or part of any organization that requires IT equipment to function, an IT refurbisher can provide one-stop-shopping for all of your IT needs.
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