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Tailored from my original post At Grace Hopper’s women in Computing, 2012 here .

Network, Network, Network – and do it right ! 

Networking is not “Foreplay” – and it isn’t creating Black holes either ..

ekta_gracehopper

And here’s why – :

Women haven’t traditionally had the benefit of “smoke-time” networking that seems to work so well for men (nor any womanized version of it). That said – surely there must be ways that amazing superwomen around the world are making it into the corner offices.

As a society, we have been forced to focus on getting business cards rather than building relationships that can be leveraged practically. This is equivalent of building black holes around us, in an attempt that someday we will find matter that will fill the hole.

The only problem with this approach is two fold: one, you are selling a bad product, and two, your self-promotional pitch was so unmemorable that the speaker decided not to set aside some processing power in her/his brain to remember you. No one remembers someone with an inflated sense of self-importance. There is a classical statistic from speed dating, which found that the men who hardly spoke but genuinely listened ended up getting dates more often than the other men who focused on speaking for a greater fraction of the speed dating.

At another end of the spectrum, I observe, often to my utter dismay, the fawning or servile approach. Rather than feeding their own self, the focus reverses to the person whom they deem influential enough. It may not be a conscious effort, and may simply stem from the lack of awareness of one’s real do-ablity. Specifically in Eastern cultures, including India, people are maneuvered to cushion their interests, to the point of obscurity, which is why sometimes the information and opportunities passes them by, and they don’t even take a notice. So, if you have a strong point, tie it together without taking the detour.

I said earlier that the focus should be on forging mutually befitting relationships, and here’s why: when you focus on creating black holes, as I call them, you are missing out on accidental benefits – amazing support systems, sponsors who would endorse you or vouch for you, mentoring opportunities, or just plain unbiased viewpoints – when you need it. So share something phenomenal that people will remember: spin relevant stories, be inquisitive and keep re-learning, and most of all, stay true to who you really are.

Differentiate the position from the person, be assertive,  don’t downplay yourself, and yet don’t oversell. It is a classical balance problem.

” Network” , and network with an end-goal in mind, which is two fold : one, to create spheres of influence, and two, to create information advantage” .– Saundarya Rajesh, AVTAR

Four quick thoughts that sum this up:

1. Focus on the end goal and then work backward: Accidents -> acquaintances ->associates ->advocates -> allies. The point is simple if you want to be moving from “foreplay” conversations to forging lasting relationships for mutually befitting relationships you will invariably have to focus on quality.

2. Measure it: If you are not moving from acquaintances to allies over a period of time, the networks don’t serve a deeper meaning. You see, input alone doesn’t count, what you made of it does.  The “measuring” bit doesn‘t have to be as flashy as excel but should suffice to give you a reinforcing feedback loop on your overall interpersonal and communication skills.

3. Have a compelling elevator pitch: An elevator pitch is something that gives a compelling introduction to who you are.  Craft one, and try to improvise depending on the listener and her/his background and Intellectual giftedness. Of course this means that you also change dynamically depending on the sophistication that the listener might have about your profession.

4. Demonstrate equality: You can’t have an enriching conversation when you do not consider yourself to be one among equals. Equality begets equality, and it begins with awareness of who you are and what you stand for. Reboot your operating system and get moving – and yes, practice, deliver and then practice again.

The theory of 10,000 years from different schools of thought says that deliberate repetition is a key. So go develop a lens for the world you want to live in, and grow – and then just reverse engineer what you want to achieve of any relationship that could help you towards it and work your way through it. Of course, it assumes you focus on forging a mutually beneficial relationship and not just trying to get around into a parasitic relationship.

Guess what,  we all like to push compelling and competitive candidatures.
Now, Go Rock!

 

Also published here – http://www.flexicareersindia.com/newsletter/jan2013/newsletter.htm

The larger Question and the meat of it thereof :  Wouldn’t the user pays subscription model work as well for Quora ? 

Here’s what I mean – As a user , I navigate about 10-20 questions in Quora every time I take out “time” I am willing to engage myself in. And then I go back and start to work on something, hit discussions in a multitude of channels and I forget – and that is when I want to refer to the same fact – in the organized way I first saw it in its context. 

  I think, that is part of the opportunity for Quora. As Achilleas Vortselas mentioned (at Quora) , “Quora as middleman”,  I envision the next layer of structuring and personalization to build on top of the collective knowledge of the community. 

 I want to (and I hope that other users want to, as well) organize this information in a useful way. And that could be highlighting the pages, that are only “specific to me” , like individual page reads.  Similarly, as a user I would be willing to pay for premium services like organizing my knowledge and contacts, and since it is personal, non-obtrusive to any one else. It’s my personal learning dashboard, that I can cross refer years from now, since I find information in a tier based fashion. One, by meta tags AND/OR (Quora) Boards, and two, by my personal notes. 

 

[Hypothesis: Since we are building social capital here, the content management, will take care of itself. ]

Challenge & opportunity  : Information retrieval from the end user’s perspective.  
 

[The Public Good…]
With literally tons of CEO’s and Executives engaging in this model – subscription should be able to make money. May be, in the future, Quora would make part of its revenue from firms funding their top employees, that is the future of Crowd Sourcing Revolution that we are beginning to see.  

  The future of this will be – the firms sponsoring employees/ committing resources to work on abstract problems and new concepts and “Grooming Aggregators” , since it will be far cheaper than the Home-Grown Talent model , difficult to source, retain and keep engaged all round the project. 

In some sense, it is how Rating agencies make money. Everyone else pools in, because everyone else does, and that is the social good at its BEST. 

 

[Hypothesis: Knowledge workers have always and will continue to pay for tools that make them more efficient ] 

Challenge & opportunity  : Of course that needs high computing and read-writes to store the user specific Information,and engineering a solution that can scale as well. Which is where the guiding rule of making money comes in. Make money roughly equal to (Revenue-Cost of engineering the solution), and should be positive.

 

So my Quick points here – 
User pays subscription model 

a. User specific page read/write(s)  and features to organize and personalise the information retrieval for later use. 

b. Putting structure in YOUR personal Network – listing and saving personal content/notes for lookup to organize the contacts from mere “followers and people who follow” paradigm . 

c. The Public good :  Rise of Crowd Sourcing and Social capital.

Business opportunity :  Innovating on the user specific needs(Behavioral & Business needs) and tailoring subscription plan that match these needs . 

PPS: Don’t pick me on words 🙂 Make money is dirty rule, but that’s what we are taking about here .

This article is a part of my original piece at Quora here .  Cosmetics and Technical updates/stack probe in progress.

Ekta

Traditionally, the goal of e-governance projects across the world has been broadly, twofold – ensuring a faster service time to address the pain points and lowering the cost of delivering the public services. However, as the new technologies such as Social media and Big data emerge, Governments should re-think of e-governance not merely as technology centric – but as a tool for participatory public policy.

The possibilities that social media has opened up for governments are many. For starters consider the GovLab, an initiative in USA which works with senior government executives and thought leaders from across the globe – and runs controlled experiments for a better public policy, while also helping reduce the costs of providing services. Or consider @sweden initiative by the government of Sweden, which along with an advertising company runs a twitter account controlled by ordinary citizens for seven days, on a roll basis. This project aims at better governance, engagement of its citizens by amplifying their voice in a transparent manner- while also supporting the tourism industry in Sweden.

    The other end of the spectrum are projects aimed at reinforcing good citizenship based on behavioural economics – across health, reducing fecal pollution by dogs by inducing the dog-owners to clean (Taiwan) , and creating incentives to ask for receipt and beat corruption in tax compliance (mainland China). These are experiments the rest of the world is exploring top change behaviours that stick.

       In the Indian context – now consider delivering mobile health care, where social media listening tools can offer countless opportunities to help deploy resources in an optimized manner – allowing for an efficient delivery to the “last mile”, and developing key infrastructure and utilities in the currently underserved districts. Or, consider supplementing the RBI’s latest e-governance application and online tracking system in its foreign exchange department with social media initiatives such as those developed by Clemson University, USA– that used social media listening tools to predict the direction of stock market and foreign exchange. Having similar projects can help triangulate the consumer and Foreign investor sentiment helping the central banks and governments to handle pressing monetary policy issues in a dynamic manner. The benefits are manifold –  allowing for a better planning and attracting the fleeting FDI by signalling the trends in consumer market thereby re-enforcing that India is indeed a key market from where future growth will emerge.

 

      Or look at the Aviation, FMCG or telecommunication sector – by bringing symmetry to the information in the markets – we can supplement existing institutions like the Competition Commission of India, CCI to extract useful information on consumer surplus to help decide on how best to allow the competitive landscape emerge, and help the businesses grow.  By supplementing their insight with an additional triangulation of relevant and contemporaneous data, this will allow us to do what is actually in the consumer interest, rather than what “they” think it is.  This is the helm of participatory governance.

    Bringing such innovative disruptive projects will also help entice top talents into public sector and help revive the competitive landscape by restricting brain drain to the much coveted private sector. By using wisdom of crowds and crowd sourcing its problems – this will create a rich vibrant pool of ideas in a fair meritocratic manner, while keeping the overall costs of the project considerably low. We opened up our markets for the world in 1991, and now it is time to open the governance for our citizens and best brains, by making it relevant. Of course like all the sectors, in its bare bones, it has challenges manifold. The first is a cultivating the mindset – but the good news is the developing trend of today’s dynamic youth to lead parallel careers and consultative projects for the social good. Then there is a disheartening mere 10.2% internet penetration  in India, the need for regulating the “social listening” if at such pilot programs are launched . Yet against all of this, we together, are more resourceful than the resources that constraint us.

In conclusion, amplifying the voice of the citizens in a transparent manner can help the governments do a cost benefit analysis of which public goods to develop, allowing for better five year plan – essentially outsourcing it’s public policy and developing a truly meritocratic governance. This in true terms is, the largest (democracy) – for the people, of the people and by the people.

 

The West is changing its traditional structures, and shifting the democracies bottom up – it’s time we caught up, too. Incredible India, after all.

[In hindsight, everything falls in place, everything.. ]

No matter how good I perform, I am never satisfied with my performance in the “Blue Book”. One reason for this, is that my handwriting has always been so bad, that if asked to read it myself- it would take me an hour to decipher my own letters. (Thankfully I now type all my assignments.)

So taking you back in time to 2006, and one of this, “Blue Book Blues Chapter” . As always I was not happy with how I had performed.  And I found myself sitting before the head of my department, Prof. Nitin V Pujari and in tears for a mark- to which he asked- “It is just one mark, does it really matter enough to weep?”

Sulking and clearing my chocked throat, I replied, “Yes Sir, because I have worked for this extra mark.”  He not only did give me that extra mark, but also told me something that I will never forget, and it all comes as Déjà vu to me, even to this day.

“Tomorrow you will graduate and today you are more than willing to work (in Industry). But day after tomorrow you will want to come back and go back to study again. That is life, but you will not understand it today.”

 

Like everyone else, while at college I always considered myself to be a hard working student. But life that it really is, I seldom ever looked at opportunities to grow beyond as a person, to collaborate with network of researchers, or passionate fellow students who were then building software to remotely manage their Personal computer’s , or rewiring the bus(es) in their computer with their new found knowledge of Integrated circuits. As for my version of 2006,  I never understood how to apply my new found knowledge, one that consumed 4 years of my life, and which I got by securing an All India rank of 188, something I am proud of, to this day.

     So we know there is a Gap, with something amiss, “something” we expect “somebody” to give us “somewhere”. Our parents and often we ourselves come to think of this “something” as “Education”, “somebody” as “Teachers”, and “somewhere” to be the “College”.    The question that then comes is three-fold – One,  How to apply and Two, how to make most of your Education and Three, How did I change, and How can you evolve, too ? (Hopefully for better) I will try to answer all these questions sequentially, borrowing ideas from my forthcoming book.

   The reason we don’t apply is because we either do not know, or that we focus too much energy on escaping the rat race, rather than building our skill sets and grooming ourselves. Anyone who understands the basic Demand-Supply , can intuitively understand that if there is a high supply of a skill, a neck to neck competition will follow towards supplying the limited demand.

   Unless you really know what you want to do with your life –  when you leave the college, you will really be Generalists, certified to be moulded into organizations.  And , as the organizations start to demand plug and play workers – this will mean that you will be judged in your respective jobs on what you bring to the table and this will eventually impact how to shape your career and how soon you grow both personally and in your careers.

How to make most of your education – really is much personalized blue print, that I wish all students to develop while still at college. In essence this links to the “Application of ideas“ I mentioned above,  and would require expanding the “eco-system of your skill sets” in the direction of where you really want to grow.  This means to plan your dots backward, you will have to CREATE those dots in the first place.

  And lastly, How do you start – well, knows no one answer, in fact there is no one single answer. It is about stretching yourself and then stretching a little more – for willpower is like muscle that has to be exercised every single time you are faced with something you think you can remotely achieve.  The organizations and their needs are changing, and with that a you have to evolve too, and fast enough – and most importantly, continue to invest in yourself not for a job, but for a life-long process of learning and growing as a person. 

When you really look at life, it is just a series of actions that we consciously choose to do that shape our perceptions, and thought processes – and in these formative years it is this thought process that decide how soon will you get there.  Your mind, can achieve truly miraculous feats, if you let it. It is learning the difference between information,  which is just rapidly aging facts –and to that truly learn we must make sense of this information and use it to build knowledge .

When I was a Bachelors student, I had never imagined I would change lanes completely from Computer Science to Quantitative Economics, my current Masters, which I shortly finish. In between this time, I have travelled 6 countries across  2 continents, failed another exam, and rebuilt myself all over again in a completely new culture and language , I knew nothing about.  I have found in myself the courage to shut up that voice that tells me why I can’t do what I set to do, and to re-evolve and compete with my international peers in a Ph.D. program, when I did not even have a Bachelors Education  in Economics.

I have matured as person, learnt how our inactions count as much as our actions and most importantly –  I have learnt how to listen and express gratitude for all that I have. And for who I am today, I have to thank my teachers, for telling me all this even when I was I was not receptive, for otherwise, I would have missed this boat ;  I now call life, altogether. 

ekta

[On applied economics in business models, revenue growth & blue ocean strategies for the passer-by customers]

 

And then, there was a “Google” with its much coveted page ranking algorithm, but the users and the companies betting their money & resources on the web wanted more, and they wanted it fast.

 

So was born the Big data wave (well there was a lot more in the space between.. ). So what is this Big data wave, and what is the ecosystem behind it?

 

Quite simply it is this – given a piece of information, how likely is it that this behaviour will be “consistent” – or that given that I see a response A , what is the probability that it will continue to be (in some confidence intervals) , still A ? At it’s heart, Bayesian classifiers and the whole lot of Quantitative Econometrics & modelling tries to do just this – except the fact – that the data that we indeed have- is just NOT enough to MAKE scientific decisions. Now let’s understand why this is so –

 

Simply because  the NEED of capturing so many dimensions of data have only evolved very recently, and thus given that we cannt really back test the models, is as good as saying, well , look we have a CLO \ CDO instrument ( the ones that got the 2008 Global Financial meltdown)  – bu we do not know whether we can really bet on it – and now , surprise ! Companies value it like they value money – since everybody does, this must be WORKING .

 

Then is this picture true/not true ?

 

Well it depends, yes,  having an additional way to triangulate / benchmark the Business decisions must be  good , having a deep insight into customer buying patterns, and knowing how best to facilitate his decision making must be good too, but the fact remains simple –

 

“ Given that that information becomes a commodity, how do we price it ? ”   – how do we know the price points that this information can be “traded at”. This question was originally raised in a Big data talk at the Churchill club, but it has stayed on. Ever since, I have asked this question to the CEO’s of Research Analytics firms, marketing & PR firms and to people in the Big data wave. They say, well right now, we are beginning to understand to measure different dimensions of the willingness to pay of the consumer, and the more and better insight we have into this , the better will we be able to “classify this information” – it is like the intelligent filtering , the more intelligence pumps in, but more is never enough , since it is so qualitative.

 

On top of this wave rides another wave, which is with Social media listening tools, trying to draw trends and analysis, and adapt before being lost in the over social- connected- spilling wave. This wave relies on trusting that (Thus if you throw in an assumption that people put their best foot forward, most of the quantitative models would collapse , on the predictability count – and they, like money  is valued, solely because “everyone buys this currency” –  so while the consumers get more and more aware of the “listening” they would get more “probabilistic-ally sophisticated”  – though it is hard to say , whether it is good, or bad – surely that evolution will happen in my career trajectory, and would be wonderful to ride this wave, and not just be another “passer by” . So welcome again, to the new evolution , which si essentially “inside out” of the consumer needs, but just with some frills attached , may be because  “the consumer himself does not know what he wants ” .

 

There is one more thought that I want to leave you with – ” Those that make the choices, simpler, faster, more guilt free, and use rewarding schemes, will get there first- and ofcourse cascading through the choice paradigm of the consumer has never been as challenging as this.  So knowing I love coffee, only when it rains, and only in the evening, is a powerful information – This is the goal – knowing, when, what, how I like to consume the goods & services – this is the future of personal marketing. 

 

( I used to write a lot about Permission marketing, but I think the loyalty gets all time low, and so does the ROI on the same)

 

So, Modelling has evolved, so has revenue metrics , “customer satisfaction” and the “needs of the customer” – the age of good to have, but why pay – but the good news is though the customers spend a lot of time with differing services, they are getting less price sensitive when it come to anything digital/technology ( Controlling for the business cycle affect) . In my previous post, I also described, how passer by’s are being tricked in consumers (pun-intended) – This in my opinion is the evolution of economics – and this evolution is VERY PROMISING, indeed !

 

So welcome to a world where all sciences come together in this one world ! 

And businesses always want more, they value growth & blue oceans, that’s where the meat is , afterall !


 

Ekta Grover

 

 

 

  

(Dead God, Where ever you are, please tell my Mom that it was the best for me to change lanes from Computer science to Quantitative Economics , and now understand the world more completely 🙂 )

[Includes excerpts from the “Alternative Payment methods” Workshop with Kai Boyd, CEO Deal United , March 2012 ]

We know the stuff about digital games, tracking our trends and the Big data, and the conversation starts exactly from this “How can make money in the ever increasing distributed e-commerce world ?

I attended a workshop with Kai Boyd, CEO Deal United a firm that invented Pay-By-shopping. Now virtual currency has been there for long, with Paypal being the market leader by far (by Revenue)

These are some of the statistics he mentioned   (**Please see disclaimer)

Virtual currency constitutes $.5 Billion of the $1.5 Billion dollars of the Facebook revenue.

Of the 850 million users, 20-30 % of the users play games online 

Of this the majority of the users are 22-55 (female) 

Consumers “bought goods” worth as much as physical/real $ 10 in the virtual garden . Could you believe people buying virtual pigs for $ 10 ?? 

With a brief background on the online retail in gaming and other goods , we  discussed the monetizing opportunities in the digital goods  space.  We moved over to the case studies & each team had to make piches on strength of the Business model, and every metric we could consider for the growth of the Business model – which could be customer growth, Merchant growth per month, facility of paying in local currency for transparency, Double layer security, No block up fees like Paypal . (more on this later )

The following were the case studies we had to perform :

SupersonicAds  , Pay by Shopping  , Click And Buy  , sofortüberweisung , Amazon payments and ofcourse Paypal

As for Pay.by.shopping and other players in this space – their model is simple :
Track the users using the sophiticated analytics tools that we have, to know what a consumer would be “willing to buy”. Through this, you have a panel data of consumers and a matrix of things he might want to buy. All this could effectively be tracked via Socil Media Analytical solutions such as semantic listening/research tools like crimson hexagon , radian6 .

[ Super hintQuora  pretty much cover very detailed crowd-sourced answers – please check them 🙂 There is a super amazing post on Zynga’s analytics and(early) success again at Quora, check it out . ] 

Now pause for a moment, and think about the last time you went online to play a game, and quit just before you had to pay for an “advanced round” to buy sheep, or goat or whatever and you quit (Who buys Virtual sheep) Now, you see why they say, “your actions are as important as your inactions” – which is to say that by declining you are still giving the Analytics algorithm, if you would, an opportunity to know about your preferences.
Next week is your Girlfriend’s birthday, and facebook prompty reminds you of flowers, or expensive jewellery, or a dress (you get the point) – But here’s the trick –
You get to pay for the flowers and keep the “game” for free in a virtual world.

While according to Behavioral Economics and Neuroscience, you kept the “game” or software, or whatever it is you were willing to “try”, but not “buy” – you get an extra ulility from the free-seemingly-no-strings-attached .

EXCEPT that –
According to what we know from “Influence” and Gaming – once you keep something, the mind’s natural tendency is to continue using it, ven though after sometime you would have to pay for it. Like, Free copies of newspaper, like 3 months trials (cancellable afterwards) , and the list goes on .

Where is the OPPORTUNITY ?

There is a BIG space, that all Analytical companies are trying to harp on, develping relaible means to interpret this “Big Data”. It is HUGE money and a very recent way of making scientific decisions in revenue growth, sales, customer segmentation – across Telecommunication companies for tariff plans and Online retail companies & supermarkets for customer segmentation for premium & commodity products
(The telecommunication sector and Online retail are two main spaces where the Big players have virtually killed most margins to boost volume growth)

The  Workshop 

Later in the workshop we were divided into teams and we had to compare various “digital currency’ payment companies , like Paypal,Pay-By-shopping etc.  I think I did a fair job by crisply pitching why click&buy was better vis a vis paypal.

The seemingly innocuous comparison between the Click&buy vs. Paypal just reduces to this —

1. Double layer of security – SSl coding & the security from normal bank registration processes

2. No fixed sum of money that rests in your account and verifical procedures – A new account is directly piad for by the debit card (unlike Paypal that “blocks” about $1.95 in your account.

3. The possibility of paying in your local currency – directly from your card , or the conversion which is transparent (paypal got on to this )

4. The huge Growth rate of new customers each month , new merchants and finally ..

5. Creating an eco-system of “local relevant offers” – that can be used to increse revenue streams from existing customers. Thus, capturing on the “localization” is a fair trend to bet on.

One more thing, we were given just 15 minutes 2 teams each of size 6 , and our team hot 3 topics and the other one 2. I broke down the team into subteam of size 2 to use the 15 minutes more effectively (so , teams of 3*2 = 6  with one topic each) . At the end of the workshop, the other team said it wasn’t fair for us to divide the team internally.  

     Well, welcome to the corporate, and getting things done. Point.
Think different.

Ekta

** All views, unless in Italics are my understanding or synthesis from the workshop. Please quote with discretion.


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