Thursday
Apr252013

BBC HORIZON: THE AGE OF BIG DATA

This episode is about data mining, and using that information to predict trends across many facets of our society , and how this information will impact our lives.

I believe people need to think about the impact Big Data will have on academic institutions and children entering elementary school in the next few years. I expect schools will attempt to use the data collected from their early academic careers, perhaps even in the first few years of grade school, to dictate the academic needs of a generation before they even graduate from primary school.

Insert a few years of test scores, enter a collection of numerical variables to represent personality traits, and tally up a record of web searches, then run it through an algorithm to assign an academic path for a student. Therefore, allowing school administrators to figure out admission targets 15 years in the future, economists to workout the make up of the workforce in 20 years, and give political strategist a look at the future power base in 25 years.

Perhaps it will make things more efficient, but will students be unfairly assigned an academic future based on faulty assumptions and inadequate algorithms?

Thursday
Feb142013

Achieve Success by Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone 

You have two choices when taking on a project that you feel is beyond your expertise. You can succumb to the fear of failure and walk away or see it as an opportunity to challenge yourself and develop new skills.

Overcome your doubts by focusing on a successful outcome, developing a positive attitude and following a structured plan.

Here is a guideline to help you take on any task or project.

Get a firm understanding of what you are trying to achieve

Define the goal of the project and condense it to its core objective. It will give you a succinct idea of what actions you need to take to achieve this objective.

Also, take a cursory inventory of the milestones, people and skills that will be involved in reaching your objective.

Doubts come from facing the unknown. Encapsulating important information gives you an easy reference to keep you confident and focused.

Focus on the “what” and not the “how”

People clutter their brain with an over emphasis on maintaining a budget, delegating people and using complicated project management tools

Remove yourself from the “how” mindset and become a visionary. Sit back, take what you know from your early notes and come up with an image of what you want to accomplish. Visualize success.

Confidence in your abilities will come from focusing on the certainty of success, not the possibility of failure.

Feel confident about your work experience and talents

Skills are transferable and your unique qualities will strengthen any endeavour.

People define a great career by the ever-increasing amount of faith and responsibility given to an employee over many years of service. Consequently, you challenge an employee with tasks outside their comfort zone to test if they are ready to be leaders.

A new generation of executives and managers are becoming jacks-of-all-trades and masters of some. You may not be able to draw a straight line, but if having that skill is important to the project, odds are you will learn how to do it.

Maximize every interaction with your manager or client

A lack of feedback will magnify your fears. In most cases, you are building on ideas and products other people have already developed. Use that to your advantage and do not frustrate yourself by trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, work with the people that have built the foundation of the project. In the end, they are your most critical audience.

Being dismissive and closed-minded makes your job harder. Take time to digest the material you have gathered, and come back to the decision makers to ask questions that are more specific. This helps guarantee you are making the right decisions.

Be aggressive but diplomatic in getting the answers you need. Carefully construct your questions and be adaptable to the answers even if it is not what you want to hear.

Commit to your plan of attack

People over think creative endeavours, they wander from one idea to another. However, they never take in to account the chaos this type of flip-flopping causes along the way.

Be flexible, but at all costs try to stick to your original vision. Once you are dedicated to the path and destination, your job is to delegate, manage and deploy to get there.

Contribute when you can and ask for help when you cannot

If you are not artistic, but more of a right brain thinker, you may feel sheepish about offering your opinion on aesthetic issues. However, try to remember that everyone fills different need on a team.

Ultimately, a good team blends the best of everyone’s talents, and what skill one person lacks the other brings to the project. Your job is to guide them, trust their input, offer your knowledge and lastly, help them flesh out your ideas.

Use the internet

Take your time and see what others have accomplished with similar projects. Inspire yourself with the achievements of others, but beware the many dangers of plagiarism.

Draw from the many assets your company has to offer

Make a general request across the company for help.

This type of crowd sourcing reduces cost by keeping everything in house. It also exposes internal talent, and brings in fresh ideas to any endeavour.

Remember, it is natural to be hesitant when presented with what first appears to be an overwhelming project. However, you can overcome this challenge by confirming your objectives, believing in your skills, drawing confidence from your experience and standing firmly behind your choices.

Thursday
Feb142013

Five Reasons Students Might Consider Using Credit 

In North America, students can apply for credit when they attend a post-secondary institution, even without verifiable income. The credit available to them ranges from low limit credit cards to education loans that can reach into the tens of thousands.

A person can use this to their advantage, credit decisions made as a student can make a considerable contribution towards the amount of capital and assets they can obtain after graduation.

  1. You can leverage the benefits of a credit card without succumbing to high interest rates.The high interest rates charged by credit card companies are a result of a multitude of factors, but the greatest factor is the high default rate on these types of products.Be smart when using credit cards, use the interest free grace period after a purchase to enhance cash flow. An individual may not have the funds now, but as long as the balance is paid in full no interest will be charged.In addition, many cards carry a set of free insurances that may include a 90-day replacement warranty for retail items that are stolen, lost or damaged and an additional year of manufactures warranty on certain electronics and appliances.

    Please note that anything considered a cash advance on a credit card will incur interest from the day the transaction occurred. Also, people need to read the credit card disclosure for their particular card before making any purchases.

  2. See a credit card as an opportunity to build a relationship with a financial institutionApplying for a lending product is a chance to discuss future needs and see what other valuable services the company offers.Companies want your business, so remember to ask if they have any special banking offers or discounts for purchasing multiple products.Furthermore, your loyalty to a company can lead to better lending and interest rates when buying a house or planning for retirement.
  3. A long credit history can make you a more appealing credit customer

    Credit worthiness includes many variables, including repayment habits; the number of open credit facilities a person currently has, debt to income ratio and credit history.Even if a person never carries a balance from one month to the next, regular use of a credit card will contribute towards a positive credit score. In particular, lenders like to see credit cards that have been active over an extended period of time and show no late payments.Sadly, as a person gets older the lack of a credit history makes lenders see them as a risk and therefore applying for credit becomes harder once a person is no longer a student.Remember, a secondary user on a credit card gets no credit history benefit because the application is under the primary cardholder’s name.
  4. Using credit facilities can prepare you for a more secure financial future after graduation.At some point, people will consider home and vehicle ownership. A decent credit history will offer more options when it comes to low interest rates and how much debt a credit company will allow someone to carry.Besides financial concerns, having an excellent credit history can affect a person’s ability to get a job or rent an apartment. Employers and landlords are now using credit checks to filter out candidates and unsavory tenants.As the job’s and renter’s market becomes more competitive a great credit rating might give a person a competitive advantage.
  5. The use of credit products develops a sense of independence and responsibilityOptimally, it is wise to have one of three things before applying for a credit card. These include some savings, a job, or parents willing to cover debt expenses.Although, making minimum payments might be convenient, it makes paying off the card almost impossible. Minimum payments in the long run do not make economic sense, but it will keep a credit score clean.Over time, students need to transition financial responsibilities over from their parents. Paying for a credit card might be someone’s first reoccurring bill. It is an opportunity to develop good repayment habits and budgeting skills.

Although, using credit is not for everyone, applying for credit as a student can be an important milestone. Used wisely, even a student credit card can alleviate many future hurdles involved in asset acquisition and give a person a sense of responsibility before taking full control of their lives.

Wednesday
Feb132013

Guidelines: Email Etiquette

email-iconWhether you are sending an email to a friend, colleague, or customer, take an extra moment to ensure the email is confidential, professional, and relevant.

Keep these tips in mind when sending out an email.

Do not leave the subject line blank

For productivity enthusiasts, being able to quickly identify and reference a message or request is the key to prioritizing their action lists.

Therefore, subject lines are the easiest way to grab someone's attention, and allow them to either reply right away to the message or place it on an action list. Otherwise, your message may become unnoticed, unread, or worse deleted.

Moreover, in some professional settings, properly labeling an email demonstrates a good measure of due diligence. The type of subject line you use, or if you use them at all, can speak volumes about your attention to detail or the respect you give to other people's time.

Marking an email as urgent

There is an inherent risk when you label any message as urgent.

Today, most people are suffering from work overload and struggle to answer all the messages in their inbox without people making unnecessary demands on their time and attention. In marking your message urgent, you force someone to give special attention to your request and deviate from his or her action plan or schedule.

Be sure you need to mark something as urgent before you send it off. Ask yourself whether your message really deserves special attention, and whether this action with give you the results you want.

Reasons to send urgent requests:

  • You have a good working relationship with the recipient and you have established an understanding with the person about these types of messages.
  • You have sent multiple messages that have gone unanswered, and a hard deadline leaves you with little choice but to send an urgent message.
  • As a courtesy, if you are contacting someone's manager, supervisor, or the company's upper management about a client or account they are working on.
  • You work in an industry or office that demands a quick turnaround time and it is a common procedure to mark messages as high priority.

Nevertheless, even if you work in an environment where marking messages as urgent is a common occurrence, overusing urgent requests will ultimately result in the word urgent losing its impact to rush something along.

Ultimately, give people the same consideration that you would expect.

Consider a few things before you send out an important message:

  • If I were the recipient, will I consider this message urgent?
  • How is the recipient going to react to me marking this message as urgent?
  • Can I write a subject line that will get me a quick response without annoying the recipient?

A person's to do list is an important and delicate document. Showing disregard or disrespect to someone's time can increase a person's stress level and inhibit their productivity. Both of these circumstances can have a direct impact on your work and sustain a good relationship with coworkers.

Always keep privacy and confidentiality in mind when you send out a message

Because of the speed, convenience, and overuse of emails and instant messaging, people have become slack about properly reviewing a message before sending it out.

A lack of due diligence is dangerous when an email is sent to one recipient; but, it can be catastrophic when it is blasted out to multiple people.

Things to consider before you send out an email:

  • Before forwarding an email, review the message and consider if any of the content will be misunderstood, if seen out of context.
  • Scan a message for any proprietary information that can harm your company competitive standings.
  • Because a recipient may not want their contact information shared with a third party, decide whether you need to place all additional recipients in the BBC.
  • Protect your client list. Most times, the development of these lists is an expensive and or labour intensive effort. For some companies, releasing this type of information can sink their business.
  • Do not rush a response. If you are in the middle of another activity or your attention is elsewhere, you need to pause and take a moment to decide if a response can wait until you have a quiet moment to focus.
  • Place a disclosure notice in the email or subject line if you believe the information contained in the email is confidential and ask that the recipient treat the information as so.
  • Before sending off an email to a third party, ask the sender if they are comfortable with you taking this action.
  • Leaked emails can lead to the tarnishing of reputations, legal proceedings, and terminations. Remember; never write anything in an email that you would not be willing to say in person, over the phone, or in a paper letter.

Conclusion

In any company, office, or working relationships, there is always a chance peoples standards of professionalism might become lax.

Even if you are busy or your attention is split between multiple tasks, take a moment to properly review, format and edit any message before sending it out.