Why is English Critical to the Gig Economy

Gig Economy - Business woman driving a car

Welcome to the Gig Economy

Most organizations no longer give people the promise, or even hint, of lifetime employment. While stock options, bonuses and other compensation help keep employees for some period of time, in most cases, employment has become a matter of mutual benefit to the employer and the employee. An August 2015 study by accounting software maker Intuit expects upwards of 43 percent of people to be in the contingent labor market by 2020. When people want to leave to do something else, they leave.

Stephane Kasriel, CEO of upwork, the largest freelancer platform, called the Gig Economy the secret weapon of the US economy in his last interview in The Street.

Facing disruption in many once-stable industries, more workers are freelancing and turning to “alternative” employment strategies to cobble together their livings, but as the economy improves, the amount, perception, and desirability of freelance work seems to be changing.
63 percent of freelancers said that they started freelancing out of choice, up 10 points since 2014. A majority also said that they saw having a “diversified portfolio of clients” as more stable than having a single employer. And about half of them said that there was “no amount of money” that could convince them to take a traditional job. (Results from an online survey of roughly 6,000 working Americans).

I see people who move from company-to-company as being great at three personal learning traits:

  • rapid understanding of a business,
  • social awareness that allows them to quickly become a effective co-workers, &
  • swift mastery of variations in process and practice.

Good interpersonal communications support those three traits, as does the ability to understand the work environment—and that requires a solid understanding of the working language, which more likely than not, will be English.

Business English as the Voice of Talent

In many ways, English becomes the protocol that permits the Gig Economy to work. If people had to assimilate new language and cultural concepts to do about the same kind of job they did at another company, the Gig Economy would fill with friction. It would take people large amounts of time to learn what they need to know to be effective.

Gig Economy - man working on laptop at coffee shop

But because English has become the protocol for representing ideas, the frameworks across business become transparent. And when variations occur, everyone uses that same language framework for describing those variations. As people move throughout their Gig jobs, picking up ever more experience, they will find fewer and fewer variations they have not seen before.

So English becomes the lubrication of the Gig Economy, allowing people to deliver value to multiple employers during their careers by leveraging their growing experience within domains of knowledge, rather than functions within a given business.

The Gig Economy appeals to many because it also allows them more personal choice and flexibility as to when to work, and even where. People throughout the world who want to find employment in the Gig economy would do well to master Business English so they can more easily move not just from job-to-job, or employer-to-employer, but from country-to-country.

Will Innovative New School 42 Create The Next Gold Alumni Network?

Innovative New School 42 Karine-42-2

Will Innovative New School 42 Create The Next Gold Alumni Network?

For many of us in the Silicon Valley, we know well the shortage of programmers and coders. We also know that the shortage isn’t just about coding, but about innovative thinking among those who know how to code.

I was thinking about this as I drove to an event recently. After a beautiful drive over the Dumbarton Bridge from the Peninsula, I arrived in Fremont, at a large building—and I entered the brand new US-based school known simply as 42.

For those of you not familiar with Ecole, it is a new university model aimed at disrupting education by providing a FREE coding school, that is project-based and peer reviewed.  You read it right: No teachers, no lectures, no tuition.

The university model has operated in Paris for a while.  It is fully funded with a $100M philanthropic effort of a well known businessman, Xavier Niel, who already disrupted the telecom industry with mobile operator Iliad’s Free brand.

I have previously written about how investment in education has increased over the last several years. This is driven not only by the student loan crisis and the increasing focus on the ROI of educational institutions, but also by the new ways to monetize and deliver education enabled by the Internet.

Digitalization has impacted educational products, services and delivery. It has also expanded the set of players coming to the market. For example, LinkedIn acquired Lynda, creating new vertical strategy for technology market learning. In the digital world, learning on its own is not sufficient. These digital services exponentially increase the value for learners. Lynda’s, for instance, links to finding a job as an outcome, with its integration into recruitment services.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to moderate a launch roundtable for the ‘piscine’ at 42. The “piscine,” or “pool” is an intensive entrance process that gives students a month at the school to understand learner motivation and skill.  I was impressed by the scale, the speed and the team driving this project.

There are many factors that make 42 unique and successful. Here are few of my thoughts about their approach:

  • A team with an incredible passion and ability to execute

Each person proudly wears their Ecole 42 staff tee-shirt. The style of communication is open and collaborative. Every staff member is either an alumni, shares a strong sense of purpose with the school, or is an avid defender of the model. They want to show how to provide access to critical skills for people who might not otherwise have access.

Just two months ago they announced they would come to the US and launch in the summer. And here they are, with new buildings, the first set of students, all while finalizing the campus.

  • The magic sauce: An end-to-end model with the student at the center

Not only is there a shared pedagogy, but the whole structure is centered on the individual.

The school does not include the idea of a standard “term,” recognizing that every individual progresses his or her own pace. Some may finish the school and get to level 21 in 2 years, while other learners may take as long as 5 years.

Brittany Bir, the COO of 42, explained that accounts will never close. This leaves the opportunity for students to come back if it becomes relevant to them.

While tuition is free, Kwame Yamgnane, the managing director of 42, asserts that free tuition is not sufficient. The ability to come back means tuition remains free for life.

42 also offers lodging. Onsite dorms provide learners with a place to stay while they learn.

Initial success

I had the opportunity to talk with two students, Antoine Bungert and Henri Dumas. Antoine is currently a Level 10 student in Paris. He has participated in the annual 42/HEC partnership program. Henri, a Level 11, recently completed a partnership and an internship with thanks to his studies at 42.

Innovative New School 42 Karine-41-1Both students recognized an immediate connection of their studies to potential jobs. The moment the students shared their studies at 42 via LinkedIn companies started reaching out with job offers.

42 students help reach underserved populations. Eighteen-percent of the students are women,  five times that of institutional averages.

Not only does 42 attract job offers and teach great coding, but they help their students master 21st Century skills like collaboration, communication and team work, skills often not taught by other schools.

I bet the alumni network of this school will be strong. I look forward to seeing how their graduates flourish as entrepreneurs and innovators that start their own businesses and contribute within larger organizations!

Continuous Learning Conversations at Pearson English

startup business, woman working on laptop - Continuous Learning Conversations at Pearson English

My Continuous Learning Conversations at Pearson English

Over the last couple of weeks, I wrote three blogs for the Pearson English website that extend the recent continuous learning themes I explored here. I want to share the opening paragraphs of the blogs and links to them. I look forward to your thoughts!

female researcher using a microscope in a lab - Continuous Learning Conversations at Pearson EnglishContinuous Learning: Staying Relevant to the Talent Conversation

I am very excited about the dialog that Pearson English Business Solutions is creating around the future of jobs, and the need for continuous learning. Anyone who has been reading my personal blog knows that continuous learning is very important to me. I think continuous learning is critical to people staying relevant in the 21st Century job market.

Read more here.

Is Learning English the Way to Tackle English-biased Research?

In order to change the world, we have to start by accepting it where we find it. When it comes to content on the Internet, the vast majority of it is written in English. Even non-English speaking countries like Germany, France and Spain produce much of their scientific literature in English. Eighty percent of articles, for instance, collected by the SCOPUS database of peer-reviewed articles, were written in English according to a 2012 study by Research Trends.

Read more here.

man using laptop on the floor over white background - Continuous Learning Conversations at Pearson EnglishEnglish as a Gateway Skill

English is currently the most important language of business and business travel. I speak French, but when I travel, I am much more likely to meet someone who shares speaking English with me, than speaking French. The following list offers evidence as to why English is dominant, but more importantly, why it is important to invest in reaching English proficiency.

Read more here.

Three more ways to learn continuously

Learn continuously

Learn continuously

Over the last several posts, I have explored continuous learning. Here are the last three topics for now. I look forward to creating a dialog around this topic. Please comment if you have other ideas or questions about continuous learning.

1. Say yes – keep space for spontaneity

Learn continuously

When people are asked to do things, a lot goes on in their mind. Do I have time? Can I afford it? What do I get out of it? Who is getting something out of this beside me? Is this aligned with my plans?

All very selfish thoughts. I find that one of the best ways to be selfish is to just say, yes. When you say yes you put yourself into situations that you wouldn’t be in if you had said no. Now I don’t mean dangerous situations, but business situations. Let’s say somebody asked you to be on a panel, to present at a conference, take on a new project or coach a new employee. If you say no, you will never meet the people on the panel, you will never learn new things as you prepare for the presentation, you will never gain experience through the wins and failings of the project, and you will never have the opportunity to get to know a really interesting new person at more than a passing level.

All of that happens because you say yes; break through the barrier of routine, and open yourself up to learning.

2. Hold your beliefs lightly

Learn continuouslyIf you think you know something, you may be reluctant to look into it any deeper. I have conversations all of the time about topics that I think I know something about, but when I get in a group, I find that some of what I know is only surface knowledge, and some of it is wrong. If I hold on to what I think I know about everything, I can’t learn new things. In some areas I might be considered a subject matter expert, but even in these areas, I am not the only source, or even the best source for all aspects of entrepreneurship, managing start-ups or social learning. I think a subject matter expert is someone who actively learns all of the time, someone who is passionate about their area, but not so trapped by their beliefs that they can see when disruptions happen, new insights occur or new technologies offer improvements. Be humble even about what you know because some new discovery may be very important to your future, and you need to be willing to embrace it, or it may just pass you by.

3. Negotiate learning into your objectives

Learn continuouslyThis is harder than it sounds because when most people write their objectives, they create them based on their manager’s objectives — which are derived from other, higher-level objectives. Even organizations that consider themselves “learning organizations” seldom flow down any meaningful learning objectives to individuals.

People can take classes, but they often feel like the classes take time away from work, and the success of that work drives personal assessments, and personal assessments drive bonuses. Contributing to lessons-learned systems and in-house communities often get left out of time measurements and success metrics. If you can’t integrate learning into your personal achievement equation, you will probably skip most learning opportunities. People don’t get paid for learning more on the job, really, do they?

I find it useful to not assume that this is the case. I have learned to take the time to talk with my manager about what I need to know to advance in my career, and then find ways to put that learning into my objectives. If it is important enough that I know something to better contribute to the organization, then it is important enough that the organization recognize my effort to learn it. Even for a CEO!

Continuous Learning: Adopt What You Learn by Doing Stuff

Adopt What You Learn

Adopt What You Learn

Many organizations sponsor professional development classes, or people take brief courses on their own at a local college or online.  With our get-everything-done-now world it may be convenient to drop these short courses into your life, but it is much harder to figure out what to do with what you have learned. The same is true of books or conversations. I have a list of great ideas. Many of them are still waiting to be great for me. But some of them do help me reorient  my work, or change the way I think. But I must make the effort, I must try to incorporate the idea into the way I do things and see if it really works.

I went to a meeting recently where I learned some important ideas I wanted to apply to my business, including some insights out about how best to design a website. I didn’t just send out a list of five ideas people should start doing. I sat down and wrote five e-mails for things like redoing our website, which were turned into projects with accountabilities and commitments for doing things differently. I think if I had just sent out a note about how to make a better website, we would still have the same website. Now, we not only have started implementing those ideas, but we are actively looking for other great practices to apply.

Every one of my direct personnel is required to routinely create a learning and development activity report. Each of them will have to identify a minimum of two areas where learning will be integrated immediately.

I’m trying to get my team to build continuous learning into any change activity. Every one of my direct personnel is required to routinely create a learning and development activity report. Each of them will have to identify a minimum of two areas where learning will be integrated immediately. I think it is essential for a development program to create a mindset in which individuals find applicable learning and actively, and visibly, engage in applying that learning. I tell them to ‘adopt what you learn.’ I don’t want to just encourage passive learning. I want my team to see that their peers are applying learning, and perhaps that will even inspire them to learn more from each other.

Continuous Learning: Be a connector and find the relationship building approach that suits you best

businessman and social network structure relationship building

Be a connector and find the relationship building approach that suits you best

When you are given an opportunity to meet an interesting person, don’t be shy, even if you are shy. I’m kind of shy, but I’ve meet CEOs, diplomats and technology leaders, and some of them are now my mentors and friends. They would be neither if I hadn’t made the effort to meet them and talk with them. Relationship building is an active, not passive activity.

Sure, a lot of your encounters are brief, and you may not get to do much more than say hello, but sometimes, you get to have a leisurely breakfast or a deep conversation ahead of a presentation, or the opportunity for a chat over a glass of wine at the end of a day. But you know what? If you are standing shyly on the side, not approaching a person to at least say hello, none of those things is ever going to happen … unless you are the interesting person and people come over to you. Yes, that is a bit of extra advice: you are an interesting person and if you are confident and open, people will want to know you.

To be honest, I don’t do well when I’m in a big group— I find in big groups all of our defenses are up—and that’s not where I connect best. So I have learned to not only master my shyness when in big crowds, but also to not be bashful in reaching out to people I already know at conferences and get myself invited to dinners, for instance, where I can really talk to people. In a smaller setting, over time, everybody can get comfortable and we become more vulnerable — and that is when we really start having a conversation, when we really start getting to know each other.

Some readers may be comfortable in other situations. If that is true, then you should try to find a way to bring yourself into those situations more often. That is where you will learn best.

Continuous Learning: Get out of your comfort zone, but on a schedule that fits your lifestyle

Get out of your comfort zone
Get out of your comfort zone…

To put it simply, you have to get out. Out of the office, out of the house—you have to get out of your comfort zone. Our global connections let us learn anywhere, but there is nothing like the conversation after an interesting presentation as people descend on snacks or a sunny patio. If you can’t afford, or aren’t invited to major industry events, you can still get connected to local groups or associations like Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce, as well as more topic-specific clubs. Many cities now hold regular networking meetings coordinated through organizations like Network After Work. I am always fascinated, and often humbled, by the people I meet. I usually go to an event with a question in mind, or a hypothesis I want to research — sometimes the best question is just: “What brought you here tonight?”

…but on a schedule that fits your lifestyle

I have two very personal thoughts about events. First, local events need to recognize that people have families. Rather than starting at 5pm, they should consider starting later so people can get home, share time with their children, eat a meal together, and then go out after the children are asleep. My Lean-In Circle starts at 8:30pm in recognition of this need and this reality.

 While you have to balance priorities between work and family during a regular week, when you travel, your priority should be to get as much out of that trip as possible.

The second event thing for me is using travel as a time to meet people and connect. When I’m traveling, I run on a different schedule, so I leverage that to go to everything I can and to meet all of the people I can. I don’t think it is a good use of your time to go to an event, paid for by your company or yourself, and spend all of your time in a hotel room working or watching television. How many opportunities do you have to meet and interact with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people who can provide you insights, potentially buy your product or add value to it, or to just hold a good conversation? While you have to balance priorities between work and family during a regular week, when you travel, your priority should be to get as much out of that trip as possible.

Continuous Learning: Working with mentors and giving back

Working with mentors and giving back

Working with mentors and giving back

Learning from mentors

I love learning and some of my best experiences come from mentors. Some large companies formalize mentorships, and that is okay. I tend to like finding people I respect, and once I get to know them, I ask them to become a mentor. Some people have been my mentors for years, some of them are new—and some I have lost in job transitions. I am always honored to be mentored, regardless of the length of time, or just while I’m working at a company. To have someone take interest in your life and career is a special thing.

One of my great mentoring experiences was with the person who hired me at Microsoft. He threw all kinds of things at me that I needed to learn. I learned by stretching, sometimes reaching beyond my comfort zone. He set very high standards. It wasn’t enough to learn something, I had to master it.

As much as he was giving me this opportunity to learn and stretch, perhaps the most important lesson I learned was that I own the perception of what ‘good’ means. Other people can define good performance or good learning, but they are defining it for themselves, not for you. I learned I have to be satisfied with my own work, and no one can give that to you. Praise from others is great, but as you move up the organization, the pool of people to praise you gets smaller and smaller, as do the opportunities to greatly exceed expectations (because expectations are set pretty high!). So you need to define what good means to you…and you have to learn to appreciate your own accomplishments.

From a mentor at Oracle I learned that when things get intense, you need to remain calm. As a leader, amping up negative emotion or stress just makes things worse. One of the best skills of a leader is self-awareness — a sense of how others perceive you. When things get intense, step back and ask how other people might be reading your behavior, and act the way you want to be perceived, even if inside you are just as scared or angry as those who work for you. I am not saying it is easy, but by working hard to create stronger mental muscles, persevering will help you reach standards you set for yourself!Working with mentors and giving back

Learning, meeting standards, satisfying your own sense of accomplishment…none of that means anything if you burn yourself out, and burn out those around you. You have to control your hours. You have to have compassion with yourself — in making mistakes and learning, it takes time to do the things you love, and be with those you love. Learning and execution have to be sustainable or your successes won’t last long, nor will your career.

Giving back – learn by contributing

I find being a mentor one of the best learning experiences, because those I mentor challenge me, often without even realizing they are doing so. People have such wide range of experiences that they see even common things through lenses I can’t even imagine. So when they share their ideas and perspectives their questions and insights, I’m always amazed at what I learn as I’m sharing my own perspectives.

I was at a big Microsoft sales meeting and a person came up to me and said that I helped him grow and get a new job in the company. He didn’t tell my boss…it was a private conversation. But I felt very fulfilled.