September 28, 2008

Diamond Walls

Filed under: Philosophy, Random, School — Robert John Ed @ 3:48 pm

They speak about glass ceilings in corporate America in order to describe the propensity of companies to hold back females in the work place after a certain amount of promotion.  Well, as I was growing up, the term seemed to be mostly used in regard to females, though apparently it’s used for any detainment of qualified candidates.  I believe that this has been getting better and better as I’ve grown older.  I haven’t been in corporations to see it first hand, but my hopes are that all persons qualified can attain higher levels within an organization based on their ability and diligence.

 The other day, I had a small discussion with a classmate about a similar situation.  It began with CEO compensation and how it is so high.  My classmate argued that most people don’t understand the complexity or difficulty of a position such as chief executive officer, why it’s so important and how much should be paid.  These things are all true.  There is a reason CEO’s are paid so well, it is the most important job and the prerequisite knowledge needed to actually run a company that has assets reaching the trillion dollar range is immense.  Still, I argued that the class war that has been going on in the United States since inception is only perpetuated by the incredible disparity in salaries of the wealthy and poor.  I do believe in fair compensation, but the gap is incredibly wide when someone gets an annual bonus that is larger than the commonwealth’s life time earnings.  Additionally, I understand the value of what managers do, of what the creators and leaders of businesses must do.  It truly is the most difficult part of work, creating the value chain and building a system that can systematically provide value.  Often times, I’m not sure the working class fully realizes the associated risk and reward that are needed for this kind of undertaking.

The discussion quickly turned to describe who is actually capable of achieving such success.  My classmate seems to think that anyone in the world can come to America and be successful.  She argued that with hard work and diligence, anyone can get educated, attend a business school (or whatever’s clever) and live the American dream.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is false. 

We are privileged.

There are social norms today that allow you the privilege of accessing education systems, they allow you access to the funds needed in order to get educated and eventually earn a better living than 95% of the world.   I read a book in undergrad that denoted very well what white privilege is.  It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time, but being a white male in the United States entails certain things, said and unsaid, that give you an advantage.  That is completely unfair and I’m well aware of it.  It’s also not quantifiable; I can’t tell you the likelihood of one ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or belief system being more or less likely to succeed.  I can’t tell you the reasons that this system perpetuates and is likely a detriment to our overall progression as a country.  I can’t tell you that those privileged people revel in this situation either.  I think the vast majority of educated people would rather have an unbiased and level playing ground where anyone can succeed.

I can tell you that there are many people born in the United States without food on their tables.  I can tell you that there are kids born here (and many, many more around the world) that know very well they have no chance to become educated or live the lives the red, white and blue promise.  The privileged in society are often quite blind to the advantages that they’ve been given.  You simply can’t realize the difficulty of others.  Many American children are brought up to believe they can achieve anything if they work hard and do the right things.  A lot of children aren’t told that they can do anything.  Can you imagine that?  Of course not.  You weren’t there.  You can’t know, because you are otherwise privileged.  None of us can.

There are diamond walls that keep a great many people outside.  You certainly can see through if you look close enough, they sparkle and allure from great distance.  Yet they are impenetrable, unbreakable material.  You can’t get through the diamond walls today.  Some day I hope the situation changes.


September 27, 2008

Existentialism and Human Emotions

Filed under: Book Reviews, Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 8:52 pm

For those who don’t know, I gets down with metaphysical philosophy.  During the scant few minutes I have in my free time, I usually read or write, often about the lives we live and the meanings thereof, both miniscule and massive.  My long term goals are to be able to study and write on philosophy and human life.  Well.

I am just now finalizing the book Existentialism and Human Emotions by Jean Paul Sartre.  It’s the first time I’ve read anything that was explicitly targeted at explaining just what existentialism is and why it’s important to us.

The first part of the book is centered on refuting the attacks on existentialism; you can hear the anger in Sartre’s prose, turning on his critics with an obvious disdain.  Existentialism can be explained simply in that it views us humans as without meaning until we create it ourselves.  It states that nothing was predestined and part of some master plan.  It takes out quite a bit of guess work for us in that way.  The reason so many would refute this idea is that it conflicts with the concept of any deity giving us unconditional purpose.  Practically speaking, it means that you aren’t where you are because some all knowing God wanted it to be so, or because divinity had laid claim to you being an insurance rep for the entirety of your working hours. Sartre uses the phrase “existence precedes essence” to denote these basic tenets of theory.

There is also a distinction worth note that existentialists are not by definition atheists.  There are both theistic and atheistic versions of this.  In retrospect, this makes sense, seeing as the concept of existence preceding essence is not contingent on a higher power.  It certainly makes some inferential suppositions toward that being, should it exist.  In light, there would not be interventions from this God, nor would there be a plan for your life.  It would seem you are given a palette, a brush, some paint and told “Do as you will.”

This idea resonates greatly with me.  Us humans have a tendency to rely on the old position that everything happens for a reason, that everything is predetermined and we have no control at all.  That supposition usually has two effects on people.  Many feel sad, after all what’s the point of living if there is no greater good or preferable outcomes for our actions?  This is called nihilism.  (By the way, these are extremely shallow ways of defining extremely broad concepts, so if you are interested in them, dig deeper.)  Other people are set free.  Some personalities feel that a lack of reason or existential meaning is a great weight lifted from their shoulders.

I can’t subscribe to nihilism.  I do feel there are reasons for us being here, flying through the spatial plane on a rock that happened to hit the one in a trillion lottery.  That our brains have evolved in such a way that allows us to use emotions and build on ideas so pious as love and truth.  It’s remarkable in every way that we are here and it’s too much for me to think that there is nothing behind it.  

Yet the idea of predetermined living is also out of the question in my eyes.  We are given too much choice to truly think that all things were meant as they are.  It’s too much.  The basic idea that you build what and who you are is very valuable to me.  It takes out any question about our responsibility in that everything we do is directly accountable to your person.  I’m sure there are a lot of people who don’t agree and will curse the gods or there karma when something doesn’t go their way.  Further investigation is certainly warranted, but as of now my perspectives align with existentialism.  We are what we do and the choices we make.  You have the choice to create meaning and value out of your life, but it is not simply handed over as birth right.  Existence precedes essence.

September 21, 2008

Professionalism vs. Output

Filed under: Blog Explanations, Meeting Marketers, Personal Branding — Robert John Ed @ 4:55 pm

There’s no doubt that this blog leans toward the latter.  I think it’s more important to simply write as much as possible when something strikes you worth mention.  The posts here aren’t polished, they aren’t thought out over the course of days, they are just quick ramblings on a topic that otherwise I might forget or not put anything down about.

I spoke with a friend last night about his writing.  He has a very polished feel to his posts, which I think is great.  When I first started writing this blog, I had to decide which way to go.  Some choose to blog every day, some choose to try and get something out every day regardless.  Personally, I feel there is more value in getting to really know someone than trying to always have break through ideas in posts.  I’d rather continuously get a solid amount of content out there and hopefully hit on some key issues along the way.  Basically, people are interested in some things and those tend to proliferate on their own.  Other things, not so much.

A few things to ponder:

1.  Why are you writing? Some people feel the need because it’s the in thing (or was a year or two ago).  I write mostly because I like writing and reading my own thoughts down somewhere.  It’s a bit like a diary, but much more accessible from technology.  Some write as an extension of their business, in which case it may be a good idea to write more coherent thoughts on whatever that subject matter is.

2.  Who is reading? There is some audience here at Redmarketer, although it’s small (around 20 hits per day when I’m being lazy, more when I’m actively pushing it through multiple channels) it consists mostly of friends and people who’ve met me in person.

3.  What do you want them to take away? This is a bit harder for me, but the real answer is to start to look at marketing for what it is and why it’s so valuable.  I’m not sure I do an adequate job of that most of the time, but I’m trying.  Figuring out why your blog exists is a good thing to do early on, then pursue it with esteem.

4.  What do you want to take away? I want to learn.  I find that writing about and maintaining a blog on marketing has me thinking about it in different ways a lot.  You start to look at everything you see in terms of objectives and actual implementation.  It keeps you on your game.  I also want to differentiate myself from the rest of the crowd of marketers in my peer set.  Honestly, I have no clue if that happens or not.  I worry about recruiters reading this and thinking me unprofessional or too off the cuff, but I think the pros greatly outweigh the cons.

5.  Establish some rules. I don’t have many, but the biggest one is that I will never write about the company I work for.  That sort of thing is off limits for a great deal of reasons.  Though I will always state who I work for and list any potential conflicts of interest.  The other rule is to keep writing.  So I just put crank this up and chug away in between studying and other daily operations.

September 20, 2008

Managing Hubris

Filed under: Emo (EQ), Personal Branding, School — Robert John Ed @ 2:44 pm

One of my largest concerns moving forward is remaining humble and keeping in mind how little I actually know.  Going to school is already a great experience; my fellow students are incredibly intelligent and show great enthusiasm as well.  The companies that come in to present are filled with bright leaders and poised recruiters who are all to happy to help you understand how everything works.  Teachers genuinely seem to care and the second year students have all been a huge help at every turn.  The crowd is pretty amazing.

Yet, your head is kind of in the weeds still.  It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the program and the immense possibilities the future holds.  The problem comes in pretty quickly when you lose sight of who you are and intrinsic meaning.  The reason we are going to school is to be able to hit the ground running in our next position and have a positive impact, not alienate others and act like big shots.  There’s a dichotomy to this situation though, I’ve already felt it from some people I know.  People often expect you to become some sort of snobbish jerk because of the MBA.  That really sucks.  As most of my friends already know, I grew up in a family with worn, blue collars.  My work ethic is reflective of having parents who showed me what hard work was every day of my life.  It wasn’t a choice.  It was survival.  All of my friends and family are from all statures of life and I like it that way.  The ability to relate to all kinds of people is a great tool to make new friends, and certainly can help you out in the business world as well.

The latter issue with the aforementioned dichotomy is that us humans are a fickle lot.  It’s easy to be influenced, one way or another (that’s why I have a career!).  So all this work we are putting in, the continual expectations in career path and salaries, the leadership programs, the networking, the community building…it all adds up to a big head.  Or it can.  That’s the last thing I want.  In fact, I’d rather not get the degree than turn into some pompous, hypocritical ass.  I’m quite proud of who I am, where I came from and who my friends are.  Those things should not change because of a degree.  So it’s up to me to watch the hubris, the ongoing arrogance that is easily amassed and difficult to dilute, but a little help from you doesn’t hurt either.  Our self projection isn’t always congruent with external perceptions, so feel free to keep me informed on your take.

It plays on the social side of things, but in the job field too.  I spoke with a marketer on Thursday night who stated in no uncertain terms that too many of the incoming interviewees have a false sense of entitlement.  Personally, my goal isn’t to come into a company and run everything.  I’m simply not equipped for that kind of responsibility.  I do want accountability and increasing expectations wherever I go.  My objective is to get in at a company and add value as quickly as possible, while learning from the people there that have built it to current proportions.  As I said before, you aren’t the first, you won’t be the last.  Focus on learning and building, and not being a pompous professional stereotype.  :-)

Traffic is Down, Much Like Posts

Filed under: Blog Explanations — Robert John Ed @ 1:59 pm

As was predicted earlier, posting is down.  Which has dramatically slowed traffic as well. This particular site isn’t reliant or in need of traffic (seeing as I don’t and won’t advertise…unless for a charity or to learn about how it works).  I’m a bit more worried about getting more thoughts down.  There are a lot of things that  I really need to explore in more depth but the time frame to actually get some writing (and more importantly, thinking) done is so slim that actually having some output is tough.

Luckily, it’s the weekend.

Time to catch up on thinking, right after doing accounting this morning, finalizing the next marketing case, figuring out what the heck is going on with regression analysis and studying for the strategy midterm.  Oh and going to the grocery store and doing laundry.  That seemed much more logical before actually writing it down.  :-/

September 19, 2008

Corporate Reception and Indecision

Filed under: Meeting Marketers, Personal Branding, School — Robert John Ed @ 1:11 pm

Carlson hosted a corporate reception at the IDS Tower last night.  Quite a view from the 50th floor.

One of the problems with speaking to all the recruiters and representatives from the companies you are considering for employment is that they all sound good.  Working within an environment saturated with intelligence, large scale projects, serious international impact and truly important products is pretty invigorating. So I was like a kid in a candy store.  The only issue with that is whomever I do choose to work for, I expect to be fully prepared and ready to hit the ground running at that particular place.  Which means you have to decide on what industry you want to get into, as well as which aspect of that industry (in certain companies).

I’ve narrowed it down pretty well to CPG and medical devices.  It seems that my prior background and marketing acumen allows for a more natural progression into CPG (although there would still be a large amount of research, etc.)  If I were to go into medical devices the work required to prepare for the industry would a little more strenuous, which isn’t a problem either way.  I just need to figure out which way, because it doesn’t seem likely that you could be extremely well prepared for both due to class structure constraints and time.  As such it’s time to do some more heavy duty industry research in terms of marketing positions, expectations, metrics, background and anything else I can drum up.

Luckily, I spoke with quite a few really cool people from both industries.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get some informational interviews set up and get a bit more clarity on where my skill sets will fit.  Much, much more to come.

September 17, 2008

The Answer Proceeds the Question

Filed under: Marketing Philosophy, Personal Branding, School — Robert John Ed @ 5:51 pm

During marketing today, a class mate asked a question.  A great question in many respects.

As follows paraphrased, “How can someone step outside their personal beliefs and still do their job regardless of the fact that it obviously goes against their philosophies?”

To which I rephrase the question, “Are we responsible for our employment?  Are we responsible for what we market?”

The answer, of course, is yes.

At the heart of the question is ethics.  What is ethical in marketing products and services?   Marketing works well when it’s done well.  So regardless of the product, a good marketer can make it sell or be viewed in a specific light that will help it to spread.  That’s what we do.  And those good ones out there know what they can do, they understand that these abilities they’ve worked at for so long have an incredible power to alter perspectives and make serious change palpable.

There are some distinguishing factors for these humans as well.  All of these people acknowledge that what they do is powerful and means a lot for organizations.  That’s why we put it on our resumes as well as why large organizations pay up.  Yet many marketers choose to not be accountable for what they market.  They view themselves as a mere cog in a machine crafted toward an end.  To them, it’s no concern as to whether or not that machine has an ethical production or not.  To them, selling cigarettes is the same as selling milk.  It’s a job.  It’s a living.  Even if it’s a killing.

We are far too educated for that type of whimsical nonchalance.  Just as politicians should be aware and value the fact that their opinions and efforts shape lives, marketers must also acknowledge that what they choose to sell, how they choose to sell are all taking effect on people every day.  There is no gray area here.  Your choices in marketing anything are your own.

Of course, this isn’t merely regulated to those things you are paid to market (although that’s the excuse people use to remain ignorant of their impact).  This is a staple of everything you choose to market.  If you advocate Christianity, Buddhism, Hindu, Atheism or any other religion, you must fully comprehend the fact that it may well get someone converted.  If you tell me to buy a stock, you had better know that there’s a possibility I just may do it and prepare for the repercussions.  If you live and die by Krispy Kremes and tell everyone, chances are that their consumption of glazed donuts will take an uptick, at least temporarily.  You have that power.  The reason we don’t think in this manner is because marketing is so often viewed as a corporate action.  We gave it a sophisticated sounding name.  Corporations have the ability to generate momentum toward implicit causes much faster because of their budgets and expertise, but you can have similar impacts using grassroots tactics.

Either way, you are marketing something and you need to understand the ramifications.  You also have to stand behind your decisions; make no mistake, they are your own.

September 16, 2008

Core Competencies

Filed under: Marketing Philosophy, School — Robert John Ed @ 4:10 pm

After taking the accounting mid term, I’m realizing that my core competency is not that.  In a world where we are frequently told to be our own brand, be our own business, it’s time to address your core competency as well as what your strategic vision for operations are.

I don’t devalue any of the disciplines being taught to me on a day by day basis.  Financial accounting, stats, strategy and marketing today, operations, managerial accounting and finance in a little over a month.  The core (no relation) here is strenuous and packed.  Seven full classes, two small time classes (more like seminars), resume and interviewing practices and sessions, networking and informational interviews and finally actual internship interviews starting early next year.  It’s busy.  Almost everyone here handles it incredibly well.

What warrants mention is that as an MBA candidate, we have to focus in on core competencies and leverage them into careers.  That means not stressing out about the fact that I probably just got a 72% on a midterm oriented around skill sets that I won’t be utilizing often, if ever.  Figuring out the extraneous skills that best complement your competencies is the key.  Sorry, but you have to be able to read and assess balance sheets, income statements and cash flow.  You have to understand the value in being able to assess a confidence interval with market research.  There are certain pieces of this puzzle that are no questions.

There is also a lot of gray area.  As a marketing pro, you should have a solid knowledge of current demographics, consumer behavior, pricing strategies and probably some negotiation ability.  But then the questions come.  Should you shore up skills that aren’t necessarily prerequisite, but further accentuate current abilities?  Or do you focus purely on what you’ll likely be using initially out of school and attempt to learn on the run with the other stuff?  I have to meet with some people in order to get a better handle on what is needed directly out of school.  My goal is to handle the P&L for a major brand out of school, so it’s time to get some research done on what that entails and the skill sets that allow for it.

Back to work.

Trying to Find the Time

Filed under: Random — Robert John Ed @ 3:01 am

Odd phrase, that.  Time is not something stumble upon and use as it is acquired.  Time is managed.  Sometimes poorly, sometimes with alacrity, sometimes at the last minute.  Which I’m now aware, only takes one minute.

Quite literally, I’m exhausted some days after getting home.  Today was one, and that’s bad news considering that I have the first accounting mid term tomorrow morning.  I jumped into the practice quizzes again, but felt the need to break it up.  The last 36 hours have been almost completely T-Accounts, debits, credits, assets, liabilities, owners equity, expenses and cash flow.  Honestly, I’m not sure how someone can be an accountant as a career!  But that’s merely the half of it, they probably don’t understand how I can be so intrigued by marketing either.

This is a perspective I find myself using quite often now.  Complaining or distrusting others and their positions is simply odd and usually without merit.  For every good their must be a bad, for every star a finite amount of time.  You simply cannot exist without the existence of others completely different and unlike you.  Everything truly is everything, and there is a simple beauty there.  Too fragile to touch, it can only be  appreciated at a distance, for the complexity of its structure would melt away; a snowflake caught in a child’s palm.  There is a balance we must trust in our living here.

This is what happens when you stare at numbers all day.

September 11, 2008

Why International Students Have a Leg Up

Filed under: Personal Branding, School — Robert John Ed @ 11:38 am

The market place is shrinking.  Or growing, depending on your perspective.

Everything is consolidating, slowly but surely.  The borders and boundaries we have developed as humans in attempts to protect resources and gain power are slowly eroding, at least as a premise of commerce.  The global market place is a very important concept to consider for all companies in the future.

General Mills pointed it out Monday, Thomson Reuters hit on it yesterday, Target last week.  I’d bet dollars to donuts that Best Buy will touch on it today.  Major consultancies all expect international ability within their practice.  Sure, there are jobs out there for a great many types of people, but to grow and become a leader within these Fortune 500 types, international understanding and ability is becoming prerequisite.

So developing a strong international understanding and ability is directly addressed within every organization.  No matter how smart domestic students are, they still don’t have this particular competency  most companies are foaming at the mouth for.  To no fault of their own obviously, but fair was never a constant in this lively equation.  It seems to me, that this particular competency can be leveraged above most others, it’s an asset that is not easily had.  I certainly don’t think that international students have greater ability in terms of academics or as a social function.  On the contrary, but this is business school.  Grades only matter for potential consultants and social situations are just that.  Despite my incessant declarations at the importance of networks, the hiring companies don’t care how social or antisocial you were, they care about your ambition and leadership.  Those things can be proven whereas being a socialite is much more difficult to do so.  So people with international experience of any kind, including academia, have an edge.  Like any advantage, it must be leveraged correctly before utility.

This is not advocating for a lack of social presence.  My personal belief is that the ability to know and work with any people is a prerequisite skill for any kind of manager today, so ignoring those things today will stunt your growth in the future.  Social skills are very important; I just think that you could circumvent them in an interview if needed.

Time to read the next strategic case, assuredly about global marketplace strategy.

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