Friday, January 12, 2007


Social Networking and Why Corporate America will never understand...

Figured I would share some observations on corporate America and how they interpret the participation age...

Over the last two weeks, I have gotten exactly nine pings from recruiters looking for software architects. I have asked them all, how they learned of me and the most popular answer was by using LinkedIn. I did mention to all of them that they should not use this tool for this purpose as every other recruiter has managed to abuse it and that they would be better off finding another channel.

The funny thing about social networking is that to enterprisey folks it sometimes equates to lead generation and we will manage to destroy the integrity of the word in the same way we have with other words such as enterprise, innovation, agile, leadership and so on. Social networking starts with the characteristics of networking. Networking as an action requires participation and openness which many of us simply don't understand. I wonder if I were to ask IT recruiters when was the last time any of them attended a users group, a conference or any other event where folks of their target demographic hang out, what would be the answer I would receive?

An interesting dialog occured on the secure coding mailing list where I too realized that I am part of the problem. No less than six folks on this list commented on corporate job sites. When exploring the job sites of Fortune enterprises, they found all the usual buzzwords that say a lot but also say nothing at the same time. They even commented on all the positions labelled as enterprise architect (my title) and said it was boring. My normal reaction would be to go into attack mode but I decided to think about what they were telling me and do some homework.

One of the critiques of corporate job sites is they don't tell anything about the human aspects of working for a particular employer. They tell all about the responsibilities such as running a $x million dollar strategic program and so on. They also talk about requisite skills, such as you must know SOA, UML, ABCs and BS but never mention why someone would actually want to work there. Another person challenged me to figure out what competitive benefits exactly means? Many folks will interpret this as being in the middle of the pack, not good, not bad, just mediocre. Why would anyone really good be compelled to apply for something competitive?

Yet another person still asked an interesting question of:What is the anticipated career path if I take this position? Of course, the cliche answers comes to mind that sounds something like it all depends on the individual but I think that top talent desires more than this. Several people not knowing who specifically I am employed by but did know that I work for a large corporation for jobs they were interested in wanted to know the characteristics of the management chain and whether they were technical or not, whether they worked their way up or came from the outside and so on. Others thought about the notion of work/life balance not just in the sense of having enough time to spend with families but how work constrains life.

For example, many employers today are becoming an impediment to blogging where they attempt to control/influence the conversations that occur outside of work even when they are not about work. Others are removing the desire to contribute back to communities where a person is a known subject matter expert not only within the company but the industry at large by removing their abilities to speak at industry conferences. Others still will not let their employees on their own time write for magazines or journals on any topic. In my humble opinion, they definetely have distorted the meaning of work/life balance.

The interesting thing is that one and only one person asked me about diversity in which I never responded. I guess the reason I didn't partially has to do with I have no freakin clue what diversity means nowadays. I did understand it several years ago when it had characteristics and metrics tied to EEOC laws where measures where based upon race, gender, religion, nationality and so on. Today, it seems like everything is diversity and yet I can't tell when things aren't diverse.

I wanted to ask my wife if we in our own home practice diversity, not from the perspective that from our chromosones we have different races in our blood (White, Black, American Indian, India and Hispanic) but from the perspective that one son was born with straight hair and another with curly. Maybe we are diverse because one son is older than another and therefore I have age distribution?

One of the examples that is often used on how to attract top talent is from none other than Joel Spolsky and how his employer recruits summer interns I wonder if Brenda Michelson when she noodles talent management ever considered this dimension? Maybe there is an opportunity for industry analyst firms such as Redmonk to not blog about solely technology considerations but to provide insight in helping corporate America truly understand social networking. I belief that if enterprises who contribute to open source were to say so on their job sites and not just the business alignment stuff, they would become more attractive to top talent than those who don't. Anyway, the inmates are running the asylum and America is doomed if we can't even figure out how to truly network...

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