Monthly Archives: August 2013

Jeff Bezos, Washington Post and Implications for Education

The big news this week was the curveball from Jeff Bezos and his decision to buy the Washington Post for 250 million.

A lot has been already written on this decision, including what Bezos may be thinking. Go get yourself a cup of coffee, some dark chocolate and feast on the gossip when you have some time to kill. I did that today and it was quite enjoyable. What I’d like to talk about though is what it means for education.

Tyler Cowen has predicted a while ago that the tech big four (Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook) potentially gobbling up major book publishers and he views the WAPO acquisition a step in that direction. Is it though?

WAPO has been primarily an education company for a while now, but the acquisition did not involve the education assets. I think Tyler’s general point of the tech tycoons getting into publishing is true, however. With WAPO, Jeff Bezos has a tool he can shape the national policy with. Bloomberg has Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which by the way has been producing fantastic content for a while now. Bezos now has WAPO. Whether the papers are loss leaders/customer acquisition tools for the bigger businesses, a seat at the table or a combination of both is kind of besides the point. It’s probably both, but the trend is clear. When subscription revenue suffers and all you have left is the name, there is probably a white knight out there who is willing and able to jump in.

I think the implication for education is not so much what this means for online content, e-textbooks, MOOCs etc., but more so on major publications shaping national policy on important matters such as immigration, financial markets, and innovation, which indirectly, but materially, shape the human capital. I am not sure where Jeff Bezos stands on these matters but it will certainly be interesting to see how he uses WAPO.

Here is a wild prediction: Elon Musk buys the LA Times within the next 24 months. You heard it here first.

Book Review: The Element by Ken Robinson

I have purchased this book the old-fashioned way. Went into a bookstore, started browsing, noticed it, and started reading. It opened so powerfully (which I won’t spoil for you), so I bought it. It certainly exceeded the high expectations I had for the book.

Ken Robinson is as good as a presenter as he is as a writer, so if you are on the fence, watch his TED talk first. Then you can make a decision.

The Element makes a simple two-step statement. That we need to find our passion to be truly happy and that the education system needs to be revamped in order to nurture our creativity. In that logic, Robinson adopts the same tone as Sal Khan and his One World Schoolhouse. Like Khan’s book, Robinson excels in explaining education’s role in finding one’s true passion. If you plan to read both books, start with the Element first – then read Khan for a detailed roadmap, and another excellent articulation of the vision.

The stories move you and they are all good. Toward the middle, I found myself questioning whether I read one story too many, but Robinson then pulled me right back into the book and showed me a connection. The education chapter alone is worth buying this book.

The book is entertaining – there are some good nuggets like Paul McCartney turned down by the school choir. “How good was that choir?” Those and other funny one-liners are neatly sprinkled throughout the book.

Robinson found his element in this book, and I do believe reading it will make you closer to finding yours.

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Resume As a Tool of Reflection

A resume is clearly a job search tool. It is one of your strongest weapons to land an interview, which may ultimately get you a job. But the reality is most jobs, about 65%-85%, are found through your networks. Your unsolicited resume may quite likely end up in a pile that doesn’t get a second look.

I learned this when I was first looking for a job. A prospective employer, to which I sent a resume, did not call me for an interview. Four months later, a friend told me there is an open position, the same one I applied for months ago and asked me whether I would be interested. Naively, I told her that there is no point because they already passed me over. I didn’t see why this time would be different with no real change in my resume. How naïve of me! My friend insisted, and I immediately got the interview.

In most cases, neither networks, nor resumes are enough to get hired. Either one can get you the interview but then you have to show up and get the job. This doesn’t mean that your resume is useless. Your network can get you an interview, but you need to back it up with what you have done. But if your network does a good job of replacing your resume as the path to the interview, what is the point of even having one?

For starters, you would still have a resume for formal application purposes. But the real strength of the resume is that it is an honest mirror that tells you what you have done and where you have gaps. As such, writing/polishing your resume is a moment of reflection. As any prospective employee who sat down to write/polish a resume knows very well, it is a moment of truth. You probably tracked your year-to-year accomplishments mentally or through formal end-of-year processes with your employer, but chances are you have not taken stock of the last three or five years holistically. A resume allows you to do just that. It will bluntly tell you that some of your accomplishments are not easily quantifiable. In an academic job market, your resume (or CV) will slap you in the face and will cruelly remind you that you don’t have any publications. The resumes are also quite honest when it comes to gaps and you will ask yourself the question “How will I explain that 8-month period when I sat on my hands?” Alternatively it may remind you that you have been stuck at the same position for four years with no real chance of advancement in the near future.

Not all is bad. If you are honest with yourself, you can use the process as a motivator, take the reflection in and draw a career plan. You can define actions. You can develop strategies. The resume itself may not always land you the interview you want, but the process of writing, or even cleaning up your resume may re-define your career. Chances are by doing this regularly, you may become so successful, you may never need a resume again!