F*ck The Algorithms II: Inside Silicon Valley, Capitol Hill scandal and more
Welcome to episode 15 of stand up and stand out. We’re going to take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to diverge to current events in light of the recent drama with Facebook, I thought it would be a good time to share part two of our series “Fuck the algorithm,” yeah, mom, sorry. I’m going to curse in this episode too.
Need a break from reading articles? Want to just listen instead? Below is a transcript of Episode 14 of my podcast, Stand Up & Stand Out. If you’d prefer to listen, head over to our website or find us where ever the cool kids hang out that do podcasts!
In season one, episode two, we covered my immense dislike of email and ways to work within the rules of the Instagram algorithms to get better traction on your content, both professionally and personally. Since then, I’ve done some additional research on the different social media platforms and how to achieve better reach. And sadly, my answer is still the same. Fuck the algorithms, Tim Denning quoted that even the best content creators at this algorithm game are quoting a less than 0.5% organic reach because there’s no money in free content for these platforms, ads and marketplace sales are the name of the game. At the end of the day, if you’re creating content for the sake of some all-knowing, all-powerful, faceless algorithm; you’re missing the point. We shouldn’t trust the almighty algorithms. We should be training them. The scandal on Capitol Hill should definitely make you think twice about this fact, but Nikki might ask, what does this have to do with me finding a job after I graduate? Stay tuned and I’ll lead you on a fascinating journey that will help you in your career to see.
Having worked with Facebook on various projects during my time in Silicon Valley, I know it’s not a nice place to work. They were unreasonably demanding, asking for features and development that was not only an incredible waste of people’s time, but it was also far from the best in class for the product that they were trying to develop with us.
That coupled with numerous friends and coworkers who have spent time in that Palo Alto prison. This situation on Capitol Hill is not an exaggeration of the facts, as I know them. I had to laugh one-day doing research on my first podcast episode on bad bosses. I came across this article titled “It’s Not the Manager,” which proposed, it’s purely a factor of employee motivation to do well that affects their performance and even goes so far to imply that it has nothing to do with the managers themselves.
I found this suspicious because every other Gallup poll, my own career experience has created overwhelming evidence to the contrary. People leave jobs because of bad managers and then, clear as day, in the article footer: data for this article was gathered from direct employee input at Facebook and sponsored by the Facebook human resources department.
Wow, that speaks volumes, doesn’t it? And no doubt funded by their PR department. Having worked for another Silicon Valley giant that loves its employee surveys, I know exactly how this PR machine works. The survey is issued, most employees ignore, delay the survey, they don’t think anything of it. And then managers are giving careers and in quotas to ensure their team of employees not only take the survey, but they respond only in positive answers and companies say it’s anonymous, but having worked in the data governance department of this company, the survey was anything but secret. Managers got 100% of the details to “handle” any negative comments that arose.
I was threatened with my job if I didn’t permit 100% transparency to the data by coercing smaller and smaller sample sizes until the data was pretty much see-through. This process was equally bad for the managers as they were usually fired shortly after the survey if they didn’t receive a 100% response from their team and at least an 80% positive rating. All business stops during these times and all eyes were on these surveys.
It was disgusting, every town hall, every team meeting and every one-on-one with our managers. Sadly not in hopes to understand or pre-empt issues, but in full job preservation mode of the managers. So why am I sharing this? For several reasons: one, this could help explain one root of the great resignation. There isn’t a culture of managerial improvement in most companies. No one wants to take an honest look at the issues plaguing these organizations, and try to make them better. They just want to place blame and eradicate the sore of employee dissatisfaction, which in most cases is like amputating a leg when you stubbed your toe.
But two, at the core of it, don’t believe the hype of these best places to work type surveys as you begin looking for jobs. PR organizations in these companies are as big as their legal departments, especially in Silicon Valley. They all want to tell you stories of how they are the good guys, and they will treat you better, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. Regardless of whether you’re using these social media platforms for professional or personal uses, they are not “good.” Some would argue they aren’t bad either. Companies are anything but a shell of the people running them and the culture they create, which is why at the center of it is a discussion about good or bad management. I want you to think about this as you look for jobs, get past the brand and what we have come to see as prestige for our resumes, let’s go for substance and for managers that care as much about your wellbeing and development as their own. The foosball table and the kombucha on tap might’ve been an alluring benefit pre-COVID days when we were in the office, but now we must get back to the heart of it all. How do you want to spend 40+ hours of your week?
Let’s put it in perspective. So you graduate by 25 and you plan to retire at 65. That’s 40 years of active employment. I’ve only done half that and I’m fucking exhausted. I’m a type-A overachiever with lots of energy, like many of you. Over the course of that 20 years, I’ve worked at five different companies, I opened two of my own, I’ve been on three board positions, had numerous side hustles and moved more than 10 times. During that time I’ve also spent more time on planes than in my own home. I’ve missed birthdays, funerals, weddings, and other life milestones of my friends and family over the years, all in the excuse of “sorry, I have to work,” or worse yet, “I’m too tired from work to attend.” And when I say tired, that’s the polite way of saying exhausted, burnt out, stressed out and in serious need of some therapy and a week long nap. Machines can keep going. People cannot. Silicon Valley, and many other professions seem to keep forgetting that. There is only so much productivity improvement we can achieve at this stage of human evolution.
And especially in creative-type jobs. There are diminishing returns on what you can imagine when you can barely keep your eyes open each day. So let’s take this and translate it to, well, the Facebook of job search, LinkedIn. We all know LinkedIn is the VHS of social platforms, but, you know, they keep trying. Despite being the predominant player, they are far from the best technology.
So how do we use it in its current state and the state of the LinkedIn algorithm to help us on our job search? Yes, I know, asking the next generation about LinkedIn is like asking my generation about their MySpace account, but unfortunately, we must work with what we got. Hopefully, someone in this genius generation will figure out a new way forward. Maybe something more of a Tinder for jobs search that allows you in the hiring manager to swipe right when it’s a true match. When you ask hiring managers, what’s the number one question you ask a person during an interview. They’re likely going to respond with: Tell me a bit about yourself. This is true regardless of the level of your job, the type of role you’re looking for, or how many people you have interviewed with at the same company.
So, why do we wait for people to call us into an interview to answer it? I want to encourage people to skip the endless beginner interviews and leverage the power of video on these platforms to tell your story. I know many people are video fatigued after a year stuck at home, but this can be to your advantage.
And yes, I’ve heard the argument that video is only for extroverts who know all the Tik-Tok dances, but that’s not true either. Video can also be used to help introverts showcase their work when they struggle to find the words to express themselves. People will tell you that video is not searchable yet. Video alone will not allow the recruiter to find you using their outdated hiring software. This is true, but we can do what many other video content creators have figured out.
Add transcripts, closed captioning, and timestamps to the video to allow the normal search engine results to find your work. And don’t forget to add some personality to it and show your favorite places to volunteer, side hustles or gigs that interest you or share a bit of what on-campus life was like during the pandemic. With a variety of software choices out there, Zoom, Loom, Warm, Welcome, and more it’s easier than ever to create a showcase of your background.
It pains me to hear when others apologize for their appearance on camera. “Sorry I look a mess. X, Y, Z, excuse as to why I feel the need to apologize.” This is imposter syndrome at its core, feeling like we aren’t Instagram perfect, needing to qualify or justify who we are. None of us have a crew of stylists in our bathroom, getting us ready for our day like a morning newscaster. Be yourself and your talent will shine through. And don’t forget you can edit! The Green Chameleon crew uses a great software called Descript. The initial version is free and you can streamline all your uh and ums, add in some photos or videos of your work.
It also creates a transcript of the video to assist you with searching from the algorithms. Hopefully, all of this gave you some food for thought in today’s episode. Let’s not feel trapped by the algorithms, but instead, use the technology to your advantage. Let’s avoid the negative side effects of all these platforms and guide it towards the positive things we want in life.
Have a great week, everyone, and we’ll see you next time.