Silicon Valley is well known for treating its employees well by creating an environment perfect for career development. redPanda Software’s CEO, GARETH HAWKEY, highlights a few lessons local businesses adapt into their corporate culture.
Silicon Valley. That magical place where employees not only work incredibly long hours but also get access to quirky benefits that create an environment many consider perfect for career development. Looking to this environment for inspiration, there are a few lessons local companies can take to heart to look after their most important asset – their people.
While many South African businesses might baulk at the idea of unlimited vacation days or even a full year of paid maternity or paternity leave, it is evident by the successes of Silicon Valley that there are merits in rethinking what a work environment is supposed to be.
At last count, the famed Valley was home to approximately 2 000 tech companies, the densest concentration of its kind anywhere in the world. With many of those leaders in their fields, differentiating oneself is more than just about the work. It is about the workplace built around it.
But to simply try and recreate Silicon Valley in other parts of the world will not work. Instead, one needs to take into consideration the ethos of what that environment has created and emulate that within the South African corporate culture.
In the ICT sector specifically, I believe this is especially challenging as employees want to work at companies that are unique in their approaches to problems. They see and hear what is happening in Silicon Valley and want to go there and experience it for themselves.
Traditionally, South African businesses have been stuck in a certain way of doing things around human resources and skills development. Over the years, this has started to change – but the country is still a far cry from the innovative practices taking place in California.
A Management Overhaul?
Building good ICT solutions requires good people. And the best way to attract those talented individuals is to offer them support from a management perspective.
For example, developers want the opportunity to progress within an organisation and be exposed to as many different things as possible. They, like so many others, are hard-working individuals that want to be fulfilled and become successful. One of the biggest lessons to take from Silicon Valley is in how companies there are able to nurture both the professional and personal sides of each person, ensuring sustainable and balanced growth of the individual.
To this end, it is important to have a creative environment where people can do something besides work. For example, at redPanda Software, we offer rooms where employees can learn to paint or play musical instruments. Or, there are opportunities to tend a bonsai garden or build an R2D2 replica.
Businesses must realise that providing employees with an avenue to be creative will filter through to their professional lives. It is all about giving people opportunities to grow as individuals within the business. For this to happen, management needs to work much closer with people than what it is perhaps used to.
Passion Inspires Perfection
If there is one thing to be gleaned from Silicon Valley, it is that people are passionate not only in their skills, but in their attitudes as well. Providing employees with mentorship opportunities and having a supportive environment are integral in creating a business that reflects the requirements of the digital age.
A beautiful office is just one part of this dynamic. People want to work together and employees want to grow as individuals within the business. Cutting-edge software development can only happen because everybody is excited. Similarly, any other job needs people to come together and work in a place that is not your typical, grey corporate environment.
Ultimately, it is about creating a second home for people. You want to have your employees care about you and grow with your business. And that is one of the best lessons that South African companies can learn from Silicon Valley… sure, the technology is great, but it cannot be created without passionate people.
Revealing the real cost of ‘free’ online services
A free service by Finnish cybersecurity provider F-Secure reveals the real cost of using “free” services by Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, among others.
What do Google, Facebook, and Amazon have in common? Privacy and identity scandals. From Cambridge Analytica to Google’s vulnerability in Google+, the amount of personal data sitting on these platforms is enormous.
Cybersecurity provider F-Secure has released a free online tool that helps expose the true cost of using some of the web’s most popular free services. And that cost is the abundance of data that has been collected about users by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon Alexa, Twitter, and Snapchat. The good news is that you can take back your data “gold”.
F-Secure Data Discovery Portal sends users directly to the often hard-to-locate resources provided by each of these tech giants that allow users to review their data, securely and privately.
“What you do with the data collection is entirely between you and the service,” says Erka Koivunen, F-Secure Chief Information Security Officer. “We don’t see – and don’t want to see – your settings or your data. Our only goal is to help you find out how much of your information is out there.”
More than half of adult Facebook users, 54%, adjusted how they use the site in the wake of the scandal that revealed Cambridge Analytica had collected data without users’ permission.* But the biggest social network in the world continues to grow, reporting 2.3 billion monthly users at the end of 2018.**
“You often hear, ‘if you’re not paying, you’re the product.’ But your data is an asset to any company, whether you’re paying for a product or not,” says Koivunen. “Data enables tech companies to sell billions in ads and products, building some of the biggest businesses in the history of money.”
F-Secure is offering the tool as part of the company’s growing focus on identity protection that secures consumers before, during, and after data breaches. By spreading awareness of the potential costs of these “free” services, the Data Discovery Portal aims to make users aware that securing their data and identity is more important than ever.
A recent F-Secure survey found that 54% of internet users over 25 worry about someone hacking into their social media accounts.*** Data is only as secure as the networks of the companies that collect it, and the passwords and tactics used to protect our accounts. While the settings these sites offer are useful, they cannot eliminate the collection of data.
Koivunen says: “While consumers effectively volunteer this information, they should know the privacy and security implications of building accounts that hold more potential insight about our identities than we could possibly share with our family. All of that information could be available to a hacker through a breach or an account takeover.”
However, there is no silver bullet for users when it comes to permanently locking down security or hiding it from the services they choose to use.
“Default privacy settings are typically quite loose, whether you’re using a social network, apps, browsers or any service,” says Koivunen. “Review your settings now, if you haven’t already, and periodically afterwards. And no matter what you can do, nothing stops these companies from knowing what you’re doing when you’re logged into their services.”
***Source: F-Secure Identity Protection Consumer (B2C) Survey, May 2019, conducted in cooperation with survey partner Toluna, 9 countries (USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, and Japan), 400 respondents per country = 3600 respondents (+25years)
WhatsApp comes to KaiOS
By the end of September, WhatsApp will be pre-installed on all phones running the KaiOS operating system, which turns feature phones into smart phones. The announcement was made yesterday by KaiOS Technologies, maker of the KaiOS mobile operating system for smart feature phones, and Facebook. WhatsApp is also available for download in the KaiStore, on both 512MB and 256MB RAM devices.
“KaiOS has been a critical partner in helping us bring private messaging to smart feature phones around the world,” said Matt Idema, COO of WhatsApp. “Providing WhatsApp on KaiOS helps bridge the digital gap to connect friends and family in a simple, reliable and secure way.”
WhatsApp is a messaging tool used by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide who need a simple, reliable and secure way to communicate with friends and family. Users can use calling and messaging capabilities with end-to-end encryption that keeps correspondence private and secure.
WhatsApp was first launched on the KaiOS-powered JioPhone in India in September of 2018. Now, with the broad release, the app is expected to reach millions of new users across Africa, Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
“We’re thrilled to bring WhatsApp to the KaiOS platform and extend such an important means of communication to a brand new demographic,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “We strive to make the internet and digital services accessible for everyone and offering WhatsApp on affordable smart feature phones is a giant leap towards this goal. We can’t wait to see the next billion users connect in meaningful ways with their loved ones, communities, and others across the globe.”
KaiOS-powered smart feature phones are a new category of mobile devices that combine the affordability of a feature phone with the essential features of a smartphone. They meet a growing demand for affordable devices from people living across Africa – and other emerging markets – who are not currently online.
WhatsApp is now available for download from KaiStore, an app store specifically designed for KaiOS-powered devices and home to the world’s most popular apps, including the Google Assistant, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps and Twitter. Apps in the KaiStore are customised to minimise data usage and maximise user experience for smart feature phone users.
KaiOS currently powers more than 100 million devices shipped worldwide, in over 100 countries. The platform enables a new category of devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience.
* For more details, visit: Meet The Devices That Are Powered by KaiOS
* Also read Arthur Goldstuck’s story, Smart feature phones spell KaiOS