Tag Archives: LinkedIn

The Silicon Trail

March 28, 2017 by

When United Airlines’ first daily nonstop service flight from Eppley Airfield to San Francisco International Airport eased away from the gate in September 2016, Randy Thelen made certain he had a seat.

The senior vice president for economic development at the Omaha Chamber of Commerce saw the importance of that 7 a.m. flight—believed to be the first regular nonstop service between the two cities in a quarter century. Shortly after 9 a.m., he was on the West Coast, in the fertile Silicon Valley, ready for business.

Despite Omaha’s firm footing in the Silicon Prairie—with tech giants like PayPal, Google, LinkedIn, and Yahoo all maintaining a significant presence in the metro—Omaha long struggled with a serious shortcoming when it came time to recruit more. The same shortcoming didn’t help local technology startups secure financial backing from the apparent over-abundance of thick wallet in the Bay area.

Getting from Silicon Valley to Omaha’s corner of the Silicon Prairie was more than a hassle. It usually required at least one connecting flight, stretching a three-hour nonstop flight into nearly a full day of airplanes and airports … and that’s the delay-free version.

“As much as we don’t want location to be a barrier, there’s a very real situation where Silicon Valley investors won’t fly somewhere if they have to switch planes,” says Dusty Davidson, the CEO and co-founder of Flywheel, an Omaha-based startup that builds and hosts WordPress websites. Davidson is also known for his role in creating Silicon Prairie News and one of the largest entrepreneurial tech conferences in the region, Big Omaha.

“It’s not the connection, it’s the time,” he adds.

The required connecting flights cast a pall over Omaha’s distinct advantage as a low-cost jewel compared to the Silicon Valley. Omaha’s lower cost of living and more affordable housing helps save companies on their largest expense: wages. Add in the various business incentives available from the state, along with a strong talent pool and sound infrastructure, and Omaha makes an attractive option for startup and established tech companies, with that notable exception.

“We came up short on the connectivity or on the flights in and out of Silicon Valley,” Thelen says.

Then United Airlines made San Francisco’s International Airport the nation’s 25th airport with regular nonstop flight services to and from Omaha. This spring, a 26th regular nonstop Omaha route will open between here and Houston via Southwest Airlines.

“Now, we’ve taken away that competitive disadvantage, and we’ve been able to promote it as an advantage,” Thelen says. “It really has changed the conversation as we try to continue to build that pipeline between here and Silicon Valley.”

“The ability to have direct service does have an impact on the businesses that choose to do business here,” says Nancy Miller, vice president of operations at Travel and Transport, a national travel booking company based in Omaha. “I think it helps Omaha businesses.”

That an airline would add a regular nonstop flight to San Francisco lends credence to claims of Omaha’s growth as a potential hub in the Silicon Prairie.

“The Omaha economy really seems to have been doing well over the last couple of years,” says Dave Roth, deputy executive director of the Omaha Airport Authority. “It’s just a really positive combination of Omaha and the airlines for those additional flights.”

Omaha has popped up on several national lists as a new hot spot for tech startups. SmartAsset named Omaha the best city in the nation to work in tech in 2015, and Nebraska has been No. 3 on Forbes’ list of Best States for Business for two years running.

Thelen used his first flight to the Silicon Valley to meet with a dozen tech companies, some who already have outposts in town, and few others he’d like see set up shop.

“For the cost of one hotel stay and a pretty simple flight in and out, you can get two full business days of work without the hassle of changing planes and the risk of getting delayed,” Thelen says. “The convenience of business travel just went up exponentially, and you can expect that connectivity to continue to grow.”

Executives headquartered in San Francisco can more easily visit and engage with their Midwestern operations. Or, employees based in Omaha can more efficiently meet with leadership in Silicon Valley. Officials at PayPal and LinkedIn—which employ about 2,800 and 300 people, respectively, in the Omaha area—say there is frequent travel between the Silicon Valley and their operations in Omaha, but exact figures were unavailable.

“To have firms like that, that now have much, much easier access back and forth, frankly it makes our location all that more integral to the operation because it’s a simpler connect now,” Thelen says.

He added: “That simple flight makes a big, big difference.”

And even homegrown startups can take advantage. They can get twice as much done on recruiting trips from the valley, whether they are looking for talent or financing.

Davidson, the CEO at Flywheel, says the increased connectivity will indeed make a big difference for local companies raising money. There still remains a lot of work to put Omaha “on the map” with more sources of local capital and slowing the export of the state’s top technology talent, to name a few.

“I don’t know that you’re able to look at [direct flights to San Francisco] and say, ‘Hey, look, we solved the problem,’” he says. “I think there’s 50 things that are contributing, and what you really want to do is, just one at a time, start whittling away.”

Visit omahachamber.org for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Job Search Advice

January 31, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The wage gap is closing, in large part due to women who are no longer satisfied with just a steady income.

Though Nebraska is often touted as a thriving job market for men and women alike, the state has earned a C-minus grade for employment and earnings of women from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and is ranked 31st in the nation—behind Iowa, Missouri, and most of the East Coast. Women in Nebraska are earning an average of 73.1 cents for every dollar made by men. While the wage gap is closing, at this rate of progress, Nebraska will not achieve equal pay for men and women until 2066.

However negative these statistics may seem, the job searching process for women is brighter today than it has ever been. The career search and application process is changing rapidly, and women learn at a fast pace. Thanks to the availability of resources to determine salaries of others in their prospective field, women are finding the process to be significantly less daunting and more hopeful.

When engaging in a job search, an activity that local résumé writer Bridget (Weide) Brooks says is now occurring close to every two to three years in an adult’s life, women are less commonly left to guess at how their salaries stack up to those of male counterparts in the same field or wonder about the dollar value of their unique skills.

Cindy Wagner

Cindy Wagner

Career coach Cindy Wagner finds that the biggest mistake women make in their job search is to underestimate their skills, or “undersell themselves.” Wagner works with women to discover skills that they tend to disregard. She looks for the unique, and often less quantifiable, talents of each individual. As she guides a client’s career search, she starts by helping people uncover what truly drives them to seek out a new career, the idea beyond a simple paycheck.

The wage gap is closing, in large part due to women who are no longer satisfied with just a steady income. As more and more women make their way into higher ranking positions within companies, potential employees are setting higher goals than previous generations—and achieving them. Motivation to not only get a job, but to be hired by a company where their passions and talents will be utilized, is increasingly enabling women to surpass competition in the job market.

Wagner’s next step is working with clients to develop a picture of what their ideal job would look like, factoring in their individual passions to create a fulfilling career concept. Then she helps with résumé, LinkedIn profiles, and other factors in her clients’ personal branding to make sure that the materials clearly and accurately reflect the value of the individual.

A common problem faced by many women trying to create their personal brand is accounting for time outside of the workforce, often spent caring for children or aging parents. Taking time off to care for children can be especially problematic in Nebraska, which the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranks 50th in reproductive rights. Although many might consider a gap of a few years or more in their work history to be a weak point on their résumé, professionals such as Brooks and Wagner see such areas as opportunities for articulation of “softer” skills that could be a major asset for any job seeker. Companies hire employees because they have a problem, a need that is unmet. A potential employee who is able to discuss their problem-solving skills articulately makes for a strong candidate in almost any field.

Volunteer experience, work with school organizations, problem solving, and interpersonal skills can all help raise the value of potential employees. Brooks emphasizes that gaps in work history are not necessarily a weakness if workers know how to showcase that time in a clear way. While it is helpful to take a few classes or continue to work part-time outside the home, the most important strategy to rejoining the workforce is to maintain connections with coworkers.

Overall, the uncertainty Brooks and Wagner see the most frequently in their female clients stems from a lack of confidence. Women tend to be less aggressive in their job search and avoid “bragging” in their application process, which can impact a potential employer’s perception of their value as workers. Advice from a professional career coach or résumé writer can help build that confidence and show women that their skills translate to career opportunities.

With information about the dollar value of talents available on the internet, women are now more prepared than ever to use their skills as leverage in negotiation of salary, benefits, and flexibility of hours. Women are great at building relationships, especially with other women, and shouldn’t be afraid to use those connections. Brooks states plainly, “people hire people.” Research, some self-reflection, and a strong résumé can help women and their prospective employers understand that their skills are worth far more than 73 cents on the dollar.

Visit omahacareercoach.com for more information.

Bridget (Weide) Brooks

Bridget (Weide) Brooks

 

 

 

Top Ten Networking Tips

by Bridget (Weide) Brooks

Person-to-person networking is the single most effective way to find a new job, according to a survey conducted by Right Management, with 46 percent of jobseekers identifying networking as the reason they found their most recent job. Here’s 10 easy ways for women to build, nurture, and grow their personal network.

1. Don’t wait until you need a job to build your network. You should be constantly building—and strengthening—your connections with your network. Do something to build your network each and every day, whether that’s sending an email to someone you haven’t talked to in a while or identifying someone new you want to meet.

2. Don’t think of networking as some big, scary thing. It’s talking to people. It’s asking them for help. It’s offering help. It’s about cultivating relationships, not doing some forced, fake thing.

3. Identify who is already in your network. Take out a sheet of paper and make a list of all the people you know: friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents and relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, your community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.), alumni connections, and your doctor, financial adviser, attorney, etc. Your holiday card list can be a good starting point for identifying who is already in your network.

4. Remember the principle of “Six Degrees of Separation.” Research shows that you are likely six people away from the person you want to reach. There’s fun in figuring out how to get to that person. A practical application of this is to look for the person on LinkedIn and see who is connected to that person that you already know. Reach out to your contact offline (not on LinkedIn, but by phone or in person) and ask if they can help you connect with that person.

5. The power of the network is not just the people you know—it’s the people those people know. What if you can’t find a contact in common? Don’t be afraid to ask your network to help connect you with someone who has the information or resources you need. A very practical way to do this, for example, is to send a group text message or Facebook Messenger message that says, “Do any of you know someone who works for ABC Company?”

6. Give to get. Be the person who reaches out to your network of contacts regularly (at least a couple of times a year) to see what they are doing, to acknowledge those efforts, and to offer to provide assistance (should they need it). Segment your list of contacts into a “to do” list of check-ins. But make sure you are focusing on them when you make contact, not on you. You probably know someone who only contacts you when they need something. Don’t be that person.

7. Make time to get out and see people. The most powerful networking contacts are in-person, one-to-one interactions. If possible, arrange one to two coffee or after-work happy hour meetings with someone in your network each month. Also, when possible, attend networking events (for example, those hosted by a professional organization). If you can’t do that, network where you already are: your child’s soccer game, your neighborhood grocery store, and even at sporting events.

8. Network online. Participate in an online community. This can be a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn, an alumni site (like Classmates.com) or your trade association’s website (which might have an e-list or message board to connect members). However, remember that online networking is not a substitute for in-person networking.

9. Be very specific when you activate your network. Identify the specific need you have, and then contact people who are in a position to help you reach that specific goal. You’ll sometimes see someone post a public request for help finding a new job—but more often, these types of requests are made individually and not as a broad “call for help.”

10. Once you build it, use it! Women are extraordinarily talented at creating small, powerful networks—we just need to do a better job of using them!

Sharing Omaha

June 16, 2015 by

This article appeared in in the summer 2015 issue of B2B.

Of the 318 million U.S. citizens, can you venture to guess how many use social media? The answer came at a recent eTourism conference—67% of us in the U.S. are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms to connect with our friends, family, and favorite products. What is interesting for tourism is that most people use social media to brag about their vacations, and, as the official agency in charge of inspiring visitors to travel to Omaha, we love that.

Currently the Visit Omaha Facebook page has nearly 100,000 followers. Facebook provides the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB) with a platform to promote Omaha, and it allows residents and visitors to easily share Omaha’s story with even more people. The OCVB social media strategy is simple—showcase Omaha as a visitor destination, or, in other words, inform people why Omaha is worth the trip. And more people are spreading that message than ever before—thanks to Visit Omaha followers, 6.6 million Facebook users were exposed to the Visit Omaha message in 2014.

Two-thirds of Visit Omaha’s Facebook fans reside outside the metro-Omaha area. In fact, the page has fans from 44 different countries, including Germany, Italy, and India. Visit Omaha fans range in age from 13 to 65-plus, and the majority of them are women (62%).

The Visit Omaha social media presence extends to a number of other platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Visit Omaha also uses creative ways to engage and encourage the social media audience to share Omaha’s story. One way is with the Omaha Weekend Insta-map, which invites visitors and locals to take pictures of their Omaha experiences and share the photos with us. All they have to do is tag their photos on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #OmahaWeekend, and those photos will automatically populate the Insta-map. And stop by the Omaha Visitors Center to take advantage of our photo booth. Guests can take fun Omaha-themed selfies in our iSnap photo booth and instantly post them to Facebook and Twitter. To date, 1,223 people have shared their photos with more than 112,000 of their friends and family.

You are invited to join the conversation and help tell Omaha’s story – just use #OmahaWeekend on your favorite social media platform. Happy sharing!

Deb Ward

Deb Ward is the director of marketing/communications, Omaha Convention and Visitor’s Bureau

LinkedIn’s New Office

March 24, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Founded in 2002, the Omaha LinkedIn office is an eclectic mix of corporate consistency and quirky colloquialism. After years of steady success at their 90th and Western location, LinkedIn expanded last November into an almost-identical building across the parking lot in order to house its 170-plus employees.

Walking into the brand new facility, one thing is instantly obvious: the abundance of natural light. “It’s one of those things you take for granted and don’t really realize how meaningful it is,” Kelli Pilgrim, Director of Global Operations, says about the new space.

With a life-size cut-out of Kid Rock at one end of the office and a Star Wars-themed tech area complete with a Chewbacca light at the other, the new LinkedIn office reflects its employees.

“Every site puts their own little flare and personality on things, but pretty much the color scheme and the feel of the office is always the same,” Pilgrim says. “I have been to Chicago, I have been to Dublin, and I have been to corporate, and they really have found the right mix to make it feel like LinkedIn.”

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Although corporate has achieved the perfect shade of LinkedIn blue for its new office, employees were given a lot of freedom in terms of the creative elements of the new Omaha  space. Per employee request, individual rooms and meeting spaces in the new office are organized not by numbers and letters but by Clue characters—instead of room 202, employees convene in Colonel Mustard or Miss Scarlet.

The candy bowl is always full, and the cooler is stocked to the brim with juice drinks, soda, and bottled tea. Employees have access to an expansive break room/dining space that offers fresh fruit, a wide variety of lunch options, an espresso machine, and a Coca-Cola Freestyle soda machine. Most lunches at the LinkedIn offices are free and catered, but don’t let that fool you—LinkedIn prioritizes health and ergonomics.

Mark Davis is the facilities manager at LinkedIn and was an essential part of the expansion project. He says he’s grateful for the emphasis on ergonomics and employee comfort so that he can focus on meaningful maintenance issues.

“If somebody requests something, there are no questions asked. If that’s what you think you need, we’ll make it happen,” Davis says. “We are really accommodating in terms of ergonomics.”

All desks in the LinkedIn office are adjustable via a small crank and equipped with a personal filing cabinet and rolling pod that can be used as a seat for quick meetings. The new office also offers private, spacious restrooms for women who are pregnant or nursing, as well as employee showers, a fitness center, and free Zumba classes.

“We have a really strong health and wellness program at LinkedIn in general. We have a small gym here that the landlord provides, and we have discounts to local gyms nearby. That way, if people just want to run over by Westroads and come back, they have a place to freshen up,” Pilgrim says.

LinkedIn also offers a Bring Your Parents to Work Day along with the traditional Bring Your Kids to Work Day so employees can better integrate their families into their work routine. For employees who have children, the snow day policy is especially helpful—all work can be done remotely, so there’s no shuffling the kids off to the neighbors while trying to navigate a Nebraska winter.

Hashtags 


January 8, 2014 by

Thanks to Saturday Night Live’s runaway hit sketch “#Hashtag” last September, even people living under rocks have heard of hashtags. If you’re in charge of your business’ social media, however, you may not be any more confident as to how to make the humble pound sign work for you.

But it’s not difficult, promise. Maren Hogan, CEO of Red Branch Media, makes it simple: “It’s just a quicker way to search.” A social media post (usually in Twitter, though Facebook is playing along) that’s tagged with #BigOmaha or #HRTechChat is instantly added to an entire conversation that other social media users can follow. “If you want your content to stand out,” Hogan says, “or if you’re trying to reach a niche audience, you can use [the hashtag] in skill-specific chats.”

What if you’re not ready to jump into a real-time chat on Twitter just yet? Hogan says blog it, tweet the link, and tag it with the chat’s hashtag. But don’t be afraid to chime in eventually. “You can chat with real professionals all over the world,” Hogan says. “You can establish yourself as a thought leader.”

Even if you’re not adding to a Twitter conversation about your industry or laughing with other tweeting conference-goers about the latest keynote, you can search hashtags for some basic lead generation. “Even by following something simple like #omaha,” says Ben Pankonin, founder and CEO of Social Assurance, “I can start to follow what people in Omaha are saying about a given topic.”

Third-party applications like Hootsuite allow users to create “streams”—feeds that contain only tweets pertaining to certain topics. One of the ways to filter a stream is, of course, by following a particular hashtag. “In health care, you may want to know what nurses are looking for,” Pankonin says. “So you might follow #RNChat. If you’re looking for people who are in finance, you might follow #finserv.”

Hogan relates one innovative lead-generation technique she’s seen: “Someone wasn’t able to attend a conference for her industry, but she followed the hashtag and took note of people who were tweeting from it.” Ta-da! A target market list based on hashtag users.

Okay, but how does one find these hashtags in the first place? “To find hashtags already in use, you have to be paying attention,” Pankonin says. “Listening. Trying out keywords. You have to look around. It takes a bit of discovery to get you there.”

The hashtag is nothing if not versatile. Other uses aside from search include cross-posting. Simply adding #fb or #in can send your tweet flying to Facebook or LinkedIn if you’ve linked your accounts.

And let’s not leave out the faux hashtag. Tagging a photo of an employee’s dog in the office with #newrecruit isn’t so much beneficial for search or lead generation as it is for, well, a light laugh. “They can be a great way to be relevant and human and funny,” Hogan says.

“People are social,” Pankonin points out. “Companies recognize that we see people face to face less frequently than we used to. In social media, humor translates very well.”

“Just recognize when a trend is happening, when it’s cresting, and when it’s over,” Hogan cautions. “The only one who’s going to hashtag YOLO these days is someone who’s desperately out of touch.”

Unless part of your online presence is you cheerfully being 15 minutes behind the times, she adds. Then, yeah. Go for it.

Time to Get LinkedIn

August 26, 2013 by

I like Facebook. I entered this social media space with a passion, thanks to the Creighton students I was teaching at the time. I have more than 1,000 friends, including my four teens, because I bought their computers and iPhones and because I want to embarrass them.

But my teens have actually moved on to Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine, and I feel the need to move on myself, with a renewed passion, to LinkedIn. There are a few reasons I recommend you do the same.

The first is that it’s important as a professional to separate your personal and business lives. Facebook can make that a little dicey. The second reason is opportunity. LinkedIn is now the world’s largest professional network. It limped along for a time, being one of the world’s “older” social networks, but it’s cracked the code on changes in technology, target, and services for professionals that make LinkedIn the ideal place to connect.

With more than 225 million users in 200 countries, LinkedIn gives you access to 2.7 million business pages, 1.5 million groups, and your share of 1 billion endorsements. How you leverage all this is up to you. My advice: Spend more than the average 17 minutes per day on the site to get your profile up to speed. Follow industry leaders, post so you get followed, and enjoy the ride! Here are some specifics to get you started:

  • Download the LinkedIn App for your mobile device (Android, Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone).
  • Complete your profile. This helps LinkedIn connect you with people you used to work with and people in industries similar to yours.
  • Build your network. Import contacts from all your other channels. Invite people you know to connect with you. Add a personal note about how you know the individual and why you want to connect. Go further than the typical template invitation and make yourself memorable.
  • Join groups that interest you. Look for groups that you’re marketing to or that may help you move your business.
  • Consider forming a group. Lead the way and post. Refer to articles.
  • Build a Company Page, especially if you are an entrepreneur.
  • Check the Channels (business news topics) on LinkedIn Today, the site’s e-zine. LinkedIn will recommend Channels, but you should check in regularly to follow Channels that help you improve in your career.

Wendy Wiseman is Vice President & Creative Director of Zaiss & Company, a customer-based planning and communications firm in Omaha.