Grades Measure Test-Taking Skills and Interviews Measure Interviewing Skills

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Today Google dropped a bombshell: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/business/in-head-hunting-big-data-may-not-be-such-a-big-deal.html

They’ve made some significant changes to the way they recruit – no longer looking at things they were previously famous for, like asking a 30-something professional for his GPA and college transcript. Google, being Google, collected lots and lots of data and ultimately determined that these signals are more noise than signals, and have since discontinued using them.

At Zoho we reached the exact same conclusion many years ago, but how we got there was entirely different. Let me tell you the story.

When we got started with this company, I had fairly conventional beliefs about the value of college education, the importance of academic performance and GPAs and so on. I come from a large family, with 3 brothers and a sister, all younger than me. Academically, our family spanned the spectrum – I had a really stellar academic record, while my youngest brother, Mani, had a fairly mediocre one. I got to attend the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and later Princeton University, while Mani enrolled in an unremarkable “evening college”, basically a place to go to avoid being called unemployed. School held no interest at all for him and I would wonder what would become of him.

He joined my brothers and co-founders Kumar and Sekar, as a junior technical assistant in the very early days of the company, when our development center was still operating out of our parent’s home in India. Kumar would conduct C programming classes for fresh recruits and Mani sat in on them. To our surprise, he showed deep interest in programming and picked up fairly quickly, quicker even than some of the engineering graduates Kumar had hired. He got assigned to write code in one of our early products in network management and within a couple of years he was able to lead that product to profitability. He started to display a natural talent for understanding what customers want, and before long, he was managing products by himself. Mani is shy and prefers to stay in the background, but internally he leads teams that deliver Zoho CRM, Zoho Projects, Zoho Support, Zoho Recruit (yes, all of them!) and he is the Chief Operating Officer of Zoho.com. If I get hit by a bus, the company would run fine, but Mani is absolutely indispensable to our continued product execution. People who work with Mani in our company know his contribution, yet, I doubt a Google or Microsoft would ever have hired him (and I am glad they didn’t!).

As the eldest brother, I have watched Mani closely from childhood, and his blossoming into a leader taught me to question everything I thought I knew about the value of academic performance, grades and degrees.

What do those things measure anyway? I came to the conclusion that degrees measure college-surviving skills, grades measure test taking skills and interviews measure interviewing skills. As you can see, they are not completely useless, they do measure something, it is just that what they measure happens not to correlate much with real world performance on the job. I am happy to see that Google has validated these observations with lots of data.

We believe in education, we just believe the higher education establishment is serving the cause of education poorly and expensively. We do not believe college is the only way nor the best way to get a good education. We believe it is a travesty for the academic establishment to encourage young men and women to pile up so much debt in the pursuit of a college degree. The higher education system is a bubble that deserves to burst. We believe it is the vital responsibility of employers to help young men and women avoid debt, and the way employers can help is to not ask for college credentials during hiring.

It is heartening to read that Google has a lot of employees without a college degree now. At Zoho, nearly 20% of our people do not have a college degree, and our long term goal is to get that percentage to 50% or higher. We encourage every company to try it, it really, really works. It is good for employees, it is good for society, and it is good for companies.

 An overwhelming majority of our people (over 95%) join us with no prior work experience, either fresh out of college or fresh out of high school. After a period of training, which varies, they tend to start out as generalists, get exposed to a variety of functional areas and over time they tend to specialize in areas such as product development, frameworks, security, design, quality assurance, support, product management and so on. We are fortunate that our people tend to stay with us, which allows us to invest in them to develop specific skills. As an example, in the past 3 years, we have grown our mobile team from a standing start to nearly a hundred people. We have not only developed mobile software development skills and shipped cool products, we have also developed a cohesive product strategy and vision in mobile.

It is not just in hiring that we are different. We do not have formal performance reviews.  It is natural for people to postpone giving bad news, and managers are people too. This means managers tend to store up negative feedback for review time and inflict negative surprises, which is deeply frustrating. Instead, we ask our managers to share any negative feedback immediately, and only keep positive surprises during pay revision time. This system has worked well, both in terms of increased employee satisfaction as well as by reducing the endless amount of review-writing that managers have to go through.

All of these ideas come from a fundamental philosophical belief: human beings are intrinsically unmeasurable. Trying to measure and classify people will ultimately lead to dissatisfaction and failure. Instead, we have noticed that small groups of people, with leaders who are directly connected and aware of the work each team member does, can achieve tremendous productivity and job satisfaction.

 

Introducing #recipeforsuccess: Pinspiration for your Business

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We’ve been sharing one piece of inspiration every week for the past eight weeks. These consist of thought-provoking bits of wisdom from business leaders, entrepreneurs, famous personalities, Zoho customers and employees. Note: these are not your typical boring business–speak quotes. Each is handpicked and crafted into a poster, ready for you to use as artwork in your workspace that will help you stay motivated and on the path to success!

We’re calling this mix #recipeforsuccess and we’re thrilled with the responses we’ve gotten to the eight recipes that we’ve shared so far!

Take a look at the first 8 recipes, with some of our customers’ comments about them.

Today Quote

Stay on track. Is what you’re doing today going to help you get to where you want to be? If not, it’s time to revisit your goal and the actionable steps it will take to get there.

Genius Quote

Hard work pays off. Having a good idea will start a journey, but elbow grease is what’s going to help you reach your destination.

One of our users, Thenamuthan Atm, had another idea of what constitutes genius. The formula? “Confidence + Being Smart.”

Limitations

Jump over obstacles. Don’t let negative scenarios that run in your head paralyze you. Keep your goals in mind and keep pushing forward.

Procrastinate Quote

Remember what you’re passionate about. Passion is a serious driving force! Ask yourself why you do what you do, and keep that in mind when you hit rough patches on the road.

In response, Mark Roberts wrote “We started FirstLight HomeCare WestIndy, a veteran owned home care business helping veterans!!! If you never take a leap of faith you never will know!!!”

Meetings

Change things for the better. If you notice that meetings or any aspect of your business is not working out well, find out why and set an action plan to increase productivity.

Plan A Quote

Don’t give up. Or be discouraged. No one said running a business was built from a first idea or one brainstorming session. If a plan doesn’t work out, be flexible and try another one.

In response, Kashif Tufail Bhatti added, “If all 26 plans fail, try other languages. :)”

Twitter

Strive for good. There’s nothing like building a business that you’re passionate about that also solves a problem that society has. If you share your passion with others, you’ll have strong supporters.

Entrepreneur

Make it happen. After all, the best part about a business dream is seeing it become a reality! Get busy and take action.

Mark Brutus Thurman emphasized getting a head start at doing. “Start early. Its amazing how much you can get done before 9am when the phone starts ringing…”

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What happens when you collect such inspiration onto a Pinterest board?

Pinspiration – that’s the best way to follow our weekly series of recipes. Watch this board for a fresh, new recipe for success every week. Happy pinning!

Do you have your own words of wisdom to add? Feel free to share them in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Coffeehouse Culture: Freshly brewing within Companies

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Two weeks ago, my colleague posted an infographic on , “Work & Coffee: The Unbreakable bond”. It is true and I second that.  Now, I’d like to draw an analogy between “coffeehouse culture” and “social media” within an organization.

From the late 15th century, coffee-shops were the common meeting places for artists, musicians, writers and the like to share ideas and build their community. Coffee is considered to have aided the age of enlightenment and revolution in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Earlier, coffeehouses were social places where people met and debated on various topics of interest within the social circles. Modern coffeehouses are not so much about “coffee” but mostly about the “culture” that it brings along with it. “Coffeehouse culture” is all about allowing ideas to flow in from different social groups to meet and mingle.

A social network within a company functions more like “coffeehouses” facilitating workforce to be more interactive. The employees can be more out-going with their ideas leading to innovations. As much as each coffee shop has its own social climate and culture, each organization has its own culture too. Organizations can support an opportunity for collaboration among colleagues using a social network.

coffee

Learning brings vitality to an organization. Businesses that value and promote learning in all its forms, can reap benefits of its workforce in an environment that is alive and engaging. A social network inside the organization keeps workforce productively engaged, while transacting information that is relevant to them.

Imagine, a crowded space with individual tables for each group which is very typical of a coffee shop. A social network is also that “crowded space” with all its employees in it. Groups within social networks are those “individual tables” that allow teams to collaborate individually and effectively in small numbers. Each social circle may have its share of information and noise on the coffee table, so much so Groups will have their own share of information within the network.

Having shared this analogy, social media for companies is increasingly changing the way organization communicate and the way businesses function. The demand of staying updated at all times has become part of modern digital era.

As coffee refuels your senses, so does the social network for your company. Sip in this new business culture !

 

Celebrating Small Businesses, All Year Around!

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At Zoho, we’re committed to helping small businesses, all year around.

smallbusinessweek (1)

But this week is special, because it marks the 50th Anniversary of the National Small Business Week, and we’d like to take a moment to thank all our small business users.

Thank you, not just for being our customers, but for having the passion and conviction that it takes to build and run a small business. Thank you, each one of you, for being part of a major force that fuels the economy. And most of all, thank you for pushing us to do even better at what we do best – building apps that help you focus on your business.

More power to you!

Security breaches and password reuse

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How many times in the recent past did you receive advisories asking you to reset the passwords of your online accounts? 

  • Just a couple of weeks ago, MOZ.com, the popular internet marketing software advised all its customers to reset their MOZ account passwords, because the encrypted portion of some of the member passwords were made public for a brief time.
  • About a month back, online daily deal company LivingSocial Inc. alerted its 50 million users to reset their account passwords following a cyber-attack on their computer systems that resulted in unauthorized access to some customer data from their servers.
  • On March 2, 2013, Evernote revealed that hackers had gained access to their network and been able to access user information, including usernames, email addresses, and hashed passwords. About 50 million users of Evernote were asked to reset their passwords.
  • Nearly a year ago, over 6.46 million hashed passwords were reportedly stolen from LinkedIn. Following that, LinkedIn asked the affected users to reset their passwords.
  • During the beginning of 2012, cyber-criminals had apparently gained access to the internal network and systems of the popular online shoe and apparel shop Zappos through one of their servers in Kentucky. Zappos suspected unauthorized access to its customer information and asked customers to reset their passwords.

These are just a few prominent samples. The list will actually fill volumes.

Resetting the password in the affected site alone may not be sufficient!

password-reuse

When you receive advisories like the ones mentioned above, you would promptly change the password in that site and feel secure. But, the harsh truth is that passwords and other sensitive data exposed in a single site could potentially affect your entire online life. This is because of the simple fact that most of us tend to use the same password on all sites and applications. So, the hacker who succeeds in cracking your password, actually gets the ‘master key’ to access all your accounts.

Just consider these scenarios:

  • An employee has used the same password for his social media accounts as well as work email and VPN. Data expose at just one site could invite hackers to your organization’s doorstep!
  • You are using the same password for your social media account and for online financial accounts. Password expose at one place could potentially drain your account..

So, when security incidents happen at one of the places, you should essentially reset the passwords of all other online accounts too. But, before you could do that, you should have the list of all online applications in which you own an account!

There is no magic wand: Use a unique password for every site

It is always prudent to have unique passwords for every website and application and supply it ONLY on that site/application. When there is news of password expose or hacks, you can just change the password for that site/app alone. Frequently changing passwords as a habit is also highly recommended.

But, here comes the problem: You will have to remember multiple passwords – sometimes in the order of tens or even hundreds. It is quite likely that you will forget passwords and at the most needed occasion, you will struggle logging in, resulting in password fatigue.

The way out: Use a password manager

Just like you have an email account, consider using a password manager too. In order to combat cyber-threats, proper password management should ideally become a ‘way of life’. Password Managers help securely store all your logins and passwords. In addition, you will get an option to launch a direct connection to the websites / applications from the password vault’s GUI itself. Saving you even the ‘Copy & Paste’ task, logging in is just a click away. Once you deploy a Password Manager, you can say goodbye to password fatigue and security lapses.

And, Zoho offers Zoho Vault, an online password manager, which solves all your password management problems. Try Zoho Vault!

Zoho Invoice – Android app gets a makeover this summer!

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Zoho Invoice android app has a slew of exciting updates this season. The first thing you are bound to notice is the clean, crisp UI and the slide drawer/ navigation. A slight swipe from the left to the right brings the app menu list at your service. Navigating to different modules is much more easier with the latest update.

android-invoice-appThere is more! We’ve added a simple and handy widget, which will now be a reason for iPhone users to be jealous of the android app. The cool widget allows you to quickly create an invoice, add an expense or log time for projects.

How do you bring it live on your home screen? On your home screen, drag and drop Zoho Invoice widget from the widget list available in your phone.

Finally, the much awaited ‘Print‘ option for invoices is now available on your android app through Google Cloud Print. You don’t have to run to your laptop every time to print invoices or estimates. Just click print on the invoice and the printer connected to your Google account will print it right away.

So that’s a lot of awesomeness coming your way. Head over to Google Play and update to the latest 1.7 version of our android app. Like always we’d love to listen to what you have to say. Drop us a line in the comments right below.

Dashboard Spotlight: Apple Inc. Earnings Analysis

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dashboard-spotlightApple is one company that has had a significant impact on the technology industry – and the public consciousness – for a long time. With its portfolio of innovative and cutting-edge products, it has managed to garner a vast customer base, and is a dominant player in many markets. In this post, we’ll be taking up various aspects of this company for analysis, and try to correlate specific points of interest with trends prevailing in the general industry, and among competing companies and products. Read more