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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Revenge of the Nerds: Tech Firms Scour College Campuses for Talent 05-31

Revenge of the Nerds: Tech Firms Scour College Campuses for Talent

On college campuses these days, the top nerds are getting a taste of what it's like to be star jocks.
[RECRUIT]Brian Yee
Brian Yee, a master's student in Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science, hands out Android pajamas from Google on campus.
For Maxwell Hawkins, a computer science and art major at Carnegie Mellon University, the moment came in March. A technology recruiting firm sent him a letter by FedEx urging him to drop out of his junior year and take his talents to work for a start-up.
"I work for the founder and seed investor in PayPal, Palantir and Facebook," wrote Peterson Conway, a recruiter with Carmel, Calif., firm Goodwyn/Powell. "I have been asked to help identify the founding team of a new venture."
The technology boom has created an acute shortage of engineers and software developers. The industry has responded by taking a page from the playbook of professional sports: identify up and comers early, then roll out the red carpet to lock them up.
With the social media frenzy in full swing, promising students are now wrestling with decisions about whether to stay in school or turn pro. Meanwhile, those who stay on campus are enjoying a bonanza of free food and other goodies as companies rush to win their hearts and minds.
"It is pretty good for my ego, frankly," said Mr. Hawkins, who decided to stay in school and take an internship offer from YouTube this summer.
Starting salaries at leading companies for average computer science grads from top schools range from $75,000 to $100,000, plus signing and relocation bonuses worth $5,000 to $15,000, according to venture capitalists and recruiters. New hires may also get small equity grants, with stars getting additional cash bonuses or larger grants worth as much as 1% of the company.
Facebook's FB -3.97% disappointing public offering demonstrated that the start-up tech market may not be quite as lucrative as everyone believed. But many students say they think the risks are still worth taking, given the huge potential upside.
Stephen Poletto, a senior computer science major at Brown University, said that in the middle of his junior year, he started fielding calls from headhunters, company recruiters and Brown alumni who work in the industry.
Companies, he said, routinely wine and dine students at posh restaurants to discuss internships and jobs, plying them with free limo rides to bars, $500 cash giveaways and raffles for iPads. So many companies give away free food when they hold technology talks at Brown that sponsors had to move the food inside the computer science auditorium to keep non-engineering students from grazing.
"That did not deter people," said Mr. Poletto, who accepted a job offer with online storage start-up Dropbox.
Google Inc. GOOG -1.33% is particularly active on campus. Brian Yee, a master's student at Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science, is one of the search giant's 400 "student ambassadors" at top universities around the world who get paid to assist with recruiting and spreading the word about Google products. In February, Mr. Yee rounded up 100 students to eat free pizza and hear a Google developer give a "Tech Talk" about YouTube.
"For the Tech Talk they sent 100 pairs of Android pajamas," he said. "Those went really quickly." Starting this fall, Google will more than double the ambassador program to over 1,000 students world-wide.
Mark Stehlik, assistant dean of Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science said it could make sense for a student to take a leave of absence to join a start-up, in some cases. But most students are better served getting their degrees, he said. "Many companies are trying to seduce students because they really need them," he said. "Students get a little starry eyed. For many of them they are better off finishing."
Big companies aren't the only ones wooing students. Peter Thiel, a billionaire Facebook investor, recently started a fellowship program offering 20 students $100,000 over two years to skip college and work on world-changing projects.
Tiny start-ups are ramping up their recruiting efforts, too, though it is far from a fair fight. In February, Highland Capital Partners, the venture investor behind Lycos and Inc. sent executives from some of its portfolio companies on a four-day road trip to interview candidates at the University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell. They made the trip by Chrysler minivan and stayed at inexpensive hotels, like Holiday Inn. After interviewing 100 candidates, five have accepted offers. Total cost for 13 people: $5,000.
The big companies don't always win. Inc. AMZN +1.20% offered Brown University computer science major Kelsey Tripp a lucrative summer internship paying $5,300 a month plus a one-time $3,000 housing stipend. But the college junior turned it down for an even better internship offer at a start-up called Nebula Inc. It paid more and she liked that the program was organized by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a major player in Silicon Valley. A personal call from Nebula's CEO sealed the deal. "I have never spoken to a CEO before," she said.
The National Basketball Association has a rule called "one and done" that requires players entering the draft to be 19 or have completed their freshman year of college. But some prospective programmers aren't even making it that far.
Sahil Lavingia was a freshman at the University of Southern California in 2010 when he got an email from Ben Silbermann, chief executive and co-founder of the fast-growing online scrapbook Pinterest. Mr. Silbermann was looking for help building a version of Pinterest for the iPhone and happened upon a data tracking app developed by the self-taught Mr. Lavingia.
Figuring the young student "seemed like a go-getter," Mr. Silbermann drove up to Berkeley from Silicon Valley to meet Mr. Lavingia, who was coming to the Bay Area for the USC-Berkeley football game. A few days later, Mr. Lavingia had an offer in hand and took a leave from school to take the job.
Some companies are grabbing talented programmers even before they reach college. Luke Weber taught himself how to design computer games in high school and became one of the most popular contributors to Roblox Corp., a company that lets its subscribers play games developed by its users.
After graduating, he attended a Roblox conference last June and met the head of the company's marketing department, who asked him if he wanted to shoot some videos to teach people how to make games. The videos turned into a design job, and now Mr. Weber, who has postponed plans to go to college, works three days a week for the company producing games and virtual goods for $25 an hour.
At 18, he is the youngest employee of the company. "Apparently," he said, "I am really pro at it."

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

University Of Wisconsin Students Win Space Habitat Competition 05-31

J.D. Harrington/Michael Braukus    
Headquarters, Washington    

Lynnette Madison
Johnson Space Center, Houston

University Of Wisconsin Students Win Space Habitat Competition

HOUSTON -- University of Wisconsin students topped two other university teams to win the 2011 NASA eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge, a competition to design and build a space habitat. The team will now take its inflatable space loft to NASA's annual Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert RATS) field test in Arizona in September. It will be tested as part of a simulated astronaut mission to an asteroid.

"University students are helping NASA develop potential habitats for future space missions," said Kriss Kennedy, habitat demonstration unit project manager at Johnson. "The teams collaborated to demonstrate how technology we might use in the future could actually be developed."

The tree teams totaling 135 students each spent a week this month at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston setting up and deploying their inflatable lofts for judging. Teams from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, and the University of Maryland, College Park also competed.

"This is a great example of how NASA can obtain innovative system concepts from universities," said Doug Craig, strategic analysis manager for analog systems at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "These technology concepts are a valuable part of our human space exploration planning activities."

According to the judges, the 14-member University of Wisconsin team's design held promise for habitability and application to the Desert RATS mission simulation and was ready for field use because it had little leakage in the inflatable systems. The loft will be part of the home for a crew of four during the field test.

In June 2010, NASA invited university teams to submit inflatable loft concepts for the X-Hab Challenge. The three competing universities received $48,000 of seed funding to assist with their projects. The winning university will receive $10,000 to offset costs associated with the desert field test.

Next year's competition, X-Hab 2012, will look at volume, geometry and habitability of a deep space habitat and technologies for plant growth and geo-science sample handling. The competition is designed to engage and retain students in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, which in turn will help develop the next generation of innovators and explorers. It also tests concepts and solutions for potential future NASA missions.

X-Hab is sponsored by NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and the Innovative Partnerships Office in the Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA headquarters in Washington. For more information about the X-Hab competition and updates about each team's designs, visit:

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Be Happier at Work: 05-30

How to Be Happier at Work: 3 Tips

Alex and Laila / Getty Images
Working at a start-up can be stressful. Just ask Chade-Meng Tan, who as Google’s 107th employee, experienced the company back when it was a start-up instead of the behemoth it is today.
Tan was an engineer, and engineers at Google are famously given “20% time” to work on projects of their own choosing. Tan used his 20% time, working with experts, to create a course called “Search Inside Yourself,” designed to help Googlers improve their emotional intelligence and mindfulness, making them happier and more productive employees, and better bosses. Ultimately, his goal is to make the world in general a happier place for everyone.
Tan, whose official Google title is “jolly good fellow (which nobody can deny)” has been teaching “Search Inside Yourself” for the past five years, and participants often report that it changed their lives–in fact one attendee reversed her decision to leave Google after taking it. Tan’sbook, distilled from the course, is now a New York Timesbestseller.

Here are three mindfulness skills Tan recommends for every entrepreneur:

1. Learn inner calm.

Working in a start-up company often entails an endless stream of financial pressures and stresses. “The ability to arrive at a mind that is calm and clear on demand is very useful,” Tan says. “The analogy is a deep ocean: The surface is choppy but the bottom is very calm. If you’re able to go deep inside, you can access that calmness and exist in a world where you can be calm and in action at the same time.”
Sound like a tall order? “Gaining this skill turns out to be very easy,” Tan says. “It comes from mindfulness, and mindfulness is about the training of attention in a way that allows your mind to stabilize.” One way to achieve this is with a brief daily meditation session, but Tan says you can also get there by quietly focusing your attention on your breath from time to time throughout the day. “Three breaths, every now and then,” he says. “Or even every now and then be aware of taking one breath. You don’t have to train very deep.”

2. Increase emotional resilience.

“Entrepreneurs fail all the time, and if your job involves innovation, that always entails failure,” Tan says. “Begin with the recognition that failure is a physiological experience in large part. For me, it’s tightness in my chest, my stomach dropping, a lack of energy. I feel horrible. And the reason I feel horrible is because of the sensations in my body.”
The first step, he says, is to recognize failure as a physical experience. The second step is to return to technique No. 1: Calm your mind by focusing on your breathing. “Calming the mind has the effect of calming the body as well,” Tan says, adding that these steps calm the Vagus nerve, which regulates physiological stress reactions.
“Let go of the sensation,” he says. “Consider emotions as simply physiological sensations, that is all. They may be pleasant or unpleasant, but they are simply experiences. Just let them come and go as they wish in a kind, gentle, and generous way. If you can do that, you can become more resilient to failure.”

3. Develop the habit of wishing success to others.

“The premise is that if you have to convince someone to help you, half the battle is lost,” Tan explains. “If you’re going to help them succeed in a way that you also succeed, it’s a lot easier. If you always frame things in those terms, people are more likely to want to work with you.”
A related and very powerful habit is wishing happiness to everyone you come across, Tan says. “Looking at any human being: ‘I wish for this person to be happy.’” You may not want to start with the person who cuts you off in traffic, he adds, but with people that you already like, and then people to whom you feel neutral. “The reason is to create a mental habit so that when you see someone, your first thought is, ‘I want this person to be happy.’ The people you meet will pick this up unconsciously.”
It will also help you be a better boss. Tan recommends entrepreneurs strive to become what Jim Collins in Good to Great calls “level 5 leaders”the kind who can propel their companies to greatness. “What’s special about level 5 leaders is they’re personally humble and ambitious at the same time,” Tan says. “Their ambition is for the greater good, not for themselves. This type of leader is very effective in a start-up, where you want to inspire everybody. That’s why the best skill a start-up leader can learn is compassion.”
Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and vice president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. @MindaZetlin

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Monday, May 28, 2012

5 Attitudes Wired in Happy and Successful Brains 05-29

5 Attitudes Wired in Happy and Successful Brains

happy and successful
I’ve been studying psychology and self-improvement for a long time now. A lot of my research includes getting into the minds of happy and successful people (by asking questions and observing their behavior), and then trying to determine what it is that makes them the way they are.

One thing I’ve noticed about almost every single happy and successful person is that they share a lot of the same attitudes and beliefs about life.

I’ve carefully examined people from all different professions – actors, scientists, comedians, business owners, athletes, musicians, etc. – and often times the one’s who are the most happy and successful are also the ones who share very similar philosophies.
Here are some of the fundamental attitudes and beliefs that I believe contribute to their happiness and success:

1. Failure is a part of learning.
This is one of the most commonly recited mantras in self-improvement – but for good reason. Individuals who see their mistakes and failures as a learning experience are much more prone to happiness and success.
When we adopt the belief that “failure is a part of learning,” we become more resilient and courageous in the face of new challenges.
Instead of avoiding situations where we may embarrass ourselves or temporarily hurt our self-esteem, we embrace these challenges in life, even when we know they can be risky and painful.
When we do fail, we don’t see it as the end of the world, but a point to grow from and improve upon. Here are some of my favorite quotes illustrating this concept:

“I didn’t fail a thousand times, I only found a thousand ways that don’t work.”

Thomas Edison

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan

“Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved. Success is the lurking-place of failure; but who can tell when the turning-point will come?”

Lao Tzu

2. Focus on solutions, not just problems.
Many people are great at finding problems and being critical about their lives; however, they do this without ever suggesting a possible solution or alternative to their situation.
They complain about this and that, but they never take an active role to actually improve these things. They focus on problems not to learn from them or fix them, but to make excuses for why their lives are miserable and unpleasant.
I believe acknowledging problems in life is important. I don’t recommend that we ignore things in our life that disturb us or make us unhappy. However, it’s also important to think of ways we can actually respond to these problems and change our circumstances.
Ruminating over problems in our life without a plan to take action is not only a waste of time, but it makes us even more sad and depressed. If you’re going to be critical about something in your life, focus on the ways you can actually make a difference.
Happy and successful people only think about problems when they are looking to improve them. They do not use them as excuses or self-deprecating banter.

“Focus 90% of your time on solutions and only 10% of your time on problems.”

Anthony D’Angelo

“I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act.”

Bill Gates

“Looking back, I realize that nurturing curiosity and the instinct to seek solutions are perhaps the most important contributions education can make.”

Paul Berg

3. Be grateful for what you have.
Happy and successful people are incredibly grateful for their lives and everything they have: their relationships, their home, their job, their possessions, their talents, their achievements, etc.
Although successful people are often thought of as always hungry and striving – always trying to improve things, achieve their goals, and make things better – this inner drive doesn’t take away from the fact they are very happy and content with their lives.
One of my favorite things to do is watch successful people give thank you speeches after achieving something really great. This is when their true colors shine through because you can tell many of them are extremely grateful for all the people and good fortune that contributed to their success.
Gratitude is an irreplaceable characteristic of true happiness and success. Even if we achieve great things in life, without gratitude we often find ourselves empty and discontent. Make sure you take the time to reflect on how lucky you are as a person (I believeeveryone can find something to be grateful for).

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”


“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

Albert Schweitzer

“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.”

Brian Tracy

4. See the bigger picture.
Happy and successful people have an uncanny ability to put things into perspective and see the “bigger picture.” They rarely get caught in the heat-of-the-moment or act impulsively. Instead they are calm, centered, and understanding that there is much more to the world then what immediately meets the eye.
If something goes wrong in their life, they don’t get too upset because they know that life goes in phases, and there will always be highs and lows. No single moment in life can ever define you because you are a dynamic individual in a dynamic world.
On the other hand, people who can’t see the “bigger picture” often get overwhelmed and flustered when something goes wrong. They are too narrowly focused in the moment, and not taking the time to step back and see the larger view of what’s happening.

“In order to properly understand the big picture, everyone should fear becoming mentally clouded and obsessed with one small section of truth.”

Xun Zi

“I always had a larger view. I’m interested in real life – my family, my friends. I have tried never to define myself by my success, whatever that is. My happiness is way beyond roles and awards.”

Amy Adams

“We think too small. Like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view.”

Mao Tse-Tung

5. Learn from other happy and successful brains.
Happy and successful individuals know that we can learn a lot from other happy and successful individuals. Having people to look up to is a great resource for learning the beliefs and habits that contribute to other people’s success, and then modeling those beliefs and habits in our own lives.
If you want to improve a particular area of your life, then find a couple people who already excel in that area of life. Study them. Ask them questions. Have them show you their technique and share their stories.
The more willing you are to learn from others (especially people who are more skilled or intelligent than you), the more successful you will be. Talking and listening to others is one of the best ways to get more perspective into what you want to improve in life – and how you can do it.

“People never improve unless they look to some standard or example higher and better than themselves.”

Tyron Edwards

“The best teachers of humanity are the lives of great men.”

Charles H. Fowler

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Mark Twain

You can learn a lot more about the importance of our attitude and beliefs in my new e-book        The Science of Self Improvement.

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