Examining Our Fear of Negotiating, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

Once you’ve figured out what’s holding you back, what your fear is, you can face it and prepare for salary negotiation. This preparation will give you confidence to move forward. Kim Keating breaks it down into four steps: Do Your Homework, Silence is Golden, Time to Negotiate, and Make a Decision.

As with any type of negotiation, you must do your research and have facts available to support your request. This is the homework phase. According to an article at salary.com, “Women who fail to negotiate their salaries at the start of their careers could leave up to $2 million on the table.” The amount you want now may seem small, but it can make a big difference over the course of your career. Assess your qualifications and skills, do research on salaries in your field, and, if possible, find out what people in the company are making. Think about why they need you and use credible compensation data so you can say that “this is the standard.”

When Keating says “silence is golden,” she’s suggesting not bringing up the actual salary amount until the right time. You want the employer to know your value before discussing any salary. Use the findings from your homework and consider all aspects of compensation, including benefits, tuition, and retirement to get an accurate picture of what you’re worth. She says to make that number as high as you can back into. Ask questions and determine what the offer is based on. Take the time to get your research together, even if you need more time. Susan Adams shares advice from career coach Ellie Chase in How to Negotiate Your Salary Once You Have the Job Offer, “A lot of people are afraid that if they ask for more time, the hiring manager will rescind the opportunity. But that doesn’t happen 99% of the time, he says.”

When it comes time for the actual negotiation, you’ve done the homework and can speak with confidence. Women tend to underestimate themselves, but this is not the time to back down, even though it’s true that women might experience more hurdles than men at this point. One such problem is what Keating calls the likeability-competency conundrum, where women who act authoritatively are disliked more than men. An article at Forbes.com, states that women may experience what is referred to as “…“gender blow-back”—a subtle but powerful punishment for stepping outside our cultural gender role.” This is an unfortunate reality, but one that can be overcome. Choose to defy the stereotypes and demand better pay.

Whatever you experience, it will help make your final decision. The turnout may be a best case scenario, just acceptable, or worst case. There are so many variables at this point that will affect your decision. Is it a good company to work for? Do they offer something that your current position doesn’t, so you’re willing to take their offer? Did the negotiations give you insight into the culture of the company, for better or worse? If they don’t match your criteria, it may result in a worst case scenario where you don’t get what you want and choose to walk away, but that’s not a defeat. The process has prepared you for the next negotiation. It’s up to all of us to face our fears. The result may be that we eventually change the culture surrounding salary negotiations for the betterment of all.

Posted in Career Advancement, General, Professional Development | Leave a comment

2015 Summer College Immersion Program Closing Ceremony

Our Summer College Immersion Program came to a close on Saturday July 25, 2015 at Riggs Library with a banquet ceremony. Students from all over the U.S. spent 3 weeks on the campus of Georgetown University, During this time students reflected on what they thought the experience would be like; being away from home, meeting new people, experiencing college life as well as making new friends. They prepared a service project video to culminate their experiences. The Summer College Immersion program entailed centralized offices at Georgetown University discussing the college admission process and financial aide. Student panelists participated in speaking about college life, their experience with selecting courses/majors and schools to attend. Current high school students provided advice and how students should prepare as rising seniors as well as freshman’s once they attend college. The International Relations course included students from all over the world, that added a dynamic to the program that students would experience more diversity.

Students took an SAT prep exam which was followed-up with Capital Educators going over portions of the exam to prepare students for a successful score. The program was also designed for students to be be prepared to participate in mock college admission interviews. Some of the activities prepared for the students were a tour of the University of Maryland, a National’s game, visit to the Newseum and Kayaking. Important components of the program included icebreakers, reflecting, journaling and team building exercises.

Kyle Burns, Director of Custom Education and Instructional Design has been spearheading this program diligently for the past few years. Along with Georgetown University partners and sponsors, we are extremely proud of the work and perseverance of these students. We look forward to updates and seeing what lies ahead in their future. A special thanks goes out to the students of Cristo Rey and KIPP for embarking on this journey. We’d also like to thank Director; Antony Lopez, Assistant Director; Phillip Benevides, Mentors; Vismark Juarez, Oyetola Oyeyemi, Rachel Henry, Alejandra Baez, Michaela Gallien, Harper Weissburg and Selena Escalante for all of their hard work and time spent with the students during their visit to the hilltop. Special thanks goes out to Dean Kelly Otter, Associate Dean; Edwin Schmierer, President and CEO – Cristo Rey Network; Jane Genster and Director of College Support – KIPP through College – KIPP DC; Kamillah Holder for their continued support of this program and its mission. HOYASAXA!

Please click here to view the KIPP/Cristo Rey Students Service Project Video!

Please visit our website for more information on corporate and custom education at Georgetown University!

Posted in Career Advancement | Leave a comment

Data Analysis and Art Intersect at MoMA

Seen at the The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on August 1, 2015.

Data Analysis-MOMA


Posted in General | Leave a comment

The Human Potential of Artificial Intelligence

bladeRunner_1456156aWhen your favorite movie is Blade Runner, you tend to think about artificial intelligence a lot. In the movie, several androids, skinjobs with built-in lifespans, set off for Earth to meet their maker in hopes of extending their lives (they weren’t supposed to be on Earth, but that’s not what this post is about). They are amazing beings with incredible strength and abilities, yet their emotional level is like that of a teenager trying to figure out why they exist and what it all means. They are built to serve not to think deep thoughts. Their journey is violent and when one skinjob finally meets the maker, Tyrell, we see a visionary who is self-absorbed and who never truly considered the consequences of creating such powerful beings.

In countless movies, I’ve seen different interpretations of AI, but never truly imagined any of them as reality. The year in which Blade Runner is set has already passed and we’re nowhere close to living in outer space or driving flying cars, so I’m not worried that AI will change my life for the worse. Andrew Ng, chief scientist of Baidu, has no worries, at least for a while. In an article on deep learning at Wired, he says, “I think that hundreds of years from now if people invent a technology that we haven’t heard of yet maybe a computer could turn evil.” I tend to agree with Andrew Ng, but some influential people are very concerned.

Liviu Nedelescu, in We Should Want Robots to Take Some Jobs, states, “According to Ray Kurzweil, Elon Musk and others, once artificially intelligent machines are able to design other machines, humans will become an endangered species.”  Stephen Hawking thinks, “…the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Bill Gates wonders why some people aren’t concerned. When people like that express apprehension you have to wonder how realistic AI might actually be and stop to consider that you should be worried too. Others though, see great potential.

Throughout history work has been automated and we’ve adapted (whether it was with a fight like the Luddites or gradual acceptance like computers). In Beyond Automation, Thomas Davenport and Julia Kirby, reference David Autor, an economist at MIT. He writes about “strong complementarities.” He states that, “Tasks that cannot be substituted by computerization are generally complemented by it.” The authors call this “an augmentation strategy”, which they say “means starting with what humans do today and figuring out how that work could be deepened rather than diminished by machines.” They suggest that “creating meaning and innovating will be democratized through technology.”

This is where I perk up and imagine a world where the routine tasks are taken care of so that everyone can take on work that both challenges and fulfills them. This doesn’t have to be a new industrial age that will leave many people jobless, but it will require us to study our chosen profession and figure out what skills we have that can’t be automated. It has the possibility to change education in ways many of can’t even imagine. In the New York Times article, Relax, the Terminator Is Far Away, John Markoff quotes Sebastion Thrun, a roboticist, who says, “I’m a big believer that technology progresses by complementing people rather than replacing them.”

BladeRunner_Roy_TyrellMy greatest hope is that those creating and implementing the automation—the makers—take that idea to heart. Instead of being power-hungry like Tyrell in Blade Runner, makers choose to take a more enlightened approach and consider the effects on individuals, not just focus on the bottom line.

By the time AI is making great changes to civilization, I’ll be much too old to leave Earth for the off-world colonies where “a new life awaits” me … in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!” So for now I’m going to contemplate the creative potential and opportunity for more meaningful lives that technology can make happen.

“Let the machines do the things that are beneath you, and take the opportunity to engage with higher-order concerns.” – Thomas Davenport and Julia Kirby, in Beyond Automation

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Eligible Certificate Programs for Veterans!

The Center for Continuing and Professional Education is proud to announce that eight additional certificate programs have been added to the list of eligible certificates for veterans! A variety of CCPE’s certificate programs are eligible for funding through the Department … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Examining Our Fear of Negotiating, Part 1

Working with certificate programs in non-credit education, you’ll find plenty of students who are looking to move up within their current organization or switch to a new career. They are achieving their educational goals, but when it comes time to make a decision on a job offer or ask for a raise, a big challenge is knowing how to leverage themselves to prove their worth. This is especially relevant for women because of the gender pay gap.

In June, CCPE partnered with Lean In DC, who hosted Kim Keating, founder and managing director of Keating Advisors, to speak on “Close the Wage Gap.” KeaKeating.2cropting’s years of experience in strategic human resources make her advice extremely valuable. On Wednesday, June 17, 2015, more than 50 attendees, men and women, attended the event and had the good fortune of getting her advice firsthand.

Keating started the conversation by asking what challenges attendees have faced. Answers were varied from “this is the maximum salary we can offer” (which is not true) to hostility at a job seeker’s attempt to negotiate. There are so many factors to consider when you’re making a decision whether or not to take a job. Sometimes you want the job so much that you’ll forgo negotiations just to get in. Or you won’t negotiate at all because of one or more of the following, which Keating cited as the top five factors affecting negotiation:

  1. salary being non-negotiable
  2. fear of being rejected
  3. lack of negotiation skills
  4. fear of not getting the job
  5. intimidated by the hiring manager / boss

Most attendees agreed that lack of negotiation skills was their biggest fear. Statistics from Keating Advisors show that less than 20% of HR directors have negotiated a raise for themselves and 96% of HR directors had no formal negotiation training. You might have expected different statistics for that particular group, but it illustrates that people aren’t negotiating. Which of the five factors are affecting you?

I’ll share more advice from Kim Keating and others in part 2.

Connect with Kim Keating and Keating Advisors on LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Read more from Kim Keating at The Huffington Post.

Suggested reading from Lean In DC:
Overcoming the Confidence Gap for Women, New York Times, June 12, 2015
How To Report Your Past Salaries In An Online Job Application, Forbes, July 14, 2014
Sorry, Recruiters! You’re Not Getting My Salary History, Liz Ryan, LinkedIn
#talkpay: can America’s wage inequality be solved by sharing our salaries online? The Guardian, May 2, 2015
Women’s Earnings and the Gender Wage Gap in the Washington Region, Washington Area Women’s Foundation


Posted in Career Advancement, General, Professional Development | Leave a comment

Summer College Immersion Program – KIPP/Cristo Rey

College ImmersionGeorgetown University, in partnership with the Marineau Foundation and Roseti Family Foundation, provides a college immersion experience that prepares deserving students from the Cristo Rey and KIPP school networks, organizations that serve underprivileged, low-income, and diverse student populations, for college success. Students are typically first-generation college students. The three-week program brings 44 students together each summer on main campus to take courses in International Relations, Biology, and College Writing with Georgetown professors, live in residence halls, explore Washington, D.C., and participate in college-prep workshops. The program is designed for students who have aspirations to apply to the most selective colleges and universities.

This week our Summer College Immersion Program kicked off with students arriving on main campus on Sunday, July 5, 2015. They received warm welcomes from Dean Kelly Otter and Associate Dean Edwin Schmierer, followed by a presentation from Assistant Dean Amy Levine. During their three weeks, they will learn about university life from admissions to financial aid, tour the University of Maryland, take an SAT exam prep course, and complete university-level courses. They will also take part in reflection hours, book reviews, and health and wellness activities.

Over the last five years, about 200 KIPP and Cristo Rey students have participated in the summer college immersion program. 100% have been accepted in college and more than 85% have or are expected to graduate on time.

Posted in Career Advancement | Leave a comment

Dog Tag Bakery – Business Administration Certificate – Cohort 2

The Center for Continuing and Professional Education at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies has just kicked off the second cohort of The Dog Tag Bakery’s Business Administration certificate program. Classes began the first week in June and will go through October 22, 2015. Georgetown University’s Custom Education division partners with Dog Tag Inc. to deliver the educational component of their Fellowship program, which serves wounded warriors, care givers and spouses in two cohorts each year. Dog Tag Inc. is an organization that seeks to provide a transformative opportunity for veterans with disabilities by offering an education at Georgetown University and real life work experience in their small business venture, Dog Tag Bakery. Upon completion of the Dog Tag Inc. (DTI) program, transitioned veterans are business ready, (professionally equipped) competitive and employable.

There are 11 students currently enrolled in cohort 2 and 7 students completed the previous cohort 1 in December 2014 and the grand opening of the bakery followed shortly after, pictures from that event can be found here.

Here are photos from our first Dog Tag Bakery Certificate Completion Ceremony, looking forward to sharing more in the coming months.

Posted in Career Advancement | Leave a comment

The Courage Wall


By facing her own fears, Nancy Belmont created something that has struck a cord all over the world. Belmont was a student in the Leadership Coaching Certificate Program in 2013. Over the course of the program, she found her life heading down a new path. She was inspired to find a way to share her insights and eventually created the “Courage Wall.”

Over several weeks in May and June 2015, the wall (an 8-feet tall by 20-feet wide chalkboard) stood in Alexandria, VA. In large letters across the top, the board said “I Wish I Had the Courage to …” Below that there were 100 spaces where, every day for four weeks, passersby had the opportunity to complete the sentence.  By putting the idea out there, her message of courage has resonated throughout the area. Each day the board was filled anew. It became both a call to action and interactive public art.

The Courage Wall quickly gained national attention from major news outlets and then international attention, including an Aljazeera broadcast that went out to 35 million people and a tweet by first lady Michelle Obama. Belmont says that the wall was “a reaction to hearing clients (and myself) say over and over again that they couldn’t possibly be more of who they are because they were afraid of what would happen if they did.”

We asked Nancy about her life, work, and the Courage Wall.

How did you get to where you are now?

After working with countless leaders (and myself) I was driven to raise the consciousness of how fear holds us back from living bigger, bolder, more authentic lives. Inspired by Candy Chang’s “Before I Die” community chalkboards, I decided to erect a “Courage Wall” in my neighborhood. This 20’ x 8’ chalkboard reads, “I wish I had the courage to…” Each day, for a month, the board would fill up with over 100 declarations of courage.

There were entries like “…check into a shelter,” “…earn less money,” “…forgive my daughter for her drug addiction,” “…finish my book,” “be the man she thinks I am.” People from all walks of life poured their hearts out onto the board. Husbands and wives found new connections. Parents and children learned new things about each other. Strangers cried together.

CourageWall_4The Courage Wall was so powerful it ended up in the Washington Post, Forbes, ABC and even on the TODAY Show. Aljazeera broadcast the story of the wall around the world to 35 million and even Voice of America Russia did a spot. The global hunger for the courage conversation became very apparent, so I started to work on how I could make it an integral part of my business.

We are in the process of creating Courage Walls for new communities, developing an online Courage Community and launching Courage Conversations events in the near future. We are partnering with non-profits to bring more courage to their constituents and working with teachers to develop Courage Curriculum. Courage, it seems, resonates with everyone. And it’s high time we had more of it!

What are your future goals?

I am very excited about continuing the conversation on courage. I learned some things from the Courage Wall that are important for all of us to remember. First, fear is part of what it is to be human. Fear lives in each one of us; it’s the way that we interact with the fear that determines how boldly we live. Second, there is more inside of each of us than we are today. Each of us has hopes and dreams of being more authentic, more impactful, more courageous than we are. I believe that if we can continue the courage movement, individuals, and our world, will be more vibrant, fruitful and alive.

Learn more about Nancy and the journey that led her to create the “Courage Wall” here.

The Courage Wall will be up at the Ballston Mega Market, Welburn Square, from July 2-31. Stay updated on the Courage Wall by following We Live Big on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted in Alumni, General | Leave a comment

Write Code, Any Code: Advice to Future Data Scientists

code_exampleThe Georgetown Data Science Certificate program sets ambitious goals for students— cramming software and statistics into 108 hours for a semester, while also expecting students to work on and produce innovative capstone results. Most students come out of the programming realizing how worthwhile the approach is; while data science is a team sport, effective members of data teams are “jack-of-all-trades” who can adapt and do a variety of jobs at any given time. In order to be successful in the certificate program, and more generally, in the hypothesis-driven world of data science; I hope you will consider the following tips digesting all of the information we’re throwing at you.

  1. Write code, any code. The best way to learn is by doing. Your code doesn’t have to be pretty; just make it do something, anything. Just like writing, you have to write bad stuff in order to refine it into the good stuff. Ideas of what to do should not be a blocker – on the forums we have many simple suggestions of small software projects to write, better yet go to codeeval for small programming challenges.
  2. Note what’s troubling you. You have a lot to explore; mark down the interesting stuff that you’re struggling with, and then back off of it for a bit. Return when you’re ready to explore the topic in depth.
  3. Focus on what you’re good at. Not everyone is a programmer, not everyone is a statistician, not everyone can be a domain expert. Whatever interests you, whatever talent you have—augment what we’re discussing with that. One clear example: data narratives are of increasing importance; folks who have a journalist’s background focus on these types of projects and apply the data science pipeline to the act of creating data stories.
  4. Find your own workflow. Windows users will probably find that combining Windows Explorer (or Finder on Mac) with the Terminal will help them better understand what they’re doing. Use an IDE like PyCharm or Spyder or just a simple text editor. If you don’t understand command line git—get the GUI version. Combine the tools you know with the ones that you don’t in order to have the best results.
  5. Relax into it and absorb. When information is coming at you like a firehose, don’t get lost in the details. Instead try to take in the whole picture and note topics, terms, or anecodotes that you either found interesting, or didn’t understand completely. Come back to them during the week in a non-class session.
  6. Follow up. Finally, follow up with your instructors. Ask for pointers to more material or specific questions from the notes you took. Use the forums to discuss with your classmates. Use the study cubbies at Georgetown to get together to work on the material, software, or machine learning topics. Don’t be an island!

Data science is exploratory in nature—innovation happens when we apply data inference techniques to new data sets or new methods to older data sets. As a result, you’re embarking on a career whose predominate feature is continuing education. The certificate program will give you the tools and terminology to make you dangerous, to introduce you to the topics you need to explore in depth. By using the above strategies, I hope that you will quickly be able to discover a career path that is more technical and more hypothesis driven.

Post written by Benjamin Bengfort, Data Science instructor and advisor. Read more about Ben here

Posted in Career Advancement, Professional Development | Leave a comment

Demand for Litigation Support Specialists Increasing

cowen2014The Cowen Group, a leading provider of staffing and recruiting for Litigation Support professionals, notes in its 2014 Ninth Annual Salary Survey Report that “as a whole, corporations are predicting the biggest increased demand for Analysts, Paralegals, eDiscovery Attorneys, and Consultants.” According to this report, Washington D.C. salaries for Litigation Support Specialists are 44% above median nationwide salaries, reaching $130,000.

Salaries are also expected to increase according to salary.com, especially for litigation support specialists, though salaries vary based on practice area, experience, location, and industry. Prospective students are encouraged to research salary expectations on salary.com, glassdoor.com, and payscale.com. Search for paralegal, litigation support, or litigation specialist positions.

Research provided by Corey Brooks, Director, Georgetown University Paralegal Studies Program

Posted in Career Advancement | Leave a comment

Why You Should Care About Bitcoin

bitcoinWhen most people think about bitcoin – the cryptographic digital currency launched in 2009 by the pseudonymous programmer Satashi Nakamoto – they think of an obscure, online money scheme subject to wild swings in value, fraud, and illegal activity. This is the narrative the media has told.  But what is often missed is an understanding of the underlying concept and technology that supports bitcoin, called the blockchain.

Blockchain technology has the potential to be a disruptive force in society, and worth paying attention to if you work in finance, law, or real estate; plan to get get married, have children, or buy a house; or live in a developing country with no access to banks or financial resources.  Yes, it’s potentially that important.

I won’t discuss the technical details of the blockchain – Wikipedia does a good job of that – but it’s important to understand how the world works now and why blockchain technology is different.

Today, we depend on central authorities to function. Think of the government and banks. One important problem they solve is trust. If I want to buy a car from a dealership, how does the the dealership know I have the financial resources to do so?  In other words, how do they trust me?  Well, they look at my credit score, social security number, possibly bank statement or work history, etc. to verify who I am and what I have.  This is all verified by some central authority – an authority that holds records – a private ledger – about me in some protected vault or server to which I have no access.

But there are several problems with this. First, sometimes central authorities abuse their power – think of the financial crisis when banks collapsed because of fraudulent lending and millions of people lost their jobs.  Second, sometimes central authorities lose records, or make recording mistakes.  It happens all the time. Third, other people can steal my records or the hack the system to access my record for fraudulent purposes e.g. identity theft. Fourth, a system dependent on central authorities such as credit card companies is expensive. Finally, central authorities can sometimes be inaccessible, especially to the underprivileged. There are a lot of poor people who are “unbanked” – they can’t get access to a bank or don’t trust banks.

So how does the blockchain technology get around all this? In one sentence: it is a secure, decentralized, verifiable, permanent, unhackable, secure, and multipurpose public ledger.  What does that mean? Ok, let’s unpack all those adjectives:

  • Decentralized – no one owns the blockchain transaction system (you can set it up on your computer if you want)
  • Verifiable – all transactions are confirmed by multiple, independent sources (e.g. computers) in the system
  • Permanent – transactions are irrefutable and inviolable; once a transaction occurs, you can’t change it (not corruptible)
  • Unhackable – because the system is decentralized and exists on millions of computers, the computing power needed to hack the system is impossible to acquire (unless we invent quantum computers)
  • Secure – it is cryptographically protected, meaning while it is public (see below), only the person with the “key” (i.e. passcode) can access components of the blockchain relevant to him/her
  • Multipurpose – it’s more than a currency, but a system that benefits any transaction that requires trust
  • Public – anyone can access it from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection

So how does this apply to our lives? Beyond money, here are some potential applications:

  • Protected digital identities
  • Easily auditable databases
  • Open and verifiable asset registries and property titles
  • Enforceable smart contracts
  • Accurate credit scores
  • Affordable cross-border mobile payment systems and remittances
  • Secure driver’s licenses, birth certificates, college transcripts, and marriage certificates
  • Verifiable patent and copyright claims
  • A true sharing economy where anyone can trade with anyone

So the next time you hear about bitcoin, don’t think about a currency – think about the underlying blockchain technology. Sooner than later, it will change our world.  Central authorities won’t go away for good reason – we need them – but change will happen.  A good analogy is the TCP/ IP protocol that the internet is built on. It decentralized communication.  The blockchain and bitcoin decentralizes trust in transactions – meaning new products and applications that can lower costs, protect identities, stamp out corruption, and empower the underprivileged.  This is why some of the smartest and most sophisticated investors in the world are pumping billions into blockchain applications today.  Oh yes, and the U.S. government is on board too.
Learn more at our Future of Financial Planning Seminar Series starting June 16.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Your Brain, Plasticity, and Learning

brainIn 2007, Dr. Norman Doidge wrote a book called The Brain that Changes Itself (Viking Press). He tells the story of how new research has lead to novel insights into how our most complicated organ works, and more importantly the implications for learning, aging, and leading a healthier and more balanced life.

First,  we have to get over common misconceptions about our brain.  The most important of these misconceptions is that the brain, its structure, and everything in it is fixed once we reach a certain age.  That is, we’re born, we learn a lot while we’re young (e.g. mobility, language, and abstract thinking) and so our brains grow bigger until we reach a certain age.  Then we settle into our ways and everything in our head is fixed.  Until we get older.

Well, wrong. Dr. Doidge, through his analysis of the work done by leading researchers such as Dr. Michael Merzenich (UC-San Fransisco) and Dr. V.S. Ramachandran (UC-San Diego) as well as investigations into patients with neurological conditions, emphasizes the idea of neuroplasticity – that is, our brain is a plastic organ that changes constantly throughout life depending on our circumstances and what we chose to intentionally practice (or not).

In other words, we have the capability to change the physical structures of our brain – specifically, our brain “maps” – throughout life. When we’re young, it’s easy since our brain is automatically on learning mode all the time to learn the skills we need to survive.  When we’re older, we often equate learning with gaining more knowledge, but it’s more about sustained, intentional practice of a new skill that changes or creates new brain maps.  As Doidge states, “to keep the brain alive requires learning something truly new with intense focus.”  Yes, you have to exercise the brain.

So practically speaking, what does this mean for us?

  • “Perceived” vs. Real Learning: Many mid-career professionals mistake moving up the career ladder as learning. Usually it’s not because we mostly re-play already mastered skills. So we are deceived into thinking that we are learning as we move up in a profession, but our brains aren’t changing.  Again, you have to learn something truly new with intense focus.
  • Multi-tasking: Multi-tasking is the enemy of learning. Multi-tasking introduces interference and noise.  It literally blocks neurons from forming strong connections in your brain, so you get weak connections and surface-level learning. Intense focus is the key.
  • Unlearning: Unlearning is just as critical as learning. You know this if you ever tried to overcome a bad habit. Why is it so hard?  To get over previous learning, you literally have to change the shape of your brain.  You do so through intense, focused practice on a new skill that replaces the strong connections in your brain that controlled the old learning. Think of it like this: your brain only has so much “real estate” and your neurons compete for space. So you have to “re-develop” the space where the brain map of the bad habit exists and replace it with new and strongly-connected neurons. The problem is the old map has a solid foundation that requires a lot of effort to clear or redevelop.
  • Aging: We associate cognitive decline with aging, but it doesn’t have to be. As Dr. Mezernich states, “Everything that you can see happen in a young brain can happen in an older brain.” How? Again, sustained, intentional focus on learning a new skill. If you can do so, “the changes can be every bit as great as the changes in a newborn.” And you can delay substantially or reverse cognitive decline.

So the question you have to ask yourself as a professional is: How are you exercising your brain today? For more, watch the Ted Talk by Dr. Mezernich.

Posted in Career Advancement, General, Professional Development | Leave a comment

Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

In mid-March, Mashable ran a short story on a SXSW panel involving the executive chairman of Google, Eric Smith, Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, and the United States’ Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. The panel topic was “How Innovation Happens” with a focus on diversity. During the Q&A session, someone noted how the men repeatedly interrupted Smith, much more than she did them, and asked if they thought this was a sign of the unconscious bias they were discussing. This was notable because the question came from Judith Williams, the Global Diversity and Talent Programs manager at Google.

Ms. Williams leads workshops on unconscious bias at Google. After releasing a report on diversity in early 2014, Google decided that they were not where they should be when it comes to diversity. This led them to focus on unconscious biases. These are cognitive shortcuts that help us process information and our experiences over a lifetime build up to form them. Law professor and researcher Jerry Kang, author of Implicit Bias, A Primer for Courts, states “We naturally assign people into various social categories divided by salient and chronically accessible traits, such as age, gender, race, and role.” Whether you want them to or not, every experience you’ve had contributes to your biases, which can be positive or negative.

While Google has taken steps to address this issue (more than 26,000 Google employees have participated in the workshops), this is not the norm. Determining how to teach diversity, as well as unconscious biases, in the workplace can be a huge undertaking, but one that will benefit everyone. This year, Georgetown launched an online program for faculty and staff, which focuses creating a community that is free from discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct.  This could be a first step in uncovering our unconscious biases.

As an LGBT woman in the tech field, Megan Smith has likely experienced a lot of unconscious bias throughout her career, but has not let that hinder her. Her pragmatic response to the panel question is an indication of that, “It’s something we all have and it’s something we have to really debug.” Our biases are something we can work to change in the workplace, but we have to be honest with ourselves and ready to deal with bias in a respectful and thoughtful manner. What is important for us, as Judith Williams states in a New York Times Opinion, is that “…employees are comfortable with — and held accountable for — calling out prejudice, both blatant and subtle.”

Would you like to add your thoughts and experiences on unconscious bias? Please share your comments below.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Georgetown Celebrates 200 Years of Service


Though founded in 1789, Georgetown University received its official university charter on March 1, 1815.  Approved by President James Madison, the charter grants the university the authority to issue diplomas and certificates, which solidified Georgetown’s role in service to a growing nation.

So let’s take moment to reflect. What makes a Georgetown student or alum different? As President Obama says in his congratulatory remarks, “Simply put, this country and this world benefit from your commitment to Jesuit principles, to being men and women for others.”

Women and Men for Others is one of our nine hallmark values that define our community and set expectations for our students, faculty, administrators, and alums. It is – at its core – a call to service. For the last 200 years, Georgetown alums have applied their education in service to others. In doing so, they have realized the expectations of a great university.

And now it is our responsibility to carry that legacy forward for the next 200 years.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

The Oscars, Patricia Arquette, and Wage Disparity


The 87th Academy Awards came and went on Sunday, February 22 to decidedly mixed reviews. The marathon-long program had its moments, from Neal Patrick Harris parading in his underwear to Common’s and John Legend’s emotional rendition of “Glory” to Lady Gaga singing classics from the Sound of Music. It was also a soap box for a variety of worthy social causes from environmental sanitation to teen suicide to clean government in Mexico.

One of the most vocal calls for social justice came from Patricia Arquette, winner of the Best Supporting Actress award for her performance as a single and divorced mother in Boyhood. During her acceptance speech, she called for wage equality between men and women, referring to the fact that women generally make less than their male counterparts for an equivalent job.

There is no doubt that there is a wage gap (though how much is disputed) and that it should be closed. There’s no reason for it to exist. Talent is talent. Yes, individual men and women make different life decisions that affect their earnings, but two individuals regardless of their gender should be paid the same for equivalent work.

So how do we close the gap? On the one hand, there are those who advocate for government intervention and perhaps regulation. But that seems overly burdensome – imagine the government enforcing HR policies, payroll, and hiring decisions for every organization in the U.S.  It could completely undermine the labor market – and possibly lead to perverse unintended consequences.

On the other hand, some argue to leave it up to the market. The problem with this solution is we already do – and the gap persists.  Clearly, that’s not working.

So what’s the answer? A bit of both plus a new ingredient: open data. The government should use its bully pulpit to encourage organizations to pay equally for equivalent work but ultimately leave it up to the market. So how will that change anything? Employees now have access to new sources of data thanks to new startups and organizations that are driving transparency in the labor market.  Want to know the median salary of an IT project manager with 2-4 years in Washington DC?  Check out salary.com (it’s $81,512).  There are other sites such as payscale.com and glassdoor.com. With so much data – and the tools to analyze it – there are new sites launching every month (just search Google).  Armed with this new data, employees can make more informed decisions about jobs and salaries. The best talent will gravitate to those organizations who pay fairly and equitably.

Of course salary isn’t the only factor when making career decisions. Other considerations such as benefits, location, work-life balance, and mission can be as important if not more important. But with access to new sources of data and information, employees can make better decisions, and ultimately close the wage gap. And employers will have to respond accordingly to attract and retain the most talented, regardless of gender.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Cybersecurity Awareness, Pt. 2: The New Normal

Circuit PhotoLG-Yuri Samoilov-Flickr

(Photo via Yuri Samoilov, Flickr)

Just two weeks after I posted about Cybersecurity issues, I found an article on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog titled ‘We Need to Do More’: Getting Real About the Cybersecurity Skills Gap. It further stresses that there’s a sense of urgency on all levels about cybersecurity and that it’s a priority for everyone.

The article cites  statistics on employment from Burning Glass and notes that job openings in cybersecurity are twice as high as any other area in IT. Those jobs are commanding higher salaries and “compensation packages for chief information security officers are rising rapidly.” All of this is increasing the demand for educational programs, and they expect there will be a lag while professionals work to get the right training and qualifications.

A February 26 LA Times article reported on last week’s hearing of the Armed Services Committee with Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper. At the hearing on worldwide threats, he stated “Although we must be prepared for a catastrophic large-scale strike, a so-called cyber Armageddon, the reality is that we’ve been living with a constant and expanding barrage of cyberattacks for some time.”

Low profile to but persistent assaults are taking a toll and could add up to a lot of cumulative damage. These have become the new normal and the Chamber of Commerce has it right when it suggests we need to change our mindset about attacks from “not if, but when.” This is a challenging time for cybersecurity, but also an exhilarating time for professionals who have more opportunities to step up into leadership positions.

Posted in Career Advancement, Professional Development | Leave a comment

We’re LIVE! ITL launches “Inside Transformational Leadership” Podcast

Mondays at 8 AM PT 11 AM EST on VoiceAmerica Business Channel

We are excited to announce the start of our weekly podcast “Inside Transformational Leadership”, a show dedicated to examining the “inner game” of transformational leadership. ITL Director Kate Ebner will host insightful and inspiring conversations with corporate leaders, leadership coaches, academics, and community organizers.  We’ll also take questions from our audience. Email your questions or topics you’d like covered to itlprograms@georgetown.edu or send us a tweet at @GeorgetownITL.

Live podcasts take place on Mondays at 11am EST, though all episodes are archived so you can listen any time. Our first show kicked off with Dr. Neil Stroul, who talked about the theme of “stories we tell ourselves” and making leadership development a life quest.

Listen Now! >> 

Spread the word to fellow grads, students, leaders, and coaches.  Follow us on Twitter @GeorgetownITL!  Download the podcasts to your iPhone today!  Just search for “Inside Transformational Leadership”.

Posted in Career Advancement, Professional Development | Leave a comment

How Uber is Changing Work


Ask most people to describe Uber and the typical response is that it’s an iPhone app that connects people who want to get somewhere to on-demand drivers. It’s a modernized and convenient taxi service made possible by new technology (i.e. smartphones, analytics, etc.) and drivers with flexibility.

Ask Uber what they think of themselves and they will tell you that they are a logistics company seeking to disrupt how people, goods, and just about anything gets moved from point A to point B. Their app is just the tip of the iceberg. Need proof? Yesterday, Uber announced that it will open a robotics research facility to build self-driving cars. How can they do that? Well, they have sales of $1 billion and a valuation of $40 billion.

So if you’re a taxi driver, you’re worried.  And there have been legitimate protests.  But what about other professions?  We’re ok, right?  Well, it depends.

The Economist just published an article about the On-Demand Economy. Essentially, companies like Uber are changing the nature of work, not just for taxi drivers, but for many professions such as doctors, lawyers, and accountants. Technology and changing social habits are giving rise to freelance workers available at a moment’s notice, much like Uber drivers.

These changes will reshape the nature of companies and the structure of careers. How? For one there will be more freelance workers. The Economist estimates there are already 53 million in the U.S. –  and the number is growing.  While those who value flexibility in work may benefit from this trend, many will not have access to benefits typically enjoyed by full-time workers such as pensions and sick leave (though they can now get affordable healthcare). That has to change with new labor laws and regulations that ensure all workers have access to resources and opportunities.

Secondly, it will become more important for professionals to master multiple skills and to take more responsibility for their professional development and learning. We all have to make a life-long investment in learning.  Those with in-demand skill sets, the ability to adapt, and the know-how to market themselves will be at an advantage. Career paths will also become more varied and diverse.

So there are two conversations that should be taking place. First, on a broader level, how should we as a society support the growing number of freelancers and contractors? Secondly, on an individual level, how can I as professional stay up to date with my skills?

Companies like Uber are not going away. As with all change, there are trade-offs, winners and losers, and no easy answers. Just ask any DC taxi driver today…or your Uber driver.

Posted in Career Advancement | Leave a comment

Analyzing the Economy in Real-Time

big_data_economyOn January 29, the CCPE Data Analytics program hosted in partnership with Data Community DC Micheline Casey, the first Chief Data Officer of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Micheline talked about the need for the Federal Reserve to set up the Office of the Chief Data Officer – 100 years after the founding of the Fed – as a means to leverage new data sets and sources to provide new insights into the economy and inform decisions of the Federal Open Market Committee.

With new data sources and tools, the Fed has started to focus on “now-casting” (in addition to forecasting) to better gauge the pulse of the economy in real-time and with more granularity. She talked about using Twitter feeds to monitor consumer feedback on financial products, tapping into data generated by Square for gauging the health of small businesses, scanning e-commerce sites for price data, and aggregating tax data from Intuit (of course all in compliance with privacy regulations). Her bottom-line message: The Office of the Chief Data Officer is just getting started in its mandate to use big data to help the Fed better achieve its mission of price stability and full employment.

Follow Micheline at @michelinecasey.

Posted in General | Leave a comment