Article in Under the Hood category.

Article Club

Fueled is now hosting an ‘Article Club’ fortnightly where participants share ideas and questions on articles in the tech scene. Catch the highlights here

Issue 5 | 23 Feb 2016

Every other week, the Fueled team hosts our own take on a book club. We call it Article Club and we all pop into a big conference room in our SoHo office to debate and discuss ideas and issues affecting tech. The basis of this conversation is 2-3 articles selected by senior members of the team. Articles and notes from each week appear here.

The Articles

How to Give and Receive Feedback Across Cultures - Submitted by Sage Young
Gearing Up For the Cloud, AT&T Tells Its Workers: Adapt, Or Else - Submitted by Aaron Cohen
A Message to Our Customers - Submitted by Joe Indriolo

Fueled has a strong international presence. We have employees in NYC, London, Switzerland, Novosibirsk, Bordeaux, Newcastle, and Noida. Clear communication is key to ensure that projects transition seamlessly between stages of development and offices. Constructive criticism must be given in an equally transparent manner as cultural differences can sometimes complicate the meaning behind an interaction.

Erin Meyer explores how effective feedback must be provided in terms that reflect the culture receiving said feedback. Germans, for example, tend to be more fact-oriented and direct with an emphasis on executing tasks rather than tip-toeing around feelings. Understanding how your German employees best interpret criticism is crucial not just to clear communication but to encourage growth and progress.

Americans, on the other hand, can be accommodating to a fault. Sandwiching criticism between positive feedback can confuse rather than inform employees. While the benefit is an optimistic and forward-thinking future for the employee, the downside is a lack of clarity. Or, even worse, recognition by the employee that the employer is using a tactic to make him/her feel better - incredibly discouraging.

One major clue for those looking to communicate most effectively, is to listen to the most common phrases used in that culture. Upgraders are more positive and direct words that secure the necessity of criticism. These words, such as ‘absolutely’ or ‘totally’ can seem aggressive to an American employer. But this language is crucial for those who have been taught English and may not notice the subtleties of less concrete qualifiers.  Similarly, using downgraders such as ‘slightly’ may seem silly to a French employer but can cushion the blow of harsh feedback to the more emotional american.

Of course humans interpret feedback differently within a culture - there are some who require praise for success along with suggestions for improvements. Others are more comfortable with a straightforward and productive conversation about what needs changing. Learning cultural differences is one key aspect of becoming a successful international company, but understanding individual needs as well, makes for a strong and stable company.

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AT&T’s structure is increasingly built upon an aging workforce desperately attempting to modernize. The current CEO, Randall Stephenson, who is a leader in the initiative to remain relevant, stands in juxtaposition to his (literal) brother, Kevin, who proudly fixes old copperlines that connect to landline telephones.

As network providers become less crucial to our mobile ecosystem, AT&T now “encourages” employees to retrain and essentially reapply for their job. Though it’s framed as a new opportunity for an older employee base, the subtext is that AT&T’s current model is useless and will certainly not survive. In other words, their jobs won’t exist.

So what exactly would be the alternative to a classic network provider? You can already buy a sim card straight through google, or make a phone call over WiFi. And with data at just $10/gb, the need for a dedicated telecom provider is unnecessary. As the relationship between carrier and consumer is less essential, MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), have a chance to grow exponentially. Unlike the older carriers, MVNOs are able to narrow in on a poorer demographic by selling at a much lower cost when not at capacity. These MVNOs can afford to appeal to this demographic without tarnishing their reputation.

As it stands today, the only variable that these carriers can compete on is coverage. It seems inevitable that there will be a service that eventually just switches between best available - rather than forcing consumers to commit to one provider. The necessity for a network provider is becoming obsolete and AT&T certainly feels it.

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It wouldn’t be Article Club without mention of tech’s most talked about company - Apple. We took a look at Tim Cook’s letter to the American public outlining why Apple will not comply with the FBI’s request to unlock the iPhone of the terrorist from San Bernardino.

For many Americans, the government’s ask seems like a no brainer - give the FBI access to the phone of an American terrorist. Get inside his mind, see how we can prevent this type of attack in future, understand the steps he took prior to this attack, etc.

But the wording of that plea is quite important. If you flipped the ask on its’ head, it would be significantly less appealing to the general public. C’mon, Apple, give the government (and worldwide government, including China) the tools to hack into anyone’s iPhone to check on conversations and use regardless of privacy settings or purpose.

For the Fueled team, and Americans everywhere, it’s important to really understand what’s being asked of Apple. While the FBI claims this is one of the only time they’ve asked for this access, Cook responds that it’s actually closer to the ninth time. The FBI is asking for backdoor access - or uninhibited access to your device. This would require that Apple essentially build a new operating system, sneak under the software patch, and give the government an unfiltered view of the phone. If this technology were to fall into the wrong hands, it would have the power to unlock and gather the information from any iPhone.

As there is a current obligation to abide with government requests that are reasonable and possible, Apple will probably build the necessary tech for this request and then ensure that the next version is unable to have an Apple-built backdoor. But should Apple have to pay? And furthermore, how secure do they make the next generation of iOS? If a consumer forgets his/her password, surely it can’t be so hyper secure that the user would never be able to recover their information.

While this high-profile case escalates, it is crucial to realize that the fight isn’t simply over one iPhone. It is a indicative of a scarier future with little to no privacy for tech users. Using government force to hack one phone gives us a glimpse into future security breaches from our leaders and, worse, worldwide.

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