This week I returned from a 2-week trip through 4 cities in China. I was born there, spent a fair amount of time there growing up, and I also lived there for a year on a Fulbright fellowship after college. Today, I work as in San Francisco at Carbon Five as a product manager, helping startups and tech companies turn their ideas into software.
Although the purpose of this trip was family-based, and though I’ve been there before, seeing China’s adoption of mobile technology completely blew my mind. The growing differences between U.S. and China mobile applications made my stay pretty difficult in ways I hadn’t experienced or expected. While I missed my American apps, the sophistication of extremely powerful Chinese apps also took me by surprise, with just a handful of many-featured, multi-purpose apps dominating my usage.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.
Some of the apps that – straight up – will not work:
- Facebook (blocked by the government for not censoring content and providing access to user data after the 2009 Xinjiang riots)
- All things Google (including web browsing, gmail, drive and google maps)
What do I mean by not working? It’s not like you’ll see a notification like this:
It’ll look more like this:
Never have I ever upgraded so many Apple native apps out of my Appleware folder as I had to in China. But let’s move on to the good. Continue reading …
As Carbon Five grows, we experiment with different ways to define, elaborate, and communicate our company culture. One thing we do is organize semi-annual retreats, we call them summits, that rotate between our two main offices in San Francisco and Santa Monica.
These events are, first and foremost, about people. They are a way for our employees to establish a more personal connection with each other even though our offices are geographically separated.
The summits aim to be fun, light hearted, and not take themselves too seriously. We aren’t looking to hand down a set of values, guidelines, and rules that Carbon Five employees must follow. Instead we encourage people to discover and define our shared values by talking with each other: What is going on in the different offices? What is emerging across our design, development, and product management practices? What are the things that make coming into work every day enjoyable and inspiring?
We’ve been organizing company retreats for three years now. We thought it was time to share what what’s worked and what we’ve learned.
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It’s a common scenario for tech companies: Your hiring pipeline is dry and you can’t seem to attract new talent. You notice companies touting long lists of superficial benefits. Instead of improving your internal team, you find yourself worrying about getting a pro-grade ping pong table for the break room.
You don’t need helicopter rides or Massage Mondays to bring people into the fold. Instead, focus your energy on making lasting changes to your company’s DNA. It won’t be easy, but the results will keep your existing team happy, which translates to positive conversation about your organization. Here are a few strategies to get you moving in the right direction.
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