CHEQ and the Importance of Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is an area that’s been ignored for far too long. Many companies have viewed investing in cybersecurity as an unnecessary expense. “We can’t make money from it, it just takes money from us. What’s the point in that?” is a refrain you would hear from many managers and executives, especially at smaller companies with limited resources.

But we’re in 2021, and cybersecurity breaches are too numerous to even list so I won’t try. What I do know is that for the companies on the list of the biggest data breaches, or those who trend on Twitter for it, the billions they lose may not even be the worst part. Their name is mocked on social media and tarnished by traditional media outlets.

For the companies unlucky enough to be involved in some of these rankings, like the most expensive data breaches, I can assure you they could’ve parted with whatever it would’ve cost to adequately protect themselves from cyberattacks. I think everyone can spare a few dollars, but very few can spare losing a few billion.

Companies are starting to come around more and more to the idea that it’s not if you’ll be the victim of a cyberattack, but when. The only assurance is that you will be the victim of a cybersecurity attack if you don’t take the necessary steps to prevent them.

As more companies come to this realization, cybersecurity experts are all the rage. It is a highly-specialized and niche field that few truly understand, with consultants essentially getting to name their price.

And with any rapidly-growing field, comes companies with new and unique product offerings. Take CHEQ for example. CHEQ is a relatively new startup that works with advertisers to ensure that all of the clicks on an ad campaign are by a human (not a robot). How can any company accurately gauge the effectiveness of a campaign if half of the clicks are by bots? CHEQ seeks to remedy that with solutions for display and video advertisers, as well as PPC or “click fraud” prevention for paid search and social campaigns.

There’s no telling what the future holds in many areas, but cybersecurity is likely to continue to be a hot-button issue worthy of companies’ time and resources to combat. Hopefully as time goes on, having a worthwhile cybersecurity approach and employing the use of a company’s solutions like CHEQ will not be seen as the exception but rather the rule; a necessity for survival in a rapidly-changing ecosystem.

business school, higher education

The New MBA in a Virtual World (and Why it’s Worth it)

In a previous post, I weighed the worth of today’s MBA. A lot has changed since then, like COVID-19 making the world a truly virtual one, where even top business schools are fully virtual or employing a hybrid face-to-face/virtual classroom setting. That has become a game-changer in how prospective students look at an MBA, but it wasn’t unpredictable.

The forces were well underway pre-pandemic, with schools putting more and more resources into their online programs, and many top-flight business schools who viewed themselves as being “above” virtual degrees have since joined the fray. Michigan, Northwestern, Duke and UVA are all perennial top 10 business schools that recently started to offer online MBA’s. Of course, theirs are far more expensive (all in excess of $100k), but it still speaks to a much larger trend.

Illinois’ Gies College of Business may have been the first major university to go all-in on the online MBA, discontinuing its full-time, in-person MBA. Illinois found, like many other schools, that applications for its full-time MBA were dropping precipitously. They decided to do something about it, offering a new model that only a few schools have seemed to adopt in the meantime. Illinois’ online MBA costs $22,000, a truly disruptive price for a top 50 business school. Not to be outdone, Boston University’s Questrom School of Business started its online MBA in August 2020.

BU costs a similar $24,000 and these two are the only schools I know of that have highly-ranked and respected programs (with high average starting salaries post-graduation) to offer an affordable MBA. The disruption is obvious when you’re quickly able to minimize the cost/student loan perspective by $80-100k when compared to other top-flight business schools offering an online MBA.

When you add in the fact that even many students at top-flight full-time schools are not in-person, it becomes all the more obvious how much of a slam dunk this offering is. After COVID, in-person schools may truly be in a world of hurt when students find it more difficult than ever to establish any discernible difference or added value to an in-person degree (when taking into account all of the obvious drawbacks, like opportunity cost) and the more students know successful friends and colleagues with online degrees.

I don’t think it’s insane to say that the full-time MBA may be a thing of the past except for top-tier/Ivy League schools, as even many of them are starting to offer similar programs.

I am only a few weeks into my first semester at BU, choosing the latter as I felt it had a stronger brand and network locally (I am in NYC) and nationally. I am already loving the professors and course offerings. It is far more groupwork than I expected, and we switch groups every semester, allowing us to meet as many people in our cohort as possible.

I couldn’t be happier with my situation and hope more prospective degree-seekers offer to do the same in the future. If you don’t get a newer, higher-paying job you aren’t saddled with debt, and at the end of the day it offers plenty of potential both internally (with networking connections and opportunities from classmates and professors) and externally, as a resume-booster with the potential to stand out in a crowded field.

business, business school, higher education, marketing

Is Getting Your MBA Worth It?

You Be the Judge

In a word, no, it isn’t. I will qualify that statement I promise.

In a world where seemingly everyone and their mother has an advanced degree (my mother does not have an advanced degree) people can often feel compelled to pursue degrees just because everyone else has them. “I feel stuck and Suzy is really advancing her career, maybe this is what I need”.

It can be easy to daydream about what your life and career could be like, and how much easier getting your dream job could become if you had an MBA.

But it’s important to consider some other things first. I did this once and it really helped me to see the potential weight an MBA holds. I pictured myself as the hiring manager for the job I wanted.

I then pictured how the MBA (with school and graduating class) would look on my resume and on my LinkedIn profile. And I thought, would I hire me for this highly competitive job that I’m unqualified for today if I had my MBA?

And the answer wasn’t so cut-and-dry. I didn’t go to a name brand school and haven’t worked at any name-brand jobs. People like what they know (whether it be people or brands they’re familiar with) and if you have one or both it certainly a step in the right direction. Since I have neither, I thought an MBA (leaving out the Ivy League and similar upper-echelon MBA’s) would help, but still not push me to the top of the pile.

That being said, let’s get more specific. The rates of people applying to business school fell drastically this past year, for many of the reasons that I will lay out. Some of the hardest hit schools, like Rice, had applications fall by over 27%. In the articles I read, they cited strong job growth and steady wages as the rationale for this trend. I see it differently.

The real thing that people weren’t seeing is the value. No, the quality of an MBA education hasn’t deteriorated (sure, there wasn’t always the for-profit University of Phoenix money-suckers way back when), but rather the cost of an MBA has drastically risen with no clear reasoning or value proposition behind it.

Universities at the undergrad level had remained virtually unaffected by this up until the last few years, where college alternatives have become more palatable to the ever-rising rates of college well above inflation.

The truth is, MBA programs haven’t become THAT much better at landing you your dream job than they were 10-15 years ago, yet the price increases suggest that they have. Nor have they become THAT much better at creating entrepreneurs or helping you make millions.

Rather, along with the universities at large, they’ve become adept at creating mountains of student debt loans that will affect the economy for years.

This brings me to my main point. The value of an MBA comes down to one word: justification. Can you justify what you spent on your MBA compared to what you got out of it?

This is where it gets even simpler to me. If you have an employer pay for some (or all) of your MBA, then there is your answer.

You are paying nothing, or next to it, and if you don’t get insane value out of your MBA and it just boosts your resume/profile enough to land you another job, or maybe not even to that extent, then you will still sit content knowing that you are better off having it considering what you had to put into it.

However, that is not everyone’s reality, and more realistically it’s not the vast majority of job seekers’ realities. They have to do a much more thorough cost-benefit analysis.

The questions that surface are:

  • How expensive is this MBA on average
  • How much will my new college’s network help me to land my next job (relative to another school’s)
  • How much more will I make as a result of my MBA, and how far will it go to off-set my debt

These questions are very difficult to answer, and even with the right data can be impossible to know for sure. You can find stats about the percentage of graduates that find a job within six months of graduation, and also the average starting salary of graduates at your school’s program.

However, no one else is you and no one has your exact job (or maybe they do I work at an extremely small company). The point is, you haven’t done it yet, and assuming that one person’s experience will be yours isn’t fair or rational to assume.

Unless you go to an Ivy League school, throw all of this advice out the window. Is it worth every penny at those schools if you can get in (even with no discount)?

I don’t know, but my gut says yes due to the life-changing litany of decision-makers you can become on a first-name basis with.

Even then, tread lightly and know exactly what you want and who you need to know before making such a life-altering decision.

Let me know what you think, is an MBA worth it? Did you get one? Are you satisfied with the return on your investment?

business, marketing, telecommuting

How to Establish a Fair Working from Home Policy

Working remotely is an issue that has many schools of thought around it, older generations simply not believing in it and maintaining that everyone should be in the office every day for peak productivity. Younger generations yearn for a more flexible workplace, which has produced a drastic shift in companies nationwide and worldwide.

There is no doubt that working from home has come to a head in the last year or so, with massive companies like IBM requiring remote workers to either find an office to go into or move to within an hour of an existing IBM office. Some studies have also shown that working from home doesn’t prove to be as productive as many were led to believe.

It is certainly the new normal, as 70% of the global workforce now spends at least one day per week working remotely.

Working from home means many different things to different people and I think it’s important to always get as specific as possible with what it is that you want and what you think is the most fair and productive.

I don’t advocate for anyone to work from home EVERY day. Yes, there are positions where that can be perfectly acceptable (like a webmaster/IT position). However, for most people this doesn’t equate to peak productivity.

Rather, there are a few factors that should be looked into. What will be gained by certain workers coming into the office? What kind of work does your company do and how much of it can be done from home/how much can only be done in the office?

Once you get past these factors that are more company-wide and give you a better sense of the working from home picture, start personalizing and customizing your approach to fit your individual employees. Do any of your employees have very long commutes? What about kids or other needs that require constant attention? Do they have any sick family members that may require more visits than average?

You could also take some of these factors back to the company-wide level. Do MOST of your employees have very long commutes or complicated home lives (from what you know)? Then you may want to consider using that information to refine your working from home or sick time policy.

I work at a company where MOST workers have an hour or more commute both ways, however working from home is simply not an option. Something that has to be considered is the employees’ daily life. How much worse is their day and stress level compounded by not being able to work from home?

In companies where most workers have short commutes (if it’s a job in the city and most workers live in the city, etc) then there is no need to worry. However, you have to be wary (when it’s the reverse) of how this is affecting your employees.

Measure the burn-out rate. If you work at a small company, and new employees leave after an average of 4-6 months, something needs to be rectified.

Also, consider the full benefit picture in addition to working from home. If you give 30 days of vacation, you may not have to be as lenient with remote working. But if your vacation and sick time is subpar or just average, and workers have long commutes, something has to give.

When working from home isn’t on the table and the overall benefits package is no good, it sends the message (intentionally or not) that you do not value your employees. I think a lot of companies fail to realize the message they’re sending their employees.

Flexibility is really the goal. Even if you don’t allow working remotely, or simply don’t have an established policy (you should), making efforts to work with your employees goes a long way. When a worker needs to leave early to visit a sick family member, let them take off and don’t ask them to reciprocate with staying late another day or working on a weekend.

If they respect you, they will work extra hard that day before leaving, and maybe take-home work after the work day is over in an effort to catch up. Telling them to make up work can send the message that you don’t think they work efficiently enough and/or don’t trust them.

Which gets me back to working from home as a general policy. Not allowing working from home for anyone sends the message that you do not trust your employees. This was the thought process in the baby boomer generation, but it isn’t anymore.

People hire people because they think they are competent and learn to trust them over time by being reliable and responsible. If you can’t learn to trust your workers, you shouldn’t hire them.

branding, business, Entrepreneurship, home gym, marketing, Startups

How Home Workout Solutions Tonal and Peloton Are the Gyms of the Future

Tonal and Peloton are two new home gym alternatives that allow you to bike, run and do other cardio and strength training from the comfort of your own home.

Tonal offers a lot more in terms of being a viable substitute for an actual gym membership (if you lift weights) while Peloton is more cardio-based.

Peloton has a bike or treadmill option complete with interactive workouts featuring instructors from all over the world. They also have some options for strength training, but appear very limited in the range of exercises you can actually perform.

Tonal offers a digital weight system that allows you to tap a screen to add or decrease weight, complete with cables which make it possible for you to perform most exercises.

As a full-service home gym, it should come as no shock that Tonal isn’t cheap. The system goes for $2,995, or you can pay in a series of monthly installments.

Neither company does a great job of explaining what you can and can’t do nor do they go into much detail about their products.

Both are very new startups, and Tonal purchases outside of California require you to make a reservation. It’s not available when the expected delivery is, or how long the waitlist is.

From a quick look at both sites, neither seem totally worth it.

The only one I could see being worth it (after paying off a mountain of bills) would be Tonal.

Peloton is basically a REALLY expensive bike or treadmill. Yes, they have instructors, but you can get that at any gym.

Where Peloton makes up some ground is by allowing you to stream workout classes, however that is not included with any of the bike packages. Peloton’s streaming package is $39 per month.

It sure beats the hell out of your normal gym alternative, but doesn’t do enough to replace your workout (if you do more than ride the bike or run) to justify the hefty price tag ($2,200-2,700).

I guess these are products for the rich, but they’re certainly not marketed that way.

Tonal is more of a product that you could legitimately consider and be able to wrap your head around from an ROI perspective. A $50 monthly gym membership would put you out $600 per year.

So, if Tonal could meet all of your gym needs, you would essentially have a home gym for life while only paying a gym-equivalent fee for five years.

In the wild west of home and virtual gyms, I’d rather wait and see how these things do for a few years before getting tied down with a pricey investment.

Besides, in a world of vastly evolving technology, who knows what will be around in 3-5 years.

Unless you’re rich, I’d keep the gym membership for now.