“Tech Entrepreneurs Are Just as Mission Driven as People in Nonprofits”

(p. 2) The first rule of Silicon Valley venture capital is never insult a start-up. Founders are always killing it, disrupting the world.

If a start-up is fizzling, shuttering or caught scamming? The socially acceptable response is total silence.

Everyone knows that. Except Jason Palmer.

The start-up in question was AltSchool, a Mark Zuckerberg-backed project to turn school into a start-up experience. It had just announced it was pivoting out of existence after raising $174 million.

Mr. Palmer is in this field: He is a venture capitalist in Washington, D.C., focused on education technology. On June 29, he tweeted that AltSchool was always a bad idea, and he was glad that his firm hadn’t invested in it.

That single jab at a failed company sent the investor elite into conniptions.

. . .

So, two months after the tweet, how is Mr. Palmer feeling? The outrage that came both in public and private did not, in the end, oust him from the industry. He continues to invest.

For him, it was “a reminder,” he said, that tech entrepreneurs truly believe they are saving the world. He wanted to be clear now that he truly believes this, too. They were right. His tweet was very bad. He has been chastened.

“Tech entrepreneurs are just as mission driven as people in nonprofits,” Mr. Palmer said. “They believe they are helping the world just as much as nonprofit founders.”

But of course most start-ups fail, he added, a little quieter, and the tech world ought to learn how to talk about failure.

“In fact, most high-risk start-ups are nonprofits,” he said. “Effectively nonprofits.”

For the full story, see:

Nellie Bowles. “In Silicon Valley, Skin Is Thin.” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019): 2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 20, 2019, and has the title “Want to Do Business in Silicon Valley? Better Act Nice.” (Where there is a slight difference in wording between the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the print version.)

Some Workers Willingly Forego Higher Pay for Greater Flexibility

(p. 11) In a survey of 11,000 workers and 6,500 business leaders by Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group, the vast majority said that among the new developments most urgently affecting their businesses were employees’ expectations for flexible, autonomous work; better work-life balance; and remote working. (Just 30 percent, though, said their businesses were prepared.)

Technology is a big reason for the change. The youngest people entering the work force don’t remember a time when people weren’t always reachable, so they don’t see why they would need to sit in an office to work. (They also say they are more practiced than older colleagues at setting boundaries on how much they use their phones, so it doesn’t become overbearing.)

. . .

. . . more young people, recruiters say, are asking for flexibility upfront, and some prioritize it over pay or seniority. Recruiters who visit college campuses say new graduates no longer see it as something to negotiate for, said Marcee Harris Schwartz, the national director of diversity and inclusion at BDO, the accounting firm: “It’s just assumed it’s part of the deal.”

“Years ago, the interview was, for lack of a better word, a test,” said Kamaj Bailey, who works in recruiting at Con Edison, the power company. “Now it’s a conversation. Yes, I want to show that I’m a good candidate, but I’m also seeing if I’m going to get what I expect.”

John Paul Graff, 34, is a pathologist, as was his father, who worked in private practice at least 12 hours a day. Dr. Graff decided to work in academic medicine, and the No. 1 reason was for work-life balance. He estimated that he gave up about $100,000 a year but said it’s worth it to work 40 hours a week.

For the full story, see:

Claire Cain Miller and Sanam Yar. “Can I Work When I Want?” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019): 1 & 10-11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 20, 2019, and has the title “Young People Are Going to Save Us All From Office Life.”)

Broad Knowledge “Prepares Us for the Wickedly Unanticipated”

(p. A13) In his latest book, “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World,” Mr. Epstein makes a well-supported and smoothly written case on behalf of breadth and late starts.

. . .

The book blends anecdotal stories with summaries of academic studies. Many of these studies upend standard-issue advice about finding one’s way in life. We are introduced to the “Dark Horse Project,” based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which has collected the oral histories of highly accomplished individuals who took circuitous paths to achievement. The researchers were surprised by how many such individuals, in disparate fields, they were able to find. “What was even more incredible,” said one principal member of the project, “is that they all thought they were the anomaly.”

. . .

Not all of the chapters speak directly to range. In “Learning to Drop Your Familiar Tools,” we learn that many cardiologists are unwilling to forsake their use of stents, despite clear evidence that stents are not only ineffective in preventing cardiac events but also introduce fresh risks of complications. It’s sobering to learn that a 2015 study showed that patients suffering cardiac arrest were less likely to die if they were admitted to a hospital when such cardiologists were unavailable to install the devices.

. . .

The chapter titled “Deliberate Amateurs” is a delight, permitting us to spend time with some exemplars in science and medicine who have stepped outside of their cozy professional nests. One such exemplar is Arturo Casadevall, the chair of the molecular microbiology and immunology program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. A much-cited scientist, Dr. Casadevall has led an overhaul of the curriculum at his school to help broaden the education of specialists. Philosophy, history, logic and ethics are incorporated into interdisciplinary classes. “How Do We Know What Is True?” is one of the course offerings. On the wall in Dr. Casadevall’s office, along with the certificate commemorating his election to the National Academy of Medicine, hangs a community-college degree in pest control, the “practical” expertise his father pressed Dr. Casadevall to acquire.

The advice that Dr. Casadevall dispenses to junior colleagues is “read outside your field, everyday something.” If the world were a kinder learning environment, this would not be needed. But as David Epstein shows us, cultivating range prepares us for the wickedly unanticipated.

For the full review, see:

Randall Stross. “BOOKSHELF; Late Bloomers Bloom Best.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, May 29, 2019): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 28, 2019, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Range’ Review: Late Bloomers Bloom Best; Late specialization demonstrably helped Roger Federer, Vincent van Gogh and Charles Darwin. It can serve the rest of us well, too.”)

The book under review is:

Epstein, David. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. New York: Riverhead Books, 2019.