July 18, 2018

Corner Office: Stacy Brown-Philpot of TaskRabbit on Being a Black Woman in Silicon Valley

Once you got to Google, you started managing larger and larger teams.

Sheryl saw the potential for leadership, so pulled me into her group to run a 200-person team. I went from managing 14 to 200 people overnight. That was a big step up in not just how I led but how I talked to people, how I communicated. I went from managing direct reports to managing managers, and becoming more responsible as a leader. And then I went to India, and went from managing 200 people to 1,000 people.

Was going to India a difficult decision?

It threw a monkey wrench in my plan. My husband and I were thinking about starting a family at the time, and India would have delayed that decision. So I go home, and I tell my husband: “They asked me to go to India, but I’m not going to go. We’re thinking about starting a family.”

But I’d always wanted to live abroad. India was a really important market for Google at the time, and I knew they were going to take care of me. So we decided together, as a couple, to delay the decision to start a family so I could take this career opportunity.

So I went back to work and said, “Here are all the things I need to make this work for me.” And they were like, “Yes.” Then I went back and asked for some more, because they said yes too fast.

How was managing in India different than in the United States?

I had to adapt my style. Google, at least in the U.S., was very consensus driven. In India, it was a lot more directive. My style is to naturally be consensus-driven, so I had to immediately adapt.

After about a month in India, my assistant came to me and said: “Stacy, you’re going to be great here. Everyone loves you. But you have to start to tell people what to do.” And I was like, “I’m already telling people what to do. We’re having these meetings. We’re agreeing.” She’s like, “No. You have to actually tell people what to do.”

My Detroit upbringing taught me how to be directive. I had to defend myself from bullies. So I knew how to speak up. So I just had to go back to my roots.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/13/business/stacy-brown-philpot-taskrabbit-corner-office.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Sorry, Power-Lunchers. These Tables Are Reserved for Drop-In Workers.

Back at the Elite Cafe in San Francisco, the workday was in full swing.

“In cafes, you can’t have a computer and sit there for eight hours,” said Tanya Cheng, 39, who works in e-commerce and had a laptop, a keyboard, a mouse and a tablet set up.

She works in Spacious spaces every day and said they had changed her relationship to the restaurants.

“When I go to dinner, I avoid these places now,” Ms. Cheng said, with a laugh. “It’s work for me.”

Jeff Bernstein, a venture and capital markets adviser, said the setup was more inherently social than a co-working office. At least once a week, he stays after the workday and has drinks with someone from the space.

“You can get immersed in your stuff, or you can notice somebody doing something interesting three stools away and you can chat with them,” he said. “Because you’re at a bar.”

In a nearby booth were Justin Morgan, 38, an information technology director at the cannabis company Sparc, who sat across from his partner, James Landau, 40, a product manager. Both said they liked that Spacious was not a traditional co-working space, like a WeWork, which costs significantly more and has perks including beer, table tennis, evening socials and (for a little extra) summer camp.

“Have you ever worked from home five days a week straight?” Mr. Morgan asked. “It’s terrible.”

An older man in a suit came into Elite Cafe and asked to be seated. The host told him that it was closed for diners right now and was a co-working space. He looked at the full restaurant, a little confused, and turned around.

A minute later, a young couple entered with a stroller and shopping bags and requested the menu. There was no lunch, the host explained again. Just co-working.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/08/technology/restaurants-co-working-areas.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Sorry, Power-Lunchers. This Restaurant Is a Co-Working Space Now.

Back at the Elite Cafe in San Francisco, the workday was in full swing.

“In cafes, you can’t have a computer and sit there for eight hours,” said Tanya Cheng, 39, who works in e-commerce and had a laptop, a keyboard, a mouse and a tablet set up.

She works in Spacious spaces every day and said they had changed her relationship to the restaurants.

“When I go to dinner, I avoid these places now,” Ms. Cheng said, with a laugh. “It’s work for me.”

Jeff Bernstein, a venture and capital markets adviser, said the setup was more inherently social than a co-working office. At least once a week, he stays after the workday and has drinks with someone from the space.

“You can get immersed in your stuff, or you can notice somebody doing something interesting three stools away and you can chat with them,” he said. “Because you’re at a bar.”

In a nearby booth were Justin Morgan, 38, an information technology director at the cannabis company Sparc, who sat across from his partner, James Landau, 40, a product manager. Both said they liked that Spacious was not a traditional co-working space, like a WeWork, which costs significantly more and has perks including beer, table tennis, evening socials and (for a little extra) summer camp.

“Have you ever worked from home five days a week straight?” Mr. Morgan asked. “It’s terrible.”

An older man in a suit came into Elite Cafe and asked to be seated. The host told him that it was closed for diners right now and was a co-working space. He looked at the full restaurant, a little confused, and turned around.

A minute later, a young couple entered with a stroller and shopping bags and requested the menu. There was no lunch, the host explained again. Just co-working.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/08/technology/restaurants-co-working-areas.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

High-Skilled White-Collar Work? Machines Can Do That, Too

There are other checks on automation. Negotiations with suppliers typically require a human touch. Even if an algorithm can help buyers make decisions more quickly and accurately, there are limits to the number of supplier relationships they can juggle.

Arti Zeighami, who oversees advanced analytics and artificial intelligence for the H M group, which uses artificial intelligence to guide supply-chain decisions, said the company was “enhancing and empowering” human buyers and planners, not replacing them. But he conceded it was hard to predict the effect on employment in five to 10 years.

Experts say some of these jobs will be automated away. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of wholesale and retail buyers to contract by 2 percent over a decade, versus a 7 percent increase for all occupations. Some of this is because of the automation of less sophisticated tasks, like cataloging inventory, and buying for less stylistically demanding retailers (say, auto parts).

There is at least one area of the industry where the machines are creating jobs rather than eliminating them, however. Bombfell, Stitch Fix and many competitors in the box-fashion niche employ a growing army of human stylists who receive recommendations from algorithms about clothes that might work for a customer, but decide for themselves what to send.

“If they’re not overly enthusiastic upfront when I ask how do you feel about it, I’m making a note of it,” said Jade Carmosino, a sales manager and stylist at Trunk Club, a Stitch Fix competitor owned by Nordstrom.

In this, stylists appear to reflect a broader trend in industries where artificial intelligence is automating white-collar jobs: the hiring of more humans to stand between machines and customers.

For example, Chida Khatua, the chief executive of EquBot, which helped create an exchange-traded fund that is actively managed by artificial intelligence, predicted that the asset-management industry would hire more financial advisers even as investing became largely automated.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/07/business/economy/algorithm-fashion-jobs.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Employers’ Hiring Push Brings Workers Off the Bench

“You just cannot be in this game without being competitive,” Ms. Burke said of salaries.

The Labor Department’s report provides only a temporary and incomplete snapshot of the economy. Updates to the April and May reports registered an additional 37,000 jobs. June’s estimates will be revised twice. For the moment, though, it showed the manufacturing sector continued its hiring surge, with 36,000 jobs added. Business and professional services as well as health care also had strong showings, while the retail sector slumped, losing 22,000 jobs and erasing nearly all the gains made in May. More job losses, from the demise of Toys “R” Us, could show up in July.

The unemployment rate for blacks also worsened in June from the previous month, rising to 6.5 percent, while the rate among Hispanics improved, falling to 4.6 percent. (Among whites, the jobless rate is 3.5 percent.)

Fears of a trade war are keeping employers on edge. Recent surveys of business owners have reflected dismay with the uncertainty generated by tariffs, whether already imposed or threatened.

As the newly released minutes from the Fed’s meeting last month noted, intensifying anxiety about trade policy could “eventually could have negative effects on business sentiment and investment spending.”

The United States Chamber of Commerce also stepped up its warnings that escalating tariffs could result in “lost sales and ultimately lost jobs here at home,” publishing a state-by-state breakdown of exports and jobs at risk.

Last week, General Motors said that tariffs could lead to “less investment, fewer jobs and lower wages.” The motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson, based in Wisconsin, announced it would shift some production overseas to sidestep retaliatory tariffs imposed by European countries.

Heightening trade tensions are not the only risks over the longer term.

As Oxford Economics, an economic research firm, noted in its newsletter, “While it may feel like a party in the U.S.A., several risks are building,” including growing consumer debt.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/06/business/economy/jobs-report.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Tariffs? Time for a Plan B: ‘Gobble Up Every Bit of Material That I Can’

Several manufacturers, however, said they were skeptical that domestic steel and aluminum makers had the capacity to meet the increased demand any time soon, and worried that prices would continue to rise — and even threaten jobs at their own companies. Mr. Farrer has halted all hiring, leaving about 30 positions unfilled, and has canceled, at least for now, a major capital purchase, two large machine tools.

Mark Vaughn has similarly put a brake on hiring at his metal stamping plant in Nashville. As the year started, he planned to add five or six new machinists in $28-an-hour jobs. His tax bill was going down, he had a fat backlog of orders, and one of his biggest clients, the Swedish appliance manufacturer Electrolux, was planning to invest $250 million to modernize its nearby Springfield plant.

But when the administration dangled the prospect of tariffs, Electrolux announced that it was postponing the upgrade, citing concerns about rising steel prices. “This is a message to the administration,” the company said in a statement.

Vaughn Manufacturing’s backlog has dwindled, and Mr. Vaughn said he would probably have to revise price quotes he promised six months ago. Instead of expanding his work force, which he described as “very highly skilled,” he is thinking of cutting five to 10 jobs out of his 50-person staff.

The first rule in his contingency plan, he said, is to “take care of what you got and not overexpand.”

“We were probably in line for $2 million to $3 million worth of work” making cooktops for Electrolux, he explained. And as for the new tax cuts, he pointed out, “Tariffs are a tax, so they took that advantage right back out of there.”

In Milwaukee, Mr. Carlson of Lakeside Manufacturing said he had contracts to get steel through the summer, but was worried about the fall. All the steel distributors, including his own, want to take care of their biggest customers first, he said. At the same time, the largest companies are hoarding as much steel as they can, making it tougher for smaller businesses to find alternatives.

Before the tariff threats, steel orders took six to eight weeks. Once the announcement was made in March, the wait time grew to eight to 12 weeks. “Now we don’t know when we’re going to get our orders filled,” Mr. Carlson said. “We’re hand-to-mouth.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/05/business/economy/trade-war-impact.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

How Trump’s Policy Decisions Undermine the Industries He Pledged to Help

“That just wreaks havoc with American farmers and businesses with the investments they have to make,” said Matthew Slaughter, a professor of international business at Dartmouth College. “It creates massive uncertainty for these industries.”

Automakers, for instance, had sought looser emissions rules. However, Mr. Trump’s proposed rollback goes further than expected, and now automakers say it could ultimately spawn years of legal battles and perhaps even subject the industry to more regulations, not fewer, if individual states start enforcing their own, separate rules. They also fear that Mr. Trump’s recent threats to impose tariffs on imports of European autos could trigger a trade war, raising prices for all vehicles.

In one recent meeting with Mr. Trump, the chief executive of General Motors, Mary Barra, told the president she would be happy with a deal keeping much of the current Obama-level pollution standards in place, while adding sweeteners for automakers such as financial credits for companies that invent more fuel-efficient technologies, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Oil and gas companies say a Trump administration proposal to bail out the coal industry will cut into their market share, while steel tariffs make their production equipment costlier. Aluminum makers fear not only a tariff tit-for-tat, but also the looser vehicle-pollution rules, because one way to make more efficient cars is to make more car parts from lightweight aluminum.

A spokesman for the White House, Raj Shah, acknowledged that while some policies might not always be to the liking of specific industries, “A lot of these groups benefit from broader policies — all these groups benefit from the tax cut and regulatory relief.”

“The only constituency the president is looking out for is the American people,” Mr. Shah said.

Mr. Trump’s policies have their strong supporters.

“The steel tariffs, the aluminum tariffs, the auto tariffs, have the potential to put people to work in industries like steel production,” said Jeff Ferry, the research director for the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a nonprofit group that advocates closing the United States trade deficit. “The electorate is no longer buying the theories economists are peddling about free trade lifting all boats,” Mr. Ferry said.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/04/climate/trump-industry-policy-consequences.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Trump Voters May Be the Biggest Losers From Trump’s Auto Tariffs

Virtually all cars made in the United States contain imported parts. Unlike steel and aluminum tariffs, whose costs may not be obvious to most consumers, automotive levies would show up in showrooms within weeks. Sticker prices would rise by hundreds if not thousands of dollars. That is why Ford and General Motors, alongside foreign automakers, have also roundly condemned the protectionist measures.

“The times are gone that a producer was only headquartered in one country with production in that country and exporting from that country to the rest of the world,” said Erik Jonnaert, the secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, in an interview in Brussels.

The economic impact would be greatest in a triangle demarcated by BMW’s factory in Spartanburg; Daimler’s Mercedes complex in Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Beginning in the 1990s, Southern states, desperate to replace manufacturing jobs lost when the textile industry decamped to Asia, wooed carmakers with tax breaks and other sweeteners. When Volkswagen was looking for a place to build a factory in 2008, Chattanooga officials deployed 200 bulldozers, wood chippers and other heavy equipment to clear a potential site after company representatives complained that it was too overgrown. The factory began operating in 2011.

Over time, the European carmakers have expanded their operations in those regions not only to build vehicles for American buyers, but also to serve customers in places like China. Last year, Daimler added 900 jobs to its American operations, which also include truck factories, and it is investing $1 billion to expand the Tuscaloosa operation to produce electric vehicles and batteries.

Mr. Trump’s contention that these companies may present a threat to American national security, though, has thrown that growth into doubt.

BMW exports 70 percent of the vehicles that it makes in Spartanburg, about 270,000, helping to reduce the trade deficit that Mr. Trump often complains about. BMW plans to add 1,000 jobs in Spartanburg as part of a $600 million expansion. If trade tensions continue to escalate, BMW warned in a letter on June 28 to Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, the result could be “strongly reduced export volumes and negative effects on investment and employment in the United States.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/03/business/trump-auto-tariffs.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Supreme Court Labor Decision Wasn’t Just a Loss for Unions

Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union, said that her union had cut its budget by about 30 percent in anticipation of the decision, and that the service employees had been talking with leaders of liberal groups for two years about how to offset the loss. She said the union, with about two million members, would provide a range of nonmonetary support, from in-kind staff assistance to help with fund-raising.

Brad Woodhouse, a former communications director for the Democratic National Committee, until recently ran a group called Americans United for Change, whose budget was heavily dependent on contributions from public-sector unions when it campaigned for health care reform and the Obama stimulus plan a decade ago. Mr. Woodhouse said unions gave less in 2015 and 2016, when the Supreme Court considered a predecessor to the Janus case. (The court deadlocked in that case after Justice Antonin Scalia died.) Partly as a result, the group shut down after the 2016 election.

The Economic Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank producing research on worker rights, wages and employment, has relied on the four biggest public-sector unions for about 10 to 15 percent of its roughly $6 million in annual revenue in recent years.

“We aren’t seeing it as an existential threat,” said Thea Lee, the institute’s president, “but we have been trying to be conservative in what projects we pursue.”

A group called Mi Familia Vota, which advocates on behalf of Latino voters and immigrants, had received about $1 million a year directly from the Service Employees International Union since 2012 — a significant portion of its annual revenue, which has ranged from about $1.5 million to $5 million during that time.

Last year, the union gave just $25,000.

“We’ve been adjusting,” said Ben Monterroso, director of Mi Familia Vota, which focuses on issues including education, health care, workers’ rights and voting rights. “Some of the programs we’ve needed to scale back. Demonstrations, activities, actions, we’ve scaled back.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/01/business/economy/unions-funding-political.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

China Taps the Brakes on Its Global Push for Influence

This year, some Chinese officials have expressed some concerns about lending under the program.

“Ensuring debt sustainability — that is very important,” Yi Gang, the new governor of China’s central bank, said at a conference in Beijing in late April.

While Belt and Road activity remains huge, it has certainly become more restrained, according to official data. In the first five months of 2018, Chinese companies signed contracts worth $36.2 billion in business, down nearly 6 percent from the same period a year ago.

Deal signings were down at this time last year from 2016, too, though by a lesser magnitude. Much of that downturn stemmed from big companies and governments’ saving their powder for a major Belt and Road forum held in May 2017 in Beijing that was attended by Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and other major political figures. After the forum, activity surged.

“I sensed that the level of enthusiasm about B.R.I. had certainly shifted down a few notches relative to last year,” said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell economist and former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division who recently visited Beijing and had extensive conversations with Chinese financial policymakers.

Project activity could pick up later this year, of course. But an uncertain global economic outlook has given Beijing even more reasons to be cautious.

A protracted trade war between the United States and other countries, particularly China, could shake confidence and stunt growth. The United States has pushed up short-term interest rates, making it more costly to borrow money. In the past, interest rate increases in the United States have sometimes caused financial turbulence elsewhere, especially in emerging markets.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/29/business/china-belt-and-road-slows.html?partner=rss&emc=rss