Category Archives: Career

Soft Skills for Work

Source: Fast Company, Nov 2019

According to a 2015 LinkedIn report, people with high EQ make on average $29,000 more than their non-emotionally intelligent counterparts. The bottom line is that you’ll thrive in the job market if you have strong interpersonal skills.


It’s easy to get absorbed in our work (or ourselves) and forget about common courtesy, but demonstrating respect for others is key to developing personal relationships.

When you’re in a meeting—or anywhere else, really—wait for people to finish what they’re saying before you chime in. Thank others when they’ve shared an idea, acknowledge their contribution, and build upon it. If you’re leading the meeting, acknowledge everyone’s presence by inviting comments from each person and thanking them for participating.

Another way to convey respect is by showing up on time for appointments and meetings. (And if you come into a meeting late, don’t try to justify it by saying, “I had a meeting with our chairman,” or “I got stuck in traffic.” Just show up on time.)


A just-released study reveals that 48% of employees have felt embarrassed because they didn’t know a coworker’s name. This should go without saying, but make it a point to learn the names of your colleagues (even if they work in other departments or offices) and use them.

Once you get to know someone, remember what they’ve told you. If someone has given a big presentation or has a family event, don’t let that slip from your mind. Ask about it, and make sure you talk more about them than about yourself.


One of the best ways to make sure you sustain your focus on the person you’re talking with is to put your phone away, and use body language to keep yourself centered on the other person.

Look others directly in the eye and align your body with theirs. Facial expressions, too, can help show you’re focused. These sorts of body language cues will show that you are paying attention, which will also help you stay connected.


Listening is a delicate art, but there are three simple ways to listen: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Physical listening means watching the body language of others, and responding accordingly. If someone has a frown or closed arms, realize you’re not getting through, and revamp the conversation.

Mental listening involves connecting with what others are thinking, and probing to get to the heart of what they are saying. So ask, “Do you think we should launch this program? Tell me more.”

Emotional listening means listening for what others are feeling, and showing that you understand and care. You might say to a team member, “Do you feel comfortable with this assignment?” Or, “Did you enjoy the conference?” Avoid the more generic, “How’s it going?” (That cliché is bound to prompt others to respond with a cliché of their own: “Not bad.”)


While it’s rare for us to think of love in the workplace, there are absolutely grounds for doing so. Sigal Barsade, professor of management at the Wharton School, writes about the importance of “companionate love” in the office. By this she means “feelings of affection, compassion, caring, and tenderness for others.”

Saying Thank-You (Professionally)

Source: Fast Company, Sep 2019

the thank you-note writers “significantly underestimated” how happy their letters would make recipients feel—and overestimated how awkward the letters would make recipients feel. “People know there will be a good reaction,” Kumar says. “But they underestimate just how good of a feeling it can incite to reach out kindly.”

There’s an underlying psychology at play. “We call it competence versus warmth,” Kumar says. When we evaluate others, we focus more on their warmth—their sincerity and positive intent. When we evaluate ourselves, however, we focus on competence: on whether or not we have crafted the perfect, most articulate words. “We underestimate the power of warmth on recipients because we are so busy evaluating ourselves on an entirely different basis,” Kumar explains.

What does that mean for thank-you note writers? Stop second-guessing your words and simply focus on penning something heartfelt. It will make the recipient feel better than you imagine.

Where Paul Allen Was Inspired to Start Microsoft

Source: Boston Magazine, Sep 2019

In January 1975, a 21-year-old man named Paul Allen was browsing the kiosk when he came across that month’s Popular Electronics, whose cover featured a photo of the “World’s First Minicomputer Kit.” He bought the magazine so he could show it to a friend—Bill Gates.

“I can still remember grabbing the Popular Electronics as if it was yesterday,” Allen said in 2008.


Automation –> Work

Source: ZeroHedge, Sep 2019

there’s another crisis of work that UBI doesn’t solve: the majority of people want and need the purpose, meaning and structure of a job–a positive social role, a way to gain self-respect, an avenue of control of one’s life, a source of dignity and a means of getting ahead.

Technology, like natural selection, has no goal. Technology doesn’t have a teleological drive to employ humans, save the planet or any other goal we might choose. In the current socio-political-economic system, technology is mostly aimed at maximizing profits. The surest way to reduce costs is to replace costly humans with automated tools.

If we want technology to help us create gainful work, we’ll have to set that goal, and create incentives other than maximizing short-term profits. Perhaps one first step might be to broaden our definition of “profit” from the purely financial to one that includes “utility” and “value” for local and global communities.


Elitism –> Wealth

Source: Psychology Today, Aug 2019

we discovered that from 2002-2016, the billionaires who earned their money in the technology—and especially the finance and investments—sectors have increasingly attended elite schools.

In 2002, 62 percent of the finance and investments sector were elite educated, whereas in 2016, a full 73.5 percent were elite educated. For technology, the numbers were 50 percent and 63 percent, respectively.

the economist Greg Mankiw stated, “changes in technology have allowed a small number of highly educated and exceptionally talented individuals to command superstar incomes in ways that were not possible a generation ago.”

Skillshare: Employee Equity/Stock Options for Startups

Source:  Skillshare/Medium, Aug 2019

To determine the target value of the grant, there is a multiplier applied to the salary for every role/level in the company. Here are the multipliers that we use at Skillshare as of today:

  • Exec team/C-level: 2.45
  • VP: 1.86
  • Director: 0.54
  • Specialist/key contributor IC: 0.43
  • Sr. Engineer: 0.40
  • Engineer: 0.26
  • Individual contributor/most staff: 0.23

take the new hire compensation and factor in the multiplier above. For example, the target grant value for an individual contributor making $80,000 a year would be ($80,000 x 0.23) = $18,400.

To determine the value per option, you need to first estimate the true market value per share. We take our current monthly revenue, multiply by 12 to annualize it, and then apply a 5x revenue multiple. You might say that 5x is too low, and it likely is for a competitive finance or M&A process, but it is a comfortable multiple for the purposes of the option grant process. I would rather the multiplier for stock option grants be a little too low than a little too high. For any growth funds out there reading this, I expect more than 5x in our next round so don’t lock in on that number 🙂

You then take your estimated market value per share and subtract out the current strike price. Some companies skip this subtraction and just use the market value, but in later-stage companies, the strike does start to become meaningful so at Skillshare we take it out. In the generic example below, we get to a $13 value per option. This is the $15 estimated market value per share less the $2 strike price.

The final step: you then divide the target grant value ($18,400) by the notional value per option ($13) to get to an initial new hire grant of 1,400 options (rounded to nearest 50).

or Companies and Managers: How we handle refresh grants

Once you are an employee, there are 3 ways to get additional stock options.

1) Biannual refresh. Every 2 years, we grant you 25% of what a new hire would receive in your role at that time. So if new hires at your level/function are getting 4,000 options as of your 2 year anniversary, you would get a refresh grant of 1,000 options.

2) Merit grants. If you’re doing a great job, we give you additional grants. I think of your cash comp as reflective of the value you are bringing day-to-day and your equity grants as a reflection of how you will impact the value of the business over the long-term. If you are doing amazing work that will drive long-term value for the business, we may give a merit grant as part of our standard review cycle.

3) Promotions. When you get promoted, we run your comp and level through the options calculator for that role. We then grant you stock options to get you to the same level as a new hire in that same position. In the event that you already have more options than that level (due to being a very early employee, or getting merit grants in the past) we treat it like a biannual refresh and give you 25% of what a new hire would get.

For employees: Calculating the value of your stock options

Wedge & Knife

Source: Scott Young’s blog, May 2019

There’s two main ways to think about becoming really good at something.

The first I call the knife model. This is where you get better and better at a very narrow range of skills, movements and patterns. Olympic sprinters, archers and many artisans master like a knife—getting extremely good at one thing.

The second I call the wedge model. This is where getting better requires learning an increasingly broad array of subskills. Programmers, composers and entrepreneurs master like a wedge—getting better overall, by having a huge library of patterns and skills.

I’d like to argue that the wedge model matters more for most of us. To get better at our work, we need to pick up more and and more adjacent skills to flesh out and support the work that we do.

What to Learn to Improve Your Career

I like the wedge model because it says that the way to improve your professional skills is through looking at neglected adjacent skills and improving them. It also says that, as you get better, you’ll need more and more to continue to go upward.