TIME Companies

RadioShack’s Bankruptcy Auction May Include Your Personal Data

A RadioShack store pictured in North Portland, Ore., on Feb. 6, 2015.
Alex Milan Tracy—AP A RadioShack store pictured in North Portland, Ore., on Feb. 6, 2015.

But legal challenges could prevent the company from selling it

If you shopped at RadioShack before the company started closing its stores en masse earlier this year, your personal data could be up for bid in the company’s bankruptcy auctions.

More than 13 million e-mail addresses and 65 million customers’ names and addresses are included in the RadioShack auctions that began this week, Bloomberg reports. The data trove could also include information about shoppers’ buying behavior.

However, two separate legal challenges could prevent RadioShack from auctioning off customers’ data. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argues RadioShack agreed not to sell customers’ data, while AT&T says some of the company’s data about shopping habits actually belongs to the telecom company, Bloomberg notes.

Whether or not RadioShack survives the bankruptcy process depends largely on whether a federal bankruptcy court approves what’s said to be a successful bid for the company’s assets by hedge fund Standard General. RadioShack said when it entered bankruptcy last month it planned for Standard General to take over up to half the company’s retail locations and turn them into stores for Sprint cellphones. The court’s decision on approving or rejecting Standard’s bid is expected later this week.

RadioShack’s sales dipped 16% in its last quarter with losses spanning 11 consecutive quarters. The company said in its Chapter 11 filing that it had $1.2 billion in assets along with $1.39 billion in debt.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME Companies

Office Messaging App Slack Could Be Worth Over $2 Billion

Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack, speaks at the DLD (Digital-Life-Design) Conference in Munich, Germany on Jan. 19, 2015.
Tobias Hase—AP Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and CEO of Slack, speaks at the DLD (Digital-Life-Design) Conference in Munich, Germany on Jan. 19, 2015.

Slack is raising new funding because it can

There are two types of tech entrepreneurs right now: Those who experienced the dotcom crash, and those who didn’t. Slack founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield is in the former group, which is the only reason I can imagine that he’s once again raising venture capital for his red-hot employee communication company.

Bloomberg yesterday broke news that Slack is in talks to raise new funding at a “valuation of more than $2 billion.” I’d been hearing something similar — but wasn’t able to confirm in time — at a valuation of around $2.5 billion. This morning, a late-stage investor whose firm isn’t participating told me that market talk was now $2.8 billion.

TechCrunch reports that both Coatue Management and Horizons Ventures are among possible new investors. It also said that Slack “is making some early moves to look at potentially replacing co-founder Stewart Butterfield as CEO” — something first denied by a company spokesman, and then later quasi-denied by Butterfield himself via Twitter:

It is not surprising that new investors want a piece of Slack. Nor would it be surprising if insiders like Andreessen Horowitz tried to scoop up more than their pro rata shares. This is a company that, in a very short time period, has come to dominate the internal workflow of many large enterprises (including the one for which I work):

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Slack

What does seem a bit odd at first glance, however, is that Slack wants the money. For starters, the San Francisco-based company raised $120 million just last October at a $1 billion valuation.

Moreover, Slack didn’t actually need the cash. Instead, Butterfield told Fortune earlier this year that the key was hitting that “arbitrary” valuation metric because it was “the psychological threshold for potential customers, employees and the press.”

It certainly is possible that Slack’s growth has continued to accelerate to the point that some of the $120 million is spent, but plenty still must be lying around.

So my best guess as to what’s happening is that Butterfield is buying himself some bubble insurance. Raise a ton of money while it’s available, just in case the private capital spigots tighten due to any number of factors. Trade off some dilution for lots of certainty. The higher valuation is just a cherry on top.

It’s what experienced entrepreneurs do. Particularly ones who say they’re in it for the long haul.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Ways to Find Forgotten Innovation

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Look to the myriad layers of corporate lore and blocks to creativity that add up to a pile of excuses

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The best and brightest teams can be rendered uninspired, stumped, scared and maybe even lazy when faced with a huge, blank whiteboard titled, “Our Next Big Thing….”

This is because brands, organizations and corporations unwittingly or not create blocks to creativity. One reason Motivate Design developed the What If Technique™, a new way to help organizations and people unstick their thinking and reframe problems as opportunities by flexing their creative muscle, was because organizations tend to build creative thinking roadblocks. This corporate lore (as we call it) — knowledge, beliefs, or traditions employees learn through the ways their organizations operate — strangles innovation.

3 Ways Corporate Lore Blocks Creativity

They See Beliefs as Fact

Blocks often occur when organizations believe that beliefs and opinions are true and treat them as facts, or even irrefutable laws. These turn into mental blocks and prevent people from seeing opportunities: “There’s no way to make renting a car or tooth brushing mind-blowing experiences.” Are you sure? How do you know? These blocks can be social, political and personal, and consciously or unconsciously inflicted. For example, when you want to rent a car, you go to a car rental place and rent one. When you want to buy a car, you go to the dealership. These two options are not only expensive, but they are limiting and are not universally perfect. That’s why two smart women took a chance on innovation, quit their day-jobs, and started a company that addressed the need for something in between. They refused to believe people didn’t have a third option.

The Zipcar founders recognized an under-served market and moved in to fill the gap by offering rental cars billable by the hour and accessible at convenient public parking locations. Once a need is identified, new ideas flow. The list of companies that found success in innovative thinking spurred by people’s needs is innumerable: Apple, Airbnb, Google, Jawbone, Amazon, etc. They did it despite the social, political and countless other beliefs positioned as facts that we’ve heard them speak about when recounting their journeys at conferences and in interviews.

They Think Ideation is Too Difficult

It’s easy to come up with a few ideas. What’s not easy is coming up with another 30 or 50 ideas without judging them. People are great at immediately analyzing ideas to determine the feasibility and solution quickly. Like physical training, training the creative muscle takes work, patience and a little discomfort. It’s hard!

We start hearing that there’s no time for innovation sessions or workshops, let alone time to think through the details of radical ideas. Let’s go back to the Zipcar example. You don’t have a car, but you need one. So, you go rent one. That’s usually the easy part. But what if more than one person needs to drive it at once? What if it breaks down? Where do you put the key when you are finished using it? This level of detail — the questions without answers, the problems without solutions — this is where the meat of great ideas come from. It’s also the area that people tend to avoid because it gets tough. Do you want Bluetooth tech in a toothbrush? Will waterproofing be an issue? Would users want to charge or exchange it? Will it be profitable? You’re just digging deeper and deeper into the problem space. It’s hard stuff, but it often allows the needed perspective to get to that awesome idea.

And awesome ideas make the ideation pains go away.

Organizations Don’t Play to Win

Are you playing to win or are you playing to not lose?

If a company is not clear on that answer, it’s hard for people to align with the overall goals. Performance reviews and rules prevent people from trying things that might fail. This all adds up to an environment where ideas are not likely to thrive. Innovation is about big wins through big experimentation. What happens when a company limits innovation and their organizational integrity is misaligned or scarce?

Here’s an example: We had a financial client that spent over $1 million with another agency to identify their target audience. We were brought in to use all prior research to recruit people who fit the persona and run user reviews to analyze the new design comps. The problem was we couldn’t find anyone who fit the persona, even with the help of professional recruiters. We discovered the persona the client was looking for didn’t exist. After some deliberation, the recruiting criteria was adjusted to align with a more realistic persona. Then we recruited participants and observed that they didn’t like the design comp. The financial information was not presented in a way they could understand, the context was lost and the new features didn’t solve their problems. This was a very scary discovery for everyone since major money and time was invested to discover what people wanted from the website. The review report went back and forth multiple times, so as not to offend anyone: the first agency; the agency’s client; the CMO, who was waiting for the results; our client — it was endless. Everyone was so worried about who would get blamed that the target audience’s critical issue (the new design wasn’t effective) was buried in the blame game.

This story epitomizes the way fear, when embedded in corporations, can block innovative thinking. The incentive for employees is to make the boss happy and use resources to justify actions or place blame elsewhere, rather than nurture an idea that solves customer problems and betters their experiences.

So, when we ask, “Why isn’t innovation happening here?” we can look to the myriad layers of corporate lore and blocks to creativity that add up to a pile of excuses (internal, sanctioned or enforced). Fortunately, we can overcome them by recognizing them, deciding to take a stand and flexing our creative muscle to come up with ways around them.

This post is excerpted from the forthcoming book Reframe: Shift the way you think, work, and innovate.

Mona Patel is Founder and CEO at Motivate Design, a user experience and design thinking agency, and the recruiting firm, UX Hires.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Companies

These Are the Companies Profiting the Most From War

The big North American and European defense corporations have secured their place among the top 10 arms dealers

Worldwide military expenditure shrunk in 2013 for the second consecutive year, falling by 1.9% to $1.75 trillion. The 100 largest arms-producers sold a combined $402 billion worth of arms and military services in 2013, also down — for the third consecutive year.

However, not all countries are spending less. Military spending in North America and in Western and Central European countries has continued to decline, while other countries such as Brazil and Russia have increased their arms investments.

Despite the global drop, weapons producers generated massive profits from arms sales, and U.S. and European companies continued to dominate the top 10 global companies in terms of arms deals. Lockheed Martin was the global leader with $36 billion in arms sales in 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

These are the companies profiting the most from war.

In fact, the top 10 companies tend to change very little. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Dr. Samuel Perlo-Freeman, senior researcher at the SIPRI arms and military expenditure program, explained that since the 2000s, the big North American and European defense corporations have secured their place among the top 10 arms dealers. Only the last two positions in the top 10 tend to see any major competition.

Yet, Russian companies have been growing rapidly, and if the trend continues, Perlo-Freeman said, Russian Almaz-Antey may breach the top 10 in the coming years. Further, although data on Chinese companies is currently unavailable, it is very likely several would be in the top 20 arms dealers.

U.S. companies still dominate the arms market by a large margin, with six among the top 10 arms sellers. In the top 100 arms-producing companies, 39 are based in the United States, and U.S. companies accounted for more than 58% of total arms sales among the top 100. U.S. company arms sales in the top 10 alone made up 35% of total arms sales among the top 100. By contrast, Western European companies, which make up the rest of the top 10 arms producers, accounted for just 28% of the total top 100 arms sales.

National governments, especially the U.S., are almost always the primary customers of these companies. Governments are often the only customers that can afford the extremely high costs of these products. An F-35 fighter jet purchased in 2018 from Lockheed Martin and delivered in 2020, for example, would cost roughly $100 million.

While cuts in U.S. military expenditure have created some uncertainty for U.S. arms market players, business is still very good in the country. According to Perlo-Freeman, several companies based in Europe, such as BEA and Finmeccanica, operate subsidiary holdings in the U.S. to access the U.S. market.

Even when a national government is not a customer of a domestic or international arms-producer, its leaders are involved in the transaction. “Top politicians, presidents, [and] prime ministers are very often directly involved in promoting major arms deals on behalf of their domestic industry,” Perlo-Freeman said. National leaders, who have an interest in who possesses some of the world’s most destructive instruments, often oversee the arms deals very closely. While these transactions are highly regulated, “for most countries, [politicians] are more interested in promoting the success of their industries,” Perlo-Freeman said.

To identify the 10 companies profiting most from war, 24/7 Wall St. examined the 10 companies with the most arms sales based on SIPRI’s “The SIPRI Top 100 Arms-Producing Companies, 2013.” Arms sales, including advisory, planes, vehicles, and weapons, were defined by sales to military customers as well as contracts to government militaries. We also considered the company’s 2013 total sales and profits, the total number of employees at the company, as well as nation-level military spending, all provided by SIPRI.

These are the companies profiting the most from war.

  • 10. Thales

    > Arm sales 2013: $10.4 billion
    > Total sales 2013: $18.9 billion
    > 2013 profit: $800 million
    > 2013 employment: 65,190

    Thales Group edged into the top 10 of international arms sales, moving ahead of L-3 Communications with 2013 arms sales of $10.4 billion, up from $8.9 billion in 2012. L-3’s arms sales fell from $10.84 billion in 2012 to $10.3 billion in 2013. Based in Paris, Thales has outlets in 56 countries with a total headcount of more than 65,000 employees. In addition to defense, Thales helped modernize the London Underground in 2014, increasing the capacity of the system’s Northern Line by 20%. More than a decade ago, Thales launched its inflight entertainment and connectivity unit now used by nearly 100 international airlines.

  • 9. Finmeccanica

    > Arm sales 2013: $10.6 billion
    > Total sales 2013: $21.3 billion
    > 2013 profit: $100 million
    > 2013 employment: 63,840

    Finmeccanica reported nearly $10.6 billion in arms sales in 2013, down considerably from the previous year, when the company sold $12.5 billion worth of military equipment. While arms sales comprised a majority of total revenue for six companies on this list, they comprised only half of the Finmeccanica’s overall 2013 sales of $21.3 billion. The Italian aerospace giant has been struggling in recent years, posting losses each year since 2011. The company is currently undergoing massive restructuring. Mauro Moretti, the conglomerate’s recently government-appointed CEO, said in an interview with the Financial Times earlier this year that he anticipates substantial job cuts, shrinking sales figures, and even a possible name change.

    ALSO READ: 15 Cities With the Most High-Tech Jobs

  • 8. United Technologies

    > Arm sales 2013: $11.9 billion
    > Total sales 2013: $62.6 billion
    > 2013 profit: $5.7 billion
    > 2013 employment: 212,000

    United Technologies is the lowest ranking U.S. supplier of the world’s top 10 arms selling companies. Based in Connecticut, UTC’s arms sales slipped from $12.1 billion in 2012 to $11.9 billion in 2013 even as its total sales rose from $57.7 billion in 2012 to more than $62.6 billion in 2013. The company’s Pratt & Whitney subsidiary, which produces and sells large commercial aircraft engines used in more than 25% of the world’s passenger fleet, recorded $14.5 billion in total net sales in 2014. Pratt & Whitney’s military engines are used by 29 armed forces worldwide. United Technologies’ Sikorsky helicopters are used by all five branches of the U.S. armed forces and Sikorsky products are used in more than 40 countries. Sikorsky generated $7.5 billion in net sales in 2014. Sikorsky manufactures military and commercial helicopters and supplies helicopter and aircraft services and parts. UTC is exploring spinning off Sikorsky to create a stand-alone public company.

  • 7. Airbus Group

    > Arm sales 2013: $15.7 billion
    > Total sales 2013: $78.7 billion
    > 2013 profit: $2.0 billion
    > 2013 employment: 144,060

    Airbus Group, formerly known as EADS, reported revenue of 59.3 billion euros in 2013, up from 56.5 billion euros in the previous year. Arms sales comprised just 20% of the company’s total sales of nearly $78.7 billion in 2013. Airbus Group is a major producer of commercial aircrafts, as well as helicopters and defense and space products. The company was recently awarded a contract with the South Korean government to supply several light helicopters. Airbus Group spans multiple European countries and overall employed 144,060 workers as of 2013. Several current and former executives of the group are mired in a legal dispute over insider trading.

    ALSO READ: States With the Highest Gas Prices

  • 6. General Dynamics

    > Arm sales 2013: $18.7 billion
    > Total sales 2013: $31.2 billion
    > 2013 profit: $2.4 billion
    > 2013 employment: 96,000

    General Dynamics’ (NYSE: GD) 2013 arms sales dropped by nearly 11% from 2012 to $18.7 billion. Nonetheless, the company turned a $332 million 2012 loss into a $2.4 billion profit in 2013. According to the aerospace and defense company, it provides a “broad range of products and services in business aviation; combat vehicles, weapons systems and munitions; communications and information technology systems and solutions; and shipbuilding.” GD’s aerospace division, among other things, designs and manufactures Gulfstream business-jet aircraft. The combat systems group designs and manufactures military vehicles — including battle tanks — and weapons systems and munitions. The information systems and technology unit, offers information technology and mobile communications services to the U.S. defense and intelligence communities.

  • 5. Northrop Grumman

    > Arm sales 2013: $20.2 billion
    > Total sales 2013: $24.7 billion
    > 2013 profit: $2.0 billion
    > 2013 employment: 65,300

    Northrop Grumman is one of six companies based in the U.S. selling the most military equipment. Also, 82% of the company’s $24.7 billion total sales came from arms deals in 2013, one of the higher proportions. The U.S. government is Northrop Grumman’s primary customer for both arms and non-arms sales, accounting for $21.3 billion, or 86% of total 2013 sales. Earlier this year, Northrop Grumman was awarded a $113.3 million contract from the U.S. Navy. Despite mostly supplying the U.S. government, the company still has a substantial and growing international presence. The company recently identified at least four international markets it aims to target for global expansion: Europe, Australia, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

  • 4. Raytheon

    > Arm sales 2013: $21.9 billion
    > Total sales 2013: $23.7 billion
    > 2013 profit: $2.0 billion
    > 2013 employment: 63,000

    Like other U.S. based defense companies, the vast majority of Raytheon’s business comes from the U.S. government. The company sold nearly $16.1 billion worth of arms to the U.S. government in 2014, or 70% of its total sales. This proportion has actually fallen each of last two years. Meanwhile, international sales accounted for 29% of Raytheon’s total 2014 sales, up from 27% in 2013. According to SIPRI, economic downturns and the resulting austerity measures, especially in the U.S., have prompted a number of companies to more aggressively seek international markets for military deals. These deals are subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations as well as other U.S. and foreign regulations.

    ALSO READ: The Best (and Worst) Paying Cities for Women

  • 3. BAE Systems

    > Arm sales 2013: $26.8 billion
    > Total sales 2013: $28.4 billion
    > 2013 profit: $275 million
    > 2013 employment: 84,600

    BAE Systems is one of the top 10 defense contractor suppliers to the U.S. with 31,500 employees in the U.S. in addition to 33,300 in the United Kingdom and another 19,800 in other parts of the globe including Saudi Arabia and Australia. About 36% of BAE’s sales came from its land and armaments business: development, ongoing support and maintenance of armored vehicles, artillery, naval guns, missile launchers and munitions. Total BAE sales grew 2% from 2012 to 2013 as the resumption of the company’s Typhoon combat aircraft deliveries more than made up for lower U.S. sales.

  • 2. Boeing

    > Arm sales 2013: $30.7 billion
    > Total sales 2013: $86.6 billion
    > 2013 profit: $4.6 billion
    > 2013 employment: 168,400

    Based in Chicago, Boeing is the largest aerospace company in the world. It had sales of $86.6 billion in 2013, the third highest compared to the 100 companies reviewed by SIPRI. Unlike most U.S. arms dealers, only 35% of Boeing’s sales came from arms deals, one of the lowest such proportions. Boeing is known primarily for its airplanes, with more than 10,000 commercial jetliners in use worldwide, or approximately 48% of the global fleet, according to the company. The company is also a major provider of satellites and satellite components to NASA. Boeing is a major employer in a number of states. Worldwide, the company had a total 2013 headcount of 168,400 — also the fourth highest number of employees among the 100 largest arms dealers.

    ALSO READ: The Best (and Worst) States for Business

  • 1. Lockheed Martin

    > Arm sales 2013: $35.5 billion
    > Total sales 2013: $45.5 billion
    > 2013 profit: $3.0 billion
    > 2013 employment: 115,000

    Lockheed Martin’s 2013 arms sales totaled $35.5 billion, more than any other company in the world. The company posted total sales of $45.5 billion in 2013, 78% of which were arms sales. In its most recent financial report, Lockheed Martin reported a slight increase in both sales and U.S. government deals, which accounted for 79% of its $45.6 billion net sales in fiscal 2014. The F-35 stealth fighter is the company’s most profitable program, generating more than half of all sales from the company’s aeronautics division in 2014. Lockheed Martin’s advanced development program, known as Skunk Works, has recently announced a working concept for a compact fusion reactor. The department claims it may have a prototype of the elusive nuclear energy device within five years.

    CORRECTION: Due to a data processing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly reported total 2013 profits of $300 billion for BAE Systems. In fact, BAE Systems had a total profit of $275 million in 2013.

    For the original list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Mental Shortcuts Hiring Managers Take (and How to Use Them to Your Advantage)

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It’s important to understand that recruiters and hiring managers are human beings

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

The hiring process is a terribly imprecise thing. That’s part of why it’s so frustrating. You can do everything right and be the perfect candidate for the job and somehow still not end up getting it. What gives?

Well, it’s because the process is, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), run by humans. Our brains do all sorts of behind-the-scenes shortcuts that subconsciously affect our decision-making. Even the order in which you interview may have an impact. It’s not always the most logical thing, but that’s just the way it is. Bummer, right?

Well, maybe not. Read on for a few of these mental shortcuts (read: biases), and how to use them to your advantage during your job search.

1. Big Accomplishments Overshadow Everything Else

Ever hear something amazing about a person—say, that he built a $10 million company out of his garage or that she graduated college and started working for Google at 19? Even knowing nothing else about that person, he or she probably sounded pretty great.

That phenomenon is called the halo effect. In short, it’s the assumption that a positive attribute or impressive accomplishment in one area implies aptitude in other unrelated areas.

One way you can use this to your advantage is by making sure any particularly impressive achievements stand out on your resume or cover letter. If, for example, you graduated from an Ivy League school, were an early employee at Facebook, or happen to be an Olympic athlete, you would want to feature that information prominently. In any case, you’ll want to make sure to feature the most exciting and relevant parts of your background front and center. On that note:

2. What’s First and Last Matters Most

So, when I say “front and center,” what do I actually mean? Turns out, the order in which people are introduced to information impacts what they’ll be able to remember.

The recency effect, part of the serial position effect, is the notion that the thing people remember best is the last thing on a list. For you, that would mean the end of the resume or cover letter. The primacy effect, or the first thing people are introduced to, is about the second best thing they can remember. To take this one step further, the brain assumes that if something is easier to remember, it must be more important—a phenomenon called the availability heuristic.

That means, the prime real estate in your job application materials is the very top and the very bottom of your documents. On your resume, tuck your relevant and halo effect-maximizing accomplishments at the top in a killer “Summary” section, and create a “Skills” section packed with your most impressive abilities for the bottom.

3. How You Look Actually Matters

You know it’s important for you to look your best on your LinkedIn profile photo or when you’re going in for an interview, but did you know people are actually naturally biased toward people who are more attractive? A study conducted by the Institute for the Study of Labor showed that higher wages and employment rates were both correlated with being more attractive. It’s not fair, but study after study has shown that it’s the truth.

With the knowledge that it’s important, go out of your way to look nice. Even if the recruiter says that the company is extremely laid back—don’t go in looking sloppy. It’s a subconscious thing, so there’s no avoiding it. You want to look your best.

4. It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Say there is a drug that heals one out of every three patients and another drug that fails 66% of the time. Which are you more likely to go with?

It’s a trick question (the likelihood of success are roughly the same for both), but most people are much more likely to go with the first drug. It’s called the framing effect, and it’s the reason why how you present information is so important.

On your resume, this means writing your bullets out as achievements and not as responsibilities. And in an interview, this is why you want to keep all your language somewhere between neutral to positive—even when you’re talking about a negative experience. “I certainly could have had a better relationship with that client—it’s an experience I learned a lot from,” sounds a whole lot better to a hiring manager than “I hated working with that client.”

5. …Or How You Make People Feel

You know the famous Maya Angelou saying, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel?” It’s more than a pretty sentiment, it’s true.

The affect heuristic is a mental shortcut that relies on an emotional response to help make a decision. In other words, having an enjoyable conversation might be just as important as having a substantive conversation during an interview. If the hiring manager thinks back to the interview and remembers a particularly good turn of phrase you used and chuckles to him or herself—that’s a huge win.

Who can say how much any of this will help, but at the very least don’t let these cognitive biases put you at a disadvantage. It’s important to understand that recruiters and hiring managers are human beings. For now, while humans instead of robots still make all the hiring decisions, this is the kind of imperfection we have to be ready for—and maybe even use to our advantage.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Lessons You Can Learn From Watching Young Steve Jobs Run a Meeting

Steve Jobs speaks at an Apple Special Event in San Francisco on Sept. 1, 2010.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Steve Jobs speaks at an Apple Special Event in San Francisco on Sept. 1, 2010.

An inside look at a company meeting can teach you how Jobs did it, and did it well

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Brilliant. Passionate. Overbearing. Impatient.

Steve Jobs’s management style has been described in many ways, both positive and negative. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying what he accomplished: Within a short time, he built the most successful company on the planet.

Before that, though, Jobs was actually forced out of Apple (in 1985). A few months later, he founded another company. This startup, appropriately named NeXT, focused on producing high-powered computers for the higher education industry. A talented team left secure positions at Apple and followed Jobs to his new endeavor—evidence of how much people believed in him.

The following video shows excerpts of a company retreat that Jobs orchestrated during the first three months of the company. And it’s fascinating.

The lessons for entrepreneurs are plentiful. I’ve picked out eight that I feel are noteworthy. (I’ve also included the time frame from the video in parentheses.)

Here they are:

1. Show your passion (3:46)

Jobs was well known as an excellent presenter, and his skills are on full display in his introductory speech. He uses repetition well. He’s enthusiastic. He’s natural. But most important, he believes what he’s saying, and he’s not afraid to put himself out there.

If you don’t get passionate about your idea, no one else will.

2. Focus on creating value (4:50)

Jobs: “We’re doing this because we have a passion about it…because we really care about the higher educational process. Not because we want to make a buck.

As an entrepreneur, there’s no greater feeling than providing a product or service that people feel will make their life better.

3. Challenge your team (6:15)

Throughout the video, Jobs probes and challenges his people. He doesn’t accept anything at face value. He wants to know why people feel the way they do. And often, he lets them know exactly why he disagrees.

Yes, Jobs could be overbearing. But as Guy Kawasaki (who worked for Steve Jobs twice) put it: “If you ask an employee of Apple why they put up with the challenges of working there, they will tell you: because Apple enables you to do the best work of your career.”

4. Keep everyone on course (6:53)

Jobs: “There needs to be someone who is the keeper and reiterator of the vision…. A lot of times, when you have to walk a thousand miles and you take the first step, it looks like a long way, and it really helps if there’s someone there saying ‘Well we’re one step closer…. The goal definitely exists; it’s not just a mirage out there.'”

As your company evolves, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important. Culture shift is a danger.

But it’s your company. Don’t compromise on things you believe in. It’s what got Jobs kicked out of Apple in 1985, but it’s also why they brought him back–and what made Apple such a success.

5. Define the right priorities (7:26)

As the NeXT team discusses its priorities, you can witness Jobs’s remarkable ability to focus on what’s most important, and even more critical, to defend why it’s important.

When team members challenge priority No. 1 (keeping the price of the computer at $3,000), Jobs vehemently defends it:

“They didn’t say if you made it go three times faster we’d pay $4,000…. They said, ‘Go to $3,000 [or] forget it.’ That’s their magic number…. Nobody else says that they can do that…. Whether it is or not, in reality, who knows. Whether it is or not in terms of their commitment to push us, we’ve established that.”

The team followed his lead, and price stayed priority No. 1.

You know what’s important, but can you prove why it’s important? If so, then your team will follow.

6. Know when to interrupt (9:52)

A member of the team proceeds to goes on a rant. She goes on and on, and Jobs remains patient…at first. But as she continues, his patience runs out. He interrupts to refocus.

Many years ago, I sat in on a meeting where a senior member of the team talked for 20 minutes without interruption. We were all thinking the same thing, but nobody had the courage to speak up.

Finally, another manager (who was new to the company) respectfully put an end to the speech, to everyone else’s relief. I learned a lot from that episode.

Be a good listener. Be patient. But know when you need to step in, and you’ll save a lot of time and resources.

7. Learn from the past, but don’t let it own you (11:11)

As one team member laments past failures, Jobs speaks up:

I don’t want to hear ‘Just because we blew it last time, we’re going to blow it this time….’ This is a window we’ve got…it’s a wonderful window.

Any great entrepreneur knows that failure is part of the process. The more you try, the more you fail–but success is out there. You’ve just got to find it.

8. Focus on the positive (12:22)

At the end of the weekend retreat, Jobs said the following:

I find myself making lists of things we don’t know, and then I remember that our company’s 90 days old. And I look back to all the things we do know. And it’s really phenomenal how far we’ve come in 90 days.

When you have a long road ahead of you, it can be intimidating to focus on what’s left. There will always be plenty to do.

Remember to look back at what you’ve already accomplished, and that can give you the motivation you need to move forward.

TIME Innovation

Microsoft Is Getting Close to Perfecting a Universal Communicator

Some 40,000 people are using software program Skype Translator in hopes of achieving real-time translation

Gurdeep Pall was confident Skype’s automatic translation program would work. But as Microsoft’s corporate vice president in charge of Skype prepared to hold the first public demonstration of the program last May, Pall found himself worrying about the room itself. “Any sound that goes into the microphone, you basically have logic running trying to figure out what the sound said,” he says. “You can have feedback or you can have somebody coughing faraway that the mic picked up, somebody shifting far away, the squeak from their foot.”

Pall’s anxiety was for naught. An audience of several hundred reporters and industry insiders watched on as Pall and a native German speaker held a nearly flawless conversation through the company’s prototype of Skype Translator. Roughly a second after Pall Spoke, subtitles in German and English appeared at the bottom of the screen, and a synthetic Siri-like voice read the words aloud to the German caller. The audience murmured in astonishment, but the program didn’t falter as it shot back a translation from German to English. Pall, on the other hand, was flustered as his jitters about the room metastasized to two presenters who were whispering to one another nearby throughout the demonstration. “I’m thinking, ‘Get out of here!’” Pall recalls, laughing.

Researchers working on automatic translation technology like this are familiar with this blend of hope and anxiety. The concept of a universal translator has long been a fixture of science fiction, not to mention a dream of inventors and linguists since long before computers existed. The granodiorite slab announcing the kingly reign of Ptolemy V in Egypt circa 196 BC, better known as the Rosetta Stone, might be considered an early stab at the idea. In the 1930s, two inventors filed patents for “mechanical dictionaries” promising to translate words in real time. And in more recent decades, firms ranging from NEC to Jibbigo have periodically tried to crack the problem. But as practical reality, the idea has been perennially delayed.

Now, advances in so-called machine learning—computer programs that can essentially self-teach with enough exposure to spoken language—hope for a universal translator is increasingly replacing anxiety. What has changed from previous generations is that the underlying technology thrives through use, trial and error, recorded and reviewed, ad nasueam. The current crop of translation software gets smarter, researchers and programmers say, the more it absorbs. “The more data you have, the better you’re going to do,” explains Lane Schwartz, a linguistics professor at the University of Illinois.

Which is why Microsoft released a preview version of Skype Translator to a limited number of users last December. (The Redmond, Washington-based tech giant bought Skype for $8.5 billion in 2011.) The program is expected to reach a major milestone near the end of March. Late last year, Google announced its translation app for text would include a “conversation mode” for the spoken word. Baidu, the so-called Google of China, has had a similar feature available in its home market for several years. And the forthcoming release of the Apple Watch, a powerful computer with echoes of Dick Tracey’s famous wrist wear, has some speculating that near-instant translation might be the nascent wearables market’s killer app.

That leaves a handful of search giants—Microsoft, Google and Baidu—racing to fine-tune the technology. Andrew Ng, Baidu’s chief scientist likens what’s coming next to the space race. “It doesn’t work if you have a giant engine and only a little fuel,” he says. “It doesn’t work if you have a lot of fuel and a small engine.” The few companies that can combine the two, however, may blast ahead.

So Many Fails

There’s no shortage of false summits in the history of translation. Cold War footage from 1954 captured one of the earliest machine translators in action. One of the lead researchers predicted that legions of these machines might be used to monitor the entirety of Soviet communications “within perhaps 5 years.” The demonstration helped generate a surge of government funding, totalling $3 million in 1958, or $24 million in present-day dollars.

But by the 1960s, the bubble had burst. The government convened a panel of scientific experts to survey the quality of machine translations. They returned with an unsparing critique. Early translations were “deceptively encouraging,” the Automatic Language Processing Advisory Committee wrote in a 1966 report. Automatic translation, the panel concluded, “serves no useful purpose without postediting, and that with postediting the overall process is slow and probably uneconomical.”

Funding for machine translation was drastically curtailed in the wake of the report. It would be the first of several boom and bust cycles to buffet the research community. To this day, researchers are loath to predict how far they can advance the field. “There is no magic,” says Chris Wendt, who has been working on machine translation at Microsoft Research for nearly a decade. But he admits that the latest improvements resulting from artificial intelligence can, at times, be mystifying. “There are things that you don’t have an explanation for why it works,” he says.

Wendt works out of Building 99, Microsoft’s research hub on the western edge of its Redmond campus. The building’s central atrium is wrapped by four floors of glass-walled conference rooms, where Microsoft engineers and researchers can be seen working on pretty much any project they please. The open-ended aspect of their work is a point of pride enshrined in the lab’s mission statement. “It states, first and foremost, that our goal as an institution is to move the state of the art forward,” said Rick Rashid in 2011, twenty years after he launched the lab, according to a Microsoft blog post celebrating the milestone. “It doesn’t matter what part of the state of the art we’re moving forward, and it doesn’t say anything in that first part of the mission statement about Microsoft.”

In other words, if Microsoft’s researchers want to tinker with strange and unproven technologies, say motion-sensing cameras or holographic projectors, nobody is likely to stop them. In the mid-2000’s, there were few technologies quite as strange and unproven as “deep neural networks,” algorithms that can parse through millions of spoken words and spot the underlying sound patterns. Say, “pig,” for instance, and the algorithm will identify the unique sound curve of the letter “p.” Expose it to more “p” words and the shape of that curve becomes more refined. Before long, the algorithm can detect a “p” sound across multiple languages, and exposure to those languages further attunes its senses. “P” words in German (prozent) improves its detection of “p” words in English (percent).

Those same lessons, it turns out, apply to volume, pitch or accents. A lilt at the end of the sentence may indicate that the speaker has asked a question. It may also indicate that the speaker talks like a Valley girl. Expose the deep learning algorithm to a range of voices, however, and it may begin to notice the difference. This profusion of voices, which used to overwhelm supercomputers, now improves their performance. “Add training data that is not perfect, like people speaking in a French accent, and it does not degrade overall quality for people speaking without a French accent,” says Wendt.

The results of deep neural network research in language applications stunned Microsoft’s research team in 2011. Error rates in transcription, for instance, plummeted by 50%—from one out of every four words to one out of eight. Until then, the misunderstood word was one of the most persistent and insurmountable obstacles to machine translation. “The system cannot recover from that because it takes that word at face value and translates it,” explains Wendt. “Employing deep learning on the speech recognition part brought the error rate low enough to attempt translation.”

Speaking into Skype Translator, the commercial face of all of Microsoft’s linguistic research, shows how far things have come. The sound of your voice zips into Microsoft’s cloud of servers, where it is parsed by a panoply of software developed by the company. The team that developed those green squiggly lines under grammatical errors in Word documents laid the groundwork for automatic punctuation, for example. The team that created Microsoft’s translation app, which is currently used to translate posts on Facebook and Yelp, provided the engine for text translation. The team that developed the voice for Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-activated personal assistant similar to Apple’s Siri, helped develop the voice for Skype.

When Microsoft’s researchers debuted a prototype of Skype Translator at the company’s version of an annual science fair, they enclosed it in a cardboard telephone booth, modeled after the time-traveling machine from the Dr. Who television series. Co-founder Bill Gates stepped inside and phoned a Spanish speaker in Argentina. The speaker had been warned that when the caller said, “Hi, it’s Bill Gates,” it wasn’t a joke. It really would be Bill Gates. What did Gates say? Pretty much what everyone says at first, according to the team: “Hi. How are you? Where are you?”

My Turn

I posed the same questions to Karin, a professional translator hired for a hands-on demonstration at Microsoft’s Building 99. She answered in Spanish, and paused as Skype’s digital interpreter read a translated reply: “Hello, nice to meet you. Now I’m in Slovakia.”

The program has the basic niceties of conversation down cold, and for a moment, the Star Trek fantasy of a “universal translator” seemed tantalizingly within reach. But then a few hiccups emerged as the conversation progressed. Her reason for visiting New York was intelligible, but awkwardly phrased: “I want to meet all of New York City and I want to attach it with a concert of a group I like,” from which I gathered that she wanted to see a concert during her visit. I asked her if the program often faltered in her experience. “In the beginning,” came the translated reply, “but each time it gets better. It’s like one child first. There were things not translated, but now he’s a teenager and knows a lot of words.”

With some 40,000 people signed up to use Skype Translator, it has been getting a crash course in the art of conversation, and those words could work wonders on its error rates. An odd quirk of machine translation systems is that they tend to excel at translating European Union parliamentary proceedings. For a long time the EU produced some of the best training data out there: a raft of speeches professionally translated into dozens of languages.

But Microsoft is rapidly accumulating its own record of casual conversations. Users of the preview version are informed that their utterances may be recorded and stored in an anonymous, shuffled pile that makes it impossible to trace the words back to their source, Microsoft stresses. The team expects the error rate to drop continuously as Skype Translator absorbs slang, proper names and idioms into its system. Few companies can tap such a massive corpus of spoken words. “Microsoft is in a good position,” says Wendt. “Google is also in a good position. Then there’s a big gap between us and everyone else.”

For now, the Skype team is focused on adding users and driving down error rates, with the long-run goal of releasing instant translation as a standard feature for Skype’s 300 milllion users. “Translation is something we believe ought to be available to everybody for free,” says Pall.

That raises an awkward question for professional translators like Karin. “Do you feel threatened by Skype Translator,” I asked her through the program. “Not yet,” was her translated reply, read aloud by her fast-developing, free digital rival.

Read next: Here’s Why Microsoft Is Giving Pirates the Next Windows for Free

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TIME Autos

How Silicon Valley Suddenly Fell in Love With Cars

Tesla Model S.
Tesla Tesla's battery makes it cleaner than gas-guzzling alternatives—but think about what else it's made of.

The last great remaining American preoccupation tech hasn't yet tackled is the automobile. That's about to change

“The American really loves nothing but his automobile,” Gavin Stevens says in Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust. “Because the automobile has become our national sex symbol.” Given that longtime infatuation, you’d think Silicon Valley’s tech companies would have been eager to get into the auto industry before now. Instead, many are surprised that it’s happening at all.

Ever since the personal computer became mainstream, Silicon Valley has been inventing or reinventing new gadgets: the music player, the phone, the computer itself, first as a portable, now as a tablet. Amazon remade the shopping mall and put it on a screen. Netflix and YouTube subverted the TV set, and now Google’s Nest is going after other household appliances. This year, Apple is reworking the wristwatch, casting tech as jewelry.

The last great remaining American preoccupation that tech hasn’t yet tackled is the automobile. Much of this has to do with logistics–selling phones or music players is child’s play next to the expensive, highly regulated business of manufacturing cars–but there’s also a historical mindset at work. Detroit, with its combustion engines and metallic gears, was the epitome of an analog era that Silicon Valley displaced. The car was an anachronism, however beloved.

No longer. Google has been working on self-driving cars for a number of years. Uber has started looking into them as well. Now, according to the ever-churning Apple rumor mill, the Cupertino giant is working on a stealth car project. For tech companies, the automobile has gone from a super-sized docket to park a smartphone while you drive to a gadget that can be reimagined from the ground up with digital technology.

The sudden shift is happening for a few reasons. First, with PCs, tablets and smartphone markets close to saturation, tech giants are looking for new markets to invade with their innovations. Second, the car market seems ripe for a makeover. American automakers like GM may be reviving post-financial crisis, but the U.S. looks to have reached “peak driving:” Annual miles driven per person is down 9% from 1995, and even more among young drivers.

But the biggest single reason tech suddenly loves the car is Tesla. The company founded by Elon Musk in 2003 to make electric cars has become much more: It has fused the automaker with the tech company, and not only built a cultural bridge between Detroit and Silicon Valley but showed that both were converging toward each other.

Tesla was a wake-up call to automakers that had grown complacent about innovation. It showed that technology was a powerful way to differentiate a particular model from the herd, and that if automakers wanted to reach out to younger consumers, they should embrace the kinds of technology they enjoy. Soon, you began to hear auto executives talk about “smarter cars” and roadways as “connected networks” structured like the Internet (15 years ago, that simile ran mostly in the opposite direction).

Read more: How Apple Is Invading Our Bodies

Google CEO Larry Page has said his interest in driverless cars stems from the inefficiency of roadways, which not only cost lives but waste worker time in traffic jams. (It doesn’t hurt, either, that driverless cars could offer commuters more opportunity to look at Google ads.) Uber is also researching self-driving cars to lower costs for its passenger service as well as a planned delivery service.

The loudest buzz surrounds Project Titan, a rumored Apple car that in reality could be pretty much anything: an electric vehicle, a leased minivan, a driverless car, a ploy to acquire Tesla, a bluff to pressure automakers into putting its CarPlay software in their vehicles, or a clever Apple hoax trolling Apple rumor-mongers. Wall Street analysts, though, think an Apple car is the likely bet, and if so the marriage of Detroit and Silicon Valley is a matter of time.

If nothing else, Apple’s rumored entry into automobiles seems to have turned up the heat. Last week, Musk said Tesla would start offering “autopilot” technology in its cars this summer. Google said its more ambitious driverless-car system would be ready for broad consumption in five years.

But the dark-horse in this new race may be Samsung, which according to Thomson Reuters has “has the largest and broadest collection of patents in the automotive field including a very large interest in batteries and fuel cells for next generation vehicles.” If automobile technology boils down to a patent race, Samsung may end up having an edge. Samsung even has some history in car manufacturing.

The end goal of these tech aspirations in the automotive industry may well be partnerships with established manufacturers. After all, what company is dying to break into a low-margin heavy industry? Many auto executives scoff at the idea that jumping from smartphones to cars is good idea. They may be surprised. Cars are just another form of technology, albeit one in need of an upgrade. And who is better positioned to upgrade them Apple or Google?

TIME Crime

Bernie Madoff Victims’ Fund Breaches $10.6 Billion After Feeder Firm Settlement

File photo of Bernard Madoff exiting the Manhattan federal court house in New York
Brendan McDermid—Reuters Bernard Madoff exits the Manhattan federal court house in New York in this Jan. 14, 2009, file photo

Victims gain and additional $90 million as Madoff feeder fund settles

Victims of the biggest investment scam in U.S. history, run by disgraced financier Bernard Madoff, have gained an additional $93 million from a “feeder fund” settlement, bringing the total recovered to $10.6 billion.

Irving Picard, the trustee charged with recovering money for those duped by Madoff, said that Defender Ltd., which used to send money to the swindler’s firm, will receive $520 million from the liquidation of Bernard Madoff’s Investment Securities LLC, owing to significant overpayment.

The first $93 million of this will got to Madoff’s victims, while Defender Ltd. will recoup its share from future payouts, reports Reuters.

Picard has regained around 60% of the estimated $17.5 billion total loss perpetrated by Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which lures investors by promising unusually high returns.

In 2009, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for fraud, the maximum term possible.

[Reuters]

TIME Ads

New SeaWorld Ads Take On ‘Lies’ About Its Killer-Whale Shows

SeaWorld Entertainment has introduced a new ad campaign as the struggling theme park operator tries to boost disappointing attendance and counter criticism by animal rights groups about its captive killer whales and dolphins.

The ads, which started appearing in print publications Monday, feature SeaWorld’s veterinarians and researchers defending the care of the orcas kept at the company’s parks while refuting attacks by animal rights groups like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Those organizations have waged campaigns in recent years aimed at shutting down SeaWorld by encouraging a boycott of the theme parks.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation and even lies spread about SeaWorld, and we recognize that it has caused some people to have questions about the welfare of killer whales in human care,” SeaWorld’s chairman and interim CEO David D’Allesandro said in a statement. “This long-term campaign will address those questions head on. We want to provide the facts, so people can make up their own minds on this important issue.”

SeaWorld’s reputation has suffered since the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which accused the company’s theme parks of mistreating its orcas while adding fuel to the debate over whether or not marine mammals should be kept in captivity. Last summer, SeaWorld reacted to the public criticism by announcing it would build larger enclosures for its orcas.

On Monday, SeaWorld said its new ad campaign would look to rebut critics’ claims that orcas in captivity have shorter lifespans than those in the wild. The first of those ads, titled “Fact: Whales live as long at SeaWorld,” cited various independent reports claiming that the life-span of orcas born at SeaWorld’s parks are in-line with those born in the wild.

SeaWorld’s ad campaign, which will eventually include television commercials, will also serve to highlight the company’s plan to commit $10 million to the study of endangered whales in the wild, the company said Monday.

The new ad campaign represents SeaWorld’s latest attempt at revitalizing what has been a flagging business. Last week, the company announced the hiring of its new CEO: Joel Manby, former president and CEO of Herschend Enterprises, the country’s largest family-owned theme park operator. Manby will take over for interim CEO D’Allesandro in early April.

Previous CEO Jim Atchison stepped down earlier this year after five years on the job. Atchison’s exit came amid declining attendance numbers at SeaWorld’s theme parks and a series of sub par quarterly financial results.

Following last week’s CEO announcement from SeaWorld, PETA’s senior vice president, Lisa Lange reiterated some of the animal rights group’s criticisms of the theme park. “Orcas belong in the ocean with their families, not in small concrete tanks, swimming in endless circles for years on end,” Lange said in a statement.

SeaWorld’s stock rose slightly Monday afternoon. The company’s shares have dipped nearly 40% over the past year, but have seen moderate gains since the company hired Manby last week.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

Read next: SeaWorld Aims to Revamp Image After Blackfish Blowback

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