Tag Archives: Tech

Battling the bots: Finding a job in the digital era

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KCTS 9’s What’s Good 206
December 6, 2016

This morning, I woke up to another email with another job rejection. It’s a regular occurrence these days, but this one I found particularly defeating. I had only applied to the job 14 hours earlier — at 6:00 p.m. the prior evening.

Did anyone read my application? My cover letter? Did anyone glance at my resume?

Probably not, unless they have staff working nights, sifting through applications. This company, like many others, likely has an electronic filtering system — an algorithm — that sorts the “unqualified” from the rest of the pack, then sends applicants a near-immediate rejection email.

The process of finding and applying for jobs has transformed in the wake of electronic filtering systems. Job-seekers scramble to cater their resumes and cover letters to these systems, carefully selecting keywords and phrases that satisfy the robots. The days of human recruiters spending hours sifting through “resume books” on college campuses to find their top candidates are over.

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What Seattle can learn from the Bangalore tech boom

By Kate Clark The Seattle Globalist

Gov Museum and Construction 2.JPG
A view of construction from Bangalore’s Government Museum, South India’s second oldest museum.

If you’ve lived in Seattle over the past couple decades, you’ve watched it turn from a grungy working-class backwater into a worldwide tech capital. You’ve watched Amazon grow until it occupied its 10 million square feet of office space downtown. You’ve read national media reports claiming the company has “colonized,” or “swallowed,” or “eaten” the city. And you’ve undoubtedly witnessed some hostility between tech transplants and “true Seattleites.”

So I was intrigued when I found out I’d be spending three months in Bangalore, India (or Bengaluru as it’s formally known). The south Indian city traded the moniker “The Garden City” for “The Silicon Valley of India” when tech companies set up shop and attracted millions of migrants.

I thought, what similarities there must be; two cities on opposite sides of the globe, at the center of a worldwide tech-boom, for better or worse.

Then I actually showed up in India.

Seattle and Bangalore definitely share some issues like traffic jams, housing shortages, and a perceived loss of cultural heritage. But when it comes down to who bore the brunt of the tech-boom, India takes the cake.

From 2001 to 2011 Seattle’s population grew about eight percent; “healthy” growth for an American city. Even when Seattle was touted as the fastest growing city in the U.S. between 2012 and 2013, it only grew 2.8 percent.

Meanwhile, from 2001 to 2011, Bangalore’s population grew a staggering 47 percent, and the city became nearly twice as dense.

Both cities have experienced a lot of tech-driven growth, just on different scales. It makes sense each city would deal with the problems that come with a tech boom in different ways as well.

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Teaching techies the local language, one WhatsApp message at a time

In an age when the colloquial phrase “there’s an app for that” is true of almost everything imaginable—dating, determining whether your watermelon is ripe, predicting bad hair days—it makes sense Bengalureans would use apps to teach and learn Kannada.

The official language of Bengaluru and of Karnataka, Kannada has been on the decline for years. Even as early as 2001, before the largest cohort of migrants took up residence, only about 40 percent of Bengaluru’s population was speaking Kannada.

Since then, the number of English-medium schools grew, Hindi became a more common choice of second-language, English became the native tongue for some of the youngest generation, tech-migrants became the majority, and many could be heard uttering the phrase “Kannada gottilla,” or “I don’t know Kannada.”

Tired of that particular utterance, locals are realizing the best way to teach techies might just be through, well, tech.

Enter Kannada Baruthe (I know Kannada) and Kannada Gottilla, two platforms employing technology to promote the teaching of Kannada. The former provides Kannada lessons through its own app; the latter uses WhatsApp, a cross-platform messaging app, to send its students daily lessons. Anyone seeking to learn Kannada can also turn to Twitter, Skype, YouTube, and of course, a school.

“I don’t think people would actually travel to learn Kannada because their schedules are hectic and their weekends are booked,” Founder of Kannada Gottilla Anup Maiya said. “WhatsApp makes their life easier. They can spend just fifteen minutes a day [learning] Kannada. Fifteen minutes is nothing. Anyone can spend fifteen minutes.”

You can review lessons while stuck in Bengaluru traffic, Maiya suggested.

Kannada Gottilla started in 2014 with just a small WhatsApp group of 10 migrants seeking to learn Kannada. Now they have 2,800 students who pay Rs.200 per month for bite-sized lessons delivered straight to their smart phones. They have 13 trained teachers who create the lessons and assist students via WhatsApp when necessary and host one free, in-person lesson the first Sunday of every month on MG Road.

Maiya worked in Pune for years and knows first-hand the difficulties of being a migrant, but he learned the local language of Marathi while living there and now speaks eight languages.

“The idea is not to force any language [on] anyone; the idea is to bring this linguistic equality,” Maiya said. “I don’t think migration is a problem, I think awareness is a problem. We have to create awareness for migrants and non-migrants. Migrants won’t know how things work here, so we have to teach them. We can’t blame them for coming here to work… You go there, you learn, you try to be a Roman in Rome, a Kannadiga in Karnataka.”

Kannada Baruthe is only about a year old, but already has 22,000 users per month, 85 percent of which are from India.

Originally hailing from Mysore, Kannada Baruthe’s Web Developer Vikram Cannanure lived in Bengaluru for 15 years before moving to the U.S. He said the first step toward interacting with and contributing to a community is learning their native tongue. He referenced a time he stayed in Florida and used Google Translate to communicate with a community of Spanish-speakers: “this connection happens because of language.”

“It doesn’t matter if you speak to your boss in English, but if you speak to [a Kannadiga] in Kannada it will make a big difference to [them] that day,” Cannanure said. “If you are speaking to someone who can’t talk back in English it will make a big difference.”

In addition to decreasing the ratio of Kannada speakers to other languages, the 47 percent increase in population density in Bengaluru from 2001 to 2011 led to an increase in the number of “bubbles,” according to Cannanure.

“If you are staying in a community that is only speaking English or Hindi you don’t find the need to speak Kannada,” he said. “So people tend to stay close to their offices and they form a small community with people who speak the same language…in that bubble you don’t find.”

Despite being raised in Bengaluru, Cannanure said he wouldn’t know Kannada had his parents not taught him. His English education, like many, prioritized Hindi as a second-language over Kannada.

Last year, after criticism of the lack of Kannada education opportunities, the language became a mandatory subject in all Karnataka schools following the state’s syllabus. Mandatory curriculum, while frustrating for those unfamiliar with Kannada, is one way to augment the Kannada-speaking population, kids and migrants learning through WhatsApp is another.

“Bangalore is not just rich people who can speak English,” Cannanure said. “It is well-educated, but there are people…who are not lucky enough to go to such schools…They don’t have the capability to learn English as you do to learn Kannada and if you just make a small effort it will make your life better and their life better.”

Black Dot: A new startup epicenter for Black entrepreneurs

recent report about the state of Black women in tech entrepreneurship found that only 0.2 percent of all U.S. venture capital deals from 2012 to 2014 went to Black women, despite the fact that they founded 1.5 million businesses and are the quickest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the nation. Black women founders also received just $36,000 on average in funding, while the average failed startup raised $41 million.

This massive gap highlights the need for culturally-focused startup hubs like Black Dot, a new resource center for Black entrepreneurs in Seattle’s Central District.

Black Dot co-founders K. Wyking Garrett, Aramis Hamer, Monica Washington, and Mujale Chisebukaseek to change these statistics. They strive to get more youth in the Central District interested in entrepreneurship while providing Black entrepreneurs with the necessary resources to successfully start or maintain their businesses via panels, networking events, and the option to use Black Dot as a co-working space.

“We look forward to kind of being like a greenhouse for economic sustainability in this community — we are a seed,” Garrett said. “The dot is a seed.”

The idea for Black Dot came about after the founders attended a Startup Weekend event called Hack the Central District. At the hackathon, Hamer and Washington created the idea for Heart Haven, which, similar to Black Dot, would provide the space for artists to connect and create. At the same time, Garrett createdAfricatown, a website and app that serves as a mechanism of discovery of the Central District.

After the event, they realized the community needed more than just one weekend a year to create and innovate new ideas. Working with David Harris, a startup advocate for Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, the entrepreneurs agreed that there should be a place that would provide a way for artists and innovators of all kinds to meet and develop ideas that benefit everyone in their community.

Thus, Black Dot was born.

Keeping the spirit of innovation alive

One key aspect of Black Dot is its physical location at the heart of the Central District on 23rd and Union. The corner has held historical importance for decades as a center for the African American community, but now a bevy of construction projects line the streets and existing businesses in the area have been struggling to stay open.

“It’s ground zero of gentrification,” Garrett noted.

Garrett has lived in the Central District his entire life and worries about the future of the neighborhood. The pattern of gentrification around Seattle has set a discouraging precedent, he said.

“You see buildings going up and you don’t see businesses that reflect the Black community that has been here for over 130 years,” Garrett said.

There is a long history of innovation born within the Central District community. It’s a place where people like Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix started their careers.

Garrett wants that spirit of innovation to remain alive and well in the neighborhood, despite all the changes. He said that the “legacy of resilience is why Black people are still here.”

“We wanted to make sure we connected and tapped that energy so this community can have a future in Seattle and not be totally displaced by the changes in the economic environment that is disenfranchising so many,” he explained.

Before opening Black Dot’s doors, Hamer set up a chalkboard mural on the corner of 23rd and Union and asked people to answer three questions: What they think of this corner, what they feel on this corner, and what they dream of this corner becoming.

A common answer for the third question: A mecca for successful Black businesses.

“Having us here is actually the perfect manifestation of what the people who are present in this community want to see in this space,” Hamer said. “So it just feels good all the way around, knowing that Black Dot is here.”

‘Everybody Wins’

Moving forward, Black Dot will work to grow their membership pool and continue connecting and educating entrepreneurs. They will be hosting more events in the space like startup bootcamps and invite successful entrepreneurs in a variety of industries to come speak.

Programming Black Dot is supported by partners including Hack Nation, Umoja PEACE Center, Africatown, Black Community Impact Alliance, Seattle U, OED, Google, Add3, Madrona Venture Labs, Tech Stars, PACE and more. Much of their furniture was donated from WeWork and Lucid Lounge. Their business model is centered around a monthly fee paid by members, which come from a variety of industries and include techies and artists alike.

Garrett said the goal is to connect entrepreneurs of all types so that “everybody wins.”

“Black Dot and spaces like this are absolutely critical to the city’s goals around shared prosperity, social justice, and equitable development,” Garrett said. “Creating a world class city should be reflective of the world that we live in and we think that the work here helps us get to that place.”

Black Dot: A new startup epicenter for Black entrepreneurs in Seattle’s Central District