As I am thinking through the solutions needed to help older engineers reconfigure their careers [Ref. A Startup Idea To Help Older, Laid-off Engineers], I am also thinking about a related issue: older women trying to get back into the workforce.
I know too many talented women who are now in their forties and fifties, and some even in their sixties, looking to start working again. Their travails are gut wrenching. The ten-, twenty-year gaps in their resumes stare back at them like menacing, identity-destroying demons.
Brad knows how to sell. Read how he turned that skill in to a $20M revenue business with very little formal education.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Brad Lea: I was born in Cottage Grove, Oregon in about 1969. My journey began right there.
Sramana Mitra: Did you grow up in that community?
Brad Lea: Yes, I grew up there until I was 14 years old.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do after that? Where did you move to and how did the journey evolve? >>>
The year 2009 began for many on an anxious note, on the heels of the 2008 financial crisis. Layoffs were everywhere. Foreclosures stalked them from town to town. By the fall, unemployment in America hit 30 million, over 10% of the population. But life goes on. Bills come in, mortgages come due. Looking for a job in this environment is no doubt a daunting, if not impossible, task. Against this backdrop, I profiled several entrepreneurs who managed to turn adversity into opportunity during the dotcom bust.
Kansas farm girl Michelle Munson is one such entrepreneur. Munson bucked her family’s multi-generational agricultural tradition – raising cattle and growing wheat, corn, and soybeans – to study computer science. After a brief stint at IBM, she went to work for two technology startups in a row. Both went under, and Munson was laid off for no fault of her own.
Following the news on Intel’s layoffs, I read some depressing projections for the rest of the technology industry. Dawn Kawamoto reports in Information Week that 260,000 tech workers will lose their jobs in 2016.
Below are the numbers Dawn has gathered from one Wall Street Analyst’s predictions:
Estimated percentage of jobs to be cut this year: 10% to 15%
Estimated number of cut employees: 1,700 to 2,500
Estimated percentage of jobs to be cut this year: 15%
Estimated number of cut employees: 2,800
Intel is about to layoff 12,000 people. This is a company with an enormous amount of intellectual horsepower within its folds. Many with very serious intellectual merit will be out.
The semiconductor industry has shrunk, and there aren’t many employers who can absorb that many highly qualified people.
Last summer, Intel had a layoff, although significantly smaller. Intel has a lot of employees in Oregon, and the cuts impacted that state dramatically. Mike Rogoway (@rogoway) at the Oregon Live did some investigative journalism that highlighted the fact that older employees were let go more easily:
Proportionately, employees in their 50s were three times more likely to lose their jobs than workers in their 30s, according to a document obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive that tallies every Intel employee in the United States. The company was nearly five times more likely to lay off workers in their 60s than those in their 30s.
“Looking at the impact, in this case only, it clearly has disproportionately affected older workers,” said Portland employment attorney Matthew C. Ellis. But he said that’s not necessarily illegal, nor is it unusual. >>>
On March 31st, I gave a talk at Hacker Dojo in Mountain View for the Women Who Code group. In it, I addressed many of the myths about being a female entrepreneur that are currently circulating in the industry. For example:
And many others.
Here’s a recording of the session. I do believe those of you who are navigating these issues would find this useful.
This discussion takes us into the realm of learning games and their future.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to yourself as well as Jumpstart.
David Lord: I’m the CEO of JumpStart. JumpStart has been the leader in learning-based games for the past 25 years. JumpStart was founded by Bill Gross before Idealab. Our key brands are JumpStart Math Blaster and School of Dragons. We have been educating children, which is our mission, for the past 20 years.
Sramana Mitra: Children of what age do you focus on?
David Lord: We try and build products and subject matter that apply to children of all ages, but our core age range is kinder preparation to K-3. >>>
You’ve got customers.
You’ve got some level of validation.
You’ve got, perhaps, a reasonable degree of product market fit.
Now should you charge to the VCs for funding?
Wait a minute. There’s a major issue that needs assessment first and foremost.
What is TAM? Perhaps, the biggest factor in whether a VC funds you or not. TAM = Total Available Market.
In case you missed it, you can listen to the recording here:
On March 31st, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. PDT, Sramana Mitra will be giving an interactive talk entitled, “Women Entrepreneurs: The Myth, The Minefield, The Movement,” for Women Who Code Silicon Valley at Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, California. She will discuss why talented women should not quit, how her fellow engineers and others can become entrepreneurs, take risks and not lose their sense-of-self. Beforehand, please check out some of Sramana’s writings on the topic here.
Hacker Dojo, Large Event Room
599 Fairchild Drive
Mountain Vew, CA 94043