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Opinion Editorials

Sprint is earning business one magic box at a time

(EDITORIAL) Sprint has been working to close the gap between itself and other carriers and its most recent effort may be the push the company needed.

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In a world where many of us rely on adequate cell phone coverage, at a minimum, in our homes, the level of frustration that arises when reception ranges from awful to non-existent is palpable.

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After all, isn’t this what we were promised? A world in which we no longer had to be tethered to our home phones—an expense that many of us have foregone—to be accessible or to have access to emergency services? And for those of us that work at home, consider the additional cost of having poor or no reception in terms of opportunity lost.

Busted coverage

Even in urban areas, the problem still exists for major carriers, but they’re trying to boost both signal range and reliability, and doing so in more innovative ways. For years, the solution was simple, if expensive—buy more access on cellular towers, towers which were expensive to build and maintain, and which required the cooperation of other entities, cooperation which wasn’t always easy to obtain.

A new approach places the answer in the homes of the consumer, and uses their goodwill to host the hardware to do so.

What’s in the Box?

Sprint has run an uphill battle in recent years to increase its share of the mobile market, lagging behind AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. Their recent ad campaign stresses improvements to their infrastructure, improvements that are designed to both attract new customers and retain those who have struggled with what can be most politely described as “gaps” in Sprint’s coverage areas. Plugging the fact that they’re now “within 1%” of their competitor’s reliability, Sprint’s latest plan to finish closing that gap involves something that they’re calling a “magic box.”

Seriously—that’s the name they’ve given their device, about the size of a toaster, complete with animations and artist’s conceptualizations of what the device would look like when placed in a sample home.

There’s not a lot of magic to it, really. The device is a small wireless amplifier for the cell signal, placed near a window in the home or office. The box does the work from there, locating and connecting to the nearest Sprint tower, boosting service for a small range of 100 feet outside of the building, and improving service for up to 30,000 square feet within the building it’s placed in. Sprint is currently deploying the “magic boxes” in a city-by-city fashion, with no cost to customers who meet their criterion for receiving one.

“Sprint Magic Box is going to quickly transform our network, and it is key to delivering an amazing experience to customers today as we build the kind of dense urban infrastructures needed for 5G,” Sprint’s chief technology officer, John Saw, said in a statement.

Everything Old is New Again

Longtime Sprint subscribers who were affected by poor cellular reception will see the roots of the “magic box” in the forerunner of the program, the Airave femtocell. This less robust solution (which the author has in his home currently) came with fees for setup utilization, but those fees were often waived if the customer reported reception issues as the reason for requesting the device.

The Airave is the difference maker between no reception and adequate reception for me, so there is great hope that the “magic box” will provide the difference between adequate reception and reception one could call good.

Sprint is also placing a great deal of advertising behind the “magic box”, with it being a promoted solution; users of the Airave seemed to always find out about it when requesting to cancel service due to no reception, or through word of mouth from other Airave users. The fact that Sprint is making the “magic box” approach to improving network reliability an integrated part of its marketing approach, positioning it as a lifestyle device to reside unobtrusively in one’s home, is an indicator that they see this as more than a bandage for poor service.

The approach is already seeing results, with Sprint reporting that current users have seen dramatic increases in their upload and download speeds, doubling them from what was previously reported.

Consumers are increasingly open to sharing their homes and workspaces with electronic devices designed to both be aesthetically pleasing and functional. The trick for Sprint will be to see whether or not enough potential customers see a value proposition in switching their carrier and in adopting a new device for their home at the same time, especially when the device is designed to make sure that one can use the service that one paid for. It’s a hard sell for a long-term contract for a service that has to come with supports to make it work, supports that aren’t marketed as being necessary, or even desired, for other carriers.

#SprintMagic

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Opinion Editorials

3 things to do if you *really* want to be an ally to women in tech

(EDITORIAL) Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce.

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More and more women are leaving their positions with tech companies, citing lack of opportunity for advancement, wage gaps and even hostile working conditions as some of the reasons why.

What’s better for the tech industry and its employees than cultivating inclusive and diverse departments? Diversity is known to strengthen the overall performance of a company and its teams, and there are a number of ways you can be an ally to the talented women already on your workforce. To name a few:

1. Be open to listening to different perspectives.

It can be awkward to hear so many reports of workplace politics stacking against women, especially if you’re not a woman!

Instead of getting uncomfortable or defensive – ask open ended questions and be interested in a perspective that isn’t yours and may be unfamiliar.

Don’t seek to rationalize or explain the experiences you’re hearing about, as that can come off as condescending. It’s common for women to be interrupted or spoken over in team gatherings. If you notice this happening, bring the conversation back to where the interruption began. Offering your ear and counting yourself as responsible for making space will improve the overall quality of communication in your company.

Listening to and validating what women have to say about the quality of their employment with a company is an important step in the right direction.

Expressing something as simple as “I was interested in what you had to say – could you elaborate on your thought?” can help.

2. Develop an Employee Resource Group (ERG) program.

An ERG is a volunteer-based, employee-led group that acts as a resource for a particular group of employees. An ERG can help to foster inclusiveness through discussion, team-building activities and events. It’s common for a department to have only one or two women on the roster.

This can mean that the day to day feels disconnected from concerns commonly shared by women. disjointed it might feel to be on a high performing team, without access to relatable conversations.

3. Be responsible for your company’s culture.

Chances are, your company already has some amazing cultural values in place. That said, how often are you checking your own performance and your co-workers performances against those high standards? Strong company culture and values sound great, but whether or not they’re adhered to can make or break the mood of a work environment.

Many women say they’ve experienced extremely damaging and toxic cultural environments, which lead to hostility, frustration, and even harassment. Take action when you see the new woman uncomfortable with being hit on at team drinks.

Call out those who make unfriendly and uncouth comments about how women perform, look, or behave.

Setting a personal threshold for these kinds of microaggressions can help you lead by example, and will help build a trustworthy allyship.

(This article was first published here in November, 2016.)

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Opinion Editorials

Serial procrastinator? Your issue isn’t time management

(EDITORIAL) Need a hack for your time management? Try focusing on your energy management.

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Your author has a confession to make; as a “type B” personality who has always struggled with procrastination, I am endlessly fascinated by the topic of productivity and “hacking your time.”

I’ve tried most of the tricks you’ve read about, with varying degrees of success.

Recently, publishers like BBC have begun to approach productivity from a different perspective; rather than packing days full of to-do items as a way to maximize time, the key is to maximize your mental energy through a different brand of time management.

So, why doesn’t time management work?

For starters, not all work time is quality time by nature. According to a study published at ScienceDirect, your average worker is interrupted 87 times a day on the job. For an 8-hour day, that’s almost 11 times per hour. No wonder it’s so hard to stay focused!

Second, time management implies a need to fill time in order to maximize it.

It’s the difference between “being busy” and “being productive.”

It also doesn’t impress your boss; a Boston University study concluded that “managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to.” By contrast, managing your energy lets you maximize your time based on how it fits with your mental state.

Now, how do you manage your energy?

First, understand and protect the time that should actually go into deep, focused work. Studies continually show that just a few hours of focused worked yield the greatest results; try to put in longer hours behind that, and you’ll see diminishing returns. There’s a couple ways you can accomplish this.

You can block off time in your day dedicated to focused work, and guard the time as if it were a meeting. You could also physically retreat to a private space in order to work on a task.

Building in flexibility is another key to managing your energy. The BBC article references a 1980s study that divided students into two groups; one group planned out monthly goals, while the other group planned out daily goals and activities. The study found the monthly planners accomplished more of their goals, because the students focusing on detailed daily plans often found them foiled by the unexpected.

Moral of the story?

Don’t lock in your schedule too tightly; leave space for the unexpected.

Finally, you should consider making time for rest, a fact reiterated often by the BBC article. You’ve probably heard the advice before that taking 17 minute breaks for every 52 minutes worked is important, and studies continue to show that it is. However, rest also includes taking the time to turn your brain off of work mode entirely.

The BBC article quotes associated professor of psychiatry Srini Pillay as saying that, “[people] need to use both the focus ad unfocus circuits in the brain,” in order to be fully productive. High achievers like Serena Williams, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates build this into their mentality and their practice.

Embracing rest and unfocused thinking may be key to “embracing the slumps,” as the BBC article puts it.

In conclusion, by leaving some flexibility in your schedule and listening to your body and mind, you can better tailor your day to your mental state and match your brainpower to the appropriate task. As someone who is tempted to keep a busy to-do list myself, I am excited to reevaluate and improve my own approach. Maybe you should revisit your own systems as well.

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Opinion Editorials

How the Bullet Journal method has been hijacked and twisted

(EDITORIAL) I’m a big fan of the Bullet Journal method, but sticker-loving tweens have hijacked the movement. Worry not, I’m still using black and white bullet points with work tasks (not “pet cat,” or “smile more”).

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It’s taken me some time to come around to the Bullet Journal method, because it took me some time to fully understand it (I have a tendency to overthink simplicity). Now that I understand the use, I find it very beneficial for my life and my appreciation for pen-to-paper.

In short, it’s a quick and simple system for organization tasks and staying focused with everything you have going on. All you need to employ this method is a journal with graph or dotted paper, and a pen. Easy.

However, there seems to be this odd truth that: we find ways to simplify complicated things, and we find ways to complicate simple things. The latter is exactly what’s happened with the Bullet Journal method, thanks to creative people who show the rest of us up.

To understand what I’m talking about, open up Instagram (or Pinterest, or even Google) and just search “bullet journal.” You’ll soon find post after post of frilly, sticker-filled, calligraphy-laden journal pages.

The simple method of writing down bullets of tasks has been hijacked to become a competitive art form.

Don’t get me wrong, I like looking at this stuff because I dig the creativity. But, do I have time to do that myself? No! For honesty’s sake, I’ve tried just for fun and it takes too much damn time.

With this is mind, this new-found method of Bullet Journaling as an art is something that: a) defeats the purpose of accomplishing tasks quickly as you’re setting yourself back with the nifty art, and b) entrepreneurs, freelancers, executives, or anyone busy would not have time for.

Most of these people posting artistic Bullet Journal pages on Instagram are younger and have more time on their hands (and if you want to spend your time doing that, do you, man).

But, it goes against the simplistic method of Bullet Journaling. The intent of the method.

And, beneath the washi tape, stickers, and different colored pens, usually lies a list of: put away laundry, feed cat, post on Insta. So, this is being done more for the sake of art than for employing the method.

Again, I’m all for art and for people following their passions and creativities, but it stands to reason that this should be something separate from the concept of Bullet Journaling, as it has become a caricature of the original method.

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