Why Culture Always Wins

During my three years at Dell EMC, we have consistently achieved “Best Place to Work” status, and recently Dell Technologies has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top Companies of 2017. For me, the driving factor in this success is our emphasis on company culture. As a new company, I credit the efforts that our leadership and transformation teams have placed on creating a foundational culture code.

One of the best articles that I’ve read about Dell’s “Culture Code” is What Makes a Company Great? Culture is Key by Dell’s Chief HR Officer, Steve Price.

“As a company that recently closed one of the biggest tech mergers in history with EMC, we made listening a top priority as we looked to unify our company culture as part of the new Dell Technologies. We turned our collective ears toward team members from both former Dell and EMC to define our corporate culture as the driver of how we run the business, go to market, work effectively together and provide inspirational leadership.”

As both a communicator and a team member at Dell EMC, watching the communications unfold to promote our culture code has been amazing, and our internal communications team has done a great job.

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I’ve really appreciated the way that our culture code is organized because it is easy to embed into the communications I craft for the Chief Technology Officer and his team. For example, at quarterly All Hands meetings we are able to dedicate time to connecting our major wins to our fives values that you see above, which makes the direct connection between the work that people do, and the organizational culture.

In his most recent Direct2Dell article, Steve Price addresses the importance of effective leadership development in the area of supporting and inspiring company culture. He says that it is expected for leaders to embed these values into the way they run their business units, and I couldn’t agree more. In the end, if our leaders and team members are in, our customers are in, and then we all #GoBigWinBig!

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What’s New in the Communicationsphere

As many of you know, I’m a big Twitter user. I practically use it every day to learn more about my industry, my peers, and what’s going on in this big world of ours. I’ve found a huge benefit in using Twitter to stay up to date on the pulse of corporate communications, and I often re-tweet articles or blog posts that I find interesting. Allow me to share a few of the golden nuggets I’ve found while scrolling through my feed recently:

“5 Keys to Engaging Corporate Culture” by Jacob Morgan at Inc.com

The author in this article gives kudos to CEO James White from Jamba Juice, a well known and refreshing chain store just minutes from my office, who has embedded a strong culture within the company that has lasted through tumultuous times. Two of the five key ways that you build a strong culture are communicating from the top down, and actively engaging your community. I believe it is crucial for communicators to have a seat at the leadership table, and I’ve seen a lot of great employee campaigns come to fruition at my company because of this. We even have our culture code listed as an FY’18 objective as a company! I can imagine, however, that there are some companies out there where communicators might not have a seat at the table, and the challenges that they would face as a result of that. From experience, it is SO SO SO important that leadership is onboard with corporate communication strategy. Otherwise, you cannot expect a strong and engaged community.

“How Every Internal Communicator Can Be a Rockstar” by Alison Davis on LinkedIn

In this article written by Davis & Company’s CEO Alison Davis, internal communicators are encouraged to rise above and become rockstars. With a few of her helpful tips, she suggests that you can become a rockstar communicator by:

  • Channeling the characteristics of a rock star.
  • Using evidence to make your case.
  • Sharing best practices.
  • Changing the conversation from tactical to strategic.
  • Focusing on outcomes.
  • Not letting setbacks get you down.
  • Measuring your results.

“The Workplace is the New Corporate Communications Platform”

Intriguing title, wouldn’t you say? This article by WorkDesign Magazine is about eBay, and the gorgeous renovations they’ve completed at their headquarters in California including touchscreen walls, natural light, unique installations, and more. They claim, “These dynamic experiences not only invite guests to engage with the company’s story; they also help transform the eBay workforce into a connected, empowered community.” One of the tips they suggested for starting your own workplace transformation that really made me think was to use your company data to bring your brand to life. Reading this gave me some really great ideas about implementing more data into my own communication programs.

“Communications 2006 v.s. 2016”

If you’re looking for a good laugh, and a trip down memory lane, read this short article and remember the times when social media didn’t exist, there was no such thing as internal communications, and smartphones weren’t a thing!

If you’re interested in more articles like these, give me a follow at @beckyykurtz.

Travel: Central & South Florida

When we decided to fly out to North Carolina in February I insisted that we end our trip laying on the beach in Miami. I knew that the sunshine would outweigh any unfortunate weather we would encounter the days before. Luckily for us, the weather was (almost) perfect on our trip! Because we spent some extra time in Charleston, SC, we ended up sacrificing most of our time in Savannah, GA and it became a brief stop for lunch. We dined at Soho South Cafe and ate some delicious peach cobbler! You must eat something with peaches when you drive through Georgia. The Savannah History Museum was the only sight we were able to visit before we were on the road again.

Time Spent: 4 days

The Adventure: 

Ocala was our first stop in Florida, where we spent the night with a friend and woke up early in the morning to swim with MANATEES! It was an incredible experience, and I’m so sad there are no photos or videos to prove it! Everything was extremely wet on our tour at Crystal River, but we had a blast swimming down river canals with these enormous creatures! I mean, how often can someone say they swam with manatees? Very cool. Other stops on our trip through Central Florida included Universal Studios, dinner at Tanners to try some fried gator, and  a stop at the local micro brewery in Winter Haven. We were so lucky to visit with some of our best friends on this trip to Florida, too!

One of our mornings called for some fresh squeezed Florida orange juice before the long drive to Miami, the last leg of our journey, and it was the perfect way to end our central Florida experience.

In Miami we stayed at an Air BnB in North Beach which was embedded into a neighborhood with plenty of local cuisine. And I’m talking about Cuban, Argentine, Peruvian, and Columbian. Our favorite food experience in Miami was breakfast at Sazon’s Cuban Cuisine, which was a quick 3 blocks away from where we were staying. We actually ate breakfast there twice because of their DELICIOUS Cafe con Leche. I also really enjoyed their breakfast and how they were right next to the beach – the perfect ingredients for a lovely beach day.

Another highlight for us was doing Jet Boat Miami, a not-your-average boat tour of Miami including high speeds, twists, turns, and loud music. I loved how we were able to get a 360 view of Miami, and see where celebrities like Ricky Martin and Will Smith have vacation homes.

We were very sad to leave Miami, and our amazing 8 day road trip. There were so many amazing memories that were made on this trip, and although all good things must come to an end we look forward to the next adventure.

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PS – Have you seen the video of our trip yet? Click here.

Travel: Charleston, SC

Words cannot describe my love for Charleston, South Carolina. It was an unexpected love – I suppose I did not know much about this city going in to our time there. The gorgeous colors, the charming homes, the oceanside views, the cuisine – all perfection.

Time Spent: 1.5 days

The Adventure: We spent 3.5 hours driving to Charleston from Raleigh, and when we arrived downtown I couldn’t wait to jump out of the car and get walking. The downside to road trip life is that we were starving when we arrived, so we walked to a restaurant called Magnolia’s and ordered some of their most popular dishes – Shrimp & Grits and a Cuban sandwich. I never recall eating grits before, so this was a first for me, and WOW was it delicious paired with lobster butter sauce, shrimp, and scallops. To die for!

With full stomachs we proceeded to walk around the downtown area, pausing for lot’s of photos at Rainbow Row, the oceanside park, and the  little neighborhoods nearby. I think I must have walked at least 6 miles that day with wide eyes taking in all of my surroundings. I think the photos below can speak for themselves as to the magical place that is Charleston, SC. Did I mention the weather was absolutely gorgeous and warm that day?

We were lucky enough to stay with some family on John’s Island, SC – a quaint little island town with the perfect backdrop to raise a family. Our relatives took us for a night out on the town at High Cotton, and little historical late night tour of Charleston where we visited some famous streets and sights together (many of them believed to be haunted).

The next day we had a full agenda as we made the choice to stay in Charleston a few extra hours and sacrifice the time at our next stop. For those of you who know me well, you know I love myself a great cup of tea, so it will not come as a surprise when I tell you how we started our next morning – the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island which is the only tea plantation located in the United States. We enjoyed a nice trolley tour during which we learned about the tea process, and don’t forget the endless tea samples! Of course, my husbands favorite was the sweet tea.

Next, we switched from tea to vodka. When I was researching what to do in the area prior to our trip, I stumbled across the Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka distillery, and was extremely curious. To get to Firefly you had to drive down gorgeous windy roads with trees unlike any variety we have in CA. Upon arrival we met with a barista, and sampled 6 of their different alcohols including Sweet Tea Vodka, White Lighting Moonshine (100 proof), and Lemonade Vodka.

Overall, Charleston was a huge blessing, and I can’t wait to go back and rent a house on the beach there some day!

PS – Last week I made a little video of our road trip that you can see on my Facebook here.

Facebook and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

On the way to work this morning I listened to a thought provoking discussion on BBC’s “World Have Your Say” about how social media, namely Facebook, impacted the November 8th election in the United States. The program invited a handful of credible individuals to discuss this topic, including a former Facebook employee and PhD students studying the role that social media plays in our society. As I drove to work I listened and learned from these individuals in fascination, as personally I chose to fast from Facebook during election week.

According to a 2016 PEW study, 44% of Americans use read or watch news on Facebook: “We can know, based on these facts alone, that Facebook is hosting a huge portion of political conversation in America” (nytimes).

You may be asking – so what is the big deal? The big deal is that there have been a slew of fake articles posted to Facebook that have been seen by millions of people and taken seriously. World Have Your Say discussed the following rumors: Hillary Clinton’s FBI investigator dying, and Donald Trump being endorsed by the Pope – both articles fabricated, both articles potentially swaying voters.

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During the election season Facebook was seen as a media platform with the many articles that were posted. Recently top executives at Facebook have been questioning the affect that their social media had on the election. Mark Zuckerberg, however, defended the platform when he posted a status this past week saying that Facebook is a place where people can share all opinions:

“Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or another. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbitrators of truth ourselves.”

It’s all very fascinating, isn’t it?

Personally, I opted to use Twitter during election week to stay up to date on campaign news because I have the ability to follow handles from sources that I trust, rather than scroll through my newsfeed to find potentially fabricated articles. It is clear that this year Facebook was an important tool for political campaigns as citizens fought virtually for their favorite candidates by posting statuses and sharing articles and videos. In the end, I can only watch in awe as I see social media impacting our society, and look forward to the positive changes that companies like Facebook make through experiences like the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

Olympics Season is Here!

Every four years, like clockwork, the Summer Olympic Games begin, causing every eye to turn towards their televisions to watch their teams compete all over the world.

Sports competitions + Global pride = Becky’s favorite season!!!

Since my younger years I have always looked forward to these Olympic games – there is something so romantic about it to me: how it is hosted in different cities each year, the passing of the torch, the opening ceremony entertainment, the athlete stories, the competitions, and of course our classic Olympic melody. The events that I tend to watch the most are Women’s Gymnastics, Swimming and Diving, Volleyball, and whatever event that happens to be on when I get home. To me, the Olympic Games represent dreams being lived out in reality, years of hard work leading to breathtaking one moment, and our entire world putting our busy lives on hold to participate in this beautiful event. How could they not be looked forward to?

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However, I’ve heard more negative comments than positive news about the Olympics this year, which are being held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Teams being banned from competition due to drug usage, filthy water in the host city causing disruption among olympians, athlete’s dropping out of the games for fear of the Zika virus, and a lack of housing for athletes and travelers in Rio are among the stories that I’ve heard over the past few months. All of a sudden my childhood memories are not as romantic as they had once seemed.

To me, the Olympics are a symbol of peace – all nations gathering in awe to watch our countries achieve their dreams. As I sit down to watch the 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday, I will wait anxiously to be reminded of this peace, amidst the chaos that has ensued in the days leading up to it. Go USA!

For those interested, here are a couple links that I will be keeping my eye on for the next month:

Entrepreneurship 101 for 1st Graders

Over the years I have had a variety of volunteering experiences – sorting food, picking up trash the beach, building educational kits, picking vegetables – all of them great experiences, but none of them pushing volunteers to venture outside their comfort zones. Every so often we have experiences that make us happily uncomfortable, and we grow as a result. This is what happened to me last week on my business trip to Massachusetts.

Junior Achievement is an organization who’s mission is to “inspire and prepare young people to succeed in the global economy”, and they equip volunteers to deliver messages of entrepreneurship and financial literacy to K-12 students. My company had signed up to participate at a local elementary school, and a week prior I found out I would be teaching an entrepreneurial focused 5-session lesson to FIRST GRADERS. I repeat – FIRST GRADERS. For those of you who are trying to do the math, your average 1st grader is somewhere between 6-7 years old, and to add to the fun my team and I were to teach this lesson on their 2nd to last day of school. Because I am not sitting at the local office in Massachusetts, I was also given the curriculum to review only 5 days before the our volunteer day. As a planner, I felt the need to read through 100% of the session curriculum, but with a jam packed business trip I knew it would be a challenge. Thankfully, I would not be doing this alone, and was paired up with two other EMCers. We met to begin planning as soon as we could to put our heads together and figure out how to talk about families, neighborhoods, wants vs needs, jobs, and entrepreneurs with just a few days to prepare! These are such important topics, and we wanted to make sure that we could do the curriculum, the kids, and our company justice.

Our class of 18 children, many of them with English as their second language, was weighing on me as the day drew near. Thankfully, during my college years I had an experience tutoring children at a motel in Southern California that helped me to feel confident about teaching curriculum on short notice. Finally, the morning came when I walked into the elementary school (a bit tired from my trip, to be honest), and adopted a positive attitude and was ready to meet my class.

The day began with the cutest set of morning announcements I think I have ever heard, and we were brought to our classroom and introduced to the teacher who we would be taking over for that morning/afternoon. My portion of the session that morning included teaching the kids about how to distinguish between a “want” and a “need.” Later in the afternoon our job was to encourage them to be entrepreneurs and create their own birthday cake business 🙂 Our team’s personal favorite was “Cakerific: Because our cakes are terrific!”

What I did not expect from this experience was to be completely and utterly impressed by not only the Junior Achievement program and curriculum, but our group of kids! They were so smart, well-behaved, attentive, and sweet. It was truly an honor to be invited in to teach them about life skills that will hopefully equip them for success the future. One of my favorite moments was at the end of the day when I encouraged the kids to dream about receiving their High School diplomas – with hard work, they could reach this goal and set them on a straight path. Before we said goodbye, we had a certificate ceremony of our own, and called each child by name to receive a “Junior Achievement Diploma” for being such great students all day. It was inspiring to see how proud and happy they were, clapping for each other once their names were called. When I think about how EMC gives their employees 3 days to give back, I think about that day and how truly impactful that this opportunity can be. #EMCGivesBack #EOS2GETHER #EMCer

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