- Women 2.0 Comes to Oakland
Women 2.0’s City Meetup has arrived in Oakland! As long-time supporters of Women 2.0, we were at the event to help welcome them to our city. Speakers Angie Chang, Director of Growth, Hackbright Academy, Co-Founder, Women 2.0 and Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners and Farnaz Ronaghi, Co-founder and Director of Engineering at NovoEd spoke to a packed room of both women AND men at Pandora’s offices.
With such a diverse, talented and passionate group of professionals here in the East Bay, we’re excited about these types of networking events and we can’t wait until the next one!
- Ask About My Taste?!
Hi! My name is Quiajah and I am 13 years old. I go to Bret Harte middle school and I am in the 8th grade. I am in a leadership class where we participate in the Spark program. This program gives us a look at a company and the different jobs for our future. I chose Ask.com, an Internet company, so I could learn about how a technology company operates. I noticed that Ask has more than just engineers. There is a need for writers in a tech company as well. For this project, I wrote a blog to understand the writing and editing process. Ask.com interviewed me about my favorite foods and I worked with my mentors to edit and post the blog. Hope you enjoy it!
Q: Tell us a little more about yourself?
I am from Oakland, CA, and my favorite things to do in my free time are draw, cook , and eat. My favorite foods are tacos, hot dogs and hot wings.
Q: What do you like about Ask.com?
One thing I noticed and liked about Ask.com was their blog (blog.ask.com). I enjoy sharing my opinion so I want to share with you my reviews on my favorite foods.
Q: So how do you rank your favorite foods?
Based upon their flavor, texture, cook time.
Q: Why is cook time important to you?
Because if you wait for food for too long, sometimes you don’t want it anymore.
Q: Do you like your tacos soft or crunchy?
I like my tacos crunchy! My favorite thing about tacos are their crispy shell.
So Tacos win for texture!!!
Q: What is your favorite flavor of hot wings?
I like Buffalo Sauce Wings and I like to dip it in ranch dressing. Sometimes I will eat the celery, but only if I dip it in the ranch.
So Hot Wings win for flavor!!!
Q: How do you like your hotdog cooked?
I like it grilled. It is fast and easy and I like the way the charred part tastes.
So Hot Dogs when for cook time!!!
Q: At the end of the day, which food would you choose to be your favorite?
Hot Wings! They are easy to eat, delicious, and spicy. I recommend getting wings from Wingstop in Oakland! They are the best!!!
- Quiajah, Student at Bret Harte Middle School, Oakland
- Askers Hack for City of Oakland
As part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, Ask.com’s Chuck Smith and David Morgan participated in the annual Oakland Answers event this weekend.
Oakland Answers is a hack-a-thon to develop web pages that quickly and easily answer Oakland residents’ questions about the City of Oakland (think “Where can I register to vote?”, “Where can I pay my parking ticket?”). There’s also have a write-a-thon where teams come up with potential questions from the community and then write quality answers to those questions. Ask.com does exactly this for our 100 million global users each month - we just had to lend a helping hand to our local community.
And the community certainly came together. Together over 80 attendees submitted 108 Questions & Answers to increase the Answers databank by 50%. Now the citizens of Oakland have easy access to questions around parking, cycling, the dreaded DMV and much more.
Looking forward to next year!
- Ask.com Lights a Spark in Oakland!
Since 2012, Ask.com has worked with our program, Spark, to bring underserved middle school students out of the classroom and into the workplace. Our goal is to partner students with volunteers for individualized mentoring, which allows students to explore a variety of careers in a fun and hands-on experience!
Susan Salop, VP of International Operations at Ask.com, initially brought Spark and Ask together in a partnership that has been a huge success. Susan recently attended our Spark “National Strategy Day” in San Francisco, an event that brings together board members, partners and funders for a day of learning, conversation and networking.
On a panel during this event, Susan shared the story of Ask.com’s support of our program: “While Spark had grown in San Francisco, bringing the program to Oakland in 2012 was a challenge as Oakland lacks the volume of corporate offices that are so plentiful in San Francisco.” When Ask and Spark came together, Ask became one of Spark’s largest mentor sources in the Bay Area. “In fact,” Susan explained, “the demand for Ask.com employees to volunteer as mentors outweighed the number of eligible students in the company’s first session!”
In addition to her participation in National Strategy Day, Susan is also a mentor in our Spark program. She says she is “personally committed to expanding Spark’s reach, especially at tech companies in Oakland.” Susan recently mentored Axel, a 7th grader at Bret Harte Middle School in Oakland, and loved bringing students into the Ask.com headquarters!
“Ask.com is an anchor of support for our program,” said Kim Davis Charlot, Spark San Francisco Bay Area Executive Director. “Spark changes lives. With the visionary support from Ask.com and other companies, in the 2013-2014 school year Spark was able to enroll 235 Bay Area students in this transformational program.”
A big thanks to Susan and her team at Ask.com for being such an essential part of spreading Spark throughout the Bay Area!
- Sara Draffin, Spark San Francisco Bay Area Program Director
- Go Fish!
Last week, Ask and Dictionary.com employees teamed up with the East Bay Regional Park District for a sunny day of fishing and activities for special needs children.
We joined about 130 kids at Lake Temescal for face painting, arts and crafts, and of course, fishing! This was our 9th year participating in the Fishing Derby, and we can’t wait until next year!
- Earth Day Special: Bits and Bytes in Las Vegas
Ever think about what the Internet looks like behind the scenes? You might be surprised by the massive amount of work Internet companies are doing to bring us websites like Ask.com. A gigantic network of computers (servers) hums away at all hours of the day and night to bring information from every remote place in the world into our homes. This large network of machinery is not without its environmental consequences. Some estimates say that Internet data centers, the facilities that are home to the computers that serve the Internet, used an average of 30 gigawatts of power in 2012. That’s enough to power an entire country!
Titan, our existing server named after deities in Greek mythology, was built for Ask.com expansion many years ago. We rented a former NORAD missile control center and trucked in thousands of servers to bring more answers to the world’s questions. Part of my work here at Ask.com involves global strategies for data-center collocation. That means that I get to help make our website lean, mean, and better for our world’s ecosystem. Last year our team analyzed our servers and found an exciting opportunity. Innovations in technology both at Ask and worldwide created the possibility for us to retire this behemoth in favor of a leaner and more environmentally-friendly facility. We discovered an ability to close a huge data center capable of running almost 50,000 servers and replace it with only 150 lean-and-mean hypervisors.
Introducing Zeus - son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea! In March of 2014, a crack team of Ask.com engineers ventured screwdriver-in-hand to Las Vegas, Nevada to build Zeus, our next-generation data center. Zeus will be home to only 150 servers and operate at extremely-high efficiency. Not only is this better for our ecosystem, but it’s a great excuse to head to Las Vegas for frequent maintenance.
Check out the team in action as we installed Zeus!
Happy Earth Day Everyone!
- Jack Roehrig
Jack Roehrig runs platform and infrastructure services at Ask.com as Director, OSE and Information Security Officer.
http://www.greenhousedata.com/images/uploads/GHD_Data_Energy_Infographic.png (sources listed at bottom).
- Moving Up The Ladder
Ask loves bringing in young minds and giving them the opportunity to learn and grow within the company. Former intern Joey Hinojosa was recently hired as a full-time Search Marketing Specialist at Ask! We talked to Joey about his journey to and through Ask, and some suggestions for turning an internship opportunity into a permanent position.
Q: How did you get your position as an intern here at Ask?
Joey: I originally applied for another position, but I was coming right out of Sac State and was kind of under-qualified for the position. I never got called back for that job, but I’m glad I still met with Ask because two months later I got an email with an offer for a marketing internship, so I took it!
Q: What was your major at Sac State? How did that prepare you for your internship here at Ask?
Joey: I started out as a Psychology major, but switched into Business Marketing my senior year. I definitely learned the fundamentals of business marketing through classes like advertising, B2B marketing, consumer marketing, business statistics and marketing case studies. However, I feel like I learned the most at internships I had while I was in college. That’s where I learned how to plan and execute marketing campaigns which really prepped me for my internship and job here at Ask.com. Also, once I started my internship at Ask, I was able to grow my skill set to include display advertising and implementing marketing campaigns as well as learning how to navigate through a corporate business environment.
Q: How did you work to secure a full-time position?
Joey: There was a lot of hard work involved. I had weekly 1:1’s with my manager, where we set both short and long-term goals. I was proactive in learning new tools that would make me an asset to the marketing department and Ask. I would set up regular meetings with my peers to help me in areas that I was struggling in. I would help people out in other departments, which showed that I was a reliable person who was willing to go above and beyond for the company. I was involved in a lot of the extra-curricular activities hosted by Ask so I could get to know more of my fellow colleagues.
Q: Any advice for future interns?
Joey: Cross train—don’t work in just one department, which will limit you. Try to get as much exposure to other departments or within departments. Network within the company and don’t be afraid to ask questions. And go out for drinks or coffee once in a while.
Q: Favorite things about working at Ask?
Joey: The unlimited paid-time-off (PTO) policy. For someone young who loves to travel, that’s super important. The overall environment here is pretty relaxed which is really nice. And I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a great group of people that I can learn from and relate to. Oh, and the kitchen—I love the snacks!
- Which Coast is the Best Coast?
Ask has quite a diverse employee base, not just in terms of where people are from but also about the places and experiences they’ve had throughout their lives. Ask’s Account Manager Karl Kleinschrodt has spent time living, working, and playing in three of the most exciting cities in the U.S. - New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. We asked him to give us a run-down on how the East and West Coasts compare.
SF- Living in the foodiest neighborhood of San Francisco, the Mission District is paradise. From tacos to pastas, almost any cuisine can be found and enjoyed. Just remember on the weekends to book a table on Urbanspoon, as the rest of the Bay Area comes to visit and everything is packed.
LA- Celebrity chefs serving celebrities was the total LA food scene. It was almost more important to be seen in a restaurant than to actually eat there—clearly some celebs didn’t.
NYC- The ability to be able to pick up the phone and get any food cuisine delivered to you at any time was amazing. The one thing to note is that they don’t know how to make Mexican food, so if you’re craving a late-night burrito, you might need to hop on over to SF.
Winner: San Francisco—diversity wins.
SF- Working both as a consultant in Silicon Valley and now here at Ask.com, the tech focus in the Bay Area is one of a kind.
LA- The lack of large major agencies in LA started my start-up career. It was cool to be a part of the start of ‘Silicon Beach.’ Start-ups are longer hours, more stress, but you definitely see the output of your day.
NYC- Working at large digital agencies in NYC was fast paced and a great first working experience. Being able to work on Fortune 500 Brands at such a young age is something that I will not forget.
Winner: Depends on your style/industry. If you’re interested in tech, I don’t think any other city compares to the Bay.
SF- Dive bars. Need I say more?
LA- Pretentious Hollywood clubs. Need I say less?
NYC- Amazing in every way. Grab a drink in the East Village, take a cab to Chelsea, and end the evening on a rooftop. Incredible.
Winner: New York City—the city that never sleeps has perfected sleepless nights.
SF- It’s really not as cold as everyone says, but because California is synonymous for beach weather, SF gets a bad rep. I am spoiled since I live in the sunniest neighborhood in the city, and get to view the fog coming in over Twin Peaks. A pretty impressive site.
LA- Perfect in every way (except the smog). I miss my pool in West Hollywood every day.
NYC- Freezing in the winter and humid in the summer. You really get the worst of both worlds.
Winner: LA, but major points-deduction for smog. If you can handle a few degrees cooler, SF provides the cleaner air.
Q: Public Transportation?
SF- Love BART, but it doesn’t connect everywhere I need to go in the city. Uber please!
LA- What public transportation?
NYC- Gets you literally everywhere you need to go in the five boroughs. Absolutely love MTA.
Winner: New York. Take some notes, BART!
Overall Winner: Have to give it to San Francisco. With a mild climate, delicious eateries, and interesting people tucked in every corner of the city, San Francisco takes the cake.
An interesting take from our very own Karl Kleinschrodt!
- Women 2.0 2014
(Photo: Obie Felton of Google.com at Women 2.0 2014 SF)
Ask has always supported women in technology – in fact, approximately 50% of managers here at Ask are women, a rarity among tech companies. Ann Semeraro, Senior Director of Consumer and Market Insights at Ask.com, attended the recent Women 2.0 conference in San Francisco and gives us a quick run-down of the conference highlights and some key takeaways.
Q: What was the overarching theme of the conference?
Ann: Women 2.0’s mission has always been to increase the representation of women in tech companies, especially at the executive level, and to increase the number of women who are founding their own companies. This year’s conference really honed in on the experiences women have founding their own companies and women who are actually a part of the investment stage of companies – either for their own companies or as part of VCs. While women founding their own companies has been happening for years, we’re now seeing an increased number of women participating on the investment side of the equation.
Q: What was your favorite session to attend?
Ann: I really enjoyed the talk Obie Felton gave about Google [X]. She spoke about how Google starts out by identifying big problems that affect millions of people, and then tries to solve for these issues using radical, almost unrealistic solutions. The group believes that by starting with the story they want to tell, they can then use those narratives to inspire their engineers and teams to conceptualize the solution, refining their ideas into something tangible.
Q: Who attended the conference?
Ann: There were many young women, early in their careers and some who were even in college! That was really refreshing to see the younger generations seeing the benefit of these types of conferences and making connections with today’s leading women. There was a mantra throughout the conference, “Give and get”, to help attendees get the most out of the sessions and the event. The thinking is to both give and get something out of each interaction. Give some information about yourself that would be helpful to who you’re talking to. Give an introduction connecting two women who might benefit from meeting one another. And get a new connection for yourself. Get information on the next event that suits your goals. Get a new mentor! This mantra is one that any women can apply to networking events, their own jobs and in other aspects of their lives.
Q: What was the key takeaway for you and for Ask?
Ann: It was great to get outside of our own company and hear how tech is being used to solve problems in different industries—healthcare, education, travel, etc. And it was inspiring to hear about the ideas and innovation being circulated through this network of WOMEN. The importance of having mentors and collaborating was emphasized throughout the conference. For Ask, we’ll definitely be looking for ways to get more of our younger and junior female employees to attend these types of events.
- Is Social Media Part of Your Customer Care Strategy? It Should Be!
Calling a customer service hotline is frustrating—that is just a fact of life. You’re angry because something isn’t working, you can never find the right phone number to call, get re-directed five times, and somehow you end up paying more and getting less. However, consumers are increasingly turning to social media to get faster and more direct attention from brands when in need of customer support.
I kicked off 2014 speaking at a few conferences in Florida, San Francisco and Las Vegas about the importance of social media in customer interactions. It’s clear that brands are starting to think about social media and have dedicated resources to manage their social channels, but few are making the connection between social media and customer care. Unfortunately for brands, consumers are way ahead of the game and have figured out that if they post their complaints (and praises) to social media channels, they’re more likely to get the brand’s attention.
Below are a few of my personal examples that illustrate how having the proper social media customer support can help leave your users with a better impression of your brand:
What NOT to do: The following Twitter exchange shows an automated response from speaker manufacturer, an example of practically nonexistent social media customer support.
Auto responses are one thing, but they didn’t even address my question. Even worse than an automated response, this brand’s inefficient customer support is on display for all of Twitter to see.
What TO do: A quick and personal response to an unfortunate mix-up with United Airlines
It doesn’t take much to provide quick and personalized customer support through social media, and companies who have caught on to this practice have loyal and satisfied consumers.
At Ask, we’ve empowered all of our Customer Care Rock Stars to monitor and fully support our users’ needs – be it on email, phone, chat or through our social media channels.
- Eric McKirdy, Global Customer Care Manager, Ask.com