Accepting Guest Blog Posts

I have accepted a position that will not allow me to write in 2016. However, I want to continue to provide information on cyber, intellectual property (IP), social media, security, privacy, and technology law and policy to you all.  So…. I am accepting  submissions from guest bloggers!

Please send me your best cyber, IP and tech law and policy posts. Many of this blog’s followers are entrepreneurs, technophiles, tech novices, bloggers, social media user and those intrigued by tech, so please cater your posts to that audience. Please send posts to thedigitalcounselor@gmail.com. I will notify you if your post is selected.

Thank you for your submission, in advance, and more importantly, THANK YOU FOR READING!

I hope the readers find previous posts and any information others are able to provide in my absence helpful! And I look forward to returning in 2017!!

Cartier Offers Amazing Opportunity to Women Entrepreneurs!

I had the pleasure of attending Cartier’s Women Entrepreneurs: The Changing Face of Innovation at the French Embassy.  We had the pleasure of hearing past participants speak about their experience in The Cartier Women’s Initiative and their successful businesses. The connections, financing, and networking were invaluable for these budding entrepreneurs and if you have a for-profit business that is 1-3 years old I encourage you to learn more and apply.

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards are an international business plan competition created in 2006 by Cartier, the Women’s Forum, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD business school to identify, support and encourage projects by women entrepreneurs.

The mission of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is threefold:
  • To identify and support initial-phase women entrepreneurs through funding
    and coaching
  • To foster the spirit of enterprise by celebrating role models in entrepreneurship
  • To create an international network of women entrepreneurs and encourage
    peer networking

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards aim to encourage the most vulnerable category of entrepreneurs in their most vulnerable phase: women entrepreneurs starting up. Since their inception in 2006, they have accompanied over 140 promising female business-owners and recognized 44 Laureates.

Cartier is currently accepting applications!!!

The annual competition involves two rounds:

Round 1 (in June): The Jury selects 18 Finalists*, the top three projects of each region (Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, Asia-Pacific), on the basis of their short business plans. They receive coaching from experienced businesspeople to move to the next round.

Round 2 (in October): The Finalists are invited to France for the final round of competition which includes submitting a detailed business plan and presenting their projects in front of the Jury. They are also invited to the Annual Global Meeting of the Women’s Forum.

Based on the quality of the plan and the persuasiveness of the verbal presentation, one Laureate for each of the six regions is selected and receives a unique and comprehensive support package: US $ 20 000 of funding, one year of coaching, networking opportunities and media exposure.

Click here for information on how to apply: http://www.cartierwomensinitiative.com/how-to-apply

Great Opportunity for Women Entrepreneurs in DC!

fastrac2 fastrac

Dear Entrepreneurs,

DC Women’s Business Center has announced FastTrac New Venture is now open for enrollment!

This 12 week course assists early stage entrepreneurs in successful completion of their business plan. Through weekly classes and 1-on-1 business counseling, entrepreneurs will access the small business resources needed to grow a successful enterprise.

Topics for this course include:

  • Identifying and Meeting Market Needs
  • Setting Financial Goals
  • Reaching the Market
  • Planning for a profitable Business

Courses begin February 17, 2015 and will meet every week through May 19, 2015. All sessions are 2:00pm – 5:00pm unless otherwise noted. This is a competitive application process so they request you submit a thoughtful and complete application.

Click here to submit an application!

New gTLDs as a Branding Tool for Entrepreneurs

The launch of new gTLDs (generic top-level domains) provide an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs and small to medium businesses to further brand their business in their domain name. A gTLD is the part of you domain after the “.”.  Having fun with you website domain can help you stand out as you market yourself and establish your brand. Emphasize your company’s mission, expertise, experience, niche, etc through the top-level domain you use. Also if your company name or other domain you sought to register is taken on .com there are new and exciting options! Don’t miss out on companyname.rocks or company name.consulting.

You can register these new top-level domains just like you register a “.com” domain head to goDaddy, Namecheap, Name.com or your favorite registrar. This is something your should consider early in establishing your company. You don’t want to lose out on the perfect domain name.

This is an opportunity to accent your personal brand as well. As you establish your expertise and want to develop a website that showcases your skills you no longer are limited to firstnamelastname.com you can register firstnamelastname.esq, firstnamelastname.photography, or firstnamelastname.guru.  Grab your new domains as soon as they roll out!

Over 175 new domains have been released or delegated to date, with hundreds more on the horizon. You can view the available domains by visiting this page: http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/delegated-strings . This page lists the delegated domains, which means they are available for registration. This site will be updated as others are available.

Take advantage of this branding opportunity before others catch on!!
Examples of some new gTLDs that can make for a creative domain name:

.guru
.consulting
.cooking
.ventures
.photography
.active 
.expert 
.coach
.lifestyle
.shopping
.bar 
.pub
.events
.buzz
.solutions
.careers
.company
.management
.enterprises
.technology
.holdings
.rocks
 
Visit my older posts for more information on this launch: What do you know about the new top level domains?Will You Be Confused When The New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) Launch?​; &​ Five things you should know as the new gTLDs launch.  And as always ask questions in the comments and share your successes and observations re: new gTLDs!​
 

A Thin Line Between Love & Hate: Social Media Edition

Social media has invaded our lives! It has become an integral part of our socialization, self promotion, leisure and now our work.  This invasion into our work lives comes with numerous pitfalls. Many of which I’ve discussed on this blog before (Who Owns Your Profile?: Be Careful How & Where You Use Social Media, NLRB Decision #2: Be Careful What You Post on Social Media!, Social Media: Personal Expression or Supplement to Your Resume?, and NLRB Issues First Social Media Decision – What Does this Mean?)

As cases of employees loosing their job because the medium they love has “betrayed” them continue to pop up, I urge you again to be careful what you post. Revealing too much information can get you fired! There is a voyeuristic nature and a desire to share and stay connected in today’s society that has made social media (and reality tv – but that’s a topic for another day) popular. That desire is normal and appropriate within reason. Share about your mall trip and the new clothes you purchased, connect with old and new friends, share photographs but make sure that your social media persona matches your professional persona or you can run into trouble. Remember this information never goes away…

 

Here are a few individuals who have lost their jobs because of the information they’ve posted on the sites they love.  Learn from their mistakes. A Michigan nurse and a Washington barista both lost their jobs because of over-sharing on social media.  The nurse was fired for FMLA fraud after the hospital where she worked saw Facebook pictures of the Mexican vacation she took while still on leave. The barista was fired for using his blog as a forum to insult his customers and boss.

Recently, a tenured New Jersey schoolteacher named Jennifer O’Brien was fired after she vocalized the following opinions about her students on her private Facebook page (from opinion PDF):

I’m not a teacher – I’m a warden for future criminals!

They had a scared straight program in school – why couldn’t [I] bring [first] graders.

Understandably, students’ parents and the principal found her comments offensive, and instantly challenged her continued role as an educator.

In response to being charged with “conduct unbecoming a teacher,” O’Brien argued that her expression should be protected by the First Amendment’s right to free speech. However, free speech only goes so far in the work environment, as defined by the Pickering Test.  Another one bites the dust…

Lessons:
  1. Free speech only goes so far when it comes to your job, especially if you are a public employee.
  2. Review everything before you post. This information is out there forever so make sure it aligns with your current interests and your future interests.  This is especially for true for the generation growing up only knowing the access that comes with phenomena like social media.  Many of these individuals lack the desire for privacy and the awareness of the consequences of over sharing that is important in a professional context.
  3. Some opinions should be kept to yourself or at least not posted on the internet.  Although you are entitled to your opinion, there are consequences for our actions. Make sure that the opinions you state are either uncontroversial or worth taking a stand for.
  4. Check the privacy settings on your social medium. Know what your settings are and who you allow to see your posts. Making accounts widely available is not bad, just act accordingly. Although, “private” accounts are not an excuse to make reckless, defamatory, or inappropriate comments. Your profile or account should always reflect the persona you carry with you every day especially your professional persona.
  5. Always ask yourself “What if my [boss, potential boss, parents, grandparents, children, etc] were to see this post?”  If you would be embarrassed, in trouble, or in any way uncomfortable then maybe you should reconsider posting that item.
Its hard when the things we love turn around and “betray” us. The nice thing about social media is we are in control of our message and as long as we post consciously and in consideration of the big picture social media can remain a safe and fun space to engage with family, friends, and whoever else you decide. Remember there is a thin line between love and hate… Don’t let your actions turn social media from a friend to an enemy.

Good luck!

Do you deserve overtime pay for that email???

How many times have you answered an email after hours?  Is there such thing as “after hours”?  In today’s mobile society, the blessing and curse of smartphones and email is the level of accessibility. Employers are able to capitalize on this accessibility and reach new heights of productivity. When the amount of time an employee is inaccessible is decreased to maybe the time they are sleeping, companies experience increased productivity and near 24/7 operation.  Why not take full advantage?

Great for them not necessarily for us. Now that this level of accessibility is the norm, it is hard to set limits on when you can and cannot be reached without potentially limiting your upward mobility within the company. In this hyper competitive job market, we all know that the smallest things can make the largest difference. No one can afford to lose their competitive edge because they refused to answer an email after 6pm.

Sgt. Jeffrey Allen is suing the City of Chicago for answering his “required to use” department Blackberry when he’s off-duty.  And he’s not the first. Jason Swart and Justin Foley, officers in Yorktown Police Department’s K-9 Unit, have sued the Town of Yorktown for additional overtime incurred while caring for their police dogs.

These suits bring up an interesting conundrum that we often face because the law is always significantly behind technology.  Employment & labor laws do address this kind of issue. One email should not qualify for overtime especially if it is a brief and easy response; but at what point does responding to emails and phone calls outside of working hours violate the rights of employees? How do you quantify the number of emails that result in an hour of overtime or the depth of thought necessary when responding? Can an employee charge for every tenth of an hour used or should they wait until they’ve done at least 30 minutes of outside work?  And what will be the response of employers? Is the chance for overtime worth sacrificing a salary and likely having your base pay cut to account for potential overtime?  If you begin to nickel and dime your employer, will they adopt the same approach? How will that manifest itself? Decreased flexibility? Strict time requirements for assignments? Less incentives?

This could become a hot button issue as technology continues to penetrate the lives of employees and as employers seek to control such use both inside and outside the office.

What do you think?

 

Censorship or Prevention? University Social Media Policies for Athletes

The University of Michigan athletic department has “formalized its social media practices,” following a “national trend of colleges tightening their grip on student athletes’ social media practices,” according to Kellie Woodhouse of ANNARBOR.com.

In the past year, two University of Michigan football players earned their team secondary NCAA violations by inadvertently tweeting at a recruit; a third-string Ohio State quarterback became infamous when he tweeted that classes are “pointless;” and a top-rated recruit lost his chance to play with the Wolverines after he authored sexually and racially charged tweets.

The Univ. of Michigan policy is straightforward, advising students not to post when they’re emotional, not to use offensive language or slurs and not to tweet during class. If athletes violate the policy they can be reprimanded or, worse, face suspension.

Some colleges go much further than Michigan, forcing athletes to allow school officials access to their private accounts, banning players from using a long list of words on Twitter (such as University of Kentucky), or forbidding the students from using Twitter altogether. Many schools have hired third-party companies to monitor athletes’ posts around the clock.

Read the current agreement: University of Michigan social media agreement for athletes.pdf

Read the guidelines: University of Michigan social media guidelines for athletes.pdf

Are universities crossing the line?

These actions being taken by universities have already begun to see kick back by state legislatures such as California and Delaware. Social media is a new forum for speech that everyone is struggling to understand how to control. Everyone seeking to limit the reach and use of social media need to remember that social media is an avenue for protected speech. Users must also remember they will be held accountable for their actions and opinions. It seems universities have taken it upon themselves to protect their investment and make sure that athletes are aware of the power of their words.

So the question is, “Is it proper for universities to limit the speech of athletes by putting parameters on their social media use?”

This is an over-excerise of authority and I think universities will continue to see increasing backlash for these kinds of activities. Athletes voicing their opinions via social media is protected speech under the first amendment and should be protected accordingly. Therefore, athletes should have the right to voice opinions as they see fit but they need to be prepared to deal with the consequences that follow. I do think its a concern that athletes and students alike are posting recklessly. However, universities should invest their resources into training athletes about appropriate social media use as opposed to instituting rigid policies.

Although universities are not bound by the National Labor Relations Act as it relates to their athletes they should use the National Labor Relations Board‘s guidelines and rulings as guidance when adopting a social media policy.

A Lesson for Students

Students should take a lesson from these policies. Your social media use matters and can be the difference between success and failure. Not only is it important to athletes who find themselves in the public eye but to the job or internship-seeker who will be throughly searched online. Although you should retain the right to post whatever you want, make sure you are careful with what you post and the privacy settings you use. Your online reputation always proceeds you make sure you put your best foot forward.

The Importance of Mentorship

I was able to meet my career Shero recently and it caused me to reflect on the importance of mentorship and networking. What is a career shero? Well my career shero is someone who is doing what I want to do and doing exceptionally well. She is a powerhouse. She has found a way to blend her legal interests and her communications interests into an enviable career in crisis management. Over the years she has held jobs in both arenas and has started her own firm and doing what she loves. She took each opportunity as they came, learned from the and was able to parlay the skills developed and lessons learned into a fruitful and enjoyable career. Not only was she able to succeed in her career she has maintained a family life. Meeting this person was hard because as you can imagine she’s very busy and has gained a fair bit of notoriety. This caused me to reflect on the many excellent professionals I have come across on my journey and the importance of mentorship.

Giving and receiving mentorship is extremely important to professional and personal development. Mentorship usually starts inadvertently. When we’re younger certain people take special interest in our futures and make the effort to provide guidance and we do the same for others. As we become more career focused, we all tend to seek out mentors doing what we want to do but I encourage you not to limit yourself. Amass as many mentors as possible. A person invested in your success is more valuable than someone in your field who is only moderately interested in answering questions or too busy to provide substantive guidance. Over time our career paths take a lot of unexpected turns, they are a constantly evolving process. Everyone you meet and connect with add value and perspective to your experience. Just as important as finding good mentors is being a mentor to others. As a mentor, you have an opportunity to help someone progress in their career. Providing guidance, a listening ear, making connections, etc is important to the progress of professionalism and an opportunity to help those behind you navigate their career path.

I have benefitted immensely from the guidance and kindness of a series of people from a variety of different fields and at various stages in their careers. I am always open to the advice of another, their experiences always have a lesson that can be applied to my life. Many of my “mentees” have been just as much mentee as mentor. I can attribute much of my success to the men and women who have taken an interest in my success. I have called upon these people for everything from a pep talk, to a reference, to job assistance. And I in turn have been there for them, as an assistant, a friend, and often a sounding board. Mentorship is about relationship building and I am grateful each of these relationships.

I just want to encourage everyone to amass as many mentors and mentees as possible. Learn from their strengths, set an example, and build relationships that will be mutually beneficial. Also make sure to maintain these relationships, even if its just a quarterly update email to keep the lines of communication open.

“Leaders..should influence others..in such a way that it builds people up, encourages and edifies them so they can duplicate this attitude in others.”

― Bob Goshen