The Fetch Blog

The best events and reads for professionals

Download now: 15 apps every busy professional should know about — September 25, 2015

Download now: 15 apps every busy professional should know about

Much like the desk and computer, the iPhone has become a center of command, home to our schedules, meeting contacts, financial data, and notes. But with more than 1.5 million apps available in the App store, it’s difficult to discover which ones deliver real value.

From downloads for wellness to project management tools and to-do-lists, we asked the Fetch Community for their favorite apps outside of the standard group of essentials (Uber, Facebook, Yelp, Airbnb). The following 15 earned rave reviews:

1. Headspace
Start your day with a dose of zen! Headspace offers meditation in micro-doses, designed to make practicing mindfulness simple and effective. Ten minutes is all it takes.

2. Slack
Get access to messages and archives, as well as notifications — wherever you are. Use the Slack app to stay in touch with your team, answer questions quickly, and stay connected when traveling.

3. Trello
A beautiful tool for organizing almost anything. Trello is perfect for product roadmaps, project management and to-do lists that may be otherwise overwhelming.

4. Sweep
Don’t waste time worrying about your budget; Sweep is one step ahead, with a futuristic view of your cash flow. The app’s best features are custom saving buckets and its ability to identify recurring expenses.

5. Pomodoro
Maintaining focus is critical for busy employees, and Pomodoro will help you produce great work by enforcing time set for specific tasks. Use the timer to customize your workflow, with scheduled blocks devoted to work and rest.

6. Dictionary.com
More than 200,000 trusted, English definitions in your back pocket. Take advantage of audio pronunciations, voice search, and a translator functionality that works with 25 languages — or have fun with ‘Word of the Day’ and quizzes that promise to keep you entertained during a dull commute.

7. Breather
One of our HQ team’s favorite apps, Breather enables people in North America to find, unlock and use beautiful spaces for work and relaxation. Peace and quiet on demand is officially a thing.

Breather, peace and quiet on demand

8. Pocket
This handy app brings bookmarking to a new level. File away videos, images, articles, and web pages during your commute or while waiting in line — and read them from your comfy couch or desk at the office later.

9. Spotify
The music-streaming service earns rave reviews among professionals. This is an extra enjoyable app for those who can listen to music at the office, taking advantage of new releases or collaborating on team playlists all day long.

10. PaybyPhone Parking
This popular parking app functions in Canada, the US, UK, and France. Features include text reminders and email receipts, while updating vehicle registration numbers and payment cards takes only seconds. 

11. Sunrise
One of the most-loved calendar apps for the iPhone, Sunrise syncs with all of your apps (Evernote, Tripit, Songkick, Meetup) to ensure that your schedule is documented without error. The eye-catching design also boasts smart features like weather forecast by location, Google Maps for making your way to meetings, and photos of people you’re slated to see.

12. Asana
Help cut down on excess team email conversations by moving and tracking work in Asana, where all information about a project is stored in a single place. The app is completely free to use for teams up to 15 people.

13. Todoist
Keep track of tasks and projects across 15 platforms and in more than 20 languages with Todoist, hailed as “one of the best to-do list apps in 2014” by Forbes. With all of the necessary integrations (Google Drive, Sunrise Calendar, Zapier) and an ability to sync across devices, staying organized and collaborating seamlessly is easy wherever you are.

14. Freshbooks
Busy business owners and freelancers will appreciate Freshbook’s streamlined iPhone app, which makes accounting on the go a painless task. Using cloud technology, Freshbooks operates in real-time, making it possible for you to access important information on the fly or invoice a client on the spot.

15. ClassPass
Don’t fall out of your fitness routine when you’re away from home or bogged down by a busy schedule! Instead, use the ClassPass app to access available classes that will help you stay energized and inspired. Buy a flex membership to take unlimited classes at studios in the US, UK, and Canada — with Australia launching soon.

Have a go-to app that saves you time, makes life easier or simplifies work travel? Let us know about it in the comments!

Team building and ROI: is it really worth the investment? — September 21, 2015

Team building and ROI: is it really worth the investment?

As renown educator, management consultant, and author Peter Druker succinctly said: “What gets measured gets managed.”

Corporations are currently faced with a challenging question that has long affected education: what is the best way build a collaborative environment, with measurable values and effects of engagement? In education, this pertains to learning, progress and qualifications  — while in business, this translates specifically to productivity, morale and business output. 

The big difference between the two sectors is that in education, costs are ‘built in’ to salaries and interventions which directly aim for those same progression outcomes — whereas businesses are required to specifically invest capital and/or profit into team-building activities and events, with hope that the investment will be returned.

Though both sectors can qualify the success of team-building efforts in anecdotal ways (“remember the time when…?”), businesses are fast moving into the realm where, like educators, it’s essential to quantify the success of team building efforts in a way that translates into key business performance metrics. This not only enables business managers to recognize what works and what doesn’t, but also reveals opportunities for more effective management in the future.

Measuring tools

Measuring the ROI of team building tactics

Translating team-building endeavors into quantifiable measures can include a plethora of possibilities and methods, but all need a starting point: a baseline prior to implementing a calendar or schedule of team-building activities. For yours, consider looking at:

  • Absentee rates
  • Productivity rates
  • Rates of overtime take-up
  • Daily/weekly/monthly profit
  • Time-and-motion studies can also help identify exactly how time is used by management and a team. This is particularly useful when putting together an overview of the frequency, productivity and purpose of meetings, along with punctuality in relation to staff breaks, pace of work, number of customer complaints, and even staff grievances.

As no two companies will be influenced by the exact same factors and actions, there will be different baseline areas for various types of companies. These examples prove that there are plenty of options to be identified and used, depending on a team, business focus and need.

Building in the bonding

The next action is to introduce newly selected team-building activities. When choosing an exercise, remember that the key aim of team-building activities is to increase productivity — and the main vehicle by which team building events aim to do this is by bonding disparate teams.

It’s worth remembering that such events are about collaboration and not competition, which can often be detrimental to overarching business goals. Be thoughtful in offering creative exercises and activities which include ‘lone’ workers, invite collaboration, and help to define team members’ roles.

Activities should also bring out individuals’ strengths, before empowering staff to take these qualities back into the workplace. Using the services of a team events company to facilitate this can seem expensive depending on the number of people and type of activities involved, but once measuring tools have been defined, measuring and managing the outcome can only be beneficial. It’s reasonable to expect an increase in company knowledge about a team, performance, productivity, and prospects.

Giving teammates a voice

ROI on teambuilding

A great team-building activity that often costs less but can still give valuable, measured outcomes is to gather and directly ask the team about various aspects of the company. A session like this can include (but certainly isn’t restricted to) Q&A with teammates on a broad range of topics. Here are a few ideas:

  • Work environment: consider asking about desired improvements, problem areas, or even health and safety concerns
  • Office hierarchy or management systems: is everyone comfortable where they are? Are there line-management clashes which result in some staff feeling de-valued? Are some staff feeling ‘stuck’ and overlooked?
  • Wages and working conditions: although this should come into appraisal or performance management procedures, this is by no means a given with some companies, so staff really should be offered the chance to have their say. This can be a relatively easy fix if the funds are there and will be invaluable in returned loyalty and productivity.
  • Schedules: is the company struggling with poor scheduling which means death-by-meeting Thursdays for some staff, or no time for creative thinking for others? Those that are subject to the schedules will know exactly what’s working, or not, so ask them! After, factor their responses into the development of new processes and systems – and measure those outcomes.

How to manage the measuring

Finally, it’s time to re-measure your outcomes. It’s important to recognize that investing in your team in this way, particularly if it’s something your company hasn’t done before, can take time to get right. While improvements may be seen quickly (and that’s great!), there’s no guarantee that there will be an immediately or obvious return on any investment of time or money spent –- in reality, efforts may be something which gradually drip-feed over a span of months or years after action.

The important thing is to retain the focus, as this will also encourage staff engagement – don’t let them think your efforts were a one-off attempt, as that doesn’t encourage loyalty!

The best is yet to come; the ROI of teambuilding

If the measures show no improvement, try switching tactics with different team events or activities which closely complement your business goals. Be sure to reflect on both the managing side of measurement as well as acknowledging to your staff that they, as well as your company, are worth your investment.

About our writer // Alex Murray is the community coordinator for Team Tactics, based in London. 

Product update: Introducing The Fetch’s new design and newsletter — September 16, 2015

Product update: Introducing The Fetch’s new design and newsletter

We can’t believe believe that so much time has passed since we successfully funded our re-launch on Kickstarter, helping us bring The Fetch to you lovely folks everywhere. Today, we’re excited to share our progress so far – along with a first look at what’s coming next!

A refreshing, new look

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 2.19.30 PM

We kicked off efforts by updating our existing style guide and re-designing The Fetch’s homepage. Designed to make submitting and finding events easy, we focused on simplifying the site to surface information Fetchers will need. You’ll see simple, clean pages in our signature, city colors – a fun, streamlined experience. If you want to secure your username aka vanity URL – make sure you head along to register now!

More focused media

In the new and improved version of The Fetch, we’ve separated local events and media. Dedicated to doing both things well, we’ve created a global reading list in addition to the regular, local event-based email (coming soon). The weekly global reading list will give you much of what you loved in former The Fetch emails: top stories, inspirational professional profiles, and all of the can’t-miss things that caught our team’s attention during the week. Haven’t subscribed to the new reading list yet? Join us here!

An incredible, updated curator community

Just as before, our curators remain an important part of The Fetch community. We’re grateful for amazing representation in the first of our five re-launch cities: Sydney, Melbourne, New York, San Francisco, and Berlin. We’re still taking applications, and would love to hear from you if you know what’s on and think your city needs The Fetch!

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 3.13.56 PM

What’s next

Now that we’ve made it possible to submit events on site, we’re heads down on the next few major milestones:

  • Local events digest: We’re so close to bringing back the local events digest for our first five cities, which will feature the best happenings from the new platform neatly rolled into a weekly email and sent to Fetchers who live there. Our curators will begin testing this week, so expect to see local events in your inbox soon!
  • Individual event pages: Tell or learn more about an event with a description, image, and tags. Each page will have space for an image, along with social sharing functionality and calendar integration. Get a sneak peek here.
  • Event search functionality: From community breakfasts to programming workshops, you will be able to find events by type, category, or skill level.

Our goal is to help you crush your work-life with the best events and great reads with each email, so please continue to share your feedback as we move along. Thanks for your continued enthusiasm – we love hearing from you!

A new, digital destination: the ultimate pop-up guide to Rome, Italy — September 15, 2015

A new, digital destination: the ultimate pop-up guide to Rome, Italy

Italy’s capital is a stunning place of age-old history and monuments that meet the eye with awe and wonder. Less obvious, perhaps, is the quickly growing ecosystem of technology and creative work. As one founder noted in 2012, the startup scene is “exploding faster than a tomato in Fruit Ninja.” Turns out these folks are putting out much more than some of the world’s best pasta plates. So what’s Rome’s digital life like? Here are some observations and learnings after an escape from the San Francisco startup scene to a summer of freelancing in the Eternal city.

The vibe

I’ll admit, the growing digital and tech scene feels a little bit secret as it can be easily lost among the tourist traps and obvious draws to the city. There are certainly cultural aspects that make Rome feel different than other well-known tech hubs like Silicon Valley. For example, Romans have much less trust in fin tech applications (many people don’t pay bills online or exchange money using technology) and little interest in on-demand apps or the gig economy. With the latter comes a bit of “old-school” thinking — and far less Uber rides.

Fiat 500s rule the road, a pop-up guide to Rome

Let’s just say that getting to work looks a bit different, with smartly-dressed professionals whizzing by on scooters and driving themselves in cute little cars like a Smart or the Fiat 500. Other things, like an engineer’s growing stomach (as a result of long hours at the office) seem to be universal. “The more tummy, the more skill”, I was told over a huge, late night pizza.

Education for future employees

A healthy mix of Italians, EU citizens, and expats help bring Rome’s digital scene to life, many of them young, talented and ambitious. Long admired for the sciences, Rome is home to many universities that provide a solid engineering education. La Sapienza, one of the world’s oldest public educational institutions, is highly regarded. Roma Tre and Tor Vergata, two other public universities, also graduate students who have meticulously studied for careers in internet related disciplines, like programming, privacy and security.

Luiss Business School, a pop-up guide to Rome. Photo by Luiss Business School

For marketing and entrepreneurship, Luiss Business School, Italy’s first MBA program, is a popular, private option. The school boasts a partnership with the Confindustria, making it a prime place to network and find a career-worthy, post-graduate position in Rome or other Italian cities. An excellent school, Luiss Business School is also a relatively inexpensive choice for an English-taught MBA when compared to similar US institutions.

Engineers and entrepreneurs who studied outside of Rome still have much reason to bring their business to Italy, as the country has recently provided a unique set of laws to encourage economic development.

Government initiatives and new laws

Italy introduced the startup visa in 2012. A result of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development’s agenda, the country’s startup laws were specifically designed to bring investment to promising, developing companies. While Milan is undoubtedly Italy’s technical capital, Rome’s central location, history, and proximity to diverse landscapes make it an ideal choice for a place to start up.

Rome city center, a pop-up guide to Rome. Photo by Krista Gray

Financially speaking, Italy’s new flexible labor law (which is applicable to a startup’s entire four year life cycle) has made it easy for startups to offer temporary contracts to employees, as well as issue performance-related pay — two things that vary from earlier law. Companies hiring ‘highly qualified’ employees without a time-sensitive contract (options range from 6-36 months) can take advantage of an outrageous 35% tax credit as reward. Talk about saving on salary! As far as stock and equity goes, startups in Italy are also able to offer external consultants stock options with ‘privileged tax treatment’ or the option to work for equity.

Foreign freelancers also have the possibility of living and working in Rome, with application available via a second visa. The freelance visa, known as a visto di lavoro autonomo, is a bit more difficult to get as it requires first obtaining a nulla osta in Italy. This tedious process involves meeting income requirements along with sharing a statement of work and a proven place to stay. However, it can be a good option for non-EU creatives or industry professionals who are dedicated to taking advantage of Rome’s growing digital scene.

Accelerators and investment

With government initiatives set to support new business and startups, Italy has become a valuable place for investors and accelerators. Not only do corporations, investors, and venture capitalists benefit from the second highest tax relief in the European Union, but Italy is the first country in the world to introduce special rules for equity crowdfunding. With such a specific set of regulations, many investors have taken to startups based in Rome.

Several accelerators cater to helping companies kick things into gear, including Luisse En Labs, which supports startup growth. Club Italia Investment is also known as a well-positioned ‘accelerator enhancer’, a newly modeled vehicle that helps supplement startups’ accelerator funding.

Startups

Rome is home to more than 150 startups, as noted on Angellist. Listed with an average valuation of 2.5 million, companies range in size from small founding teams to mid-size and larger. Much like in some of the designer offices that make the press from Silicon Valley, culture rules and perks keep employees happy.

The EUR District, a pop-up guide to Rome

Pi.campus is a solid example of what Italian startup life can look like, the office complex located in Rome’s bustling, green EUR district. Pi.Campus’ website shows an exclusive club dedicated to providing ‘the best work environment for talented people’ and counts top startups Filo, Chupamobile, and Wanderio as its inhabitants. Though not in residence at Pi.Campus, hot startups like Pathflow, LuxuryEstate, FaceSmash, Netlex, YepLike!, and UnFraud also call Rome home.

Coworking

Smaller companies, remote workers, freelancers and creatives who don’t have space in a place like Pi.campus have plenty of opportunities to co-work. While the list of spaces I put together isn’t as extensive as what some I’ve seen for New Zealand, Australia, London, or San Francisco, there’s no shortage of great places to get stuff done:

Cowo360 coworking space, a pop-up guide to Rome. Photo by Cowo360

  • Cowo360: A favorite coworking space in Rome. The location is visually stunning, with sleek, leather furniture and sophisticated artwork.
  • Impact Hub: Desks in a space dedicated to social interaction. Impact Hub is a great place to meet people and freely exchange ideas.
  • Spqwork: Customized spaces have access to Spqworks’ FabLab, which offers 3D printer use, among other perks.
  • Regus: A familiar name with worldwide locations, Regus offers office space and coworking rooms for startups, remote workers, and freelancers.
  • Let’s Make: A beautiful, creative space for programmers and makers.

Though Roman coffee shops are more of the standup bar variety, it’s not unusual to find folks with laptops in places like Romeow (which is also an impeccably decorated cat café!), La.Vi (bonus points for the roof deck) and Café Café (just steps from the Colosseo).

Romeow cat bistro, a pop-up guide to Rome. Photo by Romeow.

Community, events, and groups

Folks flock to Rome to see some of the world’s most impressive architecture and art exhibits, but those in digital disciplines will be pleasantly surprised at the smattering of community groups and events available in the city, too. From blogger nights to Instagram meet-ups, programming groups, and major conferences, Rome’s scene offers true variety. Here’s a handful of cool, upcoming events:

Though not specifically Roman, the Facebook group Italian Startups is a good place to connect with founders and employees in many cities, and currently counts more than 20,000 members. A second group, Italian Startup Events, caters specifically to happenings and counts 8,000 people (many Romans) as members.

Ready for Rome? Would love to hear your thoughts, questions or experiences in regard to the ancient city’s transition to a technical hub. Leave your notes in the comments!

Featured image illustration by Lotta Nieminen

Coffee talk: Denise Jacobs, creativity evangelist and speaker — September 14, 2015

Coffee talk: Denise Jacobs, creativity evangelist and speaker

Denise Jacobs is a teacher, author and powerful speaker who will discuss processes and techniques for dramatically enhanced creative productivity at this year’s Sydney-based Web Directions Conference. While talking with Denise about her inspiring professional journey, we learned how to overcome speaking fears and procrastination. Read on for her tricks and story about finding her true passion.

How did you get to where you are today?

It feels like a long story, but I started making handmade soap in 1997 to get back in touch with my own creativity. My friends really liked it, and people kept asking if I sold it. At first, I found it baffling and kept saying, ‘no, no, no!’. But when people started asking what was in it, I started offering to teach them how to make it themselves. I had two small classes of about five people each at my house.

From there, I started teaching at an adult extension school. I discovered that I really loved teaching! Though I was working in the web industry on project management projects, I found myself without the passion I felt when helping people. I was knowledgeable about web stuff and had built some experience teaching, so I thought I’d combine them to teach web classes at Seattle Central College. About five years later, that job ended and I coincidentally went to my first web conference. I saw Molly Holzschlag, an open web evangelist, speak. What we were doing was so similar – but she was speaking in front of thousands. I instantly knew I wanted to do the same.

About four years later, I finally broke into the web speaking circuit. I had just authored my first book, The CSS Detective Guide, and it gave me the confidence to pursue opportunities. I took it by storm, applying everywhere, building a reputation as a good speaker. Now I get invited, which is a dream come true!

When did you realize that you had an ability to help others be creative and produce great work? 

It totally came from teaching. Through the soap classes, I realized that I was good at explaining, at helping people learn about the things they found interesting. Once I started at Seattle Central Community College, I knew I had found something that I was passionate about and wanted to do more of.

Today, you’re an accomplished public speaker. What tips do you have those with fear of getting up in front of people?

Two things. The first is to know that if you have one more piece of information to share than someone in the audience already knows, then you are helping. I find that people are afraid to speak because they feel like they don’t have anything new to offer. Remember, the lens of your experience is unique and people always need reminders. You are valuable!

The second piece of advice I can offer is to remember that people are rooting for you. Attendees aren’t sitting and casting an evil eye – they’re there to learn and be entertained. Think about this when you get in front of people. Know that everyone is supporting you.

You’re a featured speaker at the upcoming Web Directions conference. What’s special about this event? What are you most excited about?

I met one of the founders of Web Directions, John Allsop, at SXSW in 2006. I had long admired his work and used it in my classes, and he proved to be one of the best people I met! I’ve been wanting to speak at Web Directions for years, and was finally invited to do so this year.

Sydney, Australia: home of the 2015 Web Directions Conference

I’m also really excited to go to Australia – I’ve never been – and a lot of my industry friends like Hannah Donovan and Daniel Burka are taking part. The crowd is sure to be amazing, and I know it’s going to be a great time.

A frequent traveler, how do you stay connected when moving around? How do you stay focused?

To stay connected, I make a conscious effort to see people I know when I travel. This includes friends, or in new places, digital contacts. Connecting with people makes places more feel meaningful for me. One thing I like to do is shop for groceries wherever I go – it’s an everyday, self-care thing. Restaurants feel less grounded.

For staying focused, I concentrate on the thing that is in front of me. If I can, I don’t think about things that are too far out. I use an email auto responder with my upcoming schedule, Calendly for meetings, and airline apps like Tripit to help take care of little details.

What was your proudest, professional moment?

This past June, I was the closing keynote at a conference in Columbus, OH (an hour from where I was born/grew up). It was the first time I was able to have my Mother at a conference. As if that wasn’t enough, my 91 year old Grandfather also came from Detroit to hear me speak, and friends from my hometown, including my favorite high school teacher, were also in the audience.

This was one of my best speeches as I was really on and felt an amazing connection with the audience.

I had structured my talk in a way that helped me really speak to technical attendees, and made it a point to tie in the opening keynote with several other earlier talks from the conference. I was so honored to receive a standing ovation from that crowd, and in awe over audience feedback. It was a really special, magical milestone in my career.

How do you maintain work/life balance?

I bracket my time carefully when I’m home, and make myself stop working by using alarms. I deliberately don’t work on weekends. I also recently decided to start imposing a ‘mandatory beach day’ for myself after each work trip. This comes after a recent four-day staycation in Palm Beach (my backyard) which left me asking myself, “why don’t I do this all the time?!”

How can someone overcome procrastination to be more productive?

Instead of focusing on doing the task, trying just getting ready to do it. Open your app or document, get your notes together, maybe jot down a couple of ideas. By just getting ready, you may be inspired to do it. Another trick to try is the Pomodoro technique — block off a small amount of time for the thing you don’t want to do, knowing you only have to work on it for a limited time. You’ll be surprised how easily it can kick you into gear!

What, if any, events/workshops/classes do you regularly attend or recommend?

I can’t recommend Improv classes enough. Not only do they teach you how to be creative, but they’re great for building self-trust. They also help you realize that you don’t always need to plan ahead, how to collaborate and rely on others.

BATS in San Francisco offers classes, along with IO in Chicago and Gotham City in New York City. Find a place and go!

Where can we find you online?

My website, Facebook page, and Twitter are all good places to keep up with me.

Last, how do you like your coffee?

I actually prefer a chai tea latte with soymilk over coffee (chai tea is the best!), but if I get a coffee it’s usually a decaf almond milk latte.

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