Benefits of in-country hire

View in Berlin

View in Berlin

Good human resources management in an international company means getting the right people in the right jobs at the right time. But what is your version of right? There is no one size fits all approach to hiring that means there are no risks and what is right for other digital startups might not be right for yours. If you are thinking about what  the right way is for your company to expand into Europe please read on.

If this is your company’s first step into the relative unknown that is the European market, it’s not possible to get away from the fact that it is different from North America. There are different cultures to deal with. While an American employee may brag about the amount of hours they have worked that week or the lack of vacation days taken that year a European worker is legally entitled to paid time off and will expect to take it. And its not just holidays, there are organisational cultures which vary from U.S. to E.U. too.

Profit is not the only motivator, society as a whole is more of consideration as well and there is far more bureaucracy as a rule in European countries. Having an insider who is used to dealing with the vagaries of town officials and their requests could be invaluable.

If the main base for your company is going to stay in the U.S. then you need to have people you can trust, and who subscribe to your values, in control. It is crucial that they project your company’s principles through your expansion. You might be roughly 5 and a half thousand miles or more away and its unrealistic to be expect to be able to micromanage at that distance (and with those time zones). It might feel safer to send someone who you know, and who knows your company’s way of working. But safer isn’t always better and relocating to another continent is a big commitment. Will your go-to guy (or girl) be able to make that kind of pledge? Would you want them to? Anyone who is going to cross half the world is not going to be able to do it at the drop of a hat.

If you are looking to expand across the Atlantic, it is likely that you are also wanting to grow your network, something which is made much easier with people who have fully developed support infrastructures. If it is truly not what, but who you know, then having the right contacts can be crucial.

Also, having fresh input into your company could be invaluable for the development of your company. The different cultures mentioned earlier will result in a different world view, and fresh eyes might be able to solve a problem you didn’t even know existed. This influx could provide the innovation that turn your great idea into a game-changer. And let’s face it, you are not truly a multinational company while you are exclusively hiring American employees, albeit in “non-American” locations.

Another important factor to bear in mind is speed of delivery. If a week is a long time in politics, 6 months can be a lifetime when it comes to digital start-ups. What is hot right now can quickly become obsolete, or have its potential market wiped out by a competitor who just got to market that little quicker. Although notice periods tend to be longer in Europe (typically 3 months), this compares favorably with the time it would take to relocate the necessary American resources. Once you take into account that the EU is churning out over 2 million graduates a year,  across all fields the future suddenly looks bright when it comes to finding the right talent to help your company progress further.

Business in profile

CiteAb is fast becoming the go-to place for antibody search. And it’s part of the vibrant southwest tech scene that is making Bath and Bristol an exciting place to do business right now

The simple way to find the right antibody for your experiment

Founded in March 2013 by in as a response to repeated exasperation when trying find the correct antibodies for experiments. Dr Andrew Chalmers, senior lecturer at the University of Bath and co-founder of CiteAb had this to say about his reasons for starting CiteAb:

“My own frustration at the amount of effort students and postdocs in my lab spent looking for antibodies, and the number of antibodies we bought that didn’t work, were real drivers in developing the idea for CiteAb. The time and money wasted made me believe there must be a better way of searching for and choosing between antibodies.”

So they resolved to solve the problem and CiteAb was born. Dr. Andrew Chalmers (University of Bath) and Dave Kelly (Storm Consultancy) were the co-founders, with guidance and support provided by the University of Bath. Their aim was to to help researchers find the right antibody for their experiments – ultimately saving time and money, and helping research progress faster, By June 2013 they already had 1 million antibodies listed on their search engine (it’s now approaching 2 million with the words “Aaah – too… many… antibodies!”) The site now gives researchers access to antibodies from over 60 companies worldwide, rated by their citations in over 100,000 research papers.CiteAb also won an award for ‘best startup’ shortly after they launched, recognising the significant impact they had made in the market within a fairly short amount of time. Now they are looking at ways to ensure the long-term stability and progression of CiteAb, which is a really exciting phase of their development.

What makes CiteAb stand out from their competitors is the veracity of their search results. Unlike other antibody search engines, no company can pay to have their results top listed. CiteAb is unbiased and as Dr. Chalmers explains “The core ethos of CiteAb is that we are completely impartial – we list antibodies according to citations, so the only way an antibody can move up the ratings is to be used successfully in research and be cited by other researchers.”

Typical CiteAb users are research scientists from a range of research institutions and pharmaceutical companies who want to find antibodies that are known to work. Their clients are usually based in the pharmacy or biotechnology sector, often companies that produce and sell antibodies. They work with us to ensure their latest products are listed on CiteAb and they’re also very interested in the data we can show them that reflects the state of the market.

So what comes next for CiteAb? First they built up the data, (CiteAb is the largest citation ranked antibody search engine in the world) now comes the time to analyse it. Recently they’ve been taking a more in depth look at the wealth of publication data held within CiteAb. This has allowed them to produce a series of reports showing market share trends for countries, companies, antibodies and research areas. Unlike the usual market surveys, CiteAb’s are unique in that they’re based on analysis of hundreds of thousands of antibody specific publications, so they are able to provide a comprehensive and unbiased view of the bioscience research market. That huge database of antibody citations also provides a valuable resource to find experimental details when planning antibody experiments.

Being based in Bath has its advantages too: Dr Chalmers has a really strong network of potential CiteAb users here in the city in the University of Bath’s thriving Faculty of Science. The University provided CiteAb with a great deal of support during the initial development and spinout, and continues to be involved on the CiteAb board. Connections within the sector that can be reached through an institution like the University of Bath are invaluable to a small company in its early years. The city of Bath is also conducive to the growth of young companies – especially those with a digital or online angle. According to Matthew Helsby, the development manager at CiteAb “The city has a strong digital presence and there is a lot of support for startups and those new to business.”

That’s not to say it has been completely plain sailing. For Dr. Chalmers, who has a background in research, moving into the business world has meant a completely different way of working. The adjustment took some getting used to and although he wished he would have known that everything would take twice as long as you might expect, he has found the whole process extremely exciting. Luckily David Kelly, the other co-founder, with a background is in web software development, was there to provide support on the business and software side although he said “just learning what an antibody is” was a good first step for him.

Although not currently looking for investors or employees, as they are quite a young startup, CiteAb believe with the future looking as bright as it does that hopefully they will do soon. Opportunities are first posted on their blog so it’s worth keeping an eye on that and they are always keen to hear from people who are interested in CiteAb, so if you’ve any questions please do give them a shout, as “we love to talk about our organisation!”

Additional Info: blog and social media (LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook/Google+)

Tech blogs – Eastern Europe

berlin

berlin

Over the past 5-10 years, the Central and Eastern European region (CEE) has been quietly building a reputation as a potential competitor to India in the tech outsourcing business. Now signs are pointing to the region being the next global tech start up hub.

For companies with a European base of operations, the advantages of outsourcing to CEE are clear. There is a low cost, (salaries are typically 50% lower than western Europe) highly educated, skilled workforce (Poland ranks above the U.S.A and Germany on the Pearson plc Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment of 39 developed nations in 14th place). Plus there are minimal cultural differences, combined with the fact they are located in the same or neighbouring time zones. Also, important if you are working in a data sensitive industry, for CEE countries in the E.U. the same data protection laws are applied. These ideal outsourcing conditions have led to companies such as  Google, IBM, Samsung, HP, Microsoft, Nokia-Siemens, SAP, HSBC, Xerox, Fujitsu, Symantec, General Electric and many more making use of C.E.E. as an a near-shoring opportunity, with Poland in particular being seen as a outsourcing hub. Capgemini, which provides business and computer outsourcing for almost 100 corporations, including Coca-Cola and Volkswagen operates five centers in Poland.

There are some disadvantages, with most of the outsourcing companies of a much smaller scale than their south Asian rivals. This means they can’t compete directly in cost per capita, and if you have large scale, exact brief that doesn’t need too much supply-side innovation then India may still be the best location to outsource to. However, the CEE countries are able to turn this small size to their advantage, as they are much more able to do innovative, experimental projects with much less direct management than is needed for Indian projects.

So, with so much skilled labour (Romania has an estimated 64,000 I.T. specialists alone) and hundreds of thousands of tech aware, motivated, potential entrepreneurs graduating each year, this has been a period of real growth across the region. This on its own isn’t enough to create a viable tech eco-system, but the thing that is making the real difference is cash. After all, these areas have for a long time had talented, hardworking people. What has changed is huge amounts of capital invested in the area with billions of Euros being pumped into Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia etc to improve their infrastructure and also provide grants to promote entrepreneurship. But it’s not just government money, increased amounts of angel investors and VC’s are increasingly targeting CEE. Over the past few years several startup success stories have emerged across CEE.  These include AVG and Avast from the Czech Republic, Nordeus from Serbia, Filestube from Poland, BitDefender and Soft32 from Romania, and Prezi, Indextools, LogMeIn, and Ustream from Hungary and they have attracted investors seeking scalable ideas. Many people believe that C.E.E. is 10-15 years behind western Europe for tech start ups and, now the money tap has been turned on, the region is primed for massive growth.

So what does this mean for US businesses? While the basic ingredients are there for growth, what is really needed for CEE to truly become a international tech hub is expertise in developing local success stories into global ones. The seed money is there and there are a lot of talented people working hard to grow their start ups but for every Skype there are thousands which can’t make the leap. This is of course the same with every tech hub, but with the right partnerships, and maybe a bit of US know-how, the sky is the limit for these CEE countries and the companies they work with.

 

Present: Simple or Progressive?

Present Simple and Present Progressive (AKA Continuous) are two fundamentals of English Grammar. Tenses, or time forms, are the thing that causes the biggest groans in English classes (looking at you “Present Perfect”). Here I want to look at the above two in a bit more detail.

When learning a language, people often like to compare it to what they know from their mother tongue. It’s not such an effective learning method, but when the two match up, it can give a reassuring feeling. If you are a German speaker then you have an advantage over many other language speakers when it comes to learning English as there are thousands of these “cognates“, shared vocabulary.

Unfortunately when it comes to grammar it’s another story. For example, while German has Präsens, English has Present Simple and Present Progressive (sometimes called Present Continuous). If you were to translate “I go” it would be “ich gehe” but “I am going” would give the same result. But this doesn’t mean “I go” and “I am going” mean the same thing. So what is the difference?
It comes down to this: Is the action happening one time, either now or in the future or is it a more general action, something that’s repeated, or simply a fact? Let’s think of an example.

Present Simple:   I       teach      English            in Berlin

↑             ↑                 ↑                      ↑

(Subject) (Verb) (Object)       (Circumstance)

(Circumstance just means the time or place where the action happened.)

This is a general situation; I go there everyday Monday to Friday and I’m not talking about any particular day.

Present simple with be:        I        am               an English Teacher              in Berlin.

↑         ↑                                       ↑                                    ↑

(Subject)  (Be)                             (Object)                   (Circumstance)

Here we have no main verb so before the object the verb “be” must be included.

Singular Be Plural Be
1st person I Am 1st Person We Are
2nd Person You Are 2nd Person You Are
3rd Person He/She/It Is 3rd Person They Are

Present Progressive:                I                    am          teaching              at school tomorrow

↑                     ↑                     ↑                          ↑                          ↑

(Subject)             (Be)             (Verb + Ing)       (Object)        (Circumstance)

In this case, I’m talking about a specific occasion i.e. tomorrow. It doesn’t suggest that I do it regularly, it’s only interested in tomorrow. It’s a one time situation.


Present Simple for Future

In “If” sentences, we use the Present Simple to talk about the future. e.g. We’ll get wet if it rains;I’ll get a drink if I go to the kitchen. ‘Rain’ and ‘go’ are the verbs and the action is in the future but we still use the Present Simple.

Another way to use Present Simple for the future is when you talk about things like the cinema and train times, things which are planned. E.g. What time does the film start? It starts at 8pm.When does the train come? Hopefully soon!

Present Progressive for Future

When something is happening in the future and it is planned and decided that it is definitely going to happen then the Present Progressive is the right tense to use. Often people use “Will” but this should be for actions which are a bit more spontaneous.

You can also use it when the action is just about to happen. E.g. I’m going to bed. You can be sitting on the sofa and yawning when you say this, it’s still fine!

How to know it’s Present Simple

Do is an indicator that the sentence is Present Simple. Questions need auxiliary verbs in English for example “Do” and “Be”.

To make a question  in Present Simple we use “Do” before the subject. E.g.

Do you work at an English language school?

  • Yes, I do. (short answer)         Or       Yes, I work at an English school. (Long answer)
  • No, I don’t. (short answer)      Or     No, I don’t work at English school. (Long answer)

If using a Question word (Who, What, Where, etc.) then Do is still before the subject.

What do you do?    When do you work?         Why do you think that?

Another sign is “How often” either in the question e.g. How often do you do sport or in the answer e.g. I walk past the gym every day.

We can look for time periods like everyday, on Mondays, every summer. We can also look for adverbs like often, always, sometimes which don’t really go with progressive tenses.

There are words which mean you do something by saying something. e.g. I promise, I apologise, I insist, I agree, I propose, I suggest etc. These words are for a one time action which is happening now, so logically it should be Present Progressive. But as you’ve probably realised by now, logic doesn’t get you too far with English.

How to know it’s Present Progressive

The way I think about it is “Is the action in progress?” It’s started but it hasn’t finished. I’m sitting in this chair. But if it’s something that’s still going on, even if it’s not happening now that still counts. E.g. I’m reading a book about English grammar at the moment. You can have a break from reading but it’s still there and you’ll (probably) go back to it.

Time periods like now, at the moment, this year, this summer, etc. are good indicators that it’s not a simple tense and therefore could be progressive. Can you think of any others?

If you want to talk about changes happening now, there are some words which usually go with Present Progressive. E.g. start, begin, rise, grow, become, fall, etc.

If you are talking about a temporary situation, you should be using the Present Progressive. I often hear “I am living in Berlin” from people who have spent their whole life here. This is not correct. If it’s a temporary situation like “I’m living in Berlin while I learn German” then that’s fine.

If someone plays computer games as normal hobby, then you would use Present Simple. If they are overdoing it you can say “You are always playing computer games!” This tells us that it’s just too much.

So what do you think? Is there a mistake that you know you sometimes make? Do you think English Grammar is difficult to learn? If you are looking for an English teacher in Berlin let me know!

Routine

“Routine is liberating, it makes you feel in control.”

― Carol Shields, The Republic of Love

Language learning is not something that can be picked up and put down if you want to make progress. You have to be using whatever English knowledge you have regularly. Whether it is reading tweets and watching Youtube or reading short stories and listening to audiobooks, if you are exposing yourself to the language frequently, you will improve quicker.

Routine doesn’t have to be negative and it doesn’t have to be boring. If the act of doing “something” becomes routine, then you will find yourself learning more.

Quote

Mistakes

 

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. – John Powell

Learning a language needs more than staring at grammar tables and memorising lists of words in books. The most effective language learners are those who aren’t afraid to make mistakes.

In fact the fear of making mistakes often causes more communication problems than actual errors. Trust your gut feeling and leave your brain out of it!