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Start-ups run, corporations want days off

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How do you get people at the same organisation to get together and enjoy each other’s company. This is an age old question that all employers have wanted to answer, both because everybody naturally wants to foster a great spirit between co-workers, but also because it may pay off as a stronger commitment to the company, ultimately resulting in better overall results.

There are tonnes of different kinds of perks that companies offer their employees, and it seems like the perception of the different types vary from person to person. Would you rather that your employer sponsored a company trip, offered free massages, or would you rather have those expenses distributed as a cash bonus?

Startup vs. big corporations
It can be very difficult to determine as an employer, but obviously it also depends on the general corporate culture that you have, or you are trying to foster. To generalise, startup companies may have a (younger) staff that is more passionate about the company and the vision, and may work overtime simply because they care more. Here, perks that bring together people may provide more value, since people spend more time at the office, and the cold numbers on the pay check may matter less. Free beer on Fridays, or the mandatory ping pong table, anyone?

On the contrary, larger corporations with more senior staff may benefit from rewarding their staff with cash bonuses or flexible hours, perhaps because their employees to a larger degree have families and wish to be able to spend their free time there with additional opportunities to take days off, go in vacation paid via a bonus etc.

To repeat myself – I am generalising.

We just started with a couple of runs after work…
What we did at the company where I’m spending all my time, Graduateland, was to encourage our dear colleagues to join different organised runs. It all started during the spring of this year where some of us started to run together after a hard day’s work. Soon more joined, and we decided to participate in an upcoming half marathon in Copenhagen. Anybody who wanted to join would have their ticket paid for by the company, and we quickly organised the design and printing of company running t-shirts. 984033_721568151228134_6234580165882634764_n

Graduateland – The Usain Bolt of university recruitment

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Runners from all departments and 4 different countries
Ultimately we were 8 who joined out of 20 employees who decided to run. And that was a very heterogeneous group, consisting of both company founders, sales reps, our university managers, and coders, from Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Ukraine. That’s a pretty good ration of half marathon runners at a company that makes software!

The fact that everybody finished the race is not the point, though I think it is highly impressive. For most of us it was the first run of that distance. I was personally really happy that they simply thought it was fun to spend their time running.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 21.48.13The following months some of us have upped the distance, and we had one participating in the Copenhagen Marathon,1466105_10152207729819285_734447760699022656_n and two running the Stockholm Marathon. Again, for two of us it was the first time we ran marathons.

More efficient than beer
The obvious positive effects of getting into marathon shape are quickly realised, however it has been so much fun finishing all these work days with running trip across the Copenhagen area, in sun, wind, and rain. One way to get to know people is to get drunk with them – another is to go for a run together.

I think it has been a tremendously great initiative and I’m so pleased that so many of our guys and girls wanted to take part. Looking forward to the next challenge!

Patrick

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Posted by on 11 June, 2014 in Random

 

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Long-Distance Relationships: The Art of (Im)Possible

August 2011. A true break-up “Big Bang”. Five spoonfuls of tears, three cups of despair and a hysteria icing. Not a particularly enjoyable sight, if you ask me. The reason for this explosion was neither unfaithfulness nor lies: The sole reason for this tragedy in one act was the fear of a long-distance relationship that “um, y’ know, can never work“. All close friends of both devastated protagonists could look forward to a great time. Absolutely not.

Do not get me wrong. Break-ups are probably a good idea if the relationship is stuck in a rut and the partners cannot be bothered to change it. However, going to college in a foreign country is something completely different: If you try hard, it can even prove to be more enjoyable than the “normal stereotype” when, say, you live in the same city.

Of course. By no means do I mean to say that being in a long-distance relationship is easy. It surely means a lot of lonely nights, a slight Skype addiction and – in some cases – perhaps even temptation one needs to resist. You can see it as a challenge: either it will kill the relationship right away (proving that it had never been a particularly strong relationship anyway), or it will strengthen it. That which does not kill us

To put it differently: If you both truly care and are willing to dedicate time to sustaining the relationship, to sacrifice some comfort, subdue your passions and trust each other entirely, then your relationship does stand a chance. Your reunions may become less frequent, yet much merrier as you will learn a) to cherish every second that you were given and b) to live your life with your significant other to the fullest.

The issue of long-distance relationships is, as I have already hinted above, extremely relevant for university students. Chances are you have already met someone special at high school, but you were accepted to different colleges. In that case you are facing two options: The Bing Bang break-up, or “the Skype approach”. Let me tell you two stories concerning these two choices – and you make your pick.

Story number one: My college classmate Lyn* was in a relationship for 4 years. Then she received an offer from a Dutch university and suddenly, she and her love would had been more than 700 km apart. They rather broke up and stopped calling (and writing to) each other. Once she arrived here, she fell head over heels in love with another guy, Adrian*. They hit it off right away. In three weeks Lyn woke up to reality she didn´t really enjoy: Her “sweetheart” was not only leading a rather incompatible life with hers, but did not see any merit in concepts such as “secrets” or “faithfulness”. To cut a long story short, she broke up with him and ended up at the school psychologist´s office. Two weeks ago she told me she was dropping out of the programme and going back home. And don´t get me started on the venereal disease she contracted…

Story number two: My former debate team-mate and a great friend of mine, Martin*, has been in (happy) a long-distance relationship (the same one) for more than three years now. Despite there being 12 timezones separating him and his girlfriend Elisabeth*, this couple manages to keep their relationship alive and enjoy every second of it. Both excel at what they study and are on their way to pursue a Master. This time, however, in the same city.

At the end of the day, I believe it is trust that counts: Without it, you are never going to make it. But if you really love each other and the relationship is based on more than just sex, than no distance is a true obstacle. You can have your love grow like a flower (or a banana..or bigotry? – video 2:03) or cut off any connection and pray for Time to heal your wounds…

PS: Edited by my boyfriend. Via e-mail.

* Names were changed.

 
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Posted by on 6 December, 2011 in Random

 

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The Importance of Being…”peer pressured”

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a “good“ university is a good place to be. Demanding courses, interesting extracurricular activities, an honours programme and strict, yet enthusiastic professors who know what they are talking about. You´d be forgiven for thinking that “this is enough“; this alone does not make a university “good“ and does not guarantee that you will truly learn something.

Why? Consider one extra element, in 100% of cases neglected in the Top university rankings: Peer pressure. – Who are the people around you? How motivated are they to study? What do they do in their free time? Why have they chosen this course?

If you say that such concerns are immaterial, you are wrong. Let´s face it: Students are social animals (even mathematicians feel the human need to communicate with others, right?), so they care very much indeed about their peers and do their best to “belong“. Suddenly not partying can become a less free choice than it at first seemed.

Since we all are pretty familiar with the drawbacks of peer pressure (do not pretend that you haven´t heard countless warnings from your parents concerning youth gangs, free sex, drugs, alcohol and rock´n´roll), let´s look at the benefits of peer pressure: How can it help you challenge yourself?

First and foremost, your classmates are your drive to be active at the university. If they ask thought-provoking questions, always do their homework and even have an interesting job, it is natural for you to (sometimes unconsciously) to do the same. You study together, work on extra projects on conduct your own research in small groups and hence “go deeper“. Better grades (and thus better career prospects) almost surely follow.

Second, motivated people keep you going. If you are struggling, feel desperate before your midterms or simply are deterred by an assignment, ambitious peers can do miracles. Not only that they can help you with the given problem, but also their positive energy nudges you not to give up. Besides, just knowing that “it can be done“ helps a lot.

Third, high-flying classmates will give you invaluable tips: How to solve exercise 12.31, why is it a bad idea to work for the XYZ company and what did the professor say regarding the final exam at the tutorial you were unable to (did not bother to) attend.

Believe it or not, all these “little“ things make a huge difference. If the “norm“ is to bury yourself in the books and work like a dog for three (four, two – depends on the degree) years straight, you are likely to do so. However, if it is “normal“ to get terribly wasted every Thursday evening, always come late for lectures and not to make any notes, then even the best professor in the world cannot do much to make you successful.

At the end of the day, if you want to get the most of your education, make sure that you are always under the “good“ peer pressure; otherwise you would be rather “peer depressured“ to work – which could make you very (peer) depressed at the end.

 
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Posted by on 4 October, 2011 in Education

 

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Myth uncovered: The ultimate college conundrum

“Welcome to college. Good grades, social life, enough sleep. Pick two.“ An urban legend that is spreading like wildfire among college freshmen and haunting them at night. If only they noticed the sophomores´ chuckles as they plan the next party, if only they knew that all the three pieces of a college puzzle can go together.

At first college may seem rather like Mission: Impossible due to many factors such as new responsibilities, a huge amount of workload, a (seemingly) illogical schedule or a statistics professor who apparently does not speak any human language. Being stressed and insomniac becomes acceptable,sleeping less and having all exercises done becomes even a matter of personal prestige and social status. “You can sleep when you are dead” is always a handy condescending response.

Fortunately, just as Mr. Stein might put it: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.“ This might sound trivial, yet it usually takes many weeks until the freshmen realize the underlying wisdom that they can sometimes have their cake and eat it too. Before they do, their (cirrhotic) livers stand a chance of regeneration.

Since time just flies (especially before the first mid-term exams), basic human needs slowly induce the students to learn to plan their studies as well as fit a late-night party and afternoon sleep between two lectures and one tutorial. What as first looked like defying laws of physics (provided that you did not have Hermione´s time-turner) became sweet college reality.

As a matter of fact, successful students who do “have a life” need to stick to only three simple rules:

1. No Facebook*. At least not before exams or homework deadlines. Right?

2.  Sadly, lectures are not a good substitute for a good night´s sleep. Correct, not even History of philosophy, no matter how boring it may be. Having good notes saves valuable time when cramming (let´s face it, nobody studies much in advance) for an exam.

3. If housework takes up a large percentage of your free time, you are probably doing something wrong. Quick tips:

  • Do not iron everything. Your mother won´t check.
  • Delegate work. (Which might be problematic if you live on your own.)
  • Multitask (even if you are male). Sweep the floor while cooking – or simply do not sit in front of a washing machine… (video – 6:30)
  • Don´t be a perfectionist. It eats up time and the (visible) benefit is close to zero.

Your professor who – for the millionth time – moans “It´s the graphs, stupid!“ actually has a point: It´s the planning, procrastinator!

*Applies to Twitter, gaming sites or anything else which is irrelevant for the studies. Which means that this rule does not apply – for example – for this video (if you study economics):

 
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Posted by on 2 September, 2011 in Random

 

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