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Drinking Coffee, for Your Health

In college, when I worked part-time as a barista at a local coffee shop, I would often serve the same customers day in and day out. To the point that, before they’d even say anything, I would know what certain people wanted to order: large skim mocha, medium iced latté (light on the milk), black coffee to go, “with room.” Though they took it in different forms, the customers were all ultimately after caffeine.

A study released last Tuesday by an international consortium of caffeine scholars may help explain why some of these customers visited more often than others. Spearheaded by Marilyn Cornelis, a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, the team investigated the link between genetics and coffee consumption. By analyzing DNA as well as data on 120,000 adults of European and African-American heritage, the researchers identified eight genetic variants that predispose individuals to seek out and drink caffeine.

“Our results show that people are naturally consuming the amount of coffee that allows them to maintain their optimal level of caffeine” to get that good caffeine feeling without becoming jittery, Cornelis told me. “If we need more, we’re reaching for it.”

Six of ...

Data Is Driving STEM Recruitment

Last week, the Indian Treaty Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building became a showcase for the Office of Personnel Management’s initiative to attract the best talent in science, technology engineering and math to federal service.

This “Datapalooza” was part of a celebration of the incredible work Federal STEM employees do now, and it was also a look to the future as we work to fulfill the president’s vision of growing a diverse, engaged and talented STEM workforce for the future.

Team leaders at OPM have forged an amazing partnership with employees from across government and from the private sector. The idea was to find ways to use OPM’s valuable data to understand our current STEM workforce and to provide the tools and resources managers need to help them attract and recruit new STEM talent.

This work is so exciting and so important. Let me tell you about just a couple of the projects.

Ray Parr, OPM’s data guru in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, developed a heat map that shows where our STEM applicants are coming from. His map showed us that the four states contributing the most applicants for federal STEM jobs are ...

Bad Meetings Aren't Just Boring

Most meetings don’t manage to accomplish much more than serving as a lengthy update on what people are up to—and as an interruption to their work. According to Nest CEO Tony Fadell, such meetings also come at a substantial cost. He put a very high dollar value on it at a Fast Company conference:

The number seems very high, and might be exaggerated to illustrate a point. But given that the average salary for engineers in the Silicon Valley area can exceed $100,000 and climbs significantly higher with experience—and that Google can afford to pay particularly well—Fadell might not be that far off.

It’s not just the hour or so spent in the meeting itself, and the impact on each team member’s lost productivity: there’s also all of the prep time leading up to the meeting. Frequently, much of that time goes to waste, catching up people that didn’t prepare very well. People who aren’t even at the meeting ...

Let’s Give Federal Leaders the Digital Toolkit They Need

Data analytics, content marketing (blogging, video, white papers, etc.), social media engagement and tracking, and many other buzzwords are the keys to successful marketing in the private sector. The capabilities associated with these terms are increasingly the lifeblood of the way companies communicate with their customers. Government needs to do more to participate in the content revolution.

Most federal leaders are operating with one if not two hands tied behind their backs. Many lack access to analytics. Many federal leaders have little control of what goes on their agency website. Even if they do produce blogs and other content, long approval chains prevent many from getting content up in a timely way. In order for government managers to lead in the 21st century, we need to provide them with a better digital toolkit.

Here are just a few of the things federal leaders need to communicate effectively in the modern world:

Ability to engage on social media. Many agencies still prevent their employees from even accessing social media sites at work much less allow them to engage in conversations there. Agencies need to push that conversation down to lower levels in the organization. Social media is where the citizens and ...

7 Ways to Succeed at Something You Know Nothing About

I often find myself landing jobs and opportunities for which I am not entirely qualified, based solely on experience. I don’t lie on my résumé, or claim to have experience I don’t, but I’m constantly being offered opportunities that sometimes have me thinking, “Who, me? Are you sure?”

I then promptly bust my ass and do a great job, but it’s usually not because I’ve had prior experience to justify it. I’ve done this my entire life, not really thinking much of it, until friends and family will undoubtedly ask, “How did you DO that?!”

I always laugh and say, “I have no idea, just luck, I guess.” But, it’s not luck; it’s not an accident, and I’m no more talented or intelligent than the next person.

I just do things when I want to do them, regardless of the size of the risk involved or if I have prior experience in the area. And you can, too—here’s how:

Start before you are ready. Spoiler alert: You’ll never be ready. If you’re waiting for the day you’re ready, you’ll be waiting forever. If the ...