Thursday, March 26, 2020

Help for Employers and Employees Affected by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is having significant impacts on companies and employees throughout the US.  If you are dealing with this right now, there is help for employers and employees. 

State and federal governments are stepping up to the plate to assist businesses and employees facing financial difficulties in light of COVID-19.  Here are some links to helpful information:

For Employees:

California’s Employment Development Department has posted information on how to apply for online unemployment benefits and tips for securing such benefits due to a child’s school closure or other COVID-19 issue:

Here is the link:  https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm.

For Employers:  

President Trump just signed the Families First Corona Virus Relief Act.  The Act provides paid emergency sick leave for employees out of work due to the virus.  It entitles businesses to seek full reimbursement for such payments.  Here are helpful links on the paid emergency leave program:

From the Department of Labor:  https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions.

From the IRS:  https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/treasury-irs-and-labor-announce-plan-to-implement-coronavirus-related-paid-leave-for-workers-and-tax-credits-for-small-and-midsize-businesses-to-swiftly-recover-the-cost-of-providing-coronavirus 

Special thanks go to Barbara Cotter, Partner at Cook Brown LLP law firm for keeping us up to date.  As Cook Brown says, "Let's Keep the Workplace Working"
www.cookbrown.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Now is a Perfect Time To Polish Your Video Interviewing Skills

With businesses around the world grinding to a halt due to Covid-19, things are quite uncertain for all of us.  Many of us are suddenly laid off, working from home or dealing with the specter of the virus affecting us and our loved ones.  With many of us sheltering in place, we are experiencing personal and professional disruptions and upheaval.  The recruiting business has definitely been affected by this shut down.  I'm seeing positions getting filled with start dates several weeks off, people putting off their job search to care for their families, and new positions being put on hold for the short term.

But many positions are essential, and require people to continue along the recruitment process. Companies have terminated any non-essential business travel and many are not having people come in for interviews.  If positions need to get filled but you can't interview in person, this is time to perfect your video interviewing skills.

Video conferencing has come a long way in the last few years.  Colleges in California are now planning to offer all of their next classes via ZoomGoogle Classroom, or other video platforms.  Many clients use Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or FaceTime to do video interviews.  Here are some pointers to be ready to sign on to the video interview and be camera ready.

Get the video conferencing application:  When scheduling your video interview, find out what platform the interview is going to be using and download that application onto your computer, tablet or smart phone.

Determine the right tool to use:  Think about which device is the best one to use for an interview.  If your desktop computer is located in a busy kitchen, you may not have the privacy you need during the interview.  If you are going to use your phone or tablet for the interview, prop it up somewhere that gives you good light and privacy.  Don't plan to just holding your phone up for 30 minutes or more.  As you grow fatigued, you'll drop the phone down, not thinking about it.

Check your set-up:  Before you start your interview, do a dry run with a friend.  Try to have him call you through the video interview application, and critique your audio volume, your visual presentation and possibly your interview outfit!

Minimize distractions:  When you are gearing up for your video, get yourself in a quiet spot without distractions.  Your friendly feline may just try to steal the show by jumping in front of the camera.  She may have to be put in your laundry room for this call.  That puppy dog may just have to be outside your room during the call.  Put your phone on Do Not Disturb and possibly turn off any alerts that may pop up on your device.   If you are working from home with family there with you, alert them to your impending video interview, ask for their help in minimizing distractions, and if at all possible, lock the door to your interview spot.  I go even further, and post a sign that I'm on a video interview and to not disturb.

Ready for your close-up:  Now you need to think about what the camera will see during the interview.  Dress for an interview.  Remember that simplicity often is the best plan for your outfit.  A simple blazer or button down shirt almost always projects the image you want for a professional interview.  Note:  Avoid prints, including stripes.  On video interviews the visual elements may not be as sharp as they are in person.  Prints, especially optic prints can read really poorly on a video interview.  Small pinstripes on a shirt or blouse can do the same thing.  They can attract the eye of your interviewer, and distract them during the interview.  Keep it simple.  Simple business clothes, minimal accessories, good grooming and a welcoming smile can be all you need.

Pay attention to your surroundings:  When you prep for your video interview, look at what the camera will capture in your interview.  If you can tidy up your background, do it.  If you can switch your camera's location to something that has a very subtle background, do it.  Also look at the camera angle.  If you have your computer set up to shoot up, is the camera going to be focusing on that lazily turning ceiling fan?  Is it going to be shooting straight up your nostrils?  If the angle is bad, fix it.

Lighting:  To put your best face forward, have some light on besides just the glow of your device.  Having a small lamp directly next to your device that casts warm light on your face is helpful.  While it is nice to have a ray of sunshine brighten your day, it can wreak havoc if it hits the camera or casts strange patterns on you or your surroundings.  Keep that in mind when planning your call, and remember sunlight shifts during the day.  You may want to see how the light is at your interview spot before you have the call.

Have what you need within reach:  This is an interview.  Have your resume, the job description and anything else that would be helpful at your interview spot in advance of the call.  For me, seasonal allergies are kicking in right now, causing my throat to dry out.  This is the worst thing to have happen during a video call.  Having water, coffee, tea, etc. at the ready, as well as a cough lozenge is a must have for me.  A box of tissues can also be good in case you need to sneeze (or if sweat is beading up on your brow due to interview nerves).



Be ready:  Once you have gotten yourself ready for the call, be ready to start the interview at the time scheduled.  Don't be late.  Be at your interview spot 10-15 minutes early.  Just think of all the time you saved by not having to travel to the interview.

Technical difficulties happen:  This may be the first time your interviewer is trying a video interview.  Understand if things take longer to get started, if there are interruptions, or if you need to reschedule the call.  If all else fails, often video interviews revert to phone interviews to make the best use of your time together.  Roll with the punches, and be understanding that everyone is trying their best in this situation.

Don't forget you are on camera:  When you are normally sitting in front of your computer, you may gaze around the screen, click on notifications, close screens, etc.  When you are on a video interview, it is very easy to forget that you are on camera.  You may start scratching your head, rolling your eyes or get a glazed look on your face.  Don't do this!  You need to remember you are conducting an interview, and make sure you stay engaged during it.

End the call:  With video interviews, you don't have the same social cues that you'd have if it was in-person.  Your interviewer won't reach out to shake your hand or touch your elbow.  Your interviewer probably won't stand up to leave the interview room.  The interviewer should signal that the interview is concluded, and then disconnect the video call.  This time can be a bit awkward, but just sit still and let the video disconnect.  Then as a safety measure, I put a cover on my camera and avoid saying anything until I'm sure the call is over.

And for some levity, here's a cute meme I saw yesterday

Image result for dog video zoom meeting image

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Home Office Survival Guidelines

Yesterday I needed to cancel my nonessential travel plans, and called the hotel.  While I was waiting
to be transferred to a reservation agent, there was a message that said, "If you hear a pet or young child in the background, please understand.  Our reservationists are currently working from home."  This made me smile, and wished I could have used that on my voicemail for the last 15 years.  As WineTalent comes on our 16th year in business, our headquarters have always been a home office, and my colleagues work from their home offices.  It has been a great commute for me for years, but for anyone new to remote work, here are some pointers on how to create a productive home office environment.

Location, Location, Location:  Find a spot that allows you to focus on your work and minimizes distractions.  15 years ago, that location was a tiny pull-out computer cart in the corner of my living room.  This was a shared computer with my sons.  After rushing them off to school, I'd come back, clean the sugary fingerprints off of the keyboard and mouse, grab my coffee and focus on work until they came rushing back in after school.  Focusing for 6 hours allowed me to get projects done, important calls returned and my day prepped for tomorrow.  After things quieted down I'd finish up my day and turn the computer over to the kids for homework and games. 

With a growing family, we put an addition on the house.  During construction my office was a former laundry room as well as anywhere I could use my laptop and phone.  My office now is in a corner of a room upstairs, with doors that lock.  And I have a "do not disturb" sign I can hang on my doorknob when I'm in a video or conference call.  Pretty close to everything I need. 

Avoid Distractions:  Before I sat down to write this, I kicked my daughter and husband out of my office.  With school out, home schooling is in.  But not in my office. 
Next I put my earbuds in and put the background music on.  Spotify is my go-to app once I get to work.  I turn on something that is interesting but not distracting, and the music pauses when the phone calls come in.  And I can't hear anything going outside of my office--perfect!  My family knows when I'm at my desk I'm there to work.  But they've gotten used to this.  For anyone just starting out, set ground rules with those around you if you have to.  If I'm on the phone, my family knows not to interrupt me, and always checks to see before barging into my office screaming.  The code that I can't be distracted is that my office door is locked.  If they come in, and I put my hand up, index finger up, they know that they can't interrupt me now.  Lots of notes get written and shoved in my face if it is urgent, but normally they know I'll get back to them when the call is done.  Normally!

Set Office Hours:  WineTalent's my business, so I set the rules.  I have put some rules in place for myself to stick to, which helps me maintain regular hours for my clients.  I start work at 9 am everyday, and wrap up around 6 pm.  I make calls and schedule things during those hours, especially during my prime focus hours of 4-6 pm.  If you are working remotely, it might help you to look at times you can commit to working, distraction free.  Perhaps you and your spouse now find yourself working from home with young kids home too.  Tag team as best you can.  Maybe you work an early shift and switch off during the day to care for the kids, then wrap up work so your spouse can work a late shift from home.  Of course, if you have set hours, do your best to keep the kids engaged while being able to meet the demands of your job.  During these tumultuous times most people are going to understand if there are a few hiccups. 

Roll with the Punches:  Did your child just walk in stark naked during your video conference call?  Did the dog just start barking at the mailman while you were pitching your idea to your boss?  Believe me, it happens to all of us.  Do your best to appear professional while also working in a new situation, in a time of uncertainty.  You being active and staying on top of your work shows you are a professional.  Keep it up.

Some Small Lifesavers:  I've learned that these items are indispensable when working from home:

  • A lock on the office door.
  • A "Do Not Disturb" sign to put on your door.
  • The mute button on your phone.   No one knows you are employing it and if you are on a conference call you'll avoid having the whole team know your spouse is screaming about the chaos ensuing in the family room
  • A Post-It note to cover your camera when it isn't needed.  If you are just getting geared up for a video interview or conference, make sure you have your camera covered until you are ready.  Maybe mute your microphone too until you are camera ready.  And I always cover my camera when I'm not using it.  
  • Headphones, earbuds and music to drown out the background noise.
  • Shared Calendars:  If you and your partner both work from home, use a joint calendar app to assign tasks to each other and to block out time that you require for work.  
  • A sense of humor.  When my kindergartener walked into my office in her swimsuit, asking where her goggles were, my video interviewer was quite surprised.  Luckily he was a life-long swimmer and could commiserate.   He knew how important it was to get ready for practice.  
Enjoy working from home. You may never want to go back to the office!

Want more ideas?  Here are some great articles I read recently: 





Monday, March 9, 2020

WineTalent Classifieds: Staff Accountant in Saint Helena, CA

WineTalent is working with our client, Long Meadow Ranch, to find a Staff Accountant to join the finance team.

About the Company:  Long Meadow Ranch is a family­ owned and operated producer and purveyor of world­ class wine and food that is economically successful and socially responsible using diversified, sustainable, and organic farming methods.

The Long Meadow Ranch operations also include an acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant, a general store and wine tasting bar in the historic Logan-Ives House, an outdoor cafe, a farmer's market, a working garden and a variety of unique event spaces all located at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch.

About the Opportunity:  Long Meadow Ranch has a unique opportunity for a Staff Accountant to join our Finance team to provide quality service to our winery management team, farm production team, and other business partners. Reporting to the Controller, the Staff Accountant will provide general accounting support, maintain financial reports, records, and general ledger for multiple affiliated entities. This position requires ethical conduct and thoroughness, along with critical thinking, attention to detail and time management.

Responsibilities
  • Facilitate and complete monthly close procedures
  • Prepare journal entries and perform analysis and reconciliation of general ledger accounts and merchant accounts
  • Support accounts payable where necessary, including invoice processing, coding and approvals
  • Provide additional support for corporate credit card processing and facilitating employee expense reimbursement as needed
  • Support Senior Staff Accountant with daily financial reporting
  • Support other critical accounting areas as needed, such as fixed assets and accounts receivable
  • Partner with sales team and order processing team to effectively manage accounts receivable
  • Forecast of future cash receipts from accounts receivable
  • Collaborate with Controller to ensure that the financial information is prepared in strict adherence with US GAAP, company policies and procedures and sound financial management practices

Education, Experience and Requirements
  • Minimum of 3 years of experience in general ledger accounting practices
  • Wine or consumer beverage product accounting experience preferred
  • Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, Finance, Business or a related discipline
  • Experience with NetSuite preferred
  • Proficient in MS Office with advanced MS Excel skills
  • Sharp attention to detail with good oral and written communication skills
  • Able to work in a team environment as well as operate independently
  • Able to lift 40+ lbs

Compensation and Benefits
  • This is a full-time, salaried position.
  • Competitive compensation depending on experience plus benefits including medical/dental insurance, paid vacation and 401(k).

About WineTalent: WineTalent is a wine industry focused recruitment company. We work closely with our clients and our job seekers to find the right fit of talents, experience and work environment. All inquiries will be kept strictly confidential.

WineTalent: The Right People for the Job

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Book Review: Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi


Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame OnwuachiJust finished up Notes From a Young Black Chef:  A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein.  I could barely put the book down--and can't wait to try the gumbo recipe on page 22. 

Kwame Onwuachi is a young, successful chef based in Washington D.C.  This book takes us through his life; from his youth growing up in the Bronx, NY, to being shipped off to live with his grandfather in Nigeria, back to his teen age years in New York City and then through his journey into the culinary world.

Kwame Onwuachi is a charismatic young man.  He has gained celebrity with his time on the 13th season of Top Chef and then when he opened up his restaurant Shaw Bijou in Washington D.C.  After a mighty fall when Shaw Bijou only stayed open for 3 months, he was asked to open the restaurant at the new InterContinental Hotel in D.C.'s Southwest Waterfront district.  This restaurant, Kith and Kin, has become a standout culinary destination.  Food & Wine magazine named Kwame a Best New Chef in 2019 and that year he also was named Rising Star Chef of the Year by the James Beard Awards.

These accolades and the success he has found was not unearned.  This memoir details Kwame's upbringing, his young adulthood and his early successes in the culinary world.  Kwame also describes his wonderful relationship with his mother who was a great cook.  After some missteps (gang violence, school expulsions and drug dealing), Kwame dedicated himself to cooking.  His first real foray into cooking was as a cook off the coast of Louisiana on a ship cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  This first real commitment to cooking quickly showed Kwame how good of a cook he was.  This led him back to New York City, into his own catering business and then into the Culinary Institute of America.  Afterwards, Kwame went on to work at Per Se and Eleven Madison Park before opening up his own restaurants.

This memoir describes the struggles Kwame went through--both as a child and as a young man--to find a place in this world.  He talks about his troubled relationship with his father.  He discusses his choices in his education.  Kwame also shows how hard he worked, how hard he wanted to get ahead, and how he dealt with adversity.  He doesn't always put a beautiful filter on his history, which makes me appreciate his candor even more. 

Kwame is also a die-hard entrepreneur.  From selling Hurricanes at college to make a buck, to selling candy on the New York Subway to start his catering business, he was always hustling.  And he was good at it.

Kwame's memoir is a great read.  The story is so good it is being turned into a movie with Lakeith Stanfield starring as Kwame.  Can't wait to see it. 

To hear Kwame's interview with Dan Pashman of Sporkful, click here for Part 1, and here for Part 2.  This is where I first learned about Kwame.  And you can hear a lot of other great "eater" stories from Dan--totally worth listening too.  Although I disagree with Dan about how to correctly eat a piece of pizza.  But that's for another blog post......

Friday, March 6, 2020

LinkedIn Workforce Report: Women Advance in Winemaking Careers

Take a look at this article by George Anders on LinkedIn about careers where women are advancing.  Many of the top 20 careers where women are getting ahead are in STEM.  Winemaking came in at number 18. 


Fields can open up to women for more positive reasons, though, including standout successes by early female entrants. Amy Gardner, president of WineTalent, a wine-industry search firm, takes note of the way female winemakers Heidi Barrett and Celia Welch won worldwide acclaim for their work, starting in the 1990s. 

“They had to fight hard to be recognized for what they do,” Gardner says. But with successes like Barrett’s ability to repeatedly win perfect 100 scores from wine critic Robert Parker, Gardner says, the wineries that she works with have become “very receptive to female winemakers.” 

Megan Brodie has seen this transformation play out in the past decade. When she studied winemaking at the University of California, Davis, “I don’t think I met a single other female in my first two years of classes,” Brodie recalls. But by the time she graduated, Brodie says, the gender ratio “was close to 50/50.” 

“I still get some people who visit us at Karah Estate Vineyard, start a conversation and then ask if they can meet with the winemaker,” Brodie says. “I tell them: ‘You’ve been talking with her for half an hour.’ But most people are excited to realize that a woman can be the winemaker.” 

Happy to see winemaking is gender inclusive!