4 Business Trends We’ll See in 2017

Wondering what's in store for businesses in 2017?  We’ve got the answer right here!  After sorting through expert opinions, we’ve identified 4 of the top business trends forecasted for the coming year:

  1. Greater Number of Green Products.  Millennials—those between the ages of 17 and 34—have significant buying power.  They also tend to care about the environment and make an effort to choose socially conscious brands.  Because buying green is important to them, we can expect to see more and more companies trying to reach this demographic with environmentally-friendly products.

  2. Increased Use of Email Marketing.  As if you don't have enough in your inbox, right?  Email marketing is here to stay and you can expect companies to take full advantage of it in the new year.  Marketers like email marketing, because it's cheap—in fact, 68% of companies view email marketing as offering a good or excellent return on investment (ROI).

  3. Mobile-Centric Focus.  With more people using mobile phones than desktops, you can expect companies to develop a more mobile-centric focus.  Not only will websites be designed to be easily viewed by mobile devices, but companies will also create more mobile apps and accept mobile payments, if they aren't doing so already.

  4. Growth of the Remote Workforce.  Workers are demanding more flexibility, and companies are listening.  In 1995, only 9% of workers telecommuted; today that number is 37%.  Why are companies moving in this direction?  For one thing, millennials comprise a larger percentage of the workforce, and this demographic views telecommuting as very important—according to one survey, 85% of millennials want to telecommute 100% of the time.  Companies are also discovering that telecommuting makes good business sense—it increases employee morale, improves overall productivity, and decreases job attrition.  For all of these reasons, you can expect a greater number of companies to allow their employees to telecommute in 2017. 

The Biggest Social Media Fails of 2016

At the end of the year, we always enjoy taking a look back at some of the biggest social media mistakes we’ve seen.  Behold our roundup of some of the biggest fails in 2016:

  1. Coca-Cola’s Russian Blunder…International corporations have to be especially careful with their posts and tweets.  Take, for example, Coca-Cola’s recent experience.  The company posted a Christmas card that displayed a map of Russia.  However, many Russians found the map highly offensive, because it excluded the Kaliningrad region, Crimea, and the Kuril Islands.  When Coke attempted to correct the error—by sending out an updated map—the Ukrainians were offended because Crimea was now represented as Russian territory.  The outcry was so large that within hours, the Twitter hashtag #BanCocaCola was trending.  Ultimately, Coca-Cola apologized and removed the map.

  2. A Texas Mattress Company Makes Light of 9/11.  On 9/11, Miracle Mattress posted a Facebook video advertising a “Twin Towers” sale.  In the video, store employees are shown screaming and falling backward onto mattresses, representing the fallen North and South Towers.  Why the store manager thought this would be a successful marketing tool is anyone’s guess.  Later, the owner of Miracle Mattress apologized and said that going forward, any new marketing promotions would be subjected to a stringent approval process.    

5 Strategies for Simplifying Your Holidays

Now that the holiday season is upon us, it's not uncommon for people to find themselves feeling more overwhelmed than merry.  Fortunately, there's an app for that.  We're kidding, but we do have some tips to help you have a more relaxed December than you're probably used to:

  1. Prepare.  Organization is key to the Zen outlook you're trying to develop.  Rather than putting things off until the last minute, make a list of those tasks that must be done and schedule a time to tackle them on your calendar.  By writing them down and planning when you'll do them, you'll avoid any last minute, stress-inducing errands.

  2. Budget.  One thing that creates a lot of anxiety for people is the amount of money they spend on holiday shopping.  Instead of buying gifts haphazardly, create a budget which details who you need to shop for and how much you intend to spend per person.  Then, stick to it!

  3. Say No.  During the holiday season, we're often bombarded with requests for our time and money.  Rather than feeling like you have to say yes to every request you receive, get comfortable with saying no.  By doing so, you'll prevent yourself from feeling overextended.

  4. Enlist Help.  If you have the means to do so, feel free to enlist others help.  For instance, you might ask your children to wrap gifts, select a card website to mail holiday cards for you, or enlist your local bakery to prepare goodies for the potluck you're attending.

  5. Plan Some Enjoyable Holiday Activities.  If you've ever thought to yourself, “I can't believe the holidays are over—I was so busy that I never had the time to enjoy them!” this strategy is for you.  Think about some winter activities that you really enjoy and then, put them on your calendar.  These could be things as simple as: going sledding, seeing The Nutcracker, taking a holiday drive to look at Christmas lights, or planning a family night to watch holiday movies.  Fun activities like these will help you to destress when you're feeling like Ebenezer Scrooge.

SQL - Structured Query Language

Before we start talking about SQL, we first need to define some basic concepts related to relational databases.  One of these concepts is a relation - a relation is analogous to an entity type from the entity-relationship model.  Later, we will also see that in fact, a relation is one table in a database.  Similarly, a relational schema is a collection of relations, and represents the entire database.  The reason we are mentioning this is the fact that the entire concept of relational databases has a mathematical foundation.  All of the operations we will be performing on tables (relations) are based on a special field of mathematics called relational algebra.  We will not focus on the mathematics in this series, but it is important to know what a relation is and understand that every operation is strictly defined.  From this point on, we will be using the terms table and relation synonymously, for the sake of simplicity.

SQL (Structured Query Language) is a powerful, high-level declarative language created for working with relational databases.  The first commercial implementation of SQL was created by Oracle (then called Relational Software, Inc.) in 1979.  The language quickly became popular, and thanks to many implementations, constant development and numerous upgrades, the specification of SQL (standardized by ANSI) became too complex for practical purposes.  This is why today, the SQL standard demands that database management system (DBMS) manufacturers declare the level of conformance with the standard.  The minimal level of conformance required is called SQL core conformance, but unfortunately, due to various reasons, even the most significant DBMSs do not meet these requirements.  Still, standardization did enable a high level of portability between systems with different DBMSs.

Basic SQL Data Types

SQL has the following basic, predefined data types: numeric types, character strings, date/time types, and logical type.
Numeric types can be divided into two groups - exact and approximate.  Examples of exact numerical types in SQL are:

  • smallint - an integer data type whose domain depends on the implementation.  Most commonly the number of bits used for representing this type is 16.  SQL only specifies that the precision of smallint is less than the precision of int.
  • int - similarly to smallint, this data type is usually represented with 16 bits.
  • bigint - similarly to the above, this data type is usually represented with 19 bits.
  • numeric(p,s) - a numeric data type for representation of decimal numbers. p signifies the total number of digits, and s signifies the number of digits after the decimal point.  For example, if data is specified as numeric(4,2), it can contain the value of 15.99.
Approximate data types are:
  • real/double precision
  • float(n) - an approximate numeric type with a binary precision of at least n binary digits.
Character strings are fixed or variable size data types which contain char arrays.  Examples are:
  • char(n) - specifying a fixed size character array. If n is left out, the default size is 1.  If the string contains less than n elements, the remaining places are filled with white spaces.  Constant char arrays are specified by single quotes, for example, 'myTestString'.
  • varchar(n) - specifying a variable size character array - the length can range from 0 to n characters.
Date/Time data types are used to define data related to calendar dates, timestamps or time intervals.  Date/time data types are:
  • date - contains day, month and year in the following format: DD-MM-YYYY.  Constant values can be specified using the date keyword, like date'28-06-2015'.
  • time - similarly, time is formatted like HH-MM-SS, and the time keyword is also available.
  • timestamp - combines the date and time.  Constant calues can be specified using the timestamp keyword like this: timestamp'28-06-2015 13:22:05'.

The logical (boolean) type has the standard values of true and false.

You can see that these types are quite similar to those often found in "regular" programming languages.  In the next couple of articles we are going to continue learning about SQL, create domains, relations, restrictions and CRUD operations.  After we have done all that, we should be able to write complex SQL triggers and stored procedures, which can be a powerful tool for managing a relational database.

5 Tips for Shy People on Acing that Next Job Interview

While most people don't look forward to job interviews, they can be especially concerning for introverts and shy people.  However, there are strategies to help you put your best foot forward when selling yourself in an interview.  Read on to learn how you can impress your next interviewer:

  1. Prepare.  Preparation is one of the best ways to feel more confident about your upcoming interview.  Think of the questions that you're likely to be asked and then, rehearse your responses in advance.  Doing so will help you feel more at ease when the interview occurs.

  2. Bring Props.  Visuals that show your accomplishments are always a great idea, and they can be particularly helpful for people who are less comfortable selling themselves.  If you have charts, graphs, or letters of praise, bring them along.  It's also a good idea to write down your 10 greatest professional accomplishments and carry them in a notebook for reference during the interview.

  3. Visualize Yourself Succeeding.  Research shows that visualization can be just as effective as actual practice.  With that in mind, we advise you to imagine a successful interview—that you're prepared, answer questions confidently, and have a great rapport with the interviewer.

  4. Fake It.  Just about everyone feels some degree of nervousness prior to a job interview, even people who are extroverts.  However, people who excel in interviews know that in spite of anxiety, they can “act as if” they are confident and use this mindset to genuinely perform well during the interview.

  5. Pay Attention to Body Language.  Sit up straight, maintain direct eye contact, avoid fussing with your hair or clothing, and remember to smile.  If you really want to wow your interviewer, mirror them.  That doesn't mean mimicking them exactly but waiting a brief period of time (30-50 seconds) before behaving similarly—for example, leaning forward if your interviewer does so.  Mirroring helps to form a connection.  That being said, practice this strategy in a low-pressure situation prior to incorporating it at your next interview.  You want to make sure you can do it naturally and still easily follow the flow of conversation.