Why immigration remains crucial to the economic development of America

file-20180628-117374-1tmdp17.jpg

America has always been painted as a land of opportunity, which is why there are so many people in the world scrambling for the opportunity to get a foot through the door. Some who have the financial stability to go through legal means apply for an EB-5 Visa, while others use the less conventional way of crossing the border through Mexico. However, after President Trump’s tightening of the border, it does seem as though America is becoming less “land of opportunity” and more of a “land of oppression”. 

A large percentage of immigrants find refuge in America to escape the poverty in their home countries. It is those very people who need financial and health assistance the most. However, with the new legislation passed by the current president, which will take away green card benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, or housing assistance. While this may seem like “justice” to some, it should also be noted that immigrants take up the jobs that nobody else wants to do in America and they pay taxes, same as everybody else. 

In 2015 alone TheStranger reports that, “undocumented immigrants alone paid at least $23.6 billion in income taxes, which funds social services that they cannot even use. We shouldn’t be deporting these people; we should be thanking them and giving them green cards”.

Claiming that “our country is full” is a short-sighted proclamation. One that would lead America into devastation. It is a relief that it seems the president is unable to truly stem the flow of immigrants making their way into the land of the free through the Mexican border which is almost 2000 miles long. Despite the president’s mounting frustrations, there is simply too many for border patrol to realistically control. Thousands of immigrants were forced to be released as many more take their space in holding areas. 

Immigrants are a vital part of the American economy and if you remove them all, you will be removing approximately 30% of the working force. This will bring unemployment rates to new levels, as America is already facing a shortage of workers who are interested in working back-breaking positions or fill up labourer roles. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office believes that it is immigrants which are making the country richer and without them, the country will shrink. He has advised Republican presidential candidates and now leads the conservative American Action Forum. 

With the falling birthrates, and Americans marrying later and later, the workforce is slowly diminishing. Currently, there are 7.3 million jobs that need to be filled across the nation and there are 6 million unemployed people, including the homeless and those that are unable to work. This gap will only continue to increase as the older generation workforce retires with no new workers to replace them. This is why immigrants are crucial to the economy, without them, the future of America is beginning to look quite bleak

Imagine a country that has a construction industry void of workers, who will you send for if you need repairs? What if you want to install that deck around your house? Who will be building homes for the next generation? This is what will happen if immigation is put to a complete stop and it will affect not just one industry, but many across the nation

Another contribution of immigrants to the economy is how they create a demand for more jobs. While many Americans have complained about the problem of immigrants “stealing their jobs”, the opposite is true. While immigrants are a competitive factor in the workforce, they also generate a demand that needs to be filled. More houses, more developments, groceries, childcare, etc. Furthermore, immigration offers cheap labour which means that more households are capable of affording drivers or domestic help which only the affluent were able to afford. This luxury or convenience would not be as accessible if immigration did not play such a big part in the American economy. 

At the end of the day, immigration in America is essentially a two way street. Not in the sense that there’s a back and forth flow of migration, but that where immigrants take up jobs, they create new demands as well. In allowing immigrants into the country, it helps it flourish in terms of economic value and injects more life into a dwindling population. Americans and their president should learn to see the bigger picture rather than focus on the “downsides” that immigration has brought to the country. While we cannot deny that there is a strain on the healthcare system and support system that America has in place for the millions of homeless and disabled in their country to support the immigrants that have come with empty pockets and sick children, we must also remember that these people are the hope for the future generation. They arrive in America with the potential for contributing, and they will build up the economy, one immigrant at a time. 

Caring for “Fur-Babies” in a thriving pet world

O4JVXPPNGJG5FAYKKUPLDI6BPE.jpg

BabelBark provides the world’s only digital platform connecting pet parents, veterinarians, pet businesses and shelters

More than any other generation in history, the Millennials are leaving a mark on everyone and everything that touches their lives. The one crucial point that distinguishes them from everyone else, is that they were the first generation to grow up with the Internet and the smartphone. As American business leader, Brad D. Smith, said, “This generation (Millennials) has grown up with computing in the palm of their hands. They are more socially and globally connected through mobile Internet than any prior generation. And they don’t question, they just learn.”

It is a trait that touches not just their professional lives, but also their most personal and human moments. When seeking answers to what matters to them most, in many cases, Millennials by having the facts at their fingertips, decide to postpone matrimony, choosing instead to have a pet to love, than get weighed down by the cost and hassle of marriage and family.  And so, according to recent survey by TD Ameritrade, Millennials comprise 35% of all pet owners, which amounts to being  the largest demographic segment owning pets in the U.S.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the pet care industry is booming, according to recent market research, currently thriving as a $225 billion business, with North American sales expected to reach $281 billion by 2023. Furthermore, many young people in the 20-36 age group, look upon their pets not just as loving creatures to come home to, but as “starter children,” to give them practice on handling their own kids in time to come. Mollie McGill and Patrick Sullivan, both in their late twenties, have a two-year old dog, and they have celebrated every milestone of her life, from birthdays to obedience class graduations. They said, ““We think that because we treat Cooper like she is a child, we’re inherently prepared for one. Most of the traits we’ve acquired over the last 18 months are those that parents develop as well. The research, the planning, the worrying, the borderline obsession with this living thing and the overwhelming amount of love you feel for them.”

Just like Mollie and Patrick, thousands of other pet parents agonize over their pets’ food, hygiene products and keeping them healthy. They rush from food store to veterinarian, wondering how to handle it all with the pressures of daily life.

It was no different for Roy Stein and Bill Rebozo, two software engineers who loved their dogs.

“We were planning an extended vacation, but we were so worried about leaving our dogs with sitters, “said Roy Stein, Founder and CEO of Babelbark.

Stein and Rebozo both had extensive experience in technology, product development and marketing. Wondering how to make use of their skills to resolve their problem, they decided to create an app called BabelBark to assist their dog sitters. This was in early 2015. The app was an immediate success and everyone who came to know it, loved it.  Stein and Rebozo knew they had a winning product, and decided to make available to the pet-caring world.

Envisioning a wider spread of focus for their app,  Stein and Rebozo worked on it diligently, and today, Babelbark is a pet-suite, the only horizontal digital platform in the world for the pet industry, allowing pet parents, veterinarians, pet businesses and shelters to come together on one platform to provide the best possible care for pets.

Stein and Rebozo say that Babelbark has over 650 pet businesses connected to over 200,000 pets, growing at a high rate independently. They are proud that the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has chosen Babelbark “as the exclusive vet-pet platform until December 2021, for 4400 clinics.”

The need of the app is apparent in the context of Millennials, with 67% of them considering their pet as part of the family, their “fur-babies”,   pampering them like their first-born babies.

According to Nielsen, a global, independent marketing research company, annual household spending on pet food among pet owners increased 36% between 2007 and 2017. With most pet parents opting for expensive food for their pets, a wave of new premium pet foods and “human-grade” snacks for pets have entered the market. These products use high-end ingredients, and there are gluten-free food for pets in the array.

Recent surveys find that Millennials are willing to spend an average of $2000 for their pet’s medical care, with one in 10 saying they would spend over $10,000 on a sick pet.

According to studies by the New York-based trend forecasting company, Cassandra, “As a generation that puts off having children or opts out of it entirely, (Millennials) are putting greater focus on pets instead. Many are treating their pets as if they were kids and devoting a growing share of their disposable income to them.”

So, in a world where raising a kid requires a parent with a six-figure salary, taking care of a pet appears to be a less expensive alternative to Millennials who have known the economic hardships of a recession.

It appears they would rather settle for the love of a pet, than take on the life-long commitment of raising a child. As American actor, James Cromwell said, “Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life.”

Ecommerce has taken women’s fashion to unprecedented heights

gettyimages-481157242.jpg

The fashion industry has enjoyed a significantly prominent rise over the years, most recently being transformed in the wake of digitalisation and technological advancement. And at the forefront of that revitalisation, has been the impact on women’s fashion specifically. While it is true that women’s fashion has always enjoyed a significant scope of attention around the world, the introduction of the worldwide web, and subsequently, ecommerce (the single largest market for everything – including women’s fashion, of course), has changed it all from the ground up. Fashion is an ancient industry by this point, but the introduction and ongoing advancement of ecommerce has introduced an entirely new frontier in women’s fashion (and the entire fashion industry in general, for that matter), that has taken it to all-new and unprecedented global heights. And what is more, is that this is just the beginning; from here on out, there is more and more to come, and it all points to a stronger industry going into the future.

Ecommerce is essentially a backing for consumer-driven marketplaces that plans the globe and is recognised and accessed through the worldwide web. Here, the consumer-driven marketplace never stops moving and transforming. Today, this is where the clear majority of women’s fashion purchases are made, as well as practically every other type of consumer-driven purchase there is in the modern world. Women’s fashion has only gotten bigger, better, bolder, and sturdier in both design and quality, and the rise of ecommerce has given a platform for those fashion brands and labels to be given exposure and be bought by eager consumers on a bigger, better, bolder, and sturdier platform. Through ecommerce, women now have a 24/7 front-row seat to the latest and greatest fashion shows around the world, as well as constant access to not only the storefront window (the landing page of the website), but the entire store in its entirety (the entire website). And we are all hooked.

Boasting every women’s fashion staple there is, from a large selection of rave shoes, to a widespread choice of lingerie, and every fashion item there is, ecommerce is the consumer platform that women – and the rest of the world, for that matter – have been calling out for, for years. Since its introduction a few years ago, ecommerce has made women’s fashion an even more globally inclusive and successful innovation – a feat that is not only impressive, but ultimately quite awe-inspiring, considering the incredible depth of success that the women’s fashion sector achieved before ecommerce became a mainstream sensation all over the world. today, thanks to ecommerce, women’s fashion is not only bolder, but more readily available – and that is a facet of fashion that is worth backing, through and through. More to the point, it is also an innovation in fashion that people are becoming exceedingly obsessed with, if you can believe it (and you should be able to).

Ecommerce seems life-changing because it is…but what is truly the most exciting thing of all, is that it is only just now getting started. The best is yet to come when it comes to ecommerce advancement and ongoing expansion, and the whole of the modern world is waiting in eager anticipation to see what rabbit ecommerce pulls out of the hat next. Women today are busier than they have ever been (as are men – this is beginning of the digital era, after all), and having a platform like ecommerce where they can obtain the latest and greatest fashions with a few clicks of a button, is entirely transformative. It boasts the beginning of a new frontier in women’s fashion that is more convenient, more efficient, more exciting, and more reliable. Put simply, ecommerce is the backing for women’s fashion that is set to entirely transform the way that women become aware of, buy into, and sell their own fashions. The world is changing, and so is women’s fashion.

Fashion has now reached the point that it is practically an ancient industry. And women’s fashion specifically, has enjoyed a rather infamous rise over the years. However, now it reaches its most pivotal point yet, and that point rests on the introduction and ongoing advancement of ecommerce (i.e. the world’s largest virtual consumer-driven marketplace). For women’s fashion, ecommerce has taken an industry that, quite honestly, seemed to have hit its peak, and has somehow allowed and encouraged it to expand further and further, to the point that this is a whole new world for women’s fashion. Thanks to ecommerce, women’s fashion is a sector of fashion that has not only grown exponentially, but has somehow managed to attract the attention and consumer loyalty of women around the world, to the point that they are buying more than ever. And we love it. We are hooked. And better yet? The best is yet to come. Ecommerce is nowhere near finished growing, and neither has women’s fashion in that marketplace (or in general, for that matter). 

 

Rise in demand for economics careers leads to surge of interest in economics education

man-working-on-macbook.jpg

When it comes to having an adequate handle on the role that education has on one’s future, it is fair to say that the modern world has become all too familiar with the sheer importance of the role that education plays in life as they continue to grow older and wiser. For some people, the compulsory years of education (if they are lucky enough to have access to even that) are enough for them to realise that further self-imposed education is not necessary for their trajectory going forward, but for others, higher education is a further step they feel they need to take. To fulfil their potential in their chosen career trajectories, many students take on higher education to better equip themselves for their careers after graduation. As higher education becomes more and more common an avenue, there are certain fields in higher education that also inevitably become more appealing to students all the time. And believe it or not, economics education is one of the highest ongoing surging fields of academics there is right now.

The nature of economics centres around, of course, the economic state of the world and all its contributing pieces. That is, economics is essentially the study of society and its utilisation of limited resources. This is an important field of academics because it takes into account the continuous growth of the modern world, and everything that world has to offer. There is something to be said about the power of economic growth, and having dedicated and hard working professionals working in economics means that there is a much more significant chance of that growth continuing to flourish and thrive, rather than hit a brick wall and concede. The economic state of the world around us is crucial to our longevity and success as we continue to grow and move. And economics education is at the core of having a strong and united frontier of professionals working towards preserving and ensuring a future that boasts the same as we continue to evolve and progress.

With a higher demand for professionals in economics than ever before, it comes as little to no surprise that economics education is surging as an academic field of interest the world over. After all, this is a field of academics that fundamentally relies on knowledge of not only the way the current world works, but how it has come to be, and how that all factors into economic stature moving forward. There is certainly an element of grandeur that goes hand in hand with economic growth, and that grandeur can be altered or entirely torn down to its most basic foundations if there is not adequate work towards ensuring that very thing does not happen. Economics education is important, but it is also challenging. There are a lot of layers to unpack when it comes to economics, and studying the field definitely makes those layers easier to unpack, but not entirely without hard work and the willingness to overcome challenges that pop up along the way.

Challenges are always interesting to navigate and find one’s way over, but in the landscape of economics and economics education, the challenges that arise have a genuine and lasting impact on the real world and the way it impacts people and society as we head into the future. So, it never hurts to have a little assistance in breaking down the barriers. Investing in the professional assistance of JC economics tuition can (and often does) mean the difference between barely scraping through, and excelling in the field. The exceptionally high demands of economics education mean that students are often having to work double time to fill in the blanks and remind themselves of the ongoing investigations into its reaches. At the end of the day, the power in economics education lies in its ability to adequately prepare students for the challenge of dealing with economics as their career field, for the rest of their lives.

In this modern world that we currently live in and navigate our way through, it goes without saying that we are immersed in and surrounded by career fields and modern innovations that rely on the importance of even just basic education to get from point A to point B. While some people choose to take a different path after compulsory education years, others make use of the availability of higher education by continuing to build up their foundations more and more. One of the most popular branches of education the world over is that of economics education. Largely due to the fact that economics professionals are in high demand the world over right now, economics education continues to make a name for itself as a surging field of academics. The more that the modern world becomes hinged in further advancement, the more important it becomes to have professionals in the field to have an adequate handle on economic stature both now and going into the future. It is a field that just keeps on blooming, and is almost certain to going forward.

The awareness and understanding of Kratom continues to rise in Asia

hand-touching-kratom-leaf.jpg

Kratom is a plant that while not as globally renowned as marijuana, is quickly harbouring the same extent of controversy and fierce debate the world over. At first glance, this plant is seemingly non-descript. Light green in colour with red veins, Kratom plants typically stand at around two metres tall when fully grown. This endemic tropical plant is found only in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea. A member of the coffee family, one could be forgiven for simply thinking that this is a plant whose nature is used for mild stimulation and pain relief. These days, Kratom is now exported and sold in powdered form. This might all seem quite safe, until you realise that Kratom stimulates the same brain receptors as morphine (though, to be fair, with significantly milder effects). Citing this exact reason, regions throughout Asia – including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand – have banned the consumption of Kratom (though Indonesia doe still currently allow for the exportation of it in an unprocessed form).

In small quantities, Kratom acts like a stimulant (or, like a less intense version of cocaine). In large doses, however, Kratom does affect the body similarly to opioids. This is obviously where the danger lies, and why there has been such a significant crack down on Kratom in recent months. In the USA, the FDA has begun to weaponize the opioid label against Kratom users, but the debate surrounding the plant extends from abroad in countries like the US, right back to its origins in Asia. All throughout the developing world – including the natural homes of Kratom (i.e. throughout Asia) – there is a rising awareness and in-depth understanding relating to Kratom. Interestingly, Kratom has been used for brain stimulation, relaxation, insomnia, and pain relief (depending on which strain one ingests) in the form of tea, for centuries.  But as time has gone on, more and more evidence to suggest there are significant risks involved in ingesting Kratom in large doses, have resulted in rising concern.

The backwaters of Indonesia’s Borneo are home to the global production and export of Kratom. And while the export is allowed only in unprocessed form, Kratom is sold overseas and used illegally in Asia in the form of capsules, tablets, powder, and even liquid (not unlike CBD oil). With many strains and forms available for sale and consumption, there are many people who have claimed in the past, and continue to claim, that it has been a tremendous help to them overcoming various ailments. The problem lies in the fact that, given the intense nature of Kratom in large doses, it can become addictive, leading to some people to abuse and even overdose and pass away from using the drug. Couple that with the fact that this is a substance that is rarely (if ever) regulated, and it makes for a dangerous drug. Asian regions are all too aware of this, with many of them taking the legal action to ensure that it is not legally available, and that strict consequences await those who do take it, in any form.

It seems that Asia has fully realised the potential risks associated with the ingestion of the plant, and now they are making moves to ensure that the same awareness and in-depth understanding they have accumulated is being extended to the rest of the world, as best they can. In the developing world, this is an action that has not always been taken in the past, and that has resulted in devastating consequences. And while many people are fighting against the newly enforced regulations, they are entirely justified. When the death toll begins to rise, a problem can quickly spiral into an epidemic, and that is something that nobody wants. Thankfully, it looks like Kratom will be illegal unless given in medicinal doses, as Thailand has recently allowed for medicinal marijuana and Kratom to be allowed within the country. The controversy surrounding the ongoing issue of Kratom and its illegality seems, for now, to be ongoing.

Not unlike marijuana, Kratom has undergone its fair share of controversy and fierce debate, but in recent months the controversy has hit an all-time high, as more and more people are overdosing on the plant after ingesting it. An endemic tropical plant, Kratom is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, and has been used for centuries as a solution for multiple ailments, including (but not limited to) brain stimulation, relaxation, insomnia, and pain relief (depending, of course, on which strain one ingests). Over time, however, the developing world’s awareness and understanding of Kratom has resulted in much of Asia banning the ingestion of the plant. Now, Asia is hoping to set a new standard that will enforce stricter attitudes towards the plant-based drug. 

The fight to instil gender equality in orthopedic medicine field

OR1.jpg

This is 2019. We live in an age where we have worked very hard to right the gender gaps in professional settings (there is also the ongoing battle to right the ship for race biases and discrimination in the workplace, but that is a whole other topic to discuss another time). Female orthopedic surgeons have faced many gender biases and discriminations throughout their careers, but what is especially alarming is that this is one of the last remaining (and most severely impacted) career fields where this bias still exists today. There is an incredibly disrespectful and unfortunately quite common instance where female orthopedic surgeons are often approached as if they are nurses or assistants, rather than the specified surgeons they are. Now, of course, there is nothing in the world wrong with being a nurse or a medical assistant (any job in medicine is a great one), but when you have the knowledge and the instance to work for and then successfully become an orthopedic surgeon, and your professionalism is constantly doubted or disregarded entirely, it gets a little old.

Working in an orthopedic clinic is always a prestigious career trajectory, but for female professionals looking to build a career in orthopedic medicine, it can be a tumultuous journey as well. It is shockingly common for a female orthopedic surgeon to be discriminated against not only by male professionals in the field, but also by patients. This is alarming because there is an obvious disconnect between the understanding and general awareness that females not only are capable of all the same professional accomplishments and trajectories, but they in fact make up more than half (56%, in fact) of students who turn their passion for orthopedic medicine into their career. Women have always worked in this career field, but they are still today being faced with gender biases and discriminations that make it seem as though they are less worthy somehow of the same respect, admiration, value, and income as their male counterparts. How is this possible, and how has it been allowed to continue?

career in orthopedics (or any other area of medicine, really) is one that does not come easily by any means. But for women, getting to the point of becoming an orthopedic surgeon is not when it becomes easier. While it is of course a rewarding career, it is also one where female professionals are paid roughly $41,000 less than their male counterparts (around $38,000 difference among oncologists and blood specialists, around $36,000 difference among obstetrician-gynaecologists, and roughly $34,000 among cardiologists). This is quite obviously a disgustingly drastic pay gap, and it is made even more difficult to swallow when one realises that there is only one branch of orthopedics where women are paid more than men; in radiology, female radiologists are paid on average $2,000 more than that of male radiologists). To be frank, considering the blatant importance of a field like orthopedic medicine, it would make sense that all capable and passionate professionals, regardless of their gender, be given the same opportunities – in every sense of the word.

But this is not the case. How, in 2019, are we living in a world where gender or race biases and discrimination are even an issue, let alone in some of the most important industries in all the world? To discredit and hold back the professional accomplishments of a great orthopedic professional, purely because of their gender (or their race) is to disadvantage the line of work altogether. Orthopedic medicine is a field that could always use more dedicated professionals to help drive it forward, be great innovators, help people, and save lives, and it is about time that was duly noted and impressed upon. While of course this is an overdue motion, it is always better to be late than to never arrive, as they say. And with more female orthopedic surgeons coming out with their stories, the awareness of the issue is growing every time, giving rise to a promising kind of hope that could spell the end of the gender gap in this important line of work, and this whole industry.

Gender and race biases and discriminations are unfortunately not something that the world is unfamiliar with. However, as time has gone on, there has gradually been more and more movements towards the elimination of these unhealthy, unfair, and frankly disturbing (to say the least). In most industries and career trajectories, there have been big moves towards stabilising and balancing the gender (and race) gaps, but in many branches of medicine, this is not the face. In the case of orthopedic medicine, for example, there is what is perhaps the single largest gender bias in all of medicine. Female orthopedic surgeons and the likes have always contended with a distinctive pay gap between themselves and their male counterparts, as well as gender discrimination from all angles. While there is a growing awareness to the issue, there is still a long way to go. But, as the saying goes, it is better late than never.

Web development a leading growth strategy in thriving digital age

1_rV6_99F42Jr7uR5YtLrHrQ.jpeg

Thanks to the rise of the worldwide web and its accompanying abundance of digitalisation and technological advancement, we live in a modern world that is definitively and fundamentally driven by technological influence. It is rife practically everywhere one looks, and there is no escaping it. One of the most prominent, all-encompassing notions of this ideal is the use of technology in the world of business and the global marketplace. And at the heart of all that technological influence, is the rise of the online marketplace. This is a frontier that has taken consumerism and instant gratification to a whole new level, and it has continued to rise slowly but surely. At the forefront of that rise is strong web development. Practically every business, across any industry, has a website these days. In fact, many of them even have apps that correspond with their websites as well. But why is web development so important these days, and what impact does it actually have in the long run?

These days, a website is essentially a digital version of a storefront window. On a business’ or an individual’s website, consumers can and do get a glimpse into what the web site presents and makes possible, what it offers the world. Just as consumers walk past storefront windows and get a glimpse into what the company or individual is all above, modern consumers can now click into a website and get an up-close-and-personal insight into a company or individual, without having to go so much out of their way to do so. These days, consumers have less time but more expectations, and so it becomes paramount to ensure that the first impression that consumers get when they go to a website, is a positive one. And that is where web development comes into play, in an incredibly big and brilliant way.

While there are always passing web design trends, there are some web development trends that pass the test of time, going on to effectively become timeless innovators in web development. Think of how competitive the online landscape is. Anyone can build a website, and anyone does these days. With such an overwhelmingly competitive landscape, it can be difficult to break into the market and stand out among the masses. Today, it is not enough to simply have an online presence. If you really want to make an impact, you must have a plan. So, the most instrumental web development notion is always having a plan. A plan will allow you to go into the web development process with a vision in mind, and this makes it easier to ultimately bring that vision to vivid life. So, before anything else, go into the web development process with a plan in motion and a vision in mind.And then there are the basics that every successful website should offer. Good web development is all about knowing the market and working with it to establish a strong grasp on it.

For example, creating a mobile-friendly website is more important than you might think. In fact, mobile-friendly web design is one of the most crucial elements of building a website today, to the point that it should always be one of the three primary web design strategies. Modern consumers spend more time browsing online via their mobiles than they do any other device (generally speaking, of course), so your website must be mobile-friendly, because if it is not, consumers will get easily frustrated by the inefficiency and opt out, regardless of how promising your website looked in the beginning. Similarly, one of the most important web development strategies there, is the aesthetic design itself. If your website looks too busy and chaotic, it feels frustrating for consumers to keep up with, and they opt out. Strong web development is all about knowing the basic keys to a strong foundation, and building on that foundation once it has solidified.

We live in a modern world that has been enhanced time and again through the rising notions of digitalisation and technological advancement. They surround us on all sides, always, and we are always pushing to enhance them and make them even stronger. With the rise of the worldwide web, we have seen the immense growth of the online landscape. That online landscape is now home to the world’s largest and most globally expansive marketplace. And to have a place in this virtual marketplace that spans the globe, a business must have a website. Web development can be difficult to master, so it can pay to have a person in your corner who is fluent in web design and thus able to bring you the best. Web development is important because it is the lifeblood that keeps a website flourishing and thriving, and at the end of the day, without it, even the strongest concepts can and often do fall flat.

InvolveSoft Co-Founder Saumya Bhatnagar Leads The Way For Women In Tech

Screen_Shot_2019-06-05_at_2.35.43_PM.png
InvolveSoft CTO Saumya Bhatnagar

Last week marked 50 years since man first stepped foot on the moon. It was a monumentally world-altering event viewed by over 650 million people around the world, people who watched history unfold as they heard Armstrong say the words “…one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” 

Emphasis on man. 

What is often forgotten is that a handful of unmentioned women, from brilliant mathematicians to secretaries to chemical engineers, played a central role in putting man on the moon. It’s just one of thousands of other historic feats that resulted from the equal ingenuity of women working alongside men, but where little mention is given to the ‘inferior’ sex. We saw just this week the world’s worst country for human rights violations against women – Saudi Arabia – lift its longtime ban on female drivers as well as remove a decree that says women can only apply for passports and jobs if they have the consent of a male guardian. Ever so slowly, we are seeing opportunities for women flourish not only in the darkest corners of the world but also in the until-now-dominated-by-men boardrooms of the world’s most developed economies. Women are coming into their own at last, it seems, and the tech space is no exception. 

Though you wouldn’t know it just yet. 

According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, in 2015 women accounted for just 25 per cent of all “professional computing technology” jobs in the United States, while that same year women held 57 per cent of all occupations countrywide. The issue is a systemic one and symbolic of a much deeper ‘man’s world’ kinda culture that pervades the tech sector. 

According to Saumya Bhatnagar, co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) of Los Angeles-based workplace community platform InvolveSoft, finding one’s feet as a woman in the tech industry is far more challenging than it is in other industries.

“In the tech industry, there are no specific gender-based roles; in Hollywood, for example there may be female roles that need to be filled,” she said. “But in the tech industry, it’s all about knowledge and having the skill and ability to do business with people who might not even be comfortable with the idea of sharing a conference table with a woman.”

Despite this Saumya has forged a name for herself in the tech world and garnered the respect of male and female colleagues – and employees – alike. Prior to co-founding InvolveSoft, Saumya co-founded a startup right out of high school which focussed on using technology to identify and reduce female birth-cessation across India – a system now used by India’s regional governments. Having then gone on to earn a Masters in Computer Science from the University of California before founding yet another nonprofit in India focussed on female empowerment, Saumya has become an increasingly well-known advocate for stronger representation for women in the tech sector.

Today she is well on her way to succeeding in her second venture: that of creating a platform that facilitates communication between senior leadership and lower-level employees in an effort to unify distributed workforces. InvolveSoft has leveraged the shift towards a more physically distributed workplace which is seeing up to around 50 per cent of the U.S. workforce working remotely. While workplace flexibility has its advantages both environmentally speaking and in terms of mental health, it presents constant challenges to employers, supervisors and those working remotely, especially in terms of work-related communications. 

“The disconnect often leaves workers feeling devalued and not motivated or engaged with the company culture,” Saumya said, whose background includes coding and natural language processing. “We wanted to create a platform that helped employer’s align company vision with top-down communication to support workplace retention and make it a more fulfilling experience for everyone.”

But Saumya and co-founder Gaurav Bhattacharya also wanted to make a social impact through InvolveSoft. Having faced gender-based discrimination all her life as a female born in India, Saumya has spent much of her professional life challenging the pervasive belief that women pursue male-dominated careers merely as a hobby and are far less adequate at it than their male counterparts – especially in the tech space. 

“I’m an immigrant. I’m brown. I’m a woman. I’m in a chief level position. I have once been asked to my face if our company was so desperate to hire coders that they hired a woman,” she said, before going on to explain how InvolveSoft had supported the #MeToo campaign among other social movements that support female empowerment. 

Already, Saumya has been featured in Forbes Magazine and is paving the way for women in tech alongside the likes of fellow female tech leaders including Shopify’s Gail Carmichael, Oracle’s Safra Katz and Microsoft’s Amy Hood. 

Does Australia Have The Best Student Loan Repayment Program In The World?

171017-race-student-loan-default-rates-2.jpg

Earlier this month, the Australian Government announced drastic changes to its Hecs (Higher Education Contribution Scheme) repayment scheme that has some Aussie graduates quaking in their boots. The changes will see the repayment threshold dropped by a whopping 11 per cent, meaning any Australian graduate – or current student – earning over $45,881 a year will need to begin paying back their university debt, effective immediately. To add salt to the wound, fee-fleeing students seeking to evade the repayment scheme will now be ‘chased’ overseas, with new laws in place allowing the Australian Tax Office to pursue those debts overseas. The new rules apply not only to Hecs debt but also to Vocational Education & Training student loan (VSL) and Trade Support Loan (TSL) debts. As a university graduate who hasn’t paid a cent of her Hecs debt and who lives overseas, I am not unaware of the ramifications the new changes will have on my and Australia’s future graduates’ professional lives. Will it force students who until now might have breezed through university life – playing sports, drinking, earning a buck or two through cheap essay writing services or working at the local supermarket – to sit up and take their financial obligations more seriously? Or will it quite simply deter high school students from considering a higher education, as is increasingly becoming the case in countries with more burdensome repayment schemes, like the United States.

Until now, Aussie students have enjoyed a relatively stress-free repayment scheme. Two years ago, the repayment threshold was $56,000, and in 2018 it was lowered again to $52,000. Today the repayment amount is capped at $135,000 a year, with those earning this figure or above only required to pay 10 per cent of their earnings annually, and repayment amounts for those earning around $75,000 equated to just $3,375 a year or $65 a week. Still not bad, eh?

It’s no wonder the Tax Office is kicking itself into gear at last – Australia is renowned for running one of the most generous student loan programs in the world. Premised on an income-contingent loan approach which saves people earning lower salaries from needing to begin repayments, in cases of extreme financial hardship Australia’s scheme allows the deferment of repayment obligations altogether and at the same time saves students from accruing any interest on repayments. While it can’t quite compete with its Nordic counterparts, which charge little or no tuition fees in countries such as Sweden, Finland and Norway, Australia’s higher education repayment scheme ranks among the most generous in the world.

It trumps the United States by a long shot, where concerns about the rising cost of higher education and the $1.4 trillion stacked up in student debt across the country have garnered global attention. Earlier this week, Californian Senator Kamala Harris unveiled a proposed program for student loan debt forgiveness which would forgive debts for Pell Grant recipients in particular who start a business that “operates for three years in disadvantaged communities”. Could it pave the way for a more humane and understanding approach to the handling of student loans across the country? Let’s hope so because enough is, quite frankly, enough. We can’t have an entire generation of starters under financial distress before they have even begun because of the inability of the U.S. government and its educational institutions to balance a budget. That being said, we have seen multiple attempts by the government to address the student debt crisis: a $1.6 trillion plan recently announced by Bernie Sanders to forgive all student loans, a $640 billion loan forgiveness scheme for public school teachers, the list goes on…

In fact there already exists a loan repayment program in the States that forgives the student debt of those who can prove a decade of service working in government or nonprofit jobs. But the public service loan program, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2007, has to date been a whopping failure. In the 18 months following the signing of this bill, 99.3 per cent of those U.S. citizens who applied for the benefit were rejected. Wait… what?

We all look to Sweden for answers, since it is often regarded as boasting one of the best student loan repayment schemes in the world. But its students actually end up borrowing money for college just as often as those in the States, graduating with around $20,000 in debt on average. It is in Germany, where the expected cost of an undergraduate degree is a mere $2,160, where we arguably see the best model for higher education. But does it teach its students the right values? That of obligation, financial responsibility and the ability to budget? Your guess is as good as mine. 

Perhaps no country has developed the right model yet. Perhaps things need to get worse before they get better. Whatever the case, I just hope Australia figures it all out before my own kids are enrolling at university and that we never find ourselves experiencing a crisis as crippling as the student debt crisis in the U.S.