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Coffee with: Gal Gavish

Gal Gavish, Hightail product managerName: Gal Gavish
Hometown: Haifa, Israel
College: MBA from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering from Technion, Israel Institute of Technology
Title: Senior Product Manager for Web

Gal Gavish’s love of all things tech brought her all the way from Israel to right here in Silicon Valley. When she is not hard at work on our web app, her love of cooking and finding new music keeps her occupied. We caught up with Gal to talk more about being a woman in tech, discovering music on Pandora and how she fell in love with technology.

Ofunne Okwudiafor: What persuaded you to make the move to Silicon Valley from Israel?

Gal Gavish: I was born and raised in Haifa, Israel. After completing my undergraduate studies in computer engineering I worked at Sun Microsystems for five years. I started off as a developer but worked with a lot of customers directly because my team, Engineering Services, worked to develop customizations of our mobile platform to various cellphone manufacturers around the world. I really began to enjoy this side of the business and wanted to learn more about it so I decided to come to the US in 2008 to get my MBA. Even though I was in business school I still loved tech and didn’t want to leave that world. So, after graduation I moved right to the heart of tech in Silicon Valley.

OO: How did you fall in love with tech?

GG:  When I was six years old, my mother took a computer class to certify herself as a computer teacher and ever since then we always had a computer at home. We would always use it to play games, but I was never a “computer geek”; I didn’t learn programming by myself or anything like that. But, when I joined the army, a mandatory service in Israel, they put me in army intelligence as a computer technician and I was in charge of the entire computer system on the base. That kind of drove me to tech because I was dealing with computers for two years and I really started to enjoy it. So, when I completed my service I studied computer engineering at university.

OO: How has your experience been as a woman in the tech world?

GG: In university I knew I was a minority as a woman, but I didn’t feel very different, because I was treated as anyone else was. I had the same experience at work and when I came to Hightail, I was surprised to see so many females on the product team, which was a positive surprise. But, I have noticed a lack of female engineers in this space and I know this is a general problem around the world. I read about it a lot, and it seems that it starts at a young age. Women are scared away from math and science courses that are the basis for computer, technology and engineering.  It’s actually funny because both my sister and I went into engineering related professions but my brother is a salesman. He can sell anything.

OO: How did you know Hightail was the right place for you?

GG: Seeing the entire company come together for a weekly lunch really sold it for me. After a round of interviews, I was invited to meet with the other PM’s (product mangers) and attend the Monday lunch where the CEO Brad Garlinghouse would be speaking. I just fell in love with the atmosphere of everyone being together, knowing what was going on within the company and being able to ask questions. I liked the open and dynamic atmosphere. People and environment are two things that are really important to me, so this event basically sealed the deal.

OO: Are there any projects you are looking forward to?

GG: I am really looking forward to the new web app coming out. The fact that we are making huge steps to improve our old technology in order to make a change and help people get their work done really drives me and keeps me coming back to Hightail every day. I am really excited for people to start using it.

Let’s get into some favorites.

OO: You lived on both US coasts. Which do you like better? East or West?

GG: I don’t know if one is better than the other. They are very different. I really like the weather here in the California because it’s very similar to Mediterranean weather where I grew up. Experiencing snow when I lived on the East coast was cool, it was a novelty but after two years I had enough. I like the weather better here and I like the fact that I can be really close to nature if I want to be. I can get in the car, drive 15 minutes and I am in a national park or state park. When I was living in Philly and my sister was living in New York, I was very much confined to wherever public transportation could get me and had to plan all of those trips ahead of time. There was more work involved and less room for spontaneity.

OO: Are you team iPhone or team Android?

GG: Definitely team iPhone. I tried to use one of the first versions of the Android and it was super buggy.

OO: Favorite mobile app?

GG: Bejeweled

OO: Favorite hobby?

GG: I love to cook, I am actually taking classes right now. Growing up, both of my grandmothers were great cooks and my mother learned how to cook from both of them. So there was always good food in the house but it was a challenge to learn from them because they never had a set recipe — a little of this here and a little of that there. You had to actually watch them cook and try to do it yourself.

OO: Favorite band or artist?

GG: I use Pandora to discover new music and I just found out about this artist named Phildel. She’s amazing. I have been listening to her over and over again. It’s hard to describe what genre she would fall under, but it’s really unique.

OO: Favorite coffee drink?

GG: I don’t drink much coffee but if I do it’s a cappuccino, like a really good Italian cappuccino.

OO: Favorite movie?

GG: I have a couple: Gladiator and The Princess Bride are my all time favorites. I can watch them over and over again.

OO: Currently reading?

GG: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. I also read silly romances all the time just to relax and kind of disconnect.  It started with my mom reading us books as kids and I’ve been reading books every night ever since.

OO: Who inspires you?

GG: I have always looked up to my older sister. She’s definitely the smartest person I know. I’ve always asked her for advice, even today. I really value her opinion. She is my inspiration and my idol.

OO: What gets you going in the AM?

GG: I drink chocolate milk, I know its kind of juvenile, but that’s what I have been doing for 30 years now. And, I listen to music while getting ready for work, so that kind of gets me going too.

You can never go wrong with chocolate milk, Gal. If you want to learn more about Gal, follow her on Twitter @galgavish

 

 

 

Seven apps to keep you productive on the weekend

You use a range of apps during the week to work smarter and get more done as efficiently as possible. But what about your weekend? Why should those two much-loved days of R&R not be equally productive? Well, there’s apps for that as well. Here are seven great apps that will help you make of the most of your weekend.

1. Nike Training Club – We all know that exercise builds endorphins, which help put a smile on your face. So why not start your weekend off right with a quick workout? Decide the length of your workout from 15 to 45 minutes and whether you want to “get lean”, “get toned”, “get strong”, or “get fit” then Nike Training Club will create a workout just for you. All you need is your body and some empty space to break a sweat. Download on iPhone and Android.

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2. Pocket – Have you ever come across an interesting article or blog post during the week but just weren’t able to find the time to read it? Pocket collect all those stories in one place so you can catch up on them during the weekend. Simply add the Pocket plug-in to your browser and hit the icon every time you want to save a story. Then kick back on the weekend and use the Pocket mobile app to read the articles on your tablet or phone. Download on iPhone and Android.

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3. Order Ahead – This app takes the idea of take-out one step further by letting you order and pay for food and drinks from your local restaurants and coffee shops. You get an estimated wait time so once you arrive to pick up your food, it will ready, hot and (hopefully) delicious. Download on iPhone and Android.

Oder Ahead app


4. Waze – This is probably one of the best maps out there. It gets you where you want to go quickly and efficiently by calculating the fastest route based on time, distance and traffic. It also has the added bonus of giving you vital, user-generated information like if a highway patrol cop is waiting to catch the next speeder or if there is a big accident ahead that you should avoid. We’d literally be lost with Waze. Download on iPhone and Android.

Waze App


5. Wunderlist - This is the perfect app to use to keep your “to-do” lists in order. Choose due dates, set up reminders and sync them across your devices so you never forget to pick up the dinner groceries or swing by the car dealership for an oil change. Download on iPhone and Android.

Wunderlist


6. Kindle – Use this app to keep and read all of your books in one place. Gone are the days where you have to buy a huge bookshelf to keep up your repository of novels. Keep all of your books in your Kindle app and have them with you while you lounge around the house or catch up on some reading at your favorite coffee shop. Download on iPhone and Android.

Kindle App


7. Hightail – OK, it’s a shameless plug but if you must work on your weekends, access, update and share your files when you’re out of the office with our apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Download on iPhone and Android.

Hightail Mobile app home screen

Are there any other apps you swear by on the weekends? Let us know in the comments.

Customer Spotlight: Alexander Ludwig

When he isn’t on the set of the History Channel’s Vikings or playing Cato in The Hunger Games, Alexander Ludwig loves to get stuff done on his phone, according to USA Today. One of his favorite apps to make everything more accessible and easy to do? Hightail.

Alexander Ludwig in Hunger Games, 2012 Source: IMDB
Photo by Murray Close – © 2011 Lions Gate Films Inc. All Rights Reserved.

When producers want Ludwig to audition for a role while he’s on the set of Vikings in Ireland, he has no problem (and doesn’t have to buy a plane ticket). He simply puts his iPhone on a tripod, hits the record button, and does his audition wherever he happens to be. He uses Hightail to ship the footage right from his phone. Simple, quick, efficient.

Storage Wars: Attack on the Clones

An amended version of this post was originally published at Information Week.

In the same year that production will begin on a new Star Wars movie, a different type of battle will rage in a cloud far, far away. 2014 is set to be a landmark year for the file storage and sharing industry. With Box and Dropbox rumored to go public—both with valuations in the billions—services that help people store and share digital files will be big news over the coming months.deathstar

This kind of frothy market has a Gold Rush feel to it. Everyone with wild ambition is buying pickaxes and heading west. Even battery manufacturers Duracell are staking a claim with Duracell Cloud Storage. An industry analyst recently told me that there are more than 70 different cloud-based file services, though I think this number underestimates the real size of the bandwagon.

Let’s be honest here. The world doesn’t need that many ways to store files, especially when so many services are mere clones with nothing unique to offer users other logos in a different shade of blue. While slapping high fives and popping corks will greet successful public listings, 2014 will also witness the more sobering sound of many of these also-rans going out of existence.

We’ve already seen the first sign that challenging times are ahead with some providers being forced to rethink their freemium model of using a free basic service as a gateway to users paying for premium plans. Almost all of the existing 70+ file storage and sharing services operate a similar model but most don’t have the fast growth rate or existing scale for it to be sustainable. Time is running out.

What a lot of these smaller players really need is money to fund the expensive business of continuous innovation. But in a space where everyone sees dollar signs, the lack of follow-on funding for the smaller players is notable. Investors have obviously decided that if an existing business hasn’t ramped up fast enough by this stage, it’s unlikely to survive the competitive shake up to come. Most of the new money entering the market is either going to the biggest fish or coming from other businesses that fancy a piece of the pie.

The outcome of the battle for file sharing supremacy isn’t just some cloud-based soap opera playing out for our entertainment. We all have skin in the game. If you store and share files online, especially for professional purposes, you need to know that the provider you’ve trusted with your data will be around by the time that new Star Wars movie hits theaters in December 2015.

So, who will come out on top? This isn’t a winner-takes-all market. Users aren’t exclusive to one player and turn to different providers to meet specific needs like ease of use or security. Much like how social networking has room for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, each fulfilling different needs, so the file sharing industry will have multiple winners.

According to a recent IDC competitive analysis, the current market leaders are Dropbox, Box and Hightail. Each business serves massive user bases with distinct needs and has a strong brand and reputation that will enable further growth. Plus, each has recently benefited from large new investments. It’s hard to look beyond these three as the eventual big winners.

Being able to focus exclusively on file services is a real advantage to a company like Hightail, as it provides the commitment and motivation that can ensure a consistently high quality product. Providers like ShareFile and Syncplicity may be backed by large parent companies, but their fates aren’t essential to the existence of Citrix and EMC. As the competition heats up in 2014 and continuing to be relevant calls for more investment, these huge corporations could easily decide to deemphasize these balance sheet rounding errors.

As the smoke clears from the battlefield, the pure play leaders will stand tall alongside a smattering of smaller players, especially those with a niche service. I also expect one or two brands more famous for other services to emerge and be successful, though I’d back companies with some connections to digital services, like hardware manufacturers, over more leftfield entrants (sorry Duracell).

For all the rest of the clones, it will be time to sign off for good. Even after the inevitable consolidation, the survivors will need to keep innovating. Providing more than just a storage repository is the key to continuing success. The first part of the Storage Wars sets the scene but (much like The Empire Strikes Back) the saga only becomes interesting in the sequel, when more valuable features like sharing and search are added to the storage layer. Only those providers that help users do more with the files they store will have the force with them.

Coffee with: Kevin Mackin

Kevin Mackin, GM of Hightail APACName: Kevin John Paul Mackin
Hometown: Oakleigh, Victoria (Australia)
Joined Hightail: October 2013
Title: General Manager Asia Pacific

Hightail recently opened the doors of its Asia Pacific (APAC) headquarters, under the leadership of our APAC General Manager, Kevin Mackin. We caught up with Kevin to his road to Hightail, the power of teamwork and wombats.

How did you get into tech?

I started my professional career in telecommunications, including a stint at Australia’s largest telecom firm, Telstra. I was part of their first-ever enterprise sales team before moving PBX (private branch exchange) sales and marketing. This role taught me a lot about product management and product marketing and I became General Manager Marketing of the Telstra PBX Division in the early 1990s. Around that time, Australia’s telecom space was becoming flooded with IT sales and marketing types, so I decided to go the other way and moved to Silicon Valley to join Tandem Computers. In 2000, I return to Australia as WebEx’s first international employee, which is where I caught the software as a service/startup bug.

Where were you before Hightail?

I was working at IBM as Marketing Manager (not by choice – my previous company was acquired) for growth markets, including APAC, China, India, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. Big companies are just not my thing: I don’t do politics and I can’t get passionate about the solutions they offer. I found the job boring, though I did get to go to some cool places. I got caught up in the middle of Taksim Square in Istanbul during last year’s protest, visited Moscow in the middle of winter and presented awards at a marketing class graduation in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Why did you decide to join Hightail?

Hightail ticks all my boxes. The business in an exciting growth phase, the people are great and the culture gets shit done. Most importantly, Hightail is an awesome service and a great fit for the APAC enterprise market.

What do you love most about your job?

I get to do what I love most: building new businesses from scratch in this part of the world. I love building this small, happy and successful team who are starting to kick butt in this new geography and that the whole company is fully behind our efforts to establish this APAC beachhead. Like any new company, there are plenty of challenges but I love using my broad range of skills to tackle them.

What or who inspires you?

When I was growing up, our local youth club had a huge banner emblazoned on one wall that said: “A Champion Team will always beat a Team of Champions”. This stayed with me and I’m inspired by teams and businesses where the power of the group is critical to their success, rather than having one or two stars holding up the rest.

The Australian Cricket Team from 1999 to 2004 was such a team, winning a record sixteen consecutive Test wins and the 1999 Cricket World Cup. The team had some stars, but their real strength came from their teamwork and a belief that, together, they were the best team in the world. The captain was Steve Waugh, who was once described as a “cold-blooded, scientific” leader. He epitomises my idea of a strong team leader. When I grow up, I want to be just like him.

Favourite footy team?

I am a fully paid up Gold Member of the Melbourne Demons—one of the founding clubs of Australian Rules Football. Sadly, we have not won a premiership since 1964, but this the year of the Demon. We have a new coach and a great young team heading in the right direction.

Favourite food?

Does wine count? It’s certainly nourishment, for both body and soul. I know I am supposed to support Australian wine, but I really much prefer northern Italian and Venetian wines, like Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, Valpolicella and Amarone. My idea of a great time is spending an evening with friends, quaffing a great red with a plate of proper farmhouse cheddar, quince paste, some hot salami and crackers, while discussing politics, religion, football or anything else.

Favourite coffee?

I do double shot lattes—strong and tasty. My favourite place for these is St Ali in South Melbourne. They have some single origin Brazil Sitio Corrego Da Prata beans, which are syrupy sweet with flavours of rich dark chocolate and berries and a red fruit acidity that leads to a bittersweet finish. Come down to Melbourne some time and I will be happy to share a brew there with you.

Favourite animal?

Wombat. Definitely. More specifically, the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons), which is adapted to digging (“can you dig it?” is one of my fave sayings). It has a stocky and robust build (sound familiar?) with silky fur that is typically greyish or tan in colour. All in all, a kinda cute, rotund and furry creature, with attitude.

Describe your ideal vacation

My wife, Theresa, and I love going to Europe for vacation. We are doing it bit-by-bit, usually starting in London to visit my son and granddaughter and then heading across to Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Poland. Next time around we plan to spend time in Ireland. My ideal vacation time is spent winding down a canal or river on a small houseboat or narrowboat, floating lazily whilst at the helm, with a bottle of red in front of me, some classic seventies Aussie rock (or glam rock) in the headphones and a fishing line in the water, with Theresa sitting up in the bow knitting.

Sounds idyllic, Kevin. Thanks for your time.

The Snowden Effect: who controls my data?

An amended version of this post was originally published at Information Week.

Last month, Reuters reported that U.S. tech firms doing business in China—including Cisco and IBM—had experienced significant declines in sales. Several industry analysts suggested that the “Snowden Effect”—the cascade of events and reports that followed Edward Snowden’s leaks of classified information about the NSA surveillance programs—was a major reason why these firms were struggling to sell their services in the world’s second biggest economy. test

When I spoke about the potential impact of Snowden’s spying revelations at a recent panel discussion at Le Web, I was surprised to hear Amazon CTO Werner Vogels say that his company wasn’t expecting to see any consequences. Perhaps he believed that Amazon is simply too big to feel any downside, but I wonder if he’s changed his mind in light of that Reuters report.

A lot of people have been blinded to the true nature of the Snowden Effect by the political outrage surrounding the revelations, especially from world leaders whose own nations are not above a bit of espionage. But for businesses and individuals, mistrust is far more justified and its target is not confined to government agencies. A broader, more long-term impact of the Snowden Effect is that it forces everyone to ask the question: who is really in control of my information?

Where once files were on your hard drive or your company’s internal network, now it’s more beneficial to store your information online (in the “cloud”, if you must). You can access your work across devices and use file sharing services to distribute material and work online with others from anywhere. But it can also mean you’re no longer in complete control of your information. The Snowden Effect is the catalyst for people to really think about whether the benefits of online storage outweigh the loss of control and to start looking for alternatives to the status quo.

Historically, technological development tends to follow this pattern, where an initial surge of enthusiasm for a new idea is followed by a second wave that gives deeper consideration to wider impacts. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter initially seemed to signal the end of privacy, but today even teenagers are more aware of the potential pitfalls of oversharing and turn to less permanent communication tools like Snapchat.

For the online storage and sharing industry, this second wave has now arrived. To be a successful and trusted service, all providers need to offer customers, from big businesses to individual professionals, two important things: control and transparency.

If your favorite news site suddenly shows you articles tailored to your interests, it can feel a little creepy. Aside from some abstract agreement to accept cookies or unreadable Terms and Conditions, you have not explicitly consented to this. Compare that experience with using Flipboard, the magazine app that you choose to connect to your social networks and favorite publications in order to receive personalized content. This isn’t creepy; it’s cool. Giving users control coupled with transparency is the key to providing a service that they can trust.

Just because you’ve shared a file doesn’t mean you must give up control. Every file sharing service should offer sharing options like the ability to restrict access to specified people and automatically rescind access after a set time.

Transparency is about knowing what happened to shared files. For individuals it is about who has accessed a file and when. Businesses need to keep track of any company data that’s shared externally so it’s in their interests to provide employees with a single trusted service to stop people using personal products.

The Snowden leaks have made companies realize that they may have more to fear from authorized employees than anonymous hackers. To mitigate the risk of sensitive information leaks, the ability to know which files have been shared, monitor activity for suspicious behavior or block a competitor’s domain, is crucial.

A key element in providing greater control is ensuring it’s also extremely user friendly. I know a few security-obsessed people who are happy to use byzantine encryption software but normal people don’t work like that. If a system or product is too complicated, users will find a workaround, whether that’s propping open a door because the six-digit keycode changes every week or using a consumer product because the company-sanctioned solution involves jumping through too many hoops.

The Snowden Effect is a game changer and a healthy one at that. From politics to digital services, it has raised questions about data control and transparency that everyone should have been asking for a long time. Customers of online file sharing providers should be insisting on greater control and transparency for their files. In turn, these providers must start meeting these demands or they’ll go the way of the microfilm and button cameras favored by spies from the more romantic era of espionage.

Learn more about Hightail’s sharing controls.

Hightail in Australia

We are excited to announce that we have officially opened our new Asia Pacific (APAC) HQ office in Melbourne, Australia. Our new GM of APAC, Kevin Mackin, stated “It’s an exciting time for the Asia Pacific region with key economies showing solid year on year growth. Australia is the perfect springboard for Hightail’s regional expansion as it provides a very stable environment politically and economically – as well as a strong pool of IT talent.” Last week Hightail participated at the Connect event in Melbourne, where we had a couple speaking engagements as well as a booth presence. Take a look below at some of our pictures from the trip. Also here is some cool coverage from a couple publications: Australian, CRN and ARN.

Hightail Aus Team Connect March 2014 copy
APAC team

 

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Matte Scheinker, Chief Product Officer of Hightail, speaking on the Snowden Effect

 

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Matte Scheinker on a panel on ‘Shaping your mobile strategy’ with executives from Blackberry, HP, Swisse and St. George Banking Group 

 

Also had a little time for site seeing!

Wallabies
Wallabies – in the Kangaroo family

 

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Up close and personal with a snake

 

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Australian Football game aka Footy

 

Close deals faster with Hightail for Salesforce

Salesforce is an essential tool for businesses looking to effectively manage their sales process and customer relationships. Here at Hightail, our teams are heavy users, so we understand its value. But Salesforce is designed to help us deal with our important business contacts, not to securely share large files or provide company-wide access to information.

When our sales reps need to share presentations or product videos, they use Hightail. They can access the relevant file from shared folders where our marketing and product teams have added the most up-to-date version.

But switching between apps like this can break your flow and waste valuable time. That’s why we developed Hightail for Salesforce. If your business has invested in Salesforce, Hightail can help you get more from the service and make your team even more productive.

The easier it is to share information with potential leads, the more chance you have of transforming them into opportunities and ultimately accounts. However, there is a 10MB size limit for email attachments sent from Salesforce. Using Hightail for Salesforce, you can now share files larger than 2GB without leaving Salesforce.

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This helps your sales team to work more effectively; while saving all contact-related content to Hightail makes access and collaboration easier for everyone. Now you can close deals even faster and use Hightail to digitally sign the final contract on your phone or tablet.

One of the benefits of using Hightail for Salesforce is that the app is seamlessly integrated with key Salesforce objects like Leads, Opportunities, Contacts and Accounts.

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All relevant content moves with prospects as they go from Leads to Contacts and Accounts, so your team always has easy access to the most up-to-date information. Plus, with unlimited storage for every Hightail for Enterprise user, your business can avoid any additional storage costs.

Closing a deal often involves sharing sensitive information, like product roadmaps, financial details and contracts. Hightail for Salesforce gives you complete control when you share these files with options like passwords, expiration dates, identity confirmation and return receipts. This helps ensure that only the right people can access your files, while your IT administrator can monitor all sharing activity using the Hightail audit log and block access to files if they suspect unauthorized sharing.

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Like many businesses, here at Hightail we reserve Salesforce licenses for our sales and customer success teams. But our presentations and white papers are created and updated by our marketing, product and other teams.

As a result of this common problem, businesses end up relying on individual salespeople to check they’re using the most recent version of a document that could seal the deal. By providing a single repository for files, Hightail for Salesforce ensures your sales team will always have easy access to the latest information. It’s an efficient way to provide more people in your organization with access to unified folders, which makes creating and updating files easier for everyone.

Hightail for Salesforce will help everyone at your business work more effectively together, from your sales team closing deals to the marketing and product teams that support them. And, best of all, it’s free for all Hightail for Enterprise customers.

To learn more about Hightail for Salesforce, check out our user guide. If you’re interested in using the power of Hightail to get even more value from your Salesforce investment, find out more here or get in touch.

Coffee with: Alissa Dos Santos

Alissa dos Santos Hightail employeeName: Alissa Dos Santos
Hometown: Louisville, KY
College: Northwestern University
Title: Product Marketing Manager

When she’s not out on a run exploring San Francisco, sampling the latest food trucks at the SoMa StrEat Food Park, or playing Berlin style ping pong, Alissa Dos Santos works as a Product Marketing Manager here at Hightail. Alissa’s bubbly personality and can-do attitude always shine through whether she’s working with colleagues or talking to our customers about how they use Hightail. After a brief tango with the world of TV journalism, Alissa’s love of storytelling brought her to the bustling Silicon Valley. I caught up with Alissa to talk about her journalistic roots, guilty pleasures and her biggest inspiration.

Ofunne Okwudiafor: How did you get into journalism?
Alissa Dos Santos: I didn’t know anything about journalism until college, when I saw friends writing for the school newspaper and taking these amazing journalism classes. I had always loved to write, and I was so jealous. I decided to shadow a few different people (in various professions) after my freshman year, and I had an amazing day following a TV reporter around for a day. I went back to school, switched tracks, and jumped into working for the newspaper, TV and radio stations. Journalism is great if you’re a curious person — you get to learn new things every day and tell stories. I love stories.

OO: How did this love of storytelling influence your job search after graduating from Northwestern?
AD: I decided to do TV for a few reasons. I like talking to people face-to-face (with newspaper and magazine, you’re often on the phone), I love public speaking, and I really liked the extremely tight deadlines — they’re such an adrenaline rush. There’s also nothing like live television. I was lucky enough to land my first job in my home state of Kentucky, reporting in Lexington at an ABC affiliate, WTVQ, channel 36. I was the lead reporter on Good Morning Kentucky, which meant 3 a.m. wake-up calls, and driving to the station in the middle of the night for breaking news. I did general assignment reporting, which really means I covered anything from bad weather and city council to fatal house fires and car accidents. I covered a lot of “crime and grime,” as we call it in the TV biz.

OO: What were you able to take away from that experience?
AD: Every day I covered at least one story, and sometimes up to three — so I became pretty good at making fast deadlines. I would wake up in the morning, not knowing whether I was covering a homicide or a food drive. Sometimes I’d be live with breaking news five minutes after arriving on the scene. You learn to piece together a story very quickly. The job also toughened me up, and taught me to be independent. I shot and edited my own stories, which was really tough and quite unglamorous, contrary to what people often assume with TV news.  But it was an adventure every day, and I was always learning, which I loved. Things move fast in journalism, just like they do in tech. The two aren’t as different as you might think.

OO: How did working as a news reporter lead to you moving to the Silicon Valley?
AD: Storytelling on TV only went one way. I spoke to the viewers but they never really got an opportunity to talk back to me. I got interested in social media after seeing the power of two-way communication on Twitter. It was neat, I’d be live during a snow storm talking about school closings and parents would tweet me about the road conditions in their neighborhoods. I’ve always been curious about technology, as I was in math-science-technology programs from sixth grade until college. When I started looking for my next job, my brother (who has a more traditional engineering background) encouraged me to come out to the Bay Area and try out tech. I set up a ton of informational interviews, and ultimately took a leap of faith when I came out here. I knew if I hated it, I could always go back to journalism. My first job was at a start-up, and it was awesome because I was able to learn a ton and get my hands in everything. It was my first time working with engineers, wireframing, designing web pages. Seeing things go live on the product side was such a thrill for me. I also ran a college internship program, which was so much fun.

OO: What brought you to Hightail?
AD: From a marketing standpoint, it was a really cool opportunity to go through a rebrand. I love being able to help tell the Hightail story with our new image — it’s a chance to have a big impact at the company. The cloud space is interesting because a lot of people use products like ours, but don’t really understand what “the cloud” even is. It’s exciting to work in a space where we can help shape the way people think about file sharing and cloud collaboration, which is ultimately about productivity. Files and folders don’t sound sexy, but productivity sure is.

OO: What do you love most about product marketing?
AD: A lot of the things I love to do in my current position are the same things I loved about journalism. In product marketing, we’re telling the story of a product. I like to make complex concepts understandable. You know, what’s the real value of this small feature? Why does this product matter to our customers? When I was in TV, I would show up at a crime scene and interview six people, but only have a minute to tell the story. It taught me to be concise and tell people what they want to know. I also like being in such a cross-functional position, because it means I get to work with people from every team, from product and customer success to sales and design. I’ll be working on a go-to-market plan one hour, and looking at metrics or writing a blog post the next. I guess you could say I like to be in the middle of the action.

One of the best parts of my job is talking to customers. I get to hear how our product is helping their organizations run and how it lets them to do their jobs better. I hear what they really love about Hightail and what they want us to build in the future. Like I said, files and folders aren’t always bar conversation (though they are in Silicon Valley), but what we enable is really awesome. We help people organize their lives and run their businesses. That’s pretty cool.

After getting the scoop on her TV reporting days and making the big move to the Silicon Valley, we chatted about a few of Alissa’s favorite things and a couple of other neat tidbits as well.

OO: Favorite sports team?
AD: University of Louisville Cardinals (Men’s basketball)

OO: Favorite pastime?
AD: I’ve always loved running since I was really young. I was that kid who loved the mile in grade school. Whenever I’m in a new place, I go on a run to explore.

OO: Favorite game?
AD: I enjoy a competitive game of Scattergories.

OO: Favorite music?
AD: I love this band called Beirut. I’ve been able to see them at the Fox Theatre in Oakland a few times, which was incredible.

OO: Your guilty pleasure?
AD: Late night Amazon Prime shopping (I recently bought an immersion blender I’m pretty excited about). Oh, and $4 red velvet cupcakes.

OO: Favorite coffee?
AD: Blue Bottle. Since moving to SF, I’ve become a total sucker for overpriced drip coffee. But when I’m back home in the Midwest, I’m all about Dunkin’ Donuts.

OO: Running power song?
AD: Jason DeRulo’s classic hit, “Ridin’ Solo.”

OO: What are you reading?
AD: A book called Nudge and another called The Power of Habit. I’m only reading books with yellow covers right now.

OO: If you won the $100 million jackpot in the lottery, what would you do?
AD: I would buy a place in Bariloche, Argentina and fly all my friends and family there once a year. It would be awesome to be able to treat my favorite people to a week of fun, food and relaxation.

OO: Who’s your inspiration?
AD: Growing up, I really loved watching Oprah and I still really like that lady. I think it goes back to my love of storytelling. Everyone has a story to tell (as cheesy as it sounds), no matter what job you have or where you grew up. Stories help us relate to each other and the world around us. Oprah has been able to expose people’s stories in such an impactful way, and she’s allowed people to shine on their own. I think she’s pretty badass.

We think you’re pretty badass too, Alissa.

For more info on Alissa, follow her on Twitter or read her latest blog post.

Welcome Hightail v3.5 for iPhone and iPad

The Hightail mobile team is delighted to announce a major new update to Hightail for iPhone and iPad. V.3.5 of our app includes some great new features and enhancements that will make working on the go even easier for everybody.

As we analyzed data from our existing iOS users, a few things really stood out. First, PDF is a very popular file format for professionals sharing information. So, we decided to make PDF reading in Hightail shine.

With the latest Hightail app, you can now open PDFs on your iPhone and iPad and switch between thumbnails and full-page views to jump around the document. The app supports hyperlinks, embedded content and modern layouts. Most importantly, it is more robust than the default PDF reading ability of your Safari browser. text fileHope you enjoy it.

Another interesting nugget we discovered was that people like to use Text files (.txt format) as a simple way to write notes, make lists and more. Our iOS update introduces a way to create and edit text files right from the Hightail app, so you can access them later on your other device. This adds to our Cloud-On integration in providing a wide range of content creation capabilities for your iPhone and iPad.

e-Sign is the third area of the app that we have improved. You can now create smooth signatures, save them for later use and add them to documents on demand.

Creating a signature and saving a signed document is now much faster and it’s easy to share your signed document with others. Once you start using e-Sign, it will quickly become a powerful tool, especially when you’re on the road without access to printers and scanners.

One final new feature is the ability to keep using the app, even if it’s in the middle of completing another task. So if you send a really large file, you can get on business, while that file is sending and easily check the progress of your sent file from the Tracker section.

No major release is without minor improvements, bug fixes and annoyances that the team squishes away regularly so you will hopefully notice a smoother experience overall as you use Hightail away from your desk.

You can download the free Hightail for iPhone and iPad from the App Store, or if you already have the app, use that link to get the update. Don’t forget to rate it and tell us what you think.

Register for our webinar here to see a live demo of the newest features.

Follow Nirmal on Twitter.

Higher Learning community happenings – January

2014 is off to a great start!  We had over 1200 new members join our community over the course of the month and will soon reveal a new rewards system for all of our members. Also on the horizon is a newly designed support page with quicker access to help, training materials and all of the support you need to make the most of your Hightail experience.

Latest Tips and Tricks

Start fresh in 2014 by cleaning up your Hightail folders

Design enthusiasts rejoice: meet the new send

Give and ask of nothing in return…Unless you’re using Hightail

Ask before sending Outlook attachments via Hightail

Neck deep in versions

Be empowered: sign a petition using hightail

Training Webinars

We continue to host training workshops for new and experienced Hightail users.  Last month we talked about Hightail Desktop, and through a quick poll discovered that more than half our attendees had rarely or never used the Desktop app!  Find out what you missed at Do more with Hightail for Desktop.

Don’t miss out on our upcoming February webinar, Stop scanning, start eSigning.  You can find the full course catalog and register for a webinar here.

Product News

You can read about our latest product enhancements and releases in the product news section of the community.

The “cloud” is dead, long live the cloud

This post was originally posted in the Huffington Post.

Two young fish are swimming along when an older fish passes and says, “G’morning, how’s the water?” The pair continues swimming then one turns to the other and says, “what the heck is water?”

I always think of this joke when I hear or read about the “cloud”. The older fish is those of us that work or are otherwise engaged in the world of tech. The young fish represent everyone else—the kind of non-techies who must wonder: “what the heck is the cloud?”

In today’s brashly blue-hued and cloudified digital domain, it must be a difficult question to voice without feeling out of touch. The irony is that, like those two young fish, all digital users know exactly what the cloud is—they’ve been swimming in it since they opened their first webmail account.

Even though humans have always used metaphors to explain new concepts, particularly for digital technologies that lack a more identifiable physical presence, I hate the term “cloud”. But by the time 2015 rolls around, we need to check it into a nice retirement home with lake views and an around-the-clock canasta game.

During the early days of the internet, people talked about “the information superhighway” and though this, like describing cars as “mechanical horses”, was an overly simplistic analogy that would never last, at least you always knew it was a metaphor. “Cloud” is different because its popular origins as a marketing term fools people into thinking they’re dealing with something new.

intergalactic cloud Matte Scheinker

Back in the 1960s, J.C.R. Licklider, a developer of the internet precursor ARPANET, envisioned an “intergalactic computer network” that, more prosaically, allowed anyone to access programs and data from any site. In 1999, Salesforce utilized the cloud concept as part of their efforts to essentially invent the software-as-a-service (SaaS) market. This was an extremely smart move as Salesforce’s business model of providing access to services rather than selling an expensive chunk of software was a major innovation and the metaphor helped potential customers to grasp the concept.

But by the time Microsoft and Apple brought the cloud to the mainstream with Windows Azure and iCloud, the term had become shorthand for connection. “Cloud” became a box to be checked, you had to—to paraphrase Portlandia—put a cloud on it. Especially when it came to visual design, where limp, blue, fluffy motifs basically became mandatory.

None of it is particularly helpful to the average person. Not only does it dress up the cloud as something different, it hides the true value of what so many of these companies do. If you get past the verbal obfuscation and actually explain the cloud to a non-techie, they will say, like the child exposing the emperor’s sartorial oversight, “isn’t that just the internet?”

We act like the cloud is this amazing new invention but really it’s just a new way of using what we already have. “Cloud” is really just a label for an industry looking to distinguish itself. In my world of file sharing and storage, everyone wants to know which company is the largest cloud storage provider. My answer always includes Yahoo! Mail, Gmail and Hotmail, whose hundreds of millions of users access messages and attachments via the cloud. These companies are the real heavyweights of the consumer cloud even though sometime they don’t act like it.

Many industries go through similar phases of introducing original ideas, explaining them with metaphors or new terminology and gradually dropping these terms as the idea becomes mainstream. Online shopping was once so innovative that we had to give it a name: “e-commerce”. The websites that sold you things were called “e-retailers”.

But today nobody calls Amazon an e-retailer. It’s an online shop and as its dominance grows, it’s simply becoming the place where humans shop (and quite possibly the company behind those delivery drones that have turned your leafy, bucolic neighborhood into a dystopian, robot-ridden nightmare).

The cloud industry has reached this level of maturation. There are sunny skies ahead so let’s stop all the cloud-washing and start talking with real meaning about its true value.

Later this year you’ll probably notice an increase in the prevalence of term, “cloud” and think: wow, that guy was totally wrong. But the reason you’ll hear so much about it in 2014 is that some cloud companies will be engaged in multi-million dollar IPOs. This merely represents the death throes of the term, the final raging against the light before its inevitable demise. Because quite frankly, when Wall Street and lawyers start getting involved, you know it’s time for the rest of humanity to get out of Dodge.

Follow Matte Scheinker on Twitter

Customer Spotlight: North by Northwest

“They come to us with an idea, and it’s our job to turn it into a reality.”

North b

North by Northwest
Founded: 1990
What they do: Full-service digital studio focused on storytelling through film, video and the web
No. of employees: 41
@nxnwboise

For more than 20 years, digital studio North by Northwest (NXNW) has been bringing stories to life through film, video and the web. With offices in Boise, Idaho and Spokane, Wash., the team works on everything from full-service video production and television commercials to feature films and documentaries.

Every new client brings a fresh challenge, says Director and Producer, Steve Simkins. But working on innovative, creative projects drives the tight-knit NXNW team.

“We have a small team, and sometimes we’re working on five different stories in a four-day span,” he says. “But we’re pretty lucky to be in a business that’s creative and new every day. There’s always a new challenge.”

While producing a commercial for Seattle transit agency Sound Transit’s Voice of Reason campaign, the NXNW team struggled to find a location to meet the client’s specific request for an “old timey” living room. Instead they worked with branding agency GreenRubino to create a detailed design in Photoshop. “We built the entire set in our studio and sent people out to source props like the furniture and lamps,” explains Steve. “It was important for us to give the room that exact look.”

Another commercial for the Voice of Reason campaign was supposed to take place in a car in the middle of Seattle traffic. Rather than take on the expense and hassle of shutting down streets for the shoot, the NXNW team took over an event parking lot in Boise, filled it with 25 rented cars and shot the entire commercial there.

Finding smart, simple solutions to problems extends to how NXNW shares its work. They use Hightail to deliver their highest quality videos to clients and get approval within minutes. “We have to be confident the files we send get there on time,” says Steve. “Those files are our business. And when a client watches the video and says, ‘You got it,’ we know we’ve done our job.”

Lessons learned by Hightail interns

As college students across the country start to think about securing internships, we asked our most recent group of interns what they thought of their time at Hightail.

The key to a successful internship is to know exactly what you want to get out of your time at a company. Jackie Mokry, who interned with Hightail’s finance team, was clear about her goals.

“I wanted to gain hands-on experience with my subject field of interest,” she said, “as well as enhance my professional demeanor through interaction in a company environment.”

Another finance intern, Kevin Crawford was keen to see how his education would translate in the business world, adding that “applying what they teach you in school to the big picture in part of growing as a professional.”

For Jackie, employing the concepts and skills learned on her college courses was a major benefit of her internship.

“It was rewarding to recognize my coursework and how it relates to the practices of an actual company,” she explained. “It made me eager to return to school and take more financial-related courses.”

Like college, Hightail’s internship program provides interns with a place to experiment, but also offers the opportunity for their ideas to become a reality.

“I was amazed at the amount of autonomy I was given to pursue projects I felt passionately about,” said mobile engineering intern Holt Bowmer. “I was developing solutions to problems and integrating my work into a final, finished product used all over the world. When I struggled with challenging technical problems, help and advice from coworkers was always gladly offered. I felt driven to succeed and learn because Hightail fosters those qualities in people and the internship program strikes that delicate balance between independence and collaboration.”

Christina Samuel’s time with the QA team exposed her to a diverse range of new ideas.

“I contributed to multiple teams and learned about each of their projects, which proved to be a tremendously exciting and riveting experience,” she explained. “I joined Hightail with a basic foundation about the software testing process and subsequently became able to build on it by working with tools and processes that match current industry standards.”

Holt had a similar experience during his time working on Hightail’s Android and iPhone apps, as he “expanded my existing knowledge and at the same time, picked up on new skills like shell scripting, Apache ant, Jenkins CI and SOASTA.” But according to Angel Olvera, internships are not always plain sailing,

“There was nothing particularly easy about doing front-end development for the first time,” the customer success intern acknowledged. “I was learning new programming languages such as PHP, JavaScript and SQL, working with foreign tools such as ZenDesk and finishing projects that an entire department depended on. However, I would not have wanted it any other way. I’ve now worked with industry leaders who have mentored me with the practical and technical acumen needed to succeed.”

Jackie also acknowledges the uniqueness of her internship experience.

“I learned a tremendous amount that I could not learn from any college course,” she noted. “I learned in depth about financial forecasting and budgeting. I had the opportunity to participate and present in meetings with VP’s, interact with cross-departmental teams and take part in the financial planning of Hightail’s future.”

She also achieved her objective of starting to understand how businesses work outside of her own specialist area of interest.

“Another great aspect of working at Hightail was the Monday lunches,” she said. “It was not to do with free food, but rather the weekly collaboration of the company. The entire company gathered in the third floor lounge for lunch followed by various presentations and company news and updates. Although I only worked in the Finance department, I liked being included and updated on what each department was working on. After working at Hightail I understand why it is crucial to have every employee on board with the greater goals of the company.”

Christina was another fan of Monday lunch, calling them “a strategy I thought was both genuinely brilliant and advantageous.” From free lunches and ice cream carts to team outings and movie trips, each intern noted the Hightail culture and people as something they will long remember.

“I will never forget moments like the team taking me out for some Cold Stone ice cream when I got accepted to my Master’s program,” adds Kevin. For Angel, it felt like a lesson in how companies can succeed.

“As someone who aspires to one day create his own business, I was able to finally see what it takes to a run a successful, happy company. Going forward, I know that my contribution to my workplace, wherever that may be, is more than just the skills and talent I bring to the table, but also my personality and all the little things that make a company robust, powerful and unique.”

Intern Here at Hightail

What will you learn and how will you contribute? To learn more about the Hightail internship program, send your resume to recruiting@hightail.com.