Archive for August, 2012

TiVo Launches an Internship Program for Veterans

Thursday, August 16th, 2012
Most people think executives of publicly traded corporations only worry about the quarter, the year, and the stock price.  We rarely see the “other side” of the C Suite.  In TiVo’s case, the top brass down to the staff level joined together to create a special internship program specifically targeted at our veterans.
Today, The Wall Street Journal posted an article written by TiVo CEO Tom Rogers and TiVo lead director and Viet Nam veteran, Tom Wolzien.  Take a moment to read, reflect and ask this question.  What if our company implemented an internship program for veterans?  We hope that business leaders read, reflect on the TiVo initiative and others like it around the country, and answer the call to hire our veterans.

TiVo’s Fix For Jobless Veterans

Many companies have college interns. Why not for men and women back from combat?


They are everywhere, but we don’t usually see them—the nearly 300,000 of the 2.4 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who are without work. That’s a 12% unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a veteran recently told us, “It’s like people say, ‘Thank you for your service . . . but don’t ask me for a job.'”

They deserve better. So this past spring at TiVo we filled a conference room with veterans on staff and said, “We’re not doing enough for people getting out of the military. Figure it out.” Those veterans of wars going back to Vietnam took 90 minutes to conceive and design a paid annual internship program for women and men just getting out of the military, or who have recently finished school after service.

The TiVo Summer Veterans Intern Program (TiVets) is based on two ideas. First: Since we have internships for college students, why not vets? Second, a résumé credential “buffer,” such as the internship, answers the critical question of whether a veteran can successfully transition to civilian employment.

We match each veteran with two mentors, one of them a veteran. The mentors, along with a college intern, keep tabs on the performance of the vets, and on any other issues that might arise. There haven’t been any.

Working with military bases and veterans groups near Silicon Valley, TiVo developed a list of more than 200 potential candidates for internships. Ten vets were eventually selected. Then our engineering and operations division connected the interns with the right positions. The first class of interns started in June.

We went into the experiment not expecting to hire any of the interns, but we will be hiring a number of them, and the line managers want to hire many more when positions become available.

The veterans adapted quickly to our corporate culture and in some cases brought military-type accountability to operations that had never looked to adopt that sort of discipline. They have proven their abilities and shown dedication and commitment. Those hired won’t need an extensive amount of time for training, as is necessary for most new employees.

A number of other companies do make efforts to support veterans, but unfortunately the current job market isn’t yielding a great deal of hiring. Yet an internship program like TiVo’s costs companies very little. It is the commitment to making it work that truly matters, giving a veteran that first step into the private sector that could lead to permanent employment.

Our first class of veteran interns included people who have traumatic brain injuries from improvised explosive devices and other physical disabilities. Some disclosed having low-level post-traumatic stress disorder. This is unsurprising: 25% of vets from the post-9/11 era are disabled, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet the disabilities have not been a factor in the performance of our interns.

The interns themselves tell us that the program means a great deal to them. Many have experienced being turned down repeatedly for positions because their formal education didn’t match the rigid “check-the-box” approach of most companies, and they had no private-sector experience to offer. There is rarely a place on an application to talk about managing millions of dollars of equipment and dozens of people—or making crucial judgments under the pressure of conditions never experienced in the civilian workplace. These experiences matter to our company.

The most touching story we’ve heard came from a vet who came home from deployment in Afghanistan and was discharged last Christmas. She had never looked for a job and had no idea where to start. The Army was her career. She was, she said, at the end of her rope when the TiVo internship opportunity came along. Now her confidence is back and she knows how to talk the talk of Silicon Valley—she’s not speaking “military” anymore.

America has asked many men and women to protect the country while making huge sacrifices along the way. But when their military careers wrap up, they are often not trained adequately to change careers, and too few companies are making use of the tremendous life skills developed during combat tours.

We didn’t know what to expect from this program, so it is easy to say that it exceeded expectations. As our first class nears completion, we intend to maintain this program and certainly hope other companies will try their own versions. The veteran-intern program has done far more for both the veterans and TiVo than we ever expected.

Mr. Rogers is the CEO of TiVo Inc. Mr. Wolzien, a Vietnam veteran, is the lead independent director of TiVo’s board of directors.

Freedom of Speech and Chick Fil-A

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

The United States is stronger today because gay rights groups have the legal right to peacefully participate in National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A’s across the country.  No matter what your position is on the definition of a marriage, freedom of speech and of expression is a vitally important element of our Constitution.  Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee led Wednesday’s support for Chick fil-A’s CEO’s position on same sex marriage.  The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) are supporting today’s National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A’s across the country.

Freedom of Speech is Alive and Well in the United States

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Mike Huckabee's Appreciation Day at Chick fil-AFormer Governor Mike Huckabee created Chick fil-A Appreciation Day Wednesday to support the company, its chief executive’s controversial stance on gay marriage, and most importantly, the right of free speech that is protected under the Constitution of the United States.  The free speech controversy started when several politicians openly stated that they would block Chick fil-A from entering their markets based solely on the CEO’s position on what constitutes a marriage.

The response in Dallas and around the country has been remarkable. Thousands ate yesterday at Chick fil-A, waiting in long lines without complaint.  Our wait was about 30 minutes.

GLADD is planning a “National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A” on Friday. Couples who disagree with Dan Cathey’s view on marriage are being encouraged to take a photo or video of couples kissing at a Chick fil-A store.

We believe strongly in free speech and so it was heart warming to see so many people turn out Wednesday to support the right to free speech.  We will also support GLADD’s right to express their views in opposition, and will join in on Friday’s event.

We also support the Jim Henson Company’s right to cancel a contract that supplies toys in the chain’s kids’ meals because of Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay marriage stance.  Like consumers, companies have the freedom (thankfully) to do business with whom they choose.