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That time a startup tried to hire me just to push clients’ products in job interviews • The Register

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Years ago, prior to his UK government service and AMP rebel period, Terrence Eden was running a mobile technology consultancy when a London-based startup offered to pay him to take job interviews with no intention of accepting any offers.

His sole purpose in approaching companies under the pretense of seeking work there was to pitch products for the startup’s clients.

Eden recounted this tale in a blog post on Friday following his rediscovery of the now expired non-disclosure agreement he had signed at the time to learn about this gig.

He refers to this now-defunct company as “Fronk.” The Register asked whether he would provide the company’s actual identity in confidence, but he politely declined. Nonetheless, we find the yarn credible enough to repeat herein, partly in the hope a reader might recognize the firm.

The internet is rife with recruitment horror stories in which hapless job applications confront unusual demands or uncomfortable situations. Just recently the FBI warned about criminals using fake websites and job ads to entice job seekers into surrendering personal information for the purpose of identity fraud.

Unqualified job candidates with fake credentials, sometimes supported by unscrupulous recruiting firms, are also a longstanding concern among corporate hiring managers.

But job seeking as a bait-and-switch marketing opportunity isn’t something you hear of every day.

Eden in his post describes the dialog that went on as “Fronk” personnel explained why they wanted him to pay him to interview for jobs he would not be taking.

The startup representatives explained that during each interview, he was to evangelize client products. “Suppose that AWS wants to sell more InfiniDash licences,” Eden recalls them saying, using the now-famous fictional AWS service as an example in his loosely reconstructed history. “They pay us to get the word out to big companies and start-ups.”

Bemused, he inquired how that might work. They responded that an interviewer might ask how he dealt with a difficult situation at a previous job. “We want you to talk about how using InfiniDash made life easier for your team,” he says he was told.

When Eden pushed back by noting that he might not have experience with said products, the startup’s stewards insisted they’d only send him to interviews with companies that didn’t already use their clients’ products and they’d pay him to get certified with the products, just in case some expertise proved necessary.

When Eden asked whether the arrangement was ethical, the response was, “Our investors think so!”

But evidently this peculiar business model never found its footing. Eden says he declined the job and later encountered the startup at a few conferences before they disappeared.

Lately, though things have come full circle. When hiring potential job candidates, Eden says he’ll sometimes hear suspiciously enthusiastic endorsements of particular JavaScript frameworks or code editors or other products that make him wonder whether “Fronk” somehow survived.

We need only look at the abundance of social media “influencers” and undisclosed marketing relationships, of fake reviews and fake accounts, of self-congratulatory corporate statements and their distance from actual behavior to see that the inauthenticity of “Fronk” never left us. ®

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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Charles River to create 90 new jobs at Ballina biologics site

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Charles River is expanding its testing capabilities in Ballina as part of its partnership with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories is planning an €8m site expansion in Ballina to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca.

The expansion at the Mayo site will create an additional 1,500 sq m of lab space and 90 highly skilled jobs in the area over the next three years.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The company provides longstanding partners AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of Vaxzevria for Covid-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.

The latest investment follows earlier expansions at the Ballina site and Charles River recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.

“We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” said Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina.

“Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients.”

Charles River acquired the Ballina facility, which focuses on biologics testing, in 2002. The company employs 230 people at its two facilities in Ireland, including the Mayo site and a site in Dublin, established in 2017, which serves as the EMEA and APAC headquarters for the company’s microbial solutions division.

IDA Ireland is supporting the expansion. Mary Buckley, executive director of the agency, said Charles River is an “employer of long standing” in Co Mayo.

“The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome,” she added. “Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations.”

Dan Wygal, country president for AstraZeneca Ireland, added: “Our Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”

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