Acting as normal as possible

It's like a game, where the goal is not ruining anyone's day.

If you say logistics three times fast we appear, right alongside a billion dollars. Bringg is the latest, raising $100 million and earning a billion dollar valuation in the process. The Chicago office seems tiny, with lots of folks international, but the company is hiring. And we don’t seem likely to stop having things delivered any time soon. 

That’s why project44 is also raising $202 million at a valuation of $1.2 billion. Its software tracks goods in transit, so you always know exactly where your new toilet brush is. 

We have long had suspicions about IDEO, so we cannot thank George Aye enough for detailing exactly how toxic that culture is — and encouraging other people to come forward with their own stories of racism, sexism and trauma. We started this newsletter to make whisper networks a little louder, and that’s exactly what George is doing here: making sure everyone knows exactly what they’re getting into at IDEO, and holding IDEO accountable for changing it. We’ve worked with George and his studio, Greater Good, and can personally say he is creating exactly the opposite kind of space. They’re hiring a summer fellow, if that sounds appealing. 

JPMorgan Chase, on the other hand, is still working hard to make you forget it’s JPMorgan Chase — tripling its commitment to invest in Chicago’s South and West sides to $150 million. It sounds very generous, until you realize these are still loans, and Chase still stands to turn a profit, if a smaller one. 

Insurance startup Kin raised $69 million (nice), some of which came from a professional golfer (lol). You may remember Kin from a month ago, when we wrote about how it was planning to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company, or SPAC. At the time, we thought it was the best proof yet that capitalism is a ridiculous myth built on anti-logic. But honestly? Raising a novelty amount of money from a sports dude may win this economic end-times game of mad libs. Tons of respect, great work. 

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Personal Executive Assistant for a Philanthropist and CEO
You know that person who can kind of just … figure it out, no matter what it is? This is a job for that person. It’s part-time, working for a well-loved person working to support a lot of great causes. No doubt this will be a job with a lot of grunt work and wrangling, but at the end of the day you’d be supporting all those great causes too.

Graphic Designer at Lincoln Hall & Schubas
Is this not the best ad for a graphic designer you have ever seen?

A post shared by @lh_schubas

You know how when you really, really want to get out of something you’ll do just a terrible job? This, apparently, is the Lincoln Hall/Schubas approach. And it’s working. Admitting you are hiring someone because you do not know how to do the job yourself, this is the way to our hearts right here. 

Inspiration of the week

“I should mention that I have reached a permanent state of horror such that my life now is about little more than acting as normal as possible so as to not make anyone else’s life worse. ...

Finding out Ben and Jen were getting back together was the first truly shocking piece of news I’ve heard in years that wasn’t also horrible. I am convinced that experiencing surprise this intense unattended by panic and dread literally increased my serotonin production.”

—Sarah Miller, in her delightful new newsletter we subscribed to entirely on the strength of her essay about bridge dogs (don’t click unless you’re somewhere you can cry). While we can’t say we have given the same amount of brainspace to Bennifer, is this not the exact sensation we experienced when John Mulaney started dating Olivia Munn? It’s a surprisingly emotional reaction to a piece of news that, upon further reflection, does not have any consequences at all, just novelty.

If this can happen, then, as Miller says, “maybe I should stop being so sure I know what’s going to happen.” 

May this letter greet you as you try a pawpaw for the first time or see your boss’s face stuck at an unflattering angle in Zoom — some small pleasure you could not have anticipated.

Housekeeping note: We’ll be off next time to celebrate the fourth of July. See you in a month, when who knows what will happen!

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Never light a candle 🔥

So, that's how I deal with it.

Rest easy y’all, Chicago is saved. Corporations and tech companies with too much money are teaming up to give this city’s workers what we really need, an advertising campaign. Instead of, say, improving housing stock, transportation, racial equity, or even just doing something to combat the funk of corruption that just kind of hangs out on our city, they invested in a tagline: "Come Back to Move Forward." Mmm yes rolls off the tongue, sells the value, really just makes it seem like a vibrant place you’d choose for personal gain.

Pretty sure this is right before he gets blown up.

We would beg one of you to apply for the Communications Director job and save this effort from itself, but we can’t stand to see any more funds poured into skirting the systemic work that needs to be done in favor of slapping some parallax-loading statistics on a fresh website.

Allstate is making a play for the bottom of the market with a $300 million acquisition of SafeAuto. SafeAuto provides state-minimum coverage, essentially insurance that doesn’t protect you, but does allow you to meet the law by carrying enough liability protection if you hit someone else. Love to see a profitable business model created and sustained by state legislation, free markets are so cool. 

First Midwest Bank is merging with Evansville, Indiana-based Old National Bank, continuing the trend of consolidation for financial institutions. It’s worth noting that when banks buy each other out, it impacts both the people who work at those banks as well as the companies that rely on them for financing. Less competition, less favorable rates. Again, free markets, so neat. 

At least we get to keep the cool jobs? Marijuana tech firm Fyllo is planning a headquarters in the Old Main Post Office, and as much skepticism as we reserve for the marijuana industry, the tech industry and certainly the combination of the two, we really do want to see that building fill up with equitable jobs. 

We’re also dweebs who want to see Chicago on-screen. (SORRY The Dark Knight filming made the big booms and was a good time, OK?) So talk of a huge new South Shore film studio is pretty exciting. They can’t promise any jobs yet, but considering “The Chi” already employs 400 people, adding even one or two more productions could have a big impact. And it would put folks from the neighborhood in charge of transforming a vacant lot.

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Director of Communications for the Cook County Assessor’s Office
This position reports directly to one of the only men we’ve ever even considered working for, who describes it as a good fit for someone with “big Leslie Knope energy,” so yes, we really think you should apply. Even though it will mean constantly explaining to people that you did not personally create the tax structure in Illinois. 

Inspiration of the week

—Venus Williams, on how she deals with the pressures of interviews. Please watch the whole video, it is a crystalline statement in support of Naomi Osaka and we have watched it dozens of times. If you haven’t heard by now, Osaka withdrew from the French Open after she was fined for refusing to attend post-match press conferences, a move she made to protect her mental health

It may be hard to believe this, but ... likeability isn’t actually a part of your job description. Yeah yeah yeah team player yeah yeah yeah culture fit, we all know what that really means, particularly for women, and particularly for women of color. Do not need. Be the living embodiment of this New Yorker cartoon, opting to die rather than be even the tiniest bit inconvenient.   

People will encourage whatever behavior asks the least of them. Companies will do it in the name of shareholder gains. The only person who will ask what you need is you. Demanding it might be the only way to strengthen your career.

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That would be insane, right?

On invisible labor and make-believe businesses.

Someday we’ll search for one shining moment when the myth of capitalism as a dignified and logical financial system fell apart, and please put this headline near the top of the list (see also: bitcoin, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, slavery, et al.). To recap: Insurance startup Kin — which offers home coverage to people in “catastrophe-prone” areas vulnerable to climate change-induced natural disasters — is considering going public via the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, of Shark Tank judge Matt Higgins. 

SPACs let startups go public without public scrutiny via a loophole: The SPAC is listed on a stock exchange with little more than a pile of cash, then goes out and buys a company, taking it public. If the deal goes through, Kin will be listed at a valuation above $1 billion. 

Can we retire? 







Oh, no? We have to keep talking about Chicago unicorn companies? Cool cool. Amount, a spinoff of Avant — which may well be our least favorite company in Chicago — just got close to $100 million in equity financing and a shiny new billion-dollar valuation. The company continues Avant’s tradition of high-risk, payday-style loans, giving other banks the technology to make online loans and giving shoppers the option of paying for online purchases in installments (for a fee, naturally). The company is, according to a spokesperson, hiring tons of people to work on the product but, uh, don’t. 

Some good news from finance: Bank of America is raising its minimum wage to $25 an hour as it looks to hire. It’s almost like there’s a solution to this “talent shortage” after all.

If all the talk of digital non-assets and non-companies is wearing on you, here’s a good little flashback for you. Barnes & Noble is buying Paper Source — or at least the investment firm that now owns Barnes & Noble is buying Paper Source. BRB, G2G to Blockbuster, page you l8r. 

Other physical goods aren’t faring so well — like the Jeep factory in Belvidere, Ill., which is laying off 1,600 employees as it struggles to get the parts it needs to make cars. 

There’s still room for growth in the wide, wide world of technology though — like Abt, which is planning to double the size of its suburban warehouse to keep everyone stocked with shiny new appliances. And the more organic side of tech is expanding too, with a proposed 500,000-square-foot life sciences building in the West Loop to go with the rush of new lab spaces for startups. 

And one last bit of breaking news that has left us a bit raw: Tribune Publishing is officially selling to private equity firm Alden Capital, known for gutting newsrooms. Considering this newsletter depends on the scant business reporters left at the Trib, this is not good news. Maybe take this afternoon to fund your local independent journalists

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Staff Program Manager, Community Experience and Jobs at Mozilla
Work with the one tech company that actually believes in tech’s utopian promise. The nonprofit Mozilla Foundation is all about an open and accessible internet, and you’d be working on building the marketing partnerships to spread the good word. 

Director of Marketing at The Art Institute of Chicago
Look there’s a reason this job comes up every year or so. But for someone, the low pay and other difficulties will be balanced out by the perks, like being able to touch the art (perk unconfirmed). 

Inspiration of the week

“Think back to the office you used to work from. Who unloaded the dishwasher, stocked the snacks, circulated the get-well cards, made the coffee, bought the birthday cakes?

Did she get paid for it? And did the man who never did any of those things get paid 20% less than she did? No, because that would be insane, right? Because a mother works for free, right?”

—written by Laura Hazard Owen and forever tattooed on our foreheads. This incredible point comes in response to a deeply myopic letter from a CEO to her staff, which warns that employees who don’t do the unrecognized labor of in-person office culture may as well not be employees at all. Why pay benefits to people who won’t sing a half-hearted happy birthday every couple of weeks?

As many companies start to call workers back into offices, it’s important to remember that you do get a say in what that looks like. The people on the other end of this letter, for example, organized a day-long strike to show exactly what happens when you don’t have employees — you don’t have a business. Let’s keep up that energy and make any “return to work” talk a negotiation, not a mandate.

Forward this email to anyone who deserves to eat cake. They can sign up here for a twice-monthly reminder that a job is just a place where they earn the money to buy their own cake. 

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An activity and an impact

Just two of the many great reasons to talk politics at work.

What a gleeful little week we’ve had, as people who’ve created a space specifically to talk about politics and work at the same time. Basecamp’s founders, two white men in possession of many fortunes, decided to share a preemptively defensive open letter banning talk of politics at work, doing away with wellness benefits and ending the practice of committee feedback. It did not go well! And if you’re wondering whether the whole debacle was really a sneaky way to force staff to take buyouts without mentioning layoffs, well, it worked!

The schadenfreude is that much sweeter knowing the history of these two particular pals, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. They started the Chicago-based software firm 37Signals, then quickly realized “Wow, we are the best bois at doing business!” The company switched to selling Basecamp, a project management software meant to help other companies run more like 37Signals, and Jason Fried went on to become — our favorite — a thought leader on how to manage people. Despite only ever writing about his hyperspecific and limited experience managing one (1) team, his musings were treated as universal sage wisdom and without a doubt influenced at least one initiative your HR team has tried on you in the last 10 years. 

Also, David Heinemeier Hansson is a racecar driver, which isn’t strictly relevant but feels important to mention. 

We could continue but once you pull out the Guy Fieri GIF, it’s just punching down. 

Medline — maker of the tiny baby blanket all newborns get, as well as other medical supplies — has been on its way up this pandemic, and now might be ready to cash out. Several private equity firms are looking to group together and gobble the company up for as much as $30 billion. As always, where private equity goes, worker rights tend to leave. That’s a warning to anyone considering a job there, or with Tribune Publishing Co. Despite other frantic offers and millions in earnings that make it an attractive acquisition target, the newspaper group seems insistent on selling to private equity firm Alden Capital, known for gutting newsrooms.

Y’all it’s hard to put this letter together as it is. We can’t afford to lose any more business journalists. They tell us things like this little biotech startup raising $4 million from big names like Joe Mansueto and Michael Polsky. Grove Biopharma makes synthetic proteins to help with drug development, and while we understand precious little of that, we do know it’s one of several promising healthcare startups coming out of local universities. 

Even as businesses “struggle” to fill jobs (i.e., refuse to pay enough to attract talent), unemployment has stayed persistently high in Black and brown communities on the South and West sides. Good, then, that Target is planning to open a distribution center in Little Village with 2,000 jobs starting at $18 an hour. Bad, however, that developer Hilco got $19.7 million in subsidies to build the new distribution center, demolishing a coal plant on the site and covering the neighborhood in smoky debris in the middle of a respiratory pandemic in the process. The state did make the company pay back a whole 1.9% of it by way of a $370,000 fine though.

Maybe that environmental impact can be offset in part by the new electric vehicle plant in Joliet. Canadian electric bus maker Lion plans to hire more than 700 people to produce electric buses and trucks. 

TikTok is also adding jobs in Chicago, up to 150 of them in sales, marketing and customer support in a new West Loop office. This will no doubt be music to the ears of suburban companies opening West Loop offices to attract that hot young talent. Like investment firm Calamos, which is planning an office big enough for 100 employees

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Creative Director at Farmer’s Fridge
Normally wouldn’t point you to jobs rooted in office vending machines, but the homegrown salad-in-a-jar company made quite the pandemic pivot to home delivery, Target and Dunkin’ Donuts — raising tens of millions along the way. 

Senior Manager of Social Media at the Chicago Fire FC
Chicago’s MLS team has a lot going for it: a billionaire owner, matches finally moving from south-suburban Brookfield to Soldier Field and a new logo TBD. There's a lot for you to work with while the Fire sits at the bottom of the conference.

VP Creative & Editorial at Ulta
Oh dream job, why must you be in Bolingbrook? But if you, on the other hand, are willing and able, please apply and put us out of our misery.

Inspiration of the week

“I think we’ve fetishized the idea that your job should be your passion. It’s OK for your job to just be a job .… 

From my perspective, a calling isn’t a job or an industry. It’s an activity or an impact.”

—Career coach Phoebe Gavin reflecting on leaving journalism for a different line of work. This is one in a series of “exit interviews” from OpenNews, all of which we’ve enjoyed and all of which give you a peek at the thoughtful, not-white-dude talent leaving journalism. 

While Gavin’s experience is specific to journalism, her advice against seeing your job as a “calling” applies to all of us. It only serves to give power to employers that are “perfectly happy to chew us up, spit us out, and put up a new job listing the following week.”

Forward this email to anyone who’s doing an activity and making an impact. They can sign up here to get twice-monthly reminders that the work matters more than the job.

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Ambitious with the work

Because every job matters, and nothing you're good at should be a disappointment.

We have been doing this for a long time, and still the multibillion-dollar corporations sneak by. Today, it’s Elgin-based Middleby, a foodservice equipment maker now buying Florida-based foodservice equipment maker Welbilt for $4.3 billion. Casual. While you may not have heard of Middleby, you’ve definitely eaten food out of its fryers and fridges, and perhaps lusted after its Viking and La Cornue ranges. 

If raw foods are more your vibe, the news about Hazel Technologies has you covered. The company — which makes essentially silica gel packets but for keeping produce fresh — raised $70 million and plans to hire another 15 people before the year’s end. Good for the local startup economy, even better news for that avocado that was already turning brown by the time you got it home. 

Quick-growing Clearcover is also raising money, $200 million on the heels of a year where the auto insurer claims to have doubled revenue and headcount. It plans to use the money to double headcount again, this time by adding 250 jobs as it expands to more states. 

And after a not-at-all-great year for commercial real estate, offices are starting to expand as well. Cinespace plans to add up to 19 new soundstages to continue turning out Dick Wolf “Chicago” dramas, plus some more interesting work including a new show from Michael B. Jordan that deals with police corruption. Where will he find the material???

Enlace is a great place to donate if you just barked out a laugh-sob — the team there has been doing the work in Little Village for a long time. If you are a paid subscriber to this letter, you’ve already made a small donation this month.

You won’t get exclusive content, but we will give your money away.

In addition to the fictional workplaces, Chicago’s getting a couple of new real offices as well. Diaper and tissue maker Kimberly-Clark is opening up 250 jobs in a Fulton Market “commercial center,” mostly by relocating people from Wisconsin in exchange for millions in state tax credits. Our favorite scam!

This is as good a time as any to tell you that Wisconsin’s greatest grifter, Foxconn, is losing billions of dollars in tax credits after promising 13,000 jobs and delivering … 281. Don’t spend too much time savoring the justice though — the manufacturer is still getting $10 million in tax breaks, plus all the eminent domain, utilities upgrades and other community-wrecking benefits it’s already enjoyed. 

Elements is planning to add real jobs, both here on behalf of itself and everywhere on behalf of its clients. The staffing firm essentially helps companies go global, either by managing international hiring or doing the hiring directly and lending the talent. The company is moving its headquarters to the Loop from Barcelona to be closer to clients, with a goal of hiring 160-odd roles over the next few years. 

And yes, the CEO who grew up in Evanston is aware of the differences between the two cities. He plans to keep a presence, as well as his condo, in Barcelona.

Something that still doesn’t make sense: SPACs! We can comprehend the fundamental concept — a publicly owned “company” is formed solely to raise money and buy a to-be-determined privately owned company, taking the existing business public without any of the pesky processes and regulations. We just can’t understand why it’s legal.

Anyway, ticket broker Vivid Seats is going public via a SPAC at a valuation of almost $2 billion. Yes, a company that makes money off of live events happening is skipping the due diligence and moving straight to the stock market with a value comparable to the GDP of the Marshall Islands. 

Which brings us to Amazon, and the news that it hired 15,000 people in Illinois alone last year, none of whom are unionized

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
VP of Social Media for Marcus by Goldman Sachs
We cannot deny the appeal of this job, running social for the “hip” “young” arm of Goldman Sachs. We, too, like to talk to millennials about money. Though we feel this job will have less of a “seize the means of production” vibe.

Community and Partnerships Manager at Mozilla
Or join Mozilla in its fight for a free and open web. The money is probably not as good, but the sleep sure is better. 

Director of Marketing & Communications at Lakeview Pantry
Ditto this role, where you can use your expertise for good by leading the internal and external marketing efforts at one of the city’s largest and longest-operating food pantries. Create a marketing, comms and PR strategy to build the pantry’s brand, important mission and presence. Manage the website, newsletters, social accounts, budget, media relations and a small team.

Content Strategist for International Mental Health at Teladoc
The effectiveness of telehealth is still up for debate — particularly when it comes to mental health — but we do fundamentally believe in expanding access. And Teladoc, freshly merged with Livongo, is in a good position to write the checks. Keep that $37 billion in combined value in mind as you negotiate your salary.

Inspiration of the week

“Everything I do is the most important thing I do … it might not be close to being the best, but I have to make it the most important thing. That means I will be ambitious with my job and not with my career. That’s a very big difference, because if I’m ambitious with my career, everything I do now is just stepping-stones leading to something — a goal I might never reach, and so everything will be disappointing. But if I make everything important, then eventually it will become a career. Big or small, we don’t know. But at least everything was important.”

Actor Mads Mikkelsen, better known as “oh, that guy!” with some delightfully astute life advice. We don’t suggest taking your eyes completely off the career ball — that’s advice for white men. But getting ambitious about what you can control today? That we can get behind. That and not fucking with Rihanna’s money.

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