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Between The Lines

The stories behind this issue’s stories.

Meanwhile Back on Planet Earth…

When it comes to the business potential of GPS technology, “The Sky’s the Limit” (page 90). But it’s the down-to-earth locations that make GPS work. In the lobby of Qualcomm’s satellite-network control center in San Diego, a hypnotic display on a TV screen shows a map of North America and the number of trucks being tracked using Qualcomm’s OmniTRACs system.

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In Canada, 19,786 trucks are being followed. In Mexico, 13,224 trucks. In the United States, 251,261. Oddly, some trucks appear to be floating in the oceans, off the northeast and northwest coasts. “We’ve got some barges and fishing boats that use the units too,” says Norm Ellis, VP of business operations for Qualcomm’s wireless-business-solutions division.

Some of the nation’s biggest companies — Frito-Lay and Schneider National trucking, for example — use Qualcomm, which has two separate systems for tracking trucks. One uses GPS satellites for companies that want real-time precision. The other is Qualcomm’s proprietary system, which uses rented satellite time for companies that are satisfied with knowing where their trucks are within 1,000 feet.

Qualcomm also offers monitoring of vital truck systems, automated driver logs, and messaging between trucks and dispatch centers. Every message — position, driving directions, even paycheck details — passes through the control center. There, behind glass walls, three men sit silently at consoles with huge computer screens. In a second glass-walled room hang a dozen TV monitors, on which each message — nearly 5,000 a minute — between the trucks and trucking companies flashes for just a moment.

Among the messages that move each day are “panic button” alerts from truckers in some kind of trouble. Qualcomm covers so many trucks that the center averages 30 panic-button messages a day. Charles Fishman

Unlucky in Love?

Professor Richard Wiseman, head of a psychology-research department at the University of Hertfordshire, England, studies what makes some people lucky and others not. In this issue, he explains “How to Make Your Own Luck” (page 78).

Most execs could use some luck on the job. But how about after hours? Does Wiseman have any advice for those unlucky in love?

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In his research, Wiseman created a questionnaire that measures key psychological attributes. People rate themselves on such questions as “I am open to new experiences, such as trying new types of food” and “I nearly always expect good things to happen to me in the future.” After completing the form, they were shown a potential companion’s answers and asked whether they would want to go on a blind date with that person.

The big difference? Lucky people showed a very strong preference for people with similar outlooks on life. “These people are lucky in love because they are attracted to partners who are psychologi-cally similar,” Wiseman says, “and our research shows that such a similarity makes for a successful relationship.” Daniel H. Pink

How To Stand Out From the Crowd

In assembling our guide for perplexed execs, we sought advice from an array of executive coaches, headhunters, and business leaders to help us identify “All the Right Moves” for a worrisome economy (page 60). One of the executives who shared her insights, Sherry Whiteley, HR chief at Intuit, has seen more of today’s job-market anxiety than most of her HR colleagues. After all, she operates in Silicon Valley, which has lost 200,000 jobs in two years.

Unlike many of its tech-sector peers, however, Intuit is thriving — and hiring. Which means that lots of people are applying. Intuit used to field 2,000 ré sumé s a month; now the company gets 20,000 ré sumé s a month. What advice would Whiteley offer job seekers who are hoping to stand out from the crowd?

First, look for a company whose strategy and values you believe in. Your enthusiasm for the company should shine through. Format your ré sumé to highlight results achieved in previous jobs, and include key words relevant to the position that you seek, so that ré sumé -scanning software won’t screen you out. The duration of your unemployment is not so much of an issue these days, she says, but what you have done with that time is. Finally, don’t get hung up on your previous titles. What’s im-portant is whether you can make an impact in your new job. And remember: This market, too, shall pass. Intuit executives, she says, are already strategizing on how to retain their latest hires when the job market rebounds. Linda Tischler

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