Category Archives: Me

Focus and be productive. A short tale from Pocket.

We always need more people.  I’m the first one in line to say I need more engineers.  And when I get more, I’ll still say I need more.  I will *never* have enough, and I challenge any product manager to say they have enough.
But, consider some of the success stories out there.  And consider the resources each of us have deployed.  We can do a lot.  And we are.  The key is focus on what’s important.  Organize around what’s important and make it happen, potentially at the cost of other things that are (less) important.

Notable quotes:

Remember: getting an app or company on your platform marks the end of a deal, but the beginning of an official working relationship.

There comes a point for every startup when you’ve got to decide between perfection and progression. The first is a stable characteristic and the second is a dynamic conversation. Choose wisely.

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Watch A Teacher Make Her 3rd-Grade Kids Hate Each Other For The Best Reason Imaginable

OMG. I wish I had seen this in school. Amazing teacher. This type of education should be brought back into institutions.

Little River School Online

images“I saw this video in college, and I immediately changed my major. The payoff at the end is brilliant and a perfect metaphor for what we deal with and face every day in our society. Like “Catcher in the Rye” is to high school students, this is part of your Upworthy required reading.

1:30: This teacher begins a study that will be talked about for 40 years.
3:00: She re-creates segregation and racism in her classroom.
7:45: Mrs. Elliott flips the entire class on their heads.
10:00 Jane Elliot makes the most profound discovery about us all
11:43: The students learn something that the world is still struggling to.
There are too many great moments to point out. Just watch.” – Rafael Casal from

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What is change?

The following are thoughts reflecting my impressions after reading Penelope Trunk’s latest.

What is change?   What is progress?  Does progress mean we stop worrying about things that are currently stressing us out?  Or does it simply mean that we start worrying about things that we don’t consider yet to be stressing us out?

In Penelope’s article, she says that you can stop worrying about bad grades, poor communication skills, sketchy backgrounds, and reading online negatively affecting your job application.  The key is to identify a way to stand out and differentiate yourself from the pool of applicants.

But when unemployment is high, does it matter?  Unless you have specialized skills, how do you differentiate yourself?  At the end of the day, unless you know someone, an employer evaluates your application based on a cover letter and a resume.  When I review resumes, I rarely review anything more than the skills someone has.  In fact, most of the resume leg work is handled for me by HR.  The mere fact that I speak to you means you have an honest to god shot at the job.  But then, it comes entirely down to communication skills.  Can you do the job?  Can you communicate with your peers, subordinates and superiors?  If you can’t demonstrate those skills in a 30-60 minute interview, it doesn’t matter what capabilities you have on paper.  I don’t believe you can do the job.

Note, I’m considering the job you’re looking for is in product management so the lens I look at may be different than what Penelope was talking about.

Guest post: Help CEOs see the value of product management

Good read for identifying product’s performance within the organization. Specifically, look for the symptoms that guide you on the problems product is creating and/or solving across the various departments.

Leaders versus Managers

I recently read What is Authentic Leadership? and started thinking about the difference between a Leader and a Manager.  The article seems to assume that a Leader = Manager and uses a Leader’s followers interchangeably with employees.

In my view, they do not always mean the same things.  A good Leader is not always a manager but a good Manager is almost always a good Leader.  The same qualities that the article talks about – being genuine, self aware, and results-oriented while thinking long-term – are the same qualities I have found in my favorite managers and mentors.  What I thought the article missed though was a Leader must *care* about his employees to be an effective Manager.

If my Manager does not care about my well being, my professional development and my career advancement, what chance do I as an employee have of achieving my goals?  If my Manager won’t help me progress, who else at the company will?  Who becomes my champion for success?  I think good Managers is something a lot of companies, particularly young companies, lack.  I’ve been fortunate these last few companies or so in that my managers have connected with me and understood what makes me tick.  And they’ve fostered that while helping me get to where I want to be.  All the while, they continued to lead by example and show me, and the company, what needs to get done to get the company to where it needs to be.

Startup Lessons – Raising Funds

Steve Blank recently blogged about Fund Raising is a Means Not an End.  It was thought provoking.

I’ve been involved in 4 startups now, 2 of which were boot strapped by either angels or customers and 2 that were VC backed.  Of the angel funded, 1 is still limping along trying to work towards scalable growth and the other was acquired due to strong customer revenues.  Of the VC backed, one was fire sold to a bigger company so the VCs could recoup some of their investment.  The other is doing great 🙂 but that’s a different topic that I won’t dig into.

I tend to agree with Steve’s take on raising funds for a startup.  There’s something to be said about treating the money you receive as a gift, one that is funding your dream to build something akin to a blossoming tree that starts as a seed.  Taking that further, consider how to build an orchard.  Farmers start with young saplings planted in many rows and nurture them into adult fruit-bearing trees.  

But how do they get saplings?  They start from many seeds and tons of water.  Even still, many of those seeds peter out.  But some of them turn into the saplings that make it into the orchard.  

The seed is like the startup and the venture capital the water and nutrients that help the seed grow into the sapling.  More money doesn’t necessary improve the situation in terms of guaranteeing more saplings.  Instead, what helps is constant experimentation to improve the efficacy in converting seeds into saplings.  In the end, the experimentation results in a repeatable process that results in more saplings to grow the orchard.

To bring the analogy home, constant experimentation and efficacy improvement is what the serial entrepreneur is really good at.  It helps to transform a temporary situation (the startup) into the scalable repeatable business we all want.  And for that, money is the means.  Not the end.

 

Obamacare – Key Takeaways

Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obamacare

Source – http://www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/

I’m quoting and commenting on some of the terms of Obamacare below.  Note, I had to do some breathing exercises to get past the ‘Funding’ section of the wiki.  I don’t think it matters

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin the Readmissions Reduction Program, which requires CMS to reduce payments to IPPS hospitals with excess readmissions, effective for discharges beginning on October 1, 2012.

Excellent!  We will second guess the hospital administrators who boot ill patients for cost reasons or insurance reimbursement limitations.  Hopefully the symptom of this issue doesn’t involve the docs  though, because I would *hate* to be second guessing someone who’s spent their life studying to have the ability to diagnose and treat patients (and is presumably good at it).

Income from self-employment and wages of single individuals in excess of $200,000 annually will be subject to an additional tax of 0.9%. The threshold amount is $250,000 for a married couple filing jointly (threshold applies to joint compensation of the two spouses), or $125,000 for a married person filing separately.[92] In addition, an additional Medicare tax of 3.8% will apply to unearned income, specifically the lesser of net investment income or the amount by which adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 for a married couple filing jointly; $125,000 for a married person filing separately.)[93]

Oh, that’s just sucks in California.  Wonderful, pretty much everyone I know will be paying more in taxes, and of course, we pay a good amount already.

Insurers are prohibited from discriminating against or charging higher rates for any individual based on gender or pre-existing medical conditions.

I like this one.  As someone who changes jobs much more, it’s nice to not have to consider carrying cobra as I move on just to cover something from the last couple of years.  As I get older, that’s going to be more important.

A $2,000 per employee penalty will be imposed on employers with more than 50 employees who do not offer health insurance to their full-time workers (as amended by the reconciliation bill).[30] “Full-time” is defined as, with respect to any month, an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.[128]

I suppose this is ok because any company reaching over 50 employees should be generating enough cash flow to offer decent benefits, otherwise, how will they attract talent in this day and age?

CMS begins using the Medicare fee schedule to give larger payments to physicians who provide high-quality care compared with cost.

I don’t know what this means.  Will physicians actually get more money paid to them or will they just got an increment to the already low Medicare fee schedule for high-quality care?  How do they define high-quality care?  I guess we’ll find out in 01/2015 when this is effective.

All existing health insurance plans must cover approved preventive care and checkups without co-payment.

That’s a direct hit to the primary care, family and general internist specialities (others too I’m sure).  I suppose this will create the market for a bunch of new walk-in clinic systems nationwide.  I assume that the amount of money paid to the service provider here is a flat rate, so the organization providing these services will then move to increasing volume to generate appropriate cash flow to run their business.  I believe that will result in sub-optimal care.

Overall thoughts

I’m somewhat impressed at the depth of this bill and initiative.  A lot of thought and effort has gone into completely overhauling our medical system.  However, I’m walking away with a few thoughts:

  • This is better for the overall society in the US, particularly because everyone will have access to some amount of healthcare and overall state/federal costs from helping those without insurance will become more predictable.  I’m not convinced that they will decrease.
  • Funding for this program will come from the people who have created opportunities for themselves and pulled themselves out of the situation where they cannot afford healthcare.
  • The healthcare providers will suffer as part of this initiative.  I suspect a number of them will not find the financial rewards that originally incentivized them to enter this profession.  Ultimately, this will lead to fewer potential practitioners entering the rigorous academic programs to provide quality care.  We need to consider the restrictions on how to become a practitioner here in the US (foreign medical graduate restrictions, alliances with schools outside the US, immigration reform to keep up with increasing patient demand in the face of decreasing financial returns).
  • More institutions will rise up and take control of delivering healthcare.  Gone will be the days of personal 1:1 private practice care to the masses.
  • There will still be a divide in the basic care provided by what Obamacare outlines and the high end boutique health care provided to the 1%-ers who can afford to pay their individual practitioners above and beyond what their healthcare insurance provider will pay for the services.