Sunday, June 30, 2019

My Talk to Emerging Leaders: Be authentic to self, your team and your superiors

This blog is in continuation to the earlier blog I wrote about my experience in being a mentor to emerging leaders in my organization.

What experiences, roles, and opportunities have led you to the role you are in today at Citrix?

There are obviously quite a few learnings in my journey along the way. But I would like to call out one of them I consider important, and then share a few others.

When i applied for a move to internal off-beat role within my organization 2-3 years back, one of the things i was mulling about was how to present my resume. The conventional way of presenting resume is to highlight all the achievements and ensure that they get prominently heard and listed.

One part of me wanted to be honest about my failures as well. It was a risky proposition, as the talk of failures is not a commonplace in many organizations, not more so when attempting to make move to new roles. I went ahead with my gut and drafted a 3 page resume.
The first page talked about my experience.
The second page talked about my third dimension (my interests).
The last page talked about my failures, not only at Citrix but also in other organizations.

Now, to be fair, I have messed up more often so one page may not do full justice but i tried to be as honest as possible highlighting the areas (of failure) that I felt were important to bring forward.

Why did I include a failure resume ? There were really two thoughts that dominated my mind:
1. I wanted to be as authentic as possible. I have always believed to be open about vulnerabilities and weaknesses. It's very hard to do it in a competitive environment especially where you are considered as good as your last failure or success. But I have always defaulted on being authentic, accepting the risks, terms and conditions it comes with.

One of my idols, the cricketer Rahul Dravid is supposed to have said this while describing Virat Kohli, current India cricket captain:
"While Dravid admitted to cringing at some "outrageous" things Kohli says on occasions, he also defended him by saying that so long as he was true to himself, and it helped get the best out of him it shouldn't matter. I think the game is still about performance. So let's not take that way from someone like Kohli," Dravid said at the Bangalore Literature Festival on Sunday. "That's his personality. People have asked me, 'Why didn't you behave like that?' But that's not what got the best out of me. I would have been inauthentic to myself if I had tried to put tattoos and behave like Virat."
2. Second reason was the impact one of the stories narrated by one of our execs had on me. In one of the forums sharing his personal journey, he said that one of the things he was very proud of during his multi-year stint at Microsoft (his previous employer) is that he lived long enough to see through his failures. He didn't run away from it, rather owned it up and faced it every day. I felt it was a courageous and the right thing to do.

To cut long story short, the mention of my failure resume page turned out to be a talking point during my interviews and led to fascinating conversations. I learned a lot from those conversations and at the same time, it helped me be authentic and in my zone during the interviews. By zone, i don't mean comfort zone, but a place where I was at peace and not attempting to hide any detail for showing a overly positive side of me.

I am glad i was able to live through my philosophy:"Be authentic to self, your team and your superiors"

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My Talk to Emerging Leaders: Career paths exists as a guidelines, not as mandates

I recently got a privilege to be a mentor to emerging leaders in my organization (Citrix) as a part of 'Next Generation Leadership' program. It was a sort of 'limited time' mentor role (not sure why it was called mentor though) in which I, along with three accomplished peers of mine were a part of panel talk, with 35 plus emerging leaders in the audience.
It was an interesting experience for me, before I start sharing about it I just want to say I quite grateful (to organizing team, L&D in this case) for opportunities like these coming my way. I surely do think there are far more capable people who can play such role better than me.
In the next few blogs, I will attempt and recall my responses to a few questions that were asked of me in this panel talk.

Here's the first one:

What experiences, roles, and opportunities have led you to the role you are in today at Citrix?

I consider business as a team sport so I would like to start with drawing an analogy from the world of sports. With Cricket World cup going on at the moment, how can I not talk about Cricket? :-)
When I look at the most successful cricketers, one lesser known thing stands out. Let me take an example of Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni.

When Dravid made his debut and had played for a couple of years, he has started getting type-casted as a test match player. He technique and value was considered to be questionable for One day format of the game. Rahul being aware of this, not only made adjustments to his batting technique but also found a unique way of adding value. He was one of the first players to learn wicket-keeping and offered himself as a keeper. He was eventually very successful in one day cricket.

When Virender Sehwag was called into the team, he was a middle order batsman. But with some backing and confidence from the captain (Saurav Ganguly), he became one of the most destructive test and one day openers of all time.

Many people questioned MS Dhoni's unorthodox batting and wicketkeeping skills. He hung on to his core strengths and became the most successful one day finisher (arguably) and India's most successful captain and wicketkeeper.

If you look at these stories, one thread that binds these seemingly distinct cases is that each of these players charted their own paths towards their individual success and glory. They didn't follow any set template.

Why are these stories important in the context of current conversation? That's because in the context of organizations, we often fail to ask this question:

Why is it not possible to follow your own path in the organizations?
Do employees only have one option that is to follow the career paths laid down by organization?
One of the things that I tried to do in my career is to break away from the career paths and see where it would lead me. One disclaimer: even though I started my response to this question by citing the examples of three very successful cricketers, my intention was not to compare anyhow my little world with theirs and I share the rest of the stuff below fully acknowledging the role luck played in my journey so far.

Early in my days at Citrix, I followed linear path. I mastered globalization engineering and played the role to lead a significant portion of engineering efforts and eventually becoming Director of Engineering team. I handled Security Engineering when the team was in transition for a couple of years.
One of my beliefs have been that senior and leadership roles are open ended in nature. What I mean by this is, these roles are not tied just to job description but also has open ended element that should prompt leaders to find their own ways to make organization and products better.
Armed with this belief, during my above described part of the role, I offered myself to various roles within my organization. Important to note that I didn't 'offer' myself to play leadership roles or seek credit but just with plain intent to learn. In a few years, apart from my primary role, I gained experience in:

  • Leading corporate citizenship teams.
  • Leading internal facing technology events.
  • Leading external facing technology branding events.
  • Driving organization pitch sessions at universities.
  • Before a part of internal compliance committee.
  • And many such roles.
At the end of each such experience, I observed two things happening to me:
1. Since I had a demanding role, finding time for anything beyond caused me go out of comfort zone often. It made me better at managing my time and delegating.
2. I could notice my thinking around problem solving and leadership skills evolving slowly but surely with each experience.
This happened for sometime before I got to play the role that I do now.
The beautiful part of my current role is that I was involved in almost all the phases of creation of role
I have no hesitation in calling myself an 'Intrapreneur' and possibly one of the best 'jack of all trades' :-)
I made another shift (would thank luck and my superiors first) to Product Management some time back.
(More on these changes in upcoming posts).

How to come up with creative ideas: Think user-experience first and then the technology

I recently started sharing my scribbles on How to come up with creative ideas. To reiterate, my idea in sharing these is to look back at this list for my own inspiration and for those who are interested.

On my road journey back from Patras to Athens, I started reading  the book- Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs

One of the stories in this book caught my attention. Let me recreate the excerpt from the story below (with full credit to the author: Ken Kocienda)
Throughout the development of the iPhone, we referred to the keyboard, often quite nervously, as a "science project." When we started developing our touchscreen operating system, we didn't know if typing on a small touch-sensitive sheet of glass was technologically feasible or a fool's errand. As commonplace as virtual keyboards have become, in those days, the norm for smartphones was the BlackBerry, with its built-in hardware key board, its plastic chiclet keys, and its tactile thumb-typing. In contrast, the iPhone keyboard would offer tiny virtual keys that gave no feedback you could feel with your fingers.
Ken Kocienda was involved in developing the first ever touchscreen keyboard for iPhones and later for iPad. But this was something that intrigued me as much as the highlighted part above.

When Ken and his team started developing the touchscreen keyboard, the most popular way of keying into mobile phones was the physical keyboard. When they started working on touch-sensitive keyboard, they weren't sure of technological feasibility. I know i am assuming things when i say this but one of the reasons why they picked up a problem for which they didn't have technical solution is that they thought of user-experience first.

From what i have read and believe in, Steve Jobs always believed in starting from user-experience first and then let technology follow to determine the best solution. In the early iPhone era, Blackberry was still popular in enterprises and people loved it's ergonomic keyboard. Being a visionary as Steve Jobs was, he imagined users will get a better experience if they switch to touch-screen keyboard as it will allow for bigger screen to be created.

To summarize, one source for coming up with creative ideas is to think of user's pain-points to be solved first, articulate it and then think of technical solutions.

More on this soon, till then try and apply this thinking and let me know how it goes.

Image source:

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Little things that make pitch presentation impactful

Ideas without a compelling pitch presentation is like our lives without Google maps these days- nomadic, devoid of direction and lost.

Unless you have bootstrapped your idea, you will invariably need to pitch your ideas effectively to raise capital. Even if you have bootstrapped your idea yourself, you will need to pitch your ideas effectively to the potential users and win their buy-in.

In an ultra-competitive world like ours today, one can't afford to lose focus on skills that are force-multipliers. One such skill is pitching your ideas with impact.

I came across these interesting train of tweets by Entrepreneur and VC, Sanjay Swamy. With due credit to him for the words that follow, i am sharing his words as is. In my role, I do lead various pitch mentoring sessions and will share my learnings in the upcoming blogs. Till then, enjoy Sanjay Swamy's words of wisdom.

1. Stand up and present - be near the projection screen or the TV and point to it, do not be sitting slouched over your laptop. Hopefully you have a colleague who can click - else do it yourself. But don't sit at your laptop!

2. You are the presentation - not what's on the slides. Have the minimum content on the slides and make sure people follow what YOU are saying - not just what's on the slides. You are doing this in-person for a reason!

3. Whatever you might say or do, please make eye contact with people. Read their eyes - silence neither means they agree nor does it mean they understood - more often than not, it means they did neither. Worse, it could mean they lost interest already.

4. Tell the story right. Answer questions directly - unless it is genuinely going to show up in your next 2-3 slides. Don't waste time in rhetoric - like "that's a good question" or "honestly speaking"...

5. There are some questions you don't answer by choice. These include the question of "what valuation are you expecting" - its only on @sharktank that you say I'm raising x for y. Asking this only sets an upper limit - and may be a turn-off.

6. Take notes during the meeting - if you are alone, people will be patient with you, if not, your colleague should be taking copious notes of all the comments.

7. Summarize action items at the end of the meeting. Agree upon next steps - and please please please, follow-through! I often have changed my mind about something because of the thoroughness and promptness of the follow-through!

8. Never bullshit your way - if you don't know the answer to a question, say so. Then go back, research the answer and come back with a quality answer - its much appreciated.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Don't design product until doing customer price point validation

(draft blog, editing in progress)

I came across these interesting numbers regarding Gillette's razor blade industry dominance (US numbers):

Razor blade industry: $3 billion
Gilette's share: 60%

Where as in India. Gillette's shares were only 22% in 2009. The India market potential was estimated to be 4 times that of the US. One of the reasons, Gillette was losing out in India was it's price point. They were charging around INR 100 (~USD 2) which was found to be higher for local markets.

To crack the local market, the Gillette team carried out extensive research to design an ideal product for the target market. The basis of the research was not just to find must-have and nice-have features but to figure out for which features customers would be willing to pay.

The result:
Gillette was able to build a razor product for India market for INR 15 with replacement parts.
Gillette was able to reduce the components from 25 to 4.
(Source: Book- Monetizing Innovation: How Smart Companies Design the Product Around the Price)

The key learning from this success case is that Gillette didn't even start to design the new product till they had confirmation from the customers about their willingness to pay and their say on what they wanted to see in the product.
Normally, the organizations that are engineering heavy, often lack this discipline to build the products around the proven price point.

What do you think ?

Images source:

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Sometimes, stepping back is all what is needed to be at your best

Ash Barty won women's French open singles title yesterday. Seeing a new champion is always refreshing in a game like tennis that's dominated by top rankers.

While Barty's victory was sweet, what i found inspiring in her story leading to the French open title is her decision to step away from tennis in 2014. The reason she stepped away was because she felt overwhelmed by all the pressures that came with playing tennis. As Barty said:
“I never closed any doors, saying, ‘I’m never playing tennis again.’ For me, I needed time to step away, to live a normal life because this tennis life certainly isn’t normal. I think I needed time to grow as a person, to mature,”
She took to Cricket and played to the level of Big Bash league before making a comeback again 3 years back. Her former cricket coach Andy Richards knew she was interested in Cricket and fed her 150 or so balls via the bowling machine. She missed just a few of those showing glimpse of her immense talent.

On her return to Tennis, she was ranked 623rd in the world post her comeback and 3 years later, she would be ranked number 2 in the world post her grand slam win.

Few things worth learning from Ash Barty:
1. One needs to be self-aware and honest with self to realize the state of our own mind and decide when to push-forward and when to just stop. In our daily grind at work, we often keep such self-awareness dormant and prioritize work goals over health and rejuvenation.

2. In addition to being self-aware, it is important to be decisive in the matter of giving on-self sufficient breaks. This lack of decisiveness often cause us to burn-down without us even knowing the damage such stress causes to us.

3. It is always a wise move to have a Plan B. Ash's Plan B was Cricket that probably evolved because she was connected enough with people who offered her the second chance in a field unknown to her. Building networks within and outside of one's field of work helps.

Be smart to give yourself a break once in a while. In a long run, it will make us a better at whatever we choose to do.

What did you learn from this remarkable sportsperson ?

References and Credits:
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How to come up with creative ideas: Think what will not change in future

In the last few months, I along with two of the talent colleagues from my organization have been experimenting with a concept that i call idea circles. In short, three of us meet regularly and have a free flowing discussion on the ideas and product problems needing solutions. The core measure for us for these discussions have been the number of invention disclosures/patent filing/new product features we can come up with. We are still in early days of our idea circles experimentation and I will later write in detail about how we function.

This is simply one of the ways to generate ideas but moot question that i get asked often is- what is the secret sauce for idea generation that could be patented and productized ? There's obviously no one answer to this question but what i started doing was to keep track of sources of inspiration for the origination of ideas. The intent behind this exercise is to look back at this list for my own inspiration and for those who are interested. As a result, i will start sharing these under the heading- 'How to come up with creative ideas'. It's premature to call it a series yet, let's just call it an attempt to gather and group the thoughts on idea generation under one umbrella.

In this kick-off article, I would like to share the inspiration i got from Jeff Bezos's recent remarks at re:MARS conference. Excerpts from zdnet article below:
For business leaders trying to build lasting success, the Amazon CEO said to think about "what's not going to change."
Bezos said people often ask him to predict what will change over the next decade, but asking what won't change over 10 years can offer potentially more valuable insight.
"The answer to that question can allow you to... work on those things with the confidence to know all of the energy you put into it today will still be paying dividends," he said on stage.
Furthermore, he said, it's an easy question to answer. "You don't have to do a lot of research," he said. "These things are so big and so fundamental -- you know it.""

I found this very profound and quite relevant as a method to generate creative ideas. Quite often, in our quest to find ground-breaking ideas, we take an approach to define the future state. And the raw materials to define future-state usually is the technological-shifts that are taking place. The technology trends become the basis of ideas for the future.

What Bezos suggests is, quite simply, a reverse of this approach. He says to ask- 'What will not change in future?' And then puts up a frame of customer needs on top of it. He says:
For Amazon, the obvious answer is that customers will always want low prices, fast shipping and a large selection. It's impossible to imagine, Bezos said, someone saying, "'Jeff, I love Amazon, I just wish you delivered a little more slowly.
If i reverse engineer and apply this thinking, it kind of explains the reason for longevity of my current organization, Citrix (30 years of  existence, since 1989). What has not changed in all these years (and what Citrix addressed proactively) is the need of enterprise users and admin to-
- have their applications and data delivered securely.
- be highly productive.
- give secure environment.

It's almost magical how altering the frame of reference to "what will NOT change" and not worrying about 'what will change", simplifies things and brings clarity.

I first learned about this technique from Vala Afshar's tweet which has the below message:

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Before rejecting any idea, ask- 'Can it turn out to be Altair BASIC?'

There's an incident narrated in the book- The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's Most Exclusive School for Startups about Paul Graham (the founder of YCombinator) and his
peers assessing the start up applications for entry into the 2011 cohort. There was a team of founders that Paul found promising but he didn't find their idea promising. A line in the conversation that went between the panel of judges got me thinking. Before I share what I thought, here is the line:

"We're just not enthusiastic about the idea, appends Livingston.
"Well, it's Altair BASIC," repeats Graham. It's a starting point.

Basically, Jessica Livingston wasn't impressed with the idea but Paul defended by saying the words stated above. Paul used Altair BASIC as a metaphor for the starting point.

Altair BASIC was Microsoft's first product. As per Wikipedia:
Altair BASIC is a discontinued interpreter for the BASIC programming language that ran on the MITS Altair 8800 and subsequent S-100 bus computers. It was Microsoft's first product (as Micro-Soft), distributed by MITS under a contract. Altair BASIC was the start of the Microsoft BASIC product range.
It's developers were: Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Monte Davidoff

The reason I found this metaphor interesting was because Paul used it intelligently to defend the team that he believed in despite them having an unremarkable idea.

I think this story carries lessons both for the innovators and the judge of ideas.

If you are a judge...A profile of judge can be that of a venture capitalist judging whether to many an investment, or a panel selecting ideas for incubation or for a corporate innovation program or like. Judges tend to evaluate more often on the strength of an idea than on the potential of the team pitching it.

To me, what Paul did right was that he bet more on the team that bet the idea than the idea itself. Comparing the situation with Altair BASIC was his way of changing the frame of evaluation on what the team 'could' do rather than on what they had at present.

If you are an innovator...
The Altair BASIC metaphor has a meaning for the founders as well. More often we tend to reject the ideas based on instinct. Sometimes, the difference between a successful venture and not-so-successful ones is a matter of backing your team and the skills and asking this eloquent question:

Can it turn out to be Altair BASIC?

Image source:

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Nothing happens until something moves

Why do organizations need Innovation Programs ? It's a very broad question and my intention in this blogpost is to share just one perspective around it.

A short sentence answer to this question would be 'beating inertia'.

BlackBerry (from RIM) used to be prominent mobile devices for Enterprises in early 2000s (or around that time). I recall one of the key differentiating features it had was encrypted messaging. In those days, it used to be almost a sign of progression to be owning one of BlackBerrys. However, it wasn't just messaging that end-users liked, it had it's own fan-base for it's physical keyboard. The keyboard was ergonomically designed and one of the best (yet) that i have used in mobile devices. My father recently brought a Blackberry just for ease of use physical keyboards provides.

The team at Blackberry obviously had developed expertise in the physical keyboards. And when the whole world started moving towards soft-keyboards with Nokias and Apples coming in competition, Blackberry was slow to make the shift. They waited, probably because of the expertise they had built that eventually became self-limiting when the competition inspired people to move towards soft keyboards. They did come up with Blackberry Storm, but it probably was a bit late in the game.

Dictionary defines Inertia as "a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force."
It is a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.

In organization's context, inertia sets in for various reasons. If we take the example of Blackberry into consideration, inertia was caused, possibly by:

1. Blackberry reached the phase of product acceptance by users, with product-market fit happened a long ago. 
2. Engineers and designers achieved expertise in certain way of doing things. Their own expertise blocked their way to achieve break-through thinking.

Like in sports they say, never change a winning combination. Likewise, in case of Blackberry the combination that caused them to win the markets couldn't hold up to changing times. In short, organizational inertia held them back.
The more we are successful in one era, the more our current methods come in our way of success when it is the time to embrace the changing times.

To come back to the question that i asked in the beginning: Organizations need Innovation programs that can help them use the collective mind-power of workforce to come up with the ideas that question the status-quo.

Like Albert Einstein said: "Nothing happens until something moves."

Credits: The post and the examples covered within are inspired from the Coursera course titled: Strategic Innovation: Managing Innovation Initiatives
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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Innovators follow compass, not maps

This post is in continuation to my post on 'My Talk on Innovation'. As i promised, i am double-clicking on some aspects that i shared in my talk to awesome internship batch at my organization.

Image source: 
I currently work for Citrix. Citrix was found 3 decades ago, in 1989. To put things in perspective, the year 1989 was when internet was still a university project, Windows was as old as v2.1, Dotcom bust was way too far, mobile revolution hasn't happened yet, social media didn't exist. For a company to have seen through the transitions so drastic, it must know the art of reinvention. It's just the testimony to all the right reasons that lead to longevity of the organization.

On the other side of spectrum, we have examples like Nokia smart phones that within a short period of time fell from being a market leader to being almost extinct when Apple came into scene.

Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp received attention because of the huge sum involved, and that acquisition helped Facebook overcome a fear of irrelevancy. Being an ad-free and largely free service, WhatsApp may not add to Facebook's revenues immediately. In an interview, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that he is fine with his newer products and services not moving the needles in the business for a long time. Zuckerberg understood the consumer shift towards instant messaging, a feature Facebook didn't have at that time. More than earning immediate revenue, the WhatsApp acquisition has helped Facebook remain a leader in social networking.
My hypothesis after studying these extreme examples is that the companies that followed the compass approach as against the maps approach survived and thrived. Compass is something that gives you a sense of direction of where you are headed to and that sense of direction comes from being aware of what is happening in your field whereas the maps tell you how to go from point A to point B and not worry too much about what's happening beyond that.

The same analogy works well with Innovators as well. If you follow compass approach, we would be encouraged to figure out what is happening in our ecosystem, understanding it's implications and come up with ideas that align with reality. 

And if you follow the maps approach, your thinking is limited in what the next step in an existing idea could be. That eventually leads to limited innovation opportunities.

I am a big proponent of situational awareness as being a key skill to embrace in our careers. Innovators who are situationally aware:
1. Attend Exec meetings and comprehend what is happening in your organization
2. Are intentional about listening and suspend judgement when hearing the customer problems
3. Read frequently about industry trends and reason what it means to them and the organizations.

Doing these and many similar acts, they sharpen the bearings of their compass and are able to identify product gaps and are able to innovate faster than the competition. 

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Monday, June 3, 2019

An idea that could possibly bridge invention to commercialization time gap

Some insights from a thoughtful course on Innovation via Coursera

1. Manual typewriter: First patent: 1714. First major commercialization: 1878
2. Automobile: First patent: 1860. First major commercialization: 1902
3. VCRs: First patent: 1950. First major commercialization: 1972

Not an exhaustive list of examples, but still some of the inferences:
1. There is almost always a lag between first time a patent is filed to it's commercialization.
2. The time lag between first patent filing and to it's commercialization seem to be decreasing as the time progress.

Even though the lag between invention and commercialization seem to be reduce, the fact is that the lag still exists.

One of my hypothesis about the reason of this lag is that the inventions that were a result of individual brilliance took a long time to commercialize than the inventions that were formed by a group of individuals. I would love to research a bit on this in coming time and (hopefully) prove this hypothesis right.

Having talked about the roles in an innovation team in the last blog, I firmly believe that odds of success (aka commercialization) increases multi-fold if there are right mix of skills in an innovation team i.e. Hacker, Hustler and Hipster (and many be Hotshot as well).

What do you think ?

Image source and credits:

Innovators embrace diversity in teams

This post is in continuation to my post on 'My Talk on Innovation'. As i promised, i am double-clicking on some aspects that i shared in my talk to awesome internship batch at my organization.

In the corporate folklore, there are very few stories that are as pronounced as that of how Apple started. A lot has already been written about so I would safely quote parts of Wikipedia as a quick refresher:

Apple Computer Company was founded on April 1, 1976, by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne.The company's first product is the Apple I, a computer designed and hand-built entirely by Wozniak, Apple Computer, Inc. was incorporated on January 3, 1977, without Wayne, who had left and sold his share of the company back to Jobs and Wozniak for $800 only twelve days after having co-founded Apple.

I would simply pass off the last sentence in the above excerpt by calling Ronald Wayne as plain unlucky. But this post is not really about Wayne. It is about something that emanates from founder's chemistry between Wozniak and Jobs. 

In this interaction dated 2018, Steve Woznaik said the below about him and Jobs:

Steve Jobs never understood the Computer part of hardware and software and what was really int.

I don't follow financial stuff and thing about business terms. I think about products and technology.

These two sentences sums up, in a way, the contrasting roles played by them in the founding days of Apple. If I have to sum-up their roles in one word, I would say Woznaik was the 'Technology' person and Jobs was a 'Business' person. 

Wait! I have read about a better differentiation of the roles start-up founders play. This was in the book: Make Elephants Fly: The Process of Radical Innovation and he is the excerpt i read:

The Hustler: We like to see that a least one person on the team has a thorough understanding of the business, the customers, and the market. In most startups, this person is called the CEO. This person is also the one who typically sells the vision and the product to the world. So this person should be a great leader and communicator.
The Hacker -Someone who knows the latest technology inside and out and can use this to transform the business. Having a techie on the team from the start is essential. Innovation usually rides a wave of new technologies that disrupt both business and society. The innovation team needs someone who understands how these technologies can be used to reshape and disrupt the world. This technical wizard must also be willing to roll up her sleeves and do the grunt work, like coding and testing. On a mall team, there's no room for delegators. The team needs people willing to do the actual work. In a typical startup, this person would be the lead developer and CTO.
 The Hipster - This is the creative lead. The importance of design thinking in successful startups can't be overestimated. Design is often at the heart of innovation. Small changes in design can have huge impacts. Any good innovation team needs a designer on board from the beginning. YouTube, Slideshare, Etsy, Flickr, Gowalla, Pinterest, Jawbone, Airbnb, Flipboard, Android, and Square all had designers as co founders. Dave McClure, cofounder of accelerator 500 Startups, is fond of saying every team needs a hustler, hacker, and hipster. I like to add a fourth one.
The Hotshot-It helps to have a domain expert on the team, especially if you're attempting something highly technical. This is someone who understands, at the deepest level, the specific problem the team is trying to solve. This is typically a researcher with a PhD or someone with years of experience in the field. Having someone on board with an in-depth knowledge, beyond your typical manager, can make all the difference when it comes to realizing the critical breakthrough. Elon Musk's SpaceX could have never gotten his satellites into orbit without hiring domain experts.The same is true for Craig Venter's mission to build the world's largest database of whole genome, phenotype, and clinical data.

So it is fair to say that Steve Jobs was the Hustler and Steve Woznaik was the Hacker. 

One of my favorite moments while running Innovation programs is kicking off the new programs with new teams. During the kick-off presentation, i tend to present a section which i call "How not to succeed".

One of the 10+ (and growing list) things that i share under this section is "Don't give due attention to assigning the roles". More often I see that a group of 3-4 engineers form a team and assign the roles just for the sake of it. A couple of weeks into the program they realize that hacking (strong skill in the team of engineers) is not achieving full efficiency because hustlers aren't getting feedback and validation from customers and hipster isn't able to articulate the customer experience as well as they should be. In the end, they are behind in the idea execution game.

The teams that i have seen succeed well enough has the roles Hacker, Hipster and Hustler roles clearly marked and working in rhythm.

Successful innovators do embrace diversity in teams.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Have you created your "anti-worry" list ?

For all the bashing that social media gets for being addictive, sometimes nasty and often worthless, there are moments, infact quite a few of them, where you end up learning a perspective that can alter the way you approach your days. 

I firmly believe that when you encounter such moments of enlightenment, the first though you should do is to assimilate and share. Knowledge not shared is indeed the knowledge wasted.

This post is dedicated to one such sharing. Today, I came across this short tweet storm by Andrew Hoag. Let me re-iterate the tweets (with due credit and permissions to Andrew). 

1/ As a CEO, it is incredibly difficult to measure your own progress. Behind every summit lies another, taller peak that feels more urgent, never giving enough time to look at how far you’ve come.

2/ The buck stops with you, which gives you nearly infinite things to worry about, and can occupy all of your mental energy.

3/ A hack I have recently developed to counterbalance this is thinking about what you *no longer* have to worry about: PMF, capital, marketing, recruiting, whatever large or small! Take a moment, make a mental inventory.

4/ This “anti-worry” list is a quick measure of your progress and can help put things in perspective. Spend some of that mental energy on gratitude, and the new peaks won’t seem so tall anymore. 

To me this is such a powerful concept explained so simply in just 4 tweets. One of my earlier managers once told me: Every year of our professional and personal lives add extra bit of responsibilities.

The package called responsibilities comes bundled with an add-on called as stress. I beleive to deal with stress there are only 2 ways: embrace an easy life or find ways to hack stress out of your lives.

"Anti-Worry" list seem to be one such hack. It helps us give a perspective of what we have achieved in our days, the sense of which gets so clouded in midst of the fire-fighting that we have to deal with every day.

"Anti-Worry" list also helps us be grateful of what we have by our side. We often tend to forget that there are things worth appreciating in our work and personal lives.

Quoting this article:
Living your life with gratitude means choosing to focus your time and attention on what you appreciate. The goal is not to block out difficulties, but to approach those difficulties from a different perspective. Appreciation softens us. It soothes our turbulent minds by connecting us with the wonderfully ordinary things, great and small, that we might otherwise take for granted.

I don't know Andrew Hoag but I would like to wholeheartedly thank him for sharing such a wonderful concept to live life.

Strong convictions precedes great actions

In 1997, Eric Yuan joined a video conference start-up Webex as an engineer. Webex went public in 2000 and was eventually acquired by Cisco. Yuan was given an opportunity to lead Webex engineering group in Cisco. Over a period of time, Eric grew unhappy because he believed that the product sucked because of the following reasons:
1. Each time users logged on to a Webex conference, the company’s systems would have to identify which version of the product (iPhone, Android, PC or Mac) to run, which slowed things down. 
2. Too many people on the line would strain the connection, leading to choppy audio and video. 3. And the service lacked modern features like screen-sharing for mobile.

Eric tried to convince Cisco decision makers to consider making the changes to make Webex more useful and desirable but couldn't manage to do it. As a result, he decided to move on from Cisco and later found Zoom recently raised its IPO, price of $36 per share, valuing the company at $9.2 billion and making Yuan a billionaire.

Story source: Forbes article

One of the things that amazed me about this story was Eric's conviction about where Webex was going wrong and the extension of that conviction that led him to start Zoom to fill the gaps he saw at Webex. 
A lot of us find ourselves in similar situations at work where our ideas and solutions find no place in decision maker's list of priorities. 
What do we usually do ? 

More often we don't choose to pursue our path and surrender to the suggested path because we choose to believe less in our ideas and thought-process. We choose to embrace a lesser version of ourselves. One thing that bears mentioning in this case is that the odds of success that Eric achieved is probably one in thousands or even less but still lack of conviction is something that plagues individual's growth even for initiatives with lesser things at stake.

The learning that stands out for me is that we shouldn't change our beliefs, thoughts and ideas at the first glimpse of rejection. We should figure out alternate means to express, present and convey them and be creative in finding alternate routes to success.

I am no expert at teaching anyone about conviction but i at one area where i successfully applied power to conviction was in my running career. When i started running longer distances, I did face resistance from my family and closed ones (being from a family where there weren't any active sportspeople). To be fair, there was a degree of loving concern behind the resistance. They didn't want me to get injured or over-exert myself. While i listened to the concerns and tried to explain my point of view as patiently as possible, I didn't drop intensity in practice, training and in running long distances. My conviction in what i was doing lead me to run 17 full marathons (including 2 100Km runs, 1 75 km run) and several half marathons and a shorter distance runs.

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