Entrepreneurial Project Management

Guerrilla tips and tactics for getting things done

Archive for August, 2006

Interviewing Is Sales (and that’s a good thing)

Posted by matteverard on August 16, 2006

I’ve done a lot of interviews in the last couple years (since leaving my firm I’ve been on contract jobs that always require at least one).  Although initially painful, I’m grateful for the experience.  It’s made me grow up and understand who I am as a professional.  At the beginning, I couldn’t tell a coherent story.  I couldn’t discern if I was a good fit or not.  I was scared and, frankly, mostly interested in putting food on the table for the family.  I would have shovelled shit if necessary.

Later, I got more picky.  I’d sniff out the interviewers for signs of bad politics, project success rate, team agility and transparency.  It kept me out of a few really bad projects (I’d learn later from friends inside the org).

Ultimately I came to the conclusion that interviewing is really “sales” where I’m the product.  That was a great revelation b/c I could solve the sweaty palms problem.  In the early days I’d get seriously anxious at interviews.  Stammering speech, nervous ticks like pushing my glasses up, and clammy hands–I had ’em all.  Most of that was b/c I internalized the process, equating an interviewer’s rejection with personal failure.  If I didn’t get the job, I would be “worthless.” (yes, I’ve got issues, just pay attention).  Later I realized that I’m a good product, but this product might not fit here (I don’t due well in slow, bureaucratic places).  The interviews became more clean.  I wasn’t giving an “apologia for my life”;  I was peddling a product.  “You wanna buy?  If not, that’s OK, others will.”

Guy Kawasaki’s recent post “Everything you wanted to know about getting a job in SV but didn’t know to ask” is wonderfully articulate, witty, and on-the-money.   Advice delivered as only Guy can.  I particularly loved the “cast of characters” you will meet, their key question, and your key response.  The wunderkind, mom, Mr. CPG–hilarious.  Valuable reading for interviewing outside of SV, too.


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FakeSteveJobs, Where Are You?

Posted by matteverard on August 7, 2006

The blog that put sunshine in my day appears to have been shuttered. I was reading it yesterday and have the last several posts. I’ve posted them as a Word file at my own peril.

Posted in Anti-pattern, Innovation, Society | Leave a Comment »

Change, Change, Change

Posted by matteverard on August 4, 2006

I remember first learning about Entropy in undergraduate physics and, like all classical laws of science it seemed wonderfully intuitive (Relativity or Quantum mechanics are just plain weird). So the universe is like a tightly coiled spring and it is gradually unwinding. Cool. Makes sense with how I experienced the world (hot things become cool, copies of copies degrade).

And, although I’m generally opposed to transferring physical laws into social contexts, the law of Entropy seems apply to personal lives–you have to inject “work” to have an orderly system. If left to natural forces, the “system” will devolve into a random mishmash of goo.

(Now you purists don’t need to write me with corrections about my physics…yeah, I understand that you really can’t inject “work” into the system when you are the system. It’s OK, just play along.)

The “work” I’ve recently injected into my system is a change of venue which implied a change of employ. I decided it was time to flee the baking clay flatlands of the mid-west and try living in a vacation destination. So the wife and I mulled over SanFran, NYC, London, Seattle, and Vancouver. This was a tough call. It was kind of a “career or lifestyle” decision. Well, we picked Van (which a friend likened to saying “up yours” the business world).

So the job thing. Well, it turns out there’s a lot of great opportunities in Van and I landed with a great company called Atimi–a software group led by Steve Gully whom I met through Darren Barefoot a few weeks ago. Steve’s a sharp guy and understands both the craft and the business of software dev and has a team of quality people. During our discussions it was so obviously a good fit that it was hard to put up a fight when they asked me to come aboard.

This means packing up the house and downsizing from 2200sf to 1000sf, moving across a large land mass and crossing a national border. With wife and kids in tow. After accumulating 9 years of random Target purchases. Lots of “work” here, believe me.

But “fortune favors the brave” as they say and the stars are aligning. Take for instance, housing. This is no small matter in Van as any native will tell you. We were looking at $2000/mo in Yaletown for a 900sf 2BR–beautiful, with all the bling and troubles of downtown living. Then my buddy calls and tells me of a non-profit apartment complex right on Granville Island that has a 3BR for $1400. I call the manager. We’re 4th in line. I think, “No way we’ll get it.” But yesterday we signed the papers. We move in Sept 6. Our new address is:

1390 Island Park Walk
Vancouver, BC V6H 3T5

Map, here.

Kids’ school and good friends are a 5 minute walk along the seawall. Shopping, restaurants, aqua bus, view of the northshore mountains, all right there. This is sweet.

And so the work injected into the system appears to be paying off. The spring is being tightened, and it feels very, very good.

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Usability, Instructions, and Foreign Airports

Posted by matteverard on August 3, 2006

I recently traveled through Toronto International Airport for the first time and the experience reminded me of how it is nearly impossible to communicate an unintuitive process to a listener. Take, for instance, trying to teach somone how to drive a manual transmission auto (“Let out gently on the clutch, slowly engage the gas…Slowly…Slooowly…GOOD LORD I SAID SLOWLY!!”).

Or teaching a 6 year old how to punt a soccer ball (“hold it like this, and drop the ball when it gets just below your knee…No, don’t toss it up…up is bad, let it fall…whatever…just have fun, you’ll get the hang of it).

So, OK, I’m waiting in terminal 1 for my baggage…waiting…getting nervous…watching the same two forelorn bags circling and circling without any new friends to join them. Then I did what I normally do when I can’t find my luggage (and don’t ask me why b/c it has never yielded results, but it just seems like “common sense”), I walk around the other baggage carousels thinking there’s a mix up. I think I blew 30 minutes before I went for help.

Baggage guy: “Oh, you’re going international, so you pick up your bags in terminal 2. Which is way over there.” He looks at me, twists his head a bit and points to a vague, far off land that requires a bus ride. To him, looking for international luggage in term 1 was just insane. Just then I remember hearing something in the PA system talking about international passengers which I had tuned out. Sure enough, it gave me perfect directions.

Yep, the manual was there but I didn’t read it. Why? Well, I never read manuals b/c they are usually very, very dumb. Here was an exception, but I’ve already figured out how to navigate these types of systems and the PA system has never before contained critical information. (BTW–my friends in Vancouver had warned me of the weirdness of the Toronto luggage system before I left, but I had no category to receive the data. I just didn’t get it.)

So to me, looking for luggage in a remote terminal is insane. Sure, I live in Ohio and don’t get out much. Go ahead, make your jokes. Never mind. This is the way software works. People don’t read the instructions b/c they’ve, say it with me, used this stuff before and know how it should work.

OK, so, here’s the moral of the story: I hated the Toronto International Airport and blamed them for my bad experience. “That’s not fair,” you might say. True, but that’s the way it went.

I think end-users grow to hate sofware through similar experiences. If you don’t design a highly usable UI/flow, don’t count on warning signs or manuals to help with adoption.

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