Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Byebye PM, Hello Dev!

A couple of months ago, I was driving home from the office on a Saturday afternoon, when I realized it was time to make a change at work. I've been lucky to work on a great product with a great team. People will often say that before they leave a product and team, but I really mean it. And so, I knew it wasn't the product or team that had to change, but rather my role working on that product with that team.

In short, I was beginning to become complacent. I felt my job was important, and that I was doing well with it (though by no means have I learned all there is to learn about it nor would I claim to be the best at it!), but the passion and the challenge were beginning to fade. The first half of my almost year and a half as a Program Manager was spent planning and designing software features. The second half was spent leading feature teams to deliver software features and working closely with customers and partners.

But the one thing I found myself missing... the thing I went to school to learn and did in small doses all through college... and regularly did at night while spending the day as a PM... was actually developing the software - creating something out of nothing.. creating software in Visual Studio, not software specifications in Microsoft Word. The more I began to realize I was missing it, the more I began to resent every moment I spent working on an Excel spreadsheet or a Powerpoint presentation. To test the waters, I began to write code here and there, providing tools to fill gaps in the early pre-Beta versions of the product I've been working on. Suddenly, I remembered what it felt like to look at the clock after 5pm and think to myself "gee, where did the day go?".

Eventually, I discussed these feelings with the management on my team, and they were incredibly supportive. Just several weeks later... it's official that I'll be resigning my Program Manager hat and replacing it with a shiny new Software Development Engineer one (at least, it looks shiny from here).

A whole bunch of thoughts have been going through my head lately. I've formed some strong opinions about the Program Management role, having worked with several hundred PMs in my time thus far. I'm a little bit nervous about my new role, though I've always felt that if one doesn't think to himself "Oh f***, I'm in way over my head" after the first week at a new job, it's probably not a challenging enough job. I think there's a steep learning curve ahead of me, and I hope that once I conquer it, I'll still feel as passionate, challenged, and engaged as ever.


(Oh, and as a quick aside.. because I can't resist throwing this in here.. I got my hands on a Zune for the first time today, and it's REALLY REALLY SEXY. I don't think I'll be able to resist buying one of these babies..)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

White & Nerdy

The new Wierd Al song/video White & Nerdy is awesome.

Unfortunately, its leakage to YouTube ruined Weird Al's exclusive world premiere on AOL.

It seems for every copy that gets taken down, 30 new ones are posted to YouTube (some of these are spoofs).

Given the reality of the fact that far more people (like me - and probably now you) will have ended up seeing this video on YouTube than on some exclusive AOL premeiere, it's lame that artists and labels are still sicking the RIAA on sites like YouTube rather than embracing them and figuring out how to adapt their business models to best leverage them.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Recommendations: Stocks/Finance/Investment tracking sites

Can anyone recommend a web site I can use to track both investments I've made and investments I may be interested in making?

I don't have a long list of requirements, but supporting individual stocks on foreign exchanges is key (i.e. Lenovo: 0992.HK, HTC: 2498.TW). This requirement alone seems to rule out SocialPicks, Google Finance, and MSN Money (Google will show the stock info but not support adding it to a portfolio).

Yahoo Finance is the only one I've found that supports adding such stocks to a portfolio for tracking, but the design is rather stale, boring, and just not fun to use.

I'm not looking for a brokerage site, paid service, rich client software, or a sidebar/dashboard/portal gadget/widget (unless it's so cool I can't afford to not check it out).

Any recommendations? :-)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sexy Cingular 3125 In Stores Now!

The HTC Star Trek is now available from Cingular as the Cingular 3125 for $150.

Here are some videos. It looks like Cingular chose battery life over slimness. Not sure yet whether I'm a fan of that decision because I haven't seen the Cingular version in person. Still looks cool in the video next to the RAZR though.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Lately, I've noticed a lot more buzz than ever before around location based services. The term seems to have been coined, and patents started flying heavily, sometime between 1995 and 2001. But at the time, the web, the phones, and the operator infrastructures just weren't where they needed to be to bring most of these services to life.

It looks like that is starting to change. The broad umbrella of "location based services" has been re-invented (aka web 2.0ified) as "location aware software", "mobile social software", etc.

The latest promising addition to the scene is Loopt, a service available to boost mobile subscribers (sidenote, has anyone ever actually met a boost mobile subscriber??).

Loopt is the first service I've seen that brings a lot of what a few friends and I explored and prototyped in college (and a mobile application of the same technology shortly thereafter) to life as a commercially available offering.

It looks pretty neat. Some features include:

- Show yourself and your friends on a map
- Get alerts when friends are nearby
- Send messages to friends and groups of friends
- Manage your profile and upload pictures from your phone
- Tag places and create events

From the Loopt "about" page:

Loopt was founded in June 2005 by friends from Stanford and MIT. The friends, all computer science majors in college, needed a better way to manage their devastating social lives. As such, the team used emerging mobile and web technologies to develop a new way to connect to the friends, events and places around them.

Loopt has outgrown its dorm room beginnings and now resides in its very own building in sunny Palo Alto, CA. Backed by Sequoia Capital and New Enterprise Associates, Loopt aims to improve the way friends communicate and connect with each other and the world around them.

Very cool.

I'm still not certain the mobile landscape is where it needs to be in order to propel an application like this into the mainstream. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any succesful mobile application or service, relative to their non-mobile equivalents.

But, that's certain to change, and I wish Loopt the best of luck.

How to Achieve Preferred Employer Status

A checklist from Jack and Suzy Welch:

1. Preferred employers demonstrate a real commitment to continuous learning. No lip service. These companies invest in the development of their people through classes, training programs, and off-site experiences, all sending the message that the organization is eager to facilitate a steady path to personal growth.

2. Preferred employers are meritocracies. Pay and promotions are tightly linked to performance, and rigorous appraisal systems consistently make people aware of where they stand. As at every company, the people you know and the school you went to might help get you in the door. But after that, it's all about results. Now, why does all this make a company a preferred employer? Very simply, because people with brains, self-confidence, and competitive spirit are always attracted to such environments.

3. Preferred employers not only allow people to take risks but also celebrate those who do. And they don't shoot those who try but fail. As with meritocracies, a culture of risk-taking attracts exactly the kind of creative, bold employees companies want and need in a global marketplace where innovation is the single best defense against unrelenting cost competition.

4. Preferred employers understand that what is good for society is also good for business. Gender, race, and nationality are never limitations; everyone's ideas matter. Preferred employers are diverse and global in their outlook and environmentally sensitive in their practices. They offer flexibility in work schedules to those who earn it with performance. In a word, preferred companies are enlightened.

5. Preferred employers keep their hiring standards tight. They make candidates work hard to join the ranks by meeting strict criteria that center around intelligence and previous experience and by undergoing an arduous interview process. Admittedly, this factor is somewhat of a catch-22 since it's difficult to be picky before you become an employer of choice. But it's worth the effort. Talent has an uncanny way of attracting other talent.

6. Preferred companies are profitable and growing. A rising stock price is a hiring and retention magnet. But beyond that, only thriving companies can promise you a future with career mobility and the potential of increased financial rewards. Indeed, one of the most intoxicating things a company can say to a potential employee is: "Join us for the ride of your life."

How does the company you work for measure up?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Headed Towards Burnout

For about a week I've been working 12-14 hour days, eating poorly, not going to the gym or practicing yoga, and with the exception of jetting down to LA for a hectic weekend of sister wedding activities, certainly not doing anything social.

My DVR is filled up with TV shows I don't have time to watch, and the pile of half-read books on my desk is slowly growing to human height level. I've got 500 megabytes of wedding photos sitting on my cell phone waiting to be uploaded, and starred Gmail messages numbering in the double-digits from friends and family awaiting replies (not to mention over 350 blog posts I've yet to read and several thousand work emails to browse).

I guess I'm experiencing what Paul Graham calls Good Procrastination.

(As a sidenote, I printed out and read through about half of Graham's essays on my flight back to Seattle, and I must say I'm thoroughly impressed.)

I can feel the burnout coming on, and I'm not really sure why I'm doing it to myself. There is a big milestone coming up at work, but I think beyond that I've just felt a need lately to get back in touch with my inner computer nerd. Perhaps this is a precursor to more significant things to come.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

43 Places, Things, People, and more...

I've spent the last 4 hours playing with 43 Places, 43 Things, 43 People, All Consuming, and Lists of Bests, and I'm thoroughly impressed!

On the right side of my blog's homepage, I keep big lists of stuff I read/watch/listen to/take pics of. It's a real pain to maintain, and so I love the idea of easily managing a whole bunch of information in a structured way, and interacting with it in a bunch of different ways and in different contexts for a bunch of different purposes.

Today, I keep information all over the place. I keep a few dozen books I'm planning to read in my Amazon.com wishlist (and those I've already read on my bookshelf, which get limited exposure). I've rated hundreds of movies in my Netflix account, which only my 2 Netflix friends see.

And then of course there are a whole bunch of places like restaurants I've loved or hated stored away somewhere in the back of my mind (of course, I can't ever seem to think of any when looking for that perfect place to make some dinner reservations).

These are just the tip of the scenario icebergs being nailed by The Robot Co-op (the ~7 guys down the street from me who run the sites, with funding from Amazon.com).

Anyway, as I visit more cool places and do cool things, I plan on using these sites to track them (as well as places and things I haven't, but want to do!). Check my 43 People page or RSS feed if you want to keep up.

As for All Consuming and Lists of Bests, I love the concept, but they're new, and I couldn't get them to do everything I needed just yet. So, not quite ready to move over my book, movie, and other lists. But hopefully soon (this subject probably deserves a more thought-out post of its own).

As a sidenote, it's a rare occurrence lately that I find something so profound/original/promising (albeit not new) that I spend 4 hours playing with it on a Saturday night (and countless more hours thinking about it over the next weeks no doubt). Because there's no killer app or integration deals here yet, these sites are way under-hyped, leaving a lot of room to throw new ideas against the wall and see what sticks.

That's all for now. I'm completely scatterbrained, in part because I seem to have forgotten to eat since breakfast 10 hours ago. Oops.