The e-Paper revolution is upon us! This prototype still has a few kinks to iron out, but is clearly the beginning of a new wave in note-taking innovations, especially for educational purposes. Most people want access to the gadget, I want access to an API
In an attempt to sell his book, The Start-up of You, Reid Hoffman created a compelling presentation about how young grads should face the real world. Although trite, his advice does bear repeating to those who might not have considered how to handle their careers before. I’ve summarized the main points below (develop skills, build networks, and take calculated risks), in addition to adding my own commentary.
To succeed in this era of global expansion and hyper-connectedness, you must build a competitive advantage for yourself. If you can’t do something that a computer or low wage worker in China can do for less, then there’s no reason a company should hire you. Your competitive advantage is made up of the skills you acquire, whether in school or through on the job training. On the one hand there are hard skills such as STEM experience, programming, and design. On the other hand there are soft skills such as leadership qualities, clarity of vision, and communication abilities.
When choosing which skills to develop, keep in mind your aspirations and your market realities. Put another way, what are the areas you are willing and able to explore? What you are willing to do depends on what you enjoy and what your morals are. Taking the time to understand what matters to you is important, and cannot be achieved through any shortcuts. What you are able to do depends on what companies are willing to pay you for.
Ultimately, the best career has you pursuing worthy aspirations, using your skills, while staying cognizant of market realities.
Knowing the right people is the gateway to success because people control resources, opportunities, and information. If you’re looking for an opportunity, what you’re really looking for is a person.
Oftentimes you don’t even have to receive a tangible reward to benefit from your network. Just spending time around the right people is powerful enough because the people you spend the most time with shape who you become. It has been said that we are all just the conglomeration of the six people we spend the most time with.
As a corollary, the fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be. If you want to be a successful designer, hang out with other successful designers. If you want to be a great soccer player, hang out with other great soccer players. And the best way to get connected to other people is via the people you already know.
Take Calculated Risks
In the real world, you need to learn how to fail fast. It’s about defining a problem, creating a set of hypotheses, and rapidly testing to get to an answer. In most cases, it’s not the accuracy of your original assumptions that counts, but rather the velocity at which you can test your assumptions.
Early on in your career, you should optimize for learning over salary. Additionally, you must keep in mind that learning is only achieved through doing. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.”
Some of the actions you taking will be inherently risky – that’s okay. When the worst case scenario means getting fired, losing a bit of time or money, or experiencing some discomfort, it is a risk you should be willing to take. If the worst case scenario is the serious tarnishing of your reputation, loss of all your economic assets, or something otherwise career-ending, don’t accept that risk.
The best opportunities are frequently the ones with the most question marks. It helps explain why no one else is going after them. By the time all the uncertainty has been removed, there is very little value to gain. In the end, be willing to take intelligent risks to move forward. With solid technical skills and a robust network as your foundation, there’s a good chance you will land on your feet.
[Adapted from: www.businessinsider.com/amazing-career-advice-for-college-grads-from-linkedins-billionaire-founder-2013-5]
It is not enough to be busy… The question is: what are we busy about?
– Henry David Thoreau
(Written by Peter Deng)
Product management is a skill you learn and improve through practice. The articles and books cited in the other answers are great for gaining perspective, but being a good product manager boils down to a few core practices.
1. Be aware. This applies to everything: the product, your team, yourself. It’s easy to get caught up with the details of a project and miss the big picture. It’s also easy to get caught up in the routine you’ve established for you and your team and not realizing it’s not working. Take a step back and observe your assumptions, your existing practices, and your performance; you’ll be surprised what you’ll realize. Some questions to ask:
- Is the product we’re building solving the correct problem? Is it solving the problem correctly?
- How does this decision play out in the long term?
- What are the unintended consequences?
- How is the team doing? Are you optimizing too much for progress vs. team well-being?
- What areas do you need to develop to be a better leader?
2. Be adaptable. In addition to being aware, you need to adapt to the new information. Products evolve, prototypes fail, and people’s needs change. If the product isn’t solving the right problem, change course. If a meeting is no longer productive, cancel it. If you need more help, ask. Understand sunk cost and do what it takes to move the product in the right direction.
3. Be proactive. I once heard an analogy that product management is like filling in the white space between the different roles. I think it’s a really important attitude to have. You are the owner. Either do it or delegate it. If you don’t, no one else will. Product managers are in the service industry; your role is to serve the teams, and no task is too menial or trivial.
4. Understand the core problems. A lot of people think that product management is about “having good ideas” or “adding features.” Breaking down the problem correctly will go much further. If you dig deep and understand why people aren’t clicking the button, you’ll understand why the product is not working the way you intended, and it will probably lead to a more obvious solution that solves the problem in the correct way.
Ideas like “making the button bigger” may solve the symptom, but they don’t address the deeper issues. To do this well, I think it helps to have thought about psychology, ecosystems, and designing studies in the social sciences (random, I know, it does help). Also, keep learning through your peers, books, podcasts, TED talks, Quora, whatever. One of my favorite podcasts is This American Life; it helps me see problems from a completely different perspective.
5. Learn to balance. When you’re making decisions, you’re actually making tradeoffs. Every feature has its costs. Identify the dimensions that matter most to the project (e.g. simplicity, time, aesthetics, functionality, use case A, use case B), assign rough utility functions to each dimension, and figure out how much you want to move each slider. Deciding how much you value each dimension will lead naturally to the right decision. Balancing not only applies to product features, but also to making any other decision (hiring someone, deciding on a team structure, setting a company vision, etc…).
[Reposted from: http://www.quora.com/How-can-I-learn-to-be-a-good-Product-Manager]
Sometimes, we give too much credence to the big decisions in our life. What college should I attend? Which job offer should I accept? What city should I live in? No doubt, these are important choices and should be made with the utmost scrutiny. However, we shouldn’t ignore the details either because it is often those seemingly trivial decisions that allow us the luxury to make the meaningful ones.
We ultimately control our own destiny, and that destiny is composed of the thousands of little decisions we make each and every day. Additionally, with every decision there is almost always the choice to stop trying.
So your team lost in this season’s playoffs. Brush yourself off, and practice harder for next year. So you messed up the final round interview. Pick yourself up, and find the next opportunity. So they rejected your application. Turn back and try a different route.
These are the perpetual decisions that we face every day. Do we give up, or do we make the conscious decision to keep going? Do we take it easy just for today, or do we refuse to take that option?
Remember, success isn’t supposed to come easy, otherwise everyone would already be doing it. Instead, it’s the ones who are crazy enough to keep pushing when everyone else has already stopped that will break through to the next level. It’s the ones who love what they are doing so much that they don’t need external approval to keep moving forward. It’s the ones who have so much fire inside them they don’t even know what it means to stop that will reach the other side.
People make choices, choices make people. What will you choose today?
“The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).
To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself …
Performance and appearance goals are great, but they aren’t the same as habits. If you’re already doing a behavior, then these types of goals can help drive you forward. But if you’re trying to start a new behavior, then I think it would be far better to start with an identity–based goal.”
[Reposted from: http://jamesclear.com/identity-based-habits]
- Absorb praise
- Deflect blame
- Don’t bother with the details
- Involve them late
- Add process
- Never tell the reasons
- Commit for them
- Interrupt at any time
- Be ambiguous
- They’re always lying
[Reposted from: https://www.kennethnorton.com/essays/how-to-work-with-software-engineers.html]
“You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen.
And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.
Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.
And it’s that process that is the magic.”
- Steve Jobs
Within the realm of productivity, the effectiveness of multi-taking has been the source of countless debates. From psychologists to business folk, everyone seems to have their own opinion. So, does multi-taking make you more productive or less productive? Like most complex subjects, the answer is, “it depends.”
My take is that the effectiveness of multi-tasking depends on the types of tasks being performed. If the tasks are of equal importance and generate similar amounts of cognitive load, then they are poor candidates for multi-tasking because the situation quickly devolves into an exercise of how adroitly one can perform context switching. Any momentum gained from diving into one activity is quickly lost when switching to the other activity. This effect is especially pernicious because the loss in momentum is often mental in nature, and not explicitly felt.
The results from the scientific community reveal that “doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity.” This toll occurs in two distinct, yet complementary stages. The first stage can be considered “goal shifting” where the person decides to perform a different task. The second stage can be considered “rule activation” where the person orients themselves to the environment of the second task. This all happens in a fraction of a second, but for chronic multi-tasking, the time can really add up. In fact, research suggests that “even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.”
However, the other side of the debate is that multi-tasking can be accomplished under certain circumstances. In particular, if one of the tasks can be performed automatically and involves a different part of the brain than the primary task, than there is a possibility for successful multi-tasking. For example, someone might be able to “read effectively while listening to classical music because reading comprehension and processing instrumental music engage different parts of the brain.” Although, the ability to retain information “while reading and listening to music with lyrics declines significantly because both tasks activate the language center of the brain.”
What’s really interesting is the potential for turning high focus activities into background processes through the creation of habits. Theoretically, by doing something often enough, it can become so well learned that thinking is no longer necessary to engage in the task. A good example of this occurring is talking on the phone while walking. When you were a baby, walking was a big deal. Each step took focus and concentration. But over time, walking becomes something you do naturally, such that you can now walk and talk simultaneously without any problems.
The action step then is to make a habit of the work that needs to be done. For example, imagine that as a business analyst, part of your job is the arduous task of updating the analytics dashboard. Write scripts to automate what you can, but also start making it a habit to review the stats first thing every morning. Once reviewing the dashboard becomes second-nature, you can take that time to focus on different work, such as crafting the weekly report or responding to emails. What might have taken half an hour to complete, can effectively be done now for free!
Even more magical is being productive when previously no work was being done at all. A likely instance of this already occurring is when you first wake up, and you go into auto-pilot to wash your face or brush your teeth. Although your brain isn’t fully awake yet, you are able to perform these tasks because they have become routine. If you are able to develop good habits during the morning or late at night when your brain normally isn’t functioning, then a sliver of extra productivity can be edged out of each day.
In the end, general multi-tasking, whereby you try to do everything at once, isn’t as productive as it first seems. But multi-tasking can be successful through the development of habits because that work no longer draws from the limited pool of cognitive resources. The brain is now able to read from memory, rather than from disk.
Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.
– Thomas A. Edison