Right after the acquisition …

I was reading this great article from an ex-Flickr employee on how Tumblr (and its employees) should ride the acquisition wave. In specific, I think some of these points are awesome, immaterial of the current scenario (Tumblr + Y!). These are applicable in almost all big company buys smaller company scenarios. I am reproducing the four points below with some of my observations that I went through during the one acquisition I went through and a few which I have closely seen happen.

Don’t pretend it’s not happening or that it doesn’t matter.

Totally nailed it. It matters. You need to soak it in. You need to absorb in some of the acquiring company’s culture. Make new friends. Get some folks with whom you can gut-check processes. Most importantly, make friends with the non-tech crowd at the bigger company – HR, Finance, Facilities. You will soon realize you would need their help. And help is so much easier to get if you are on their side.

Don’t forget you’re awesome.

You got acquired because the parent company felt that either your technology is awesome, or your talent is awesome. Either ways, you are important to them. Acknowledge that. Dont succumb to giving up everything. A good merger/acquisition is a layer-by-layer mixing of what is best for the joined entity. Do not give up silly little traditions when you were smaller. At the same time, embrace larger cultural practices from the bigger company.

Plan for the Bear Hug.

I think the original article nails this one beautifully. In the initial stages, everyone will jump in and give you ideas. Embrace this togetherness, but have a point-contact for traiging these requests. Else you will get in to a rat hole.

Think bigger.

Now you can. You can think beyond the local market. You can think beyond the handful of customers you have now. You can think beyond restraining marketing budgets. You can ask for help in designing UI. You can ask for data. You can do so much more if you start thinking bigger.

Know how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Now this is one thing, that I have seen happening right in front. After the acquisition happens, there are a certain set of things that happen either due to standardization (example in the article is moving to a common data center, which happens everywhere now), or something that resulted from you thinking bigger. Some things might seem easier when doing it on a larger scale, but along with, comes a ton of headache. Localization, internationalization, local laws, patent disclosures. And I fully agree with the advise in the article about – “Dont be afraid to get a gut-check from someone in the parent company.” These headaches have a thing for magically appearing only  mid way through the project.

Read the original article here.

Reid Hoffman’s 3 Secrets of Highly Successful Grads

Some great advise here. I love some of the quotes though:
  • If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.
  • If you are not growing, you are actually contracting.
  • in the world of work, every day is exam day.
  • Congratulations on all the great work, that you’ve put into your education so far, but your learning has just begun.
  • Ironically, in a changing world, playing safe is one of the riskiest thing to do.

Yahoo! and Daily Habits

I don’t remember which stage it was. It was just after Marissa Mayer took over the helm of Yahoo. She was being asked – “What is Yahoo!”. It was true. Yahoo was going through a bad identity crisis. Yahoo was tottering aimlessly. It was the poster brand. And now, no one knew what it was doing.

It took a while, but I think Marissa has a repeatable answer to that question. There are two messages that are coming out.

Identify daily habits of Y! users and take them Mobile

Make the daily habits so damn good, that users would love it and be delighted.

I think this is a great mission. Mobile is so ubiquitous now. So much so that, there are people who are forming habits using mobiles. Alarm clocks. Foursquare check-ins. Twitter. Figuring out where to go for lunch. Checking their calendar. Folks cannot do without their mobile for some of these tasks, or should I say habits. If you are able to focus on a handful of Y! apps which have become habits, and make the experience fantastic. That makes a lot of sense.

There is some criticism that, she sounds like a broken record, but I disagree with that completely. If she was not doing that, then the press would be saying that she does not have a cohesive strategy. At the point in time, where Yahoo! is, I think what they need is a well defined cohesive mission. And repeating it a 100,000 times is not a bad thing at all.

Way to go Yahoo!. I have always been a Y! fan. Would hate to see it going down.


Infinite Vision – The Story of Aravind Hospitals

If you have not seen this short film, you should see it. This is the story of grit, determination, and a vision of a man, who despite his humble beginnings and his eventual roaring success, never lost his humility and his roots.

Blurb (in the youtube page):

An eye clinic with 11 beds. A country with 12 million blind. …and one doctor dedicated to a beautiful dream.

Infinite Vision is the story of Dr. V, the legendary eye surgeon from South India who made it his mission to restore sight to the blind and whose work has resulted in one of the world’s most extraordinary models of service delivery.

This film traces the inspiring life journey of a visionary dedicated to serving humanity, outlines the evolution of the Aravind model of eye care and affords glimpses into the spirituality that has guided both for over fifty years in service for sight.

“If you can’t pay them you don’t have to. If you can’t come to them they’ll come to you. Each year they bring light to millions of lives. Their services are world-class, but the spirit that drives them is one of a kind…”

The Meeting Rule

I follow a meeting rule which is borrowed from Steve Jobs rule book. I read this in the Walter Isacson biography.

I will attend a meeting if, by attending the meeting, one of two things happen — I gain something from the meeting, or the other folks in the meeting gain something from me.

I follow the same rule when calling for a meeting, and inviting folks to it.

As a corollary rule, I will always _NOT_ carry a laptop to a meeting, unless I am presenting, or if I have been explicitly asked to take notes. The reason is that, if I do take the laptop, I will be distracted and be tempted to work in parallel. This would break the first rule. I will neither contribute fully to the meeting, nor will I gain something in its entirety.

Following these two rules sometimes gets me very antsy when a meeting is poorly conducted. But that is beyond my realm of control. I try my very best to ensure that my meetings are efficient.

Be happier at work

This Inc article landed in my Inbox as part of my Daily Top LinkedIn News. It is a great list of things that all of us are guilty of doing at some point in time. There are some of these which are more common, and some that are not.

  1. Blaming
  2. Impressing
  3. Clinging
  4. Interrupting
  5. Whining
  6. Controlling
  7. Criticizing
  8. Preaching
  9. Dwelling
  10. Fearing

One paragraph that stands out.

Criticizing has a brother. His name is Preaching. They share the same father: Judging. The higher you rise and the more you accomplish, the more likely you are to think you know everything–and to tell people everything you think you know.

Read the full article here.

Too Many Hops

Quite recently, I had been talking to a friend of mine, who was vying for a senior leadership position. After a couple of conversations with the recruiter, he was told he had taken too many hops, and hence the company was not considering him. I was thinking about this for a bit, and I thought I would share my thoughts.

I personally feel that, ‘rejecting’ based on this reason as the only reason seems pretty foolish and hasty. The least that one should do is to find out the reason for the hops, and how the hops happened.

Insecurity? Were the hops because of the candidate not feeling confident that he could do the job assigned to him? This might be a valid reason for rejecting, but then, we should also dig in into finding out how the fellow landed up that job in the first place. In the numerous interviews that I have taken, I have found that, one can easily figure this out, using some behavioural traits.

Performance. Were the hops because the candidate did not perform well? Did the interest levels dip soon after the candidate was hired? Again, think. Why was this not caught during the interview process? Again, performance measurement is subjective. It could be your perspective that he may have gotten the boot because of bad performance. But, this is a valid case of rejecting a candidate.

Burnt bridges. How did the candidate leave the previous companies? Were they amicable? Were they jumps with the management in full support? Were the jumps such that management tried ‘everything’ to retain him? Did he burn bridges? If the candidate had had personnel (not personal) issues because of which, he burnt bridges (fought with manager/team etc), then this is definitely something that should discourage you from hiring this person.

The fire brand. Is the candidate someone who has the fire burning in him to grow fast? Did he find that he has been increasing his net intellectual/management experience worth significantly by jumping from gig-to-gig once in a few years? If the candidate is someone like this, you can be sure that he would not have left the previous gigs in bad taste. He would have alternate plans, succession strategies, etc, that when he leaves, it does not leave a void. It is not necessarily a bad thing to hire this guy. Except, one should hire him recognizing that he is a fire brand, and craves growth. For a senior management position, this craving is a good thing. Stoked correctly, this fire brand can create miracles for a company.

To end, my opinion is that, too many recruiters make this mistake of judging a candidate by too-many-hops. Yes, I agree, there are some folks who have had too-many-hops because of ‘issues’, but you cannot generalize. In this current generation of companies, there are two kinds of people who race to the top – both the turtles and the hares. The turtles are the folks who have risen in the company (it took them 15 years in the same company to become the senior manager/director). The hares are the folks who gain experience and expertise in working through a variety of positions (these are the folks who have risen to a senior manager/director in 7-8 years). Think for a moment, and you can easily recall folks in both categories.

Simplicity, and yet refined Sophistication

Watched a rare interview of Steve Jobs circa 1980 yesterday. That man was a genius. He knew what he wanted 30 years ago. And I believe he accomplished what he wanted. *RESPECT*

Some key points that just blew my mind away:

  • Man builds tools to amplify his abilities.
  • A computer is a tool to help you solve a problem. But we throw a big problem betwn you and your problem-learn how to use the computer. Our goal is to simplify that problem between you and your problem as much as possible”
  • For some crazy reason in the Universe (that I dont know about), two people in Los Altos and Cupertino had a need for a computer (and built), that a million other people want. Crazy that this fits the exact same need of all these people.
  • The name “Apple computers” represented what we wanted as a culture – simplicity and yet very refined sophistication”.
  • We should be talking about solutions, and not hardware or software. It is the solution that should just work – whatever it takes.
  • Comparison of Automobiles to Computers. Dump trucks, cars, buses – they have pretty much the same parts – transmissions, steering mechanisms, wheels, seats. They are all a means of transportation. What they differ on is emphasis on its function. Same way, we will build Apple computers with an emphasis that we will refine and define.
  • We have about 500 people. We will probably do between a 150 and 200 million dollars of sales. If you divide this by the number of employees, the sales $ per employee that you will get is probably a number that no one ever has heard of before. Thats because we have the most incredible collection of people on the planet.