“Peopleware” is a must read for software managers

I’m reading an interesting book, “Peopleware – Productive Projects and Teams”.  Many say that this book is a must read for software managers.  There is a section which talks about the difference between the standard of quality that the market will accept (lower) and the standard of quality that the builder (e.g., programmer) wants to deliver to the market (higher).  A builder’s self-esteem is strongly tied to the quality of the product, so market-derived quality standard seems to make good sense only if you ignore the effect on the builder’s attitude and effectiveness.  Something to possibly consider in the future.  Of course, there is no right or wrong answer.  Check it out on Amazon.

To MBA school or not?

Some folks have asked me about whether they should go to MBA school. Well, by no means do I have the end all answer, but I can offer some things to consider. In general, there’s a lot of debate about the value of an MBA. There is no type of certification to signify that an MBA graduate actually knows a set of information. Think about medical doctors (licensing exam, board certification), PhDs (thesis), accountants (CPA exam), and lawyers (bar exam). My advice to replicate a certification like approach is to enter into a business plan competition. A business plan requires one to know a slice of information across most MBA subjects (e.g., accounting, finance, marketing, etc). If you place, wouldn’t you get some street cred? It would definitely help. Next, I am not so certain that an MBA would be very beneficial if a person’s undergraduate degree is similar to that of an MBA degree such as accounting, economics, or business. For sure, a person would learn something, but maybe not as much. Now for the good stuff. Networking is a blast. Imagine being in a classroom with people from all different industries, companies, and sometimes from other parts of the US. Also, sometimes the teachers are industry experts to give you the real world low down. Lastly, people like helping out students period. You can get conference discounts, meetings with people who wouldn’t otherwise meet with you (as a regular non-student person), product discounts, and tons of other opportunities. There are definitely a lot of advantages to be labeled as a student. The conclusion? Only you can control what you’ll get out of an MBA. Sorry, I can’t be of more help. :)

A massive collection of useful blogs in one place

For the past month or so, I’ve been reading (daily) a set of startup blogs via Alltop.com. It’s great. All I have to do is skim the blog entry titles, then click on the entries that I want to read. I don’t have to visit all of these websites individually. Check it out. On a similar note, I’m starting to notice a bunch of startups that deliver very simple features. I’m wondering how long these “simple feature” startups will last before they have to start integrating with one another and become complex. Will they lose their allure then?

It’s important to connect with the Silicon Valley tech community

The Silicon Valley area is based on the principles of cooperation and collective innovation. Really, this means that techies from other companies interact with one another frequently and even job hop every 2-3 years in order to gain more skills and experience. In my personal opinion, I think that techies are doing themselves a disservice by not getting involved with the local tech community. Imagine if you were in Nebraska or Ohio, you wouldn’t find such an innovative, entrepreneurial environment there like you would here. If you don’t take advantage of what SV has to offer in terms of a vibrant tech community, go live somewhere else because you’re paying too much for cost of living.

Local companies have a great opportunity to tap into this rich community in many ways. Here are my suggestions for managers of tech employees:
• Recognize external involvement during annual employee review time
• Be open to new ideas and technologies
• Hire more experienced candidates from the local area, not just new college graduates and internal transfers
• “Walk the walk” – interact with managers from other companies
• Cultivate an environment that encourages your employees to build marketable skills that other companies desire
• Sponsor and promote local tech community events

Creating custom one-off t-shirts is a good option for bare bones promotion

A few days ago, I was looking for a custom t-shirt website to make a few one-off t-shirts for fun. There are a lot of companies out there such as UberPrints.com and Zazzle.com. This is great for anyone who wants to promote his/her business without having to print up 100s of t-shirts at a time.  I’m stilling waiting for my t-shirt to come in the mail, so I’ll let you know if they are of good quality.  Then I happen to run into CNN’s website about t-shirts. You can purchase a t-shirt with a current CNN headline including the date and time of that headline. That’s pretty neat. Maybe I’ll buy one.

Why do fruit picking robots have to look so scary?

Did you know that Japan produces 2/3s of the world’s robots?  I’m reading up on robots and agricultural and some of these robots look very scary. It reminds me of that evil character in one of the recent Spiderman movies with the long arms. If I was a farmer and saw this on my farm, I would have a heart attack.

Some open questions about robots to consider. Does it make sense for a robot to be the next best alternative over humans or a set of other technologies? For instance, can a robot do it better, the same, or worse? How much does a robot cost in comparison to human labor? Does the task require a few robots or many robots? How long should the robot operate when it’s on? So my question out to the folks, in what way ways can robots help today’s fruit farmers?

Get free work from 5-6 MBA students

UC Davis Graduate School of Management has this great program called the consulting project.  A company can submit a project proposal and have about 5-6 MBA students work on a real-life business problem at no cost to that company except for time for meetings.  It’s a win-win situation – students get real work experience, companies get free work from MBA students.  Check it out here.

What I learned at Women in Leadership Conference 2008 at UC Berkeley


(Author’s note: I found this gem while sifting through old posts.  Apparently, I was very good about protecting the privacy of the speakers.  So sorry that the names aren’t included, but I still think the takeaways are useful.)

Keynote Speaker #1 – President at William-Sonoma
1) Make your job personal
2) Be your best self
3) Hold the highest level of integrity
4) Stick with it (it could be job, career, company, etc)

Entrepreneurship industry breakout session
1) Make decisions quickly
2) Hire smart
3) Wear comfortable shoes

Keynote Speaker #2 – VP of Sales and Marketing at Nintendo America
1) What you know counts
2) Be true to who you are
3) Nice people can finish first
4) Embrace change
5) Watch your language
6) Intellectual curiosity is good
7) Treat feedback as a gift
8 ) Develop your own personal board of advisors (e.g., group of mentors)
9) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
10) Develop passions outside of work