My Journey to Web Development Land Part III

OuterSpace

It didn’t take me long to realize that the business people in tech companies (and startups) are both the minority and valued less. The technology used within a given tech-company is by far the most important component.  I didn’t really like the idea of being on the outside looking in. Additionally, I had always craved possessing the tools to implement an idea of my own or of another. I decided that I wanted to gain the tech skills necessary to become a developer or to help me break into the industry in a business role. It was a very scary decision to make, but I felt like it was essential in order to really break into the industry.

I don’t exactly remember how, but I think these thoughts coincided with my discovery of the concept of a “Coding Bootcamp.” It blew me away that programs across the country were enabling non-technical people to legitimately learn coding and get jobs in the industry as well. These programs were filled with tremendous energy and made me realize that this was my path. I began researching the different programs across the country (and Canada). I applied to a fair bunch of them and didn’t really expect to get into any. Thankfully, I got into a few and was thrilled to choose Makersquare in Austin as the program I’d be enrolling in. I had heard amazing things about the city and it’s tech industry. I couldn’t wait to get excited and couldn’t believe I would actually be going to Austin to become a web developer! Had no idea how it would all play out, but was excited nonetheless.

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My Journey to Web Development Land Part II

OuterSpace

Okay, so I wasnt totally sure what I wanted to do within the tech industry. Startups require a lot of grit, determination, and often bootstrapping. Everyone is overworked and constantly juggling a multitude of tasks at once. The inability to perform numerous types of tasks is a significant one. On the business side, “Business Development” can refer (depending on the place) to marketing and/or sales in addition to BD (glorified sales via partnerships) itself. Essentially the business people are the ones dealing with the customers (in every which way), while the tech people are dealing with the technology.  So if you are going to go the startup route, you’ll probably need to be comfortable with all of these areas of business.

On a personal level, I was also drawn to each of those functions (independently). They interested me and I thought it would be a good fit. I leaned more towards marketing, because it is more focused on branding and the creation of a company image. I was (and am still) fascinated with the different ways a company can brand itself both INTERNALLY and EXTERNALLY. Interestingly, this kind of connected back with my favorite topic of organizational culture. I think I would only enjoy and be willing to do sales and BD  if I was passionate about the product/service.

I knew what I wanted to do (somewhat) but where would I do it…?

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My Journey to Web Development Land… Part I

OuterSpace

Shortly after graduating, I realized I wanted to be in the tech industry. I didn’t know any other details: the type of company I wanted to work for or what role/function I’d want to have.  I barely even knew why I wanted to pursue the tech industry!

I slowly began immersing myself in all types of information about tech companies and (mostly) startups. I perused blogs and sites discussing the various components of startups. I joined some meetup groups and began meeting tech people through Twitter as well. The more I read and conversed with those in the industry, the more interested and excited I became.

The tech industry is an exciting one, whether you are working in an established company or a startup. Tech companies are often creating new services/products or improving existing ones. TAKE a second and look at your phone (the phone itself). Then take a look at the apps and services you have at your fingertips. Life was different a year ago; your phone didn’t look the same and there were fewer apps. While these changes may seem insignificant, they can often improve productivity and increase all types of opportunities (to meet people, profit off of our assets, or make purchase etc.).

The improvements and innovations we see on a regular basis, are incredible and inspiring.  The pace of the industry is one in which you cannot afford to blink. There is level of tension and excitement in this  volatile atmosphere and marketplace.

A Startup has the additional excitement from having to prove itself  and become profitable. While most fail, the challenge of overcoming all the difficulties and succeeding (in the market) is the one that will either energize or deflate you. Lastly,the startup that “makes it” is the modern-day rags to riches story-everyone wants to become the next Zuckerberg (fame and fortune).

After this realization, I had to figure out what I would be doing within a tech company…

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Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers by Seth Godin

If Permission Marketing was relevant and important at the time of its publishing (1999), it is even more critical nowadays.Seth Godin identifies the method of most marketing campaigns and explains their shortcomings. He repeatedly drives home the difference between Permission Marketing and Interruption Marketing.

Interruption Marketing is advertising where the key is to interrupt (viewers) in order to get them to think about the product or service being offered. It is focused on throwing another hat into the ring of clutter and getting maximum views and exposure. 

Permission Marketing is advertising that offers the consumer an opportunity to volunteer to be marketed to. Those who volunteer, pay more attention to the marketing message. It is anticipated, personal, and relevant.

He also provides an excellent analogy summing up their differences:

The difference is simple. An Interruption Marketer is a Hunter. A permission Marketer is a Farmer.Hunting prospects involves loading a gun with bullets and shooting until you hit something. You can take a day or a week or a month off from this endeavor and it won’t take you long to get back into successfully bagging a few.

Farming prospects involves hoeing, planting, watering, and harvesting. It’s infinitely more predictable, but it takes regular effort and focus. If you take a month off, you might lose your entire crop. On the other hand, farming scales. Once you get good at it, you can plant ever more seeds and harvest ever more crops.” – Source: Permission Marketing/Seth Godin

Throughout the book, Seth drives home the need for Permission Marketing over Interruption Marketing. The book (and his other books I’ve read so far) has more of an inspirational feel to it. Meaning, he runs with his basic point(s) throughout the entire book and motivates the reader to embrace Permission Marketing. I did not feel like it got into the real nitty gritty areas of implementing such a campaign. Additionally, I enjoy more real life examples that are expounded and developed throughout the entire book. This book has it’s share of examples but they are rather short and under-developed. 

 

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The Audio-book experience

Snoopy with Headphones

There is a lot of terrific digital content all around us. We have the ability to tap into this wellspring in numerous ways: ebooks, real books, podcasts, web pages etc. I recently discovered a great way to access information: Audio-books.

I have always thoroughly enjoyed reading. I have always viewed listening to a book as strange. Lo and behold, I have survived the audio-book experience! It has helped me learn and gain more knowledge. The greatest benefit of this whole journey, has been my discovery that I had the perfect time period(s) to listen to books: commuting and exercising.

I have been running for about 5.5 years and absolutely love it. Whether inside or outside, I would jog without music, letting my mind wander and relax. It is incredible how many ideas would hit me while running. It is also beneficial to connect to our surroundings. I still enjoy “connected” ( to myself, disconnected from technology) running and make sure to practice it. However, I have really found this period of time to be very conducive to listening to audio-books. I am able to just run and absorb.

Similarly,  I have begun listening to audio-books while commuting. I know many people who use such time to ingest information in a variety of ways. It is a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of.

I am really excited to continue utilizing these opportunities. I am excited about all the  information I have learned!. However, the most important benefit I have gained (and am hoping to replicate in other situations and activities), is utilizing my time most effectively. We are often stressed for time and  hope we could lengthen the day (all we need is 5 more hours right :)). Gaining the most we can with the time we do have, becomes that much more integral to success.

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It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks Paperback by Howard Behar

“We’re not in the coffee business serving people. We’re in the people business serving coffee.”

  •  Howard Behar (former President of Starbucks) discusses the ten principles integral to the success of the coffee chain. He also discusses some of Starbucks’ development and the culture within the company. I am glad I read this book because I learned more about a major force within the food industry. I discovered some examples of the company’s strong focus on their employees (both their welfare and contributions):
  1. The company took pains to increase labor costs despite cutting into 2% of sales.
  2. Howard Behar wanted to find tangible ways to let employees know that he (and Starbucks) cared about them. At a point, he was sending more than 2500 greeting cards (anniversary, birthday) monthly throughout his company. He personally wrote and signed these cards, making a valuable and indelible impression throughout the employee base. Behar’s gesture exemplified Howard Schultz’s (CEO of Starbucks) goal of “Getting big and staying small.”
  3. Starbucks has many meetings and open forums where employees are encouraged to discuss current issues.
  4. Employees are empowered to make decisions and add value to the service-“The person who sweeps the floor chooses what type of broom is bought, not someone from higher up.”

-I gained an interesting term from Behar: “Compassionate Emptiness.” He describes this as listening to others without providing (or offering) any solutions to their problems. Often people just want and need to be heard. Lending an open ear (alone) can do wonders for the other person. I was a little disappointed with the book for two reasons:

  1. The principles Howard discusses are extremely generic and very similar to those described in many other business-related books.
  2. I enjoyed the vignettes he related (relevant to his ideas). However, there really werent enough of these to get a firm grasp of the company’s culture and inner-workings.
  3. I think I would have enjoyed more examples of the company’s slogan (mentioned earlier) regarding being in “the people business.” I dont doubt that it is important to Starbucks. I am just at a loss as to where this can be seen or experienced. While I find Starbucks employees to be respectful, pleasant, and helpful, I have never walked away with the feeling that they are in the “people  business.” For that, you need a little bit of Tony Hsieh’s (Zappos) magic.
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UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging. – A Book Review

UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging  by Scott Stratten

“Twitter isn’t social media if you use it to just send out ads and blog post updates (Pg. 27).”

  • I thoroughly enjoyed Scott Stratten’s book on marketing. The book was focused on two major (marketing) components: tips for using specific social mediums effectively and techniques for superb customer service/engagement (i.e. “unmarketing”).
  • Scott focuses a lot on the concept that a business’ goal should be to engage and business will result. He illustrates this idea with customer service examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • The main idea I walked away with, is an invaluable one:Every function/action of your business needs to be cognizant of it’s impact on consumers. Everything from the layout of your website to the behavior of the cashiers, must be centered around the customer experience. -“Marketing is not one department of your business; it is every point of engagement (Pg. 24).”
  • The book has opened my eyes to the brand interactions I have on a semi-consistent basis and enabled me to properly understand them. And let me tell you, once your eyes are opened, you will be truly appalled at the behavior of some companies and how they treat their consumer base. I noticed that on a company’s pricing page, the “free” plan was referred to as (and titled) the “Cheapskate” plan. I literally could not believe that a company would insult a segment of its users (who I’m assuming they wanted to retain).
  • Lastly, Unmarketing was fun and easy to read. Scott is also very active and reachable on Twitter. It is always really cool when you can directly interact with the author and certainly adds to the quality of the book. Go engage with Scott @unmarketing 😉
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