Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New year, new beginnings

As 2011 comes to a close, I find myself reflective and grateful for the year that was. This time last year, I was working for Kynetx and we were planning for a stellar 2011 as we took over the World.

What a difference a year makes....

Over the course of the year I switched jobs, companies and focus. I became a grandfather to the most handsome and awesome grandson ever (just a little biased here). There were highs, lows and doldrums to experience and work through.

Overall 2011, was a good year.

As 2012 approaches, I find myself once again sanguine that it will be a year of continued growth and transcendence. There are a number of threads developing that could prove to be game changers for me and my family, and at this time I favor all of them.

I also look forward to watching my awesome grandson grow and develop. I have truly enjoyed watching him explore his surroundings and relish the opportunity to teach him the ropes. There is little that is more enjoyable than watching a child interact with his environment. It makes you realize how amazing the human brain is in coping with an ever changing environment.

I also look forward to continuing my engagement with AtTask. This is a great company, full of great people with great ideas. I could not be more thankful to the leadership of AtTask for their leadership, guidance and friendship. Over the last year I have been honored to be able to build a team that I would put up against any IT operations team out there.

Lots of good stuff happening and I can't wait to see it come to fruition.

So 2011, I will remember you fondly.... and 2012, bring it on...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana

I did not realize how long it has been since I wrote something for this blog. To say that the last four weeks have been busy would be the understatement of the year.

For those of you keeping score, I started a new job at a company call AtTask about a month ago. This job has been all things insane over the last month and I am just getting a chance to catch my breath.

As I have become more acclimated to my new surroundings and team mates, I have discovered a few things about myself:

1) I am getting old
2) I let my technological edge dull a little over the last two years
3) I love leading a team
4) There are a lot of smart people here and I feel stupid sometimes

AtTask is a company on the move and they have amassed an impressive team to power their journey. Where Kynetx is driven by passion, heart and raw brilliance, AtTask is driven by dogged tenacity, intellect and clear market vision. Neither one is better than the other, they are just appropriate for the evolutionary stage each organization is at.

Coming to work every day is a interesting experience because I truly have no idea what the day has in store for me. I thought that I would have some time to "ease" into the role, but life had a different plan for me and instead threw me into the deep end, handed me an anchor and released the sharks.

Good thing I know how to swim....

I am finding that muscles I have not used for a couple of years are starting to regain their strength. Concepts and thoughts that I had put on the shelf are becoming relevant again and regions of my brain that went dormant are awakening. All in all, it has been a pretty good ride so far and I am hopeful that it will remain on that trajectory.

Oh, if you know someone who is a Linux Systems Administrator and is in need of a new adventure, send them my way as I have a couple of seats on the bus available.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lessons learned from Dodgeball

What a difference a week makes. Last week this time I was nervously awaiting the start of my next adventure at @Task. This week, I am wondering if someone got the license plate of the trunk that ran me over (being metaphorical here...).

I think that the most apt analogy for what working at @Task in the IT Operations team is like is the game of dodgeball that I participated in last Monday. It was the tenth birthday of @Task, and what does one do on their tenth birthday? Yes, you are correct, you throw inflatable balls at one another.

As the week moved on, I realized that I would be well served to remember the lessons learned in the dodgeball game:

1 - The best defense is a good offense
2 - Do not take your eye off the ball
3 - There are those who will try to deceive you into thinking that they are not armed. Be ready for anything.
4 - Your team is the most important asset you have. Put your trust in them to protect your blind spots.

The first week at a new company is always stressful and surreal. You are an outsider, and everyone you meet has the same "who the Hell are you" look when first introduced. You also have this strange halo effect which causes people to think that you are smarter than you really are. Actually, this halo effect has a half life of about six weeks, but starts to decay after about four.

Adding to the first week bizarreness, my boss was out for the last couple of days, so I had to jump into the deep end of the pool, grab an anchor and start swimming. I actually would not have it any other way, but it is still unsettling to take that leap.

I am still getting my bearings and will be gathering copious amounts of data over the upcoming weeks, but the good news here is that I have been here before and know these waters well. In fact, this opportunity fits perfectly within my sweet spot and I will be able to use all the clubs in my bag.

I am very glad that this weekend was relatively tranquil as I needed it to decompress and gird myself for the upcoming week.

I find myself thinking more and about the lessons learned from Dodgeball and I am nervously awaiting the whistle blow.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What is it with QA these days?

Here is a sad fact for you; the last time I worked for a company with a strong, independent and respected QA dept was over six years ago. That company was LowerMyBills, and they had a killer QA department which contributed greatly to the overall success of the product and company.

So what is it with QA these days and why are good QA people so hard to find and retain?

Some thoughts are that once a company has found a QA tester worth his/her salt, they hide them away and keep them captive with "golden handcuffs" so they will not be tempted to seek out greener pastures.

Another thought is that QA is often used as the incubator from which development is fed so you have a perpetual cycle of brain drain. Still another theory is that QA testers are not born, they are developed and that takes both time and effort, both of which are in often times in short supply in a fast moving company.

Regardless of what is truth and what is fiction, one thing is for certain, when you have a strong, independent and respected QA department within your organization, your company is able to accomplish amazing things. Without out one, your organization will be in perpetual firefighting mode as defects leak out into production and your clients unknowingly become your beta testers.

As a leader of an Operations team, I am repeatedly reminded of the pricelessness of a QA team who are not beholden to engineering or operations, and are free to be an unbiased proving ground for your product. The sad truth is that often organizations place QA under the direction of engineering, which frankly is just incestuous, or under the direction of operations, which is almost as bad.

What is worse, I have often times observed QA being hobbled either by misalignment within the organization, poor staffing or insufficient experience, pillaging from other departments and/or an unclear mandate regarding the importance of quality within the organization.

In my opinion (and the opinion of many others I have spoken with) QA must be free and independent and should report directly to a "C" level executive like a COO or CIO (not CTO) and should be held to stringent standards. Additionally, they should be given the ability to "pull the cord" and halt production in the event egregious quality issues are identified. Without these qualities, your QA department is at best little more than a rubber stamp and at worst, a scapegoat for all of your organization's ills.

I am interested to hear what others have experienced and what they have done to help solve this problem. I am also interested to hear your thoughts about how we, as IT professionals, can help guide young people into becoming QA tester and engineers instead of code jockeys.

In the end, QA may not be the sexiest job in IT, but I think you will agree that it is arguably the most important link in the chain and should be celebrated as such.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

It is official, you are reading the blog of the new Senior Manager, IT Operations at @Task. To say that I am excited about this new opportunity would be the understatement of the year.

As I begin this new exciting adventure, as the title of this posting says, it also means that my last adventure officially comes to an end. I would be lying if I did not say that this is more than a little bittersweet for me. My time at Kynetx was nothing less than amazing and I will remember it very fondly. I also want to thank Steve, Phil and the entire Kynetx team for their love and support as I embark on this new chapter of my career.

One of the things that attracted me to @Task was the fact that I would be working with three gentlemen from my past, namely Nate, Otto and Jeff. I first encountered these fine individuals when I was at Excite@Home (hmm, something about the "@" sign...). When that company imploded, we all went our separate ways, they stayed in Utah county and I went to CA.

Nate started @Task as a founder and currently holds the position of CTO. Otto and Jeff went to other companies and continued to work at their crafts and sharpen their skills to the point of mastery. They eventually found their way to @Task and have taken up postions that align perfectly with their skills.

When things changed at Kynetx Jeff and Nate reached out to me and expressed interest in bringing me in for a "sit down." This first meeting kicked of a series of meetings, phone calls and emails as we worked through the details of getting me on the bus. As we continued to talk, I was not quite sure where it was going to end up, but I always believed that we would come to a decision point in short order. That decision point ended up manifesting itself in the form of a employment offer.

So starting Monday, I will be traveling the I-15 corridor Southbound to building K on the old WordPerfect campus to start my new adventure leading an amazing team of IT professionals. This team is responsible for the care and feeding of the production computing platforms which serve clients like GE, Apple and Toyota just to name a few. We have our work cut out for us as @Task embarks on its own adventure of growth and market leadership.

I fully expect that this new beginning will test and stretch my abilities as a leader and technologist, but if it didn't, then it wouldn't be fun or interesting now would it.

In closing I would like to thank Nate, Jeff and Otto for their generosity and consideration. I would also like to thank the team I am about to assume the leadership of. They are really good guys and I impressed with their ability to metabolize change, even change of this magnitude. I know that it is not easy to welcome a new member, but they have done an admirable job of making me feel welcome.

So onward and upward I go.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sam needed a hug today

I attended the "all-hands" meeting at Kynetx today to perform a post mortem on Impact 2011 and discuss strategic plans for Kynetx for the foreseeable future.

As we began the meeting, we all recounted our post Impact weekends and how most of us had found the downtime to be very rejuvenating. As we got down to the business of building a priority list of all of the things that need to get done, my friend Sam interupted and said (paraphrasing here), " I had a much different weekend then the rest of you. I did not find peace or solace, instead I found only dispair."

Silence permeated the room.

Needless to say, Sam needed a hug.

Here is the deal with Sam, I genuinely love this guy. He is brilliant and one of the most well adjusted humans I have met in my life. He is also very easy to read. Sam does not mask his emotions well (this is a feature, not a bug) and you can devine the "Sam weather report" pretty darn quickly if you care to look.

So when he spoke up in the meeting this morning, I was surprised, not by the fact he said something but by the velocity at which it all came tumbling out. It was obvious that Sam was in dispair and dwelling in a dark place because he felt that he was drowning.

What happened next was awesome.. Sam got a metaphorical group hug from the team in the room and a real hug from our CFO Roy. The group hug manifested in the form of "big ears" listening to not only the words Sam was saying, but also to what he was not saying. Because we all knew Sam and cared to listen, we very quickly knew what we needed to do in order to pull him out of his dark place.

This is what happens when you are part of a team who cares equally about the mental health of the humans and the business. I firmly believe that the mental health of humans and business are not mutually exclusive but are in fact are mutually dependent. This may seem obvious to some, but you would be shocked how many people get this wrong and forget that they are coupled. When you keep you business sane, you can drive your people crazy and the converse is true as well

As leaders, it is our duty to maintain sanity and promote good mental health for both our people and for our businesses. This often is hard work and can get very messy sometimes, but the upside for taking the time and making the effort is often huge.

Those who choose not to heed this advice do so at their own peril.

When the meeting was over, Sam was rescued from the jaws of dispair and once again dwelled in the light, and we had a comprehensive list of things to keep everyone busy for the next six months.

I believe that balance has once again been restored and the mental well being of both Sam and Kynetx are intact.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's all about the love

A very good friend of mine, Mr, Chris Perry, sent me a note this morning about a video that he found on YouTube. The video was produced buy the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts and has a most interesting topic: Drive - what motivates us.

As a student of Human behavior, I have discovered that what compels a person to get up out of bed every morning and go to work is rarely the paycheck that they receive on pay day. In fact, if the compelling reason IS the pay check, you should really find another occupation, but that is for a different blog post.

As I watched this video, I began to get very excited as it coalesced and crystalized a number of disperate thoughts that have roamed around my brain for years. First and foremost, it validated my belief that if you want a person to perform at a high level, money is rarely a prime motivator. In fact, I NEVER have been motivated by money, I have ALWAYS been motivated by doing something that I love and have passion for.

This is not to say that money is not nice, it is, as I enjoy being able to provide my family the things they need to survive. What I am saying is that I do not get up in the morning and think to myself "Man, I love going to work so I ca earn money!!" Instead, I get up and say "What great things can get accomplished today?" or "How can I help someone accomplish great things today?" This is what I love to do. This is where my passion sources from. I love being around people who are at the top of their game and help them achieve even more than they thought they were capable of. I also love finding out what a person's "currency" is and use it to motivate them to attain their goals. Your currency is not a financial term, instead it is the thing that makes you feel alive, connected and engaged to something. It is what pays off your ego and feeds your soul and keeps you coming back for more, even when you have a knock down, bang you head against the wall shitty day.

Another thought that came to clarity for me today was that I am a born leader of humans! I have always enjoyed leading, but I realized it is in my DNA. I say this because the speaker was speaking about concepts and findings that I instinctively knew. These concepts and findings are the bedrock of my leadership style and have served me and my employers very well over that last 10 years.

A word of friendly advice, if you are suppose to be a leader of human beings, and you think that money is a prime motivator of great people, you REALLY need to find another career. Seriously, you do...no really.. believe me, I am not lying to you.

Now this all may sound a little self serving, I will admit that it is a little bit, but my main reason for sharing this with you is to bear my testimony that Dan Pink speaks the truth. I also want it to be known that this is what I believe in and how I lead, so if you ever had any question, well... now you know.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Impressions from Kynetx Impact 3.0

For those of you who follow me on Twitter (@qwade) or on Facebook, you will no doubt know that I have been attending the Kynetx developer's conference called "Impact." This was the third iteration of the conference, hence the "3.0" moniker and it was attended by over 140 developers and technologists from all over the US and Canada and had many amazing moments.

One of these particular moments was the live interview of Dr. Phil Windley and "Doc" Searls hosted by Robert Scoble. This interview session focused on the notion of the "Live Web" and what it means to technology. I was impressed by the intellect and candor of all of the participants as they deconstructed what the Live Web is, and is not, going to include. Robert is a natural interviewer and the two "Docs" were on fire.

As I performed a mental review of all that was said during the interview, I came to the conclusion that the Live Web will finally bring to fruition the long standing promise of the Internet. As Doc Searls stated in his keynote and repeated during the interview session, the Internet should be available to everyone, usable by everyone and improved by anyone who wants to make improvements. In other words, it belongs to everyone and no one at the same time and should be open.

The Live Web is what the Internet was meant to be and Kynetx is the platform of choice upon which to build it.

Another memorable amazing moment came today as I listened to Neil Mansilla of Mashery talk about his "entrepreneurial style and code." Neil has a great presentation style and had a very interesting story to tell. The gist of it was that you need to think small when trying to start a business and keep it real. This was a refreshing perspective from someone who has a 10 and 17 record, which is actually impressive given the 1 in 10 record of most VC's.

I think Neil's message is a message that every Kynetx developer or nascent entrepreneur should hear as it gives great guidance and reasons for hope in today's competitive business environment.

Overall I was very impressed with this most recent teration of Impact and I look forward to seeing what develops from the great momentum created from it.

While I am no longer a day to day member of the Kynetx team, I do have a vested interest in the success of Kynetx as I am a equity holder in the company. I know that the leadership of the company has the right vision for the passionate Kynetx team to execute. I also know the brilliance which lives in the hearts and minds of this team, and mark my words, these guys are going to change the World.

In the words of Mr. Steve Fulling, "onward and upward!!" and "Get 'er done!!"

Friday, March 18, 2011

Taking stock

So today is my 42nd birthday. Yep, it was forty two years ago that I was brought forth unto this World by my mother and father.

It has been a fairly normal birthday full of well wishes and notes from family and friends far and wide. There have been many renditions of "Happy Birthday" sung, fun made at the fact that I am a grandfather and references made to my looming AARP eligibility.

The one thing I did not expect to do today was to inventory my life to date. As I lay in bed this morning after being awoken by a call from my best friend in the World Russ Wynn, I realized something; My life could not get any better than it is right now.

It hit me like a ten ton heavy thing how blessed I am. I am blessed with a wonderful family (some blood, some not). I am blessed with a stable of friends that is second to none. I am blessed with health and everything I need to live a comfortable life.

In short, I need or want for nothing.

So on a day where it is customary to receive gifts, I instead want to give one to all of those who are part of my life. I want to give you the gift of my undying admiration, love and gratitude. Because of you, I have all that I could ever want or need in life.

I also want to thank my Father in Heaven for blessing me each and every day. It is through him that my strength in drawn.

In short, in taking stock of the last 42 years, all I can say is I am thankful and more than a little humbled by what has been given to me by so many.

It is indeed a very happy birthday for me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Of Eagles and Turkeys

There's a old saying that I love which states "It is difficult to soar with eagles when you choose to live among turkeys." Today I saw this axiom come to life as I reunited with my former colleagues from Sprint Paranet and once again took flight with my fellow eagles.

Let me provide some background and context for you. In 1997 I went to work for a company called Paranet, which was (is) an IT professional services provider based out of Houston, TX. Paranet had branch offices throughout the country, and was loosely organized into regions. The Western region was headquartered out of Salt Lake City, Utah and was lead by a dynamic pair of businessman name Brian Hazelgren and Mike Tippets.

Brian and Mike built a strong culture and ecosystem which fostered the creation of a cross discipline team capable of providing IT services to a large cross section of businesses. Back then, each branch office within the Paranet had a team mascot, interestingly enough, ours was the "Flying Eagles."

I loved working at Paranet for a multitude of reasons, one of which was the variety that being a hired gun afforded. One week I would be out at the Kennecott smelter working on a HP-UX box and the next I was in New Jersey bringing a Novell Groupwise server online. For a twenty something geek, this was like being a rock star on tour.

As all good things must eventually end, Paranet was sold to Sprint for hundreds of millions of dollars and became a business unit within that company. I will not bore you with the sad story of how Sprint systematically dismantled the company and suffered debilitating"brain drain" in doing so. Suffice it to say, I was lucky in that I got out when the getting was good and I have deep sympathy for those souls who had to endure to the end.

This brings us to the events of today. Bill Fisk, one of the Eagles, had an idea to get the team back together and hold an informal team reunion. This idea took hold and before long, a good majority of the team who were local responded that they would be there. Even those who had moved out of state lamented about not being able to attend and sent their regrets.

As the day approached, I found myself strangely nostalgic for Paranet and the time of my life that it occupied. You see, it was while working for Paranet that I fell in love with the diversity that IT presents. Being part of a cross discipline team, cross pollination happened organically, and was nurtured by the leadership as it made you "more sellable" to the company. Remember, this entire business was based around the billable rates of its employees, so the more you knew and the more initials (e.g CCIE, RHCE, MSCE) you had after your name, the more they could bill.

So it was at Paranet that I discovered that I had a passion for IT and I was determined to learn as much as I could from as many as I could in order to make myself more valuable to Mike and Brain, as well as to myself and any future employers. This strategy has been a core piece of my "Master Evil Plan" since then, and frankly is one of the secrets to my continuing success.

As I walked into Goodwood's today, standing at the door to welcome me was Bill (or the FIskenator as we call him). It was great to see Bill as he always has a smile on his face and a teddy bear persona. Soon other members of the team began to arrive, and as they did, it began to get a tad surreal as faces and names that I had not considered for almost twelve years suddenly came rushing forward at me.

There were names I remembered instantly and familiar faces with names that hung at the edges of memory. But as we all sat down together, I had the strange sense of familiarity and comfort, the team was back together again, even if for a short while.

As I sat there reveling in this fact, the "catching up" began (as it does at all reunions). Families were inventoried, job titles exchanged and stories of the "old times" dusted off and recounted. What struck me was that out of all of the gentlemen present, and those spoken about but not present, not one of them had stagnated or fumbled in their professional career and all seemed very happy with where they were in life.

In short, there was not a turkey among us, only eagles. Or in the immortal words of C. Sheen, we were all "winning!"

I prefer to call it "soaring!"

I would like to thank Bill and Sean for pulling the reunion together and Tipp for his unexpected, but greatly appreciated, generosity. I sincerely hope that it is not another twelve years until the next one.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Define: Fellowship

There have been many pages written over the course of human history about the bonds formed between people during the heat of battle. Most of these writings are from the perspective of those who have served in the military, but I submit that the same dynamics can exist within business as well (save the heavy artillery).

This last week drove this fact home to me in some dramatic ways. First, was my meeting on Monday with some past colleagues from Excite@Home. For those of you not familiar with the rise and fall of Excite@Home, you can read about it here. The experience of working for dying company teaches you many skills that you rarely have a chance to learn. It teaches you how to keep your chin up in the face of adversity as well as how to be successful in a highly caustic and depressing environment.

When we heard the news that E@H would be filing for bankruptcy and that we would be "turning off the lights", our team did something amazing; we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. In fact, some of the best work I had ever seen the team perform came out of this period. Now this was not the first time that this team had faced adversity, in fact, we had many "death marches" under our belts but this one was different in that it had a scheduled finality.

This brings me up to Monday's meeting with Nate, Otto and Jeff all of whom were at Excite@Home with me leading up to the final days. When I walked into Nate's office there was a sense of relaxed familiarity and ease. It is the kind of feeling you experience when you reestablish ties with a long lost friend. But for me, it went deeper than that; for me it was like coming home and reconnecting with a long lost relative.

The experience repeated itself when I met up with the other two gentlemen as well. We immediately rediscovered a long forgotten rhythm and familiarity that only those who have gone to Hell and back together can have.

I have had the privilege of having many of these "Hell and back" experiences over the last elven years, which has allowed me to build up a fellowship of men and women that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt have my back.

Another example of this amazing dynamic at work manifested itself in the action of a former colleague of mine from Sento. Lacee Locke works at Adobe, and when she saw that I was back on the market, she went to work on my behalf. Lacee was determined to get me an interview at Adobe, and set about the work of making that happen. This kind of altruistic behavior is not uncommon when you have gone to Hell and back with someone, but it never fails to amaze and humble me.

Lastly, I had lunch with my former Kynetx team members today and it was like breaking bread with family. In fact, they ARE family and I would take a bullet for each and every one of them, as I know they would for me.

As I assess my options, one of the drivers will be my desire to once again work for and with people who I have fellowship with. It not only makes for a more rewarding and enjoyable work experience, but helps to crystalize and catalyse vision and passion.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What a great day...

Today I met with two established organizations who for me represented the "bookends" of the cultural range. Each of them had things that I groked and appreciated as well as things that made me go "hmmm".

Full disclosure, I will not be using the names of the organizations in this post as I am in active talks with both regarding employment and I do not wish to color opinions.

This morning started with a meeting of the CTO at company "X". This company is a local success story and has a great reputation for being a fun and exciting place to work. I have a number of contacts within this organization that I have worked with in past lives. Needless to say, the opportunity to work with these fine folks is a big part of why I agreed to take the meeting.

The organization is at the point in its lifecycle where they are putting all of their chips in and betting on the come. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of being part of a huge gamble, let me tell you something about how that feels. It is exciting, scary, fantastic and inspiring all at the same time. As the CTO said to me today "It is during these inflection points when creativity kicks in and amazing things happen."

I could not agree more.

The point I wish to make here is that this organization had built a culture of innovation and action and was now looking to mature it into a culture of excellence and quality. This is not to say that these cultural traits are mutually exclusive, but they do have a hard time occupying the same time and space at times.

The next meeting was with a large multinational company who has great brand recognition and strong revenues. They are the undisputed 800 pound Gorilla in the market and have great products used and enjoyed by millions of people across the World.

The gentlemen I met with impressed me with his candor and intelligence. We had a great meeting and I was intrigued by the opportunity being presented.

This organization had already made the leap to a culture of excellence and quality, and was now looking to broaden its product portfolio and bring some "spice" to the line up.

Neither one was better than the other, in fact, it is not fair to compare the two because of where they are on the maturity scale. What can be compared is the level of engagement and excitement observed and felt by walking around the facility and talking to the people.

At the afternoon meeting, I did not have opportunity to speak to anyone besides the gentlemen interviewing me, and I regret that was the case as I think that there is missing data that I need in order to make a quantitative evaluation of the opportunity.

All of this leads up to this fact; I find myself in a quandary which will only be resolved by deep contemplation and introspection. There will also be a healthy dose of mentoring and advice sought by yours truly, as these are not the only options on the table, and I need to figure out which one is going to be the right option to pursue.

I look forward to the next phase of this adventure. Rest assured you will be kept in the loop....

Monday, March 7, 2011

Define: Entrepreneur

I find that the term "entrepreneur" gets tossed around a lot these days. It seems that anyone with an idea and a little bit of competence gets to assume the monicker of "the entrepreneur" just a little too easily and I am getting tired of it.

Well today, I met with two very different, and very real entrepreneurs and each one of them taught me something about what it means to be a true entrepreneur and risk taker. Their examples also served to restore faith in the term and and reminded me that being an entrepreneur is something you earn, not something you call yourself.

The first set of entrepreneurs I met with are the team behind the FaceBook application called YearBook. This application has been available for a little while now and has had impressive adoption. In fact, they have been so successful that they are now able to fund the start up of a new venture which is built around the concept of "gamification" to captivate a whole new audience.

I was there to talk to them about how I can help them build up, and scale out their infrastructure ahead of the release of their game. The team is scrappy and insanely focused on success, and I felt at home with them immediately. They are four people who have big ideas and dreams and the passion and belief to bring their goals to fruition.

The second entrepreneur I met with was an old friend who works at the University of Utah in the Geology department. He is part of the team which is responsible for placing and maintaining the seismic sensors in Utah and western Wyoming. The data that these sensors collect is then fed to the USGS, Homeland Security and FEMA for many uses including disaster preparedness.

You may ask yourself how this gentlemen could possibly be an entrepreneur working in academia which prides itself on its high levels of rigor and bureaucracy, which are arguably the antithesis of being an entrepreneur. Well I am here to suggest the being an entrepreneur is more a state of mind than it is a thing. In other words, I submit that you will find entrepreneurs in all walks of life and in places you would least expect to find them. Yes, you will find them even in the storied halls of academia.

What makes Jon an entrepreneur is his ability to think outside of the three ring binder and see opportunities where most see only disadvantage and toil. To point, when he joined the team he saw that there was a gapping hole in how the data from the sensors was being collected and stored. Basically there was a sizable single point of failure in the form of the building where the data was received and stored. The problem to solve was that in the event of a seismic event (aka an Earthquake) of sizable magnitude along the Wasatch front, the flow of all of this critical data would be disrupted if the building was damaged or collapsed.

When he saw this, he did the only thing that a entrepreneur could do, he set out to remedy it by using his experience, creativity and conviction. Needless to say, the single point of failure has been removed and data now flows to multiple redundant points on the network which has increased the survivability and availability of the data by many orders of magnitude.

I think what being an entrepreneur means is to be someone who is willing to say "the question is not who do I need to ask, it is who is going to stop me?" Both the YearBook team and Jon show this quality in various differing ways, but all of them are passionately committed to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.

As I pursue my next adventure, I know one thing for sure, wherever I end up I will once again be in the company of true entrepreneurs.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week one wrap up

This was my first full week of being on a forced, unpaid vacation from employment. All in all it has been a good week mainly due to the fact that I have kept busy and engaged. There have been lunches with friends and network members, time spent with my Kynetx family, times of sheer joy babysitting my newborn grandson and many, many well wishes from friends and family.

Now, I completely realize that week one of any directional change in life is usually skewed and does not often reflect reality. Reality kicks in tomorrow, when week two begins and the outpouring of attention I received this week returns to normal levels.

Week two is when the real work begins.

So, here are my plans for the next few days:

1) Attend a meeting with a couple of smart guys who are revving up their business and looking to scale up and out. Their idea is a killer one and I think that I can help them reach their goals.

2) Take a tour of the University of Utah seismic center offered to me by a good friend.

3) Meet with some former colleagues who have built a very successful business to see if there may be a seat on the bus.

Interlaced in among these meetings will be phone calls to people from my "hit list" to see what doors they can help me open. I thank G-d that over the years I paid attention to the great advice of many to focus on building a strong and deep professional network, as it has proven to be an extremely valuable resource and source of comfort during these times.

Overall I am very bullish on my chances to cultivate opportunities and once again be gainfully employed in the short term. I can say this with confidence due to my deep seated belief in my friends, my family and most of all, in myself and in the power of a positive attitude and altitude.

Watch this space for more updates as to how this week goes.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The resume is a lie!

I was speaking with my very good friend Dan McGarry today about the process of searching for new employment. Dan was part of the Kynetx "rightsizing" of a week ago, and just to get this out of the way, is one of the best humans I know. If you are looking for someone who knows how to get things done and has tenacity that is second to none, Dan is your man.

I noticed that Dan was updating his resume and made mention that I also had recently overhauled my resume. I also mentioned that I thought the tradition of the resume was utter bullshit and should be scrapped altogether. To my surprise, Dan voiced his violent agreement, so I thought that maybe I had something to say on the subject worth sharing.

To state my position more succinctly, I believe that a resume does a fairly good job of presenting the  litany of your skills, but an utterly miserable job of providing a potential employer any data about who you are and what value you bring to an organization.

Now there are countless boutique businesses built around the business plan of helping you wordsmith your resume, but at the end of the day, the best that they can hope to do is help you create a "beautiful lie." Instead of spending your hard earned money on these types of services, your resume should just be a cover letter that says this:

"My name is [insert name here] and I would very much like to tell you all about me over coffe."

Seriously, it is THAT simple. To back this up, the best and brightest people I have ever hired were personal referrals that were interviewed over coffee. Now it is true that many of them had also submitted resumes to me because that is "what you do" (aka tradition), but frankly, I would have invited them to chat based on a personal recommendation(s) alone.

This brings me to the essence of my argument;  If you want to find great people, you will not find them sorting through stacks of paper. You will only find great people by using your network to solicit personal recommendations.

At Kynetx, we had a "no cold hire" policy in place. This means that if someone did not come with at least one personal recommendation from someone either already at Kynetx, or one degree of separation from someone at Kynetx, they did not get an invite to be considered to join the team. What this did for us was it allowed us to build an AMAZING team of people because A+ people know and want to be surrounded by A+ people.

Instead of looking at a resume, ask the candidate for their LinkedIn profile or their Twitter name. These glimpses into a person's social graph will tell you more about who the person is and what they are all about than their resume ever could.

So to sum this all up, resumes, neigh the TRADITION of the resume, is bullshit. If you want to get to know me and let me get to know you, let's go have coffee (more metaphor then literal, breakfast works too) and you will know within the first five minutes whether or not you are going to hire me. Conversely, I will know within the first five minutes whether or not I want to come work with you.

(This is another point for another post, but job seeking really is a two way street and you should never feel pressured to take or stay at an interview if you know that it is not a fit. If within the first five minutes you know it is not going to work, do yourself and the person interviewing you a favor, call an end to the meeting.)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The War of the Geeks

First a small history lesson. Just after the Earth cooled, the first Sysop and Code Slinger launched the opening salvo in the age old conflict I have termed the "War of the Geeks." In the history of man, there has been only one other conflict that has been more adversarial or enduring, I am of course referring to the conflict between the Arabs and Israelites.

Not surprising, each of these conflicts share a couple of common themes. Each side involved are fervent believers in an ideology which is diametrically opposed to the other side's. There have been multiple parties who have attempted, many times in vain, to broker a peace. While there have been a great number less casualties in the war of the geeks many, many lives have been impacted.

In order to understand the rationale behind the conflict, you must understand that Sysops and Code Slinger really are trying to reach the same point, albeit from opposite vectors. The destination each is seeking to reach is a stable and performant system.

The conflict comes in due to the approach each side has a proclivity to take. The Code Slinger wants a open system where all system resources are at their disposal. The Sysop wants a closed system where each resource is accounted for and used efficiently. There are also theological differences on security, file structures, database layouts etc which while germane to the conflict, would be tangental and redundant to discuss here. Suffice it to say, each side is adamant in their convictions and vilifies the opposing side at every opportunity.

Starting in 2001 I began a journey which took me into the heart of this conflict, I became a manager of an IT Operations team. Up until this point, I was but a lowly foot soldier in the Sysop army and while I did not understand why we fought, I understood that fight we must.

When I was elevated to a position of leadership, I quickly gained a perspective on the previously stated rationale, which had previously been unavailable to me due to being in the minutiae. This perspective allowed me to clearly identify what was at the core of the conflict, and once realized, I began to formulate a plan to bridge the gap which separated the two sides.

The plan I devised was to create an ecosystem where each side was exposed to the dynamics which influenced the other's ideology. Put another way, I wanted each side to "walk a mile in each other's shoes."

Now as it usually happens, this plan was much easier to conceptualize than it was to implement. When I broached the subject with my team, I received many incredulous looks from the team members and shouts of "blasphemer!!" When I approached my contemporary on the engineering side, the reception I received was a more open minded one. You see, he had also come to a similar understanding and conclusion. It was in this moment that a unholy union was formed and a plan was hatched.

Our plan was to cross pollinate our teams by creating scenarios in which interactions developed organically. We also began to relocate key individuals to be in close proximity to one another to remove the artificial communication barrier short distances can sometimes present. In fact, we had a famous saying which was "there is no distance greater in our business then the distance between the 5th and 6th floors."

Our scheming began to bear fruit almost immediately. What I observed was that people who had initially argued their entrenched positions, started to use each other's lexicons when speaking in team meetings and began to argue the other side when the other side was not present.

Over time, the teams began to blur and instead of building barricades and arming themselves with verbal arrows, they began to speak in a unified voice. Now, this does mean that they were holding hands and sing Kumbaya, but it did mean that they were no longer at war.

This success was the start of something amazing and frankly has become a passion of mine. As I look for new opportunities, I intend to seek out those opportunities which allow me to take all that I have learned and once again attempt to broker a peace in the war of the geeks.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The art of being present

Today I had coffee with my friend and mentor Steve Fulling. I have known Steve since 1999, when he hired me at iMall. Since 1999, I have worked for Steve four separate times. Three of those occasions ended in Steve laying me off. The fourth time, I was the one that "laid" him off (actually, I resigned).

You would think that I would have some pent up animosity for Steve, but you could not be farther from the truth. My wife has often queried as to why this was the case. My answer to her, and to anyone else who is interested in knowing, is fairly simple; I have deep admiration, trust and affection for the man.

One of the interests that Steve and I share is dissecting and decomposing human behavior. We are both students of philosophies that expose the human condition and how one may transcend it. Some of the books that we both have read and discussed were "A New Earth" and "The Magic of Believing". Each of these books share a basic premise; your ego can, and will, destroy you if you allow it to.

Before I went to work for Kynetx full time, we would meet weekly at The Coffee Shop (no seriously, that is its name) and talk about what we had learned that week about our fellow hominids. These times proved to be more valuable than I think either one of us expected. During these discussions we would talk about painful, awkward and sometimes downright scary stuff. The only rules were that nothing was taken personally and you could call bullshit anytime you wanted.

There were many "ah ha!" moments shared at TCS, and today was no different. Today's topic was about the deployment of filters when interacting with others. You know the situation, you undoubtedly have someone in your life (maybe more than one) that in order to "deal" with, you have to put a filer in place. This may be done to "filter" out some personality irregularity or maybe to allow you to "parse" what is being said to remove displeasing content.

Today's "ah ha!" moment came when we both realized that the deployment of filters was bullshit. Not only are filters BS, they are the some of the most insidious BS known to man. To point, when you deploy a filter you are handing over control to your ego. When your ego is in control, rarely are you ever truly present in the moment. When your ego is in the driver's seat you are thinking more about the past or the future, both of which are more centered on you and less on the person you are interacting with.

In other words, you are taken out of the moment and life begins to pass you by.

The best advise we could come up with in our caffeinated state was:

1) If you have filters, get rid of them.
2) If you feel the need to put filters in place, see rule #1

It really is that simple, by filtering you are missing so much. Yes, sometimes people can be rude or cruel when interacting with others. This is besides the point, the point we are trying to convey is that you should strive to be present in each moment of life. I recognize that being present in every moment can be hard, but I believe one of the simplest first steps is to stop deploying filters when interacting with people.

When you drop the filters, you just might be surprised by what you hear and learn.

I sincerely believe that if you can take this one step, you will be amazed by how powerful being in the moment can be.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chin up

As you may have surmised by my last post, I am indeed out of work right now. I have not NOT had a job since 2002, so this latest development is a little disconcerting to me and my family to say the least.

While I have high confidence in myself and my ability to cultivate work, I was not as sanguine about the current employment landscape. As I initiated my search for work, I was initially struck by how anemic the local tech market appears right now. Given that less than rosy first assessment it could be easy to become quickly discouraged, but that is not the case with me in the least. In fact, I am bolstered on a daily basis by one fact above all else; my personal social network is healthy and on fire!!

Let me clarify. Last time I was out of work, social media was a nascent technology and had not become part of everyday life. There was no Facebook, Twitter or even LinkedIn back then. This was a time when the Internet was used primarily for email and browsing and cell phones were used for making calls. Put plainly, it was the dark ages where one had to actually make face to face contact with people. During this time, it was easier to feel isolated and alone, especially if all of you were a tad bit introverted to begin with.

So to say that the game has changed just might be the understatement of the decade. Let me expound on this point. Friday I posted a blog titled "God is a DJ" which outlined my thoughts and feelings about being laid off from a company I helped birth. Since that time, I have been the humble benefactor of many well wishes, accolades for my time at Kynetx and surprisingly enough, bonafide job leads. All of which were delivered under the auspice of social media (e.g. Twitter, FaceBook etc).

The net effect this has had on me has been quite amazing and unexpected. During a time when absolutely no one (save one Steve Fulling) would blame me for being a little maudlin, I find myself almost ebullient. All of this positive energy was "pushed" to me, rather than requiring me to go "pull" it, as I had to in 2002. What a difference a scant nine years makes...

So, with a firm grasp on this new "push" paradigm I find myself operating in, I am finding it rather easy at this juncture to keep a "chin up" attitude, thanks in large part to my amazing social graph.

In closing, I would be remise if I did not take the opportunity to publicly thank all of those who have posted, tweeted and otherwise made their feelings and thoughts known to me. You humble and honor me with your kind words of support and willingness to lend aide. I am truly a lucky and blessed man to have such great friends and loved ones.

Friday, February 25, 2011

God is a DJ

One of my favorite musical artist is Pink and in 2003 she released a song titled "God is a DJ." What I have learned this week is not only is G-d a DJ, but he also has a HUGE Universal pause button which he uses on us at the most interesting times.

For those of you who know me, you know that a year and half ago I left a lucrative job at a up and coming medical information exchange company called Medicity to go join a scrappy start up called Kynetx. Kynetx was bootstrapped buy a couple of gentlemen that I have had the honor of working for and with over the course of the last eleven years. So off I went to go chase my dream of doing something which would change the World.

[G-d got out his DJ equipment and hit the play button]

Last year was an amazing experience. It seemed that the Universe was aligning our way at every turn. There were so many holy sh*t moments that frankly I stopped counting for fear of jinxing the run. We had the right idea, the right team at exactly the right time to execute our ideas and plans. Nothing could stop us, we were on a roll.

[G-d was bringing down the house with some funky beats]

At the start of this year we had our annual all hands meeting in which the founders, Steve and Phil, outlined the revenue and development goals for team. During this meeting we learned about all of the opportunities in our sales pipeline as well as our plans to grow our developer community by a couple of orders of magnitude. Once again, the Universe was lining up for us to have another amazing year and we could not believe our good fortune.

[Last week, G-d started to run his finger across the pause button....]

This past Wednesday Steve pulled me into his office and explained to me that come Friday, I was to be laid off.


The next two days were some of the most surreal of my life. It was like I landed on Bizzaro World where everything was the same, yet all of it was different. What was most surprising to me though was the fact that I had reached a level of Zen and clarity about what was happening that I never thought possible.

Now it is Friday, my last day at Kynetx, and I could not be more peaceful and at ease. It was only this evening, after reading an amazing post by my good friend Mike, that I understood why this was the case.

It is because I figured out that the Kynetx soundscape has not collapsed, not by a long shot. You see, not only did Steve and Phil make what I know to be one of the most gut wrenching decision of their lives, but also a move of sheer brillance and courage. So courageously brilliant in fact, that I believe it will prove to be one of the most deft pieces of businessman-ship in recorded history. The overall effect of what they set in motion will be to insanely focus the remaining team member's efforts around execution. Mark my words, Kynetx will not only persist, but flourish and prosper because of the decision Phil and Steve made this week.

So this brings me back to the cause of my surprising Zen like state. What I worked out this evening was that I have absolute belief that someday G-d will push the play button, and I once again will be part of the Kynetx soundscape.

So for now, I am content with the knowledge that G-d only hit the pause button and not the stop, or worse, eject button.

I anxiously await the next ..