Life is pretty interesting with the direction that it will take you, who it will introduce you to, and the lessons it will teach you in weird ways. I recently had some pretty impactful changes and figured it would be good to share my recent learnings.
You can never be to cognizant of your business health
In the past few months it has become apparent that when you run a company, no matter the size or growth you’re experiencing, you can never be too close to the core fundamental business metrics. It’s important to keep an eye on critical areas of revenue, profits, growth, retention, and reduction of complexity. Having a core vision that you have conviction around is paramount for bringing people together as well as providing a lighthouse, dictating what metrics matter the most.
Be open to meeting with unique people
I’ve recently started saying “fuck it, let’s meet” more to random strangers who reach out. I’ve done the same as well by randomly reaching out to people in different industries to learn about their work, their successes, and their failures. I’m not sure what has recently triggered this but it has been incredibly enlightening.
For example, I went to a bioinformatics MeetUp recently and learned a lot about what challenges bioinformaticians face with their day to day work and what matters most to them. Turns out, having open data within the science community is really important. Who knew! Apart from that, I’ve met some individuals recently who have challenged my frame of thought and helped me develop a different framework for thinking about problems.
My take away lesson was to put yourself out there and talk to people you wouldn’t have otherwise – especially in different industries. I’ve found that understanding how they solved their own industry problems can translate into solving your own industry problems.
Be confident about what you’re worth
Pretty simple learning here: don’t devalue what you believe you can offer to others. They may not see the same type of value which can either tell you a lot about the person or provide a conduit within a conversation to explain how valuable you are. This isn’t to say that you should be cocky, but I’m finding that it’s important to have confidence in yourself, believe that you’re worth what you think you’re worth, be persistent and consistent in that confidence, and implore that on others who may not see the same way.
Life is pretty short
I know everyone says this but seriously, god damn does it feel short. I know this is a typical thing for someone to say and dumb to reiterate at my young age but… it really feels short. I think about where I was two years ago and it is shocking how fast things can change. However, I was reminded that life is also long, depending on your perspective, goals, and ambitions at that current time. What’s short now may seem long in the future. But for me, right now, I can’t seem to get enough time on my side.
Graphs are probably the future of computer to computer interaction
I had a great conversation recently with a colleague who is exploring different types of graphs as a method of computer to computer communication. In essence, individual components have their own operating rules and jurisdictions that they behave by. However, when interacting with other components, they have contracts that can be extended in order to have a meaningful “conversation”. This is critically important when working in increasingly complex situations like supply chain management, ERP, and other enterprise business functions.
Furthermore, with the internet of things coming into force, this complex graph of “things” will need to have a concrete way of sharing data with each other. You don’t want to have a situation where a street light isn’t talking to a car giving it instructions only to find out that the car isn’t talking the same language. That will end up bad.
The core principle is that components can have many data ingestion points to make decisions but have binary outputs that interact with other components that make binary decisions based on lots of data points, and so on. The method for this is called Intelligent Agents and is a subset of development methodologies underneath machine learning. I’ll probably write an expansion on this topic soon.
Every bad or tough situation has massive opportunities
Being put randomly into these situations sucks because it’s pushing you into the unknown. I hate the unknown. I’m always trying to be 100 steps ahead and super calculated. But alas, shit happens and what matters is being able to react in a flexible manner. Instead of victimizing yourself, I’ve found it better to look at the situation as “Now that I’m here, what are the good things about this situation? What unique opportunities do I have that I didn’t have before?”. Always look for the positive, even when shit really, really sucks. I’ve found that things typically course correct themselves and opportunities start opening up usually in less than a week. This all comes back to networking and being confident. Trust yourself in finding a way out of the shitty situation, even if the way out is completely unclear.
Saying no to features is hard. Finding features that are game changing is harder.
Both are difficult tasks of a product manager. You have lots of competing priorities and objectives and your job is to act as a shit umbrella and a filter. You have to have extremely firm but loosely held opinions about the world. It’s hard to say no to features that don’t align with your long term vision. If you cave in to those feature requests, they’re going to come back and bite you in the ass.
Even more hard is finding the features that are really game changing for customers. This is what makes a good product manager valuable. Often times the answer isn’t clear and the customer doesn’t know exactly what they want. It’s a 50/50 balance of solving their pain points now but also showing them the future. I advocate solving customer problems but really think that doing this constantly doesn’t progress you as fast as it could. If I constantly solve for a 10% gain, then I’m competing with the market (you need to do this because it’s the bread and butter). However, if I’m able to give a 10x solution to a problem, I’ve leapfrogged the market significantly. Often times, solving for 10x is incredibly unclear.
These are probably pretty obvious, hippie-millennial talking point and learnings but they’ve recently been really reinforced in the past couple months for me. Things are often not as bad as they seem initially.