If you stop dreaming, it's time to die.

- Shannon Hoon

Through the years, I’ve accumulated a good amount of books about photography, design, typography, business, legal, and, of course, several technical books. I’ve also had some Mario Puzo and Star Trek novels, maps, travel guides and other stuff. As you can see my taste in reading material is quite varied.

I’ve read them at least once and there are some that I’d pick up and browse through over and over. There are a couple which I’ve never finished and at least one that I’ve never even attempted to read.

I’ve had these books in a book case which I’ve tried to keep neat and dust-free. I liked looking at this book case because, somehow, it’s like a shrine to my journey to who I am now. It reminded me of who I was, what I’ve learned, and how I evolved as a person.

I loved how my friends reacted to what they saw in this book case. Some were amused. Some appreciated me more. Some got disappointed. It would be the most interesting piece of furniture that I owned, next to my mattress, of course.

With beer in hand, I’d look at it as a trophy case and smile, and relish all the memories. But lately, I started asking myself what the point really is.. what the point is in having all these books that nobody else is reading anymore.

It’s when I realized that these books have got to go. I’ve benefitted a lot from them but they must now be passed on, because books that are not in the hands of whom needs them most are useless books.

Sometimes I just don’t get it with people’s obsession with the latest electronic devices (smartphones, tablets, etc) when the one they’re holding is a perfectly useful one.

Your smartphone, for one, is now more than just a phone and the things that you can do with it and what your phone can “become” will surprise you with the more than half a million apps available for it.

But the question is, have you actually made good use of the last shiny thing you bought just a few months ago? Or are you still using it like the good old Nokia 5110?

If you’re not exploiting it as you should, maybe all you need after all is just a simple phone.

We’ve seen this scene many times. A company makes a product or does a service and sells it to a customer for bucks, moving on to the next customer, and forgetting about the last. Who cares whether our customers are happy? Who cares as long as we’ve made a sale right? Sadly, this is a scenario that is more of a rule than an exception.

Nobody comes up with a perfect product of service, sure. But the least we can do is to be open about how exactly our customers are doing with regard to their experience so we can tweak our product better. They paid for it anyway. It’s a chance to show that it’s not all about just the sale but that we truly care. Seth Godin suggests that it could very simply start with one small but brave move by asking your customers, “How’d it work out?”

If you refuse to listen, if you refuse to better yourself, if you refuse to even consider whether your product is really relevant or not, if you refuse to acknowledge that your business is about the customer’s delight in the first place, then, what differentiates you from con artists? What differentiates you from businesses who rely on breakage and slippage?

Marketing and selling a product is just a first step (some say it should be the later). Delivering a delightful product and a service that leaves your customers breathless is another.

So, are you someone who would pay gladly for your own company’s product and still be happy with the post-sales experience? Would you care about YOUR own experience? If YOU won’t be your own customer, then it’s time for some introspection.

When friends and colleagues learned I was going to focus more on iOS development, they quickly asked whether I was going to do Android as well. The quick answer to that was a clear No simply because I don’t have the resources to allocate on a platform where my chances of making a sale as an independent developer is very slim.

Sure, I might consider if it were commissioned work or if the outcome would be life-changing for even a few. But since I’d rather be building my own product and sell it myself than take client work at this point, I must start with putting food on the table first.

So instead of focusing on telling people why I’d rather not do Android, I’d rather tell people why I believe iOS is a better platform to work on, especially, if you’re an independent developer.

Ever since the launch of the App Store, I saw how it could change the apps landscape, both as a user and as a developer. I saw how users could actually do more with their phones (it’s now more than just a phone) and I saw how it could enable developers regardless whether you’re working solo or in a bigger team. I like how it gets rid of the middleman big-ass corporation and how it gives developers a chance to grow.

If you’re considering a platform in which to sell your apps on, you should first consider the best platform that can provide the best user experience. And most of the time, the best would be the simplest. This is where Apple shines obviously and it’s not necessarily about its users having more taste and more purchasing power but it’s about a platform that is able to provide for an experience you probably wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere.

As a user myself, I find that it’s important to have a very consistent experience across apps, and if some apps would violate that predictability, it’d be nice to know that some are actually able to do it quite nicely.

The quality of apps in the App Store is superior in so many ways because of that platform as a whole. One can always talk about hardware specs and how it trumps the competitor but it’s not about just the hardware, it’s about the consistency of the whole experience.

As a developer, I’ve never felt more special than how Apple is currently enabling developers. This is manifested with mostly clear documentation and the availability of great frameworks and tools. Even in this regard, Apple’s design-oriented work becomes more evident. Acknowledging that they should equip developers well for them to be able to come up with breath-taking apps is very important.

Surely, Android is in more hands now compared to iOS but the number of manufacturers and devices out there is making it difficult for developers (worse for indies) to even catch up with writing and testing code for each. I simply find it unsustainable and let’s not even talk about the often delayed deployment of OS updates to older devices.

In the end, as much as I want to do Android as well, it just means I can’t please everyone, but I need to start somewhere.

It can never be underscored enough how important it is to get the right people for your organization and keep them there. This is an ongoing challenge that a lot of companies face regardless of industry. A lot are stuggling with it and a lot got burnt by it. A lot has already spoken and written about it but just the same, here’re a few insights that can get you started.

  1. Ensure that they mesh well with your culture. In some companies, the new hires were practically instrumental in taking the place apart. The culture that was once instrumental in churning out cool and relevant products is now struggling under the weight of prison-like morale. If you’re to hire, hire people who can introduce great change, not the opposite. This is easier said than done. People can fake resumes and be great at interviews. So your best bet is to hire within your network. If your trusted peers are willing to bet their reputation on a candidate whose work they have first hand experience on, go for it.

  2. Hire the right ones, the crazy ones. Be patient in finding them as getting the wrong ones will definitely prove more costly in the future. Some people are trainable but it’s still better to get those that already have the right maturity, civility, and determination to solve problems. At the least, get people who are willing to change, those who are willing to adapt as necessary. Process means nothing when you have the wrong people who simply refuse to budge. Steve Jobs, in his bio by Walter Isaacson, said, “A-plus Players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B work.” So do your people a favor and don’t put in B Players into the mix. B Players can be such energy saps.

  3. It’s also important to find out how curious your candidates are. Never ever settle for mediocrity. A curious, passionate, and resourceful person will bend space and time wholeheartedly, and work outside their silos to give you a solution. They’re the ones who won’t settle for the most convenient solution but who will look for the most elegant one. Everyone else will just give you a convenient excuse. Eric Villarama of IDEO emphasized how a problem-solving mindset truly delights clients, may the be internal or external ones.

  4. Look for people who can think on their own. IDEO’s David Kelly is even known to hire those who’d disagree with him. Apple’s Steve Jobs was also known to have more respect to those who can stand up to him and defend their ideas. On the other hand, you also want someone with the humility to admit that sometimes, his/her idea can suck, civilly.

  5. You have to be clear about your company’s objectives and values. If the candidate is as excited as you are and believes in what you believe in. A high salary does not always guarantee loyalty, but if you have the same set of values and are working towards the same big goal, this person will stick it out with you even when things are not turning out well. Do you or your company know what you’re doing this for in the first place? If not, how could you expect others to be as giddy as you are? Read Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why and know how leaders like Apple does it.

Of course, how you identify these people from the rest is another challenge so I hope you make good use of your probationary period. Set expectations well and review their performance frequently. Some people will adapt and make up. Some will really shine. Sadly, some will always turn out lacking. For your sanity and your company’s future, get rid of the slackers right away, while quickly optimizing your key talents after you get them on board and.. make sure you keep them on board.

  1. Ensure that they’re being paid enough that they wouldn’t have to worry about money and how it needs to support their families. You don’t have to pay people twice or thrice as much as the other company. But sometimes, you need to do an introspection and stop pretending your salary structure is even at par with the market. If people believe in your cause, they’d stay as long as they can. But if their staying actually puts them in more debt, you need to wake up.

  2. Honor your promises or at least be transparent that things may go on different directions beyond your control. Your credibility will play a good role in establishing or maintaining that trust. When an employee loses his/her trust in you. That’s already a crack that could widen anytime. If you know you can’t bet your own job or reputation for something, say it so. Never do a bait-and-switch, else you’ll be known as that two-faced double-standard invertebrate.

  3. Keep them inspired. Keep them motivated. They work hard for you. The least you can do is make things a little bit more fun. If you need to create a crisis (controlled I hope), do it. That will keep bright minds challenged.

  4. If there’s one thing you need not do, it’s to get in their way. Let them fly. As Henry Tenedero (Center for Learning & Teaching Styles) said, each of us has our own idiosyncracies in the way we learn and do things. The organization has to make an effort in knowing these and making room for people to shine, their way. Not everyone thrives on cubicles, but I know some who’d rather be there instead of their own room. Some need bright lights, while some would rather work in the dark, etc. Forcing one approach for the rest without really understanding what works best for each individual will cost you more than you think.

Now, what if you’re already stuck with the wrong people? If you could legally fire them, do it already. The longer they’re there the more damage it can cause to an already fragile organization. It’s in everyone’s best interest to protect and nurture the crazy ones. It’s even in your best interest as how your career fares would depend greatly on how they perform.

Related Post

An Insider View Into Job Interviews

Ever since the iPad came out in 2010, I never failed to doubt its, and more importantly, its apps’ impact on learning and productivity in general. When it was first announced, I knew it was going to be a game-changer in the portable computing area. In fact, I find that, if I weren’t a developer, I think I can probably junk my mac and survive with just the iPad.

Of course, it’s not only about learning, productivity, and business. Clearly, it can do so much more, especially when it comes to entertainment, games, music, etc. But I won’t be surprised if, someday, enterprises would actually just use iPads for their daily operations.

The experience it’s able to provide and its price-point compared to traditional workstations is something to really watch out and prepare for, and the already mature App Store ecosystem will make that a reality sooner than later.

Have you ever found yourself trying to work on something for hours and still ended up with nothing at all? Sometimes, the best way to actually get work done is to just walk away from it and have a change of scenery. Let’s admit it, there will always be times when you’d want to just get away from the cubicle dungeons and I’ve found that one of the best places to seek refuge on would be the nearest cafe.

Why coffeeshops just work.

it’s not so much about the expensive coffee but how it makes itself conducive for work. A cafe is a good balance between a prude office environment and your home that’s too comfortable for real work to get done. It can be surprising what you can accomplish in just 30 minutes to an hour. As I said above, while coffeeshops are technically more distracting than the confines of offices, the change in environment is what we’re really after. Simply put, it’s peace among strangers.

But for me, it can’t be just any coffeeshop. I still do have my preferences as far as choosing which coffeeshop to lay a nest on. Here are some tips you might want to consider in your own pilgrimage.

  1. First, leave your AC charger behind.

    While current laptops’ battery performance have greatly improved, somehow, without it, you’ll be “encouraged” to get your stuff done right away and get back to the office soonest. Besides, you won’t be staying there the whole day, or are you?

  2. Do, however, leave with a fully-charged mobile phone.

    This needs no explanation. If Houston needs you back, they need to be able to reach you even if you’re behind the moon.

  3. Get a good pair of headphones.

    While cafes usually feature relaxing house or chill-out music, sometimes, it’s just not enough to drown out the noise the other customers make, although sometimes the whitenoise is something that turns me into an energizer bunny. Music with words in it can really grab attention so stay away from it, unless it’s in a language you cannot understand, process, or sing along to. As soon as you can establish your OWN world, the sooner you can get to work, or at the least, catch up on your reading/research.

  4. Choose a dead hour so you can have the place to yourself.

    That means several minutes after lunch or after office hours is a no-no. I find that one of the most ideal windows to go there is in the early morning and in the mid-afternoon. Perfect for coffee! Weekends are great too as most people will just be lazily hanging out recovering from a hangover the previous night.

  5. Find a cafe on a not-so-busy street.

    The passing of vehicles and the noise they make can be very distracting. I’m also more particular for cafes with roadside parking in front of it. The sooner I get my coffee after getting off the car, the better. Be mindful of parking schedules though or else you may find yourself chasing after tow trucks. So, no, I’m not going to drive into mall parking and walk hundreds of meters just to get to a coffeeshop. That’d be a total time-waster.

  6. Stay away from cafes with groups of friends in it.

    if you really want some peace and quiet, you’d want to be with loners people who are busy themselves. A cafe frequented by serious post-grad students is best. Those with high school and college students tend to be noisier. Let’s see you go through that chatter and I’m sure you’ll be heading back to the office in less than 10 minutes.

  7. Stay off the grid.

    WiFI and 3G is a near-must and very reliable but sometimes, it’s good to be just offline. The less distractions you have, the better.

  8. Keep your NDA in mind always.

    You don’t want to be broadcasting your killer idea on public. So to be sure everything’s safe from prying eyes, adjust the size of your screen font so it can be less readable by that guy sneaking a peek over your shoulder.

  9. Stay focused.

    Lastly, I would suggest that before you leave your office, plan well what needs to be done so your new-found freedom is not wasted. Forget multitasking. Just concentrate on just one task and get it over with. The objective is to get to work. And when i say work, it’s not about FB’ing or chatting with friends on YM. :)

Are you a coffeeshop junkie or are considering taking your work there? How did your experience go? Can you say it’s for you or would you still rather be elsewhere? And is the price of designer coffee really worth it? Of course, not, unless the time used to sip it was used really wisely.

Regardless of the interests that you have, it’s most likely that you have already accumulated huge amounts of data across the years. However you put it, these data is a big part of your life already. From your college papers, your business presentations, to your accounting and tax sheets, from your technical whitepapers to personnel performance reports, from your photos, to your scanned artwork and your music. You bring these along with you in your laptop, or maybe stash them on a home or office computer and feel secure that they’re all there safe and sound.

There has been significant advances in harddisk technology especially as far as their robustness and reliability are concerned. So, what’s there to worry about, right? Murphy’s Law. :)

Based on my own and others’ experience, these would just be some of the reasons why you would want to have a really good and reliable backup:

  1. These robust, reliable, and nearly-shockproof harddisks still do fail.

    While these disks may be covered by warranty and easily replaced, once they conk out on you, your data may be gone forever. What warranty can cover that? Sometimes all it takes to make a man cry is an accidental but jarring drop on the floor resulting to a catastrophic hard disk crash. </li>

  2. Your laptop may be stolen.

    Laptops can be replaced as disks above but not your data, your precious data. A friend of mine got her Mac stolen from a half-open car window. Nothing stopped the thief from doing so despite the car being in motion. If she had a Time Machine backup, I wouldn’t have felt sorry for her. After all, she can always get a new Mac and restore her backup there. But she didn’t and now, she’s practically redoing everything. Has she learned something from that lesson? I hope so! :) </li>

  3. Merciless Acts of God.

    Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis. Yeah, this world is nearing its doom. But if you can have your data secure somewhere, you’ll have one less problem in your hands. :) </li>

A Paranoid Advise

Disks are getting cheaper already. For general use, the more portable 2.5” drives which just requires a single USB or FireWire port is always a good choice. While it may be pricey for some of us, just consider the peace of mind it’ll give you and that’ll be your ROI already. Some companies provide for their employees’ backup requirements but most likely than not, you’re on your own. Either way, it’s in your best interest to make sure that your data is well secure.

  1. Use tools like Time Machine, Super Duper, or Carbon Copy Cloner.

    These tools are so advanced (actually, the tech is quite old, they just made the process simpler) that after making a full backup of your system, they are able to track the tiniest change (a new or recently editted file, etc) and back that up. They also allow you to back track on a timeline so you can easily restore that file or folder that you accidently deleted.

  2. Backup periodically..

    At least, once when you get home from work, and once before you leave for work. That way, any work you do in and outside the office is safely backed up. If you’ve done a considerable amount of work in less time, feel free then to do a backup as necessary. Autosave sometimes just ain’t enough anymore. </li>

  3. Store your backup somewhere safe.

    I choose to keep my backup disk at home while it’s sometimes a better idea to store them in the office. If needed, keep multiple backups for paranoia’s sake and store them at a friend’s house across town. Just like your meds, these are better kept in a cool and dry place, away from rowdy children. </li>

  4. Keep your backup disk fresh

    Replace your backup disk every three to four years to ensure optimal disk health. These disks, like the ones you’re using on your laptop or workstation will die eventually. Make sure you have an alternative before that happens. </ol>

    You see, I’m that type of person who carefully puts laptops on desks making sure there is no shock at all, and yet, I’ve had several close calls myself with disks being populated by bad blocks, and with disks which just died conveniently on me. There’s just too much to lose but doing backups definitely minimized the risks. For your sake, I hope you do, too. :)

This month, in particular, is a special month I’ve always been interested in. This month, thousands (or millions?) of students graduate and look for jobs. And as an employer who’s always on the lookout for people to hire, it can be a bit frustrating most of the time, to know that a lot of the graduates that turn up, lack a lot of the skills (fundamentals, basics, whatever) that I need in a potential hire. We’re not asking much really. All we need are students who took their studies seriously and took the time to, at least, read ahead in preparation for the real world. Or, just a bit of common-sensical take on their chosen profession. Hiring has always been hell for us and most of the time, a big waste of our time. But we have no choice but to still believe. Here, I attempt to list down some of my and my colleagues’ observations, questions, and frustrations, as we wade through tons of resumés, and sit through hours of eyebrow-raising interviews. While it may seem that this is only for fresh graduates, believe me, there ARE job-seekers out there with supposed years of experience who are just as bad. This is for them, or you, too. If you’re a job applicant, this is very useful insider tip.

  1. Applicants failed to take their studies seriously.

    You thought simply graduating was the key. Cheating is not good. And it’s worse if you didn’t understand a thing. And surprise! That class you took about Software Engineering, Data Structures, and Algorithms ARE useful. And oh, Philosophy and Logic rocks too.

  2. Applicants didn’t really know what they were getting into.

    Please have the initiative to at least research about the company you’re applying with, and whether what they do is really what you want to be doing. We’re not forcing you to apply, you know. You came here on your volition right? But what piqued your interest, really? One of the things we keep looking for are people who really are interested in the job, not just ANY job. And if one really wants the job, then s/he must work hard for it. In my company, we keep saying at the onset, that, it is a bi-directional interview. We want and encourage people to ask questions, the right ones, that is.

  3. Some applicants can be delusional about salaries.

    Everyone has to start from scratch somewhere. Did you really believe that that dream job will simply be outside the university gates when you come out? One has to work hard for it. But yes, there are graduates from a minority of schools who can actually pull off a good leverage. And most of them are really good, I must admit. But, just not everyone.

  4. Some applicants think they can get away with populating their resumés with buzzwords they barely know about.

    It does get our attention, but we will find out if you’re lying! So spare yourself from embarassment. While we don’t really humiliate applicants ourselves, it would be better if you were honest with yourself in the first place. Yes, we do notice those small beads of sweat and that sudden stammer in your voice. Just the same, exams should bring the humility out in everyone. Come on, I’ve known MD’s and Journalism majors whom I can discuss Linux and other geekiness with, which are totally out of context of their respective professions. These people can beat these so-called IT, CS, etc, graduates to a pulp. Heck, I even know a restaurateur who now does software development for a living. That, kids, is called genuine interest. So, unless you can stand by your bluff, just lose it.And despite most of them seminars being introductory, they can be useful, especially, if people started doing follow-through studies. If the topics didn’t interest you or if you didn’t really understand them, it ain’t going to do anyone any good.

  5. And most especially, some schools need to re-think their ancient curricula.

    Schools are supposed to be teaching stuff that will actually help the students get better jobs, and not just simply milk money out of them. Some curricula I saw were just mediocre. Or archeological. I guess it’s one of those dangers of having teachers who never really got out of their college comfort zones into the industry. Hey guys, help us out here!What’s funny too, is, I’ve talked to cum-laudes who barely know things outside college! No, textbooks are not everything (especially if they’re dated already!). Got ‘net? Use it and read up. It’s not only for Ragnarok you know. It’s just a sorry state when some more street-smart people are able to outdo cum-laudes. It really makes me wonder what kind of education and quality control his/her school had in place. And the bad thing is, it’s the students who suffers. If these cum-laudes found it hard to get a job, what about the others?And maybe, schools should also re-evaluate the relevance of each subject. I, for one, have yet to find good use for Integral Calculus, Differential Equations, and Strength of Materials, in my current job, or in those of my other batch mates’. Nevertheless, despite failing them at some point, I did enjoy these subjects, because, yes, I was actually interested in them. But sometimes, I can’t help but wonder about the man-months I spent on them, man-months which could have been better spent learning more relevant stuff. But then, a lot of my friends kept saying I might have been in the wrong course all along. Okay, okay, I was in Computer Engineering when I was supposed to be in CS. After all, I’ve always been a software guy.Man, there’s something wrong wth this picture!

Anyway, I can go on and on, and I’m sure I missed a lot of others, but let’s start with these. If anyone has something else to share, please do drop a comment. I’m sorry if i had to be blunt about stuff, but being saccharine doesn’t work for me anymore. A lot of times, people really just need a good jolt. I just hope that for you, or anyone who’s looking for a job, that what I wrote here does serve its real purpose.

During interviews, anyway, I have learned to make good use of my poker face to hide the disappointment, unless, a spunk-wielding-applicant who thinks he can take me down decides to test my patience. Great skillsets are good but the last thing I’d want to have on board is a prima donna.

So, are you still wondering why the unemployment rate is this bad? Sigh.

Oh, well, congratulations to you, graduates! I hope you find what you’re looking for! And if you didn’t, well, it’s the price we pay for the life we choose.