Tag Archives: career

The Generalist and Specialist Approach

Learning is a lifelong and continuous process in anyone’s career. A common question from the newbie and the college students is what areas they should focus their efforts on to move fast. I share the same feeling with their ambition to go fast and change the world. However, in my opinion, the first few years of college and career should be on learning their most favourite subjects. It is fine to not earn much money at first as long as you are building up your background.

Choosing the first job

Some people would claim that the first internship and job is the most crucial one in his career. This was far from the truth. A career is a 40-50 year (yes, they are extending retirement age to 70) marathon which allows you to make a few mistakes here and there and still achieve the greatness. The key strategy is to always move forward, always expand beyond your comfort zone. I would encourage new students to try different career paths if they are still unsure about what they want: the startup life, the small and medium enterprise and the multinational companies. These offer different skills and experience to people.

The learning curve

To learn some fundamental concepts about a new topic does not take much amount of time.  The pareto principle (The Pareto Principle states that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes.) on learning new concept would say you will understand and know 80% of a subject by spending 20% of the time. This part of 80% will not qualify you as a great specialist in the area, but it is enough for you to apply it in your current speciality.

A good example would be that a developer learns about UI/UX development. The first few hundreds of hours of learning and applying it will not make him a UX specialist, but that would be enough for him to apply it into his software development. This will guarantee that the UI/UX of his app/website would be at least at an acceptable level.

Work to learn or work to earn money?

A very important concept for newbie is to know their value, or to put a dollar amount into his work. The one who would say he can work for me for free will not make me impressed. The one who would say that his salary would be a specific amount of A $ because of these reasons, will be the one I feel good about. He would show me that he spends a significant amount of time to research about different companies, about my company to know how much his contribution is worth. He would still have to seek for learning and improving himself over the future period of time, and it would be good for him to show me that plan and how he would stick to it.

The altitude is always valuable for most employers, but you better show that you have the knowledge and skills to make that altitude become valuable.

It is never too late for you

 


Just read this fantastic post on Quora feeling that I might have some further thoughts about it. I have seen many people obsessing about getting things right at the first time, and if they cannot, they think things are too late. However, what I see is that chances and opportunities are almost everywhere and after every couple of years, those chances and opportunities will come back.

Should I switch what I am doing?

I was once asked by my friend, a developer, if he should switch to Business Analysis or not. He feels like it more than programming but if he tries it and he does not fit it, he would waste 2 years of his career. And this kind of switching is raised a lot by my friends and other people. “Should I switch from a big company to work for startup/startup by myself?”, “Should I switch and try doing this/that?”, “My first job/internship was terrible, it would affect my career…”. The answer is you should not worry.

Any Experience Counts

Any experience that you learn, either from a big company, from a small company, from another job or career would bring you a unique point of view into the new career. If you work as sale and now want to move to programming, your sale knowledge is unique, 90% of programmers I know have no knowledge in sales. Understanding sales and customer would bring you a competitive advantage that most don’t have. And vice versa, if you work as programmer before and switch to be business analysis, you really understand the programming work, you understand the technical difficulties and you can help the customers and programmers to talk better. Any experience counts, any unique experience counts twice.

iPhone v.s Android

The smartphone game is over. The tablet game will be finished soon, within 2 years.

iPhone versus Android

iPhone versus Android

 

 

Android wins, iPhone loses. 75% v.s 15%, soon will become 85% v.s 5%. But that doesn’t matter much for Apple. Apple is a brand for high-end products. They don’t aim to gain all market share. To gain market share, Apple has to attack more of the low-end market, which means they have to lower their price. However, matching other supplier’s price may be harmful for Apple’s brand, although they may achieve it by more efficient supply chain and factories.  To become a high-end brand, Apple spends a significant amount of money on their brand and will not scarify it for the market share.

But in this ecosystem war, the bigger ecosystem leads to a win by monopoly. When 75, 80 or 85% of the market is using Android, app developers will flock to there, and make the ecosystem become much more valuable for customer. To continue earning a lot of money, Apple has to continue what it has done best under Steve Jobs’s empire. New product, new market, new value, or new software that people are willing to purchase with high-price.

What will be the next Apple’s product? Probably Apple TV, I am not even sure about that.

And the important questions for most of us, as app developers, what should we do? Should we all move to Android yet, should we change our strategy of iOS first, Android second? Or should we start discussing about Mobile Web App?

I am writing more on the Mobile Web App v.s Mobile Native App in the next post, catch it soon.

Competitive Advantage – how to make it last

In the last 2-3 years, iPhone development has been my advantage when I stepped into the area early. It brings me many good results. But, that’s over. You hear it correctly. I don’t mean iPhone development will decline, but the growth of the market is significantly slowed down. And the number of good developers in this area will significantly grow when more resources are available.

Long-Lasting Success Requires Non-Ending Efforts

Competitive Advantage

Competitive Advantage

To be successful, a company or a person has to get some competitive advantage. The problem is sooner or later, every other companies/people will improve themselves to gain your competitive advantage. It may take them 3-5 years, but in this technical world, it would be even less. This advantage can never generate a long term plan. No matter how you protect it, no matter what cost you pay to protect it, people will soon be leveling your advantage. Don’t dream and don’t sleep on the victory. Long term and scalable model requires lots of building efforts to generate more competitive advantages.

I have never tried to protect my knowledge about iPhone development because I know the market controls itself. I see enough of stupid people trying to protect their knowledge to gain advantage in company promotion.

To be successful in long term, the same for personal or company, you need to build a culture that motivates new innovation, i.e creating new values. These new values, new knowledge or new understanding will bring you more competitive advantages or guarantee with you a long term success

Steve Jobs: What I feel about him

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

I finished this book quite a time ago, but I didn’t feel to fully understand and let all the information and knowledge penetrates into my mind. There are conflicts, there are debates, there are loves and hates from everybody. It is so easy for people to judge emotionally and I didn’t think that I understand everything to start writing it out.

There are many lessons inside this book, and each single person takes his own belief from the book. I have my own lessons, hope that it is not emotionally biased and spend time thinking through it for a while.

 

 

Autocratic, it is so necessary in the success of the company. People may believe that Steve Jobs was fired due to his wrong approach of management or people favored a salesman too much more than the product guy. I think it was mainly an organization politics problem, Steve Jobs was right but he did not get enough power and networks to back him up. I believe in his autocratic, as much as I believe in Mark Zuckerberg’s autocratic system. Forecasting an uncertain future is too hard to convince everybody to follow the leader. It is wasting both time and efforts. It was a quite shock for me while reading this article. I agree with the Jeff Bezos’s style of management in this article: https://plus.google.com/112678702228711889851/posts/eVeouesvaVX

Steve Jobs is not a genius, sorry for any of his fans. I don’t underestimate his talents and efforts but no success comes overnight. He was in a hard time after leaving Apple, building NeXT and then Pixar Animation Studios. There were up and downs in his life but he chose to stick into his core value and keep moving forward with innovative ideas. He has a great mind to recognize the great ideas, a great mind on how to make a product perfect. People may say that many ideas are not original by him. If they look deeper into the product development process, there are 2 things people must understand: the possession feeling and a great care of details. I love the ways Steve Jobs take an idea as if it is his own, as if it is his baby. That’s how passion and great care for the products are made from. If the product manager doesn’t have the feeling of the product as his own. Steve Jobs took this possession to a great level, and ignores the original owner as a whole.

The last great thing that I learn from Steve Jobs is details matter, a lot. I learnt from my own product development, from writing my own book. Details matter, a lot. People may not care about how great most of your works are, but they quickly recognize your mistakes. It is part of how people’s psychology works, they would assume you need to produce a great product so the great parts are normal. And negative emotion has a bigger impact than positive emotion.

 

How Information Technology changes global supply chain?

The outsourcing trends started with manufacturing in 1990s and then this trend happened to software industry. This trend helped the software industry grow really fast, creates a lot of entrepreneurs that can only have a small fund to invest. Through freelancers and outsourcing websites, small entrepreneurs can cut cost and outsource parts of their projects to China, Vietnam or India to get their work done with almost the same quality.

 

And now, this trend has been back to manufacturing industry, where small companies and entrepreneurs can outsource the works of manufacturing to China. Do you have a good idea? No problem, you outsource to China to produce some amount of the products, as small as hundred or thousand products for a tiny cost. There is no need to have a factory and the inventory. You only need them when you have the customer orders.
This new trend will bring more innovation from anybody within the U.S., as long as you have a good idea.
Easier to access the workers
In the past, to get your idea implemented, you need to have at least hundreds of thousands dollar initially. It is also much more risky when you have to order at least tens of thousands of products so that the factory can start manufacturing your products. Lots of people fail when they do not have enough money to start or they could not sell all of their products.

Now, things have changed. Based on sites like alibaba.com, U.S. entrepreneurs could get access to a pool of talented manufacturers. These manufacturers accept to work on anything, ranging from a small contract of 100$ to 10,000$ and they could deliver your products quickly. This lowers down the barriers of entry for new entrepreneur and creates more chances for people to step in.

Alibaba business-to-business model has been a huge success, with around 500 companies do their business in alibaba.com. The revenue of the company has grown from 48 million USD in 2004 to 183 million USD in 2006 and it still keeps growing up. The platform of Alibaba allows U.S. companies to hire any Chinese manufacturer they need for a tiny cost. An instant translation service will help both of them communicate with each other accurately.

Lowering down the cost
This not just helps the entrepreneurs but also the small and medium enterprises as well. This lowers down the cost as well as the risks for any companies to invest into their new ideas.

Bdier, a graduate student at M.I.T Media Labs, quitted her job to become a new-age manufacturer. She designed a protocol for making electronic components into Lego-like bricks that could be used by anybody. She then gave the protocol design to the Chinese manufacturer to make it for her.

There are more case studies that people can work on their garage has a good design and then send it to a Chinese manufacturer to make the actual product. This could save these entrepreneurs a lot of money and they can finally create what they love.

Easier to sell and do marketing
Due to the nature of the Internet, it is now easy for a good product or idea to spread out. Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and Youtube now help companies to do viral marketing with a very small cost. People observed the success of many small companies that have cool products and do not need to spend much money on marketing.

Google, Alibaba, and then Dropbox has been successful in the same way. They make good products and then give it out for the world to try it. Then people will tell their friends, and the product grows by word-of-mouth.

References

-Why the Chinese web portal is giving up its stockmarket listing, So Long, For Now, The Economist, viewed on March 6, 2012 <http://www.economist.com/node/21548253>

- Secret of Alibaba’s success is team work, sense of mission, Monster and Critics, –Business News, viewed on March 04, 2012

<http://news.monstersandcritics.com/business/news/article_1371368.php/Secret_of_Alibaba_s_success_is_team_work_sense_of_mission>

- Giridharadas, N, 2011, The Kitchen-Table Industrialists, The New York Times, viewed on March 3, 2012

Company’s objective and product design

Disclaimer: This blog post is from my assignment in the Supply Chain Management course. It is copied from here

The long-term strategy of a company will reflect on how product of that company is designed, how people in the company work together to achieve the same goal. This long-term strategy brings the company ahead of other ones, creates innovation inside the company, and makes a huge profit for the company while others still suffer the economic recession.

http://www.onedesk.com/2011/05/product-strategy-tips-for-success/

Cost Cutting Innovation
IKEA
The last year was an economic recession year with unemployment above 9 percent and housing is 73 percent below the 2006 peak. Given the furniture is one of the worst categories of retail sectors, the support from government and Barack Obama in jobs help did not push this furniture sector much. In this difficult time, IKEA finds it easy to cut down the price of its products. In contrast to this move of IKEA, almost all other commodity prices increase.

Based on interviews with IKEA CEO Mikael Ohlsson, the whole company culture focuses to produce cheaper products. They set the target price for the product first, and then, by any means, to achieve that price. By improving the efficiency in product design, factory manufacturing and then distribution and delivery, it can cut a significant amount of cost.

http://noellebullock.posterous.com/?tag=ikea&page=2

However, one of the key factors is via its supply network, when it can try to use the least sustainable materials in this world. This may mean some long-term impact but that is acceptable for IKEA to reach their long-term goal: cut the price.

Tata Nano
Tata Nano has innovated a new “Open Distribution” system. This system operates by a modular design approach. Every product is designed in terms of modules, or components, which can be built and shipped separately to different assemblies around the world. This helps Tata Nano to achieve its goal.

By using this Open Distribution approach, it allows suppliers to compete for better qualities and lower price to bid for supplying. To push this even more, Tata Nano has its own internal suppliers. These suppliers need to compete fairly with the outside suppliers, so the general competition level is increased.

These innovations help these companies to move forward faster, affect all of their product designs as well as the process to manufacture the products and ship them to assemblies.

Environment Safety First

In contrast with the approach to cut the cost by all means, there are companies that focus on making value and meaningful social responsibilities. These companies also gain high returns through social values, which would enable them to follow these values in the long term.

There is a trend in designing, manufacturing and distributing new products with the most sustainable materials. These materials help companies to achieve its environmental goals.

Herman Miller
The goal of Herman Miller is explicitly stated in its website:

We put Herman Miller’s corporate environmental goal quite simply: to become a sustainable business – manufacturing products without reducting the capacity of environment to provide for future generations

That’s clear. It is the goal of all employees and all products of Herman Miller, to create a sustainable business. That is a meaningful value for everybody, so all employees are proud and happy to work at Herman Miller, to create a social value.

An example of this strategy is when they make a decision about choosing between PVP and TUP. PVP is cheaper, easier for suppliers to work on and there are multiple existing suppliers. TUP, though, is more sustainable for environment but is a new thing and few suppliers are able to provide to Herman Miller with low price. They finally choose to implement TUP since the new product, so they do not have to redesign the existing product and they can be proud about this new product.

This environmental safety first also puts them ahead of other competitors. Due to the strict environmental regulation rules of the governments in product manufacturing, their competitors find a hard time to follow what Herman Miller does.

http://www.hermanmiller.com/about-us/things-that-matter-to-us.html

It also helps Herman Miller to get the best employees for their business, which put them in a competitive advantage position comparing to other companies. The Youtube video clearly demonstrates how Herman Miller could make their employees proud of what they are doing.

These examples give us a broad view of how the company’s long-term strategy and objective affects all their business: from product design to decision-making process to the culture of the company. IKEA has chosen the price to be their competitive difference, and then ignore the environmental side of their works. However, Herman Miller focuses on building sustainable products and business. Both long-term strategies put the ahead of their competitors and make a difference in their business.

References

1. Tutle, B.2011, Everything at IKEA is getting cheaper, MoneyLand, viewed on 06/02/2012

2. Hamilton, S.2011, IKEA cuts price of US shelves as outlook dismiss, Bloomberg, viewed on 07/02/2012

3. King, B.2011, IKEA cut shipping costs with switch paper pallets, Sustainable Brands, viewed on 06/02/2012

4. What matter to us, Herman Miller, viewed on 06/02/2012

http://www.hermanmiller.com/about-us/things-that-matter-to-us.html

My 1st lesson – Altitude

Second Prize Medal

Second Prize Medal

The picture is the medal that I got for the Second Prize in Ho Chi Minh city Mathematics Olympiad. It has always been in my desk since that time. Not because it is the greatest thing I have ever done. It is there to remind me of one of the biggest failure in my life. It is there to remind me what I did and felt when I was in 11th grade.

 

 

 

 

My feet were off the ground
The second highest winner in the Southern Mathematics Olympiad turned out to be a bad motivation for me. It killed my love with maths. It made me feel that I am too special. It made me overestimate myself. I believed that I couldn’t fail. That was a big mistake.

I didn’t prepare well enough and didn’t try hard enough on the next city contest. The result is: I couldn’t step into the next round. My friends and family wouldn’t know what happened. But I knew what was wrong. I put myself off the ground!

This failure led to the next big failure.
Depression

Now, imagine that everybody is looking at you; the next second, nobody gives you a shit. That was what happened to me. I felt totally useless and lose my orientation. I did not know what to do next, if I should continue studying maths or focusing on other subjects to pass the university entrance exam. I did not know what to do when losing all the attentions people gave to me. I was thirsty for that fame.

This made me lost my focus, forgot what was good for me, what I would like to do. It cost me 4 months living in jeaulous feeling with winner guys before I could realize what was meaningful to me. It was maths! Not the prize, but maths! I felt good that I recognized it early enough to be back on the right track and focus on what I love.

Both of them gave me a difficult time, and always kept reminding me of what is my true value, what I should aim for.

The purpose of this post is to try to remind me of what happened in the past. I know that people are talking a lot about me right now, but keeping my feet on the ground, being focused on my long term goal was the highest priority work.

qTrace – The next thing in Testing

I just came by this qaSymphony site few days ago while looking for a new Testing tool for my next web project. The video looks attractive for me and I can tell you that it is amazing.

Watch this video:

With all the automatic supports and tracking tool, we can finally reduce the efforts for testing and bug tracking in our company now. I am still in the trial mode, but I think this tool is amazing and offers us a lot of help.