Green & Social / Environmental Impact MBA Guide (MVP)

Looking for more from your MBA?We've got the inside scoop on what business programs are doing to prepare students for careers that make a positive impact on the world. With more than 100 programs profiled, you can find exactly the right fit for your advanced social or environmental impact degree.

Business As UNusual Social & Environmental Impact MBA Online Guide MVP

I started a “passion project” at NI about 2 months ago to “digitize” and make more accessible NI’s Business As UNusual publication.

Business As UNusual is a annually updated PDF (and dead tree) guide to MBA programs that have a social or environmental impact focus or components to their curriculum.

It always bothered me that all this information about these programs and schools was locked up in a PDF.

“…information wants to be free” – Stewart Brand

“Information definitely doesn’t want to be imprisoned in a PDF… information also hates it when you anthropomorphize it” – Erik Pettersen

It also bothered me that we couldn’t really measure anything meaningful beyond counting the number of downloads. Which schools got the most attention? What features or data points did people find most useful or interesting?

With that in mind I dusted off my meager Ruby on Rails skill set… which really means that I found my beat up copy of Head First Rails and re-subscribed to railcasts 😛 and got cracking.

The goal was to make an MVP (minimally viable product) to test the market. Perhaps my hypothesis is wrong and people are content with the PDF version of the guide, or are getting their online MBA guide needs met using Beyond Grey Pinstripes.

I wanted to keep it simple and be able to get a workable version live quickly. The scope was kept narrow – both in the spirit of it being a disposable experiment – and due to limitations in my ability to actually develop something workable. I ended up buying a business-y themed twitter bootstrap template, so I could have a consistent, clean, look and feel without investing a lot of time muckying about in CSS or Photoshop.

…Anyways more on this later. I just wanted to share this little side project I did. It still has some rough edges, hacks, lazy coding, hard breaks in the html, non DRY non-railsie hacky presentation code and controller cruft… but i’m still pretty proud of it as a workable demonstration/presentation of the Business as UNusual MBA data set.

Looking for more from your MBA?We've got the inside scoop on what business programs are doing to prepare students for careers that make a positive impact on the world. With more than 100 programs profiled, you can find exactly the right fit for your advanced social or environmental impact degree.

Business AS UNusual Social & Environmental Impact MBA Online Guide

Incubator Summit: Which Startup Incubator / Accelerator is Right for You?

This morning I had the pleasure of checking out a panel discussion at the Computer History Museum on how to choose the best incubator for your startup.  Thanks to Orrick for sponsoring the free event.

On the panel:

Speaking of Dave McClure, I have a lazyweb request: Can someone edit together a McClure ‘fuck’ supercut (like the Big Lebowski The Fucking Short Version ) of all Dave McClure’s obscenities across his most significant talks/videos? I can’t believe this doesn’t exist yet – Although, this morning I only counted 5 ‘fucks’, 3 ‘shits’, and 5 ‘assholes’ out of him.

Here’s my condensed version of the highlights of the discussion and a few of my own take aways.

Which incubator is right for you?

First of all there is no clear consensus terminology wise as to what constitutes a startup incubator vs accelerator,etc. For the sake of my sanity, I’m going to arbitrarily refer to all these programs that help fledgling startups/entrepreneurs as incubators.

Each incubator has it’s own approach, niche, and core beliefs about what entrepreneurs need to succeed and what selection criteria makes for the highest rate of successful incubates (is that actually a word?!). Some of these niche targets will obviously make you or your startup unfit for submission. For example you’d need at least one founder that’s a registered student at Stanford to be accepted into StartX, likewise you need at least one female co-founder or C-level executive in order to apply for Astia.

Assuming you’ve got your gender, scholastic, and other issues sorted out you’ll want to decide what the critical needs for your business are.

An incubator may offer one or more of the following:

  • Seed funding
  • Mentorship
  • Office Space
  • Shared services/resources  (e.g. legal, PR, design, accounting,etc)
  • Community / Camaraderie / Support
  • Networking/Connections (future financing rounds, demo day, program alumni, etc)

Each incubator has it’s own philosophy and rational for which suite of services it offers startups. They all offer mentorship, community, and networking. Founders Den (although it doesn’t position itself as an incubator per say) focuses more on co-working (office space), mentorship, and community. Founders Institute focuses more on an intense curriculum and recommends & refers  entrepreneurs to best of breed local services / co-working opportunities. 500 Startups strives to offer all the above (if you consider design the shared service in this case).  Y Combinator (not on the panel) offers seed funding, mentorship, etc, but doesn’t provide office space.

A show of hands poll of the audience seemed to indicate that people were more interested in funding (or help with funding) than office space or mentorship.

Speaking of funding, Adeo Ressi had stated that it’s “easy” to raise money. When the moderator (Chris Yeh) asked the audience if they agreed – no one raised their hand to indicate that they thought raising funds was easy.

Adeo Ressi qualified his comment saying that it’s “easier” and it’s a process oriented outcome. He likened it to borrowing money to buy/build a house. It’s a lot of work, but if you’re diligent and push through the paper work/process and have some traction/viable product you’ll get your funding.

Once you’ve figured out the best fit for the nuts and bolts, consider also the less tangible elements of each incubator – their style, their personality. Founders Institute definitely has a much more regimented, disciplined feel which definitely shows its colors in the approach and curriculum. Some entrepreneurs need, and thrive in that more structured environment. Other entrepreneurs would be better suited to a more chaotic free wheeling ‘just do it’ dynamic culture.

Let the right one in!

Those are the things I think you should consider when choosing an incubator, but what traits are the incubators looking for in a candidate entrepreneur?

StartX was looking for extreme focus & open to feedback (from customers)

Founders Institute: Average age 31 – 34, desire more female applicants, people who are frustrated with the status quot and have a tech related idea burning inside them. Like the older applicants that have had success in a profession with the perspective of a problem. Vocational skills are highly desirable.  Social Science criteria scored from their predictive admissions test, personality traits such as openness, ability to process feedback from the world, fluid intelligence – the ability to measure and understand a rule set very quickly and apply it. Ability to deal with competing priorities, and finally a moderate amount of agreeableness… not too friendly, and not a total dick… someone with a certain amount of stick-to-it-ness.

500 Startup’s criteria is to look for evidence of product success and customer development. They are looking for entrepeneurs who are customer focused and the customer mission should be extremely clear… They prefer simple business models like subsciption or lead gen.

An alpha version of the product with evidence of traction and usage validation from unbiased customers.  Paid conversions can’t hurt your case as well.

Preference entrepreneurs with  5 to 10 years experience or more… at 10 to 15 years experience and can’t raise initial capital on your own, there might be something weird going on there. Like to invest in unusual entrepreneurs that other investors shy away from, like couples – consider it an arbitrage opportunity to get under valued and under priced.

Quotable Quotes:

Dave McClure, ‘We don’t mind assholes who build good products and “get” customers (needs)’

Dave McClure modified Paul Grahams slogan, ‘Make something people want’ to be ‘Make something people want… to pay for’

Bonus links:

Should a Non-Technical Co-Founder Learn a Language?

I was inspired by a post in the Startup Weekend Linked-In discussion group.  Dionisia asked the community, “What languages should a non-technical founder learn after HTML and CSS ? JavaScript and? The goal: to be able to make basic prototypes … Continue reading ]]>

I was inspired by a post in the Startup Weekend Linked-In discussion group.  Dionisia asked the community, “What languages should a non-technical founder learn after HTML and CSS ? JavaScript and? The goal: to be able to make basic prototypes of mobile applications.

The thread has lots of interesting nuggets to chew on.  Suggestions ran the gamut from if you’re non-technical, don’t bother, focus on the business end of things; to use tools like keynote, powerpoint, or balsamiq to wireframe/document your ideas.

What follows is my advice, coming from someone with a hybrid of technical and product management backgrounds.

First, I applaud a self described non-technical founder for wanting to learn new (to them) technologies.  This effort may not pay off in the manner that you will now be rolling up your sleeves and spitting out front end code side by side with your (assumed) technical co-founder or freelancer.

I would argue however the experience of learning something “technical” and related to your domain, whether it be HTML/CSS or trying one of the myriad “build a blog with X” tutorials, that the act of stretching your abilities outside of your comfort zone is valuable in itself.

There’s also something to be said for a little bit of empathy you can have when you have a (slightly) better idea of the basic frame work of what’s being built. You don’t need to become a master carpenter, but it helps when you are designing walls to know what’s behind them and what’s feasible. This little bit of insight behind the IT curtain also takes a little bit of the mystery out of things.

The  bottom line here is communication. You are trying to communicating your ideas to your technical co-founder and/or perhaps potential funders.  Prototyping your ideas, even if it’s crude and ugly is way more effective than any 20 page PRD specification via textual diarrhea.

Aza Raskin posted an awesome post and video presentation on the power of prototyping , How To Prototype And Influence People. I highly recommend watching it.

Rapid Prototyping with Aza Raskin from Dan Braghis on Vimeo.

Now it probably helps to have this guys’s talent (seriously if they could bottle it, I’d totally buy some) – but the main concept he is presenting hits home.  Which is…

There’s a HUGE, HUUUUUUGE difference between tell and show in transference of a concept. Have you ever tried to explain a specific internet meme to someone unfamiliar with it?  I have.  LOLcats definitely loses something when you try to explain it in conversational terms, “There are these cute pictures of cats in different situations, and people caption the photos with quasi-ironic/silly statements from the cat’s perspective.  The cat’s caption uses a form of pidgin english with bad grammar, which heightens the level of hilarity! Ha!  I can haz cheeseburger, get it?! *sigh* Check please…”

I’ve stubbornly tried to do this before (there was copious amounts of beer involved, and yes there are people in the world you aren’t familar with LOLcats) It’d be much more effective to send them to or show them a pic of ceiling cat.

Where was I before I wasted both of our times on that tangent? Oh yeah, show don’t tell. Unless you’re proficient with HTML/CSS/etc you’re probably better off expressing your ideas using other tools to design your prototype.

One possible compromise is a combination of Napkee and Balsamiq.  Create your wireframes/mockups in Balsamiq and export them using Napkee as interactive HTML/CSS/JS or Adobe Flex 3.

I’m a little confused as to what came first Keynote Kung-Fu or Keynotopia, but they are basically both awesome sets of web and mobile UI templates for creating rich and more importantly interactive higher fidelity wireframes/prototypes in Keynote, powerpoint, etc.


Keynote Kung-Fu: How Ninja’s Wireframe from Travis Isaacs on Vimeo.

Within the Keynote Kung-Fu talk (Keynote Kung-Fu How to wireframe like a ninja slides), Tavis talks about the different levels of fidelity and how by using keynote he achieves quick, disposable, easily modified, interactive prototypes.  I think this is a sweet spot in fidelity, effort, and ability to communicate an idea clearly.  The only way you could communicate your idea clearer is to actually build it.  Which isn’t a horrible idea, but is *probably* a distraction and not THE core thing a non-technical founder should be focused on from an effort/result POV.

Here’s a few additional tools/approaches to help get you from idea to sharable product design:

TL;DR It’s admirable and useful for a non-technical founder to expand their horizon’s and learn relevant technologies, however, the end goal should be to communicate ideas more clearly.  With that in mind there’s better tools/approaches to conveying your design than learning new language(s).

Note: For the sake of this discussion let’s consider HTML/CSS a “language” at least it has Language in the acronym… but it could easily be rails or *gasp* php…    Also…  I get the impression “prototype” means different things to different people. For the sake of this post, let’s consider any non-fully functional representation of a mobile/webapp idea a “prototype” as in non-functional prototype… It may be “marked up” and have interaction but it’s a dummy representation of the final product with varying degrees of fidelity.  If you’ve built an ugly MVP version of your idea, just call it ALPHA or a “working prototype”… cue the semantic police

Requiem for a Product Not Built (How Dropship Saved Me From Dropbox)

People who have met me recently know I have this idea for a product, natch, a feature mashup for dropbox.  I came up with a silly name and an amusing logo and created a pitch in a reddit styled rage comic.

The idea was simple:  make it easy to search and share your friend’s dropbox files.  I’ll spare you the self righteous fair use cover story; I wanted to browse and abscond my friend’s mp3 and video files. Seemed simple enough, mix a little Facebook connect with dropbox api and a little indexing and Voila! Easy file sharing between friends without sharing a specific link, giving someone r/w access to a folder, or dumping it into a public folder.

Unfortunately, and probably by design, dropbox’s API doesn’t make it obvious or easy to automate creation of shared files/folders. So one would have to either set up something kludgey or really clever.

Earlier this week someone created something clever, exploiting the dropbox de-duplication method to make sharing files as easy as slinging around a file hash in json. They called it dropship (also quite clever). Shortly after getting a lot of attention on hacker news in a post, “Dropship – successor to torrents?” this clever fellow received an email from the CTO of dropbox and an accidental automated legal notice. He complied with the CTO’s wishes and took down the code. Someone else forked it on github and either did or did not have it removed and posted a blog post with the incideiary title “dropbox attempts to kill an open source project” (the orignal code was released under the MIT license).

So what does all that have to do with my unexecuted “droprocks” idea? Well, I was excited, briefly that someone did the heavy lifting to figure out a potential easy way to share files on top of the dropbox platform. I could have (prior to the exploit being closed by dropbox) quickly and easily created droprocks and started sharing my barry manilow mp3 rips with my inner circle of FB friends. But now it’s not really a realistic possibility.  If I decided to build it anyways, using a kludgey approach and approved API calls/methods I’m sure my access would get snipped in a heartbeat.

I’m not saying dropbox is evil or malicious. I’m a paying customer and love the service. They’re clearly trying to protect their brand and shield their company from two headed litigation acronym monsters RIAA and MPAA. However, there’s definitely a consequence to this incident. I’m definitely less likely to build something on top of the dropbox API out of fear that if it is determined to have potential ulterior uses, that it’ll get cut off. Why would I invest my time and effort into building on top of a platform that I can no longer trust? To me that is the real outcome of dropship-gate. It’s not bad PR or a bunch of chatter in a Hacker News thread (861 points, 292 comments), it’s the loss of faith/good will from developers and evangelists.

Anatomy of a Failed Pitch at Startup Weekend San Jose

Wow, what an experience!  Trying to create a company or a product in just a weekend is really intense. Startup Weekend is a great way to meet fellow hackers, designers, and hustlers.  It’s also a good reality check if you … Continue reading ]]>
Wow, what an experience!  Trying to create a company or a product in just a weekend is really intense. Startup Weekend is a great way to meet fellow hackers, designers, and hustlers.  It’s also a good reality check if you had any delusions that creating a startup is easy, never mind creating one in the compressed time frame of 54 hours.

tl;dr I focused on selling myself as cool guy to work with, to a tough distracted crowd, instead of telling the ideas’ story.

The foreplay:

Signed in, filled out my name badge (apparently illegibly), sat down at a table.  For some reason coming into this weekend I think i’m sort of a unique snowflake and there’s not a lot of techie-turned product people out there.  I sit down next to, you guessed it, an ex-techie come product manager.

The organizers helped force the mingle factor by extolling everyone to get up and relocate to a new random table. They did this 3 more times.  Smart move on their part to help break the ice and it definitely helped force the more shy participants to interact.

I shoveled down the provided grub, listened to the organizers explain the format and rules. Next up was the keynote speaker David Weekly from pbworks. I remember toying with PBWiki before setting up my own install of mediawiki on a server ages ago; small world. David gave a pep talk about the trials and near constant challenges of building a business.  I don’t remember much of it as I kept wondering if this would be a good time to slip out and use the bathroom.  Yep, turns out it was, because the line up for pitches followed the keynote.

The pitches were in a rapid fire format.  60 seconds to introduce yourself, describe your idea, tell what skills you’re looking for, and give the idea a name for the online voting board.
It was a little difficult to listen and pay attention while waiting in the pitch line (and waiting for a break in the action to go piss).  I’m beginning to regret the 12oz of liquid courage I consumed.   I’m standing in line, *trying* to listen intently… edit my pitch for time which I grew increasingly nervous about, and NOT think about my burgeoning bladder.

Here’s the text of what I was going to pitch.


Hi, my name is Erik Pettersen.  I was an IT generalist before I joined the dark side and crossed over to product management.

For fun I like to install nested vmware instances to see if after 88 virtual machines I can go back in time.

It turns out you can, but only if the last guest host is os2/warp.

My pitch is simple:  I want to make dropbox more social.

I want to search my collective friend’s files to see if they have rick astely mp3’s or  videos of a certain  *cough* candid nature… and copy it to my drop box, and versa vice  – Unfortunately drop box’s API doesn’t seem to have “create a public link” or “create a shared folder” so we’ll need to be creative to make it work well.

I’m looking for a pilot, a martial arts expert,  a proctologist, a funder, a hacker, and a designer.

You can find out more on, thank you.

###  ( abbreviated clip from my pitch below)


My hope was to connect with the devs in the audience.  I wore my XKCD t-shirtMaybe if this shirt is witty enough somebody will love me‘, in hopes of getting some geek cred, but oddly no one seemed to ‘get’ it- they just asked me what my illegible title on my name card was :)  I wanted to position myself as a witty semi-technical guy with a neat idea that was implementable in a weekend.

My jokes went over super flat.  I might have misjudged my audience.  Maybe I talked too fast.

But we’re getting ahead of the story. After all the pitches were completed we logged onto a site to claim our pitches using our FB accounts.  This made it a little easier to identify the person behind the pitch synopsis and refamiliarize ourselves with the ideas.

It was now time to mingle, seek out pitchmen (or pitchwomen) to learn more about their idea, wait for people to find you, or go out and recruit your team. I stood around for a bit to make myself available, then promptly bolted for the restroom.

I did have one person seek me out (thanks!) to discuss my idea, mostly because he thought my idea was vaguely similiar to his non-startup weekend mobile app startup project.

Whilst all this mingling/recruiting was going on… we were supposed to be voting on our favorite pitches.  I could barely remember who pitched what.  So I was spending some time on my laptop reviewing the other pitches to see if any caught my eye, then to vote. Someone wanted to use my laptop to see the list, and I let him, on the condition he listen to my pitch.  He gave me his card: he manages an outsourcing team of devs in mexico.

I spent a little time talking with a really cool dev named Travis, but he had pitched his own fairly viable idea (a social heads up gui caller ID) and was really looking to court a designer, so I assumed he wouldn’t be interested in working on droprocks.  It was cool to hear what he was working on outside of startup weekend and to talk shop a little bit.

After the votes were tallied, the top vote getters were highlighted so that if you were still looking for a team you could seek out more information about their project.

What happened next was almost like a junior high school dance.  There was a few wall flowers left looking for devs, including me.  Developers definitely should have felt like the belles of the ball…

Time was running out.  I had no team. I talked to a few more folks unsuccesfully before trying to team up with the other jilted pitch people to see if we could at least recruit *one* developer between us.  No such luck.

My ego was a little bruised – I knew the idea wasn’t a game changer or anything, but since I was pitching based on me being a cool duderz, and got zero interest, I was feeling a little outcast. After a little pep talk from one of the organizers (Thanks, Tristan!), I swallowed my pride and stopped focusing on poaching a developer for DropRocks and looked for a team to join.


I approached a small team and asked if they could use a sys admin/product/copy writer type person to round out their team. they were inexplicably uninterested.  Shocked, I continued my search.

I ended up joining an awesome team, quite by accident.  I thought they were going to make a HackerNews/Reddit for politics where you vote articles left, right, or neutral instead of up or down, but turns out they had a different idea all together (this is a good idea pitched as an example by Tristan, *someone* should build this!)

…ANYWAYS. I joined Jose’s team whose idea was to create a dashboard of media mentions and derive the sentiment/emotions behind those mentions for a given political candidate.  Kinda of like meets exit polling – sort of.

Most of the team was comprised of people who came up from Mexico with the dramatically named “Build or Die” startup bootcamp /incubator-ish program.  There was also a biz guy from paypal and Matt a coder from nVidia.  I finally found my niche on this team as a bridge between the business folks and the tech folks.

Me Gusto My Team :)

Ironically, I found out later that Matt the dev *was* interested in seeking me out during the mingle time to discuss my idea, but couldn’t find me – damn bathroom break!  Damn my teenage girls bladder!

If you’re still with me here’s what I think I learned at startup weekend about pitching, recruiting, and timing;

  • Try not to be shy – people aren’t going to convince themselves your idea is cool enough to spend the whole weekend on
  • ABP – Always Be Pitching:  I hate swarmy sales people as much as the next guy, but this event is *supposed* to be about networking.  For some reason when I met a dev at the event before the official pitches/mingle time, I was reluctant to push too hard to get them interested in my team.  This is a mistake – there’s a fine line there though between engaging a person to find common interest and nagging the shit out of them… finding that balance is an exercise for the reader :)
  • It definitely helps to come with friends or people you know:  Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.  It subconsciously validates your idea and your team’s viability to other people.   (for better or worse, I think this phenomenon exists — just like it’s much easy to acquire funding after you don’t need it anymore)
  • I tried so hard to sell myself, that I failed to tell the compelling story of the problem I was trying to solve.
  • Short, direct, impactful sentences.  To the point.  Just like when telling a joke, too much setup distracts from the punchline and people’s attention.  One of the better rated pitches was, “I want to make customer service surveys at restaurants suck less” and then described why.  (although he didn’t get into how – but he *sold* the idea – unfortunately despite getting lots of votes he didn’t land a dev either – but preserveared  regardless as a lone ranger single founder – check out issac’s blog post about his tips/experience)

A few links on pitching: 7 Sins of Pitching | principles of pitching | How to Pitch a VC

Stay tuned for part II with tips on team organization/dynamics, dealing with version control, and developer environments.

Side note:  I’d *LOVE* to hear the thought process of different people’s decision making in choosing which teams to join or which ideas caught their interest.

Startup Weekend San Jose

I’m going to be participating in the Startup Weekend San Jose this weekend (April 15-17, 2011) at the Hotel de Anza.

DropRocks making sharing files on dropbox easy and social and buzzword compliant

drop rocks, just add some fizzy dev and design-fu to make social filesharing FTW!

I’ll be making a pitch for my DropRocks idea.  I’ll have 60 seconds to present a startup idea without a slide deck or props to hide behind… *gulp* Using just the sound of my voice I’ll need to convince a few hackers and designers to join my team.

Assuming a few folks are interested in working with me, or the DropRocks idea, we’ll have the rest of the weekend to actually build an MVP.

If I can’t assemble my own team, or if I really like someone else’s pitch/idea/personage I can join their team instead.

I’m going to blog about the experience here, so stay tuned for pics, video, and status updates :)

Few related links:

UPDATE:  Well when you cram starting up a new venture in a weekend, turns out there isn’t a lot of time to blog a blow by blow… plus the hotel wifi felt a great disturbance in the force – it was as if a 100 geeks and business people logged on at once and then were suddenly silenced.

The Four Legs of Job Satisfaction

For reasons unknown to even me, I’ve taken to explaining job satisfaction as if it were a coffee table.  Job satisfaction has four legs, actually it has five, but that blows my analogy all to hell; so let’s just play with four legs of job satisfaction, shall we?

In no particular order:

Job Satisfaction Leg# 1:  “Are you fairly compensated?”

This is a highly relative and subjective leg, but it boils down to this: do you feel like you’re being paid a fair amount for the work you’re doing?  Are other people in your same position and sector getting paid roughly the same as you are?   Are your cubicle and office mates in your company that are performing similar duties roughly in the same income bracket as you? Does it seem like your effort and talents are being rewarded proportionately?

Job Satisfaction Leg# 2: “Do you like what you’re doing?”

Are you counting down the minutes and seconds to lunch or quittin’ time?  Do you find your daily tasks rewarding or are they empty, repetitive, and soulless?  To borrow a classic career suitability metaphor, does your day to day job match the color of your parachute?  Are you stuck dealing with legacy systems, spaghetti code, in a language that hurts your eyes, nay your very well being to look at (cue the nods from the peeps still supporting VB6 apps)?

Job Satisfaction Leg# 3: “Do you like who you’re working with?”

Are your co-workers dim and mediocre?  Are you unsure if you’ve stumbled into a psych ward where thorazine has been over prescribed?  Is it painful to interact with your team?  Is your boss an idiot, or worse an idiot AND a micro manager?  Do you have to take a deep breath followed by a sigh, before opening that door in the morning to entering the building?

Job Satisfaction Leg #4: “Stability/Consistency”

This one might be tied to the a fore mentioned “idiot boss” who happens to be a tad bit mercurial and is fast and loose with the rage-firings.  It may also relate to a volatile sector or less than solvent company.  I worked at a large Swedish financial services company during the first dot com boom.  Once the DOW & NASDAQ plummeted you could smell the layoffs coming.

If things are good where you work, do you have any reason to suspect that would change (acquisitions, mergers, layoffs, product consolidation or sun setting, etc)

Consistency refers to process and expectations.  Do you know what to expect and what’s expected of you, or is it heltzer skeltzer, chaos, anarchy, dogs and cats sleeping together every day?

I recognize that many of you probably work for startups, and the lack of stability is understood.  So I offer–

Job Satisfaction Leg # 4.5  ” Culture”

You can like the people you work with, but if a company has a backwards culture, it won’t matter much.   Even if your co-workers are awesome, toiling away in a low-trust, top down, micromanaged culture will quickly suck the joy out of work.  It amuses the hell out of me to see it compared to a Stockholm Syndrome.

OK… Job Satisfaction is Like a Coffee Table (Sorta), So What?

Glad you asked, before I started adding even more legs. Job satisfaction is like an arachnid doesn’t have quite  the same ring to it.

The whole flipping point is this.  You can live with a coffee table with one leg shorter than the other. If you like your coworkers, enjoy the hacking you’re doing, the boss doesn’t give you too much crap (e.g. you have some autonomy), and the gig seems pretty stable you might be ok with leaving some money on the table.  Most people can live with a slightly wobbly coffee table.  You just get used to stacking things to one side or not leaning on one side or the other.

When I spent time in the non-profit sector this is how I rationalized it anyways :)   I’d accept a little less salary to not have to work for the man, be able to work on cool projects with smart, interesting people, and be able to decide which tools and technologies to use (within reason/budget).

BUT, if I’m underpaid AND you start to take away some of my autonomy and freedom or hire some real incompetent assholes, my coffee table might start to wobble pretty badly, and I’ll start looking for a better fit…

My advice to those disenfranchised with their jobs.  Inventory their job satisfaction coffee table.   Ask yourself, “Am I getting paid reasonably? Do I like what I’m doing, who I’m doing it with, and whether the good times seem like they’re gonna continue or not?”


The Wetware Crisis: the Dead Sea effect

Daniel Pink – Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (RSA Talk)

UPDATE: I’m going to foolishly apply this metaphor to my current situation as an example.

  1. Am I fairly compensated?
    1. I think so… I’m paid within the range for people in this position and live a reasonably comfortable life within my means.  This leg is solid.
  2. Do I like what I’m doing?
    1. I love product management, but I’m not doing a lot of it on a day to day basis.  I don’t have the ownership over the product or features that I would like.  This leg is shorter than I’d like it be.
  3. Do I like who I am working with?  I love my team and the people around me.  Very cool, bright, and talented people.  But something isn’t quite right and this leg isn’t as long as it should be — see leg 4.5 :)
  4. Is it stable / consistent?
    1. Change and chaos seems to be a constant.  This would be ok in a 5 person fledgling startup, but a 6 year old 50 person operation should have stabilized these processes by now.  I’ve been here 6 months and seen near 100% turn over (in my office).  This leg is almost non-existant.
  5. (4.5)  Culture
    1. I won’t bash the culture, but suffice to say, this leg is also shorter than it should be.

So, anyone looking for a bright, talented, and geeky product manager?