Your Opinion, While Interesting, Is Irrelevant*

With the recent introduction iPhone OS 4.1, Apple is creeping forward in functionality. Much like iOS4, this latest release mostly contains enhancements which I can't use (HDR photography is iPhone4-only) or don't care about (GameCenter/Ping). One welcome and less-publicized feature is full Bluetooth AVRCP support, which means that I can finally use "forward" and "back" controls when the phone pairs with my car.

The iOS platform now represents about 1/3 of Apple's revenue, so it's hard to argue with success. There are dark corners of the user experience on this device which haven't received much attention since launch. As a product manager, these would annoy me like a sore tooth. There is a truism of product development which states "If you're not embarrassed by your v1.0 product, you waited too long to release." All products, no matter how mature, will always have some sort of deficiency. Deciding which ones are important to your customers and which ones just irritate a niche subset is a critical skill.

* Title inspired by Pragmatic Marketing, taking the ego out of product management one framework at a time.


Entrepreneurship: The Flip

I'm at Startup Bootcamp listening to Mick Mountz of Kiva Systems talk about his early experiences with the company. (They make a way-cool automated material handling system which turns warehouses and distribution centers into a robotic ballet.) His step 1 in a startup is (of course) "get a whiteboard and a business card." With a good idea and some customer-funded development, this eventually lets you change the world.

Step zero, though, is something I had never heard before. He calls it "The Flip". It's the moment when you decide "fuck it, I'm doing this." After the flip, he answered his phone "kiva systems". He had no product, no customers, no staff, and hadn't even incorporated. But it became real in his head.

I have heard talks on every detail of entrepreneurship from inception to funding to exit. But this is the first time anyone has talked about something like The Flip. I like the intentionality of this concept. It feels like there needs to be a ceremony for this.


My colleague Rafael told me about the MIT scripts service, which means that I now own karlcritz.mit.edu. It simply redirects to this blog, but it's a cool URL to own. To my other classmates, this takes about 5 minutes to set up. (Though it helps to know a thing or two about MIT's athena unix environment.) Thanks, Rafael!


CareerLeader - This Much We Know

It's hard to provide recruiting support for SDM students. We have 5-7 years of experience and a rather novel degree which combines management with a hard-to-explain corner of engineering. On-campus recruiting and career fairs are targeted at more entry-level positions or (at Sloan) investment banking/management consulting. SDM-appropriate jobs are often not advertised; companies may not even realize that our expertise exists. One service offered by our career services department is the "CareerLeader" assessment. It is supposed to help you sharpen your focus and figure out what kind of job to look for. Having taken the test, I'm not sure it told me anything I didn't already know.

The results are near-tautological. One section asks the test-taker to perform a series of binary rankings: "Would you rather be recognized as brilliant or would you rather make a social contribution with your work?" After a near-comprehensive search of the trade space, we are presented (voila!) with a ranking of our preferences. In another section, we are asked to rank our interest in such areas as "managing technical projects." Indicating high interest in this area means that the summary will tell you "you are interested in managing technical projects!". Again, the insight is stunning. I am not sure what I expected out of this assessment, but I was hoping for some emergent insight into my interests rather than a regurgitation of my answers.

For what it's worth, here's what the test told me:

  • You have a strong interest in Application of Technology. You take a systematic, engineering-like approach to solving problems and understanding systems and processes.
  • You also have a notable level of interest in Theory Development and Conceptual Thinking. You enjoy solving business problems by taking a conceptual "big picture" approach, exploring abstract ideas and the "what ifs" of a business or industry, and considering broad economic and social trends.
This is pretty spot-on, if obvious. Furthermore, the test tells me that careers I should consider are:
  • R&D Management
  • Product Management
  • Management of New Product Development
  • Entrepreneurship
Again, it's just what I told the assessment but at least it's accurate.

Thanks to the hard-working SDM career office for trying on this one. I'd be interested in hearing from you if you extracted value from this assessment. Did it tell you something you didn't already know?