The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

The top 10 business books every professional and entrepreneur should read — July 31, 2015

The top 10 business books every professional and entrepreneur should read

There are hundreds of thousands of books about business available today, which can make it tough to cut through the noise to find those that actually provide actionable advice. From great reads for startup CEOs to books about the importance of team building and psychology, we’re sharing a few of our favorites:

  1. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

    It’s an unfortunate fact that 80 percent of startups fail, but Ries believes that many of them don’t have to. When writing, he considers that a majority of failed companies don’t have the surplus time, money or manpower to complete extensive A/B testing and other market research strategies — so he offers advice about how to reduce product development cycles, find out what customers really want, and adapt to the marketplace before resources run out.

  2. Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

    There’s a reason why this book landed on both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Seller lists. A company is only as good as the talent it attracts and keeps, so Bock offers an in-depth explanation for a proper manager-employee relationship. Furthermore, he lists the exact qualities to look for when adding members to a team and explains the importance of finding balance between encouraging creativity and maintaining structure. Google is consistently rated one of the best places to work, and the insights shared here make it easy to understand why.

  3. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick

    How did a student create one of the fastest growing companies of all time, completely transforming the Internet and how humans interact online? Here, veteran technology reporter Kirkpatrick offers a detailed history of Facebook and how it became the incredible company that it is today. This impressive, inside story speaks to why Facebook was started, the company’s early missteps, power of uncompromised vision, struggle between growth versus profit, and what’s next.

  4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

    It’s a well-known fact that it’s easier and more cost-effective to keep a customer than acquire a new one. Eyal takes this concept a step further by exploring intriguing questions such as: why do some products get mass attention while others just flop? What makes a product so addictive that the customer can’t put it down? Is there a pattern as to how technologies hook us? Based on years of research, experience and consultations, Eyal is able to share smart findings along with practical, actionable steps for building a successful product.

  5. Hot Seat: The Startup CEO Guidebook by Dan Shapiro

    One of the best ways to learn is by example, and Shapiro’s book is chock-full of summaries that cover companies with varying degrees of success. Vividly explained are the five stages of a startup CEO, how to finish with respect to board members, staying loyal to a management team, and tips for maintaining financial security. As one reviewer wrote, “The thing that sets Dan’s writing apart from other startup books/blogs is his focus on translating his experiences (across several different types companies) into actionable advice for other entrepreneurs.”

  6. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

    “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.” We’ve all heard the popular phrase “mind over matter,” and Dweck builds on this age old theory that with the right mindset, you can change your internal dialogue from being judgmental to helping one to grow; from praising talent to acknowledging hard work. Many have deemed this a must-read for anyone in a leadership position (including managers, teachers, parents and even CEOs).

  7. Hackers And Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham

    Graham takes the unique approach of drawing on historical events and examples to explore what he calls, “an intellectual Wild West” in this series of essays. As computers swiftly take over our lives, Graham discusses the roles of programmers, hackers, and software designers and how they will forever change how we think and live. While you may disagree on some of his views on life, it will certainly get you thinking.

  8. The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

    In the 1980s, Kawasaki helped shape Apple into one of the greatest companies of the century. As founder and CEO of Garage Technology Ventures, he has field-tested his ideas with dozens of entrepreneurial companies. With the incredible experience and success to back up his theories (presented with humor and real-world savvy), Kawasaki brings an arsenal of ideas to equip any business owner for potential challenges.

  9. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

    Theil started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took it public in 2002 — establishing a new era of fast and secure online commerce. Here, Theil shares his personal insights and anecdotes while raising important questions for budding entrepreneurs, including: Is now the right time to start your particular business? Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future? Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product? Are you starting with a big share of a small market? With strong ideas and principles to help build the foundation of any business, Thiel’s advice shouldn’t be missed.

  10. The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz

    If you want a simple, cut-to-the-chase approach to launching a startup, this is it. Michalowicz explains his path to success in just three simple steps: 1) Plant the right seeds by identifying the thing you do better than anyone else and focus all of your attention, money, and time on figuring out how to grow your company doing it; 2) Weed out the loser customers that waste your time and invest in the customers that add the most value and provide the best opportunities for sustained growth; and 3) Nurture the winners by focusing on how you can make their wishes come true and deliver on every single promise.

About our contributor // Christina Morales is a freelance writer specializing in creating online marketing content. Her dream is to one day rule the world with just an iPad, a case of Cherry Coke, Twizzlers, and a glue gun.

16 revealing signs you’re going to fail — January 19, 2014

16 revealing signs you’re going to fail

This is a sponsored post from our friends at Key Person of Influence.

failure

Daniel Priestley has interviewed over 2500 entrepreneurs over the last three years about their business ambitions. As he listened, he sometimes had a sinking feeling that he already knew the business was off track and would probably fail.

Here’s the top 16 things that gave him that feeling:

1. You’re only doing it for the money

The business idea is based on some trend you’ve noticed that is making lot’s of money right now. It’s been written up as a big thing, you’ve noticed it and now you’re after it. This is almost like trying to catch a bus that you can see traveling in the right direction… it’s too late. The people who make money from industries that are making money are the ones who got into the industry before it was making money (I hope that made sense).

2. You sell a low cost product and you’re not funded

As soon as someone tells me that their main products sell for $10-$800, I already know the business will be in a “J-curve” and unless the entrepreneur is funded they are unlikely to make it out the other side. The business will often show promising signs in the beginning with people saying they like the product and a few even buying. Later the realization sets in that the $30k a year PA you want to hire requires you to make 57 sales per month just to cover their wage.

3. You’ve never worked in the industry as a fully paid employee

One of the surefire ways to make a successful business is to have worked in an almost identical business to the one you want to start. In addition to all the thing’s you learn, you also spot the key aspects that need to be improved and you develop an understanding of the suppliers and contacts you’ll need. I’ve often said to people who are considering starting a business to go and get a job for 90 days in a similar business (even a menial job); It improves the odds out of sight.

4. You expect people to buy your product

Google relies on sales teams, so does BMW, so does, Rolex and so will your business. Occasionally someone might buy from you, most of the time you will need to go out and make a sale (especially in the beginning). Additionally, if you can’t or won’t go out and sell your product it’s unlikely you will be able to attract, train or retain a salesperson who will do it for you. For your business to work, you will need to go out and do face to face or telephone selling… and it will probably be that way for a while.

5. You’re risk averse

Every business requires you to take risks. A lot of entrepreneurs go backwards before they go forwards. If the idea of putting an untested advertisement on your credit card in order to see what happens, makes you feel uneasy, starting a business is probably not for you.

6. You’re delusional

If your business revolves around “Improving upon what Facebook is doing wrong” or “Taking Google to the next level” or “Being the next Richard Branson” – there’s a very good chance you won’t. More to the point, there’s a very good chance that you won’t be taken seriously. Before you give me the Colonel Saunders Story or the Disney Story, try starting small and getting one thing right, like Facebook, Google and Branson did.

7. You’re bland, boring, same and predictable

If you’re unique selling proposition is based on being slightly better, faster, cheaper or friendlier it probably won’t be enough to make an impact. If you get the feeling that your business is boring, you need to figure out how to make it interesting.

8. You’re working alone

My belief is that the minimum team is two people if you’re pre-revenue and three if you’re post-revenue. Then, ASAP you should get to 4-12 people with $160k+ per person. Business is a team sport and being a solo-preneur is a recipe for unnecessary struggle.

9. You’re not crunching your numbers over and over and over again

Business owners that do well constantly crunch their numbers in their spare time. They construct spreadsheets that allow them to play with price points, costs and margins. When asked, they have a good grip on their actuals and their projections. Those who struggle often can’t tell you things like their break-even point, their gross margin or their cost per lead.

10. You aren’t willing to front your brand

If you say “I don’t want to be known as the face of this business” for any reason, it’s probably not going to take off. Not unless you have a lot of money behind the business. When a new business enters the market, people want to know who’s behind it. If you won’t front your business, you’ll be beaten by the person who will.

11. You can’t generate 1000s of hot leads

Getting one customer is great at first but in reality if the business has a future you’ll need to get 100s of clients. To get 100 clients you’ll need about 300 appointments from about 1000 warm leads. It’s important to know how you’re going to get the leads flowing and keep them flowing.

12. People aren’t clear about what you do and why it’s for them

“Every great business begins as a great pitch” was what Mike Harris told me. He’s built three multi-billion dollar brands, so he should know. If you can’t pitch your business, it’s like having a suitcase full of cash but you can’t open the case; no one know’s or cares what’s inside.

13. People can’t learn about you

These days people learn about you before they buy. They want to know your philosophy, your methods, your story, your case-studies and your ideas for the future. If they can’t learn these things they will go elsewhere. For the learning to happen, people need articles, blogs, videos, podcasts, reports or even a book that you’ve written.

14. You are the product

If this business is all about you, then it’s hard to scale and eventually you will get burned out.

15. People don’t know you exist

My belief is “you are who Google says you are” so at a very basic level people who are searching for you should get consistent, accurate and credible information about you. Beyond that, you must reach out to people and let them know you are there. Ads, cold calls, PR, events, etc. are all part of a healthy business strategy for getting known; spend the money or go broke waiting for the phone to ring.

16. You’re trying to do too many things

Your business can probably get one to three things right over the course of the next five years. Google for all of its hundreds of experiments over 15 years gets very few to become successful money makers – search advertising still represents 96% of its income. If you aren’t focused on one key thing, you’ll probably be average at quite a few things; which is dangerous. Look at the success of Twitter who focussed on a fairly minute and featureless broadcasting tool but dominated that little segment; they are now worth 4x the value of the Royal Mail (UK).

The purpose of this blog is not to be negative, it’s to point out some clear issues that I’ve seen after interviewing thousands of entrepreneurs. I hope that you’re able to look at these 16 potential issues and avoid them before they cause real strife.

About our contributor // Daniel Priestley is a successful entrepreneur, event producer and author of ‘Become a Key Person of Influence’:
www.keypersonofinfluence.com.au.

Want to learn more?

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Image credit: Magoz.is

Interview: Melbourne local, Jeremy Carne — March 17, 2013

Interview: Melbourne local, Jeremy Carne

This week, our prolific city ambassador for Melbourne, Jacqueline Shields, interviews Jeremy Carne – the digital producer and ‘web geezer’ behind Hamish & Andy. Follow him on Twitter via @jezcarne.

Jez-01Web Geezer Jez

Jeremy Carne must take the cake for having the most fun job of all time. He basically makes a living out of having a blast with his friends. For the past five years he has been the digital producer for the much-loved comedy duo Hamish Blake and Andy Lee, hosts of the highest-rated radio series in Australian history, the Hamish & Andy Show on the Today Network. Where they go, he goes. If that’s sailing across Bass Strait in a Tall Ship or driving around in a Caravan of Courage across Britain, he’s there – and ready to share every crazy antic they get up to online. Even if it means getting a custard pie in the face!

You might’ve been on the receiving end of a custard pie in the face thanks to Hamish, but certainly no egg, despite constantly pushing the boundaries with innovation and integrating social media into the show. You’ve grown the show’s Facebook page to one of the biggest in Australia with 1.7 million Likes. Can you give us an insight into your social media strategy?

It’s important to nurture the community and give them pay off within Facebook. I value people’s comments and use that feedback to build and strengthen the relationship. Those 1.7 million people want to engage and interact with the content. Harnessing that desire to connect is what it’s all about.

In my uni days I created an online radio station (4Q Radio purely because I loved punk rock and wanted to be a part of that world.

The byline was: ‘By the fans, for the fans’. That’s an ideal that’s still with me today.

It’s so important to have an authentic love of what you’re doing and find enjoyment in engaging with the people who share that love. It’s certainly true of my work with Hamish & Andy – I’m a massive fan of their work.

There’s a fair amount of intuition there, alongside a good understanding of behavioural patterns and peak traffic times.

I guess the final ingredient is having a great brand. The fact that it’s Hamish & Andy. I’m incredibly lucky.

For the past five years I’ve been analysing our audience data to better understand how people engage with content. Trying to decode Facebook’s algorithm. And in the end I’ve discovered that the News Feed is engineered upon the old phrase ‘content is king’.

On Facebook, your content’s royalty is graded in Shares, Comments and Likes, in that order. No long-term social media strategy will be successful if the content isn’t ultimately there to back it up.

Jez-00Jez wins a metal microphone for digital at the Australian radio industry awards

You’re not an over-night sensation. You were working as a digital producer before the term ‘digital producer’ was even a job title. When you were 16 you were not only the song-writer and guitarist in your punk rock band, the Axedentals, you were the promoter and help build the website. What prompted you to go digital at such a young age?
It was the do-it-yourself nature of the Internet. The punk-rock mantra; I’ll create it my way. I looked at other platforms and quickly saw that you needed to go through a lot of approvals to get anywhere – lots of compromise. With the Internet you just get a Domain name for $10 and learn how to make a website. Back in 1998 we used HTML coding and Yahoo Geocities to create our band’s website, now days it’s much easier; you just get a tumblr account and start making your own content.

When I was at uni I realised how rapidly digital was developing in the entertainment industry – it was exciting! That’s what I wrote my thesis on, not excitement in general, but digital media in the music business. I guess that’s why I gravitated towards radio; I love music, I love comedy, and as with online, it’s a platform where you could come up with an idea and share it with people immediately.

But it was milestone moments when things clicked for me and I realised that I could cut a path for myself in entertainment and digital. Like when Mark Hoppus from Blink-182 gave me his Bass after a show in 2004. I had interviewed their support act (Motion City Soundtrack for 4Q Radio and he was hanging about so I shared with him how their music had inspired me to create – music, my band and a radio show. After their show he pulled me out the crowd (it was a big audience, about 10,000 people) and took me backstage to meet Tom and Travis, then handed me his bass as a token of thanks and appreciation. That was a very special moment for me, not only because they were my favourite band and it’s humbling when things happen out of your control, but because it was a big sign of encouragement to keep on.

There are quality people in entertainment; having fun with genuine intentions, and not bathing by the hype, they’re the ones I’m attracted to. Beginning work with Hamish & Andy was another milestone moment of it all feeling right for me.

At the end of the day I’ve always just loved making things and expressing creativity in a variety of ways. Whether it’s building an online radio station (4Q Radio), producing and hosting shows (showreel), mucking around with Hamish & Andy (Jez on hamishandandy.com), making music in bands (Jack) or working with friends on comedy podcasts (Let them be Bored). I love LIVE, so have developed and produced a bunch of live stream shows that are radio meets homemade variety TV, which allowed the audience to shape the content as the show unravelled. It was fun, so that’s a success in my mind. I first did it in 2010 with This isn’t Radio, then took the show’s location to wherever my mates were with Jez with Friends and then again to a different extent making a reality show in New York, with America’s Next Top Rapper.

At the moment I’m getting back into music, where it all started for me, which is exciting, and that new project will be launching soon.

You’ve produced Hamish & Andy’s incredibly successful digital brand over the past five years. That has resulted in you being nominated 6 times, and winning Best Multimedia Execution at the Radio Industry Awards (ACRAs) for Tall Ship Adventure in 2009. What do you see as essential elements to an effective digital branding strategy?

Being able to pick the big players early, getting on board while they’re growing fast.

Seed your content on the websites that matter, repurpose it accordingly to suit their style. Buzzfeed love lists and gifs, for example.

Innovate. With 4Q Radio we produced video podcasts the same week the video iPod launched. Mainstream competitors like Kerrang and Radio 1 followed suit months later. (Archive website.)

Jez-03Working out of a caravan somewhere in America

Who do you think excels with their social media strategy and/or digital branding?

I used to follow Chris Moyles religiously. He had the biggest breakfast show in the UK on BBC Radio 1, so his Facebook Page was the bar I wanted to hit. He had 10 million radio listeners and a Facebook presence of 1.6 million. So as a personal goal, I chased that. We had about 20% of their audience but I wanted to have the same social media (Facebook) presence as them. We overtook them in 2011, while they were still on air of course. That was a nice personal win.

Radio 1 do digital really well.

Radio is the perfect format to partner with web content because the audio medium naturally beckons visual addition.

Tourism Australia do a great job on Facebook. Russell Brand and Hugh Jackman are smart too. Quality over quantity.

What is a good amount of Likes for a social media manager?

I think we’re moving away from the mentality of a Like count being the main goal. Engagement is way more valuable.

For example, one of my live stream shows, This Isn’t Radio, didn’t have a huge viewership but did have a high level of engagement – 20% of the audience submitted content upon solicit. That level of engagement is considered strong, so that was a big win.

The number of Likes are redundant if people aren’t genuinely engaging with your content. If you focus on engagement then your Likes will come. Having said that, for me the true pay-off is in having fun and creating. If even one person enjoys what I’m doing, that’s enough. And so I’m very lucky that my mum likes my work.

How do you continually grow your digital reach?

Innovate and be savvy with how you use social media. Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark, thinks we do this well. She recently highlighted us with Deloitte Australia and Tourism Australia for ‘making smart use of social media through quick responses and regular updates’.

Enjoy what you do; if it’s authentic then you’re going in the right direction. And if you express something people can relate to, they want to own and share it.

With any project you have to know what you’re about, what it means to you, and what the parameters are within which you define your brand.

Be fluid and evolve; digital will continue to be a super fast developing industry.

The attention span of future generations will continue to get shorter. But that’s not a problem if the content is genuine and interesting; quality engagement is the result of evoking an emotional response.

What skills does a digital producer need to draw on?

You have to be a jack-of-all-trades; photographer, cameraman, editor, producer, copywriter, researcher, social media manager, developer, graphic designer, etc.

Versatility is really important. In my role, I have to constantly adapt to unexpected and ever-changing environments, document crazy antics and produce content in challenging situations. I’m very lucky to be friends with who I work with. And it works well for us – respect and trust is there.

Some highlights have been:

  • Photographing a tall ship adventure during hurricane force winds and 10m waves – and uploading content via helicopter transfer
  • Capturing content at 42 parties nation-wide during 1 weekend – Party Marathon
  • Touring with a misfit gang of Hungry Hungry Heroes around Australia
  • Documenting a Bi Bi Tri Bi-athlon – 24 sports in 1 weekend
  • Producing the digital event of Frank Stallone in concert, including a live stream and 360 degree video
  • Launching our version of Facebook – chumsgroup.com
  • Live streaming a BYO Pool Party under the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Touring Australia for the Thank You Tour, including a TV show level of production live stream of our final date Myer Bowl in Melbourne, where U2 made a surprise performance
  • Driving across Australia and America, around India and Great Britain, and flying all over Europe
  • Living and working out of New York and London

What are the top tips you would give to those in the digital space?

Let the old brain run free and embrace imagination.

Be genuine, do what’s true to you and enjoy doing it – that’s the greatest reward. The pay-off has to be the joy of creating, expressing and sharing – that’s as good as it truly gets for me.

Pop culture has a lot of misleading values, which distract you from the fulfilling and quality things – so keep it real.

The win is not if it gets picked up, the win should be in the creative process itself – the love of it and the fun. I think that’s important.

In the past I’ve let myself to get lost in the cloudy delusions of our culture, to a point of quite severe depression and physical illness. I think men naturally feel like that’s failure as it clashes with their inbuilt sense of power and desire to be “the man”. So I like the idea of disarming that tendency and encouraging people to be real instead of trying to feel they need to put on a front of what they think other people like. Which is pretty liberating.

That’s one of the dangers of social media; it can make you feel bad about yourself through comparing your life to other people’s “highlights reels” on Facebook. So keep it real to what’s true for you. And unplug regularly, do some real life things and share them with the people in front of you, not online; which isn’t the best way to end this interview as a digital producer, but it’s all about a wider perspective right?

About our Ambassador // Jacqueline Shields. Luckily Jacqueline is not a cat. She’d be on her ninth life. Her inquisitive nature sees her say yes to pretty much anything – a  Tough Mudder, an African Safari, sailing down the Nile in a felucca and even a HTML workshop. And each and everything she tries, she takes great joy in writing about. You can connect with Jacqueline on Twitter @hillrepeats.

Interview: London Local, Jackson Gabbard — January 12, 2013

Interview: London Local, Jackson Gabbard

This week, The Fetch London’s Community Ambassador, Andreea Magdalina spoke with Jackson Gabbard, an engineer at Facebook’s new London HQ in Covent Garden. He spoke about what it is really like to work at Facebook, why he moved from San Francisco to London and his favourite hackathons.

Jackson Gabbard, Growth @Facebook London

Let’s get to know each other. Hello, I am Andreea and I work as a Community Manager at Mixcloud and blog for The Fetch. Your turn!

Hello Andreea, I’m Jackson. I work as an front-end engineer at Facebook’s London office in Covent Garden. I’m here to deliver some new projects and help build up the engineering team. I’ve worked on a few things, but at the moment I’m focusing on mobile and internal tools. Also, just to make sure I’m keeping myself out of trouble, I want to make clear that I’m speaking as an and individual and not on behalf of Facebook, Inc.. Okay, enough legal speak, let’s get to the fun things.

What do you LIKE most about your job?

Is that Like™ like or, like, “like” like? I’m going with the generic like. The thing that makes me want to keep coming back to Facebook day after day is that it’s a really smart, focused company that knows how to let loose when the time is right. We’re all really excited about the stuff we’re working on. We take joy in it. If you don’t dig what you’re working on, you just stop working on it and move to something else. As long as you’re doing something that matters, everyone wants you to do something that you care a lot about and will put yourself into. Compared to every other place I’ve worked, FB really, really enables people who want to kick ass to actually kick ass.

People say Facebook is mostly run by its engineers, there is little management involved. Is that true and if so, how does it work?

I don’t entirely agree with the question. I agree with the first part – Facebook is definitely an engineering-led company. The tricky part is that the engineering managers *are* engineers. You could be an epic manager in the generic sense, but if you aren’t technical and can’t code, FB isn’t the place for you. Facebook is the first company I’ve worked in where I know I can trust everyone to be really strong technically, include the higher-ups. Of course, different parts of the company don’t function exactly the same way, but within the engineering org, management means helping the team members be as bad ass as they can be. Since we tend to attract and retain women and men who are really self-motivated, this means that the managers mostly just make it easy for their reports to do their work. I’ve been here three years now and I don’t think I’ve ever had a manager tell me “here – do this.” We prize the ability of the individual contributor to know where her or his effort will matter. Managers help guide that decision making process as much as the person needs. There’s a saying I picked up from a friend who works at a startup back in SF – “zero tolerance for Dilbert shit,” with respect to management/process overhead. We don’t really use that expression inside the company, but the philosophy is there through and through. I think that’s how our low-touch management style works.

There is a lot of chatter about Facebook’s fierce commitment to its hackathons. What’s this all about?

This is a topic there is a lot discussion about in a bunch of contexts online, so I’ll keep this fairly brief. It’s not really so much about fierce commitment as it is complete certainty that when you give creative and talented people the freedom to try anything without any fear of failure or expectation of breakaway success, that they make amazing things.

Freedom to explore an idea is some of Facebook’s special sauce.

Hackathons are one major embodiment of that. We also embrace the idea that proving a concept (or disproving it) is way more valuable that arguing about it. Hackathons are an excellent forum for this sort of thing. Some of the most-used features of Facebook were born out of Hackathons based on hunches individual engineers had about what people would get a lot of use out of. In a sense, Facebook itself is a Hackathon idea. Zuck and the early engineers hacked the site together as fast as possible in the context of holding no idea sacred, putting the people using the site ahead of making money, and being really bold about what features they released. That’s why Hackathons matter.

What is a product/feature you’re most proud of that came out of a hackathon?

Ah geeze, this is a super long list. The interesting thing about Hackathons is that they don’t just birth products and features. For instance, Girish Patangay, one of the other Facebook London engineers did a Hackathon a few years ago with some friends. They built out a way to use BitTorrent to deploy Facebook amongst the many servers that make the site available to users. That project has rolled on to become on of the critical pieces of infrastructure that allows us to make really fast changes to the site.

I think the thing that is most interesting about hackathons is that they often don’t yield direct results. In a lot of cases what you build at a hackathon is a complete throw-away, but the lessons you learned in the process give you insight that allows you to make your next move a major success. We keep a history of all the hacks that have ever been attempted. It’s fascinating reading back through them because you can see the spark of an idea in some cases years before it becomes a feature of the site. For instance, being able to tag people and places in status updates is something that has been hacked on in a bunch of different ways by a bunch of different engineers over the years. Facebook wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for all the daring, ill-fated attempts people have made during the hacks.

What does it take to impress Facebook and make them hire you?

I think this is a pretty easy one actually. Passion is the number one thing. If you’re the sort of person who builds stuff at work then goes home and builds different stuff at home because you just have a passion for it, you’d probably fit in great. Creativity is pretty impressive. There are lots of great algorithms people in the world, but we tend to go for people who can use their knowledge and skills in creative ways. Also, proven skills matter a great deal. The best way to impress Facebook is to do work that solves problems we’re trying to solve or innovates in ways we weren’t expecting. We love that.

Describe your life as a Facebook developer in one song and one colour.

Hrm… one song and one color. The color is easy — #3b5998. Burnt into my mind over the years of CSS refactoring. One song is much, much trickier. “Teach Me How to Dougie” by Cali Swag District leaps to mind. It’s a song that you’d find people just randomly dancing to at their desks, or in the walk ways, or on ripstiks. It has especially value because one can do the dougie while wearing a snuggie.

I guess if I were trying to go for something a little more metaphorically rich, I would say “Times Like These” by Foo Fighters. Working at Facebook the last three years has given me the opportunity to push myself to the edge of my abilities without running out of role models to aspire to. It’s really intense at times. It’s really challenging. It’s the sort of place that rewards bold thought and action (in that order). You can sometimes find yourself way, way out of your comfort zone. You go home, you rest, and you come back to find that the spirit of boldness is still there. Still eager to have you there, putting aside your fears, and going for what you think really matters. Also, as long as you’re pursuing worthwhile goals and being honest with yourself, FB is one of the most supportive places you could possibly be. It’s also the most open minded place I’ve ever worked. Facebook’s internal culture is one that deeply appreciates variety of perspective and variety of background. We want to keep the work we do and the impact we have in the world in front of everything else. Gender, sexual orientation, formal education, etc. are details that just don’t really matter in the company if you have the skills to deliver awesomeness. It was really hard for me to learn to accept and trust that after having worked at so many bad companies prior to Facebook.

I’m Romanian and I keep telling people our vampires are not as hot as Twilight makes you think. What is a myth that you can bust about Facebook?

Well, I think a lot of people have a sort of cloudy notion that Facebook is the sort of place where people party constantly, Justin Timberlake hangs out all the time saying pithy things, Zuck walks around giving darting glances and speaking at superhuman rates. Where there are constant power plays. Where aggro dudes scowl at computer screens with headphones on while drinking redbull and wearing aviator glasses. Basically everything about all of that is false. Well okay, actually, a lot of us do talk pretty fast — but that’s the most similar part. Okay, to be fair we do have a lot of celebrities come through as well. But what I mean is that Facebook’s internal culture is really all about building things for people, exploring ideas, and collaborating with others who love building things. There are definitely some really intense people and strong personalities. However, a person being boisterous doesn’t give them voice or respect on its own. It has to come with skills. We’re a super collaborative and warm culture internally. Also a bit impish.

We want people to dive into what they don’t know. If you’re really trying to answer a hard question, you’ll meet support rather than resistance. We also know how to have fun. For instance, when you close a task using our internal tasks system, you collect a pokemon for it (via an elaborate on-screen animation). When you’re reviewing code you can use special image macros that trigger meme images. One of my favorites is a macro called “dogscience” that triggers an image of a dog wearing a labcoat mixing chemicals. The text of the image is “I have no idea what I’m doing.” The idea is that we just don’t take ourselves too seriously. Another favorite is “supercorn” — which triggers a massive sparkling gif of a unicorn. Perfect for when you accept someone’s diff that makes a change you’re really happy to see. We also throw huge parties a few times a year. Okay, I guess those can be a little like the movie.

Finally, what made you leave sunny San Francisco for the rainy hills of London?

Well, to be honest, it’s actually somewhat inaccurate to label San Francisco as a sunny city. It’s also way, way hillier than London. My first place in San Francisco was at the top of Nob Hill, which made every day a 400ft hike right at the end of the walk home. It’s also pretty chilly and gray there a lot of the year. Aside from being darker more of the day in the winter months, London feels surprisingly similar to SF to me. To actually answer your question though, what made me come here was the opportunity to really diverge from what I had been doing and jump into something very important for the company. There are so many bad ass women and men in London and all over Europe doing exciting engineering. We didn’t want to miss out on hiring them and building up teams here that will stay here. If I’m allowed to shamelessly plug our efforts, here is a link to our careers page. Back to the question, I’m only really happy when I’m really challenged, which is a big part of what makes London so enticing. I’m also a massive Monty Python fan. Any culture that can appreciate self-irreverent, demented comedy and farce like that has got to be one worth exploring.

Written by Andreea Magdalina, Community Ambassador in London. Community Manager at @mixcloud & yogurt addict. Follow her on Twitter @trrpaipai

Opinion: Who is at the bleeding edge of social in Australia? — January 3, 2013

Opinion: Who is at the bleeding edge of social in Australia?

Jacqueline Shields recently interviewed Pete Williams in a local profile for The Fetch. During question time, she also discovered his thoughts on who is leading social’s edge within Australia.

pete-feature

Pete Williams, Chief Edge Officer at Deloitte’s Centre for the Edge Australia, helps senior executives understand emerging opportunities on the edge of business and technology for corporate growth. Here, he shares with us his thoughts on companies and industry sectors succeeding at social – those that are adopting different business models in rapidly-changing landscapes.

To offer great customer service there are a few options open to companies. One is to employ more customer service people at a high cost. Another is to off-shore it at a lower cost even though you know that your customers aren’t going to be satisfied. The smartest way is to get the people who know most about your products, the people who use it every day, to help each other. Both Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank do this well.

Examples

  • Telstra’s CrowdSupport Help & Support Community Forum

Rather than Telstra manage all their customer service activities, they have their customers support customers. This model incorporates cloud, social, mobile, crowdsourcing and gamification and it’s been a spectacular success. There are around 60,000 enquires a week dealt through that channel alone and this has resulted in them being very successful in customer support.

  • Commonwealth Bank Pi

The Commonwealth Bank has just launched a platform called Pi. It’s a next generation tablet payments system like a next generation EFTPOST machine. What they have done is opened that up for developers to get involved and create apps. Again instead of the organisation saying, “We will come up with every idea and build it and launch it”, they are acknowledging that there is a smarter model.

This model taps into an explosion of innovation, leveraging clouds and seeing themselves as a platform provider as opposed to needing to be responsible for everything they do. We’ve been seeing that for many years with the web titans – the Amazons, the eBays, the YouTubes and it being popularised through Apple’s and Google’s App Stores.

Theory

Both these examples show how business can look at what is going on at the edges and explore how they could use a crowd or how the gaming world applies to them. It’s not so much building games but using aspects of gaming such as levelling up, reward and recognition, badges, achievements, leader boards, and kudos, and bringing them into the process to encourage your customers to do what you want to do with them.

It’s a bit like an open-source community where you have support forums and that’s an edge that we have been seeing for many years of how these communities share knowledge and knowledge flows at a user-to-user level. Two such communities are the high end World of Warcraft guild and the top end Angry Birds community where you need to be monitoring what new ideas and new strategies you have got. Also what are you learning from your personal dashboards, because the community keeps learning and learning so you have to be able to analyse all that information, then quickly synthesise it in the terms of the way you operate.

These online learning communities with elite people all have one thing in common – a propensity to share, using leaderboards, dashboards and social features. This means that the community drives other users to a new level. So adopting gaming techniques can be very effective for organisations. Although as a Telstra user, I do at times question why I am doing customer support for them! But by the same token if I have a problem it tends to be something exotic so the community has also helped me when I have needed assistance.

What about the politicians?

If we look at who has embraced Facebook as an effective communication tool, it tends to be celebrities, sports people and sports clubs. Interestingly enough, politicians have taken the bull by the horns too. No matter what people say about politicians are smart enough to realise when they can connect and reach a large audience. So they are a very interesting crowd who have adopted it while I don’t see the government agencies that they are theoretically running have adopted it any were near as much.

Malcolm Turnbull is particularly good with social media. So is Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. Kevin did a tweet recently of a pic of a leak of an orange pen on his shirt. He tweeted that he’d put it in his pocket with predictable results. He tweets what he doing and what he is seeing but he also tweets personal stuff.

Obama set the tone with the 2008 election and it continued on. That was when politicians realised how much of an effect it could have. There is a group that is seen as potentially conservative but who are smart enough to work out what to do with it.

Retailers

Retailers have enormous numbers of people on Facebook. Coles have a massive following. Supre has always been a standout. And were one of the early starters. They got in early. They tried stuff. They experimented. They got a core audience and now it’s just massive. They do A/B testing i.e. Which skirt do you like? This one or this one? They engage people with simple, easy non-dinky bullshit campaign stuff not just because someone wants a prize. They incorporate it into part of their long-term business strategy.

The luxury brands are massive like Tiffanys, BMW, Mercedes. Those luxury brands that people aspire to tend to have mass followings.

If we look at who is doing Facebook well in the banking sector, the Commonwealth Bank sort of does okay. Ubank does pretty well. But what we see in a lot of those traditional business to consumer relationships is that some organisations think they are above it. But as I say, if you are above it then you are above your customers and employees so probably not a great place to be.

Hall & Wilcox the mid-size legal firm across the road use it well. But we haven’t seen the legal profession really understand how to adopt social media.

Recruitment

We are starting to see mining companies use social media for recruitment.

In terms of the business to business side we tend to see organisations using LinkedIn. Someone who does that really well is Deloite Globally. We’ve done fantastically. We’ve also done really well with Facebook largely in the area of recruitment. The first thing we did with Facebook was not to build a Facebook page but to build a Facebook app for our employees in 2008 called ‘Join me at Deloitte’. ‘Your future at Deloitte’ is the Facebook page. But before we had the Facebook page we had the Facebook app where employees could put it on their Facebook page and people could say they were interested in a job at Deloitte. So again leveraging the networks of our people at a time when we didn’t have a Facebook network ourselves. We use Twitter particularly well for pushing information out there.

The use of enterprise social networking is growing in people to people knowledge type organisations Deloitte won the 2011Forrester Groundswell Award award for Best Collaboration System (Management) through our use of Yammer. Capgemini is a big Yammer user and they use it very well as do NAB and Suncorp Group. So we are seeing organisations who have large bodies of people that want to get better innovation, better collaboration and better learning using enterprise social networking technologies.

But there is a long way to go for most organisations and the key thing to understand is that it isn’t going away even if you want to ignore it.

About our Ambassador // Jacqueline Shields. Luckily Jacqueline is not a cat. She’d be on her ninth life. Her inquisitive nature sees her say yes to pretty much anything – a  Tough Mudder, an African Safari, sailing down the Nile in a felucca and even a HTML workshop. And each and everything she tries, she takes great joy in writing about. You can connect with Jacqueline on Twitter @hillrepeats.

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