All posts filed under “Highly Recommended

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Meeting Michael van Swaaij, Chairman (and former CEO) of Skype

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On Monday this week our MBA class had the opportunity to hear Michael van Swaaij speak to our class. He is the current Chairman of Skype, having previously served as CEO of Skype and Chief Strategy Officer (amongst other roles) at eBay.

First of all, I have to say that he was a fantastic speaker. I’m always impressed with speakers that don’t need the crutch of PowerPoint slides to make their point, and Michael was a very engaging speaker for 40+ minutes solid. (Before the Q&A.)

I want to quickly paraphrase a few of his top-level points:

  • If your first job isn’t great… don’t worry. Things will happen. To a group of MBA’s that will likely graduate during what will likely be an extended economic downturn, this was encouraging. While we may not be able to do exactly what we want to straight away, I did get the sense we’ll get there in the end. (And probably by a route we had never anticipated.)
  • Don’t focus on the press. Focus on the consumers. The press doesn’t reflect the reality that we need to live if we’re growing and innovating. The press is a lagging indicator of where industries are going. If you keep focused on consumers you’ll rarely go wrong.
  • Great products/services allow people to do something they’ve never been able to do before. Enough said there.
  • In growing a startup, you must hire well ahead of the curve. Companies and roles grow so quickly that the people you’ve got must be able to do the job above them, and likely the one above that. If they can’t they’ll hinder your growth. Unfortunately, few people want to have a job where they’re capable of doing so much more.
  • In high-growth startups, missing an opportunity is much worse than not taking full advantage of the opportunity. I’m not sure I 100% agree with every implication of this, but certainly do agree that you’ve got to grab every opportunity you can.
  • Leadership isn’t about you… it’s about the team. Enough said.

The Q&A portion was also enlightening and quite straightforward; unfortunately the most interesting bits were strictly off the record!

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What’s this photo about? Well, about 15 students have the opportunity to have dinner with the “Leadership Series” speakers after their talk. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to continue discussions with Michael and the Director of Judge Business School, Arnoud De Meyer (also a Fellow at Jesus College) at a beautiful room in Queens’ College.

First of all, I have to say that Michael van Swaaij has to be one of the most down-to-earth senior business leaders I’ve ever met. He’s had a lot of important jobs and done a lot of interesting things, and has come out of it a very wise man.

But what I really feel like looking back on our talks (where I didn’t take any notes) is how inspirational (yet down-to-earth) he was. Whether or not it was what he was saying, I came away with a feeling that we’ll be well-prepared for life post-MBA, and not to be too worried about it. We need to work hard, keep our eyes out for good opportunities and take advantage of them.

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[UPDATE]: The Judge Business School women have posted about this, too. Check it out here.

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UPDATE: Keynote to YouTube and keeping cool transitions

i made a step by step series of screenshots here of these notes here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/7601158/Uploading-Key…

and

http://www.slideshare.net/joshuascottpaul/uploa…

Originally posted as a comment by joshuascottpaul on Jed Christiansen’s Blog using Disqus.

A little over a year ago I had been having some problems uploading Keynote presentations (slides and audio) to YouTube and keeping some of the cool transitions between slides. After playing around with Keynote and iMovie for a bit, I detailed a workaround here.

Just a few days ago “joshuascottpaul” put my written instructions into a series of screenshots with everything you need to take a fully-featured Keynote presentation and upload it to YouTube. I just wanted to say thank you to him, and share his work with you below.

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Tim O’Reilly speaks at Judge Business School

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Today we had the great pleasure of hearing Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media speak at Judge Business School. He was a speaker I was really looking forward to hearing, and he didn’t disappoint. (He’s on the left in the photo above.)

Tim has a very engaging speaking style, and his presentation was 100 slides of great photos, examples, and quotes. (Much better than the 5-6 slides of 13-point that Bob Diamond of Barclays used!)

The topic of the day was “Watching the Alpha Geeks,” which is something he’s been doing for 20+ years. (He’s been giving a version of the talk for about 7-8 years…) The technology and things that geeks and hackers use or do day-to-day is the stuff that becomes cultural mainstream in 5/10/15 years. It was nearly twenty years ago when the first webcam was hooked up to the Internet at the University of Cambridge. This was pre-WWW, by the way, and the sole purpose of the webcam was to show the level in the office coffeepot so that “the hackers” didn’t have to walk down the hall to check it! Now webcams are clearly mainstream. (Tim didn’t mention this, but I wanted to throw in a little Cambridge-specific info.)

The great phrase that Tim used a couple of times was:

The future is here. It just isn’t evenly distributed yet.

That’s a really powerful statement, and so very true. The future of the next 5/10/15 years is in research labs, startups, and homes of hackers right now. It just takes time and cultivation to get society to use it.

Tim talked quite a bit about Web2.0; not about the technology but instead about the principles behind the technology. His thesis was that there is an incredible amount of data that already exists; Web2.0 is the way different threads tie together to change the world. The most prominent example is Google. Google took information that already existed (links between web pages) and used it to provide the dataset for a much more powerful and useful search engine. Mashups that merge public data on crime with webmaps is another example of two datasets that are poor on their own, but very useful when tied together.

As Web2.0 becomes Enterprise2.0, this is going to shift even further. Sensors which already exist are going to be leveraged in new ways. The data that companies have in their ERP systems in regards to their customers, their suppliers, and their internal operations will be utilized in new ways to provide incredible new insights. And most importantly this will be done real-time, without judgement.

He clearly cares about the environment a lot, and spent a good chuck of his talk on technologies and ideas that are at the forefront of changing how we as a global society think and act in relation to global warming.

Another interesting note came in the Q&A portion; he was asked what technologies that he had been bullish about that didn’t pan out. After saying that quite a few didn’t mature on the timescale he had originally envisioned, he was a bit of a loss for words. But then he simply said, “I don’t think about failure a lot.” I think it was important for the room to hear this for two reasons:

  1. Failure’s not bad. While Europe is getting better with this attitude, it’s not quite as acceptable as it is in the US.
  2. There’s going to be lots of failure on the bleeding edge of innovation. Get used to it.

I highly recommend hearing him speak. (You can check out his recent talk at the Web2.0 conference by clicking this link.) If you are fascinated by technology, he’ll lead you on a fascinating journey.

It was great to hear Tim O’Reilly speak today, and highly recommend seeing one of his talks if you’re ever able to.

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Heading to Cambridge to get my MBA

JBSlogo.jpgI’m very happy to announce that I’m off to Cambridge to get my MBA, starting in just a few short weeks. And not Cambridge, Massachusetts; I’m off to the original Cambridge, in the UK.

As a bit of background, the University of Cambridge is the second-oldest English speaking university in the world, having been founded shortly after Oxford in 1209. (Which means that next year is it’s 800th anniversary… wow!)

In October I will start the one-year Cambridge MBA programme. Clearly, fitting an MBA curriculum into just one year, with two consulting projects and an individual project means that I’m going to be really busy in the coming year. But from everything I’ve seen and everyone I’ve met there it’s going to be an invigorating experience.

I’m going back to school for a number of reasons, which I will explain in further posts. But when I chose a school, I wanted to stay in the UK, and I wanted to go to a school that would provide me the tools and connections to get me where I want to go in my career. Though it was only founded in the last 20 years or so, the Judge Business School already has a skyrocketing reputation. It’s ranked 10th in the world according to the Financial Times, though MBA rankings are of course highly subjective. Not only that, but it’s reputation in science and technology is unparalleled anywhere. (81 Nobel Prize winners, concentrated in Physics, Medicine and Chemistry) And who can forget Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Keynes, Alan Turing, and Hugh Laurie? (Well, maybe Hugh doesn’t quite fit in with the others…) I plan on getting back in touch with my engineering/tech roots as I prepare for my post-MBA career.

Each Cambridge student is also a member of one of Cambridge’s 31 colleges; I’ll be associated with Jesus College which was founded in 1496. The majority of sports happen on the college level, and I plan to continue my rowing with the Jesus College Boat Club, which has historical links back to Thames Rowing Club.

For anyone that’s interested, I plan on blogging about my MBA experience as much as I can in the coming year. If you’re interested in these posts specifically, I’ll be setting up a separate “feed”, which you can also subscribe to via e-mail.

It’s going to be an exciting twelve months!