Tinder Breakdown

23 Apr
April 23, 2014

This is the first of my product breakdown articles where I attempt to dive into what makes the product popular and engaging.

The premise of Tinder is stupid simple. User flips through nearby women (or men), and swipes left to reject or right to like. Once two people mutually like one another, they are notified and a private chat is created. Today, the app processes 750M swipes and 10M matches per day. Average user is said to spend an hour per day on Tinder, and 57% of active users are on it daily.

That’s crazy numbers for an app less than 2 years old, but it isn’t a result of pure luck. The app leverages user psychology and seamless design to make it highly sticky.

Aha! Moment

How fast can a user get to the aha moment after being introduced to the product? For Tinder, it’s immediate. There is no profile to craft, nor connections to make before experiencing the value of the product. There is one Facebook log-in button to click during on-boarding. Next, the user begins swiping.

2014-04-21 11.01.19   2014-04-21 11.02.15   2014-04-21 16_3

Of course, users may wish to tweak their profiles later, changing pictures and updating their 500 character bio. But that’s optional and they are not roadblocks for users to get to their aha moment right away. Default profile and settings are created for users when they log in for the first time.

Simplicity

One of the reasons users get to the aha moment immediately is due to the app’s stupid simplicity. To get a match, users just make routine, binary decisions: swipe left to reject or right to like – based on photos. Compare this to traditional dating sites / apps where there are multiple ways to express interest, filter users, and craft detailed profiles. This creates a large to-do list and several call-to-actions to evaluate from. Tinder does not make users think .

2014-04-21 10   2014-04-21 10_2   Screenshot_2014-04-22-00-35-16

Today, tech consumers multitask. They fiddle with their phones on the go, on their laptops, while watching TV, or chatting with their friends, etc. Tinder allows users to exert minimal mental energy and multitask. Case in point – I see my friends on Tinder while taking notes in class all the time.

Real World +

In the real dating world, people constantly look at others and judge them by their looks – especially in the case of looking for a date in a bar. Tinder is superficial, but so is real world. Instead of incorporating some magic matchmaking algorithm and have users craft profiles, Tinder has created a place to do all the things we love doing, but won’t admit to: act shallow and make snap-judgements based on looks. As result, people are thrilled to take part in it. Consider the user journey of Tinder:

Untitled

This seems pretty close to real world to me (at least in the scenario of looking for a date in a bar).

I say it’s real world “+” because not only does it mimic real world scenario, it does it better: faster and more efficiently. It’s like giving users super power of stepping into a crowd and immediately knowing which people are interested in talking to them. This is part of Tinder’s double opt-in mechanics. Tinder eliminates the basic fear of rejection; so it boosts users’ level of confidence with everyone they approach inside the app. Double opt-in gives men and women authority to decide who can send them a message and more control of their interaction with strangers.

Reward Mechanism

In my opinion, Tinder has one of the best usage of reward mechanisms Ive ever seen in a consumer app.

Each swipe on Tinder delivers immediate gratification. Each swipe satisfies users’  appetite for social validation: they want to discover if the person they just swiped to the right shares the same interest towards them. Even if there isn’t one, it resolves the mystery of whose profile will appear next. This process seems endless. The design emphasizes this further with its deck of cards emulating user profiles. Edges of next cards poke outside the deck, teasing users to swipe again to reveal them.

Double opt-in makes the reward mechanism of Tinder highly effective. To gain more matches, users are encouraged to continue swiping. The more they swipe, the more chance of getting lucky with their matches, and remember – swiping is dead simple. Once a match is made, the likelihood of the matched person responding in the private chat is multiplied. This model is much more rewarding than traditional dating sites / apps where users heavily invest to show interest to other people that end up ignoring. ROI for users is high on Tinder.

2014-03-14 01

Lastly, once a private chat is initiated, the reward gets even better because it varies all the time. There are no features that guide users on what to do next, and this opens up the door for users to get creative with its use case. Users end up hooking up, dating, temporarily flirting online, making casual connections, making new friendship, or w/e else – depending on the match. I’ve seen a group of friends at a bar use Tinder on a single phone, “playing” the app together.

Tinder seems to be less of a dating app and more of a game with its infinite, variable rewards.  The reward of getting a hot match is one thing, but the anticipation of the reward is what encourages users to keep swiping.

Authenticity

Have you noticed how users can’t create new profiles and pictures inside the app? Their profiles are sucked in automatically from existing Facebook profiles. They can still fake data, but Tinder makes it very difficult to do so. In return, Tinder has created a sense of authenticity. For example, when trying to change the photos, users can only access photos from their existing Facebook profiles. There is authenticity built into the product, and that makes users feel so casual and be real. There is nothing to hide; its mainstream and all of their friends are on it.

2014-04-21 16.48.41

With its product design, Tinder has made approaching total strangers seamless and exciting.

I haven’t given much thought into its improvements, but there are two things that come to mind right away. First, the most important metric for Tinder would be the number of matches made per user. To drive the needle for this metric, I’d like Tinder’s algorithm to detect and surface users it believes will have higher chance of matching first (here are other suggestions). For instance, looking at the match data, Tinder may find that a particular user consistently shows interest towards a specific race. Secondly, once a private chat is created, the experience could be much more personal if voice and picture messaging features are enabled.

Principles – 2014/03

07 Mar
March 7, 2014
Principle: a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived

At the beginning of my undergrad years, I was clueless. I didn’t have strong values. I didn’t know what type of a man I wanted to be. I didn’t carry any conviction. I didn’t know how to get from point A to B. I didn’t know how to win.

Looking back, I lacked principles. 

Although I’m still more often clueless than not, I learned many lessons over the years – some of which have become principles I now try to live by. While I believe that nothing can be certain, including my principles, by putting them out here and stress testing them, I’m certain that the probabilities of my principles evolving and being right will increase.

1. Consensus is Often Wrong
I need to learn to be an independent thinker. Most of the times, we seem to assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something we don’t. Especially when we are uncertain, we are willing to place an enormous amount of trust in the collective knowledge of the crowd. Quite frankly, the crowd is often wrong.

2. Done is Better than Perfect
Perfectionists often spend too much time on little differences at the margins at the expense of other big, important things. I have to get over detail anxiety. This should not be confused with giving up or reducing the bar. Instead, I have to ruthlessly prioritize and become an effective imperfectionist.

3. Just-in-Time Thinking
I have wasted time on problems that didn’t exist yet, spending time over-thinking and analyzing every potential decisions to make. Instead, I need to make decisions just-in-time when I have access to the real information I need, and to start focusing on what I need to focus on right now.

4. Become a Realist
I have to continuously learn to know how people really think and behave, and how things really work on a material level. I need to stop letting what I wish to be true stand in the way of seeing what is really true. Only by becoming a rational realist, can I start to yield results. The game continues with or without me, and it’s up to me to learn the rules.

5. Embrace Resources other than Myself
To be successful in life, I need to step back and design a ‘machine’ consisting of the right people doing the right things to reach a goal. I need to stop viewing myself as a single resource used towards attaining my goals. Nobody at the top of the heap ever gets there alone. So, stop wasting time cultivating skill sets where I have little competence. Instead, build on my strengths, and learn to influence/lead others.

6. Small Things != Unimportant Things
Small things can yield enormous outputs. Small things like being there for my loved ones, smiling, listening, and being helpful. Don’t mistake them to be unimportant things because they take little time.

7. Don’t Compromise on that which is Uncompromisable
Some things in life are just uncompromisable. It’s so easy to justify why we took plan B over plan A. Skip plan B. It’s plan A or nothing.

8. Don’t Try to Please Everyone
Not everyone is going to be happy about every decision I make. Small minds will always discuss people. Don’t be apologetic for who I am.. Unless I’m being an asshole – in which case I should stop being one.

9. Embrace Superstar Effect
Being the best in a field makes us disproportionately impressive and successful to the outside world. This effect holds true even if the field is not crowded, competitive, or well-known. I should always try to harness this effect to become the best in my niche. And the best way to do this is by being different and finding unique ways to hack the system. 

10. Results Matter the Most
We are awarded for the results we yield. Suppose employee #1 works 60h/week and produces B+ results. Now suppose employee #2 works 25h/week and produces A+ results. Employee #2 is much more valuable to the company than employee #1. This is meritocracy. Hard work alone mean nothing. Always deliver results.


I’d Like to Buy Time

30 Jan
January 30, 2014

lords-of-time1

I’d like to buy time.

I would love to outsource everything in my life that I don’t like doing and things I’m not good at (and without a desire to improve on). These include cooking, cleaning, driving, washing clothes, cleaning email inbox, paying bills, filtering junk contents online, and few other things. I would rather spend time doing other things I enjoy.

Fortunately, there are many new products emerging that are focusing on selling time to the consumers. These are the products that have gotten me excited lately because they are trying to solve a problem I personally have. Some of them sell time by letting consumers outsource tasks altogether. Others simply save consumers tremendous time going through these tasks.

Examples of products where consumers can buy/save time:

  • TaskRabbit: outsource household errands
  • InstaCart: same-day grocery delivery
  • Washio: laundry and dry cleaning delivered to your door
  • Sold: simplify selling personal items
  • Uber: get a personal driver at the tap of a button
  • StyleBee: Uber for your looks
  • YouMechanic: auto mechanic who comes to you
  • FancyHands: virtual, personal assistants
  • MailBox: fly through your email
  • BufferBox: quick and convenient pick-up anytime
  • Quibb: get personalized, curated articles worth reading
  • BlueApron: fresh ingredients, great recipes delivered

It’s Not a Luxury Good

I don’t consider these products as luxury goods. It’s a trade you can make to better prioritize your life. Once you save X minutes by spending few dollars on these products, what can you do with the time saved? The opportunity cost of going through the tasks alone may be far grater than paying for these products (some of which are free to begin with). To me, products like these simply offer smart ways of buying/saving time.

Increasingly Superior Services

Selling you time is one benefit. Many of these products also focus on providing you with superior services. Consider UberBLACK. With a tap of a button on your phone, you can literally commute like a boss. Another recent product I found is called StyleBee - which is like Uber for your looks. You tap a button on your phone, and a stylist arrives with beauty products in tow. It’s essentially democratizing celebrity styling for everyday consumers. Another great example includes BlueApron. Not only does it save you time by delivering groceries, it helps you cook incredible recipes. I believe more and more products like these will emerge. In fact, I think selling consumers time will become a commodity as products begin to compete on service values.

Business Scalability

There are huge challenges for these products to succeed and scale. For one, many of these products require lots of labor. Outsourcing a task means there is someone else out there doing the work for you. I imagine the margins can be tight, and businesses like these can be hard to automate as they are essentially running on a “people-powered” engine. There will be an inherent scaling problem in the operations.

But, this isn’t always the case though. Many products are focusing on growing a marketplace to replace company labor force. Consider Uber. It’s essentially a service that connects consumers with drivers in an efficient way. We know the demand will be there for the consumers. But what about the drivers? It needs to ensure that Uber provides drivers with better service and higher profit than existing solutions (ex. taxi companies). For StyleBee, the founders mentioned that stylists are treated so terribly by salons and celebrities that the chance to work for themselves using StyleBee and make extra money would be irresistible. This is great. The challenge is curating new marketplaces that are superior in value over existing ones.

Hooked

For now, it seems that many of these products don’t have competitive edge. They seem fairly “easy” to copy. While it may be true, I think the nature of these products will have a huge first mover advantage. The problem these products are solving is that consumers don’t want to waste any time. This includes spending time to research on potential solutions (ex. competitors).  These products can easily create innate desire engines to hook first-time users. 

  • Internal Trigger – We hate spending time doing things we don’t want to. When it’s time to do them, we are triggered to take an action internally.
  • Action – We simply tap a button on our smartphone.
  • Variable Reward – We receive variable reward through solutions that get our dreaded tasks done quickly (and in high quality).
  • Commitment – These products compel us to invite friends,  state preferences, engage further, and learn to use new features – all of which improves the service for the next go-around.

Next thing you know, we are hooked. We map our internal trigger to complete a dreaded task with a particular product. My personal example would be Quibb. I dread filtering out garbage news online. It takes too long. Instead, I go straight to Quibb to read high-quality news. Overall, I’m starting to rely more and more on these products everyday. If I can shorten/outsource more tasks in my life and use the time more wisely, I will become much more happier and productive.

But the one major challenge I see in these products is changing the consumer perception to view them as non-luxury goods first.

What are your thoughts?

Free Dropbox Storage via Adwords Referral Campaign

12 Jan
January 12, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 11.04.11 AM
 
For every new member that joins and installs Dropbox via your ‘referral’ link, Dropbox awards 500MB of extra storage to your account – for up to 16GB. To take advantage of this, I created a Google Adwords campaign with a url: dropbox.com/referrals/ as shown below. But really, clicking the ad takes the person to my personal Dropbox ‘referral’ link https://db.tt/L6tfxrn.

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 10.44.48 AM

Campaign Settings:

  • Targets Canada, US, and UK
  • Languages: English
  • Max spend/day set at $5
  • Paid per clicks (CPC)
  • Bid Strategy set to focus on clicks with automatic bidding
  • I used bunch of keywords with results shown below

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 11.05.34 AM

Overall Campaign Result:

I spent $52.6 on 476 clicks (total 7458 impressions). Out of those 476 clicks, I got 26 sign-ups and Dropbox installs  (5.46% conversion) that granted my account extra 13GB storage. This results in paying about $2.02/500MB storage.

Optimized Campaign Result:

Halfway through the campaign, I removed all keywords except for ‘dropbox’. Since then, I spent $24.6 on 338 clicks (total 4226 impressions). Out of these 338 clicks, I got 14 sign-ups and Dropbox installs (4.14% conversion) that granted my account extra 7GB storage. This results in paying about $1.76/500MB storage.

Apparently, I could have gotten 16GB for under $10 according to LifeHacker.. Shit I want my money back now. Probably should have researched beforehand..

Work Life Balance?

13 Dec
December 13, 2013

Someone please explain to me what the hell ‘work-life balance’ means.

So, let’s rewind a bit here. I’m still a student in my early 20s, and no matter how busy I try to get with my life, I can never work nearly as hard as these guys: [IBankersEntrepreneurs]. But I guess I still work relatively hard compared to my peers cause’ many of them think I’m a workaholic. In fact, here’s my favorite quote from a friend that summarizes this:

“Dude, you’re so f*ing yolo with your career.”

Anyways, it gets me thinking. Am I living my life on the extreme end of the work-life spectrum? What does that even mean, and is that necessarily a bad thing? I’m not smart enough to come up with an answer, but it got me thinking quite a lot… Here’s what I think about this whole ‘work-life’ balance thing:

1) There is no balance on a micro-level.

Trying to achieve a ‘balanced’ schedule on a daily/weekly basis is impossible. Life is full of serendipitous opportunities that you should take advantage of. Sometimes, this means working your ass off for some prolonged time when great opportunity arises. Different periods of our lives call for different adjustments on how we devote our time.

“I fundamentally don’t believe in work-life balance. It’s a myth. The secret is figuring out the rhythm. It’s like being conductor of an orchestra and making sure that every section gets a chance to be in the foreground sometimes.”  - Jordan Banks

2) Manage energy, not time.

We focus so much on where we devote our time, we tend to forget why we spend the time accordingly. Have you ever considered that people obsessed with their work may perhaps also enjoy what they do? Or maybe they are just really motivated and excited to do their work? Consider the 3 types of activities you do and see where your work lies:

“Here is a test of how you are managing your energy in life is to understand that there are 3 types of activities in life. “Type A activities give you more energy, you feel energized doing them. Type B activities neither give nor take energy — imagine sitting on the couch watching TV. And Type C activities drain you of energy, you get tired even thinking about doing them. Every life is a mixture of these 3, but a simple way to understand where your energy is on the whole is by examining your relationship to Type B activities. If you can’t wait to grab a beer and zone out in front of the TV when you get home, then your life is probably filled primary with Type C activities. Since those activities drain you, just going to a state of not being drained feels like a relief. But if you get home and Type B activities feel like a waste of time, then you know that your life is largely filled with Type A activities.” - Tom Chi

When you understand this, you can get curious about how you are spending your time and learn which activities truly excite you. I think the whole ‘work-life’ balance becomes an issue when your work is full of Type B/C activities. I think the real ‘work-life’ balance is achieved by blurring the distinction between work and life(play) – and that’s by filling your work with Type A activities.

3) Trying to achieve ambitious goals come at cost… No shit.

People with ambitions grind day in and day out. There is no other way around it.

“I always say two things, dedication and sacrifice. You have to sacrifice yourself, and the dedication comes when you’re tired and you still have to go out there and perform.”Derrick Rose

ps. I have an exam to write in few hours. Ugh...

Winner of Social Networks in 2023 – Google Logic

30 Sep
September 30, 2013

Recently, there was a scholarship hosted on Collegefeed. It awarded one student based on his/her essay predicting the winner of social networks in 2023 (max 3 pages).

I really wanted to think about the answer from two contrasting point of views: Google and Facebook. Personally, I believe that one of these two companies will prevail as the winner of social networks in 2023. What’s very interesting is that both companies have contrasting strategies to win the social network war. From a high level, Google is all about the horizontal distribution of its products, and being wherever consumers are online. Their social network strategy is to tie all of these core products together through a social layer known as Plus. For Facebook, it’s really the vertical integration. It started out as a single social network application, and is now trying to integrate itself to third party products via its platform, especially on mobile. The goal is to leverage its massive consumer base, and make its product indispensable in consumers’ everyday lives.

Below is my take on the essay from Google’s point of view:

The explosion of social networks in the past decade has shown that internet has finally evolved to catch up with how humans have behaved for thousands of years; enabling bi-directional engagement with our social circles. As such, social networks have become an integral part of our digital lives. Today, social networks account for the most time people spend online, at roughly 22%.

Social networks have become a key tool that link an increasingly multi-platform Internet, creating social integration across every facet of the web. By 2023, all elements of the web will be social by default, and people will start to abandon its notion as social web becomes a commodity. Therefore, the winner of social networks in 2023 will move past building a single social network. Instead, the winner will come from a company that controls the largest ecosystem of next decade’s multi-platform Internet where every facet is integrated with social layer. With this in mind, Google and its implementation of Plus across its product lines will surmount Facebook and other social networks as the winner in 2023.

Today, consumers spend more time online across Google products than any other products. Take a look at Google’s popular products today, such as Search, YouTube, Chrome, and Android. Chances are, everyone online uses one or more of these products daily. In fact, no other company has embedded itself so deeply into consumers’ digital lives. In comparison to Facebook’s 1.15B monthly active user base, Google has over 1.5B monthly active user base. Consider the following statistics from Google’s four core products alone:

  • YouTube has 1B monthly active users with 6B hours of videos watched every month
  • Android has over 900M activation, with growth of over 100% year over year
  • Chrome is only 5 years old, but leads the browser war with 53% market share and 750M monthly active users
  • Google Search is used by 85% of the global internet population, and is the leading search engine with 70% market share

More importantly, Google holds two leading platforms today: Chrome and Android. Google has an ambitious goal of wanting everyone to use its products at all times, and its platforms Chrome and Android help ensure that actually happens. Consider the Chrome browser. It is the centerpiece of the Internet experience today. It runs everywhere – Chrome on Windows, iOS, OS X, and even on television. Google turns on as many devices and screens as possible and locks them into the company’s ecosystem. In fact, Chrome is such an integral part of Google’s ecosystem, it is becoming its own operating system. Next, consider Android. It is already the leading mobile operating system, and is outpacing iOS in growth. Google practically gives Android away for free, but as smart phones become a commodity product, Google will benefit from its web services behind Android devices that will be more profitable than the devices themselves. As result, Google controls the largest ecosystem of multi-platform Internet today. As Google cross-leverages all of its products and platforms with Plus, it is positioned to create the largest unified social ecosystem with immense barrier to entry from competitors. This is the point of Google Plus – it’s not another stand-alone social network.

Social networks will prevail wherever people spend time online. In 2023, new types of computing devices may prevail, such as wearable technologies. Therefore, the winner of social networks will be the one that is ready to adapt, and lead in this paradigm shift. Out of the leading social networks today, Google is the only company that is investing heavily into controlling and leading this shift. Consider projects such as Google Glass and Driver-less Car. Furthermore, Google’s open source Android OS is becoming the default OS for the ‘Internet of Things’, powering third party gadgets such as espresso makers, refrigerators, and video game consoles that are all being connected to the web. Not only is Google controlling the biggest multi-platform Internet today, it is investing heavily to create and owning the ecosystem of the future.

Next, all Internet companies face a common consumer behavior – people get bored over time. Shipping new and innovative products constantly is the only way to incentivize consumers to stay loyal. As social networks become a commodity service on the web, stand-alone social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will lose its competitive edge. In contrast to stand-alone social networks, Google has innovated its product lines constantly across every leading verticals: multi-media (YouTube, Google Play, Chromecast, Google TV), search (Google Search), local (Map), e-commerce (Shopping, Wallet & Offers), content and reading (News, Books, Blogger), email (Gmail), storage and collaboration (Drive, Docs, Hangout), ads (DoubleClick, AdExchange), analytics (Google Analytics), operating system (Chromium OS, Android), and mobile (Nexus). Plus can be integrated across each product to stay competitive and have a superior user experience over stand-alone social networks. This sets Google apart from its competitors and is best positioned to adapt to the changing consumer paradigms in the next decade to win the social network war.

By 2023, Google will prevail as the winner of social networks with Plus being fully integrated into its product lines. Deep integration with Android and Chrome platforms in the foreseeable future will put Plus the forefront of the multi-platform Internet revolution. Already, Plus is making an impact on the social network universe, becoming the second largest social network with over 350M monthly active users, surpassing Twitter. Turning all Google accounts to Plus is proving to be an effective user acquisition channel as Plus continues to grow rapidly – increasing user base up 33% from June 2012 to March 2013. The data is clear; Google Plus is a growing success and is here to stay. As Google rolls out their products in a unified user experience through Plus, it will continue to pick up speed and prevail as the lead social network in 2023.

 

PM Interview – Design Question Framework

10 Aug
August 10, 2013

A key part of PM interviews is the product design question: “How would you design/build X for Y customers’. What the interviewer is really asking for is a proof that you are good at thinking of, prioritizing, and designing features.

I find it a lot easier to answer these questions if you have a framework in mind. Without a strong one in the past, I struggled with them in past interviews (most recently with Google for their APM position). Needless to say, below is a high-level framework that allows me to answer them in a much more logical way:

  1. Who are the customer(s)?
  2. What are their use cases?
  3. What are existing / alternative solutions?
  4. What features would improve upon the existing solutions?
  5. How will you test and validate your product?

I’d say the most important step are #1 / 2. Start with the customer, instead of spitting out random ideas. Based on the customer segment, you can start talking about their key use cases, and understand why customers would use your product. What do they mostly care about? Speed? Aesthetics? Cost? It lets you set the important needs / wants right off the bat.

Next, consider existing / alternative solutions. How are they meeting the needs of your customers? Do they meet all the requirements you considered above? Answering these questions allow you to come up with all the gaps in current solutions, and you are left with a list of unfulfilled customer requirements that you can solve for. But, sometimes you have to tweak #3 though. Not all new products are about “solving” customer needs. Sometimes, the type of the product you are told to design is more novel (new innovations – creating a new market, and adding new value to customers instead of ‘solving’ common problems). Sometimes, I find it helpful to answer both (“What are the problems I can solve for”? and “What new innovations can I add to delight users that they didn’t know about”?)

Next, prioritize all the features (solutions) based on customer requirements. From answering #1,2,3, it’s easy to identify features that you should prioritize and design for over others.

Finally, talk about how you would test all your hypothesis and assumptions, and prove that your product will gain traction (product-market fit). What would you test, and how would you iterate from it? Even if your final product decision is not ideal, answering this question shows that you understand the limitations of your design, and you know how to improve upon it (given more time).

Advice to Undergrads on Finding Your Dream Co-op/Career

14 Jul
July 14, 2013

Original piece I wrote for a student-blog called Teckwarp: http://teckwarp.com/featured-students/featured-student-sisun-lee-about-switching-programs-and-finding-my-passion/

I came to the University of Waterloo in 2008 as a Nanotechnology Engineering undergrad. After two years of studies, I decided to switch into Systems Design Engineering, repeating second year.

At this point, I had no relevant co-op experience, and I was trying to get my foot into a completely new industry (all over again). And what I want to share with you today are some of my personal beliefs and philosophies that helped me secure the co-ops I wanted the most since I switched programs.

  • Focus on impact by focusing on your strengths.

I learned that employers care mostly about the impact you made in your previous jobs / personal projects. This could literally mean anything from the app/website you built that attracted 1000+ users, a conference you hosted, an organization you led to achieve x/y/z, etc. This is how you stand out, and how employers perceive you as a leader amongst the peers. For me, I started working on multiple web app projects with close friends (Comp Sci / Software Eng) as a team manager. I knew this is where I could make the most impact, as opposed to being the main coder. I also started a non-profit organization. These two experiences have opened the doors for my first two internship positions at AMD (software developer) and Facebook (data analyst).

Unless you are looking for a very specific / technical career path, a lot of the jobs become available from various past experiences (there’s no “specific” prerequisite). This means you can start focusing on your strengths (and what you like doing), and excel in them. On the contrary, you see so many students improving on specific skill sets despite them being #1: their weakness, and #2: something they don’t enjoy doing. This results in a poor outcome of the project (aka no impact), and the students that enjoy working on them / good at them will outshine you by thousand miles.

  • Stop worrying about not knowing what to do for your career.

I used to be envious of students that knew exactly what they wanted to do and become from Day 1. The great thing about knowing exactly what you want to do and become is that you can channel your resources (time, energy, focus) into doing few things that will directly help you in your career path. I thought I was one of them back when I entered Nano… But in reality shit happens. And the truth is, just like me, most students don’t know what they want to do early on.

Instead of worrying about it and talking to your close friends, mom/dad, mentors, etc about finding your “new” long-term career path, take this opportunity to try a lot of different things fast. You should be curious about few different fields, so get out of your comfort zone and try them out! Most importantly, surround yourself with the people you want to be like. Their network, general knowledge, and their way of thinking will help shape your career whole lot more than anybody else out there. Before you know it, you will start eliminating things you don’t like doing and narrow down on the things that really excite you – with opportunities to step your foot in.

  • Hustle.

This is something I’m trying to improve everyday. It’s quite simple. If you want a job, go hustle for it. Get in touch with the people inside the company, find an internal connection, learn as much as possible about the company and the role, think carefully about why/how you can bring value to the company, and sell that value hard. If you fail, find out where the gap was, and as you close the gap, make this progress known to the people responsible for hiring you. Go back when you think you’re ready and show your improvement/passion for the job.

I honestly think hustling has the highest ROI in terms of job hunting (both co-op / full-time). This is the easiest way to separate yourself from other students; mainly because no one else is doing it. It’s simple right? If you want “that” job, shouldn’t you go out of your way to land it?

Impact is the New Sexy

19 May
May 19, 2013

A recent article I read on HBS argued that in order to attract new grads today, firms needed to start hiring like a start-up.

I think there is a fascinating shift in today’s youth market. Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg summarizes it best: “that millennials are increasingly thinking of finance, consulting, and corporate jobs as a tragedy of wasted minds.” Instead, we want a career that “actually matters”. A career where we understand how we can/will make a difference in the world.

And this really boils down to one thing: Impact.

In the world of finance, consulting, and corporate jobs, there is a painful process of “climbing up the ladder”. You need to earn your rights to ownership and key responsibilities. In comparison, joining a startup means you are given big responsibilities from Day 1. The chance to make a vast amount of impact is immediate. The problem you are solving is insanely hard and almost always against the status quo, but you believe that solving this problem will change the world.

But it’s not just startups that are highly sought after. Large corporations that do a great job of hiring best students emphasize on things that startups do. There is a clear sense of ownership, a mission that matters, focus on impact, and a team that share like-minded philosophy. And the norm for hiring the best talent is changing. Innovative companies around the world are embracing these implications.

Millennials are among the first to grow up in the high-speed internet age (probably why we think we’re know-it-alls); we like transparency, we like openness, we value authenticity. At the end of the day, we’re looking for pride and purpose, in an authentic and meaningful way. Money isn’t the end goal anymore. Instead, we want a career that matters. A career where we can work towards a mission, and cut away all the unnecessary bullshit that comes with corporate politics. And most importantly, we want to do this from Day 1. A company that can offer these values will attract us.

The implication is twofold: that the world will benefit from our work, and that there’s personal glory in it for us. This is the work that Millennials want.

Impact is the New Sexy.

What I’m Reading

06 May
May 6, 2013

A midst the noise and information overload on the internet, there are some amazing (and FREE) contents online. Some are sites with static information, and others are continuous blogs of information gold mine.

Today, in an effort to consolidate all these sites I have bookmarked / saved /read over the last year and half, I thought it would be nice to share them to the readers of my own blog. These sites are heavily geared towards my career development / personal interests.

Before anything, you should sign up to these three sites below (they curate the gold mine information for you so you don’t have to):

The two sites that I use to save / read information online are:
Product Management

General Insights & Interesting Thoughts

Tech Industry (general – but geared towards startups)

Tech Industry (specific topics)

Fitness & Nutrition

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: