Sunday Book Review : Ahead of the Curve by Philip Delves Broughton

Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business SchoolAhead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School by Philip Delves Broughton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Former journalist Philip Broughton decided to take a turn in his career and learn business. What better place to do so than at Harvard Business School. He thought for sure doing so would put him Ahead of the Curve, but after two years he felt the truth needed to be told. This is his account of what it was like, what his peers were like and what opportunities existed for him on exit.

Philip is able to be light hearted and to the point. This gives a little peek into how the other half lives and what drives them. If you plan on going to HBS or are disappointed you didn’t get the chance but always dream about it, this book may be for you. It might give you a glance into what you missed or as the case might be, didn’t miss.

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Sunday Book Review : The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eric Ries breaks down what startup success can look like and furthermore how it can be learned and replicated. Bringing forth the following principles.

1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere.
2. Entrepreneurship is management.
3. Validated learning.
4. Innovation accounting.
5. Build. Measure. Learn.

Items 1 and 5 are critical to how we think about innovation. This was a quick read that has influenced a lot of thinkers in the software startup scene. Well worth the read.

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Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take ActionStart with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sinek’s Start with Why or his Golden Circle is probably already familiar to you in some fashion if you are in the technology or marketing industry. Start With Why is based on Simon’s powerful Golden Circle model and the question “Why?”. Ultimately getting to the bottom of how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. What makes Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and others so capable for leading their organizations to greatness? This is a simple look at how leaders should lead based in the tenets of biology.

“We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with ‘why’ that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.” — Simon Sinek

Golden Circle

Golden Circle

Sinek has a great TED Talk on the How Great Leaders Inspire Action. Check it out to get a feel for whether this book would be meaningful for you.

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Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul by Karen Abbott

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's SoulSin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul by Karen Abbott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Karen Abbott walks us right into the parlors of the Everleigh Club. Giving us a sense of what it was like to be in the Levee district at the dawn of the last century. Adorning us with stories of Minna and Ada’s vicortian-era “butterflies” and the men they kept company with. The book reads like fiction telling the tale of the sisters Everleigh and their rise to fame (or infamy) in the Levee district. Abbott makes you feel like your were there as she vividly describes the brothel and the district, not to mention the characters that run amuck in it. It gives a detailed accounting of the Progressive Era reformers and their fight against “white slavery”, including the formation of the Bureau (later the FBI). I am looking forward to reading “American Rose” and “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy” in the near future. If you are interested in history, but like it delivered a little less dry, Abbott will surely be a favorite.

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Are Arizona Universities Developing the Talent to Fuel the New Economy?

We like to talk a big game about growing the economy with technology startups in Arizona.  Many brag about our universities being a strong pipeline for talent to fuel that economy.  I personally haven’t seen that to be true based on my involvement in the broader startup community.  It is time we asked, are Arizona universities developing the talent to fuel the new economy? Arizona State University certainly has a monopoly with the sheer volume of students across a number of disciplines.  In 2014 they had over 72,000 students enrolled.

Arizona University Rankings

However, volume is not enough.  They also claim to have quality, ASU is ranked 88th in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities and 48th among all universities in the United States.  Much like standardized testing those metrics for quality don’t always pan out in the real world.  The only real metric is in the result.  How strong are the candidates for our schools in placing students (in this case in startups).

LinkedIn has a new University Ranker. They looked to answer, “Which schools are best at launching graduates into desirable jobs?”

They analyzed millions of alumni profiles to find out how schools around the world stack up across a variety of careers. Here’s how they found the top schools for software developers at startups:

  • First, they identified the top startups where software developers are choosing to work.
  • Next, they found people on LinkedIn who work as software developers and saw where they went to school.
  • Finally, for each school, they found the percentage of these alumni who’ve landed software development jobs at these startups, then compared the percentages to come up with the list.

Sadly no Arizona school cracked into the top 15.  Our neighbors University of California San Diego (UCSD) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) both did.  The University of Arizona did make it into the top 25 for software developers.  Again Arizona State was no where to be found, which is staggering based on the size of the student body.

How do we start to elevate the engineering mojo at our Arizona institutions of higher learning?


Developers Guide to Sending Email (SendGrid vs Mailgun)

As a developer at some point you will likely need to send email from an application.  The days of handling that on your own are long gone.  There are a myriad of services out there that will save you time and make life easy.  Often times it comes down to SendGrid vs Mailgun.  I could wax poetic about the approaches and features of both, but honestly I think a picture would be easier.  So here it is the Developers Guid to Sending Email (or Evolution of Email).


Evolution of Email

Evolution of Email

Any questions?

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

The FountainheadThe Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Fountainhead is more of a tome than a book, daunting to most I assume. I have not been a particular fan of Ayn Rand’s view of the world. My daughter ended up having to read this for AP English and I decided to read along. I figured a diatribe of Individualism and the smothering of Collectivism would have me disinterested in the book by the end of the first chapter.

I do have an affinity for architecture, so I figured I could slog through it one way or another. After all I had avoided reading the damn thing for 40 years already. By the end of the first chapter I was sucked in. I know many, even those that like the book, are not a fan of Ayn’s writing style, but I actually enjoyed it. There is a rawness and depth most writers lack.

I get sucked into great characters and this book is packed with them. Howard Roark the perfect protagonist. Wow. That is all I have to say about Howard. Wow. Peter Keating the poor sap caught up in it all. Dominique Francon a heroine that you won’t encounter often. Steadfast and strong except for her one weakness in the world. I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, but I think this might have been the mid twentieth centuries version in many ways. Rape, sex, murder and destruction in ways unexpected. If this trio wasn’t enough throw in Gail Wynand and Roark’s antagonist, Ellsworth Toohey and you have the stuff movies are made of.

I won’t spoil it for you, but if you are a fan of philosophy this is a must read.

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In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the RulesIn-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perman does a great job telling the In N Out story. The privately held company has always kept their business close to the chest. Starting out in Baldwin Park in the San Gabriel Valley next to my wife’s home town of Arcadia our love story (link) kind of follows along the lines of In N Out. Expanding our family to the Southwest over time.

The book is a great for anyone interested in business. The Snyders were solid entrepreneurs with their “Quality, Cleanliness and Service” mantra. They refused to grow fast, but instead grow smart. The story involves multiple generations changing hands and what it takes to have business continuity in the face of tragedy.

Perman tells the story of the family as much as the business, revealing extremely personal details never fully explored in the public before. You can’t help but fall in love the matriarch and feel the heart break as the family goes through the tragedies of life. If you love a good Double Double and like to learn from business success, read the book. If you hate meat or old ladies stay away!

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Sunday Book Review : The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds

The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live LongerThe First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gretchen did a fabulous job challenging every major assumption, wives tale and commonly held belief that we have around exercising. Do you stretch before and after exercise before strenuous exercise? Do you carb load the day before an endurance event? Do you make sure to hydrate yourself frequently during that tennis match, marathon or soccer game? If so, you may be amazed at what modern science is telling you about many of these things.

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Sunday Book Review: Nudge by Richard Thaler

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and HappinessNudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thaler and Sunstein give an ample dose of psychology and behavioral economics to define the process of “choice architects”. Coining a new view (libertarian paternalism) on when and we shouldn’t nudge peoples behavior through influence.

When it comes to human behavior they classify human nature into two groups: homo economicus (the rational ideal) and everyone else (humans). We all tend to think of ourselves as the rational ideal, that which is laid out by economists. However, we rarely fall close to that tree.

Like Dan Arielly and other behavioral economists have show us, we tend to be Predictably Irrational. Whether it be logical fallacy or influence from others, we just aren’t the ideal.

Ultimately they lay out two systems of thinking. The “Reflective” and the “Automatic” systems. The Automatic system is that which is instinctive. Why do you duck when someone throws something at you? The Reflective system is deliberate and self-conscious. How did you decide what to wear this morning?

Because of these differences and conflicts between these systems, people are often subject to making mistakes that are the result of widely occurring biases, heuristics, and fallacies. Including anchoring, availability heuristic, representativeness heuristic, status quo bias and herd mentality.

The pair goes on to quite about how libertarian paternalism and choice architecture could be used to influence policy for better outcomes. At this point if you are a “political” person you will likely be highly turned off because they are not shy about the logic that should exist in policy. Many politicos are far more emotional than logical in ideology. You have been warned.

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