Thinking of a career shift? Here’s how to increase your odds of success…

pexels-photo-66100-arrowEvery so often people ask me for career guidance. I guess I’ve done pretty well charting my own career path, so far at least, and folks want to know the ins and outs.

Well, here’s a shortish post that captures how I usually answer the question.

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Posted in Careers, Everything, Soccer

Book Report: Escape Velocity

escape-velocity-coverWhat if there is some hidden force that is working against your best efforts? What if this force is operating inside your own company, with the full support of your executive team, your board of directors, your investors, and indeed yourself? What if this force is able to mysteriously redirect resource allocation so that it never quite gets deployed against new agendas? That force, I submit, is the pull of the past, most concretely embodied in your prior year’s operating plan.” (Escape Velocity)

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Posted in Books, Everything, Leadership, Management

Book Report: A Higher Loyalty

a-higher-loyalty“In that moment, something hit me: It’s just us. I always thought that in this place there would be somebody better, but it’s just this group of people – including me – trying to figure stuff out. I didn’t mean that as an insult to any of the participants, who were talented people. But we were just people, ordinary people in extraordinary roles in challenging times. I’m not sure what I had expected, but I met the top of the pyramid and it was just us, which was both comforting and a bit frightening.” (A Higher Loyalty)

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Posted in Books, Leadership

Book Report: Microstyle

microstyle-coverSo, how do you pack a lot of meaning into a little message? You don’t. That’s the first lesson of microstyle. A message isn’t a treasure chest full of meaning. It’s more like a key that opens doors. A message starts a mental journey, and meaning is the destination…Keeping this in mind makes you think about how your message fits into a larger picture and points to ideas without expressing them directly. The interaction of message, mind, and context makes meaning happen.” (Microstyle)

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Posted in Advertising, Books, Everything, Marketing

Looking Back on Planning Ahead: 2012-Lee Edition

I was clearing out some boxes this weekend, basically tossing papers and things from my previous career, and I came across a neat little blast from the past.

In 2012, a few months after becoming the manager of the Product Marketing team and shortly after we’d added another team member, I asked each person on the team to fill out a “Self-Development Questionnaire”.

I always saw my role as making sure the team achieved or contributed to the organization’s goals, and I knew that we’d be in a better position to do so if I could assign/distribute tasks in such a manner that they appealed to each member’s interests and desired areas of growth. So this questionnaire was a straightforward way for me to learn what interested and appealed to the members of my team.

But enough about them! The fun part is that I also filled out the questionnaire, and (in addition to the ones from my team members) I found my own completed sheet!

It’s neat to look back almost six years later to see what I entered and to assess how well I used the insights.


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Posted in Careers, Everything, Leadership, Management

Contributing to Company Values

A friend/former colleague of mine is starting a company, and from the outset he wants to codify values by which the organization will be run.

After drafting a proposed set of values and principles, he reached out to a few folks to provide input. I feel quite strongly about such things (codifying leadership principles and structure? sign me up!), so I appreciated the opportunity to weigh in and to contribute something to what could well become one of the region’s hottest tech companies in the coming years.

In this post, I’ll share some of my comments and the reasoning behind them.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a recurring theme of accountability, empowerment, and discipline.


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Posted in Everything, Leadership, Management

Book Report: The Inner Lives of Markets

inner-lives-of-markets“Markets are a means of resource allocation, and often a really effective one at that. But they’re not good for everything – or at least not without a lot of engineering and tweaking. That’s something both free-market advocates, as well as those who find markets wholly repugnant, need to hear. We need to develop the wisdom to know when to deploy the market in some situations and not in others. This requires developing a better understanding of what markets can and can’t accomplish and entertaining their strengths and shortcomings with an open mind.” (The Inner Lives of Markets)

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Posted in Books, Everything, Marketing, Math and Science

What’s in a name? A curiously long post about naming things.

2000px-Hello_my_name_is_sticker.svgI cannot stress this point enough: everything needs a name! And everything will get a name, whether consciously (i.e., thought went into it) or not (i.e., whatever term happened to pop into someone’s head when he entered it into a task list)

In my career at Sandvine, and setting aside particular titles, in thirteen years I had three roles:

  • Product Manager (individual contributor)
  • Product Marketing Manager (individual contributor)
  • Leader of the Product Marketing team

In all three roles, I dealt to some degree with naming ‘stuff’: when I was a Product Manager, we didn’t have a Product Marketing team, so naming decisions were left to us; later, the Product Marketing team took over naming, and I took over the Product Marketing team.

Naming ‘stuff’ is something with which many companies and individuals struggle, because it’s rarely simple or straightforward. And things were no different at Sandvine. Due largely to a combination of past choices over a fairly long history, inconsistency, corporate philosophies, breadth of ‘stuff’, lack of clear ownership, and other factors, naming was always a loaded, hot-button topic.

After a particularly contentious discussion (which ultimately ended positively), in December of 2012 I banged out a long collection of thoughts on the subject and distributed it to some internal stakeholders.

This post is that long collection. It’s curiously long, in fact, but if you work with names, then it’s probably worth a read…even if you just want to argue with me. If you’re just starting out with naming, either as an individual contributor or as a company, then it’ll show you how much complexity can emerge.

So, what’s in a name? More than you probably think…

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Posted in Everything, Leadership, Marketing

A Naming Success Story for the Ages

When you come up with the right name, it’s like that name was there all along, and all you had to do was look in its direction, then it’d march right up, shake your hand, introduce itself, and smack you in the face for taking so long to find it.

A few days ago, I wrote about a concept I’d pitched back in 2010 while I was a Product Marketing Manager at Sandvine: to use market-friendly product, technology, and feature names as part of an overall strategy aimed at more effectively communicating our solution differentiation. As you know by now (if you read that post), the proposal got squashed.

A couple of years later, the marketing department reported into a different executive – our CTO, Don Bowman. One day, on his wildly entertaining and (occasionally) educational internal blog, Don explained a problem he’d noticed.


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Posted in Careers, Marketing

Book Report: Scale

scale-cover“Even though the conceptual and mathematical structure of the growth equation is the same for organisms, social insect communities, and cities, the consequences are quite different: sublinear scaling and economies of scale that dominate biology lead to stable bounded growth and the slowing down of the pace of life, whereas superlinear scaling and increasing returns to scale that dominate socioeconomic activity lead to unbounded growth and to an accelerating pace of life.” (Scale)

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Posted in Books, Everything, Math and Science

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