Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dream team

If you could hand-pick the next ten people you'd work with, who would they be?
Do you have a list of names?
Or a list of attributes?
Or a list of companies that seem to be doing certain things exceptionally well?

Would you pick people you want to work with?
Or drink beer with?
Or both?

Would you pick people who are younger than you? Or older?
People who think like you do? Or people you disagree with - but in a good way?
People who fired you once? People you had to let go?

I have a dream team.
I have 10 people I'd like to work with... or work with again.

Some of them are wildly creative.
Others are dependable, down-to-earth, no-bullshit types.
Some of them, I've done some of the best work of my life.
Others, I stood by and wondered what if... what if we'd been allowed to do the really cool thing we had to leave on the shelf?
Some of them have dramatically transformed their industries.
Others quietly and thoughtfully reinvented themselves.
I've been fortunate to work with some people I consider superstars.
And some people who were quiet, unassuming heroes.

I'm gardening that dream team.
Looking for ways to meet them, reconnect with them, stay in touch with them.
Constantly holding up new candidates and appraising them as the culture I'm serving and the work I'm doing changes.

Experience (quality, not quantity).

How do you measure your dream team?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Freshman Commencement

A truck passed me on my Saturday-morning bike ride - clearly a college student (a freshman, I imagined, given the trailer they were hauling) off to new adventures. And I started thinking about my first pass at college - the one that didn't stick. And my second one, that did.

I could wax philosophical for you all on the dramatic difference in both my physical and mental states as I started and restarted my college path, but I'm going to keep it to a few simple points:

Go to class. Every time. This is what all that money was for.
If you scheduled an early class, WAKE UP. You are a responsible person now.

Participate. That's part of your job in school. Don't be selfish. When they accepted you, they thought you were going to be a cool student who would make the college better. Live up to that.

If you decide a class is waste of your time, see if you can drop it. Bad classes and boring professors are a waste of money. You can usually get into another class in the first few weeks without being too far behind. Take charge of your education the way you take charge of the things that matter. If you need the class to graduate, see if you can switch to a different class.

Take classes outside your major - they are going to give you much-needed perspective.
If it's hard to get classes outside your major, audit them. Or better yet, write the professor an essay on why you'd like to take the class. You might not get in, but it's good practice to write papers to get things you want. You'll have to do it for funding someday. Practice now.

You will never again have such a concentrated environment of ideas and expertise in one place.
Unless you go to grad school.


Get enough sleep. So you can wake up for, and pay attention in CLASS (above).
Eat vegetables.
Drink water.
People can not live on ramen alone.
If you feel sick, go see the nurse. Don't try to drink your way through it.


Make friends. Go out. Blow off studying sometimes. (Studying, not class.)
Do stuff other than partying.


In my opinion and experience, rushing a fraternity is a mistake as a freshman.
It's a huge distraction from your education. You are just starting to exercise your ability to make your own decisions. Abdicating those decision-making skills is counter-productive.
Pledging is relentless and while it may "build character", it may also get you sick, arrested or killed. I can point to several examples of each.

If you do choose to give Greek life a shot, choose your fraternity wisely. Do some research. Reflect on the character of the men you're going to pay to call your friends for four years.
If you get a bid, and then find out you hate it, quit. Plenty of people quit. No shame there.
I made some good friends pledging a fraternity, but I also made mistakes that could have cost me everything. Tread carefully.

Drink beer in college if you want to. As far as I'm concerned, you can start drinking the day you get there. I'm not a police officer or a lawyer but I'm pretty sure they don't care either, as long as it's within reason:

Don't drink beer for breakfast. Even on a Saturday. It's just a bad idea.
Don't drink beer instead of going to class. See classes.
Don't drink beer from a tube, upside down, on a railing. Don't do that.
Just because other people do it doesn't mean it's right.

Girls: don't drink anything you didn't pour yourself or watch somebody pour for you. And watch your friends' backs.

College is about figuring stuff out.
College is about changing your mind.
College is about building a rounded knowledge base that will help you be a more informed citizen, not just the world's leading Neurosurgeon.
Start picturing your long view so you can start making decisions about which things will get you there and which ones are distracting you from getting there.

Good luck. Be safe out there.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Heads up

I just spent a very intense six days presenting to clients and soaking up the magic of the 2014 SXSW Interactive festival and I've come away with a single takeaway: Please stop looking at your phone.

Of course I'm an app developer, a UX enthusiast, an advocate of the mobile lifestyle. But Jesus. You are MISSING EVERYTHING with your head in your phone.

I made a conscious decision this year to use my phone as infrequently as possible while walking around the convention center, the other venues, the streets in between. I looked for faces. I saw people I knew, people I'd heard speak, people I worked with, people I worked for. That place was packed, but I found the faces of no less than 25 people who matter to me, just by keeping my eyes on the crowd.

I also saw a ridiculous number of people crouched over their phones: walking, not walking, tethered to wall outlets (no doubt because they'd been staring at their screen all morning), stopped dangerously in the middle of intersections, their necks craned over a schedule or a map or a text message. Missing all the people around them. I saw people at networking events furiously scrolling their LinkedIn profiles as the owners of some of the brightest, most impressive resumes they've never met sat across from them -- answering their own email.

As app developers, we may very well be failing humans. If you find your smart phone more interesting than the crazy ass shit you can find on any street corner at any time of day in Austin, you are doing it wrong. Blatantly, unequivocally, sadly, dangerously, completely wrong.

At best, you'll miss seeing Seth Rogan or Oliver Platt strolling the streets. At worst you'll walk into the path of a speeding Game of Thrones pedicab. This is not about safe texting. This is about joining the human race. A race of art and ideas and beautiful, interesting people who are also unfortunately scrolling their latest Tumblr post for virtual validation. Stop. It.

I reconnected with old clients. I cheerfully shared stories about Bottle Rocket. I stepped up to Jeff Goodby and Sally Kohn and Jehmu Greene and introduced myself. None of them were on their phones. I had my eyes up and my heart open and I found all kinds of people to talk to. A creative director from Target. A Worldwide Partner from Y&R. I was invited to interview, to sample, to play. I wouldn't have seen/met any of these people if I was walking around studying how many people liked my Instagram posts.

As experience designers and shapers we need to empower users to quickly use their devices to get their heads back into life. Whether we're at the supermarket, the movies, across the dinner table from our spouse and kids, or walking around the biggest circus of innovation you can find on the third coast. Immersive mobile experiences are robbing us of our time to be human. I need to say it out loud because I bear some responsibility here. But you guys need to help me out.

You're missing your chance to share an idea in person. Make a friend. Smile. Flirt. Recognize someone you know or wish you knew. You're missing all of it.

Look up and smile.