Archive for August, 2010

New job

I recently changed jobs and moved to a different industry in a much larger company. Recession and past experience have made me very skeptical about promises made by hiring managers to bring new people in, and I was a bit concerned about whether promises would be kept. In general, I am skeptical by nature and don’t take things at face value.

I deliberated long and hard about a few things related to the position and potential uncertainty, and kept second-guessing everything. AM told me one thing – in the past you have been 100% certain about some opportunities and yet they have not turned out per your expectations, take a leap of faith here and maybe this will be the right decision. I am so glad I took his advice.

It has been just one week into my job, and I feel free — yes, free — to do whatever I want, as I want. Larger companies require a bit of specialization, and you have more people doing the work that you alone did in a smaller company. More brands to manage, more product launches, more meetings to attend. I can pick and choose which meetings to attend, what to learn, and which people to interact with in other teams. I have not been so free in the last two years.

As in my previous job, some retail companies have a crazy environment – micro-management occurs at some levels because every last penny has to be well-spent. I was kept away from meetings so that I did not waste time in meetings and spent more time working. I felt as if all I did was sit in an office and work in a silo. I wanted to interact with more people and give strategic input. The last minute changes and decisions made the work environment very crazy. Smaller budgets made it challenging to do more. However, I learned a lot, much more than I would have ever learned in a larger company, and the experience I gained is priceless. I got to do so many things and learned to operate at a very efficient level and think about the business from all perspectives – technology, customer service, website, merchandising, and marketing.

I don’t see the craziness in my current role. There are challenges, no doubt,  but so far I feel a renewed enthusiasm for going to work everyday and making a strong contribution. I cannot believe how free I am and how free I feel just by being there. No micro-management, no craziness. We even have a cafeteria, and work is walking distance from my apartment. It takes me only 5 minutes to cross the three streets and be at work. I leave at 8:55 and am there by 9. I know that once I get more into the job there will be challenges, but so far I really like everything I see. Another benefit of working in a large global company is that I can move to different teams and learn different things.

Its funny because I joined on the same day with someone who worked for the biggest competitor of my previous company. She had the exact same work environment as I did, and we both sat chatting on Friday expressing how free we felt just by being here. She feels the same level of enthusiasm and we both started contributing on day 2. We knew and had worked with the same vendors – in fact, when vendors heard that I had moved, they mentioned her name and asked if I knew her. Its such a small world!

I am happy, truly truly happy that AM pushed me to make the right decision for me. I feel relaxed, enthusiastic, and FREE!

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I changed jobs recently and took a week off for a short 4 days trip to Canada. It was an amazing trip, and I felt so relaxed and well-rested in these 4 days — more than I have ever been these last 2 years! I got a list of top 10 places in Canada, and decided to go to Montreal and Quebec City since they were within driving distance. We left Friday and drove 7.5 hours to Montreal. It was surprising that even on a Friday there was very little traffic and the drive was a lot of fun. I bought something from Apple where if I connect it to my iPhone, I could listen to the music on the car’s stereo on channels that had no signal. It took a while to get proper connection, and it was a lot of fun listening to our favorite songs on the way.

We stayed in Old City which had cobbled streets, street entertainers, and a park. I loved walking around everyday. We visited the Archeological museum – there was a very interesting exhibit on the Rapa Nui. We also visited the Basilica. When AM and I had gone to Spain, I was so sick of seeing Basilicas but AM made me visit every single Basilica in and around the towns we visited. So he made me visit this one too!

We stayed at Intercontinental Montreal. It was a decent hotel and at the heart of Old City, walking distance from everything. There were very charming art galleries around that area, and we found my favorite restaurant, Eggspectation (containing creatively named and cooked eggs items on the menu). We tried other restaurants but the food was very bad – I end up falling sick from the food.

After two days we left for Quebec City, 3 hours away. I loved the place! It was extremely charming and more like Europe than Canada. Very very green and rainy. It rained on and off all day. AM and I slept a lot and felt very relaxed. There was not much to do other than walk around. It had sloping roads similar to San Francisco. The old city was completely fortified all around. We did a city bus tour and learned about its history. I wanted to catch a French show in the park but it rained all day. We stayed at the Loews De Concorde which was close to the old city. I found my favorite place for brunch, Cosmos. A very cool restaurant with a delicious menu. I loved the fruits they served – sweet and delicious.

We spent a day driving outside the city and covered an entire island with charming houses. We also visited a nearby basilica and waterfall. It was just so nice to sit quietly, relaxed, enjoying the cool breeze. The weather was cool and pleasant. I did not want to come back to the craziness of NY. At that moment, I hated NY. People outside live so quietly and relaxed, and in NY everyone keeps running around and sometimes people are so bitchy and stressed. The drive back took 10 hours and seemed so long. I could have easily spent another 2 days in Quebec City doing nothing.

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If your company has a dearth of resources and wants to set up a custom page or application on Facebook, it becomes necessary to look for a technology partner. There is a big difference between custom pages and the wall – everything on the wall shows up automatically in feeds, while content on custom pages needs to have a “Share” button for users to post on their profile. One limitation of the Share button is that a pop-up comes up for the user to post on their profile – if users have disabled pop-ups, it is unlikely that they will be able to share at all. This makes the wall a very powerful tool, but most of the focus of partners is on the custom page because this is what brands want to use as their “face”.

In Dec 2009, Facebook published a list of its preferred developer consultant program, and the site promotes this list as a starting point for companies looking to establish a Facebook presence in partnership with a developer. The list is very long, and differentiation between partners low. Several criteria come to mind when picking the right partner.

Facebook is booming, but this boom will last only so long. Many developer consultants have been launched by very young entrepreneurs, and the longevity of these partners is questionable. While researching partners for my company, “going concern” was top of mind for me. I wanted to make sure that we did not invest in a company that may not be around for long. Since barriers to entry are low, so many developers exist and it is very difficult to differentiate among their services, because they all say “we can do whatever you want us to.” Hence long-term prospect is key. The best way to assess this is — for how long has the company been around, who are its clients, who are the founders, and how much investment has the company obtained. Pricing (set-up and monthly maintenance), time to launch, internal and external efforts required, challenges, “click” with the company, proprietary interface, ease of use of the interface, details surrounding changes to custom pages and applications, and tracking are some key factors. One factor I explored was location, since it was preferable that the partner be local.

A freelance can set up a custom Facebook page or application for as little as $500 to $1,000. Larger partners may cost from $20K to $75K to $100K+. I attended the IAB social media event in NY to meet several partners and came away with a wealth of information and contacts. I love all IAB events, and have never had a problem getting a free pass from them. I explored the below developers.

Context Optional: This is among one of the top partners for Facebook, and a friend is using them for her company. They can pretty much do anything you want them to, and given the large number of clients they can come up with good examples of pages. Their fees are reasonable as well.

Always Be Social: I set up a presentation with Always Be Social. The sales team seemed friendly and nice, but it just did not seem to be a good fit. They did not have a lot of examples, so it was difficult to assess their value.

Sprout: I quite liked Sprout’s presentation at IAB and their Alice in Wonderland dynamic ads. I got along quite well with the sales person as well.

Buddy Media: They were at the top of my list simply because they have a proprietary interface and a lot of experience in retail. While I felt that their ready interface and high price limited the level of creativity and viral component that we could add, given limited resources on our end and short timeline we did not want to expend much effort on launch. They were the best fit.

Brand Networks: I reviewed this partner as well, but do not recall my discussion. This was the case with most partners – they had such similar services that I could not recall details and differences except with a select few.

Vitrue: Every single partner I spoke to cited Vitrue as their biggest competitor, and seemed impressed with their service. I liked them, but had a hard time understanding whether they were a good fit because of few examples. The differentiating factor here is that using their tool you can use apps on the wall and track them. They also offer localization which is used by McDonald’s. I just wish they were able to show me more examples and give me enough “meat” to justify using them versus Buddy Media.

Fluid: I really liked Fluid. Their focus is on websites rather than Facebook, and Facebook services are an extension for their site services. They designed the amazing Timberland’s customized boots website. They also use Facebook Connect effectively on sites coupled with product reviews.

Wildfire App: This was an okay partner – not much differentiation but willing to negotiate on price.

Involver: I liked Involver, but what stood out to me is their positioning in the marketplace. They tout their technology as their key product, and have been asked by Facebook to design their Homepage. They kept stressing on technology. But they were selling to a marketer, not a technologist, so to me their pitch had the opposite effect. I am all for technology, but what is the use of spending on a custom page when you don’t have a strategy to increase fan base. I was looking for a company that had a strong base for marketing rather than just technology. They do have good clients though, so obviously their model works.

Allurent: This is similar to Fluid in that they focus on website tools and offer Facebook tools as an extension for a small fee. They had good tools, but I liked Fluid better.

Brickfish: I don’t see Brickfish on Facebook’s preferred list even though they have an impressive clientele. I attended their presentation at IAB. They built a very successful app for Coach. Their services are good, but their sales pitch left much to be desired. If they are able to find sales people passionate about their technology and brands they have worked with, it will make a big difference to their pitch. They have received a lot of free PR – Coach presented their work at the WWD Social Media event – Brickfish needs to find a way to leverage this.

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