New skills concept.

Practical Advice on Starting Your Internship

635993893199221840-282810841_internship-1As many of you start your first internship in a corporate environment, here are some practical tips to make your internship a success.

  1. Cube-ville: Most companies use either cubes or an open seating plan.  Open seating plans are great for communication and collaboration, but BAD for privacy.  So, be aware that you are working in a community.
    • Use headphones: If you are listening to music, use headphones.  Even then, keep your music at a reasonable level.
    • Keep your voice at a reasonable level: If you are talking on the phone or having a conversation, be aware of the people around you.  Use a conference room if you have a long phone call.  DON’T use the speaker phone on your desk in your cube.
    • Keep your social media / YouTube / personal Internet surfing to a minimum: Remember you are work and people can see what you are doing, so don’t spend all day on social media or YouTube even if you are done with work.
    • Silence your mobile phone:  Keep your mobile phone on vibrate.  The worst is having a mobile phone constantly ringing or beeping due to text messages or alerts.
    • Avoid strong smells: If you are going to eat at your desk, avoid strong smelling foods like fish, certain meats, cabbage, etc.  Eat in the kitchen or the common areas if you have those kinds of foods.
  2. Meet & greet: Get to know your boss and your co-workers.  Create a small budget and invite a co-worker or someone at the company out for coffee or lunch several times a week.
  3. Read the news: Take a couple of minutes each day and read the headlines of the news.  Read the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, or Seattle Times (or your local newspaper) every day.  The news affects your work environment and you need to be aware of what is going on both for office conversation and work in general.
  4. Keep politics light: We are in an election year so there will be a lot of controversy over politics.  As an intern, I would refrain from engaging too deeply in politics or political discussions with your co-workers.  If you are asked, feel free to discuss and lightly defend your political preferences, BUT do not engage too deeply in a office debate on politics.  Remember, someone in the office is on both sides of the debate.  As an intern, it is best to steer clear!
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The Rules on Grabbing Coffee

Having coffee is essential to a successful career.  Meeting someone for coffee or a meal is a great way to make new contacts or reconnect with friends, colleagues and connections.

There are rules for a coffee meeting that are important to be aware of for successful networking:

  1. If you are asking someone else for coffee, the other person should pick a place and time convenient for him or her.
  2. Be on time.  Obvious I know.
  3. Offer to buy coffee for the other person.
  4. Pick a table or location where it is easy to hear the other person.  Tables in the middle of Starbucks or near the barista can be extremely noisy.
  5. DO ask for advice.  Everyone loves to talk about him or herself, tell you their story and provide advice.
  6. DON’T ask for referrals to people.  Generally, a person offers to make a referral.  A referral is currency.  People tend to make referrals for people who are strong connections where making a referral is helpful to his or her relationship with the other person.  A cold referral is meaningless and often puts the person you are having coffee with in an awkward position.
  7. DON’T ask people whom you don’t have a deep relationship with for referrals to investors.  It doesn’t work.  If you are raising money, get referrals from people who know you well, mentors, investors in your company, board members or company advisors.  If the person you meet likes you OR likes the concept of your company, they will offer to make introductions to investors during or after your meeting.

There are probably others and I will keep updating this over time.  Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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How I Keeping Learning

I was meeting with a friend of mine and we compared iPhones to see what apps we each used.  We started talking about what we do every week to stay current and learn.  One of my first managers Steven Fisch at CS First Boston told me to read the first section of the Wall Street Journal every day.  At a minimum, I should read the “What’s News” on the left column of the front page of the journal.
Now, twenty years later, here is a run down of what I read, listen to, and use every week to stay current:

Periodicals:

Podcasts:

Websites:

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Are You Chained to Your Marketplace?

Geekwire published an insightful article on the challenges of tethering to any online marketplace, as booking decline for homeowners while Expedia makes changes at HomeAway. Marketplaces like Zillow, Trulia, HomeAway, & AirBNB can be a real boon for small businesses, but can quickly changes the rules, challenging a business’ revenue and profit.
Any thoughts on the for-sale real estate vertical or other sharing economy businesses?
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Hustle, Not Muscle: The Key to Lifelong Success

This blog post was originally published by on ActiveRain.

Has anyone with true hustle ever failed?  Have ever you met or known anyone
who hustled and did not achieve their goals?  Me neither.

I was recently asked to speak on a panel to MBA’s from the University of Utah talking about Seattle, technology and entrepreneurship.  We had a GREAT panel of speakers: Kevin Nakao of MeritShare, WhitePages, RealNetworks; Will O’Brien from Big Fish Games & TrialPay; Edward Yim from ClassifiedAds and Blue Moon Ventures, and Meredith Turner from PitchBook and WhitePages.

Much of the panel was the standard stuff – how did you end up in Seattle, how does Seattle compare to Silicon Valley, and what is the hiring environment like?  Inevitably you get down to the question of: what advice do you have for finding a job or for life in general?

Down the line, every panelist gave the same answer: HUSTLE.

It is very rare to put five people on a panel and they all agree that pure and simple hustle and effort are the keys to success.  Kevin gave an example of how he broke into the music industry by showing up in LA, knocking on doors and working for free, until someone gave him a job.  Will talked about how he managed to open up the “London” office for his former consulting company by cold calling companies in the UK until one of them listened to his pitch.  He landed a $15m engagement from this UK company, which ended up being the largest consulting project for his employer.  Edward talked about raising a search fund out of business school by asking people he did not know for money to go buy a company.   Hustle is at the heart of every example.
When I think about my own career, I would say hustle and fear are a powerful combination.  Throw in serendipity or luck and you have a recipe for success.  As the CTO of my former company Bio Architecture Lab Yasuo Yoshikuni would say, “The more shots on goal you have, the more you score.”   When I was CEO of Bio Architecture Lab, we were commercializing a technology to convert seaweed into low cost biofuels and chemicals.  I started with the company in March of 2008.  Shortly thereafter oil prices peaked at $140 per barrel and then crashed below $60 per barrel, making it that much harder to commercialize new clean technologies at a price competitive with oil.   Simultaneously, Lehman Brothers failed and the financial crisis ensued, taking the entire financial system with it, making it even harder to raise financing for a speculative cleantech venture with unproven technology.

The fear of not raising money and having Bio Architecture Lab fail pushed me to be more aggressive in seeking out financing.  Though it wasn’t pretty, we threw immense amounts of spaghetti against the wall to see what would stick.  We continued to speak with venture capitalists.   Additionally, we sought out commercial partnerships and government grants.  AND we looked internationally when things looked bleak in the US.  In the end, we ended up raising $8m in venture capital from Norway, Chile and the US, we raised $12m in government grants from the US and Chile, AND we raised $15m in a commercial partnerships with Statoil & DuPont.  All in all, we raised $35m in financing (only $8m of which was dilutive from venture capital), in the WORST financial market in history.

Though luck played a big role, hustle was our muse and fear was our motivator.  We spoke with 120 venture capital firms to get three yes’s.  Similarly, we spoke with any oil or chemicals company willing to speak with us and applied for every government grant possible, even in Chile.

In the title of the blog, I talk about “Hustle, Not Muscle.”  Many times, we get very used to resting on our laurels or the success of our last job or education.  Every now and again, each one of us has a moment, generally when interacting with someone younger than us, when crudely we think, “Do you know who I am?”

Just like lifting weights, we can become really good or skilled at a very narrow competency or skill set.  We can become blind to competition or major changes happening in the industry.  That young, inexperienced person who has no idea who you are is going to want it more than you and they are going to OUT-HUSTLE you to the prize.

Yes, you may be a twenty year veteran of the industry, but times are a changing my friends.  There will always be someone who wants it more and is willing to work harder to get it.

At the same time, behind every success is a successful person with HUSTLE.

Work hard.  Throw lots of spaghetti against the wall.  A few strands will stick.  Those few strands can make all the difference in life and a career.

(I was hiking in Lynn Canyon outside of Vancouver and came across this memorial bench to Philippa Ellaway who said, “Running is the greatest metaphor for life: you get out of it, what you put into it.”  So true, so true.  I had to Google Philippa Ellaway when I got home.  She sounds like she was an amazing woman.)

Should Everyone Join A Start-up? Freakonomics Podcast on Rock Bands

Del Fuego’s & Tom Petty

Great Freakonomics episode on joining a rock band and being successful. Very similar to tech start-ups ironically.

Zanes, “I think that the music business is best for those who have a capacity to weather a chain of disappointments. You know, ’cause if you can only handle one, you should probably go work at the florist, you know?”

http://freakonomics.com/2015/11/12/should-everyone-be-in-a-rock-band-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/

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Visiting the Amazon Book Store at Seattle’s University Village

I visited the NEW Amazon book store in Seattle’s University Village shopping center.  I have to admit, I was pretty underwhelmed by the experience.  It felt … well… like a book store, specifically a small Barnes & Noble bookstore.  The middle of the store featured Amazon’s consumer electronics like the Kindle, Fire and Alexa.  I was expecting or hoping for a lot more of the future of reading and literature and less of the actual books.  Yes, Amazon is using their data, reviews and ratings to select and merchandise the inventory in the store, but the store did not capture my imagination of the what the future will hold similar to an Apple store or [gasp] a Microsoft store.

But the Apple store was not built in a day.

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Pictures from the Amazon Store in Seattle
Pictures from the Amazon Store in Seattle

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