Friday, April 25, 2008

Paul Graham at Startup School 08

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why I started looking at an MBA? (Part 2)

Read Part One.
My expectations working at Medullan were not disappointed. Of the three guys I met that day I accepted their offer, I worked closely with two of them over the course of almost the next two years. The work was hard, I was challenged in a way beyond any job previous, to stretch my previously known capacity to learn, to grow, to perform, and then once I had reached these new found limits, to stretch again beyond those. Frankly the first week of working at the pace of global business in that small office in Medford, I seriously doubted that I was up for the task at hand.
I will be honest and say that I failed at times to meet what I thought were unreachable goals during my time there, but for every day that there was failure, there was the following day that I still got back up again to meet the challenges of the new day once again.

Working with Medullan and these young entrepreneurs named Geoff and Ahmed, only a few years older than myself, I realised what made them different was that they were vessels filled with global leadership experience and best practices that could only have been gained from having worked with some of the best in the industry. The fact that Geoff, in particular, was a Harvard MBA graduate with MIT pedigree who constantly instilled in me ideas that raised my thinking to another level only added to the respect I had for him.
They were excellent mentors and I hope whatever I achieve in life brings credit to the lessons they've taught me. They are the reason I saw how high the bar for excellence and leadership really goes, and just how much more I had to learn if I was to ever return to my dream of building Redditech into a great company and make it a successful reality. They are also a reason in my realisation that an MBA is not just a piece of paper, that if approached right, it will present oneself with the opportunity to hone one's own skills, not only to develop and create but to also debate with others of similar and different thinking one's own business ideas, and in the end, to mold oneself more purposefully into the best leader and entrepreneur one can be.

The fact that I now truly appreciate and value what an MBA offers for what it really is now does not mean that now that I have left Medullan, I am on standstill for restarting Redditech. I believe I have been a good student, and it is now time to put those lessons into action. I remember Paul Graham's talk at Startup school 2008 where he quoted General Patton:

"A good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.".

After moving on from Medullan, I still continue to converse with my past mentors, as often as their time allows, since building a high growth company leaves little time for idle chat. I have also started the process for piecing together the direction I wish to take Redditech into, now that I have the time available to dedicate to this effort. I have no assumptions in this brainstorming effort, even the name, Redditech, is up for revamping as I do my research into what I now believe is a survivable business idea I can implement from my home in Trinidad on a self-funded budget.
I remember as well though a quote my primary school teacher gave us as we prepared for our secondary school exams.

"If you fail to prepare, you're prepared to fail."

Google revealed to me that Mark Spitz said this originally, but I have always kept its meaning close to me throughout my life well beyond my days as an 11 year old in blue shirt and khaki short pants when I first heard it uttered.
By NOT actively searching for and pursuing an MBA which offers the correct mixture of focus on leadership, entrepreneurship and technology I am looking for, I will be failing to prepare. I am not saying that by relaunching Redditech now I am prepared to fail, I do believe that this rejuvenated effort will lead to a successful result.

I do also believe though that I would benefit greatly from the opportunity an MBA experience offers to share and collaborate with others of similar thinking the "field lessons" I have learned and continue to learn, to refine them and adjust them based on lessons others have learned and through the results of these discussions become more finely tuned and crisp in my ability to execute these ideas for the success of Redditech or whatever new venture I may pursue then.

I started looking for an MBA for these reasons, to grow myself as a leader and an entrepreneur so that I may achieve my highest potential in these roles, to bring honor to the effort past mentors have made investing in me, and to raise my level of thinking and ability to build a successful business venture of my own making.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why I started looking at an MBA? (Part 1)

Up to about two years ago I wasn't interested at all in an MBA. That was something academics did for academic purposes, and having become frustrated with the local university system and its non-student-friendly bureaucracy and uninspiring lecturers during my failed run at an M.Sc. Computer Science, it was not a place I was looking to venture to anytime soon.

Working for companies in Trinidad also didn't quite suit me, I might meet a few kindred spirits who liked getting things done, but more often than not the dispassionate culture that seemed to dominate all the larger public and private organisations I worked with would take their toll. Combined with my own lack of training in how to get things done successfully and my own youthful impatience at systems that to me prevented things from getting done rather than empowered folks to get things done, I'd find myself again, several months later, calling my local headhunter in the search for a "perfect" organisation that never existed.

After a time I eventually resigned myself to the fact that if I were to survive in the world as a useful, contributing member of society, I had to find something I could remain stable in. I started developing my company, Redditech, which targeted small growing businesses in Trinidad looking to take advantage of lower-cost open source software solutions.
It combined the best of many worlds I was passionate about. I loved getting things done. I loved being evangelical about computers and technology and finding new niches in which it made things better for everyone. I loved open source software because of the inherent community "spirit" and freedom of ideas surrounding it. At a time when Microsoft and other popular vendors weren't so "open" about sharing versions of their own software freely without a prohibitively expensive licensing cost, this was an excellent startup area for a self-funded fellow like me to be in. Things were good, or at least they were initially.

Then the complications hit. Jobs were inconsistent, I had no idea about developing job pipelines or marketing myself or my company. Sometimes the work was way more than I could handle, and I would come in extremely overdue, and costs would increase. My project management and estimation skills were sorely lacking. Clients would ask for one thing, for which there was one price, and then several weeks down the road, promote several other ideas, expecting them at the same price. I had no working knowledge of what scope creep was at the time, or how to manage it effectively. I had little legal awareness either, so jobs often went on the trust of a handshake, something that left me often coming up short as just dues were renegotiated at the time of payment in a "take it or leave it fashion." In short, I was too inexperienced for the task at hand, and that inexperience was showing after a year or so by the limited funds I had left from when I initially launched into my own business, and the pending bills of the coming months that were nowhere close to being met.

That was about the time I met with three guys from Massachusetts who were recruiting software developers in Trinidad for the near-shore arm of an IT healthcare solutions firm called Medullan. They had no offices in Trinidad, yet. They were still being built, but they had such a grand plan in mind they needed folks to come on board several months before this was completed. Their headquarters were in Medford, a place very far away to a Caribbean soul like me, and initially the first few folks they employed would come there to train directly with them.
There was something about these guys, a connect that happened that was somewhat magical. I had met kindred spirits before, but these guys seemed to possess an insight into how the world worked and how to plan and build for successful results that made me yearn to work with them and learn from them and just frankly build something great together with them.
I came in that morning looking to explore partnership opportunities for my own company, but by the end of that day I had decided without any doubt that my Redditech dreams would now be on hiatus, I was about to start on a new path building a great company-to-be called Medullan.
Read Part Two.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The MBA quest begins...

Actually, the quest began some time ago.
It's just I got a tonne of useful information from other folks blogging about their own MBA application process, and I thought it only fair to pay-it-back to the community out there by sharing my own strategies as I start seriously in my steps towards getting into an MBA program that matches what I am looking for.

I currently have another blog, the Redditech Blog 2.0, which focuses more on distilling technology and business-think for common folk. The original Redditech blog is still up as well and archives my first steps in setting up blogging software as it is hosted and maintained on my personal server space. It was also my genesis in writing a blog, and I sometimes go back and read the posts there to appreciate how much my style has evolved over time, both in terms of actual writing and also content distillation.

I created this blog separate from these two as I believe at heart, they are to be read by two separate audiences. I hope you find at least as many tips from this in your own MBA quest, as I have from others as I continue mine.