Safia Abdalla HeadshotBuilding a product is hard. Building a product as the sole technical founder is harder. Safia Abdalla is doing something tremendously difficult, which means there’s a lot we can learn from her experience.

I’ve enjoyed following her on Twitter (@captainsafia) for a while now and am pleased to share this interview with you. Read on to hear Safia share more about her product Zarf, which recently went into beta, how she decides to give technical talks, and her technique for avoiding task paralysis.

Hi! Can you introduce yourself? Who are you and what are you working on?

I’m Safia. I’m the solo technical founder behind Zarf, a content marketplace for written content produced by independent publishers. On Zarf, readers can purchase subscriptions to publications produced by their favorite authors or purchase individual posts by those writers. Zarf aims to provide an equitable and fair platform where writers and readers can both benefit from the written word. Continue reading

Product management is a tough discipline to nail down. It’s an opportunity to make a big impact but only if you’re the right person in the right role. I’m doing a couple PM-related things that you might be want to check out:

PM interested in a new challenge?

I’ve been advising a startup here in NYC called Kingfisher. They help people and teams organize and collaborate on complex information with visual maps and I’m and helping them hire their first product manager. Learn more about this really special opportunity and let me know if you or someone you know might be interested.

Looking to break into product management?

I’m hosting PM Hack, a one-day product hackathon on October 15th for aspiring and entry-level PMs to get more experience working on product challenges while getting mentored by senior practitioners in the industry. Sign up here!

Hiring product managers?

I’m speaking at Productized Conference in Lisbon on the five personas of product management and how to hire for them. Did a run through of this talk recently which well-received and excited to bring it to a bigger stage. You can get tickets here! Also there may be opportunities for employers to scout for fresh talent at PM Hack. Get in touch if you’re interested in that.

Obligatory disclaimer – I am not a doctor and nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. This article exists to document what I’m doing and is not meant to advocate consuming any drug or supplement without the consultation of a medical professional.

Ten years ago, the scientific journal Nature ran an online survey taken by 1,400 people in 60 countries around their use of three cognitive enhancers, or so-called “smart drugs”:

  1. Adderall / Ritalin (often prescribed to patients with ADD or ADHD to aid with focus)
  2. Provigil (also known as modafinil and often prescribed to fight fatigue or jet lag)
  3. beta blockers (a general category of drugs that reduce anxiety by blocking the effects of epinephrine, ie adrenaline)

The study found that about 20% of respondents reported having consumed at least one of the three with the goal of improving concentration and mental performance. I have to imagine if we ran that same survey today, the number would be higher. Continue reading

Editor’s Note: This blog is about competitive advantage with an emphasis on business and technology, so this post might seem a bit out of place, but if you’re new, you should know this is not the first time I’ve written about race, gender, or culture, and it won’t be the last. Ignore these issues at your own peril.

It’s been a hell of a month.

First, there was a 10 page memo that went viral authored by a (now former) Google engineer named James Damore about what he saw as Google’s liberal bias, where he implied that biological differences between men and women might explain why there’s a 4 to 1 ratio of men vs women on the technical staff at Google. Continue reading

I just finished Scott Hartley’s new book The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World. It is an inspiring read full of compelling stories and ideas about the rapidly evolving world around us.

The central thesis of the book is that instead pushing every last student to major in a STEM field, we need to recognize that the liberal arts provide a crucial human perspective in a world increasingly governed by machine algorithms. Continue reading