My Ideas - 2

Play to Your Strengths

One of the things I’m trying to remind myself of this year is “play to my strengths”.

Truly understanding ourselves — our tendencies, preferences, abilities, and the impression we give to others — is enormously important to leading a successful and satisfying life. We often overlook our strengths because they come easy to us. We rely on them so frequently that they almost don’t exist in our minds. We’re typically see our weakness much more often, since it’s more obvious why we struggle than why we succeed. Continue reading…

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What Engineers, Product Managers, and Executives Can Learn from the Volkswagen Scandal

Volkswagen has been eviscerated after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in September that VW had installed “defeat devices” to cheat on their emissions testing.

It turns out least 500,000 diesel cars made by VW were rigged with software that would reduce engine emissions to meet standards, but then turn off to achieve higher fuel mileage. When not in testing mode, the engines released nitrous oxide chemicals at levels up to 38x times greater than allowed by the Clean Air Act. Continue reading…

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The Biggest Challenge With Building Products is Uncertainty

I was recently asked to share my views on three questions around product management for the UsabilityTools blog. My answers are now published along with thoughts from 46 other product managers and I thought I’d share my response here as well.

The questions were good ones and were worth thinking about. In general, I’ve found that building new things is all about creating clarity and alignment and dealing with the uncertainty.

What is the most important quality a good product manager should have?

The ability to think across disciplines and both understand and communicate needs + priorities between business, technology, design, research, users and other stakeholders.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

The ultimate challenge of building products is that it is hard to know what will work. You can have an incredibly well engineered, beautiful, and user centered product and it can still fail. Running a good process is how you steady a team’s morale – keeping it up when things don’t work, and not getting cocky when it succeeds wildly.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

The most important measure of productivity is time my team spends working in alignment, with a clear understanding of expectation and goals, on efforts they believe will have major positive impact.

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Is 2016 the year you finally ship your side project?

The year is coming to a close and that means a couple things:

  1. You’re getting invites for holiday and year end parties
  2. Friends and coworkers are coming down with terrible colds, flus and other debilitating illnesses
  3. Your brain starts pondering how the year has gone and what next year will hold

I don’t have much advice for you around the first two issues, except, try not to eat too many gingerbread cookies, and wash your hands frequently.

But perhaps I can say something useful about the third. Continue reading…

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What is life like for the Asian American man in 2015?

I didn’t really think much about how my own race/ethnicity affected my life until 2011, when I read the ludicriously long piece in New York Magazine. It was called Paper Tigers, with the subtitle: “What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?” and it covered issues I had discussed occasionally with friends but rarely saw elsewhere.

Questions like how come Asians are rarely in leadership positions despite being “so smart”? Or is it possible to maintain traditional Asian values like being humble in a loud, show-off-to-get-ahead world? Or why the hell was dating so damn hard?

I thought Wesley Yang’s article was going to lead to a national conversation about these issues, given that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua had been all over the media for months. But it didn’t happen. It’s understandable in some respects because he admits that he is “in most respects devoid of Asian characteristics”. While born to Korean parents, he does not: speak Korean, believe in Asian values, date Korean women or have any Korean friends. Maybe this was all he wanted to say about being an Asian man.

And yet, there’s more to our story. Continue reading…