Parting is such sweet sorrow…

Its almost a cliche thing to say, but it is with truly mixed emotions that I announce I am moving from VMware to LinkedIn in this month to take on the role as the Senior Product Manager for LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions in Asia Pacific.

I have had an amazing 2 years at VMware, and have been honored to have partaken in the companies transition from server virtualization to the full Software Defined Datacenter. The highlight though of being a part of this journey was the people I had the pleasure of working with. They made every day an absolute delight to come to work with, and always kept us laughing while maintaining the ultimate professionalism in execution, I will miss you all.

Christmas Pic

The move to LinkedIn is definitely an exciting one for me, it’s a company I have envied for a long time, and its mission one that I find very compelling, “Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful”. The opportunity to work with the talent recruitment community is one that is both daunting and exciting, I am sure there is a lot I can learn in this space. Ultimately I am excited about what we can do to help open more opportunities for professionals. The personal development of others has always been a passion of mine, helping people overcome challenges and building skills in their professional careers. To be able to do this one such a grand scale will be amazing…

I am looking forward to sharing with you all the adventures I have in moving in to this great new opportunity.

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You Are Only Worth As Much As Your Social Network

I was at dinner this evening with some friends, and we were talking about the experiences each of us have in our work. Now most of the friends were all ex-colleagues of mine, we all used to work at Microsoft in Singapore, and we all had first hand experience on what each other’s role was (We have all moved on to other companies since then), so it was interesting to listen one persons explanation about the types of people that they have in their company and how they work.

One of the roles in particular was on the concept of the “Relationship Manager”, and how their value could be increased by the network that they bring to them in the world of investments. This got me thinking about the whole concept of relationship management and how it related to someone in product marketing.

Typically in most organizations, or at least the ones I have worked in, the majority of the customer relationships were maintained in large Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, and when you ran events, lists of potential target accounts were generated and used for invitations and campaigns etc. This typically meant that Product Marketing would engage another department to get this list and work with that department to communicate the particular campaign. Assuming that your campaign generated the desired pipeline for your company, things were great. However, when you left that company, the names and contact details stayed in the system, which is the right thing to happen, those details are owned by the company itself.

With the advent of Social Media, the whole concept of a company owning all relationship details becomes blurred. Now days, it is the individual that owns and manages their contacts, and they aren’t doing that in an Excel spreadsheet or database, those details are being kept in places like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Companies aren’t at the point where they can control those lists, nor should they in the future in my opinion. While people may have a certain fondness or passion for a product or a service, the true relationship that people have are with other people. This has led to the concept of people being Brand Ambassadors in their companies, and being able to project the image a company wants to have to the shared with the world.

The failing in this is that when we connect the concept of a campaign to social media, there are limited examples where a campaign has truly had long term success in the social media arena. Campaigns typically have a ranging execution lifetime, and in many cases, just aren’t long enough to build the relationship. It’s the equivalent of having a one night stand, it was good at the time, but you probably want to move on after its done.

What we get back to here is that people want to connect with people, they want to engage with a human presence, even when its done on the internet, they want to feel that at the other end of all those wires there is an actual person that understood a connection was made, and there is the future of more engagement personally.

I know I am probably not revealing any great truth you haven’t heard about before in Social Network Marketing 101, but something in it all jumped out at me today, when it came to the true value of someone in Product Marketing. While skills and experience are important, should we also perhaps consider the value that individual has with their own social network when considering them for a role, their network if cared for, could yield immediate results when someone comes on board. I am not saying that a person with a great social network has an army of brainless followers who will follow anything that is posted, but what they do have is an immediate network of people that actively want to engage and are interested in what the said person is doing in their lives.

Do we now need to start considering Social Reach as a key component in certain roles when hiring people, should recruiters consider the number of followers someone has on Twitter, or LinkedIn or Google+ when short-listing candidates. Certainly services like Klout are going in this direction, trying to sum it all up as a Klout score, but is it a trusted tool which people can actively use in the hiring process or just a fun tool to do a vanity check.

I had just finished reading a great book on how individuals can build and maintain valuable networks via Twitter called “The Twitter Effect: How to increase your follower count and gain exposure on Twitter” by Eric Bieller. Its a really great and easy read, but gives amazing insights and guidance on the path to creating networks that are real for people. Eric talked about using services like Klout to measure the impact of one’s network that they were building. If you are interested in building a successful network through Twitter then this is a must read.

At the end of the day, your network goes with you, not with the company you work for, so maintaining your social brand, while beneficial for your current role, could also be the key differentiator in the next.

Crowd-funding: Generating a new level of development transparency.

When my parents bought me my first PC in 1994, it came with a Creative Labs bundle pack which included Syndicate Plus, Ultima VIII: Pagan, Strike Commander and Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi. It was the final two which really captured my imagination, and got me forever entrenched in to PC gaming, thank you Chris Roberts. Fast forward to 2013, and I am excited to see that Chris Roberts is back developing an new game called “Star Citizen” (http://robertsspaceindustries.com/star-citizen/). What makes things interesting is the fact that they are driving a serious crowd-funded investment to get the game development up and running, which by all indications has been incredibly successful. To date the effort has raised over $9.5 million USD (approximately $2.1 million via Kickstarter and another whopping $7.5 million via their own website).

What this means for companies like Cloud Imperium Games, the company which Chris Roberts leads, is a commitment to delivering everything that they have promised to the people committing funds. Now are they legally bound to deliver, it wouldn’t appear so, based on the wording of the commercial terms on the site (http://www.robertsspaceindustries.com/commercial-terms/), and I quote;

“3. For the avoidance of doubt, in consideration of CIG’s good faith efforts to develop, produce, and deliver the Game with the funds raised, you agree that any deposit amounts applied against the Game Cost as described above shall be non-refundable regardless of whether or not CIG is able to complete and deliver the Game.  In the unlikely event that CIG is not able to deliver the Game, CIG agrees to post an audited cost accounting on its website to fully explain the use of the deposits for the Game Cost.  In consideration of the promises by CIG hereunder, you agree to irrevocably waive any claim for refund of any deposit amount that has been used for the Game Cost in accordance with the above.”

While we hope that Chris Roberts and team do deliver, what is interesting is the level of transparency that the team is committing to during the development process. Even if it’s part of an overall marketing effort to continually generate awareness, it still makes people feel a lot closer to being part of something that is being created, and not just anything, something they feel incredibly passionate about. This is in stark contrast to the approach many other product developments have which is typically “It’s done when it’s done.”. In fact, the development of Star Citizen is actively taking people on the journey of the development process itself, going through every step from storyboards to community engagement (can be seen in more detail http://www.robertsspaceindustries.com/category/comm-link/).

Has this same approach been taken by other crowd-sourcing projects?

Let’s take a look at a poster-child project “The Pebble” (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android/posts?page=1). If you take the time to read through the blog, you will notice the same level of transparency. The development team at Pebble had blog on Kickstarter as they went through the process, and one of their blogs made special attention to how communication was delivered to their backers, and what level of transparency would be delivered (the entry can be seen here http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android/posts/221074).

What about another one? The Ouya (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ouya/ouya-a-new-kind-of-video-game-console?ref=most-funded), the development of a games console, trying to penetrate a market which some would say is already tough enough with the likes of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. The development process which would be a closely guarded secret to ensure maximum impact when it launches, and yet, the process seemed extremely open, even down to specific hardware components (as posted in the blog here for the controller http://www.ouya.tv/its-all-about-control/#more-970).

So does crowd-funding ultimately make the product development lifecycle better, certainly the open communication process that is committed to backers makes it appear so, especially in terms of feedback through the process. What is clear, is that the consumer has had the opportunity to be more closely involved in the development process, and its the responsibility of every organization that participates in crowd-funding to ensure they commit to what they are doing, to ensure that this new approach, continues and thrives.

Marketing lessons from “Let’s talk iPhone.”

There is no doubt that the netizens of the world felt a little cheated by the recent Apple event. Announcing an iPhone 4S, when the world expected an iPhone 5 announcement, left a pretty bitter taste in a lot of fans mouths. The question is, did Apple do the wrong thing? Or do we blame the raging blaze that is the internet for over-promising something that they had no right to promise?

The rumor mill these days has never been stronger, those with an imagination can now drum up not just whispers but all sorts of lengthy stories, images, even videos, and now with the internet, it has one of the most effective distribution channels ever known. The real challenge is that there tends to be a lot less diligence in the separation of fact and fiction, so much so it becomes like a game of  “Chinese Whispers”, one person starts rumor, another person retweets it, another links to it, someone blogs about it, and somewhere along the line, the fiction transforms to fact as it gets in to the mainstream media channels. At that point it creates unrealistic expectations on companies to deliver.

End of the day, every company wants to be loved by their consumer audience, but the consumer can be a fair weather friend. We have already seen people sharing their own consumer reactions, reality or parody, it does demonstrate a particular undercurrent…

image

Is this fair, well its consumers choice I guess…

End of the day there were also a lot of cool technologies that were showcased at the Apple event.

  • The announcement of iOS5 with features like

I must also say the announcement of the different watch faces for the iPod Nano were very cool as well.

Apple had a lot to talk about at this event, but with the build up in anticipation for an iPhone 5 announcement, should they have just focused on the business updates and iPhone 4S announcement only? It would seem the lack of an iPhone 5 overshadowed a lot of the other exciting technologies that Apple would have liked to announce. On the flipside would it have been a good idea to announce these other technologies if there really was an iPhone 5 being announced, because that too would have overshadowed the others.

I guess it comes down to a no win scenario whichever way you look at it. We know that we want to keep the media and consumer excited about all the cool stuff we have, but I think its important to at least do some work on trying to predict how your biggest announcement will be received, and evaluate if it’s a good idea to announce more, or announce less, and evaluate other ways to create a viable platform to talk about your other technologies, at least then it will get its own stage.

Thanks to Mr.Brown for being an example & Engadget for the links

Make a move

I have recently made a pretty enormous step with regards to my own career development. One which involved in making some pretty tough decisions. In this regard I have made the leap to step out of Microsoft and try my hand at a new position in a new company.

I’ll keep details on the actual move under wraps for now, but will surely make sure I announce it when I get started. I am really really excited about the new opportunity that lies ahead of me, and am enthused by the support of those that I am about to start working with.

There will be many people asking why…

Why did I leave Microsoft, was it

  • A bad review… nope, just had a great review
  • Not enough money… I guess you can always say you are never paid enough, but I was doing ok from this regard.
  • Job got boring… errrrrmmm Windows 8 anyone?

Absolutely none of that, the fact is, it was none of those things, it was that a pretty fantastic opportunity was offered and it would have been crazy to say no.

That being said Microsoft has been and still is an awesome place to work, and I am pretty excited about all the work that is going on over there especially with Windows 8.

But the biggest thing I will miss, and its cliché to say, will be the people, man we had some awesome times, with some awesome projects and events, they were a blast. You guys all know who you are, and this is not goodbye, more a see you later.

There is no better song I guess to some it up, then by those crazy monkeys from Incubus with the title track from the movie Stealth (I actually really liked that film, watched it a lot, have it on DVD and Blu-Ray).

Here’s to making a move…