I never in a million years could have imagined that my 1 year anniversary at Intuit would come in the middle of such a world changing event (if you had even put “global pandemic” on my Bingo card, I would have called you crazy).
But, it is indeed a time of both celebration and reflection over the last year and the work our Community teams have done.
I am very thankful to work with such amazingly talented team members whose passion, intelligence and grit have been tested during these tough times and an organization who has truly looked out for the best interests of their employees in keeping us safe.
I am so very proud of the work we have done and continue to do to help our customers.
Some years ago, I wrote a post about the feeling we were left with after 9/11, and imagined that time would be the most challenging, defining and symbolic event in this New Yorkers life. Just 19 years later, we against are faced with an event of even bigger scope, and we, like the world continue to fight on. It’s the kind of spirit that makes me proud to be a New Yorker, but can weigh heavily on my mind at times.
With that in mind, I’d like to take a moment to pause and offer a reminder to take care of each other – now and always – and when the days are darkest and when they are brighter. I have no idea how this is all going to turn out, but here’s hoping the future we will build when this is all over will be filled with even more love, compassion, respect, and thoughtfulness than the world we have now. We will survive, but we will only thrive if we do it together.
On Saturday, my wife and I went to see Guster live at New York City’s Beacon Theater. Long a musical influence in our lives, and a band we’ve been a bunch of times live, the performance seemed to mark a somewhat symbolic moment in my recent life.
At the concession stand before the show started, my wife bought a button that just said “Look Alive” on it – the name of Guster’s latest album, natch, and the lead track from the record, but also an awesome concept to consider.
Being unemployed for the longest time in my life (and yes, I realize I’m extremely lucky in the short duration of this), was a lesson in trying to “look alive” when you’re left in a sea of self-doubt, confusion and frustration. No one wants to hear how hard it is to be jobless, the pain you feel to be missing a big part of your creative passion; your desire to make, and help, and do, and think productively, and of course, the nagging fear that you, you know, won’t be able to pay the rent eventually. Unemployment is a sea of redundancy, monotony, moments of massive disappointment and, then, occasionally some hope.
Anyway, the show was fantastic and by the time we were outside after it was over, it was March 17th, three months to the day when I learned the job I took a big risk on, had blown up in my face. (N.B. I think me and startups are going to be on a long-term kind of break). And the good vibes from the warm music marked a chance to put it all behind.
And that was made possible by the fact that my unemployment journey had come to an end the day before when I had received a verbal offer, and after signing the offer letter this morning, I’m excited to start the next chapter of my career.
I am excited to be joining the Intuit team as a Principal Product Manager for their Social and Community Products, working remotely in the New York City area, but with some travel to the Bay Area and other sites out west. You’re probably familiar with Intuit’s suite of financial services products, and their passion for putting the customer first fits nicely with my passion for helping people get the help they need.
I will start the role next week, and I am thankful to the Intuit team (Mark Obee, Jason Todd, and Sheila Toner) for their patience, expediency, forthrightness and respect during the interview process. I’m excited to get started and make some new friends, reconnect with some old ones, and help a bunch of people to be their best selves.
I also wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has reached out with their thoughts, kind words, job offers, listings, hi-fives and hugs. They meant the world to me, and I am eternally grateful.
I’d like to especially my wife Jacque for sticking by me and working through a lot of tough days when the phone didn’t ring, and 20 years of work seemed not to amount to much. It’s amazing to have your best friend and your teammate there to talk sense into you when things don’t make sense and to “look alive” and past all of this to the future.
And for those who are going through this unemployment struggle – I am here for you to help however I can. You’re not alone. Everything will be ok – even when it doesn’t seem like it will be.
On August 1, 1910, the then new Penn Station was completed, starting its path to becoming an iconic piece of New York history, and for a time, the primary way for New Yorkers to make their way out into the rest of America and back home again. In fact, in 1945, 100 million passengers passed through Penn Station.
The results, 1 Penn Plaza, and the present Madison Square Garden, may have been seen as an improvement to many at the time. Indeed, the New York TImes started their story on first day of demolition in October 1963 with the following quote:
Pennsylvania Station, a grimy monument to an age of expansive elegance, suffered the fate of an anachronism yesterday.
– New York Times, “Demolition Starts At Penn Station; Architects Picket; Penn Station Demolition Begun; 6 Architects Call Act a ‘Shame'”, October 29, 1963
The next day, the New York Times‘ editorial team, in an op-ed said what many New Yorkers who look back on the destruction now feel.
Until the first blow fell no one was convinced that Penn Station really would be demolished or that New York would permit this monumental act of vandalism against one of the largest and finest landmarks of its age of Roman elegance.
The conflict between the old and the new has raged through the history of New York – it’s been a global theme pretty much since it’s beginning. But the destruction of Penn Station marked a sea change in the urban thinking that everything old is bad, and everything new is good. To me, the loss of Penn Station is a tragedy but one that led to bigger and most lasting change.
During the 9 years between the announcement of the air rights sale and the destruction of the iconic building, the Landmarks Preservation Commission was started by New York City Mayor Robert Lindsay, to help prevent another Penn Station from happening again, and the Penn Station fiasco build the framework for Jane Jacobs’ efforts to defend iconic neighborhoods in lower Manhattan from the whims of Robert Moses’ planning pen. (Sidebar: Jane Jacobs appears in from the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel defending against Moses’ plans to allow vehicle traffic in Washington Square Park.)
My favorite photo shows life in the great building towards the end. Taken in April 1962, just over a year before the wrecking ball started its work, it takes you back to the time and place, and the expanse of what the Penn Station building was. The photographer makes you feel like you were there. To me, there is genuine beauty in this moment and it’s simplicity. It’s a reminder to me of the beauty of everyday moments, and of life itself. I get FOMO every time I see it, and it feels like a thing worth treasuring.
It’s with this in mind that I added this photo to the front page of the website, and to my new business cards, pictured above. Living in an era where media can be created at a large scale quickly, and assets can be disposable, and FOMO can happen instantly, it’s important to remember that innovation also leaves a responsibility to recognize who and what have come before. It’s important and to tell the stories of mistakes and progress, of success and failure, of the forgotten and remembered. These gestures are my small way of doing this. I encourage you to do the same with something that you love, too.
Postscript Reading list:
Moses’ full story is told in my favorite book of all time, Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, an epic read but worth the time in understanding the impact that one man had and still has on the New York City landscape
In the winter of 2003, I was working as a contract Associate Producer at Scholastic, doing UX/UI and product development on a new learning management system that would change the world for classrooms around the world when it was was released…. on CD-ROM. I had taken the job just to keep busy after my dot-com bubble finally burst in the summer (the last time I was without full-time work), and while the people were nice enough, educational software just wasn’t really for me.
Still, I was doing well, and about to be moved from Contractor to Full-Time Employee just about the time that the halls filled with buzz around the launch of another book in the series involving some kid named Harry Potter.
I started the interview process with MLB, and got through a few rounds, and then I got an email from someone at JetBlue. Startled, I went back to their jobs site and tried to remember which role I’d actually applied for. Fortunately, during the interview process I remembered, and vividly remember when I visited their office in Forest Hills, Queens, that something just felt different about the energy of that place. The people were smart, and focused on trying to genuinely improve a moribund air travel industry, and take a nice chunk of profits with them when that did. They built a brand, a culture, and a way of doing business that I had never seen before, and indeed, have rarely seen since. A few weeks later, I had a decision to make – I had an offer from MLB.com, but when the JetBlue offer came the next day, I knew I had to hop on the ship and go for the ride of lifetime, 15 years ago this week.
I think it’s very rare in a career to find a place where you really believe in the mission. Days at JetBlue were a lot of hard work, but the people there were amazing, passionate, transparent and created an environment where anything felt possible. The culture from leadership on down promoted a concept called the Principles of Leadership, which were printed on every crewmembers (everyone was a crewmember, not an employee) badge, and the foundation for leadership courses:
Treat people right
Do the right thing
Communicate with your team
Show initiative and innovation
Inspire greatness in others.
Building an internet marketing discipline with an airline focused on direct sales was genuine fun. It was like working for an agency that happens to fly planes; the focus on brand was never ending. Connecting with customers and providing a consistent experience was key and required a vision everyone bought into.
It was a festival of memorable times. Here are some of my favorites.
I vividly remember in the middle of cooking a taco dinner the email that came in that one that one of our flights leaving Burbank had a problem with its landing gear, and then turning on the TV at the time and immediately driving back to the Queens office to arrive at our Emergency Command Center just in time to see Flight 292 land with a textbook landing on the center line at LAX (an airport we joked against flying to in our advertising). It was a day that could have been much much worse, but when the pilots returned to HQ, were humble and didn’t want any undue attention for doing what they thought was their job.
There was the time our entire operation melted down and we left people stranded all over America, which inspired a social media first that later became a PR “case study” – putting our CEO on YouTube to apologize and share an action plan for what we would do to fix it, leading to the first codified passenger compensation program.
This led to adoption of Twitter as a real-time communication channel (it was a big day when we hit 100 followers) that it still uses today.
There were the visits to our Salt Lake City reservations center, which had a JFK departure time of BAD, and a return time of MUCH WORSE. It left to lots of jetlagged days where the team looked something like this.
There was the time we got involved in the launch of The Simpsons Movie, which inspired our first ever tweet (technically, it’s not, but the others were deleted early 😉 )
And inspired my favorite celebrity meeting with SImpsons creator, Matt Groening at the launch party.
There are countless more stories that come flooding back when you think about it. I’ve flown JetBlue a number of times since I left in 2007, and what’s still striking is every so often, in the monotony of air travel, and after JetBlue has grown substantially since those days, you still end up with an Inflight Crew who is genuinely focused on having a great time and caring for the customer. And, they still care for each other too. Just yesterday, came this LinkedIn post showing that teamwork, love and JetBlue’s corporate culture is still alive and well.
So here’s to you JetBlue, for being a place I’ll never forget and have brought with me all this time to every company, job, role and interaction I have had with customers ever since. I was grateful for my time there, and cherished every moment. I don’t think I’ll ever find anything quite like it again. Happy anniversary.
Special thanks to Michael, Morgan, Matt, Marc, Olivia, TJ, Matt, Amy, Shelley, Noreen, Peter, Todd, Jenny, Vanessa, Justin, Omar, Oscar, Tracy and countless others for making the time at JetBlue amazing.
Bonus content: Some of my favorite JetBlue photos:
It was about 12:40pm, at Tiffins restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. My wife and I were just starting off the third day of a week long, and much needed, vacation to celebrate my birthday. It had been a very long year and we had been looking forward to this vacation for months.
After a morning of exploring the park, we were excited to enjoy our first Disney Parks lunch of the trip. We originally had the reservation for later, but we moved up the reservation time because we were hungry!
Just after ordering our meal, the phone rang. It was a call from the CEO of the startup I had just joined three weeks before. I will never forget the look on my wife’s face as I took the call – she immediately knew something was wrong. After just three weeks of employment, the startup was shutting down and my position was being eliminated along with most of the rest of the people on the team.
I was stunned. I told my wife. She was stunned too. There’s really not much to say in a moment like that. Fortunately, we had some reassurances that a severance package was in the works for all of the employees impacted, and there was no immediate need for concern. (Postscript: I have been treated well by everyone involved in the shutdown, and for that I am appreciative). Still, it’s a pretty awful feeling to get let go from your job:
the day before your birthday
while on vacation
from a company you had big hopes for
But, if you’re going to get let go from a job, having it happen at Disney World is probably the best place to get this news. Why? Because there are plenty of things to distract you. Also, because Disney castmembers are trained to deliver excellent customer experiences and exceed expectations (Sidebar: if you’re interested, do read Disney’s excellent “Be Our Guest” book which explains their philosophies towards service).
And, this is where a little kindness helped to turn a situation around and built massive loyalty for me and my family.
When the server, who was already perfectly in tune with our needs – attentive, and no-nonsense, came back with our food, my wife casually mentioned what had just happened. I’m not sure Disney castmembers often deal with “oh man, this dude just got let go in the middle of lunch”, but she reacted well in the moment, was respectful of the situation, and most importantly, she saw an opportunity to make a little “magic” happen.
She later brought back a free dessert, without really having to explain why. It just was there, as a “we’re sorry”, in an attempt to try to help a tough situation. Looking back on it now, it means even more than it did in the moment.
It’s moments like this that make me passionate about trying to deliver connections with customers using digital. They remind me that no matter where you are, there’s always a connection between people that can always be made by companies, and individuals who care enough to do so to help validate concerns, and sometimes make them better.
And yes, this of course means I’m back on the market! I’d love to hear from you if you’re looking for a passionate, motivated and empathetic customer experience / social media focused digital leader with more than 20 years in the business. Please check out my LinkedIn profile, or grab a soft copy of my resume here.
Today is my last day at Samsung after about two years, and I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to best summarize the experience.
Result: It’s pretty much impossible.
Indeed, to work at Samsung is to experience every possible emotion – often at the same moment.
I have cherished the opportunity to learn from some of the smartest people in the business, to impact the lives of literally millions of consumers every month and help the sixth largest company in the world to adopt social media and community customer experiences as a core support channels.
I am extremely proud of my work and all of the things we accomplished. But more so, I am proud of ability to work, survive and thrive in one of the most difficult but entrepreneurial environments in the world. And I have relished the chance to learn how to manage all kinds of relationships, products and projects – big and small, internal and external, American and International. It’s like going to Grad School for global business, and I feel like I have earned an MBA cum laude.
I have learned a ton about me as a person – in persistence and stress management, in being gracious in the face of impossible challenges and the unenviable task of trying to not let the environment change the core of who I want to be – kind, empathetic, honest, transparent, giving and always putting others first.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my digital care team who created an island of safety, growth and comradery, and fought a lot of wars with me – many of which didn’t always make sense at the time. Shout out to Michael, Josh, Andrew, Aaron, Mine, Ipsita, Chris, Teddi, Sandya, Scott, Nancy and to countless others whose path I have crossed in the last two years. Your individual skills and ability to build amazing things have been and will be an ongoing inspiration.
Also, a special thank you to my wife and fuzzy family for the love and support involved in making a choice like this. It takes a village to take on career growth opportunities and her belief in me is very special indeed and I am a very lucky guy.
But, I am a builder, and enjoy the challenge of new things and I am very excited about what’s next – something I will be able to share more details about soon. Going from the 6th largest brand in the world to employee #6 will present a whole new set of challenges that I am very much looking forward to taking on.
Thank you all for joining me for the ride, for the last two years, and also the last 40.
They announced a lot of interesting stuff at F8 2016. Interesting, exciting stuff. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to get into the details on that from Facebook’s F8 Day 1 post.
But after a day I spent focused primarily on the “Media” track of the conference, it’s now pretty obvious to me that there are three “Facebooks”, unwinding and evolving over the next 12–18 months. Here’s why that matters.
#1. News Feed + Instant Articles Will continue to be designed for people sharing anything with anyone else, and for media publishing content to the masses using Instant Articles to allow for content loading speed on even the slowest of devices (and thus de facto internationalization).
After a shaky start, Facebook has made huge in-roads into monetization on Instant Articles to placate the needs of modern media organizations. But, nonetheless, Instant Articles is another closed system — mobile first, and optimized as Facebook sees fit.
Prediction: Use of IA will eventually be mandatory for content to rank anywhere in News Feed. This will reduce the spammers and gamers over time (How? Simple. Facebook needs to approve your IA application to turn it on).
This SHOULD make the News Feed experience better for most people, but could present ethical questions about controlling of the news by a single source.
#2. Messenger Designed first for human to human interactions (you know, like chat), but increasingly for human to robot interactions for organizations to display when humans are too expensive for the tasks they are asked to do. And, make no mistake, Messenger is growing fast.
Prediction: People will build lots of bad robots before they build good ones.For isolated cases of tasks that are largely mundane and repetitive, Bots will be effective. But, as we saw with Tay and Microsoft, Bots have long way to go to inspire absolute confidence in critical tasks (especially customer centric ones) with little human control (other than what your developers can dream up). Key here — trust and ethics are more important than ever.
#3. Video It will develop into entire new ecosystem of Facebook. Video becomes the solution for three big problems Facebook is now facing:
2. Video monetization is much higher for everyone involved — publishers, creators and Facebook themselves. Video ads fit the bill of many TV spends in creative, and (at least) it’s a more measurable equivalent(especially when it comes to concurrency of users).
3. They are free to explore more typical ways of content discovery(a new Video News Feed tab, video search, and topic level subscriptions), and build them on a clean slate not tied to the News Feed discovery mechanisms of the past.
The Live API allows an ecosystem of broadcasters, software companies and direct publishers to broadcast at scale to audiences they’ve already built on Facebook (something that brands have largely failed to build other places – see Google+ Hangouts, and using YouTube — clearly “influencers” have done much better in this regard.)
But let’s be clear, Facebook has placed its biggest bet since the original Desktop App platform here, and they will not go lightly into the night if it struggles. Too many people have vested interest in its success. Video will evolve over time, but it will take a few years for it to make complete sense for everyone.
Prediction: Video will work in the short-term for people who are particularly good at storytelling, and willing to think outside the box. But like every other content type before it, the implicit News Feed benefits of Video now will go away, so building beachheads within the Video tab will be critical. Having a long term plan to do that will be key.
The way forward
If you’re not a developer or someone accustomed to making videos; I’m sorry to say, it’s time to learn at least the basics of this. Cross-functional content teams, which already exist in many newsrooms, will continue to expand. You’ll need on this team subject matter experts on:
As a publisher, developers will need to be your best friend and you will need to build good relationships with them because with Bots, ethics and trust will matter. Your video team will evolve to make videos based off of data and topics that matter to audiences. Your analytics lead will need to translate stats to less technical folks. Editorial and creative folks will need to evolve to understand data, and make sure that data isn’t the only consideration in good content.
If this isn’t how your social / audience development team is structured and you’re a media company, I’d be concerned.
In summary, the most exciting and horrifying thing about digital media is that it continues to evolve. There’s one prediction that will never go away — a year from now, things will look completely different then they do today.
Author’s note: 20×2 is sort of like The Moth in 2 minutes. It’s an opportunity for an eclectic mix of people to answer a question in 2 minutes, using whatever medium they like. I chose to tell a story about a night that shaped me, and still shapes me today. The full text (with some small changes on stage) and video of that performance are below.
It was early December 2008 in New York City and birthday was fast approaching. And this one would be my 30th.
To me, turning 30 meant it was time to be an adult, and when it came to adulting, my mom was my inspiration. She was kind, thoughtful, and dedicated her life to so that my brother and I would have more than she did. When I was too nerdy to have many friends, she was was there for me. When other kids picked on me, she made me feel special. I looked up to her for her kindness and generosity, and I share those same qualities today because of her.
She loved the winter, and as a SoCal girl by birth, the novelty of snow never got old. She loved it like nothing else. I was really looking forward to celebrating the holiday season with her. I always tried to make her Christmases special, and this year was going to be no different. She had been very sick the last three Christmases, but now she was finally doing better.
After an evening of holiday fun with some friends, my girlfriend and I drove back to our apartment in Queens. As we were driving up into the garage, a call came in on my cell phone. An ambulance had come to my mom’s house. She was not responsive. She was off to the hospital and it didn’t look good.
We immediately drove to the hospital, and on the way, it started to snow — the first snowfall of the season. They were these beautiful, small, white flakes. It was like right out of a movie. It was at that moment I knew she was gone. 2 weeks before my birthday. 3 weeks before Christmas. The snow was her goodbye to us. It was her way of telling me that it would be ok. The snow calmed me. But, suddenly turning 30 didn’t seem to matter anymore.
There’s a point where you realize that your parents have done all they can for you, and you’re really on your own for the rest of your life. But you don’t ever see it coming. And you don’t really know what to do when it happens. And it was happening to me, 12 days before my 30th birthday.
My friends and family helped me to move forward. But, to this day, the loss still shapes me. But I know I’ll be ok because I am her son.
Recently, someone asked me for some advice on how to grow audience on social media. In truth, these days, the power of celebrity or brand is the most guaranteed thing to gain new fans, and paid social advertising, (when executed well) can certainly fit the bill as well for people with the budgets.
So, what about everyone else? The real truth — social media audience development is hard work, and many people just don’t realize this.
With that in mind, I offered these five pieces of advice to help get them started:
Be active. Consistently. Especially on Twitter, but increasingly on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. The volume of content you create for people has to be enough to where they find you when they are scrolling around on their news feed. I’d suggest at minimum 5 tweets, 1 or 2 Facebook or Instagram posts per day, or 5 Pins in a week just so that people see that you’re active and can understand what you are about. It’s hard enough to get people to care — even harder if you’re not around.
Be relevant. You have a set of interests that you can represent, and offer trusted advice on. People will connect with you on these interests. If they like what you’re into, they’re more likely to want to hear from you as a person.
Be slightly obnoxious. You need to get involved with everything that your interest represents. Look for blogs on your topics and comment on them. Search for Twitter accounts posting around the same things. Reach out to them if they are open top it. Follow them. Join in Twitter Chats, and Facebook Groups. Follow Pinterest boards. Be an active participant. But, be mindful of trolling. No one likes a troll. And it’s perfectly ok not to respond to people you are not comfortable responding to.
Be you. Your unique perspective on life should be the number one thing that’s appealing to people. Understand who you are and stick by it. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace it. Even if it brings out the haters, which, eventually it will, it means you’re being heard. And this also means picking platforms you are comfortable expressing yourself on. You absolutely do not need to be everywhere, but you should be where you can share your best.
Become ok with failure. Social media is largely content testing — “fishing”, if you will. You will be making things about things (different topics) in different formats (text, links, images, graphics) and seeing what people respond to. Keeping an eye on your analytics and seeing what people engage with can give you a good idea of the types of things you make that people like most.
Good social media is hard work. But if you put in the time, and follow this advice, you can grow your audience to help spread your message, share updates about your life, or, maybe make a few new friends!
Excited to share that my role at About.com is changing a bit to include more of the things I love doing most, talking to smart people about social media technology and building great partnerships! So with that, my title is evolving too! My new title is VP of Social Media and Platform Partnerships, and I will be looking for interesting ways to work together with social media platforms, content platforms, and great brands!