Its my fault

A few days ago a very talented member of my staff reached out to me in a very disconcerted way saying that she made a big mistake that could impact a very important ongoing project. 

She chose to place emphasis on the fact that the mistake was hers and hers alone. She also made a deliberate decision not to point fingers at her team, external circumstances or anything beyond herself. 

The truth was that I was pushing for a very tight deadline, and mistakes are inevitable. In fact if we are not making mistakes it probably means we re not pushing hard enough.

What I heard from my staff:

  • I am aware of the mistake,
  • I have taken ownership of it,
  • I know what to do to fix it,
  • I am already fixing it,
  • I have learned from it.

The outcome: A few hours later the error was fixed and the innovative product she and her team had been working on was launched to the market successfully. 

Check it out here: https://icardata.icarasia.com

Monday Focus: Drive over Talent

A question I often get asked by recruiters and professionals is what are the most important traits I look for in candidates.

Independently on what the role is, basic technical competency is imperative. If a candidate is applying for an engineering role, the candidate must be an actual engineer, he or she needs to be able to demonstrate the experience stated in the resume seamlessly without any preparation or brief beforehand. 

Beyond this, to me, the most important thing comes down to the drive and how badly the candidate wants to succeed and contribute in his or her role. This is where I feel the market is severely lacking, there is not necessarily a shortage in talent in IT, there is however a severe shortage in people with the type of drive and desire to contribute that is needed to breed long term sustainable success in an organisation. 

Wanting to do a good job and willing to put in the hard work to achieve collective success is the single most important trait a candidate can have.

Ultimately this factor is what separates a great team member from someone who relies and usually holds on to something they have that is meaningless when not shared: Talent holds no value when not applied to collective goals. 

Monday Focus: Not all Managers are Leaders

There is a big difference between a Manager and a Leader. 

A Manager focuses on moving people around to achieve a goal. It focuses on capacity management, resource distribution. A manager is pragmatic but very often bound and constricted by pragmatism, by a budget, by what an spreed sheet says it is possible to achieve. 

A Leader goes going beyond what is theoretically possible because he focused on potential, his mind is in executing a vision not in the limitation of what he has to work with. 

Leading is about moving an idea from point A to point B taking the best out of everyone to achieve a common goal. 

Good Management is always channeled through a leader, its is apolitical, it has a very clear underlying vision, and an objective strategy to deliver it. 

People that are being led properly feel they can overcome obstacles and can go beyond themselves, they are working for something that is greater than their own self interests. 

Nobody really wants a boss, but most people will agree that having inspirational leadership that is grounded and guided by a clear vision is a valuable asset to have.

Being Technology Agnostic as a CIO

One of the biggest mistakes I have done in my career is falling on the tech bandwagon and making decisions based on what I thought the inherent value of a specific technology was. 

The raw truth is that technology is nothing but a vehicle to get somewhere. Sometimes throughout your journey you will need to take a bumpy old dirt road while other times you can take a brand new highway to get to where you need to go, in both cases they usually point towards the same direction. 

Many organisations never fulfil the full potential of the technology they already have purely because they are not ready from a cultural or operational stand point to execute. In most cases technology is not the problem, its just a distraction. 

I remember when running my digital agency when quoting for a project, most of the work and cost would fall into back-office development, very rarely the customer experience would be the main priority, as if the technology was always more important than the outcome it is supposed to generate. 

Things I ask myself when becoming too excited about any technology:

  • Whats the skill set gap and ask myself how long would it take and how much would it cost to change technology?
  • Does the technology have a proven record, any success cases?
  • If something goes wrong, do I or my team have anywhere to go?
  • Is there any documentation? Is it kept up to date?
  • Whats the effort if I chose to move away from it?
  • Is there a simpler way to achieve the same outcome?

Fundamentally every technology that is considered to be cutting edge today will be seen as legacy tomorrow. As CIO, technology, no matter how sexy it may appear to be is the last thing on my mind when creating a product strategy for my business.

Unbuzzing AI and Machine Learning

I really dislike buzz words and the way they are leveraged by some people as a tool for self promotion. 

Lets face it, most companies are not truly working in Artificial Intelligence, at best they are implementing an interface on top of existing platform that has been developed by other companies (there is absolutely nothing wrong with this). At worse they are working on AI creating a platform from scratch, and as exciting as this sounds, unless significant fire power is thrown at the initiative, its not likely to end well. 

Innovation does not always come from reinventing the wheel, sometimes small iterations with existing frameworks and ideas can create a significant impact in whichever ecosystem you operate in.

At iCarAsia we decided to use TensorFlow as a machine learning platform interfaced by another tool developed by Google to be used as the front facing interface. Is there a risk of us putting all eggs in one basket and risking looking control over our tech? Maybe. In the grand scheme of things does it matter? No!

The reality is that the benefits of executing this and pushing the benefits to our customers in a shorter time span, coupled with the massive learning gathered from exposing the product to our customers completely outweighs the risks. 

An AI project is only cool if it actually does something useful, if it helps people by enhancing an experience. We did not look at AI as a technological problem, it was seen as a  potential way to enrich and improve the way car buyers and sellers connect.