Monday, July 23, 2007

The Whisper of Discontent

When i went on and took the strengthfinder questionnaire they gave us at Yahoo!, my number one strength was Achiever. The book describes it as follows:

"... a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by "every day" you mean every single day - workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied ... After each achievement is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. Is the theme that keeps you moving. "

"Whisper of discontent" ... I wonder whether that is a bless or a curse.

Dry Creek not that Dry!!

My friend Dave and his fellow ward members are continuing to amaze me. This weekend i went with them to a place called Arroyo Seco - Spanish for dry creek. It was anything but dry.

I was still suffering from my knee injury from the Half Dome hike with that same group three weeks earlier, but again the pain wasn't for nothing. It was very different and a lot of fun.

We spent around 5 hours on the hike. It was mostly wading through shallow waters over a rocky bed. When it got deeper we had to swim for as long as 40 or 50 meters - not being a good swimmer this was tiring. Everything gets wet.

The most beautiful parts where when we had to swim through very narrow passages less than 2 meters wide and there were those amazing reflections from the river on the rocky sides of the mountain.

Out of Place :(

For the past two days i found myself having dinner with a group of married couples! It starts off ok. Some are discussing how there summer jobs are going, others are talking about golf and hiking, and others are talking about some weird forms of mental disorders. But it doesn't take long until the inevitable happens and they revert to their social status as couples and start talking about how they first met, funny things about each other habits, anniversaries, and even pregnancy. Romance kicks in and that's when i release it's time for me to leave.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Don Corleone!!

"I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom, but I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a boyfriend; not an Italian. She went to the movies with him; she stayed out late. I didn't protest. Two months ago, he took her for a drive, with another boyfriend. They made her drink whiskey. And then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her, like an animal. When I went to the hospital, her nose was broken. Her jaw was shattered, held together by wire. She couldn't even weep because of the pain. But I wept. Why did I weep? She was the light of my life beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again. I went to the police, like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison - suspended sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool. And those two bastards, they smiled at me. Then I said to my wife, for justice, we must go to Don Corleone."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Friendly Factor

Here is one thing i miss about Egypt. U meet a stranger for the first time, probably for the last time, in a random public setting, but it doesn't take you minutes maybe seconds to talk like friends. You quickly make jokes, might offer to help, and u r will most likely look for each other when u leave to say good bye. This doesn't seem to be the norm in America.

In Egypt, if u go on a day trip with someone, or even just play a game of football, the next time you meet u might great each other as lifetime friends. In America, you might get a very brief high, not to mention that you can be completely avoided.

There is something about this friendly attitude of Egyptians that develops in minutes that i miss. I am aware that's very different than friendship, nothing substantial can really come out of it. But it makes life despite its many inconveniences and difficulties more "friendly".

The Geekness Factor

Today i gave up most of my Saturday to attend communityNext - the viral marketing conference. I was hoping to get some insights similar to those you get from reading something like "Tipping Point", but this time hearing it from those experiencing it first hand. Unfortunately i got very little of that.

Except for one or two speakers/panelists, i really didn't get anything concrete that can be reapplied. Telling you that the main thing is to have a really good product, doesn't really add much. The over emphasized fun factor was starting to sound like irresponsible and goalless. This is not to say that there weren't a couple with meaningful things on their hands. But there was a big portion of people that are doing things that "they" think is fun and period; a not seemingly-interesting person broadcasting his life 24/7, a blog that has to do with cats and cheese burger, and a guy who thinks its extremely obvious that booze is so cool with email and have nothing to add more than that.

It's a different world out there. And they are the ones millions of people are downloading their apps on facebook. It's interesting to get to see it from the inside, but i don't seem to belong to it. Maybe I would have a different opinion if i were in their shoes playing around to start the next big thing, or maybe the next not very big thing.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Just & Generous

If u ever think life has been unjust to u, think again. Think again and remember that life is not a random event, it's the will of a Just God. Not just the most Just but also the most Generous.

Not only are the misfortunes we face - what we might think of as the miseries of our lives - balanced by God's countless gifts to us, but they are also nothing if compared to the bad deeds we commit repeatedly despite those gifts.

At some point in my life i felt bad because i was deprived of a close relation with and support of a dedicated father. But on the other hand i had the most dedicated mother - God's gift. On the other hand, i sometimes gave her really hard time - my own bad deed. More than that, others might have suffered an abusive father.

At different point in my career and also my study, i didn't get the result i felt i deserved. But to start with, it was a privelage to be in a position to expect those results. And almost invariably whenever the results were very bad, i was not on good virtuous standing.

And coming out of a failed marriage - an experience that leaves a bitter taste - that put me under the control of people who i hold the least respect to, i think of different people i've hurt or taken advantage of, whether for the sake of some personal satisfaction or out of sheer insensibility.

I've definitely got more than i deserve.

Just and Generous is our God.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Where will our Weakness take Us?!

"Kolema Natoub Na'ood" - Whenever we repent we go back (to our sins). A phrase or statement that i always remember from Imam's Do'aa in Ramadan Prayers back in Egypt. "Kolema Natoub Na'00d".

Is it lack of faith? My mind tells me it must be. If u believe in hereafter, if u believe in all the rewards that await the obedient, there is no way u should disobey God's orders. There is no way any rational personal can give away an eternal paradise for a perishing life. There is no earthly pleasure, no matter how it lasts, that is worth moments in hell. If one believes.

Is it weakness? Are we so weak to resist earthly temptations? Are we so weak to pass the tests God puts in our way? Maybe not all of us just don't have those strong characters that enable us to pass those tests, the integrity to remain honest even if this will bring others resentment, to be virtuous even if u lake a devoted one, to be firm in the face of any assault to your beliefs.

Or is it God's Mercifulness that we're taking advantage of. Is it God's mercifulness that encompasses everything - "wase'at kol shay' "?. To believe that God would forgive everything other than ascribing a partner upon him is an integral part of our faith. The story of the blind man who was spared hell after he was destined to it just because he attested to God's mercifulness is good example.

But what does all that mean? As long as we believe in God, weakness would be forgiven so so long as we're repentful?! I don't think its that simple either.

"Crossing The Chasm" a playback of 4 years of sales

Yesterday i finish reading "Crossing the Chasm", which i started reading less than ten days ago. I am usually not that fast with books, but this one was very special. It took me through a series of flash backs to the years i spent in software startup selling enterprise software. Lots of "Aha's". I believe anyone who's embarking on selling software to business would find it extremely useful.

The main theme is how a startup go mainstream with a disruptive high-tech product targeting the enterprise customer. There are a lot of basic marketing covered in the book. There is the typical segmentation, targeting, and positioning, and various elements of the 4 P's. However, the books main proposition is superimposing the product lifecycle and identifying different types of customers that are served in each stage - technology enthusiasts, visionaries, pragmatists, & conservatives. It adapts those marketing elements to the stages of that life cycle, and fleshes those high level concepts into more concrete images and tactics.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

US Military Spending

How does the US choose to be the worlds super power? Is it by lue of being the richest of the worlds economies? or by having the strongest military power?

The fact is that definitely thru both. The US forms 27% of the worlds' GDP. A balanced approach economy/military would suggest a similar proportional in terms of military spending. But the fact is that the US forms 45.7% of the worlds' defense spending.

Looking at the other countries with the largest military budgets: Britain contributes by 4.9% of world's GDP and 5.1% of world's defense spending, France contributes by 4.6% Vs. 4.6%, China by 4.3% Vs. 5.5%, and Japan by 3.8% Vs. 9.8%.

Does this clearly suggest that it is the military force that's driving the US world dominance more profoundly than it's economy.

Friday, July 06, 2007

What it takes?

A few days ago, I was happy to know that my former company -eSpace - is making progress towards kicking off its new products development. Going back to consumer products was the central theme of the company's vision as i was leaving a year ago and as Medo was stepping up as the new general manager.

Considering the lack of highly skilled caliber and being constantly under the pressure of demanding clients, I know how hard it is to stay committed to this vision and reach that point. This only shows the kind of intrisic motivation the current leadership has. It was easy to give in under those pressures. This is especially true if u look around and find that u r far beyond the average. But that's not what leaders do. Leaders set standards. Leaders never look below.

It would take such leaders to take the country where we all want. They choose to take Egypt where they want rather than letting Egypt take them where it is. The would not settle for an above average position.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Independence Day @ San Francisco

Two Greek guys, a Mexican, and myself headed to San Francisco today to see how American's celebrate their Independence Day. We arrived at around 1pm, and unlike what we expected, the streets downtown weren't as lively as they usually are - not so many people, and the no side street performers which adds the charm to the city. We wondered around, and at about 5pm headed to Pier 37. It's were the days action takes place: the fireworks.

By the time the sun was down tens of thousands of people were waiting by the pier side for the action to start. Besides those, there were 100s of boats around Alcatraz also waiting for the fireworks. At the end the fireworks started at around 9:30 but to my disappointment they weren't that fascinating - not what u would expect the Americans to do on their independence day.

Going home it was very similar to leaving Cairo Stadium after an important game for the Egyptian Football team - very crowded and extremely hard to get a cab.

I took two lessons with me: (1) to enjoy 4th of July fireworks at San Francisco make sure to be among those in the sea,
and (2) if u want to experience an American holiday better have an American on board.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Getting more out of my internship

I've been feeling i am not making the best out of my internship. This is not to say i am not excited about the project i am assigned to. It is more that i don't feel i am applying much of what i learned at school. This is partly because the nature of a project deals with relatively new concepts that have very little theory behind them. At the same time, I am not consciously trying to bridge the gap between what i've learned and what i am doing. What i think i should do is go back and revisit the key learning from two or three of my courses - most probably Strategy, Marketing and maybe OB - and see how can they fit with my current project.

If they don't, then what i do is i find chances where i could talk with people at Yahoo! who are doing things that fit within the scope of these key learnings, and either have some long/regular chats with them, or even audit some of their projects. I already talked with my manager about that and she welcomed the idea.

What everyone over here seems to have read

I started reading "Crossing the Chasm" - the book that everyone here at Silicon Valley seemed to have read. I just finished the first chapter. The idea behind the book is that there exists a big gap between what is called early adopters and early majority, and it is at this gap where so many startups - to everyone's surprise - fail.
The book supposedly develops a framework to cross this gap, hence the name "Crossing the Chasm".

So far it is interesting to read. The only caveat is that - being a relatively old book - most of its references are to enterprise clients. This raises the question of how applicable is that to the world of consumer technology.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Catching up with Outdoor Action before my Thirties

[This is a long one]

The trip started with 5-hrs on the road, half of which going up a curved mountain, no wonder i felt car sickness at the end. We arrived a little after midnight, luckly the car sickness went away after a few minutes from getting out of the car. We were all set - headlights, water, power bars, and a Full Moon in a clear sky.

We joined the rest of the group. Ah, i forgot to mention the group, it was predominantly members of the Palo Alto ward of the Mormon Church, this was part of the wards social activity and i was invited by one of my MBA classmates to join - probably this will deserve a separate post.

We started the hike, the first section wasn't much different than any other hike i guess, u just follow a trail thru the mountain under thick trees - some times its was a little steep, but its not that hard. It was only harder when i had to carry someone's else backpack.

We kept going and going .. and going and going .. dreaming of the cables, not knowing exactly what
they are, but I knew they were the last stage in the hike. Finally by 5am we were out of the thick trees and had two more stages. The first of these stages was going up a big rock, mostly thru big steps and sometimes by walking on its surface. That's a little harder than the previous section specially that we were dead by now.

Finally, we reached the final step, The Cables. This is were we turn into ants climbing an 80 degree flat surface of granite for a distance of about 100 meters holding on to 2 think cables. If u lose grip of these cables, u die. That was scary. But after 5 hrs on the road and more than 6 hrs up the mountain, there was no way i would have gone back without finishing this.

By around 7am we were there. Dead but we were there :). Many other people where there too at least a 100. Boys. Girls. Men. Women. Kids. Adults. Anywhere from 12 to 60 years old.

We stayed there for an hour, had some photos, rested for a while and then headed back. Going down the cables was as much "fun" as going up. Remember its flat rock surface 80 degrees steep, hands tight on two thick cables. Lose ur grip and u r toast. But surprisingly everyone makes it

We then hiked
down through the woods - no rocks and less steepness. The first part of that wasn't any special except for coming across a pair of dears :).

The nicest part was the water falls. Although i was told they are not as gushing as they are in the spring they were beautiful. I saw rainbow coming out of the waterfall bed. The peak of the trip was when i climbed down to a rock that was close to one of the waterfalls bed and stood there with the water flashing into my face.

By the time we came down to the valley, i guess it was around 3pm, that is after at least 13 hours of hiking, my brain was exploding and i could hardly move my right knee. Nevertheless, i was happy with the stretch.

We couldn't do much after that, so i napped for an our, we went and ate something, and then went to the camp site where we slept till the morning.

No much activity the following day. We drove around a little to some special spots in the valley. We then went to a place that was full of those huge trees called Sequoia Trees - claimed to be the largest trees on earth. After that my friends went to their Sunday service, and by 2:30pm we were heading home.

This is probably the most interesting recreational activity I did since i came to the US.

The place we went to was
Yosemite National Park, the mountain we hiked was Half Dome. The waterfalls we came across were Vernal and Nevada falls, and the giant sequoias were at Mariposa Grove. And the people i was with were very nice, friendly, and ...... hardcore hikers.