“How Google Works” by Eric Schmidt notes

How Google Works” by Eric Schmidt, despite being quite self-congratulatory and maybe even prone to confirmation bias, is full of inspirational ideas and bids of practical wisdom to learn from. I took a few (ok, quite a few) notes on smart creatives, decision making, hiring, innovation, strategy, career, management and even managing email.

On smart creatives:

“And who, exactly, is this smart creative? A smart creative has deep technical knowledge in how to use the tools of her trade and plenty of hands-on experience. In our industry, that means she is most likely a computer scientist, or at least understands the tenets and structure of the systems behind the magic you see on your screens every day. But in other industries she may be a doctor, designer, scientist, filmmaker, engineer, chef, or mathematician. She is an expert in doing. She doesn’t just design concepts, she builds prototypes. She is analytically smart. She is comfortable with data and can use it to make decisions. She also understands its fallacies and is wary of endless analysis. Let data decide, she believes, but don’t let it take over.

She is business smart. She sees a direct line from technical expertise to product excellence to business success, and understands the value of all three. She is competitive smart. Her stock-in-trade starts with innovation, but it also includes a lot of work. She is driven to be great, and that doesn’t happen 9-to-5. She is user smart. No matter the industry, she understands her “get it right the next time around. She is self-directed creative. She doesn’t wait to be told what to do and sometimes ignores direction if she doesn’t agree with it. She takes action based on her own initiative, which is considerable.

She is open creative. She freely collaborates, and judges ideas and analyses on their merits and not their provenance. If she were into needlepoint, she would sew a pillow that said, “If I give you a penny, then you’re a penny richer and I’m a penny poorer, but if I give you an idea, then you will have a new idea but I’ll have it too.” Then she would figure out a way to make the pillow fly around the room and shoot lasers.

She is thorough creative. She is always on and can recite the details, not because she studies and memorizes, but because she knows them. They are her details. She is communicative creative. She is funny and expresses herself with flair and even charisma, either one-to-one or one-to-many.”

 

HIPPOs:

“Hippopotamuses are among the deadliest animals, faster than you think and capable of crushing (or biting in half) any enemy in their path. Hippos are dangerous in companies too, where they take the form of the Highest-Paid Person’s Opinion. When it comes to the quality of decision-making, pay level is intrinsically irrelevant and experience is valuable only if it is used to frame a winning argument. Unfortunately, in most companies experience is the winning argument. We call these places “tenurocracies,” because power derives from tenure, not merit. It reminds us of our favorite quote from Jim Barksdale, erstwhile CEO of Netscape: “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

When you stop listening to the hippos, you start creating a meritocracy, which our colleague Shona Brown concisely describes as a place where “it is the quality of the idea that matters, not who suggests it.” Sounds easy, but of course it isn’t. Creating a meritocracy requires equal participation by both the hippo, who could rule the day by fiat, and the brave smart creative, who risks getting trampled as she stands up for quality and merit.”

 

On technical insights as a driver of innovation:

“Bet on technical insights, not market research. Product leaders create product plans, but those product plans often (usually!) lack the most important component: What is the technical insight upon which those new features, products, or platforms will be built? A technical insight is a new way of applying technology or design that either drives down the cost or increases the functions and usability of the product by a significant factor. The result is something that is better than the competition in a fundamental way. The improvement is often obvious; it doesn’t take a lot of marketing for customers to figure out that this product is different from everything else.

For example, at that time Google was experimenting in applying some of our expertise from online advertising to other advertising markets, including print, radio, and TV. These were clever efforts, supported by smart people, but they lacked that fundamental technical insight that would shift the cost-performance curve non-incrementally and provide significant differentiation. All three ultimately failed. And when we look back at other Google products that didn’t make it (iGoogle, Desktop, Notebook, Sidewiki, Knol, Health, even the popular Reader), they all either lacked underlying technical insights from the outset, or the insights upon which they were based became dated as the Internet evolved.”

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How to Start a Startup Stanford class materials

Free, open to everyone and highly educational Stanford class “How to Start a Startup” has just ended. But all the materials, including talks by star speakers, such as Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Ben Horowitz, Sam Altman, Brian Chesky and others are going to be available online. For quick reference, here is the complete collection of all course materials:

Lectures

Date Speaker Topic
9/23/14 Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator
Dustin Moskovitz, Cofounder, Facebook, Cofounder, Asana, Cofounder, Good Ventures
Welcome, and Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part I
Why to Start a Startup
9/25/14 Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part II
9/30/14 Paul Graham, Founder, Y Combinator Before the Startup
10/2/14 Adora Cheung, Founder, Homejoy Building Product, Talking to Users, and Growing
10/7/14 Peter Thiel, Founder, Paypal, Founder, Palantir, and Founder, Founders Fund Competition is For Losers

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Good vs Bad PM by Ben Horowitz

There was a mention in the “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” of “Good Product Manager – Bad Product Manager” document written by Ben Horowitz himself during his tenure as Opsware CEO. So I’ve decided to look it up. In my experience as a brand manager in consumer goods companies, characteristics and behaviors that make a good PM in tech are very consistent with those that make a good brand manager in CPG or even a general manager in general.

Here is the full version found on khoslaventures.com worth looking at:

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Google VP’s résumé formula

An advice on how to frame your accomplishments in a smart way by Google People Operations VP:

“The key is to frame your strengths as: ‘I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.’ Most people would write a résumé like this: ‘Wrote editorials for The New York Times.’ Better would be to say: ‘Had 50 op-eds published compared to average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.’ Most people don’t put the right content on their résumés.”

Not many people will have the proper content to frame this way though.

My interview about MBA experience

I might risk sounding like an egotistical douche posting my own interview on this blog. But I think some parts of my conversation with Accepted.com might be helpful to other MBA applicants and those who are simply curious about MBA. Otherwise, just skip it.

A small caveat: I am not affiliated with any of MBA admissions consulting companies in any way, including Accepted which just found me a couple of months ago trough this blog. Even though some people might benefit from such help, I believe that it is absolutely possible to plan admissions and prepare independently. So, I am not endorsing the company in any way as I simply do not have any experience and cannot evaluate their services.  Anyway, for those who are interested in MBA journey, here is our conversation:

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What year are you at UC Berkeley Haas? 

Max: My name is Max. I am currently getting my MBA at University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business, in the class graduating in 2015.

I am originally from Russia, Tyumen City. I graduated in International Economics and Business from one of the best regional universities and then moved to Moscow in 2008 for the next five years and then to the US in 2013 to start my MBA.

Accepted: What is your favorite thing about Haas so far? And if you could change one thing about the program, what would it be? 

Max: What I like most about Haas are the people. It is inspirational and fun to be around people who have so much in common with you but at the same time offer such diversity, coming from different backgrounds, career paths and countries. It really makes you reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and widen your perspective. Actually, I recently blogged about things I liked most about Haas, among them are the school’s focus on technology and entrepreneurship, its location close to the Silicon Valley and being a part of large top university.

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Why Berkeley-Haas

People sometimes ask for my reasons behind choosing Berkeley-Haas among other schools.

Berkeley. Is MBA worth it

Shortly, these are the reasons:

  • It is a part of a larger top university.
    • For instance, I do not think I would enjoy going to LBS or INSEAD as much. These are great business schools, but these business schools are not part of larger universities.
    • There is something special about being on campus with ~30 thousand smartest students from all over the world who also major in fields other than business.
    • For example, UC Berkeley is currently top 1-2 in Computer Science, top 1-5 in Physics and top 1-3 in Mechanical Engineering.
  • Location, location, location. Not only because it is sunny California, but because being close to Silicon Valley opens many career opportunities that are highly germane to my vision.
  • Focus on technology and entrepreneurship.
  • Believe it or not, but the I find the defining principles personally appealing.
  • Great brand and good rankings do not hurt as well.
    • But in particular, I liked the fact that Haas ranks well on the “Student evaluation” axis, it is #2 in “Students’ evaluation of career services” and quite high overall “Student rating of the program (out of 5)”, 4.56, according to The Economist 2013 rankings.
  • I really want to add “people” to this list of Berkley-Haas strengths, but this would be probably unfair as I cannot compare to other schools as I could not know it for sure before starting the program.

The list could go on and on and on, but these are probably the main ones top-of-mind. Of course, there are drawbacks as well, but no one schools is perfect.

Let me know what you think!

How I (did not?) beat the GMAT

Disclaimer

In this post I want to share my experience of preparation to GMAT test and advice on some “DOs and DON’Ts”. It will only be interesting for those who want to pass it and already know what GMAT is, what it is for, and how it is generally structured. Others will probably derive no benefit from reading this article.

So, as we assumed that you have a basic understanding of how test works (if you do not, I would recommend that you read the Wiki article about it), let us skip all the introductory information about the test and dive right into the preparation, my experience, and advice.

gmat test

 

Full disclosure

I think, it would be fair to start with my own result to manage everybody’s expectations. Who knows, maybe some of you will leave after this part…

I took the test twice and scored exactly the same, 710. Q49 and V38 — first time and Q48 and V39 — second time. It is the 92th percentile. In other words, 92% of those who took the test did worse while 8% of them did better . Ironically, I received 6.0 out of maximum 6.0 for Analytical Writing Assessment, GMAT section I almost did not prepare for.

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