Why, how, and where I learn about tech

Recently, I was having a conversation about what work was going to look like in 5–10–15 years. In the middle of our conversation, I shared with him some insights from some new research about how certain skills and attitudes can help employees evolve and thrive as times change and evolve.

After I shared that piece of information, he said to me, “ You’re a tech consultant. That has nothing to do with your day job. How the hell did you know that?” Without trying to sound like a humblebrag, I said, honestly, “I just read a lot….it helps me learn.”

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It sounded like a silly answer, mostly because I think we take something like reading for granted because many of us have been doing it for so long. In all seriousness, a lot of my best ideas come from what I learn when I read. And while I’ve written about my desire to read books previously, I also spend a lot of time across various mediums trying to sharpen my knowledge on particular topics or be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking.

As a knowledge worker in a digital world, I like to think of the value that I bring as the sum of my knowledge and experiences. The more I increase each component the more value I can provide. Experience comes through working, and honestly, time. But knowledge can come in so many forms, one of them happens to be reading.

After we finished the conversation, it got me thinking that I’d love to know how others consume knowledge for the sake of learning, so much so that I’ve asked a few friends/colleagues to map out where and how they consume digital content. To ensure I’m contributing, I also decided to write out how consume content, who I get it from, and where I find it. So without any further ado, here is what mine looks like.

Some background: I work in consulting but with a technology bend. I like to think I am on the outside (but adjacent) to the tech industry. As such, a lot of what I read is tech related. Having said that, I’m a firm believer that technology impacts everyone, so even if you don’t work in tech, many of the things I list below could be of value to you.

Digital Tools & Apps

I rely on a number of media content apps/sites to get information. Furthermore, I also rely on a number of aggregators/curators to help me find the best information. Here are some of my favorites

Medium  — I like to read Medium at night. I find lots of thoughtful and reflective essays on a variety of topics that get me to think and stretch my mind. This tends to slant towards tech (and startups) but you can really find anything.

FlipBoard  — I follow a number of different media outlets who have setup boards and check this daily to get up to speed on particular sites. Furthermore, you can also set it up on tags (ex: startups)

LinkedIn Pulse  — I’ll check this once a day to get a pulse (sorry, too easy) of what people are reading and sharing about on LinkedIn. It’s usually fairly good at spotting trends or popular articles.

Pocket  — I think Pocket is for storing and saving content when you don’t have time to read something. It catalogues and stores what you save and even recommends articles based on what you save.

Nuzzel  — One of my favorites. I integrate this with my Twitter and it allows me to see the tweets/content that are shared the most from my Followers. It’s a great way for me to see what’s most popular amongst my followers. There’s also some features that allow you to sort by time (8, 16, 24 hours)

Quibb — A community of thinkers and intellectuals (mostly tech-minded) that share and engage in interesting content/articles. I typically find things here that I don’t find anywhere else.

E-Mail Newsletters

E-mail is still one of the most effective engagement channels probably because of people like me. Here are a few that I tend to read multiple times a week.

CBInsights — I love the data and insights they share. I also laugh at least once every time I read Anand’s email.

Mattermark  — Similar to CB Insights, great content and data. I especially like the curated content that they share from Operators and Investors.

VC’s

There are a lot of great VC’s who blog and share content. This list doesn’t do it justice but here are a few of my favorites

Hunter Walk — Hunter is always sharing interesting content, responding to peers/friends and championing startups he backs. When he does share his insights they are always very thoughtful and concise. His Five Question series on his blog has great guests and he asks really thoughtful questions. Plus he just comes off as a likeable and affable guy.

Mark Suster — Mark does a great job of spelling out things as they are and giving his honest and thoughtful assessment. I’m not a VC, but I enjoy reading what he has to say because it really gives me a lens of what it’s like to be one. Also, similar to Hunter, he’s got a really diverse background (entrepreneur, consultant, VC) so it adds a lot of credibility to his thoughts.

Tomasz Tunguz — Tomasz has some of the most insightful posts, usually accompanied by rigorous analysis and data.

Blogs

For regular/consistent content on topics of interest, here are a few places that I check frequently.

Farnham Street — One of the more insightful and intellectually stimulating blogs out there. I have to moderate my reading of this one so my brain doesn’t go on information overload

Stratechery — Ben Thompson’s content on strategy & technology is top-notch and very insightful.

First Round Review — FRR’s content is top-notch. This is an awesome place to get a deep dive on a particular business topic from an experienced tech executive. The content is not only interesting but incredibly informative.

Conclusion

For those of you who also consume a lot of content I’d love to hear what you use and where you go to in order to learn new ideas. With so much great content out there it is hard to fully know if what you are looking at is really the best so I’d love to see what others think.

For Additional Reading

So you want to learn more about startups– Benjamin Hoffman

The Easy Way to Learn Hard Stuff-Per Harald Borgen

On Building a Daily Habit of Continuous Learning– Andrew Savikas

The Ultimate Guide to learning anything faster– Sean Kim

When someone asks you for your time

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We’ve all got (and sent those e-mails.) “Can I have a few minutes of your time to talk about your career?” At some point, we’ve all had to do an informational interview.

Earlier this year, I blogged about how I was able to effectively respond to 95% of the informational interview requests that came my way. I truly enjoy as it serves as a great way to connect with others and share information. I might be going out on a limb here, but I’ve been told as well that I’m usually pretty helpful in these conversations, so that makes me feel good too.

Lately, I’ve had a handful of disappointing experiences talking with students, professionals around these career conversations, which frustrates me because I do think they are important. Without turning this into a rant or a complaint, I want to share some feedback for others to hopefully help guide others who are looking to reach out to people in their network for informational interviews. I know I am not alone in this, so I hope this is useful.

 

First and foremost, show up – I’ve had multiple situations where someone reached out to connect with me and we setup time to chat, only to have them no-show on me. People forget and make mistakes – That happens, and is part of life. But think about the impression that you leave on someone when you no show on them, especially if you end up applying to a position at the company or school.

Have a purpose – I’ve had a few conversations with people who did show up but that was it. They seemed to treat the conversation as a formality or as part of their checklist of things that they needed to do. It was almost as if they had either been told that they needed to do informational interviews and they never understood why and just started emailing people or, they were already so advanced in the interview or admissions process that they were just trying to make sure they covered their bases. Obviously, you wouldn’t be asking for their help if you weren’t trying to learn, so naturally you’re going to ask some elementary questions, but doing some homework and being intentional about what you’re looking for shows your focus and purpose on what you’re trying to achieve. I’m a big believer in action is better than inaction, but remember that while this may serve your needs and wants you are also imposing on someone else’s time, which could be valuable. If you’re going to make a request for someone’s time, make sure it’s got a purpose.

 

Be Grateful – When someone gives you a half hour of their day to talk to you that means they are giving you some of their time that they could be using on something else. Be mindful and thoughtful of that by ensuring you are making the most of what they are giving you and for what you are asking of them.

Be Flexible – If you want someone to answer and respond to your request, the best way to maximize your efforts is to be as flexible as possible. If you tell them you can only chat from 5-6PM on Mondays, it can be easy for someone to say no if they cannot talk during that time. If you truly want to talk to someone, consider flexing around their availability.

 

Finally, for those of you that get networking requests, here are some tips that can help you manage them.

Push them out – If you’re short on time, or if you want to weed out your interviews, one suggestion is to push out the request to a later date. Tell the person you’d be happy to speak with them, but perhaps they could follow up in a week or two. This buys you time if you are busy, but it also puts it on the individual to take the initiative to follow up, which can tell you how serious they are about wanting to speak with you.

Make them articulate their purpose – Before you meet with them consider responding and asking them for specific things that you want to discuss. Having them articulate why they want to speak with you can help you tell how serious they are about the conversation. As I said before, they wouldn’t be reaching out to you if they weren’t trying to learn something, so naturally they may not have 100% clarity and that’s okay. But at least getting them to attempt to articulate what they are trying to achieve can help ensure you’re actually the best person to help them out.

Point them to other resources – Because of the Internet, many basic questions can be answered. To make things more efficient and to ensure conversations are worthwhile, consider sending them or pointing them to existing resources so you don’t have to repeat what your company or school’s website already says.

We all make mistakes, we’re all learning how to do this networking and career thing. None of these are the end of the world. Furthermore, part of figuring out your career journey is asking questions and talking to people, so much of this is the cost of doing business.

The 2 biggest takeaways I can try to impart are that when you’re networking with others try to remember that it’s not just about yourself. Finally, when you are talking with others, it means they are giving up some of their time that they could be using on something else, so when you shoot someone an e-mail asking for their time, remember to be thankful for it if they choose to give it to you.

2015 Year in Review: My First Annual Letter

Each year, companies write letters to their shareholders letting them know how they did and what to expect in the year to come. I’ve decided to adopt a similar policy myself. I got inspiration to do one of these after reading one of my favorite blogs and seeing some others who I respect do something similar. I thought it would be great to detail some of the successes and failures and come up with some tangible goals for the year. I am already looking forward to next December to see how I did!

 

2015 was a big year for me. I graduated from business school, decided to return to my company, moved to a new state (and coast) and attended my five year college reunion. Without humblebragging too much it probably was one of my best years yet.

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Celebrating one last time after graduating

I wish I could say I had a lot to do with this but the reality of it is that it takes a village and without the village of friends, family and colleagues I would not be where I am. I wish I could say I did something different, or had a magic formula for success, but honestly, a lot of success came from showing up every day, working hard, getting some breaks, being persistent, and trying to stay true to my core values and beliefs.

 

While I had many successes, I certainly had my moments when I failed and fell short. This is natural, and something that I need to be more comfortable with (More on that later) But with that in mind, let’s take a look at what happened in 2015.

Successes

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Family photo after getting my diploma

Graduated from Business School – One of the obvious accomplishments for the year was graduating from business school back in May. Going to business school has been a goal of mine since I was little when I learned from my parents that education was the platform for them to achieve their own personal and professional goals. This goal felt extra special to me, as both my parents are proud holders of MBAs themselves, so it was extra meaningful to have them there to celebrate this accomplishment, as none of this would have been possible without them. What was even more humbling was to be awarded with the Class Leadership Award. I participated in a number of fantastic leadership opportunities while in business school and in addition to learning a great deal I developed some pretty special friendships. To be recognized for the work that I did and the impact I made was humbling and icing on the cake.

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Returned to Consulting – I went into business school with the intention of reflecting on what I had done in my career and understanding where I wanted to go long-term. My next step brought me back to where I started, or well, close to it. I decided to return to consulting, and feel fortunate to be back with a good company. I got even luckier to return to working with some former colleagues who I like and respect, personally and professionally. I’m closer to figuring out the impact I want to have on this world and learning more about what that might look like for my career and jobs of the future, but for now, returning to the firm and consulting was the right career choice.

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BC Reunion 2015

Celebrated my 5-Year College Reunion – I celebrated my 5 year reunion by at the end of May. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my Alma Mater Boston College so getting the chance to return and see some friends who I have seen since graduating ones that I haven’t was super exciting and memorable. I feel like I’ve said this many times, but I thought I couldn’t love BC more than I did and yet again I was proven wrong.

 

Move to the West Coast – I spent the Summer of 2014 in San Francisco, and had such a great time I decided to move there in June. While I miss the east coast, I’ve really enjoying living here so far. I’m not sure how long I’ll be out here, but I’m liking it for now. And if you’re ever in the area, hit me up!

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Always great to have visitors!

Served in a Wedding – In addition to having close friends get engaged (James/Carrie) and celebrating marriages (  Jeff/Katie) I had the privilege of seeing one of my closest friends Charlie get married, and an even greater privilege as serving as his best man. In addition to helping plan a pretty fun bachelor party, I’ve been told I handled my best man duties well, as I did a solid job in my best man speech and provided adequate to above average moves on the dance floor.

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Congrats Chuck and Kel!

Started writing regularly – I’ve blogged, written, and published in fits and starts in the past, but could never find the momentum to do it regularly. 2015 was the year I finally got momentum. A lot of this came on MBASchooled, the blog I started, but I also wrote on a number of other venues. I can’t claim to be a great writer just yet, but I’m pleased that I finally got over a big hump.

 

Kept my Resolutions – I set some resolutions in 2015 and I did a good job of checking a number of them off the list – I took salsa classes, learned how to cook a few more dishes, started writing regularly, started doing yoga, visited a few of my close friends, and read 12 books. Not too bad!

 

Traveled the World – Business School gave me a great opportunity to catch the travel bug. In addition to seeing my friends and family all across the United States I got to South America for the first time (Chile and Peru) and made it back to Europe (Italy and France.) In the US, I made it to Austin (first time) and saw some old favorites (Boston, NYC, Los Angeles, and Seattle.)

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Cusco, Peru

Found an apartment..in San Francisco! – If you live in the Bay Area you will appreciate the gravity of this!

Helping Out in the Career Search – By my own metrics, I believe I was able to respond to > 95% of the requests I got for career advice. If I missed you, I’m sorry! Shoot me a note and I’ll try again!

Failures

Sleep (or lack thereof) – I’ve never been a great sleeper but in 2015 somehow I managed to get worse. I’m not sure if it was too much coffee, too much screen time before bed, or just other bad habits, but it’s something I need to work on for the future.

 

Not getting out of my comfort zone – I pride myself on setting goals and achieving them, and sometimes I optimize for achieving goals instead of stretching myself or learning. I think I was challenged in 2015, but I don’t think I put myself in enough positions where I was really pushing myself outside of something I was capable/comfortable with.

 

Too much thinking – I pride myself on being thoughtful and practicing due diligence, but I have a tendency to overthink things before, during, and after they happen. A number of decisions I made I felt like I spent way too much time and effort on given the output or outcome. Furthermore, I think I stressed or got anxiety thinking about a number of things that either A) didn’t matter B) I had 0 control over.

 

Marathon Cut Short – I was training for the Chicago marathon and got pretty far into the process (20 miles) before getting injured and bowing out. This was a disappointing experience but ultimately the right decision as running would have been an awful (and painful) experience. I’m going to run a marathon eventually, it just wasn’t in 2015.

 

 

What I Learned

Doing nothing can be amazing – On a number of occasions, I found myself with significant amounts of down time in 2015. I’m someone who thrives off of a schedule and activities and in these situations I was uncomfortable at first with the thought of doing nothing. Well, I survived those times, and actually, it was pretty awesome. Sometimes, the doing nothing means everything. Sure, I still thrive off the schedule, and at the end of a long break I do get a little restless but I think I finally enjoyed to enjoy the solace of peace and quiet.

 

Taking care of yourself is important – I turned 28 in December and by no means am I old. Having said that, I’m starting to see signs of aging. My back has taken a toll from sitting at a computer all day and I was training for a marathon and got injured and had to stop. None of these are life threatening setbacks, but I’ve learned the importance of taking care of yourself so you can enjoy life as much as possible.

 

Time is precious – Unfortunately, I lost my Aunt Joyce in late 2015, and had a number of friends who also lost loved ones. Death has and always will be present, but this year it hit closer to home than ever before. As trite as it sounds, its important to cherish and value the time and experiences you have with others. People don’t last forever, but the gratitude and appreciation you have for them can.

 

The Secret of Your 20’s – During business school, some of my more experienced and mature classmates “envied” me because I didn’t have things in my life that tied me down, and was able to make decisions based on what I wanted to do. Many of them had spouses, pets, children, mortgages, etc that they had to weigh, which often made the decision making process more complex. Through my many conversations with my classmates, I began to feel grateful and aware of how much autonomy and agency I had at this point in my life.

Conversely, I have friends, either from BC, or who I grew up with who are my age but are at similar stages of life to my business school classmates – married, getting puppies, thinking about kids, saving for a house, and at times, I felt uneasy thinking of “how far behind” I was than most of my peers, and I began to put inherent pressure on myself to “catch up.”

Your 20’s is an interesting time because for the first time you don’t have  a marker or pacesetter (ex: Sophomore Year, Junior Year, Senior Year) that governs progress for you and your peers. As such, people kind of evolve and move at their own pace, and when you look to the right and left it can be easy to get overwhelmed because you automatically think you are behind if you are not moving as fast as other people. In reality, there’s much to be enjoyed at all stages of life, and there is no better time to enjoy it but the present. Sure, I want many of the things that my friends who are farther along in their journey have, and probably yearn for things that some of my younger friends have, but focusing too much on what’s behind or what’s ahead will cloud your view to see the goodness that’s right in front of you.

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Beach Week 2015!

 

Goals for 2016

 

Personal Projects – I have a couple personal projects that I’ve had on the back burner for many years and I think it’s time that I take them front in center in 2016. To start, I’m working on developing some content around career development for 20-somethings that I not only will share digitally but also hope to present in a public setting. I’ve started and shelved some of these projects multiple times over the past 5-6 years but I’ve got good momentum and progress even though I’m barely a week into the New Year so I am excited about seeing them to fruition.

 

Building New Relationships – For the past two years, I’ve had the benefit of being in business school and surrounded by 560 people who all have something in common with me. As such, it was convenient to build relationships. One of the biggest secrets of being a post-grad 20 something is that it is hard and takes work to build relationships when you’re out of a college or grad school setting. I love my friends, both in San Francisco and outside of it and hope to see and stay in touch with them but I also know there are lots of great people out there who I probably have something in common with too. So, in addition to maintaining great relationships with existing friends, in 2016 I hope to build new relationships with new people.

 

Sleeping better – I’ve never been a great sleeper and I’ve honestly never tried to get better at it. I’m starting to realize the impact of poor sleep (read here) and I want to make this a goal for 2015. To help, I’ve already made some adjustments – starting in late 2015 I began keeping my work phone out of my bedroom at night. I just moved to keeping my personal phone out of the bedroom as well and relying on an alarm clock (can you believe it?) I’m going to try turn keep off the phone earlier in the evening so I can unclutter my mind and prevent distractions or mindless phone checking. My lone exception will be the Kindle Reader, so if I want to read before bed I can still do that.

 

Falling on my face – As I said earlier, one of my failures for 2015 was not failing enough. I know that some of the best growing and learning opportunities came when I was uncomfortable or was extremely challenged. I still want to look for opportunities to leverage my strengths, but I want to continue on exponential growth, and I know I need to fail in order to get that.

 

More Doing, Less Thinking – I’m all for being thoughtful and using rationale and patience to make decisions but at times I can be overly analytical and suffer paralysis by analysis. I want to focus on just jumping in on certain decisions instead of trying to think and play out every single scenario. Also, doing does not mean that I can’t think. In fact, doing and taking action will give me an opportunity to eventually evaluate what I decided to do.

 

Less Technology – I’m all for technology, and I love using it. However, I’ve realized I’m too reliant on it, especially my smartphone. I’m trying to check my phone less often throughout the course of the day. As mentioned above, I’m shutting it off earlier in the evening. Finally, I’m trying to find more activities I can do that don’t require me to be in front of a computer.

 

West Coast Best Coast? – Is the west coast the best coast? Well, I’d love to find out. I’m going to try to get to a couple places on the west coast for vacation this year to find out if what they say is true!

 

Conclusion

2015 was a great year, and a fun year. I’m proud of what I have accomplished and grateful for the love, support, and people that are in my life. I am excited about what’s in store for 2016 and look forward to making these goals happen!