Adventure

2015, in Review

What a year! I have had some incredible professional and personal experiences in 2015 and I thought I would share a few of my favorites:

  • At MasterCard, we launched several new API services for a variety of customer segments.
  • We launched Masters of Code, a global hackathon competition from MasterCard that enabled us to work with some of the best software developers in the world.
  • We focused on expanding our customer base globally and ensuring that our global growth was sustainable through the creation of a decentralized process. This allowed me to work with some incredible technologists and organizations all over the world.
  • We launched the first ever global internal hackathon at MasterCard in which more than 5% of the entire company participated.
  • We worked with highly skilled and creative NYC developers at events such as the NYC FinTech Hackathon, TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon (at which a group of MasterCard developers won third place overall) and with Cornell Tech students at an internal event.
  • We facilitated Commerce Forum meetups in MasterCard’s NYC Tech Hub, bringing in a variety of speakers to talk about what’s happening in the commerce industry. This was in addition to our NYC involvement in great organizations such as the NY FinTech Meetup and the NYC TechDay.
  • I had the opportunity to represent MasterCard at fairly large events in the community this year, including an Inter-American Development Bank event, Front End of Innovation, AnDevCon, and more.
  • I was honored to be a formal mentor for a variety of organizations this year including XRC Labs, Techstars, Startupbootcamp, AngelHack Hackcelerator, and NYC Generation Tech.
  • I had a (short) conversation with and was retweeted by pmarca.
  • We closed out a successful year for Ignite Stamford (and will have relevant news on the organization soon).
  • I have continued to serve on my city’s legislative board and with my colleagues have continued to improve our community.
  • I was very excited to attend tapings of new talk shows that launched in 2015 including Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, David Letterman and Stephen Colbert.
  • I attended some games including those of the Yankees, the Red Sox and the UConn Huskies. I’m a fan of two out of those three – I’ll let you guess.
  • I attended a few concerts, my favorite of which was U2 at Madison Square Garden.
  • I saw the new Star Wars movie. Multiple times.
  • I am always trying to learn new things, so I took some time to study the fundamentals of quantum entanglement, machine learning, cloud architecture and venture capital.
  • I became engaged to an intelligent and loving woman.

Here’s to a great 2016!
CUGfCuTWUAATku9

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Leadership

My Day with the Chief HR Officer of MasterCard

Human Resources. Unless you’ve worked in the field or worked with someone in the field, HR can seem like a black hole where decisions on promotions, raises, and layoffs are made. “Don’t mind the man behind the curtain,” so to speak. But unlike in the Wizard of Oz, many employees do not have the ability or the will to discover what the world of HR is really like. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to do so.

Last month, the Chief Human Resources Officer of MasterCard was kind enough to host me for a day at the corporate headquarters. I spent the day attending meetings with him and was sure to record my experience. The following is a log of my day. All names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals, when appropriate.

7:20am – I get to the global headquarters a little early and find a comfortable chair to check my email in. My day is supposed to start at 7:30am, so I want to make sure that my host has time to go though his morning routine.

7:30am – Time to meet Ron. I go into the executive wing and find his office. He is at his desk, probably checking on emails as well. He greets me, allows me to put my things away, and makes sure I know where the secret kitchen is “just in case.” We spend a good amount of time talking about my history, my professional goals, and where I see myself going. We also talk about company culture, especially as it relates to the new NYC office. He tells me about himself, a little of his professional history, and describes his role at the company. It is interesting to hear about the different constituencies he serves and he often is the one to deal with intra-executive tensions.

8:40am – A quick break. I take the time to write some of these notes and catch up on email.

8:50am – Ron shows me some slides that he has previously presented to the company’s board of directors. They outline the status of the company’s people organization, and some of where we are headed. It is interesting to see the amount of tremendous diversity in the company, but we still have more to do.

9:00am – Gregory comes in to meet with my host and discuss some exciting new recruiting programs in the works. Again, it was interesting to hear about the different constituencies involved and the tensions that can arise between them.

9:25am – Simil pops in to tell my host about a recent hire. The person’s title is Director of First Impressions and can be found at the front desk of headquarters.

10:15am – Our next meeting, Angelica comes in to talk about an upcoming TEDx style talk she was invited to give. She is planning to talk about the value of reverse mentoring. We talk about the difference in work styles between different generations, and the need to expect differences and find common ground.

10:55am – Email break with a tweet.

11:15am – We stealthily join a feedback call on a new online training program for people managers; stealthily because we don’t want to skew the feedback. The group on the call were all beta testers, and provided both very positive feedback as well as a few opportunities for improvement. Someone brings up one of my (many) favorite quotes from Albert Einstein: “I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.”

11:50am – Time for a walk. We visit the different HR folks around the office. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my host knows each by name.

12:05pm – We grab lunch and chat about our travels. My host gets something healthy and I do not. Enough said.

1:05pm – We have a meeting with the head of employee relations who also acts as my host’s human resource business partner. Essentially, this person is “HR for HR,” which is an interesting dynamic in itself. I can imagine the experience being relatable to a doctor’s doctor.

2:10pm – One of the things our CHRO likes to do is have a little fun once in a while, so we took the opportunity to prank call an employee we mutually knew well. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t pick up her phone, so we had to leave a prank message instead.

2:15pm – We have a short meeting about employee engagement and an associated program being developed.

2:50pm – We call back the employee we pranked. She said she fell for it for a couple seconds, but then started to recognize voices. All well, we tried.

3:00pm – Ron has a call with a potential high-level hire. It is an introductory call to see if there may be any good fits. I silently listen in, and we compare notes afterwards.

3:50pm – Another email break. Unsurprisingly since he is a corporate executive, and I getting us ready for an upcoming hackathon.

4:05pm – An interesting meeting between us, the CHROs Chief of Staff, and the head of internal communications.

4:55pm – The conclusion of a great day. I say thank you, promise to keep in touch with my host, and head home.

Overall, I had a fantastic experience with MasterCard’s Chief Human Resources Officer. My experience taught me that there is a lot of planning and work that goes into running a people organization. I would strongly recommend that anyone who is interested in running an organization take some time to learn how to manage and plan for a company’s most important asset – its people.

Continue the discussion by tweeting me with #HR!

 

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Community, Entrepreneurship, Leadership

Inverse(STEM) – What Happened to Well-Rounded?

For a few years now, some of the most notable technology executives have impressed upon today’s youth the importance of learning to code and the importance of STEM. Even President Obama jumped on the bandwagon in 2013. When I served on the board of the University of Connecticut, we worked with our Governor to launch a new operational and capital investment initiative by the state called NextGen Connecticut. The focus of this initiative, as you can read about, was additional STEM faculty, facilities and programs. STEM initiatives, in general, are good for the long-term health of our businesses and society as long as they are not created through or with the debilitation of other initiatives. It is that last part I’m a little worried about.

Dave McClure and the 500 Startups team, who are doing tremendous work globally in entrepreneurship communities, focus on finding great companies that have three key team ingredients, succinctly called “H2D”: a hacker (software developer), a hustler (sales/business development), and a designer (product architect/humanist). This team formula can create fantastic results, as we’ve seen from many of their portfolio companies. Yet STEM only focuses on one or two of these three legs, those being hacker and (maybe) designer. Not even discussing the broader needs of society, have we become to narrowly focused on STEM while forgetting other important fields?

Fortunately, I have been able to become somewhat fluent in particular programming languages, enough to have a certain level of conversation with software developers. As a kid, I went to a computer science camp and learned some game design (yes, I was/am a nerd, let’s move on). Later, I took courses on Codecademy and I continue to work with many of our product groups at MasterCard who were building APIs. I never have any intention of being a developer, but a certain level of fluency has been useful. My job at Apple was sales and marketing focused, so that box has certainly been checked. You could say I have filled in two parts of Dave’s formula so far, which just leaves some design experience. I’ve been able to take on some prototyping projects, but I am sure I will lean on resources like GA to help fill the gap.

So while the President, industry leaders, and many individuals are correct in suggesting that individuals learn to code (or more specifically, gain some level of fluency in coding as one might learn a spoken language in school), it is also important that our leaders recognize, even from an economic development persecutive, the importance of other skills and fields.

Thoughts on educational investment for the next generation? Tweet at me with #edu, and let me know!

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Community, Entrepreneurship

A Facilitator’s Journey: Startup Weekend Lancaster

That was quite the drive. But after hours of road time through the back hills of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, I have arrived at the small city of Lancaster. As preparation to facilitate the Startup Weekend event this weekend, I learned how to correctly pronounce the city’s name. This is one of the smallest events I have been to with less than 40 people attending. The experience is great, just the same, though. Friday night pitches were creative, and I heard some fantastic ideas: everything from 3D printed coffee-top designs to a ride sharing app.

As of the time of this writing, the teams have coalesced into four (maybe five) teams, and are working hard to flush out their ideas and start some software and customer development. I am continuously impressed by the level of passion individuals bring to their work at Startup Weekend events, even if the idea isn’t originally theirs. Can’t wait for Sunday night presentations!

Follow some of the action on Twitter, and be sure to tweet at me with #startups. Go teams!

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Entrepreneurship

Which Corporate Life to Live

I have had a diverse set of work experiences in my professional life. I’ve done everything from individual consultant work, to startup work, to working in a small organization, to now working at a relatively large organization. From my perspective, here are a few culture benefits and disadvantages to each:

Consultant Work

Advantages: Responsible for yourself, work on your own schedule, only work on your interests

Disadvantages: Lonesome, not necessarily considered “part of the team,” terms are dictated to you, no traditional corporate benefits, no stable paycheck

Startup Work

Advantages: Your work matters ALOT, you are probably doing something you are passionate about, you will learn ALOT, potentially large financial upside

Disadvantages: Not many professional development opportunities outside your core job, your job is your life, no/little paycheck until (if) the business grows

Small Organization

Advantages: Stable paycheck, (usually) local impact, (usually) set work schedule, family of colleagues

Disadvantages: Few advancement opportunities, family of colleagues isn’t likely to change

Large Organization

Advantages: Stable paycheck, good benefits, (potentially) global impact, (usually) set work schedule, advancement/development opportunities

Disadvantages: Bureaucracy, segmented responsibility

The nice thing about careers is that they are not static. The real opportunity is for you to experience different types of organizations throughout your career, and choose the type of organization that best fits your lifestyle.

Tweet at me with #BOptions, and let me know what should be added or changed!

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