The 10 minute Hailo ride that made my week

​There’s nothing like deadlines, a week-long vomiting bug​ and other commitments to make one feel like absolute crap. I nearly always try to stay days or weeks ahead of deadlines so a few weekends ago was hectic trying to get work done ahead of the almost week-long Web Summit.

hailo-logo

On Sunday evening I was stuck standing on a crowded train from Killarney to Cork, even though I had booked seats. I was so tired and pissed off that when I got into Kent station I ordered a Hailo. I couldn’t wait in the rain for a bus that might never show up after not being well for the previous week.

The driver arrived and my girlfriend and I hurdle our bags into the car and I couldn’t wait to get home and recharge physically and mentally. I was far from being in a good mood.

Then my driver, Ayuk, started talking:

 

Ayuk: So Shane, what are you doing in Cork.

Me: I’m studying BIS, basically business and computing in UCC.

Ayuk: That is incredible man, you are so lucky and will be become extremely wealthy.

Me: Yep, that’s the plan but we’ll see how it goes.

Ayuk: And who is this beautiful lady?

Aoife: I’m Aoife. I’m his girlfriend.

He asks a few high level questions about where and when we met.

Ayuk: Wow, you two are fantastic. Shane you are so lucky and you must promise that I can be the driver at your wedding.

At this stage I was really starting to lighten and brighten up. His high energy enthusiasm was just the right tone to get to me. His outside opinion, although he only knew me for minutes, was a great reality check and made me grateful for what I had.

I really enjoyed talking to him about how he came to Cork from Cameron and his beautiful Irish wife.

Even when I tried to lower the tone by contrasting the weather in Cork to the weather in Cameron he quickly answered me.

Ayuk: I love the Cork weather, it’s brilliant.

Me: Why? (I was sceptical now, thinking that he may actually be be taking some kind of medication if he loved the Irish weather)

Ayuk: Ah man, the rain is great for business!

I started laughing and went on to have one of my best weeks in a long time. It’s incredible what affect one person can have on you. Ayuk re-energised me for the week ahead.

Tagged with: ,
Posted in business

Why you should start firing your staff

I was listening to one of the greatest managers and leaders of all time recently; Jack Welch. Welch made an interesting point about bad and passive managers -bad managers are too slow at firing their under-performing employees.

Jack Welch - why you should start firing your staff

There are obvious disadvantages to businesses and departments who hire and continue to employee below-par employees, but perhaps almost as importantly, you are doing a disservice to that member of staff when you then fire them during the next downturn – which will happen at some stage in the not-too-distant future.

I know that this post lacks my usual positivity, but it does not really benefit anyone for you to employ him or her and give them good annual reviews just because you like them. It certainly won’t be easier on them to be let go in the middle of the next recession when they are older and may have additional responsibilities, debts, stresses and the jobs market is worse.

I’m certainly not trying to tell anyone how to run their business. Maybe you like having John or Mary working for you, but as Jack Welch also says, candour is one of the most important traits of a leader. He is implying here that it is best to inform John and Mary of your thoughts on their performance, so that you can both make better decisions on their future plans.

Posted in Uncategorized

The New ABC of Business

​Last Sunday night I found myself on the 132 Amtrak train that hit an SUV and derailed outside Boston.

It was almost 4 am by the time another train came to pick us up, but in that time I met some very interest​ing​ ​​people. One guy, for example, was a VC who had sold a successful tech company only last year.

Fast forward to the end of the week, Friday night, and I find myself in a pretty grimy bar for a colleague’s going away party. I started talking to a group next to us and it turned out that they were the senior management of one of the largest transportation companies in the world.

ABC -Alec-Baldwin-Glengarry-Glen-Ross

When I got home on Friday night my housemates were reenacting Alec Baldwin’s scene from the 1992 business movie Glengarry Glen Ross. One of my housemates was after getting his first sales job.

“A. B. C.”, one banged on the garden​ table​ as he spoke each ​letter, “Always. ​B​e. ​C​losing.”. As they showered my newly employed friend with business advice, each piece of advice as cliche as the next by the way, I thought about my week and the new ABC of business. I think better advice for my housemate would be Always Be Connecting. You never know who the person sitting next to you on the train or in the bar might be. For some it may be seen as a momentous task to be curious about everyone that you meet, but it can result in some fascinating conversations.

​But people have always been an important part of business, what’s new about connecting? Nothing, but as Dr. David Vik describes in his book The Culture Secret: How to Empower People and Companies No Matter What You Sell, “the world is more transparent than ever. Current or potential customers and investors all want to know what you’re about before they do business with you’.

The days of the travelling salesman are over and you won’t survive if your only strategy is to make a quick sale.

That’s why the new ABC of business is so important – Always Be Connecting and who knows who you might meet.

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Boston, business, Business Books

The CEO’s Speech

Over the past few years I have seen many CEOs and business leaders talking to employees and it reminds me nothing more than of Colin Firth’s character King George VI in “The King’s Speech”.

The CEOs Speech

Firth’s character hates public speaking and only does it as it is a requirement of his role as king. He speaks to the masses through the medium of radio and receives no feedback from his followers.

Too often I have seen senior management either not keeping employees up-to-date, or else if they do, communicating like Firth – in a single direction.

One of the greatest CEO’s of the past century, Jack Welsh, often speaks about managers not understanding that the higher a manager is in a food chain, the less he or she should give answers and the more they should be asking facilitating questions that the staff can answer. Why should the top of the organisational pyramid be any different?

Obviously it is important for CEO’s to lead and show direction, but think of the accumulative years of experience that the employees of a company have in a range of businesses and industries. What an incredible pool of resources that can be tapped for brainstorming ideas from different perspectives.

When Jack Welsh was CEO of General Electric, they used to survey their 300,000 employees about important issues regularly. Staff on the frontline often see issues before senior management and involving staff can give them a greater sense of value and importance within the company.

Are you a CEO or a king?

 

P.s. I’ve seen some members of management doing this well and engaging staff, just in case it sounds like I’ve only known mediocre managers.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in business, management

Really loving what you do

When I took part in Code Day Boston last month, I was fortunate to get to spend some time with an entrepreneur called Nikita Bernstein. Nikita has founded numerous companies, with some great success. His latest business, JoMI (Journal of Medical Insight), provides high quality training videos to surgeons and other medical professionals.

love what you do

What struck me as I spoke with Nikita was the passion that he had for what he was doing. As we discussed the technology behind his training platform, he explained how important it was to have a first-rate site. His strive for excellence wasn’t primarily motivated by revenues, or increasing the sale value, it was because the site was improving the lives of surgeon’s patients. The higher the quality of the site and the training materials, the more lives he could help better and maybe even save.

It’s rare to speak with an individual that is so passionate about and proud of their work. It was refreshing and motivating but made me think of the hundreds of others that I have met and worked with over the past few years who had little or no love for their work.

I can only count two dozen or so people who have seemed to truly love what they are doing. Out of this small pool, half have been entrepreneurs running their own businesses, the rest have been involved in the medical or charity sectors with a couple floaters in different industries. I am not including HR staff who always (over-)sell a company or their work as the best thing ever – and who then regularly pop up on my Linkedin newsfeed having changed company weeks or months later.

As someone who is still creating a path for myself, it was saddening to think of all the colleagues I’ve had who’ve been in jobs that they have really disliked for years. They groan every Sunday night as they think of work the following week.

Perhaps some don’t mind working in jobs that they don’t like, as it is a compromise that allows them to spend more time with family and friends.

With that said, imagine if we all really loved our work and were as passionate as Nikita.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in business, management

The Nigerian Iceberg

My social media newsfeeds has been filled over the past few days with messages from young and old relating to the kidnapping of hundreds of school girls in Nigeria. Over 200 girls were taken from their boarding school by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. The group threatens that it will sell the girls into sex slavery.

The Nigerian Iceberg

Much of the disgust and discussion over the past month since the mass abduction occurred, has revolved around the Nigerian Government’s and Military’s inaction. Numerous sources claim that the two parties were aware of an impending attack but failed to act to protect their own people.

Although Boko Haram has been in existence since 2002, it has really only since 2009 that it has become a militant organisation. It seems that their goal is to prevent the “Westernisation” of  Nigeria and wish to see a full implementation of the strict Islamic Shari Law. This is one of the reasons why a school was the target of their attack as the group is opposed to numerous practices such as traditional education.

The entire incident is a tragedy of huge proportions but what has struck me though, as more and more “Westeners” pour to social media to give their support, is how selective both us the public and the media are in relation to news and events.

Boko Haram have murdered in the region of 1,200-2,000 (Amnesty International puts the figure at more than 2,000) people this year alone, including 310 people in one town. Why weren’t we made aware of the genocide happening in Nigeria prior to this incident? Why does it always take one specific story to have an emotional affect on us? It would seem that if news agencies had lead with the story of 2,000 deaths then we would not have been interested – a simple shrug of the shoulders and we’d continue what we were doing – worrying about tonight’s dinner or weekend plans.

It reminds me of the rape and murder of the Indian student in New Delhi two years ago. In India a child goes missing every 8 minutes, with over half of them never being found, yet we rarely hear it on the news. Obviously we can relate better to an individual’s story but there does seem to be something perverse in ignoring the disappearance of over 1,200 children each week.

I don’t mean to preach either, we all have our own worries and it is probably a coping mechanism that we cannot understand the scale of the number of children being raped, tortured and murdered on a daily basis. Neither do we have time to research the backgrounds and political situations in many of these countries. (I chaired the university branch of an Indian charity for the past two years, hence my interest there).

What we hear in the news in relation to many of these stories is only the very tip of a massive iceberg. There is so much more pain and suffering occurring in certain parts of the world that maybe no media outlet has the resources to cover it to any reasonable extent. Even if they did, would we be interested in hearing it? It’s easy to discuss the girls’ kidnapping at the water cooler or over a beer and suggest some simple solutions such as a US intervention. It would take more than one round of beers to come up with a solution to demilitarize Boko Haram or prevent the mass abduction of children on a daily basis in Indian.

As media consumers we may be most to blame for our selective ignorance, both at home and abroad. This is a shame as one would hope that with the ever increasing power of social media, the general public has more influence on political leaders than ever before. There is one caveat though, we must keep our minds open and get informed about the rest of the iceberg – millions of lives may depend on it.

 

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Politics

Why I’m moving to Boston

Even though Ireland is the European home for many of the world’s largest technology companies, I decided to work in Boston for my 6 month university internship. There was obviously many factors involved when I was making my decision about both where I wanted to work and what position would give me the best experience for the years ahead.

I’m sure I could add to, and learn a lot from, numerous companies in Cork or Dublin, but travelling adds another dimension to the six months. It will be a fantastic opportunity to get a taste of American culture, both during and outside of work.

Boston-Image

The company that I am taking up a development position within, AgencyPort, is a great medium-sized software house. Although honing my java web applications skills would have been possible in Ireland, trying out for the company’s softball team may not have been.

Then there’s the travelling. Although I do have a week planned on the West Coast, there are many more trips around the country that are in their planning stages. I’ll be accompanied on some of these by friends who are also working in Boston and New York – a nice balance of the known meeting the unknown.

I’ve already arranged to meet some contacts during my time in the US, both new and old. I’m sure there will be many other chances to meet some great people, be it through work, through housemates or through other professional organizations.

Needless to say, I’m rather excited about my upcoming work (adventure) starting next week. If anyone reading this would fancy getting a coffee in Boston, New York, San Francisco etc. in the coming months, then please get in touch.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Race the Person, Not the Name

I was having a conversation recently with a “business leader” in Cork. The mood was jovial until I brought up that I had completed a Spring Internship in London with Credit Suisse last year. I was laughing that many of us UCC students and graduates were well able to match, if not exceed the capabilities of our international counterparts at the investment bank. She became immediately serious, and her face soured at me. “Of course you were. I’m quite surprised myself that you were surprised!”

University College Cork

I guess my perceptions of Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics had been skewed by their marketing teams, prestigious researchers and watching too much “University Challenge”. I did, late one evening, inform my Cambridge flatmate of my stereotypical views on students from his university. He laughed and explained that they only send the “freaks” on TV shows like “University Challenge”. He explained that while there is some great work being carried out at his institution, most of his classmates are ordinary guys with a strong work ethic.

Although I learned a lot from spending time in one of the world’s largest IT departments, I think one of the most important things is a reinforcement of what my rowing coach used to tell us before competing – “race the person, not the name”.

Posted in business, management, UCC

Why I’m quitting Alcohol

I have considered writing a post about alcohol for a while. As a university student in Ireland I guess I am at the forefront of alcohol abuse in our society. Maybe I could even say the world?

There will be much written about Ireland’s relationship with alcohol over the coming days as rumours emerge that a young Dublin man has died taking part in a “Neknomination” challenge. Basically, this involves videoing yourself downing a pint of larger, can of beer or sometimes even going as far as a litre of vodka. After you finish you nominate friends that you would like to see doing the challenge in the next 24 hours.. The trivial nature of such games is a summation of many of our relationships with alcohol. A case of all or nothing, don’t question the fun, no happy mediums. Why Im quitting alcohol

Although public opinion towards the likes of alcohol-related events such as Arthurs Day have slowly began to change, our collective dependency on alcohol is holding us back from so much. I won’t bore you with facts about the destructive forces of alcohol or the figures about alcohol-related suicides, we know these but continue to ignore them. It seems any utterance of anti-alcoholism on any forum is reserved for those of us who are “dry” or “boring”. Yes I do enjoy alcohol and the socialising that it encourages, but it is far too big a crutch for so many.

“Oh yes, it’s terrible that some can’t hold their drink”, I’m not talking about having another conversation in which we all nod and agree and nothing is done. If we put restrictions on cigarettes and other substances then why not alcohol? Yes, yes a “nanny” state I suppose. But maybe in some cases our nanny knows best? Instead we have a Government that is being strong-armed by lobbyists and hollow promises of World Cup hosting if we just keep alcohol advertising for another 10 years. In the meantime, the alcohol industry captures another generation and keep tempting them with the notion of idealistic drink-fuelled lifestyles. All while it destroys lives and costs all of us billions in medical expenses, policing etc.

We can meet publicans and drinks companies half-way perhaps. They will agree to minimum pricing as some would suggest. OK, so we legally enforce a minimum price on alcohol and give companies a higher margin on the pint? As far as I can see, this will just allow companies to increase their advertising budgets, allow them to poison more minds. Why not tax them like cigarettes? Are politicians that afraid of publicans and lobbyists?

On my first day of college three years ago, we were given a talk about how pint glasses would have health warnings on them in X years time and that alcohol would one day be seen in the same light as cigarette smoking. Then the university’s contractors supply “cheap pints” and provide a place where students can effortlessly get drink. At the very least the university could put the warnings on the glasses as they have confidently predicted would become the norm. When the catering contracts for the campus come up next year, then why not add a stipulation that the warnings must appear on glasses in the college bars? I know it won’t happen, perhaps because there is no will there to make it happen, or because alcohol is such a money-maker.

Why should I care what others are doing? Shouldn’t I just look after myself? I guess there is some truth in that. Then you see some of the devastation and erosion caused by alcohol on friends and it’s hard not to say anything. Sure it’s great when half your college class don’t turn up on Fridays – better results and jobs for me – but I don’t want to see so much potential continually wasted by those who have been lead to believe that our relationship with drink is “normal”. Each generation sinking a little bit further into the abyss.

I just hope that our “Leaders of Tomorrow” can start being leaders today, put the best foot forward and change what is considered “normal” for those looking at us as role models.

Note: I am not “quitting alcohol”, the title refers to the image which is the letter Don Draper wrote in the television show Mad Men.  

 

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

The weak making others weaker

It’s funny how, irrespective of age, location or career experience, the weak and insecure set up road blocks to keep others weak and prevent development.

What am I talking about? Bad Leadership - the weak making others weaker

Years ago I naively thought that it was merely the small-mindedness of a rural Irish town that made some community “leaders” become allergic to greater collaboration between similar groups. For example, relatively small sports organisations in a town being prevented from competing as a joint entity at international competitions. It was seen as an affront to tradition and identity, and more importantly but rarely publicly stated, these “leaders” tight grasp of power.

But obviously when you examine departments within large businesses, this juvenile insecurity does not exist? We all know it does. Certain individuals love to have sole control over a small operation, rather than shared control over something bigger and better.

What tends to develop, in my experience, is a bitterness between the two or more parties involved and everyone suffers. Sometimes collaboration isn’t appropriate, or ideal, but more times it is for the best. One of the factors that was said to have prevented Sony from taking a larger share of the MP3 device market initially was because the Walkman Division (a slowly dying market-leader at the time) in Sony refused to cooperate with the MP3 division.

I believe rivalries between sports clubs, departments, companies, individuals is a great thing. It drives healthy competition and leads to a natural evolution in which everyone benefits. The concern arises when irrational choices are made due to spite and ego.

In University College Cork, College Societies seem to understand that cooperation is the key to success and growth. The Hope Foundation Society, that I was involved in setting up two years ago, never would have grown as quickly as it has if it wasn’t for teaming up with other societies to broaden our audiences. Comedy, International Development, Entrepreneurial, Amnesty International and other societies have joined us in co-hosting events and fundraisers. Even though we now have a larger membership than a lot of the groups, we still regularly team up, building both our audiences – Win Win!

I never like writing articles that seem negative, and I guess I’m not naive enough to believe that this one blog might make a difference, but we can all live in hope! I may also use this as a reminder to myself never to become one of those “leaders”.

I’ve removed myself as much as I can from such negative organisations, especially if I am there on a voluntary basis. Usually this toxicity spreads and is only the tip of a much bigger iceberg of stress and politics.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in business, management, Politics

Subscribe to my posts




Switch to our mobile site