Life Changes, The 2014 Edition

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Category: stuff_i_use, work 11 Comments

Goodbyes are always hard for me. I like to just sweetly ghost away and figure I’ll see you when I see you next. So last Monday, after giving all my team members some feedback, I swiftly packed my few remaining things, and walked out the door.

The past 19 months have been a complete and utter whirlwind. After a little over two years at AOL, it had always been my intention to take some time off, figure out what I wanted to do, and then go do it. In the mean time, I had been talking with Sam Hocking about what his plans were and the business he was starting. I kept putting in my two cents about what needed to be done to build his product and how some of the ideas his team of experts had could be turned into something even better.

You keep raising your hand, you may find an opportunity emerges.

Sam’s company, Imatchative, presented a great opportunity to merge the best things I’d learned about user experiences and brand building across consumer web products with financial products. A year and a half later, we went from proof of concept to a living, breathing product, inducted both technical and non-technical team on the intricacies of Agile development, and morphed the visual designs into something for the modern era.

I was building products for hedge fund managers and allocators, but my passion has never been in finance. Long ago, I took the Johnson O’Connor assessments, which told me I should work in consumer insights, product, or marketing for 3D or technology products and should NEVER work in finance. Not one to heed advice that rang true, this was my second foray in working on stuff related to any aspect of finance. It was time to find something that made sense for who and what I care about in the world.

Yet I wasn’t willing to just dive off a cliff. For one, I actually liked my job at Imatchative. I managed to build a stellar team of designers and product folks and loved working alongside a fantastic CMO and CTO. Plus, there were certain goals around product shipments that for my own personal satisfaction had to be completed. So, I took my time and was very intentional and thoughtful about the process. I hired a career coach. It’s been money well spent. Someone who is paid to think about you, to provide blunt feedback, and to help you process is well worth the investment.**  It was time to take stock of where to go next, what values in myself I wanted to reflect, and the types of roles that would best suit me. It is clear that I like working on the “new” thing, that it needed to have an meaningful impact in people’s lives, and that I wanted a small, diverse team of people where the role would have both strategic and tactical things in the day-to-day. There’s a whole laundry list of the other desirables, but these were the meaningful ones.

Once that clarity was established, I began talking to people. Lots of people.*** There’s no way to possibly publicly thank the many many people with whom I’ve had coffee, lunch, drinks, phone calls, IMs, texts, Twitter exchanges, etc. over the past several months. Just know that many of you will be getting private messages from me in the weeks to come reflecting our conversations and their impact as I did this soul searching. (It should be noted I spent as much time recruiting these same folks to Imatchative…the job day never ends.) Over a coffee, I told Jaime Chiang that I was looking for a more personal connection to daily work. She asked me to send over my resume and a quick summary and that she’d send it around as she met folks and this is where the alchemy happened.

All that work with the career coach meant the “official Carla Borsoi” pitch could be sent in an email. It basically had the four things I liked to do best + my resume.  Plus, it felt natural. It always feels like there is this connotation that networking is this slimy thing. Instead, I was having a lovely conversation with someone I really think is smart and terrific and she mentioned that she’d be happy to help. This was a scenario repeated again and again – fantastic conversations with really smart people who are also thoughtful about what they are building and doing.

Within a few days I was meeting with Shireen Yates, the CEO of 6Sensor Labs. Before we even met, I knew I’d like her. An email exchange right before the interview that proved we were both into loud colors made me instantly at ease. As soon as Shireen began talking about what 6Sensor is building, there was no way not to convince her to hire me. As a long time vegetarian (30+ years no red meat/game, 17+ years no fish/chicken), the need to trust my food is something that enters my thoughts every day and it was instantly easy to relate to helping people with allergies trust theirs. I then talked to Scott Sundvor, Shireen’s co-founder, and how he saw the business helping people in many ways beyond the initial product. I interviewed with the whole team and was struck not only by their intelligence, but their cohesive vision and understanding of the nuances of building a product eco-system covering hardware, software, and community. The team was forthcoming and cared about how marketing could impact all aspects of the business.

So it’s thrilling to announce that I’ve joined 6Sensor Labs to head up marketing. It’s going to be a long road, and we’re working through all sorts of fun branding and product work now. I look forward to sharing our path in the days to come.

I’m saying hello to this grand new adventure, no ghosting!

 

 

 

*Except, as the article notes, if I’m in small groups, but this definitely applies to big parties and last days at the office.

** I say this completely self-aware it’s a huge privilege to be able to afford not only the money but the time to be able to do this. Not everyone has this luxury, so I make many efforts to pay this forward, particularly with women.

*** I don’t have many hobbies, but getting to know people and keeping in touch with them are pretty much my favorite things.

SXSW 2014 Music Wrap Up

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Category: stuff_i_use, travel 2 Comments

I realized I haven’t even done a wrap up for 2013, but that’s because an error in judgment led me to thinking that leaving early (Thursday) was a good idea. Wrong! So in 2014, back to music at SXSW, but minus Saturday night. Sorry, but by Saturday all the bands are ragged out from playing 2 – 3 shows a day, I’ve been there over a week, and it’s just not as much fun.

This year I also wanted to spend more time with film goings-on, so I got a chance to see Tilda Swinton speak. Not only she is swoon-worthy, but her vocabulary is so rich and imaginative. Should we all be so erudite every day.

Of the 33 bands I managed to see this year, a few performances stood out, detailed here:

  1. Fat White Family at the Mohawk indoors – This was a most entertaining train wreck. Was the lead singer going to whip his dick out on stage or take a dump? Was that only beer he spit on to the crowd? This was pure punk, but deliberately so. I couldn’t tell if I were watching a master of music marketing at play or actual greatness. In the end it didn’t matter. Energetic and entertaining, it was the most rock’n’roll show of the week. Recommended band reading.
  2. Ex Hex at The Parish – This remains one of my favorite music venues in Austin (on par with the Mohawk) and the evening’s Matador showcase was terrific, but I have to say Ex Hex was phenomenal. After seeing several good but not great shows, watching this band showed a mastery of stage presence and showmanship, not to mention the music. I was truly sad to leave.
  3. The Deslondes at the Flatstock Stage at ACC – Delightful in every sense. A song about a boy who gave up his Matchbox car for a frog and one called Louise. Truly excellent connection with listeners in a sterile environment.
  4. Jetta at Clive Bar – I’m really waiting for her to become the next major talent. Besides the incredible voice, she’s got a great look, incredibly accessible pop songs, and stage presence. A major shout out to two very tall people who nicely asked if I wanted to stand in front of them so I could see.
  5. The Fresh and Onlys at Swan Dive Indoors – While I haven’t managed to see them yet in San Francisco, this show ensures that I’m going to be dragging everyone to see them. It was a great venue for their sound of sharply refined recorded nuggets turned into rough, live gold.
  6. Those Darlins at Shotgun – This was a last minute addition to my plan and was well worth it. Vibrant and tight, this band knew how to put on a live show and keep folks entertained.
  7. Marshall Ford Swing Band at the Victorian Room at the Driskill – Honestly, we were looking for a quick, easy-going show before seeing a movie, and this perfectly fit the bill. Unpretentious. My notes say “like an eminently drinkable alcoholic beverage – not original per se, but likable.”
  8. Parquet Courts at Bar 96 – This was the band I was most looking forward to seeing. The performance was fun but the crowd and venue left much to be desired. I will admit to laughing when someone flew by crowdsurfing while wearing Birkenstocks. Not a combo I’ve often seen.

In my prep this year, I listened to about 500 bands and used SongDrop to curate a list of some thing. It’s not complete, but you can take a listen.

How is it mid-April already aka Carla’s life changes

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Whew! 2013 has certainly started off with a bang, so many new things happening and so many good ones, too!

March was a typical swirl of prep and attendance at SXSW. For those of you who participated in our panel on BS business talk, the notes are at www.wheelofsynergy.biz. This will take you to a Google doc, with a re-cap of the articles we found on the topic, along with the results of our “translation” exercise. Remember, when in doubt, “call me!” seems to be the rallying cry.

April 1 was also my last day at AOL. During my days there, I was proud to work with many different teams – especially on mail and mobile products. It’s a treat to see Alto out there in the world, especially in contrast to some of the other “inbox zero” products. (If you want an invite, let me know!) However, it is time to take all that experience working on new product development and put it to action with a smaller company. So, off I have gone to a startup in San Francisco, where I’m working on everything from product designs, to figuring out the right mental model for a user, to thinking about the right marketing messaging. The group of people is more experienced than I am, so it’s a real treat to be learning and absorbing more.

This also means I’m in San Francisco every day. Catching up with people seems to be what defines April and May this year. So call me and we’ll have coffee, or lunch, or just discuss things.

 

Fieldwork War Story: A Dirty Diaper

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Fieldwork War Story: A Dirty Diaper

I wrote a post over at Steve Portigal’s War Stories about an experience I had doing some fieldwork. I spend a lot of time in people’s home (just this week, I got to visit some folks in LA). This serves as a constant reminder of the life of privilege that I possess. This story is just a window into someone’s life where I really had to take a step back and put the person into the whole context of who they are. It is also a reminder to be grateful for the life I lead.