Rice, fight, never die
Rice, fight, never die
I authored today's IMD MBA Diary and, although the content may be familiar to my readers, I'm reposting here for you:
Today marked the end of my first week of work back in the real world. That’s right, exactly one week after spending the day learning about the importance of taking our time to say goodbye and transition at our own pace, I dove head first into my next career. Many of my classmates are taking weeks or months off to settle their affairs, rest, and reflect on the year that has just passed, which I think would be marvelous. My employer is a startup, however, and startups can’t afford the same timing luxuries as big businesses. I am the Product Manager and our product officially launched last week, therefore I am needed NOW!
The company is called Poken – www.doyoupoken.com – and was founded by Stephane Doutriaux, a 2007 IMD MBA Alumni. We produce a keychain that connects you with people online as you meet them in the real world. Our first generation offering is funky and cool, targeting the young and the young minded. Future offerings will include a professional version to replace the business card, a platform for third parties to include our technology in other objects, and many other features that we hope will bridge the gap between the physical and online worlds.
I admit that at some points during my IMD MBA I questioned how “real world” was our “real learning.” However, having spent only one week back in the real world now, I can’t believe how applicable so much of our learning is. I am no stranger to start-ups; in fact, my entire career has been in technology entrepreneurship. Accordingly, much of this Poken experience is not new to me: the frenetic pace, the unstructured role assignments, the need to roll up my sleeves and get things done, etc. However, I really feel like I am seeing everything in a different light—in many different lights, in fact.
My IMD MBA has armed me with many “lenses” through which to analyze and act. With manufacturing in China, HQ in Switzerland, and customers around the world, concepts from Production and Operations Management are very helpful. As we seriously plan our international rollout in response to demand in Spain, Holland, the UK, the US, and South America, my take-aways from Marketing are key. The challenge of capturing ideas from within and outside of the company, prioritizing them, and managing their implementation is addressed by Innovation and Product Design.
I could go on and on, but it is clear that the most impactful IMD course on my new position is the Leadership Stream. Managing a team of Swiss, French, Americans, and Bulgarians, some of whom are on-site, some of whom work remotely, each of whom has different background, skills, and interests, is a challenge to be sure. But I feel more prepared to address that challenge than I ever have before. I am more aware of my own feelings and the effects my actions have on others. I am more cognizant of the subtle intra- and inter-group dynamics all around me. And I am more open to feedback about my performance, ideas, and—well—everything.
I came to IMD to develop myself as a global leader and now I have a chance to put that development to the test. While it is ultimately up to me to succeed or fail, I must credit the IMD faculty, staff, and—most of all—students for helping me prepare for it. Although I don’t have months to sit back and reflect on the IMD experience; I find it popping into my head in the middle of work situations. “Ah, this reminds of that time in the integrative exercise,” “Oh, this might be a good opportunity to leverage that concept from Entrepreneurship,” “Hmm, I wonder what that professor/classmate/guest speaker would think of this...” and so on. We really did pack a LOT into a very short time. If my first week back to work is any indication, though, it really was real world, real learning.
I will be the Product Manager (collecting information from the target audience, creating a coherent product development roadmap, and managing the software and hardware development teams to implement it) at first, evolving in 6 months to either a COO role or a general manager of North America as the product expands to markets outside of Europe.
As many of you know, I agonized over this decision because--as with most decisions--there are both pros and cons.
International – the position is based in Lausanne, will require travel around the world, and involves managing global operations (manufacturing in China, software developers in Switzerland and Romania, sales and marketing throughout Europe initially and soon elsewhere)
Hardware – this will be a chance for me to broaden my software-only experience to include hardware as well
Growth – The company has a lot of momentum (Evidence: Poken made the front page of digg.com this morning) and I will have the opportunity to participate in its growth
Challenge – Developing an innovation/development process and prioritization methodology that is responsive enough to market feedback that will come very quickly once the product is being used by thousands or millions of people is an exciting order
Social Value – I came to IMD to prepare myself better to help change the world; I’m not sure this company really satisfies that criterion
Risk – Companies at this stage statistically usually fail and I would be accepting below-market-value compensation along with that risk--after a year of paying tuition and not earning a salary
Distance – This would keep me thousands of miles away from friends and family in the US. I would own all of the US business partner relationships, which should create many opportunities for travel, but I would still be based far away
After much soul searching I decided that this was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up. I should have a chance to practice a lot of what I have learned at IMD and gain experience in ways that will prepare me to contribute even more to addressing the global energy challenge. Will Poken make me feel like I am somehow making the world a better place for the needy kids I held in Kenya? No, not directly. But will I continue to keep them in mind as I work and network and keep my ear to the ground for opportunities that will? Absolutely.
Thankyou to EVERYone who has supported me throughout my career search. It isn't over--it will be an ongoing process of course--but you have all helped me through a significant career milestone. I won't let you down and I'll prove that to you immediately--I start work tomorrow!