The year you graduate matters

From Marginal Revolution, this NYT article on how hard it is to climb the career ladder if you start low, and how starting positions vary by graduation year.

What would I do with this info if I was a college student? Obviously work hard to find a great entry position. But also consider the strategy of moving graduation date out a year or going to grad school if the job market is weak — this has always been a choice, here is some data to back it up.

Career counsel

Reading Jason’s post on 8 things to craft your career and john’s on “can you tell me what your job is in 3 seconds” caused me to reflect back on some lessons I learned early in my career.

A very smart colleague at Booz-Allen gave me two simple rules to help me in guiding my career:

* Work on a business that is critical to the enterprise in which you work. Read the annual report of your company — does it talk about your business a lot, does it care about your business, does your business contribute a substantial profit to the enterprise? If so, the company will invest in and protect the business, and you will personally get support and challenges. If on the other hand the company doesn’t really care about your business — then you will be under-resourced, under-supported, and you may very well find your business shut down or sold some day.
* You can either make things, or sell things. These are the two sources of enduring value in a business. And I am using a broad definition of “make” — i mean you have to be involved in creating the core value of the business — whether that be making products or providing a service. These are the functions that have to happen no matter what in a business. Every other function is subject to the vagaries of internal politics, bureaucracy, cost-cutting pressures, and other unpredictable forces — and thus is it hard to control your career path.

Following these rules always presented me with opportunities, challenges, responsibilities, and chances for career mobility. A whole separate discussion can be had about whether you want an aggressively upwardly mobile career-building job at all points in your life — you probably don’t — but if you do, these are reasonable simple guidelines.

Custom products on the web

Love the fact that the web has enabled so much personalized production. Things I’ve noticed recently:

* Visa cards with whatever photo you want on them at AmericaFirst
* Custom designed ice cream flavors at eCreamery
* Get Logos made for your business or whatever at Logoworks or GotLogos
* Custom foam cushions of any shape, with any fabric cover, using a variety of foams, at I’ve actually used this service and it worked great.

BCS Teams Revenues and Expenses

The Sports Economist turned me onto this Daily Bruin article which further pointed me towards the raw data. Interesting stuff. I’ve summarized below the total athletic department revenues, football revenues, football expenses, and net football contribution for the BCS bowl participants and near-miss participants, sorted by football revenues:

_| |Total Athletic|Football|Football|Net Football|
|Ohio State|89.7|51.8|25.7|26.1|
|Notre Dame|57.6|41.8|15.1|26.7|
|Penn State|60.8|33.2|10.7|22.5|
|Virginia Tech|45.7|25.3|13.8|11.5|
|Florida State|39.0|18.3|9.1|9.2|
|West Virginia|35.9|17.2|11.3|5.9|

What observations do I make?

* This is a big business, and getting bigger.
* There is a dramatic difference between the top and bottom revenue producers in just this list, and this is the cream of the crop. The bottom tier Div1A schools are way behind
* Ohio State players must be sleeping on silk sheets and eating Kobe beef at every meal. (Note that there are a lot of uncategorized revenues and expenses at every school so this could be just a matter of different approaches to cost and revenue allocation)
* Texas and Ohio State are the revenue goliaths.
* West Virginia is the model of efficiency — great results on a (relative) shoestring. Cost of living must be low in Morgantown.
* USC needs to hire someone to focus on their business. How can they have the on field results and the brand they have, and yet be so far behind in revenue generation?

Grocery Shopping As Theatre

The 10 core philosophies of Whole Foods — great outline.  I love the food at Whole Foods — but the whole thing about “Grocery Shopping as Theatre” is bunk.  I don’t go to Whole Foods for the transformational experience, I go to buy food.  The thing I hate most about the stores is the stupid non-linear aisle layout.  I am sure some genius somewhere thought that it was really creative but it just creates cart traffic disasters.  There is a reason why other stores all have straight aisles — they work.

Joel on GOOG vs MSFT

A very senior Microsoft developer who moved to Google told me that Google works and thinks at a higher level of abstraction than Microsoft. “Google uses Bayesian filtering the way Microsoft uses the if statement,” he said. That’s true. Google also uses full-text-search-of-the-entire-Internet the way Microsoft uses little tables that list what error IDs correspond to which help text. Look at how Google does spell checking: it’s not based on dictionaries; it’s based on word usage statistics of the entire Internet, which is why Google knows how to correct my name, misspelled, and Microsoft Word doesn’t. [Link]

Teaching Me To Be Rich

OK this guy spammed me with his blog articles but they turned out to be pretty interesting — Your Idea Isn’t Good Enough To Keep Secret, The Myth Of The Great Idea.  Good stuff.  I’ve always been puzzled by entrepreneurs who aren’t willing to be open with their ideas.  The smart guys I know are generally very open, they have new ideas every day, they know they can give away their ideas because they will always have new ones.  And they know it is all about execution, not ideas.

Jobster guys on release planning

Phil points to Alan Steele:

Imagine the situation in which the release bucket is actually half-empty of features, that there is actually “spare time” in the release. … what would you do?

Naturally, you’d scramble to fill the release bucket with enough work from the 1700 programmer-decade queue to keep those developers busy for the next little while. Wrong. The correct answer is: Do Nothing. A half-empty release bucket is a golden opportunity for innovation….

Business readings

* Subvert from within — great tips on how to remain focused on the customer, even within a large org. Totally relevant to team members in orgs of all sizes. (from
* Google’s use of prediction markets internally. I wonder how many participants you need to make this work well.
* NetworthIQ. If this was done in depth, allowing users to compare investment strategies and particular investments, that’d be pretty powerful.
* A VC’s view of web2.0 investing. Good points. Like the observation that these services can be built and trialed very inexpensively. That seems like the right first step to me — no point in investing huge gobs of time and dollars if no one cares about an initial quick implementation.
* Same guy on games investing“Despite the incredible market size numbers, gaming, as a category, hasn’t produced many significant wins for venture investors. I think this will change as the underlying technology continues to improve and as people–not just kids–spend an increasing amount of time and dollars playing games.”

NCAA hypocrisy

Nice commentary on

Coaches can go from one team to another without having to sit out a year. Students can transfer from one college to another without any sort of a penalty. It’s time the repressive NCAA realizes how unfair it is to its employees, er, student-athletes and allow them to transfer as well if they choose to. If a player doesn’t like the school he’s at, he should be able to leave at any time without penalty. Go ahead, raid away. If a coach doesn’t like this idea, then he should make sure his school and program are good enough to keep the players. As far as the coaches of the “Katrina schools”, if you really care about your players, you’ll let them do what’s in their best interest, not yours. And to the NCAA, it is possible to make exceptions to the rules and use some actual judgment when it’s time to do the decent thing

The hypocrisy of the adults involved with college sports sickens me. Love the games, love the kids, but some of the adults, well…