Books 2020

2020 proved to be a little less conducive to extensive reading. I did not get the reading time allowed by waiting at airport lounges and on the plane. I read less but enjoyed much more time at home with my wife and children. It was a great trade-off, and I learned much more. As usual, I did not complete all the books below.

Educated by Tara Westover, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and Fascism by Madeleine Albright are fantastic and kept resonating weeks after reading them.

  1. The Hundred-page Machine Learning Book by Andriy Burkov
  2. The Invincible Company by Alexander Osterwalder
  3. The Great Mental Models by Rhiannon Beaubien
  4. The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon
  5. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  6. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
  7. Difficult conversations by Douglas Stone
  8. The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  9. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  10. Pirates in the Navy by Tendayi Viki
  11. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
  12. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
  13. Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell
  14. Introductions to Computation and Programming using python by John Guttag
  15. The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday
  16. The Art of Doing Science and Engineering by Richard W. Hamming
  17. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  18. Secrets of Sand Hill Road by Scott Kupor
  19. The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim
  20. The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
  21. A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge by PMI
  22. The Quantum Magician by Derek Kunsken
  23. The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  24. Valuation: Measuring & Managing the Value of Companies by McKinsey & Company
  25. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings
  26. Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright
  27. A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  28. Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
  29. Predictive Analytics & Data Mining: Concepts and Practice with RapidMiner by Vijay Kotu

Productivity is doing what really matters

Alice to the Cheshire Cat – “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”, said the Cat. “I don’t much care where —“ said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “— so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat. “if you only walk long enough.”

Excerpt from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

It is easy to feel that you are moving forward by simply doing. Walking long enough will certainly get you somewhere, but there is no guarantee that the destination will be a good place.

Ever since I graduated from college and started my career, I have been interested in finding ways to become more productive. I went through different methods such as Franklyn-Covey system, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Getting Things Done (GTD), Eisenhower Matrix, Pomodoro Technique, and Personal Kanban. Used (and abused) many tools such as Omnifocus, Trello, Things, and Evernote.

The idea of being able to achieve mind-like-water sounded like a superpower that would take me places.

The truth is that all methods work in getting you through your tasks if you are constant enough.

Life contexts

Deciding where to begin from a list of items is hard. From all the people on my call list, whom should I call first? Which action item should I tackle from my computer list? I always ended up with tons of items on my lists, but not knowing where to begin paralyzed me every single time.

A common method to prioritize is the Eisenhower matrix which divides items on urgency and importance. This method is useful when dealing with single dimension to-do lists but I kept thinking that urgency is an un-efficient (and stressful) way to sort out action items.

All this built up frustration led me to drop all my lists every few months and start again from scratch. This is how life contexts came to be. I needed a system to do things that really mattered, at the right time, and with enough frequency to help me achieve my long-term goals.

Life contexts provide me with a clear way to build purpose into what I do and help me balance how time is spent in order to really move forward. So far, I have developed six life contexts: Earn, Do, Learn, Connect, Enjoy, and Think.

  1. Earn: These are tasks that lead you to generate economic value, not necessarily money per se, but are related to exploring opportunities that take your game to the next level. For a sales executive it could mean prospecting new customers, while for an office manager it could mean doing something different that has potential for a promotion or career enhancement.
  2. Do: There are tasks that you simply have to get done without much thought or ultimate impact. Think laundry, dishes, travel expense reports, updating salesforce, etc.
  3. Learn: These are actions that would help deepen your understanding of the world around you or beyond. These tasks represent an opportunity to explore new areas of knowledge to improve what you do today or give you give you the ability to do new things.
  4. Connect: We are social animals, we thrive when we work together and we gain so much from each other’s perspectives. Collaboration goes beyond networking and helps our communities move forward. Networking has an unfortunate negative connotation that scare or turn people off. But honest networking is really just reaching out to offer oneself to the service of people around you.
  5. Enjoy: Sounds very basic, but we need to have things that we enjoy just for the sake of having a good time. Experiencing pleasure is one more item we should all include in our to-do lists. I try to make time for one small or large thing a day that I know will bring me joy and I make sure it happens the same way that I make sure I respond to an email. It makes me happy and makes me feel accomplished at the same time.
  6. Think: I find myself not truly thinking deeply for many days at a time but it’s probably the one that has giving me the most. I pick a topic to ponder and make sure I spend 10-15 minutes of free-thinking . I put on headphones or go to a quiet place, close my eyes and just focus on solving the issue at hand.

Having tasks for each life context every week gives me a balanced workload while scheduling time for each context with the right frequency provides meaning. Balance plus meaning is true productivity.

(A follow-up post will address how I decide what the the right mix is.)


Books 2019

I want to start keeping track of the books I read year over year. I used to do that on Goodreads but this year I decided to start posting them here instead.

I read somewhere that books are just like food. Some of them are meant to be tasted, snacked upon or throughly devoured. I did not finish every single book on this list nor I expect to do so every time I open a book. This list is a good reflection on what topics draw my attention and called upon further research. In bold are the ones that I enjoyed the most.

  1. Keeping Up with the Quants by Thomas H. Davenport
  2. Meta Analytics by Juan Manuel Damia
  3. High Output Management by Andrew Grove
  4. Python Crash Course by Eric Matthes
  5. Papillon by Henri Charriere
  6. The Minto Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto
  7. Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony de Mello
  8. All the Lights We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  9. Leading Digital by George Westerman
  10. Why Digital Transformations Fail by Tony Saldanha
  11. The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge
  12. Spin Selling by Neil Rackham
  13. The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon
  14. What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz
  15. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
  16. The Man Who Solved The Market by Gregory Zuckerman
  17. Data Science by Executives by Nir Kaldero
  18. The Master Algorithm by Pedro Domingos
  19. Keto Answers by Anthony Gustin
  20. High-Profit Prospecting by Mark Hunter
  21. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  22. Range by David J. Epstein
  23. How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims
  24. Secrets of Sand Hill Road by Scott Kupor
  25. Recursion by Blake Crouch
  26. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  27. Dark Age by Pierce Brown
  28. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  29. The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis
  30. Key Management Models by Gerben Van den Berg
  31. The Back Of The Napkin by Dan Roam
  32. Consultative Selling by Mack Hanan
  33. Super Thinking by Gabriel Weinberg
  34. Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
  35. Warrior of the Light by Paulo Coelho
  36. Devotions by Mary Oliver
  37. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  38. The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker
  39. Churchill by Andrew Roberts
  40. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
  41. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  42. Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax
  43. Nutrient Power by William Walsh
  44. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
  45. Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab
  46. The Amazon Way on IoT by Josh Rossman
  47. Awareness: Conversations with the Masters by Anthony de Mello
  48. The Circadian Code by Satchin Panda
Business Tech

IoT sells but who’s buying?

Technology deployments for technology’s sake are worthless. IoT is no different. A successful IoT project goes beyond the cool factor and originates from a business objective that clearly outlines the problem to be addressed.

Technological assessments are ancillary activities. Don’t get me wrong, I love tech. Tech is awesome. We just need successful IoT projects that move the needle in the right direction.

Most vendors are great at pitching you case studies and features, and in most cases implementation seems pretty straightforward but IoT (as with other exponential tech) is very different. General use cases do not apply easily and require a deeper knowledge of the problems to tackle.

Mind the Gap

The true chasm that exists today is between the tools and the real life application for exponential technologies. The knowledge of exponential technologies is not yet “evenly distributed”. You may understand the company’s problems deeply, but may not always understand the capabilities of new technologies.

Technology vendors should focus on their capabilities and provide guidance to customers in a consultative role. SAP does precisely that with their Leonardo accelerators and help their top customers envision clear applications of exponential technologies.

Companies on the other hand need to make an effort to train and expose their managers to new technologies and get their creative juices flowing. Singularity University Programs are great for that purpose. Exponential tech needs to be approached just as a musician approaches a new instrument. Play with it, understand it and then brainstorm/jam applications for your organization.

The Bottom Line

Understanding benefits for commodity products is usually pretty straight forward. Cost is so low and the value proposition is so straight forward that we are able to make quick assessments. The application of new technology is much harder to understand. Technology advances so quickly that generalists miss what specialists see so clearly.

It all comes back to good old “listen to your customer”. Trying to sell an IoT platform or service without approaching consumer/business clients with a truly consultative approach is a waste of time, money and reputation. IoT solutions need to be framed in additional dollars earned or substantial cost reductions to final customers.

IoT solutions need a real and true consultative approach, not by having the client approaching you with a “job to be done” but with you reaching out to the client to understand their pain. Get out of the building and start connecting the dots for your clients.


(Hispanic) Polling in the age of Mobile

The following was originally posted on the blog of Adriana Cisneros in 2016. Adriana graciously invited me to share our work with FIU during the 2016 presidential elections when we tried a new approach at polling Hispanics in the US.

Traditional polling to Hispanics is doomed. Well, not totally but imagine the following:

A man is sitting comfortably in his sofa. It is 7:15 pm, he just finished having dinner and is about to turn on the TV to watch his favorite show. The phone rings, he hauls himself off the couch and picks up the handset. “Hello? Hello?” — a quiet click and then a voice pops up. “Hi! This is John from Traditional Research Corp, we are reaching out to people like you about the upcoming elections, this will only take 10 minutes of your time. Press one for english or presione dos para Español…

This is how “robocalls” work. Can you spot what is not right in this scenario? I am sure that you can think of many reasons, mostly related to the annoyance of receiving late calls, the impersonal nature of a recording and so on.

Let’s focus on the shortcomings of this method. Traditional polls require thousands of calls in order to produce complete responses to very lengthy questionnaires, to the rate of 9 out of 100. People mostly hang up after they learn to identify the recording.

The number of people reachable through this method is in decline. FCC regulations require that robocalls are carried from databases or by randomly dialing exclusivity to landline phones.

There is also the matter of sample bias, i.e. collecting data in a way that some members of the population are over or under represented. Can you guess the demographics of the man in the sofa?

Hispanics in the US are a nightmare for traditional polling: mostly young (over 50% between ages 18 and 30), highly connected through their mobile (smartphone ownership is over 75%) and subsequently heavy data and app users.

The New Latino Voice Poll

Researching public opinion is a very important activity in all democratic societies. It is truly the only option we have to make our voices heard as a group. The importance multiplies when it comes to voicing the concerns of minorities. This is why Adsmovil, a Cisneros Interactive company, partnered earlier this year with Florida International University’s (FIU) Latino Public Opinion Forum to launch the New Latino Voice tracking polls. A full fledged website with research and findings will follow.

Adsmovil has been running mobile advertising campaigns to US Hispanics since 2011. We know our trade and we have now successfully applied it to political polls.

Alongside FIU Professor Eduardo Gamarra, we designed, ran and published weekly polls for over five months covering Hispanic voting preferences and important issues. (Read some of the coverage we got from NPRUnivisionLatinousa, and WSJ ). Here are the results from the two main polls that ran nationally and in Florida, both are fully aligned with results from other polls serving as validation that mobile polling is a great alternative.


9/5 National & Florida Hispanic Mobile Poll from New Latino Voice

Over 200,000 Hispanics have been surveyed across the US. This is an enormous sample size by any poll standard. Consider that the average sample size for a traditional robocall campaign is 1,000. We have polled 200x more at probably the same cost. Impressed? Not yet? What if I told you that one of the key reasons has to do with user experience?

Mobile media transforms public opinion research (polls) to a type of “permission marketing”. Seth Godin defined permission marketing as “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them”. People tend to be more receptive to prone to engage while on their mobile. We use our smartphones, among other things, to fill the empty moments in our days: our leisure time.

Mobile advertising, well executed, could be a delight. Our pollers participate in a non-intrusive opinion opportunity through a rich media piece. The user has total control over the experience and over 25% choose to make their opinions heard. Why? Because they are available and willing. That is the power of connecting to the right audience through the right media.