Saturday, December 24, 2016

Anniversary Poem

On the occasion of my parent's 50th wedding anniversary my sister organized a wonderful party. For that I wrote the poem below. 10 years later, on the occasion of their 60th anniversary we reread this. It seemed pretty good still so I record it here:

Oct 30, 2006

Mom & Dad
                                                     ~ Loom is set ~
Eyes clear and bright and sure
Gaze upon photographer
Crystal precipitate from on high
Friends and family standing by
Aisle creaks with solemn footfall
It all seems so simple after all
                                                     ~ First pick ~
Sleepless nights, long days at the office
Babies are so much work
First a rental, then a house
Dogs and cats start to join us
Garage fills with detritus
Not so simple after all!
                                                     ~ Warp ~
Watching races from the bench
Where's the damn crescent wrench?
Awful ties, grass clumped in the mower
Hoses snakes out to wash the Oldsmobile
House echoes with familial din
Stuff of life piles to distraction
                                                     ~ Weft ~
Rainbow bell bottoms, 70's bouffants
Fashion disasters march upon government
Gangly legs in endless blur
Tube tents, gorp and neat backpack
(why can't my son do that?)
Footfalls trace a complex pattern
                                                     ~ Wind ~
Loading boxes into car
Hugs and kisses from afar
Council of Aging and Interex
Hard work that paves the way
For freedom from the day-to-day
Apparently simple, but wait
                                                     ~ Weave ~
Sleepy curls, cheesy noodles and piggy backs
Wednesday pickups and gummy snacks
Urgent care and help divine
To know too well the smell of Betadine
The heart lurches and then it rends
But life goes on in the end
                                                     ~ Threading cross ~
Now playtime is the golden rule
And wisdom the grandparent's tool
Heart and mind beat so very true
Eyes still bright and clear and sure
But deeper now with limpid reflection
Of life being lived with best intention
                                                     ~ Tapestry ~

C.A.P (Jr)

Friday, July 5, 2013

On Product Management Strategy & Tactics

A good PM is always doing both strategy and tactics - always. I like to joke that we have two eyes and PM's need to fix one on the present and the other on the future. Put another way, if you want to build a path across a bog you need to place each step (each release) squarely in line with where you want to go.

Perhaps the best comparison is with a rock climber tackling Yosemite's Half-Dome. Climbing is a complete fusion of strategy and tactics - the two are inseparable. You have to research the best route options but, having selected one, you have to study the terrain intimately down to the nubs and crevices to be able to execute the climb. Conversely, if you can execute 11c climbs that affects your route strategy.

A product manager can pick any old market segment and claim "Gartner says the business is here," but good product managers dig deep into the reality of the customer needs to produce a product roadmap that delivers revenue-worthy product value in that segment that is deliverable by his or her engineering team. To correctly steer a roadmap, you have to learn the nubs and crevices of the customer terrain and know your dev team's core competencies. Great products are carved from the muck of customer reality and intimate self-knowledge.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Inception of Apple's Turnaround

My heart goes out to the family of Steve Jobs. His death saddens me. As my own tribute to him, I want to capture what he taught me.

I used to work at Apple during the dark days – 1992 to 1997. Lack of engineering focus is what drove Apple to the brink of bankruptcy back then (remember the $250M loan they got from Microsoft in Dec ‘97?).

I learned from my experience at Apple that if you want to succeed, you have to focus. As an example of focus, here in 1997 is the moment of conception of Apple’s turnaround:

FYI, I used to work with David Krathwohl (the first speaker). Please watch this entire video, it’s absolutely worth the hour. This is an ad hoc Q and A session between Jobs and his developer community at WWDC. This video was made one month after I left Apple in 1997.

In this video you can see the following key elements of the Apple turnaround:

1. Laser focus on the target customer: for Apple that was consumers and their data. Start with the customer and build backwards to the technology. Strategy and vision must be driven by the end goal customer benefits, not by what engineers think they can build.

2. Deep understanding of what the target consumers want: all their personal data all around them easy to access from everywhere (“”…faster too get the data off the server than off your own desktop,” “with Gigabit data its faster to go to the server in all cases,” “NFS and Internet dial tone,” “we can make the network experience better,” “Apple is about making hot products,” “using computers as a window into communications intensive tasks in the high speed network world,” “add value that is unique to Apple,” “there is so much headroom to making the network experience tangibly better by making the connected world more productive for the rest of us,” “the high order bit is connectivity”).

3. Rabid antipathy to NIH engineering attitudes, use standards where they work and invent where it’s possible to differentiate the product (e.g. use the existing Ethernet standard for network access, don’t use the dysfunctional DLNA standard as an example of where invention is better).

4. Profound awareness of the importance of selling your developers on your customer vision, the roadmap for getting there (building great, unique products), and where and how the developers can add _target customer_ value to your _one_ ecosystem. Steve gives several examples of where developers can and should add value.

5. Unrelenting focus on bread and butter Apple engineering focus management – he “put a bullet in the head of” every project that did not deliver the vision, to correct what he calls “…lousy engineering management” where the total “is less than the sum of the parts.” He states clearly his belief that success comes simply from “a group of people making something they care about.”

Focusing is about saying no and improving developer productivity by eliminating work that does not align to the cohesive vision. Focus pisses off people because you stop doing things they want you to do. But the result is great products and successful ecosystems. I was on the team of one of the projects he killed (OpenDoc). He was right; OpenDoc did not fit into the cohesive vision for the renewed Apple. This tight focus enabled crisp execution over the subsequent decade of their comeback.

In honor of Steve Jobs passing, think about how these lessons can be applied to your own situation.

Chuck Piercey
Apple Alumni 1992-1997

Monday, March 2, 2009

Demo 09

I am feeling bullish about the state of innovation from the day so far at Demo 09: