Monthly Archives: September 2014

Sometimes people don’t want a problem-solver

I’m a problem-solver by nature, I can’t help myself.  I always look for ways to optimize systems,parsley and I’m a whiz at things like getting ten people into three cars at four locations, and cooking five dishes in an oven that only fits three, but keeping everything hot.

Usually, it’s a characteristic my friends and colleagues appreciate.

But last week I was bested by someone who had the “right” answer.  I was at a kids’ service for Rosh Hashanah with my daughter.  We were making a pretend soup for the holiday (because that is what you do at a kids’ service for 2-year olds) and for each ingredient we were teaching the kids the Hebrew word.  Water (mayim), chicken (oaf), matzah ball (k’neidelach), you get the idea.  Then one of the kids suggested that we add parsley to the soup.

The adults looked at each other – parsley?  How do you say parsley?

I scanned my brain for the word for parsley, and came up with nothing.  Then I remembered that we eat parsley on Passover and that in that context it’s called “karpas.”  Now Jewish holiday symbolism can be complex, and some people don’t eat parsley, they eat potato, but they still call it “karpas,” so I knew that word didn’t literally mean “parsley.”

But I figured that this room of 2-year olds was going to riot if we didn’t keep them occupied and engaged, so I suggested, “karpas.”

The guy leading the service paused and thought about it for a second and gave me a cautious, “huh, ok…”  and we were about to continue with our song, when a woman in the back said confidently, “petrozelia,” the actual word for parsley in Hebrew.

Petrozelia.  Really?

I’m all for having the real answer to things.  If the most important thing was accuracy, then that is very accurate.  But it made me think about the context of when it’s important to have the right answer, versus when it’s important to have an answer that works.  I think knowing how to approach a problem, and how to come up with something that works can sometimes be as important as knowing the answer.

(As it turns out, “karpas” comes from the Greek “karpos” which means “raw vegetable.”  Looks like Toula’s father was right.)

When the New Year comes in September

Tonight is the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.  apples

Friends often ask, “is that one of the happy ones or not?” and it is!  Themes of spiritual rebirth, seasons, and newness abound.  Rosh Hashanah also begins the 10 days of repentance, which lead up to Yom Kippur.  In that way, there are other themes of confession and forgiveness that begin to build on this holiday.  It’s traditional to eat sweet foods and dip challah and apples in honey.  As a child, my parents often bought me new clothing.  Who’s going to argue with that?

I’ve always liked that Rosh Hashanah falls in September; while missing early days of classes with a new teacher was always tough, there was a nice alignment with starting a new school year and the end of the summer with starting a new Jewish year.  The weather is usually still nice during Rosh Hashanah (although it can occur as late as October), and I have childhood memories of going out to the car during the day-long services for a granola bar my parents left for me, and seeing leaves in brilliant reds and oranges, while not yet needing a jacket.

While it isn’t traditional to make resolutions a la the secular new year, I usually do.  It’s great to make resolutions in September, because you can revisit them just a few months later in December.  If you didn’t start on the right foot, or you didn’t pick the right resolutions, you get a do-over in December.

Last year my main resolution was to straighten out my situation at work.  Check!

This year, the biggest thing I want to pay attention to is exercise. There are a few things I can shift around to make it viable to get to the gym 2x/week.  I need to start actually doing them.

The other “resolutions” are to continue doing some things that are working great in my life – quality time with babyDiva and mrDiva, reading a lot of books, dedication to my job, cooking dinner as much as possible, eating fruits and vegetables often.

Finally, we are attending a new synagogue for this holiday – they have a nice family-oriented service that looks like babyDiva will like, and lots of family-friendly programming.  I am hopeful that we may find a new home at this synagogue and I’d like to go back to participating more in a Jewish community.

נה טובה ומתוקה‎ש

May you have a good and sweet year.

Sometimes I’m not good at marketing

Sometimes I wonder if marketing is really my calling.

A few months ago, I was at the Citrix Synergy show.  The booth next to ours was a company called “Extra Hop” that provides performance analytics.  Their booth was busier than ours, but the whole time I kept mumbling to myself (and to any of my colleagues who would listen)

“Extra Hop?  That’s a terrible name!  It sounds like you are adding latency to a network.”

Not two weeks later they got $41M in Series C funding.  Clearly their marketing team understands something about their customers that I don’t.

At VMworld, we were near an IT security company named Thycotic.  Yes, Thycotic.  At first I thought it sounded like a thyroid disorder.  Then someone said it out loud and it got worse.

“Why would you name your company something that sounds like “psychotic” with a lisp?”

But apparently they are one of DC’s fastest growing tech companies.  They’re on the Inc 500. Their name is not holding them back.  (Nor, by my cursory research, is their name purposely ironic.)

It goes to show you that marketing is subjective.  “Good” marketing is determined by the market, not by critics or outsiders.  Put another way, the proof is in the pudding.  Here are 11 examples of companies who changed their slogans.  Not all the ‘after’s seem better to me, but the market felt otherwise.

Hacking my Commute

subway-spiderOne of the perks of working in Kendall Square is taking public transportation to work every day.  I love public transportation!  I love the maps, the systems, figuring out how to get from point A to point B.  In foreign cities it’s one of the highlights for me.

My last job had a huge long car commute, and I was a champ at using that time well.  I’d queue up podcasts, pre-program friends’ and colleagues’ phone numbers into my phone, I’d use Waze to pick the best route, and for a while even used a breast pump on the way home.  (Moms are awesome multi-taskers!)

The goal of my old commute and my new commute are the same:

1. Get home as soon as possible

2. Use the time during my commute as well as possible

3. Optimize the morning commute for the best coffee/pastry options 🙂

Now I take the bus and the train every day.  If I’m coming from home, I take the 43 to Park St then the red line two stops to Kendall.  If I’m coming from babyDiva’s daycare, I take the Silver Line to Downtown Crossing, then walk to Park and red line it to Kendall.  Then I do the same thing in reverse at night.


The thing in my commute that takes the longest time is walking from the red line to the office.  Since the office isn’t moving any time soon, that’s a static cost.  The good news is that I pass lots of good coffee on the way: Tatte and Voltage to name a few.

The next thing that takes a long time is occasionally waiting for the bus.  The red line seems to come pretty regularly for me, but the bus can take a while.  I do have the option of walking to/from Park Street to/from daycare or home, but it’s about 25 minutes, so it only sometimes makes sense if the bus gods are against me.

The thing that is the most stressful is getting to babyDiva’s daycare on the days I pick her up.  mrDiva does more pickups (I do more drop-offs) but sometimes I need to get her.  Worrying about if the bus is coming/will come/will come soon/will come in time is tough.  I find that if I leave just 10 minutes earlier (at 4:50) then I can stop worrying so much.

This tweet by a prominent working mom captured it perfectly:


I’ve tried some other stuff that hasn’t worked.  I tried getting on at Downtown Crossing in the mornings, but the walk to the red line from the Silver isn’t any closer than Park Street.  I’ve tried the 9 or 11 from daycare to the Broadway stop but that doesn’t save me any time.  I’ve also tried just walking to Broadway, but the distance is a little too long to save me any time.

Recently I figured out that I can save some time if I take the 9 or 11 from Broadway to daycare – in a way that doesn’t work well in reverse.  That’s interesting to me that reversing my commute doesn’t always work the same way as playing it forward, depending on where certain stops and bus routes are.

Tools of the trade

I use the MBTA Alerts app on my phone to track when the next bus is, and will sometimes choose the 43 or Silver Line independent of daycare responsibilities if that’s what makes the most sense.

Most days I read books, yes real paper books, but sometimes I listen to podcasts.  My favorite is This American Life which has a great show but a terrible app.  I also like The Moth, RadioLab, Planet Money, and Story Collider.  Beyond Pod is a good app to keep all these organized – it’s one of the only apps whose Premium version I’ve paid for.

I find that I can get really lazy about taking out my book and just play Dots on my phone instead, then hate myself for wasting 40 minutes.  So I try to carry my book with me onto the bus/train so it’s easy to get to rather than having to fish it out of my backpack.  I also find that it’s annoying to have to take out my T pass from my bag, but women’s pants don’t always have pockets so there’s that first world problem.


There are a few beautiful days – maybe there have been 10 so far in my 6 months at Infinio – where I’ve stepped outside and it’s been so nice that I have abandoned the MBTA plan in favor of walking.  I can walk to work in less than half an hour, marveling the entire time that it’s still less time than it used to take me to drive to my old job.

Myers, Briggs, and Me

Last week I wrote about how much planning was plaguing me and started to write a little about how it is related to my Myers-Briggs type.  I thought I’d write more about Myers Briggs today.

Myers-Briggs is a personality test (“MBTI” Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  It rates you on four dimensions, described as follows on

Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).

Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).

Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

I first took the MBTI in high school, otherwise obsessed with Cosmo’s “Are you a sexy librarian or a foxy teacher?”  I also took it a few times in college and in grad school.  Every time, I was always the same type: ESTJ.  And strongly ESTJ.  Not like, E, kinda S, T or N, J, but off-the-charts E.S.T.J.

An excerpt from the description of ESTJ (from the above site) reads “Practical, realistic, matter-of-fact. Decisive, quickly move to implement decisions…Have a clear set of logical standards, systematically follow them and want others to also.”  And that was me, for a long, long time.

Can I move the needle?

When I was in grad school, we took several different types of assessments to heighten our self-awareness to better interact with others.  When we took MBTI, we also read Type Talk at Work to get some coaching on how to use it as a framework for communicating at work.  Unsurprisingly, I was an ESTJ again.  But this time, I was going through some things outside of work and school that led me to believe that being so strongly an ESTJ was both an asset and a liability.  Though people’s MBTI type typically doesn’t change, I was determined to move the needle on some of my preferences.

In particular, I really wanted to allow myself to make some decisions using Feelings, not just Thinking, and to allow the structure of my world to have some uncertainty in it.  While I didn’t turn into an ESNP overnight, I did manage to incorporate N and P into my world more and over time those measurements became much less extreme.

I sometimes have to remind myself of this.  Not that I live exclusively in the MBTI world – I recognize it’s just one way to view the world, and a flawed one at that.  But it has been a useful framework to remember how to coach myself in a situation.   I have to remember that I can make a decision based on a “gut feeling” or “just because” rather than always needing data and analysis to do everything.

Am I really an “E”?

Fast forward to becoming a mom last January.  It has been surprisingly exhausting.  Sure, it’s also rewarding and sweet and wonderful, but it is also tiring.  Now, I’ve always been outgoing.  And when I say outgoing, I mean talk-to-strangers-on-the-T outgoing.  I didn’t mind being alone – in particular I love to read – but I’ve noticed that since the baby, I crave alone time and silence and quiet to recharge at a level I used to actively avoid at all costs.

I read this article on “Having an Outgoing Personality but actually being Introverted” hoping it would clarify this change for me, but (despite its being interesting) it doesn’t describe me very well.

I think that I’ve turned towards introversion because I put so much energy into babyDiva.  When I am with her I am constantly asking her questions, showing her things, reading her books, coming up with “jobs” for her to do around the house with me, taking her places, etc.  To me, this is being a good parent – engaging with her, teaching her things, sharing experiences – but I think I’m so focused on doing it “right” that I exhaust my extroversive capabilities with her by thinking I need to be “on” all the time.

I could stand to watch this Upworthy video now and then.  It’s a set of short questions with mothers where they critique their own parenting, then a set of questions with their kids about what they think of their moms.  It’s beautiful and shows that maybe I am aspiring to the wrong thing.

I don’t think being introverted is bad – I heard Susan Cain speak last year at the Mass Conference for Women about the power of introverts.  But I also don’t think being introverted is natural for me, I think that it’s just a coping mechanism for now.


I hate planning

planI hate planning.  Until last week, I forgot how much.

Last week, I started writing Infinio’s content plan.  I assessed what content we had, put it into buckets, and started looking for the gaps that would define what whitepapers, videos, demos, infographics, and other assets we create before the end of the year.

I forgot that when I was at Dell, each quarter I’d write up a plan for the content my team was going to deliver.  It drove me crazy – I was full of self-doubt that I had good ideas, that the team could execute them, that we were doing too much / too little, that we were aligning with the right major initiatives.   My manager would spend a little time with me on it, make some suggestions, tell me it was great, then it would be done.

I forgot that I go crazy before vacations.  Before we had babyDiva, mrDiva and I used to go on all sorts of adventures – to the Azores, Iceland, Belize, Eastern Europe, Southern France.  I would spend months poring over TripAdvisor and the guidebooks and to schedule exactly the right itinerary.

Don’t get me wrong – I love *having* a plan.  I love executing against a plan.  And I love the success that comes with executing against a good plan.

I use a grocery list.  I book plane tickets months in advance.  I love maps, and public transportation.  I make all of babyDiva’s lunches for the week on Sunday.  I am what you would call “a planner.”  But I hate some of it.

I think it has to do with a part of me that’s best understood through the lens of Myers-Briggs.  The final letter in Myers-Briggs relates to Structure.

From The Myers and Briggs Foundation:

Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

I think I’ll write more about my Myers-Briggs type next week, but for now suffice it to say, I am an incredibly strong “J”.  I have very little tolerance for open-endedness.  I like things to be settled, to already have a plan, to have decided, rather than to have things in a state where I still have to decide.

I think that’s why I like having a plan…but hate making one.  The process of making one is all about uncertainty, while the process of having one is all about having decided.

Hair of the dog

Last week I posted about how a good slide about changes in the datacenter didn’t make it into a slide deck I was working on.

At the end of the post, I had evolved the slide to this, where the blue arrows indicate cause and effect for innovation, and the red arrows are indicating what is causing all the pressure on storage:








What’s really interesting to me about this is that the same things that are disrupting the datacenter and fueling all the growth in applications and virtualization are the same things that can solve the storage problem.

Call it a technical “hair of the dog” if you will – that which is causing the problem is also the solution.  Because if we take all the memory and CPU that is on the server-side (that is causing the growth in workloads that are taxing storage…) and start using those resources to process storage operations (and leverage the 10GbE networking to communicate across servers) VOILA! We have made major progress on solving storage performance issues.

[[And as an aside.  I never remember if it’s “tail of the dog” or “hair of the dog” just like I never remember if it’s “coming down the pipe” or “coming down the pike.”  Apparently it’s “hair of the dog” and “coming down the pike.” Anyway – this is the part of semi-technical blogging where you get to see my personality and learn exactly nothing technical.]]

In closing.  The best thing about technology marketing for a startup is that you are never “done.”  We’ll continue to have more opportunities to talk with prospects, press, analysts, and other members of the community.  Hopefully I can take some of this reflection and refinement and use it to better tell our story in the future.


Roster cuts

It’s football season (Hallelujah! Go Pats!) and going into the season, every team just finished making the roster cuts necessary to get down to 53 men.

Hmmm…something about that sounds familiar…OH, right!

It’s VMworld and going into Tech Field Day, we just finished making the slide deck cuts necessary to get our presentation down to 53 minutes.

The morning before TFD, we killed a slide.  It wasn’t a bad slide, but there was discussion of how the deck was already long, the speaking slot short, and the slide perhaps a bit redundant. All told, the deck was 24 slides, and I think we created and didn’t use another 24 slides as we crafted and refined our story.

The presentation went great – Peter and Scott did an amazing job talking about our architecture and demonstrating the new features of version 2.0 of our product.  Check it out here.

But the last slide we killed stayed with me.  Not because it was the greatest slide, or the worst slide, but because I think it says something interesting that as the product marketer I didn’t capture compellingly enough to justify its remaining in the deck.

Here’s the original slide:








See?  It’s pretty interesting – it takes six important pieces of the datacenter and provides a factoid about each one.  After that, we focused in on why there is so much pressure on storage, since that is the problem our software solves.








After that, the story continues with a discussion how different vendors are solving the problem of pressure in storage, and how our solution is differentiated from them.  We ended up removing the first slide above and just starting the story with the second slide.

What I didn’t capture right in the deck is the interconnected-ness of these components.  I’m going to take storage out of it for a moment, because that’s the component whose change we want to analyze.  So, if you look at what is enabling Applications and Virtualization to change in these ways, it’s the changes in CPU, Memory, and Networking.  Conversely, the innovation in those areas is being driven by the Application and Virtualization growth.

Kind of like this. (And to get really technical about it, I’d say that 10GbE networking is even more impactful for cloud-based apps than it is for virtualization, we can keep the image simpler.)








Now we can look at what is driving all the pressure on storage.  CPU, Memory, and 10GbE are enabling applications to get faster (and scale out) and virtualization to consolidate more densely.  But the 10GbE network isn’t just enabling applications and virtualization, it’s also the pipe directly to the storage – so it’s a direct factor as well:








And one final touch on that slide – the major disruption in storage itself – flash technologies dropping in price – are causing pressure on storage.  Flash means more I/O able to be processed on the storage, IF the storage processor can handle the uptick in IOPS.  And flash needs special handling for things like garbage collection and wear leveling.  So that’s more pressure storage is putting “on itself.”








So that itself would have been a better first slide – and in fact may have negated the need for the second slide.

Stay tuned for another post early next week on what else is interesting about this slide that didn’t quite make the roster…err…deck.

Now what?

After the crazy weeks leading up to VMworld, followed by the exhilarating show itself, wondering-aaronfollowed by a long weekend off, I expected to come back to work yesterday raring to go.

But I wasn’t. I was at loose ends, attending meetings and answering emails but lacking in drive, direction.

It was as if the adrenaline and energy that had been propelling me the past several weeks was gone and nothing had taken its place. My typical instincts for how to prioritize and shape a set of projects was missing.

It’s not that I don’t know what to do; there’s plenty:
-fine-tune the messaging on the website
-write job descriptions for some new roles on the team
-update the company deck with new messaging from VMworld
-investigate our alliance programs for co-marketing opportunities
-map our content to our programs for the rest of the year and identify gaps
-create new content based on all the new things we created for VMworld

But yesterday, I had no motivation for any of it.

Let’s hope today is better.