One of the best things about working at Intuit was the Quality Assurance people that I worked with. They were all professional, hard working and smart. One of them, Anders Mortinson, showed just how smart he is last Friday when he was on Jeopardy. You may have heard that for the first time ever Jeopardy had a three way tie on Friday. As a result there was even a story about him in our local paper. He also got to come back to compete again on Monday. A friend told me that at Intuit on Friday they had a pizza party and over
50 people ate pizza and watched the show. Scott Cook even attended.
Last Monday my daughter Allison was on national TV too! She and her friends were visiting New York and could be seen in the crowd outside the Today Show on NBC. They also got to shake hands with Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, and Al Roker. Allison is the one with an octopus on her head 🙂
I think it rather ironic that I left Sun after 18 years at least partly because of the possibility of being laid off. Sun does so many lay offs that they can say that lay offs are a core competency.Today I was laid off by a profitable company that is rated one of the very top companies to work for in the country. Of course this isn’t the whole story. Had I looked I might have found another job and then I would still be employed. Instead I quite happily chose to retire.
So today is probably the end of my work life. I say probably because I haven’t ruled out taking on another job or consulting assignment that really excites me. But for now I have reached that very exciting major milestone, Retirement! I am still sad to see the project I put all my energy into for the last 17 months die and I am sad to be leaving a lot of new friends but mostly I am very excited about all the possibilities in front of me.
A few updates on activities this week…. My non fiction book club met Wednesday night. we read Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox. In this biography Maddox does a masterful job of describing complex science and of telling Franklin’s story. It is a compelling book and I highly recommend it.
Last night we went to Yoshi’s and saw Earl Klugh perform. I always enjoy live music at Yoshi’s and although I wasn’t familiar with Klugh’s music I really enjoyed the show.
My to do list is getting longer and longer as we approach the launch of PortfolioMinder. I’m torn between developing processes, building my technical expertise, creating an awesome team and helping move us towards product launch. I think the highest priority has got to be building the support team. The first group of agents are on board. they are really doing great. I think having people who are financial planners themselves provide support is going to work very well. I’ve got a lot of names and resumes lined up for when we are ready to bring on more agents too.
I think having the agents work from wherever they are located is going to work well. My experience with Sun’s iWork program (marketed exteranlly as Sun’s Open Work Practice) is proving to be a big help to me in creating the PortfolioMinder support program. Creating a sense of team work and community within the distributed team is high on my priority list. I don’t think it can be rushed though. Real teamwork is something that develops over time not something that you can force. The team members are really helping each other and sharing their experiences. I’d say we are really off on the right foot. It will be interesting to see where we are a year from now.
Some updates on what is happening in the group I am in at Intuit, The Quicken Solutions Group (QSG).
The product I am working on, PortfolioMinder, was favorably highlighted by Joel Bruckenstein in his year end wrap up of financial planning industry software. We will be launching PortfolioMinder soon so I have started bringing on Customer Care agents. It is going to be a great team.
There is an article about Intuit in the latest issue of FORTUNE – "CEO – Intuit’s Scott Cook on How to Be a Great Leader. In the copy of the magazine that I saw the article included a picture of the PortfolioMinder team room. I spend a lot of my time in that room. I tried to find the magazine on the new stand but the article and picture weren’t in the copy of the magazine that I found. I guess they were just in the copy of the magazine that people get in the mail.
Zipingo is another product that comes out of QSG. They have made a lot of improvements to the site since it went into beta last summer, especially in the ability to search for businesses. The number of companies rated is growing too. Check Zipingo out. It is a cool site.
I’ve been working at Intuit for six months now. It seems like a good time to step back and think about my impressions of my first six months. Keep in mind that my impressions are parochial. I have a view of my little corner of the company and the project I am working on. Your mileage may vary. But I don’t think my experiences are necessarily atypical.
My view of Intuit is also colored by the fact that this is the first individual contributor job I have had in a long time. I’m managing the customer care organization for PortfolioMinder. But right now it is just me. This is by design and absolutely the right strategy and what I signed up for. Up until now If things were going to get done to build the customer care organization I’m pretty much the one who did them. I’m starting to bring customer care agents on but these first six months have been very much about doing instead of managing. I have enjoyed it. I certainly had stints at Sun when I wasn’t managing but I was always getting things done through people.
I have to smile a bit because I think I am getting payback for all the meetings I scheduled as a manager. I thought my meetings were really important and I think I discounted people’s complaints about too many meetings. Now I am feeling the reality that when you are in a meeting you aren’t getting tangible things done. I always knew that intellectually, but now I am really feeling the pain of having to work extra hours to get things done around the meetings.
On the other hand the meetings are also a sign of one of the many things that are right about Intuit. I truly feel that my opinions count and that I am making a very real contribution to my group and to PortfolioMinder. My group makes a very big effort to keep every one informed and I think we are a much more effective team because of it. I really appreciate the attitude towards employees at Intuit. We are encouraged to have a balanced life and not work 16 hours a day.
Intuit has a very strong culture of being customer focused. From what I have seen they don’t just talk the talk. They walk the walk. Intuit is known for its emphasis on the user experience. From what I have experienced it is part of the DNA of the company. We have had more contextual interviews, end to end user experience discussions, and reviews of the user interface than anywhere I have ever worked. It would be very easy as we push to deliver our product to say we’ll worry about the user later. But we really are researching what works and making changes as a result of it. Even though at times it is frustrating I know that at the end it will be better product.
I heard an interesting story in an all hands meeting the other day. Apparently Steve Bennett was talking to some people and they asked him if Intuit hires anthropologists. He answered "Why would I hire one anthropologist when I have 7000?" There is no doubt that we pride ourselves on listening to consumers and knowing what they want. I would agree that it is a very real part of the Intuit DNA.
All of our goals are structured around Intuit’s three stakeholders; customer, stockholders and employees. I not only see the emphasis on employees and customers that I described above, but I definitely see a focus on shareholders. There is a strongly articulated understanding of and commitment to the need to fuel the growth of the company and to do it for the long haul not just for the next quarter.
So what are my impressions? I just took my first annual employee survey. I like working here. I like the company vision, strategy and focus and I would recommend Intuit to others. I think we have a bright future.