A’s Baseball

Duke and I are going to the A’s vs Mariners game tonight.  Every year I become more of an A’s fan. Thanks to Duke’s boss we have gone to 2-3 A’s games a year for he past few years.  The book MoneyBall by Michael Lewis greatly increased my interest in the team. It is much more than an A’s book or a baseball book. It is a book about thinking outside the box  and running an organization based on what you measure not on your preconceived notions. I also enjoyed the book because it tells some great player stories. I like knowing something about the backgrounds of the players.

The human side of the story is one of the reasons I really liked the  Josh Suchon story about the A’s reliever Ron Flores that ran in yesterdays Argus. Flores was the 870th pick in the 2000 baseball draft and he is one of only 47 major league baseball players who have a college degree. It is an inspiring story and Suchan tells it well. It is well worth reading.

Financial Planner Research Project

Intuit is looking for financial planners who would be interested in participating in a research project over the summer, late July through October. We would like you to try out a new product and tell us what you think about it. The product focuses on helping you manage your clients’ portfolios. If this sounds interesting to you please send me an email at marion_vermazen at intuit dot com. Give me your phone number and I will give you a call back to give you more information.

Blink and Teams

I finished reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell today. It is a thought provoking book and worth reading but I found it some what unsatisfying. I am not sure why. He talks about how powerful first impressions can be but he also talks about how prejudices  or adrenaline levels can make snap judgments wrong.  It is definitely worth reading if only because it reinforces how powerful the mind can be.

I once had a boss tell me that I should trust my gut more often. He said I often over think things. His advice was good advice. I had lunch with a friend Friday and we were talking about how one of the advantages of getting older is that more and more you feel confident trusting your instincts.

I spent the rest of the day today  between doing laundry and cleaning the house  reading  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. It was recommended to me by a friend at Intuit whose opinion I really respect. I started it and finished it today so you know it is an easy read.  I’ve always liked  team related books and I really enjoyed  this one. I think part of why I liked it is that  it resonated with  me and got me thinking about a still painful management failure I had many years ago. Most of the book is what the author calls a management fable and a key part of the fable is very similar to what happened to me.

I was leading a customer support team that included one very smart, very productive manager who was constantly undermining the team. He wouldn’t address issues he had with another team member head on. Instead he would  constantly criticize her behind her back. One of my weaknesses was that I tended to avoid conflict. I should have insisted that he commit to the success of the team. But I didn’t. Instead for months I tried to make us into a team in spite of him. I tried and tried for way too long. Eventually we were faced with a crisis. A significant update to our flagship product shipped with  a lot of bugs. Our team failed to rise to the occasion and eventually I was replaced. There were other contributing factors but I think if I had removed the divisive person months earlier we might have regrouped and overcome the problem. I learned a lot from my failure. I still don’t like conflict but I  don’t avoid it any more and if I ever have a divisive person on a team again and they don’t want to change I will not keep trying to make the impossible happen.  The first two dysfunctions in Lencioni’s team model are absence of trust and avoidance of conflict. I have the scars to prove that they are critical factors.

As I said the Lencioni book is a simple book. Another more complex book about teams that I really like is The Wisdom of  Teams by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith. It has been a while since I read it but I remember that it was very inspiring.

The Moon

Last night as I was driving home listening to the San Francisco Bay Area’s all jazz station KCSM they were playing all moon related songs. This week the full moon is hanging lower in the sky than any full moon since  June 1987, so the moon illusion is extra strong. The moon illusion is  about how the moon looks extra big when it is near the horizon. It is all explained here. What is fascinating is that it is all  something our eye creates not something a camera sees and no one is really sure what causes it.

Duke and I love admiring the moon so last night just before moonrise we went out to the Hayward shoreline away from the trees and buildings. We went for a walk. When the moon came up it was absolutely amazing. Not only did look big but there was some fog on the horizon so the moon was an amazing orange. Then as it rose it changed to butter yellow and then a creamy white.


I was part of a conversation today about materiality and blogging. One of the participants, 
a lawyer, was explaining all the SEC rules concerning disclosure of forward looking
information by public companies and how dangerous blogging can be. Someone else laughingly
said he had heard it said that blogging can destroy a company just be sure it is not ours.

Obviously if a blogger starts talking about things like future product strategy or mergers
and acquisitions it is material information. But where do you draw the line? If you say we
are going to fix this bug in our next release is that material information?

It occurred to me that this is probably a discussion that has happened before. In fact I
would imagine that whenever a public company talks about blogging this comes up. I'm sure
there have been some good posts addressing this question. I'll do a bit of keyword
searching but if anyone is aware of good blogs on this topic please let me know.

Laptop computers and Sun Ray cards

Up until the first of this month I worked at Sun Microsystems. We used Sun Rays which are basically terminals that I could put my smart card into and have my computing environment immediately available.  At Sun your smart card was your badge and it gave you access to your environment where ever you happened to be working. When you use a Sun Ray your whole computer is in a server room somewhere and the server just displays your environment where ever you are. Essentially your smart card is the key to accessing your computing environment.

Since starting at Intuit I’ve switched to a traditional Microsoft environment. What I’ve noticed though is that many people use their laptop the way I used to use a Sun Ray smart card. They plug the laptop into a docking station and then work on a terminal and  keyboard that is stationary in their office.

I totally understand that there are very basic differences in the two environments but if you think about it from a user perspective and don’t worry too much about where the CPU is located then you can  perhaps see the laptop and the Sun Ray smart card converging. in both cases you  plug them in and your environment shows up on  essentially a dumb terminal where ever you are.

How to Get Financial Planning Experience

I met with a Financial Planner last Friday
to discuss possible ways we could work together to allow me to get financial
planning experience and at the same time have the relationship be
advantageous for him. I had lots of questions about how financial
planning works and he was very informative. He is a fee only planner.
That means he doesn’t make any commissions from his clients investments.
He charges a fee to do a financial plan for a client and when the client
has him manage their assets he charges a fee based on a percentage of
assets under management.

If I wanted to work as an associate with his firm I would need to pass
my NASD series 65 license exam. Then as I brought clients in we would
work together to provide the services they needed and we would share the
fees. I would get experience and my clients would get the benefit of his
extensive experience. In a few years if I wanted to go out on my own I
could buy the clients back from him.

This planner uses mutual funds from Dimensional Fund Advisers to create
portfolios based on an asset allocation designed for the needs of each
client. Dimensional Funds are institutional funds with a very low cost
structure. Individuals can’t buy the funds directly but must work
through an adviser.

I really enjoy doing informational interviews. I not only learn a lot
but I also meet some very interesting people who are doing what I may be
doing some day. My plan has always been to do planning for an hourly fee.  I envision serving clients who don’t have big asset portfolios so I’m not at all sure working with this planner would be a fit for me. Plus I am not sure I would be very good at
bringing in clients with money to manage. On the other hand one of the big advantages of working with an
established planner is that since I only want to do planning part time for now
this would be a way to learn a lot and get experience.

I think I’ll just put all my energy into work for now. I am very committed to my new job at Intuit. I am working on
some very exciting things and that is my first priority.

Two Years

Two years ago today Duke and I were married. I’ve been thinking all day what I can say that won’t sound trite.  And I didn’t come up with anything. All I can say is I fell very very lucky and I can’t image being happier. So I guess I’ll be trite anyway. I wouldn’t have believed it but  🙂 Your dreams can come true it can happen to you!

Informational Interviews and Why I Blog

Last April I wrote a entry on my Sun Blog  about why I like to Blog. I want to add two things to that list based on my experience changing jobs and beginning to explore ways to get financial planning experience.

Blogging is a great way to reflect who you are to potential employers. When I first sent my resume to Intuit I also put the resume on my blog. In my cover letter I mentioned my blog. I know that the blog is not why I was hired but I know that my new boss read the blog and I think it helped me  market myself. I should note though that the purpose of the blog is not to market myself but because my blog reflects who I am it does in fact become a marketing tool.

Blogging helps you implement learn – teach – learn. I am a great believer in informational interviews. My daughters get sick of me urging them to set up informational interviews with  people who work in the fields they are interested in.  I’ve done a few informational interviews lately and I think blogging about them has been a great way to crystallize my learning.  Intuit talks about the idea of learn teach learn that is what blogging facilitates. First I learn something. Then I blog about it and as a result I learn more.