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Career and Money Advice At The Intersection Of Business And Technology

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What really matters at work?

June 7th, 2013 by GeekMBA360

I worked for a company that was acquired by a much larger corporation. The integration process has been painful for many of my colleagues. Our work environment is becoming much more political, bureaucratic, and frustrating. However, the work itself is still very interesting. The company is in a very hot market with a lot of growth potential. It’s just the office politics is getting out of hand. And the management is a group of former management consultants who have no clue to run a business.

Some choose to quit but most of them didn’t end up in better situations. I keep telling people not to run away from places – you should make a career move because the new company provides a step up in term of growth opportunity, market opportunity and compensation. You should not join a company because you want to run away from your current employer. There is a fine distinction here but it’s an important one.

There are only 3 three things that really matters to you at work:

  1. You accomplishments
  2. Your continued career and personal growth
  3. The network of friends you have

Focus on these three things. If you feel that you are maxed out on all three areas at your current company, then you might want to make a move. Otherwise, you might want to consider to stay because you still have a lot to gain.

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What would you do differently if you can re-do your post college career

May 29th, 2013 by GeekMBA360

It’s college graduation time again.

I graduated from college in 1997. I finished all of my required courses in Spring semester 1997 but decided to stay for an extra semester because I wanted to take some classes I really wanted to take. Looking back, I was not ready to leave college at that time. I had job offers but I was terrified of entering the real world. I had always enjoyed academic environment and I lived a sheltered life.

After college, I worked for a management consulting company for one year. I then joined a medium sized enterprise software company for a year. The next stop was to join a hot start-up in the Silicon Valley. That company crashed and burned after on year. I did another start-up before I went back to business school.

Looking back, if I can re-do the first four year of my post-college career, knowing what I know now, I would “plan” my career a little bit differently.

  • I would take more vacations and travel more. I was totally into the “work hard” culture of Silicon Valley. I didn’t take whole lot of vacations.
  • I would work one or two years abroad. Working abroad is an experience I wish I had. With family and kids, it’s harder to move to another country to work. If you’re single, I highly recommend you to get a job abroad for a year or two.
  • I would not work in enterprise software companies. I enjoy working with consumer facing products. Enterprise software industry is industry, but it is not what my calling. I really struggled to stay interested.
  • I would not make the jump to product management – I studies computer science in college but didn’t like to be a programmer. So I made the transition to product management with only one year of work experience – I thought product management provided me the opportunity to leverage my technical skills and business acumen. In reality, product management is a highly political job that is not well suited for my personality. I would be much better off if I became a sales engineer or taken on a marketing/analytic roles in a consumer facing company. It took me 12 years to finally find the right job.
  • I would join a high growth, medium size, publically traded company. Medium size company is my sweet spot – it offers a combination of having some structure but still allows room for innovation and getting things done. I didn’t enjoy working at VC funded starts-ups – there are too much greed and too little value creation in these companies. It was never fulfilling for me to work at these companies.
  • I would move out of Silicon Valley much sooner – I enjoy working and living in culturally rich environment. For example, I love the college towns of Berkeley, CA and Evanston, IL. Santa Clara Country is full of corporate parks and suburban homes. I was not happy living there.
  • I would exercise regularly, play more sports and live a more healthy life style.
  • Knowing what I know now, I probably will choose not to apply MBA schools. Instead, I will enroll in a master program that I truly have a passion for.

If you can re-do your post college career, what would you do?

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Let your life speak

April 29th, 2013 by GeekMBA360

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation is a great read.

Before I share with you my review, I would like to quote the review from Publisher Weekly because it captured this book’s essence very well.

“A gifted academic who formerly combined a college teaching career with community organizing, Palmer took a year’s sabbatical to live at the "intentional" Quaker community of Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania. Instead of leaving at year’s end, he became the community’s dean of studies and remained there for 10 years.

Palmer (The Courage to Teach) shares the lessons of his vocational and spiritual journey, discussing his own burnout and intense depression with exceptional candor and clarity.

In essays that previously appeared in spiritual or educational journals and have been reworked to fit into this slim volume, he suggests that individuals are most authentic when they follow their natural talents and limitations, as his own story demonstrates. Since hearing one’s "calling" requires introspection and self-knowledge (as suggested by the eponymous Quaker expression), Palmer encourages inner work such as journal-writing, meditation and prayer. Recognizing that his philosophy is at odds with popular, essentially American attitudes about self-actualization and following one’s dreams, Palmer calls vocation "a gift, not a goal."

He deftly illustrates his point with examples from the lives of people he admires, such as Rosa Parks, Annie Dillard and Vaclav Havel. A quiet but memorable addition to the inspirational field, this book has the quality of a finely worked homily. The writing displays a gentle wisdom and economy of style that leaves the reader curious for more insight into the author’s Quaker philosophy.”

My key takeaways:

  1. The American Culture emphasizes overcome one’s limitation and self actualization. However, each of us has our own unique calling. If we focus on what we should be doing (not what we’re called to do) and live to meet external expectations, we will end up in very miserable place no matter how successful we are.
  2. If we found ourselves keep hitting walls or burned out, it is probably a sign that you’re not following your true calling. You’re trying too hard to meet other people’s expectation. I have experienced this myself. In fact, I know very few people who are truly living their own calling.
  3. If we trust our inner self and let “self” to lead us, we’ll eventually find the optimal career path. This approach could take us to unexpected places but it will work out in the end.

Like a family friend who told me a while ago: “very few people truly love their work. and these people are truly happy.” I believe putting yourself into the right vocation is one of the most valuable gift you can ever give to yourself. Read this book and find your calling. You will be blessed.

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What do you stand for?

April 29th, 2013 by GeekMBA360

What do I stand for? what is my professional identity? I have been thinking a lot about this topic lately.

At work I know very few people who have the courage, conviction and intellectual rigor to firmly stand on their own. Most of people never take a position. They shift their positions according to direction of the “wind”. In this context, the “wind” could be winning side of office politics, or popular opinion, or what they think will make them look smart.

Ironically, for several occasions, I stood up and spoke my minds. Every time people told me that they appreciated the fresh air.

Throughout my career, I have very few boss who knows what he or she stands for. In fact, I think I only had one boss who I truly respect. I learn something from him every single day. He knows what he stands for. He has the courage, conviction, and intellectual rigor to stand on his own.

It’s very rare to find people who stands on their own. These are the truly successful people. If you’re fortunate to work for or work with one of them, you should do all you can to learn from them.

You need to know what you stand for. You need to have a clear professional identity based on your skills, your emotional make-up, your innate talents, and your characters. You need to figure it out because it will make you more successful and fulfilled in your career.

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How a 420 pound in-debt nobody became a top internet marketer

April 10th, 2013 by GeekMBA360

My career focus is e-commerce. A big part of what I do is online marketing. I spend a lot of time on Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, affiliate marketing, social media marketing, etc.

The online marketing game is dynamic and challenging. It is not something you can learn from a business school professor. It is constantly changing. Something that is working today might not work tomorrow. It’s a game that being a bigger player doesn’t guarantee a win. In fact, many great internet marketers work for themselves. With technology and clever marketing techniques, these online marketers are able to build a dotcom life style (check out John Chow or Peng Joon). I always keep an eye on these independent internet entrepreneurs because they are the innovators in the online marketing space. There are a lot I can learn from their unconventional, entrepreneurial, and even “black hat” techniques.

Jeremy Shoemaker is one of these great online marketers. Jeremy was once a 420 pounds, broke nobody. Fortunately he found his calling in online marketing. He became famous when he posted his picture with a Google $132,994.97 check for one month of clicks in 2008. In January this year Jeremy published his autobiography, Nothing’s Change Buy My Change: The ShoeMoney Story. It is quite an inspiring story.

Jeremy is on a roll this year – he recently launched a training program called the Shoe-In Money program to share how a 420 pound & in debt nobody became one of the the most recognized names on the Internet. If you work in online marketing or you are interested in generating passive online income, I recommend you to check out what Jeremy Shoemaker has to offer.

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How much emergency funds should you save for a rainy day?

April 10th, 2013 by GeekMBA360

When I graduated from college fifteen years ago, the advice I received was that I should save three months of living expenses as my emergency funds. At that time, I was single with a good salary. The economy was at the height of the dotcom bubble. In the Silicon Valley it seemed that there was unlimited number of opportunities to get rich.

Things turned sour very quickly. I knew a lot of young professionals who were out of work in late 2000, 2001 and 2002. It was truly a very difficult time for a lot of people. Many young professionals chose to move home to save money, or go back to graduate school to get their MBA, JD, or other graduate degrees. For folks who didn’t have a family to support, it’s relatively easier to survive the downturn. Even for these folks, three months of living expenses was NOT whole lot of money as they struggled to find jobs and had to look for other options. If I’m a young professional today, I would suggest that you should  save at least 6 months of living expenses as your emergency fund. I believe the optimal emergency funds is 12 months of living expenses.

If you have a family to support, I would suggest that you should have a minimum of 12 months of living expenses as your emergency fund. Ideally, you should save 24 months of living expenses as your emergency fund. You might think I’m being too conservative. But, in this economy, if you lose your job, it could take a while to find another job. While you are unemployed, you still need to find ways to pay for medical insurance in addition to your living expenses. In the United States, we simply don’t have the social welfare infrastructure to support a family for an extended period of time while the primary bread earner is out of job.

Where should you put your emergency funds? It should be kept in a saving or CD or money market account – please do NOT put your emergency funds in the stock market!

Also, smaller banks and/or online banks tend to have better rate for saving or CD or money market account. For example, Everbank’s Yield Pledge Money Market and Interest Checking account both offer 1.25% APY guaranteed for the first 6 months for new accounts. Because the interest rate is fixed for the first 6 months, this is essentially a 6-month CD with a higher rate than most 6-month CD rate out there. It only takes $1,500 to open. No monthly fee. IRA eligible. It also promises to keep the yield on the account in the top 5% of Competitive Accounts. Because there is no early withdraw penalty, if you find better rate else where in six months, you can always move your money to somewhere else.

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Lessons learned from raising $1 for my business

February 11th, 2013 by GeekMBA360

In my last post I asked for $1 from you to help me start a new business. This is one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever done. In this post I’d like to explain to you why I was doing it, how much money I raised, and what lessons I learned from this experience.

For the longest time, I have wanted to generate enough online income so that I can quit my full-time job and come off the corporate track. I have this goal NOT because I want to retire. In fact, my business hero is Charlie Munger who is still working at age 89. I want to have a very long and enjoyable career that I can work until advanced age. But, I want to have the freedom to choose 1) the type of work/business and 2) people who I work with. Furthermore, I want to create geographic and financial flexibility so that I can better take care of my family and pursue my own dreams.

In other words, I’m not looking to retire. I am looking to create a business to support the lifestyle I want for my family.

Over the years I have dreamed about many things. I have tried several ideas. This blog and the Ebooks I published are two examples. I was able to generate several hundred dollars of online income each month consistently over the past three years. But, I have not been able to get to the next level (i.e. grow the business by 10X to get to several thousand dollars per month.) It has been frustrating. And I feel an increasing sense of urgency to take my online business to somewhere.

I got a wake-up call when I read Noah Kagan’s writing’s on Wantrepreneur epidemic and how he created a million-dollar business in a weekend. The story is inspiring. But it is also scary. Am I one of the Wantrepreneurs? Am I in the wrong frame of mind? What do I need to do to change?

Last Wednesday I got an email from AppSumo about the How To Make Your First Dollar course. I was intrigued by the sales copy — you should read the sales copy to understand why I was intrigued.
The problem is that the online course costs $300. I have never paid for any online class. I have never signed up for any “get rich” books, tapes, or programs. I am too skeptical to buy any of these stuff.

But, there are several things about this course offering that is different.

  • Noah Kagan has a lot of credibility. I have been following his blog, listened to his talk at UC Berkeley, read his post on Four Hour Work Week, shopped at AppSumo, and marveled at many of his entrepreneurial successes.
  • This class has a tuition of $300 but has a 60-day money back guarantee. The 60-day money back guarantee took the risk out of my purchase decision. I don’t mind to spend the money but I definitely want to get my money worth. On the other hand, I’m willing to make a commitment by investing $300 — it will force me work hard to get a solid return on my investment. I learned this from my past experience. I signed up for Kaplan GMAT class when I was applying business school. The $1200 Kaplan tuition investment really forced me to study extremely hard to get a good score. I wanted badly to get my money worth. 🙂
  • Noah’s style and substance resonate well with me. He is original, pragmatic, realistic, thoughtful, honest, and common-sense. He is not trying to teach people to become a millionaire; he teaches the right mindset and approach to build momentum.

So, I paid the $300 and signed up for the course last Thursday. My first exercise is to get the first $1 by emailing 5 friends, talking to people, social media, or whatever method.

Does this sound easy to you? It’s not easy for me because it feels awkward. Here is a list of thoughts came across my mind:

  • Are my friends going to think this is silly/crazy/stupid on my part?
  • Now everyone will know I’m taking this class. Will people think me as someone who is desperately trying to get rich quickly? (like people who bought the “make money” product from an informercial?)
  • Will any of my blog readers help me? What if nobody respond to my request?

I thought about just skip this exercise. But, Noah made it very hard to skip this step — basically I must complete this step to advance to the next step of the course.

So I swallowed my pride and worries, made a blog post, tweeted about it, posted it on LinkedIn and Facebook. During the first 24 hours, I didn’t receive anything.

I emailed Noah for support. His response? “Blogging is weak. Go to talk to a real person.” I had to admit I was avoiding emailing or calling someone directly. I was too embarrassed. But, I had no choice if I want to continue the course. So I texted a friend and he immediately Paypaled me $1. Interesting enough, within an hour, I received a $1 donation from a reader of this blog who I didn’t know. And the next day I got another donation of $8.28 from a fellow reader of this blog. Thank you all!

I learned several valuable lessons from this experience.

First, I learned to ignore my worries by committing and not having any other option. The experiment is not something I’m used to to; it’s awkward for me. However, I have no alternative — if I want to continue the course, I have to do it. Making up my mind and not having another option really pushed me to complete the task while ignoring my worries.

Second, giving is a very gracious act, and we should all give more to others and to the universe. It’s impossible for me to describe the feeling when I received donations from my friend and two fellow blog readers. I’m very grateful and thankful. I was really in need of support and encouragement. Their generosity is exactly what I needed. And their investment in me might very well motivate me and propel me to reach my goal.

Third, the first dollar is the hardest. To make the first dollar, I need to look around who I know, what resource I have access to, and what I’m familiar with. Once I get the first dollar, things get easier.

In the next 90 days, I’ll continue to blog about my progress and learning from How To Make Your First Dollar. Stay tuned.

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I’m raising $1 for my new business

February 7th, 2013 by GeekMBA360

This post is NOT a joke. I’m serious.

I am starting a business and need $1 from you. Why am I doing this? Because I signed up for AppSumo’s Make Your First Dollar program. The first task is to raise $1 – I cannot continue the program until I raise at least $1.

Why would you do this?

Your investment will give me some serious confidence to kick some ass and start a business I’ve always wanted to start. I’m reaching out to you because you’ve been a reader of the free content on this blog who might have benefited from my writing and advice (and you are probably a friend who knows me). I could definitely use your support this time. After all, it’s only $1 dollar.

If you’re cool with that, then please PayPal it to

Thanks for everything. 🙂 If you’re wondering what business I’m starting and how I came up this idea  of asking for $1, I’ll blog every single step of this journey during the next 90 days. Stay tuned.



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The #1 WORST food for your skin, joints & blood sugar

February 3rd, 2013 by GeekMBA360

I’m excited to announce to you today that our friends and nutrition gurus Catherine Ebeling and Mike Geary have just released a brand new manual called The Top 101 Foods that FIGHT Aging.

In this book, they discussed the #1 WORST food for your skin, joints & blood sugar. (Beware and you might be surprised!)

This new manual is MUCH more than a list of foods… it’s actually 83 pages jam packed with all sorts of unique foods, herbs, spices, teas, little-known nutrients, and dozens of other tips and tricks to help you FIGHT the aging process and keep youthful joints, skin, organs, and muscles so that you look and feel 10 years YOUNGER than your real age!

I highly recommend you to read about the #1 WORST food for your ski, joints & blood sugar and check out the book The Top 101 Foods that FIGHT Aging.

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Do not bad mouth your current employer when you interview with another company

January 22nd, 2013 by GeekMBA360

Someone I know recently interviewed with another company. He was one of the finalist but he didn’t get the job. So he is still work for his current employer while he continues to interview with other companies.

I happened to know several people at the company he interviewed at. I had lunch with them last week. Apparently they took took my friend to an happy-hour event after his interview. He bad-mouthed his current employer during the Happy Hour. He had every reason to be frustrated with his current employer. But, it’s unwise for him to say the bad things about his current employer.

First, if I’m the hiring manager, I will question this guy’s judgment – it doesn’t do him any good by bad mouth his current employer.

Second, this is a small world. You never know who knows whom. What if his current employer heard about his complaints? You put your own job security at risk.

Third, no matter how frustrated you’re, you don’t want to burn any bridges. In the end of day, when you leave a company, you will bring two things with you – and only two things – the relationships you have built, and the skills you have developed. Nothing else.

Be wise.

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