Roll with it

Rolling with the punches – Attitude is everything


I wanted to shoot a quick video based on some of my experiences in the past couple weeks. The underlying point is the importance to take some things as they are, and that sometimes you need to roll with the punches.

A week back, I flew down to LA for a one hour meeting. The only flight I could take which would get me to LA in time was ridiculously early, as such I had a lot of downtime before the meeting. Then the meeting, we got to the designated office, set up, and waited. 5, 10, 15 minutes later, we are now 5 minutes past the start of the meeting, and no one!

Then we get an email, due to a miscommunication, the meeting is now in another building 10 minutes away.

We scramble and drive over only to get to an empty room. Opps, the meeting location changed again!

Another example that happened to me this week. We were hosting a client workshop in Miami, focused on how emerging technologies like wearables and IOT can improve the customer experience. The meeting started at 9, and included a number of important stakeholder. At 8:30, we ask valet to get our car. 8:35, 8:40, 8:50, valet hasn’t brought out our car. Finaly at 8:52 we get the car, and of course the office is 15 minutes away…

Walking in, I immediately made a joke about how the valet provided us with a bad customer experience, and that this is exactly the topic we are here to solve. And I rolled right into the workshop. And you know what, so did the client.

Why am I telling you this?

I could’ve easily gotten upset, stressed out, angry even, but I didn’t, I looked on the bright side, kept a positive attitude, and turned the situation around on to a lighter note. As a result, we succeeded on both meeting. In fact, when I left LA to wait for my flight, I managed to hop on an earlier flight right away, for free, getting me home 3 hours early.

AND in Miami, I got a free upgrade to first class.

The point here – there are things that are going to happen which you can’t control. Your job, is to figure out how to spin it and make it positive, not just to keep clients happy, but more importantly, keep YOURSELF happy.

My mom always told me – Attitude is everything.

UPDATE – So I have an update to this story. Quite literally right after I filmed and wrote this, my flight from Miami was delayed by 7 hours. SEVEN hours! Man people were angry. Because of who I am, I started running around and trying to talk to people, make them laugh, and general lift spirits. Surprisingly (or maybe not), people actually took their frustration out on me!

That’s alright, I can tough it out, the poor flight staff was getting it from everyone.

The result was, I did make it to my destination eventually, I got a free flight, and free drinks the whole flight!

Look, this just helps solidify my point. Control your reactions to situations, it’s the ONLY thing you have control over.

New It

New IT – The evolution of Enterprise Technology

Today we discuss a very exciting topic. New IT.

New IT is focused on making enterprise technology more efficient, faster reacting, and market relevant, all through concepts such as light weight architectures, Agile and Scrum Methodologies, Design Thinking, and Automation.

Hi guys, AJ here with another blog. Today, I wanted to talk about new IT. This is a subject that I’m really excited about.

New IT is a set of principles or ideas that are focused on changing the way we bring technology solutions to the market.

Today, every company is a software company. If a company doesn’t think they’re a software company, then they’re being disrupted by software companies.

Let’s take an example: the taxi industry. The taxi industry has been around for generations worldwide. This is an industry that’s typically founded on a company purchasing a number of taxis, hiring a number of drivers, and then putting them out on the streets for them to go look for passengers.

Now let’s look at Uber. Almost everybody knows who Uber is; if they haven’t used Uber, then they’ve heard about Uber in the news. Uber is turning the taxi industry on its head. And they’re not doing it by reducing margins or buying better vehicles or changing out the drivers. They’re doing it with a software application, or an app.

Uber’s app enables anybody to download it, sign up, and become a driver. Or they can download it and call an Uber driver right to them. This is a technology solution, and it’s a great example of how software is turning a non-technology industry on its head.

Let’s talk about some of the things that make up new IT, especially with enterprises who are looking to hit the market faster with more relevant solutions.

1. Lightweight architectures.

Lightweight architectures are focused on building micro-services. These are essentially taking all the pieces of a large, complex enterprise system and breaking them up into reusable, smaller components.

These components, when put together, can take up the function of massive systems. At the same time, each of the services are easily understandable, consumable by external systems or applications (other than the primary application), and can be reused in different ways to end with different results, so you’re not programming things from the ground up every time.

2. Agile development.

Agile development and Scrum methodologies are a philosophy of delivering parts of projects faster. We take that by doing the same thing we did in micro-services, by looking at all of the requirements of an application and breaking them into smaller chunks called stories. These stories are then prioritized by the client stakeholder, who decides which ones are more important than others. These stories are given to a team of developers, who then take a certain amount of stories and develop them in what’s called a sprint.

The goal of each sprint, which is usually timeboxed to about 2 weeks, is to deliver a PSI, a potentially shippable product. That product is something that can be tested and demonstrated to the stakeholders and then validated for functionality and use. HERE In the next sprint, the developer team can either go back and make other fixes or move onto the next set of stories.

3. Automating enterprise software.

When we talk about automating, we’re focusing primarily on two things: the testing and deployment of the software.

Today, large scale software companies are still deploying complex systems in a way that requires huge amounts of resources. They’re manually taking these systems and running them piece by piece through different stages of production. Once a release is developed, it typically takes weeks if not months to get that out to public release. So we end up burning time having people manually migrating through staging environments and test environments. We have people doing testing by hand, usually large QA teams, who then have to be documented, and then the software goes back to the developers for fixes. It’s long and inefficient.

When we talk about automation, When code is developed and committed, it goes through an automated testing platform that checks everything over. Once that’s past, we get into DevOps tools that will take your code that’s been tested and push it right to production. This means that many times, enterprises and software companies can have nightly product releases to their clients, knowing that it works and that everybody’s up to date. This is great news for enterprises. We can react quickly to the market.

4. Design thinking.

This is another core foundation of new IT and the last one I’m going to touch on. Design thinking supersedes everything and asks: How are we coming up with the ideas? How are we thinking about software products and bringing them to market? What is our strategy?

It’s highly collaborative and experimental. It relies on ideation, rapid prototyping, coming up with things, and failing fast. We’re talking about tight release cycles, just like in agile, and getting things to market quickly, making sure that this is actually the path that we want to go down.

This is just a little bit of the concept of new IT. It’s very exciting stuff that we’re bringing to enterprise, like the idea of liquid applications: always moving, always changing. As enterprises start embracing this, we’re going to see a new ecosystem of fast reacting solutions that are always relevant and always providing value.

Have a great weekend, guys! Thanks.


Expanding your knowledge

Never settling is a cornerstone of entrepreneurship. No matter where you go, the people who seem to get a head the most are the ones who are always hungry to learn more and expand their knowledge. One of my personal goals is to read 12 books a year, one for every month, though sometimes I shuffle that around depending on my time. In the beginning, most of these books were technical or business related books, which I enjoy reading, but after a while become repetitive and stale.

But I noticed something odd. The more I read these kinds of books, the more afraid I was of taking chances, afraid of making the wrong decisions. What I realized is, by spending more time on reading about a topic, and less time actually getting hands on and taking risks or building, the more time I had to second guess the decisions I made

In this blog I touch on the importance of reading new material, and also the dangers of falling into the trap of knowledge paralysis.

Shut up and do it

Shut up and do it

Hi there! Remember me? Maybe I forgot for a little while. Perhaps it hasn’t been a priority. But what matters is what I’m doing right now. This summer has been long, there has been a lot of ups and downs, and unfortunately over the past couple months, I’ve strayed from the goals I have originally set out to accomplish.

But you know what, that’s OKAY.

It isn’t the things you did not do that defines someone, it is the things they do. One of the easiest things I’ve found is how easy it is to STOP doing something. How inviting the couch is, how nice it is to sit down, TV? Yes please!

So I regressed a little bit, but the important thing is, identifying the areas you want to change, and make a conscience effort to change them.

This past Saturday I gave my first presentation. The topic, Exploring Fear, the place, Bar Camp Philly 2013. I’ve written about fear before, it’s a big topic, and one I was excited to talk about. And  by excited I mean nervous and sweaty. Good thing I wore a black shirt.

But! I have a goal in mind of taking my experiences and lessons, and becoming a presenter. What better way then to get up and do it. I decided to do the talk late in the came, after the first session was already complete. I really tried to convince myself that I wasn’t ready, but then I forced those thoughts a side and scheduled the session. Now I was committed.

Jump to the session, it’s 4:15, only 2 people in the room. Wow, now that would be scary, what’s worse than a room full of people? A room with no one showing up. But in a few minutes, there was a good 30 people there. I started my talk, and it was great, I didn’t even have to picture anyone sans clothing!

The talk quickly moved to a discussion, where to my surprise, people really opened up about some of the things they are afraid of.

It was nothing short of amazing. I really can’t express my appreciation enough to those who shared.

As I was talking, I remembered some of the lessons and challenges I face in the past couple years, and I need to remind myself, there is no RIGHT WAY, simply taking action, no matter the path, will eventually get you to where you need to go.

Taking action… This is harder than it sounds. Many times, we jump to far, and do too much at once, other times, we are easily distracted and don’t even realize we are back sliding to our old habits.

So what are my actions? I started biking, my goal is 290 miles biked before my 29th birthday. I’m at 260.5, and my birthday is next week, better get on it!

I also made an at home standing desk. Looking back, I realized much of my energy in the beginning of the year came from me standing most of the day. Two days in, and I’m already feeling positive affects.

Next, I started to revisit the goals I had at the beginning of the year, and see where I stand with them. Turns out, I need to get to work on that again. But That’s OKAY

Truth it, everything is OKAY, as long as you are comfortable with the decisions you make. Jobs come and go, relationships start and end, but at those final moments, you only have to answer to yourself. So if you’re putting off doing something, start, even if it’s the wrong way, you do it backwards, or upside down. Things NEVER get easier, you only get better at handling it.

“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ”

― William James


Live your life

10 years in the making, 10 years to come

Earlier this week I spoke at my high school alumni career day. I enjoy speaking at these events because it gives me a chance to remember who I was back then, and reflect upon how far I really came over the year.

Another interesting point, I was the youngest alum to show up. I left high school back in 2002. I say left because I was originally slated to graduate in 2003, but that’s another story for another time.  That means it was 10 years since I’ve been in high school. As for the other alums, they mainly graduated in the early 90’s and back. That means that they are as far from me from my graduating year as I am from the student I’m talking to. So now I have a chance to see what’s to come in the next decade of MY life. And there are a few pieces of information that I’d like to point out.

Live your Passion

Or should I say, have passion in what you do. Passion is a driver, I truly believe more so the monetary gain. When you look at successful people, they have something in common, a driving passion behind their actions, a reason to get up in the morning. They aren’t passionate because they won the money making game, they win BECAUSE of their passion.

I understand that one’s situation isn’t always apt to promoting a passionate life. Which came first, the shitty job, or the worn down attitude. Life is hard, dammit. Passion gives us something to live for, a reason for getting up.

Sell Sell Sell

I was always shy growing up. I still struggle with it, hence my crazy blog forcing me to make my ideas public. So I never got on the sales bandwagon. Now I understand, selling is everything. You are always selling something to someone, and usually, you’re selling yourself and your talents to the world.

Everyone should take classes in sales and public speaking. Did you know, people are more afraid to speak in public then they are of dying! DYING! I’ve been to that edge before, I’ve written about it in my past post and it’s bloody scary! You’re saying people rather die in a metal tube, 150 feet deep, then get up and talk to another human being?

I love teaching, I love speaking, I get a rush from it. But it’s something I had to learn to do. Slowly, over time, I’m getting better at playing the selling game, but it takes conscience effort to work on it. We are all unique, speaking about yourself should come naturally.

Be Happy

This is the hardest thing of all. None of it matters if you aren’t happy. Something I learned years ago, being happy is an active decision you make everyday. Like everyone else, I’ve gone through ups and downs. Bad relationships, bad situations, difficult life choices, poor grade, good times, big wins, boring days.

Being happy is one of the hardest things you’ll ever decide on, but you need to make the decision. For some, it’s harder for others, but it’s never easy, it’s important to realize, everyone goes through it, and what you see on the outside is an illusion built on the the same struggle. Never put yourself down, and don’t compare yourself to others.

Be true to yourself

At the start and end of the day, you have only one person to answer to, yourself. When you don’t stick to your values and core beliefs, you’re going to feel uneasy, stressed, and just plain awful. I don’t know about you, but I like to sleep at night. I work with people I like, and I try to stick to doing things I enjoy.

Whenever I lose perspective, I watch this video, and remind myself, when you lift your head out of your situation, the world is an amazing place filled with billions of opportunities to shine. But you need to turn on the switch….

Attitude is everything

My mother, every day..


Start again

It’s been a while

Wow, time flies. My last post was over a month and a half ago! A lot has been going on. But, as I’ve said repeatedly, you cannot beat yourself up for not being able to do EVERYTHING on your goal list, you just pick yourself up and start again.

Firstly, I’m proud to announce our group, Brave Genius, is making good progress toward finding a focus, and building up some momentum. Good times for all!

Secondly, what have I been up to?! Well, Philly Tech Week was two weeks ago, and boy was it a blast. Over a hundred events, and I was crazy enough to go to more than 20. My impression? There is a much bigger community around the city than people think, and the amount of opportunities are huge!

Thirdly, it’s diving and climbing season! I already made my first dive in 41 degree water, and boy was I cold, even in a drysuit. I guess losing all the weight had some downsides.

What to expect? I’m going to get back on this blog, expect some more deep thoughts, as well as some new technical articles. In fact, I’m give my first presentation at next Thursdays Newtown Web Tech Meetup, covering *as a Service architectures, come visit!

Have a great Tuesday everyone, live like it’s Friday.

Everyday is a new opportunity to start over



My Obsession: Science!

I’m obsessed with our world. I constantly finding myself exploring the ways that technology interacts with our everyday lives. In diving, I quickly gravitated to the latest and greatest equipment which let me dive deeper, longer, and explore more unimaginable corners of the world. In climbing, I’m learning new techniques in anchoring and equipping  and using simulation technology I can figure out loads and weight distribution. Heck, even flying helicopters teaches me to think 3 dimensional, and figure out the interaction of weather to a non-linear travelling object. (Winds a bitch!)

In the case of diving technology, something incredible happened  My rebreather directly influences the way that my body operates in the physical world. Through trial and error, and lots of research, we know the absorption rates of different gasses in our bodily tissues. First, we came up with tables to limit our exposure. We invented dive bells for deep water decompression, and long saturation dives. But now, I can strap a rebreather to my back, loaded with all the latest algorithms, and two/three primary gases, and I can manipulate the onloading of gases in to my body.

I can pull nitrogen out of my tissue at will, I can prevent nitrogen narcosis  maximize my bottom time, dive deeper, explore. I can tweak the my bodies basic operational resources to maximize my physical performance. Seriously!

But diving it just one outlet of interactive manipulation. How cool is it that we can write a few lines of code, stick it in the cloud, and have it trigger an action on my phone. Today, we are able to write 1’s and 0’s, stick them in some semi-physical location, and bring it into the physical world.

How is this calculator still as expensive as it is?!?
How is this calculator still as expensive as it is?!?

My imagination goes nuts thinking of ways to harness this power, and create systems which manipulate our lives. My whole life I’ve worked hard to do things smart, not tough. I consider myself to be the laziest person I know. But this is a different kind of lazy. This is the lazy that drives invention. Lazy = Efficient

In school, I would spend more time creating a program to quickly answer trigonometric problems then I would studying the material. In a way, I cheated. Sure, in the end I couldn’t solve the issues right off the top of my head. But the result was that I understood each step in getting to the solution, to the point where I can translate it in to computer code, and run it on demand. My simple software would provide me answers long after I moved on to other topics. Quickly generating repeatable results.This is power.

You're Awesome
Does this really need a caption?

I act like a kid, a lot. This is because, one, because it’s way more fun then acting as an adult, two, because sometimes it’s very important to put what you ‘know’ and what you’ve ‘experienced’ behind, and see the world from an fresh and open perspective.

Plus, goofing off is awesome. I’ve come up with some really intense system, which help run huge companies. I’ve also hidden LOLCats behind the scenes in many of these systems. I’ve written before about the importance of thinking differently. And boy do I make sure to do this frequently.

Shoot, even while writing this I was distracted by some of the latest in interactive avatar technology.

I suppose in closing I just want to say, be obsessed with something! Be passionate. Follow your curiosity, and act upon it.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

-Albert Einstein

Don't Panic

Lessons From the Deep: Don’t Panic Redux

Boy diving is fun. The warm, clear, water. Gentle currents slowly taking you across the reef. These are the thoughts that went through my head just after I found my self stuck in a 1 meter wide steel tube, submerged at 160 feet. But I’ll get to that.

In my last post, Don’t Panic, I briefly spoke about the importance of, that’s right, not panicking. To expand further, allow me to take you on a journey I took, as well as write my first “Adventures” post!

The story started like anyone, a fun day out in Pensacola Florida with some good dive buddies. After our first couple dives, and with lunch approaching, we decided it was time to do some lobster hunting on an old oil rig foundation.

After the initial splash, I broke off from my group to deeper water (apparently my rebreather makes me a super diver!). It wasn’t too long before I came across one of the foundation steal tubes. I turned on my lights and took a look down the dark steal shaft. Reflected back through the darkness were the glimmer of dozens of little eyes. Jackpot! Not only was lunch before my eyes, but so was some major coolness points for getting them.

So, I followed my stomach and tried to grab a couple of the nearby lobsters. Well, lobsters are a little smarted then they appear. Every time I got close, they would jump back. Repeat a few times, and I suddenly realize I am about 7 feet in to the steal tube. It’s important to note, organisms grow quickly underwater, so the walls of the steal pipe were no longer smooth. Jagged sprouts of coral and various pointy animals lined the inside as far down as can be seen.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with commercial underwater diving, typical hourly hazard pay goes up significantly per foot of enclosed space a dive goes in to an enclosed space, so by all means I should have made a fortune, but I digress….

Back on point. Here I am, 7 feet in this pipe, lobsters staring at me, stuck.

Now let’s look back at the idea of not panicking. Being in a cold, dark, steel, tube, is a pretty good reason to panic. But let’s think about it for a second, what exactly is panicking going to do to get you out of the situation? This is a mindset I’ve learned over the years in order to get over my fear of things like heights.

My line of thinking is typically this.

  1. I need to do something (i.e. jump out of this plane).
  2. My initial reaction is to be scared
  3. Does being scared help me complete what needs to be done?
  4. No -> put your initial reaction aside
  5. Complete the task
  6. Take all the time you need to be scared AFTERWARDS

Another important process to remember is Stop, Think, Act. Acting on instincts leads to quick decisions, and typically bad mistakes.

So back to the tube. At a thousands thoughts a seconds, I focus in on what needs to be done. I need to get out of this tube. Am I breathing, YES! That means I’m alive. Do I have air? Yes, about 75 minutes worth (thanks Evo+!). OK…. Time to get out of this tube.

Slowly I begin to wiggle back and forth through, inching my way back up the tube, breaking coral, and getting poked by urchins.

It took about 5 minutes, but I have to tell you, these were some of the longest 5 minutes that I have experience.

Finally I made it out. Freedom!…. That is, after I complete my decompression requirements and make it up from 160 feet.

Once back on the boat, we can laugh and joke about the situation, and the loss of those delicious lobsters. But the important thing is, the joking was only doable because I was able to control my panic and do what needed to be done.

Interestingly, more people are afraid of public speaking then they are of dying. Obviously, they’ve never been in such a precarious situation, but beside the point, if you can learn to put your emotions on the side bar while you do what needs to be done, you’re much more likely to reach a successful outcome. This take time, practice, and hard work. It’s easier to follow instinct then it is to will yourself to take another course of action. Not everyone is going to find themselves in a physically dangerous situation, but start small, and work on your everyday life first. Worry later.

Bring your towel. Don’t panic

Deep-shipwreck diving is among the world’s most dangerous sports. Few other endeavors exist in which nature, biology, equipment, instinct and object conspire—without warning and from all directions—to so completely attack a man’s mind and disassemble his spirit.

– Shadow Divers

Engineering success through inspiration

Inspiring passion and engineering success

Being a leader requires many, many, skills. From managerial skills, to people skills, leaders need to be able to juggle a multitude of tasks. But one job trumps all the others.

Leaders need to inspire passion.

Today we hit a new record at Squadron 102, we have 33 listed members in our group, 20 of them active. Wow! Now, not only do I manage a squadron and all of the logistics that come with it, a 1 ton van, and brokering the procurement of an additional 8 people, plus a plane; but at any given time, I am managing 20+ people!

I’ve thought long and hard about what my responsibilities are. And the honest truth. I can’t do it all myself. Question, how do you get others to willingly volunteer their time to an activity full of red tape with very little physical reward?

Engineering Success

Over the past couple weeks, I have been exploring the idea of engineering success. Success isn’t some myth that only few happen to catch. Success is calculated, planned, and executed upon. Granted, this all depends on your definition of success, not every one is going to have a $100 Million dollar exit. But something that seems common, success is built from the support of a team of people who are all emotionally vested in achieving a common goal.

As part of creating a successful execution plan, it is extremely important to rally others to the cause. We all know we work harder when we are passionate about something. I can’t count the number of hours I’ve spent on my hobbies. Civil Air Patrol gives me energy, it fulfills one of my passions, that of teaching and mentoring others. So finding a basis for my passion is easy. When a leader inspires passion in their team, something magical happens. The energy coming from the top is multiplied, suddenly the power of one becomes the ability of many, anything is possible.

Therefore, a leader must Inspire Passion 

 So how do we start moving things forward. We have a team, and we have passion, now we need a plan. I see over and over again that people work best when they have achievable goals, both internally and externally. If you haven’t been introduces to the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals, here is a crash course. SMART goals stands for

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound
  • (For more information see Wikipedia)

By creating goal lists that focus on an individuals work AND personal goals, a strong tie is connected between personal success and group success. Team members are held accountable for their goal by the team, and together, they are motivated to continue improving.

Let’s look at a real world open ended example. At Squadron 102, I am instituting a requirement that each and every member, seniors and cadets, including myself, come up with a public list of SMART goals. This will lead to us building an action plan for each person. My goal is to combine the internal and external goals of my members to bring them closure together as a team, motivate them to progress through the program, and most of all, let them have fun while doing so. We’ll see how that goes…

My thinking is, by setting goals for people within CAP, as well as within their own lives, I can convey my belief that success can be engineered, and together we can achieve more. I will follow up as time goes on, but so far, everyone seems open to the idea.

I love what I do, and I’m filled with passion. If I can transfer my passion to another, inspire them to explore, create, or do something good, then I achieved my job as a leader.

“Leadership is based on a spiritual quality; the power to inspire, the power to inspire others to follow.”

-Vince Lombbardi