paul vidal - thoughts about tech and more

You will never reach your full potential… and that’s OK.

by paul 0 Comments
You will never reach your full potential… and that’s OK.
I don't care, I'm digging a hole to the water.

I am an ambitious person. In my mind, whenever I do something (I’m refraining myself to use the word accomplish because I’m never truly satisfied), I always have this Batman Begins scene in my head: Rachel sees Bruce Wayne running out with two models after buying out a hotel; Bruce Wayne poses and says: “Rachel, all- all this, it- it’s not me, inside, I am, I am more.”. For some reason, mostly because I am a Batman nerd, this scene resonates so much. The funny thing is that I sometimes forget Rachel’s response: “Bruce, deep down you may still be that great kid you used to be, but it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you *do* that defines you.”. Here it is: if you think you are more, then show that you can do more. I was actually reminded of Rachel’s wisdom this week by a friend/mentor of mine who enlightened a path for me to do more and get better at my job. Looking back on it, I realized that I managed to have an unconscious belief that I reached a finite knowledge/expertise about my job which could not be any further from the truth. That’s why in this blog post, I’d like to give you what really helps me going: You are never done. You don’t get to finish the game. And that’s pretty awesome.

The hinder nature of achievement

The first thing to acknowledge is the fact that the belief of achieving a certain potential is crippling. As mentioned in my very recent life experience, my unconscious belief of having reached a certain expertise in my job prevented me to get to the next steps of my career. But this is true for a lot of other things. To give you another personal example, being a fairly dedicated runner, you get to assume a few paces at which you run a certain type of races, e.g. this pace is my 5K pace, and it’s very hard to re-teach your brain to think that you can go faster than your “5K pace” when racing. It’s when you have no pre-conceived notion of what you are capable of that you can improve. But here is the secret: when you do the best race of your life, you did the best race of your life… so far! And in a similar manner that the best way to combat cognitive biases is to deliberately scrutinize them when trying to form a fallacy-free thought, you should look for your unconscious beliefs of potential and strip them of their crippling nature.

The value of consistency

The fun thing when you realize that all of your preconceived beliefs about your current potential are ill-informed, is that you get to contemplate the abyss of the work that needs to be done in every aspect of your life if you want not to get schackled by them. If you ask me, staring into the abyss is always fun. All kidding asides, it raises a very difficult question: if I can always improve, how do I get better? I think that this plays very nicely with one of the most important core belief I and many share: consistency. Let me take an example from the fitness realm again, in this case evaluating the benefits of muscle confusion versus progressive overload (spoiler, the title of this article: ‘Muscle Confusion’ Is Mostly a Myth). Too often we are confronted with miracle fitness solutions, founded on the idea that dramatically shaking things up will enable you to unlock your maximum potential. As debunked here, the only method with tangible results is consistent incremental improvement. I think we can draw a fairly straight forward corollary to the selection of our method of improvement. A muscle confusion-like does not work for improving the skills that we are trying to improve here: you are trying to improve something at which you are already proficient, which implies that you have already done a lot of work in figuring out what works best and what doesn’t. The only way to get better is to slowly augment the resistance. Look at what you have done so far. If you’re comfortable with it add more until you get comfortable. Repeat.

Coping with never being done

Now if you agree with me that you will never reach a finite potential and that the only way to improve is consistent slow incremental changes, this can be a little overwhelming. Since I agree with myself, at least for the next 10 minutes, I am a little overwhelmed. The way that I found I could cope with this incessant work that will eventually lead to my death is three fold. First, I plan things out. I set actionable, trackable short-term goals. For instance, I wanted to get better at writing and communicating so I set myself a goal of writing a blog post every week. I have done that so far, even if I missed one week over that past few months. Secondly, I prioritize. I acknowledge for instance that I don’t want to sacrifice some of the time I am spending working or running playing Magic, and that therefore I will not get to play the pro-tour any time soon or ever for that matter. Understanding what you decide not to not improve is crucial. Finally, I allow myself to enjoy the present. Granted, I’m not super good at it as of today, but I haven’t reached my full potential yet!

The future of Data is Augmentation, not Disruption

by paul 1 Comment
The future of Data is Augmentation, not Disruption
I'm disrupting the light bulb market by enabling wireless. I call it "Photoshop"

I spent last week enjoying the Cassandra Summit, so much that I did not take the time to write a blog post. I had a few ideas but I chose quality over quantity. That being said, something interesting happened at the summit: we coined the term “augmentation” for one of my companies key go to market use case, instead of data layer modernization or digitalization. even got the opportunity to try both terms to the different people visiting our booth. In this extremely small sample, people really tended to have a much better degree of understanding when I used the word augmentation, which got me thinking. I even read a very interesting article from Tom O’Reilly called: Don’t Replace People. Augment Them. in which he argues against technology fully replacing people. Could this concept of augmentation be applied in a broader scale to understand our data technology trends? Maybe, at least that’s what I’m going to try to lay out in this article.

Technological progress relies on augmentation.

That’s the first thing that struck me when I pondered on augmentation in our world, and more specifically when it comes to software. At the exception of very few, the platforms, apps and tool that we use are all based on augmentation of existing basic functions: Amazon? Augmentation of store using technology. Uber? Augmentation of taxis. Chatbots? Augmentation of chat clients. Slack? Augmentation of email + chats. Distributed/Cloud applications? Augmentation of legacy applications. To some extent even Google is an augmentation of a manual filing system. I would admit listing examples that confirm an idea that I already had is close to a logical fallacy, so I tried to find counter examples, i.e. software solutions that try to introduce completely new concepts, but could not think of any. Of course we could argue over semantics in defining what constitute true innovation versus augmentation of an existing technology, but ultimately I think it is fair to say that the most successful technologies are augmenting our experience rather than being completely disruptive, despite what most of my field would argue. Therefore, augmentation must be at least considered as part of the future of any software industry, such as the Big Data industry.

Augmentation is better than transformation

Human nature needs comfort, that’s why most of us prefer augmentation over disruption. By disruption, I’m talking about transforming or replacing the existing systems, not adding features: selling unpaired socks over internet is not disrupting the sock industry, despite what the TED talks would like me to believe. Seriously, when you have existing technologies, as every company does, a replacement/transformation is a hard pill to swallow. Loss of investment, knowledge, process, etc. It is especially risky and complex when talking about data layer transformation, as I argued before in this very blog. So when given a choice, augmenting existing data layers is an obvious choice for risk-advert IT organizations.

Augmentation drives innovation

Perhaps the most convincing argument towards acknowledging that augmentation is the future of data is the analysis of the most innovative big data software solutions: machine learning, neural networks and all of these extremely complex systems which behaviors are almost impossible to predict, even for experts. These systems are design to augment their own capabilities, instead of having a set of deterministic rules to follow. Indeed, these systems are designed to approach the capabilities of complex biological systems and therefore incorporate their “messiness”. We can’t think of big data systems using physics thinking (i.e. here is an algorithm, here is a set of parameters, this is the result expected), but we should rather rely to biology thinking (i.e. what is the results I get if I input this parameter). A great example of this type of thinking is Netflix’s Chaos Monkey, a service running on AWS to simulate failures and understand the behavior of their architecture. Self-augmentation is the principle upon which the technologies of the future are built. We understand the algorithms we input but not necessarily the outcome, which can have unintended consequences sometimes (see: Microsoft Tay), but ultimately is a better pathway to intelligent technologies. I’m a control freak, and not being able to understand a system end to end drives me nuts, but I’m willing to relinquish my sanity for the good of Artificial Intelligence.


With software Augmentation being part of our everyday life, a safer and easier way to add features to existing data layer, and the core concept of machine learning, I think it is fair to say that it is the future of Data. Did I convince myself? Yes, which is good because my opinion is usually my first go to when it comes to figuring out what I think. Seriously though, what do you think? As always, I long to learn more and listen to everyone’s opinion!

5 reasons gaming can boost your professional life

by paul 0 Comments
5 reasons gaming can boost your professional life
Sorry boss, Gotham isn't going to save itself.

The first year I started working, I remember hesitating to buy a game console in order to play in my spare time. Despite the cost, what made me hesitate was the idea that I was an adult and should act as such. Pondering upon this colloquial “rich people problem”, I talked to one of my best friend who told me: “Paul, a man needs the ability to play”; needless to say, these zombies did not see what was coming their way. A little later in life, I was re-introduced to what is now my favorite game, Magic: The Gathering (if you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a HUGE nerd). I can safely say that this game really changed my professional life. Combined with the reading of Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety from Charlie Hoehn, I decided to spend this week talking about the importance of gaming for your career. A few disclaimers to start. First, I am talking about gaming, and choose not to talk about playing, because playing might infer physical activities, and I think that the benefits of regular physical activities are so evident, they don’t need another blog post about that, plus I believe there is a distinct advantage in sitting down and playing a game as opposed to go outside and play sports; that being said, I realize I’m biased on this aspect since I’m pilling up 10+ hours a week of training every week. Secondly, this article won’t be a breakthrough for many who embrace gaming as part of their everyday life. That being said, coming from a very European mentality, I know that there are still many people who don’t game enough, and that’s why I think it’s important to highlight these points. Finally, I’m talking about casual gamers, not about competitive/professional gamers, although I doubt they read this blog anyway.

1. Reduce Stress

The first item is the most self evident. I was recently at my physician doing a checkup who mentioned that the biggest contributor of me catching colds was stress. To be, having the opportunity to game is almost as good as playing the game itself. Let me explain: life is very demanding, and most of the professional I know agree that the most valuable currency a man can have is time. When you actually carve into your super busy schedule to do something as pointless as spending hours looking for ammunition before getting in the next mission in Fallout 4, it is liberating. It means that during that time, you accomplished nothing of value. One might add you may actually have lost time and money doing this. And this is why it is so powerful: you get to spend time without any objective or worry in mind.

2. Learn to be decision oriented

This skill is probably the best skill I have ever learned from a game. As mentioned in introduction, I play Magic: The Gathering quite a bit. For those who don’t know this game, think about a game of chess, where the rules are exponentially more complicated, the starting pieces are 60 out of 13000 cards (all of which are pieces of art) and you get to cast firebolts, summon demons and bribe your opponent. It’s pretty awesome. But like in every card game, or game for that matter, it encompasses significant variance, which makes some games almost impossible to win. What is interesting is what to do when the outcome of a game (loss or win). The first basic reaction can be to blame it on luck and move on, i.e. not learning anything. The second reaction is often to focus on the outcome rather than the process: oh, I used this card to win, therefore this card is awesome and I should play it all the time. In this case, you are not only basing your judgement on a very limited sample, you are most likely missing the big picture. Which brings me to what I think is the ultimate way to analyze a game: focus on the decision you made during the game. By focusing on decisions, trying to understand what you could have done better, what elements were out of your control, and taking each game and each event during the game as a data point towards your personal improvement, then you can really maximize your journey towards a better player. Yes, I go deep when I play Magic.

I all seriousness, this is an extremely powerful habit: when something happens in your professional career, whether it is a sales opportunity, a failed attempt at an implementation, a complicated discussion about strategy or marketing positioning, rather than focus on the outcome of the activity or blame it on bad luck, look at it from end to end and analyze what worked and did not work. You will then be able to build a framework that will refine overtime and cater to what your career needs.

3. Find inspiration

While our job description does not entitle the creation of pieces of art (I’m sure some of us can recall some pretty horrifying powerpoint presentations), inspiration is an essential piece of our daily life. Finding the write words to send in an email, position the slides to captivate your target audience attention, using the appropriate algorithm that will allow maintainability and scalability, all of our daily endeavors require some amount of inspiration. Gaming helps when you can’t put these words together. Granted, one could argue that anything that takes your head off of the activity for which you are lacking inspiration may help, I find that emerging yourself in a fantasy world that requires interactive actions from yourself is the one of the fastest way to get epiphanies.

4. Extend your social circle

Everyone tends to stay within their eco-chamber. With work and family taking most of our daily life, it’s sometimes hard to put yourself into question and realize that there is a world out there of people that don’t care about why relational database management systems are a technology of the past. Unbelievable. All joking aside, gaming is a very easy way to encounter people that do not live in the same echo chamber as yours, and therefore enrich your view of the world and thus ultimately being better at understanding your professional circle.

5. Stop taking yourself seriously

This is probably one of the best outcome of gaming. Our professional image is often one that was molded by difficult email conversations, argument over solution architectures and so forth, to the point that sometimes your professional self and your personal self are split personalities. I could write a whole post on the fact that if you are not behaving the same at work and outside of work, then you should probably address that. What I’m highlighting here is that when people know about your dorky side (again, huge magic nerd here), you become human to others, which is extremely valuable for your career. And because you become human to others, you have to admit flaws and stop taking yourself seriously. Society is exchanging most of my time and brain power against currency that I use to provide for myself and my family first, but also buying games that have no purpose but amuse myself. That’s far from serious.

Do software companies need purpose?

by paul 0 Comments
Do software companies need purpose?
There are cookies on the other side, right?

Following Richard Branson, I stumbled upon this article from Virgin: Is purpose the new branding? When I read this, all I could think of was this quote from Rick & Morty: “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s going to die. Come watch TV?”. It’s a very funny quote despite being out of context here, although one could argue that it isn’t that much out of context, since this blog and this article don’t belong anywhere :) In all seriousness, the fact that purpose has been on the forefront of my newsfeed lately and that I have been pondering with branding strategies for my job got me to dive a little further into the subject. And you, fellow reader, get to bathe in the splashes of this hypothetical dive.

Establishing the premise

I want to set the stage of this post and thus establish the scope within which I will be operating. Let’s acknowledge my (limited) domain of expertise. First, I’m going to talk about software, not things. Secondly, I have little experience in B2C marketing and strategy, but I have an extensive experience in marketing and strategy in software B2B. So I’m going to talk about B2B here, not B2C. And it’s good, because I think that the “purpose in B2C branding” horse has been beaten to death. Poor horse.

With this established, let’s have a look at who is the target of B2B. A good place to start is this study from Google, The Changing Face of B2B Marketing, debunking some of the myths surrounding B2B marketing. The surprising outcome of this research and what I can read is quite simple: the persons that you are trying to target are following the same demographic and user expectations patterns as the rest of the population.

So, in short, here is the what we’re talking about: software B2B marketing strategy for people like us.

Not only caring about money does not mean we want to make the world a better place

Make no mistake: the first goal of a marketing strategy is to sell more. At least until capitalism collapses, which I’m not going to debate here. The assumption that many articles debating purpose is that generating revenue is not a purpose in itself. I think this assumption is correct, and several studies suggest that a paycheck is not the sole purpose of employment for our generation (take a look at this report for instance).

What I think is wrong is the conclusion that because millennials (we) are not by default driven by money, because we acknowledge that our jobs will change quite a bit over the course of our career, and because we seek personal development, it means that we are moved and seeking purpose. Like I argued before, our generation is the generation of individualism, and these findings should be interpreted within this framework. Specifically in the realm of B2B, I can tell you from experience that what excites is not the Purpose with a capital P of a solution but rather what it can do. What it can do for me, now.

Do bytes have purpose?

Another interesting question to ask, and perhaps the first question we should have asked, is: can my software have a Purpose? I would argue that no, software is a tool to achieve a goal. It does not have a purpose, it’s 0s and 1s (at least as long as we use binary machines). Of course, any set of tool can be used to achieve a purpose; but we are not talking about what you can do with the tool, rather if the company that is building the tool or the tool itself can be presented as having a higher properties or purpose than using the tool. I think this quickly becomes over reaching.

So: do software company need purpose?

The outcome of my current thought process is no. The theorized search for purpose of the millennial generation is operating under false assumptions. Furthermore, pieces of software by definition do not have a purpose which makes your software marketing strategy intrinsically swimming against the current.

Instead, I think that branding should focus on capabilities, not purpose. In my opinion, highlighting what a product can do in a comprehensible and palatable manner is far more exciting and ultimately convincing than positioning a product as the banner behind which we need to rally to express our views of the world. I would also add that B2B decisions are more and more data driven, and I don’t think that purpose is a relevant data point when considering alternatives. As always, I would love to proven wrong and hear your thoughts against this conclusion.

Is patience overrated? how real-time big data affects our behavior.

by paul 0 Comments
Is patience overrated? how real-time big data affects our behavior.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m fairly action driven. One of the skills that is often pointed out to me for a lack thereof is patience. If you want an illustration of my personality, I encourage you to read this comic:


Thank you @shenanigansen. Seriously, I have a problem. My cousin would tell me I need to do yoga, many of my friends would tell me I should practice mindfulness, and my Dad would tell me I should be patient. Here is my take on it: I think patience is overrated, and I think that it is the result of the technology we have at our disposal.

The advent of real-time in Big Data

A couple of years ago, the selling point of big data was the big in big data. Being able to store practically unlimited amount of data was a game changer. But if you look at the recent trends (see a few excerpts here, here, and here), real-time and speed are selling points. People want access to their data quickly, and I can tell you it is a major part of my every data pitch. To be fair, the shortening of time of any part of your life is a trademark of the modern era, as much as hipsters are trying to fight it (typewriters, anyone?). However, I do think that accelerating big data access and storage has and will continue to be one of the trends that impacts that acceleration the most. Indeed with the luxury to record everything in our lives, through IoT or simply by being a normal being that spends a significant portion of his time in the virtual realm (a.k.a. surfing the web or playing video games), real-time is the next game changer after personalization.

What that means for us, the end user

We are already a product being sold by any social media, site, fitness tracker or video game. And we already see the outcome of this by targeted ads, suggestions and so on. But these suggestions can be a bit off at times (think suggestion about something you already bought), on the account of the algorithms needing more iteration, but also by the lack of sufficient data, not because of pure lack of it but by the latency of gathering all these pieces of data together. Imagine what speed can add to these phenomena. The accuracy of the suggestions will be at times frightening, but mostly we will become more impatient. And we already see results of that. An recent example would be the reaction of retailers about using cup readers, due to their processing time. We’re talking about a few seconds of difference, but it matters to us, the end user. Personally, if I can’t use contactless payment and have to pull out my card like and animal, I’m annoyed. And this trend will continue folks, make no mistake.

Conclusion & Limitations

So why should I be patient? Why should I have to wait for a specific outcome? The frustration comes from the fact that many situations for which you are impatient are not limited anymore by logistics themselves but by inaction, at least in the business world. But my point is the following: the world of data and therefore to some extent our personal world is moving to real-time. You can decide to be an outsider and there is of course value in this, or you need to adapt. The value of waiting for a possible different situation is overrated. For instance, let’s say you have to make a life changing decision. Chances are that the amount of data that you will have to make that decision now versus 3 weeks from now is going to be roughly similar. So why not take the decision now? Why be patient?
Of course, this may sound like I’m advocating for having results now now now now, like a 3 year-old (and I talk from experience). This is not it, valuing highly hard incremental work towards a long term goal is extremely important, but patience as an excuse to inaction isn’t.

5 reasons you should go to the Cassandra Summit 2016

by paul 0 Comments
5 reasons you should go to the Cassandra Summit 2016
I did a search for summit on royalty free images and this is what I got.

For those who don’t know, I’ll be attending the Cassandra Summit 2016 in San Jose (possibly talking, but this is still in the works). The Cassandra Summit is organized by DataStax, the Cassandra enterprise company with which my company, K2View, is a partner.
I’m super excited about this summit, and participated to last year’s edition. I thought I’d share the excitement by writing a total click-bait of an article, expressing my genuine feelings of excitement. Seriously, I am excited about this summit. Of course my judgement is biased by the fact that I am part of the show, but I would not be working for who I am working now if I was not honestly passionate about this technological environment and the events that surround it. So allow me the right to be a nerd and share this with you: 5 reasons you should go to the Cassandra Summit 2016.

1. To learn about market-leading technologies

Like the paradoxical man would say, it goes without saying but it’s better said than not. Obviously, this should be the first thing you look for when attending that kind of summit. First, Cassandra and DataStax Enterprise are used by companies that are the leaders of our day to day technological life (e.g. Netflix, Apple): at this summit you get to talk to the guys that implemented these clusters and understanding their deployment is always fascinating. Perhaps even more interestingly, you get to learn about new companies leveraging Cassandra in use-cases you never thought about. If you play your cards right, you should be able to overload your brain with new information, which is always a good feeling.

2. To listen to people that are smarter than you

Granted, this is not very hard for me. Take a look at the conference agenda and the speaker list though. I have a professional crush on Patrick McFadin, Chief Evangelist at DataStax, who was my first encounter with Cassandra. I really y enjoy its delivery, and always have fun listening to him, but he is one of many for that conference.

3. To genuinely connect with other data nerds

With our (professional) lives going at 100 miles per hour, we don’t get a chance to stop and tell someone: the gossip protocol is one of the coolest things. If you try to tell that to someone that does not work in the field, he probably won’t know what you’re talking about; if you try to tell that to someone in your field, it either comes out as a platitude or you simply never get time to enjoy a very nerdy conversation. You get to do that at the Cassandra Summit. If you’re participating, grab a beer and a snack and come talk to me about anything you find cool, I’ll listen.

4. To witness cool logistic hacks

Two words for you: whiteboard tables. This blew my mind last year, being able to doodle with a marker on the very table you sit at is amazing. Why isn’t every conference room table a whiteboard? I will never know. I can’t wait to see what cool things the organizers will come up with this year.

5. To have fun

Look. Work is arguably the largest part of our lives outside of sleeping, It is not every day we get to be in an environment full of new exciting information, surrounded by extremely intelligent and passionate people, where everything has been thought of to the last detail. I like to think of it as an all-inclusive resort for data nerds. I’ll be damned if I don’t enjoy every minute of it and so should you, so please, enjoy yourself!

A case for talking too much

by paul 0 Comments
A case for talking too much
How do I play pokemon go with that?

I spent the last few days writing a white paper on SaaS integration, as part of what represents more than a third of my time, interestingly more than the time I spend sleeping a.k.a my job. I considered briefly diving deeper in some aspect of this work for the benefits of the readers of that blog, but I decided against it to write a lighter piece on the benefits of speaking too much in the business realm. Case in point, I spent more than 75 words, 77 according to my text editor, to say very little about the main topic of this article. Did the world catch on fire because I said too much? Nope. Worst case scenario (admittedly not actual worst, the world catching on fire being a much scarier proposition), you’ve already jump to the first section of the article. Best case scenario, you enjoyed learning about my process and are eager to read what follows. That’s the heart of my premise: when considering giving away information versus the potential negative outcome of that information, skew towards giving information away to maximize value.

Debunking the information silo myth

For some reason extremely foreign to me, throughout the years I encountered many co-workers feeling that their value is determined by the amount of information they have and other don’t. If you’ve ever encountered that kind of behavior, you know how frustrating that is. I can’t explain why they feel the way they feel, but I can tell you their premise is wrong. If you have vital information to your company or your state of business that you do not share, this will not make superstar. On the contrary, it is usually identified as a liability and a reason for making a person redundant. On the other hand, if you possess information that no one is aware of that is not extremely important, then it will die with you, and with it your value.

Why it works: you are not important.

Honestly, I often get into these conversations whenever I or my friends are attempting something difficult. No one cares about you. It’s the syndrome of the newbie at the gym that worries about what other think of him, the answer is: they don’t. The same goes when sharing information, you should not worry about communicating ideas, expressing the fact that you don’t understand something, or expressing why you agree and disagree with. If you ever get negative feedback about it, take it as it is: feedback, more information for you to consume and build upon. If you get actual mockery from your interlocutor, it is also feedback: your interlocutor lacks communication intelligence (sometimes shortened as “your interlocutor is a dick”). Another added bonus of nobody caring about you and over information, is that if you say something that you shouldn’t have said (not that I think that ever occurs), chances are the person won’t notice or judge it as inappropriate because it is consistent with your character.

The aftermath of over-communication: transparency & reliability

On the flip side, over communication unlocks you as a personal asset by making you seem transparent and reliable. If you constantly and honestly communicate with everyone you encounter and do not hesitate to share information, I guarantee that people will judge you as trustworthy. Think about it, every time you say something, especially when genuinely showing lack of knowledge or comprehension. People will want to take to you because they know that you will give them a genuine answer. Furthermore, I truly believe that cultivating a culture of over communication is essential for the success of a company. From every level of the organization, management to engineering, lack of communication is frustrating, and too much information is not hurtful. I know I have extreme views on that, but I even think you should talk simply about sensitive subject. Let’s take an example: your salary. I don’t mind of you make more than me or if I make more than me. For me, it gives me a very good insight where you are within the company, the market and your career. I believe I am worth what I make because I make sure to deliver, and my salary is in accordance to the market for a person in my position. Do you know how I know that? I talked about it with people around me.

This is not carte blanche for stupidity or chit-chat

The issue with over communication is that it is an open door to your thoughts. And every one has his share of stupid or uninteresting thoughts, myself included. Heck, I don’t even know if that article is interesting or relevant at all. This is however unrelated to over or under communication. This is work that you need to make on yourself to grow as a person that has relevant things to say. The best way to do that is simple: listen to people that over communicate.

Becoming intimate with Big Data

by paul 0 Comments
Becoming intimate with Big Data
Come on guys, we are all made of blue glass inside.

About a year ago, I had a chance to have a discussion with one of the smartest person I’ve ever met, currently a board member of our company. This man has not only built his fortune out of nothing by being able to identify trends in the market and position his companies accordingly, he is also a genuine human being that forces admiration. But I digress. During this conversation, he mentioned that one of the things that helped him succeed was his capacity to understand the intrinsic values that define a generation. As an example, he mentioned that his generation, during the 90s was all about financial success. The following generation, the 2000s kids was all about fame (big brother anyone?). Then he told me that he was yet to figure out what my generation was all about. Since then I have been able to understand what makes my generation tick. After about a year of poking around, I think that I found the answer: my generation is the selfish generation. We are all selfish and think about our individuality. Look around, it’s selfies, freedom above all, my Facebook or my privacy, my right for an opinion, my right for an outlet to express my idea. I’m including myself in this of course, I am writing a blog after all. What’s interesting about this realization is to understand the consequences it has on the market, and specifically in a domain in which I have at least a bit of expertise: Big Data.

Big Data is driven by the individual

In a recent report from Forrester (link), companies were asked “Which use cases are driving the demand for continuous global data availability at your organization?”. The most common use case representing 52% of the answers received was 360-degree view of the business, product. This means that more than half of the big data drivers are coming from the consolidation of data to represent an individual unit of business. Make no mistake, in many cases, the product is you. What drives big data is the intimate knowledge of the individual. This makes perfect sense if you agree with the premise of my first paragraph: big data, and the market in general wants to cater to the selfish generation, and therefore is implementing solutions to know each individual personally.

This report is only one of numerous examples corroborating what I’m trying to explain here. We see machine learning algorithms and data scientists arguing about what algorithm is the best to target individual with the right add. IoT is tracking and personalizing every aspects of our lives. Anecdotally, I even witnessed the re-naming of a data analytics team in a large company to “Your Data”.

What does this mean for your Big Data implementation

First you need to consider that in order to be able to keep a relevant edge on your competition, you must be able to have access to a solution to individualize your data collection. I have expressed this opinion quite a bit, but I believe that ultimately individualization of data is a use case that requires its own solution. There is no magic end to end consolidation platform that will do everything. You need to consider a big data individualization platform, as opposed to a big data generic platform that you then try to morph in order to cater to your individualization needs. Once implemented, this data individualization platform can be leveraged to implement further features like real-time provisioning, data virtualization, personalized analytics or real customer centric support, but your platform must be intimate with your unit of business first.

Essential resources on Machine Learning

by paul 0 Comments
Essential resources on Machine Learning
"Maybe you should be spending some time learning instead of relying on machines" - Some hipster

I’ve always been fascinated by Artificial Intelligence in science fiction. I’m so lucky to live in an era that is seeing the birth of a new kind of Artificial Intelligence, enabled by Big Data, advancement in super computers and Machine Learning. I’m even working in a field that gets to implement that kind of technologies, which continues to excite and fascinate me. Machine learning is today moving out of the realm of pure research to real-world applicability. But like any new cutting-edge technology, we need to beware of products untruthfully using the word Machine Learning in their marketing message or Machine Learning being the cure for all diseases. Therefore, I think it’s important that we spend some time understanding what Machine Learning is, as well as what it does and can do in the industry. Since I’m not an expert on Machine Learning (… yet), I spent some time gathering resources to enhance your Human Learning about Machine Learning. Happy reading!


  • First things first, wikipedia: link
  • An excellent visual introduction on Machine Learning from R2D3: link
  • An early draft of a Machine Learning book from Stanford University: link
  • Introduction to Machine Learning from Cambridge University: link
  • Technical courses

  • In-depth videos on Machine Learning, from Data School: link
  • What is Machine Learning, from Data Camp: link
  • Introduction to Machine Learning, from Udacity: link
  • Machine Learning, from Coursera: link
  • Machine Learning in the market

  • Gartner 2015 Hype Cycle: Big Data is Out, Machine Learning is in: link
  • Gartner 2016 top 10 trends: link
  • Machine Learning, What it is & why it matters, from SAS: link
  • Marketplace for Machine Learning Algorithm, Algorithmia: link
  • The future of Machine Learning, from David Karger on Quora: link
  • The importance of specialization in software sales

    by paul 1 Comment
    The importance of specialization in software sales
    “Bust of Adam Smith” by Patric Parc, 1845. (Wikipedia)

    After spending some time reflecting on whether or not Data Scientist was a useful role within any organization churning a big amount of data, I stumbled upon this post on LinkedIn: There is Only One Type of Software Engineer.

    In short, this post calls for a de-specialization of the role of engineers in order to avoid siloed professionals refusing to take responsibility of a task if it does not exactly match their job description.

    While I agree with some of this argument, especially in big organizations where unfortunately the lack of ownership of a task and fear of risk taking can be quite flagrant (which I will try to tackle in a future post), I think that small organizations are in serious lack of specialization, the effect of which are particularly visible in the sales process.

    Establishing the premise: specialization scarcity versus tangible gains.

    Quick disclaimer: as for every post I write, I am not trying to establish and write the ultimate truth but rather I’m engaging into a conversation, so if I’ll be happy to see my premise challenged. It also applies mostly to my domain of expertise: large software sales for big organization.

    In this context, here is what I observed and gathered from the market. The era of all-in-one platforms is over. I debated this in my first article speaking about consolidation, but it is still true. And while some giant companies manage and should attack different segment of the market, they still have clear marketing messages and product names for these different segments.

    The problem is for companies that have an extremely innovative product, that could tackle a lot of use-cases. I know we have been struggling with this in my company, although it is getting fixed now, but I also observed this statement for many other companies I read or directly got in contact with. Without clear messaging of what narrow use-case your platform solves, sales struggle to happen.

    On the flip side, I hear the opposite statement as soon as the product or marketing message get focused. It becomes the most major growth factor and even drives people to your product instead of having to chase opportunities.

    Rationale: why and when I think specialization is working.

    “It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people” -Adam Smith

    Look, the concept is not new. The argument for specialization is at the core of our modern society, and many philosophers, economists or other sales guru addressed it before me. The goal of this post, and this blog in general is not to debate whether or not capitalism is the most suitable model for our society but rather to give down-to-earth testimonies based on factual experiences.

    With this in mind, here is ultimately why I think specialization enable sales: people hate complication. Despite what my inner nerd would like to think, everyone suffers from decision fatigue. We want to have one solution for one problem. This is why you use what’s app to text your Facebook friends instead of using Messenger in most cases. And I think it is particularly relevant for my generation that is driven by immediate selfish satisfaction (yes, I include myself in this) and want a quick response to a problem they have.

    Take away: what you and I should reflect upon.

    First and foremost, you need to make sure that your sales and marketing message is clear. You should be able to say what your product does, what it solves, what’s the market and who are your competitors. Then you need to be able to specialize your message even more, and drill down to what the person in front of you is looking for. When you’re playing tic-tac-toe against someone, you’re not thinking about every move that could have happened prior to the current move. You’re focusing on what move will give you the best chance to win now considering the current state of the game. It’s the same thing with sales: you’re not trying to sell your product to a range of hypothetical buyers, you’re trying to sell it to a specific person to solve a specific problem. Personalization is the ultimate specialization, thus the ultimate growth factor.

    Now comes the hard question: what should I focus on? What is my product’s area of specialization? This is an extremely complicated question, because while people want reality to be simple, it isn’t. One current tendency established by Eric Ries in the Lean Startup is to use customer feedback and adapt your product to their needs: be data driven. While I adhere to this approach, especially when put against visionary decision making from leaders (which often equates to magical thinking), I think it needs be adjusted to account for lack of specialization. Yes, your product/company can pivot in any direction but it needs to settle. I haven’t found the formula to determine when to settle and what is the best specialization, nor do I think anyone has. But the thrill of uncertainty is what drives me everyday.