Friday, May 26, 2017

Advice to USNA Class of 2017

Today's USNA '17 Graduation: Those covers (hats) fly high.

Advice to USNA Class of 2015
Advice to USNA Class of 2016

Today, the US Naval Academy Class of 2017 graduated. What would I tell these eager second lieutenants and ensigns? So many things. I learned some key leadership tricks while at the Academy. Some were hard to do in real-life, like Damn XO. Others were simple like the advice that General Krulak told us: when checking into a new unit, get the record books of all of those in your charge and read through them. They'll be impressed when you talk to them, for the first time, about their past, civilian or military. This would simply be a gimmick, though, if you don't stay on top of what's going on in the lives of your Marines. Take the time to know your Marines, even if you need to take notes to remind yourself of their details.

Management vs Leadership

As a new 2nd Lt or ENS, you will be face new and unfamiliar leadership challenges as you move from being an individual contributor to a leader. As an officer, you're more than a manager. In some cases, there are similarities between managers and leaders and in other cases these roles are completely different. An example of where a manager, in a civilian corporation, isn't a leader is an account manager which might be the job title for a sales person with no direct reports.

So, what about the similarities? What's the difference between a leader and a manager of people? The key thing to remember is that leadership transcends levels of an organization. When I worked at Apple, my manager's name was Tony. Since Steve Jobs was four levels above me, he was not my manager, but he was most certainly my leader.

As a new leader, you'll have to learn to take recommendations from your Marines and then decide what to do. Sometimes your subordinates will give you great advice and sometimes they'll give you some not-so-great advice. You'll learn; many times, you'll learn from your mistakes. Just don't repeat them.

My last piece of advice is don't take yourself too seriously. One way to do this is by subordinating your ego which is harder than you think. Here's one way to do it: when telling others about your personnel, refer to the Marines under you by saying "us" or "we" instead of "my Marines." In other words, don't say, "My Marines inventoried the warehouse," rather, say, "We inventoried the warehouse." It's a minor issue, but unless you're the CO then you're part of a the team, not the commander, and your Marines will follow your example.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Prime Now, Amazon Flex (One way to spend money. One way to make money.)

Signed, sealed, and delivered.
A friend told me that she recently started driving for Amazon Flex which is like Uber for Amazon package delivery. As a contract driver, she simply drives to her local Amazon warehouse and loads up her car. She scans each package, using the Amazon Flex app, as she places it in her car and the app determines the optimal driving route. Drivers have three hours to finish their delivers and return with any undelivered items.

As I looked into Amazon Flex, I noticed that Amazon Prime Now delivers groceries, similar to Amazon Fresh. I gave it a try since Prime Now offered free delivery for orders over $20 (plus an additional $5 tip).

I started putting items into my shopping cart, yesterday afternoon. When I went to resume shopping, this afternoon, I noticed that a couple items were no longer available which was clearly displayed. After adding a few more items to my cart, I checked out at 1:30 PM with a 2 PM – 4 PM free delivery window. I had the option, for $7.99, for delivery within the hour.

Ding Dong

Cooler bag for dairy.
About 75 minutes after I placed my order, which was 15 minutes before arriving, I received a text message that Ryan was on his way, with a link to track him that updated in near real-time. I went out to meet him when I saw that he had arrived. As he walked toward me I said, "You're Ryan, from Amazon, right?"

"Yes... this was an easy delivery," said Ryan.

"Do you drive for Amazon Flex?" I asked, catching him off guard.

"Um, uh, yeah... do you know me, personally?"

He was a bit baffled as I explained that I did not know him but I understood how Amazon Flex worked. Best part is that my delivery was exactly what I ordered, plus the dairy was in a cooler bag with ice.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Programming My Honda's Keyless Entry Remote

My self-programmed Honda remote.

The last time I took my Honda Accord in for servicing, my keyless entry remote stopped working. But, I didn't realize the problem until about an hour later when I tried to use the remote to unlock my car. Since I was still near Carlsbad, I took my car back to the dealership. I've always had great service at Hoehn Honda in Carlsbad, and this was no exception.

My service rep immediately recognized the issue – he jumped into the driver's seat, fiddled with the key while it was in the ignition and, voilà, my keyless remote fob was working. The reprograming process went so quickly that I didn't catch what the service rep did, but it was clearly a series of steps that took about 15 seconds to complete. When I asked him for the details he said that it wasn't easy to explain. I didn't pursue it since I was happy that the problem was solved quickly.


Last month, my Accord's remote stopped working, again. I figured that I'd wait until I brought my car back to Carlsbad for its next servicing since I could simply use the physical key to unlock the doors. But, that changed when I got a hankering after watching this Arby's ad around lunchtime, so I headed to Mission Valley for some roast beef. As I left Arby's, I noticed a Honda dealership next to the freeway. I drove up to the service department and spoke with a rep who did not understand my issue. Finally, I asked if, perhaps, there was someone else around who might have an idea of how to fix the remote? He went into the office where I could see him speaking to a Honda technician for a few minutes. They both came out and asked me if I'd ever had service done at that dealership. No, I told them. But I didn't tell them the obvious, which is that I always go to Carlsbad since dealerships do not share any customer records. The technician told me that I'd need to bring in both keys so they could be reprogrammed, together. After asking them, three times, what the reprogramming process entailed I caught the clue that they weren't going to elaborate beyond the fact that it would take about an hour and cost $95. No, thank you, and I headed home.


Programming My Remote

Once I got home and parked, I pulled up this Honda document on my phone: "Keyless Entry System Owner’s Manual." After a few unsuccessful tries, I was able to reprogram my car's keyless entry fob. The process is as simple and quick as what I saw the service rep do in Carlsbad, a few months ago. Basically, I repeated the same three steps of turning the ignition on without starting the car (referred to, in the Honda vernacular, as  the  "'ON' (ΙΙ) position"), pressing a button on the remote, and then turning off the ignition. Once I repeated this three times, with no more than five seconds between each step, my power door locks cycled and my remote was paired (programmed) to my Accord. All's well and now working as expected.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Kickstarting The Undercover

Moderating a panel of 3rdSpace crowdfunding entrepreneurs.
About five years ago, I joined the 3rdSpace coworking community in University Heights. Around that time, we noticed that some of our fellow members were attempting and failing to raise funds for their Kickstarter projects. So, a couple of us started the monthly San Diego Kickstarter Meetup which spawned a weekly Inventors Club for entrepreneurs actively engaged in Kickstarter projects. At our peak, we had six simultaneous crowdfunding campaigns live on Kickstarter and Indiegogo.


The Undress – The Undercover

The most notable Kickstarter campaign, that taught our group some valuable lessons, was The Undress which is a dress that allows women to change clothes in public, without getting naked. They raised $615,663 in 2014 for their first campaign and then they came back the following year, with an even better version, and raised an additional $248,704.

As a guy, I felt like I was missing out. I wanted a men's version of The Undress – something better than wearing a towel around my waist. Lo and behold, the makers of The Undress launched a Kickstarter campaign, last fall, for The Undercover which is more than a glorified towel for men. The secret to their products is the pockets which allows the wearer to reach inside the garment so they're not scooping under the bottom of a traditional towel and inadvertently exposing themselves to the world. Also, both The Undress and The Undercover are both secured to the wearer so they won't fall off (a common problem that surfers know all too well). The added bonus of The Undercover is that it also doubles (triples?) as a backpack and shorts; and, in a pinch, women can use it to change clothes, too.

What gets me most excited about The Undercover is that mine arrived yesterday and it works exactly as expected. Only an entrepreneur can appreciate how much complex thought goes into producing such a simple product.

Here is The Undercover in action...


The Undercover from Joe Moreno on Vimeo.


Disclaimer: I paid full price for my two Undercovers and I was neither solicited for this post, nor received any compensation.