a16z and my own journey

a16z is a major Silicon Valley venture capital firm. I listened to their recent podcast episode where they talked with Jeff Lawson, CEO and author of Ask Your Developer. Generally I am very interested in the topic of software development as a creative exercise, this is probably why I chose that particular episode of the podcast to listen to. But what I found of particular interest came in the final 30 seconds of the interview.

Jeff has a view of his own trajectory as a CEO, from that of a Technical-CEO, through Product, and then to Go-to-market. The a16z interviewer pointed out that they have an entire series on the concept of how technical people develop as CEOs and they see them moving through the following sequence:

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Influences: Seth Godin

I have this influences series which I began a few years ago. I began it because I think it is very important to both understand and respect the influences which brought you to where you are in life. It’s been a while since I contributed to the series, but today I’d like to continue with Seth Godin.

Seth, as he is known, is a rather latter stage influence in my life. He’s been well-known in internet circles for over 20 years. Maybe I heard of his name earlier, maybe I didn’t. I certainly didn’t have an accurate view of what it is he does and why he is so famous. Today I want to highlight my favourite learnings from Seth Godin.

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Mental Health Check

I guess that I am not the only one who has found the grind of a second pandemic lockdown a drain also on mental health and productivity.

The first lockdown was almost fun. For the first time in years I was able to sit at home, work on what I wanted to work on, and go jogging regularly in clean air. There was even the bonus of a new wave of healthcare related information across every media outlet – a field with which I have been passionately involved for 20 years now.

This time is a bit different. First of all it is Winter, so jogging in the park is not so easy. It’s snowing and -10 celsius (-20 fahrenheit) today. Air pollution has not dropped this time, I guess it’s a combination of lignite burning and car emissions. And work is much more stressful this time around. That last point is what I want to write about today.

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2020 coming to an end

The past two end-of-years I have wanted to write a bilan de l’annĂ©e. Both years were incredibly exciting and I had a lot to look back on. In both cases I wrote the notes for myself but never published them on the site. I guess that, while it is both useful and healthy to keep a monitor of how things have gone, I am not so keen on going public on these topics.

2020 has been a particularly unusual year. I am not excited about what I did this year. But I have to admit that this year, despite the obvious difficulties, brought a welcome return to modes of work which agree with me and, frankly, a blistering level of productivity.

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New article: My experience of the BIA Pulse accelerator

I wrote recently about my experiences of the Pulse leadership and entrepreneurship training program for the blog of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA). The Pulse course is organised jointly by the BIA and the Francis Crick Institute. I joined the three-day course, in its first year of operation, in 2018.

I felt that I benefited enormously from the course. I had left my postdoc position 3 months previously and I was researching ideas for setting-up a company. I subsequently took my learnings from Pulse and elsewhere, and established my first company Simmunology. So when I was contacted earlier this year I was particularly keen to write something and say thanks.

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Managing People

I really love dealing with people. I come from a culture which highly prizes human interaction and communication skills. But I also love technical work, and this tends to attract people who prefer to work alone. In this article I want to discuss my progression through different styles of management and leadership throughout my life.

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Modelling the Modeller

Something I’ve struggled with on and off over the 20 years that I have been making mathematical models is explaining those models to others. I have tried to bring people along and develop their understanding. But mainly what I observed was that, some people just got it and others did not.

I have certainly improved my own skill at explaining. This comes down to having streamlined stories and simpler take-home messages. Telling a clearer story certainly improves my audiences’ self-satisfaction, but ultimately some of them get the whole message and others do not.

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There is no such thing as a manager

I had the opportunity to interview for a senior position at a very big company recently. The entire process was fascinating for what it says about human nature and about large companies. The outcome of the process is unclear at the time of writing this but I am expecting the intrinsic misalignments in the process will lead it into the reeds from which it is unlikely to emerge. I am as close to the perfect candidate for the role that they will ever interview, but the internal parties are not all aligned around the very existence of the position.

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