Fast Company names Poshly one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Big Data

February 17, 2015 § Leave a comment

As a Big Data practitioner – and an investor – I’m delighted to learn that Fast Company has recognized Astia Angels’ portfolio company Poshly as a leader in this dynamic and rapidly growing space.

I blogged about Poshly some time ago. One reason that I invested in them was that they’re a great example of employing Big Data to answer real-world questions, rather than just vacuuming up a bunch of information and trying to find a use for it.

Bradley Falk, Poshly’s CTO and co-founder states:

The great thing about beauty and personal care data is discovering how unique everyone is. We can create a portrait of a user in near realtime and discover how the small details can vary so much. We can react to trends, interests and sentiment to create value for both the consumer and the industry while protecting the user’s personal information.

As I’ve watched Poshly’s meteoric growth, I’ve been interested about the approach they would follow to maintain scalability. According to Matthew Drescher, Poshly’s Head of Data Engineering:

We are aggressively utilizing high performance, distributed in-memory computing techniques to vectorize our data, perform in-place analytics, and paint a landscape of insights for our customers to enjoy.    

With the quality of data Poshly gathers, it is possible to take a very geometric approach to generating insights. It’s less like scraping through a haystack in search for a diamond than it is trying to realize the maximum realistic photo resolution.

If you’re interested in all things Big Data, stay tuned for a series of blog posts I’ll be writing on critical algorithms that should be part of your toolkit.

Don’t insult your audience at a technical conference by presenting a sales pitch

February 9, 2015 Comments Off

I’ve been going to technology conferences for a long time, and have seen – and delivered – tons of presentations over the years. I have particularly high expectations at events with the following characteristics: 1) I had to pay for my attendance, and 2) the breakout sessions are billed as technical in nature.

In the past few years, I’ve observed a disturbing trend of conference speakers providing what is essentially a jazzed-up sales presentation to a technical audience. Often times, a vendor (such as a technology provider or consultancy) will trot out a person with a technical title, and then saddle them with a sales pitch. I feel bad for the poor presenter, because they’re going to be in for a rough time.

The best-run conferences will actively discourage this, to the point of rejecting a presentation that’s too sales-y. But unfortunately, most organizers aren’t so diligent. In fact, the vast majority of presentations don’t get evaluated: conferences can find it difficult merely to round up a full roster of speakers, much less thoroughly review what they propose to talk about.

Here are some examples of detrimental speaker behavior:

  • Spending 3/4 of the time talking about their brilliant CEO, prestigious investors, dedicated partners, and loyal customers
  • Detailing their sales process
  • Reading, verbatim, from industry reviews, customer case studies, and other marketing material
  • Endless details about market growth and customer acquisition
  • Describing their product or solution in glowing language: everything was, is, and will be perfect

This is a very imprudent approach, for lots of reasons. First, the audience at an event like this will be sophisticated, and often cynical. It’s unwise to try and fool them. The rise of social media means that the attendees won’t hesitate to publicly slam the company, speaker, market, and conference organizer if they feel that their time was wasted. These angry protestations often occur while the speaker is in front of the room – a great example of real-time negative feedback. And finally, no one likes to feel like they got fleeced, especially when you consider what it costs to attend a conference these days.

The good news here is that by staying truthful and focused on technical topics, you’ll end up with a better set of sales prospects than if you simply hammer them over the head with marketing messaging. Chances are, your technical solution – even if held together with duct tape – is still interesting to the audience.

Coming up soon, I’ll be writing a series of blog posts about what should be covered at a technology conference. For now, here are some brief guidelines:

  • Keep the fluff to a minimum: no more than 20% of the allotted presentation time
  • Be honest about the product or service that you delivered to the market
  • Describe lessons learned – both good and bad
  • Use lots of pictures to illustrate how it worked
  • And above all: don’t read slides to the audience!

Bad Sales Engineer Behavior #1: Jealousy

January 18, 2015 Comments Off

Sales engineering (SE) can be a rewarding, intellectually challenging, and lucrative career. I’ve written many blog articles about the characteristics that exemplify a successful SE, but this series of posts is all about the kinds of actions that can damage a career.

I’ll begin with jealousy: one of the seven deadly sins that can rear its head even in places like technology sales. Surprisingly, envy is often worst when the firm’s having a great year, and everyone’s making money.

Enterprise technology salespeople live a professional life that’s fraught with peril. They must cope with constant rejection and dashed hopes from prospects, while their own management shrinks territories yet raises quotas. Predictably, this results in high job turnover and continual insecurity, not to mention lots of lost sleep.

With all these downsides, who would take on this job? Someone who wants to make lots of money, that’s who: it’s not uncommon for a sales professional to make two, three, or even ten times their expected income if (and only if) they have a good year. Meanwhile, their SEs tend to bring home a relatively predictable income every year. In a bad year, they’ll make less, but not drastically so, and in a good year, they’ll make more – maybe 25% or so, which is great, but not stunning.

In my experience, jealousy arises when a salesperson is paired closely with a single SE, and the team far exceeds their quota. Naturally, these uneven financial outcomes can breed resentment and envy in the SE, particularly when they perceive that they’ve “done all the work” to win the deals. Some SEs internalize this bitterness, while others broadcast it to the world.

A single, loud, jealous SE is all that’s necessary to create a toxic environment. First, other SEs may start questioning the compensation system and making demands, while salespeople will start wondering if their own SEs will “turn on them” if they have a good year. Ultimately, all of this reflects badly on the instigator and can even result in their replacement.

Fortunately, thwarting income envy is quite achievable. For the SE, it’s vital to accept that there’s a fundamental difference between themselves and salespeople. Quota-carrying salespeople get fired much more easily when they miss a number, while SEs tend to be kept on even when inevitable revenue shortfalls occur.

SEs should also be mindful about never complaining out loud about the disparity in take-home pay. If things seem really out of whack, it’s reasonable to discretely engage management to discuss the problem, but nothing will change the reality that salespeople will always make more money in a good year.

Finally, a relatively small percentage of SEs are capable of making the difficult shift to becoming winning sales professionals. A progressive management team should offer a clearly defined career path and supporting procedures for those that want to undertake this ambitious transition.

Ready! API/SoapUI NG Pro on-demand training and certification now available

December 31, 2014 Comments Off

I’m happy to announce that the current SoapUI Pro on-demand training course has been updated to showcase the new capabilities present in Ready! API and SoapUI NG Pro: the next generation of SmartBear’s award-winning API testing solutions.

You can learn more here.

Webinar on Data-driven API Testing Using Ready! API and SoapUI NG Pro

November 13, 2014 Comments Off

Far too many software services and APIs are placed into production without comprehensive, data-driven testing. This oversight often results in unnecessary software flaws, service outages, sluggish performance, and frustrated users.

On Monday November 24 at 10:00 PST (18:00 GMT), I’ll be presenting a Webinar along with Jim Holmes from Falafel Software. We’ll cover the following essential topics during this 45-minute event.

  • The importance of using lots of realistic data to test your Web, REST, JMS, and other services
  • Feeding your service tests with data from diverse sources such as spreadsheets, flat files, and relational databases
  • Employing dynamic, data-driven assertions to validate service responses in real-time
  • Querying back-end databases to confirm service and API responses

We’ll illustrate these concepts with practical examples using SmartBear’s Ready! API and SoapUI NG Pro technology. You can sign up here, and even if you can’t make the live event we’ll send you a recording afterwards.

Ready! API and SoapUI NG Pro: the next step in delivering mission-critical APIs

October 31, 2014 Comments Off

I’ve been designing, developing, and testing APIs for many years. APIs used to be of interest primarily to narrow constituencies such as architects and developers. That’s no longer the case: today, APIs constitute the foundation of Service Oriented Architecture, and thus most modern applications.

SoapUI has long been considered the premier service-testing tool. Over the past 7 years, WiseClouds has participated in the incredible growth of the SoapUI ecosystem by offering training, certification, and consulting services.

From its inception, SoapUI has been an elegant, powerful technology, but as the years have gone by, it’s matured into something much more than a testing tool. In fact, it’s now a platform containing all the technology necessary to place an API into service.

I’m very excited about the direction the product is taking, with the release of Ready! API containing SoapUI NG  (next generation) and related technologies for service virtualization, load testing, and security. We’re expanding our training classes and certification to cover all of this new functionality.

I’ll be blogging about some of the new capabilities in Ready! API, but for now you can learn more here.

The 7 sales engineer behaviors that will wreck your career

September 29, 2014 Comments Off

Over my career, I’ve worked alongside many sales engineers, as well as built and led sales engineering teams. The vast majority were highly talented, conscientious individuals, but there were a number of people that just didn’t have what it took to succeed.

Some struggled with innate personality characteristics that blocked their success, but others just brought the wrong attitude to the job. I’ve already written about the traits that I consider to be most effective, and I’m grateful for the very nice feedback I’ve received from many of the thousands of readers of these posts.

I always try to keep this blog positive, but it’s worthwhile to look at the other side of the coin, especially for people that are considering how to become a sales engineer or advance their current careers. I’ll be writing about each of these behaviors in future installments.

  1. Jealousy
  2. Skepticism
  3. Egotism
  4. Negativity
  5. Tactlessness
  6. Stagnation
  7. Unreliability
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