6 months in a Poland…..a well needed reflection! [Part 1]

Well it has been 6 months in Poland and yes time flew by so quickly especially when you have a big event to prepare for!

Life in Poland has been highlighted with a number of ups and downs and I would daresay that this time here has been quite enlightening.

I have been travelling quite a number of times here and I had the opportunity to go to the northern-most part of Poland and went multiple times to both Warsaw and Krakow. They are for sure amongst my favorite cities in Poland. The Startup scene in these cities is quite lively and a substantial amount of people meet on a weekly if not twice-weekly basis and discuss about startup ideas. No wonder people want to set up their technology startup in Poland. There is a feeling which for now might be the closest that I could ever get to the American Startup Scene.

So many people ask me: What is a Startup? and somehow quite a number of times, I was taken aback by this question and as if in a fleet of inspiration I remember this wonderful quote from Steve Blank about startups which says

A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model

Then again the next natural question is: What is a business model?

And the way I could explain that is by saying that it is rudimentary/basic essentials of a business plan which will give you the necessary vision and direction to lead your business in the right direction.

I can see we have veered of course here…..back again to my experience in Poland.

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend three conferences(Mobile Developer Conference, Mobile Trends Poland and Makerland) and 1-day Hackathon with one of the best names ever – ‘Hacktory’. All of these different opportunities and events have given me the necessary insight to understand better the Mobile Developer World and what it takes to take a project from concept to innovation. This process, which happens on a frequent basis during hack-a-thons, is truly a magical feeling and it’s my form of adrenaline to keep me innovating and pushing me forward to reach new frontiers.

Hack-a-thon? Is this a place where illegal activity takes place? No. Are people trying to hack into government and banking services? No, and if they would, they wouldn’t be so stupid to do it during a hackathon. It is an event which could last from a couple of hours to days where people are involved in collaborative programming and sometimes these people have never met before.

I had the opportunity to experience this twice to three times in this past 6 months and I am very lucky to say that they have been experiences which helped me grow as a person and which have made me understand quite a lot of aspects of the technology business and the wonderful mobile development world, where quite a lot of magic has been happening recently.

A quick thought about the conferences:

Mobile Central Europe was a truly wonderful experience and I had the opportunity to meet really great people there from all over the world. The best part of this is that all the workshops and lectures were held in English which made it much more comfortable for me to fit in this atmosphere and I honestly felt at home there. I was also lucky enough to meet the right group people to win a Hackathon and thanks to that I got a free ticket to Makerland on which I will talk about later.

In Poland, there are many people who know how to speak English quite well but the large majority of people find it very difficult to communicate in English which has made things a bit more challenging for me here. By the large majority, I am talking about people who work in the grocery shops, supermarkets, bus drivers, etc. These are the places where you spend quite a lot of time and sometimes it has made me nervous but over a significant period of time, I have learnt to embrace this.

Thanks to this, I have been able to learn quite a lot of Polish and despite the fact that I still find it challenging to talk in Polish, I have progressed to the stage where I can understand quite a lot from a conversation and I can answer back most often than not. This has led to a number of hilarious situations throughout the past 6 months(imagine Stefan attending a marriage course for 10 weeks in Polish) which I will remember for some time!

The 2nd conference which I had the opportunity to attend was known as the Mobile Trends Conference, and this took place in Krakow. Here the lectures were a mix of Polish and English, but there wasn’t the same atmosphere that I felt in the Mobile Europe Conference. Its as if there was something quite missing and I was quite nervous as the internet connection suffered quite a bit there(unlike the Mobile Europe Conference, where the internet was quite flawless I would dare say), as I was trying to live-blog the event.

The last conference that I was to was Makerland. It was truly a wonderland of hardware technology namely 3D printers, robots, arduino(small and feature packed micro controllers) and so much more. It was a really great insight into the future of hardware and the magnificent realisation that the offline/physical world is getting closer and closer to the digital/online world through so many different interfaces. The future is truly exciting in this manner and I can’t wait to be a part of it. I also had the great company of my maltese colleague and visionary Jeffrey Dalli.

I have run out of thoughts…..I will post some more next week 🙂

 

 

MOOCs

Recovering from major knee surgery and being away from work gives you a lot of time.

A lot.

Recently, I had subscribed to a number of Massively Open Online Courses on coursera.org which I didn’t have so much time to dedicate to beforehand. Work drains your energy and after a days work, the last thing that you feel like doing is learning. But alas, now I’m unable to go to work and a good chunk of time which had been previously filled by work had to find new pastures. And there comes along, MOOCs(along with a subscription to lynda.com and an amazing subscription offer at udemy.com).

And, yes, time is flying fast. It has already been 5 days since my operation and equipped with my new Macbook (the true productivity machine which was enhanced by the fact that I had the opportunity to do a 6-hour long training programme on lynda to learn all the features of this wonderful machine).

Bring on the learning!

One more thing, I’m doing two courses which I’m focusing on right now:

These MOOCs are giving me an insight into what I’m passionate about, that is , Technology. And, it is providing me with the opportunity to have a full 360 degree view of how technology affects peoples lives and how it bothers and empowers them. Equipped with this knowledge, I truly believe that I can be a better advocate of technology.

If you are thinking of taking one of these MOOCs. The following video is a friendly and great video guide:

The importance of the art of communication amongst educators

Have you ever been in a situation as a student where you are called out to help out with the lecturer to set up the power point presentation or trying to point out to the lecturer how he puts the power point into slideshow mode and shouting “F5” (shortcut key to start a powerpoint presentation in Microsoft Power Point). Is this familiar to you? Well this is pretty much the situation in most schools and universities around the world.

The point I want to make out of this is the following : How do you expect to educate using a medium that you barely know how to operate?

Sometimes I am called out during lectures to help out with setting up the presentation and every time I get up to do it, I feel as if someone is hitting my head with a brick to keep me comatose for the rest of the lecture. The rules of engagement with the audience are somehow broken at that point in time as the educator is trying to pass on the message to us.

This following video from Youtube pretty much sums up all the rules of engagement between the educator and students as they’re being broken :

Being an educator sometimes is more than just knowing your stuff from inside out, it’s also about how much you are able to communicate the information. Once again, it’s a question on why you want to do it, and not how to do it.

Before I started writing this post I was focused on the fact that educators have to know how to pass on the message, that is by being digitally literate and able to operate the laptop or computer in an efficient manner so as to be able to convey their message, but the truth is, that it’s not enough, although it could be a starting point to effective communication and one of the tools which could be used.

In fact I realized this as I was doing the habitudes for communicators assessment, as the different questions reminded me how effective communication is more than anything an art, an art which right now is not that much practised and which needs to be learnt by most of the educators. Different elements of any form of communication involve the use of storytelling, being able to deal with one’s nervousness to talk effectively(since talking in front of people does go against our human nature), being passionate on the subject you’re talking about, giving incentives to the audience and much much more.

So what is the solution?

The solution is to start from myself. I’m grabbing a copy of the book “Habitudes for Communicators” once it’s available for the Kindle. Once I read the book, I’ll try and share the knowledge in the best way I can.

Educators out there(and that practically refers to everyone from parents to politicians). If you really want to bring a change with the information you want to share, be ready to take some time for yourself and ask yourself whether you are an effective communicator. Let’s start a culture of effective communication. And remember, be passionate on what you talk about!

 

 

Choosing the right smartphone, my personal battle revisited : of iOs versus Android and Microsoft versus Apple

During the last few months, I have been pondering about an important choice. More than one important choice actually. And since I’m quite the technology geek, I thought the Samsung Galaxy I9000 with upgraded firmware and running Froyo 2.2 was not making the cut for me. Powered emotionally by the fact that I had just read Steve Jobs Biography. I had to revisit my allegiances and where I stand with regards to Mobile Operating Systems. When I was revisiting this, I realized that this was not just a battle of the mobile operating systems, but it was a battle of values. It was a battle between the philosophy of trying to content everyone and adjusting to their every whim and a philosophy of providing an integrated product which might not so modifiable at first glance, but which provides a user experience which is undeniably effective and lets the user focus on other important issues. The question of focus plays a pivotal role in this battle. I will talk about this later.

I could definitely say that I was a Windows and Android boy. I loved everything which was open and which catered for every kind of hardware. It was years that my older sibling pointed out to me that I should switch to the Apple philosophy which provided me a product which simply worked and even though he recently had to change his MacBook Pro Motherboard for a hefty sum of money, he still won’t go back to Windows. That is saying something.

When I ask around, I go and approach anyone who has an iPhone, and ask him or her, “how long have you had this phone?”. The answer is always on the positive side varying from 2 to 3 years. Now, I know that my sampling techniques might not be so precise and not so representative of whole market. Yet I know,that,owning an Apple mobile phone, is meant to last you for quite a long time, considering that most of us are now changing their mobile phones every 2 years and sometimes even less because they simply break down. Apple’s phone is meant to provide you with an experience of stability. And you know why is that? Because Apple focuses on the why. Which makes the whole bloody difference.

In fact Simon Sinek talks about this in the following legendary talk:

This might sound more like a rant yet dear patient readers, I’m sharing with you a cascade of thoughts, thoughts which come in as a result of months of informing oneself and checking this site and that site, and comparing different phone models and trying to see which phone I should buy and even taking to the point that I posted a public Facebook status about this, asking people which phone should I buy is it the iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy Nexus Prime . Of course at that time, I was more inclined towards the pumped-up Android phone but at the end, I decide to go for the more simple phone. The phone which actually works, and proven to work for a long time : iPhone 4S. Of course, I’m still saving up for it yet I’ve made my decision(on a side note: decide.com is a brilliant website to guide you in making better decision when it comes to the timing of buying electronics and price fluctuations).

As I was reading the very honest biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, which in plain terms does not try to give a sweet “candy”  image of Jobs, I was struck by the fact that the iPhone was a product that was not created by the engineers and the designers had to follow suit, but the other way round, that is, the phone was created by the designers and the engineers had to create solutions which make that design work. At this point, I am clearly against the way Jobs treated his employees during his time as Apple CEO, yet he also said something which was the epitome of most of the innovations that he drove into fruition:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Dear Friends. That in five words sums up my choice.

Disclaimer : This blog post is not meant to make any sense gramatically and is not even meant to be flowing. These are just my thoughts,made digital and this post might be edited as we go along.