Drivetrains and Free Time

Autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030, and the sweeping change they bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced. They will cause unprecedented job loss and a fundamental restructuring of our economy, solve large portions of our environmental problems, prevent tens of thousands of deaths per year, save millions of hours with increased productivity, and create entire new industries that we cannot even imagine from our current vantage point.

Never heard of Zack Kanter before, but his post about self-driving cars definitely caught my attention. I do not entirely share his dramatic view of the job market fallout. I ultimately believe we are tool builders, that’s what we do. New tools always spur new opportunities and create needs that were not even imaginable before.

There are countless examples of this narrative, from profound industrial shifts, such as the transition from craft production system to the mass production system — where the figure of the Industrial Engineer and a subset of highly skilled workers erased massive portions of the craftsman workforce, to more contemporary figures such as bloggers, youtubers or an enabled distributed workforce, that simply was not even possible ten years ago.

I do agree though, that this transition will bring along huge societal changes, but further than that, Zack’s words made me reflect on how autonomous cars might reshape cities and shake some patterns that we, nowadays, consider as a given.

First of all, we have to acknowledge that this is already happening. There are several partially self-driving "ideas" in the market such as self-driving trucks fleets crossing entire countries, and this party is just getting started.

On a more emotional layer the interest in cars is dropping among younger generations. Smartphone are replacing cars as a proxy for freedom and social status, and paradoxically, they can’t used while driving. Nowadays cars embody a wide range of negative values such as pollution, accidents, congestions… even Toyota’s USA President, Jim Lentz, agrees:

We have to face the growing reality that today young people don’t seem to be as interested in cars as previous generations.

The problem though, is that most conversations I hear are revolving around self-driving cars when in fact they attempt to describe three different — and partially independent, dynamics.

  • Drivetrains moving from ICE to electric i.e. Tesla
  • Ownership moving away from individuals to fleets i.e. Uber or Lyft
  • Operations moving from human to computer-based i.e. Google’s self-driving project

Drivetrains

In an ICE-centered world, the engine is the most complicated and important component of a car. Electric motors are much simpler than their ICE counterparts. An ICE engine is built out of hundreds of components, moving parts and complex mechanical systems, think of it as a mechanical watch. On the other hand, electric motors are extremely simple, they can be easily assembled with less than ten components.

The immediate consequence of this transition is that barriers of entry for the industry are torn apart. The ICE is by far the most complex piece of a car and few manufacturers can afford the capital expenses required for its development. Moving to an EV centered world, engines get commoditized, it literally means that they can be bought from a local supplier.

In other words, the craft and expertise amassed building ICE cars is worth nothing when EV simply use batteries, computation and software to control a drivetrain.

Another interesting factor to this narrative has to do with batteries, since they will be the most critical component of an electric vehicle. Even more important — and that’s pure speculation, EVs might only be a piece of a much larger shift in energy usage and generation. Batteries, on wheels or stationary, might become a key role as the link between multiple energy generation sources.

Ownership

Owning a car is expensive, one of the largest expenses of an average family. On top of that it is a really crappy asset, since it quickly loses value, it is hard to maintain and it is not liquid in the marketplace.

On top of that, the (sad) fact that cars spend more than 95% of their lifetime parked, doing nothing, has created an entire new market of transportation as a service, led by Uber, Lyft, Cabify and an army of local operators.

If this model gains traction and becomes the default option for most people to move from A to B, it follows that cars will be owned by fleet operators, not individuals. Which in turn has even more profound implications:

  • In an individual ownership world, manufacturing and selling are bundled. But if ownership changes, car manufacturers are left in the middle, with no leverage across the value chain.
  • It is not just leverage, but also incentives. Car manufacturers are currently incentivized to optimize for driver's delight i.e. getting a ZF transmission that shifts smoother and quicker. But if the driver is not the buyer anymore, does it matter?
  • Does it mean that flying in a Boeing / Airbus or economy / business becomes much like hailing a BMW / Mercedes or UberX / Uber Black?
  • Parking is interesting as well. Cities are nowadays built around cars, at any given moment there are more cars parked than moving. Although this is a given for most of us, we can all agree that it doesn’t make much sense, since parking is wildly mismanaged and it is probably our most inefficient use of resources within urban areas. But if cars are not owned, but hailed on demand, what happens to the parking industry?
  • The issue goes deeper though, no parked cars, means less cars, since its idle time will dramatically decrease: the perfect on-demand car is one that never stops. It follows then that less cars reduce collateral industries as well i.e. $198 billion automobile insurance market, $98 billion automotive finance market, $100 billion parking industry and $300 billion automotive aftermarket will be most certainly threaten.

Operations

The most interesting piece of this triangle is the transition to self-driving or what happens when we add "autonomous cars" to the equation.

The obvious one is that driver as a job won’t be needed anymore. On one hand this is a good thing because we have to admit it, overall we are really bad drivers. The bad news it that driver represents the single largest profession, in the USA and around the world.

This inevitably ties back to the EV conversation, since automakers will find themselves with misaligned incentives when it comes to pursue self driving capabilities: how come they can compete selling a "driving experience" when there’s no driver in behind the wheel? It's just a "feature race" to a place where they don't matter anymore.

It reminds me to the PC industry in the 2000s, when PCs started being purchased by consumers, but the other way around: the purchaser stops being the driver, but a fleet, who values other things.

I could go on and on, but what fascinates me the most is the amount of combined time we will save as a whole. Millions of hours we will get back "for free" to engage in creative endeavors, leisure, family time, reading, drawing, whatever!

And of course, the most important question: what we will make of it?

Little Hacks

Our goal here isn’t to be defensive and resist our phones but to ask the question, “how can we make our home screen a livable place?” A place we can return to frequently, knowing it will respect our intentions and support our conscious use. And a place that makes room for the thoughts and concerns we want to have, and not the ones we don’t.

From time to time, I ask myself which is the single habit I can easily stick to right away, that will have the largest impact in my daily life.

For example, a few years ago I read The Miracle Morning — good book, where I came across a seemingly harmless quote, that might strike as a rather obvious statement at first, but ended up radically transforming the first hours of my days.

Well, hitting the snooze button keeps us from waking with a sense of purpose. Each time you reach for that button, you are subconsciously saying to yourself that you don’t want to rise to your life, your experiences and the day ahead.

I simply tried it: put the alarm clock across the room, in a place where I had to stand up in order to stop it. I have never hit the snooze button once again since. Now I wake up every single morning at 6am and get a ton done before 9am. In fact, I’m writing this because of it.

Little action, huge impact and upside.

Along these lines, last week I read this article and something similar happened. My home screen and notifications settings were already a reasonably quiet place, but the article made me revisit some habits and the overall relation I had with the device.

Since, I came up with a simple set of rules that have radically changed the way I interact with my iPhone.

Home screen

  • Two screens: first of all address the amount of screen real state to place apps. Having a predefined number of screens in the springboard acts as a natural constraint for the number of apps you can fit in the canvas. Moreover, I found that avoiding mindless swipes between screens reduces the time "wasted" on the device, doing nothing.
  • No folders: keep everything visible. Hiding complexity under the rug is usually not a good long term solution, but on top of that, folders are the cheating mechanism for the previous rule, so avoid them.

Apps

  • Stick to the ones you actually use: this seems like a simple rule, but spring cleaning apps can become a rather unpleasant task. The nagging thought of "maybe I need it for X...", "I used it that one time..." will never remiss. That’s the reason why I took a radical opposite approach to tackle this issue: I started with zero apps and installed them as needed. You’ll be surprised with the few apps you actually use: right now, my phone only has 16.
  • Default to defaults: require a really compelling case to install 3rd party apps that mimic Apple stock ones. This can be controversial for two reasons: first one, because we all love 3rd party apps, but second, because Apple stock apps are usually not that great. Then the question: why do it? I found that "staying default" limits "what you can do", reduces duplicity and complexity across the OS. If there’s no strong case to do it, stay default. Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Weather, Photos, Safari... are great examples of stock Apple apps that can suit most of our basic needs.
    • The exception to that rule, of course, exists. If the delta of functionality (and enjoyment) the app provides is so massive that is worth dealing with the added complexity, so be it. In my case, Bear, Spotify or Citymapper are clear examples.
    • Then of course there is functionality the OS doesn’t provide by default. In these cases, of course a compelling case is still required, but the utilitarian aspect here becomes more relevant.

Notifications

Last, but most important, notifications. The single feature that can make or break the experience of using a your phone.

The most important realization about notifications is that they clearly map out as an 80/20, even 99/1. In other words, 1% of the apps, produce 99% of the notifications. This 1% being messaging apps, where their very nature of 1-to-N communication layer turn you into a random node of the network, able to receive notifications from any node that can potentially connect with you.

The problem though, falls back again to the defaults. The moment you accept the app request for sending notifications, you’re granting any person on Earth the ability to light your phone screen up at their will. In other words, you are giving free, ubiquitous access to the backlit mechanism of your most precious and personal device.

This is simply madness.

In order to avoid this, I created three distinct states an app can inherit as notifications settings (slightly updated for iOS 10, which changed the way History and Lock Screen worked).

  • Off: these are messaging apps. Turning their notifications off by default have three combined benefits: 1/ your screen won’t be flashing every minute because of an unimportant WhatsApp group notification, 2/ your battery will last way longer, 3/ you won’t be peeking at your phone looking for the next dopamine shot, because you already know it will be none.
  • Only show in history: this should be the default mode for almost all apps, but messaging. You will silently receive notifications, but they won’t light up the screen and quietly stack in the history tab, waiting for you to go there and check them out.
  • System default: stay to the defaults (this is lighting up the screen, sounds, badges... the whole pack) only for critical notifications such as reminders, important calendar events or potential security warnings.

Following these three simple rules had transformative results that truly changed the way I interact with my iPhone. Things as easy as rearranging apps, forbidding red bubbles, avoiding colors and limiting to just two screens, literally, gave me an extra hour per day out from "wasted time" and made me be more present, relaxed and sharp.

Again, little hacks, amazing outcomes.

The Ironhack Experience

This Saturday the 2nd of April, I will be enrolling the Ironhack Web Development program, in its part-time format. It spans six months: two afternoons during the week and the whole Saturday, accounting for more than 400 hours of accelerated learning.

Despite it is not as intense as the full-time format, the goal remains the same: turn you into a full fledged digital builder, with the abilities to develop web applications by yourself, but at the same time, embracing best practices and learning the underlying principles behind digital products.

As a campus manager, my daily tasks at Ironhack are far away from technical endeavors. My role consists in managing and inspiring the team, but also ensuring we are delivering on our promise of providing the best possible educational experience.

The main difference with our flagship, full-time, bootcamp program — that has already trained more than 500 people with outstanding results, is the part-time format has been specifically designed for people who is currently employed. The materials team has done an outstanding job structuring all the contents in a way that can be digested, but demanding enough so you can still feel the strain that comes with these intense programs.

I have put a lot thought into this decision. We all run busy lives, and it is definitely a huge challenge on top of anybody who already has a challenging job. I acknowledge that going through this experience will inevitably imply saying no to a lot of things, and despite I’ve been told otherwise several times, I am profoundly convinced that enrolling is the right call.

In this post I will explain why I decided to join, and why I firmly believe that everybody in a managing position, technical or not, should join, too.

My Role at Ironhack

As a campus manager, my daily tasks at Ironhack are far away from technical endeavors. My role consists in managing all aspects of Ironhack’s operations here in Barcelona while executing on the company mission. At the end of the day I find myself not only managing and inspiring the team, but also ensuring we are delivering on our promise of providing the best possible educational experience.

My Role at Ironhack

All of this translates into sales, business development, planning and executing marketing actions, leading hiring processes, ensuring we have an awesome work environment, and representing the Ironhack brand by interacting with students and other ecosystem partners. In other words, I’m kind of the last responsible for Ironhack’s success here in Barcelona, but as you can see, there is no coding involved.

Therefore, the legitimate question to ask here would be: “how come learning how to code, will help you succeed at your job, since there’s no coding required at all?”

Alignment With the Company Vision

I deeply believe that in order to achieve greatness, no matter what your job title is, you must understand, embrace and align yourself with the company vision. It might sound abstract, but I have come to realize that for a company to be successful in a market, for an employee to thrive within a company, and in most facets of life, the alignment with the bigger picture is always a prerequisite for success.

Markus Leyendecker — Harvard MBA student and also Ironhack alumni, has already done an amazing job explaining this issue. As he points out in his article Pre-bootcamp: Why would a future Harvard MBA learn how to code? the understatement of the building blocks of your business is key for anybody that attempts to lead any team or company.

If one accepts the hypothesis, that companies, which are at-heart digital, will continue to outgrow the competition, one should realize why I want learn to code. It follows a very basic logical chain: Everyone working at a company should be able to understand what the company is best at: selling the right product to its customer segment. For instance, one would think that a Boeing CEO would understand, at least much better than a CEO from another industry, how an airplane works and which steps of the value chain Boeing excels at.

I could not agree more. But as devil's advocate one could argue that if a company is not competing in the software industry, and say it is selling razor blades, then code should not be a lever for success. Which brings us to the second point: that software is becoming a transversal discipline.

Digital Transformation

As I already pointed out in The Rise of the Hybrid Profile, programming is not only for programmers any more. Instead, it is starting to permeate across all industries, changing the way we interact with products and how customers want to be reached in order to deploy effective marketing actions.

All the components involved in the creation, distribution and sale of a digital product are, in some way, influenced by the same digital ingredient: code. For this reason, the ones who acknowledge this situation and learn the fundamental principles underlying digital products, will inevitably have a considerable advantage when having to deal with this new breed of products.

What this excerpt from my article conveys is that we should approach each market, business or product, from a more holistic perspective. Meaning that despite certain end products will remain hardware based, its surroundings: distribution, marketing, operations and ultimately, the customer experience, will be profoundly affected by the digital transformation that lies ahead.

Coding at Ironhack

Going on with the razors analysis, the only player that comes to mind that is growing like a rocket, curiously enough, is Harry’s. The blueprint for how to enter a mature, saturated market, leveraging technology in order to enhance the customer experience. Harry’s is not a software company, but I would bet that employs plenty of software engineers and their digital strategy is core to understand their success.

Earn Their Success: Speak Tech

The conclusion that derives from this premise is clear: as a manager you will be dealing with software issues at some point. That might come in the flavor of the project that you are working on or it may be the core competence of your team. Either way you will need to prove that, at least, you have the slightest clue of what you are actually managing.

After more than five years involved in product at tech companies, I have seen plenty of issues such as PMs not respected by engineering because they did not have technical chops, or marketers who were literally mocked for not understanding how something worked. Believe me, as a manager, it is a harsh situation to overcome.

We have drawn some kind of line between tech and non-tech, placing more value to the former by default. As a manager, this is a harsh situation to overcome.

I am not saying this is a good thing, but we have drawn some kind of line between tech and non-tech, placing more value to the former by default. If you want to earn the respect of your peers and make informed decisions you will need to understand how stuff works, and the only way is playing by their own rules.

Management entitles lots of things. But at the end of the day you will find yourself making key decisions and you want to do that through the eyes of every person in your team, even better, through the eyes of the company as a whole. You will be setting the table on behalf of a lot of people, and you will only earn their respect you if you know what you are talking about.

Why Am I Doing This?

In my particular case, first of all, I am doing this because I want to experience first hand what it is like to go through our Bootcamp. I think it is not fair that I am rooting for a product that I have never experienced. I have repeatedly seen how we are helping our students pivot their careers and ultimately turning them into digital makers. I know it is amazing and I know it works, but I don’t know what it is actually like to be there.

Therefore, from an evangelist perspective, I am absolutely convinced that by fully understanding the experience not only I will improve my ability to communicate why somebody would benefit from learning how to code. But also get insight and make a better case for who we might be solving a problem to, but we still don’t know it.

From the inside I hope it will help me better relate to the student experience and have informed conversations with them, as we were discussing before, it is like speaking their language. Because I would be able understand what they are going through, I will have a better chance when it comes to earn their respect. And looking into the future, having this shared connection can also be a great way to create stronger bonds that will help enhance the collaboration with our alumni community.

I have repeatedly seen how we are helping our students pivot their careers and ultimately turning them into digital makers. I know it is amazing and I know it works, but I don’t know what it is actually like to be there.

I also expect to gain credibility from the team, mostly in the academic side. Because I would be able to analyze the full scope of every decision I make for the campus, from the layout of the desks, the acoustics of the room to the number of TAs we will need for the next cohort. Only by having a better comprehension of the market, the product, the team and everything in between, I will make the right calls and earn the respect of my peers, by being able to speak their language.

Again it is about understanding and aligning yourself with the company vision, only then you will be in the position to achieve greatness. Learning how to code is a prerequisite to comprehend the full scope of your company, in education, technology or razor blades. Then that’s the ultimate reason why I am going to learn how to code and why you should, too.

News, and Apple News

From all the announcements Apple made in WWDC, I thought one of the most interesting ones was the Apple News app, because it’s trying to solve a problem I have encountered myself for a long time. Finding the best content online has always been a painful experience because there is a lot of great content being produced everyday and it is impossible to keep up with everything, it feels overwhelming.

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