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Craig Kerstiens

Category: Hacks

Lessons from college: Efficient meetings

I think back to my time in college, and I learned some valuable things. I also learned some incredibly worthless things (i.e. don’t flip a car upside down and then backover… it’ll break the axle so you can’t roll it). Even in classes… the basic approach to a supply/demand curve to maximize profit is cute when done in a classroom vs. the complexities of how things actually work… I mean I get the idea behind it, but what you learn is so far being able to be translated into being usable. But what surprises me looking back was a couple of skills around running meetings that I find so rare in the workplace that have immense value.

I’ve always been fascinated at the intersection of business and technology. I’d been coding for a long time before college, and while interesting it was also a means to an end. When you combine technology with business you can solve things in entirely new and valuable ways. My major was management information systems, and all folks in my program came out with a computer science minor in addition to their business degree–something pretty rare for more MIS majors in other programs and well generally for anyone coming out of a business school. Perhaps I’ll get into the value of CS training even if you aren’t looking for a CS job some other time.

Within the program we would have a senior project that was actually a real world project for one of the large companies that sponsored part of the program. We’d have monthly reviews with the company stake holder. We’d also have weekly meetings, these were especially well run. There were really 3 items that made them especially efficient.

Tooling for Simple but Informative Emails

Emails are one of my favorite methods of communicating with users. Its works as a quick test for product validation. It works well at one->some->many-> all. Its still highly effective even as much noise as we receive in our inboxes. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of email tools from custom built solutions, to newer entrants that help around drip actions ( and, to more “enterprise” tools such as Marketo. While I have varying opinions on all of those, I still find myself coming back to a simple one off script setup to deliver clear concise emails.

Disabling muting while typing in Google hangouts

Google hangouts is awesome, its my preferred method for most audio/video calls these days. When running a group call I often dial into a separate phone if I have a better phone available for the group. It also got around the annoyance that when you are typing google automatically mutes you. This for most people is pretty subpar. While dialing in to the hangout can still be nice, you don’t have to do so to get rid of the annoying muting while typing.

Protips for Conference Talks

A few weeks ago I was sitting at the hotel in Zurich with Jacob Kaplan Moss prior to DjangoCon EU enjoying a beer, talking about Django, and discussing a bit about our upcoming talks for the conference. He talked briefly about his upcoming keynote and how he was doing something different, including essentially 5 mini-talks. This seemed interesting enough, but the part that surprised me was when Jacob said, “I’m among friends here so it’ll be a good place to test this format.