Friday, February 28, 2020

读书笔记 - The hard thing about hard things

Ben Horowitz is the cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz VC firm, and previously he was cofounder and CEO of Opsware (sold to HP for 1.6 billion in 2007), formerly Loudcloud. In this book, he tells own stories, experiences, thoughts, struggles or even pains when building a business when there are no easy answers.

The first 3 chapters, Ben talked about his experience from starting a company to selling it. "I will survive" mentality with perseverance drove him all the way to huge success.

Chapter 4: "When things fall apart", Ben talked about struggles.

Life is struggle.
Don't put it all on your shoulders.
This is not checkers; this is motherfuckin's chess.
Play long enough and you might get lucky.
Don't take it personally.
Remember that this what separates the women from the girls.

CEOs should tell it like it is
The more brains working on the hard problems, the better.
A good culture is like the old RIP routing protocol: Bad news travels fast; good news travels slow.

The right way to lay people off
Step 1: get your head right
Step 2: Don't delay
Step 3: Be clear in your own mind about why you are laying people off
Step 4: Train your managers
Step 5: Address the entire company
Step 6: Be visible, be present

Preparing to fire an executive
Step 1: Root cause analysis
Step 2: Informing the board
Step 3: Preparing for the conversation
Step 4: Preparing the company communication

Demoting a loyal friend
Use appropriate language
Admit reality
Acknowledge the contributions

Lies that losers tell
Lead bullets - keep fighting
Nobody cares - just win

Chapter 5: "Take care of the people, the products, and the profits - in that order"

A good place to work
Being a good company doesn't matter when things go well, but it can be the difference between life and death when things go wrong.
Things always go wrong.
Being a good company is an end in itself.

Why startups should train their people
Performance management
Product quality
Employee retention

Is it okay to hire people from your friend's company?
Speaking with your friend before making the hire, you will be able to better judge the relationship impact of hiring her employees.

Why it's hard to bring big company execs into little companies
Rhythm mismatch
Skill set mismatch
Aggressively integrate the candidate once on board
  - Force them to create
  - Make sure that they "get it".
  - Put them in the mix.

Hiring executives
Step 1: Know what you want
Step 2: Run a process that figures out the right match
  - Write down the strengths you want and the weaknesses you can tolerate
  - Develop questions that test for the criteria
  - Assemble the interview team
  - Backdoor and front-door references
Step 3: Make a lonely decision

When employees misinterpret managers
Flattening out the hockey stick: the wrong goal
Focusing too much on the numbers
Managing strictly by numbers is like painting by numbers

Management debt
Putting two in the box
Overcompensating a key employee because she gets another job offer
No performance management or employee feedback process

Management quality assurance
The employee life cycle
  - Recruiting and hiring
  - Compensation
  - Training and integration
  - Performance management
  - Motivation
Requirements to be great at running HR
  - World-class process design skills
  - A true diplomat
  - Industry knowledge
  - Intellectual heft to be the CEO's trusted adviser
  - Understanding things unspoken

Chapter 6: Concerning the going concern

How to minimize politics in your company
Hire people with the right kind of ambition
Build strict processes for potentially political issues and do not deviate.
  - Performance evaluation and compensation
  - Organizational design and territory
  - Promotions
  - Be careful with "he said, she said"

When smart people are bad employees
She is disempowered
She is fundamentally a rebel
She is immature and naive
You can only hold the bus for her. (There is only room for on on the team)

Old People
They come with their own culture
The will know how to work the system
You don't know the job as well as they do
Results against objectives
Working with peers

If we could improve in any way, how would we do it?
What's the number-one problem with our organization? Why?
What's not fun about working here?
Who is really kicking ass in the company? Whom do you admire?
If you were me, what changes would you make?
What don't you like about the product?
What's the biggest opportunity that we're missing out on?
What are we not doing that we should be doing?
Are you happy working here?

Programming your culture
Creating a company culture
  - Distinguish you from competitors
  - Ensure critical operating values persist
  - Help you identify employees who fit with your mission
  - Desks made out of doors (Amazon)
  - Ten dollars per minute (Andreessen Horowitz)
  - Move fast and break things (Facebook)

Taking the mystery out of scaling a company
Common knowledge
Decision making
How to do it?
  - Specialization
  - Organizational design
      - Figure out what needs to be communicated
      - Figure out what needs to be decided
      - Prioritize
      - Decide who's going to run each group
      - Identify the paths that you did not optimize
      - Build a plan for mitigating the issues identified in above step
  - Process
      - Focus on the output first
      - Figure out how you'll know if you are getting what you want at each step
      - Engineer accountability into the system

The scale anticipation fallacy
Managing at scale is a learned skill rather than a natural ability
It's nearly impossible to make the judgement in advance
The act of judging people in advance will retard their development
Hiring scalable execs too early is a bad mistake
You still have to make the judgement at the actual point in time when you hit the higher level of scale
It is no way to live your life or run an organization
Don't separate scale from the rest of the evaluation
Make the judgement on a relative rather than an absolute scale

Chapter 7: How to lead even when you don't know where you are going

The most difficult CEO skill
If I'm doing a good job, why do I feel so bad?
Nobody to blame
Too much broken stuff
It's a lonely job
Techniques to calm your nerves
  - Make some friends
  - Get it out of your head and onto paper
  - Focus on the road, not the wall
Don't punk out and don't quit

The fine line between fear and courage
When making the right choice requires intelligence and courage
Courage, like character, can be developed
The financial bar for starting a new company has been dramatically lowered, but the courage bar for building a great company remains as high as it has ever been.

Follow the leader
Three key traits for a leader
  - The ability to articulate the vision
  - The right kind of ambition
  - The ability to achieve the vision

Peacetime CEO/Wartime CEO

Making yourself a CEO
The keys to being effective
  - Be authentic
  - Come from the right place
  - Don't get personal
  - Don't clown people in front of their peers
  - Feedback is not one-size-fits-all
  - Be direct, but not mean
Feedback is a dialogue, not a monologue
High-frequency feedback
  - Feedback won't be personal in your company
  - People will become comfortable discussing bad news

How to evaluate CEOs
The key questions we ask
  - Does the CEO know what to do?
  - Can the CEO get the company to do what she knows?
  - Did the CEO achieve the desired results against an appropriate set of objectives?

Chapter 8: First rule of entrepreneurship: there are no rules

Solving the accountability vs. creativity paradox
Accountability for effort
Accountability for promises
Accountability for results
Revisiting the opening problem
Accountability is important, but it's not the only thing that's important

The freaky Friday management technique
Staying great
Should you sell your company?
  - Talent and/or technology
  - Product
  - Business

Chapter 9: The end of the beginning
Life is struggle
Embrace the struggle

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Interview questions

I came across this excellent article regarding interview questions from industry leaders. They are so good that they will be useful for both interviewers and interviewees. That is the reason I copy & paste the questions here for memo, so that I can reference back once in a while, esp. before interview meetings. :-)


1. What do you want to do differently in your next role?
2. Imagine yourself in three years. What do you hope will be different about you then compared to now?
3. For the last few companies you've been at, take me through: (i) When you left, why did you leave? (ii) When you joined the next one, why did you choose it?


4. Among the people you've worked with, who do you admire and why?
5. Tell me about a time you took unexpected initiative. Follow-up: Can you tell me about another?
6. What’s something great about your current or previous job? Why?
7. What motivates you to work?
8. Looking back on the last five years of your career, what’s the highlight?


9. What are you really good at, but never want to do anymore?
10. What’s the difference between someone who’s great in your role versus someone who’s outstanding?
11. How did you prepare for this interview?
12. What do you believe you can achieve with us personally or professionally that you can't anywhere else in the world?
13. What are the three most important characteristics of this function? How would you stack rank yourself from strongest to least developed among these traits?
14. Tell me about your ideal next role. What characteristics does it have from a responsibility, team, and company culture perspective? What characteristics does it not have?
15. It's September 5, 2020. What impact on the business have you made in the year since you’ve joined?


16. Tell me about a time you strongly disagreed with your manager. What did you do to convince him or her that you were right? What ultimately happened?
17. Tell me about the best and worst bosses you’ve ever had, specifically, in your career. What was the difference?
18. What's one part of your previous company's culture that you hope to bring to your next one? What one part do you hope to not find?


19. When was the last time you changed your mind about something important?
20. What's the most important thing you've learned from a peer and how have you used that lesson in your day-to-day life?
21. Tell me about a time you really screwed something up. How did you handle it and how did you address the mistake?
22. Tell me about a time you made a mistake or failed at something. What did you learn from this experience? Can you give me two other examples?
23. When have you felt the lowest in your career? Did you realize how you felt in the moment? How did you respond?


24. What’s one misconception your coworkers have about you?
25. What are you better at than most anyone else? What’s your superpower and how will you leverage that to make an impact at this company?
26. If I were to go and speak to people who don't think very highly of you, what would they say?


27. What’s one critical piece of feedback you’ve received that was really difficult to hear? Why was it difficult and what did you do with that information? What did you learn about yourself?
28. Find a way to give the candidate feedback in the interview.
29. What was the last thing you nerded out on?


30. What are some things outside of work that you’re irrationally passionate about?
31. What’s the first job you had, that's not on your resume, and what did you learn from that experience?


32. Why shouldn't we hire you?
33. What should our team be doing differently that could yield 10x improvement?
34. Teach me something.


35. If you were to take over as CEO of your current company tomorrow, and had to increase your company's current rate of growth, what three areas you would invest in?
36. How would you build a product for people who are looking for an apartment?
37. What are 10 ways to speed up Domino’s pizza delivery?


38. What can I tell you about working here?
39. If you were in my shoes, what attributes would you look for in hiring for this role?
40. What have I not asked you that I should have?

Understanding Audio Quality

When referring to audio quality, bitrate is a measurement of bits per second that audio distributes. The sound quality will improve as the bitrate improves. For example, MP3 files with a bitrate of 128 kbps are more likely to sound better than MP3 files with a bitrate of 64 kbps.

Digital audio has a sample rate, bit depth and bit rate. They are usually compressed to reduce file size and stream more efficiently over networks. Compression can be lossy or lossless.
  1. sample rate - the number of audio samples captured every second. Telephone networks and VOIP services can use a sample rate as low as 8 kHz.  
  2. bit depth - the number of bits available for each sample. The bit depth may be 8-bit, 16-bit, 24-bit, 32-bit. The higher the bit depth, the higher the quality of the audio. Bit depth is usually 16 bits on a CD and 24 bits on a DVD. 
  3. bit rate - the number of bits encoded per second of audio, or the number of bits transmitted or received per second. Bit rates are usually measured in kilobits per second (kbps).
Bit rate calculation
bit rate = bit depth * sample rate * number of channels

File size calculation

Uncompressed - Lossless (Audio CD, PCM WAV, AIFF)
Lossless are the highest quality files you can get and come mainly in the form of WAV (Microsoft), AIFF (Apple) & FLAC.  These files start off at the equivalent quality of a CD with a bitrate of 1411 kbps and a sample rate of 16bit but can go all the way up to 24bit / 192Khz. A WAV for example can be approximately 3.5 times bigger than a 320kbps MP3.

FLAC and ALAC are open source lossless compression formats.

Compressed - Lossy (mp3, m4a, aac, wma, ogg)
Compressed files come in varying quality rates and formats of which MP3 & M4A are the most popular. The bit rate for compressed files can go from 8 kbps up to 320 kbps.

Ogg Vorbis is an open source alternative for lossy compression.