First, Break All The Rules


Management philosophy at Facebook is heavily influenced by the research done by Gallup, all the way from how Pulse surveys are conducted to how managers are coached. There’s a lot of unconventional wisdom in this book, which makes it interesting and high signal. Here are the parts that I found helpful:

  • The catalyst role describes what great managers do.
  • You can not infer excellence from studying failure and then inverting it. Excellence is not the opposite of failure. The best way to investigate excellence is simply to spend a great deal of time with your top performers.
  • Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things. The most important difference between a great manager and a great leader is one of focus. Great managers look inward. They look inside the company, into each individual, into the differences in style, goals, needs and motivations of each person. Great leaders, by contrast, look outward. They look out at the competition, out at the the future, out at alternative routes forward … They must be visionaries, strategic thinkers, activators.
  • Define outcomes rather than methods: To focus people on performance, one must define the right outcomes and stick to those outcomes religiously. The hardest thing about being a manager is realizing that your people will not do things the way that you would. Define the right outcomes and then let each person find his or her own route.
  • A company’s mission should remain constant, providing meaning and focus for generations of employees. A company’s strategy is simply the most effective way to execute the mission. It should change according to the demands of the business climate.

On talent:

  • Play to people’s strengths, don’t try to fix weaknesses: People don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put int what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough. Identify a person’s strengths. Define outcomes that play to those strengths.
    Spend most of your time with your best people.
  • Talents cannot be taught. A person’s drive is not changeable. A manager can never breathe motivational life into someone else. No manager can make an employee productive. They can help the employee find the path of least resistance toward his goals. They can help the employee plan his career.
  • A non talent becomes a weakness when you find yourself in a role where success depends on your excelling in an area that is non talent.

On performance:

  • The manager’s responsibility is to steer the employee toward roles where the employee has the greatest chance of success.
  • What level of performance is unacceptable? Any level that hovers around average with no trend upward.
  • How to fix bad performance: 1) Devise a support system 2) Find a complementary partner 3) Find an alternative role

It was really interesting to read about best housekeepers, best nurses and best salespeople and what makes them special. Overall, I find this book as a great resource for new managers, as it provides a framework and unconventional wisdom to approach people management.

March 5, 2017


Chaos Monkeys

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Chaos Monkeys is a memoir, detailing the author’s career starting from Goldman Sachs to the startup world and eventually to Facebook.

It talks about him leaving Goldman Sachs for an ads startup called Adchemy, applying to YCombinator and starting his own company AdGrok, the law suit he faces and how he takes revenge, the process of selling the company to Twitter and him joining Facebook, and navigating corporate politics at Facebook to build an ads exchange.

It was surprising to come across Simla Ceyhan, someone from my college, in the story. As I was reading the book, I tried to look up people mentioned in it, which made it hyper-real and more fun.

The author knows how to get attention and can be manipulative at times. It’s worth noting some of the catchy phrases in the book such as “Marketing is like sex: only losers pay for it” or “Investors are people with more money than time. Employees are people with more time than money. Startups are business experiments performed with other people’s money”. His controversial and polarizing views about Goldman Sachs and Facebook, combined with dramatized views of events that happened seemed to help him get more press coverage. At the end, he tries to get the sympathy of the reader by playing victim. He compares himself to his co-founders and argues that he didn’t make much money due to selling his shares early and getting fired before fully-vesting his stock.

The author has a distinct voice and writing style that you’ll either love or hate. Perhaps I enjoyed it more because I’m familiar with Facebook and a lot of people mentioned in the book. Overall, if reading a fast-paced, drama filled story that takes place in the technology world sounds like your cup of tea, this will be a very entertaining read indeed!

October 16, 2016


The Antidote

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The Antidote, written by British journalist Oliver Burkeman, comes with the tagline “happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking”. It is a record of the author’s own journey through the negative path to happiness and his criticism for too much focus on positivity and optimism today.

The author explores three philosophies that share the same idea of returning towards negativity:  Stoicism, Buddhism and Momento mori

Stoicism: He talk about the idea of premeditation of evil. By experiencing the unpleasantness that he’s fearing, he examines how the awfulness compares to his beliefs. An interesting exercise the author tries is to shout names of subway stops at each station, conducting a ritual of deliberate self-humiliation to face his unspoken beliefs about embarrassment, self-consciousness and what other people might think about him.

Buddhism: He talks about the idea of “non-attachment” and using meditation as a path to non-attachment. He describes the week long silent meditation retreat he attended and how thoughts and emotions seems like weather: things come and go but the mind is like the sky, and the sky doesn’t cling to specific weather conditions, nor try to get rid of the bad ones.

Momento mori: He discusses the idea that there’s something happiness inducing about building in reminders of your mortality in your daily life and describes his experiences during “Day of the dead” celebration in Mexico.

The author also critiques goal setting and argues that if you look at routines of successful writers and artists you’ll find that they set process goals instead of outcome goals. i.e: I’m going to write 300 words a day or work 3 hours a day.

Overall, the book is trying to provide an alternative framework to happiness. I found its philosophical nature intriguing. It’s worth reading if you’re looking to broaden your thinking on happiness or enjoy philosophy as a subject.

September 11, 2016


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sarp centel

Sarp is a software developer. He writes about technology, books and software.
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