March 29, 2020

My HEC Paris Journey, Part V: Negotiate Like Your Life Depends on It

Time flies. I’m already about two thirds into the MSc Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at HEC Paris. Last post I wrote was My HEC Paris Journey, Part IV: Organize and Incentivize. From the previous post, I’ve taken these seven courses:

  1. Design Thinking,
  2. Social Entrepreneurship & Changemaking,
  3. Scaling Up Operations,
  4. Marketing through Social Media,
  5. Team Working,
  6. How to Create a Business Plan and
  7. Fundamentals of Negotiation.

That’s a lot of courses in a span of several month. There were a lot of useful tidbits, insights and tips. Too many to write about right now. Ergo, I’ll talk in more details about the latest course which I finished today—Fundamentals of Negotiation.


January 26, 2020

MMAT: My Learning Approach

In our day and age, learning is more important than ever because things change so rapidly. I learned a taught a lot of things during my career which led me to discover that the best and the most effective learning method is to use MMAT: Motivation, Methodology, Action and Time.

Motivation is number one. It’s the answer to a “why?” question. Without it, we won’t do anything else. People who constantly remind themselves of their WHYs are more motivated and can overcome any other difficulties like finding the best methodology.

A good methodology (or learning structure and material) is important because without a good strategy and know-how we will drown in a sea of ubiquitous information. We simply will never accomplish our learning goals due to analysis paralysis. And yes, sometimes it take a lot of time to find the best methodology. Don’t get caught up in never ending search. Perfect is the enemy of done so just pick something good enough and stick with it for a while.

Next is the action. Action is what separates theory from the real results. Action clarifies. It shows what’s working and what’s not, what’s important and what’s not. Action brings up new questions. Action turns new learning into habits and then into identity (which makes things automatic — a second nature).

There are so many fake teachers who never worked in the industry and yet teach people business, marketing, finance, computer science, literature. A lot of their teaching is plain BS that’s better to ignore because it can actually harm the real doers.

Lastly, time. Time is needed to soak up the skills, to ruminate, to muse on them to come up with novel ways to think and work. Sometimes it’s more practice and action. Sometimes it’s stepping away and then coming back to the new skill after a short break (e.g., space repetition).

The bottom line is that once we’ve acquired the methodology, we should aim to take a lot of action. A lot! And we ought to be prepared to wait, be patient and give time for our new skills to sharpen. It can take years. The luckiest will master the skills and they’ll become second nature. We can remind ourselves of our motivation to keep going.

January 12, 2020

Wishing a Nice Meal (in Five Languages)

In English, to wish someone a nice and tasty meal is said with “enjoy your meal”. I never liked this phrase because it sounds like a command—enjoy! And if you don’t obey my command then there will be repercussions. Of course, it’s silly to think of this phrase this way but still the “enjoy your meal” phrase sounds too harsh and not elegant. Maybe people try to remind each other that they should enjoy their food instead of gulping fast food on the go or chowing down a salad while browsing Facebook and answering emails?

Maybe that’s why a lot of English-speaking Americans prefer the French “bon appétit”. It literally means good appetite but implies I wish you a nice appetite. I use it sometimes but if I think about it more then why would I want to wish someone a good appetite? Maybe they are on a diet of some sort and actually try to eat less, not more? Maybe I should wish them that they have a less of an appetite?

The Russian phrase “приятного аппетита” just mimics the French phrase so nothings new here. French and Russian cultures often share a lot of similarities.

I really like the Spanish phrase “buen provecho”. It literally translates into make sure you’re taking a good benefit (of the food). The translation is clumsy because there’s no direct analog in English to the Spanish verb provechar. I really like this verb. It means take advantage or take benefit. In English it’s a phrase of at least two words but in Spanish you can say in one word. Usually Spanish is more compact than English.

Funny enough, ever time I hear buen provecho I remember a car sale commercial ad on radio that talked about taking advantage of some sale. :) So sometimes, in the USA I say buen provecho to English speaking Americans. If the French phrase is common in the USA, why not make the Spanish phrase popular too. Maybe we can even import the verb provechar into English language?!

Lastly, in Tatar one of the phrases “ашыгыз тәмле булсын” or just “тәмле булсын” which means wishing that your food will be tasty. I think that’s the best phrase. The bonus that it won’t lead to over eating either. You can enjoy the tasty food but stop when you’re full (no need for a big appetite).

PS: Next time you wish “enjoy my meal” or “have a safe travel” just think about it. It sounds like I typically don’t enjoy my food or try to go on adventures and put myself in danger but this time I’ll have to be extra joyful and safe.

November 26, 2019

My HEC Paris Journey, Part IV: Organize and Incentivize

We’re halfway done with the phase one of the Master of Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at HEC Paris. This post will summarize two new courses that I’ve taken and passed: New Product Development and Organizational Design and Management. The common theme of these two courses is organizing teams and incentivizing them, hence the name of the post.


October 18, 2019

My HEC Paris Journey, Part III: It's All About Strategy

It’s time to write a new blog post about my experience in the HEC Paris Master of Science program. I’ve taken two new courses: Business strategy and Strategic Management of Innovation. They were somewhat related which was good for building a broad knowledge, because several concepts and topics were used and discussed from different angles in both courses. When I was a schoolboy, I liked strategy games like chess, Civilization and Command & Conquer. I had to balance building roads and factories with investment in defense and military troops. As with these games, in business it’s all about the strategy.

Let me first tell me about the Business Strategy course.


September 08, 2019

My HEC Paris Journey, Part II: First Two Months

It’s already been two months since I was accepted into and joined the MSIE program at HEC Paris (Master of Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship). Right away, there were two courses that I needed to pass within a month of July 2019. Luckily, there was a summer break in August. So the deadlines for the final exams were extended one month (into the second month of the program). The first two courses were Entrepreneurial Strategy and Boosting Creativity. Let me share a little bit about the courses and the final exams.


August 11, 2019

Why I'm Getting a Second Master's Degree from HEC Paris

Two months ago, I applied and was accepted to a master’s program at a prestigious business school (ranked #2), HEC Paris. The degree is title Master of Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MSIE). It has 10 normal courses, 10 practical project-based courses and one large team project. The master’s program lasts about one year and a half. Thus the program ends in 2020. However the graduation will be in 2021, because HEC has only one graduation ceremony which is held in its beautiful Paris campus.

I finished my first Master’s degree in 2007. It was Master of Science in Information Systems Technology from the University of Northern Virginia. I don’t like traditional universities and degrees. I’m a strong proponent of modern online education like Node University or Udacity. I taught at the Hack Reactor coding academy and I’m a huge fan of vocational schools that teach practical trades as oppose to abstract and theoretical knowledge unnecessary for the real-world jobs. Needless to say, that there are a lot of materials available online via YouTube and blogs. So it might come as a surprise that I’m getting a second masters degree. However, I decided to commit to getting a second Master of Science degree for the following reasons:

  • Motivation: When you pay 10s of thousands of dollars or euros you are more motivated to continue and finish the studies
  • Focus and pre-filter: Someone with a good reputation already did the selection for me. I avoid ads or possible distractions form web surfing when I’m on Coursera.
  • European perspective: Living in San Francisco and Silicon Valley area for the last seven years I understand that we live in a bubble here. SF is not the entire world which has other, bigger and more real, problems. It’s nice to hear and learn another perspective on business and innovation.
  • Content: Things change fast and after 12 years, it’ll be nice to become a student again and get a nice broad overview of current methods and techniques in entrepreneurship in a nice distraction-free format (reading blogs or watching YouTube is a pain!).
  • Experience: the MSIE program is mostly (50%+) project based which gives actual experience instead of just being abstract lectures.
  • Brand and Network: HEC Paris is number 2 business school in Europe with a large and global presence, brand and alumni network. Brand is great because it attracts best student (for peer learning), best coaches (for projects) and best faculty (for lectures).
  • Convenience: The MSIE program is 100% online with weekly live calls, chat rooms, forums and online proctored exams. I don’t like the idea of being confined to one location and a set time for lectures for the next two years. With this format, I can travel often or even more to a new place all together.
  • Relatively cheap: The MSIE, HEC Paris program cost only 20,000 euros comparing to ~$30-40,000 USD for master’s from Harvard Extension or $150,000 USD for Wharton EMBA.

I looked at other Master’s programs. In particular, I researched Wharton Executive MBA (WEMBA) in San Francisco. They fly all the faculty from Pennsylvania ever other week. I even took a few courses form the same program. The requirement of being tied and having to come to SF every other week for two years is too limiting for me. The price is very steel.

I looked at master degrees from Harvard Extension and even took a course from them. I didn’t like their approach. It’s too rigid with the focus on minute details, fact and rote memorization. The requirement for home assignment for some courses are too arcane (must be only in MS Word with certain font size and margins). The fact that they require students to come to every live webinar every week (missing even a single webinar is not allowed) is very depressing and limiting. The platform is clunky (can’t download videos for online viewing).

I like the HEC Paris uses Coursera which is one of the best platforms for online courses. The MSIE content is relatively new and the approach is more practical. I’m in cohort 4 which means that it’s only fourth batch of students. If I’m not mistaken, cohorts 2 and 3 are still studying and haven’t graduated. Being in the 4th cohort means that university and Coursera ironed out all the kicks and perfected the program.

The application process was lengthy but totally doable: few essays, video cover letter, bio, experience and two references (done by email). The Coursera and HEC Paris staff are responsive and all the logistics ran smooth so far. The students have incredible backgrounds and I’m sure we’ll learn a great deal form each other in addition to the lectures and projects.

I’ll try to keep writing about my journey through this innovative and practical Master of Science program.

July 09, 2018

Keep It Simple Stupid

I truly believe that human brains didn’t evolve to process complex data. Human conscious mind can only hold three, maybe five, seven max for some geniuses, items at a time. Because of that, I have a very optimistic belief when I’m faced with something complex and overwhelming: nothing complex is possible to build or comprehend. It’s optimistic because I know that everything can be broken down into small components.

For example, a large corporation or huge country are run by small hierarchical groups of three to seven people. Any large computer system can be broken down to modules, submodules and procedures inside of these submodules. When faced with a new undertaking, a study or a seemingly complex system, I remind myself to keep things simple stupid, or to keep them simple, stupid.

October 21, 2017

Work and Rest

Working is important. It not only provides material means, social status and pride in a well work done, but also meaning and motivation which in tern extend a person’s life. According to some studies, people who retire and don’t find another activity, die fast. Or that tech millionaires are unhappy once they are let go or fire, or that lottery winners are miss the working.

However, resting is important too and helps to avoid burn-out and all kids of nasty nervous diseases which tend to decrease one’s life. Working productively while having rest once in a while is the best approach. 👨‍💻🔄🛌 What’s crazy is that many people do things which they think is resting but in fact they are draining their energy even more. Here are some of these things. Some of them might shock you!

  • Going out on the weekend: Breaking your sleep cycle with loud noise, excessive drinking or eating - not good.
  • Traveling, especially stressful traveling: Being in a nice place taken care of by the hotel staff and restaurants is nice but the traveling itself is almost always a stress (airport, planes, traffic). Trying new food and changing time zones are bad stressors to.
  • Watching sports, TV shows or news: they all drain your energy because your body is passive yet emotions and adrenaline glands are not.
  • Being on social media: More people feel depressed after using social media due to “success theatre” and the addiction mechanism of novelty.
  • Multitasking: Not being in the present and flow state, e.g., when you at your kids soccer game, don’t text with work. That’s a disservice to you, work and your family. Be present whatever you do. Put your phone on an airplane mode. Most likely you are not a firefighter or a brain surgeon. You work can wait until the weekend is over.
  • Not sleeping enough or waking up on the weekend at different hours.
  • Eating refined carbs (pizza, pasta, juices, smoothies): Sugar is easily digestible form spike insulin and very toxic for your body.
  • Not getting resistance training and doing too much chronic cardio: Chronic cardio is a huge stressor, tough on joints and ages people fast.
  • Smoking weed: If smoking tobacco causes cancer due to the burned stuff that people inhale, then why burning weed and smoking it wouldn’t cause cancer too?
  • Hanging out with “friends”: Wrong type of friends can bring drama and having too much drama in your life is not good for mental health.
  • Postponing important things, i.e., procrastination: It might feel good short-term to postpone an important project or a decision but it’ll snowball stress in the long-term.

There are probably more things which are misleading to people. They mask as rest but actually suck up your energy. I would say not watching news or TV shows and having enough sleep are two most important which will give the majority the most bang for their buck. Focus on that if you feel tired!

October 10, 2017

Snowball Change ❄️❄️❄️

This year I had a lot of changes. And I’ll have more until the end of year! It started with a small one. I upgraded my laptop. The tool which I use 8-10 hours everyday. Then I changed the place of living… and did other really big life changes. Small things lead to big changes. It’s a snowball. I remember something about cognitive dissonance. Probably that’s it. If you are decisive and not afraid of changes for good, then it translates to other areas of life and work…

What’s funny is that every big change which I did was perceived as bigger before but in fact was 10x easier. The lesson: don’t think changing is hard. Stop your mind when it starts to envision any problems or hurdles which might not even materialize. Of course, account for the worse scenario but don’t paralyze yourself with excessive analysis. Avoid analysis paralysis by taking action even if it’s a small action at first.