Monday, May 1, 2017

If you are walking through hell, keep going

During the last years I have been working in environments that where under the deep impact of disruption. Having been in the telco industry for 17 years now, I've seen the raise of mobile, the internet bubble burst, the raise of mobile internet and, unfortunately, the decline of telco. There's a lot of ink about it so I'm not going to add any more about it. But I want to write about the tough situations you face when all this means changing organizations, reducing budgets, lay-offs... or just rumors on all the above.

My team, very often, comes frustrated, concerned, wondering what is going to happen. I've noticed that here are three attitudes to face this situation (or maybe there's a combination of them). These are:

1. The coffee machine rumor engine crew

You know what this is. The coffee machine is a pretty cool space to increase social interaction and awareness in the team. It helps create bonds that could not be created without the easy chit chat. But it also has a double edge. It can become a source of rumors, frustration and negative energy in difficult times.

I always say to people this can get you an ulcer. Not a good think to do. It will increase your stress levels, you will be all the time concerned about the last "fake news" and it will decrease your productivity massively... not a good option, I guess

2. The head down and do your shit

A second approach is not to pay attention to anything. Put your head down, focus on your business goals and deliver, deliver, deliver. This is like when Miguel Indurain, the Spanish cyclist, fronted a big mountain. He used to put down his cap and focus on the front wheel. Hell, it worked, he won the Tour the France 5 times!!!

I know you are not Indurain, me neither, but this will keep your productivity very high and if your manager is a bit smart, you'll get reinforced in the transition. And, even if not, at least you'll be busy making shit happen so will not be thinking about what may or may not happen

3. The "there are no lions in the door"

And look, if you are not happy, don't believe in the project or simply need fresh air, you can always hit the road. Nothing stops you from doing it. Just your own decision. It will kill your current problems and create new ones. By the way, if you take this option, leave thinking about what is that that you really want to do with your life. Leave with a plan of what you want to achieve, and what your dream job will be. I've seen people failing in this transition, it happened to me once, just because I wanted to leave something behind that was not perfect, and got into something worse. So, keep cold head!!!

All these are valid options. Personally I have gone through the three of them. The first one demonstrated useless and very frustrating. The second gratifying and even good for my career. The third, depends one how I built my next step.

But as a manager, I always encourage my team to keep on pushing to accomplish what we are at. We have a dream and we have to fight for it till the end. Nothing is easy and in these difficult situations, it's really rewarding when you get to a good end. So as Churchill said, "if walking through hell, keep going"

Saturday, December 31, 2016

My personal 2016: a great year

2016 has come to an end and I see everybody complaining about how it did go. Ok, it’s true that it has not been a good year in terms of politics and, most importantly, due to the terrible catastrophe of war and terrorism. These things are scary and I’m not sure we are taking our civilization in the right direction. But on a personal note, 2016 has been great for me and I want to share my interpretation of it.

It’s been about balance. I know you would think that I should have started saying that it was awesome, exciting, full of achievements or whatever that would make this year spark. But yeah, it’s been about balance. The balance in between the three parts of everybody’s life: family, own space and work. All of them have worked quite well, I’ll explain right after, but the important thing is that I have had the right portion of each of them to make me feel complete, happy in all senses.

In previous years of my life, although I cannot complain about how it has gone, it’s always been unbalanced. Too much work usually was the source of it. And I’m not talking about the time I spent in the office but about the quality of the time I spent out of it. Travelling too much didn’t help to keep up with family and self, but the source of all problems was not in travelling. The source of problems was about not having the right focus when outside of work-time; not to have the discipline to make something for me and to invest quality time with my family. So the focus was always in work… no matter how good or bad the work was, travels, blackberry (yeah, I used to have one) and then been exhausted all the time... By the way, being all day attending emails, calls and thinking only on work does not make you more productive, most of it is noise that can be ignored. So then it’s simple, it’s about having the right weight in each of life dimensions, if not life doesn’t feel rounded. But with the current balance I have had, it has made me enjoy everyday to its max.

During 2016 I have lived a life I had never lived in terms of family. In my current role at work I don’t need to travel. And that has made a big difference. I have had the chance of doing things I never did before. Enjoying a coffee with my wife in the morning, taking my kids to school, attending their amazing performances, having dinner with them… being around. And it’s not only about the time during the week but also on weekends. When I used to travel a lot, I got home usually tired, wanted to get in the couch and be a vegetable for the whole weekend in front of the TV, sleepy. Now, I have the energy to be part of the family activities and that has made the difference with my wife and kids.
I missed my family in Spain, that’s true, but at least the time I spent with my closer family was longer and of more quality

I call own space to that part of your time that you own deeply. It’s what you do with your own personal time. You can spend it with friends, reading, watching movies, practicing sports or doing whatever you please to. During 2015, mainly when I worked in Saudi, my own-space-time was a disaster. Working too long hours, stupid hours I’d say, left very little space for self. Getting back late to the hotel made me not even to want to got to the gym so I just hit the room as soon as possible and just read or watch series. It was too lazy.
In 2016, I decided to take a much more active role. I started challenging myself in running and have definitely improved a lot. By the way, I never liked running, but it has brought me the needed challenge to catalyze that thing inside that makes you push yourself everyday. It has triggered discipline, sacrifice and ambition… I’ve loved it
I’ve also enjoyed my friends in Dubai and met very cool people, but the daily challenge of training hard has really made the difference

Work has always been very important for me. Sometimes even obsessive. But what can I say?, I like it. But lately I had lost a bit the spice. I need to feel part of a bigger thing, to be challenged, to fight against the odds, to explore new businesses and technologies to get the best out of me, to be a part of a team with a common ambition. Probably, since I left running BlueVia in Telefonica I had never felt that. I had cool jobs, but none in which I could bring everything I have inside. But this year’s challenge was great. Got into a business line (Enterprise new business) at du that was making the same mistakes we lived in Telefonica Digital and we had to turn it upside down, transform not only the portfolio but also how everything was done. And we’ve made it.
It’s true that it was easier because I shared background with my boss so I didn’t have to argue with him about what was the best way forward. We were almost totally in the same wavelength. That way I could focus my energy in building the team, changing the roadmap, aiming at the right working model and hitting the market as fast and strong as we could. It has not been easy though, telco transformation is not an easy task but my colleagues and team have made it even a pleasure. And you know, if you work hard enough in the right direction, you just need a bit of luck to be successful… And there we go.

So, yes, it’s been about balance. But there are still things to improve. Now, I want to push on two sides: focus and quality in the three dimensions of life. I’ll write more about it soon. But, meanwhile, let’s celebrate the end of 2016 and wish everybody for a great and peaceful 2017.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why people hate telcos that bad. A real story with Sky in the UK

*** Updated with the reaction from @skyhelpteam after my Twitter  and Blog complains

It's been a while since I wrote my last post but I thought this was really worth it.

I've been working in telecommunications for 14 years, my whole life almost. I worked in Spain, Czech Republic and the UK with Telefonica. I loved my work, I love that company and always wondered why people hated us so much. I was everyday trying to do my best to keep customers happy but people always had terrible stories to tell about us, they hated us big time!

And now I've lived one that is insane and wanted to share with all of you.

Ending july 2014, my family was leaving the UK after two years enjoying the services of Sky. Full package, Talk, Broadband and TV including movies and sports. More than a £100 per month. On June, I had an issue with Talk, they cut my service because I was speaking too much (hell, yeah, I was talking with UAE because I was moving here). I got so annoyed that decided to ask for the cancellation of all services even earlier than the typical 31 days cancellation notice they have in the UK.

So on June 19th, I contacted its online chat and after some discussion decided to cancel all services. We agreed services were gonna be cancelled by July 23rd. Everything OK till here.

However on July 26th my wife tells me the TV service ain't working but Talk and Broadband are up still. I contact the chat and they tell me it'll be cancelled in 48hours because it was their mistake, nor mine

Today, July 28th I've contacted again to doublecheck everything was cancelled. To my surprise the agent, called Gayle, informs me that the service keeps running and there's no cancellation programmed. I ask to solve it immediately and although I share the transcript of the previous chat, that I kept in my inbox, Gayle tells me it's impossible to cancel in less than 14 days. As a solution, Gayle applies a credit of £10 that could cover extra costs.

My question is, of course, what will happen if the new house tenant decides to use the telephone and exceeds the credit. Simple answer, I'll be responsible to pay the bill.

I love this, so Sky made a mistake and I have to bear the costs... nice!

Unluckily this is just a drop in the sea. This happens now and again with customers. Like a telco worker I feel embarrassed about this and hate to realize it's not an exception but the rule. That's why companies like Pepephone in Spain, led by the "personality" of Pedro Serrahima are doing it so well. Treat people like you would like to be treated and your service will be, maybe not loved, but surely respected.

By the way, Gayle did the best the systems of the company allowed. No complain about her. Even when I said to her that I was going to publish a post about it she couldn't even escalate it because the systems don;t allow it. I felt sorry for her because she was bearing all my frustration against the company, probably not fair for her.

Next steps are: I'll ask my bank to cancel any payment to Sky and will wait to see what they said. And second I'll do my best to change how companies connect with customers in the companies I'll work for. No doubt the "the customer is at the centre of everything" has been forgotten and we should make it our main motto.


***Update: after writing this post and tweeting about it, the @skyhelpteam got in contact with me through Twitter and set up a chat. They checked everything and has given me the reason, solving all the issue in one shot. Thanks. Good work of the social media team, especially Ross, but next time it'll be better your customers don't need to get to such a situation and you solve the issue straight forward.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Team changes. Threat or opportunity?

This week my good mate James Parton leaves my team. We have been working together in Bluevia from its early days and he's got an outstanding reputation in the industry, with developers and within the company. So lots of people came to me saying, "WOW, that's a big problem, ain't it?"

And my answer to that is NO, it's not. Actually I see it as an opportunity. But what does it take me to think like that? Am I a masochist or is there something that really drives me to think that way?

I must say I knew that was a about to happen. Sooner or later. He's talented and I knew from lots of talks in our trips and drinks that he had the internal need to face a challenge outside a big corporation. And Twilio, a hot Silicon Valley start-up is a cool way to cover that need.

So yes, I knew. But that doesn't make the difference.The reality is I really think that people need to rotate. It's good for them and for the teams. After being too long in a team you lose your passion or at least the stress so getting new people in is good.

It's also good for team spirit to see member growing. If everybody is stagnated in their positions for long, everybody can get to think that there's no better life than that. So this can be a good incentive for the team. Of course it needs to be explained like that to the team. Better avoid saying, "he's leaving, OMG, OMG, we should jump off the window". A positive message would work better :-)

Personally for me it's a good signal. I'm doing my work right. I've always thought that managing a team is about supporting your team member to get to their goals. If they get to them and it's perceived inside and outside the company, it means that I've done something right myself.

So yes I'll miss working with him but I'm sure somebody will come who will challenge the status quo and think totally out-of.the-box. And that will make it better for the team, the initiative and, finally, for me.

Keep moving

Monday, May 30, 2011

10 change agent tricks

All across organizations, no matter if big or small, you find people with the weird interest of improving things, making things better, make of their companies, units or teams best in class. These rare animals assume as their "confort zone" exactly that that others run away from: change, change, change.

These people are continiously finding different ways to make things, even irrationally, it's in their DNA. Rules usually don't work too well for them and have an internal permanent frustration that moves them to evolve.

For all those, I'm going to share some tips, rules that I apply in my day to day. These are my learnings after several years of hard work, failures and hits against brick walls wherever I've been working in. These have been generated working in a big corporation and also small businesses. But the most relevant comes from my years in a big Corporation so you'll realize they are clearly applicable there but probably most are useful in other environments.

Trick 1. Choose the battles to fight in: Change is great but focus on what you CAN change.

There are lots of things to change so choose based on answering two different questions: can you change it? Have you been invited to the party?

If you see you cannot do it, find another battle. If it's too big, concentrate in small pieces of change. If you deliver differencially, at the end of the day, you'll find out that you've changed more things than expected.

And of course, if you haven't been invited to the party, don't go! I've done myself the failure of trying to force a change in something that wasn't my responsibility and it always ended up in high energy crash with fire.

Trick 2. Prepare the best sales pitch ever.

This is about preparing a great argumentary. Do it, be ready, you'll need to use it a thousand times. I learnt this from a business colleague. Thanks Michael for it! The steps are:

2.1. Challenge the Status Quo.

If you want to change something, first you need to answer the question: why do we need to change at all?

Most people dislike change so this question will come. Be sure about it. And some will be really rude so be ready.

2.2. Share your vision.

There's a second question coming from your colleagues the, let's call them, "change challengers". Ok, so what you want to do?

Prepare a great answer. Be as bold as possible. Figure out where you want to be once the project is finished. THINK BIG!!! But remember, be realistic, figure out which boundaries you can afford to jump over and which you don't. One thing is been visionary, another is being a dumb.

Once the answer is ready, use only a 10-20% of it. Yep, do you think that people that don't want to change and are probably far from beeing like you are going to say yes to your dreams? Sorry, no, so tune it down. That will set the expectation of your organization on your iniciative.

But keep your own personal and private target in your first estimation. Fight for it, maybe someday it'll become real.

2.3. Define clear small steps to get to your vision.

There's a third question you must answer: how do you want to do that?.

Probably they'll say something like, that's impossible, cannot be done because bla bla bla... First barriers mate! So define those baby steps. That's going to be your WORKING PLAN. That will define your sucess so be fair with your estimates. Not too positive, not too pessimistic. The right point is exactly what you are able to deliver

Probably, the most difficult to dimmession is the third point. Naturallly positive people tend to make timing short and targets high. I've learnt on the way that in order to be adjusted to reality I need somebody to pull me down to reality (I'm naturally optimistic). That works if you have those profiles near. It can be a colleague, a team member or your boss. Sorry, mate, you are not perfect, let others help you in your imperfection to make your delivery an optimum.

Trick 3. Win friends, you'll need them.

You cannot change the World alone so win as many friends as possible. Read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" of Carnegie. It may help.

Avoid to create enemies for free. There will be people that won't like you, it's natural, but don't generate negative sentiments around you, that will hinder something sooner or later.

Actually you'll be surprised if you invest enough time on some people that initially may look negative, they can become your best allieds.

Of course there will be people you will not convince. No matter if you have the best sales pitch, if you are lovely, fun and brilliant buddy or if you bring the cure of cancer to Menkind. It doesn't matter. There will always be one guy saying you: "NO WAY". To this, apply trick 4.

Trick 4. Find ways around. Be creative!

This is the moment of the bad news. Nothing is going to be ready to help you. Processes were created for another kind of business, the resources are always limited and probably you don't have all the skills required in your team.

So be prepared to create ways around, imperfect solutions for all poping up barriers. One good colleague told me once: perfection is the enemy of what's good. That trick can be used whenever it doesn't break trick 5.

Trick 5. Don't compromise the quality of your delivery.

When you find ways around (trick 5), sometimes you must compromise certain parts of your vision. That's OK whenever it will not affect your result.

If after all compromises required by your organization, environment, resources, whatever, you deliver a piece of crap, nobody will remeber that it's because of all the difficulties. Nope, you'll be a failure. Bad luck, no time for losers, go back home!

One small hint, prepare your Santa's list with bulletpoints but make sure you know which of those you cannot renounce to.

Note: This rule doesn't apply if you are Steve Jobs,  He never compromises his vision

Trick 6. Bring your passion in! Work harder, work longer.

No real trick. Talent is great. But hard working is needed. Simple. Waking up earlier and going to bed later helps. Be very efficient in your time usage too, it costs millions.

And when you leave the office, disconnect your brain from business... if you can.

Trick 7. Be prepared to frustration.

Nothing is going to be easy. Everything will be a pain. Lots of things will fail and lots of people will critize you so be ready for it. If you love what you do, that will make it easier.

Trick 8. Stop often, watch how things go and reshuffle plans.

Sometimes the picture changes while you are working, so be ready to realize and react.

And also iterate fast. If you can deliver pieces of what you are doing to others (in SW this fits well), do it and ask for feedback. That's really useful. Of course some trolls will show up and will try to put you down, don't pay attention to them and focus in constructive feedback.

But listen more to those that say you the failures than the good things. Those will help you grow, will help you to be better.

Trick 9. Find inspiration wherever you can.

No matter what you are trying to achieve, there's been people before you trying to do things that were more difficult than your challenge. Find them, read about them, listen to them and, if possible, meet them. They'll be glad to share, I've learnt that this kind of people are usually altruistic in sharing views, so be open to learn...

Trick 10. Have fun!

You are going to be the weird guy, the enemy, the green dog, so at least have fun.

If you are able to put distance in between things and you, that will make you happier and capable on laughing about all things happening around.

A friend of mine told me that when he was in a "war" of change, he used to meditate once per week and work out everyday. I'm sure that helps but I prefer laughing.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My own private MWC... hectic days!

Back to the core of MWC week, here are my notes on my own personal experiences

Monday 11th

Monday was hectic, it started with a meeting with Bala Balabaskaran, VP of products of Schakra Inc, a Redmond based company that has started using BlueVia APIs. It was great to speak with a guy with his experiece and also motivating when he praised because of having a proper business proposition. Please, find the link to its Case Study

Then I headed to a panel at Telecom TV with a very motivating title "Applications: is it already game over for telecom operators". I joined Emma Mohr McClune, Research Director at Current Analysys and Erik de Kroon, VP of Devices and Products at WAC. Funny to see how they put my name in the video... Spanish names are a pain for foreigners :-)... I'm Jose A. Valles Nunez, Jose Valles to make it simpler... don't play with my name, please! :-)

And, with no time, rushing to see WAC keynote including our COO Julio Linares. It was good to have the chance, finally, to meet Peters Shuh, WAC CEO and meet my former boss there, Yotam Ben Ami, currently CFO and CSO at WAC. WAC is hitting their milestones but still have a long and tough way to become a success. They count with our support at Telefonica!

And to finish the day what's better than a party. I headed to the Mobile Premier Awards organized at the building of Telefonica R&D, that by the way is impressive, and also had the chance to meet Andreas Constantinou, who thinks really big in the Telco evolution to 2.0.

Tuesday 12th

On top of lots of different meetings I have to highlight two things:

First the discussions on how to speed up GSMA activities in OneAPI. I hope something good will come from there

Second an Analysts round the table, that was a good termometer of what is about to happen with BlueVia. Let's see what they write but the first reactions were really possitive.

Wednesday 13th

This was probably the hardest day but also the most exciting. On top of lot's of meetings starting at 8am, I want to highlight the meeting we had with Alan Quayle. it's always enriching to talk to Alan, his broad view of the telecom industry and like for details makes every meeting a learning session. Also a meeting with the team running Forum Nokia represented a chance to see, first hand, one of the most influencial orgs in developer engagement... Some chit chat on WP7 announcement couldn't be avoided, of course!

And finally, almost exhausted, headed to WIP Jam Carnival of Nations to see James bum bum Parton playing drums (or that's what he wanted) and the chance to meet Jason Silva, founder of JBBMobile Inc who left this great quote for the future... And we hope he'll start working with BlueVia soon!

Thursday 14th

After some meetings, thanks God, back home. Funny and disgusting when I opened the the door and my 19 month old daughter run away.... Not good to be so long far from family.

I hope next year we can bring 20 developers with us showing cool stuff done using BlueVia APIs!

Special thanks to Arturo Garrido, CEO of and Bala Balabaskaran, VP of products at Schakra Inc. for their collaboration spreading BlueVia message at MWC. And also to Carlos Domingo for this nice piece at TechCrunch Europe

Next year more

Jose Valles